fast answer Friday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Well, some of them are short. Here we go…

1. Can you block off time on your calendar for your own projects?

Is it considered bad form to block off time on my calendar when I have a deadline? Two days a week, I’m tied up the whole afternoon because I have an evening deadline. (This isn’t procrastination; I get the handoff from others around noon and I have to be done with my part by the end of the day.) The people I regularly work with know this, but they often (understandably) forget which afternoons, and people I work with less frequently don’t know about my schedule. The result is that I have to continue to decline conference call invitations or remind people that I won’t have time to meet on Wednesday but Thursday works, creating more back-and-forth. Would it be frowned upon to create a recurring appointment on my Outlook calendar for those afternoons to mark that time as busy, considering it’s not really an appointment, it’s just regular work?

No, it’s good form. Getting your work done is at least important, generally more so, than most conference calls or meetings. Setting aside work blocks on your calendar is a good idea, both for conveying to others that that time is reserved and also for conveying it to yourself so you don’t schedule over it with less important things too. I’m a huge advocate of this — do it!

2. Can I push back on this schedule change?

I am in a salaried full-time position. I work a 4/10 schedule (4 days a week, 10 hours a day), and commute an hour in each direction to make it to my job. Add on the branch mandatory lunch (which I never take), and that makes my work days 13 hours long.

My manager has proposed a schedule change which would not make my days longer on paper, but with changes in traffic patterns would effectively make my day over an hour longer—bringing me to 14 hours either spent at work or commuting. I will also be forced to miss necessary medical appointments. There is no room for negotiation, and my protests were met with how I should be happy because I have the best schedule, the easiest job (a job with one of the highest rates of burnout? I think not), and the fewest obligations because I’m single and don’t have children. Do I have any recourse?

Well, you can certainly make your case against the proposed schedule change. But ultimately it’s up to your manager. At that point you’d need to decide whether you want the job under these changed terms or not.

You could certainly point out, though, that citing your marital/parental status as part of the justification for your schedule change is problematic. (There’s no real legal issue there, both because few states protect against discrimination on those fronts and because that’s not the reason for the change, just part of his lame efforts to tell you why you shouldn’t care, but it wouldn’t hurt to point it out anyway.)

3. Coworkers are pushing me to badmouth my predecessor, who I like

I work as the director of my division in a large organization. My predecessor, who stepped down about a year ago, was my supervisor and was a great mentor to me. We still stay in touch and he has told me that he is willing to recommend me in the future (I am confident he would give me a great reference). However, the organization just wasn’t a fit for him and he was not well-liked by most of our colleagues.

Now that he has left and I have filled his position, on numerous occasions my colleagues (including people senior in the organization) have approached me to complain about his work and tell me how much better I am in the role than he was. Sometimes they will really push to try to get me to talk badly about him (“Can you believe so-and-so did that? What was he thinking?”). I obviously don’t want to engage in this because it’s so unprofessional. I would be horrified if it ever got back to him that I was involved in a conversation like this (in fact, it already worries me that it might, even though I haven’t said anything and am just on the receiving end). At the same time, if I say something in his defense (or even just say nothing), I’m pretty sure my colleagues will think I stand behind his work and will think less of me as a result. Any advice?

“Thanks for the kind words about my work — I appreciate it! I know the fit here wasn’t a great one for Bob, but he’s a good guy.” And if you’re still pressed to say something negative or listen to them badmouth him after that: “I have a good relationship with him,” said in a pleasant tone.

It’s unlikely that they’re going to think less of you for either of those statements, unless Bob molested puppies or something.

4. Can’t work out my two weeks notice

I gave my two weeks notice to my boss after finding out my family would be moving to another state because my fiance was offered a better job. But they need him to start immediately, meaning I can’t fulfill my entire two weeks left. This would deem me not eligible for re-hire. Is this going to make it impossible for me to find a new job if I just don’t show up for the rest of the schedule?

You don’t mean you’d just stop showing up, right? You’re planning to talk to your manager and explain the situation, apologize, and ask for leeway? If you do that, your manager will probably be understanding. But yeah, if you just stop showing up without doing that, that would be a huge bridge-burner and reputation killer.

5. Explaining post-graduation work as a server

I graduated last May and continued working for a high-end resort as a server in one of their restaurants. My degree is in hospitality and tourism management so it is related. I planned on doing it just for the summer because I made more than I could make at any entry level job in my field. My husband is in the military and we were told that we were moving in September so I stayed. Then it got pushed to November and I didn’t want to apply, be accepted and then leave 2 months later. This continued until we finally moved in January.

How do I explain this in interviews when I’m asked why I didn’t go after a higher position in interviews? Being a server taught me many things and I know I can use these skills to sell myself in an interview, but I’m stumped on how to answer the question of why I stayed on as a server instead of going after a higher job. I’m hesitant to mention the husband in the military thing since I don’t want it to seem as if we will be moving again soon.

“I knew I’d be relocating soon, and I didn’t want to commit to a new job and have to leave it a few months later. But the work taught me (fill in the blank).”

6. Can recruiter stop me from applying to a company directly?

I’m working with a legal recruiting firm. I am a paralegal/legal assistant. My recruiter tells me this scenario: They submit my resume for position XYZ at a very large law firm (100-plus attorneys). That same law firm advertises on Craigslist and any other form of recruiting they can. The recruiter has told me that if position ABC comes available in that firm, I cannot contact that firm directly, that I need to work through the recruiter because previously they submitted me for position XYZ. I’m told this is the policy for 12 months. This language is nowhere in their placement agreement with me. Can they prevent me from working directly with this firm on other positions?

They can’t stop you from applying directly if you’d like to, but that company has a contract with this recruiter stating that the recruiter “owns” any candidates they submit for 12 months — meaning that even if you apply with the company directly during that period, the recruiter will still be owed a fee on your candidacy. Because of that, the company itself is going to want you to go through the recruiter, since that’s the contract they have with that agency. (This is typical of how most recruiters work. And while the contact is with the company, not with you, the company is going to abide by it where you’re concerned.)

7. How does my daughter explain a cruise ship firing?

I’m asking this question on behalf of my daughter, who has just graduated college with a degree in recreation and hopes to be hired for her dream job as a youth counselor for a cruise line. She did a two-week cruise internship over Christmas break 2011, and last summer worked for the same company on their Alaska cruises, working on three different ships in the fleet. She loved her job, loved the company, loved the kids, and was having the best summer. There was a very busy day when she was working alone with a group of kids (usually there are two counselors), and a child in her care slipped away unnoticed before being picked up by his parents. The checkout sheet was unsigned at the end of the session, but because she had seen the parents come by the kids club several times that morning she thought they had picked him up, and she didn’t report it to her supervisor. The parents noted the situation in their comment card at the end of the cruise, and without verbal or written warning she was terminated, confined to her cabin until the next port and put ashore in Juneau. The cruise line did provide a plane ticket home. It was traumatic, embarrassing, scary and demoralizing.

She still dreams of working for a cruise line. Cruise jobs are very competitive, so she needs her previous cruise experience to even be considered for an interview. Her supervisor from one of the ships has offered to be a reference for her. She is preparing responses for an interview, but the application is somewhat of an obstacle, especially the question “why did you leave your last job?” The Alaska cruises were a summer job, as she was returning to college full-time in September, so would it be acceptable to respond that this was “seasonal work”? Or should she give an ambiguous explanation such as “job ended”? One person suggested writing “willing to discuss at interview.” We have been advised that the cruise line HR office will provide confirmation of job title and dates of employment, and will state that she is not suitable for rehire. They may or may not refer inquiries to the hiring officer who has her personnel file for further information. So how does she fill out her application? How does she balance being truthful while making herself an attractive candidate?

Well, here’s the thing: Letting a child disappear while under her care is a Big Deal. You and she realize that, right? While it might have been “demoralizing” for her to be fired without warning, it was terrifying for those parents and could have ended much worse than it did. And it was utterly reasonable to fire her without warning. It sounds like you don’t realize that, which worries me.

And this an especially big deal when she’s applying for jobs that would have her supervising kids again. It’s likely going to be prohibitive. While I understand that she wants to include the cruise experience to help her get a future cruise job, it’s not going to help her. Imagine if it happens again and something happens to the child, and it comes out the the company hired her knowing that it had happened before.

She’s probably better off getting other job experience for a while, and then trying again. But it’s not ever going to help her to include this job on her resume, because it will probably be disqualifying … and she certainly shouldn’t be misleading about why she left it; they will verify, and discovering that she was disingenuous will only make things worse.

{ 235 comments… read them below }

  1. Spreadsheet Monkey*

    #4 – Why can’t you finish your two weeks? It doesn’t sound like you have a new job waiting for you, so why can’t you just follow your fiance after your two weeks are up?

    1. anon*

      Yeah. Even if he found a place to live in the new area that quickly, chances are you still have your old place to live for those two weeks.

    2. Anonymous*

      I was thinking the same thing. Help pack up and crash with a friend for the rest of the notice period.

    3. The IT Manager*

      Work the rest of your notice period, and catch up if at all possible.

      If that’s not possible, then show up and explain the situation to you manager, promise to work until the moment you and your fiance drive out of town if needed, and hope for the best.

      1. Anonymous*

        We have a 2 year old daughter that I will have to take care of while he’s at work and we only have one working vehicle as of right now :(

        I already explained to my boss I couldn’t fulfill my two weeks. She was very unhappy but there’s just not much I can do. It was only 3 days early. Its not worth staying and paying to transport back with my daughter for only 8 more hours of work

        1. A Bug!*

          Understand though, that it’s not “just” for the 8 hours of work that you’re losing by leaving with less than your two weeks. It’s also the impression you are leaving with your employer: that you gave two weeks’ notice, and then didn’t follow through.

          So it may affect your reference. Perhaps not expressly – your employer may not mention this event specifically, but it will likely affect the overall tone of any reference given that you left on a low point.

          Which isn’t to say that it’s still not “worth it” to you to leave early in order to avoid having to make childcare arrangements. That’s up to you (and it sounds moot anyway at this point), but it’s important that you take all the factors into consideration than just the obvious ones.

          1. fposte*

            Additionally, if this is a chain, it might be relevant to any future work at other locations in the chain; if this is an industry where people know each other, this story may travel to other places that you might wish to work at.

    4. Kou*

      The only time I’ve ever done this, it would not have been possible for us to go separately. We barely managed to wrangle things together with the two of us, I can’t imagine if I’d sent him on ahead with the rental truck and our pets and said “see you there!”

  2. Indica*

    #1, As someone who hates Friday meetings, I’m a big fan of blocking of my calendar on Fridays whenever possible. I find its a great day to push through or wrap-up projects before the weekend. Also a good day to do any prep work for the following week.

    1. PEBCAK*

      I find the “tentative” setting in Outlook to be a good compromise on this one. In my office, people won’t schedule over a tentative block of time unless they REALLY can’t find something else that works.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Really? I want to work in your office, then!

        I do use the “block off calendar for work” (or hell, for lunch) trick at times, but not excessively IMO, and at my office NO ONE seems to bother checking the availability of the people they want before scheduling a meeting. Or if they do check, they just send you a message, “You seem really booked on Tuesday, can you reschedule your other meetings so you can come to mine?” So I’ll get meeting requests for times I have blocked off for work — but also for times that someone else has booked me for a meeting! PET PEEVE.

        OP #1, yes, block off your calendar, and if your coworkers end up doing this, just keep firmly declining their meeting requests. It can help to say, “If I come to your meeting, Project X won’t get done until tomorrow” for particularly persistent requesters.

        (did I mention this is a pet peeve?)

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          I use Google’s calendar and they have a lab that automatically declines meeting invites when you have a conflict. What I like best is that my response says automatically declined due to conflict, and that is visible to all the other guests. In other words, everyone knows that the meeting was scheduled for a time when I was already booked. Instead of making me look bad, it puts it back on the meeting organizer.

            1. Runon*

              I think you could set a rule (maybe even a quick step-cheap and easy rules) to do this for you in Outlook.

