Dear Abby:

I work in a large, open office with five other people. We all collaborate on the same projects. When our office was recarpeted, we rearranged our desks. I now sit next to a woman I'll call Ginger, who has one of the worst work ethics I have ever seen.

Ginger spends much of the day on personal e-mail, playing computer solitaire, taking frequent smoke breaks, sometimes even paying her bills and answering personal correspondence on company time. Our new supervisor is clueless about it.

On top of that, I recently heard Ginger lie to the supervisor about how she had so much work she couldn't complete an assignment.

Should I tell our supervisor about Ginger's work habits? Should I say something to Ginger? Thanks for your help, Abby -- it's been an awful burden.

Old-Fashioned in Boulder

Talk to the supervisor privately and tell him or her what you have told me. Say nothing to Ginger, because that's the supervisor's job -- and it will only cause resentment if you do. Many companies, as a matter of policy, check what their workers are doing online -- so your story can be verified. When one member of a team is a slacker, it places an unfair burden on co-workers.

Dear Abby:

My daughter, "Skylar," just started middle school, and she has fallen in with the wrong crowd. She walks around the house with a chip on her shoulder, wearing what looks to us like boys' clothes. She curses and lies, and she and her new friends have vandalized the girls' restroom four times. Her latest trick is to forge my signature on school papers. I have discussed these problems with the school. They suggested counseling and therapy. What I want is advice on how to discipline Skylar for all the wrongs she has done. How do I guide my daughter down the right path?

Unable to Discipline

Guiding a child down the "right path" involves more than discipline; it involves open communication and the assurance that he or she is loved. If Skylar were my daughter, the first thing I'd do is have her tested for drugs. If she tested positive, I would start her in a rehab program and possibly place her in another school.

If she tested "clean," I'd do exactly as the school suggested and get counseling and therapy for her. In fact, counseling for your entire family would be a good idea, because it appears that Skylar is not the only one who could use some help. Your parenting skills may need to be upgraded.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate