being asked to watch a manager’s kid, letting a struggling employee work from home, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Being asked to watch a senior manager’s kid

I’m writing on behalf of a coworker. A senior manager — not her boss — brings his 10-year-old daughter to the office on days when her school is closed (summertime, holidays, etc.) and he always asks her to let his daughter sit in her office so she can watch her. She is usually super busy and has to put her work on hold to entertain her. He even made a comment about my coworker being his daughter’s “nanny.” She was really upset by the comment but didn’t say anything to him. What should she do?

Ooof, the nanny comment is really obnoxious.

But … she’s saying yes when she needs to say no. The next time he asks her to let his daughter sit in her office, she should say, “Sorry, I’m swamped today and need all my focus.” If he tries pushing back (like saying that she just needs a space to sit in), she should hold firm: “Sorry, I really can’t!”

I assume she’s been saying yes because she didn’t feel like she had a real choice — but unless her office is incredibly dysfunctional (like far more than the usual amount of dysfunction), she really can say no, and she needs to.

2. Letting a struggling employee work from home

I am a youngish manager who was recently promoted to the head of department in a dysfunctional company. The company has gone through a lot of changes in recent years, that led to my being promoted from Assistant all the way up to head of my department (probably too quickly, but that’s a story for another time). During that, one of my coworkers has gone from being above me, to at the same level as me, to now my direct report.

This person is wonderful, but struggles in her role. She also has substantial personal life responsibilities (think: ailing parent who need substantial care). She’s recently asked me if she can start working from home one day a week to allow her to take care of her father. The problem is that our department is already stretched thin, and on days when people work from home, we tend to get about 75% productivity.

In an ideal world, I would be able to talk to the head of the company or an HR person about this, but unfortunately our HR department is non-existent and I don’t feel like anyone else could provide adequate guidance.

How do I both make space for this employee to take care of her life, while also setting reasonable guidelines?

The most direct way to do it is to agree with her on what she’ll get accomplished (and if necessary, to what standard) each month (or week or quarter, depending on what time period makes the most sense for her job and the level she’s at), and then hold her to that. If you worry that she won’t come through on what you agree to, then you check in very, very early on so that you catch it early and can course-correct if needed.

However, if she’s already struggling, I’d be hesitant to okay her working from home 20% of the time. But if you want to give her a chance to show it can work, you could tell her that you’ll try it for a few weeks as an experiment but that if she doesn’t meet the performance benchmarks you lay out, you won’t be able to continue it long-term.

It sounds like you also need to do something similar with your other staff members. It’s not acceptable to get 75% productivity on work-from-home days. You need to either hold people more accountable or rescind their work-from-home arrangements. Continuing the status quo shouldn’t be an option (in any situation, but especially one where your department is already stretched thin).

3. My manager calls us pet names

I have a manager who constantly calls me and other employees cute pet names like “chickadee,” “babe,” “hon,” etc. I’ll note while this is not a white-collar, office environment kind of workplace, I find it really irksome and patronizing, and just overall unprofessional. The only person who can call me “sweetie” is my grandma. What I also find, too, is that while our workplace is predominantly female, I’ve never heard her call any of the men on the team any of these pet names.

We do have a work environment that always promotes feedback at all levels, but do you think I would be out of line to bring this up with my manager that I really dislike this? It makes my skin crawl every time it happens. Maybe I’m being over sensitive, but I’ve worked in more professional environments where this behaviour would be unheard of. While I’m sure she means well, I always get this weird sense of her NOT being genuine with these cutesy names.

Say this: “Jane, I actually prefer to be called by my name rather than ‘babe,’ ‘hun,’ or other nicknames. Thanks for understanding!”

If she’s someone who you’ve noticed tends to need delicate handling, you could try the old “it’s not you, it’s me” method of asking for a behavior change: “I have a weird thing about nicknames — I just don’t like them and never have. Can you stick to calling me Lucinda? Thank you.”

4. Sending flowers after a boss’s holiday party

Last month, the head of my office invited all 15 of us to his family’s annual Christmas party at their home. It’s quite a formal occasion with a cocktail dress code and they’re a well-connected family so there were various politicians, CEOs, and so on attending. My coworkers and I made up perhaps 10% of the total guests.

The following day I sent flowers and a thank-you note saying what a nice time we had all had in their lovely home, etc., as I would do for similar events I go to. I addressed the note to “the Pumpernickel family” to try and minimize the appearance of gifting up, and my boss and his wife (who I already know as a vague social acquaintance) both sent me very nice responses back.

This happened to come up this week with some coworkers at the same, quite junior job level as me. They thought it looked like ass-kissing or brown-nosing and that it was generally a bit weird to send flowers to our boss. What do you think? In this case, should I have followed workplace gifting guidelines instead of social manners guidelines? Should I have stuck to a card with no flowers? Addressed them to his wife only? I’d love to know what you think is most appropriate for this situation.

Sending flowers and a card was a very gracious gesture, and you didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t a necessary gesture, but it was a lovely one to make, since they did host you in their home. A card on its own also would have been just fine. (Definitely don’t do the addressing-the-wife-only thing since that’s a sexist vestige of another time, and your connection to your boss is the reason you were there.)

Your coworkers are off-base in saying this was weird. It was not.

5. Saying “I” versus “we” in job interviews

I have a habit of saying “we” when what I really mean is “I,” particularly when discussing the actions and accomplishments of my team, which I lead. For example, “We put together this report,” when really I was the only one who worked on it. I think that when I use this language in front of other units or outside partners, it shows that everyone on my team is a valued contributor to our successes and that collaboration is more important than individual ego.

However, I recently started applying for other jobs and cannot break this habit in interviews. What is your take on how this makes a candidate look? Do you think it shows that a candidate is a team player, or do you think it makes a candidate look as though they don’t actually have any individual accomplishments and are just lucky to be part of a high-performing team?

Yeah, this can be a problem in interviews, since your interviewer needs to know what your role was. Some use of “we” is generally appropriate, but you’ve got to make sure that you’re also being specific about your role and your contributions.

Some context to know here is that some candidates use “we” in order make their role sound bigger than it actually was. In response to “we” statements, I’ve learned to ask, “So what was your role in that, specifically?” — at which point it often comes out that the person’s role was pretty minor compared to what their larger team achieved.

One exception to this is if you were the person managing the team. In that case, you get credit for what your team achieved and “we” generally works just fine.

{ 361 comments… read them below or add one }

    1. Dan

      No, I saw the same thing.

      I’d be fine with one day a week, even for a struggling employee. You never know, this might actually be the thing she needs to help her get back on track.

      Reply
      1. Cambridge Comma

        I think the bigger problem is the company’s work from home culture. Where I work, people get around 120% of a day’s work done when they work from home, especially on tasks that require concentration. If the productivity is lower, people aren’t putting in a full day, or their home environment isn’t conducive to work from home.

        Reply
        1. Blossom

          Or the IT set-up isn’t ideal – can she easily access all the programs that she needs? Is the connection reliable?

          Reply
          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl

            That was my thought – it could be that while the people in charge want to promote this, the work itself (or the mechanisms in place to make it happen) are not in a place to allow this on a regular basis. If it was a handful of employees I would be more suspicious, but I would imagine not all (or even most) employees would phone it in on wfh days.

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            1. DuckDuckMøøse

              I think it depends on how measurable her productivity is in the first place. If it’s a matter of doing X reports a day, painting Y teapots, or performing time-based discrete tasks, then negotiating at-home standards is easy(-ier). Then it’s on her to meet those expectations. If that takes her 10 hours at home because she’s running and fetching for her father, that’s on her. I’d say look at her in-office tasks, and subtract 20% and call it an initial goal for at-home work.
              If there isn’t a simple way to quantify productivity, it’s going to be much harder to prove either way whether she is meeting expectations, and that puts everyone (worker, manage, company) at a disadvantage.

              Reply
          2. small screens

            I personally can’t get anything done working from home because of my IT set-up…it’s probably more attributed to my personal hardware purchases than what my company has given me but at the office I have two 22″ monitors. At home I have one 11″ monitor. I spend a lot of time comparing spreadsheets or moving stuff from a spreadsheet to a web based app, PowerPoint, email, etc. and it’s borderline impossible.
            We also recently upgraded our remote computing device but the previous one would time out and shut down your connection if you walked away from your computer for five minutes and you would have to restart the whole thing.

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        1. Elizabeth the Ginger

          I didn’t read it as the employee getting demoted but just as the OP getting promoted multiple times while she stayed in one role.

          Reply
        2. Oryx

          Where did the OP say the employee was demoted? I read the opposite: the OP has had a sky high trajectory that has now landed her above the employee.

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        3. Liane

          “… my being promoted from Assistant all the way up to head of my department (probably too quickly, but that’s a story for another time). During that, one of my coworkers has gone from being above me, to at the same level as me, to now my direct report.”

          The OP is the one changing positions. It is something like OP started as an Assistant Teapot Designer, while Coworker was a Sr. Teapot Designer. Then OP was promoted to Sr. Teapot Designer, followed by a second promotion to Teapot Design Manager, while Coworker remained a Sr. Teapot Designer.

          Reply
      2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

        I likely would not.

        Our WFH program (which is now thriving and includes telecommuting from far away) is for self directed high performers who have a job that can WFH and also have high level communication skills/play well with others.

        (There’s a long story about how one person, early on, nearly killed WFH for everyone with what turned into highly visible antics and gold bricking. We developed critieria, and that saved WFH and allowed us to expand it to usefulness all around.)

        What I could offer her is flexible hours. We run from 6am to 8pm and I could sit down with her and see what hours work best for her productivity times (morning person/late person) as well as her home life schedule. I could also offer her a review of WFH one day a week when XYZ improves.

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        1. Dan

          Interesting, at my last job, it was generally accepted that the office was full of distractions, people dropping in on you, and what not. There were times I *had* to work from home to get stuff done. I admitted that to my boss once, and he said welcome to the club.

          It’s fair to say that some work is more conducive to that than others. IMHO, there’s a difference between one day a week and “from far away”. I wouldn’t let a weak performer never show up to the office, but realistically, in my line of work at least, I can be just as unproductive in the office as I could be at home.

          What one shouldn’t do is permit work from home to be a substitute for child care or elder care on an ongoing basis.

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          1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

            I agree with that wholeheartedly, but only for a segment of the population. I am absolutely one of the peeps that crunch way more work on WFH and our people who do WFH some days are also like this and save their crunch stuff for those days.

            It’s not universal by any means though, and there’s the added layer of managing someone on WFH, it’s just harder unless they are to a high level of self direction.

            Personally, I don’t get crap all much done in the office anymore and spend any office time in endless meetings and save my work for WFH so I’m team that, once people are to a certain level.

            Reply
          2. baseballfan

            “What one shouldn’t do is permit work from home to be a substitute for child care or elder care on an ongoing basis.”

            This is my concern with this letter. It sounds like this employee wants to have more time available in the day to care for her aging/ill relative (or whatever the specifics are). To me this is the same as saying you want to work from home so you can care for your children. Probably an aging parent doesn’t require the same constant attention that a child would, but still, if you are wanting to work from home so you can do more “non work” things – productivity is going to suffer.

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            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

              With child care, I absolutely agree. But with an aging parent? I can easily imagine a scenario in which he just needs help in the bathroom three times during the day, or someone to ensure he takes his pills at the appropriate time, which isn’t any more disruptive than the various distractions and chatter that happen at the office.

              Reply
      3. Temperance

        This employee is making the request for elder care reasons, though. If she’s already a low performer, I’m not sure she’s going to do better when handling her onerous life responsibilities during work.

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        1. Jessesgirl72

          Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Her entire reason to work from home is so she can do other stuff…. She’s supposed to be working.

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          1. Christine

            Shouldn’t she file for FMLA? or internment FMLA? That might be the best route for the employee. IF she’s out on FMLA, the employer may be able to bring in a contractor for a short period or borrow a body from another department for 20 – 30 hours a week.

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            1. Jessesgirl72

              FMLA is unpaid. Sure, the Employee should do that, but she doesn’t want (probably can’t afford) to take the time unpaid- that’s why she wants to “work from home”- with the quotes being appropriate in this case.

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              1. Christine

                My employer will allow you to use your sick and vacation balance for FMLA. If that’s the case, it’s an option, and from what the OP says they are new to management, they may not be aware of other options to suggest to the employee. EAP counseling might be a good recommendation to help the employee with stress, etc. Being a care giver is not easy.

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          2. Jerry Vandesic

            Most WFH programs I have been involved with have had requirements that you plan for and document child care or other obligations. One even required to see the contract for the child care that would be provided. The employee could not plan to be the child care provider. They wanted to avoid the situation the OP is describing.

