Steel Advice: Thank you is good enough for co-worker's gift

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DEAR STEEL ADVICE: What is proper etiquette for gifting at work? My co-workers give each other small gifts like wine. I then feel the need to reciprocate. I see this as unnecessary and the money spent could benefit a local charity. How can I suggest this without offending others and not being compelled to buy small gifts?


DEAR OFFICE WORKER: Be gracious when someone gives you a present but do not feel there is an automatic obligation for you to jump on the bandwagon and become part of the parade of excess. Good manners require a prompt thank you in person, a note or an email. It is not mandated or necessary to respond with a reciprocal gift. You are in charge of pulling the cord to get off the bus if you want to break your participation in the office gifting cycle. You cannot change the office culture, but you can control how you respond. Let it be known when you receive a present that you decided to make a donation to your favorite charity this year instead of buying gifts for your colleagues and co-workers.

DEAR STEEL ADVICE: Twice a year, we host a gathering for a group of friends, and we always ask for a response on the invitation. Over the years, there have been people who have ignored multiple invitations to these parties. Are we right to stop inviting the people who don't respond? Other members of the group seem to think that we should still be inviting them.


DEAR PARTY HOSTS: Your invitations are not restaurant fliers announcing a new ham sandwich special, "come if you want one." The pattern of not responding and not attending is reasonable justification for you to drop these names from your next invitation list. The lack of good manners puts the onus on you to guess the right amount of party fare you need. You either overbuy and get stuck with the additional food or stress about not having enough if everyone who has been invited shows up. If the regular no-shows are card-carrying members of your group and participate in other group activities, you should delegate head count responsibility to a member of the group who advocates sending invitations to everyone. Be firm and stick up for yourself; you need to know who plans on attending. Your home is not a 24-hour drive-thru or a community lodge.

Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.

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