update: my boss’s kid punched me in the groin

Remember the letter-writer whose boss’s kid often ran wild in the office and one day punched her in the groin? It originally ran in 2014 and then I reprinted it in Inc. recently. She was nice enough to give us an update:

When I wrote my first update, I was newly settled in New York City in a new position, which I’m still happily in. Interesting enough, I went from a university environment to a K12 and actually day to day deal with less children. It’s now been nearly three years since I left that job and I couldn’t be happier with my job.

I do, however, have deep ties to that community; I’m a double graduate (BA and Masters at that college) and still catch up with old coworkers and extended colleagues on holidays when I fly home. Apparently, kids are still a common occurrence in the department. I was I think the only person in the department who didn’t have children when I left. There were more incidents after that with other children in the department. Before I left, a coworker brought his four-year-old daughter into a quarterly private lunch held for staff and she made a huge mess and wouldn’t stop talking during the presentation segment of lunch and he didn’t remove her. This, of course, happened in the full view the VP who was three steps up the food chain.

The kid who punched me, at one point, came in later and was climbing on unsecured mini skids of uninterruptible power supplies intended for IDF’s (weighing about 300 lbs each). My boss didn’t stop him although they were teetering, dangerous and, not to mention, expensive to replace if damaged.

A lot of my boss’s work could not be done remotely, unlike mine. She had a work from home policy set up with the director but she didn’t allow us to work from home often. So she often had to come into the office with at least one kid in tow. I’m sure that after I left and was no longer the “problem employee” who didn’t like kids in the office, my old boss went right back to bringing in her kids and pawning them off on coworkers when she had to do “real work.” The entire department was dysfunctional. My boss was promoted from exactly the same position I was in (I had seniority, although she was older) after the former boss had tried to throw a keyboard at another coworker’s head in a bout of anger. Thank goodness for corded keyboards because it went about six inches in the air then fell back on the table. Even that didn’t get him fired outright. 18 months later, what finally did it was his fiduciary mismanagement of the annual budget to the tune of $150k.

The most amazing part of the whole story is that it’s a Quaker school, and I’m a convinced Friend. The Religious Society of Friends has opinions on nonviolence are historically strong but this department couldn’t get its act together.

In the three years since I’ve been gone, the 15 member team (director on down) has fired and escorted off campus one person and has had turnover in at least 4 other positions.

To answer a few questions readers had:

I’m a cisgender woman. So no damage to (as one commentator put it) the “Wedding Vegetables.” It was, however, startling and not enjoyable, and totally out of place for a professional work environment. I had worked with and around kids for years in other positions so I did say “OW” quiet loudly to get his attention right after it happened and he just giggled. “Groin” seemed to be the best anatomically accurate word

Regarding FaceTime: her husband has a myriad of health issues that can sometimes deteriorate suddenly. When the kid wasn’t in school, dad usually took care of him, but with his health being touch and go there was often a FaceTime set up to monitor home. Hence also bringing in the infant, since his health wasn’t good enough take care of someone that young and helpless all the time.

With regard to how I approached it with HR: The HR director at the time and I had known each other for about 10 years. So she and I had a rapport to talk about, not only the kids in the office, but also the physical aspect of it since she had also heard the story (but wasn’t the HR director at the time) about our former boss trying to throw the keyboard at a coworker’s head. At one point, she had me tracking my boss’s in and out time at the office. Our usual day was 8am-5pm, and if you were going to change that you needed to either let everyone know that it was a permanent or semi permanent change or if it was a one time thing. My boss would often not come in until 10am and leave at 4:45pm with no notification. When we were in the middle of an emergency or need a decision fast, this put a crimp in our workflow, especially with the director of the department often not getting in until around that time either.

{ 82 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. JulieBulie

    Thanks for the update, and for adding more details about that crazy house where you used to work. So glad you’re out of there!

    I wonder how the kid is doing now… like, did he ever punch any of his teachers? Did he punch a classmate who wasn’t quite so tolerant? … years later (I’m thinking into the future), will he ever punch his own boss… or a cop… or will he give up the habit before someone punches back?

    Reply
      1. Snark

        Kids who are acting out are asking, in the only way that they know how, to have some limits and boundaries imposed on them. It’s not free-spiritedness, or having fun, it’s an unconscious “please help me regulate myself right now because I can’t do it and I need your help.” And when kids do have rules and limits, it’s reassurring and stabilizing for them.

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        1. Oh boy oh boy

          Not always, sometimes they’re just being naughty to test the boundaries. Or because they really really really want a slushie more than life itself, and will scream for as long as it takes… despite your best efforts…

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          1. Optimistic Prime

            Well, being naughty to test the boundaries IS the way that kids ask for boundaries. They really do want to know where the lines are; children, in general, are happier when they know what they can and can’t do and what acceptable guidelines for behavior are.

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            1. Oh boy oh boy

              I agree! But I think sometimes they’re simply misbehaving to try and get what they want without any kind of subconscious motivation apart from I WANT THE THING NOW! Even adults do this. As this blog shows us …

              Reply
              1. Zip Zap

                Kids get their ideas about what’s normal from adults and other kids. When a kid is punching adults, it’s a sign that they’re around other people who behave this way and get away with it. Not always, but often. Yes, rules are important, but so is modeling good behavior, setting good examples, and being ready to talk about what other kids are doing that’s wrong and why. As a former kid and as a teacher, I’ve seen a lot of kids getting solely blamed for things when it’s really a red flag that there’s some kind of dysfunction in their family or social environment.

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              2. Snark

                But in a lot of cases, the kid going “I WANT THE THING NOW” is the one who doesn’t know where the boundary is.

                Reply
            2. Chinook

              I agree. Boundary testing is a part of the healthy development og a child, which is why it is vital that parents and other adults being consistent in enforcing them and letting children suffer appropriate (usually natural, when safe to do so) consequences. Better to learn as a child when the consequences are small than as an adult.

              Reply
          2. Snark

            “Not always, sometimes they’re just being naughty to test the boundaries. ”

            Exactly. But they want those boundaries, they need those boundaries, and they test them so they know where the walls of the sandbox are. If they are never given boundaries, they find it profoundly confusing.

            Reply
    1. Chinook

      My experience is that the child like this called his junior high teacher out to fight him behind the school (note that said teacher was a former semi-pro hockey player still in playing shape) and took shots at the local RCMP as an adult (shoot outs in Canada are rare enough to make the news).

      When I heard about the shoot out, I turned to DH and stated that that kid was the reason I quit a teaching job in November with no job prospects And, sadly, my instincts were right.

      Reply
  2. Amelia

    I remember that letter and thinking, what a gong show of a workplace. Little did I imagine it was a Quaker workplace. The mind boggles with the dissonance!

    Reply
    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Oh, Quakers can be plenty dysfunctional! Although you would hope that coworkers would think twice about throwing keyboards.

      Reply
      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        Oh dear, I didn’t mean to start a Quaker-bashing mini-thread. Quakers are my favorite people. But nothing in the Quaker testimonies prevents workplace dysfunction (sadly).

        Reply
        1. rj

          I’m Mennonite (a group that also believes in nonviolence) and have worked for orgs of that religious affiliation. Sometimes people in these environments are so afraid of conflict that they end up doing things that are way worse! It comes from a good place and ends so badly…
          So glad you are out of there and can continue to be a convinced Friend! I found that the workplace of the same religion as me to be a bit too challenging.

          Reply
  3. DrPeteLoomis

    “Thank goodness for corded keyboards because it went about six inches in the air then fell back on the table.” God, I love this image. I don’t think impotent rage could be described any better than this.

    Reply
    1. CMDRBNA

      Hah – a friend of mine recently had a coworker throw a headset at her. The coworker works for the feds, so nothing bad will ever happen to her (as an ex-fed myself, you could literally murder someone and still keep your job. No, I am not kidding.).

      Reply
      1. Soon to be former fed

        I am a thirty year fed, and I don’t know about this. If you are convicted and in prison, how do you keep any job?

        I do know someone who waa convicted of horribly abusing his wife, and was able to get a federal job after that. So maybe you could murder someone and then get a federal job, but stay on the job? Only if found not guilty and not in law enforcement or where security clearance is required.

