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by Abigail Van Buren

Manager Struggles to Keep Office Running on Time

DEAR ABBY: I am the manager of a five-person office. The office hours are supposed to be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an hour (from noon to 1 p.m.) for lunch.

Three of the staff members are older than I am, so it's uncomfortable for me to correct them. The problem is that two of them always come in late. One of them (I'll call her Betty) comes in from 20 to 40 minutes late almost daily, but she leaves at the stroke of 5, regardless. The other (I'll call her Sue) adjusts her hours and stays late to make up the time.

I have a different kind of problem with "Jan." She refuses to listen when I ask her not to drink or eat near the computer. She becomes defensive when I remind her.

Abby, please help me to resolve these sticky situations. Is there a tactful way to get Betty and Sue to arrive on time, and to get Jan to confine her eating to the lunchroom? -- IGNORED IN ATLANTA

DEAR IGNORED: Ask your boss to put the office policies in writing, which may make them easier for you to enforce. Keep in mind that you were made the office manager for a reason, and that these are business relationships -- not friendships. Then, with a clear conscience, do the job you were hired to do.

DEAR ABBY: I was disappointed by your answer to the 18-year-old "crazy and confused" mother who was considering giving her 1-year-old son to a couple at church. You should have encouraged her to exhaust every other option before giving away her child. There are many groups that would help her -- such as the church or social services or volunteers in her community.

As a mother of three, I know the early years are hard -- especially for a girl that young. But it does get easier, and when the children are in grade school, she could go back to school or work to improve her financial situation.

I'm sure she will regret it deeply if she gives away her child. -- JOANNE B. IN FRANKLIN, MASS.

DEAR JOANNE: Your letter is only one in a stack of letters I have received from readers who disagreed with my answer.

However, I stand by my answer. Only the young mother knows what she can handle, and she said in her letter that she is unable not only to support two children financially, she is unable to give her boy the love and care he needs. Since she has found a family at church who will love and cherish him, I think she's doing the right thing. If more people chose that path, there might be fewer abused or neglected children.

Read on for another view:

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for your reply supporting the 18-year-old girl in making an adoptive plan for her son. Our beautiful 1-year-old baby girl, "Katie," joined our family through open adoption, making a situation of loss -- infertility for us, an unplanned pregnancy for her birth parents -- into a miracle.

In open adoption, the adoptive parents and birth parents work out with a lawyer or agency whatever contact they are both comfortable with. With our fully open adoption, we see Katie's birth mom twice a month (which is as much our wish as hers), and her extended family as well. Our baby has another whole branch of family to love her, and they've been able to go on with their lives without regret, being able to see for themselves that Katie is the most loved, cared-for child in the world.

Abby, please ask your readers to consider "open adoption" when making decisions around adoption or unplanned pregnancies. It can be scary when you first hear about it, but I can tell you in all honesty that it has enriched our lives, our daughter's life, and also her birth mom's. Thank you. -- M.L.S., CINCINNATI

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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