General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

The Christmas party 'jab' (VERY long)

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I recently heard about an incident and wanted to get opinions.

Sharon and Katie work at the same (small < 30 people) office.  They work on different floors and don’t really need to interact much at all.  They’ve never been to lunch together, and they don’t socialize.

Katie works on the 1st floor, is in her late 20s, and often can be overheard talking about fashion/clothes, hairstyles, and her quest for Mr. Right.   Sharon works on the 3rd floor, is in her late 40s, doesn’t share much about her personal life, but has varied interests, and likes to chat with a select group of people about common interests.  It’s necessary to pass Sharon’s desk on the 3rd floor when getting supplies, coffee, and also when retrieving documents from one of the ‘power’ printers near the supply cabinet.

Katie works closely with another person who, (for whatever reasons) had a few conflicts with Sharon.  Supposedly things were resolved, but (imo) Katie got an earful from the coworker.

Sharon sometimes keeps a candy dish on her desk, and of course people can help themselves.   Strangely enough, this is what seemed to start the problem.  Katie comes up to the 3rd floor a few times a week – sometimes she speaks to Sharon, sometimes not.  Sharon speaks to Katie in passing, but that’s about it.  The way I hear it, about a month ago, Katie came to the 3rd floor accompanied by someone from a branch office.  She reached into the candy bowl and said “Oh, these look good.  Can I take a few?”  Sharon smiled and said “Sure, and hello, by the way.”  Katie kind of bristled and said “Hello, Sharon.”

A couple of weeks later, the office Christmas party was held at a nice banquet hall.  Dinner, music, entertainment – a nice evening.  Spouses, dates, clients, and branch employees attended.

During the course of the evening Katie made a production of coming over the table where Sharon was sitting and said “Sharon, I just wanted to make a point of saying hello to you.  I don’t want this to turn into one of those loooooog conversations, but I hope you enjoy the party.”  Then she walked away.  Several people sitting at the table with Sharon gave her a “What the heck was that about?”  ??? look.   Sharon just shrugged and the party continued.

Sharon was offended, but didn’t discuss the incident with anyone at the office.  Instead, she gave Katie the cold shoulder whenever they passed each other, and, from what I hear, things are still chilly between them (not that it’s ever been warm).  Katie complimented Sharon's outfit a week or so ago, but Sharon mumbled "Thanks" and continued with whatever she was doing.

Sharon was recently talking to the Office Manager about business, and OM slyly brought up Katie’s name, asking Sharon how she felt about her.  Sharon simply said “I really don’t know her well; our contact is minimal” but was careful not to say anything about the party incident or her negative feelings about Katie.  (When Sharon relayed the incident to me, she referred to Katie as an airhead.)

Thanks for getting thru all this!! How could this have been handled better?

I think Sharon shouldn't have said, "Sure, and hello by the way." That was a criticism or a correction, and I don't think it was necessary or appropriate.

Doubly bad because she corrected Katie in front of someone else.

I think both of them behaved poorly. The first incident was just silly. Sharon doesn't come across well. If I see someone frequently, I am not going to be practicing completely formal etiquette all the time. Katie might not have been completely correct in neglecting a 'hello' first, but she comes across as cheerful and friendly. Sharon comes off as uptight. The second incident, however, is even more ridiculous. A couple of weeks later, Katie goes out of her way to act like a snot to Sharon. That's just childish.

If I were Sharon, I wouldn't be particularly friendly with her after that, either--not as punishment, but just because I wouldn't have much interest in interacting with someone so petty. With people who hold weird grudges over such small things, you never know when they'll attack you next.

I'm assuming Sharon already considered Katie an airhead since you included the info about her being heard to discuss hair, fashion, and romance.  So I think Sharon's comment was her attempt to educate Katie on her ideas of appropriate office behavior and maybe even bring attention to it in front of the visitor.  if she wasn't, then she would have simply said "Hi, Katie, take as much as you'd like."

Katie's comment at the party was childish.

I think refraining from interaction is best for both of these characters.

I get the impression from what Katie said at the party about a "loooooong conversation" that Sharon may have made a much bigger deal about saying hello than just her "hello, btw."
I'm not sure but Sharon might be one of those PA people who does things under the radar until the other person just can't take it anymore and when they blow, the PA person acts all clueless, like "where did that come from."


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