        2. the gold digger*

          Some people in my office are bad about this as well.

          Even worse are the people who send me an email to ask if we can meet at whenever.

          I always write back and say, “I keep my calendar current.”

          1. Sandy*

            I have the opposite problem. I check people’s calendars, schedule a meeting or interview when they are available and then they decline because they are out of the office. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine, if you’re not here, put that on your calendar! Especially when I have to call candidates back and say ‘Nevermind!’

            1. Pam*

              I am very tech-savvy, but didn’t know until this year that “All Day” appointments don’t show up in the appointment scheduler. So for example, if I’m out of the office for travel Monday-Wednesday and have the time set to “All Day” and “Out of the Office”, it STILL appears to others that I am free. I have to set it to Monday at 8am to Wednesday at 5pm and “Out of the Office” for others to see it. I’ve spent some time explaining this to others, too, when I get the snarky “I keep my calendar up-to-date, I’m traveling that day” email.

      2. Judy*

        We still use Lotus Notes, and when you search others’ calendars, you only see the accepted, if you tentatively accept something it shows as free time.

    2. Josh S*

      Also, if you get a lot of walk-by interruptions, you can put a sign up saying something along the lines of “Hi! I’m under deadline, and am not free until X:00 this afternoon. If you have an urgent request, please email me or reach out to OtherPerson.”

      Then if someone drops by and interrupts, you can just point them to the sign. Yeah, it’s kind of rude (in the short term), but it’s a really good way to set boundaries.

    3. magonomics*

      I have one hour blocked off every Friday afternoon for “cleaning out my inbox”. (Meaning going through and taking care of any small action items that may have gone by the wayside throughout the week.)

      I find this VERY helpful (and it makes coming to work on Monday much less daunting!)

    1. Mike*

      She had been fired and thus no longer an employee of the company nor a client. So it is reasonable that she would be restricted to her cabin until the next available time to get her off the ship. The company wouldn’t want her having free access to the ship where the clients might believe she is still employed by the company (and thus their representative).

      1. Josh S*

        And it was likely only a few hours. Most of the time these ships steam between ports overnight, so I don’t imagine she was confined to a cell for days on end or anything…

        1. KayDay*

          That’s what I was thinking. On the one cruise I went on, the longest we were at sea was about 18 hours, and most nights we were only at sea for 6-8 hours.

          I understand why this is normal procedure, although I would hope that if it were longer than 18 hours, out of human compassion they would let the person in question out of their cabin so they don’t go insane. But half a day would be tolerable.

    2. Anne*

      That freaked me out a little bit too. I understand what Mike is saying, but it stills seems very harsh to me. I would think that asking her not to wear her uniform, and restricting her to just her cabin and the staff eating area, would be sufficient. They obviously kept feeding her, so letting her stretch her legs and maybe not feel like she’s in solitary confinement seems reasonable. I can certainly see why that part would have been traumatic. It would have been for me.

      Other than that, though, completely behind Alison’s comment. I’ve worked at summer camps and things… if I lost a kid like that, without even picking up on it when I was going over the signout sheet, I would’ve seriously considered resigning even if my boss didn’t make a big deal of it. The parents certainly would have been rightfully livid.

    3. Lanya*

      FYI While at sea, confining her to her cabin would be the appropriate maritime protocol.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep. They can even do that to paying guests in certain circumstances; it’s typical maritime operations and it’s in cruising contracts.

  3. Josie*

    #7 – She lost one of the kids she was watching, didn’t look for the kid, didn’t tell her boss, and is surprised she got fired?! I would have fired her too.

    I’ve worked in daycares and kindergartens, and if there is one thing they take seriously is actually knowing where the kids are. And, if a kid can’t be found, the first thing you do is tell your boss and organize a search! One place I temped had something like this happen right before I started. One of the kids had managed to get out of the gate, it was discovered pretty quickly since there were regular checks on where all the kids were. The group manager (the daycare had four separate groups) notified the boss, who grabbed two other employees and went looking. They found the kid playing in a field right next to the daycare within a few minutes. There was a report written, the parents were notified as soon as they came to pick up their kid, and there was a meeting for all the employees to go over what had happened and find out which routines needed to be changed to prevent it from happening again. No one was fired or yelled at, but that is because the lady in direct charge of the kid that wandered off noticed and notified the boss immediately.

    1. PEBCAK*

      Now, I’m not defending the OP, but the weird part here is that the parents didn’t bring it up at the time. This makes me think the kid was possibly older, and just went back to his cabin.

      Still a fireable offense, but it doesn’t sound like there was real danger.

      1. maisie*

        Agreed, I’m confused about the logistics of this one. The kid slipped away and then was picked up? The parents found him elsewhere? Or he went away, then came back?

        But yeah, I imagine this is like rule #1 of working with kids. Don’t lose them.

      2. Chloe*

        Yes I agree that it sounds like the parents were not “terrified” by this experience – if that were the case, I’m sure they would have done more than mention it on departure. I know I’d have been shouting it from the rooftops if my child were genuinely in danger.

        Still, its a big error and I suspect the OP is distracted by how the cruise company handled the firing and is overlooking the gravity of what their daughter actually did. Being fired, confined to her cabin and sent home could be a pretty horrible experience for a young-ish person, and it might be that is the part that the family is focusing on.

        But as Alison said, losing a child is a Big Deal and I would mentally write off this job and treat it as a really valuable learning experience. When a child goes missing, you do NOT ever just ignore that fact and make assumptions about where that child is. If you don’t realise that, you really shouldn’t be looking after children at all.

        If she were my daughter I’d try to help her take the perspective that at least she had her (hopefully only) big failure in a job that she can actually leave off her resume without questions being asked, and view herself as re-starting her career now.

      3. E*

        On a cruise ship, are there worries about kids falling overboard, though? That could make the “pay attention when a kid disappears for five seconds” thing make a lot of sense.

        1. Lynn*

          It depends a lot on the age of the kid. Cruise daycares are usually ages 6 weeks to 12 years or so. I am a pretty laid-back parent by 21st century standards, but if the daycare had let my 2-year-old roam the ship unsupervised, I would have hit the roof. My own children are climbing monkeys and absolutely would be in danger of falling overboard if allowed to wander alone.

          I could also see just being so relieved that I found my kid and they were OK that schlepping all the way up to the daycare to dress down the staff would not be the first thing on my mind. “Thank God you’re OK! Now, you can color in your coloring book, and Mommy is going to have a Cocktail of the Day and take deep slow breaths until the adrenaline panic subsides.”

        2. Allison*

          That’s what I was thinking. And anywhere where there’s a lot of people, you wanna make sure kids don’t get kidnapped. Not that a kidnapper would be able to get that far away with the kid, but they’d still be able to do some pretty terrible things to the kid before they were found.

        1. K*

          (I mean, a fireable offense, obviously, but the actual danger level was probably pretty low.)

          1. Colette*

            Cruise ships usually have multiple pools, as well as the fact that they’re usually on the ocean – not to mention staff-only areas with engines, laundries, and kitchens. There is a definite possibility of danger to an unsupervised kid exploring on their own.

            1. Lisa*

              I like the idea of saying that she was short staffed, and since the parents / child came and went several times that day. She wrongly assumed the kid went with them again, and should have followed up by telling her manager about how the parents were not signing the child out in these instances. I would be very forthcoming about what was going on here as in take responsibility even tho she was short staffed. But also, maybe say that she does not intend to work with children in a babysitting / activity capacity again unless absolutely necessary as backup because she realizes what she did not too in this instance has taught her that she does not wish to do that type of work.

            2. Sarah*

              I’m reading these entries and it DEFINITELY sounds like the OP’s daughter isn’t quite mature enough to understand the gravity of the situation if she placed herself possibly getting in trouble over a child’s safety in her priorities. With that said, the kid could crawl over the railings, but I don’t think he would fall in a pool and drown, there are always tons of people up there. He also wouldn’t be able to get into “work areas” unless he was 5 +. Those doors are very very heavy to get through. My guess is this kid snuck out cause he was bored, but wasn’t in any real danger. She did deserve being fired.

              1. Colette*

                I could see an unsupervised kid getting into trouble in a pool – there are people there, but they could easily assume someone else was watching the kid. And closed doors are only a barrier if they’re never left open – even for a few seconds. Kids can be fast.

          2. Lily in NYC*

            Hm, I’m not sure I agree about that. There are way too many stories about shady stuff happening on cruise ships and people going missing. Sure, usually it’s adults, but it happens more often than people realize and the cruise industry does a very good job covering this stuff up. I’m not the conspiracy theory type at all, I promise. I used to work at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and have seen too much not to take this seriously. The girl should have been fired and confining her to the cabin was not harsh – it’s the normal way things are done in that industry. Anyone fired would be confined to their cabin; it’s not like they decided to make an example of her.

        2. Elizabeth*

          A cruise ship is a small floating city.

          There are restaurants, pools & several thousand people running around. While the crew all have had background checks, the passengers haven’t. While the risk of someone with bad intentions actually doing something is low, it isn’t non-existent, and the ships aren’t run off of US law. They either follow maritime law or the laws of the country they are flagged in.

          If a kid going astray in a city of similar size would give you pause, then it should pull you up short when thinking of a cruise ship.

          1. Anonymous*

            Just to be pedantic, your point about variety of people on a cruise ship and places to get lost is right, and a cruise ship sort of is like a city in terms of facilities, but even the biggest cruise ships have, at most, 6 or 10 thousand people on board.

            That’s a town, not even close to a city.

          2. Samantha Jane Bolin*

            Actually the chances of something happening are pretty high. There have been a lot of news reports lately about the shady people that are employed by cruise lines. Recently I saw a story about a 15-year old who was raped in her room by a bartender who let himself in with a key. Because they are governed by the laws of the country in which the ship is registered, federal authorities are unable to do anything. These people prey on the fact that passengers let down their guard on ship and tend to think, “we’re confined to a ship, nothing can happen.”

            1. Natalie*

              Not only are they governed by the laws of the country where they are flagged, most cruise ships specifically choose to be flagged in what could be most charitably described as dysfunctional countries. From what I understand the original purpose was to avoid labor regulations, but it has also allowed cruise companies to avoid other regulations and reporting requirements.

              There’s an interesting article on Wikipedia about the practice.

        3. WorkingMom*

          Cruise ships can be extremely dangerous… think of how many news stories you hear of folks going overboard, disappearing, etc. Cruise ships aren’t governed the same way a city or town is (I admittedly don’t know how they governed… can someone enlighten me? I think it has to do with international waters or something?) Also – think about it, anyone can book a cruise. You don’t have to pass a background check to book a cruise… lost on a cruise ship is just as bad as lost anywhere else… potentially worse. (Regardless if the child is 2, 6, 12, whatever.)

      4. FiveNine*

        EXCEPT — and this raised a red flag for me — the OP says that her daughter saw the parents come by the kids club several times that morning. Which is weird. Almost anyone who has worked in any service job (nevermind a job supervising children!) would have been all over that, gone over to see what the issue is, can I help you, what’s up? The daughter at the very least was alert enough to note their recurring presence; OP also conveys that it was very busy that morning and that her daughter was apparently doing the shift alone. But. Man. That really stood out as disturbing just from a service-job perspective — and of course, we’re hearing about all of this second-hand from the employee’s mother. It would be very interesting to hear this story from the parents who kept coming by the kids club looking for their missing child who apparently had zero assistance or interest in their situation expressed by the person who was supposed to be responsible for their child.

        1. Cruisemom*

          To provide some clarification on my daughter’s story, the boy was 9 and was enrolled in the kid’s club for the first time, even though it was late in the cruise. At that age parents can give permission for children to sign themselves out of the club at the end of the session, although not all do. This child’s parents wanted to pick him up and he was told that he needed to wait for them. Their multiple visits to the club were not to search for a missing child, they were checking to see how he was doing his first time in the club. However, at 11:30 a.m., at the end of the session when kids who had permission were leaving by themselves, he apparently left on his own. His father was on his way to pick him up and met him in the hallway at 11:30, one floor below the club room.
          I am not trying to place blame on the child. My daughter was 100% responsible for his safety. We both understand the seriousness of the situation. That being said, she had told me of many instances when she had chased down kids who tried to leave on their own when they were supposed to wait for their parents.
          I’m overwhelmed by the huge number of comments. I apologize to everyone who thinks we don’t care about the seriousness of the situation or the safety of the child. Please know that we do care, and we do know this was a serious offense.

