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by Abigail Van Buren

Making Coffee Leaves Bitter Taste in Secretary's Mouth

DEAR ABBY: I am a secretary and have been for some years now. But recently, I started working with a new company, and I have one major problem with one of the higher authorities (who isn't my boss/supervisor) who uses me as her personal secretary -- and I do mean personal. She has me doing her income taxes, her daughter's income taxes, her lease, etc., and making coffee. The last duty is extremely irksome.

Yes, I am supposed to assist her, as directed by my boss. But he means as an aide, not a maid. I do not like coffee, therefore I don't drink it -- so why do I have to make it? I really don't think coffee-making is in any secretarial job description.

I really would like to tell her to do her own personal things and make her own coffee, but she's very sneaky and I fear she might go behind my back and tell my boss some off-the-wall story. How do I handle this without jeopardizing my job or any future references I may need when I decide to change jobs in the future? -- NO PERSONAL SECRETARY

DEAR NO PERSONAL SECRETARY: If you are comfortable with your own boss, talk with him confidentially. Keep the level professional, and calmly explain what this lady is asking you to do, specifically. Tell him that the woman's personal requests are cutting into company time and productivity.

From there on it is the responsibility of your boss either to direct you to fulfill this lady's requests or not. But remember, it is the boss's responsibility to speak to this "higher authority" -- and not yours.

DEAR ABBY: I need to settle a dispute concerning proper telephone etiquette. When someone telephones me and I am not at home, my brother asks if there is a message. If there isn't one, he terminates the conversation.

I say he should ask who is calling, so that I will, at least, know who called. As it stands, when I get home all I am told is, "Someone called -- and he didn't leave a message."

My brother insists he has no right to ask more than, "Do you care to leave a message?" He says it would be rude -- an invasion of privacy -- to ask more.

I say it is acceptable to ask, and if the caller does not wish to leave his name, he can say no. Who is right? -- D.K. IN CONN.

DEAR D.K.: It is not rude to inquire, "Who is calling, please?" But the problem could be easily resolved by using the following routine:

The telephone rings. Your brother answers it. The caller asks, "Is 'Donna' there?"

Your brother replies, "May I ask who is calling, please?"

If the caller does not wish to leave his or her name, the stock reply will be, "Never mind, thanks, I'll call back later." (Then he will hear the dial tone.)

But nine times out of 10, the caller will give his name if asked before he's told whether the party he's calling is home or not.

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