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by Abigail Van Buren

Chatty Employees Steal Precious Hours From Work

DEAR ABBY: I recently filled in for my husband's receptionist when she was ill. My husband owns the business and I know most of his employees, but this was the first time I had spent any time there.

Abby, doesn't America have a work ethic anymore? What happened to "a day's work for a day's pay"? I was astounded at the number of personal phone calls the employees received while on the job. I am not talking about short calls on breaks. There were as many as three calls in one day for a particular employee. Those were the incoming calls -- I have no idea how many personal outgoing calls the employee made. Not only was that employee's time used for personal business, but the receptionist had to take the calls, refer them and/or take a message. These employees do not consider how much of the receptionist's time they waste, not to mention time for which the boss is paying them.

Abby, this is plain stealing! Had they been emergency calls, I wouldn't have minded -- but calls to plan a party, discuss the highlights she wanted her beauty operator to put in her hair or to make a dinner date are out of line.

I can no longer feel friendly toward some of my husband's employees because of the way they are treating him behind his back. I told my husband, and he was appalled by what I observed. He said his receptionist had already mentioned it, but he had dismissed it and put off checking it out. After my report, he kept tabs on his staff for a while.

I hope my letter makes some employees see how they are hurting their companies. And I hope it alerts bosses to a potential waste of time on the job that robs customers of service and shareholders of fair profits. -- BOSS'S WIFE IN TEXAS

DEAR WIFE: Using the telephone for personal business on company time is not uncommon. It is, however, dishonest and unethical. In a sense, taking time off the job to conduct personal business is theft -- since the employer is paying the employee for his or her time as well as effort.

If personal calls must be made during business hours, the honest thing to do would be to make them during the lunch hour or on break time.

DEAR ABBY: In regard to the letter about the man who shaved his mustache and his wife didn't even notice that it was gone.

My dad wore a "handlebar" mustache for almost 25 years. It was his most distinctive feature. One day when he walked out of the bathroom, my sister and I (both teen-agers) screamed in surprise, and then started laughing. He had shaved off his mustache with no forewarning at all!

However, when my mom first saw him, she didn't notice! She knew there was something "different" about him, but didn't realize it was the absence of the mustache that had been there for so many years. (She said it looked like someone had punched him in the face.)

Thank you, Abby, and God bless. -- STILL LAUGHING IN IDAHO

DEAR LAUGHING: That reminds me of an experience I had many years ago when my husband grew a beard. His was always neatly trimmed. One day out of the blue, he said, "Don't you notice something different about me?"

I replied, "No, but you look younger. Why do you ask?"

"I shaved my beard off," he said.

Well, he grew it back within a matter of months, and as it grayed along with the hair on his head, he looked like a French nobleman. He still has it, and even though his mother calls him "the rabbi," I love it.

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