helping a bored new coworker, manager got injured at the concert we went to together, and more

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

1. Helping to guide a bored new coworker

I have a new coworker who just started his first job fresh out of college. We do mostly the same work and I’m not his boss, but I have been working in this field for about four years. I’m trying to navigate how to guide him as I understand he is new to both the field and working in general. He is very nice and seems to understand what he needs to do, but he needs a lot of handholding and doesn’t take any initiative.

I’ll try to guide him by giving him simple tasks to do but he only seems to do them if someone is sitting with him. I’ve tried giving him step by step instructions and leaving him to work on his own, and I’ve also tried checking in on him periodically but either way he only seems to do tasks if someone is there watching him. Additionally conversation with him often veers very quickly away from work matters to twitter happenings or personal matters (side note: he asked all of us our ages on the first day. He also found out I was looking for a new room and asked if I wanted to get a place with him since he was looking too, so he doesn’t exactly understand boundaries yet).

Another problem is he often shows up late or doesn’t show up at all, often without telling anyone. We don’t have a rigid schedule or anything, but he definitely hasn’t put in a full day for a while, especially so when my boss isn’t around (he is a contractor and his boss is in another facility so there is little interaction between him and his boss).

To me, it seems he is bored and doesn’t see the point in a lot of the work if it doesn’t have a clear goal. It’s a very good job and could lead to great opportunities for him so I’m unsure of what to do. I can’t force him to be excited about the work, but I also don’t want him to get left behind and be dissatisfied. My boss doesn’t know exactly what’s going on yet. At what point do I tell my boss?

I’d tell her now and then wash your hands of it. You’re telling her not in a complaining “Fergus sucks” kind of way, but in a “hey, I think Fergus could use some more guidance on XYZ” way. It sounds like your seniority has given you some standing to do things like assign him work and check in on him, so you definitely have standing to pass this kind of feedback along.

After that, though, I’d leave it up to your boss to handle. You’re not responsible for teaching your coworker professional norms, addressing his attendance, or getting him more invested in his work. If he’s open to it, you can certainly offer advice on that stuff (especially the first and third), but if he’s not receptive, then I’d let it go and leave it to your boss — who sounds like she has some managing to do.

2. Our manager got injured at a concert that we all went to

Our manager tagged along to a concert with us, got hurt, and now won’t talk to us. And everyone at the company is spreading rumors about what happened.

I work in a smallish tech company that has a pretty young mix of employees. There’s a group of us who we all found out are in to heavy metal, hardcore, and punk music, and we’ll occasionally go out to concerts after work as a part of a larger group. A few weeks ago, we were sitting at lunch and talking about a show we were going to go to that night and how we had an extra ticket because one of our friends couldn’t make it. Our immediate manager, who’s only a few years older than us, kinda invited herself along. We weren’t really sure about it and tried to ask her if she was up to seeing Napalm Death, Pig Destroyer, and Power Trip. She said she was game, so we figured why not and gave her the ticket.

We get to the show and about halfway through the show, our manager gets elbowed in the face and gets her nose broken. We take her to the hospital and once she’s checked in, we call her boyfriend and she tells us to go home so we leave. The next day, we show up at work and she’s been kind of avoiding us ever since. She won’t tell anyone at work what happened besides “Things got out of hand.” So everyone at work is talking about what we could have done. What do I do to get people to stop wonder what happened and how do we apologize to our manager and get her to start talking to us again?

Stop treating it so delicately — be more matter-of-fact about it! Go talk to your manager right now, ask how she’s doing, and say, “That sucks! I’m sorry that happened.” Note that that’s not you taking responsibility for her injury — you’re not responsible for that. That’s just you expressing sympathy.

She probably feels a bit embarrassed — like she’s the Old Person who went to a concert that she couldn’t handle. By treating her normally, you’re likely to help her feel better. (Hell, if you have any good injury stories yourself, now’s the time to share them.)

And with others who ask what happened, it’s fine to explain. “It was a rough show and someone in the crowd accidentally elbowed her in the face.”

Really, just be straightforward. If you dance around it, it will seem like something scandalous happened and make everyone feel weirder. Be matter-of-fact, be kind to your manager, and assume that all involved will move on, as they should.

3. The friend I referred to my company isn’t working out

I had referred my friend for a position at my work, as she had experience working in a call center. Ever since she was hired, she has missed a substantial amount of days due to illness, needing to find a new apartment (twice and possibly a third time today), no money for bus fare when her ride couldn’t pick her up, the list goes on and on. When she is at work, she does her job and does about average or a little better. However, when she misses all these days, the bosses come to me and ask what’s going on and now have taken to making comments on how I am to blame for her absences, even going as far as saying that I may lose my job because of her issues. Is that even legal? I already feel bad enough for encouraging them to hire such a flake, but can they really fire me for her shortcomings since I referred her?

Legally, yes, they could. In practice, that would be a really odd and unusual thing to do. First of all, they should have done their due diligence in hiring her — interviewed her thoroughly, checked references, etc. Second, while it’s true that you vouched for her, you’re not responsible for the fact that she’s not working out. If she’s not working out, they need to let her go, not keep haranguing you about it. It would be fair for them to be more skeptical of your recommendations in the future, but that’s it.

I’d address this proactively. Go to your boss and say this: “I’m mortified that I recommended someone who isn’t working out. I really apologize — I thought she’d be reliable, and I didn’t expect this to happen. I understand if you need to let her go, but I want to be really clear that I had no idea this would happen. I certainly hope that you won’t let it impact your assessment of my own work and my own work ethic.”

4. Coworkers are asking if I’m trying to have kids

In about a month, I’ll be traveling to the Pacific Islands for two weeks for a client. I’m super excited, as I love to travel. Everyone for the most part has been supportive and happy for me, but I’ve seen a strange side effect of this assignment. All the sudden, everyone in the office wants to talk about whether my husband and I are trying to have kids right now. I know everyone means well; they are apparently worried about Zika exposure, but it still feels a little invasive. I also can’t help but wonder if people are trying to suss out whether I’m going to have kids soon to assess whether I am competition for promotions, etc. What are your thoughts about talking with coworkers about family planning? Am I being too sensitive here?

I’m sure they mean well and think they’re being helpful, but they’re being intrusive. You can politely shut it down by saying, “I’m fine and know about Zika, please don’t worry” — and then if anyone continues after that, “I don’t want to discuss my and my husband’s reproductive plans at work, as I’m sure you can understand.” They’re likely not thinking of it quite in those terms, so nudging them to realize what they’re really asking you will probably help.

5. Are small companies often disorganized?

I have been working for a small marketing company (21 employees) for 1 1/2 years now. Something that has troubled me from day one was that there is no HR department and very little resources available to the employees. The partners are married (which makes thing even more complicated, as their discussion of who is buying what for dinner that night happens in my office) and the office accountant acts as the contact for sick time, vacation time and paycheck questions. Often our paychecks don’t show the correct number of vacation hours we have accrued, holiday schedules are not given far in advance, and conflict resolution is non-existent.

Questions regarding 401Ks or health insurance are supposed to go to the partners of the company. The only problem is that they are both far too distracted to check in with us about HR items and the answer is typically “look at the handbook.” They say they have an open door policy, but the underlying tone is that it is a burden to them to answer our questions when we go to them for guidance. Plus, they are not even certified HR professionals!

I luckily have health insurance from one of my parents, but opening my 401K has been a nightmare and no one has clear instructions for me. We do high level consulting so this isn’t just some throwaway job for myself or my colleges, this is a career and several of my colleagues rely on the benefits to survive (even though they are far from comprehensive).

I suppose my question is if this is common for small/ family companies to operate like this? I find myself getting upset over the lack of employee resources and the professionalism, but I wonder if I am just being entitled.

Yeah, it’s not uncommon for small businesses to function that way, especially ones run by married couples. And family can (but doesn’t always) introduce an additional layer of issues into the mix.

Not every small business is a mess — many are great — but there’s a definite correlation between size and level of organization/professionalism. (That said, not all of what you describe is inherently dysfunctional; having no formal HR is normal at that size and isn’t in and of itself a problem, but the other stuff is.)

{ 203 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#1, you sound so kind, but this guy honestly sounds like he should be fired. He’s gone way past “not showing initiative” and having a poor sense of boundaries if he’s consistently skipping work when no one’s watching and is having difficulties focusing. It would be helpful/kind for his manager to talk to him, but I’m not sure it makes sense to keep pouring resources into him if his head’s not really in it.

    OP#4, I would be really irked if my coworkers were asking me questions about my reproduction plans. If they’re worried about Zika, Alison is right that they’re going about it poorly, and if they’re asking because they want to know if you’ll be competitive for promotion, which could be unlawful sex discrimination, then it’s none of their business. You’re not being oversensitive.

    OP#5, I’m sorry you’re working someplace semi-dysfunctional. I have two quick caveats. The lack of a certified HR professional or HR department/person is not unusual for organizations with fewer than 20 employees and not inherently a sign of lack of organization/professionalism. The problem here is that the partners have represented themselves as HR people, but they don’t actually want to do the HR work (or memorialize that information for employees). It’s also not unusual to have to report your time directly to whoever manages payroll (in this case, your accountant) for small-scale organizations. [Aside: I’m surprised that they’re contributing to a 401(k) but not covering your health insurance (!?).]

    Small organizations tend to lend themselves to more egregious displays of unprofessional and unwise conduct, in part because they often skate just under the “minimum employees” requirement for federal labor protections and in part because the power dynamics and opportunity for abuse go up when your boss is so intimately involved in your worklife. But I also think it’s easier for people who are not great/competent in a specific area to have a more profound impact on your worklife in small organizations than in groups of 30+ employees. For example, if we assume that 10% of the workforce is incompetent and evenly distributed across the labor market, you’re more likely to feel that impact at a small organization. Even though the percentages are the same, 2 bad seeds among 20 will usually have a more direct impact on your life than if there’s 20 random incompetents spread throughout an organization/business of 200 people.

