Etiquette

Going Above and Beyond Doesn’t Help You

We’ve all had that job evaluation, right? The one where you get ranked along a scale, and “Meets Expectations” is in the middle of the scale, followed by “Exceeds Expectations” and “No, Seriously, This Person Demolishes Expectations?”

When you see a scale like that, you know that in this company “Exceeds Expectations” actually means “Meets Expectations.” There’s a certain sadness in this reconfiguration of the language, in the idea that you have to figure out what the secret expectations are and then meet them so you can be marked down as having exceeded the original expectations.

Because, according to a new study in Social Psychological & Personality Science, people really do just want you to meet the expectations. They don’t actually want you to exceed them.

I read about this study in The Atlantic this morning, and it rang true like a bell. Of course people don’t really want you to go above and beyond; the social contract goes much more smoothly when everyone does what they say they’re going to do, and when everyone does what’s fair. Or, to quote Atlantic author James Hamblin:

Imagine you’re a kid with a cookie and a friend who has no cookie. What happens if you eat it all? Your friend will be upset. What happens if you give all of it away? Your friend will like you a lot. What if you give away half the cookie? Your friend will be just about as happy with you as if you gave him the whole thing. His satisfaction is a pretty flat line if you give anything more than half of the cookie. People judge actions that are on the selfish side of fairness. Maybe because we denigrate do-gooders, or because we’re skeptical of too much selflessness, the research shows that, as Epley put it, “It just doesn’t get any better than giving half of the cookie.” 

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The Real World Cost of a $22 Gadget

The “knee defender” (great name, dude) costs $21.95 and keeps the person seated in front of you on an airplane from being able to recline. It’s also a great way to start fights between strangers!

The spat began on United Airlines Flight 1462 because one passenger was using the Knee Defender, a $21.95 lock that attaches to a tray table and jams the reclining mechanism of the seat in front. The male passenger, seated in a middle seat of Row 12, used the device to stop the woman in front of him from reclining while he was on his laptop, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. A flight attendant asked him to remove the device and he refused. The woman then stood up, turned around and threw a cup of water at him, the official said.

The pilot made an unplanned stop in Chicago, at which airport the feuding passengers were ejected, and the plane continued on to Denver where it landed an hour and a half late. So, in case you’re thinking of getting your own Knee Defender, buyer beware: the hidden costs might be significant and include your suddenly having to figure out how to get you, and your water-logged laptop, to Colorado.

Business Insider offers a refresher on airplane etiquette here. The publication supports your right to use the seat you’ve paid for however you see fit, but cautions, “make sure to look behind you before you recline. Maybe warn the fellow traveler whose space you are about to invade, so they can hang onto their drink or adjust their laptop. And stay upright during meals.”

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Drunk and Pantsless: Just Another First Day at the Office

A new teacher in Oklahoma who showed up to school inebriated, disoriented, and half-dressed was escorted out by the police. At least no students were around.

A Wagoner Public Schools teacher was jailed Monday on allegations that she showed up at school under the influence of alcohol and without her pants, police said. Lorie Ann Hill, 49, was booked into the Wagoner City Jail on a public intoxication complaint. Wagoner school officials contacted police about 9 a.m. Monday after Hill was described as being disoriented and without pants, Police Chief Bob Haley said. Hill was interviewed by police officers, and it was determined that she had been drinking, he said. “She was found in a room kind of disoriented,” Haley said. “By the time we got there she was in a room and wearing shorts.” Haley said Hill was recently hired by the school district. Classes start in Wagoner on Thursday.

(h/t Gawker)

What’s your most memorable first day on the job story?

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Folks Sure Do Have Strong Opinions About Kennedy Weddings

When a man gets married, one says, “Congratulations!” When a woman gets married, one says, “Best wishes!” And when a Kennedy gets married, one says, “Don’t get into a small plane with him, no matter HOW good a pilot he says he is. Learn how to swim !!! don’t cross any bridges.” That, at least, is how randos on Facebook react. Sarcasm! The digital equivalent of throwing rice.

