Real Simple etiquette expert, Catherine Newman on how to deal a with miserly coworker.

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Q. Every so often, we take up collections at work. One was for a colleague who lost both parents during the earthquake in Haiti, another for someone who lost his home during Hurricane Sandy, others for employee wedding gifts, and so on. The collection is not mandatory, but everyone pitches in—except one person. This coworker has never contributed. She has claimed not to have the means to give to an important cause, even though she arrives to work every day with a store-bought coffee and muffin. Angered about her behavior, I recently left her out of an e-mail I forwarded to my colleagues about a shower-gift collection. Was it inappropriate to exclude her?


A. Do you know the saying about holding a grudge? How it's like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die? That's a bit like what you're doing.

You're upset, but excluding your coworker from charitable-request e-mails seems more likely to exacerbate than to solve the issue.

My advice? Keep including her in your e-mails. She'll learn more from your example of patience and inclusiveness than she will from an absence of correspondence. You are obviously a generous person—extend a little of that sensibility to your coworker, and give her the benefit of the doubt.

Because the truth is that you really don't know anything about her financial situation. Hey, maybe her uncle owns the café where she gets coffee and muffins. Or maybe she makes individual charitable contributions at her place of worship or to another organization.

Let go of your rancor by focusing instead on what you do know for sure—which is that your office is an exceptionally thoughtful and supportive place to work.

—Catherine Newman

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