    Do you think it might be time to consider a shift near the 2-year mark?

    Reply
    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      For #5, I didn’t take it to mean that their employer didn’t offer health insurance, I thought they were saying they were lucky to have health insurance through their parents because signing up for what the OP’s dysfunctional workplace does offer would be a nightmare.

      Reply
    2. Liane

      On the health insurance, if OP5 is in the USA, insurers are required to allow children to be covered by the parent’s insurance until age 26

      Reply
      1. Wendy

        This is part of Obamacare, though, so if Republicans follow through on their promise to repeal that law after Jan 20, insurers will no longer be required to offer this. The OP should consider what she will do if that happens.

        Reply
        1. Emi.

          That does seem to be one of the least unpopular aspects, though, so it might end up sticking around as part of the “replace” phase (I’ve got my fingers crossed, if only selfishly!).

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        2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

          Also – there is great political pressure – if Obamacare is abolished, it probably won’t be immediate, and when a lot of voters who advocated its repeal learn that they’re going to be adversely affected, well, you’re gonna see some tap dancin’ up on Capitol Hill.

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        3. TootsNYC

          I don’t quite get why insurers don’t offer that anyway–that pool of people doesn’t use much in the way of health care. And they aren’t in the revenue stream.

          So if an insurer tacks on a premium increase, they can probably make a lot of money that way!

          I’ve got my fingers crossed that my own company will make it a feature of their plan. I would, if I were them.

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          1. Beth

            I remember back when I was in college (I’m in my 30s now) many insurance companies required certification that those over 18 were attending college, and would ask for that certification every single semester– if they covered them at all. So, it doesn’t seem like insurance companies saw it as a revenue stream. Maybe they thought they’d get more if those over 18 were forced to get their own insurance?? Well, now I’m really curious..

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          2. Jessie

            It has to do with tax laws and how employer plans remain tax-qualified benefit plans. To be tax-qualified benefit plan, a plan can cover you and your dependents – and unless your adult child is in college, they are not usually a tax dependent. Obamacare reworked that part of the plan. If Obamacare is repealed that goes away and employer plans will not be able to offer that perk without additional legislation.

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        4. Not A Morning Person

          Yes, and even if a repeal of the ACA happens, the effects won’t be immediate. There will be a grace period for implementing anything new or stopping any particular requirements of the current law such as the requirement that companies allow parents the option to cover their children up to age 26.

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        5. many bells down

          I’m terrified of that part getting repealed; my daughter has a chronic health issue and if I can’t keep her on my insurance I don’t know how she’s going to get coverage for it. She can’t work full-time.

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          1. Jessie

            She should look into SSI. SSI recipients get Medicaid as part of their SSI benefits. (Don’t want to derail…. but my son is disabled with multiple health issues, so healthcare access and insurance is always always on my mind!!)

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      2. MaggiePi

        That is only true if the child is not offered insurance by their own employer though. If they are, the parent’s insurance doesn’t have to cover them.

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        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

          A lot of those kids don’t have jobs, or , those that offer benefits. In those cases, the children either had to go through a health exchange to get a policy.

          Before the Obamacare option kicked in, our company had a major audit of their health care plan. My wife and I had to prove we were married to each other – I had to produce a 40 year old marriage certificate. People with dependent kids had to show birth or adoption certificates.

          But they found other adult child “students” who were carried on the plan but couldn’t prove they were, and probably found a few nieces, nephews, etc., with the employee’s surname that were carried on the policy as their children.

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        2. Judy

          healthcare dot gov says that the child is still eligible even if they are offered their own employment sponsored coverage. (Along with even if they are married, not a tax dependent, etc.)

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        3. me again

          Nope… I had insurance for a couple years through my parents until I turned 26 even though my job offered it. Being added onto my father’s plan was cheaper than getting an individual plan through my employer. There were no extra penalties he had to pay because I had another option, although that part may vary by policy, but I don’t think it does.

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          1. justsomeone

            Yeah, my husband and I both stayed on our parents’ insurance up to age 26, even though we both had jobs that offered it. We both ended up being double covered for a few months – and him being double covered was aa godsend when he had a surprise surgery. In both cases, it cost our parents nothing to have us on their insurance (since there were other kids, and both insurers charged for “kids” instead of individual bodies).

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    3. GreyjoyGardens

      Re #5 – yes, small companies often (usually) don’t have a dedicated HR department, or at most they have one clerk-type person, who may or may not have any credentials or HR experience. IME the office manager many times winds up being the default HR department.

      A great benefit of many small businesses is that you can wear many hats, and don’t have to have a degree in W, pay X years of dues, have Y amount of experience, or jump through Z hoops to get a particular position – which is especially good for entry-level employees and people trying to get experience in a field. But the flipside of this is it can allow the Dunning-Kruger effect to run wild. And then you get “I own the company, therefore I can be good at everything HR!” Not necessarily! And then of course there’s “I can’t afford an HR professional” or “I can technically afford it but I don’t want to pay for it.”

      Reply
  2. Engineer Girl

    #1 – You can’t instruct work ethic. You just can’t. Sometimes managers can inspire better performance by having clear negative consequences to poor work ethic. But unless you are the guys manager there is nothing you can do.
    Personally, I’d tell your manager all of the things you have done to help the guy. This will emphasize that this is not a training issue but a work ethic issue. This will also protect you in case he tries to protect himself later by claiming you didn’t help him. I hate yo say it, but lazy people often try to blame others once they are caught.

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    1. Jessesgirl72

      He’s a contractor though. They likely won’t fire him outright (even though they should) Managers can be lazy too- or just conflict adverse- and the easy way to get rid of him will be to just not renew his contract, and probably won’t even tell him why.

      It would be obvious to you or me, but we wouldn’t be goofing off and not showing up at work to begin with. Not even as a shiny new college hire.

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      1. Allie

        The funny thing is, i know that personally in my first job out of college I put even more effort in and more had a boundary and work/life balance issue than a not showing up issue. This was true for most of my friends too. I don’t think it’s correct to foist this bad behavior off on first job issues and, if anything, Fergus is likely to get worse.

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        1. Colette

          If Fergus is used to doing the minimum, this may in fact be the first time he is held to a higher standard. Not all new employees are like that, but some need to learn that they should be on the same side as their manager when it comes to getting stuff done.

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          1. Grits McGee

            I think this is a good insight- if Fergus is coming from the type of college environment where attendance isn’t a part of a student’s grade and all one needs to do to pass is make a decent grade on the final, then a butt-in-seat/ “no-clear-goals” work environment is going to be an adjustment. A warning from OP’s manager may set him straight, but being let go may be a hard lesson Fergus needs to learn.

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        2. Jessesgirl72

          No, I don’t think it’s a first job issue either. (Other than maybe the not being able to work independently) The OP, however, clearly does!

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        3. Marillenbaum

          Very true. At my first post-college job, I was really worried about looking like one of “those darned Millenials”, so I tried extra hard to come across as professional–to the point that during my first performance review, my boss had to point out that our company culture was a lot more casual and that I ran the risk of rubbing people the wrong way. I can’t say that I regret it, though; I feel that it was better for me to come across as reserved and then loosen up rather than the other way around.

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          1. Not A Morning Person

            Your last line is so true! Build a reputation for being professional then you can relax a bit and not be accused of being “too casual.”

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      2. Purest Green

        I know I wasn’t the best I could have been at my first job. I didn’t realize I could/should take initiative and do things I wasn’t specifically tasked with, and I probably chatted too much about non-work things because my shop-talk lexicon was insufficient. But I agree that even as a new grad I knew to arrive on time and do my work without supervision.

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      3. Unegen

        It would be due diligence on the part of Fergus’s manager, though, to treat it as though it is an issue with Fergus perhaps not understanding what is expected of him and giving him a clear talking-to about attendance and what is expected of him effort-wise in this sort of environment. If nothing happens, or if he improves for a short time and then goes back to slacking, then it’s time to look at getting rid of him.

        Some people just need one good wake-up shake to do well.

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        1. Artemesia

          And it is the boss that needs to do this, not the OP. IN the OP’s position I would have zero sympathy for Fergus — can’t work unless watched? Screw that. It is one thing to not take initiative; it is another to slack off the minute one is not observed. I would have long since talked with the boss about ‘concerns’ with the new employee indicating that he arrives late, goofs off unless directly supervised and needs a clearer idea of standards. Then it is off her plate. If his lack of work is piling work on her then she needs to make that clear as well. This guy should have been fired long ago. The contractor should be asked to supply another worker for this assignment.

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          1. Stranger than fiction

            So if he’s slacking when nobody is looking, one would think that will catch up with him at some point when they realize the lack of output.

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    2. Alton

      I think this is true to an extent, but I think it’s hard to generalize. It does sound like this guy is lazy, but the OP framing it as him being bored makes me wonder how much there actually is for him to do. That can complicate things, I think, because how much work ethic people have when they actually have stuff to do vs. when they have a lot of downtime and busy work can be different. Either way, this guy’s behavior definitely isn’t okay and he’s not a star performer. I think he’s crossing a line by skipping work and not doing tasks that are assigned to him. But there are circumstances, like lack of management and objectives, that can make people feel adrift and exacerbate problems.

      I used to work in a job that was 1) dead quiet at times and 2) almost entirely self-directed and unsupervised. I saw how a lot of people just could not stay disciplined in that environment. Some of them were just terrible employees, but some probably would have done okay in another environment.

