I think I’m in the wrong career, does my interviewer expect his new hire to fail, and more

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

1. I think I’m in the wrong career

I have 2 degrees in applied economics; statistical analysis of economic data, effectively. I aimlessly chose this major; it led me to a master’s and I actually started the PhD program, but dropped because I was burned out.
I’ve now applied to 4 positions (probably the 4 I’ve wanted the most) and made stupid, careless mistakes in my cover letters. I’ve addressed them as soon as I noticed, but, honestly, I’m worn out. I don’t even try to say “this is so out of character for me!” because really, it’s not. I write emails at work and forget to include attachments; I notice data entry errors after I was certain I’d taken steps to prevent them (I end up writing a lot of Excel macros to do things for me because I don’t trust myself to not make those mistakes). I have been trained to be detail-oriented, but it’s not natural for me, and so I’m wondering how in the world I got as far as I did (and I think the answer is that academia is a bubble). I’m 25 and I’m concerned the past 5 years have been setting me up for a career I really am not that great at.

I’ve read your posts on how to figure out what you want to do. The difference is, I have a specific skillset and specialized experience. My current job, data monkey with terrible management and horrible culture, feels like it is sucking the life out of me, but how am I supposed to leave if I’m really not as qualified for other jobs as it seems I should be?

You are 25. You are barely at the beginning of your career. It is far, far away from being too late to change careers. You aren’t locked into this one just because that’s the academic path you took. You can do something else. Figure out what that might be, and what the path there would look like, and then start putting yourself on that path.

You have multiple decades of work ahead of you. It would be crazy to consign yourself to decades of misery just because you’re a couple of years down the road on the wrong path.

2. Hiring manager told me he’d call if his new hire doesn’t work out

I had 2 interviews for a job. There were 5 of us and 2 of us were asked back, me being one of them. The decision was supposed to be made after our 2 interviews. I was called on the phone to say I did not get the job. I was told that a last minute resume came in after my last interview and that person had industry experience that I did not have, and that was why I was not chosen. He made it clear that was the only reason and overall I was great and was a close second. Ok, not happy I didn’t get the job, but that happens and I get the reasoning.

The manager then said this: “She will be on 90-day probationary period and if she doesn’t work out I will call you.” I said OK of course, but I was a little taken off guard as I wasn’t sure what to say. “Um, ok I hope she sucks”(because then I will get the job)? Or, “Do you expect her for fail?” Obviously I did not say either one. I almost felt he was unsure of the decision to hire her. Or maybe he was told to hire her?

I am not counting on him calling. I already had a resume out for another company sent out before the rejection. But I am curious on why someone would say that. Just say, “Thanks but we chose someone else.” And maybe the usual “we will keep your resume on file and call if we feel you are a good fit for another position” (or whatever). But why so specific with me about a possible failure of the new hire? If she didn’t work out, he could just have easily called at that point and discuss the position again.

Because hiring managers, even good ones, are human — and therefore are sometimes awkward and word things poorly. But job seekers tend to forget that and instead parse every statement hiring managers make, putting far more weight and scrutiny on their words than the average person’s words could ever hold up under.

This manager probably just wanted to emphasize that you were really were the second choice, because it’s human to feel bad when someone you came close to hiring ends up not getting the job. Or he’s had new hires not work out before, and so it’s on his mind that he might have a back-up if that happens. Move on, and don’t spend any more time thinking about it.

3. I’m being laid off and my boss wants to know how I do my job

My boss informed me that my position will be eliminated on Feb 14. Then she asked me to document everything I do, and how I do each task. Nothing else will change, but they are laying me off, even though I am the only person knows how to do certain things. What are my options? Can I tell her no, I am not going to tell her of how to do my job?

I mean, you can; there’s no law requiring you to do what she’s asking. But there are consequences to refusing, like a bad reference, probably no severance, a really poor reputation among people who hear about it, and just generally looking silly. It’s not a good idea. You’re better off being professional and pleasant and giving her the information she wants — and negotiating a severance payout if you haven’t already done that.

4. I’m thinking of reporting my former employers for child abuse

Would you consider it child abuse if your former employers, who are both licensed doctors, brought their 2 children to work and left them in the break room all day by themselves to watch TV and play video games. One is 4 and has a degenerative bone disease and can’t walk, and the other is 9. This happens frequently and on one day, both of the doctors left for lunch and just left both of the kids in the break room. They didn’t ask us if it was ok to leave them; they said nothing at all. The youngest boy is in his own motorized chair. I was appalled, and their lack of supervision of these two boys drives me crazy. I believe this to be very unprofessional and I am considering calling someone in our state and filing an abuse case.

In general, no, leaving kids in a break room to watch TV and play video games is not typically considered child abuse. It might be bad parenting if it’s happening a lot, and it might be a bad business practice, but both those things are different from abuse.

Whether it’s more of a concern because of the younger boy’s medical condition is something I can’t say from here, but if you’re concerned, I’d start by calling Childhelp (1-800-4-A-CHILD). They can ask you questions, assess the situation, and figure out what your next step should be.

5. Will I hurt my chances of a promotion later if I don’t apply for one now?

I was recently passed over for a position at my organization, but wasn’t too upset as they hired a more experienced candidate. Another position (same level, salary, etc) has been posted, but I’m not sure I want to apply as it’s in a different location. The position is managerial and requires the candidate to run that location.

Despite these jobs being the same on the surface, I don’t feel I’m the right person for this other location (I don’t know if I can offer what this location needs). I could apply and go through the whole interview process again, but if I know this particular job isn’t right for me and I’d likely be unhappy in it, am I wasting the organization’s time if I apply, or am I hurting my chances of future opportunities later by not applying? Does it look bad that I felt one job was right for me and the other isn’t even though they’re essentially the same?

If you’re sure you don’t want the job, you shouldn’t apply for it. If you’re asked about it (and you might not be), you can simply explain that you’re not sure you want to move to the new location.

You shouldn’t be hurt by not applying for it at all. If anything, you’d risk hurting yourself by applying for the promotion and then turning it down, since with internal positions, there’s more of an assumption that if you’re going through the whole interview process, you’re going to accept the position unless there’s some real obstacle around pay, goals for the position, or another substantive issue.

{ 207 comments… read them below }

  1. periwinkle*

    #1: You seem to loathe your current job and that may be coloring your perception of your professional worth. Deep breath time. You’re not into details – or you’re so put off by your job that you don’t care enough to be into details. So what are you really good at? Are there things about your current job that you do enjoy? Are there things for which you’re the go-to person (and happy to be that person)? Before you got into that soul-crunching job, did you enjoy economics and statistical analysis?

    To be honest, it can take a long time to identify your strengths and then find a way to apply them. It took a couple decades before I finally sat my hinder down to figure out where I excelled and what I wanted to do with those strengths. Don’t be me – do it now!

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I agree. OP#1 sounds like me at 25, minus the yard arm of academics. Until I stumbled into a job and an industry and a company that was the right fit, I was horrible at details. I then loved what I was doing so much, I worked overtime to develop habits and procedures to compensate for my lack when there were specific tasks that I didn’t do well naturally.

      OP, are you getting enough sleep? (this is your mother calling).

      Are you eating properly – balanced meals with protein/carb 3 – 5 times a day? Small meals, breakfast, mid morning, lunch, afternoon, are critical for me to get through the day with maximum attention.

      You’ve got two powerful weapons: You’re smart and you’re self aware. You can figure out compensation strategies and succeed.

      1. Del*

        Getting enough sleep makes a HUGE difference. For months I was struggling with staying focused on my job, not really getting my work done, etc etc… and then I started a new routine to get me winding down at a decent hour and getting more than 5 hours of sleep a night, and my productivity/general performance soared. I had gotten to a point where I didn’t feel tired because tired was normal, but it still had a huge impact when I fixed the problem.

      2. Editor*

        Yes — my immediate reaction was that #1 needs a month off, during which he or she sleeps 10 or 12 hours a night, eats healthy meals, and exercises for a couple of hours each day — going hiking, hitting the gym, swimming, crewing on a sailboat, horseback riding, bowling or something else active.

        OP1 — It sounds like your concentration is shot. If you can’t afford to ditch work, Wakeen aka Your Mother is right. Eat right, exercise, go to bed early and get more sleep. I don’t know what you do in your time away from work, but you might change it entirely for a month — stop watching television or Netflix, give up video games, or ration some other entertainment that encourages you to be a couch potato or stay up late (for me, giving up reading would be the equivalent change). Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work, get a massage every week for a month, or try changing what you’re drinking (at one point, I finally gave up using Mountain Dew to get through the day — in the long run, very good for me). The double whammy of being not exactly fit and not at all happy at work may be reinforcing each other in bad ways.

        Also, consider going to your doctor and asking about your vitamin D levels. When mine were low, I felt borderline depressed. Although I had several reasons to feel that way, taking vitamin D made a difference in my outlook. If you don’t have decent health insurance or don’t want to see a doctor, then consider a short walk outside every day so your skin can soak up some sun and so you can exercise some of the blues away.

        I’m not saying you’re in the right profession or the wrong profession or that a massage or sleep will solve everything. I think you can cope better at work if you feel better. You can look for another job more easily if you feel better. You don’t sound like you feel good now. I think you can change careers or jobs — your statistical and reasoning skills should make you eligible for some good opportunities, and people change jobs later in life. I ended up working in a related but different field in my 40s without having to go back to college.

        If your company offers an ESOP, see if you can get a few counseling sessions to vent and to decide how to tackle the stuff that’s bothering you now.

        1. Editor*

          (red face) Oops, that should be EAP — employee assistance program — not ESOP (employee stock ownership program). Sorry. Doing taxes on a snow day led to acronym malfunction.

        2. BN*

          Shoot, I tried to change my user name to make it obvious that I was the OP and I think it got my replies sent to moderation.

          First, thank you all SO much for your thoughts. I can’t express how appreciative I am for the honest feedback and insight.

          I do make sure I get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthy, and take care of my mental health (though you are all correct, I’m not in a great state of mind). It’s something I made habit early on in college; if the world feels like it’s falling apart, I’m at least doing these things. The Vitamin D supplement is a great point though and I will be looking into it.

          A comment further down touched on how DOING will teach me far more than any reading/self-help/career coach will, and this really spoke to me. While I have been applying for jobs, I’ve otherwise been “passively” trying to figure out what I am good at, what I enjoy, and a career that would work in my favor by reading books, taking quizzes, etc.. I am afraid of the unknown; I’m afraid that I did x, y, and z but I’m still in the middle of the race, when in my mind I should be at the finish line (where the finish line would be a career, or even a job, that I enjoy).

          1. fposte*

            This makes me underscore Editor’s point about the EAP. If you don’t have one, can you find a therapist? Sliding scale opportunities are often available if money is tight. Some of what you’re talking about sounds like quarter-life crisis; some sounds like you might have some depression going on; plus you’re just plain not happy and not sure of what to do, and I think a therapist can be a great person to talk that out with.

            I started my career that I enjoy at near thirty, and with no idea that it was an actual career at the time. Many of my colleagues came to it at older ages than that.

            1. BN*

              “Some of what you’re talking about sounds like quarter-life crisis; some sounds like you might have some depression going on; plus you’re just plain not happy and not sure of what to do…”

              All of the above!

              Anxiety and depression manifest for me when there are big changes in my life, and I moved across the country for this job. It’s been completely exciting, but it triggered me and I’ve been seeing a therapist once a week to help with the transition.

              1. fposte*

                That is really good to hear–it sounds like you’re doing very well on the self-care, which I think will make a huge difference in negotiating this.