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            1. BananaPants

              Yes, we know several people who WFH 100% of the time and they have to document child care arrangements. One big employer in our area that does a ton of WFH arrangements has webcams and activity trackers on company computers and if someone happens to see a kid playing in mom or dad’s workspace during their work day, that’s a major problem.

              It’s usually considered OK for a school-aged child to come home after school if they can fend for themselves but the employee can’t stop work to take them to an activity or something.

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              1. Christine

                When I was in clinical research the employees had to document that they had an actual space, etc. that was set aside for an office, have a 2nd telephone line installed for the business purposes and internet had to be a minimum speed, etc.. But these individuals worked from home 4 – 5 days a week. We had others that would WFH 1 day a week, they had to have the internet speed, and monitor, etc. They were supplied with laptops, but had to supply their own monitor, etc.

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        2. always in email jail

          ^This. Not to be cold, but if you’re requesting to work from home to care for someone else… that’s not really working.
          Our agency’s telework agreement specifically states that you can not work from home if there is someone there that requires care and there’s not another adult in the house to provide that care.

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          1. Katherine

            Well to be fair, it’s not clear that she’ll be caring for the person during work hours. For example if she had a long commute then working from home could mean she’s around to make sure the person she’s caring for can eat breakfast and lunch, which isn’t taking time out of her own working day.

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            1. MsCHX

              I was kind of thinking this way too. It could be the fact of saving hours in the car and being able to prepare meals, etc and not necessary constant care. Like, you can’t work-from-home with your infant all day. You’re totally NOT working “all day”.

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          2. Tuckerman

            There’s a fine line though, when the care needed does not require a large time commitment. If her father just needs someone to prepare lunch, dispense medication, and help him to the bathroom every couple hours, I think that’s reasonable (and the employee could work a little later if the time commitment is greater than expected). My rationale is, it is quite expensive to hire someone to stay at the home all day to address those needs. If his care needs result in minimal disruption to her work day, it would be compassionate to let her work from home one day per week (with proactive check-ins).

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            1. Rusty Shackelford

              This is true. Dad *could* be like a typical 10 year old – doesn’t need constant supervision, but you don’t feel comfortable leaving him alone at home all day. The OP does say he needs “substantial care,” so that’s probably not the case, but it’s also possible that he sleeps or watches TV enough to let her wring an 8-hour day out of it. If I were going to consider WFH at all, I’d ask how much time the employee thinks she can actually spend *working* during the day.

              Reply
              1. Observer

                That’s a reasonable question. “substantial care” could mean “can’t leave him home alone”, which is not necessarily a time sink. Or it can mean ” needs attention every 15-20 minutes, which is a non-starter.

                Reply
              2. Decimus

                This is definitely what the OP needs to find out. It could be something as basic as “I need to be there to call 911 if my parent has an accident and maybe help them in the loo” or it could be a complicated thing. The former might make the employee more productive (if they would otherwise be at work fretting mom slipped in the shower or on the stairs). The latter would hinder productivity.

                It also sounds like there needs to be a more general meeting of staff. “On WFH days we’re only getting about 75% productivity. I want to make sure WFH stays an option, so how can I help improve productivity?” That way if part of the problem is technical issues you’ll find out, and everyone will be on notice the productivity gap is a problem.

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            2. CB

              Yes, and it may well be that they can afford or are eligible for enough home care to cover her work day but not her commute, or six hours@5 days but 7.5 hours@4 days, etc, the kind of thing that just drains you. I have absolutely seen employees with toddlers at home who WFH’d without childcare (lol, not for long) but this may well be just an employee who’s constantly distracted at work out of fear that a parent is falling or needs to use the toilet.

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          3. BananaPants

            Yes. Since none of us telecommute, managers are usually OK with the polite fiction of occasional “working from home” with a sick kid or spouse (or to meet the cable guy). Everyone knows that with a young child or someone who needs constant care, there’s little to no work getting done, but it’s a nice thing that saves on personal and vacation days.

            Reply
  1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

    For #1, I think Alison’s advice is spot-on.

    My only thought would be that if he pushes back, this might be the perfect place to say, “well, like me check with [OP’s boss] about what I should deprioritize to watch your daughter this morning,” or “I need to check in with [OP’s boss] about this.” He’s doing this because he knows he can get away with it.

    Reply
      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

        It’s like a television show of what being a senior manager is like, not reality.

        I remember watching LA Law when I was a shiny peon in life and seeing all of the stuff Roxanne did for Arnie and dreaming about how awesome it would be to have a Roxanne one day. That’s what being a big wig is like, right? You can throw personal stuff on people because You’re Important.

        Well maybe if you’re a movie star but I don’t know anybody who is senior level who would think to pull crap like #1. What you are is responsible for everybody’s productivity in the business. Hire your own damn nanny/pick up your dry cleaning.

        (True story: when son #2 was getting ready to go away to college, I was running around crazy and I emailed my quasi assistant to place an order for a specific industry related item to ship to my home address, something son needed for college. She did it and emailed me follow ups and tracking and I STILL FEEL GUILTY four years later!! So much for me and Roxanne.)

        Reply
          1. the gold digger

            Sorry! I didn’t mean that as a pile-on to what you did, because I think that is really mild and falls into the category of Acceptable Very Occasional Personal Favors To Ask At Work. I meant mine as a way to show something that actually was egregious and that you should not feel bad at all!

            Reply
            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

              Ha!

              No I get it. I realize my guilt is irrational. What she did for me was essentially a job duty that she did for VIP customers multi times a day, except this time to my home address for a Personal Reason. (It’s just so far off my code I don’t think I’d ever do it again.)

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth West

                I wouldn’t mind doing something like that for a boss if it were a very rare favor, and the boss was otherwise reasonable and didn’t take advantage of his / her position. If someone like the boss in the letter, then no way.

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          2. Adonday Veeah

            I had a new boss once who regularly made me get cigarettes and coffee for her. She later told me that she’d read a study that said when you ask someone to do favors for you, they see you as someone they like, and she wanted me to like her, so she asked me to do her “favors.”

            She seemed to miss the point that when you’re the boss, it’s not “favors” your asking for. And when you’re the employee, saying “no” is fraught with consequences.

            Reply
            1. Rusty Shackelford

              Wait. When I ask people for a favor, they see me as someone they like? That’s… bizarre. Even outside of the boss/employee context, it’s bizarre.

              Reply
              1. dragocucina

                I was told that in a seminar in the 70s. Even before the age of 20 I knew that it could only be one or two favors.

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              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                The idea is that people like to feel useful/ helpful / reliable, so if you ask them a favor once or twice, it makes them feel like you appreciate them and value their insight/effort. The advice is mostly aimed at people who have a hard time asking for help, though—it’s not a general practice where everyone should be asking each other for favors 1000x.

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        1. Jen

          Very occasional personal things are understandable for an assistant, I think. When I was an intern at a newsroom the desk manager had me go get him lunch. He kept apologizing but the day was absolutely crazy and he couldn’t leave the desk. I had no problem doing this but he was so apologetic. Meanwhile another woman I know who was a Director of Communications was asked to put together her the children’s party invitations for her boss’s kids and then keep track of RSVPs. That’s too much and the wrong person to do it.

          Reply
          1. I'm Not Phyllis

            I think it depends on the personal things, though. Being asked to mail some personal correspondence? Ok on occasion. Being asked to watch someone’s kid? Nope, not even once.

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          2. DeadQuoteOlympics

            Yeah, we had a (paid) student intern that we very, very occasionally sent out for coffee when things were crazy, and we were super apologetic about it and part of the deal was that we bought her the drink and snack of her choice. “You fly, we buy.”

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            1. Elizabeth West

              I was asked to do Wendy’s Frosty runs at one job periodically. I liked it because I got out of the office (the Wendy’s was right across the street, so it wasn’t a huge deal). Plus, Frostys. Mmm.

              Reply
            2. sstabeler

              also, sending someone out for coffee when it’s crazy busy at least has a business rationale- that it means people can work during the time they would otherwise be getting coffee- while putting together the invites for the boss’s kid’s birthday party is irrelevant to the office. That business rationale makes a difference.

              Reply
        2. The Strand

          No, I think the guilt is misplaced, madame, you sound far, far more benevolent than Arnie ever was. An occasional thing like that is OK for an EA or part of a team of admins.

          Having them do a large personal mailing, pick up your dry cleaning, pick up two coffees that have to be exactly this specific very hot temperature (course, I was never provided with a thermometer to measure it)… that stuff is horrible.

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    1. Cambridge Comma

      The only thing I wondered was whether she would be better off mentioning it before it happens again. It might be harder to say no when the guy is standing there with the child. “I just wanted to forewarn you, in case it comes up again, that I won’t be able to watch [kid] in future.”

      Reply
      1. Boo

        Yeah this is a good idea and likely to cause fewer ructions if he can plan ahead in advance rather than relying on OP’s worker and then finding out on the spot that she can’t do it. He’d see it as her dropping him in it/putting him in an awkward position (when in reality of course, he’s done all that himself).

        I’d suggest talking to him at the next opportunity and personally I’d take the easy coward’s way out and say something like hey Bob just wanted to let you know my boss has asked that I not look after Sprog anymore as it’s getting in the way of work. Thanks for understanding!

        Reply
            1. tigerStripes

              Yeah, I think I’d start with my boss and say something like “I need to be able to tell Bob that I can’t watch his daughter in the future because I need to get work done. Is it OK if I let him know you agree with this?”

              Then again, when someone asks me to do something that I’m not sure I should be doing (not something wrong, but something that might be well outside of my job), I tell the person I have to check with my manager. Works well for me.

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      2. Jessesgirl72

        Yes this.

        I wouldn’t want to have to say it in front of the child. It’s not her fault her dad is a presumptuous jerk.

        And if there is an HR department, I might loop them in first. The optics on it are pretty sexist.

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      3. LBK

        Agreed. And that could potentially put him in an awkward spot if he was relying on the OP to say yes (which is his own fault for always assuming she’d act as free childcare for him, but it will most definitely make the situation more tense if she springs it on him rather than letting him know ahead of time so he can make other arrangements).

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      4. I'm Not Phyllis

        I feel like I would go this route as well. Loop the boss in for sure, but I wouldn’t necessarily blame it on her/him. I’d just say straightforwardly that I’m not comfortable with this request, and that while I’m at work I need to focus on the tasks at hand.

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        1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

          I definitely agree that a straightforward no is always the best but the senior manager, in this case, seems like he would be the type to keep pushing, so it was giving the coworker an out.

          I do this with my own team. It’s less about making me the bad guy, but reminding people we are supposed to be a process driven organization. Also, it makes it easier for some of my more junior employees to feel comfortable asserting themselves when someone won’t take no for an answer.

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      5. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

        Agreed. I was definitely thinking about this in my own work context (project, report, data pull) than with a living, breathing little human standing there.

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    2. Interplanet Janet

      I liked Alison’s response but would drop the “I’m sorry.” Women tend to apologize for things they shouldn’t and IMO this is one of them. A simple, “No, I cannot because my work needs my entire focus” is sufficient and sends the same message.

      Reply
      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

        eh, there’s a lot of power in politeness when it’s polite+firm. I’ve always considered it a secret weapon.

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        1. fposte

          Yup. “I’m sorry” isn’t necessarily an apology, and I think there’s a risk of losing a useful tool if all uses are removed.

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          1. esra

            In my mind, the unspoken part is “I’m sorry (that you’re making such a dumb request and I have to deal with it).”

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      2. Parenthetically

        This is one of those areas where I can see both sides. Yes, women as a whole do over-apologize, and are socialized to be relational even in their requests, and that’s problematic in a lot of contexts, but then I also think, why should we have to imitate men in order to be seen as professional? Why is their way better? But then pushing back against sexist societal expectations is also awesome. I have no conclusions, obviously, but if a person chooses to “hedge” with polite words I’m not gonna give her a hard time about it. (Not that you were — just a jumble of thoughts. Sorry. ;) )

        Reply
        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

          I’m all about the Brenda Johnson/The Closer approach. “Thank you, thank you so much.”

          No one ever mistook her for a pushover (or if they did, to their peril). ;-)

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          1. Faith

            Now I’m just picturing the entire exchange taking place between Brenda and the Big Boss. “Well, bless your heart! But today is just such a busy day for me. I just don’t think I can help you out. So sorry about this. Thank you! Thank you so much!”

            Reply
            1. the gold digger

              I was so confused when I first moved to Memphis and got the Southern No. It took me a while to figure out that, “Oh I wish I COULD but I just can’t. Thank you so MUCH for asking me! I really appreciate it!” meant, “No. No. No.”

