Secretarial: Sex and the sickie: the truth

WHEN IT comes to secretaries' gripes, research shows that the practice of linking their grades to those of their managers comes ever higher on the list. Employers claim it acknowledges the fact that they work as a team, and that reward for achievements should be given to both parties. But linking can be a problem for both secretaries and managers if an excellent secretary has a poor boss or vice versa. If it becomes a problem for you, follow these four steps: first, talk to your manager. You could have under-estimated his or her desire to succeed. A career- minded, ambitious secretary could provide the motivation he or she needs. If this fails, however, approach personnel. Ask whether you should aim to work with a different manager or whether there are other ways to progress. Thirdly, it's worth finding out if other secretaries feel the same way. There's always strength in numbers. Finally, consider your own performance levels. It's all too easy to blame others for our own shortcomings.

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DUREX'S ANNUAL sex survey consistently shows that people from Yorkshire are by far the most sexually active in the UK. It may be no coincidence that the CBI's new Focus On Absence survey reveals that workers in that part of the country take by far the most days off sick each year. Women are the worst offenders, according to a separate report by the Office for National Statistics. It found that females are off sick for 4 per cent of their working lives up to the age of 40 - which is double the figure for men. More than 200 million days were lost last year through sickness - an average of 8.4 days per employee.

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IF YOU ventured abroad for your summer holiday this year, it can't have escaped your notice just how bad the British are at using other languages. Whether it's in a taverna in Greece or a temple in India, we are notorious for our cringe-worthy tendency to simply expect all foreigners to converse in English. In the world of business - which is increasingly being referred to as a "global village" - this is particularly dangerous. No wonder, then, that secretarial staff with language skills are now more in demand than ever before, according to recruitment agencies. Those who speak other tongues can now expect an extra 8 to12 per cent in their pay-packets. Reports reveal that the industries most likely to reward language skills among secretaries are finance and banking, fashion and cosmetics, and management consultancy - and that German is the language most in demand.

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MOST OF us are all too aware of the threat of violence on the streets, but we are rarely warned about the increasing risk of brutality in the workplace. According to the Health and Safety Executive, there has been a significant increase in the number of violent attacks by colleagues and clients at work. Even schools and libraries are higher-risk environments than ever before, and receptionists report a growing number of incidents. Staff from housing departments have even had the odd kitchen sink or toilet hurled at them. One was held hostage by two 65-year-olds. Although the British Crime Survey does not have a specific category for workplace violence, it does note "acquaintance violence", which accounts for about half of all attacks on men and one third of all attacks on women. A staggering 23 per cent of these involve a customer or client, and around 20 per cent occur at work.

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IT'S NO secret that employers are becoming increasingly strict about office staff surfing the Net at work. Many block access to pornographic and sports websites. But corporate censorship is, according to the magazine Personnel Today, now being extended to the Dilbert web page in some companies. For those who aren't familiar with Dilbert, he is the cynical office boy with the most satirical views on the modern world of work. One example of his columns is Most Contradictory Statements Made By Your Boss, of which two are "No overtime. Can you work Friday night?" and "We've installed a totally anonymous system to let you voice your concerns. First you have to log on..." If you can get past the Internet police, check it out at www.dilbert.com.

Kate Hilpern

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