frustrated by my parents’ employee’s constant complaining, over-sharing in a cover letter, and more

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

1. I’m interviewing for a job working with a company that fired me for complaining on Facebook five years ago — should I mention it?

Five years ago, I was fired from a very good job as a project manager for a major airline. I had been venting about the frustrations of my job on Facebook and a coworker printed the posts and handed them to our boss. I learned a huge lesson from that and don’t post anything work-related on Facebook anymore.

I have a new job opportunity with a different company in the aviation industry. This new position would be an on-site account executive with the same airline that fired me, which is a customer of the company I’m applying with. The hardest question to deal with in a job interview is why you left your last position. Now that it’s been five years since that incident, the question doesn’t come up. Should I volunteer this information since this position is on-site with this airline? I would hate for a previous coworker to see me out there and the information to leak out that way.

If it’s likely that you’ll be working in the same area as people will know you from before, or that you’ll cross paths with them, I’d seriously consider whether this is really the right job for you. If it turns out they don’t want you on the account (and I wouldn’t be thrilled about having an account rep who I’d fired for publicly badmouthing my company a few years ago), you could end up getting fired — which is far worse than just not getting the job to begin with. This position is working directly with a company you’re not really eligible to work with anymore, so it really might not be a role you should be going after. (That said, airlines are big and it’s possible this wouldn’t come up; you’d probably have a better sense of that than I do. But even then, I still think you’d need to disclose it and let the new company make that call.)

2. I work for my parents’ business and am frustrated by a coworker’s constant complaining

I recently started working for the company that my parents own. It’s a small business with about 25 employees. My office is right near the reception area, and I can hear everything that goes on in the common area. Last week, I overheard some issues being discussed during a meeting of about 15 people, including 2 brand new employees. While I was not involved in the meeting, I could hear everything being said. One employee was constantly complaining and making negative remarks about management during the meeting. While some (not all) of the issues he brought up were true, it was not relevant to what the meeting was about. Additionally, no one from the management team was at the meeting to correct him. I felt it was creating a very negative work environment, which is especially bad with the two new employees.

After I overheard this, I went to my parents to see how they wanted to handle it. The employee was talked to about his negative complaining in the meeting. He was not told who brought it to their attention.

The next day, I was working on a project with the same employee. He started complaining and making comments about something else having to do with management. He told me that I “better not repeat what I’d heard” from him because he had just gotten in trouble for this behavior. It made me uncomfortable, but I did let it go. Ever since, I can still hear him talking in the common area to other employees complaining and being negative. It really drives me nuts, and I feel it is really making our work environment negative. Any thoughts on how to handle it?

You could talk to him directly and tell him that his regular complaining is creating an unpleasant environment, and suggest that he talk about his concerns to someone in a position to do something about them. And/or you could talk to his manager (who may or may not be your parents) about your concerns; I’d sure want to know someone who worked for me was spewing that much negativity. You could also ask your parents how they want you to handle situations like this in general, without getting into the specifics about this guy. If they want to hear stuff like this from you, you’ll want to think through the ramifications of that for your role and your relationships with people — it will definitely change those dynamics, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you’d want to be realistic about those outcomes.

3. Pitching telecommuting after I move

I’m moving cross-country at the end of the year to be closer to friends and a larger LGBT community; I’m fairly isolated in my current city and it isn’t especially gay-friendly. I’ve started to look for a job in the city I’m moving to, but I’d like to keep my current job if I can. Everything about it is perfect–manager, work, company, benefits–the only problem is that I can’t take the city anymore. I’ve worked there for two years and have had excellent reviews.

Three of my coworkers in similar roles work remotely, but their reasons for moving from the city had to do with family or marriage. I feel as if my reasons won’t be seen as serious enough, especially since I’m young and single. I want to discuss this with my manager when I’m closer to the move date, but I don’t know how to pitch working remotely in a way that will be seen as a win/win. Can you help?

Well, if you’re planning to make the move regardless, you don’t really need to convince them that your reasons are “good enough.” Your pitch should be “I’ve decided to move to ___ in June, and I’d love to continue working for ___. Here’s my proposal for how to make that work.”

If asked about your reasons, you can certainly explain them, but this should be about the business case for keeping you on as a telecommuter, not what’s drawing you to the new city in the first place. Good luck!

