Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning Let Us Eat Cake

The "Karate Kids of Etiquette" brave listener questions on break ups, starting a revolution against sleeping managers, and annoying middle-aged offspring.

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Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. Courtesy of The Emily Post Institute.
Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. Courtesy of The Emily Post Institute.

Rico Gagliano: Each week our inboxes overflow with questions from you, our audience, about how to behave in polite company. Sometimes we recruit a celebrity to help answer those queries, and sometimes we bring in the big guns — our resident etiquette experts, Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. They’re the great-great-grandkids of “etiquette sensei” Emily Post, co-authors of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, the 18th Edition,” and they co-host the podcast “Awesome Etiquette.” Lizzie, Dan, welcome back.

Lizzie Post: Thank you.

Daniel Post Senning: The “Karate Kids of Etiquette” [laughs].

Lizzie Post: I know.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s right. How are things at the most polite place on earth, the Post Institute?

Lizzie Post: Oh, they’re so rude.

Daniel Post Senning: Simply divine.

Rico Gagliano: Oh, we have some disagreement.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Some mixed messages.

Rico Gagliano: I always wondered, do you guys have a room that you can go to when you just want to curse angrily?

Lizzie Post: Get mad?

Rico Gagliano: Yeah.

Lizzie Post: It’s called my office [laughs].

My manager falls asleep on the job. Should I tattle on him?

Brendan Francis Newnam: I’m over it! I’m over being polite [Lizzie laughs]. All right, we have a bunch of questions this week, so let’s just get into them. This first one comes from Jen in Australia, and Jen writes:

“My manager, who sits next to me at work, often falls asleep at his desk. I know he has two young kids as well as side businesses he works on outside of work hours, so it’s no surprise he’s tired. I just really don’t like that he falls asleep all the time, and I think being so tired affects the quality of the work he does. Should I say something to a superior? Is it tattling? I’d like a nap at my desk, too, but I’d consider that poor form.”

Rico Gagliano: So, it’s jealousy and performance.

Brendan Francis Newnam: There’s a lot going on there, yes.

Lizzie Post: I think it’s hard to tattle on your boss.

Daniel Post Senning: Really hard. And I think it is tattling if you’re not talking to that person first. If this is a co-worker who sits right next to you, before I escalated the situation, I would probably try to talk to them about it.

Rico Gagliano: Well, actually, I should note, we did, for brevity’s sake, we did cut one sentence out of Jen’s question where she did say that there has been occasions where her co-worker has noticed Jen catching him falling asleep, and he just gives her a bunch of excuses about it.

Lizzie Post: So, it sounds like he’s aware that this is happening, and that it’s not good if he’s making excuses for it. If it wasn’t her supervisor, I would say, “Talk to a manager.” But, because it’s her supervisor, it’s up to his supervisor to catch it happening.

Daniel Post Senning: It’s not her job.

Lizzie Post: I just don’t think it’s her job to do–

Brendan Francis Newnam: But when does this reach whistle-blower level?

Lizzie Post: Yeah, that true.

Daniel Post Senning: If the compromising of the work starts to reflect back on her to the point where some of the blame for the problems is really landing on her, I think that’s the time to have that discussion.

Rico Gagliano: Because right now, really, it’s just she’s annoyed and jealous, a little bit, it sounds like [laughs]. She’s not really being adversely affected, otherwise.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So are you suggesting that she shouldn’t report something because it’s her superior because she’ll get in trouble? Or because one just respects a hierarchy and is not her place?

Daniel Post Senning: Number two.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Ooh!

Lizzie Post: Yeah, it’s pretty much because of the hierarchy thing.

Brendan Francis Newnam: OK… I mean, Brendan no likey that answer.

Lizzie Post: Well, what do you guys think?

Rico Gagliano: Well, if this was a government, that would be… at some point, you’d have a revolution, and say, “This hierarchy isn’t working correctly!”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yes! Exactly.

Lizzie Post: And we’re saying that that might have to happen at some point, for sure.

Daniel Post Senning: When the hierarchy starts to fail the organization, and the structure stops delivering the results or the work product that really, ultimately, people are being judged on.

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, so Lizzie and Dan will let them eat cake, and Rico and I will be at the barricades.

Rico Gagliano: That’s right, sharpening up our pitchforks.

Lizzie Post: I like cake [laughs].


“What is the best way to break up, not move out, and stay friends?”

Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Todd in Newport, Rhode Island. Todd writes:

“I think I might break up with my girlfriend, but we share a house and I don’t want to move out…”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Whoah.

Rico Gagliano: “I also want to remain friends. What is the best way to break up, not move out, and stay friends?” Oh, boy. You’re going to solve a lot of–

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s right. This is the question, or one of the questions.

Lizzie Post: Yeah, I was going to say, “Good luck with that, Todd!”

