General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

Rude to ignore a direct question in email? (Small update - post #7, #14, #16)

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unnalee:
Ok, this is long and complex.  I'll do my best to simplify.

I just got a new job in a small archive focused on a regional ethnic group (I love my job!).  The archive is affiliated with a small private university which was founded by this same ethnic group in the late 1800s.  I belong to this ethnic group.

The university used to also be a seminary affiliated with a specific branch of a protestant religion (Let's call them the Blue church).  The seminary closed decades ago, and any religious overtones on campus are much more general now.  Not everyone in my ethnic group belonged to the same branch, and in fact, there was much division between certain factions of the Blue Church, to the point where many branches split off and formed their own congregations.  These branches still exist in our community today, so it's not uncommon to know other people who belong to the Azure Church, the Turquoise Church, or the Periwinkle Church, all sharing the same ethnic heritage.

Our archive focuses on collecting records and artifacts from this ethnic group, REGARDLESS of political or religious affiliation.  We want to include and preserve all voices and experiences.  I was raised in the Azure Church, but don't have strong ties to it anymore.

It's shocking how often patrons will ask me what my religious affiliations are!  I'm uncomfortable talking about that in a professional setting, because the wrong word or impression to the wrong person could cause offense and we could lose donors.  There used to be rumors passed among some groups that whenever the archive was given a donation that was related to X or Y sub group of the ethnic group, the archive staff burned it because "those people" were "bad."  It's completely NOT TRUE, but gives you an idea of some of the issues I need to be aware of to do my job well.  I am ususally able to deflect and bean dip.  But there is one guy who won't be distracted.

He used to work for the university years ago as a fundraiser.  He also attended school here and seminary, and fancies himself to have been something of a basketball star (I only know all this because he donated a copy of his self-published autobiography to our archive).  He's a pretty in-your-face person.  He was a pastor in a Blue church before moving on to join an Azure Church (under some controversy of the extramarital kind).  It seems he thinks that everyone who works for the university should be overtly religious, but as it doesn't affect my job, I don't think it's anyone's business.

All my dealings with him thus far have been through email.  Every single one has asked in different roundabout ways what my religious status is.  The email I just got from him this morning has done away with the subtleties and says,

"Have a nice Advent and Christmas.  Considering your roots, are you Azure?   Good to have Azure people on our staff, and students too."   :o

It's not rude if I ignore a question that is itself pretty rude, even if it's asked directly of me, right?  Anyone think I need to respond, and if so, what would you suggest?

bopper:
I would ignore the questions about your religion and just answer any pertinent work questions. I would ignore this email.

Biker Granny:
I'd reply....Thank you for the warm wishes....Merry Christmas to you too!.


Nothing more.

Decimus:
Hm.  I think given the precise wording, you can safely pretend it was a rhetorical question.  The sentence can be read as "If you are Azure, then I think it is good" and not "please tell me your religious affiliation."  That may well not be what he means, but you can probably get away with pretending it's rhetorical and just replying with "Merry Christmas to you too."

However, due to the implications it may be worth sending a question up a  rank.  Are you the sole archivist?  Who does the archives report to in the university org chart?  If, say, the archives is part of the university library, you could send the Head Librarian an email and ask "What is the university policy applicable when important donors specifically inquire about the religious affiliations of university staff?"

After all, his next email might well be "Are you Azure?" with no other cover.  Or he might complain that (say) the Janitor is Turquoise/Red/Kumquat.  It's an etiquette question you might want to push up a level if possible.

Winterlight:

--- Quote from: Decimus on December 12, 2012, 04:33:28 PM ---Hm.  I think given the precise wording, you can safely pretend it was a rhetorical question.  The sentence can be read as "If you are Azure, then I think it is good" and not "please tell me your religious affiliation."  That may well not be what he means, but you can probably get away with pretending it's rhetorical and just replying with "Merry Christmas to you too."

However, due to the implications it may be worth sending a question up a  rank.  Are you the sole archivist?  Who does the archives report to in the university org chart?  If, say, the archives is part of the university library, you could send the Head Librarian an email and ask "What is the university policy applicable when important donors specifically inquire about the religious affiliations of university staff?"

After all, his next email might well be "Are you Azure?" with no other cover.  Or he might complain that (say) the Janitor is Turquoise/Red/Kumquat.  It's an etiquette question you might want to push up a level if possible.

--- End quote ---

This. I'd want to see if there's some way to nip this in the bud, and supervisors should be aware that he's pestering staff.

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