“And get me the manuscript of the as-yet unpublished Harry Potter book for the twins”

We’ve seen it on Ugly Betty. We’ve seen it in The Devil Wears Prada. More venerable readers may remember seeing it in 9 to 5 in the days when Dolly Parton still looked [vaguely] human. I am, of course, referring to secretary abuse.

Picking up the dry cleaning and buying the Christmas presents? That’s nothing! Try selecting an anniversary gift for the Boss’ notoriously picky wife. Peeling an apple (!) because the boss doesn’t like the taste of apple skins. Organising a Sweet Sixteen birthday party? Hmmmm:

  • On the one hand, this is pointless, thoughtless behaviour on the part of the boss.
  • On the other hand, the courts frown upon this kind of thing – particularly if it can be painted as demeaning (and it frequently is) or outside of the ‘normal’ duties and responsibilities of the person’s role.
  • On the other hand [my oh-so useful alien third hand] this behaviour is also pathetic. It evinces a kind of learned helplessness on the part of the boss when it comes to minor, real-world, activities and where it broaches, as it so often does, into the boss’ family matters, it bespeaks a level of distance and disinterestedness that does not bode well.

A healthy bashing back and forth on this topic with the ever-cheerful Mr. Williams on Q102 resulted in a cascade of email and texts. We appear to have hit a nerve. More on this topic to come.


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