    2. Stacie*

      One thing that stood out to me was the she was the only counselor on duty. Not that I’m oking what she did at all, but depending on the number of kids she was supervising, I could also see the cruise line being at fault. But I have no idea what sort of “staff ratios” exist on a cruise ship.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        I was thinking the same thing. Why was this girl working alone? If the other counselor wasn’t available, the supervisor should have been there, too. It’s hard to keep track of 3 or 4 little kids when you’re the only adult.

        Nevertheless, she should have followed protocol and informed her supervisor.

      2. Lisa*

        I was bothered by that too. Why was she the only one supervising the kids, when there were usually 2 counselors?

      3. Amanda*

        Yeah, I also agree that the cruise line is partly at fault too. I was recently chaperoning kindergarteners and first-graders on a zoo trip and it was hard to keep track of a group of three, particularly later in the day when there would be one tired and wanting to sit down, one full of energy and running ahead, one distracted by the monkeys…I went home and told my boyfriend that we could not have more than three kids or else I’d start losing them.

        The daughter was absolutely wrong in the cover up, but there absolutely needs to be guidelines for an acceptable staff person:child ratio (I would say no more than three children to one staff person in an open space and no more than eight to one in an enclosed space).

      4. KayDay*

        Also, the fact that the parents reported it on the comment card indicates that either the parents weren’t that concerned, or (more likely) there wasn’t a supervisor or other person available to receive the complain in person.

        This is not to excuse the OP’s daughter for covering this up, but I do think that it shows that the cruise ship’s childcare facilities were not adequate.

      5. Kou*

        Totally agreed. You can’t throw a herd of children at one counselor and then act like it was their incompetence alone to blame when something bad happens.

    3. Camp Director K*

      At my camp, she would have been fired immediately also. Rule #1 is don’t lose the kids.

      Rule #2 is, don’t assume anything. We had a counselor who almost released a child to his father without checking the child’s paperwork first. We quickly found out that the father was no longer the legal guardian, but had arrived at the camp to try to take the child out of his mother’s custody. You cannot trust anyone these days!

      1. Josh S*

        I would say you *can* trust most people, but you should verify anyway. Don’t throw all of society under the bus because of the handful of bad apples. (And now I’m done mixing metaphors.)

      2. CampCounselor*

        Ha, where I worked, rule #1 was “don’t ever be alone with a kid”.

        “Don’t lose ’em” was rule #2, I think.

        1. Emily*

          Seriously, the first alarm bell that went off reading that letter was that the counselor had been left on her own. As a summer camp counselor, I had a camper run away from me in the middle of the woods, near a lake. Within ten minutes, my co-counselor (the faster one) was running back to main camp to get backup, I had the other kids paired up and seated in their tents with a whistle to blow in case of [another] emergency, and I was scouting the water. The camper hid from everyone for almost two hours, and it was a traumatizing experience for me and my co-counselor. But the camper was sent home—not us. We handled the crisis, and neither of us could have done it without her partner. And crisis management is part of childcare. You can’t always enforce a rule like, “don’t lose a child” because kids are more complicated than that. Can the OP’s daughter show that she recognizes the severity of a missing child and explain what she would have done differently?

        2. Anonymous*

          The camp I worked at had that rule too! “Don’t ever be alone with a kid” and “Don’t ever let a kid be alone with another kid.”

  4. Sandrine*

    #7 Ahem, yeah. I don’t think the firing was because she lost the child, probably more because she didn’t mention it at all and acted as if nothing had happened, sort of.

    Her task was to do something and watch the children. I presume there are also procedures for pickup. So that means she :

    – lost a child
    – didn’t respect procedure
    – could have put the child in danger (by not respecting procedure)
    – potentially hid information from her supervisor

    I don’t think the daughter is evil or was lazy or anything, by the way. But it was traumatic because the daughter wasn’t careful and did, in fact, make a huge mistake that she now has to reflect upon.

    1. Chloe*

      Yeah I can actually imagine, remembering the 21 year old me, thinking to myself that I was sure the child was fine and with his parents and that if I bought it up I’d get in trouble for not signing him out properly so if I just ignore it maybe it’ll all be fine. Thats the kind of thing people do when they’re still not fully aware of how the world works. But, alas, not the sort of thing the cruise company could overlook.

      1. Amanda*

        Ah yes. The thinking of “if I just ignore this problem, it will go away.” That and assuming that if there aren’t immediate consequences, there won’t be consequences at all.

        I’ve been there when I was in my early 20s (although my screw-ups thankfully never happened on the job; they were more school-related) so I can sympathize with the daughter to a point and I certainly hope she can eventually recover from this and have a fulfilling career. But some serious introspection, acknowledgement of mistakes and a willingness to start back at square one (without complaint) are definitely in order.

    2. The IT Manager*

      The checkout sheet was unsigned at the end of the session, but because she had seen the parents come by the kids club several times that morning she thought they had picked him up, and she didn’t report it to her supervisor.

      YES! Daughter made a mistake many people would make particularly immature ones. She covered her ass by lying/omitting the truth. (Think of a small child hiding a broken vase.) Obviously there was policy in place to check the signout sheet and report to the supervisor any children that were not signed out. You daughter choose not to do so to avoid getting herself in trouble. (because she had seen the parents come by the kids club several times that morning is a weak excuse and very, very flawed.)

      Now we only have mother’s letter to go on, but it doesn’t seem like daughter or mother think daughter did anything wrong. Red Flag! Daughter screwed up big time and she needs to acknowledge that. This a great worst mistake/what I learned from it answer to an interview question if daughter actually has learned anything yet other than refusing to accept responsibility for her mistake which could have had horrible consquences.

      Daughter also needs to take a hard look at her dream job. It’s highly competitive. She had a huge break with that internship, and she blew it. It may not be possible any longer or at least at this time. A few years and demonstrating responsibly caring for kids may help make up for it.


      Yes. I am annoyed at mom here. She also seems to be saying daughter is not at fault and is trying to get suggestions on how to hide daughter’s mistake from future employers. Wonder why daughter thought it was a good idea to hide the missing signature from her boss? Maybe that’s what she learned from mom.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Let me clarify:

        Immature mistake of not reporting missing signature to supervisor to avoid punishment … not good but redeemable

        Not realizing that immature mistake of hiding truth was actually a bad thing and continuing to try to do it … huge problem!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I agree. What bothers me here is the parent seems to be totally focused on how upsetting this was for her daughter and how to cover it up from future employers, rather than helping her daughter understand why it was a problem and how to take responsibility for it. Now, maybe the daughter is doing both of these things on her own, but the parent’s take is so daughter-centric that I really worry about what the daughter is learning from the whole thing.

          Protecting your kid isn’t about advocating for them at all costs; it’s about helping them being good, responsibly functioning adults too, and I don’t see a recognition of that in the letter.

          1. Kou*

            I think parents generally represent their kids that way no matter what, and it doesn’t necessarily show you how they actually speak with the kid in private.

            At least that’s my experience. If you ask my parents about me they’ll talk like the sun shines out my butt, but when they talk to *me* about me it’s a rather different story. I assume they figure they’re whipping me into the kind of person they want to be able to say I am.

            1. Cassie*

              Not with old-school Asian parents (like the moms in The Joy Luck Club) who put down their own children even when they’re geniuses or chess champs. They may be privately over the moon about their kid’s accomplishments, but culture requires (required? it’s a little less common nowadays) them to show humility.

    3. mas*

      I think its worth noting too that the parents actually complained at the end of the cruise. For someone to take the time out of their vacation to write up a comment card about the situation, which must have then triggered a conversation with the cruise ship staff about what happened as they were disembarking, that says something. You never want to be in the position of talking to a customer and having no idea that an incident occurred and floundering to explain your employee’s behavior – I would have been furious. They may have even had to give this family a discount or refund.

      1. Anonymous*

        Not necessarily. They leave comment cards in your cabin, and actively encourage you to fill them in. Mostly I think because if there are negatives, they don’t share out the (charged to card, not voluntary) tips between the shockingly low-paid people who manage the hotel services.

    4. Kou*

      I didn’t see it as a hiding-the-mistake measure, it sounded to me like when she noticed it she remembered that the parents had been in there multiple times before that and thought they took him with them and didn’t sign out. That’s a big fat mistake but it’s many miles away from the kind of issues that would go into someone thinking “oh I lost a kid, I better lie about it so I don’t get in trouble, tee hee!”

  5. Jamie*

    I’m saddened that there is a database for retail theft which is checked so even if you leave a job off of a resume they can still see if you’ve been involved in theft (from a store using the database) but there isn’t the same, but more stringent, for jobs caring for children.

    I agree that Alison’s advice is best for the OP’s daughter but it bothers me to no end that you can endanger a child and just leave it off your résumé to get into the position to care for other children.

    I’m not saying she should be blackballed for the rest of her life but as a parent I’d be less disgusted if her focus was on “How do I explain that I’ve learned from this and it will never happen again?” Rather than “How can I get someone to focus on the positive experience without taking this into account?”

    This is a very BFD. If this were my daughter I’d be thanking God no one got hurt and explaining to her that she can expect to take a hit on this part of her career for a while.

    1. Anon*

      I totally agree with this. Without wishing to upset the OP, I’m not entirely sure he/she is doing the daughter any favours by using language (in the post) that doesn’t take responsibility for her mistake. I appreciate that there were mitigating factors but it does not excuse the BD error. It’s also mildly ironic that the OP is evidently protective over her own child while not recognising the potential impact of her daughter’s mistake on someone else’s.

      1. Amy Lynne*

        I would so subscribe to that database! It might lead to better behavior from employers, and a lot of innocent people would be spared the awful experience of nightmare bosses.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Who decides who goes in it though? Theft is reasonably black and white (or should be; I’ve read that the way the database works, it’s more grey than it should be). But with “bad employers,” one person’s bad employer is another person’s good one. If I fire someone, they might be disgruntled and post crappy reviews. Doesn’t mean I suck as an employer.

          1. Amy Lynne*

            I’m just in favor of anything – it doesn’t have to be a database – that builds some kind of employer accountability into the system. As you frequently remind us, employer actions against employees are almost always legal, unless they are actions against some member of a protected class.

            The theft database isn’t really applicable here – that concerns actual criminal activity, which I see as an entirely different matter.

            1. Malissa*

              Check out glassdoor. It’s basically a database of employers. At least the ones employees choose to post a comment about.

              1. Josh S*

                Glassdoor occurred to me while I was out and about — should have been more front-of-mind because I use it pretty regularly. But the problem with that site is similar to what Alison mentions: Seemingly all the companies have a 2.5-3.5 star rating.

                Even companies I’ve heard that have a great reputation, or an awful reputation end up in that same middling area. I’ve come to expect that there’s no consensus because the things that some people value are different than what other people expect from a job.

                So yeah, the whole exercise would be rather difficult.

                1. De Minimis*

                  Glassdoor is useful if the company is big enough to have a good number of reviews, not so much when it’s just a few, unless the reviews give good details.

                  I like their feature where applicants can describe a company’s interview process—I did use it to write a review of what was probably the worst recruiting process I dealt with during my job search.

          2. Lora*

            Like Amazon reviews–you see plenty that are bad, also plenty that are good. If you see one bad review, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad product, but if you see a lot you know there’s a real problem.

            Then there’s the whole Three Wolf Moon Shirt thing. Which would be kind of awesome, applied to employers.

            1. -X-*

              “If you see one bad review, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad product, but if you see a lot you know there’s a real problem.”


              1. -X-*

                No, sorry. Wanted to share details in any case – we see that in reality one person’s thief is another person’s someone who lost track of something to put back on the shelf.