I think… man, that is so personal to why you’re breaking up, and how the other person feels about the break-up. There are certainly amicable breakups that happen but…

Rico Gagliano: It’s a lot of things to want out of a negative situation.

Lizzie Post: Yeah.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Let’s parse this question. “I think I might break up with my…” You should break up with your girlfriend.

Lizzie Post: If you’re thinking about it, it’s probably going to–

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s over, Todd. “But we share a house, and I don’t want to move out…” He’s not breaking up with her because he doesn’t want to move out? You’re an adult! Find another place!

Lizzie Post: Wow, I thought you were going to use a different A-word, but that’s OK.

Daniel Post Senning: There are sometimes legitimate counterweights, I mean, as relationships build and grow over time…

Lizzie Post: “Oh, but I love my apartment!”

Rico Gagliano: Well, but he may not be able to afford to move out. She may not have the money to stay in the house without him, and he doesn’t want to leave her in the lurch. That’s doesn’t sound like what’s happening, it sounds like he just doesn’t want to move out…

Brendan Francis Newnam: He’s like, “I don’t want to.” OK.

Rico Gagliano: But we’re trying to give our listeners some latitude here [laughs].

Brendan Francis Newnam: And your highest likelihood of staying friends is if you’re honest and just proceed, rip the Band-Aid off.

Daniel Post Senning: Now you’re getting to the heart of the good advice, which is that, in order for any decent outcome to be possible, you do have to handle the situation with some care, and some respect, and some thought for the other person’s feelings. So, you prep the difficult conversation; you ask them for a private time and place to have the discussion. You maybe give them just enough information so they can prep a little bit…

Rico Gagliano: In a private place, you’re saying. You don’t break up in a, say, a coffee shop or something.

Lizzie Post: Right.

Daniel Post Senning: Not at a party.

Lizzie Post: Yeah, absorb the info with some time and space to absorb it privately, yeah.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But maybe not at the house you want to remain in because it’ll have bad juju. So, look out for that Todd. Well, good luck, Todd. We’re sorry for the tough love at the top there.

Rico Gagliano: There you go.

Lizzie Post: Seriously.

Sitting at the table with the big boys

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, this next question comes from Anonymous in San Antonio, Texas. Anonymous writes:

“Let’s say there’s a dinner party for a group of reunited college pals now 60-somethings. What do you do when one of the guests brings his offspring, and his offspring demands to sit at the table with us big boys? Also, the offspring is in his 40s.”

Rico Gagliano: That’s amazing!

Lizzie Post: I think it’s funny that they’re trying not to let him sit at the table. “So, we’re all going to go out to dinner, you get that single table over there.”

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, does that…what, is he sitting with children? Is he sitting alone? What is the other option here?

Lizzie Post: He’s 40! He’s an adult! I mean, he sits at the table with them. Come on!

Brendan Francis Newnam: I think the question here, and that’s funny, that’s why anonymous threw in that little 40s thing, but the question is: if you have an old crew of friends — this is a dinner party for reunited college pals, it sounds like a special event — how do you tell someone who might be very close to you, “Hey, I just want to hang out with the gals or the guys?”

Daniel Post Senning: Ahead of time.

Lizzie Post: Yeah, this is an ahead-of-time thing. The problem is, is when this happens, and you’re dealing with it, I don’t think you can tell that one offspring, that kid who’s 40, to go sit at a separate table.

Brendan Francis Newnam: “Go get a Shirley Temple. Here’s $10.”

Lizzie Post: Yeah, essentially, said member of the group has blown it.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, and now you have to deal with it.

Lizzie Post: Now you have to deal with it! And, you know, maybe it’s that time where you embrace it, and this is where you let him in on all the jokes from college and that kind of stuff, and it’s a fun bonding moment.

Rico Gagliano: And I think you do have permission, if this guy really brought his offspring kind of against the rules, to treat that 40-something, jokingly, as though he were eight. Make him wear a bib; feed him things; make airplane noises as you put mashed potatoes into his mouth and stuff [laughs].

Brendan Francis Newnam: Or just tell really embarrassing stories about that offspring’s father or mother.

Daniel Post Senning: I like that plan.

Lizzie Post: Man, I am right on that plan. Yeah, you make the person that made the faux pas…

Daniel Post Senning: Punishment where it’s due.

Lizzie Post: Yeah, you make them pay for it.

Rico Gagliano: “No, little man, I’m glad you’re here!”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Exactly.

Rico Gagliano: “There’s a few stories we need to tell.”

Lizzie Post: Yeah. Exactly.

Rico Gagliano: Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning, thank you so much for telling our audience, once again, how to behave.

Daniel Post Senning: Gentlemen, it’s a pleasure.

Lizzie Post: Thank you so much for having us.