Secretarial: If the job doesn't pay, let's party

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The Independent Culture
NEED A loan? "Pay-day lending" is one of the US's fastest-growing industries and it's hoping to expand into Europe. What's more, office support staff constitute one of its chief targets. The theory is great. Borrow a couple of hundred quid to pay off the electricity bill and try out that new Mexican down the road - and pay it off next month when you're in the clear again. All you have to do is write a post-dated cheque to the lender which is cashed on pay-day. The reality, however, is rather less attractive. "The interest rates charged by these people would make the Mafia blush," says Lang Clark, an Alabama lawyer who recently reached tentative settlements with several pay-day lenders in the United States. The Florida Public Interest Research Group claims some rates are more than 20 times greater than the highest credit card charges. Consumer groups and employers are, not surprisingly, campaigning for a law to block pay- day lending in the UK.

E-FEAR IS at large. The massive increase in the use of e-mail has finally taken its toll, with the sending of "flame-mail" becoming the latest and most sinister workplace trend. To the unacquainted, flaming is defined as someone losing their self-control and sending an e-mail message that is derogatory, obscene or inappropriate. According to Novell, more than half of the respondents to its latest survey have received flame-mails in their work environment, with 23 per cent claiming they received them several times a week and 48 per cent several times a month. One in 70 maintained that they had left a job to avoid the abuse. Middle managers are the worst offenders and the frequency of flame-mails is highest in sales and marketing. Keep a particularly beady eye out for the "Shame Flame" (a deliberate flame that has been copied to victims and other colleagues - often superiors - aiming to belittle the victim publicly, either as a punishment or as a spur to improve their performance) and the "Hasty Flame" (an e-mail sent rashly and without a thought as to its impact. This one is often a reply to a previous hasty flame and is in grave danger of provoking a flame-war).

IT'S OFFICIAL. Secretaries in spectacles don't just look more intelligent. They are more intelligent. IQ tests reveal that glasses really do point to extra brains lurking behind them, according to opticians Donald & Aitchison. The study also claims that office workers wearing glasses are seen as more conscientious. If you want to add further value to your specs at work, advises psychologist Dr Glenn Wilson who compiled the report, snap the case shut to signal that a meeting is up and buy time in tough meetings by cleaning your lenses.

NEW YEAR work means big bucks, right? Not necessarily. Your friends might have told you that employers are paying up to pounds 1,000 a shift over the Millennium, but the message from the Institute of Personnel and Development is "dream on". Its report shows that a mere 6 per cent of UK employees have been offered extra incentives and of those, the most common payment will be double time, in line with most bank holiday arrangements. There's only one solution. Forget work, heed the words of The Artist Formerly Known as Prince and party like it's 1999.