          2. Stephanie*

            Also…limit your social media time. People definitely curate their postings to present the best possible personal picture of themselves. Even though I know it not to be the case, Facebook etc definitely has the effect of making it feel like everyone but me has things figured out. (Well, and it’s a giant time suck, too.)

            1. TL*

              I try to negate that and post failures and stupid moments on Facebook (when I can make them sufficiently amusing).

              But yeah, curate your Facebook so you’re excited about reading your feed everyday – keep the friend who posts cool links to science news and the one who’s always posting your funny hippo images and that one with the Dr. Who updates and hide everyone else!

          3. HAnon*

            OP: I’m about a year ahead of you, and it took me a little bit of time to find the right fit for me. Prior to this job, I was heading down a career path (invested a few years) that wasn’t a good fit. While I was working in that job, I took some additional free classes online, freelanced, worked on boosting the skill set I did want to have, and now I’m in a job that I like. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find a demanding new career right now — it might be good for you to take a less demanding job so you can concentrate on self discovery in your time off and not be as overwhelmed by all the stress. As long as you’re still doing something that’s a legitimate job and can pay your bills, you will be fine. Take notes about the specific aspects of your job that you like or don’t like. Take note of whether or not certain activities make you feel energized and excited, or drain you and leave you feeling exhausted. Also remember that no matter how great a job is, it takes some time to adjust to any kind of full-time career work, as the environment is very different from academia. Give yourself a lot of grace during this time, and remember that this isn’t a failure by any means. You tried on a career, it didn’t fit, so now you’re trying to figure out what will be a better long term fit for you. In the meantime, do what you need to do to get yourself in a better mental place as soon as possible. +1 for the therapist suggestion; while they may not be able to help guide you to your ideal career, they can give you perspective and help you to start putting together the necessary action steps to take control of your life and move to the place that you want to be. Remember that it takes time, and the progress doesn’t happen overnight, but you WILL get there eventually if you follow your gut and persevere. Good luck! :)

  2. jesicka309*

    OP #1 I was you a little while ago. I felt like I’d done my degree (media) only to find myself at 22 in a dead end data entry role with no room for advancement (and no desire to try to transition back into pure media).
    I felt completely lost and burnt out. What Alison has missed, perhaps, is that you’ve only just finished your schooling, and feel like wasting that schooling by not doing your best in that field is a sign of failure.

    It’s not. Remember, your career does not define you as a person. It’s only one small part.

    My advice:
    1. Do you have any annual leave? Take it. Use it to go on a holiday, whether that be overseas, or just camping in a national park. Get away from every day life and get some perspective
    2. Have a think about what fields you would LOVE to work in. What did you want to be as a kid? Who at your current organisation has a job you think is really cool? Did you have any electives in undergrad that really sparked your fire? Can you identify any of your own strengths that you haven’t been using in your career so far?
    3. Can you bring that interest area to your current role? You’re in economics, but if you absolutely loved your marketing elective in undergrad, or always dreamt of being a teacher, there are definitely ways to bring that to your current role if possible.
    4. Get some training in that ‘dream’ field. There are plenty of short online courses you can do while you’re still working, or night/weekend courses. I’m sure you know this, having done a masters, but even doing a handful of subjects in an area that you’re really interested in can make you feel like you’re engaging with your life, and career again.
    5. Get a life. What I mean is, get a life outside of your role. Play some organised sport on the weekends. Get a hobby. Grow a veggie garden. Train your pet dog to do tricks. Volunteer. Find something outside of your career that really inspires you, that if you were introducing yourself to a stranger, you’d say “Hi, I’m Pete. I volunteer at a shelter in my spare time” before you’d announce your career.

    Your study could lead to a new career. I started off doing some journalism courses, before realising what I really loved, and plunging into a marketing degree. Eventually I started applying for marketing jobs, and got one. I know other people that did photography courses for fun, and ended up moving into a digital communications role. I have friends that hate their day to day careers, but spend their lives planning the next adventure to South America, Africa etc. My Dad almost single handedly ran our local football club for fun, as he’d maxed out his growth opportunities in his role at the time.

    I want to second Alison and say that you’re still really young and have plenty of time to transition if you wish. But you also don’t have to feel confined by your career, and there are things you can do without just quitting your job and walking away tomorrow.

    Sorry for the essay, but feeling burnt out is something I feel really strongly about, and I want people to know that you can find fufillment on the other side if you take a break and get a new perspective.

    1. Stephanie*

      #1: Hell, even take a staycation. Taking an extended break will really help with burnout.

      #5: Find outlets. This will help things be more bearable in the short-term and give you perspective. Getting in a cycle of work, go home, sleep, repeat will really wear you down.

    2. Lucy*

      Absolutely beautiful. My new years resolution is to work on this too. I’m even younger than OP, and with a bit of a different situation, but the end result makes me feel similar.

      I’ve taken up practicing dreaming. I actually make a task out of it, like an assignment. I take a few minutes out of my day and don’t do anything but dream about things. What I want to do, where I want to go, what I want my life to be like. And when I get home, my husband and I talk about what we dreamed about.
      Some people are natural dreamers, but I’m not, so I have to teach myself how to do it. It’s teaching me where my interests are and I’m taking steps to pursue them in my free time. For example, I found I like learning about home renovations and real estate, so I’m attending a real estate career lecture at the local community college. I found that I like the idea of making my own clothes, so I bought a sewing machine and I’m teaching myself how (I made curtains this weekend!). So while I’m probably not going to change my day job any time soon, I’ve found that teaching myself how to dream is really teaching me about myself, and what I want out of life. Maybe something I’m learning will turn into a career one day, or maybe not. But at least I’ll have something to say beyond my career when someone asks what it is I do.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I wanted to echo jesicka & share that a transition can be made.
      My undergrad degree was in mechanical engineering. Like you, I hated my job. My feeling about what I was doing was mostly, “Who cares?”

      The hard part really is figuring out what you want to move to. At first, I gravitated towards other engineering jobs. I couldn’t swing a major change, because what I wanted to do needed an MS at minimum, but I sat there pining for these other jobs.

      In the interim, I went through an MBA program & figured out some other things I liked. I changed jobs and kept moving closer to things I liked. With each position, I learned more about what things I wanted to add to my duties, and what I wanted to take away, as well as what type of people and work environment I wanted.

      I’m a firm believer that no personality quiz, career inventory, or other form of sitting around thinking about what you like gets you to what you should be doing. You have to DO new stuff. Today, where I’m headed with my career is one of the things I had considered ~7 years ago (I’m ~15 yrs out of undergrad), but there is no possible way I could have imagined it back then. Things developed in my life along the way that created my interest in the field, and technologies that didn’t exist then now exist.

      It might sound awful, 15 years to transition to what you are cut out for, but it hasn’t been 15 years of misery. Each year got better (minus a few set-backs). Some of getting where you want to be is just paying your dues, too. If your call is to be a great leader, it takes time to develop into that role. Don’t get impatient. I think more of us go through what you are going through than land in a perfect role on the first try. Hang in there!

      1. ChristineSW*

        I’m a firm believer that no personality quiz, career inventory, or other form of sitting around thinking about what you like gets you to what you should be doing. You have to DO new stuff.

        THIS!! I’m slowly learning this myself. I’ve done those quizzes and inventories up the wazoo, but was getting nowhere fast. Volunteering with the committees I’m on is probably going to be the best decision I’ve ever made. No, I’m not back on track yet, but for the past two years, I’ve been learning a great deal and love the work, and feel that I may finally be on my way.

        1. Emily K*

          This exact revelation is what I now see as defining the moment I became an adult: the moment I realized that I couldn’t think my way into knowing myself, that it had to be an experiential endeavor.

          I had broken up with a long-term boyfriend because I felt that I’d been in relationships so long that I no longer knew what I wanted for myself outside of a relationship. I wanted to be single for a while so I could figure out what I wanted. Six months later, I was frustrated that I felt no closer to knowing. But I hadn’t been doing anything in those six months except trying to think really hard about what I wanted to do, when what I should have been doing was trying absolutely everything and anything that came my way.

          Don’t be afraid of trying things! Worst case scenario, you try something, hate it, and never do it again but now you know something about yourself you didn’t know before. Best case scenario, you try something, love it, and happily pursue getting more of it in your life.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Whoops- it got away from me. I have to reeally learn this new key board!
              Book learning is great. But nothing builds confidence/interest/selfhood like actually doing stuff.

              Negative Nancy will always jump in your head and say “you can’t” OR “you’ll fail.” Tell that negative Nancy witch to buzz off (or any other two words you happen to think of). If you learn to handle your mistakes you will be gracious when other people make mistakes in front of you (and also relieved to find out that you are not alone).

              It boils down to which is worse- same old stuff OR new uncharted stuff?
              Seems to me you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.


      2. Stephanie*

        I’m a firm believer that no personality quiz, career inventory, or other form of sitting around thinking about what you like gets you to what you should be doing. You have to DO new stuff.

        Yes! Don’t get stuck in “analysis paralysis.” It’s really easy to do passive things like take career assessments or do informational interviews, pat yourself on the back, and still wonder why you’ve haven’t made any progress. At some point, you do need to snap out of thinking mode and get more into doing mode.

        1. BN*

          OP here!

          Analysis paralysis exactly describes what I’m doing to remedy my situation. I feel like I’ve been studying for my life, when in reality I need to go do an internship.

      3. BN*

        I’d written a reply out thanking you all for your thoughts and insight, but I tried to change my user name to make it obvious I was the OP and I think it got my comments sent to moderation.

        So, thank you all for your thoughts and insight. It is very appreciated!

        “You have to DO new stuff.”
        This spoke to me. I tend to want to “skip the race”/have it all figured out before I do anything/know exactly what I am doing and where I am going, and assume that if I don’t I’ve failed; I set unrealistic expectations for myself. In school, I had a positive work environment and great mentors, and I was able to recognize these tendencies and work through them. These days, I default to a fixed mindset.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Took me a long time to get that idea. Like you- I wanted to just get there.
          I would not trade the journey in for anything. And the definition what goes into “having it all” changes as you go along. That is okay, too.

  3. Stephanie*

    #1: I am in the same exact boat. I graduated and thought I had the right field picked out. I got a job in it and ended up loathing it. I got another related job and it was only mildly better. A firing and a layoff later, I took it as a giant sign from the heavens that maybe I should do something else.

    I’m still searching for my next role, but here’s what helped me really figure out what fields and jobs to look for (or avoid):
    (1) What am I good at? Even if it’s something seemingly unrelated like baking, there are still skills I can extrapolate (e.g., baking=good at following processes, measuring ingredients, figuring root causes for failure).
    (2) What kind of lifestyle do I want? Long hours sound unpleasant to me, so that’d probably rule out, say, being an attorney.
    (3) Was there anything about my two previous jobs I did like?
    (4) Was there anything my bosses did commend me on?
    (5) How important is salary?

    It’s hard. Really hard, especially with the economy being crazy. And you’re not alone, even though it seems like everyone else has it figured out. I had a lot of preprofessional classmates who seemed to have these preset careers, but even they have career doubts and struggles.

    You’ll figure it out–it may take one or two more career tries. We’ve got decades of work ahead of us.

    1. Ella*

      #1 My two pennies worth. Your career path may be the right one for you actually, just the working environment could/should be different. Have you ever considered relocating – to Europe? A change of settings could help you to clear your head.

      1. V*

        On that note, OP I encourage you to try another job before you try another career. I was in a similar situation to you when I started working as a lawyer, and was concerned that I had spent three years and six-figures on a degree for a career that was making me miserable. But after two years I switched jobs to a diffrent firm with a significantly different culture than my first job, and it has made a world of difference in my happiness. So, before you make a big change like a career change, you might want to try the relatively small change of finding a different job to see if it improves your situation.

