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Miss Manners: Get manager to kick habit with speaker

Dear Miss Manners: There is a business manager at work who always answers and keeps his phone in speaker mode. He does not do that to his boss – just everyone else. I feel that it is rude to keep the phone in speaker mode when you are in a one-on-one conversation. When I ask him to pick up, he refuses.

Gentle Reader: If you object to the sound quality when the speaker mode is used, Miss Manners suggests you apologize and explain that you cannot understand what is being said. If you object to being overheard by people in the next cubicle, explain that what you have to say is sensitive.

If you feel that someone on a speakerphone is apt to be “multitasking” – a modern word coined to replace the phrase “not paying attention” – you are most likely right. Alas, Miss Manners does not recommend ordering your manager to pay attention.

Sucker-punched at restaurant

Dear Miss Manners: I am a 62-year-old woman, and I often drop by a neighborhood restaurant for lunch. I was sitting in a booth reading and waiting for my meal when I felt a sharp jab in the middle of my back. A man in his 60s or 70s, sitting with two women behind me, had punched me by leaning over the top of the booth.

I was shocked and surprised to say the least. I decided to move to the other seat at my table. This is obviously what he hoped for when he hit me, because he put one arm over the booth and dangled it down on my previous seat.

The punch was not serious, but it was certainly felt by me. What should I do if this ever happens again?

Gentle Reader: Scream.

Had this been some sort of accident, and your assailant run over to apologize, you could then have explained that you screamed because you were startled. If it was done with the bizarre intention of making you move, you could have left him to explain to onlookers why he would hit another diner.

Ill-mannered subordinates

Dear Miss Manners: What is the best way to discuss bad table manners with subordinates? Our work entails many meetings with clients, and I have observed and heard slurping, smacking of lips and more. It is extremely embarrassing and offensive.

Gentle Reader: It is rude to correct another’s manners. However, as there is no way to change your subordinates’ behavior without correcting their manners, what you are looking for is someone else to blame.

Miss Manners recommends the absent client. Most employees are smart enough to accept the face-saving device that manners, like dress, must be “professional,” and not take it as an outrageous restriction of their freedom to be offensive and badly groomed.