      Reply
  3. Artemesia

    #2 She is embarrassed and a bit socially awkward and doesn’t know how to dig herself out of the hole and may feel like this overaged loser who can’t even go to a concert gracefully. The kindest thing to do is to treat it openly as no big deal. A frank ‘I felt so terrible about what happened; how are you feeling.’ Then an open casual remark or two — make light of it while acknowledge that ‘isn’t that the worst?’ Stuff happens; don’t make her feel like a freak by tiptoeing around it. And if you hear a rumor, just matter of factly say what happened.

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    1. Decimus

      I’ll add you can be even more discreet than Allison’s wording. You can say “it was a very crowded show and she got elbowed in the face.” It’s embarrassing but, well, stuff happens.

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      1. Cambridge Comma

        Yes, unless the letter was edited I didn’t see any suggestion from the OP that it was a rough show. Accidents can happen anywhere, especially in crowds. The OP’s manager’s language is inadvertently giving people the idea that there might have been a fistfight, hence the gossip.

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        1. Raine

          I’m unclear whether it was one of the coworkers who elbowed her in the face — the manager’s language kind of leaves that open (and if so, I’m not sure she’s doing so inadvertently). (I can’t tell from the OP letter, either, because the language is passive — she was elbowed in the face — leaving out who elbowed her.) It’s probably not the coworkers, but the possibility did come to mind.

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          1. Mookie

            Oh, that’s interesting, I didn’t think of that. May very well explain why the manager’s reluctant to share more details at work, but the OP probably would have mentioned it.

            Also, as an aside and not a covert attempt to police or chide the OP’s language: you’re right about that passive tense. It’s used so often these days in headlines (people “getting” [crap thing]) and it sometimes strikes a very odd chord because the “getting” can, sometimes unintentionally, confer to the victim agency or responsibility for whatever happened to them where no such responsibility exists.

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            1. Artemesia

              That had not occurred to me but it makes it even more important for the co-worker who did it do make the ‘I feel horrible about what happened, how are you doing?’ overture and then the rest need to treat it openly and not as an embarrassment. No need to say who did the elbowing unless it is already out there. Yikes.

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        2. metalhead

          “Napalm Death, Pig Destroyer, and Power Trip” is actually a very clear suggestion that it’s a rough show, if you know the bands. The mosh pit for a lineup like that can easily be 75% of the venue. That’s 75% of the floorspace dedicated to people slamming into each other, running in circles, and literally throwing each other at the edges of the pit. It’s not a fistfight, but it could sure pass for one if you don’t know what you’re getting into and where to stand.

          …it’s actually part of the appeal.

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          1. Lady Bug

            Yup. I go to mostly metal shows and avoid the pit for that reason. We generally get seats if possible or hang at the back. Really, she should carry this like a badge of honor. “I got my nose broken in the pit at a Napalm Death show!” Its really nothing to do with her age, it’s just what happens in the pit.

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            1. RVA Cat

              It sounds like “mosh pit” is the only explanation needed for this situation. Stuff happens. Treat it the same way as if she got hurt playing basketball or something.

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            2. Emi.

              Hm, now I wonder if the manager is embarrassed to have everyone else at work know she was in a Napalm Death mosh pit.

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              1. Trout 'Waver

                Pig Destroyer sounds more embarrassing to me, but I don’t know anything about metal. I had to google to see if those were actual band names and not obfuscations for privacy.

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          2. shep

            Yeah, I’d love to see all of these bands but I’m pretty sure I’d get squished and/or stress my bf out trying to keep me from getting squished. I’m about five-foot-nothing and 105 pounds. I saw Goatwhore recently and would’ve been trampled were it not for the low venue balcony we were standing on instead of the main floor. She should totally not be embarrassed by a broken nose.

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            1. Artemesia

              I don’t go to metal concerts but do go to concerts with mosh pits — and I always always always get a seat in the balcony — our crowd arrives early to make sure we get seats. But I am an old lady — I would probably die in a mosh pit and I can see where for the young it would be a feature of the event.

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        3. LBK

          I thought that was the implication from naming the bands and indicating the type of show – their hesitance in including the manager wasn’t just that she might not like the music but that those shows are a certain type of experience that usually includes a violent mosh pit.

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    2. Tyrannosaurus Regina

      I wonder too if she’s afraid of getting in trouble for fraternizing with people she supervises.

      Reply
      1. Kathleen Adams

        The embarrassment the manager is displaying sounds to me very similar to what a manager might feel under those other (and more common) circumstances that give a person that icky “ooh, let I let fun social-life stuff intrude too much on my work life” feeling – things like having too much to drink and acting goofy in front of one’s coworkers or making a pass at somebody, a pass that you now regret.

        Unlike acting drunkenly goofy or making passes at people, she didn’t actually do anything wrong, but now the poor thing has a broken nose and probably a black eye or two. I don’t think going to the concert was a great idea (sorry, but a manager really shouldn’t have participated in this kind of activity), but it wasn’t a terrible idea. And yet she now has to come to work every day displaying obvious, visible and *painful* signs of having let fun social-life stuff intrude on her work life.

        So yes, just treat her kindly and normally.

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    3. ginger ale for all

      I’ve gone to work with black eyes before (I sometimes faint when I am ill and have hit my head on the rim of my bathtub a time or two) and when I do, I tend to avoid people too because I just feel awful in the first place health wise. She may have the same tendency to isolate herself until she feels better.

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    4. AD

      She is embarrassed and a bit socially awkward and doesn’t know how to dig herself out of the hole and may feel like this overaged loser who can’t even go to a concert gracefully

      Pardon? This is reading a lot into OP’s letter, and I see no mention of the boss being “socially awkward”.

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      1. Catalin

        I saw socially awkward in the ‘overheard and kinda invited herself along’ phrasing. The overaged loser is a bit of a reach though.

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        1. Artemesia

          I am not saying she IS an overaged loser. I am suggesting that her behavior indicates she might FEEL that way. She is older and the boss; she invited herself along; she then ruined their evening by needing to be taken to the hospital. How would you feel? I know I would feel like a major goober if this were me.

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        2. LBK

          I thought that was a take on the of the manager’s self-deprecating internal monologue, not Artemesia’s actual opinion of the manager. It seems like a reasonable interpretation to me and one that would spur the kind of embarrassment she’s exhibiting now.

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          1. AD

            It’s reaching, nevertheless. The OP should probably just take the path Alison describes and address this head on with colleagues who may be speculating on what happened.
            Ascribing motivations/internal thoughts to the manager doesn’t seem that helpful here.

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            1. LBK

              But…Alison did that exact thing in her response and her phrasing wasn’t even that far off:

              She probably feels a bit embarrassed — like she’s the Old Person who went to a concert that she couldn’t handle.

              Reply
            2. OhNo

              Not at first glance, perhaps, but it might help the OP see where the manager’s behavior is coming from, and give them a better idea what kind of approach would work.

              I know it has been a big help to me in the past to have commenters here say, “Your boss might be feeling X or Y or Z,” because then I have a starting point to work from. It’s easier to crowdsource possible explanations than to try and come up with all of them on your own!

              Reply
      2. Artemesia

        The situation as described is classically socially awkward. She invited herself to a subordinate’s social plans when she ‘overheard’; she has not handled the fallout gracefully at work but is instead freezing out or avoiding the subordinates whose plans she intruded on. She has allowed rumors to run rampant because she doesn’t know how to manage the fallout. Hard to imagine something more socially awkward than avoiding interacting with subordinates because of an awkward incident.

        Reply
        1. Lissa

          Yeah, I think some people take the phrase “socially awkward” in a different way, as it’s used both to mean “a social situation that is or becomes awkward” and also “a person who is not good in social situations”. Artemesia seemed to mean the first, literal meaning and other people assumes she means the second?

          Reply
    5. Ama

      Yeah, I actually thought the awkwardness might stem from feeling like her injury messed up the night out for everyone else, since they had to take her to the hospital.

      Reply
      1. zora

        Totally! She might feel guilty that everyone had to leave the concert to take her to the hospital and like she ruined their whole evening. I definitely have a tendency to feel guilty and avoid people when I feel like I made them do things for me, I hate imposing on others.

        Reply
    6. Brett

      You can’t go to a Napalm Death concert gracefully.
      Having been a past frequenter of punk and metal shows, I’ve had split lips, bloody noses (probably a broken nose, since I found out later that I broke my nose at least twice), a chipped tooth, knocked out once.
      Nothing to be embarrassed about for getting a broken nose there.

      Reply
  4. Kathlynn

    As soon as I found that my employer was even considering firing me due to a poor referral I’d be looking for a new job.

    Reply
    1. Marzipan

      It certainly seems a rather odd staffing strategy. And it would hardly inspire other people to recommend friends for jobs there!

      Reply
      1. Jessica

        OP mentioned that it’s call centre work, so I’m less surprised. High turnover due to quitting is quite common, but many places are also pretty quick to fire people too. When you already have constant turnover, it’s easy to view EVERYONE as disposable.

        I knew a guy who picked up a job with an airline call centre, and by all accounts was a rock star at it. However, one perk was supposed to be discounted flights, and juuust before he became eligible for that, his managers dug out a call he’d botched and fired him.

        Many call centres don’t even try to be nice places to work.

        Reply
        1. Joseph

          +1
          Call centers basically take the 1900’s-era sweatshop viewpoint of employees. You are all disposable assets, no more valuable than the chair you sit in or the desk you work at. If you have an issue with that or anything else, the door is right over there; I’ve got a line of people standing right outside it to take your place.

          Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            The call center I worked at literally had massive training classes running at all times – that’s how high their turnover was, they needed to be constantly starting training for anywhere from a dozen to three dozen new hires at a time. I lasted about 3 months before the repetitive nature of the calls started getting to me and I decided to quit before I went crazy.

            Reply
        2. Artemesia

          I only know two people who have worked at call centers, both seem like sensible hard working people (and they have good jobs today) and both got fired. Management at these places is not exactly first rate.