        Reply
    2. Alter_ego

      I would give a lot for video footage of that moment. It’s like trying to slam one of those doors with the hydraulic slow closing mechanism.

      Reply
  4. Observer

    I’m all for child friendly work places. And I’ve brought children of all ages into the office – as have many work mates. But NO ONE ever gets to use someone else to care for their kids while they work! And EVERYONE knows that they need to keep a lid on their kids.

    The idea of bringing a kid that needs to be attended (ie past the infant stage where they stay in the carriage / crib between feedings) into the office on a regular basis, instead of child care boggles the mind. And then people complain when parents try to work at home with out childcare for whatever kid is at home.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      With our first toddler, I would occasionally drop her off with my husband at his lab while I swam at the nearby pool. Always planned first; no one else watched her. She would draw on the chalk board, put all the washers into and out of and into and out of and into (repeat many times) each bin, and evaluate the current doughnut situation. I would occasionally take her with me to drop off or pick up freelance work from my old office, and she quickly learned where the M&M dispenser was. (A few years later we discovered that she and several of her peers viewed work as the place their parents went to drink hot chocolate.)

      With our second child several things had changed (new job, new house) but we would never have done this because at that age he would have spent his time trying to climb the uninterruptible power supply. At home, age 1, I once found him at ceiling level, reflected that I had never told him that he couldn’t scale the window muntins, and lifted him off while he tried to figure out how to get across the ceiling. Some kids are just not meant for more than a few closely supervised minutes in an office.

      Reply
      1. Brogrammer

        That’s an adorable story and a good example of how to bring kids to the office and not screw it up.

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        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Oh, that was me, too! I was coached by my (six-months older) infant best friend. He taught me that one can climb over the sides of one’s crib, and if careful, land on the (very padded) diaper to minimize any pain. My mom discovered my new skill after several days of hearing a foreboding “thump” noise, as if something heavy had hit the carpeted floor.

          My poor mom.

          Reply
        2. JessaB

          I was lucky. We had the most protective dog (German shepherd mixed mutt.) Rip van Winkle would walk down the stairs in front of me so when I inevitably fell, it would be on his back. He would sleep under my crib so when I figured out how to get out of it again, I’d fall on his back. I’d have cracked my skull a hundred times if we hadn’t had that dog. They moved my room to the ground floor and also pretty much turned my crib into one of those bed boxes they give mothers in Europe after that trick. They just didn’t want me to decide to climb out or down the stairs when the dog was in the back doing his business.

          I am never amazed at the places the littlest kids can get into anymore.

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        3. Grapey

          Dad?

          I was this kid. I had a little toy piano that was perfect stair height adjacent to the crib. I’d “thunk” on the keys and be found crawling on the carpet like nothing happened, lol.

          Reply
      2. periwinkle

        Wow, that triggered memories! My dad worked as a defense contractor and occasionally had to go in on the weekend to get stuff done. I used to tag along sometimes… to me it was the place where I could drink hot chocolate, doodle on scrap pin-feed computer paper, and watch small planes at the airport across the street.

        Four decades later I work for an aeronautics company that does defense work, drink hot chocolate at my desk while doodling on scrap paper during endless phone meetings, and watch big airplanes at the airport across the street.

        The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree…

        Reply
        1. Adlib

          I still visit my dad at work, and I am familiar with all the various “offices” (pumping stations) he’s worked in for his entire 37 year career with the water company. :)

          Reply
          1. JessaB

            Visiting my dad at work I learnt to keypunch before I could write legibly, ran the card sorter for him and earned porcelain figures that cost 300 bucks in the 60s for doing so. His bosses loved me. He worked for Rosenthal China in Manhattan and I’d get to go into the showroom and pick things for “working” there.

            Reply
            1. Falling Diphthong

              My grandfather drove a truck (first a horse and wagon) for Friehofer’s Cookies. I have very dim memories of being taken to see him and getting A COOKIE! It was the best thing ever, and I think I believed that he owned the company because how else do you explain free cookies?

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      3. AnonEMoose

        On rare occasions, I used to go to work with my dad. Dad was a mechanic for farm equipment (tractors and such) at the time (now retired). Not the place for a kid, right? Except I was one of those kids who was perfectly contented for quite awhile as long as I had something to read.