                Or who maybe didn’t do anything wrong – the (old) Cumberland Farms story is not gray at all.

                1. -X-*

                  Lawsuits with payouts or wins for opposotion, OSHA, ADA, EEOC and other government complaint findings and warnings, number of of people laid off or fired as % of staff in last year (sure, firing is often the employees fault, but if a company is firing a lot of people that should be known). Let’s even the power imbalance between companies and individuals.

          3. Elizabeth*

            There are sites like this for teachers, and IMO they are pretty worthless because “good” and “bad” are so subjective. Pre-college students especially will rate their teachers well if they like them, rather than if they are good at teaching.

            In my experience, people are more likely to put in ratings when they are unhappy than happy, unless either a) they are really encouraged to rate (like eBay emailing a week you after you buy something, asking you to rate the seller) or b) there’s a community of people that consume lots of these things regularly, and rate all or many of them (e.g. Yelpers who review every place they eat out at, or people reviewing books on Goodreads). These aren’t likely to happen with an employer (or school). People tend to interact with just one at a time, and no one will be encouraging all “users” to rate.

    2. Joe*

      “I’m saddened that there is a database for retail theft which is checked so even if you leave a job off of a resume they can still see if you’ve been involved in theft (from a store using the database) but there isn’t the same, but more stringent, for jobs caring for children.”

      Children are easily replaceable, just make a new one! Once merchandise is gone, it’s gone forever.

  6. Spanish Teacher*

    I got fired once in a summer job during college caring for middle school aged kids at an overnight event. I didn’t lose any kids, but I did go home early when a co-worker assured me it’d be okay, not thinking about staff ratios & the like. It was awful, but I left it on my resume and was able to explain in interviews what I learned from the experience, and I got other jobs in childcare. Losing a kid is more serious, but not learning from the experience is a deal-breaker for most employers. Besides, what are you teaching your daughter by trying to hide her failure?

    1. Jamie*

      Thanks, you made the point better than I about learning from it being the important thing.

      These stats are from the Department of Justice:
      797,500 children younger than 18 were reported missing in a one-year period of time studied resulting in an average of 2,185 children being reported missing each day.

      These is evil out there – and if you’re caring for children your main job is to keep them safe. Making lanyards, singing songs…whatever else is done is a huge second to knowing where they are and keeping them safe.

      Earlier this week I went to the wake of a toddler who turned three a couple weeks before she was killed by someone who was allegedly caring for her. The person who killed her is in jail pending trial. But her guardian who allowed this person into her home is not. And the police officers that got the report of suspected abuse from DCFS a week before her death and went to her home once and didnt follow up when no one was home are not. And the DCFS people who didnt call the PD on the fact that there was no follow up are not. There are a lot of points along the way where a little viligance from someone who are paid to protect the public could have saved her life…but didn’t. The fact that it wasn’t intentional doesn’t change the horrific end result.

      Ill stop posting, I just wanted to make the point because it bothers me so much that the OP doesn’t seem to understand the severity of what happened and that the child and her daughter are very lucky the outcome wasn’t tragic.

      1. fposte*

        Though all but a few of those kids get found and usually fairly quickly, so while it’s frightening number, it doesn’t mean these are all kids who disappeared forever or were even abducted. (And, of course, they’re mostly endangered by “in here”–people we have at home–rather than “out there”–the percentage of stranger abductions in there is very low.)

        However, cruise ships are noted for the disappearing person phenomenon (which is another good reason to confine a distressed young person to her cabin), and since there’s often ambiguity about jurisdiction and a lot of interest in keeping it quiet, investigations tend to be limited to nonexistent. Here’s a Jon Ronson piece about the problem, focusing on a particular case:

      2. Natalie*

        I certainly understand the fear many parents have of their children disappearing, but it remains true that the *vast* majority of children reported missing have not been abducted by strangers. They’ve nearly always been abducted by another family member, run away, or been kicked out of their house. There may be a lot of evil out there, but for most children the greatest risk is inside their own home and family.

        On a cruise, however, I’d guess the greatest risk is falling overboard or ending up in some dangerous part of the ship that is normally off limits to guests.

        1. FormerManager*

          As someone whose high school boyfriend was abducted as a child by his non-custodial mother, I’ve always been irritated by how family member abductions tend to be seen as less risky than stranger abductions. While his mother didn’t physically hurt him, having to hide for eight months gave him severe emotional issues for years.

          Still, this is why it’s important to keep account of children. From what my ex told me (his memory is spotty), his mother picked him up at school at the end of the day and teachers didn’t check to see if she was on the approved parent list.

          1. Natalie*

            I’m certainly not suggesting that familial abductions are safe, simply that the focus on “stranger danger” is misplaced. To repeat: “for most children the greatest risk is inside their own home and family.”

              1. Ali_R*

                Oh my goodness…. loin-fruit! Best. Phrase. Ever! I have wine out my nose and tears of laughter everywhere!

        2. fposte*

          Though we need to avoid implying that abduction by family member/other parent = the kids are perfectly okay.

          1. Liz T*

            I don’t think anyone’s saying that–just that it’s less likely to happen on a cruise ship.

            1. fposte*

              Sure. But we’d gone off into talking about statistics and danger level to kids rather than just cruise ships.

  7. Mike C.*

    Hey cool, yet another boss that thinks single, child-free adults don’t have “as many obligations” and thus shouldn’t complain about schedule changes or workloads.

    1. Kou*

      Do these people actually believe that crap, or are they just saying it to justify their bad ideas?

  8. AnotherAlison*

    # 7 She’s probably better off getting other job experience for a while, and then trying again. But it’s not ever going to help her to include this job on her resume, because it will probably be disqualifying … and she certainly shouldn’t be misleading about why she left it; they will verify, and discovering that she was disingenuous will only make things worse.

    I agree with Alison’s response, but I’m not clear if the OP’s daughter is supposed to leave the job off her resume AND the application, or just the resume? I’d leave it off my resume, but wouldn’t it be falsifying the application if she didn’t put it on there?

    Either way, unless the cruise industry is much larger than I’m thinking, it seems like it would be hard to hide the fact that she worked for that particular cruise line.

    1. FormerManager*

      Not to minimize what OP’s daughter did (she should have been fired), but after reading about cruise employees doing much worse to passengers and co-workers, I really wonder how diligent some lines are about background checks. About three years ago I remember Congress holding hearings because cruises weren’t releasing accurate crime stats.

      1. elle-em-en-oh-pee*

        Last I checked, thanks to the Jones act (easy to look up, I am too lazy right now to be of much assistance here) there was only ONE U.S. flagged cruise ship in the United States and it is the Pride of America in Hawaii. An inter-island Hawaiian cruise is the only type of cruise where it makes sense to go from US port to US port. Check out cruise sale pages; a 14 day trip from LA to all of the major Hawaiian Islands then to Ensenada Mexico is often several hundred dollars less than a seven day ’round Hawaii tour where passangers embark and disembark in Honolulu. I don’t know what the term is – fees- duties – fines- what have you, but to avoid the “penalties” required by the Jones Act cruise ships must embark and disembark their passengers in different countries. Considering how strict the JA is, it is not economically sensible to have a US flagged vessel. So when a vessel is in international waters they are under the jurisdiction of their own countries (or possibly lawless (correct me if I am wrong anyone)). Cruise ship lines are free to hire whomever is eligible for work in their flagged country. Most workers in the maritme industry (in the US and abroad) are generally required to have a Merchant Mariners Document and /or TWIC card. However none of my background checks ever asked anything about having a proclivity to murder per say, most were interested in whether or not the applicant was affiliated with a terrorist organization. Of course you are supposed to admit if you have a record, failure to so could result in termination on the spot, which if you are at sea – yes, means being confined to quarters and possibly guarded until the ship arrives in port. I say this not to be a jerk or anything, but to make people who are not aware of these things that they are standard and and disclosed in your work contract.

        I would also like to point out that many times the cruise lines are under NO obligation legally or contractually to provide the terminated employee a plane ticket home, or even transport them to a more convenient location. Some one eff’s up in the Aleutians (for example) and they are stranded in port with upwards of a $1,200 just to get to Seattle. Considering the low wages (most jobs pay minimum wage, but the cruise lines dedect room and board from your pay, and there is always the caveat of the “5 dollars a day room and board if you complete your contract, 20 dollars a day retroactively applied to your first working day if you fail to complete your contract”) so you wind up in trouble, confined, stranded in a remote location, not only broke but OWING money to the cruiseline, which can sue you for damages.

        To me the shocking part of the article, was they bought her a plane ticket home. She must have made friends in high places.

        As for the OP failing to be contrite? They actually sound like they came to grasp with the consequences, and tried to “state the facts” without becoming emotional just as the HR people I know insist upon. This is a career-ender. She will always have to explain this. The US Coast Guard is usually notified when someone is confined to quarters, and she if she hasn’t had her qualifications pulled already, it may still happen. Again sorry but usually a person in this position has felt the gravity in full force already. So no point in demanding she be sorry, and admit her grave moral wrong doing, that point is moot, it will never in a million years make a difference in the answer.

        1. elle-em-en-oh-pee*

          Sorry for the typos, and to clarify, I mean she can be sorry and all (and I agree that she really should be), but the USCG has the power to stop her from ever setting foot on a vessel in a working capacity sailing again, and all the sorries in the world will mean jack, if that is their perrogative.

          Trust me, if she isn’t sorry yet, she will soon be, and for a longer time than most people would wish on an enemy.

          1. Cathy*

            Cruise ships actually fall under the PVSA. The Jones Act applies to cabotage (the shipping of goods). Also, do cruise staff (entertainers, child care workers, lecturers, etc) have Merchant Mariner’s Credentials? I thought those were for actual crew members on U.S. ships, but I don’t know for sure.

            If she was staff as opposed to crew on a foreign flagged vessel, the incident may not have been reported to the USCG. In any case, even if she does have a bad record with the USCG, she can certainly apply to work on ships elsewhere. There are cruise lines in Europe and the South Pacific that never come to the U.S.

            I agree she’s lucky they flew her home. Assuming she’s a U.S. citizen, they could have left her in Alaska to find her own way. They can’t just dump anyone who violates a contract at the next port though. It’s a violation of U.S. immigration laws to abandon a Brazilian bartender in the Aleutians.

            1. elle-em-en-oh-pee*

              Thank you for clarifying, the only ship I am familiar with is the Pride of America which does not hire anyone requiring visa sponsorship, and made it clear during the mass hiring session that if an employee resigned or was terminated at sea, they were confined and deposited at the next port on the itinerary and charged full fees for room and board with the responsibility to get themselves home.

              I suppose I was thinking of Alaskan fishing vessels who again do not hire workers requiring employer sponsorship and have no compunction whatsoever about leaving someone in Alaska.

              In any case: “The Jones Act affects any voyage starting and ending in the US on a vessel that is not owned by a US company, built and repaired in the US, and staffed by US citizens.”

              (Which again, is every other cruise ship sailing besides POA.)

              To keep costs down cruise ships are not US flagged and go from US port to International port.

              Search Jones Act and cruise ships together and you will find oodles of complaints from would -be cruisers who are inconvenienced or lost money or are upset that they cannot cruise within US destinations.

              That aside, my original point was about background checks and how they may not be as thorough elsewhere, so sorry if I got sidetracked before.

              And I am not sure what provisions a cruise ship has to make for a foreign national terminated in US waters, since I never met such a person nor have ever applied as such. It would suck if they had to be confined until the ship returned to their port of origin. I am also not sure if a terminated -confined to quarters endangered her TWIC (her qualification) because as you pointed out she was staff not crew… my only experiences have been as crew (not on a cruise ship) and you bet the CG was notified since the only ways to get fired at sea was if you were willfully negligent, and caused harm to persons or property got caught with illegal drugs, threatened or engaged in violence, or sexually assaulted someone, or violated a law that would incur a fine for the vessel. Most other times they waited until you were in port to fire you.

