Be Nice to Your Secretary!

Richard Phillips, a London lawyer at Baker & McKenzie, shakes down his secretary Jenny Amner (who is grieving because she just lost her mother) for an $8 dry cleaning bill because she accidentally spilled ketchup on his pants. Her response? She forwards his demand email to a few others in the office, and eventually it gets out and becomes a media sensation.

I’m not sure how many rules that Phillips broke. Four that come to mind:

1) Never write an email you don’t want displayed on the front page of the most widely-read newspaper

2) Forgive people for accidents

3) Be sensitive to people experiencing grief

4) Perhaps most obviously: be nice to your secretary! (I cannot, under any circumstance, imagine asking my secretary for $8, regardless of fault).

I haven’t found the actual text of the email exchange back, but the link above gives a pretty good blow-by-blow. A nice snapshot of typical office banter (some things are universal).