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A BOSS IN THE DARK

Dear Abby: I work for a small company with 22 longtime employees. I have been here for only seven years. During that time, I have worked my way up from being a receptionist to "Girl Friday" for the plant manager, spending almost half my day in the shop with the hourly workers. They are all good people -- family men who are very experienced in their jobs.

The chief engineer, an extremely smart man I'll call "Mr. Farley," goes out of his way to belittle these guys, making them feel incompetent and uneducated in the face of his intelligence. Several of them are threatening to quit, including a key member of personnel, who has been here since the business began 35 years ago. (Mr. Farley was hired less than a month before I was.)

I'm afraid to tell my boss what's going on, and it could mean the loss of several important employees. What should I do?

-- Girl Friday in Pittsburgh
Dear Girl Friday: For the good of the company, you owe it to your boss to tell him (or her) what's going on. Please don't wait. If you tell your employer now, it could avert a serious personnel problem. If it were my company, I would want to know so I could deal with it.

Unrequited love

Dear Abby: I am interested in a very attractive man who works with me. I have known him for several years through my stepfather. Every time I am around this man I feel like a schoolgirl.

Two weeks ago, I gave him a letter telling him how I felt. I couldn't say it face-to-face because he makes me nervous, and I was afraid I'd sound like a fool. He still hasn't responded.

I asked him to keep it just between us, but at work I feel people are looking at me with knowing eyes. It also seems like he is dodging me. I asked a friend for advice. She told me he does like me, but he wants to show respect for the family. Also, he is not into monogamous relationships.

Shouldn't he have the decency to let me know what's going on? Should I leave it as it is and wait for him to come around, or try to talk to him? I really like him and respect his space.

-- Tormented in Brooklyn
Dear Tormented: Although I don't know your co-worker, I would guess that he hasn't called or responded to your letter because it embarrassed him. He may like you, but not in the way that you like him. Your situation is a perfect illustration of why office romances are so risky. If they don't work out, the embarrassment and tension can be disruptive.

Rather than pushing him, leave things as they are. You have already done enough. And put the idea that everyone knows out of your mind, because unless the object of your affection is a complete heel, I'm sure your secret is safe with him.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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