          Reply
    2. Allie

      I came to mske the exact same comment. These bosses sound awful and like they will foist blame for things well outside the purview or reasonable responsibilities of an employee.

      Reply
    3. MashaKasha

      Yes!! Way to lose talent because OP didn’t have the gift of fortune-telling and could not correctly predict how her friend would behave in this job. What an incredibly weird way to handle things.

      Reply
      1. SarahTheEntwife

        And it even sounds like her friend isn’t so much flaky as unexpectedly going through some tough times (or maybe continuing tough times leading to her having to take a crappy call center job). Taking days off for illness and apartment-moving and stuff certainly affect job performance, but don’t necessarily mean someone doesn’t have a good work ethic.

        Reply
  5. RKB

    Not going to name names but I went to a rap concert where said rapper (very popular household name) was crowdsurfing and his butt broke my nose. No joke. He wasn’t well known back then but it made for a hilarious story.

    Your boss is likely just embarrassed. Getting injured in front of friends and coworkers can be mortifying. Just treat her normally and commiserate a little.

    Reply
  6. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

    #5

    Well, any sized company can be disorganized and dysfunctional, but it’s true that small companies are going to have fewer formal resources.

    When I started at Wakeen’s Horse & Buggy (close to 30 years ago), the company had only a few employees + independent contractors. It was fabulous for me, completely open road, nobody to stand in my way of doing whatever the hell got into my head because also no real management structure to tell me I couldn’t do what I fancied. God bless, an amazing time, and here I all these years later with everything I have/made/helped to make.

    But! I liked no structure! No structure made me happy! Eventually you grow a company enough and you can’t hire and retain people without proper structure, resources that the next company has, order . Wakeen’s waited too long to get things we eventually got but it took too long: company controller and then CFO level, real honest to goodness HR dept not just an HR clerk, a full pantheon of benefits not just BC/BS, even an org chart.

    I was part of advocating for and helping those things happen when they did, but I was just (okay nearly) as bad as the company ownership for realizing their importance and implementing later than should have happened.

    Here’s what the owners of your company should do:

    Hire an outside HR company. It doesn’t cost that much money relative to employee retention. The HR company will manage your benefits, so you go to them with benefits questions and that’s what they are paid to do. We have in house HR for personnel and all the other HR etc, and we still have the HR company (we retained for a bridge quite a few years ago) to handle our benefits. The partners will find it’s worth the money they spend for their own peace of mind and attracting/retaining.

    Reply
    1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

      mmm, one more thought based on my experience at Wakeen’s and observation of many small, smaller, eventually grown up family businesses over the years:

      No company principal ever wakes up one morning and says “By gum, today’s the day that I add 3 people to payroll to handle all of these functions that my growing company needs/will need shortly.” An IT dept gets added because something bad happens, a real controller gets hired because something bad happens, an HR dept gets hired because something bad happens – single incident or retention/hiring problems. Hell, Wakeen’s finally contracted with a snow removal service because the company principal who had been shoveling us out, when needed, hurt his back.

      It’s probably different at fancy start ups with venture capital but at your average smaller business, I think that’s the way it all goes and if that’s not what you want, better to plan to move onto a bigger place.

      Reply
      1. I Herd the Cats

        I came on here to say this about outside HR and you’ve already covered it beautifully. A lot of smaller businesses don’t hire HR because they don’t see its importance and they don’t want to spend the dough for another employee. But we have HR through an outside HR firm (their clients are all nonprofits) and she works two days a week at our company. She has her own (locked) office here and she’s available via email outside of her office hours. In general it works out great; actually, her not being an employee here gives her added perspective, IMO.

        Reply
      2. F.

        I also work for a small (currently 37 employees) company. Many small companies simply don’t have the money to afford to add non-billable employees or to contract with an outside provider. I know ours does not. We even quit having a cleaning service in our building a few months ago. We have an HR ‘manager’, but it is actually just a clerk position. Out entire accounting department is one woman who does not even have an accounting degree. As long as the company owner can skate by with the barest minimum, he will, although what he does not take into account is that the company has the potential to grow and be much better and more profitable if he would put money back into the business (instead of taking it all out to spend on his house, vacations, etc.) Yes, the company is very dysfunctional.

        Reply
        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

          Well they don’t have the money or the owner isn’t willing to re-invest in the business. When you own a business, the leftover balance at the end of the fiscal year does not equal “owner’s take home pay” . This something that Wakeen’s ownership got correct, and why we have built the things that we have today.

          Reply
        2. Rat in the Sugar

          It sounds like the company has more than enough money, it’s just that the owner chooses to spend it on himself instead of a proper HR or accountant.

          Reply
    2. caryatis

      OP#5, did you try asking the company who runs the 401(k) for your company? In my experience, they might be more helpful and knowledgeable about 401(k) than your actual bosses (or have more user-friendly handbooks).

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        Yes, this. We have a real HR department. I still call Fidelity when I want to set something up or have a question.

        Reply
    3. SKA

      Yep yep yep on the outside HR firm. I was employee #2 at my first job out of college – employee #1 was the owner’s wife. My first day on the job was the first day the company was operating out of an office building (and not the owner’s house).

      From that first day, they gave me the info for the outside HR contractor they’d hired. I never *needed* to contact them, but I appreciated knowing that they’d thought about it and had them available.

      Reply
    4. Manic Pixie HR Girl

      Yes yes yes to an outside HR contractor. I was coming here to suggest this. Friend works for a smallish company that for years just had an HR clerk. This was fine for, say, enrolling in benefits and 401K, and meeting payroll obligations (OP, it sounds like you don’t even have that), but NOT great when it came to organizational planning, succession management, market-based salary, etc. Anyway, this person finally retired (or moved on, or something – not close enough to the situation to be sure), and they hired a local HR consulting firm.

      As per my username, I happen to know quite a few of the employees of said firm, so when she told me her company was using them, my whole face lit up, and I said it could only mean good things. In fact, it did – not only did the consultant come in and streamline their benefits and paperwork, she also helped them structure appropriate recruitment and succession management tools. They spent less on these consulting services than a salary for a clerk. (They also saw the value of having a strategic HR manager on staff and ended up hiring their consultant full-time … not all small companies have either the resources or the workload to justify this, though, which is why these companies exist.)

      It sounds like something like this would really benefit your company, OP. Are you by chance in a position to recommend looking into this?

      Reply
      1. Zirco

        Another big yes to an outside HR firm. When my wife started up her veterinary practice six years ago, she hired HR consultants right at the start, and it was one of the best decisions she made. They had the expertise to make sure that all HR matters were handled legally and professionally, and they have offered excellent advice over the years. Hiring them meant that my wife could devote more time to building up her practice rather than studying all the intricacies of employment law.

        (My wife’s first training session for her new staff was held in our home, since her space wasn’t quite finished. When she introduced me and announced that I would NOT be employed by her practice, her new staff cheered. My role in her clinic is confined to doing the Costco runs, which is a much healthier way to run a family business.)

        Reply
    5. Manders

      This is something I’m also struggling with. I work at a 16 person company and I actually love the lack of structure day to day, but I’m starting to get annoyed about how many big picture things seem to happen at the whim of the owner. I don’t know when I’ll have my next performance review or if I’ll be able to switch offices, there’s no formal process for that and the people who handle those things are constantly putting out more important fires.

      Reply
      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

        Ah, hugs. Wakeen’s was so like that for so many years. For ME, I thrived, because it also meant no hovering, no restrictions, nobody to get in my way or impeded anything, as long as I could make it happen myself, and I took with the bad with the good.

        It’s surely not right for everybody.

        (on moving offices, true story, I’d just move myself to wherever I wanted to be. I lived by “better to ask for forgiveness..” I hired an assistant once and set her up in an office without asking anybody if I could. TRUE STORY. And I have a million more of them…..)

        Reply
        1. Manders

          Oh wow, that’s even less structure than what I’m working with. I think I might actually do well in a company like that–but I definitely would be fired if I surprise-hired an assistant or just decided to set up camp in another office.

          Maybe my problem isn’t actually lack of structure, but lack of authority to make those kinds of decisions in an environment that feels kind of chaotic.

          Reply
          1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

            I know exactly what you mean. And my first employees, as we got bigger had to deal with ME who was probably as big an issue as your company owners if not more. I still have two of them! My first and my second. :) But I lost quite a few along the way (either to quitting or to poor performance with the structure/lack of structure) until the penny dropped and I realized we had to grow up.

            So, basically, I feel ya and best wishes.

            Reply
  7. Mookie

    It’s weird — because my reaction is the same — that so many people, including the manager herself, sort of regard being on the receiving end of a broken nose as a faux pas*. It was an accident, it could happen to anyone, she certainly isn’t at fault, and it has nothing to do with her being a few years older or awkward or not really a punk fan (do you all know definitively that she isn’t, or are you assuming so based on her combined age and gender?). Ask her how she is, if she liked the music (if so, maybe you all chip in for a concert t-shirt so she can memorialize the sound rather than the pain), and move on.

    *I’m queen of very camp pratfalls, and I do my damndest not to take my own double left-foodedness too seriously. I know I’m going to turn an ankle just about everywhere I go, so I try to warn strangers, but, beyond that, there’s nothing to apologize for.

    Reply
    1. MK

      I also don’t see why this is embarrassing for anyone; it was an accident. And, frankly, it could happen in many other places other than a wild concert (e.g. a crowded bus).

      Reply
      1. Cambridge Comma

        It could be a bit awkward just because people ask so many questions when you have a visible injury. I recently had an eye operation and wore a dressing for some weeks. Literally every person I interacted with asked me what kind of accident I had, who hit me, etc. etc. It was a bit embarrassing to be continually questioned like that.