              Thanks for keeping me honest

              1. HR Pufnstuf*

                Might be to late in the response game to do much good but employers have to provide return transportation from point of hire per Alaska State law unless employee quite or is termed “for cause’.

                1. Elle-em-en-oh-pee*

                  So that is why they either hire in in Anchorage and Seattle. Mystery solved there (I figured something like that but never put 2 and 2 together).

                  I am not disputing your point in any way, in fact you made mine : no one gets fired without “cause”. Sometimes the flimsiest ones will do… and it still doesn’t stop them from depositing you in Port Unknown in the meanwhile.

                  I have been stranded in Alaska twice by employers, (you’d’ve thought I’d’ve learned to stop working there the first time it happened, but alas) the thought of suing and complaining was of little comfort to me, as I walked all over town with bags in tow, desperate that a hotel room of any price would be available, because if one wasn’t, I’d be spending the night outside (best case alternative scenario).

                  I am ashamed to say I lacked the inner fortitude not to be terrified for my life, not to cry, and not to hold a grudge about all of this years later. Especially since all of these things were the result of uncorrected but “harmless” mistakes made by company employees in the lower 48. Who at the time were not in danger of freezing to death, or being attacked by wild animals, and who later complained that my desperate emergency phone call had made them feel “awkward”.

                  I was told by my boss afterwards that the next time I was stranded and in dire straits (as a result of the company’s negligence) please don’t call the personnel department for help, because dealing with this kind of situation might make them uncomfortable.

                  (Seriously), before we completely stranded you after 24 hours of travel time, in a remote location, with nowhere to stay and no way back, did you ever stop to think how this might make others feel?

                  I got off track, but in such a situation the fact that some or all of this may have been against the law really didn’t help me, and it certainly did not change the company.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          That’s interesting information. I was only vaguely familiar with the Jones Act with respect to the Oil & Gas industry, so I had not thought about how it applies to cruise ships.

          You’ve also confirmed what I was thinking — there is some sort of “permanent record” that this will show up on.

    2. Cruisemom*

      My daughter is not trying to hide what happened. She has included this cruise job on her resume and intends to include it on all applications, and knows it may exclude her from an opportunity to interview. She knows she will need to discuss it honestly with any potential employer. She knows that a verification of employment with the cruise line will reveal she was fired. There is no intent to cover up or hide anything.

  9. Anonymous*

    #2 – Is there a reason for the schedule change? The original letter doesn’t give us anything to indicate the cause is anything other than a boss being a jerk, but it’s still worth asking the question.

    If the proposed schedule change has a reason (for the boss), then finding out what it is may help you negotiate an acceptable alternative. “I need you to [start at 7 / stay ’til 6:30 / work Mondays and Fridays every week] in order to [finish the report by noon / close up the office / attend staff meetings]” gives you valuable information. Even if the boss is just being a jerk, calmly redirecting the focus to the work can be an effective response.

    This won’t help you if the problem really does require the schedule change (at least in his eyes), or if your boss is simply changing it because he can – the ultimate power play of the insecure manager. However, you have to keep in mind that in those cases, the manager is going to win. You need to either accept the new schedule or start looking elsewhere for employment.

  10. KellyK*

    #2 – I would focus on the fact that it will cause you to miss necessary medical appointments when you ask to keep your old schedule. Hopefully even people living under the delusion that childless people have carefree, responsibility-free lives understand that medical appointments are kind of important.

    #4 – Staying the extra two weeks like Spreadsheet Monkey suggested would be a nice thing to do if you can swing it (depending on when you need to be out of your current place, etc.). But definitely, definitely, DEFINITELY explain and apologize ASAP and try to find out if there’s anything you can do to make the crappy transition easier on your boss and coworkers.

    #5 – I like this response. Saying that you didn’t want to leave a new employer in the lurch after only being there a couple months is very reasonable.

    1. fposte*

      On #4, I wouldn’t even call it an “extra” two weeks, any more than any day you come in is an “extra” work day.

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, that’s reasonable. It is the notice they agreed to, so it’s really not “extra.” But, at the same time, I wouldn’t expect them to pay an extra (there’s that word again) month’s rent or sleep on a friend’s couch to finish it if they really do need to move before the notice period ends.

        1. fposte*

          It depends how much of their leave time they worked and how convinced I am that that this couldn’t have been foreseen. In this particular case, I’m not completely convinced, and I also felt that Alison was strongly hinting as she interpreted and suspected, as I do, that the OP really was talking about pulling a no-call no-show.

  11. Anonymous*

    #7 – The OP could – in addition to getting her daughter to realize that the parents have a legitimate concern here – ask her daughter to think like an employer about the situation. There are some things you can apologize for and fix pretty easily (the sign was mounted at 62.2 inches from the floor instead of 62) and others you cannot easily live with (please picture Plaintiff’s attorney after another child goes missing with a worse outcome).

    Thinking like an employer may help not only with the learning this situation (which I agree seems sorely lacking) but in many other aspects of your career. Be the employee the manager doesn’t have to worry about, who shows up on time, does good work, asks questions when necessary, gives advance notice of the need for time off when possible, presents possible solutions to problems, etc. Looking at your behavior from the employer’s point of view and assessing its impact is a good habit to form.

    1. CampCounselor*

      This is a great point, and to go a step further with the liability piece, it was explained to me at camp that I was covered by the camp’s insurance as long as I followed procedures. If I did X, and something went wrong, it’s fine. If I did Y, instead, suddenly we were out of the bounds of what was covered; I was no longer acting as an employee, and I could be personally liable.

      I have no idea if this is true or not, but that’s what they told us.

  12. Judy*

    I’m curious about the procedures and training for the recreation people on cruise ships. When I drop my kids off at Childwatch at the Y, I sign them in. I’ve dropped them off on an hour or half hour, and the staff is checking their sign in sheet and counting kids. (They’ve asked me to hold up so there are 2 less to inventory ;) That doesn’t help if there is one unsigned in and one unsigned out, but it does help.

    Also, the entry to the rooms have a “lobby area” with a sign in sheet but the kid area is behind a half wall, and there are rest rooms inside the rooms. The half door out of the kid area of the room has a safety latch on the outside, so if you’re under 4.5 ft or so, you’d have a hard time opening it.

    When I’ve volunteered at a girl scout day camp on a large recreational area, when we moved from activity station to activity station we line up the girls, and each adult counts them. We do that when we arrive somewhere too. And when we’re done in the rest rooms. I’ve never counted to 22 more than that week last year.

    1. Cathy*

      I’ve left my daughter in childcare on a cruise, and it was similar to what you describe at the Y, with the addition of colored wrist bands with numbers to match for pickup. (Also, my child was 10 at the time and understood that she was not allowed to wander off.)

      1. Judy*

        Several of the amusement parks in the area offer those wristbands near the entrance supplied at a booth with sharpies to write your cell phone number on.

        We got for our trip to Disney a few years ago a product called “Safety Tat” that’s a set of temporary tatoos with our cell phone numbers printed on it. They worked quite well.

    2. Josh S*

      “That doesn’t help if there is one unsigned in and one unsigned out, but it does help.”

      Reminds me of a joke from my time as a counselor at a summer camp: “The buddy system just ensures that there will be twice as many victims.”

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Heh, at the high-tech Lifetime Fitness, they check you into the kid’s area by scanning your club card that brings up a pic of you and the kid, then putting a lable on the kid’s back, and letting him in a locked half door. To pick up, they scan your card again, you are let in the locked door to go find him, and they hold your card at a locked door on the other side of the check-in desk until they remove the label from the kid and unlock the door to let you out. I’d like to know their misplace child stats, with such an elaborate system!

      1. Anonymous*

        I feel like the fancier system may just be as prone to failure. Do they actually match the picture to the person in front of them? I could see the process being so involved to the point of overlooking common sense.

  13. Guera*

    I agree completely with AAM here. What’s more, I think she should forget this line of work for a while. Many applications ask if you have every been fired or asked to resign. She needs to be honest.
    If a childcare worker “lost” my child and I found out that it had happened before but she or he was still hired I’d go balistic.

    And %^&@# happens on cruises often enough that I’d say ALL THE TIME. Just because it’s a ship doesn’t mean jack.
    This mother should have a heart to heart with her daughter if she really wants to help her. Even she does not realize the seriousness of what happened.

  14. Anonicorn*

    #7 – It might be helpful to imagine if it were a much younger version of your own daughter who went missing. From this perspective, you can realize the Big Deal-ness of the situation.

    Your daughter can use this as an opportunity to learn an important lesson. Yes, I made a mistake. Here is what I will do in the future to ensure I never make that mistake again. She has to be accountable for this.

  15. Jessie*

    #7: sadly: big mistakes have big consequences. That’s just that. Rather than getting hung up on how to hide or minimize it or move on: don’t. Put it on your résumé, say you were let go, and when asked about it, say exactly what happened with no excuses. Make it clear that you understand just how big a deal it was, how grateful you are that no one was hurt, and how exactly (specifically!) you will apply what you’ve learned to make sure that never happens again. It will be hard but people do make mistakes and thankfully this one did not hurt someone. I find it weird that people say leave it off. You did it; what did you learn?

    1. elle-em-en-oh-pee*

      Though she might have to give up her sailing dreams forever, it doesn’t mean she cannot learn from it and use this to her *gasp* advantage later. Sometimes big mistakes come with big opportunities to grow up.

      And aren’t we “all grown ups here?”
      Sorry for that last joke… it was bad and this is a serious topic…

    1. ThatHRGirl*

      I was just coming here to comment the same thing – if your health condition requires frequent and set medical appointments, it may be covered by ADA, and your request for accomodation would be a set schedule of X which allows you to attend these appointments.

  16. The IT Manager*

    OT blog process question which you can feel free to ignore.

    short questions. Well, some of them are short

    How do you decide which questions go in short roundup and which questions should stand alone in their own blog entry? I mean, sometimes a question/answer is so controversial it overwhelms all the comments.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yay, process questions!

      It’s a combo — if the answer is short (or short-ish) and I know I’m unlikely to make it a stand-alone post because it doesn’t seem warranted next to the other choices for stand-alone posts, then I put it in a “short answers.” I decide the second part of that (doesn’t seem to warrant its own post) based on a combination of how interesting I find it / think others will find it, and how significant it seems. So take the cruise ship one — I knew people would find it interesting, but it also didn’t seem quite solo-post-worthy in terms of relevance to advising others.* (And also in part because I feel like you guys can only watch me devote a post to chastising someone so many times.)

      Plus sometimes it’s nice to have a really discussion-generating question in the short answers (otherwise we end up with hardly any commentary, like on Wednesday, when I had a feeling in advance that it was a pretty staid mix and that turned out to be right).

      It’s not a perfection selection process, for sure — and I’m making these calculations fairly instantly based on gut feeling, so there’s plenty of room for miscalculation!

      * There are some exceptions to the “relevance to others” test. For instance, that letter about the former coworker throwing a party and wanting the company to pay for it probably wasn’t relevant to that many people, but was so weird and interesting that it got its own post anyway.

      1. AB*

        One more process question then :-)

        Do you save quotes from what you wrote to reuse when you need to repeat some advice (e.g., why something is legal, when the explanation is the same even though the question may be different)?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, although I should! But sometimes I search to see how I’ve worded something previously and steal it if it would take a lot of thought to word it anew.

          1. AB*

            Makes sense to “steal” from previous posts — sometimes what you wrote is very “quotable”!

            Perhaps when you write something that you sense will be reusable in the future, you could capture in a note in an app like (which I think is a good tool for this sort of thing, as you can tag your notes as “legal”, “resume” and so on).

            Might save you some time even if you want to slightly reword the new answer.

  17. BCW*

    #7, I agree it is a big deal. But to play devil’s advocate here for a second. I worked at Disney World. The amount of lost kids I dealt with was huge. And these were usually cases where parents were in charge of 1 or 2 of their OWN kids. And I’m not judging, I know how kids are. I wandered off in O’Hare airport when I was a kid, and it terrified me, and it doesn’t make me think that my mom was negligent or anything. But it is funny how much people want to demonize this girl for losing one of a dozen kids she was responsible for when parents do this all the time with their kids. Do you really expect a 21 year old to be more responsible for kids than parents are?