              Reply
              1. INTP

                Hah, I had the same experience when I learned the Midwestern Polite Suggestion/Dire Command. It took me some mild scoldings at work to learn “Here is a thing that you could do, only if you feel inclined to do it and you have the spare time” = “DO THIS OR ELSE.”

                Reply
        2. Tuesday

          I think you’re right–everyone should make an effort to be courteous. You can still be firm and stand your ground while saying things like “I’m sorry” and “thank you.” It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a man or a woman, hearing “I’m swamped and can’t do that,” is always going to feel more combative than “I’m sorry, I’m swamped and can’t do that. Thanks for understanding.”

          I always think about this dynamic when I hear someone say how we need to teach girls to speak up more and that sort of thing. Sure, we do, but I also kind of feel like we need to teach boys (and everyone) to respectfully listen to others and not always try to be the loudest voice in the room.

          Reply
      3. Jessesgirl72

        When dealing with a senior manager- one who seems above her boss (I wish the OP had given her coworker a name) , it’s always in your best interest to keep it polite. That’s not a rule that applies to only women- a guy should be advised to tell the Boss “So sorry, can’t today” too.

        Reply
      4. Kerry

        I’ve also seen the argument (from women linguists) that even if women tend to do X and men tend to do Y, that doesn’t make X automatically bad – for example, instead of telling women to hardly ever say “sorry”, we could tell men to be more polite. There’s nothing wrong with using language like that in an awkward work situation.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Yeah, I agree this is one case where men shouldn’t be allowed to get away with being more brusque, rather than erring on the side of women not softening their language. Being polite shouldn’t be gendered.

          Reply
        2. Trig

          I’m in Canada. Male or female, we say sorry for every frigging thing (not to dismiss the way women are socialised to do it more, just that it’s also cultural).

          Sometimes it carries an additional “I’m sorry you’re an idiot” meaning too. So,”I’m sorry, but climate change is real.” is actually “I’m sorry you’re an idiot for saying that scientifically false thing, but climate change is real.”

          And in this case, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t look after your kid today.” would really mean “I’m sorry you’re an idiot for thinking I’d provide free childcare and prioritise your kid over my work, but I just can’t look after your kid today.”

          Reply
          1. fposte

            Exactly. With a side helping of “And I’m sorry I’m the only one here polite enough to add a phrase just for politeness’ sake.”

            Reply
      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        As a woman who over-apologizes, I don’t think this is an example of that. In this case, “I’m sorry” = “I regret that I cannot continue to do this insane task you’re requesting of me.” You don’t actually regret it, but it can help de-escalate the conversation (convos re: children and childcare seem to often escalate).

        Reply
    3. Liane

      I wonder why Alison didn’t advise OP to have Coworker (the one being asked to watch the daughter) talk with their own manager about what was going on. I think she’s suggested this for even reasonable-sounding work requests coming from other managers, especially when they affect productivity.

      Reply
      1. Ama

        I think this is a good point. This situation reminded me of a time at a previous job when a colleague of mine was loaned out to another department on very specific restrictions (i.e. a couple hours a week, one specific task), and by a month later the colleague came to our mutual boss to note that she was now basically working half time for the other department, which was a *huge* surprise to our boss. (I worked for him for three years and that was the only time I saw him get visibly angry.)

        Which is to say I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe the coworker’s boss on one specific day had run into senior boss in a bind about childcare and offered up colleague for *that specific day,* and is unaware that coworker has become the default option rather than the exception.

        Reply
      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        But wouldn’t this make things messier/dramatic? OP could certainly say something, but I’d be inclined to keep my nose out of it if the coworker being impacted wasn’t willing to say something, herself.

        Reply
    4. AthenaC

      #1 – I absolutely agree that a simple “no” should be enough. If it’s not, though – she’s 10 years old, which is old enough to find a comfy chair in a break room or common area and read a book, write a story, listen to music (using headphones), draw, color in those adult coloring books, or any number of things that should not require anyone’s time or attention.

      Maybe it would solve the problem if OP’s coworker suggested any of those things to the child’s father? Or as a last resort brought in a book for her to read? It’s always possible that a parent just doesn’t know what to do with their own child – lord knows I’ve been guilty of that multiple times.

      Again, 100% agreed that she shouldn’t have to do any of that, but it might be worth it in the interests of solving the problem.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        As you say, she’s 10. If this guy hasn’t figured out a way at this point to keep his daughter occupied at work on multiple occasions, it’s not up to the OP’s co-worker to set aside her own work while HE gets HIS stuff done.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Yes, and the whole point is to take the responsibility off of the co-worker’s shoulders; this would be continuing to accept the responsibility, just shifting it to administrative.

          Reply
      2. BananaPants

        Our 6 year old spent an afternoon in the office with me recently after a doctor’s appointment (no point in bringing her back to school for an hour and a half). She brought her tablet with headphones and a couple of books. She colored me two beautiful pictures on copy paper with the emergency crayons I keep in my purse and kept herself quiet and occupied for several hours while I got work done. I have a visitor chair in my cube and didn’t need to go to any meetings so it worked out really well. She didn’t disrupt anyone; most of my coworkers didn’t realize she was here until we left for the day.

        If the manager doesn’t want to pay for a snow day/vacation day program for a school aged child, the onus is on him to keep the kid occupied at work without causing disruptions to employees or expecting them to babysit. Even books and quiet games with a couple of snacks and a water bottle should let the parent get through a good chunk or all of the work day. A typical 10 year old shouldn’t need much watching by the parent or anyone else.

        Reply
      3. JustaTech

        10 is plenty old enough to entertain yourself quietly in an empty cube or in the corner of your parent’s office. I spent a *lot* of time at my parents’ office as a kid, and by the time I was 10-11 they had put me to work (babysitting the copier, assembling binders of material) or I did homework or just read a book or played solitaire.

        On the other hand, all day at an office is a lot for a kid, especially if the kid has to share someone’s space.

        Reply
    5. INTP

      This is what I came here to say. It’s a very different situation, but I did use this to great results when I had a coworker that tried to take advantage of me. She was responsible for looping me in on projects, but I found out some of those projects were her own work that she was never told to share with me (and she was a very paranoid person, possibly to a truly delusional degree, that I didn’t want to call out directly). “I’d love to help, but Boss already has me working on the Teapot Accounts this morning. Just let me make sure she wants me to rework the priorities to handle this and I’ll email you to confirm.” Then you’d ask your boss, “Fergus asked me to watch his kid but I won’t get the Teapot Reports finished if I do. I should say no, right?” (Preferably by email, and you have a CYA in writing if Fergus decides to raise a fuss about it.) You can also do this approach completely in lieu of saying “no” directly if you don’t feel comfortable with that for whatever reason.

      Final thought, if everything reasonable fails and you are stuck with the kid, just don’t entertain her. Keep doing your work, looking up every so often to confirm that she’s still there and breathing, and if she’s doing things you really can’t allow her to do like throwing tantrums or trying to leave your office and wander around, return her to her father. You’ll get more work done and he might find a new nanny if she doesn’t like you very much. (This is NOT YOUR FAULT at all, so don’t take it that way, but the fact that you engage with her and make an effort to entertain her might 1) make her love you and beg to stay in your office specifically, and 2) give Fergus the impression that you do have time to watch his kid because otherwise you’d just ignore her and work, in his mind.)

      Reply
      1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

        I always tell my staff to use me as an excuse or tell people they need to confirm with me if they don’t feel comfortable.

        We have a lot of account managers who will give away freebies and then go directly to the staff member who would have to do the work and pressure them into “just taking care of one thing.” It’s amazing how well one of team responding with, “that’s great, let me just have Not the Droid add it to my project” does for routing things back to the proper channel.

        Reply
        1. AthenaC

          It’s one of my favorite things about being a manager – the degree to which just dropping my name and title serves to protect my team members from things. Not everything, but some things.

          Reply
    6. TootsNYC

      If the child-watching colleague in #1 is uncomfortable saying “no,” the next step is to just ignore the kid.

      Say, “I’m really busy today; I’ll need her to entertain herself, though.” And when dad walks out, say to the 10yo, “I’m sorry, but I need to focus on my work. I hope you brought a book.” And completely ignore her.

      It’s not necessary to entertain someone who is 10 years old in order to keep them safe or from being disruptive. If the colleague has been interpreting this as “play with my kid,” then maybe the boss thinks it’s actually something she enjoys. Time to start sending other messages.

      Though, the best step is to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t today–I’m swamped.” Then pick up something (anything!) from your desk and step out of the room. “Excuse me, I need to check on something.” Then leave, rapidly, even if it’s just to the bathroom or to another floor. Remove yourself from the proximity so they can’t continue the conversation.

      Reply
  2. Stellaaaaa

    OP2: Would you consider approving her for a half-day instead? If she works from home to care for her dad, that means she won’t be working. You don’t want to end up in a situation where other employees are asking for more days at home to watch their kids, and IMO there’s no good justification for giving special privilege to an employee that you openly state isn’t excelling at the job. This isn’t a one-off thing. You’re talking about a major schedule change and lowered productivity that could affect the other, better employees on a weekly basis.

    I have all the compassion in the world for this employee, but she’s not the only one with a lot going on at home. I think you could tell her you can’t grant her request right now but you’d be willing to revisit it in a few months if she improves. In the meantime, have you actually spoken with her about her performance?

    Reply
      1. Stellaaaaa

        I’d say the same logic applies. OP should say no unless she’s prepared to greenlight identical requests from all of the top performers who also want to work from home regularly. We’re talking about essentially giving a bad employee four extra paid days off a month. She’s not going to be hitting the presumed 75% of her already poor productivity while tending to her dad.

        Reply
      2. INTP

        Personally I don’t think it’s a good idea to set the precedent of allowing people to WFH for situations like this. She won’t actually be working, at least not at anything near her normal already-struggling productivity. Working from home while tending to family (adults or children) might be a solution in emergency situations where the alternative is also unfavorable (someone can’t be at work period so they can handle major stuff at home or not handle it at all, a top performer will quit if they can’t WFH). Planned, regular WFH days, though, should be reserved for people who actually have arrangements so they can be productive at home. People claiming to work from home when they should really be on sick time or FMLA ruin it for everyone by making working from home appear to create lower productivity.

        Reply
    1. Carpe Librarium

      I arranged a one day WFH to help care for my Dad, and was able to arrange a slightly longer day the other 4 days of the week.
      A 40 hour week divided into 4 x 9-hour days leaves just 4 hours to work on the 5th day; allowing the employee to structure the WFH hours around doctor appointments or other caring duties.
      If the employee takes a 30 min lunch instead of an hour &/or extends their work hours by 15 mins at the start and end of each day it’s hopefully not too much of an inconvenience.

      Reply
            1. Parenthetically

              Wow, that’s rough for all the folks who used to have flex time! My husband’s job allows flex time for most positions and lots of his coworkers work 10-hour days four days a week and go fishin’ every Friday.

              Reply
                1. Observer

                  That’s really not true.

                  For example most of our staff is non-exempt but almost all of the office staff, other than the receptionist, has some level of flex time. How much depends on how outward facing the job is.

              1. MommaCat

                California does allow working alternate schedules, like four 10s, as long as it’s set up in writing ahead of time. I know hourly mechanics who work this schedule in CA. But, disclaimer, that might have changed recently.

                Reply
    2. always in email jail

      Yes. OP should only agree to this if OP is willing to let the higher performers work from home for personal reasons (ie school is out for a snow day and the kids are at home, kid has strep and is home, etc.). Otherwise this is going to breed A LOT of bitterness in the team…

      Reply
    3. INTP

      I agree that she won’t be working when she’s not at home, and you shouldn’t approve this unless you plan to approve everyone with a compelling reason. I work from home full-time, and I have multiple adults in my family that require care for various reasons. I tried to be flexible to help out their caregivers with doctor’s appointments, errands, and such, but even with my best efforts the responsibility interfered with productivity to the point that I felt like it was unethical for me to do that on company time. (And all I was responsible for was making sure they didn’t hurt themselves or wander out of the house while I was there. If you add in doctor’s appointments, feeding, dressing, or other elements of caretaking, etc., productivity is even lower.)

      I think it would be best to try to steer her towards solutions that don’t involve “working” from home. If she has enough vacation time, maybe approve a half day every other week. Suggest she speak with HR about FMLA if that might apply. Working from home is just not a sustainable solution to this.

      Reply
  3. Huh

    LW3: Repeat the same cute names right back at her. “You’re welcome, chickadee!” “I’m good thanks, hon!”

    Even when talking to a much younger and junior staff member, pet names are unprofessional.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I wouldn’t recommend this approach, but I’ve definitely used it before when there wasn’t really a bridge I worried about burning. (Aside: “Hun” doesn’t bother me as much when it comes from another woman because it’s sometimes a regional / ethnic group / class background thing, but I understand why it could be super annoying.)