        Reply
        1. MK

          Sure, but returning a matter of fact answer is surely better than being vague and allowing people’s imagination to fill in the gaps. And it’s one thing when the only one affected is you; if you really don’t want to answer questions (either because you feel it’s no one’s bussiness or whatever), you can make the choice to be vague and deal with any fallout.

          In this case, the manager is saying the wrong thing; I understand that she might not want to talk about it, and she doesn’t owe anyone a blow-by-blow account of how she got injured, but if she wants to be vague, shw could say it was an accident at the concert. “things got out of hand” is almost inflamatory, in that it suggests pretty wild going-on.

          Reply
        2. Zip Silver

          I have an employee that got a black eye in a car accident. She is in a customer facing position, and told me that people asking her about it for real old, real quick. Of course, she wouldn’t have smacked her head into the dashboard if she were wearing her seatbelt…

          Reply
        3. Maxwell Edison

          This reminds me of the time I went into work all bruised up because I had walked into a door. Coworker asks, “What happened to you?” I replied, “I walked into a door.” She got a somber look on her face and said, “Sure you did.” I was baffled until she started saying things like, “If you ever need to talk to anyone, I’m here.” I don’t think she ever believed that I really did walk into a door.

          Reply
        4. Pebbles

          I was in a bad car accident, wearing my seat belt, and still managed to crack my head open on the steering wheel (air bag did not go off). I showed up for work three days later with a huge stitched up wound on my forehead, swelling was just starting to go down, and faced many questions from coworkers.

          I had gone in to get some work done (and was bored sitting at home) but in reality didn’t do much because of all the questioning.

          Reply
        5. Rater Z

          We were coming out of church on a Sunday evening when my wife managed to trip over a cement block in the parking lot. She broke her glasses and got about a five inch cut on her cheek just below where the glasses had been. She’s a free bleeder (now on a blood thinner as well). So, off to the emergency room where she wound up with stitches after a four hour stay. Friends from church were there with us so , to some extent, it wasn’t a bad time there.

          But — and thee is always a but — two days later, she had an appointment for a mammogram. I had to take her and when we walked into the office, the first thing she said was “He didn’t do it!!” We also took the papers from the ER with us. I went into the doctor’s office picturing myself going on a trip to the local jail over it so I was happy just to get that visit over with. They didn’t call the police, thank goodness.

          Reply
      2. aebhel

        I think (for me, as a person who’s a bit socially anxious and easily embarrassed), it would be the implication that I got myself into a situation that I couldn’t handle, got hurt, ruined the experience for everyone else, and now look like this loser who can’t even go to a concert.

        But I generally get embarrassed when I get hurt, especially if it leads to people fussing over me.

        Reply
      3. Emi.

        If the manager doesn’t realize it’s normal to get elbowed in the face at punk concerts (as I gather it is from other concerts), she might feel like it’s a big Doesn’t Belong At Punk Concerts sign, which would make her feel awkward (as well as feeling bad about pulling the others out mid-show).

        Reply
      4. Unegen

        It may not be that the broken nose acquisition is embarrassing to her, so much as having to go to work every day–and perhaps go to meetings, speak to higher-ups–with her nose taped up and bruising on her face. Anyone who doesn’t know she went to a concert is going to act concerned that she was on the receiving end of domestic violence, and that’s just a tiresome and professionally awkward thing to have to shut down every time someone new notices it.

        Reply
      5. seejay

        As someone who’s female, getting injured in the face, in general, can be pretty difficult to deal with in general even if the injury was totally an accident and not related to anything abusive or such. I took a paintball in the mouth during a recreational game (don’t ask why I wasn’t wearing full face coverage) and it split my lip inside from the top all the way down. It looked like I was punched in the mouth by someone and I could *see* my fat lip when I looked down, it stuck out that far. I went home, shoved enough codeine in my face as I could manage, put ice on my lip and refused to leave my room for the day. If the swelling hadn’t gone down in 24 hours, I wasn’t going to work like that. I didn’t want to answer questions or deal with any looks, stares or comments about why I had a fat lip. Sure, everyone knew I played competitive paintball and was on the field every weekend, people were used to me being covered in bruises from the neck down, but there was no way I was going *anywhere* out in public with bruises on my face, at least any that looked like I got punched in the mouth.

        Reply
        1. Mirax

          Yep! Even when I’m single or thought to be, if I get ANY visible injury, I have to field questions about DV. I’m glad that people care enough to offer help, but it’s exhausting to manage their reactions.

          Reply
        2. Cassandra

          Nod nod. I had an academic advisee come in once with lots of scary-looking bruises, and it was on the tip of my tongue to ask… and then I remembered she’s big into roller derby and shut my big mouth.

          Reply
      6. Artemesia

        If someone barfed on you on the bus wouldn’t you feel embarrassed? If you accidentally step in dog crap on the way to someone’s dinner party and arrive with that don’t you feel embarrassed (happened to me once when we had to walk across the lawn to the front door in the dark — not my fault but it was my stinky shoe and it was my husband’s boss’s party.) Most people feel awful to make a scene and being rushed to the hospital in the middle of a concert with employees, when you invited yourself, has got to be excruciatingly embarrassing even though of course there is no fault of hers here? So she is embarrassed although she didn’t do anything wrong at the concert.

        Reply
  8. M from NY

    OP3 Is your friend truly a flake that you shouldn’t have referred in the first place or is she having some unfortunately timed issues? Have YOU spoken to her to know what’s going on? If it’s the former, then this may be a hard lesson on why one must scrutinize potential referrals and how it may affect ones own workplace capital. I made this mistake once for friend who was job searching. I knew how she was with friends (late, flakey at times, inappropriate for situation) but assumed she was being a rebel and knew how to handle herself professionally. We graduated from same undergrad program. I was wrong. She was late to interview, dressed inappropriately and I was pissed afterwards at her behavior. My boss at the time said if I wasn’t such an excellent employee at the time they would have rethought MY position but as it was we would just pretend it never happened but I never referred anyone else while at that employer. I also never offered any help to her through our college network.

    A good friend of mine got on me about giving referral in the first place. In a nutshell being nice cost me capital at the time and almost cost me my job. I never made that mistake again.

    However, if your friend is normally reliable and is dealing with an unfortunate timing of events then encourage her to be honest and be upfront that her job (& yours) may be in jeopardy. It may not ultimately change result for her but it may save you from being labeled for her unprofessional behavior.

    Reply
    1. Fleur

      Now I’m curious: Was your boss/workplace at the time otherwise functional and healthy?

      My only thought while reading OP3 is that this can’t be their boss’s only instance of being unreasonable, and they should consider looking for another job because this seems to me a serious overreaction and a red flag on a bad blame culture at their workplace.

      But geez, at least her friend is actually working there and having an adverse effect on their work. I can’t even imagine how shocked I’d be if my boss told me they considered firing me just because my referral bombed an interview. I’d be constantly afraid that any tiny mistake will not be forgiven and have no sense of job security after a threat like that.

      This can’t be normal or something that happens often, can it?

      Reply
      1. M from NY

        It was an extremely corporate organization. I had quickly moved up to some confidential duties and referring her made some question my judgement. In hindsight I don’t blame them at all. It was more than bombing an interview. My inability to separate need to be nice from accepting who she was could have made others question my recommendations with regards to work projects if I didn’t have track record firmly established. I wrongly assumed she could handle responsibility of the job because we had similar education but she didn’t have other unspoken skills and I should have recognized that before wasting their time with the interview.

        Reply
    2. Kathleen Adams

      It would be – I’m just going to say it – ridiculous if your job had been seriously jeopardized by somebody who interviewed badly. Sure, it would be fair to wonder why you’d recommended someone who was such a flake, and even to cost you some capital, but that should not “almost cost” anybody his/her job, if he’s otherwise a good employee. I mean, jeez, what actual harm was done aside from a little wasted time?

      But I do agree that it’s a mistaken kindness to refer somebody just because she’s a friend. That’s sometimes easier said than done, though.

      Reply
    3. shep

      I gave a similar referral for a girl I met in graduate school. She–very weirdly–had gone to high school with my [now ex-]boyfriend, and on top of this capricious connection, our graduate program has a very strong tradition of supportive student/alumni networks. So I thought, “Well, this is what one does for one’s network!”

      She didn’t even show up for the interview, or call to cancel. My boss’s boss called her, and she apparently gave some bizarre story about how she’d only been in town for a few days but had been scared so badly because her credit card had been stolen and she didn’t feel safe in the town anymore so she was moving to New York City in another few days. Which is somehow safer…?

      My boss’s boss didn’t QUITE take me to task, but she goes, “Just how well do you know this person?” and proceeded to do a lot of tutting. I was utterly mortified.

      This girl never apologized to me OR thanked me for the interview opportunity. She also had a history AFTER that of asking me to put her in contact with a bunch of different people I was in contact with for my thesis (I was a few semesters ahead of her) because she wanted their “industry expertise.”

      UM NO.

      Reply
      1. M from NY

        That’s the thing. Person that gave me referral mattered to me so I knew going in I had to offer nothing less than my best. I assumed offering opportunity to friend would net the same effort but I learned hard way. Unless I know you well, my recommendations especially work ones are rare. Now all these years later, when I do refer someone people know I’m serious and will give them a shot.

        Reply
        1. shep

          Same! That was the first [and very possibly last] time I gave a referral.

          I got dangerously close to recommending a friend–whom I knew for well over a decade, and admittedly had a great work ethic record–to the office in which I work now, but realized as I was envisioning working with her that I absolutely did not want to.

          She was ultra-committed and high-performing in many respects, but she also has a notoriously foul, simmering-under-the-surface attitude. Not a lot of people saw it, but I sure did. It’s been a good year since I’ve seen or really spoken to her, and her attitude–much of which was directed at me toward the latter years of our friendship for unfathomable reasons–had everything to do with it.