    Again, in NO WAY am I saying what she did was ok. But parents do this all the damn time.

    1. K*

      Yeah, I think the problem was not losing the kid (which is not ideal, but kids do wander off), but the fact that she didn’t follow procedures. Which is an important lesson to learn and she deserved to be fired for it; those procedures are in place for good reasons. That said, I suspect most of the actual danger was created by the initial losing of the child, which is something that happens.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Exactly. I think what we’re all reacting negatively to is:
        1) She didn’t say anything about having lost the kid (trying to hide the problem)
        2) Both she and the LW don’t seem to understand why this is a serious issue; it’s all about “how can I keep my daughter from having to face the consequences?”

    2. fposte*

      And generally they’re absolutely frantic when it happens, and it’s a result of having to juggle 24/7 parenthood with life. Not the issue a paid professional there to watch the kids has.

      1. K*

        It sounds like the cruise ship might have been understaffing, though. Leaving an intern in charge of a group of multiple kids for long enough for this to happen without anyone else noticing seems problematic (even as it doesn’t obviate the intern’s responsibility, of course).

        1. fposte*

          Agreed. It’s a bad idea to make it hard for people to do their jobs, especially when there’s a safety component.

      2. JamieG*

        Not necessarily. I work in retail, and about half the time when I find a child who’s lost their parent, the parent seems completely unfazed by the experience (even when the child is distraught).

    3. Joey*

      I’m not sure what your point is. It’s bad, but its not that bad?

      But to use your example this is more like a parent losing a child, assuming she’ll be fine and not doing anything about it.

      1. BCW*

        I’m just raising the point that these things can happen to the most responsible people, including parents. I guess my point is, if a parent loses their kids once, would you say they don’t deserve to have kids ever again? Probably not. But this girl lost a kid once and now people are going to judge her by saying she isn’t responsible enough to watch kids again.

        1. Joey*

          I think there may have been a different outcome if she lost the kid and was responsible enough to do what’s necessary to quickly find the kid.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think people are demonizing the daughter; I haven’t seen that at all. But rather, people are reacting to the parent’s exclusive focus on how to hide this and protect her daughter and the total lack of indication that they took it seriously and that she’s encouraging the daughter to learn from the mistake. There’s a “my poor daughter!” vibe to the letter and no “we get that this was a big deal” signals.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Also, when someone clearly gets that they made a mistake that’s a big deal, then there’s no need to focus on that. They know, they get it, and you can move on with what comes next. It’s when someone doesn’t appear to understand that that you start seeing the focus on it, because it’s missing from their take on the situation.

    6. BCW*

      Also, let me say, I was a teacher, and one of my biggest fears was losing a kid on a trip. It never happened thankfully. So I do understand the responsibility placed on paid professionals. I just also see hypocrisy in parents who are that outraged, because chances are if their friend lost the kid at a zoo or something, they wouldn’t have nearly the same amount.

      I think the letter writing mom does see the seriousness of the situation, but is really looking for ways to move on.

      1. Runon*

        I don’t know, if I lost my sister’s kids and didn’t worry about it or let her know and then they just ended up back at home safe and sound I don’t think she’d ever talk to me again.

        It isn’t so much that the kid was missing that I think is the problem, I think that the kid was missing and it sounds like the intern didn’t follow procedure (which they no doubt had) or say, hey! Missing child, need to find them. The intern just assumed the kid was with the parents. That seems to be the problem to me.

        1. LMW*

          I actually did this to my poor aunt when I was a kid, maybe 7 or 8 years old. Got into a fight with my cousin, left the house and walked 10 blocks home. My mom called my aunt and said, ‘Hey, my kid’s here. Let me know when the other one is coming home.’ My aunt had no clue I’d even left. But my aunt wasn’t in trouble – I was in trouble for not letting the adult in charge know where I was.

        2. The IT Manager*

          +1. It’s not the lost kid. It’s noticing the kid was never signed out and never telling anyone.

          When a parent loses their kid, they start looking for him/her. The daughter did not look for her missing charge.

        3. Chloe*


          Of course I’ve lost my child, and once someone else’s. But I’ve ALWAYS looked for them!!

      2. AnotherAlison*

        A girl in my senior class (in 19 dickety-two when I was a student) got left behind on a history class trip to the cemetary. No one was fired. Maybe they should have been. The cemetary isn’t the greatest part of town, and someone should have counted better.

        However, I think there’s a huge difference in leaving behind an 18 year old vs. a 10-12 year old, which is what I’m guessing as the age in the OP. Old enough that the parents didn’t freak out, but young enough to still need care.

      3. Josh S*

        Hehe. In college, the men’s choir I was in had a method of doing roll call any time everyone was getting on the bus. Everyone was assigned a number and you basically just shouted your number, in order, so that they could verify that you were there. Made it very, very easy to get on the road after any rest stop, etc.

        Well, one of our group’s traditions was to assign the number 40 to some loud, boisterous guy, and then when we got to 40 in the count, EVERYONE would shout “40!” really loud. The thinking was that there was no chance that the loud, boisterous guy would get left behind.

        Well, one time on tour, everyone shouted “40!” and Jeremy, Mr. Forty himself, was still at the rest stop. With no cell phone. It was about an hour down the road til someone asked, “Hey, where’s Jeremy?” and the bus had to turn around. Pretty hilarious, though I’m sure the choir director and chaperons were distressed.

        But that’s with a college-aged guy — an adult for all intents and purposes. If it happened to a kid, it would be anything but funny.

        1. elle-em-en-oh-pee*

          Thanks alot! I gotta go wash my a$$ now it fell off while I was rolling on the floor laughing.

          I was stranded in New York once by my Ice Hockey team (which was based out NH) thanks to a snag in the carpool arrangements. I waited patiently before collect calling Mum, and lo! 45 minutes later poor Mrs. K came racing back into the parking lot, so sorry her daughter “forgot” to tell her I was riding back in their car. Seriously, I didn’t buy my own food for the rest of the season…

          She needn’t’ve worried; Mum thought it was funny. But only because I told her afterwards and she didn’t have to fetch me. No cell phones in 19 dickety 5 (to borrow the phrase) meant no way to call her once she was on the road to get me, and no avoiding the hell that would hath ensued had she driven the whole way to find me retrieved already. I wanted to keep playing, so I was receptive to a bribe for my silence.

          Before everyone thinks I was a “teenage dirtbag, baby” (to quote a song) I told Mrs. K my Mum wasn’t miffed and she could stop paying my way, but I guess from that and the posters here, maternal guilt over an abandoned child (no matter the age and competency of said child, I was 16) is exceedingly difficult to assauge. Even with over $50 in meals for some other parent’s brat, and reassurances that how was she supposed to know if her punk daughter didn’t tell her?

    7. Lynn*

      It’s different for several reasons.

      1) A cruise daycare is one room with a lock, wristbands, and sign-in/sign-out procedures, not a wide-open space like Disney World.
      2) A daycare employee’s ONLY responsibility is watching the kids. Parents have to juggle child supervision with other tasks.
      3) Most of all, once parents realize they can’t find their children, they admit what happened to anyone they can find and search everywhere for the kid. They don’t say “meh, he’ll turn up”.

    8. Katie the Fed*

      I worked in a children’s museum in high school, and one of the best things a parent can do is put the entire family in matching shirts, especially something with a distinctive pattern. It’s totally nerdy and awful, but it’s also REALLY easy to reunite a wandering child with his or her family.

    9. Hate My Company*

      ok, let me put this in perspective:

      If you scratch up the side of your car because you misjudged the distance from a chain link fence, you feel bad about it but it is your car. Now if the neighbor were to be driving beside your car and had something scratch up your car, would you just blow it off? They are your kids, you may lose them or drop them as a baby and feel awful. But if someone else does it, you want their head!

  18. WorkingMom*

    #1 – I am a project manager and a HUGE advocate of this. I do this all day every day, I have daily, weekly, and monthly reports that are time sensitive. I block out that time (even if it just takes me 20 minutes) to make sure I allow the time to run and validate the report, and the time to send it on. In my role, internal and external customers constantly schedule calls and meetings for me. Knowing I have time blocked out to actually get my work done is priceless. Then when requests for meetings and calls come up, I can confidently say my calendar is “up to date” and they can schedule anywhere they see free time.

    #5 – As someone who also worked as a server for summers during college, being a server is basically customer service 101. Think about how much you learned – being a server can actually be a very high stress, demanding position depending on where you work. At a high-end resort I imagine the standards are quite high. You can discuss all that you have learned about multi-tasking, prioritizing many urgent tasks in a short time period, customer service goes without saying… I think you’ve got a wealth of knowledge to speak to. Plus Alison’s description of why you in that role in the first place – you’re all set!

    #7 – Yikes. I would agree with Alison that getting some other hospitality/customer service experience in another field (as related as you can get) would be great. I would also recommend tackling the problem – it happened, she lost track of a child. In any scenario (especially a cruise ship!), that could have ended MUCH worse. I would tell her to thank her lucky stars the child was okay and that all that happened was being fired from a job. If she wants to keep working in the cruise-ship industry, does it have to include child supervision? It might be worthwhile to consider that ship may have sailed for her (no pun intended!).

    Even if her previous boss is willing to provide a recommendation, I would think he would feel obligated to explain why she was let go, even if she was a stellar worker in all other areas. Consider how to address that question in an interview. If she can say, “I absolutely regret my actions that day, and have since decided that I should focus on ABC service and that child care is not for me.” Or, take action, get extra training and education. I am sure there are organizations that provide training and education for that type of child supervision. Then, in a interview she can say, “I absolutely regret my actions that day. As a result, I took a step back from that type of role and have spent the last two years getting experience in the ABC service area. At the same time, I feel that youth programs are my true calling, so I have spent the last two years also getting XYZ certifications and X hours of training and education to make sure I never make a mistake like that again.”

  19. Wilton Businessman*

    1. Sure, block off your time.
    2. You can certainly try. But they need you when they need you and your commute is not their problem.
    3. “That was then, this is now. If it is a problem going forward, I will do it in the best way possible.”
    4. Two weeks is nothing. Bunk with a friend, get a hotel. Skipping out after you already gave two weeks notice is going to cause you great harm in your future.
    5. “I knew I’d be relocating soon, and I didn’t want to commit to a new job and have to leave it a few months later. But the work taught me (fill in the blank).” is perfect advice.
    6. The contracting company owns you at that employer. The hiring company is never going to go around their contracts (if they are ethical).
    7. Losing a kid is not a “Big Deal”, it’s a “BIG F**KING DEAL!!!”. It is your daughter’s responsibility to take care of those kids and she screwed up. Yes, it worked out OK, but it could have just as easily gone the other way.

    Mom needs to wake up and realize the enormity of the situation. Your daughter wants to work on a cruise ship watching children but the one time she did that she lost a kid. Um, maybe that job is not cut out for her. For the safety of the other passengers, I don’t think she should “hide” or “cover up” the fact that she got fired because SHE LOST A KID AND DIDN’T TELL ANYBODY!

    I wanted to be an astronaut. It didn’t happen. Move on.

  20. Lora*

    OP#2: “I will also be forced to miss necessary medical appointments. ”

    Sorry, for me this is a deal-breaker. I would be sending out applications like mad. You are being told that you cannot access benefits available to other people, which are part of your compensation package–that is the equivalent of having your paycheck shorted.

    That’s the economic perspective. From the personal perspective, I read this sort of thing as “holy crap, my employer is trying to kill me.” Run. Run like the wind.

    1. fposte*

      I agree that this sucks, but I don’t see how it’s “being told that you cannot access benefits available to other people.” We don’t know if her co-workers even go to the doctor, and her doctor’s schedule is as much a result of that doctor’s hours and possibly the appointment she’s made as her work schedule. It’s not work’s job to make sure that the hours are okay for everything else you need to do.

