Open Thread

by epi on August 27, 2012

Welcome to the Etiquette Daily

This open thread is your space to use as you like. We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Barb August 27, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Office Did Not Send Me Flowers When I went to Hospital.

I have worked for the same company for over 5 years. I have lost count of how mnay times I have gone to wakes for coworkers’ families, bought stuff from their kids or multi-level marketing efforts, bought gifts for babyshowers, gone to birthday lunches,chipped in for sick coworkers gifts.

I have sent personal notes to coworkers in time of family illness, B-day, etc.

But has it ever been my turn? No. I went to the hospital for surgery and stayed at home recovering for a week. Nobody sent a card or flowers. I get so fed up when I see coworkers “Thank you for the lovely flowers you sent to the hospital or family funeral” on the bulletin board. I just die inside everytime I see them. When I asked the officer manager about this, she replied vaguely “Oh I forgot” even though she was the person who got my sick leave request.

How hard can it be to pick out a card in a Dollar Store?

I have begun to refuse ther request with things like “Sorry not today”, when I really mean “Sorry not forever”.

Is there anyway I can tell those people I have nothing from them when they ask me for just one more thing?

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Country Girl August 28, 2012 at 1:17 am

It seems to me that your office has inconsistent or non-existent policies on personal acknowledgements & gifts, which you (justifiably) feel is unfair. It is always up to you whether or not you want to chip in for a gift, attend a wake, etc. Since you feel you are not having these courtesies returned, you might choose not to participate in any monetary contributions to coworkers in the future. It would be unprofessional for anyone to persuade you otherwise. This is really a ‘choose your battles’ situation, but if it bothers you deeply you can go to your HR or manager and explain that these policies have been inconsistent, which is making you and your coworkers uncomfortable about contributing.

The more important issue for you might be that you are realizing that your coworkers don’t feel as close a friendship/kinship as you’d like, and you may need to seek the friendship you desire outside the workplace.

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Just Laura August 28, 2012 at 9:17 am

This happened to me at my office when I was married last year. I received verbal well wishes, but when coworkers were married a few months later, there was an office shower/party, and we were all expected to chip in on a substantial gift card (we are all around the same age on our 1st marriage). My grandfather died, and nothing was said. A coworker’s grandmother died, and a card was sent around. Then this year there have been two office showers/gift card expectations for babies (third babies for everyone).
I like my coworkers, but I stopped attending/giving. Barb, it’s frustrating. However, when you gave, you gave from your heart. Don’t take that back now. I do, however, suggest refraining from being so generous in the future.

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Chocobo August 28, 2012 at 11:16 am

Unless it is a company policy, there is nothing you can do except to suggest to HR that the policies are inconsistent and making you uncomfortable. There is no polite way for you to tell your coworkers to buzz off because you are angry they did not send you flowers. It is disappointing when we find out that others do not care about us the way that we had thought, but the office is a place of work, not social life. As a very wise person once told me: “if you have to qualify the word ‘friend’ with ‘work’, they aren’t really your friend.”

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Elizabeth August 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I would be very interested to hear a male perspective on this. Women are generally taught to downplay our anger and hurt, whereas men address their anger much more straightforwardly. I wonder what would happen if the next time an organizer came around to ask her to chip in for something, Barb just said: You know, I think it’s great that you’re doing this for Bob in Accounting. However, you know I was sick a few months ago, out for a week after surgery, and no one even called to see how I was! What do you think about that?

I think it is highly likely that her company does not organize these things “officially” but that there are a few people who do it for their friends and acquaintances, and they know enough people to sort of cover everybody. Barb may have even been one of them. I think going to HR is not the right move. They will just tell her that they can’t control what people do for other people. The company isn’t paying for these flowers and cards.

I sympathize greatly with what Barb and others have experienced. It’s a truly terrible feeling to realize that your ‘place’ in the social web is other than you thought, that perhaps people are more selfish and self-involved than you could have ever imagined, and that they care about you less than you’d hoped. But – the only person that you’re continuing to hurt is yourself, Barb, when you allow it to affect you negatively every time you see the thank you notes, etc. You must stop comparing yourself to others, and stop feeling like you were owed something you didn’t get. I’m not saying that it’s abnormal to feel that way – I think it is normal! But it’s self-destructive. I would try not to see the lack of card/flowers as some great judgment upon your worth as a human being, and instead see it as a reflection of theirs. They were probably all so wrapped up in their lives, problems, etc that they very selfishly simply forgot you. I highly doubt that anyone maliciously decided against sending you something. It probably just didn’t occur to them. And, in the absence of someone whose specific job or responsibility it is to make sure that stuff happens, I’ll bet you a bunch of them thought – “Oh, I bet someone else is doing it. I’ll sign the card when it comes round.” I think you slipped through the cracks of an imperfect system, and I think you learned that you are a little less important to your coworkers than you thought.

If I were you, I would do some short-term counseling. I am not suggesting you have a mental illness. Therapists are wonderful to work with when these kinds of things come up and you’re having trouble getting past them. It can be so cathartic to get everything off your chest, and to have someone else offer you alternative ways of looking at things. You would probably not need more than a handful of sessions, a few weeks worth, and you’d feel a lot better.

Apologies – I have gotten away from the focus of this board, etiquette. Etiquette requires you to ignore it and pretend like it never happened. You may politely decline the requests of others. But you probably already knew that, and it doesn’t help much in feeling better.

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Jerry August 29, 2012 at 3:41 pm

There is no way of addressing these people without shooting yourself in the foot or seeming petty. For the love of all things good, do not run to HR with this sort of problem. . . . At least, don’t go to HR yet. You will seem petty and no good will come from it. (This is not to say you don’t have a legitimate complaint. I feel betrayed for you!)

I think you’re right to refuse any request that doesn’t fit your job description. If someone asks you to put in a little extra to make their job easier, feel free to say “no.” And if someone asks you to buy stuff from their kids, participate in multi-level marketing efforts, buy gifts for babyshowers, go to birthday lunches, chip in for sick coworkers gifts, or anything similar, just say “no.” Not “Sorry not today,” pull a Nancy Regan and just say no. (If someone is rude enough to ask why, you can respond “Because when I was sick, the team completely ignored me.” It’s technically not polite, but since the quesitoner opened the door . . . )

I would also start looking for a new job immediately. Then, during your exit interview, that’s when you explain that you lost all loyalty to the company when the office manager (i) forgot about you, and (ii) blew it off when you addressed it with her.

I hope you’re recovering well.

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Barb August 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I am in management, so I am limited in how I can respond to coworkers.

The office manager has been with the company 20+ years and either has not kept up with current HR policy or chooses to not follow it.

When coworkers bring their kids to the office to peddle their wares (owners are the worst offenders), I have started to quietly shut my door so they will have to move on.

If coworkers decide to persist in their future requests, I do not think it it is a good idea to mention my displeasure about being excluded in the past. From reading Chocobo’s post, I think it is better to simply say, “I do not mix my socail life with business.”.

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