You probably haven't been involved in a game of "Let's Pretend" since way back when. "When" being Friday, if you're reading this on Monday and haven't gotten to the office yet.

The vocal style of today's boss is to pretend that we are all equals. Orders don't sound like orders any more. And reprimands are swathed in politeness.

But heaven forbid you should mistake style for substance.

A few translations of this executive-suite talk should serve to alert the naive . . . and to remind the rest of us how pervasive it is.

"Would you drop by when you have a moment?"

This means "Get in here!" You should drop everything unless you've got a major crisis to excuse your delay.

"It's your call" or "It's your decision."

Either form of this pseudo-democratic pronouncement always carries with it a but--implied if not stated. As in, "But you know what my feelings are." The upshot is that it really is your call . . . but you'll be in trouble if you go against your boss's wishes and your decision doesn't work well.

"It's recommended that . . . "

For example, "It's recommended that you wear a suit." This is just a long form of "Wear a suit!"

"I want it on my desk in the morning!"

The mantle of politeness has almost fallen off if you hear this. Your boss's patience is exhausted, and you better work all night, if necessary, to complete your assignment. "In the morning" doesn't mean up to 11:59; it means by the time your boss gets to the office.

"Of course you're free to turn down this opportunity without jeopardizing your future."

You won't get fired if you turn down the transfer, or whatever, that was offered. On the other hand, you probably will jeopardize your chances for promotion.

"Take as much time as you need."

The meaning of this can vary according to its context, but normally it signifies that you've got until next week to accomplish a month's work.

"This may appear to be a lateral move, but really it's . . . "

Your new assignment is a lateral move .

"Are you having problems at home?"

You sure have problems at the office, and you'd better shape up fast.

"Your personal life is your own affair."

Your personal affair has become public, and your boss wants you to cool it.

If God issued commandments like a present-day executive, there might be one like this: "I'd appreciate it if you'd refrain from theft." Or perhaps the phrasing would be even milder: "It's up to you. Do you think stealing is the thing to do?"

The message would be same as in the Bible version. God just wouldn't pull rank so openly now.