        So, Dad would put me up on the seat of a tractor or in the cab of something with instructions not to touch anything. I’d look at the dials and stuff, but never played with the controls. And I’d sit and read or color or something. When I got a little older, sometimes Dad would let me hand him tools and explain what he was doing while he worked. I knew not to bother his co-workers, and if I wasn’t sitting in a piece of equipment, I knew to stay right near Dad. Not something that I think would ever happen now, but this was several decades ago, and things were different.

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      4. teclatrans

        Yeah, I was the kid you could being along, plop down, and trust I would find a way to amuse myself (especially once I learned to read). My own 7-year-old, however? I might get 15-20 minutes of peace while she played a game on the tablet, but it’s just as likely she would grow bored 3 minutes in and then be a constant nuisance. (Not a climber/advertiser, though, just….not still, and not self-sustaining).

        Reply
        1. Dr Wizard, PhD

          I was very similar. I remember my poor mum, who was at the time pursuing her BA in a new field while running a business and dealing with my dad having to travel for work a huge amount, once had to take me to one of her university exams. I was probably about eight or nine and a quiet kid who loved reading, so the invigilator just let me read a book in the back during the examination. In retrospect, that was very nice of the university.

          Reply
    2. kittymommy

      I grew up in my mom’s workplaces (with boss/owner permission) and it was great, if occasionally boring (they got free filing though). I can’t imagine what would have happened to me if I had ever pulled anything like this.

      Reply
      1. Samata

        When my mom had to work Saturday’s they used me to help with sorting and filing paperwork. After that I read. They let me sit at the empty receptionist desk in the front lobby while I alphabetized paperwork and I felt SO IMPORTANT I dare not mess up by being a nuisance and losing my status.

        Reply
    3. Artemesia

      I would never let anyone with kids work from home without documented day care arrangements and the places I know that allow work from home require that. On snow day or if the kid is sick, then there you are, but for day in day out care, it is simply not possible to be a good worker and a good parent.

      Reply
      1. Purple snowdrop

        Documented? Really?! My line manager just believes that I have childcare arranged for my child. I would be quite annoyed if I had to prove it.

        Reply
        1. Soon to be former fed

          Yeah really. Nothing like not trusting your employees to generate goodwill. At what age would documentation no longer be necessary?

          Reply
      2. The New Wanderer

        I would back this plan. I wouldn’t agree to babysit a colleague’s child during work hours (or rather, my hourly fee would be exorbitant) and I don’t think it’s okay for an employee to work from home and have their kids there all day too. I have two – they can’t go five minutes without needing my attention for something.

        I’m not seeing the issue with providing proof. I don’t think it’s too much of a hardship to produce a copy of the enrollment form at X daycare or nanny contract with someone if it means I get to work from home. I would be really unhappy to lose work from home privileges because someone else exploited it to avoid paying for childcare.

        Reply
      3. ZucchiniBikini

        Nowhere I ever worked for required documentation, but perhaps that’s because fulltime WAH arrangements have been non-existent in my past workplaces. Most people who did WAH either did it one day out of five or one day out of 10, or had a part-time hours deal where they were expected to do X hours of work across the week, but it wasn’t locked down to when in the work the work was done. (That was my deal after my second child was born – I was paid for 16 hours work per week from home, and I obviously did have to log it and list what tasks were done in each block of time, but the workplace did not care if I did it across two days or five). In such scenarios, it was not only plausible, but likely, that the worker could achieve the work goals without arranging regular childcare, and indeed this is what most of us did. I myself worked every afternoon while my infant and toddler napped, and then finished off my working hours at night when my partner was home.

        I expect it would’ve been different if the workplace had had lots of people wanting to work fulltime, or close to it, from home with kids, but that wasn’t a request anyone actually made, AFAIK.

        Reply
      4. JessaB

        Husband works for a company with strict Federal compliance and privacy guidelines. They come out and check your setup. A: to make sure whatever your internet at home is, is secure. B: to make sure you’re set up correctly, C: to make sure you actually have a room with a closeable door and are not lying about not having to care for someone disabled or young. But it’s mostly about the privacy stuff. So to me it’s not weird that they come out once in a blue moon to check things.