          I do wonder objectively if that’s really fair to not refer an otherwise great performer, but I have no qualms for keeping my silence when we were still friendly because I CANNOT imagine working with her in close quarters.

          Reply
        2. shep

          (To elaborate just a touch, I think her attitude stemmed from the idea that she was smarter than everyone else, and she developed a sort of martyr syndrome that just made her insufferably condescending. I saw her do it in turns with our mutual friends, depending on who’d accidentally offended or annoyed her. Good grief, in retrospect, just thinking that I’d ever entertained the idea of referring her boggles the mind.)

          Reply
        3. Artemesia

          I think lots of people get caught in situations of referring or being a reference for people they would rather not be associated with. I learned to say ‘no’ the hard way too — although the person was nowhere near in the league of these examples. She did show up for the interview and was presentable at least, but I was actually glad she didn’t get the job based on her long and patchy work history.

          Reply
    4. Jean who seeks to be Ingenious

      Yikes. If anyone referred me to a potential employer I would do my utmost to prove myself more than worthy of their good opinion. The thought of imperiling a friend’s professional reputation or employment is, um, absolutely terrifying. I suppose that someone unable to do this is, sadly, stuck in the key of Dysfunctionality for whatever reason.

      Come to think of it, this thread is good to read right after the new year begins. It also sparks bad comedy:
      Q. How do you spell “new year’s resolution”?
      A. A-s-k a m-a-n-a-g-e-r dot o-r-g.

      Okay, back to work (or, I’ll show myself out now).

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        LOL I know someone right now who was a promising employee with lots of talent and who didn’t get a promotion and whose current behavior will assure they never do and may end up losing the great job. It is a pattern with her. How I wish she would read AAM and not things like ‘how important it is to control your anger at work’ and ‘how to behave when you don’t get the promotion.’ She might be right; it might have been a bit unfair that she didn’t. But her current behavior will assure that she doesn’t get considered next time whereas a calm and measured approach with her bosses might have had them thinking about ways to facilitate her future promotion.

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          that is ‘note things’ i.e. if only she would read AAM and take it to heart before she shoots herself in the foot again.

          Reply
  9. Mreasy

    OP2: That is a great bill!! i wonder if telling some of your own “war stories” from shows casually could make your manager feel better? Less like she was out of place & more like it was a badge of honor?

    Reply
    1. Emi.

      That could definitely help! My sister once passed out in church (and then lost her cookies in the sacristy) and she was really, really embarrassed. All the other altar servers said, “Oh, it’s the incense, that happens all the time!” and started swapping stories–remember when Marco passed out and cut his head open on the cross? remember when three priests dropped during the Eucharistic prayer? and it made her feel much better.

      Reply
      1. Tax Accountant

        Bwahaha! I once passed out during Good Friday stations of the cross when I was an acolyte. It was a late lent, in Alabama, very warm outside, and the church’s AC went out. So I’m in this baking hot acolyte robe in a baking hot church, holding a processional torch, listening to a reading about some horrible thing. The crucifer passed out first and I was next. I don’t even know what happened in the rest of the service. (I mean, not my first stations of the cross, I know what happens, spoiler alert: crucifixion, but I don’t know how much of a disruption we were.)

        Reply
        1. AthenaC

          Well thanks for spoiling it! Here I was, gonna splurge on some tickets to the show from scalpers outside the door this year, but I guess I’ll just save myself the money.

          ;)

          Reply
          1. Emi.

            My mother has a story (okay, it’s from Bartlett’s) about some famous English academic whose name escapes me being asked to translate part of the Passion from one of the Gospels out of Greek for a job interview. A few lines in, it was obvious he knew his Greek backwards and forwards, so they told him to stop, and he said, “Oh, but please, sir, I want to find out what happens next!”

            Reply
        2. Jessesgirl72

          The church I grew up in didn’t (doesn’t) have AC and the acolyte (and choir) robes were WOOL until they were finally all replaced in the early 90’s. The Priest kept a vial of smelling salts next to his water glass- we used to lose so many acolytes to fainting, even at a regular late spring/early fall service- let alone something lengthened like Stations of the Cross!

          My cousin got married in the summer when I was 18-19, and I started to pass out, just in normal summer clothes in the pews.

          Reply
        3. Lemon Zinger

          I was an altar server when I was young, and I passed out a few times because I got too hot/hadn’t eaten. Fortunately I managed to stumble into a back room each time so I didn’t embarrass myself in front of 400 people!

          Reply
        1. Knitting Cat Lady

          The church I grew up in was a modern building. The altar was on a raised island. It was tiled and had pretty sharp edge.

          Officially, you’re not supposed to eat before receiving communion.

          During one early morning Easter (start 5 am) service one of the mass servers fainted. There was only candle light, and all servers rotated holding very heavy iron candle sticks to give light for the readings. The candle sticks weighed easily 2 pounds.

          So the guy fainted and hit his head on the edge of the altar island. He broke his skull.

          I almost fainted during may devotion. We had to keel for the whole thing. The Litany of Loreto is long.

          Reply
    2. voluptuousfire

      I would say it’s a badge of honor! Napalm Death, Pig Destroyer and Power trip….that was a grindcore show.

      Chances are the pit got started up and she got caught in the middle of it. Been there (not a a Napalm Death show, but definitely at a metal show!)

      Definitely tell war stories. I have plenty I can tell.

      Reply
    3. DCGirl

      Fainting apparently can run in families. I once worked at a Catholic high school where fainting during graduation was known as “pulling a Bernhardt” because so many of the large number of Bernhardt offspring had passed out during their ceremonies. In once case, one of them was an altar boy, and when he fell sideways he took three other altar boys down with him.

      Reply
      1. Turtle Candle

        “when he fell sideways he took three other altar boys down with him” is such a hilarious mental image it will please me all day. (Assuming nobody was seriously injured.)

        Reply
      2. Jean who seeks to be Ingenious

        Several decades ago the shofar-blower at the end-of-day Yom Kippur service finished the last and longest blast and…just plain keeled over quietly. He didn’t take anyone else with him, though. Because he was standing on the same level as the congregation the effect was of just seeing him…disappear.

        Explanation for anyone puzzled: Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, comes 10 days after the Jewish New Year begins. The custom is for all adults to forego both food and water for some 24-26 hours to eliminate distraction from individual and collective self-scrutiny. (It’s totally okay for people to eat if fasting is medically impossible.)

        Reply
        1. Emi.

          I didn’t know you fasted on Yom Kippur, so I figured he had just expended all his oxygen in blowing the shofar and didn’t have any left for standing! I hope he was OK :)

          Reply
          1. Cath in Canada

            I made an ill-fated attempt to learn how to play the oboe in high school. The only oboe my school owned was ancient, poor quality to start with, and not well maintained; even the teacher had a hard time getting a decent tone out of it. There were a few occasions when I came very close to passing out while trying to blow hard enough through that damn thing!

            Reply
      3. zora

        It runs in my family, we have a tendency to low blood pressure, which, when undernourished or dehydrated = fainting. Super fun.

        I passed out at my college graduation reception, in the arms of the university president, with whom I was in the middle of an argument. I’m still mad about that one.

        Reply
  10. Q

    OP#5 I have also found small businesses to be disorganized. In my experience the more family members employed by the boss the worse. I just changed jobs a year ago from a large company to a very small one, and I’m flabbergasted at what a mess it is. The simplest request can’t flow properly through each department, and there is no management to steer the ship. There are a few family members of the CEO and they are all very smart, but it’s just a bad atmosphere with rampant sexism. Time to update my resume.

    Reply
  11. 2 Cents

    OP #1, I think you’ve done all you can to help the new coworker. If he really only does stuff when someone is watching(!), that’s a huge red flag his/your manager needs to know about. We had an intern this summer who did the same thing — we realized it about 3 weeks in. Bc it was an internship, we kept him on till the end of it, but we didn’t shy away from saying things like “It’s not appropriate to ask So-and-So about this. Just one of the workplace norms.”

    Reply
  12. Tuckerman

    #4, I wonder if they’re concerned that your boss may be forcing you to go on the trip (and might force them to travel to Zika affected areas also). They may be worrying out loud, but framing it as, “we’re concerned about you.”

    Reply
    1. Case of the Mondays

      This was my first thought. The majority of questions I see on advice columns are “I’m going to TTC in the next year (or I’m actively trying) and my boss wants me to go on a work trip to a Zika zone. How do I get out of it?” And the responses are usually “bosses should be aware that women of child bearing age might actually want to bear children and should consider that issue when sending them on a trip to a Zika zone.” Which means you expect the boss to say “hey, we have this trip you can go on but if you are going to TTC soon and want to bow out, feel free.” But then you are stuck discussing whether you are TTC or not. In reality this is an issue for both male and female employees because males actually carry the disease longer than female employees. Just saying “if you don’t want to go let me know” might not be enough if the employer feels like for occupational health reasons they must fully disclose the risks. Which would then include saying, if you are trying or going to try soon, you might be at risk.

      Reply
  13. MsCHX

    I do not refer people to places where I work. I just don’t want the headache. Now, it helps that the few times people asked if my job was hiring, I knew they were flaky and there was NO way I would even begin to refer them. And I do not generally share my place of employ. I know people think it’s weird but you don’t need to know where I work! My parents, siblings (well maybe a sibling) and closest friends do, but not my general network of people. And I don’t do Linked In.

    Once a family member wanted to list me as a referral for an apartment complex I lived in, and she was moving to. I said NO! Please don’t list me! Well, there was a $500 rent credit and she decided she was helping me and did it anyway. But she is a flake with a capital F. Within a few months she was evicted, her and her boyfriend had got into a fight damaging the unit extensively (broken windows, bleached carpet, just insanity). When my lease renewal came up, they elected not to renew my lease. And I had been living there for years.

