Miss Manners: Responding to dismissive comments from a friend

It’s ironic, because she spends most of her time cleaning her house, whereas mine is clean but I still have time to enjoy doing things l...



It’s ironic, because she spends most of her time cleaning her house, whereas mine is clean but I still have time to enjoy doing things like this.

Is there a polite way to respond without being snarky? Because I get that way when my feelings are hurt.

When compliments are met with derision (“This old thing?”), the intention is not to insult the giver’s taste. Likewise, your friend must think that she is modestly deflecting your generosity.

However, Miss Manners agrees that it comes across less than gracious for deeds that are so thoughtfully meant. A stricken, “Oh! No, I don’t have much time. I just enjoy doing it and thought that you would like it. I can stop if you like” should sufficiently shame your friend into reminding her that generosity can always be terminated if it goes unappreciated.

Dear Miss Manners: Last year, shortly before the holidays, I accepted a promotion to a different department in the government agency where I’ve worked for several years. This is my first supervisory position, and my predecessor set some precedents that I’m finding difficult to afford.

He bought lunch for each staff member on their birthday, and bought lunch for the entire staff plus the secretaries (a total of about 10 people) for the holidays.

Another supervisor, who also carries on these traditions, informed me of them. Not wanting to make a bad first impression or appear stingy, I went along with it last year. But the truth is, I’m still paying off student loans and my salary is far from exorbitant. Many of my staff make quite a bit more than I do, as they have been here longer.

I’m struggling with what to do this year. I would rather buy a small gift for my staff, but I don’t want them to feel that I appreciate them less than other supervisors or my predecessor. What is the appropriate amount for a low-level government supervisor to spend?

Does your compliance officer have nothing to say about this?

If not, she should. Miss Manners recommends that rather than get into a competition of gratitude with past employers, you express yours in personal and heartfelt wishes. And then get your agency to agree to allowing people to go home early on the eves of holidays, as that will probably be more appreciated than grocery store cake and subpar takeout food.

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Newsrust: Miss Manners: Responding to dismissive comments from a friend
Miss Manners: Responding to dismissive comments from a friend
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