Dear Jeanne & Leonard:

I recently was appointed the head of a not-for-profit that has just under 50 employees. This holiday season, I would like to give each employee a small token of my appreciation, specifically: a gift card. My preference is to give everyone the same amount, regardless of his or her title or position. Your thoughts?

— Santa on the West Coast

Dear Santa:

You do realize that your namesake gives gifts only to children who’ve been good, right?

Look, we understand that what you have in mind is not a bonus for good work or recognition of longevity with the firm, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Nor is there anything wrong with giving the same gift to everyone in the office. But you need to make it clear to all that your gift is a token of appreciation and respect from a new boss to old hands. Because it would be a shame if your most productive employees — or your least — were to interpret your gift to mean that you had not taken note of the quality of their work.

Dear Jeanne & Leonard:

Please settle a disagreement between my sister “Amber” and me. We’ve been planning a cross-country road trip that includes a stop in the Denver area. Since our cousin “Brittany” lives there, we contacted her and suggested getting together. She promptly invited us to come to her home for dinner.

She did not, however, invite us to stay with her. So when I accepted the dinner invitation, I told her that Amber and I were having difficulty finding an affordable hotel room (which wasn’t quite true) and asked if we could stay at her house. Brittany said “OK,” but Amber is horrified by what she calls my uncouth behavior.

According to Amber, it is never acceptable to invite yourself to be someone else’s houseguest. But I say the rules are different for family, which Brittany is. Also, she and her partner have a big house, and they know we’re not rolling in dough. Who’s right, Amber or me?

— B.T., Kentucky

Dear B.T.:

Well, we’re definitely never inviting you to dinner at our house.

Seriously, your sister is right. While the rules may be different for family — and while the rules most definitely vary from family to family — under no set of rules do guests get to decide what the extent of a relative’s hospitality should be. Even had it been true that you were having difficulty finding a hotel room, pressuring your cousin to let you stay with her would have been ill-mannered and, in a word, pushy.

One more thing: When you stay with your cousin Brittany, you need to bring her a nice hostess gift, even though she’s your relative. Those are the rules, B.T., no matter what your personal rule book says.

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