4. Can your resume list new skills you’re in the process of learning?

My question involves taking time to learn new skills on your resume. I know trying to improve is always a good thing, but how would you go about showing that on the resume? For example, I’m learning Python (a programming language) on my own free time but hopefully should be more proficient soon. I know I’ve mentioned on cover letters how I’ve spent time trying to stay sharp while job hunting.

It’s fine to put something “learning Python” in your Skills section.

5. Is this too much information for a cover letter?

My husband and I are looking to relocate out of state this fall to be closer to family and friends. While I was keeping an eye on the local paper in the area we would like to move to, I came across an accounts manager position that I thought might work well for my husband (who has an economics degree), but upon inspection of the company, I discovered it to be an ingredients supplier for nutritional supplements, which is right up my alley because my professional and personal life has surrounded health and wellness in dietetics and physical fitness.

Anyway, I’m thinking of forming this into my opening for my cover letter. But is the idea that I had originally had interest in the position for my husband cross the line from conversational to over-share?

Yes. Not over-sharing in the TMI sense, but in the “just not really relevant” sense. You should absolutely talk about why the position appeals to you, both personally and professionally, but the fact that you originally started looking at it for your husband doesn’t add anything relevant or important to the point you’re making to the employer and so shouldn’t be included.

{ 92 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK*

    #3) I’m sorry that everyone doesn’t see it this way, but a larger LGBTQ community is just as important as family, and while you probably can’t say that to your manager, I hope you go in with the confidence that your own reasons for relocation are completely and totally valid.

    1. Cheryl*

      I was coming in here to say the same thing as the others.

      A larger LGBTQ community is family. The community will provide you with the same sense of belonging and validation that you normally get from a biological family. I’d let them know you are moving closer to family without getting into specifics.

      Make sure you couch it in terms of how good this will be for the business though as many times they don’t care all that much about your personal life.

      1. WM*

        Yes – essentially you are moving for quality of life/family/friends. Besides, even if you were moving to another city because you like their food better… it shouldn’t matter. You shouldn’t have to have a “good reason” (defined by management) to get the same telecommuting options as your coworkers. Good luck to you!

    1. Laura*

      Can parseltongue be learned? I mean, I know you can immitate some words, but it seems like an ability you’re either born with or not.

  2. TFTF*

    For #3: I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago where everyone who was already working remotely was doing so because of their spouse’s career. I was also worried that my reasons wouldn’t be seen as serious. I framed it as: “I have strong ties to [city] and would like to work remotely from there; here’s how I think it could work.” My employer was great about it and the legitimacy of my reasons never came up. It’s worked out really well.

    1. Chinook*

      I think I know the answer, but would it be legal to only allow married people to telecommute and to tell a single employee that, despite making the same business case, she wouldn’t be allowed?

      1. fposte*

        In the US, there’s no federal law prohibiting that for private employers; in some states it would be legal and in others it wouldn’t.

  3. Lizabeth*

    #2 My first impression was is this employee a good fit for her parents company? I suspect that they have been making negative comments before OP came on board.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Im not sure how being irritated about negativity in the workplace equals bad fit?

    2. Nicole*

      Lizabeth – You are correct. The employee has been making negative comments for a long time. This was a known issue that I was made aware of after bringing it to my parents attention. -OP#2

      1. Python Learner*

        Yes (looking currently at openings). I know SQL is big, JavaScript for some web mapping is key too. I’m pretty solid for SQL queries and basic concepts, but right now the Python was something I needed to get going on.

  4. Facebook Is Like A Pair of Cement Shoes...You Never Take Them Off*

    It might be a good idea for Poster #1 to permanently delete her Facebook account an think of other options. Seriously, nowdays, being on LinkedIn and Twitter in combination are professional enough. Facebook is looking less and less professional as they’ve taken privacy less seriously since the rollout of Timeline, and people don’t friend employers and coworkers like they used to.

    In this day and age, we’re learning the consequences of oversharing everything with everyone. It would be a shame to be haunted by this one indescretion for the rest of your life. Mark Zuckerberg is laughing, somewhere, and it sure ain’t benevolent laughter.

    1. Clever Name*

      I disagree. I think deleting the entire Facebook account is unnecessary. I think it’s fine to not talk about work and to not “friend” any coworkers on Facebook, and have your privacy settings such that only friends can see your page. I think a good rule of thumb for deciding what to say online is would you be comfortable yelling it on a street-corner.

