Author Topic: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem  (Read 8134 times)

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squashedfrog

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Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« on: November 01, 2010, 10:57:35 AM »
I have often wondered about how this could have been handled differently, if possible by my work, or by me, or by the person involved. 

B/G In the UK, this date is the Armistice Date, and people everywhere wear a red poppy on their clothes to remember the dead, primarily from  the 1st and 2nd world wars.  This is VERY common place,  part of our culture, all presenters on UK TV wear them, and probably 1 out of 5 people can be seen wearing them on the streets around the time (they are sold for charity which goes towards ex or injured servicemen, it supports the troops in Afghanistan etc). End B/G

A few years ago, my work colleagues and I were at an important road show to promote our architectural work to high end business people on the 11th November (Armistice Day).   On all the other stands people are wearing poppies.  I was asked by my boss to get 8 poppies in the morning for all of our people manning the stand.

I give them out to my colleagues as we are getting ready, but one colleagues got very annoyed and said she wearing a poppy out of principle. She explained that her family supported “the other side” in the 2nd world war (her family comes from a European country, though this is not obvious in her name or accent, though not Germany), and therefore would not wear one out of principle.   I can understand the sentiment, and thought I was a little taken back at her annoyance, I put the poppy away and let my boss know we had one spare, as I explained the lady in question felt uncomfortable wearing it. He was fine with that.

The problem came later, when guests (our clients and potential clients) began to arrive.  As all of us on the stand were wearing poppies, people would say hello to us all, and then say hello my colleague and cheerily ask if her poppy had fallen off, one person actually told her they had a spare, and did she want it. Where upon she began explaining to them, very emphatically, that as her family had supported the other side, she would not wear one out of principle.   I can imagine that she was getting annoyed with constantly being asked where her poppy was.   

Now this caused a few very awkward moments with clients.  A few clients wondered off immediately from our stand and one (quite older, but very important client), whose father had fought in the RAF, looked quite ticked off and left the stand. 

So this is my question:  Would it have been right for my boss to intervene at this point and ask my colleagues not to keep telling people this if it looks that we are upsetting clients or making a number of clients feel uncomfortable, thus having an effect on the business persona of the day. BUT CAN you, indeed, say anything?  You can’t force anyone to wear a poppy, certainly not!  But in the same instance, you can’t ask the rest of the group to take theirs off so she would not be as conspicuous.  And we couldn’t stop clients from the general chit chat observing that made her feel uncomfortable. 

mechtilde

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2010, 11:02:25 AM »
If she chooses not to wear a poppy then she has to work out a way to deal with it professionally, without annoying clients. It might be appropriate for your boss to discuss this with her as clearly it is affecting her ability to participate in sales.

My Dh is German, and he's never worn one, but has never raised the issue either, although the children do wear them. I've never asked him about it though- I assume if he wants to discuss it he will raise the issue himself.
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Yvaine

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2010, 11:27:57 AM »
I think she was rude if she sounded antagonistic about the poppy and about her family having fought on the other side. I also think the clients were rude to pester her about it, but I agree with Mechtilde; she should have come up with a diplomatic way of declining the flowers.

squashedfrog

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2010, 11:30:37 AM »
I look back and think it was sprung on her a little, so it must have been a very awkward social situation for her to be in.   It was a one off incident.

At the same time, was it rude of the boss to assume everyone would be ok wearing poppies, (though it is the norm here on this day, certainly in such business situations, and none of us were aware of her family history before this, so did not therefore think to question it).

If something is so commonplace in one culture, is it rude to just assume that everyone is willing to wear one.  Its certainly not rude for her to say that she didnt want to wear the poppy, but at the same time was the lady in question rude for getting exasperated with clients who were questioning her about it?

It made for an uncomfortable day all round.  

My boss later got annoyed when he found out this had happened and believed that SHE should not have recated in this way, though he did not mention this to her after the event, he was approached by a collegue who relayed the incident of the older client and RAF supporter, and mentioned "his nose was put out of joint".  

Now I myself think that the client over reacted a little, but then, if you are looking at client rel@tionships, how far do you go to plecate them?  Is it right to expect her to not say why she doesnt wear a poppy, in case she offends people who have equally strong feelings about it in the other direction?

Jocelyn

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2010, 11:31:56 AM »
I think an employer has the right to tell an employee to stop saying things that are making clients uncomfortable.
It would be inappropriate to require the wearing of the poppy.
The worker could say, 'Oh, I put mine away in a good safe place.' Needn't mention it was the trashcan.

Ferrets

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2010, 11:37:14 AM »
Is it right to expect her to not say why she doesnt wear a poppy, in case she offends people who have equally strong feelings about it in the other direction?

In a professional situation such as this, I think a civil "I don't wear one on principle" - or simply "I don't wear one" - is probably the best option. (Repeat if pushed for an answer.) The clients were acting very inappropriately and rudely by saying anything at all about the fact that she wasn't wearing one.

DangerMouth

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2010, 11:38:35 AM »
I'm trying hard to imagine that an end to a horrible war wouldn't be considered a good thing, no matter which side you were on. Would she rather they still be fighting it?

But if she feels that strongly about it, and her job involves interacting with customers, I think she should be strongly encouraged to take a vacation day, because it's not right to undermine your employer and offend your customer base. I would not expect a vegan to choose the meatpacking industry as a career choice, and neither should that same vegan get a job in a steakhouse and tell her patrons that she has more sympathy for the animals.