      After (older, white, male) counsel blew a filing deadline by several months and dodged my calls, I finally got ahold of him. He opened the conversation with “look, sweetheart, I’ll file it when I have time.” It was one of the few times in life I saw red. I told my boss I was going to respond in kind (he laughed and gave me an ok), and I proceeded to refer to counsel as sweetheart and hun for the next 1.5 years.

      It took about four different sweetheart/hun moments before he started looking visibly uncomfortable and realized what I was doing, at which point I pretended to be oblivious and very sympathetically said something like, “Oh, isn’t it so annoying when people who aren’t close to you give you nicknames?” I stopped when he got it, but any time there was even marginal backsliding, I reinvoked the cheeky nicknames.

      Reply
      1. Mookie

        Hahahah, bless your heart but in the best possible, devoid of aggression of the passive variety, sense. I wouldn’t have the nerve; my best is to No Prob, Bob / No Can-Do, Mary Lou nicknamers right back at them, in a hearty voice.

        (I also don’t mind women doing it to me, provided it’s delivered indiscriminately with a certain amount of sincerity or utter banality. Anything with “affect” is designed to annoy people. But I absolutely understand the OP’s objections and I’ve witnessed it being done in order to condescend to people, in both racialized and gendered ways.)

        Reply
      2. Garrett

        Yeah I was thinking that the OP should come back with obnoxious nicknames in response: “Honey, can you do this?” “Sure things, sugarlumps!”

        Reply
    2. LQ

      I think this doesn’t work well because a lot of people who use them think they are perfectly acceptable/cute/etc so it doesn’t have the punch you think it will.

      Reply
      1. Frustrated Optimist

        Very much agree. Also, while sometimes these “endearments” can be used innocently (if cluelessly…) in this commenter’s case, the “sweetheart” was meant as anything but! In my interpretation, “sweetheart” was used as a substitute for a much harsher, possible profane term. I would have called out the co-worker on the spot, or soon afterwards.

        Reply
    3. used to be called a nick-name

      Years ago I had a manager who made up variations on people’s names and then used those when referring to them. So Derek might be called “Big D” – as an example. I hated the one she created for me. After months of putting up with it, I finally came up with a creative variation of her first name. The next time she said “hey nick-name, hows it going?” I said “I’m doing great, nick-name.” It only took about two times of that before she reverted to using my first name. I actually found it interesting that it had such a quick effect.

      Reply
    4. Aah!

      This is one of my pet peeves with one of my co-workers. She will call both clients and friends pet names and it drives me bats! Glad to hear it’s not just me!

      Reply
  4. Susan

    I don’t think 10 year olds need much supervision or any entertainment in an office. Some 10 year olds already baby sit! If she sits in the office, she should bring an ipad or laptop with her and chill.

    Reply
      1. Mookie

        Yes. Or hastily assign them busy work to take home and make a point out of reminding them at the end of the visit, within earshot of the parent, of how Nanny’s deadlines work and what the penalties are for late papers.

        In reality, I’d probably throw the kid a good novel or book of poetry and ask her to let me get on with it. But this is irksome bullshit, frankly, and maybe the OP’s friend’s boss needs to be looped in if they’re not already aware. A whole summer of this is unacceptable.

        Reply
      2. BananaPants

        From the ages of 7-11ish I spent the summers at the restaurant where my dad was the general manager. My parents couldn’t afford day camp for me on top of daycare for my younger sibling, so off to “work” I went.

        I spent large chunks of the day in his office reading books and listening to my Walkman, but during the lunch rush he got me out there in an apron to offer refills and bus tables. I was “paid” with a root beer float or with a walk to the music store in the mall to buy me a new tape for my Walkman. Ahh, those were the days.

        Reply
        1. always in email jail

          So interesting to hear, because I bet on some level they felt guilty that they had to drag you to work every day with them for the summers, but for you it’s a time of fond memories!! Very encouraging to hear as a parent :)

          Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I would find it so distracting/obnoxious if someone parked their child in my office for days/months on end, even if said child had activities or a tablet or whatnot. I’m paid to do my job, and those duties don’t include babysitting your kid (why doesn’t he out said child in his own office?!).

      And then there’s the actual impact on work. What if I needed to make confidential client calls? Do I have to kick the kid out every time I have to have a conversation or call? I’d be deeply irked, and maybe semi-murderous if the offending parent then called me the nanny.

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        I’m sure he’s too BUSY.

        And senior level managers, in my experience, don’t spend much time in their offices most days. She’d have to trail behind him from meeting to meeting- some of which HIS bosses would be in.

        I can see agreeing to it one time (for me personally, not saying it’s a “should” for anyone) But after he’d pulled it the second time, there would be a discussion to stop it.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I guess I’m wondering why a 10-year-old can’t camp out in her dad’s office, if that makes sense (especially if he’s not in there often). I wouldn’t expect her to have to follow him around all day.

          Reply
    2. Tomato Frog

      Yeah, seriously. I had missed that she was a 10 year-old. Not only should he not be telling his staff to watch her, he probably doesn’t need anyone to watch her!

      Reply
    3. blackcat

      Depends a lot on the 10 year old. I have met many who could easily handle themselves in such a situation, and others who definitely can’t for more than an hour. Sometimes that’s because of innate needs to be around people/be somewhat social, but sometimes it’s that the parents haven’t cultivated the expectation that the child entertain themselves. And plenty of 10 year olds who would be fine for a couple of hours will struggle to entertain themselves for an entire workday. And there are even more who could do *one* such workday, but would go bonkers if they have to do it for a week or more (over summer or winter break). It’s likely not reasonable if a 10 year old needs supervision for a couple hours after school–the kid should be able to handle that. But days and days on end, over a long summer holiday? Yeah, most 10 year olds will get bored and frustrated, and some would act out.

      The fact that this guy is calling the OP’s coworker “Nanny” is a HUGE red flag. Even if that was a joke, it means that, on some level, he expects the OP to make the kid her priority. And that is not okay.

      Reply
      1. Karanda Baywood

        Yes, the fact he calls her Nanny is the most problematic element to me. He has assigned her that role — and minimized the OP’s actual work contribution to that of a babysitter.

        Reply
    4. Justme

      I work in a casual environment where I have occasionally brought my kid in for half days. But my kid sits in my office doing activities that I have brought from home to do. I couldn’t imagine making someone else do it for me rather than doing their own work.

      Reply
    5. yasmara

      I’m sure Little Darling could be entertained…IN HER OWN PARENT’S OFFICE, not someone else’s. Or, more appropriately, not at all (there’s this magical thing called child care), but as a parent I know that occasionally unavoidable things happen (key words: occasionally…unavoidable). The only thing I would quibble with in Alison’s advice is that I think the OP should immediately loop in her own boss. Something like, “I’ve been trying to be accommodating to Senior Manager’s request, but I’ve realized my productivity declines when I have to watch Little Darling during my work day. I also realized you may not be aware that Senior Manager has been asking me to watch Little Darling during my work day. In the future, I am going to decline these requests.” Hopefully the OP’s manager isn’t a total ass and will be appropriately horrified by Senior Manager’s behavior.

      Reply
    6. MsCHX

      The work place is NOT a substitute for regular child care. It’s just not okay.

      People have brought their kid in for short stints on days they were otherwise not going to be working or say to get things printed/prepped to wfh. But to think that every time school is out there’s going to be a kid in the office? No deal.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        Not really. It’s one thing to leave a child that age at home a lone and in your office, with other people nearby, alone.

        In some offices, bringing kids in on days schools is off, etc. is OK. The key, though is that the PARENTS are responsible for making sure the kid is entertained, and that the kid is being non-disruptive. And weeks at a time? No way!

        Reply
        1. MsCHX

          No, yes really. As an HR Manager there is no way I would sanction someone’s child being in the workplace for full workdays *every school break*.

          You need childcare. Work it out.

          Reply
    7. ArtK

      The fact that the 10yo may not need much supervision misses the point entirely. This person is being made *responsible* for someone elses child and that’s not appropriate in a work environment. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an infant in diapers or a 20yo needing a place to chill. Even responsible 10yos can get themselves into trouble, say browsing bad stuff on the ‘net. The manager could (and likely would) blame the worker for failing to supervise and that’s entirely unfair.

      Reply
    8. I'm Not Phyllis

      I would still find having a kid in my office distracting. If the kid can entertain him or herself, they could just as easily sit in senior manager’s office, or in an empty conference room, etc. There’s really no reason why sr. manager’s lack of a babysitter should become his employee’s issue.

      Reply
  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    #4, I’m speculating, but based on my experiences sending thank you cards, here’s my take: I think your coworkers were probably surprised by your gesture because they likely did not send anything, thank you card or otherwise. They may be feeling self-conscious now that they realize there are etiquette things a person can do if they wish, and they might be feeling insecure over whether they should have sent something and committed a faux pas. They’re probably dragging you to make themselves feel better about the fact that they didn’t do anything at all. It’s not nice of them, but it’s the least evil/insidious explanation.

    Reply
    1. M_Lynn

      I can see that, but I also had a really visceral reaction when I read the post about the social etiquette norms. I may not have the official etiquette down right, but I would view a large party like the one discussed as different from a small dinner party. For a dinner party, the flowers seem perfectly appropriate and gracious but I would think the rules were different for a big party that sounds like an event that could easily be held at a separate venue instead of a home. If everyone sent flowers or gave some sort of hosting gift, it would be monstrous to deal with! There are all sorts of class and geographical differences with etiquette, so I think I’m going to have to go do some research on Etiquette Hell for this!

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I hear you. I don’t think etiquette requires a bouquet or whatnot for this big fancy do, but it seems like a thank you card would be appropriate. A bouquet is extremely gracious but of course not required (I don’t think it’s poor form to send a bouquet, but it’s also really not required, either.)

        Personally, I would have sent a card, but I am an aggressive thank you note/card writer.

        Reply
      2. sstabeler

        I think the bouquet is more because it sounds like this was the kind of party they wouldn’t usually be invited to- in a sense, the politicians, etc wouldn’t send a hosting gift or flowers since for them, the invite was something they would expect (and, for that matter, depending on how prominent the politician or other notable is in the sual circles, the “gift” is the implied status of being able to invite said politician to your holiday party.) while for the OP and co-workers, it’s saying thank you for being given an opportunity they would otherwise not get.

        There’s also the fact that “gifting up” is more-or-less strictly giving a gift to someone because they are your boss- where there is a non-work reason for the gift, it’s if anything inappropiate to make an exception ( to use an obvious example, if you work for a relative that you would normally send a birthday present to, it’s inappropriate to not get them one just because they are our boss.)

        Reply
        1. Trout 'Waver

          Etiquette states that, unless there is a guest of honor, all guests are to be treated equally. So there is no difference for guests that some perceive to be lower status than others. In my own experience, politically connected or high profile guests are much more likely to bring a hostess gift or arrange for one to be sent.

          I also disagree that the employer was necessarily doing a huge favor for the employees. The employer may benefit from having a more politically connected team. Or he may benefit from having potential clients match names and faces with people that may work on their accounts. Or his family may enjoy the company of his employees’ families.

          Reply
        2. OP #4

          We work in a related industry so actually everyone from the team attends this sort of thing semi-regularly, and I nearly always send flowers and a card afterwards, so I didn’t even think twice about doing it this time until my coworkers mentioned it!

          Reply
      3. Emi.

        I agree, and I’ve also never heard of sending flowers with a thank-you. Bringing a bouquet, sure (although I’ve mostly seen this in Germany, I think), but sending flowers after? Nah. I usually only bring hostess gifts if I’m staying as a houseguest, and then it’s something like jam that they can just stick out of the way. (The jar of family-recipe relish I brought my husband’s parents when we were dating is still in their pantry, unopened.)

        Reply
        1. Liane

          From what I read in Miss Manners’ tomes and columns, sending flowers (or other gifts) after a dinner or party is one of those things that are still polite but often neglected, like actually letting a host know in a timely fashion whether you are coming to their event or not.

          Reply
        2. Jessesgirl72

          Then it’s something you’ve neglected to pick up etiquette-wise. Sending flowers or something after and event is a correct and gracious way of doing it- it takes away the onus of the host needing to deal with the item in the middle greeting their guests and everything else. I’ve done it several times in social situations.

          Reply
          1. always in email jail

            ^YES. I had never encountered people actually bringing something TO the event I’m hosting until I moved further north. It took a while for me to adjust to it because I found it a bit inconsiderate… I had everything perfectly laid out and my schedule down, and now I have to deal with putting these flowers in water and finding a place for this weird tray of cookies you grabbed? I appreciate the gesture but it was a cultural adjustment for me. Personally, I find sending something after the fact more considerate.