      It sounds like you don’t like Facebook at all. I certainly have my own gripes about Facebook, but at the moment, it’s the only place where I can go to one place and keep in touch with friends and family who live all across the country.

      1. Zillah*

        Agreed. I doubt the OP has facebook for professional reasons – they, like most people who have facebook, probably use it to keep in touch with friends and family, something that most people presumably do not use LinkedIn or Twitter for. What you need professionally is missing the point – people have lives outside of their jobs, too.

        As long as privacy controls are kept up to date and you don’t post anything overly personal or at all unprofessional in the first place, I don’t see why having a facebook inherently damages your chances at getting hired.

      1. Zillah*

        … but that post specifically refers to a lawsuit. I haven’t seen any indication that the OP is facing a lawsuit, and especially since this entire thing happened years ago, I think that if they did decide to delete their facebook account (for whatever reason), they’d probably be in the clear.

        1. Cindy*

          I didn’t delete my facebook account but I did (immediately after being fired) delete all the posts in question and reset my privacy controls. Now I rarely post on facebook but I use it to keep up with family. I went from oversharing to never sharing. –OP#1

      2. Lady In Red*

        And that was written a long time ago… tech changes FAST. Facebook no longer has the domanince it once did.

  5. Robin*

    I don’t understand why #5 is even a question. Why would you even consider sharing this information? What good would it do you? Someone explain?

    1. offbase*

      It somehow felt like telling a narrative about why on the face of it my lack of background in business would make one question why I was even considering such a position but after really getting to know their company I really admire their product and think I could connect with their account holders in a unique way. I was off base, but I think the rest of the cover letter is strong so it’s a fix I’m glad I asked about. Thanks for answering!

    2. Anon*

      #5 is a question, because the OP wasn’t sure of the answer.

      Cover letters are some of the weirdest writing I have to do and there is so much conflicting advice. (And so much really terrible advice.) Add to that a(n un)healthy dose of stress and the fact that most people haven’t read a whole lot of cover letters and it makes a lot of sense that people have questions.

      If this particular question seemed obvious to you, that’s cool. You’ve probably had a question at some point that seemed very obvious to someone else. And if you haven’t, you can feel grateful that the whole process is that tiny bit less stressful for you than for other people.

      But either way, it’s not a big deal that the OP had a question about this. And they did the exact right thing by asking when they didn’t know. Job searching is so stressful as it is–it would be awesome if we could be supportive and understanding when people ask for help.

      1. fposte*

        It’s also a really good illustration of a human tendency when it comes to narrative–we default to telling what happened to us, and doing so chronologically. It can take a lot of practice to use a different structure, and most business writing demands a different structure.

        1. Jean*

          OMG yes! Combine this basic human tendency with
          a) the crazy pace of contemporary life, which demands that everybody fortunate enough to be employed be way more productive in way less time
          b) the personal problems that some of us have with maintaining focus, or communicating all that information in an instant
          –and you have yet another workplace learning challenge, plus the human tendency of some folks to complain when other folks can’t get to the point or produce the work or solve the problem fast enough!

          On the one hand, we all need to keep on learning. On the other hand, do we all need to keep on dancing as fast as we can just so because the powers that be have decided that everybody below a certain cutoff has to do more with less, or be younger than a certain age in order to be hired, so that those who cannot or will not comply fall into the stressful position of job-hunting?

          Oops…I see my Inner Socialist needs to be helped back into her bottle.

        2. AMT*

          True. I’ve taught writing, and the most difficult thing to teach has been clarity and focus. It’s hard to step outside your writing and judge what’s relevant and meaningful from an outsider’s point of view.

  6. Persephone Mulberry*

    OP#2: when you brought up the complainer to your parents the first time, did you mention that some of the complaints were valid? As owners/managers, do they invite feedback, or did they just meet with the employee and tell him to knock it off without being open to hearing his issues?

    I agree that working around a negative nelson can be a real downer and doesn’t make a great impression on new staff, but I think an equally important question is what are your parents going to do about the root issues that are causing the complaining.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I agree the parents need to address those issues. I do wonder though about an employee who would continue complaining after being told not to do so AND would do it to the child of the company owners. That guy just seems incredibly naive or stupid. If his complaints are legitimate, he (and the OP too since she said she thinks they have merit) should do what they can to address those, but continuing to complain after being told not to and complaining to the owners’ kid…that just isn’t smart.