      1. RJ*

        Given that I don’t have any insight into the scheduling / frequency of the appointments, in most cases, it should be easier to be able to schedule appointments on the weekday off in a 4 day work week than in a standard 5 day week.

      2. Lora*

        Guarantee you that when Mom or Dad needs to take Junior to the pediatrician, they are allowed to go, no problem. As soon as the whole “you’re a childless single therefore you have no worries in the world” trope comes out of someone’s mouth, you know exactly where you stand with them, which is just under the door mat.

        In fact it doesn’t even matter whether the other employees do or do not, part of the *previous* deal was that OP2 could go to doctor’s appointments and now they cannot. Denial of previous compensation package = pay cut. Pay cuts are when I start sending out resumes.

        It is indeed work’s job to stick to the hours we agreed I would work, and compensate me according to the accepted offer letter terms. Some leeway is allowed of course per business needs (and my needs, sheesh), but if the needs change significantly to the point that the original agreement no longer applies, then it is time to renegotiate. By “renegotiate,” I mean, “an agreement between professional equals,” not “unilateral changes any old how.” I realize that in practice the latter is legally allowed, but that cuts both ways–you can’t invoke Contract Law AND At-Will in the same damn breath.

        1. fposte*

          But there’s no inkling that the deal had anything to do with the doctor’s appointments. Again, I get you that this sucks and that the reasoning sucks a lot worse, but it’s not a denial of benefits.

        2. fposte*

          Sure, she’s definitely free to renegotiate. But as you say, if you’re working under a contract, you’re not at will, and she almost certainly wasn’t working under a contract. An agreement between her and a manager isn’t a labor contract, and while an employee is certainly free to request the schedule she desires, there’s not likely any legal recourse beyond requesting or leaving.

          1. Lora*

            Oh, no, I am not saying there is any legal recourse for employees who get screwed over, other than to vote with their feet, generally speaking.

            What irks me is that employers still think that they can break a deal they agreed to with me (pay rate, benefits, working conditions, hours, major changes to job description) and I just need to suck it up, but that the agreements I signed with them are graven in stone tablets from Mt Sinai. Um, no, I do not think it works like that.

            As Bartleby The Scrivener said, “I prefer not to.”

    2. J*

      I am #2. BELIEVE ME, I’m looking. I haven’t stopped looking since I landed this job.

      I have not been able to access my regular medical appointments since starting this position, instead resorting to phone consultations. What I would be asking for is an accomodation under the ADA, but the last time I did that it did not end well. It was a different company, but this one is worse in terms of HR. Moving the appointments to the day(s) I am off is not an option.

      My hours are being shifted because this location is closing. Transfering is not a possibility.

  21. Brandy*

    #1: I wouldn’t have a job if I didn’t block out time. If my calendar has even 15 minutes of available time, it gets snatched up. The secrets to success are (1) don’t tell people you do it or they’ll stop respecting your time [if your calender is public, try to title the appt with your project ie “Teapot Rollout Planning” vs “HOLD FOR DELIVERABLES”] (2) don’t do giant blocks of time, or people will guess that you may have free time in there and try to double book (3) don’t tell people “oh, it’s ok, i’m actually pretty flexible this afternoon” when you have something blocked–or they’ll figure it out [see #1] (4) don’t go overboard

    1. AB*

      That’s exactly what I do. The fact that your appointment is with oneself to finish important work doesn’t make it less valuable than a meeting with 10 people, but unfortunately colleagues may not see that way, so I name the appointments in a way that doesn’t differentiate a “real meeting” from an appointment to focus on an important deliverable.

  22. danr*

    #5… You might *not* be asked why you didn’t go after the higher end jobs. You might get the interview because you had the server position. It shows that you really want to know your industry from the ground up and took the opportunity to do so.

  23. Workwithkids*

    #7–As someone who runs a summer camp (and does therefore hires the staff), I have to agree with the many people who said that this is an incredibly big deal. I will also agree that the problem is more specifically that the LW’s daughter didn’t tell anyone. Kids do wander off, and when we find out one has done so the focus isn’t on yelling at counselors, it’s on finding the child.
    I also want to say that the cruise line should never have assigned her to watch the kids by herself. There are fairly strict guidelines about that, which I’m sure the cruise line was not legally required to address but which should have been followed anyway.
    All of this to say that *if* the LW’s daughter does, in fact, understand that her actions were completely inexcusable then I don’t think she should leave this off of her resume. As someone who hires young people as counselors every year, I am horrified by her story. But if she could follow the accountwith “This is what I learned from what happened, and this is why I’m so horrified, and these are the steps I’ve taken to make sure I never allow this to happen again,” then I would likely consider hiring her at least for a probationary period. The caveat is that she would have to truly be horrified, and the steps she takes to make sure this will never happen again would have to make good sense.
    If the LW is reading, I would say your daughter should go to her adviser at school and ask for recommendations on classes, certifications, and particularly experience that she can take on–supervised–for the rest of the semester and the next summer. She should be ready to be watched like a hawk if she’s given a second chance, and she should probably be willing to do it as volunteer work. That would make it much easier to add her to a fully staffed group and therefore know that she is constantly supervised by at least 2 other people I know to be qualified and trustworthy.

    1. littlemoose*

      Awesome practical advice from someone in this field (not to detract from the other insightful comments above). +1

    2. Jessa*

      This, I had a friend who lost a kid on a school trip, they found the kid fairly quickly, but she was on practicum and was very inexperienced. She freaked out appropriately, found the kid, apologised up and down, made immediate plans to show how she would NEVER ever ever let this happen again.

      Ultimately she did get another job with kids. It took awhile. But she got it because she immediately went through procedures. Regrettably it happens. Even great systems spawn errors. It’s all about what you do when they happen.

  24. Lily in NYC*

    Re: Blocking off time on your calendar: I completely understand the need for this, but as an executive assistant who schedules for the boss of a huge division, it’s frustrating not to know what’s real and what’s not on someone’s calendar. And there are way too many people/meetings for me to be able to check each and every time with the person. If you have an assistant or if your boss has one who schedules meetings that often include you, please do him/her the common courtesy of opening your calendar so they can view what the meetings are or letting them know when you are putting on large blocks. If my boss needs to meet with someone, his needs trump their wish for time to themselves to get work done.

    1. -X-*

      ” it’s frustrating not to know what’s real and what’s not on someone’s calendar.”

      It is real. It’s just easier to move than meetings since it probably only involves that person.

      ” opening your calendar so they can view what the meetings are or letting them know when you are putting on large blocks.”

      Good advice.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I meant an actual meeting with other people. If my boss needs to meet with someone, he will expect them to meet even if they have time blocked to catch-up or work on a powerpoint (within reason of course; he’s not an ogre).

    2. PEBCAK*

      I said upthread that I use the Outlook “tentative” status, but you could also have another system by office-wide agreement. I think that typically blue is busy and purple is out-of-office, but you could just be like “hey, green means I need some work time, but you can schedule over it if there are no other options”.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Huh. I never thought about adding a different color. That’s a really, really good idea.

    3. Cara (LW #1)*

      Hi, I am letter writer 1. I can see how this has the potential for abuse. In my case, these are hard short-term deadlines that genuinely do take up my entire afternoon and cannot be moved around. I don’t have an assistant, but my boss is aware of the deadlines, although she sometimes forgets which day is which.

      On the flip side, I just this morning saw the blog post below, about scheduling blocks of time just to catch your breath. I can see how this may be frustrating to people who need to coordinate many schedules.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I do understand the need to have time blocked to get stuff done. I think it also depends on the nature of the company. We aren’t as accomodating about this kind of thing because our boss is a nationally known politican – so when he wants to meet – it’s not like anyone can say – sorry, I’m working on deadline right now. On the flip side, it’s my job to do the scheduling – but just because something would make my life easier doesn’t mean it’s feasible if it makes other people’s lives more difficult. It was more a “wish” on my part.

  25. ThursdaysGeek*

    #2 – Take a lunch! A break really does help, especially with such long days. You’ll do better work in the afternoons, the day won’t seem so long, and you might need that time to for your replacement job search.

    Seriously — what is the point of working through lunch? If you have too much work, then do what you can and don’t feel guilty. Overwork and long hours don’t lead to better work. Sure, it’s occasionally necessary, but if your job is a deathmarch, you need to set some boundaries or change jobs.

    (I could say something about #7, but I think it’s been well covered.)

  26. Amanda*

    Another thought on #7…

    I recently interviewed for a position (fingers crossed!!!) that would require me to juggle a lot, including some supervision of high-school aged kids. When I asked Alison’s “magic question,” one of my interviewers said that what set aside the excellent employees wasn’t that they never made mistakes, but that when they did make mistakes, they were willing to acknowledge them and talk to a supervisor about how to fix it. Basically, the “excellent” employees focused on making sure their mistakes had the least amount of impact for the organization and program participants, rather than covering their own butt.

    So moral of the story-many (not all) mistakes can be fixed by being proactive about finding a solution quickly instead of worrying about getting yelled at.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Ok, I was wrong, there was something more that could be said about #7, and important to say, too.

      1. Amanda*

        Yeah, regardless of whether or not I get this job, the interviewer’s comment is going to stick with me for the rest of my professional life.

    2. Penny*

      What’s the ‘magic question’? Just got into reading this blog and have really enjoyed the advice but haven’t seen that written down anywhere.

      1. Amanda*

        Alison’s magic question: “Looking back on the people who have previously held this job, what made the difference between those who were good and those who were really great?”

        Not only does it impress interviewers, it has given me valuable insight into what it takes to be an excellent and unforgettable employee. Now I’m just hoping I’ll get to put that wisdom to use sometime soon!

        1. Penny*

          Ah, thank you for that clarification. I have an interview tomorrow and I’m totally going to use that!

    3. Waiting Patiently*

      “When I asked Alison’s “magic question,” one of my interviewers said that what set aside the excellent employees wasn’t that they never made mistakes, but that when they did make mistakes, they were willing to acknowledge them and talk to a supervisor about how to fix it.”

      I said down thread that mistakes happens –the way this went down based on the OP details– it seems termination worthy without giving a good reference. Kids will do things that can result in them getting lost. I’ve had kids hide, run and/or open doors. I’m not blaming the child because no one knows how the child went missing. You have to be diligent with head counts through out the day especially during transitions from one place to another as well as knowing if parents came in to pick up kids or not.

      *Side note: Good luck with job working with high school-aged kids! I’ve supervised a high school program for a couple of years and I had to get very creative with keeping them where they were supposed to be at all times. That was fun…fun. :) Actually my high school students were pretty much like the preschoolers…

      1. Amanda*

        Thanks for the good thoughts! This job would be a real breakthrough for me. I’ve been so nervous all day today (they said they would let me know today or Monday).

    4. littlemoose*

      This could totally go with the “good career advice” post that Alison ran earlier this week.

  27. elle-em-en-oh-pee*

    WAIT A MINUTE I just reread # 7, and though at this point what I am about to say changes nothing, but they fired her over a comment card? After the cruise ended? Even though cruise ships can often do as they please, I can’t believe there was no investigation. I wonder if there are other would-be posters from the cruise industry, too shy to come forward with stories of: “the passenger said I “looked too long at their girlfriend” in the after cruise comment card and I was fired.” stories.

    This is hard, because I cannot decide if I believe the OP’s account that the cruiseline acted solely on what was written on comment card, or if there is more to the story, and an investigation occured possibly without knowledge of the OP or daughter.

    Though if it were an end of cruise card, I suspect the firing happened in a subsequent cruise (partly because Juneau is usually a port of call not a final destination) and maybe they had time to investigate before they acted.

    Either way it changes nothing I guess, she is still fired, still admitted to the discrepancies whether or not she is solely responsible or sorry for them. I guess I am sad because I find both possible versions shocking, and again considering her line of work, not really shocking at all.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The OP doesn’t say whether there was an investigation or not, but she also acknowledges that her daughter did do what was alleged on the card.

    2. Colette*

      But the OP isn’t disputing what happened – she’s certainly not claiming that her daughter either didn’t lose the child, nor that she notified her supervisor when she noticed the child was missing.