      2. Stephanie*

        You’re right–environment was a lot of it. Thanks for the suggestion! Never really seriously considered that, but why not?

    2. AVP*

      Totally agreeing with Ella here – I was in the same boat a few years after I graduated from college. I had a series of short-term jobs that I hated, and was not good at, and I was seriously beginning to doubt that I could ever be good at working or find a role within the industry that I felt comfortable doing.

      Lo and behold, I decided to give it one more try (mostly because I didn’t know what else to do) and ended up in a great job with amazing mentors who took it slowly and taught me what I needed to know, and how to be successful at what I do – which I’d never had before, every other job I was just thrown in the deep end and expected to swim. It turned out that most of the other jobs I’d had were just not good fits, not good management, or roles that I wasn’t ready for at that time.

      So…there’s hope! But you really have to look for the right situation and, I would even say, prioritize that over the title or role or even pay package if you can afford to.

      1. BN*

        Thank you for this. I have never felt so stuck in a fixed mindset as I do in my current position; try as I might to stay positive and moving forward, my thought process quickly becomes “in this position, I’m not good at x, y, or z and so I will never be good at x, y, or z.”

        I don’t think that is true at all, but there are moments when I need someone to snap me out of that place.

        1. AVP*

          That is totally a hard place to be, especially when you think about it as a fixed mindset. There might be other companies out there doing the same things but in a totally different way (which would work better for you), or different industries which use some of your skills and background but in a different way. But keep your eyes open and good luck! There’s something out there somewhere.

          1. Ella*

            A colleague of mine (HR Manager, C&B) moved from our NY office to our London UK office. Same corporation, same role, just different scenario. She is having now a new lease of life.

  4. Thomas*

    Less-than-perfect parenting is NOT child abuse. A nine-year-old may be, and quite likely is, perfectly capable of supervising his brother during a lunch hour.

    If the boys’ presence in the break room is causing professional difficulties, then address those. If they are actively seeking out help our supervision from other adults who haven’t been asked/authorized by the parents to give it, then that’s a legitimate problem. Or if the break room is less accessible to other employees on breaks, or whatever. But inviting child protective services into their lives when there is no evidence that they are at serious risk of physical harm makes their lives unnecessarily difficult and draws resources away from cases of real abuse.

    1. Jessa*

      A 9 year old is not capable of making emergency decisions about a 4 year old. Most places don’t start considering kids old enough to watch others til they’re at least 12-13. These children (one with a disorder that can cause emergency problems,) are not old enough to be left alone with each other.

      According to a quick Google, National Safe Kids says minimum 12. Most states have their own rules about it. But as a former special ed teacher, I’d report a 9 year old left alone with a medically involved 4 year old, without calling and asking questions. It wouldn’t even occur to me to check with someone. 9 is not responsible enough to be left by themselves. Certainly in no way able to take care of a 4 year old. Does this 4 year old need toileting help? Positioning changes from their wheelchair? Have to be set out of it every few hours? Is the 4 year old able to communicate medical emergencies or stress?

      And this is a medical office, what if one of them wanders off and messes with the medications. I’ve seen many doctor’s offices that keep the sample room open during business hours. There are way too many dangerous things in a medical office.

      1. jasmine*

        But these kids are not in a position where they’d need to make emergency decisions (as they would be, for example, if their parents left them home alone). They’re in a medical office, where there are lots of adults around – adults who have medical training, for that matter.

        1. Rayner*

          It is not the responsibility of the workers to babysit these children, particularly children who are that young, and need actual supervision to make sure that they’re not getting into trouble or ill.

          Or are you suggesting that you would be happy leaving a four year old with significant medical issues in the hands of people you vaguely know?

          1. Purr purr purr*

            Exactly, it’s not the responsibility of the workers to babysit the children but does that warrant a call to child protection for child abuse?

          2. AnotherAlison*

            It’s not the responsibility of the workers to babysit, usually, but the parents/doctors own the office. They’re the bosses. Your duties are what they say they are, and maybe that includes keeping an eye on the kids.

            1. Mike C.*

              No, it doesn’t.

              It’s simply asinine to expect people who aren’t professional childcare people to be expected to baby sit their boss’s children.

                1. Emily K*

                  Who mentioned anything about legalities?

                  The person who wants to report these parents to the authorities for illegal child abuse as opposed to “giving asinine work assignments to people in their employ.”

        2. doreen*

          And apparently, except for one lunch hour the parents themselves were around. I used to work in CPS, and although a report may have been accepted ( and I emphasize may ), all that would have happened would be that an investigation would have been conducted and my time would have been taken away from other cases. From CPS’s point of view, it’s no different from a parent going out and leaving a child with a live-in grandparent for an hour without asking first. CPS doesn’t exist to protect employees or anyone else from being expected to babysit regardless of whether the expectation is appropriate – it exists to protect children. from imminent danger.

        3. Colette*

          Unless the adults (who haven’t been asked to watch the children) are inaccessible, either because they’ve also gone out or because they’re busy working.

          1. doreen*

            Even if the other adults had also gone out ( and I don’t think they did since the OP didn’t mention it ) CPS is not going to be able to do anything except interview people days, weeks or months after the fact about the single day both parents left for lunch. As far as adults being inaccessible because they are working , CPS doesn’t have a problem with parents working while simultaneously providing child care . One has to distinguish minimum standards of parenting from good business practices. Not to mention that if the OP was really concerned about the children’s safety, he/she wouldn’t have waited until leaving the job to think about calling .That makes it look like the report is malicious and not based on a good- faith suspicion of abuse or neglect.

            I’m really not sure what people think CPS is going to do. The doctors will certainly not lose custody of their children , even temporarily. They will not be sent for parenting classes ( because space is limited and other families have a much greater need). They will not be told they cannot have the children sit in the break room nor that they cannot expect their employees to provide some childcare as part of their job duties. At most , they will be told to notify one of the employees before leaving the office together .

            1. Loose Seal*

              Former CPS worker here and I completely agree with everything Doreen has said. Frankly, if someone called our office to report this, it wouldn’t even make it past the screening call. The doctors would never even know it happened.

              When a 3 year old is left at home with just the TV as a babysitter and a sandwich on the table, that’s actual neglect. This report from OP is nothing. (And I agree that CPS is likely to assume OP is making a malicious call the likes of which, sadly, take up way too much of CPS’ time.)

            2. Colette*

              I agree that calling CPS is not likely to be helpful. I’m disagreeing with the statement that the kids are not in a position where they’d need to deal with an emergency. It’s irresponsible to leave your young kids somewhere where there are a bunch of adults and assume that someone will take care of them – you need to make explicit arrangements.

              1. Jamie*

                ITA that it’s irresponsible and I wouldn’t have done this with my kids in a million years.

                We all know just from regular work tasks that when something is everyone’s responsibility it’s nobody’s responsibility (and that applies to everything from reviewing exception reports to replacing the paper towels in the bathroom.)

                So as a person, a parent, and an employee I totally agree that it’s irresponsible. There is, though, a big chasm between irresponsible and abuse. The odds that the office completely empties and no adult is there during a work day, or that other people are busy? I’ve never worked in a place where everyone was gone at the same time during the day…and busy working…no one would be too busy working to dial 911 if there was a real emergency.

                1. Colette*


                  I don’t think this was abuse, and if it were a life-threatening emergency, someone would help.

                  If it were a “I’m hungry/have to go to the bathroom” emergency, people would be less likely to drop their work to help. (Someone probably would, even then.)

                  I’m wondering what the kids were eating while their parents were out for lunch. That seems odd to me – but I agree it’s not abuse.

                2. Colette*

                  Oh, and I forgot to add that depending on the younger child’s medical needs, it might be more of a case of 911 being called too soon.

                  If I know a child suffers from seizures and the parents have explained what the signs are, what they do afterwards, etc., I’ll deal with a seizure on my watch. If I don’t know a child has seizures and they have one, they’re off to medical care.

                3. Jamie*

                  @Colette – good point about calling 911 too soon. If not familiar with the child and no instructions I’d totally err on the side of caution and call if I felt I was over my skis…and with other people kids those are short skis for me.

                  This whole thing has me shaking my head because the first time I left my eldest with my own mom, who was not only a wonderful and responsible mom, grandma, and nurse for decades I left her 6 pages of instructions front and back…including the procedure of changing a diaper and to give him a bottle when hungry.

                  She laughed and pointed out that my siblings and I are still alive, and none of her other grand kids went hungry or missing on her watch. And then she thanked me for pointing out that the solution for hunger is to feed a child – and she suggested I write a book on child care to spread the news.

                  I got a little more relaxed as I matured as a parent, but never to the point where there wasn’t always someone definitively in charge (and they knew it) and also explaining to my kids to whom they should go if they needed something. The drop and go just baffles me.

                  But then I still assume that if I don’t prepare for every horrible eventuality worst case scenario will always happen so I’m pretty tightly wound over all…the OPs former bosses are more laid back about care of their kids than I am about my favorite pen. I wouldn’t even leave that in the lunch room when I left the building.

        4. Jessa*

          Except the kid needs to know when to ask for help or yell “emergency.” The kids are not under the direct supervision of an adult during this time. It’s not about taking care of emergencies it’s about paying attention and knowing there is one. Most 9 year olds won’t be watching the 4 year old but entertaining themselves.

          1. Melissa*

            You’d be surprised, especially a 9-year-old who knows he’s expected to keep an eye on his younger brother and has grown up with a younger sibling with a known medical problem. I’m not saying it’s right, but I think a nine-year-old is pretty capable of yelling for help and alerting people to emergency.

      2. Jess*

        Many nine-year-olds would be perfectly capable of watching over a younger sibling, even one with medical issues, for a short time. We’re not talking about two kids locked in a cabin in the woods with no way to communicate with the outside world if some emergency were to arise. I’d guess the nine-year-old in this case would be a better caretaker for his brother than I would be as an adult because he lives with his brother and is actually familiar with his brother’s needs. As are the parents, who presumably know their children and their children’s needs and capabilities well enough to make better decisions about their care and supervision than someone with only cursory knowledge of the situation. (Yes, I realize there are bad and irresponsible parents out there. But there’s no actual evidence that this is the case here.)

    2. Purr purr purr*

      I have to agree with Thomas. I’m shocked that the OP is asking immediately about child protection. The parents probably assumed (rightly or wrongly) that their children would be fine considering that there’s adults around in what is presumably a medical facility. Also, how often is frequently? I ask because a 9 year old should be in school. Is it just at weekends? Holidays? Maybe on those days, childcare arrangements just didn’t work out. I’m sure all parents are familiar with that situation!

      In any case, to immediately report them to child protection just seems like a huge leap. If the OP has concerns about their care, why don’t they just ask the parents about what has happened that the kids need to be there all day or explain that they’re not a day care service and don’t want to supervise their children? Everyone knows that if you have a problem with a colleague, it’s more professional to talk to them about it first rather than running off to complain to HR and, to me, this is a very similar situation.

      Furthermore, the OP says it’s against her FORMER employers. She may not have left the job willingly and is trying to exact revenge on them for all we know!

      1. Anon*

        Please do not call the police unless the situation looks like it is an imminent danger. You can destroy someone’s life. This situationd does not sound like a child is in any real danger and taking CPS away from the cases that matter hurts the children who are in danger.