      1. Chinook*

        I have to admit that I question the judgements of an employee who not only complains to the boss’s kid but asks them not to tell anyone. Rule #1 of family businesses is that “crazy things employees do” is fair game at the end of holiday dinners over Baileys and coffee (or atleast that is where I learn everything about my mom’s staff). Also, if you do something truly,you boneheaded, you will be used as an example for children and grandfather ldren for decades (my grandfather talked about the interview who showed up in rip jeans for an interview as a museum guide for a decade and only stopped when he was dead (grandpa, nit interviewee)).

      2. MJ*

        Maybe he’s testing her to find out if she’s the one that “tattled.” He could then launch a campaign with other employees to not discuss anything in front of the daughter because she runs to her parents with it. This has the smell of impending drama all over it. Management needs to step up to the plate and deal with this.

    2. Ilf*

      Yeah, a bit too much focus on the complaining. Maybe the problem is not the complaining itself, but the employee not choosing the right forum to bring up the problems. Discouraging employees to speak up can have consequences just as bad if not worse as not addressing the negativity issue at all.

    3. Nicole*

      Hi Persephone Mulberry,
      Thanks for your feedback. My parents (and all managers in the company) do have an open door policy for feedback. Some of his complaints do have merit and are known issues in the company. Changes are being made (one of the reasons I have come on board) however, these things don’t change overnight. The problem with this specific person is no matter what happens, they will always find something to complain about.

      1. Ruffingit*

        My question then is why not fire him? What is holding your parents back from letting him go? He seems to be a negative influence overall, he’s been warned not to be that way and he continues. So why keep him on?

        1. Nicole*

          I think because he does have the technical skills and it is about drawing a line where his bad attitude overshadows his skills.

          1. fposte*

            Then they’ve decided to live with his complaining. Probably best if you just follow their lead.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Agreed. If they are willing to allow him to behave this way because they think his skills overshadow his attitude, then there’s not much to be done. I will say this though – it’s not necessarily the best thing to do to allow a person’s skill set to override their personality traits. Alison has written on that before.

            2. fposte*

              Actually, I’ll amend in light of the “better not.” Unless it was obviously a joke, that’s way out of line. But I suspect that, as you indicate, your parents are pretty wedded to this “he’s worth the trouble” mindset that means they’re really not prepared to do much to him, and I think that’s a bad call in light of his behavior. So your choice may be that of any employee regardless of whether they’re related to management–put up with it or go elsewhere.

      2. Anonsie*

        Not to defend this guy too strongly, because he doesn’t sound like a great dude to have to work with, but do you think this would be a huge issue to you if your parents weren’t in management there? Because we’ve all worked with complainy coworkers who were fine otherwise, and that habit (aggravating though it may be) isn’t something you need to put a bunch of time and effort into correcting.

        I am wondering if maybe you want to nip this in the bud because you’re taking it a little bit personally, what with this being the family company. You acknowledged that many of the things he’s bringing up are valid, and he seemed ok with bringing them up to you– so what do they involve? Because griping about, say, some IT issues that are disruptive is very different from saying that the owners are mismanaging the place. Is it something you think he’s assuming won’t be personally insulting to you, or even that you might be sympathetic and help it get fixed?

        1. Lee*

          I have some people like this (constantly conplaining) at my work place and to be honest I do find it really irritating and do my best to correct it (by saying something or not indulging in the conversation). I find that the negativity encourages more negativity in others and it feeds itself until people are complaining about every little thing. It’s a cultural problem at my work place which I’d like to think we’re working at moving away from.

  7. My 2 Cents*

    #1 The NLRB recently ruled that it is illegal for employees to be fired for Facebook posts if you are legitimately complaining about working conditions and not just saying “my boss is a jackass”. You are protected in the workplace for complaining about working conditions, and they ruled that extended to Facebook posts, so depending on exactly how you worded your posts, you may have been fired illegally. For example “My boss is a jackass” is not allowed, but “My boss is a jackass because he made me climb a ladder and it was unsafe” is allowed.

