AUNTY AG UNCLE ONY COLUMN

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Need to sabotage a friend's job chances without her finding out? Or prevent a cute puppy from crossing your threshold? Aunty Ag and Uncle Ony have the answers

One of my oldest friends is expecting to get a job which will make her my colleague. She's very good at her work but terribly rude and destructive if everything isn't done her way. If I recommend her to my boss she'll definitely get the job. And if I don't, she'll guess I haven't and may break down because she's been looking desperately forward to this opportunity for a couple of years now. I've told her that she can sometimes be difficult but she doesn't seem to realise how serious it is. If she gets the job she'll destroy our working atmosphere and if she doesn't our friendship is in danger.

Ilpo, via e-mail

Aunty Ag: What a very difficult situation. After all, not only will you have to put up with her if she gets the job but your colleagues will have to as well! Don't lose sight of the fact that your workmates will notice that you are acquainted with this woman and will probably blame you if she comes in on your recommendation and turns out to be a nightmare. I think your best strategy is devious double-dealing. Send a fulsome on- the-record e-mail or written recommendation to your boss, truthfully extolling her work-related virtues (brilliant qualifications, relevant experience etc) and send her a copy with an extra note on wishing her luck in securing the post. Then verbally explain to your boss your misgivings (you may emphasise these as much or as little as you think fair, or as much or as little as you can bring yourself to). This way, you have been seen to help your friend as she expects, but you have given your boss the full facts to make the final decision.

Uncle Ony: Your friend must be a very unhappy woman. People who are rude and destructive to others are concealing a profound lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. And the fact that you think she may break down if she does not secure this post suggests that she also places far too high a value on status. Concentrate on helping her achieve a happier mindset, rather than getting her into this job: the post in itself will not in the long run make her happy, while her fundamental attitudes remain so awry.

I have just got back from a fantastic two-week holiday in Greece. I spent the whole time lazing on the beach and going to the local tavernas, and came home feeling completely relaxed and happy. The problem is that now I am back at work I simply can't settle and feel as though I want to spend the rest of my life on holiday. I have decided that I hate my job, I hate my colleagues, I hate south London, I hate the miserable weather here (it was practically a monsoon over the weekend I got back) and I am utterly depressed.

Jeanette, Clapham

Aunty Ag: Easy. Sell your house and car, get rid of all your possessions, pack your bikini and sun cream and take off. I understand that it's pretty cheap to live in Greece and you'll probably manage several years out there if you can afford a place in Clapham, what with property prices being sky-high in London at the moment. However, please don't write again from Halkidiki or wherever to complain when the weather turns grey at the end of the season, all the tavernas pack up for the winter, and the only job you can get when your money runs out is pushing dodgy timeshare villas.

Uncle Ony: A life of leisure may seem like a halcyon vision to those of us who have to toil for a living, but in fact doing nothing is a joy that palls surprisingly quickly. The dignity of labour, of reaping what we sow, of an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, is a source of far greater satisfaction than lazing on a sunlounger, sipping cocktails and working on a tan. Arbeit macht frei, as the Germans so rightly say. And if you don't knuckle down now you won't have enough money to go away next year.

My six-year-old is agitating for a puppy. What do you think?

Suzanne, Dover

Aunty Ag: Strike a deal: if it can keep a Tamagotchi alive for six months you might consider a gerbil.

Uncle Ony: Six is far too young to take responsibility for a pet. Unless you are prepared to do most of the work yourself, why not sponsor a dog through a canine charity?

Send your problems to Aunty Ag and Uncle Ony at the Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL or e-mail to agony@independent.co.uk

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