Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners

An inevitable and unfortunate part of the “I want to be me” movement has been the idea that there is no distinction between your business life and your personal life. People treat colleagues as friends and family-often to disastrous effect. Sexual harassment is a prime example. If you flirt with somebody at a party, that person can’t have you arrested. But if you flirt at the office, it could cost you your job. Well, flirting at work has always been unmannerly. The distance of formality should make it obvious that office flirtation is wrong. But because people don’t care about etiquette anymore, we have to use the law to make them obey…the problem with many of today’s workplace issues is that they are too subtle and nuanced for the law, which is a very heavy-handed instrument. But if people don’t obey the rules of etiquette, we have no choice but to use the law.

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