As perhaps you saw this weekend, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has married Cheryl Hines. It is not the first time at the rodeo for either member of the couple. RFK Jr. has been married twice before and has six children; Cheryl has been married once and has a daughter. Even outlets like TMZ have been uncharacteristically restrained in regards to the couple, wishing the newlyweds happiness without unpacking and flinging around all the baggage the bride and groom brought with them to Hyannisport.

Well-known rich families in America seem to bring out the strong opinions in many of us, and no dynasty more so than the fabulously wealthy, famously unlucky Kennedy clan. (A Roosevelt recently married without any fuss.) The family seems to be a magnet for the problems of affluenza: drugs, alcohol, women, accidents, accidents involving women, drugs, and alcohol, and inadvisable moves into the political arena. Is how you feel about the Kennedys indicative of how you feel about wealth in general? Or are they too unusual to serve as a crucible?

Here are some of the other details about this wedding that are making Internet commenters bonkers:

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What Makes a “Gentleman” In This Day and Age?

Several articles I have read recently have used the word “gentleman,” and it’s beginning to make my skin prickle. Once upon a time, the word meant something specific:

:  a man of noble or gentle birth

:  a man belonging to the landed gentry

c (1) :  a man who combines gentle birth or rank with chivalrous qualities (2) :  a man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior

d (1) :  a man of independent means who does not engage in any occupation or profession for gain (2) :  a man who does not engage in a menial occupation or in manual labor for gain

It implied a certain level of behavior, an adherence to a code of honor. When Scarlett O’Hara tried to think of the worst thing she could say to Rhett Butler, she came up with, “You, sir, are no gentleman!” (He laughed, that sexy, sexy scoundrel.)

Then came American egalitarianism, and Playboy’s Hugh Hefner lounging around in his bathrobe, and the grim, windowless “gentleman’s clubs” alongside the West Side Highway, and nowadays the word means … what? Supposedly, “a man who treats other people in a proper and polite way.” A nicer-than-average dude, perhaps the kind that doesn’t frequent the clubs along the West Side Highway. The word has been utterly divorced from class, which is appropriate in a world when so many rich men act like boors anyway. But it has simultaneously been leached of meaning. Which is … maybe a shame?

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Do You Owe a Present to a Bride Who Owes You Money?

In today’s Carolyn Hax advice column at the Washington Post, someone wants to know whether they need to get a wedding gift for a deadbeat bride who happens to also be a relative. As in all good advice-column questions, you can feel the heat of the writer’s anger rising in waves off the screen:

Dear Carolyn:

Do I buy the bride-to-be a wedding gift, even though she owes me money she borrowed and never paid back? I’m not the only person to whom she owes money, by the way. It’s like we’re paying for her wedding because she’s kept the money and it rankles to have to fork out more cash to buy a gift. It complicates matters that she’s a family member. Is there a polite way to say your wedding gift is that you don’t have to pay me back?

J.

I love this question because the letter writer “J.” clearly believes the answer should be “No, Of Course You Shouldn’t Have To Get This Dumbquat A Present; How Dare She Get Married When She Owes You Money? She Should Be Glad You’re Even Going To Her Farce of a Ceremony.” J. is writing because J.–who I will assign the gender ze/zir for clarity’s sake–wants zir righteous indignation confirmed. I love righteous indignation. I love how enraged entitled people get when faced with other people’s entitlement. 

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Jane Hu’s First Jobs: Newsie; Hawker of Fish & Chips

Your first job: Paper girl, age 9 — because what else can you trust a 9-year-old to do?

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Runaway Shaming, Hair Chopping: Using Instagram For Evil

We tend to react badly when we’re denied something we’re owed. It brings out the angry toddler in us. For some enlightened Buddhist types, maybe, the tantrum takes place internally and lasts only from one breath to another. But not for most of us. If we’re lucky, no one sees the tantrum, or only a few select loving, forgiving individuals. If we’re unlucky and we can’t resist the pull of our iPhones, our tantrums make the rounds and get recorded for posterity.