        1. Purr purr purr*

          Was that meant to be in reply to my comment? I never told them to call the police. To me, the situation isn’t child abuse

        2. iseeshiny*

          I get what you’re saying here, but I don’t think worry about ruining someone’s life should factor in to whether or not to involve police – stuff like that is what keeps people from reporting something that really should be reported. It would be better to ask yourself only if the child is in danger – which in this case they were not.

          1. Elizabeth*

            One thing to remember is that calling CPS does not mean that the child will be summarily taken away from the situation. Rather, it means that an investigation will be launched. If CPS determines that there’s been no abuse, then nothing will happen.

            I’m a teacher, and thus a mandated reporter – I’m legally obligated to contact CPS if I think a child *might* be in danger. During our training, it was emphasized that it’s not our job to determine if abuse actually occurred, but to contact the people who can determine it. The rule of thumb they gave us was “If you’re not sure if you should call or not, make the call.” You can also call and ask for advice about whether a situation is reportable without actually reporting it.

            (All that said, from the information given, I don’t think the children are actually in danger in this situation. It’s not great parenting, and possibly disruptive to the office, but not dangerous unless there’s more to the story.)

        3. Colette*

          The standard isn’t – and shouldn’t be – imminent danger.

          Yes, you should have reason to believe that the child is in danger, but it doesn’t have to be something that will happen in the next 5 minutes/hours/days. In other words, if someone has stopped feeding their child, you don’t have to wait until the child is about to die to call.

          1. fposte*

            I agree, but I think Anon might have been pushing back a bit against the attitude that the kids might not be supervised enough if something did happen, despite the fact that there’s no particular likelihood that something was going to.

    3. Elodie*

      Agree with Thomas. While it may not be fair to the employees – its not a situation that warrants CPS. The situation has to be pretty dire (and usually repetitive) for CPS to engage. If the parents have been there all but one time, it’s really not an issue. The 9 year old doesn’t have to take care of the 4 year old, because if the parents are down the hall – it would be no different than them being up in their rooms.

      As an aside, when I was growing up one of my parents worked at a doctor’s office and it was common practice if I or one of the other employee’s kids was ill to spend the day back in the break room watching TV. It was a small office, and the Dr. did it to be accommodating so that employees could still make work with their sick child. Is it possible – that on the occasions that these children (particularly the school age child) are there its because they are ill and off school, and they only feel comfortable having the kids with them?

      As far as your concern about the sample room – if the kid can wander in there, so can any patient or patient’s kid – that’s a problem in general that shouldn’t be happening.

    4. Stephanie*

      A nine-year-old may be, and quite likely is, perfectly capable of supervising his brother during a lunch hour.
      The brother might also be one of the better options since his sibling’s disabled. Sure, it doesn’t substitute for dedicated child care (and does put a lot of burden on a nine-year-old). As someone who has a disabled sibling herself, it might be the best (in a pinch) since the brother probably understand his brothers’ needs and behaviors.

      Also, if CPS is like the CPS in my state (Arizona), they are probably way too swamped to deal with what sounds like a case of inattentive parenting. There’s been a big controversy in AZ because it was discovered that 6,000 cases were never even opened.

  5. Confused*

    OP #1
    You said you are burned out and worn out…do you think the mistakes are due to that? We all make mistakes but I have noticed, hindsight being 20/20, that I tend to make more mistakes when I am “over it” or, for whatever reason, not very interested in what I am doing. A kind of self sabotage.
    Also, it took me a few years of stepping back from one side of my industry to realize how much I really love and miss another part of my industry/career. Your career and career path aren’t written in stone. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

    1. Ali*

      This is exactly how I feel about my job. I have a boss who, unfortunately, is very nitpicky and he is currently on my case about mistakes I make and how I should’ve done X better or been more aware of Y. I find that even though I try to work better and more carefully like he is telling me to do, I feel over the job and don’t take it that hard if he’s calling me out. My mind is already elsewhere and wanting a change despite his continuous ragging on me. It’s not very motivating really.

      1. BN*

        I’m the OP, and this is exactly how I feel about my current position.

        It’s challenging because as much as I recognize the work environment is NOT good, I am also disappointed in myself for being so unmotivated.

        1. Confused*

          That’s what I mean by not being so hard on yourself. Just because you are making mistakes in this job right now doesn’t mean you will make those mistakes in another job or another industry.
          You may also want to keep in mind that you’ve been in school for most of your life. There is a sort of structure that comes with being in college, even though you are able to make your own schedule etc, that is no longer there when you transition into the workforce.

  6. 24 years & counting*

    #1: Allison, what would your advice be for a 40 year old in that same boat? I’m counting the years until I retire…

    1. CK*

      I don’t know about AAM, but in my opinion, the same advice holds: if you are unhappy with what you’re doing, do something about it. That might involve some time to reflect on exactly what it is (job? co-worker? commute? other?, home life?) – you don’t want to change one and later realize that it wasn’t the problem…

      Change can be scary. Suffering because you’re afraid to change is worse.

      1. Feed Fido*

        I was going to write that the advice holds true for any age. Yes, most aren’t going to invest in education (major degrees) at 40 b/c often there’s kids, other commitments BUT there are other options out there.

        Look at AAM, she jumped from an office job to a solo gig, online to boot. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, BUT most everyone can change.

        Best bet is to start doing what it is you desire in whatever capacity you can.

    2. Graciosa*

      Do you really want to spend the next 24 years of your life being miserable?

      Assume, for a moment, that the 24 remaining years of your working life are the only years you have left. What do you want to do with them? What would you do if you could do anything?

      Most people have a long list of things that are “preventing” them from doing what they say they really want to do – money issues, family needs, what people will think, too late to change, don’t have what it takes (free time, different degree or credential, family support), etc. The items on these lists tend to be grounded in fear, and most of them would be fixable if a choice was made to fix them – but fear is holding back the choice. I asked how long you want to be miserable to highlight that choice.

      If you really want to change, you can make a plan – and execute it – to move in the direction you want. Sometimes it takes time, but the time will pass either way. There are many articles about people who made drastic changes to live the lives that they always wanted – I’ve never read of one who regretted doing it, although many regretted not doing it sooner.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree with the above. You’ve got to weigh the number of working years you have left against the hassle of switching careers. At 40, you have ~25 years of work left (if not more). There’s very little hassle I wouldn’t go through in order to not be miserable for the next 25 years.

    4. periwinkle*

      I *was* a 40-something in that boat. No idea what to do with my job, no signs that the magical Career Fairy was lurking nearby – ugh, not a good place. So being an analytical sort, I made a list of my current and prior jobs plus a few favorite pasttimes. What did I like best, what was I fabulous at, for what did I become the go-to person,what did I hate, and what did I suck at doing.

      Thanks to that, I figured out a path, got the right education and connections, and am starting a new career. In early 2009 I started the process, and now I’m in a fantastic job doing stuff I love in a career with tons of possibilities. Not a bad do-over for someone about to turn (yikes) 49.

    5. Windchime*

      I made a major career change when I was about 40. I went from being a medical biller to entering IT as a programmer. It was kind of humbling to be a beginner again at that age, but I am so happy that I took the leap. I’m a lot happier as a person; I love my work and the money is much, much better. So 40 is most definitely not too late to make a change.

    6. Anonymous*

      Same advice! Do you really want to count down for 24 years? I am guessing you are not even half-way through your working life. Why hate the majority of that time?

      I was 46 when I was laid off because the work I specialized in vanished due to budget realignment in my state. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I liked and disliked about previous jobs and the knowledge and skills I gained in those jobs and my years in school. I started to envision what I thought would be a good fit for me.

      Then I started searching. I focused on job descriptions, not titles. I reached out to people I knew professionally and had some informational interviews with others. I did not get anywhere with my initial new career goal – my undergraduate degree was not really appropriate and I already felt pretty over-educated (law degree and masters degree). Once I shifted my career goal, things started happening and I got interviews and multiple job offers. Despite no direct experience.

      It was a long process, but I ended up in a position I never envisioned for myself. Yet I enjoy it and am happy with my choice. I am now almost 49 and cannot imagine hating my work so much that I would be counting down the years to retirement. The way I feel now, I want to work as long as I can.

  7. ScaredyCat*

    I’m probably in the minority here, but I can’t help but think that you should just leave it be? I mean, from what I gather, nothing happened (as a result of being left “alone” to watch TV) to the kid in question, plus for all we know his/her sibling being older might have been told to call should anything happen.

    Then again, maybe my “none of my business” attitude is not the best. Or perhaps it just feels too much like “getting even on your boss” after leaving the job?

    1. Purr purr purr*

      No, I totally agree too (as I said with another commentor above). The fact it’s against her former employers makes me wonder if it’s just a form of revenge, otherwise the OP could have reported it sooner. It seems to me that the biggest issue is the kids being left ‘alone’ (in a medical facility with their parents there) and the colleagues being expected to supervise as some form of daycare. To me, that’s not a child protection case, more an issue between colleagues that could have been resolved at the time just by talking about it.

      1. FiveNine*

        That seems awfully lenient. Who dumps two children below the age of 10 — one with extensive medical needs — in a waiting room for hours, and leaves, expecting the personnel who work there to be caretakers? No one does that. I can’t believe the doctors would allow it if it were anyone else but them.

        1. Purr purr purr*

          Leaving them in a waiting room all day isn’t ideal but does it amount to child abuse?? Like AAM says, it’s bad parenting. Also, she says that one of the kids is 9. He should be in school so does this only occur at weekends? During holidays?? They don’t sound like brilliant parents (based on what the OP wrote) but I doubt anyone would say that was child abuse.

          1. RJ*

            Clearly this is not a day in, day out kind of thing. Obviously, the older kid is school age, and should be in school most of the time. If this happens frequently, I do feel bad for these kids. But if this is just a one time rainy day type of thing, it isn’t so bad.

    2. Anne*

      I completely agree, ScaredyCat. Is it ideal? No. Is it fair to the staff or the kids? No. Is it good parenting? No. But CHILD ABUSE? No way!

      1. Chinook*

        Add me to the voices that say that leaving the children in the breakroom may be poor parenting but far from child abuse. A special needs children would require specifically trained childcare and it is possible that that person called in sick or is on a scheduled vacation day. In that case, the children being in a quiet spot in their parents’ office sounds reasonable, especially since they own the business’s and are within earshot (like they would be at home) of adults.

        1. Anne*

          And even then… I mean, as far as we know, the kiddo only has a physical issue, not a mental one. If he’s in a motorized wheelchair and has an older sibling around to help him out or get an adult if necessary, I’m not entirely sure that his health issues are relevant. Unless he has to take medications at a certain time or something?

          (Also – I may be being over-sensitive in thinking it sounds like the OP believes that because this kid is in a wheelchair, he must have mental issues requiring a carer. But that’s so often the assumption and it drives me nuts.)

          1. anon*

            Whether or not he’s developmentally delayed, he’s still four years old; that’s not really old enough to communicate needs all that well.

            1. Laufey*

              Eh, I’ve known a lot of very vocal and independent four-year-olds who would have no problem making their needs/wants/wishes clear, especially if there was an emergency (restroom or otherwise). I’ve known a lot of nine-year-olds that couldn’t do the same. Obviously, not every four-year-old is like that, but it’s not impossible that he’s not.

    3. AnonAthon*

      I had that reaction too. I don’t agree with saddling a 9-year-old with that responsibility … but he is not my child. I have no idea what he can or cannot handle. And I don’t know the particulars of the family or office. My friends and I went into our (small) town center for lunch by ourselves when we were that age. But were we different kids in a different location? That might have been a no-go until we were 16. Unless obvious issues/dangers are arising, I’m going to trust that two doctors know their child’s medical needs better than me. That said, indirectly asking the staff to take responsibility for these kids is not cool. But that’s a workplace issue, not one for CPS. (I think)

    4. Mike C.*

      You can’t just “leave it be” if something happens to the kids while the parents are away. These parents are implicitly forcing their coworkers to provide supervision and care. That’s a very serious problem.