        He did have to sign papers saying he was not providing childcare (we have no kids) and he was not responsible for me (disabled wife,) I didn’t need caring for except in an emergency.

        Reply
  5. Turquoise Cow

    Wow. The original letter provided only the tiniest of glimpses into the insanity of this workplace.

    I like kids. I want my own kids. But there’s a time and a place, you know?

    Reply
  6. Paige Turner

    Thanks for the update, OP! Glad you were able to move on while still keeping in touch with other former colleagues.

    Reply
  7. Blue Anne

    Yikes.

    On the Quaker thing – my experience of attending Quaker schools, as a Quaker, is that they’re very hippie environments and not actually very full of Quakers. When myself and my Quaker classmate graduated from my high school, there were no Quaker students left. Violence was still punished severely, though… geez.

    Good update, regardless.

    Reply
    1. Another Quaker

      This varies a lot by school, but there’s an old joke about a well-known Quaker school that it’s where Episcopalians teach Jews how to be Quaker. There’s definitely some truth to that – the Quaker testimonies (usually simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality) seem like pretty universal feel-good stuff to a lot of people and so get kind of watered down and secularized in some purportedly Quaker environments. Quaker business practice also gets simplified to “governing by consensus,” when really it’s deeper and more nuanced than that.

      Reply
      1. Blue Anne

        Ha! That was certainly my experience at a Quaker school in NYC.

        It was honestly pretty annoying to be one of the few Quakers. Meeting for Worship is not your blog, classmates.

        Reply
      2. AvonLady Barksdale

        I have never heard that, but as a Jew with a Quaker education… heh heh heh. (Though they weren’t talking about my school– we didn’t have that many Jewish kids.) Said Quaker education had its fair share of hippies for sure, but for the most part we were taught critical thinking and respect for space/boundaries, no groin-punching/hitting/kicking allowed.

        Reply
  8. Specialk9

    I had never imagined Quaker workplaces had so much keyboard throwing or groin punching. Just shows how much humans will human! (But makes it extra awful.)

    Reply
    1. JanetM

      I’ve also seen “wedding tackle.” I think, but am not certain, that it was in either a Heinlein book or a John D. MacDonald book.

      Reply
  9. seejay

    I just had lunch with an ex-coworker and gave her an update on the goings on in my current office and she said she never worked anyplace with as much drama as what I have in my office.

    She doesn’t read AAM obviously because the drama in my office is *nothing* like what I read here. Like, not even an iota. It’s a few little weird things and hiccups and random “say whaaaat?” things that go on but we don’t have people throwing things at each other or kids punching adults holy moley.

    Reply
  10. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs

    Thank you for the update! Glad you are doing well.

    Reading the original update makes me think, though–did we ever hear back on #3?

    Reply
  11. Dust Bunny

    Also a Friend here: We’re no more immune to human dysfunction than anyone else, I’m afraid, and I feel like I know far too many RSoF parents who don’t believe in “crushing the spirits” of their children through, you know, normal discipline, but maybe I’m biased because by default I know a lot of Quaker kids.

    “Wedding vegetables” made me laugh tea up my nose, though!

    Reply
  12. Still learning how to adult...

    Oy vey! I have Quaker background in my family, and I’m sure they would have been very embarassed for this bundle of incidences being somehow associated with their faith.

    One thing to remember about training any body or any thing is to First: Be smarter than what you’re trying to train. LW’s Boss-lady certainly fails in this regard. I certainly feel for her child when they grow up and REALLY learn that the world does not work the way they’ve learned, and they get knocked on their litte keester. Physically or emotionally.

    Wedding vegetables. Pure poetry, man, pure poetry.

    Reply
  13. Jeanne

    Why do I feel like the letter was cut off and should have kept going with even more details? That part about tracking hours had no conclusion. Anyway, getting a new job was your best solution and it is great you are out of there.

    Reply
  14. char

    Funny how, in a story about badly-behaved children, it’s the adult bosses and coworkers who are acting the most childish of all!

    Reply

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