Monday, 30 November -0001

The Lady Guide To Modern Manners: 7 September

Time to bid farewell to o ce politics? Thomas Blaikie reveals how to survive the unwelcome leaving party

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,

I'm leaving my job soon but I really don't want a leaving do. My colleagues are insisting on taking me to a restaurant but I don't like them or the job. That's why I'm going. They've even asked me to bring five of my own friends. How am I supposed to choose? And they're going to love it, aren't they – dragging through the evening with a whole crowd of retail-industry HR personnel?

Leslie Montague, Bromley

Dear Leslie,

Not so long ago employers were lavish in the provision of works outings – to the evening races, the dogs, the country club and so on. Management manuals advised that this would automatically induce loyalty, bonding and delight among colleagues.

Actually, employees were exasperated – they would much rather spend time with their own friends. Perhaps one pleasant by-product of recession is that all these 'jollies' and treats have been severely curtailed.

But the leaving do persists. It might be an informal gathering in the pub after work or a gala dinner with speeches. Just as with funerals, at the farewell occasion 'the best' is seen in those who are moving on, and their faults, however extensive, are overlooked. The gesture is a benign one – it is forgiving and absolutely right.

Don't you think you might regret it if you refuse the offer of a leaving do? However difficult and unappealing the job and the colleagues have been, surely it is best to part on reasonable terms? If your work mates want to organise a dinner for you and pay for it themselves, isn't that a generous gesture? They must think something of you, even if you don't think much of them.

Here's an important law of social life: the less you want to go, the more you should and are likely to be rewarded. It's the anticipated functions that disappoint.

I do agree with you, though, that you're put in an invidious position by the suggestion, no doubt kindly meant, that you bring along some of your 'outside' friends. How indeed do you choose and will those selected have a good time with a cliquey in-crowd talking shop? Or, one of your intimates might get drunk and reveal your innermost secrets.

However much we might wish it otherwise, there's a certain gang mentality when a large group from the same workplace gets together. Also, however 'relaxed' the working environment, people are still on their best behaviour. Certain barriers are in place. So it would be an awkward encounter.

Be prepared: you might be called upon to make a little speech. If you take the chance to tell your colleagues what you really think of them, you'll just look puny and mean. Be generous. Thank all the right people. And don't deliberately forget to take away your leaving present.

Please send your questions to Thomas.blaikie@lady.co.uk or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER.


WHAT TO DO ABOUT... seething 'pavement rage'

When ambling pedestrians get in your way, or when persons resembling a cruise missile, talking on a mobile phone, gun towards you – you've just got to get out of their way, or be knocked down.

Rock-bottom pavement conduct and ensuing pavement rage are manifestations of what English writer Lynne Truss has identified as the great social disease of our time, not known in previous eras – mainly due to the fact that, in public places, we take no notice of each other. The automated, inflated scale and manic pace of existence are probably the main cause. People don't mean to be rude; they're just locked in the tunnel of their own panic and struggle in life. Try not to be too furious.

If possible, attempt politely to get past the amblers: 'I'm so sorry. Bit of a hurry...' Said with smiles and apologies. Many are released instantly from their tunnel on contact.

The 'cruise missiles' are harder to deal with – usually it's too late and instinctively we just bolt out of the way. But what if, habitually, you move very calmly and upright, spreading into the space around you? Is there any chance a missile might be deflected?



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