  8. Lacey*

    OP 1: CHANGE, change, please change your career. 10 years ago I didn’t, I regret it now. The longer you leave it, the harder it is.

  9. Anonymous*

    I’m in the same position as #1 but I can’t afford to go back to school and do something else.

    1. majigail*

      I wouldn’t necessarily say you need to go back to school. Write down the work you do. What skills are transferrable? On the surface, you might say none, but when you really start to look, I think you’ll be surprised. And basic skills like critical thinking and writing, things that employers aren’t going to teach you, are more important than you might think. If I’m hiring my next marketing staffer and I have someone in front of me with no experience but is gregarious and a great writer but was most recently a botanist and another person who is an SEO expert and has 5 years of marketing experience but I’m not impressed by their personality or their writing, I’m probably picking the botanist.
      I look at the resumes of some of my older volunteers and I’m always amazed at the long winding path their careers took. It’s never too late and doesn’t necessarily require retraining.

      1. Anonymous*

        Everybody wants a degree and I only have a three year diploma. :( Hopefully my transferable skills make up for that I’ll do what you suggested.

    2. TL*

      Talk to older people about their career path; heck, take a look around the AAM commentors. Lots of people took really winding paths and lots of people ended up being successful in fields that don’t relate to their degree.
      Seriously, start asking around and you’ll get a brighter outlook, I think. Your degree doesn’t define you!

      1. Fiona*

        Yes! There is some fascinating reading on the “how much do you make” post from last week (the week before?), if you don’t mind wading through almost 2000 posts (hint: CTRL-F is your friend). A lot of the top-level comments turned into discussion threads about how they got into their work, what they like/don’t like about it, etc.

        1. ToughLove*

          Then don’t work for those employers.
          Look, I work with a guy who is a high school drop out and a top project manager running $100 million-scale projects. He’s in his late 50s.
          I also work with a woman who is “not qualified” to do anything because she “doesn’t have a degree” (in her words). She does have a high school education and various community college certificates. Ask her to do anything outside of her narrow scope of duties, and she will push back because she “doesn’t know if she can do that.” Very Debbie Downer.
          Not everyone is smart and capable. Do you believe that? I don’t know. But, as far as I’m concerned, middle-class paycheck-to-paycheck living might be a little easier to achieve with a degree, but real success beyond what the average Joe achieves has little to do with a piece of paper.

          1. Mike C.*

            You’re really ignoring the fact that a significant amount of employers have decided that you aren’t a person without a four year degree.

              1. Anonymous*

                I haven’t been failing to look for opportunities. There’s just a lot less of them if you don’t have a four year degree.

                1. fposte*

                  That’s absolutely true, and I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise.

                  But what do you want to do about that? Do you want to make the best of where you are, do you want to look for opportunities that are interested in you even though they’re scarcer, or do you want to stay where you are and hate it? That third one seems like the worst option, but inertia drives a lot of people into it, and I hope you’ll pick 1) or 2).

          2. ToughLove*

            A 4-year degree creates opportunities. There are plenty of other ways to create opportunities. Yes, really.

            I will agree that these types of opportunities are not likely sitting there on CareerBuilder for you, like entry- to mid-level positions for 4-year degree holders. I would not agree that if you put the same amount of effort into finding/creating an opportunity for yourself as you would put into obtaining a piece of paper, that you would come up empty handed.

            I personally went the traditional route and not only got a degree, I got a very practical one. But, my spouse does not have a four-year degree, and by freelancing earns ~$80k/yr working less than 40 hrs/week. I could spend the rest of my day giving you a list of people I personally know who are successful without a 4-year degree (and people who are failures WITH degrees). The age ranges cover everything from early 20s to near retirement. No, it’s not as easy, but it can be done.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yep. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned here that I didn’t graduate (I was an irresponsible kid with no sense of what path to be on; I was a walking bad decision at that age), and while I wouldn’t advise anyone to drop out (because there’s no reason to give yourself more obstacles), the “no degree = no options” mindset is way off base. Do the work you want to do, do it awesomely, and people will want to hire you. There will be a small subset that doesn’t, but they shouldn’t even register for you because if you’re great at what you do, so many others will.

              (Also, no degree doesn’t equal no education. Education is out there for the taking.)

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’ve never worked in HR; I come from the management side of things. (I notice people here frequently confuse the two, but they are not the same!)

                  I worked my way up by doing what I advise here: doing great work. I wanted to write, so I wrote and sold some articles to the Washington Post, then used those writing clips to get a job as a writer, and just kept moving up from there.

                2. ToughLove*

                  The head of HR for a company I worked for in the late 90s didn’t have a degree in anything. She had some kind of generic office job there, then got a generalist role in the HR dept., and when the previous HR manager left, they gave her the job. THEN, she got offered a VP-HR job at a bigger, better company. By then, she had proven herself. No one cared where she came from. I think people (myself included) tend to work at the wrong things. It’s easy to go after degrees and certifications; it’s hard to build real skills and industry connections.

              1. Windchime*

                I keep meaning to take some of the free courses (MOOC) out there but haven’t thus far.

                I don’t have a degree. I graduated high school and got married, then went back to community college in my mid- to late -30’s. I was one class shy of getting a certificate in software development when I got hired as a programmer. So I don’t have an AA, a certificate, nothing.

                I know things are tougher now but I still believe that if, as Alison says, you are awesome at what you do, the lack of a degree isn’t as important as some might think.

            2. Mike C.*

              And I can give you a huge list of people who weren’t allowed a promotion or were overlooked for hiring despite their other qualifications because of a lack of a 4 year degree.

              But rather than trade anecdotes, here’s some hard data from the BLS about education and level of education. Just because you know some that have bucked the trend doesn’t mean the trend doesn’t exist.


            3. Laura*

              In addition to that there are plenty of people who are very successful who have degrees that have absolutely nothing to do with the degree they got. My dad has no degree and is now a purchasing manager with several staff that report to him, and he loves his job. My mom has a degree in gerontology, which you would think is super specific, and she is a marketing manager for a large insurance company. There are certain things you do need a specific degree or specific education for, and if you want to do those things then that’s what you have to do. Though there are more things where t hat doesn’t matter. It is significantly more difficult to get something entry level now without a degree, but totally possible, and once you get a couple years experience, no one will really care all that much about your education.

            4. Melissa*

              Yes, this. My father is a supervisor at his job and has no college degree; he worked his way up from a bus driver to supervising in a transit agency. And my brother is 25 and makes around $60,000 with no college degree. He did a summer votech training program to learn how to do electrical line work and joined an electric company with a union. Me and my sister are actually the only people in my family with bachelor’s degrees, but I have lots of family members in their 20s and 30s who have successful careers/jobs making middle-class (and, in some cases, upper-middle-class) wages.

    3. AVP*

      That’s not necessarily a death sentence – sometimes you just need to change the company you work for, or the exact function of your job within the industry. Or find something where you have transferrable skills, or a mentor who’s willing to take you by the hand and help you figure out what’s going wrong?

      Moral of the story: change SOMETHING. It doesn’t have to be everything.

  10. Paige*

    #4) I work in the education field and as such I am a mandatory reporter, meaning that I am required to look out for children; serve as their advocate; and report concerns. OP, from the information you shared, I strongly recommend reporting this. You can remain anonymous with your former employer. The national hotline staff is trained to investigate, which could be as simple as answering questions.

    1. Elysian*

      I’m really confused by people saying to report this. I used to be an educator, and I admit its been a while, but still. These kids aren’t “alone” – there are adults there in the office. They’re not super-willing babysitters, but that’s an issue to work out in the workplace, it’s not an issue to report. The kids are old enough to entertain themselves for a short while, and there are adults all around in case something happens. The parents probably just brought the kids in because there was a snow day or something and they couldn’t get last-minute child care. CPS has bigger problems to deal with than this. Maybe we don’t have all the facts and it was worse than it sounds, but based on the information given it just seems like the co-workers don’t want to be babysitters. That’s not an issue to report, that’s an issue to talk to the parents about.

      1. fposte*

        “CPS has bigger problems to deal with than this.” True, and I think people don’t always realize that the kind problem that elicits intervention is generally an actively harmful one. Sober adults in the building, kids getting food and water and medical treatment? Not an emergency.

        I think it’s also worth remembering that intervention is generally pretty traumatic in its own right for a kid–it’s narratively satisfying to think of it as a rescue, but that’s often not the way a kid experiences it. I think mandated reporting is a good thing and I’m a mandated reporter myself, but CPS intervention isn’t an automatic happy ending.

      2. Jamie*

        There are definitely instances where people need to report and keep reporting if something isn’t done – but this isn’t one of them.

        I am also confused by those who think this is reportable. It’s crappy management and if I were the OP I’d think it it was a workplace issues as well, but it’s not abuse.

        I don’t babysit for a living, but I would still step in if there were an emergency the same as I would for any adult co-worker… huge difference than being “left alone.”

        IOW I may not be happy about being responsible for their well being without being asked, but that wouldn’t make me any less responsive if there were a problem.

        Now, I do not agree that a 9 year old should ever be watching a younger child without adult supervision on the premises – it’s not legal where I live and even if it were, I don’t care how mature a 9 year old is they don’t have the judgement of an adult if there is a crisis. So if this were in a building where they were truly alone – i.e. the OP came in one morning and the kids were in the office by themselves – that’s a big issue for me.

        But I still wouldn’t call CPS (although I would absolutely address it with the parents) unless it was part of a pattern of neglect and disregard of safety.

        1. Cat*

          Especially if they were only left in the building without the parents once for an hour. Sucky management, for sure, but not child abuse.

    2. doreen*

      I worked in CPS and don’t agree that this should be reported but I do want to make 2 points here –

      1) Although the reporter’s name is generally confidential – please don’t make an anonymous report “just to be sure” . Unless you’re reporting something pretty horrific, anonymous reports are useless . If I got an anonymous report that said the children are frequently left alone for hours at a time, there’s nothing I can do unless I happened to show up when they are alone and they answered the door. If the person gave contact info, I could at least call them and get more details regarding the days/times when this happens.

      2) The national hotline (Childhelp) can answer questions and make referrals- but they are an NPO not affiliated with any government agency, they do not take reports and they do not investigate. Each state has its own procedure- reports go to either a state/county hotline or local law enforcement. Childhelp can certainly give you direction on reporting procedures in your state but you’ll have to make that second call.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, my intention in suggesting Childhelp was for her to talk to someone who could ask more questions and then advise her on whether this was something to report or not.

        1. doreen*

          Yes, you were clear but I didn’t want anyone to read the post mentioning the national hotline having staff trained to investigate and then getting annoyed when Childhelp referred them elsewhere to actually make a report.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I am going to ask you, Doreen, because you have the experience under your belt:

            At what point does child neglect become considered abuse?

            I kind of thought that was what our OP was asking. I worked with adults with all types of disabilities. We were always told that leaving them alone in a room for five minutes was considered neglect therefore considered abusive behavior on the part of the staff. (For example: you could not leave an individual in the nurse’s office and go look for the nurse. Even though all the cabinets and desk were locked up.)

            OP, I tend to think of our systems as reactive, not proactive**. Something has to happen before there is an intervention and that something has to be of substance. The possibility of something going wrong is not strong enough to cause intervention in many instances. It may not be the best way to consider a situation but I have found it to be a good starting point in the process of considering things.