            Reply
          2. LQ

            It could simply be something where the etiquette is different. I’m always been told to bring something like a hostess gift, often a bottle of wine, easy to use, not use, gift, regift, though if I know they aren’t drinkers, or the party isn’t then I do something else. But sending flowers after would be extremely strange in the circles I’ve been in, including some very hyper etiquette focused groups, so your experience may be different but that doesn’t make Emi neglectful.

            Reply
          3. all aboard the anon train

            I’d hesitate claiming that it’s the “correct and gracious” way since I think this etiquette rule depends on region, just as so many others do as well. I was always taught to bring a gift TO the event and that sending one after is rude, and that’s common in my region. It’d be weird to receive a gift after the event.

            I know a lot of etiquette rules that are common in my region are different in other regions in the country, so I don’t think there’s a 100% correct way to do certain things, and it’s rude to assume and insist there is.

            Reply
        3. Doodle

          This is definitely a thing, though I think it’s more for when someone does you the favor of hosting a group event than when you are just invited to a party at their house. A couple hosted a party for an organization I volunteer for, and they got flowers the next day to thank them for their efforts.

          Reply
        4. the gold digger

          The jar of family-recipe relish I brought my husband’s parents when we were dating is still in their pantry, unopened.

          The bag of very fancy small-batch stone-ground cornmeal that I gave my husband’s parents the first time I met them was still in their fridge years later. I knew that only because one of the things I would do when we visited was throw away all the moldy food, wash all the shelves, and clean all the food off the jars when they had put the lids back on without wiping the tops.

          My husband wondered why I was willing to send some of my homemade pear jam to his ex mother in law when he visited her but not to his parents. “Because your parents will not appreciate the love that goes into a homemade gift,” I said.

          Reply
          1. Emi.

            Okay, now I want to clarify that my inlaws are actually lovely and I have no reason to suspect that they don’t appreciate homemade gifts. They just don’t eat relish, which I didn’t bother to find out.

            Reply
    2. Mookie

      Good read. I’m of the opinion that either a small, generic offering appropriate to the occasion (middle-shelf plonk for me, usually) or a follow-up note of gratitude doesn’t seem especially sycophantic. I don’t think it’s necessary because it’s an event hosted by the mutual friend and the OP’s boss — OP says she’d do the same for any similar gathering — but I agree that the co-workers are less offended by the gesture on ethical grounds than they are resentful of it because of how it might reflect on them. People who loudly regard others as “brown nosers” are rarely concerned on the so-called brown noser’s behalf.

      Reply
    3. Grits McGee

      Growing up, my parents didn’t Entertain (with a capital E), so had it not been for years of reading Miss Manners and being rebuked by the parents of my friends, I would have no idea about the proper etiquette for this sort of thing.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I love Emily Post’s “Etiquette” for this reason—it’s basically my reference book for etiquette in multiple contexts (although some of the advice has become outdated).

        Reply
    4. always in email jail

      As many have pointed out, this can vary regionally and even sub-regionally. I was raised in the American South, and I don’t think it was an odd gesture at all. Now that I’m further north, I probably would’ve stayed with a card, but I wouldn’t think it weird if someone sent flowers.
      Maybe the group felt it should’ve been a group gesture? I’m not saying it should have, but I could easily see my coworkers thinking this.

      Reply
      1. Kittymommy

        Agree. In my region if the US something like this would be highly common and sending a gift after the event would be even more common the mute formal the event.

        Reply
      2. Jessesgirl72

        I grew up in the Great Lakes area (and am now in a different part of the Great Lakes area) and I grew up with it.

        It would have been seen as weird when we lived in California, though.

        Reply
      3. LBK

        Agreed – life-long New Englander here and this seems really weird to me. I could see maybe the whole department pitching in together to get a thank-you gift if the party was particularly lavish, but an individual thank you is a little odd. I wouldn’t even expect it from a regular party guest, never mind an employee.

        Reply
      4. OP #4

        My boss’s family and I are all British while my two coworkers who thought it was odd are from the American South and mainland Europe, so this very much might be part of it, and it’s a factor I hadn’t thought about!

        Reply
    5. Jessesgirl72

      I agree with the reasons why the coworker was such a jerk about it, but having been on that end of reverse classism (and that’s what it is!) it gets real old, really fast! Ridiculing others for following proper (not necessary, but proper) standards of etiquette because you never heard of them is an ugly trait.

      Reply
    6. OP #4

      I feel bad about making my coworkers come off so badly! Neither of them brought anything but we are all very friendly so it was really more of good-natured teasing than genuine sniping. I really just wondered if there was some truth to it.

      Reply
  6. Engineer Woman

    OP#1 – you mention summertime. So the 10 year old pretty much sits in your coworker’s office for weeks at a time? This is whack.

    I agree with nipping this in the bud before next time. If this has been happening for long, I’d suggest coworker say to the senior manager: “I realize mid-winter break is probably coming around the corner and I want to tell you that I can no longer watch your daughter. You know, I should have mentioned before but you always caught me off guard and initially I thought it was a one-time thing. Her sitting in my office is a distraction to me getting my job done. That said, if you’d like to clear it with my manager and watching your kid is of more importance than my work tasks, feel free to discuss that with my boss.”

    Reply
        1. Brogrammer

          I find it profoundly wonderful that even with as many commenters as this blog attracts, you still manage to keep track of details like this.

          Reply
  7. justcourt

    Ugh why can’t the manager in #1 watch his own child?

    I’m curious why he selected this particular employee, and I’m concerned that manager’s sexism makes him think it’s okay to take a female employee away from her work and make her his nanny.

    Reply
    1. Jessesgirl72

      My experience with senior managers is that they spend most of their days in meetings. If he was going to leave her in his own office, he might as well have left her at home.

      That doesn’t excuse it, but that’s likely his thinking.

      Reply
      1. JustaTech

        Eh, I think there is a small difference in that if something happens to the kid while she’s in the office, even alone in her dad’s office, there are other people around to help (fire alarm, cuts herself, chokes on something), whereas at home she’d be totally alone.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          I was going to say something like this. It really IS a difference. And, if Parent thinks that their kid can’t be left alone in their office, they really DO need to get childcare in place.

          Reply
      2. I'm Not Phyllis

        If the kid is 10, I don’t see why senior manager couldn’t let him/her sit in his office while in meetings …

        Reply
  8. TheLazyB

    My five year old child recently asked that I stop calling him anything but
    -firstname
    -firstname middlename surname
    -lovely
    -puppy (… he spends a lot of time pretending to be a puppy)

    This means he wants me to stop using the nickname I’ve called him since he was born as well as all other endearments. And that is really hard, but you know what, I’ve mostly stopped, and when I forget I correct myself.

    Which is a longwinded way of saying don’t let her persuade you she can’t stop or keeps forgetting. If I can mostly stop calling my son his cute nickname she can stop this too.

    Reply
    1. Mookie

      firstname middlename surname

      Your child is Marvin K. Mooney, isn’t he?

      Do you have to use the full middle name or will he accept the initial? I’ve mentioned here before that my parents chose for us deliberately corny, punny names, but they were also at least partially selected on the basis that the final effect (using the middle initial) “flow” for symmetrical and elidable purposes while not sounding too tinny / woody. Sometimes I long for the heavier-handed gimmick names, your Audio Sciences, your Moon Units.

      Reply
      1. TheLazyB

        Haha no he wants the full name!! For ages he even insisted at school that his name included the middle name, although now for school purposes he is Firstname FirstLetterOfSurname (and he writes it like that on all things, including things like our birthday cards).

        Oh and re your last point, until we got married and both changed our surnames, my DH was named after an 80s UK magician. Hehe

        Reply
    2. Doodle

      Can I just say that I absolutely love that a kid still young enough to include “puppy” on the list is thinking about this and can articulate it so nicely to his mom? Your son sounds delightful.

      Reply
    3. Liane

      I think this is sweet, especially puppy.
      But I always thought First Middle Surname was reserved for times of great misbehavior?

      Reply
    4. Mike C.

      This reminds me of when I was a kid – I had two brothers and a bunch of pets. Sometimes my mother would get frustrated (justifiably so!) with our antics and call us by another brother’s name. If we got called the dog’s name, we knew we in trouble.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        The top 2 people my mom yelled at growing up were my brother and the cat, so my brother’s middle name ended up becoming the cat’s de facto middle name – when she was yelling, “____ George Smith” just rolled off the tongue, so when she yelled at the cat, “Fluffy George Smith!” would unintentionally slip out.

        Reply
        1. AK

          I had a cat who was a lovable little troublemaker for years – I gave her a middle name only because I found myself yelling at her so often that I just really needed to do the three-name-yell sometimes. The result was something like “Kitty Middlename Lastname, you get your tail off there right now!”
          Of course she didn’t know the difference, but it just felt right. I have no idea why.

          Reply
      2. Staff Accountant

        I’m fairly certain my husband and I have shot ourselves in the foot in this regard by giving our dog a typical human name. Maybe we’ll just go full George Foreman and name all future kids and pets Hank, too.

        Reply
      3. MadGrad

        I have two sisters, and am #2 in the mix. I just spent a good portion of time with all of them over the holidays. We still get the full “hey [wrong] – uh, [eldest]… [middle] [dog] [youngest] [cat]!!! SPUTTER SPUTTER NUMBER 2! You!”

        My grandma was always even worse, calling all three of us girls the name of our uncles on the regular. It gets funnier with age in both cases!

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          My grandma would mix my sibs and me up all the time, so she started addressing letters to the three of us, using the hybridized version of our names that would come out anytime she yelled for us (think first syllable of two kids’ names + the last syllable of kid #3).

          I do find it hilarious when pets have full (non-human) names, though.

          Reply
  9. Username has gone missing

    #5 I think you can break this habit – it’s just that breaking habits takes time and practice.

    For now, try challenging yourself to use phrases that start with one of the following two phrases:

    The way I approached that was…

    The first step I took was…

    Always start with those – use them to signal to your brain that you need to talk in a certain way. Practice. Remind yourself that those phrases mean you need to use ‘I’. Write them on post-its.

    And, this may sound hokey but challenge yourself to describe one mundane task in this way every day. How did you make your breakfast, for example?

    If that doesn’t help, practice asking yourself the following questions before you start talking:

    What do I need to talk about?

    Whose actions do I need to describe?

    Retraining yourself takes time but it’s totally possible.

    Reply
    1. Mookie

      Excellent strategy for stepping seamlessly into professional-norms-of-discourse mode.

      I found introductory technical writing courses an enormous help in describing things — especially things I take for granted and do by rote or otherwise have difficulty conveying without being long-winded — in an informed, credible manner. It’s impressive and an excellent (sometimes soft, sometimes hard) skill to sell to potential employers. If you can describe to a lay audience something like an event or process clearly, concisely, and without resorting to pre-packaged phrases and without sounding convoluted or contradictory, you’ve succeeded at a very hard task, one that takes a lot of practice to perfect but will serve you well once mastered.

      Reply
  10. Aurion

    Oh, #1 makes me see red. He can’t watch his own kid, and has the audacity to call OP’s coworker nanny?!?!

    OP’s coworker, I’d tip off your manager about this (as an FYI, not as an “you need to intervene on my behalf”), and put an end to this right now–don’t even wait for the next offense. Inform the father that you will not be able to watch his daughter for any length of time going forward, period, full stop, no exceptions. And if he gets shirty about it, tell him to take it up with your manager. If you feel extra vindictive, take it up with his manager.

    (And if for any reason the father’s boss and/or your boss allows the father to continue treating you as a nanny, start looking for a new job pronto.)

    Reply
    1. Aurion

      Ugh, just realized the father is a senior manager. While I’d love to say OP’s coworker can proceed as I said, the politics involved will probably require a more diplomatic answer. I’d still loop in her boss, but probably not loop in his boss unless OP’s coworker knows the offender’s boss really well. Otherwise OP’s coworker’s boss should be the one to kick it up the chain as needed.

      Reply
    2. Christine

      #1 — I was writing a reply and lost it. If you had the sick time, I would be tempted to call in sick on a day the school is closed and let him fend for himself. But he might just park her in your office while you are gone. I would talk to your manager, let him know that you are finding the practice disruptive, and would like it to quit. To be honest, I think it’s something the manager should address before it happens again.