    #2 the employee was warned and instead of learning his lesson he did the same thing again, admitted that it was something he was told not to do, but instead of not doing it again he just asked not to be ratted out. What other things is this employee purposely disregarding? Fire him or give him a final warning.

    1. Ruffingit*

      #1 was not likely fired illegally because it happened five years ago and the NLRB rulings are pretty recent. Also, you only have six months from the date that you were told you were being fired or disciplined to file a Charge Against Employer with the NLRB. So that doesn’t appear to be helpful here for the OP.

      Agreed on #2. It’s really ridiculous that he’s been told to stop his kvetching and yet, he continues doing so. He needs to either knock it off or find another job.

      1. My 2 Cents*

        I know it’s too late to do anything about being fired illegally (if he in fact was), I just wanted to give him peace of mind that he may have been fired illegally and thus he may be able to address that if it comes up in the interview, or even just to know that what he did might have been totally legit to complain and to stop beating himself up over it. Sometimes the best way to deal with a firing is to realize it was bullshit and move on instead of continually beating yourself up over it.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I would not use the possible illegality of his having been fired in an interview to explain it. That could create problems rather than help the situation. It’s been five years so I would hope he’s had other jobs in the interim that he could use as references and so forth. It’s possible they could call that job too, but I was fired very early on in my career and I only ended up having to address it with the next employer (asked about it in the interview, addressed it honestly and moved on). Hopefully that is the case for this OP too.

          In any case, I am in total agreement that he shouldn’t beat himself up over it. I’d say that to anyone who’s been fired. It feels bad enough without adding to the pain with continual self-recrimination. Still though, I certainly wouldn’t apply for a job that would put me in direct contact with the people who fired me and as their account rep no less. That just seems to be asking for trouble.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The NLRB rulings protected workers who are engaging in discussions of wages and working conditions with other coworkers. Someone venting on Facebook by herself, with no coworkers joining the conversation, is not protected. To be protected activity, it has to be a conversation with others who you work with.

          It’s basically an extension of the offline NLRB rules, which protect your right to discuss wages and working conditions with coworkers, which is seen as a basic activity that might lead to organizing (which is what the NRLB ultimately protects).

          The only weird part about their rulings about online postings is what they’ve defined as “discussions of wages and working conditions.” Employers are pretty rightly pissed off that the NLRB has categorized some pretty silly stuff under that label (like “my boss is a jerk” posts that your coworkers then “like”).

          But regardless, whether or not it was illegal won’t assuage the new employer’s concerns about placing her in the very company that fired her for publicly badmouthing them.

          1. Mike C.*

            What’s weird about it? The demeanor of a manager has a significant impact on one’s working conditions, does it not?

            Or are you objecting to the idea that liking a post on Facebook is the same as having a conversation with coworkers?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t buy that “Bob is a huge douche” with three likes from your coworkers is the sort of bona fide discussion of wages and working conditions that the NLRB was created to protect.

              1. Test*

                I think that it’s ridiculous to try to impose decorum conditions on the right of workers to discuss their working conditions without getting fired. You may not like to see “Boss is a jerk!” with three likes from co-workers. You may thing it is unhelpful to the worker’s cause and unpolished. However, the basic message is pretty clear, and it is a working-conditions-related discussion among workers.

                Imposing some sort of Miss Manners discourse test starts to get into really nasty territory – it will hurt blue-collar workers, uneducated workers, migrant workers, and poor workers a lot to try to put such a test on such discussions. It’d probably have a disproportionate impact on minorities, too.

                Besides, if you can’t come up with a more legitimate reason to fire the employee that makes such a post, then you are over-reacting to some minor poor judgement and an ego-bruising. If the employee is really a workplace problem, there are other, better reasons to discharge her.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It’s not about decorum or being unpolished; it’s about it creating conditions that make it hard to work effectively. (Obviously, you could say the same thing about a bona fide unionizing discussion as well, which is clearly illegal to restrict, but I think the two are really different.) And I think blue collar, migrant, uneducated, poor, and minority workers are just as able to see the difference between “Bob is a jerk” and “Our hours are too / pay is too low / conditions are unsafe” as anyone else!