            (** I don’t think we want a proactive system that tries to anticipate every outcome… it would become a free-for-all out there. That won’t work, either.)

            1. Anonymous*

              There’s also a time limit, generally, for DCYF/CPS calls. Mandated reporters have to call within 24 hours. Since the OP said it was the former employers, odds are so much time has passed that they’re going to screen this right out and not investigate, as well as the fact it’s not a situation that warrants a CPS call. I call CPS about 2-3 times a month in my job. Much more serious things never get investigated unless I call repeatedly on the same family with multiple instances of abuse/neglect.

              The fact that the younger child has disabilities is a bit irrelevant. I’ve seen 8 year old kids who are perfectly capable of taking care of their younger sibling in a wheelchair because it’s just their everyday life, they’re used to it. And just because the kid is in a wheelchair doesn’t mean the child automatically needs extra care, just that maybe they have motor challenges.

            2. doreen*

              Here’s the thing- in CPS ” neglect” doesn’t mean the same thing as it does in ordinary English. In my state “maltreatment” or “neglect” means a parent or parental substitute responsible for the care of a child harms a child, or places a child in imminent danger of harm by failing to exercise the minimum degree of care in providing the child with food, clothing, shelter, education or medical care when financially able to do so , abandons the child or provides inadequate supervision. “Abuse” means a parent or parental substitute seriously physically injures a child, creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury sexually abuses a child or allows someone else to do any of those things to a child.

              It’s not that neglect becomes abuse- they are two different situations. Abuse and neglect are both investigated and either may warrant intervention – but plenty of not- so- great parenting isn’t even going to qualify as neglect. Neglect generally is a condition that exists over a period of time, not something that happens just once. It’s not neglect if your kid isn’t dressed warmly enough today or if you really should buy him the next size of pants soon- but it probably is if he doesn’t have a winter coat or if his clothing is so tight he can’t move . I’ve been trying to think of one-time incidents that even qualify as neglect and I can only think of a couple ( and they’re not really one time). Pills left out that a kid got into, and toddlers falling into five gallon pickle buckets being used for mopping (the buckets are so deep and the kid so small that the kid can’t knock the bucket over to get free). Nobody knows how many times the bucket was used for mopping or the pills were left on the table , but after the trip to the ER the parents really didn’t need me to tell them not to do it again. The one other time that might constitute neglect would be leaving a child alone – but the only age cutoff I remember is that the registry would automatically take reports of a child under seven home alone-older children was on a case by case basis. And they really meant home alone- not mom was on the front stoop of a three floor building for 10 minutes while the baby was asleep upstairs and not mom brought the kid to work and expected her employees to watch the kid for an hour.

              But remember, this only applies to parents or parental substitutes ( stepparents,legal guardians, another relative or a significant other who is actually part of the household) . The rules for foster care, group homes, residential facilities , schools and anything else are different. But even with those it’s going to be very case by case- I suspect when you speak of working with adults with disabilities you mean those with developmental disabilities because physically disabled adults are left alone all the time. My wheelchair-bound father waiting alone in the nurse’s office at the nursing home wouldn’t have been any different than me waiting alone in my doctor’s exam room or him sitting n the dayroom without staff present. Which reminds me-just because someone has mobility issues doesn’t mean they have any special medical needs on a day-to-day basis.

    3. CTO*

      I am also a mandated reporter, and I’ve actually worked with CPS in situations where children were genuinely being abused or neglected. At least in my county, where the CPS systems are probably more functional than in many places, but where caseloads are still high, CPS would not choose to investigate the situation as OP described it. There’s no imminent threat to a child’s safety, and no children have been harmed in any provable way.

      And yes, it’s CPS’s job to decide what to investigate, not the mandated reporter’s job. But I still don’t think this meets the threshold for any abuse or true neglect. I wouldn’t report it.

  11. Chinook*

    #3 please do what your boss is (reasonably) asking. You are being paid for the next 2 weeks and she is still able to designate work to you at that time. To say no know not only is unprofessional but can also hurt future employees who tale over your tasks and had nothing to do with your layoff. If you don’t, you could be burning bridges with everyone your tasks will touch.

    It is doable and reasonable. When I was teaching, I would be told in February or March that my contract was not renewed (due to budget constraints) but was required to keep doing the job I was being paid to do now. It never crossed my mind to “check out” because I was still being paid to work at that moment.

    1. tesyaa*

      The only reasons a person would refuse to document or train other workers are childish and petty. Either the employee believes they can “prove” their worth and avoid being laid off (highly unlikely since the position is being eliminated, presumably due to budget reason), or wants to “get them back” for letting him/her go. This is not professional or even adult behavior.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I agree. The OP’s coworkers may be taking over some of those duties and they’ll need to know what to do. Lucky for mine at Exjob, when I was laid off unexpectedly, I had already documented everything via an SOP manual.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Nobody wants to be that new hire that has no idea what to do on a new job and has no resources to use.

      If nothing else, OP can think of it as karma. She is setting up the next person to succeed at the job, therefore hopefully someone will do that for her at her next job.

      I do get why OP would not want to do this task, though.

  12. ClaireS*

    Re#5. I agree with Allison 100%. But I would add one thing: talk to your manager about it. I don’t know how it works in your office but in mine, there are casual conversations with managers all the time about career development. Let your boss know that you think it’s unfortunate that this posting is for a different city and need x, y and z because if it was somewhere else and needed a, b and c you’d be all over it.

    Caveat: I work at a great place where this may be easier than most. But I still think it’s important to be clear about your career aspirations.

    1. Graciosa*

      I like this suggestion a lot – doing this would make the OP appear smart and self-aware. It makes it clear that the OP cares about career development and made a thoughtful decision (rather than just overlooking the posting).

  13. Mike C.*

    #4 While you’re perfectly justified in being angry that these parents essentially force you and your coworkers to play baby sitter to children that aren’t yours and one in particular with special needs, we’re not at the abuse level yet. We’re at the level where you need to have a “What in the f*** are you thinking leaving them here alone expecting us to take care of them” discussion. There is a risk for harm to these children, but no harm yet has come to them.

    This isn’t to the level of beating them or denying them vaccinations. Yet.

    1. Del*

      This is a good answer.

      What these parents are doing falls in that area where it’s not okay but not (from the sound of it) actually abusive.

      The part that concerns me the most is that nothing was said to the employees when the parents left for lunch — nothing about what the younger boy might need from a medical standpoint or what to do if he needed help. That does strike me as negligent, but if it was a single isolated incident, I wouldn’t do it, I’d just go with the “What the f*** are you thinking?” discussion. If it was part of a pattern of behavior (leaving the very young child with people who were not prepared in any way to handle his medical needs) then I would think it might warrant reporting.

      1. straws*

        My question is how does the OP know that someone wasn’t given information when the parents left? It’s possible that it’s a small enough office that they went through a “Did you get any info about this? No? How about you?” conversation, but it isn’t clear to me from the letter. Isn’t it possible that the parents do have an arrangement or plan and the OP just wasn’t privy to it?

        1. Mike C.*

          I’m willing to believe that the OP came to this conclusion after asking around. Even if someone was “watching them”, everyone else should be made aware of who that person is in case something happens.

      2. Judy*

        I’m not entirely clear how the OP knows that they didn’t tell anyone? Did she follow both of the parents around all morning, to know that they didn’t mention it? Did she discuss this with everyone in the office?

        I guess I believe that a 4 year old is probably a bit too young to be left with a 9 year old, mostly because 4 year olds want to move, move, move. But my sister and brother in law take their kids to their medical office on snow days, and have since they were 6 & 8. One of my doctors has a caregiver and her and at least some of her staff’s kids (pre-school) have a room of their own in her office.

        1. TL*

          I think this 4 yr old is in a wheelchair, so while s/he might be wiggley, they’re probably not running around or as difficult to keep track of – you can hear the wheelchair if it’s motorized.

        2. Del*

          I agree that a 9 year old shouldn’t be watching a 4 year old; it does vary from state to state, but from what I remember of growing up, at least where I was 9 was the minimum age to stay alone for any length of time, and there was actually a mandated minimum age to be left watching a younger child. Off the top of my head, I don’t recall exactly what it was, but I think it was on the order of 12-13?

          1. Loose Seal*

            You could argue that the 9 year old isn’t watching his sibling. They both just happen to be in the same room. It would be the same if you sent your kids to play in the back yard while you were in the kitchen.

            1. Mike C.*

              And when someone gets hurt, who comes running to take care of the situation? In your example, the parents are nearby. In the OPs example, the parents aren’t anywhere and it’s unclear who the adult in charge is. There’s a significant difference between the two.

              1. fposte*

                Are you arguing that this is therefore child abuse, or just that it’s stupid? I don’t think anybody’s arguing that it’s a great plan, just that it’s not a situation that merits calling CPS.

                1. Mike C.*

                  I’m arguing that the office isn’t the same as the child’s home. At home, there will be someone caring and watching for the kids. At the office, apparently the kids are left alone with no one clearly designated as looking out for them.

                  Thus, I don’t find the comparison very convincing.

                2. Cat*

                  I feel like there are two different scenarios here which we’re conflating – when the parents are there but working, the kids may be disruptive (which is a problem), but they’re not really unattended. The kids can, presumably, get them quickly.

                  When the parents leave the premises with the kids still there, that’s a different situation. As far as we know, it only happened once for an hour – that’s clearly bad on a number of levels, but probably isn’t the kind of thing that CPS would look into for a variety of reasons (one of which being that they’re insanely overburdened). If it was a repeated pattern, though, it’d be a different conversation; either it would be neglectful or it would be an even higher level of bad management (since they’d be tasking an employee to watch the kids) or both.

    2. TL*

      Off topic, but somebody in my apartment building had the measles last week. :( Seriously, guys, it’s 2014!

      On topic – I agree. This is a coworker issue, not a CPS one. I’d also like to point out that the 4 yr may need more regular care because of the wheelchair/bone disease. But if the disease can be and is well-managed, then he’s probably not any more at risk for an emergency situation than his brother.

      1. Mike C.*

        I cannot begin to tell you how much it angers me that people suffer from dangerous and perfectly preventable diseases.

        1. Elysian*

          I don’t disagree, but remember that people can get the measles vaccine and still get measles. Vaccines aren’t 100% effective. There’s no need to blame this sick individual when we have no idea of their circumstances. It’s very frustrating, but its possible that they took all the right steps to try and prevent it.

          1. Colette*

            Yes, my sisters and I were all vaccinated, and we all had the measles as kids. One of my sisters had a doctor’s appointment while she was sick, and the doctor didn’t believe she had the measles since she’d been vaccinated. She did some tests.

            It was measles.

            1. fposte*

              Yes, some people don’t develop antibodies very effectively, and of course vaccines don’t necessarily last for a lifetime (my childhood smallpox vax has apparently lost most of its advantage for me now). And doctors don’t always push it–I hadn’t gotten a pertussis shot for years (just straight tetanus boosters) and had to request a TDaP.

          2. Mike C.*

            I’m not blaming them for catching measles, I’m mad that there are those who chose not to get vaccinated and become vectors for infecting others.

        2. H. Vane*

          My friend’s mother is a nurse. His older brother is autistic, and because of that bogus study, she believes that the vaccines he was given as a baby are the cause. She falsified the rest of her childrens’ vaccination records to show that they had been properly vaccinated when they hadn’t. He didn’t find out until he was getting additional vaccinations and asked her what he was missing.

          That makes me well and truely angry. Completely stupid and unacceptable. And the doctor who published that study should have jail time.

          1. Jamie*

            That study has caused a lot of pain for me.