Two recent news stories about people who felt cheated — and who posted their attempts to correct the injustice on Instagram – underline the way that social media can exacerbate and publicize our worst tendencies, especially when it comes to money. In one case, a hair stylist cut out a little girl’s braids after the girl’s mother gave the stylist the runaround, and then posted pictures of her handiwork, the little girl’s ravaged head. The action attracted widespread scorn because she took her anger out on the child, who wasn’t at fault, and because she put the evidence on the Internet. The stylist defended herself:

I cut the braids out and went on about my business. At the end of the day, I spent 9 hours away from my kids for nothing. Y’all wasn’t in my shoes or in my position. I have to take care of my three babies and I will do what I have to do to let it be known that I don’t play when it comes to my job or supporting my family.

Well, she has made her point: no one could mistake her for someone who messes around! In a similar vein, hopefully somehow people will also learn to avoid these employers, the Kuwaiti women who are using Instagram to track down, or at least stigmatize, their “runaway maids.”

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WWYD: Prudie & The Ethicist Edition

Wouldn’t Prudie and the Ethicist be a good name for a band? Anyway. Someone wrote a letter to Slate’s Dear Prudence with a question that they should have pointed our way:

My good friend has found her mate after several failed relationships and is desperate to be married and start her family (tick tock). I am thrilled that she is engaged, and she has asked me to be in the wedding. I would normally be pleased to do so, except for one issue. She has debt of approximately $250,000 in credit cards and student loans, and she has not told her fiancé about this. I feel strongly that she is morally and ethically required to tell him before they are married, but she refuses. I can’t help but feel like an accomplice to her dishonesty by standing up in the wedding. What is the right thing to do? —Silent Accomplice

Prudie tells SA that she’s right to be squicked out: her “good” friend is perpetrating a fraud.

debt like this is something that simply must be revealed before two people wed. Keeping from your intended painful news, like a diagnosis of major illness, a previous incarceration, or the fact that you are dead broke (and not Hillary Clinton dead broke), means starting a life together based on an implicit lie.

Startlingly, Prudie does not suggest that SA write the clueless fiance an anonymous letter suggesting he follow the money. I wish we knew whether the bride were hiding financial truths from the groom or straight out lying. Either way, marriages have been based on deceit since the beginning of time. Years shaved off of ages, ex-wives forgotten, goats gone unaccounted for, paternity fudged. This can be seen as just another strike against the Wedding Industrial Complex, the societal idiocy that drives us to get married at all costs, often literally. Audits and prenups for all! Or don’t get married. That’s cool too.

Meanwhile, at the Ethicist’s lair …

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Waitress Given $1K; What’s the Most You’ve Ever Tipped?

Waffle House waitress Shaina Brown got a $1,000 tip from a customer — and immediately had to surrender it:

During a night shift on Mother’s Day in North Carolina, the Waffle House waitress received an extraordinary tip from a humble benefactor. The man, who has not been named, wanted to leave $1,000 for Brown, and an additional $500 he wanted her to share with another customer in the Raleigh restaurant, local outlet The News & Observer reports. So the benevolent patron wrote $1,500 on the tip line on his receipt before leaving. Brown was overjoyed to receive the gift, until she learned that it was not in Waffle House’s policy to let her keep such a generous tip.

The chain’s policy is to refund any tip that extravagant left via credit card. It makes sense in a way — presumably they don’t want to take seriously what could be a joke, or a simple typo, and have to deal with an irate customer challenging the charges. But the poor waitress! Luckily the patron, in this case, assured the restaurant that the gift was intentional and he wrote Brown a check for the full amount.

Once I tolerated a lonely man flirting with me in bad French when I was tending bar, helping out at a friend’s fundraiser. It was only an hour of handing out glasses of wine, and I had $40 in tips at the end of it, half of which came from that one guy. I guess he was $20 worth of grateful to have something to do instead of circulate awkwardly. What’s the best tip you’ve ever gotten, or — like famously extravagant tippers Frank Sinatra and Johnny Depp — given?

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