                2. Cat*

                  But what if the boss is a jerk? You can have a job that pays fine and has decent hours but where the boss is an abusive nutcase, and that’s a legitimate thing for workers to discuss.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Absolutely, but I’d expect it to be done in a constructive way, not a name-calling or “I hate Bob” kind of way (just as employees would expect their managers to discuss issues regarding them in a constructive way).

                4. Cat*

                  I see the distinction and don’t disagree with it in theory, but in practice, I think it would be a nightmare to enforce. Companies that are acting in good faith would be confused; companies that are acting in bad faith would have an easy excuse; a lot more cases would probably end up litigated; and the NLRB would then be in the position of parsing some pretty fine lines. Especially when you get into issues related to those Test discusses above where workers may not speak English well (or at all).

                  So for instance “Bob is a douche” isn’t okay, but “Bob is a douche because he is messing with my time card” almost certain would be, right? What if someone posts “Bob is a douche” on Facebook and a second co-worker hits “like” and a third co-worker comments says “Yeah, he screwed with my timecards!” Would only the third be protected? It all seems a lot messier than just protecting speech by employees about working conditions in a broader sense, and not likely to be too detrimental to the business (when I see someonee on Facebook posting that their boss is a douche with nothing else, I think they’re an idiot, not that I should avoid the business, usually).

            1. bearing*

              This is fascinating to me.

              Hypothetically, can a worker protect herself from Facebook-related firings by (a) including coworkers in the audience for a post and (b) always mentioning NLRB-protected topics when complaining about work?

              “My boss is a jerk. And the thermostat is set uncomfortably low in the teapot tempering room. Tagging – Wakeen, Jane”

              1. Omne*

                It only helps if they are dumb enough to tell you that it was because of Facebook. With the recent decisions most employers will find other reasons.
                In general if an employer wants you out it’s only a matter of time and patience.

    2. Cindy*

      I wasn’t fired for saying anything about my boss….it had to do with the project I was working. I was venting about delays we were having due to a vendor delay. Nothing bad about the airline but they chose to take it that way. They said it could cause passengers to not trust the airline.

  8. Not So NewReader*

    #2. “He told me that I ‘better not repeat what I’d heard’ “.

    Unfortunately, this person has put OP in a position that he must respond in some manner. This cannot be left unchecked. The employee’s pattern indicates that he will just keep doing this.

    Definitely, OP, talk to your folks about a SOP for this type of thing. Get a feel for how they want you to handle it.

    But also, start to line up what you will say to this person because there is no doubt in my mind that he will be saying this to you again, soon.

    Your response could be as simple as “Then don’t be saying things that you don’t want repeated. Because anyone can repeat anything at anytime.”

    Or if you feel the necessity you can say something like “Is that a threat?” Which will probably get you some type of vague or back-peddling response. Then you say “No, I just want to be clear on this, if someone reports your comments are you saying something will happen to them? If so what would that be?”
    What is happening here is that you are holding your ground. No one should be threatening anyone in a work place. If he is willing to do this to the owner’s offspring what is he doing to the other employees?
    I have been threatened and I have used this and found it worked. (I was informed that I should not go to sleep at night.) Drag the threat out into the light of day- do not hide it. Do not allow it to become a private conversation that others are not aware of. This only helps to hide the threat. Be sure that you do not inadvertently assist the other person in hiding the threat. We are all responsible for our words. Hang on to that thought.

    1. neverjaunty*

      That jumped out at me as well. “Better not”? Wow. If nothing else, OP #2 strongly needs to talk to Mr. Complainer’s managers and/or her parents. This is somebody who hasn’t learned from the prior reprimand, and is trying to intimidate OP #2 so that he can keep up with the bad behavior.

      1. Nicole*

        Thanks for the feedback. Now looking back, I can see how wrong it was of him to say that to me. I think he was “testing” to see if I was the person who brought the other incident to the attention of my parents. While this time I swept it under the rug, I will be saying something to him directly in the future. -OP#2

        1. neverjaunty*

          Certainly this is your call, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to say something to your parents now. The problem isn’t just that he’s complaining, but that he made a threatening comment – which was also probably an attempt to test and see if it was you, but geez, “better not” is also a veiled threat. That alone shouldn’t wait.

        2. Anonsie*

          Out of curiosity, how did he say it? Because the delivery of those exact same words could take it anywhere from sarcastic to discomforting.

