Q) I worked as a buyer-secretary for four years at a small firm in Los Angeles. My boss has always taken advantage of me. For instance, she had me do all the boring secretarial work and make all the difficult phone calls. Meanwhile, she took long lunch hours, leaving me to cover her desk in addition to mine.

I finally had enough of this, and I complained. My boss went to the personnel department and her manager, and they then harassed me for a year, threatening me with termination.

Then, recently, I was given a very low raise. I let them know that I deserved more and that I was upset. When the dust settled, they terminated me.

I was a dedicated, conscientious employee. What should I do?

A) At this point, all you can do is look for a job elsewhere.

But before you approach potential employers with your story, think things over. You might have contributed to your problems more than you want to believe.

I have a hunch that your boss would not describe you as a "dedicated and conscientious employee." Instead, she might characterize you as a chronic complainer who is more concerned with other people's lunch hours than with getting her own work done.

You don't say what your boss and the personnel department told you when they threatened you with termination for a year.

Perhaps they would maintain that they told you that you needed to get your act together and that unless you did, they would have to let you go.

If you don't face up to the full reality of what happened to you and why, not only will you make a future employer uneasy, but you also are likely to repeat this unfortunate experience at your new place of work.

Q) I work in the Santa Clara valley of California. I find that more and more companies here are broadening their definition of who they include in company benefit plans. Specifically, I am talking about the trend to cover "significant others" -- nonrelatives who are dependents of employees.

Given that companies can spend just so much on employee benefits, is this fair to all employees?

A) As you point out, structuring benefit plans is basically an exercise in allocating funds. There are always more candidates for benefits than there is money, so the interest of one group of employees inevitably has to be weighed against the interest of others.

In light of this, it is clear that a line must be drawn some place when it comes to coverage.

In my view, covering dependents who are not relatives opens up a Pandora's box because such a group would be extremely difficult to define.

I favor a policy that focuses on relatives who are clearly defined by the law: spouses and dependent children.

Andrew Grove is president of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., author of the books "High Output Management and "One-on-One with Andy Grove," and a frequent lecturer on management. Please send questions to him in care of the San Jose Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif., 95190.