Ferrets

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2010, 11:45:53 AM »
But if she feels that strongly about it, and her job involves interacting with customers, I think she should be strongly encouraged to take a vacation day, because it's not right to undermine your employer and offend your customer base. I would not expect a vegan to choose the meatpacking industry as a career choice, and neither should that same vegan get a job in a steakhouse and tell her patrons that she has more sympathy for the animals.

I don't think the two situations are comparable - for all some people seem to see the wearing of poppies as a default action for which you must justify any opting out, they are not compulsory* and there are many valid reasons why individuals do or do not wear them. (Acting as if poppies should be compulsory does fly in the face of a great deal of what they're meant to stand for.)

*"What you wear is a matter of choice, the Legion doesn't have a problem whether you wear a red one or a white one, both or none at all. It is up to you." - Stuart Gendall, Royal British Legion spokesperson


ClaireC79

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2010, 11:53:52 AM »
Most of the ex-servicemen I know who wear them say they are to remember the fallen of wars, regardless of which side (even though the money from the poppy sales go to the British.

Strangely enough most of the people who actually fought during WW2 that I know were the ones who would be down the pub drinking together talking about 'old times' and swapping experiences despite the fact they were on opposing sides as young men

DangerMouth

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2010, 12:00:44 PM »
But if she feels that strongly about it, and her job involves interacting with customers, I think she should be strongly encouraged to take a vacation day, because it's not right to undermine your employer and offend your customer base. I would not expect a vegan to choose the meatpacking industry as a career choice, and neither should that same vegan get a job in a steakhouse and tell her patrons that she has more sympathy for the animals.

I don't think the two situations are comparable - for all some people seem to see the wearing of poppies as a default action for which you must justify any opting out, they are not compulsory* and there are many valid reasons why individuals do or do not wear them. (Acting as if poppies should be compulsory does fly in the face of a great deal of what they're meant to stand for.)

*"What you wear is a matter of choice, the Legion doesn't have a problem whether you wear a red one or a white one, both or none at all. It is up to you." - Stuart Gendall, Royal British Legion spokesperson


I see what you are saying. I just think that in this particular instance, when there already been questions, justifications and hard feelings, the boss would have been wiser to send her home, as a practical matter, not an idealogical one.

Linley

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2010, 12:15:19 PM »
Most of the ex-servicemen I know who wear them say they are to remember the fallen of wars, regardless of which side (even though the money from the poppy sales go to the British.

This was always my understanding of the meaning of the poppies. I think the OPs coworker certainly has the right to not wear one, there are many rituals I don't participate in for one reason or another, but her explanation is apparently coming across as antagonistic/upsetting and is more information than is necessary and so I think her behavior is out of line. There are much better choices of phrases should anyone ask her why everyone else is wearing one and she isn't.


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Ferrets

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2010, 12:16:33 PM »
I see what you are saying. I just think that in this particular instance, when there already been questions, justifications and hard feelings, the boss would have been wiser to send her home, as a practical matter, not an idealogical one.

I see what you're saying too, and appreciate that you're focusing on the practicalities of this as an isolated instance. But I do think that would still be penalising someone for their beliefs. squashedfrog's colleague isn't haranguing people for wearing their poppies, or volunteering the reason why she doesn't completely out of the blue: she's being hassled for not complying with something which isn't mandatory, and - although she should certainly be deflecting the comments more neutrally than she has been - I don't believe it's her responsibility to steer clear of the situation completely simply because the clients are being difficult.


The Legend of Daisy

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2010, 12:23:21 PM »
I think poppies are worn in all Commonwealth countries, not just the UK. I don't wear them either, I usually donate then refuse the poppy because I find I do myself serious injury with those little stick pins.
In the case of your colleague I think she was completely inappropriate. And insensitive. If she couldn't contain herself then she shouldn't have been working that day.

DangerMouth

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2010, 12:28:05 PM »
I see what you are saying. I just think that in this particular instance, when there already been questions, justifications and hard feelings, the boss would have been wiser to send her home, as a practical matter, not an idealogical one.

I see what you're saying too, and appreciate that you're focusing on the practicalities of this as an isolated instance. But I do think that would still be penalising someone for their beliefs. squashedfrog's colleague isn't haranguing people for wearing their poppies, or volunteering the reason why she doesn't completely out of the blue: she's being hassled for not complying with something which isn't mandatory, and - although she should certainly be deflecting the comments more neutrally than she has been - I don't believe it's her responsibility to steer clear of the situation completely simply because the clients are being difficult.

That's true too. I suppose it could come down to a huge debate about how far a company should go to placate a customer or potential customer, and how much is reasonable to ask your employees to assist you in that... I dunno, I can see both sides.

'Deflecting' (or beandipping) is an invaluable tool I've only just recently learned about. It's been quite liberating to realize that I don't have to attend every fight I'm invited to, or fight every war all over again just because someone makes a comment :)

Editted to un-split an infinitive :)

Lisbeth

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Re: Remembrance Day – and etiquette problem
« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2010, 12:31:51 PM »
Well, she certainly isn't required to wear a poppy, but I think that her explanations about "the other side" and "not wearing one out of principle" are antagonizing clients and need to stop.

If I were her, I'd just say, "I don't feel comfortable wearing one" or even "I'm allergic to poppies" rather than pointing out her principle.  That kind of thing can raise people's hackles and get their backs up.
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