      I’ve had that issue on campus in the past, and I’ve been blunt and rude when it’s requested of me. It’s been sick children, not when the public school was cancelled due to snow, teacher work day, etc. I’m not into kids, chose to not have kids, and I do not want to catch something. I just told him it’s not part of my job description. I had to nip it in the bud quick. I had a faculty member at the time that was hinting about me babysitting after hours for her child. Told her the truth that I wasn’t into children. I do nott it is, but I have chosen to not have kids, and when I was young every year or so I had to defend my work space from baby sitting ould piss me or sure and be insulting. We have so

      Reply
      1. Christine

        my computer is acting up this morning. I think I had the issue years ago, because one of the older admin assistants would watch kids, loved to. And I couple of times her faculty that did that, came into my office when she was out wanting the same favor.
        — Hey managers out there … if you see your direct report watching others kids, be sure to nip it in the bud. Management and co workers shouldn’t be doing it. It should be addressed to the individual that is asking the admins & clerks to babysit, etc. It’s hard to say no to management when you’re low on the totem pole and need the job. All you have to do, is say that “name of staff member has a deadline or her own work to do and doesn’t have time to watch your child.” If you get push back that the child is quiet, needs minimum supervision, than they can take the child to their own office. This is a sore spot with me and one I’ll be rude about depending as not part of my job description. My current department chair, would let loose on anyone that asked that of me. I’ve had a few department heads that would find it offensive on my behalf if someone even asked it. Others would believe it if told I didn’t mind, not taking inconsideration the disparity in power levels.

        Reply
  11. Naomi

    A slightly different take on #5 – my boss says he actually looks out for how people refer to projects etc in interviews, and prefers to hire people who use ‘we’ more often. But I agree you need to make your part clear eg we launched a new line of teapots, and I was responsible for the design and production side.

    Reply
    1. hbc

      I wonder if it’s possible to split the difference and say, “I tend to use ‘we’ out of habit to be inclusive with my team, so if you need to know what parts were specifically done by me, just interrupt me.”

      Reply
  12. Oryx

    I’m sympathetic to #2’s employee having an ailing family member that needs assistance, but wouldn’t the same logic of “WFH is not intended to substitute getting a babysitter for your children” apply here, too? Having cared for family members myself in one off situations, I can’t imagine doing that and getting any work done at the same time.

    I wonder if some of that might explain the drop in productivity when people WFH. Not just with this employee, but if other employees have their kids around or other kinds of distractions.

    Reply
    1. Doe-eyed

      I guess it would depend on how much “care” is being done. My work let me WFH to be with my ailing dad because if I was there he would settle down and sleep most of the day, vs. constant wandering trying to find me when an aide was there.

      Reply
      1. blackcat

        I once spent 3 days (just days, not nights) “babysitting” my grandfather while we waited for a slot in a good adult daycare to open up. Lots of my family members did the same over 6 weeks–his wife was still working at the time. He slept A LOT. And then he stared out into space for a while. And then he put on the TV while I gave him a sandwich. And then he slept some more. His condition meant conversation is hard, so he wasn’t up for a lot of that. And I got TONS of work done, sitting at the kitchen table, nominally supervising him. His house was actually very distraction-free for me, and I was far more productive there than at my desk at work.

        Basically, I was there to make sure he didn’t leave the house or turn on the stove and to call 911 in case of an emergency. He would freak out in the care of someone who wasn’t family, but he was perfectly calm with one of us around. I understand that this is pretty common, particularly among those with non-Alzheimer’s dementia (in my grandfather’s case, it was post-heart attack & stroke brain damage).

        It really depends. There’s a full range how much care an older person could need.

        Reply
    2. Jessie the First (or second)

      Yeah, I’m concerned that in this case the employee is not actually asking to work from home, but asking for free time off under the guise of working from home. If she needs to wfh to care for her father, she’s not going to work.

      She may need flex time, or if possible a reduced schedule – my OldJob allowed people to request an 80% or 60% schedule (with the resulting pay decrease). Is that an option? Or simply working flexible hours?

      Reply
    3. OP 2

      OP #2 here! as some people (correctly) surmised, it’s less like baby sitting a kid and more like WFH while an infant sleeps. Her mere presence at home can calm her father down.

      Reply
  13. Desi

    I’d say #4 did nothing wrong and the coworkers are embarrassed that they didn’t do anything. I don’t want to make any assumptions about the coworkers, but I also do think manners are a bit of a fading art these days. I hate to sound like a prick, but it irks the crap out of me when people show up to dinner parties empty handed or don’t at least give a gracious thank you afterward (I’m kind of a stickler for manners :-/). I think with this being a bigger event, a card would’ve sufficed but the flowers wasn’t over the top either, and I read this as this was an event OP wouldn’t normally be invited to so OP was very happy and thankful to have been given the chance

    Reply
    1. Emi.

      Bringing things to dinner parties (not potlucks) is a recent (and imo awkward) innovation, though. In the good old days, you were just supposed to reciprocate with your own invitation.

      Reply
      1. Grits McGee

        The significant other of a work friend has a habit of showing up with a large dish of some kind after being explicitly told not to bring anything. It’s gotten to the point where our friend group is starting to not invite them to things because it’s super annoying to carefully plan a meal and then have to physically rearrange the table to accommodate. It must be a cultural thing- I’ve asked work friend, and SO will.not.go. to a party without a dish.

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          Holy CATS. I would be *most displeased* if I planned an entire menu only to have someone turn up with their cream of crocodile casserole which I was expected to plunk down in the middle of the table!! And I say this as a person who loves collaborative meals. That’s just… unspeakably thoughtless and tone-deaf.

          Reply
          1. always in email jail

            Same here, I commented on this elsewhere but it was a shock for me when I moved to a region where this is common. I found it incredibly rude. I’ve carefullly arranged everything and planned a menu and then have to accommodate last minute additions!
            Luckily most people ask what to bring, and I’ve learned to say “wine”. This prevents them from feeling compelled to bring an appetizer or dessert that wasn’t requested.

            Reply
            1. Katie the Fed

              I’m always happy to let someone bring dessert because I’m a great cook, but I don’t like baking. Usually there are people who love to bake. That or wine/beer.

              Reply
            2. Charlie

              Speaking as a host, even the wine can be problematic; it sucks when someone brings a bottle of Malbec and you’re serving Thai curry, or something. But it’s awkward to be like, “could you bring something light and crisp, like maybe a reisling?”

              Reply
              1. all aboard the anon train

                I can’t speak for everyone else, but in my area it’s understood that the gift isn’t to be used at the event you’re hosting. So, the wine is a gesture of thanks for the invite, but for the host to enjoy at a later date. Same for someone who brings a dish.

                Reply
              2. always in email jail

                True, but I feel less awkward about not getting to the wine someone brought (and having it for myself to drink later!) than “oops, I completely forgot to put out the giant banana pudding you brought!”

                Reply
              3. Parenthetically

                I guess if someone volunteers to bring wine, I’m Ask Culture-y enough to tell them what kind would best accompany the meal. But take that for what it’s worth, given that most of my friends are not in a “drop a couple hundred bucks on a dinner party” phase of life, so we usually eat collaboratively or even cook collaboratively, and the “what wine can I bring” question is usually answered with “I prefer BotaBox to other boxed wines.”

                Reply
                1. Charlie

                  I asked a friend of mine what kind of wine she prefers. She shrugged and said, “Red, boxed, and poured generously.” Right on.

        2. Rusty Shackelford

          One way to handle this (don’t remember where this came from, probably not Miss Manners) is to assume the food is a hostess gift (since certainly your guests aren’t rude enough to bring food to a non-potluck dinner, oh the horror) and treat it accordingly – i.e., instead of serving it with the meal, pop it in the fridge to be eaten later, and then act confused when the guest expected it to be served. A kinder method could be to ask the SO to bring something specific that fits with the meal – a side dish, bread, dessert, etc.

          Reply
          1. Grits McGee

            Unfortunately, in the case of my diner party I wasn’t really able to avail myself of either. I had asked them to bring wine or beer. (They didn’t.) The the dish was a giant crock of banana pudding that she was very excited to have everyone eat. My planned desert was bananas foster (set on fire! on the table!), and I didn’t have a polite way to “forget” about the pudding, so I ended up wasting a $30 bottle of rum that I wouldn’t have bought otherwise on a dish I didn’t even get to make. >_<

            Reply
            1. Jessesgirl72

              I’d have served the bananas foster and given her back her banana pudding at the end of the night. You would have still been within your rights.

              She was NOT polite, and that would have been the only polite way to push back since she’s ignoring even being asked outright.

              Reply
            2. Emilia Bedelia

              Wow.
              My counter to that would be, there’s no polite way to bring unsolicited banana pudding to a dinner party.
              I think I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from saying “Oh, so sorry you went to the trouble, I already had dessert planned so I’ll just save it for you to take home with you later”.

              Reply
              1. Grits McGee

                I wish I’d had the composure! Work friend’s SO is kind of difficult socially as it is, and I was worried about fallout on my friendship with work friend if I’d put my foot down. The compromise is that they don’t get invited to dinner any more.

                Reply
            3. Rusty Shackelford

              Yeah, that’s annoying. With 20/20 hindsight, I would have told everyone they had their choice of two banana desserts, and I would have gone ahead and set my bananas on fire and let people eat her pudding too if they wanted. But I’m not sure I would have thought of that at the time… I might have just stood there with my mouth open and said “but I already made dessert!”

              Reply
              1. Charlie

                Honestly, I wouldn’t have served it. Polite but firm: “Oh, I wish we’d coordinated before you brought this. I’m already serving bananas foster, and I wasn’t planning for you to bring a dish aas well.”

                Reply
            4. Parenthetically

              I mean, holy crap, that’s just spectacularly rude. I can’t even fathom the thought process it took to get to that point.

              Reply
              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                Yes—this was my exact reaction. If she wants people to eat her banana pudding, she should throw her own dinner party and serve it there.

                Has anyone talked to the couple directly, outside of the immediate invite/dinner context? (i.e., saying afterward that while the thought is appreciated, it’s difficult to accommodate an unplanned dish and that you’d strongly prefer booze or nothing?).

                Reply
              2. Rusty Shackelford

                Especially since she didn’t tell the host she was bringing it, so she can’t pretend it was an attempt to help. The host would have already come up with dessert by the time the unsolicited pudding showed up, so it saved neither time nor money.

                Reply
        3. Jessesgirl72

          Miss Manners says that it’s perfectly okay to accept the dish and not serve it. You can pretend she meant it for you to eat the next day. ;)

          Reply
        4. Natalie

          Ugh, we used to have to talk our lovely but somewhat ditzy housemate out of this all. the. time. A couple of my friends love to throw very put together dinner parties, and they sure as sh!t have their menu figured out exactly and do not want an extra plate of random food.

          Reply
            1. Natalie

              Personality quirk for sure – this group in question is all middle-class, white, Midwestern women of a similar age. My husband has had similar impulses but in his case they come from class differences.

              It’s hard to explain without going into tons of details, but overall former housemate is a nice, warm person and a good friend, and that comes with a quite quirky personality!

              Reply
            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I cannot think of a culture where this is ok.

              (I can think of many cultures where you bring food, but not one where you then take over and insist on serving your dessert in lieu of the host’s dessert.)

              Reply
      2. Phoebe

        Actually, it’s not. I was always taught that you bring a small hostess gift when attending a dinner party. I’m not saying that it’s always appropriate anymore, just that it’s not a new thing.

        Reply
        1. Emi.

          Sorry, I was unclear. By the highly specific word “things,” I meant things like banana puddings and other dishes that the bringer expects to see incorporated into the meal you’ve invited them to, which you presumably have under control. I agree with you about hostess gifts!

          Reply
    2. Adlib

      Agreed! My extended family members don’t even have the decency to get funeral flowers when there’s a death in the family. I also think host/hostess gifts are important too. Nobody knows what manners are anymore.

      Reply
      1. Desi

        Yes it’s very sad and kind of pathetic. I didn’t necessarily mean a full on dish, but maybe a bottle of wine, some flowers, or something else that’s appropriate for the occasion. Thank you for understanding what I meant! The pile on was a bit disheartening.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          The point is that what you learned as requisite is what some other people learned as rude. It’s not that people don’t have manners any more, it’s that we’re running in more diverse etiquette crowds. It’s not rude just because it’s not what you learned.

          Reply
      2. LBK

        Or perhaps people are just tired of having to follow arbitrary, overly formal rules when interacting with their friends. If it’s a particularly fancy, formal event and there’s lots of people who are more social acquaintances than friends, okay, maybe I’d agree in that case. But when I invite people over, it feels more rude to expect that they’ll bring you a gift than for them not to bring one – I’m inviting you over because I enjoy your company and you don’t owe me payment for that. Showing up and saying thanks is enough.

