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Thanks, but no thanks…

Q. I need some advice, please. When we tried to order lunch in the office for Boss's Day, our boss wouldn't let us pay for hers (we each paid for our own). This may seem nice, but isn't it somewhat graceless to turn down a small gift of this sort? (We each would have contributed about $2) If people genuinely want to do something kind, should you turn down a small token of appreciation? Maybe I'm reading this wrong? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

A. W., Lebanon, NH

A. Certainly, your boss could have accepted your offer, but it was just that--an offer. And an offer is an option you give to a person, not a demand, and she chose not to accept. What I don't read in your letter is a reason for her turn-down, so I suggest you presume that it was positive. Perhaps, in these tight economic times she didn't want recognition of Boss's Day to cause any burden, no matter how small, on any person in the office. By choosing to partake in the lunch, she accepted the opportunity to spend time with you in a non-work related moment, which may well have meant much more to her than the cost of her lunch.

Q. At this time of the year I feel it's more important than ever to maintain relationships, and I'd like to do this by sending Christmas cards to my extended professional network. As a divorced male, how do I deal with women contacts? Is it permissible to direct a Christmas card to my professional female contacts, even if they're married? Do I send it to their homes, or only to work addresses? Also, I'd like to get gifts for some of the senior people at my current client, but I don't want to overstep some bound by giving a nice gift to a married woman.

E. L., Alpharetta, GA

A. Treat all your business contacts with the same consideration--male, female, married or unmarried. Send holiday cards to their business addresses. Before sending any gifts, be sure there isn't a limitation at the client?s company on receiving gifts. Keep away from any gift that is personal in nature such as clothing or cologne.

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