    I think of referrals like cosigning loans – Don’t do it. Ever.

    Reply
  14. Observer

    #4 I think you are definitely over-thinking this. That’s not to say that you should accept it – on the contrary. This *is* totally unacceptable, and should be shut down ASAP. I think that Alison’s wording is great.

    Reply
  15. Amber Rose

    OP #4, when family bugged me about having babies I started answering “wow, it’s really creepy how you keep asking about my sex life. I don’t wanna talk about that with you.” It worked marvelously. Alison’s version, despite being infinitely more work appropriate, is more or less the same message. I’m just here to vouch that it’s effective.

    Reply
  16. oldfashionedlovesong

    I have an interesting corollary question to #5 – I can repost in an open thread if this doesn’t belong here, just let me know! What would you think of a job that is within a huge and well-run academic institution, but that directly reports to a husband and wife pair of academics that run the immediate department? Does the longstanding bureaucracy of the institution outweigh most concerns about working in what is essentially a “family business”? Or are there still particular concerns I’m not considering?

    Reply
    1. Lemon Zinger

      As someone who works in higher ed, I would NEVER want to be in a department like that. Even with HR existing as a “neutral” party, I wouldn’t be comfortable reporting to a married couple. That’s too insular for me.

      Reply
    2. Cassandra

      Hrm. I work in a department with a husband-wife pair on the faculty. One of the two is the chair.

      It’s not been problematic at all — it was actually quite a while before I even realized they were married! — but I am sideeyeing the co-spousal authority in your account a lot. Is that formal or in-? Who has formal authority? Who doesn’t, and are they overstepping?

      Reply
      1. AcademiaNut

        Two people in the same department being married is really common in academia – I wouldn’t blink twice at working for someone who has a spouse, even a spouse they collaborated with. I wouldn’t want to have to officially report to both halves of a couple, though – too much chance of any marriage problems spilling out onto me. And a couple running a department together sounds dodgy.

        With one half of the spouse as chair, it can work, or it can be a disaster. I’d talk to people I knew who were familiar with the department to get a low-down on which this particular situation was. Although if you had a choice between taking the job at a dysfunctional place, and leaving the field because you don’t have any other offers, it could be a hard call.

        Reply
    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I think it really depends on the institution. I’ve worked at places where there’s a husband-wife team running the department (usually one is chair and the other is serving in some other service function in addition to both being on the ladder faculty), and I’ve seen it either run amok or run super well with no issues. There are certainly risks whenever relatives are managing something, but I’ve found that people who are professional and good managers will also proactively seek and follow the University’s guidance on conflicts of interest, while people without those norms will usually run things like corrupt kleptocrats until they do something that catches the University’s attention (read: lawsuit).

      Reply
  17. CV

    #4 – Know your audience, but I’ve been known to answer those kinds of questions with another question: “Are you asking me if I plan on having unprotected sex?”

    Reply
    1. Chickaletta

      Really? You just made an uncomfortable question 100x more uncomfortable for both of you, because now your coworker has an image in their head of you having sex.

      I guess I’m just not in the camp of replying to “do you plan to have any children?” type questions with references to a) human anatomy b) intimate acts between you and another person. Most likely, the only image the questioner had in their head up to that point was of a tiny newborn baby. That’s it. Please, people, stop making it weird.

      Reply
      1. Trillian

        Intrusive is what’s weird. Just because it’s common to ask people questions, doesn’t mean they’re not way intrusive.

        Reply
      2. Kyrielle

        But even if the person asking has a tiny newborn baby in mind, they are literally asking about the outcome of someone’s sex life. It’s also a question that can be painful and awkward for other reasons.

        Babies are adorable. But I really, really don’t have the right to ask anyone else about their potential plans for future babies, not unless they’ve invited the topic.

        I *do* think that talking directly about sex is to be avoided at work if you can, even in shutting down a topic that is in fact implicitly asking about just that. It’s not explicitly asking about it, and I’d rather avoid that. But that is one of the reasons it’s not a good topic to bring up.

        Reply
      3. LBK

        No, the person asking if you’re planning to have a baby is the one making it weird. Whether you have a cute newborn baby as your mental image or not, you *are* effectively asking that person about their sex life, and it’s an intrusive, weird question. Someone responding in kind is not what makes it uncomfortable.

        Reply
        1. Chickaletta

          So, according to all this logic, if someone asks if you have plans to buy a house they’re being intrusive about your financial life? If they ask you what part of town you live in, they’re being intrusive into your social status and choice of school districts? If they ask where you’re from, they’re being intrusive into your personal history? If someone asks you where you like to go for lunch, they’re being intrusive about your food budget and personal tastes?

          My point is, the intent behind these questions is not to judge or find out about something much more personal (unless it’s coming from your mother-in-law, ha). It’s almost always just to make conversation. That’s it. If someone doesn’t want to discuss their plans for having children, they can make a general, boring, non-committal answer. “We don’t know yet”, or “There’s so much to consider”, or “My second cousin just had a baby”. whatever. But, for the love of God, don’t segue into the topic of condoms, your vagina, or how much sex you’re having.

          Reply
          1. MsCHX

            So, according to all this logic, if someone asks if you have plans to buy a house they’re being intrusive about your financial life?
            Yes.

            If they ask you what part of town you live in, they’re being intrusive into your social status and choice of school districts?
            Yes. Where you live is almost always a socio-economic issue.

            If they ask where you’re from, they’re being intrusive into your personal history?
            Eh. Probably not but it could be.

            If someone asks you where you like to go for lunch, they’re being intrusive about your food budget and personal tastes?
            No, I don’t think this is out of context in a work setting.

            Point being, asking about whether or not someone intends to procreate *IS* asking about those biological, emotional things. That’s why it’s not wise to ask.

            Reply
            1. slick ric flair

              This feels like an overreaction. The vast majority of people are not looking to be intrusive and it’s such a common question for making basic conversation. Escalating the situation is not a wise reaction, it will make you look weird.

              Reply
          2. LBK

            Well, you’re being hyperbolic, but some of things really can have intrusive, personal implications. Sure, most people probably don’t mind answering them, because for 90% of people there’s no associated baggage. But pregnancy-related questions can be extremely personal if, for instance, someone is having fertility problems. Or housing-related questions can be really fraught if someone is having housing issues (there was a long period where I would have snapped at you if you asked me about my living situation because it was a very stressful topic for me, to the point that I spent time in therapy dealing with it).

            My point is that it doesn’t really matter if the intent is just to “make conversation,” it can still be pretty rude. If you don’t know the person well enough to know their situation and whether those questions might be hot button issues for them, they’re really not appropriate to ask, and it shouldn’t be on the receiver of the questions to have to prepare non-committal answers to them just because people can’t mind their own business. How many letters do we get here where the whole subject is “how do I get my coworker to stop asking me about ____”?

            Reply
          3. Elsajeni

            I think a general “Do you plan to have kids someday?” type of question is relatively non-intrusive (obviously the whole subject is fraught and sensitive for some people, and I don’t think it’s a great small-talk question, but if you’re talking to someone you know pretty well, or already on the subject of having/wanting kids, etc…) and unlikely to provoke a snippy response like CV’s. But the OP’s coworkers are asking her if she is CURRENTLY trying to conceive. They are literally, if indirectly, inquiring about what kind of sex she’s having these days; I don’t think it would be unreasonable for her to point that out.

            Reply
            1. Tea Leaves

              Agree. If you keep it general and not specific, it doesn’t get as weird. Still a bit intrusive (work setting in mind) if you don’t know them well, such as if you didn’t even talk to me about lunch before and suddenly spring this on me. “Someday” gives the other person a chance to go as specific as they feel comfortable.

              Reply
          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I disagree with the extrapolation, and I 100% think it’s inappropriate and intrusive to ask about someone’s reproductive choices and family planning, just as I think it’s inappropriate to ask about someone’s health choices, full stop. The question you’re asking isn’t “oh, where do your kids go to school?” It’s “oh, did you have your mammogram screen this year?” or “are you considering having a prostate exam?”

            The questioner is absolutely the person making it weird. But I agree that amplifying the weirdness by naming why the question is inappropriate (“are you asking if I plan to have unprotected sex?”) should probably be reserved for very rare circumstances.

            Reply
      4. Kate

        Except, babies are the direct result of sex, and by asking about them, no matter what mental image you have, you are asking about someone else’s sex life.

        By asking about whether people are planning on having kids, you (general) intrude into a deeply personal part of their lives and force them into the position of lying or revealing things that are none of your business. It is almost impossible to get away with a vague non-answer or changing the subject.

        The reasons people do or don’t want kids, and do or don’t have them are so personal and frequently painful. Such as:

        infertility

        can’t afford adoption

        can’t afford to have a child period (on welfare, food stamps, debt, etc.)

        was abused as a child and is afraid of repeating the pattern

        had a child who died

        miscarriage(s)

        doesn’t want children (which in many people’s minds actually, literally makes you a sociopath)

        wants children but partner doesn’t

        self or partner has mental health issues and doesn’t think they could safely care for a child

        etc.

        Reply
        1. slick ric flair

          This is all true, but there are also lots of people who don’t mind talking about it and it’s such a common, normal subject that it isn’t intrusive to ask a simple ‘hey, are you and Jane planning on kids anytime soon?’

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            That’s actually considered a very intrusive question by many people. Think, for example, of people who are struggling with fertility issues or miscarriage.

            Reply
            1. slick ric flair

              Yes, again I agree that is true, but I simply can’t recommend that the first reaction can’t be to immediately escalate the conversation and make it more awkward or charged as multiple people have suggested.

              Lots of people get divorced or have hard break-ups, but people shouldn’t be stopped from asking “do you and Jane have any summer plans?” when a couple could be fighting, Jane could be abusive, or they are having other problems.