            I have a child with autism and I’ve been asked, more than once, if I feel guilty because I vaccinated my kids and maybe if I hadn’t he would be neurotypical.

            I did everything while pregnant and throughout their lives based on medical advice in their best interest. I vaccinated him to protect him – not to give him autism.

            When you have watch your child struggle with a neurological issue you’d give your very life to cure if you could – so he would have an easier path – the last thing you need is strangers who just happened to see Jenny McCarthy babbling on a talk show ask if it was something you did.

            Sorry – parents of kids with special needs have enough guilt and what ifs without casual acquaintances chiming in.

            Unfortunately I have yet to find a risk free way to raise kids. I could have kept them home for their entire lives, without vaccinations, and never exposed them to any other people or places…and then they’d never risk getting hit by cars, or falling off a skateboard, or a swing…and if they never fall in love they’ll never be hurt. And if they never enroll in school they will never get a bad grade.

            At some point when you try to mitigate for every single risk the life you’re protecting isn’t worth living – it’s making a prison cell out of a suburban home.

            Sorry – / tangent.

            1. fposte*

              ” I’ve been asked, more than once, if I feel guilty because I vaccinated my kids and maybe if I hadn’t he would be neurotypical.”

              Seriously? Even if vaccinations did lead to autism, what the hell kind of thing is that to say to somebody? Who thinks it’s appropriate to hammer people about a good-faith decision that can’t be undone now? If their child died because they didn’t vaccinate, I wouldn’t be taunting them about that, because it’s horrible, and they didn’t mean for that to happen, and it doesn’t help anything.

            2. Stephanie*

              Aw, Jamie. *internet hug*

              My younger sister’s autistic and my mom’s vocalized a lot of the same guilt. My sister got the MMR shot twice due to missing records (we moved a lot when we were kids) and my mom has always had this nagging feeling that was the cause, even with that studied being refuted.

              1. Jamie*

                The nagging feeling would be there if it was a study that drinking a vanilla shake in week 23 of pregnancy did it, or looking at an unattractive cabbage in your third trimester, or not watching enough Match Game.

                It’s human nature that when someone you love so desperately is suffering you want to fix it – you want to fix it more than you’ve ever wanted anything in your entire life…but you can’t.

                And it makes you feel helpless and angry and impotent. But the suggestion that it could have been something you did, however inadvertent and however good your intentions, God himself can refute the study and there will still be that ache.

                Pain from what-ifs are the hardest for me to cope with. I have very, very few – but this one will never heal and I don’t get people who barely know you tossing this out like it’s some interesting tidbit, “Oh, you have a kid with autism…here’s a small talk topic…” It’s really not like sports or the weather – people need to be more careful about ripping off other people’s emotional scabs.

                Funny thing is when I read your post my heart went out to your mom and my immediate thought was she shouldn’t blame herself no matter what, she didn’t do this. Sometimes it’s easier to see the lack of logic in this kind of guilt in others than it is to let go of it myself.

            3. Colette*

              Some people are awful.

              And of course it’s not your fault (and wouldn’t be your fault even if that study had any basis in reality). You did the best you could with the information you had, and that’s all anyone can do.

  14. Graciosa*

    To OP#3, this is one of those moments that will make or break your reputation as a professional. Not only should you provide the information, but you should make every effort to do as good a job of preparing your successors as you possibly can.

    An office full of people (aka references) can remember you as either than incredible professional who worked like a demon during her last two weeks to put together the best documentation they’ve ever seen right after being laid off – or they can remember you as that ?*!@ who made their lives hell because she was too petty – or too busy sulking – to act with decency. Go with option one.

    1. Ethyl*

      Yeah, OP3, what are you hoping to gain by refusing to document your procedures? The only thing I can think of is whatever petty and vindictive satisfaction you would get imagining how hard they had it after you left. I think you need to grow up a little bit here. Getting laid off sucks (boy don’t I know it) but that’s no reason to be so immature.

  15. Andrea*

    Anyone else remember the Child Help PSAs from the mid-eighties? I guess I didn’t know they were still around, since I haven’t seen those commercials in a long, long time. My sister and I used to taunt my parents with that phone number, though: “You want us to do the laundry and vacuum and clean our rooms? I’m calling 1-800-4-A Child!”

    Yes, apparently I thought it was funny to equate chores with child abuse. And I’m giggling at the memory of this. Sorry.

    On topic—-I would be concerned, but that’s because I assumed that there are large chunks of time when the kids are alone in the break room. I mean, aren’t the adults at this place of business busy doing their work for most of the day, meaning that most of the time, the kids are unsupervised? Probably if there’s an emergency, an adult is close enough to assist. In any case, bad parenting. Worse than making the kids do the laundry, for sure.

    1. De Minimis*

      I used to threaten that too! But I stopped after this kid in our town turned her dad in because she was upset about something and she ended up getting put in foster care. I don’t know for sure if anything actually happened or not, but it soured me on the idea of turning my parents in to 1-800-4-A-Child.

      The laws really vary by state on this…mine actually has no age limit.

  16. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Out of curiosity, for the people saying that the kids are unsupervised and that’s problematic, how is this different from kids being at home upstairs while parents are downstairs? Or down the hall?

    (I still think that if she’s concerned, she should call Childhelp for help figuring out if it’s something to report or not, but I’m curious about the reasoning on the above.)

    1. ChristineSW*

      That’s a fair point. The one thing that comes to my mind is that the parents’ workplace, i.e. the doctor’s office, might feel unfamiliar, thus making a child feel a little more anxious about emergencies. The home may feel safer.

      I’m not trained in child issues, so this is probably WAY out in left field, but I thought I’d put it out there anyway.

    2. Hous*

      When parents are in a different part of the house than kids, they’re still the most accessible adults. Especially with doctors (who have confidentiality issues and probably a variety of security measures between their waiting rooms and where they actually work), it seems likely that the child will encounter another adult before they get to their parents, which makes the child’s problem that adult’s responsibility until they either solve it or get them to their parents. It’s possible that this isn’t the case–parents might be easy to access and as readily available as the other adults in the workplace, which seems much less problematic to me.

    3. Ruffingit*

      For me, it has to do with the location. It’s one thing to be just down the hall and able to respond quickly to your children. It’s another thing entirely for me when you’re at work and especially if you’re a physician. I want to know that I have my physician’s full attention and that when they are filling out my chart or making their notes, they aren’t being distracted by “Oh, I should go check on the kids” or whatever. To me, this is the same reason why you don’t work at home with the kids home.

      So that would be my only concern. I think it’s not a matter of where the parents are (as in, they are in close proximity), but rather what they are supposed to be doing in that space. They are working and should be concentrating on that.

        1. Ruffingit*

          No, I wouldn’t say that, but then again home is very different from an office space too, especially a doctor’s office. I’m thinking most people aren’t keeping bio hazard boxes full of human waste and needles and the like at their home offices. There is something that changes here for me due to location and especially because this is a doctor’s office. A doctor has more at stake than your average home office worker in terms of the environment. Also, if the parent was sticking the kids in a room at home and leaving the premises for lunch without informing anyone that they were there and needed to be watched, CPS would probably take an interest in that. The fact that there are other adults on site at the office doesn’t necessarily change that especially because they may not know the kids are not being watched.

          Bottom line is that these kids probably should not be in the doctor’s office and if they are, there should be someone else watching them (babysitter, nanny) especially with a child who has special needs. Is it neglect in the CPS sense? Probably not, but then that depends on what is going on in terms of whether someone is checking on the special needs kid or not on a regular basis. Still, it’s just bad business practice in my view and I’d switch doctors if I knew mine was doing this.

    4. Mike C.*

      In one’s home, it’s clear who the adult in charge is should something happen. In addition, the home is where the parents and children reside – it is made safe for them with whatever it is that is needed to take care of them, occupy them and so on. And if there’s something wrong, the parents come running. I don’t have to come running, nor do I have to periodically check up on them or care for them or otherwise ensure that they aren’t getting hurt or doing something they shouldn’t.

      In the office situation, it’s not clear who is in charge should the parents not be around, what should be done if something happens and highly, highly distracting to folks who are there to do work. Even if nothing happens (and yes, the risk is low), there is still going to be a lot of time checking in on the kids and making sure that everything is ok.

      Look, I get that the parents here might not think of this as a big deal, but for those of us who don’t want kids, don’t want to work with kids, there are good reasons for that. I personally don’t feel comfortable around children, I don’t relate to them well and I certainly don’t know how to care for them. In putting myself in the OPs shoes, the stress of finding out that I’ve become a “surprise baby sitter” would be incredible on normal terms. Add the fact that you have a young kid with special needs that I have no understanding of, christ.

      I hear that “be a team player” and “your job is whatever your boss says it is” crap all the time, but shouldn’t there be an exception for high risk work? I’m not surgeon, so don’t ask me to perform surgery. I’m not a professional athlete, so don’t ask me to get on a football field. I’m not an engineer, so I’m not going to be signing off on building plans. I’m not a childcare expert, so don’t make me take care of children.

      Children are an incredible responsibility, one that shouldn’t be foisted on one’s coworkers without their knowledge.

      1. fposte*

        I think most of us are in agreement that it’s sucky management, regardless of whether it’s child abuse or not.

        1. Mike C.*

          That’s fine, I’m just trying to stress the idea that “forcing others look after your kids” is an insane responsibility to put on someone who isn’t good with children, and why that should be respected.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            It’s insane to force someone to look after your kids even if they love kids and are great with them. Your children are YOUR responsibility, not that of random people or coworkers. (Your meaning in general, not you specifically.)

            1. Ruffingit*

              Completely agreed. It’s amazing how many people will just randomly leave their kids in stores, offices, etc. and think nothing of it. Oh there are other adults around so no big deal…actually it’s a very big deal because I am not your babysitter and I do not want the responsibility of watching your child. God forbid anything happen to the kid while parent is off wherever. Amazing how many parents will blame everyone but themselves. I can totally see that happening in this scenario where the doctors are leaving their kids at work while they go off to lunch or wherever. It’s just crappy management, let alone getting into issues of neglect and the like.

    5. Zed*

      To me, it is akin to leave your children in, say, the furniture section of a department store while you are in the small appliance section. You are relatively near, and while there are adults more immediately available, it may not be appropriate for those adults to be watching your children and/or responding to questions or emergencies. It isn’t neglect in the clinical definition, and most likely isn’t reportable, but it definitely seems negligent.

      However, that said, I am concerned by the fact that both parents left the premises for lunch without leaving someone expressly in charge of the children (I am taking the OP’s word for this). The fact that there were other adults around does not negate this – there are other adults in the grocery store or the library, but it doesn’t mean you can just leave your kids there without someone calling the police. If – a big if – they do this on a regular basis, I too might consider calling CPS, because it seems inappropriate on a scale that could be harmful in other situations.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Oh, that is a better analogy! And definitely something that some parents do — “Okay, you hang out here in the toy department, and I’ll be right over there looking at towels.” Much like this situation, it may be annoying to the store employees who now feel obligated to keep an eye on your kid, and it may not be the wisest or most risk-free parenting decision, but it’s not criminal and it’s a calculated risk that people regularly decide they’re willing to take.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This reminds me of a situation on the old TV show ER, where Noah Wylie’s character was in a furniture store with his girlfriend. He turned around and saw a small girl standing alone, choking on something (it was candy). The mother was over by something else not watching. He gave her first aid and then when the kid wailed, “Mommy!” they skedaddled before the mom could come over and yell at him for touching her kid.


