Do you have questions about fellow employees, relationships and patience?
Jeanne Marie Laskas has answers.
Do your co-workers annoy you at work?
Life's Little Etiquette Conundrums
Q. My boss gave me a gift certificate for my birthday. When I went to redeem it, I was informed that it had expired four months earlier! What do I say?
A. Yikes. That's a sticky one. If you have an easy relationship with your boss, try making a joke about it: "Uh, about that generous gift …" If it's a more formal relationship, let this episode go and avoid risking the embarrassment of a considerate employer who likely meant well. Accept the thought-that-counts as your gift and move on.
Q. I work in an office of about 35 people. One coworker, a wonderfully nice man, has been whistling the same song, very loudly and very often, every day since he got here, six months ago. It's unbearable! I can hear the sighs of my colleagues as soon as he starts up, and a song that I once loved is becoming torture. But his whistling brings him such joy that it seems cruel to tell him it's driving the rest of us bonkers.
A. What a great problem to have—a wonderfully nice whistling man! Surely he'll work with you. Keep it light. Say "Dude, about the whistling …" Tell him he's a darn good whistler, then say "But do you know any other tunes?" and "Do you take requests?" Make some. Have coworkers ask for their favorites.
Q. About a year and a half ago, I lent a friend $800 for a new transmission for his car. He paid me back $250, but nothing more in the last year. I now need help with a website—something he's very good at. He's said he'll help but keeps putting it off. I haven't yet suggested that he trade his time for the debt, but it seems obvious. Should I just drop it?
A. For goodness' sake, speak up! Never leave it up to someone else to figure out what's going on in your brain. He owes you the money, and you owe him a clearly articulated choice of ways to repay you. You're offering the chance to trade his time and expertise for his debt. It's a great deal.
Q. My parents expect me to do well in school, even though my brothers are pretty lousy students. Anything less than a B from me and I'm in trouble. Ironically, my parents' nagging is affecting my grades. Are they too pushy, or should I just be happy to have caring parents?
A. Sounds like Mom and Pop are feeling like failed parents on the academic front, so they're pinning all their hopes on you. They have an important lesson to learn: Nagging has never made anyone smarter. So teach them. Thank them for caring, but let them know that the needling is making you nuts. Tell them you want to succeed on your own terms.
Q. My husband and I have a daughter who has given us four beautiful grandchildren. On Christmas and their birthdays, we like to give them each a toy. The problem is that our daughter invariably takes the toys away, withholding them as a form of punishment, which seems unreasonable. What can we do?
A. Not very much. Your opinions are irrelevant to whatever parenting techniques your daughter employs (as long as she is not harming her children). Your daughter may be stressed-out by the demands of having four kids. An offer to help may go a lot further toward your grandchildren's well-being than any gift you could give them.
Q. My husband plays an online video game—excessively. We have two young kids, and sometimes I feel like a single mom because he "just wants to play a little bit." I've told him he needs to cut back, which he does for a day or two, but he's soon back to his routine. When I bring it up, he gets mad and says that I'm really upset about something else that I'm just not articulating. Wrong! How do I get him to understand?
--Single Mom of Three
A. Go ahead and agree with your husband when he says you're upset about something else. That will eliminate his attempt to change the subject. Then, once you have his attention, tell him you need help. You do not need him to understand; you need him to change: to change the diapers, to change the child care routine, and to change his attitude, especially when it comes to spending time with his family.