              I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be aware of and sensitive of asking intrusive questions – just that lots of people aren’t intending these in intrusive ways and so they shouldn’t automatically be taken that way.

              Reply
                1. JLaw

                  I wish I saw this letter earlier (I’ve just been back at work this week and so I don’t have as much time to read the letters/comments).

                  I totally agree with Alison, here. It is a very personal and intrusive question. I actually wrote a comment in reply to one of the letters a couple of days ago about a former manager at my workplace who was asking female employees questions on whether they planned to have kids.

                  It caused a great deal of problems in my workplace. Many employees felt the questions were way too personal and not appropriate at work (and I completely agreed with them).

                  Unless you are a really close friend (or very close family member), I don’t think it is polite or appropriate to question people about their reproductive choices/family planning. It is certainly NOT something that should be asked in the workplace.

                2. AcademiaNut

                  I look at it as a spectrum (or rather a set of spectra) .

                  There’s the private/personal vs public. “Do you have kids” or “what do you do” are public questions, because they are things that can be observed by outsiders without permission or input of the person. “Why don’t have kids” or “Are you planning on having kids” are private things, locked inside the head of the person being asked.

                  There’s innocuous vs problematic. For *any* question, there’s some chance that the person being asked is in a specific situation that makes this question difficult or painful to answer. But there’s a range – “How was your weekend?” is a pretty innocuous question, even though someone may have had a horribly bad weekend. “Are you planning on having kids?”, on the other hand, is loaded with pitfalls, from infertility to the fact that saying that you don’t want kids can result in some pretty dreadful responses.

                  There’s specific vs general. Asking a question in a fairly general way allows the other person to decide how much they want to share, and to avoid sensitive topics. “How was your vacation?” is more general than “Did you have a good time with your family at Christmas?”. In the first case, answers can range from “Not bad, how was yours?” (No information and gently deflecting the question) to a detailed description of what they did. In the second, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, or are estranged from your family, or whatever, it’s harder to deflect or give a neutral answer.

                  There’s the issue of need-to-know vs nosiness. There are times you need to ask personal questions, for very practical reasons, and times where it’s really none of your business. I’ve had situations at work where someone was required to directly ask me if I was pregnant, for practical safety reasons, for example.

                  There’s the issue of intimacy. You can ask different questions of a close family member or friend than of a coworker. Asking a romantic partner if they want kids is totally normal. Asking this of a stranger you’re sitting next to on the bus is not.

                  And finally, there’s the issue of social calibration. Someone who has poor social calibration – who is bad at judging if a question is appropriate, and oblivious to signs that they are making someone uncomfortable – needs to be much more cautious about asking personal questions than someone who is adept at reading social cues.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                I think it’s important to remember that you can still cross lines with people if your intentions are good.

                You can have the best and warmest intentions, and a question about someone’s family planning could still make that person feel like you’re asking an overly personal question that makes them feel uncomfortable. I agree that the first best option should not be to escalate that discomfort by referencing sex (even though that’s what the questioner is doing, whether they intended to or not). But I also think it’s important for people who ask these sorts of questions to realize that they should seriously consider refraining from doing so with their coworkers.

                Reply
      5. aebhel

        I’m generally in favor of whatever it takes to shut down obnoxious questions about family planning. Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it isn’t rude and intrusive. Unless you know someone pretty well, you should probably MYOB when it comes to their reproductive plans.

        Reply
        1. MsCHX

          +1. Don’t ask. Just don’t.

          Because WHY are you asking? Why is this a piece of information that you “need”?

          Reply
    2. shep

      An old coworker had just gotten married and the barrage of “when are you having babies???” began right before and continued right in front of my eyes. She was very adamant that she wasn’t having kids and had no qualms sharing this with anyone, and then OF COURSE a few people in particular were like, “Oh, you’ll change your mind, trust me,” and proceeded in that line of jovial combativeness for ages.

      I was mortified on her behalf. I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who has a more complicated relationship with the idea of kids, possibly fertility, etc. to have to stand that kind of well-intentioned assault.

      Reply
    3. Lissa

      I think this, like a lot of strong reactions, should never be a *first* response, because even if you’ve been asked by 50 people before, that one person doesn’t know that and is making what they consider to be polite conversation. But sometimes when one particular person won’t let something go . . .

      Also, CV said “know your audience” and I know some people who would find this hilarious — some workplaces from my younger days were pretty inappropriate!

      Reply
  18. Nancy Drew

    Re: OP#2: Reading between the lines, it seems that one of the coworkers *was* the one who (presumably accidentally) elbowed her in the face: OP’s choice of words to describe the incident (with the manager as the principal actor); manager’s choice of words to explain it at work (probably correctly suggesting to other coworkers that someone in the group was actually responsible); OP’s explanation to AAM that the group “tried to ask her if she was up to” the concert (the implication being that the manager should have known it could get wild, and that the group did its best to hint at it but wasn’t responsible beyond that). If a colleague had broken my nose and moved on without acknowledging his/her role in it, even though accidental, or expressing their sympathy, I would be uncomfortable, too. The OP should have included this detail or made clear that it was a random person in the crowd, whichever is true.

    Reply
  19. Temperance

    LW1: serious question, why are you helping this guy so much and taking it on yourself to make sure he does his work? Let him fail.

    Reply
    1. Jessesgirl72

      My guess is that she takes to heart all Alison’s advice about being kind and helpful to college hires who don’t understand office norms. She seems convinced his problems are stemming from it being his first job. I think she’s mistaken, but she seems really invested in not only helping him to see the light, but to recognize what a good job he has.

      She seems to have missed the parts where Alison advocates ignoring a coworker’s wrongdoings unless it directly impacts the ability to do your own job.

      Reply
    2. Lemon Zinger

      It’s possible that management expects LW to help train him/bring him up to speed. A failure to do so would reflect poorly on him.

      Reply
  20. Cheesehead

    I worked for a small company, with a husband/wife as the owners. It was awful. I thought I was going in with my eyes open, but man….on the first day I knew I’d made a mistake. Female owner was out on the day I started with morning sickness, and she’d left no instructions for what I was supposed to do my first day. One of the support reps tried to get me to take a support call….for a product I hadn’t even seen yet! Owners would try to do shady things with both clients and employees. From things that were said to us, the employees, it was like they viewed us as a necessary evil to their business….they didn’t really want us there, but they had to have us because they couldn’t do it all themselves. And we should be supremely grateful for them employing us and we should be willing to put in extra hours for free and put up with a lot of crap just for them granting us that privilege. (Yes, one time the male owner ranted to us one time that we should be so grateful because he has to pay a lot more for us than our salaries….there was Social Security and taxes that he had to pay for EACH one of us…. I was internally rolling my eyes because I was thinking ‘Hello? Dude, that’s a cost of doing business!’) It was like they didn’t want to be bothered with us.

    They had the bare minimum for benefits. I don’t even know that they had a 401K. I got married a few months after I was hired so I went on DH’s insurance. They decided they wanted better insurance (for themselves), so as part of the sign-up process, they gave everyone a very detailed health history questionnaire (with SSN) that we were supposed to fill out. I handed it back b/c you know, I declined their insurance. They gave it back to me and told me that I HAD to fill it out. I said no, that there was no reason for me to give that private information if I’m declining insurance. I was pretty much ORDERED to fill it out (and not fake it) because (they said) they had to have that to prove that I worked there….something about the number of employees. I think I ended up filling something out and writing very boldly that I did not authorize them to input any of that information into any computer system.

    Reply
  21. CompSci

    OP #1- Your coworker’s behavior is significant of more than just boredom; It sounds like he has absolutely zero work ethic. You’ve already given him tons of guidance, what he needs is a kick in the pants. He hasn’t even worked a full day in recent memory! That alone should be grounds for a VERY serious conversation with him. It seems like this job is a great opportunity for him and he needs to show he actually wants it, or else his boss needs give it to someone who does.

    Reply
  22. Happy Cynic

    OP #5 – Family-run companies, in my experience, raise a whole army’s worth of red flags. Family members see their companies as extensions of their personal life, so whatever dysfunction exists at home will bleed its way in.

    Who’s the favorite child, or friends with them, or reminds the parent/boss of them? Those people will get away with anything. Who is the least liked child? Those people will always be hovering on the edge of a PIP. Is the family cheap with employees, but spends money like water on themselves? Then they view you as little better than household servants.

    You’re not being entitled: correct tallying of vacation, planned-in-advance holidays, and a system of conflict resolution are things a ‘normal’ office, where there are consequences to bad work, makes sure to get right.

    Make your mark, secure a good recommendation, and when you’ve been there a perfectly respectable two years, GTFO.

    Reply
  23. Workaholic

    LW1 – you aren’t a babysitter. If he’s been trained, you did your share of helping, guiding and such. I’ve read comments suggesting “first job out of college” as an excuse. Sorry – my first job out of high school i had initiative and willingness to work. Volunteering to take on tasks nobody else wanted. I would expect a better work ethic if he is out of college. If he’s bored with the job he should find something more suited to his interests. If simply lazy then let his actions speak for him.

    Basically: i think you’ve gone above and beyond your duty.

    Reply
  24. Newbie

    OP #5- I relate to your post and the comments so much. One of the comments reminded me so much of my situation that I had to laugh!

    I recently made the switch from a medium sized company with well established policies and procedures to a small (less than 40 people) family owned company. There are things that I enjoy about working for a small company, but there are also things that grate on my nerves almost daily. One of my big issues is the lack of clear leadership and dysfunction. It often feels like rules are being made up as people go along and management does not always take responsibility as they should.

    I have only been here for 6 months and am in a position that I enjoy and see the experience being a huge benefit down the line, so I am sticking it out until I hit that sweet 2 year mark but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one with these frustrations. Best of luck to you!

    Reply

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