      There presumably was some sort of investigation, and the parent of the person who was fired wouldn’t necessarily be privy to it.

      1. elle-em-en-oh-pee*

        Sorry I was vague, I guess I was really wondering if the daughter admitted to the discrepancies straight out at the time, (if she was even questioned,) or only admitted them to her mother in confidence later. I am interested in whether she got to say her piece and admitted culpability to the company, or she was just confined and released shoreside and received a letter why later. Either could happen.
        Though neither scenario changes anything really.

        I just want to know if the comment card alone can get you fired, or if the cruise line collected more damning evidence before acting. Not judging if it was reasonable or within their rights to fire her, or if what she did or didn’t do was wrong. Just whether the cruiseline had more evidence (they checked the logs), or she incriminated herself by admitting to the discrepency before she was fired.

        Fired over hearsay is not unheard of, I just wanna know if she has come clean to anyone besides us or her mother. Because she may need to get an attorney. I was thinking about it, she may be in alot more trouble than just never finding work again. Just because the cruise ship company got her a ticket home doesn’t mean they won’t take her to court to retrieve their damages; they may have their attorneys looking into it as we speak. Sorry but they aren’t known for their generous separation packages. I am even more worried this happened in Alaska, if she taken to court under that State’s jurisdiction, odds are they will find in favor for the cruise line. Unless it is unavoidable, the courts there tend to be exceedingly pro- industry (no disresepect to my home away from home intended).

        I trying not to be an alarmist, but there are whole other blogs dedicated to maritime workers being taken to court after being put through the wringer, justified or not, wrong doing or no, and coming out financially destroyed for years. Plus attorneys specializing in maritime law are expensive and had to come by.

        I hope for the poster’s daughter’s sake that my last paragraphs are in vain and I am scolded for stepping too far out of the scope of ask a manager rather than going to the mail box to find a summons from the Coast Guard and a notice of collection. Most people are surprised at how long it takes for the statute of limitations to run out when it comes to a documented incident at sea.

        Anyways thank you for your indulgence. I will shut up now because I am sure if I keep posting Allison will find a way to bill me for advertising space ;)

        1. Hate My Company*

          I would not say the comment card was not the only evidence. OP stated “The checkout sheet was unsigned at the end of the session, but because she had seen the parents come by the kids club several times that morning she thought they had picked him up, and she didn’t report it to her supervisor.” I would suspect they had the sign in sheet and the testimony of the supervisor as well. Now why the supervisor was not disciplined the same for breach of policies and for putting an INTERN in this position. I thought interns were not supposed to be doing work that actually benefits this much the company. This girl was an employee, not an intern.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Many interns are paid, which means that the rules on unpaid internships don’t apply. Furthermore, if this is a cruise ship outside of the U.S., U.S. rules don’t apply.

        2. Cruisemom*

          She was fired twice. The first time was based solely on the comment card; the comment was forwarded the same day to the director for the entertainment department cruise-wide, who fired her. Her firing was relayed to her via the onboard entertainment director.
          The entertainment director also told her “the captain will decide.” Since she was confined to her cabin she was unaware she would be attending a formal Captain’s Hearing, which is like like a court martial. She also didn’t know she could prepare a statement, so the entertainment director wrote what she thought happened. The captain fired her a second time.
          There were video cameras onboard, but my daughter was told they would not be reviewed because they would have to turn the whole system off in order to review the morning in question. She was also told by the entertainment director that the parents would not be contacted because they didn’t want to anger them further. If there was any further investigation after her firing, we are unaware of it.

    3. fposte*

      There’s nothing special about the cruise industry on this either–it’s hardly uncommon for the retail or restaurant business to fire somebody based on a later complaint.

    4. Kou*

      I was fired once off a second-hand complaint from someone who had never actually met me. The had been told to get help from someone in my dept, I can only assume they were trying to get out of that by saying I wasn’t available. They made an appointment (through another person, I never spoke to the one who put in the complaint) but didn’t show up, then complained that I wasn’t willing to help them to their supervisor. That supervisor complained to mine and I was fired immediately.

      They actually contacted me and offered me my job back with the vague comment that things had happened since I’d left that made them reconsider, which I take to mean that person either admitted it was crap or kept saying the same stuff about different people. Either way I did not go back, obviously.

    5. Cathy*

      According to the post, the sign-out sheet was not signed by the parents, so if the comment card said “the childcare staff didn’t make us sign out one night” it doesn’t take much of an investigation to confirm that.

      There are a lot of dire theories in this thread about kids wandering alone and lost, but I suspect what happened was that the kid’s parents kept coming by between activities to say hi and see what he was doing and ask him if he was done playing and ready to leave. This is no big deal on a cruise ship or at a resort where the parents are close by and the kid would rather be at the club with other kids than doing adult things with his parents. I’ve done this kind of checking-in myself while on vacation. It’s just not like a day care situation at home. Most likely one of the times that the parents came by, the kid said he was ready to go, so they took him back to the cabin; then at some point they realized they hadn’t signed out, so they mentioned it on the comment card. They probably did not intend to get the girl fired, maybe they just hoped the cruise line would realize there could have been an issue so they should always have two people in the room.

  28. East Side Tori*

    Well, I’m never going on a cruise. Thanks for populating my nightmares, AAM commenters.

      1. Bess*

        FFS, me too. I’m already terrified of cruise ships because, as someone in infection control, I know exactly how bad they are at dealing with and reporting outbreaks. (Cruise ships are notorious for norovirus, for instance.) They don’t have the same legal requirements for infection control and reportable diseases as any country with a decent public health system. Add that to the stories about people going missing, getting raped, etc…. I’m just staying safe on land, thank you very much.

  29. Kathryn T.*

    to #7: I once took my kid out of the Y daycare without signing him out. I was chatting with the workers and just plumb forgot. I got a call on my cell phone within the next 30 minutes, asking me to verify that I had my kid — even though they remembered me coming to get him — and asking me to authorize them writing down “mom forgot to sign out; confirmed mom has kid” in the signout space. And I later found out that they had locked the doors of the facility and hunted for me and him both while they were finding my cell phone to call me.

    You can’t just let a kid walk off. It’s a failure of the primary component of the job. It’s like if you were a loss prevention officer and you were caught stealing, or a quality control inspector who was forging inspection results. Without a strong, well-supported narrative of how you have learned from this experience and what you have done differently in the intervening years, there is absolutely no reason why anyone should hire you in this industry ever again, and every reason why they shouldn’t. THAT’S what you need to focus on, not how to confuddle your references.

    1. Waiting Patiently*

      “Without a strong, well-supported narrative of how you have learned from this experience and what you have done differently in the intervening years, there is absolutely no reason why anyone should hire you in this industry ever again, and every reason why they shouldn’t. THAT’S what you need to focus on, not how to confuddle your references.”


  30. Waiting Patiently*

    #7 has some holes in the story. The op said her daughter was the only person working with the kids (she stated it’s usually two counselors) yet she saw the parents of the missing child several times throughout the day AND just assumed they took the kid without letting her know??????? I would think she would have remembered or NOT remembered the parents coming in to get the child. And seeing the parents should have at least jolted her memory to check the sign in/out sheet. I don’t want to assume the worst (that she covered up the fact that a child was potentially missing) because it may have been an overwhelming day and mistakes happen but this one is definitely termination worthy on all accounts. How much worse would she feel if something had happen to that kid.

    1. Anonymous*

      I read that differently. I think the parents were wandering and and out BEFORE the child went missing, and once she noticed he wasn’t signed out, she assumed that the parents must have taken him on one of those trips in and out.

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        Hence the problem– ‘making an assumption’ esp in a field like childcare. In other fields assumption offer more leeway in the analysis of a situation based on potential risk factors (sure sales projections can fall short and at the most hurt pockets) well in childcare the risk factors are usually directly impacting the care of a child so you need to be reasonably 99.9% sure of what your assumption implies for that child. And the parent in me is saying you need to 1000% sure when dealing with my kid. Funny thing, I was just in a PD training yesterday and the presenter said we (teachers) make about 1500 decision a day while top CEO aren’t making nearly as many in a day.

        If I have a kid that has a peanut allergy and I see him near a peanut what should I assume? I have to know there is no way in hell that child touched or ate that peanut. So what if I don’t know and of course I wouldn’t be able to see every child at every minute. What if that child did eat the peanut yet I didn’t see him eat it but later he starts showing signs of an allergic reaction?
        If a unfamiliar person comes to pick up Johnny and Johnny raises his arms in excitement and says “hey, grandma!” I ask for dl’s and check it against emergency/authorization for pick up forms. I’d rather make grandma uncomfortable for a moment than release a child to an ‘unfamiliar’ person–“meaning I person I’ve never encountered who comes to pick up.” There are protocols set in place.

        Obviously the daughter is young and fairly new to the field. She could use some courses/training on classroom management and crisis management. Unfortunately, some childcare centers often don’t see the need for training their staff —they toss ’em in and they either sink or swim.

        If it were me and the parents kept coming in and out. I would have said can you be sure to let me know if you’re are taking Johnny with you and be sure to sign the sign out sheet. It totally makes sense to me because I’ve done this for years. I would also assume the parents came “in” with the intent of taking their kid unless they told me otherwise. So I when I see them or before they leave I would make sure I would say something like “are you taking Johnny this time?… don’t forget to sign him out?” It goes back to classroom management.

        1. Waiting Patiently*

          “If it were me and the parents kept coming in and out. I would have said can you be sure to let me know if you’re are taking Johnny with you and be sure to sign the sign out sheet. It totally makes sense to me because I’ve done this for years. I would also assume the parents came “in” with the intent of taking their kid unless they told me otherwise. So I when I see them or before they leave I would make sure I would say something like “are you taking Johnny this time?… don’t forget to sign him out?” It goes back to classroom management.”

          and to add saying that to the parents it would make them realize you are trying to keep track of the children and their frequent visits are making it difficult to determine if they plan to take him or not…

  31. Elizabeth*

    It’s quite possible that the staffing ratios were reasonable, and she lost the kid anyway. Only one counselor/caregiver is required many groups of children, depending on the number and age. My guess is that if she thought it would be okay not to report a missing child, she was also capable of losing one with appropriate staffing ratios.

  32. Ali_R*

    Just a note about cruise ship guests… Up here in Alaska we are unfortunately home to Israel Keyes (; who last year kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered an 18 y.o. barista then flew off to take a cruise the next day. In his confessions he stated if an opportunity presented itself he would kill for the thrill of killing. He did not limit himself to women.

    Yeah, it is a big deal if the parents think the child is accounted for and they’re on their own. Pedophiles and sociopaths take cruises, too.

  33. Pam*

    #1 – I recently started doing this. After we had several employees change roles in the company, I started getting dumped all the work that no one else wanted in addition to the work that I am the only qualified employee to do. For my own sanity I did start blocking out times (usually in 1 hour blocks) to…you know…work. That includes usually 1, 1-hour block a day to “clean out e-mail”. Having the “clean out e-mail” time makes me feel a little more empowered when making the decision of whether an e-mail REALLY needs responding to RIGHT NOW or can it wait until 2pm?

  34. Laura*

    I’m late to the party here, but #7, really?? Traumatic, scary, embarrassing, and demoralizing? I’d say totally appropriate under the circumstances, and in addition to that, she probably had to sign some paperwork before she started her job that outlined what would happen were here employment terminated while the ship was between ports so there’s no excuse for her being taken by surprise about how this was handled.

    Your daughter messed up. Hugely. Colassally. It’s not the fact that a kid wandered off while she was on duty, that kind of thing happens all the time. It’s that she didn’t seem to think it was that big a deal and just assumed he was with his parents. And didn’t bring the fact that the child had wandered off to anyone’s attention. If your primary job is to take care of children, then knowing where the kids are and taking appropriate measures when you don’t is a pretty rudimentary part of the job description. If she doesn’t get that, then she’s either not mature enough for the job she wants, or not suited for it at all.

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