      2. Ethyl*

        Also……”other adults” are not necessarily safe, even if they are the kid’s parent’s coworkers. I’m hearing a lot of commenters talking about how well, there’s other adults around, and it’s making my skin absolutely crawl. Leaving a 9 year old and a disabled 4 year old alone in an office where just anyone can strike up a friendship with them?? Who would probably be seen as being a “good” employee because they are “taking care” of their boss’s kids?

    6. Callie*

      My problem would be, if something happened to these kids and I wasn’t told they were there and that I had to look after them, and then their parents get mad at me because I didn’t “do something” when I didn’t realize I was responsible in the first place. Are they going to sue me or fire me because I didn’t assume a responsibility I didn’t know I was supposed to assume?

      I cannot IMAGINE leaving my kid at my workplace without asking someone to be responsible for them, and this is even more unthinkable if one of my children has special needs.

  17. AnonAthon*

    OP #1: I really want to re-emphasize AAM’s point that you are not “locked” into your field of study forever, especially when you are only a few years out of school.

    I work at a mid-size nonprofit and our longtime ED has a degree that is so unrelated to that position that it’s amusing. Just thinking about my co-workers, most of us have deviated widely from our original fields of study. On my end, I chose an undergrad major that I both loved and had absolutely no intention of making into a career. But I still feel that I can use the critical skills/abilities that it gave me indirectly — and you too can apply and draw on your economics and data background in any number of jobs, even if they don’t involve those things explicitly.

    (Finally, I actually just hired someone with a background that sounds a bit like yours. The position has nothing to do with economic or finance, but she wrote a super solid cover letter and gave a great reason for her interest in the interview. Plus I thought her atypical background was neat.)

  18. ChristineSW*

    #3 – I would strongly consider doing what’s being asked of you, especially considering that you’re the only one who knows how to do the work. It’ll make it so much easier for the rest of the office to have everything documented.

    #4 – Probably not the best arrangement, but I don’t see any signs of true abuse here. In fact, has anyone considered that maybe the 9 year old has been prepared on how to handle certain situations with the 4 year old? While I do agree that 9 is young to be left alone with a younger child with medical issues, but there’s a possibility that he knows what to watch out for and to let an adult know if something does arise. I really think you’d be surprised at how much kids can pick up in these situations.

    That said, I don’t think that was fair for the parents to leave the office for lunch without discussing it with you all first with regards to the kids.

    If you were still employed there, I would’ve suggested having a conversation with the parents. So much better than running straight to CPS–even when an investigations turns up nothing amiss, reporting parents can be emotionally traumatic.

  19. hilde*

    Count me in the camp of those that don’t feel this is abuse and doesn’t warrant a call to the authorities. I just can’t help but wonder how much of this is driven by the fact that they are OP’s former employers? While we’re quick to assume the negative intentions of the parents, it’s also worth considering this could be a former employee with an axe to grind? OP said it happened frequently–when it was happening then was the CPS question kicked around or only now that you are no longer employed there> I guess I just think there is definitely two sides to every story and particularly since most people here (and I consider this community made up of reasonable, average people) don’t feel it rises to the standard of abuse, I am also willing to consider less than altruistic motivations on the part of OP.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I wouldn’t say it was abusive, but it’s possibly negligent depending on the needs of the son in the wheelchair. My question would be whether these children are being appropriately fed, bathroom breaks, and so on. Clearly, the 9 year old can deal with himself, but the wheelchair bound child may need more assistance and if he’s not getting it, then that could slide into abuse, but I wouldn’t be willing to say it’s abuse on the facts we now know.

      1. hilde*

        “My question would be whether these children are being appropriately fed, bathroom breaks, and so on”

        Precisely. We don’t have that information and that would really be helpful in making a better judgment about how to proceed. But we just don’t know the other side of the arrangements – just that some kids are seemingly dumped into the break room every day. But if OP wasn’t privvy to some of the details of that arrangement…well, that’s helpful info. For this situation, anyway. There are certainly situations involving kids that don’t warrant the other side of the story – you get them some help immediately. But sometimes I think the pendulum has swung too far the other direction and we’re overreactive in situations like this.

  20. Ruffingit*

    #3 – Seems to me your employer has been pretty good about the lay off in that they gave you advanced notice. That almost never happens. It did happen to me in my career and I was always quite happy to provide a manual for my job. Not only did that make me look good, but I got re-hired by that same company a couple of years later when the economy got better. People remember if you don’t act like a jerk at the end.

    I think you need to ask yourself why you WOULDN’T provide a manual for your job. Are you bitter about being laid off? If so, I’m going to do the tough love thing here and say GET OVER IT! It’s going to happen more than once in your career most likely. Do everything you can to preserve your reputation and always take the high road. That will help you in the future more than being petulant will now.

    1. some1*

      Ditto. This is one of those things (like quitting with no notice) where people seem to think they are sticking it to management. IME, it’s your co-workers who have to pick up the slack when this happens, so while your bitterness is justified, refusing to do this will most likely just hurt people who played no part in this decision.

    2. JKRowlingInTheGraveLaughing*

      Pretty sure the employer gave OP the advanced notice so that OP would prepare the documentation. It has nothing to do with benevolence on the employer’s part.

  21. Kat*

    # 1, I’m going through a similar career crisis at the ripe age of 27. It’s honestly more normal than you think. People get bored in their jobs all the time. Jobs have maximums for your development sometimes and the only solution is to look elsewhere. No one I’ve spoken with about their career is on the same path that they envisioned in their 20s, 30s or even ever.

    This weekend I got really down about my job and how I felt like no matter the work I was putting into development, I had no tangible skills come out of it. So I let myself be sad, then I redesigned my resume. I created a large master one that listed all of my accomplishments. It really felt better to have it all out on the screen. Made me feel less like a loser and more like I’ve actually got skills and accomplishments that translate to another career path. I highly recommend doing that. It’s great because you do something that makes you feel better, and its productive. It helped me realized that the career change I was envisioning was doable, and I did actually want to pursue it (non-profit fundraising to marketing). It organized my skills and made it easier to customize my resume for job applications, and the accomplishments I thought of first really said a lot about what I enjoyed doing in my career. You can make a change! Don’t ever feel like you can’t!

    1. BN*

      OP here!

      A master resume, that is ingenious (not just because it will make customizing your resume for different jobs super easy!). This is #1 on my to-do list.

  22. Christa*

    #2. I had the manager I was going to be working for in an interview be awkward and worded some details about how the the prior person in the position perform their job quite badly. He also criticized my resume unnecessarily. He was very opinionated and show little tact. This was a red flag, but I ignored and took the job despite this behavior from the manager. 6 months later I left the job because of this manager – he lacked people skills so badly, I don’t know who would ever thought this person should be in charge of other people. He is a bully and regularly threaten to fire me over little things (always told me I was doing a good job though!) The constant stress of having to walk on eggshells was too much, (it made me physically ill a lot), so I quit. He had quite a large ego and there was no one to supervise him on-sight. So, he gets away with treating employees quite badly.

    I’m just ultimately saying that, in my experience, someone who words their thoughts poorly may not be a good manager. I don’t know if you would have been reporting to this person, but you may have escaped a bad situation.

    1. Anon*

      OP #2
      I think it was just surprising was how he put it. He had been so good about explaining the hiring time frame, how many applied and so on and was always so very professional it seemed out of place from what he had usually sounded like. I am sure it was just hard to tell me I didn’t get it.

      This was absolutely one of those times where I would have preferred and Email/letter letting me know I didn’t get it.

      If they did not like the person then they could have called and I would have had a pleasant surprise !

      Oh well… another resume was sent today for another place and already had one out last week..

      1. Christa*

        The manager seemed to be okay and professional too, other than those words about the former employee and the criticism about my resume. What I didn’t realize then was he was showing me his true colors whether he realized it or not.

        I agree with you, some things should have been left unsaid. He didn’t need to tell you that he would call if the new hire didn’t work out. That shows poor manners in my opinion. I think the appropriate saying is, “We keep your resume on file”, etc.

        P.S. Sorry about the spelling/grammar errors. I forgot to include an email address so I could edit it.

    2. Ethyl*

      Oh, we worked at the same place I see! Yeah, I had that job, that boss, and OP, maybe if your spidey sense is tingling, you should listen to it more carefully. Good luck!

  23. CS*

    #3 – My employer at my last job told me to do the same thing. I did (didn’t have a problem with it). However, I did not go into detail of certain parts of my work because it’s something you can only know from experience so instead of explaining every possible scenario (my work involved a lot of data entry) I just wrote: make sure this all adds up, if it doesn’t go back, look for and correct the error until everything does.

  24. themmases*

    OP 1, I also left a grad program for work and relate a lot to this. However, with the caveat that I left a history program, I think you might be taking the wrong lesson from your transition away from academia.

    My experience in school was that, even though I was there to learn, I was also trying to uncover and then demonstrate *inherent* talent or intelligence; and that my performance said something about my vocation or about me as a person. My impression from the large numbers of grad students who report experiencing imposter syndrome is that this is a pretty common way to look at it. Grades exacerbate this by lumping everything you’re supposed to be learning– specific content area knowledge along with more general organizational and professional skills– into a single evaluation of your work and eventually, of you as a student.

    This is really not a helpful way to look at work, though. For example, data entry errors happen to everyone sometimes. If I worked with someone who was automating things they worked on and finding ways to auto-correct their entries, I’d be thrilled. I wouldn’t be thinking that this person is really in the wrong career due to typos. Similarly, everyone I work with has at some point sent an email missing an attachment or needed information– it’s just inevitable if you think of the number of emails you’ll send in a given year.

    None of this is to say everything is fine; you sound pretty unhappy. But I do think you’re being too hard on yourself.

  25. H.*

    For #1 – Is there anything about your current job, work environment, tasks or workplace that you like? What are the things that are less bad? Where do people go that is somewhat related, or what kinds of jobs use similar skills or expertise? Maybe step back, like many have suggested, and think about what might be a better fit?

  26. Chris*

    Welcome to literally every single day in a public library. Library employees are not in loco parentis, like teachers are; it is a public place that’s accessible to everyone (excluding those who have been evicted for policy violation). One of my professors referred to public libraries as “bus stops with books.” Anyone can come at anytime, and we just aren’t going to be able to watch your kid at all times.

    Yet, even though we’re a public entity, there is absolutely no legal action that will be taken with a kid left alone. We have a library policy that bars unattended children under the age of 7, but that’s it. The only time we would ever call CPS is if we witnessed physical abuse, or if the parents had not showed to pick up the kid when we were closing. And that’s not because we necessarily think something should happen to the parents, but because we don’t have responsibility for the kid, and they have to go somewhere.

    I don’t think leaving those kids in a break room is child abuse. I don’t even think it’s necessarily bad parenting. Bad work environment? Perhaps. But reporting it is pointless, and a waste of everyone’s time.

  27. Chris*

    Also, our policy considers a child under the age of 7 attended if they have another child OVER the age of 7 with them. We do bring problems to parents if a particular child has issues, but in general as long as one brother or sister (usually) is older than 7, present, and aware that they need to keep their sibling with them, that’s fine.

  28. Melissa*

    OP #1 – I do statistical analysis for work too and believe you me, there are lots of careers out there who would LOVE someone with your expertise. I’m not even looking (still in a PhD program) and I get people offering to pay me to do freelance work for them. There are jobs like this in education, the natural sciences, pharmaceuticals, hospitals/university medical centers/medical schools, government…etc.

    I also want to say that I hate, hate, HATE when people just leave their kids with a person without even asking if the person will watch them, assuming that of course they will watch their kids. I have been known to say “Uh, I’m actually getting ready to leave/do something, do you want to take Junior with you?”

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