The Answers: All the Office Questions You Never Dared to Ask by Lucy Kellaway
|The Answers: All the Office Questions You Never Dared to Ask by Lucy Kellaway
|Category: Home and Family
|Reviewer: Sue Magee
|Summary: The FT's agony aunt shares a varied selection of the questions she's received since the beginning of 2006. They're sensible, thought-provoking and occasionally funny. Recommended.
|Date: November 2007
Dominic Lawson once described Lucy Kellaway as having a lavatory face. This isn't quite as dreadful as it sounds. It simply means that if you went into a strange office she's the person you would spot as being the one to direct you to the loo. Whilst this might not be the primary qualification for being an agony aunt, I can't think of a better one. You've just found someone who is discreet and understands that you need a quick and sensible response to your question. Like Lucy Kellaway I've had a fascination with agony columns from an early age, although I think mine was because of an urge to find that there were people who felt worse than I did rather than her more laudable wish to help people. She's been the agony columnist for the FT since the beginning of 2006.
This is not a book about fashionable theories. It's about sound personal advice tailored to the individual. Because the problem is published in the FT before Lucy's answer is given the questioner also gets the benefit of readers' advice too - and if they think that he's a moaning old git then that's what he's going to be told. It's not all criticism though - sometimes there's quite a lot of heart-felt sympathy goes the questioner's way.
Questioners and respondents are identified by sex, age and profession only, thus allowing them a little anonymity. The problems are graded too - by angst and difficulty. 'Angst' is how dreadful the problem makes the owner feel and 'difficulty' is how hard the problem is to solve. So, on to the questions themselves. Are they interesting?
Well, yes, they are. They're grouped into broad categories - Bosses, Underlings, Workmates, Sex, Ambition, Children and Office Life. Sometimes the questions asked are not the ones you expect. I was forced to rethink some of my attitudes when I read the letter from the person without children who felt she was being put upon by having to accommodate her colleagues with children - I'm used to the people with children feeling that they do not get enough accommodation.
Advice to the man who felt that he might be getting to involved with a female colleague was heart-felt and just about unanimous - DON'T - apart from the male banker who commented How lucky you are to have this 'problem' and yet so unfortunate not to enjoy it freely... . There's the 'I did something silly at the office party' question - and I'm sure there'll be a lot of people looking very carefully at the answers given.
Lucy Kellaway says that her questions don't cover the waterfront but she has a very varied selection in the book and I'm sure that most of us who have been in the position of either boss or employee are going to empathise with - or scream at - the questioners. There was only one question where I felt that she rather ducked the answer and that was about the person with strong body odour. She advised that someone else should deliver the message. I have visions of a poor junior finding themselves at the end of a long line of people who have passed the job on writing to the FT one day...
It's easy reading, it's thought-provoking and it's helpful. Every boss should read it just to find out about the problems which really trouble their staff and most employees are going to realise that they're not alone in their problems. Finding out why you shouldn't tell your boss what you think of him could also stand them in good stead all their working lives. I wish I'd read it earlier. The enjoyment of saying it was very short-lived.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.
For another look at how you should behave in the workplace but in a rather more traditional format, you might like to read our review of The Unwritten Laws of Business.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Answers: All the Office Questions You Never Dared to Ask by Lucy Kellaway at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Answers: All the Office Questions You Never Dared to Ask by Lucy Kellaway at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.