        Reply
        1. AthenaC

          Agreed. I learned recently that my friends and I are all unforgivably rude for hosting our own birthday get-togethers. Never mind that it’s what’s expected in our circle, and that it’s administratively easier for everyone to take turns hosting in this manner. Nope – we’re being rude. Full stop. (eyeroll)

          Reply
          1. all aboard the anon train

            This is how I felt when people said it was the height of rudeness for a sister, mother, or other member to host or send out the invites for a bridal or baby shower. I think I’ve only ever received an invite by someone who wasn’t a family member once. All the others have come from the guest of honor’s family.

            Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Did that person realize that there’s a school of etiquette that finds bridal/baby showers tacky/rude?

              Reply
              1. AthenaC

                I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of bridal showers (I’m already giving you a wedding gift – isn’t that enough?), but they seem to be the expected thing, so whatever.

                Baby showers are supposedly tacky if it’s for any baby subsequent to the first baby, and invites are issued by a family member. But being honest again – I don’t particularly care who issues a baby shower invite – I’m still going and I’m still bringing something cute / practical, plus a tube of diaper rash cream, some lanolin, and a pack of diapers. These “rules” weren’t made for a time when parents are legally required to spend a few hundred dollars per kid on a car seat. Having kids is hard / expensive enough. It’s totally reasonable to let friends and family know you’d love some help.

                My MIL broke all the rules when she threw a baby shower for her first grandbaby – my third baby, which I had 8 years after my second baby, and after which I had already given away all of my maternity and baby everything. But then the stuff I received got regifted to people in our circle within a few months when they in turn had babies, so it wasn’t just me that benefited.

                Reply
              2. all aboard the anon train

                Who knows, but I know it was looked down upon by several people on AAM in a post last year (I think it was last year, that is), which is the second time I heard about it being considered tacky/rude, and from a much larger audience.

                Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I’m pretty sure hosting your own bday party, when you’re an adult, is considered the normal/appropriate way to approach the event (at least in the U.S.), and I’m pretty sure Emily Post agrees with me.

            I thought the hostess gift (wine, flowers, whatnot) was only if you don’t intend to reciprocate by inviting someone over in the near future. With my friend group it would be weird if we kept gifting each other because we take turns hosting all the time.

            Reply
        2. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)

          This. A “where’s my gift?” attitude is demanding and rude in itself, and there are a lot of regions and subcultures where flowers would be unexpected and weird (hi, fellow New Englander!)

          I don’t care about people doing things like giving me a hostess gift – and honestly don’t really think about it, and it’s weird to me that other people would. I mean, I’m on the autism spectrum and so a bit socially off, but I’ve always considered being vocally a stickler for (your own) rules of etiquette can end up being a form of rudeness itself. Especially to people like me who aren’t good at that sort of thing.

          Reply
      3. neverjaunty

        You do realize that in some cultures and faith traditions, sending flowers would be rude?

        I’m sorry if you have rude relatives, but really, manners are not dead and rude people have always been with us.

        Reply
        1. all aboard the anon train

          This. A lot of people have one set list of etiquette rules ingrained in them and assume that people who don’t follow them exactly are rude, which is definitely not the case. You have to take people’s cultures into account. What’s common for my region and culture is vastly different from how my partner or best friend were raised in their regions and culture. Their etiquette is not rude or lesser than mine just because it’s different from what I’m used to.

          Reply
          1. Natalie

            Time period, too. My husband’s grandmother sent us a gift addressed to Mr & Mrs HusbandFirstName HusbandLastName – something scrupulously correct at the time she was learning manners, but rather rude to me, a couple of generations younger.

            Reply
      4. Charlie

        Have you considered that complaining about manners and putting yourself on a pedestal is arguably just as rude as not bringing flowers?

        Manners are just consideration, respect, and honesty – thanks, Awesome Etiquette podcast. How that manifests is not set in stone.

        Reply
      5. Natalie

        I hope this doesn’t come across as a pile on, I just think this is an interesting historical tidbit – there was a big social push sometime in the last 50 years to *not* do funeral flowers. Jessica Mitford’s book The American Way of Death had a whole chapter on the funeral floral industry and their attempts to stamp out “in lieu of flowers, memorials preferred”. (Florists’ websites still all seem to include one page about how it’s a horrible affront to tell people not to buy you flowers. I wonder why.)

        When she reissued the book in the 90s it was cut for lack of relevance, although I’m not sure if that’s because funeral flowers fell by the wayside as a practice or because the floral industry succeeded.

        Reply
        1. Grits McGee

          I love the idea of the shadowy representatives of Big Floral conspiring to suppress chapters of etiquette books.

          Reply
    3. LBK

      I think it’s slightly different when there’s workplace dynamics involved, though. If it’s a general social invitation, there isn’t a power imbalance implied – you don’t stand to gain anything by being nice to a friend by bringing/sending a gift the way you to with a boss.

      Reply
    4. Red Rose

      For an event this large, I would expect the party was catered, so I wouldn’t bring anything with the idea it would be served. However, even a catered event is a lot of work for those hosting. Truly, I wouldn’t expect anyone to send flowers or even a thank you note, but I think I would be totally charmed if they did.

      Reply
  14. Katie the Fed

    Respectfully disagree on the response to #4. A card is perfectly lovely, but I think flowers are over-the-top. I would find it kind of strange if one of my employees sent flowers to my house after a party.

    Reply
    1. Emi.

      I would find it lovely if someone sent me a thank-you card for a dinner party, but I think flowers would be strange.

      Reply
    2. Trout 'Waver

      I think this may be a regional or cultural thing. In the South, it wouldn’t be over-the-top. But it would be a lot less common in a big East Coast city.

      Reply
      1. always in email jail

        I should’ve scrolled down, I said the same thing in response to a comment further up. I was raised in the south and this would be perfectly normal, but now that I work further North I can see how some people might disagree.

        Reply
      2. shep

        I was born and raised (and still live) in the South, and I would be a bit confused/think it too big a gesture by flowers from an employee.

        I wouldn’t be offended, of course, but yeah, it would still be a bit over-the-top to me.

        I also think this might have something to do with my age and the specific area in which I live, though, so YMMV as far as Southern thank-yous go.

        Reply
    3. Jesmlet

      Born and raised in the Northeast and I find receiving anything beyond a note after a large party to be a little strange. Cards, okay, a nice gesture of appreciation. I can read it and then toss it. Flowers, unnecessary, worse if it’s a potted plant (it’s happened once). It’s just a whole different world up here apparently.

      Reply
      1. Katie the Fed

        I’m from the midwest and it’s really foreign to me. Flowers are for life events or when you want to do something nice for your wife/girlfriend.

        However, if you have a baby I WILL bring you a casserole. Just try and stop me.

        Reply
              1. Rater Z

                Cream of baby crocodile casserole, perhaps…

                Sorry, I just can’t get that cream of crocodile casserole out of my head (like the prune-flavored ice cream I mentioned to my niece one time).

                Reply
              1. Trig

                Or the tater tot hotdish and Snickers Salad.

                (Sincerely, a west-coaster who spent a few befuddled years in the Midwest.)

                Reply
                1. Rusty Shackelford

                  How can you not love a culture that chops up Snickers, mixes in Cool Whip, and calls it a salad?

                2. Trig

                  @Rusty Shackleford, I should add that my partner’s (Ontarian) family serves Jello as a side dish rather than a dessert. Sometimes there are mandarins in there, to make it a ‘healthy’ salad. I suspect my stint in the midwest help me prepare to deal with this with equanimity.

                3. zora

                  My grandmother, born and raised Californian, served jello “salads” as the salad side until the day she died. With fruit cocktail in it for healthiness. So, that’s not limited to the midwest! ;o)

    4. MashaKasha

      Well, I am not sure on what was appropriate in #4’s situation, because this party was also over-the-top. Frankly, it is so far above my realm of experience that I do not know the proper etiquette for this. Maybe this calls for flowers, who knows?? I would’ve probably gone with a really nice (like out-of-my-league nice) bottle of wine as a hostess gift.

      Reply
  15. boop the first

    #1. Wow, that’s sexist to pick the closest woman in the office and call her “Nanny”. I would be very upset. But imagine being the kid??? If I had to spend the entire summer & every holiday locked in an office with a complete stranger I would quickly lose the will to live. That would make going to school seem so awesome.

    Reply
  16. cncx

    re OP 2:

    I like AAM’s advice on having measurables/deliverables. My boss has a nifty question when one of us is out of the office, he asks “are you home office (e.g. working with the laptop out and vpn on); reachable on email (e.g. smartphone is handy); or offline?” It may be worth asking this employee how they see the day from home unfolding in terms of tasks and timelines, like are they planning to be on the vpn eight full hours, or just reachable for questions/urgent tasks? is there anythign else going on at their house that day? my coworker always sends an update email to the boss and me around five or six pm giving an overview of what he accomplished at home that day (not my business but since i am the butt in the chair that allows him the possibility to WFH it is a nice gesture). if the employee has tasks that can be quantified daily like my coworker does, this could be another WFH deliverable to be measured by. that email is also his signoff that he is off the laptop for the day.

    this is one of my pet peeves though- if you are doing something else besides working, it isn’t home office. if this person wants to WFH to take care of their parent, then how much work are they really getting done? You might be reachable, you might be able to firefight, but don’t call it home office. This is why a lot of WFH contracts specifically ask for proof of childcare. It goes the other way too- i have bad vision and don’t work well on laptop screens so it is understood that if i am at home waiting for a repairman or something, i either take the day off, or spell out that I am reachable for firefighting but not eight hours of laptop.

    Reply
    1. always in email jail

      WFH is VERY rarely granted in my organization, and when it is you have to be working on a project with a measurable deliverable, have your supervisor agree to it, and send them the final product and a summary of what you did at the end of the day. It does feel a bit like babysitting, regardless of the side you’re on, but at least it keeps ’em honest

      Reply
    2. OP #2

      OP Here – To give a bit more context, we work in a creative/long term deliverable situation. Because of that, it’s not uncommon for any of us to both WFH and to put in weekend hours to make sure we hit all measurable deliverables and push our projects forward. It is expected that, because we put in so much OT and weekend hours, we have a level of flexibility if we, say, have to take a parent to an appointment in the middle of the day.

      That said, I think the idea of having daily catch ups on these WFH days sounds like a really useful way to provide structure and key timelines, and I also think it makes sense to go over expectations for weekly WFH days (be available by cell 8 hours of the day, etc.)

      Reply
    1. Grits McGee

      I had a coworker who called all the (much younger) female staff “lil mama.” He was extremely offended when management finally told him to knock it off.

      Reply
        1. Grits McGee

          He…was not a bad person, but he was an older guy who I think didn’t have a lot of experience with white collar office culture, and consequently had a lot of difficulty adjusting to those norms. It didn’t help that we worked in public facing roles and those issues carried over into interactions with customers.

          Although, maybe I’m being generous, because now that I think about it, he had a couple sexual harassment complaints filed against him in the first six months he worked there too.

          Reply
          1. Observer

            Yeah, maybe a bit over generous. Even real blue collar folks can figure out that this kind of thing is NOT cool, and adjust to it.

            Blue collar doesn’t mean stupid, sexist or unable to adapt.

            Reply
  17. Manic Pixie HR Girl

    #3: A former coworker used to call the staff at the next level down from us (our direct reports) “The Girls.” It would grate on my last nerve. I know since I left a number of men have been hired and I am wondering how she deals with no longer using this endearment!

    Reply
    1. Emilia Bedelia

      ugh. I work on a small team of all women and one member regularly refers to us all as “girls”. There are other people not on the team who will email a group of us and address it to “Girls,” so I guess this is something she picked up. It drives me just a little crazy.
      We used to have a man on the team, and she did not do this. I’m confused as to how and why she switched so quickly.

      Reply
    2. Jesmlet

      Am I crazy for not finding this offensive? My boss says ‘hey ladies/girls’ whenever he gets to work because we’re all female. It’s just a gender specific way of saying ‘hey guys’.

      But we’re also the type of company where coworkers’ salutations in emails can be things like ‘hey doll’ (female to female) and 75% of the company is female and that percentage is also reflected in the ratio of m/f managers. I think I don’t mind because I know I’m treated well and sexism is not in any way a concern here. If there were other signs that females were being treated differently maybe I’d think of it differently.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        I don’t think you’re crazy for not finding it offensive, but I think the chances that someone who does hate it will someday join your office and feel really uncomfortable are high enough that it would be a good idea for him to knock it off anyway. Women calling each other “doll” sounds more like a term of friendearment between friends at work.

