my manager insists on assigning seats at a holiday lunch that we pay for ourselves

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First, thanks to everyone who sent me the news that the rule on gifts in an office flowing downward, not upward (i.e., you’re not expected to give gifts to your boss) goes at least as far back as Letitia Baldrige, who wrote many books on etiquette and was Jackie Kennedy’s social secretary in the White House. (Emily Yoffe, who writes the Dear Prudence advice column at Slate, yesterday mentioned it coming from Baldrige, and noted herself, “It’s absurd and unseemly for employees to return their hard-earned money to the people who control their salaries as if paying liege to a feudal lord. This pernicious practice should be stamped out, and if a company has an HR department, that office should put a stop to it.”) And when we were trying to nail down the origins of this rule a couple of weeks ago, other people pointed out that the very correct Miss Manners has talked about it as well. . . .

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