        Reply
      2. Alton

        I don’t think you’re crazy to feel this way, but I think terms of endearment can be very personal if you don’t know someone well. Some people are uncomfortable with them in general. Some women are bothered by nicknames related to their gender. And some people you think are female may not necessarily identify as such (I’m non-binary, and it’s really awkward when co-workers who don’t know that call me “lady” or similar names. I know they don’t mean any harm, but it makes me worry about how they’d treat me if I ever outed myself to them, or if I start testosterone and no longer pass as a “lady”).

        Reply
      3. Angelica

        “Ladies” is one thing, I don’t like it but I wouldn’t be offended by it. I’d prefer that my gender not be referenced in the workplace, but it’s not egregious.

        “Girls”, however, is both inaccurate and offensive, and I would be very annoyed if addressed thusly. I haven’t been a girl in decades.

        Reply
    3. all aboard the anon train

      Ugh, I hate anyone referring to me or a group of women as “girls/ladies”. It sounds so demeaning because I’ve never heard anyone in the workplace refer to a group of men as “the boys/the men”, so calling out women by the gender just seems gross, even when I know it’s not intentionally done in a sexist way.

      Reply
      1. blackcat

        I have heard of a group of men referred to as “the boys” but it’s always in service or blue collar work. For example, the restaurant where my cousin works has “the girls up front” and “the boys in back.” It’s still icky. Why is the waitstaff all female and the kitchen staff all male?! And this is a not a small place, so on many nights the “girls” and “boys” are both groups of 10+ people.

        Maybe groups of women are called “Girls” more often in white-collar work?

        Reply
      2. Statler von Waldorf

        I have regularly heard groups of men refered to as “the boys.” It’s pretty common in the oilpatch.

        Reply
    4. The Strand

      Oh, I see that here. A team of women who range in age from 25-50 who were referred to as “Jessica’s Girls”, but honestly, I have pushed back on that. “Jessica’s Team” is far better, though “Payload Team” or “Marketing Team” or “Building 5 Team” is much better.

      Reply
  18. Jen

    #3 My best friend in the whole world uses pet names like that with everyone from me to the cashier at CVS. I’m not sure if she uses those pet names at work too but I’m willing to bet she does. She calls me darlin’ a lot and as her best friend I still hate it haha. However I haven’t said anything in the last ten plus years so I feel weird saying something now! Usually I just inwardly roll my eyes at her. Idk if your manager is from the south but I think thats where my friend gets it from and she uses those pet names to be friendly towards people. Definitely say something now!!

    Reply
  19. Buffy Summers

    #4, I think the flowers are a very nice gesture. I would appreciate it if it were me, but I would also appreciate a card and wouldn’t think it was rude or anything to NOT receive flowers.

    By the way – how does everyone know these social etiquette rules? I’m just curious because it often comes up in the comments when similar questions are asked. I was raised a social boor apparently and wouldn’t have thought to send flowers or a card. I likely would have said “thank you” when leaving and would have never thought to send a card or flowers or anything else like that, even if it were a completely social event totally removed from work, bosses or coworkers. (The boor comment isn’t just because I wouldn’t know to send flowers/card – it’s something I’ve come to realize as I’ve gotten older and I look back and see how rude I was likely perceived to be in certain situations.)
    If this is too derailing, I apologize and please feel free to delete.

    Reply
    1. AthenaC

      I think there is increasingly much more flexibility around certain norms that would have been considered carved in stone a generation or two ago. Right, wrong, or indifferent – cultures change.

      I agree the flowers were lovely. I wouldn’t have thought of that – I would have just made sure to thank the wife in person before I left (not sexist – just the fact that I’m not going to see the wife again and I can always tell boss thank you at work).

      It’s unfortunate that the coworkers think the flowers are “weird.” They are probably thinking of it in terms of “Have I seen / done this before?” instead of “Would I have enjoyed receiving them?” If they reframe it to the second question, I think you get a completely different answer.

      Reply
      1. Grits McGee

        I think also as people become more mobile (both in terms of locations and class), you get different etiquette expectations butting against each other. The discussion of the regional-appropriateness of giving flowers seems like this is a good example of this.

        Reply
        1. AthenaC

          Agreed – and I think that’s also where the flexibility is coming from. Fair-minded people realize that there is less and less that you can assume about How Things are Done and other people’s perceptions of the same.

          Reply
      2. LBK

        Speaking personally, the answer doesn’t change for me to either question. I wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t enjoy receiving them, but I would find it a little odd, unless the entire setup of the party was very formal and rigidly adhered to etiquette rules in that way.

        Reply
    2. Jessesgirl72

      It’s just like anything else.

      I learned most of the social niceties from my mother and grandmother (blue c0llar- so it has nothing to do with money, class or privilege!) I also picked up some of it from books and TV. They also taught me how to cook. If they hadn’t taught me how to cook, there is everything from cookbooks to Youtube videos to classes at the community center. The same goes for etiquette. :)

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        And just like everything else, there’s no Single Universal Etiquette that all people follow. Classes or Youtube videos are going to give you that particular instructors view of “the rules” of etiquette, which may or may not be relevant outside of class.

        Reply
      2. BananaPants

        What’s considered the social norm does vary by class, though. I was raised in a lower middle class home with parents born and raised in the Midwest. The only thing my parents know of etiquette is what Mom learned from reading Emily Post 40 years ago, so I had it drilled into my head that you ALWAYS bring a hostess gift, even to a potluck. It was sort of aspirational. Like, “This is what rich people do, so we should do it too.” Except that it’s what rich people did a half century ago, and it’s not always like that now.

        Moving into a more upper middle class New England social circle as an adult without the benefit of being raised that way has been enlightening! I do a lot of observing to see what my social peers and friends do and then I follow suit. I figure that as long as I do everything with kind intentions, a good host/hostess will interpret it in that light even if I end up making a faux pas.

        Reply
    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      The default, white-collar WASP etiquette—which varies by region—is to thank the host by (a) inviting them over to your place sometime; (b) sending a card; (c) providing a hostess gift (the latter can be real small scale, like a bottle of wine or a small but nice bouquet).

      I don’t think you’re rude by not sending a card/flowers. And honestly, for most people, doing any of the above would insert a weird level of formality into the friend relationship that makes it feel distant. Formality is more ok when there’s a difference in social standing or one’s personal relationship with the other person (e.g., I’ve sent a thank you card and brought flowers when my boss had me over for dinner, but I’d never do that with my friends).

      Although I learned all sorts of culturally specific (read: non-WASP) etiquette from my mother, I learned most of my “mainstream” etiquette from my college peers who came from more affluent backgrounds and then comparing it to whatever I could research online. And sometime around my junior year of college I went out and sprung for an Emily Post guide to etiquette that’s slightly larger than the Chicago Manual of Style. In some ways it felt like learning grammar—it’s like the secret language of how people relate to each other. But it’s also important to know there’s no universal etiquette that’s always appropriate, and some of the etiquette norms that people think are universal can be really offensive to the “recipient,” depending on the context.

      Reply
  20. AthenaC

    #5 – I remember a project at my old job – it was a huge project, far bigger than anything anyone else had experience with. I had experience tackling a too-big project, so I know that as the manager I was instrumental in providing a structure and a strategy for the team. I know I did a lot of work, and I was very proud of myself, but I also wanted the rest of my team to understand really how instrumental they were. Sure, I was pulling everyone’s work together, and I had some top-side knowledge to throw in, but they worked very hard, and it wasn’t an exaggeration to say that I literally could not have done my role without them. And I just felt like I had a really really hard time getting my team to see that.

    So I guess that’s the opposite problem.

    But for OP, I think defaulting to “we” makes sense if you’re the team lead. But as Alison said, be prepared to discuss your role specifically – you provided direction, reviewed the components, coordinated followup, pulled 40+ pages of raw notes / content into a 5-slide powerpoint snapshot, communicated results to the client, facilitated a status update meeting where you encouraged team members to own communication of their areas … yes, a successful team has multiple members pulling together, and one of those members is you.

    Reply
  21. LiveAndLetDie

    I think the guy dropping his daughter off in someone else’s office needs to stop it immediately. I would go to my direct boss and describe the situation. Ideally that would get their backup involved, and then I could cart the child back to their parent’s office and say, “I have a lot of work that needs to get done. Surely your daughter would prefer to be in your office.”

    He’s the parent, he needs to find some way to keep his daughter occupied while he works. It’s not okay for him to be treating a coworker like a nanny.

    Reply
  22. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    Like #1, I wonder what favors are appropriate to ask coworkers for; but I can tell that “watch my kid” with a power difference between the adults isn’t.

    I broke a small bone in my hand and so my wrist and thumb on my dominant hand are splinted for now. So I struggle with what is okay to ask for help with- opening doors? My thermos or lunch/snack packaging? Dishes, since I have to keep things dry?

    But watching someone’s kid would be like…I don’t know, my expecting coworkers to pick me up for commuting because public transit is hard with this injury.

    Reply
    1. Emi.

      I think it also matters that a broken hand is an acute problem. I’d be happy to wash dishes for a coworker for a broken hand, but a coworker with a missing hand needs a more long-term solution, and I think that should be more independent. This is more like a missing hand, since as far as LW1 knows it’s liable to continue long-term.

      Reply
    2. Tuxedo Cat

      The time and commitment involved for your challenges is much smaller watching a kid.

      Your requests seem reasonable because this isn’t going to be an issue forever and it requires (I think) only a bit of time.

      Reply
  23. PK

    Nicknames at work drive me a bit nuts although a different type of nickname (think Jim instead of James). It’s annoying when coworkers do it but I’ve had vendors do it on their first contact with me. It’s particularly grating. Don’t make assumptions like that and especially with strangers.

    Reply
    1. Charlie

      I go by my middle name, and back when I used to manage a lab, I’d have vendors and sales people call me and go, “Hey, {nickname of unused given first name}, how’s it going?” And I’d just be like, must have the wrong number.

      It’s real simple. Call people what they introduce themselves as. Don’t do different until they tell you to.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yes, or ask them which name they prefer! I have a bunch of Mikes and Michaels, as well as Daves and Davids, in my life, and being incorrectly introduced by a third person can make the nickname unwinding process frustrating.

        Reply
    2. Candi

      One caveat: there was a Not Always Working story not that long ago where a supervisor ”told” a very new worker to call someone at another location ‘Cathy’ in an email in the new worker’s very first email to her.

      ‘Cathy’ got very snippy about the lack of formality. When the worker apologized, she apparently didn’t realize that was the point she needed to ask what ‘Cathy’ wanted to be called (lack of experience?) ‘Cathy’ got snippy again over the use of Catherine instead of Cathryn.

      The very first time you meet or contact, a little leeway and polite correction is the way to go -especially if there’s any reason to suspect said contact was misinformed.

      Cold sales calls can go hang.

      Reply
  24. BananaPants

    Re: #4. Even Miss Manners has said that there are circles in which hostess gifting for dinner and cocktail parties is not a thing. I’ve found that in our area of New England people don’t really DO hostess gifts, although you won’t be thought of as rude if you bring a bottle of wine. Giving other typical hostess gifts like flowers, chocolates, a cheeseboard, kitchen towels, etc. would be considered a bit gauche – or at least unaware of social norms. A guest should certainly write a sincere thank you note to the host or hostess afterwards and that’s all that would be expected in most cases.

    We have friends who are both well-off and politically-connected. We brought a bottle of wine to our first cocktail party at their home, but when we saw that most guests weren’t bringing anything we stopped. We always thank them with a note afterwards and we keep getting invited back, so I think this is a matter of knowing what’s typical in your area and in that social circle.

    Reply
  25. Statler von Waldorf

    #1 – I would just look at them and mention that my probation officer thinks it’s a bad idea for me to be unsupervised around unrelated minors. That would probably resolve that issue.

    Of course, the real shame is that because I’m a dude, the situation in #1 will never, ever happen to me.

    Reply
      1. Charlie

        “I have a dream….that one day, employees will be asked to provide childcare, not on the content of their underwear, but on the proximity of their desk to the vending machine. I HAVE A DREAM”

        Reply
  26. Student

    #1 When you care more about a co-worker’s problems than the co-worker does, and it doesn’t impact you personally, then you need to let it go. You’re right; this is wrong and stupid. You have good intentions. However, it is not your problem. It’s not clear you have any standing here to intervene AND expect things to get better. If your co-worker doesn’t care enough to do something about it herself, then you doing something for her is probably not going to help her in this situation.

    Reply
    1. Candi

      This isn’t the first time a coworker turned to someone for help, who then wrote Ask a Manager. It doesn’t indicate a lack of caring at all; at worst, it indicates a shyness of submitting to a site one isn’t familiar with. It could also be that the LW has time the coworker doesn’t. Maybe related to the coworker being behind due to the kid.

      I hate to think what the company’s security policy might think of this, depending on the job being done. Kids’ are still working on their filters.

      Reply

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