          I’m seeing two possibilities: One is like you say, where he thinks it was you and he’s hoping to throw his weight around to keep you from pointing it out again. The other is that he assumed it was someone at the meeting who complained (I mean, I would if I were him) and thinks you’re cool with it, and this was an eye-roll at the idea he could get in trouble. Like that other recent post where the OP would say things like “better not do x or boss guy will get angry.”

  9. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    2. I work for my parents’ business and am frustrated by a coworker’s constant complaining

    Anybody who is so compelled to complain, complain, complain that he or she is compelled to complain (at peer level) to a member of the family that owns the business, directly after being told to cut it out, is very likely not salvageable.


    Chronic complainers need a short leash and then termination. This is for the good of everybody. Nobody wants to work with chronic complainers.

    I’d term immediately after the latest incident. More generous people would give one more chance. Any more than one more chance is just enabling a bad work environment for lack of guts to do the right thing.

    1. Nicole*

      Agreed. If it was up to me, he wouldn’t be around too much longer. Thanks for the advice! -OP#2

  10. Brett*

    #4 I do technical interviews on a regular basis, and one of the specific skills I interview for is Python (I actually teach a Python course and regularly run python workshops at conferences). I would not really know what to think of “learning Python”. I would suspect is was someone who took a one day workshop once, but could be someone who has more knowledge and experience than me.

    Languages are generally measured in your months or years of experience. Start from when you first started teaching yourself.
    This not only gives me an idea of your competency level, but also what versions of Python you likely worked with.

    If you know other languages besides Python, you could also just list it as “familiar with Python” rather than “learning”. Your other languages give you fundamental programming concepts, so odds are you are already far enough along to call yourself “familiar”.

    If Python is your very first programming language, then I would rather you just list the number of months work on it.

    My job, as a technical interviewer, is to figure out how much Python you know. Knowing that it is your first language but you have been working on it x number of months tells me to check your knowledge of concepts like typing, coercion, and flow control. From the Python side, I will get into the basics of error handling, lists, tuples, dictionaries, object instances, classes, and defining functions.

    If you are “familiar”, but know other languages, I will check the Python stuff from above plus your knowledge of appropriate libraries (e.g. can you use scipy, numpy, parallel processing, which libraries depends on the job), and how to set up a development environment (can you use setuptools and pip and use virtualenv).

    As a side note, check out the Zen of Python (“import this” at the interactive prompt) and the explanation of it here.
    This will get you far with Python.

    1. Python Learner*

      Thanks for posting that. I’ve only been learning the last few months, so definitely some growing pains. To be honest, I had literally zero exposure to it prior to teaching myself, so at least now I know some basics. I don’t expect to be an expert, but at least be competent in some parts of it.

      I really appreciate your input. It was very helpful!

    2. Stephanie*

      This is helpful! Like the OP, I’m doing some self-directed learning with Python and C/C++ (and blowing the dust off an old MATLAB book), but wasn’t sure how to explain that without misrepresenting my coding skills.

      1. Brett*

        Make sure to look at the matplotlib library in Python while you are at it :) matplotlib + scikit-learn + scikit-image +pandas can do some cool things.

    3. Mike*

      My current job and the job I’m starting soon are both in languages I didn’t know at the time of the offer. Once you’ve got a solid grasp on the concepts and a few languages under your belt picking up new languages isn’t that hard.

      For resume I only put languages that I’ve solved non-trivial problems with, want/willing to work with in the future, and able to answer interview questions with.

      I’m also not a huge fan of putting familiarity levels on the resume. Seems like it clutters up the skills section. In the phone screens we usually talk about experience with the various languages and technology which allows me to explain where I’m at with it.

      1. Brett*

        You have to get to the phone screen though. That’s where “familiar” can help even though I think years/months is better. Like you mention though, if you know a couple of languages solid, new languages are all the same at that point. I think knowing the development environments and how to be productive in that language is much more important at that point.

        1. Python Learner*

          Yeah, thanks for additional info. I’m learning Python 2.7, but more than anything, at least it’s to be competent and have SOME understanding of the language (it’s important for my career, but not end all be all).

          I’ll have to try the stackoverflow link later, too.

  11. Beti*

    #2 – After overhearing the complaining the first time (as in not being told these things directly), I wonder if the OP would have gone to management had they not been his parents? The OP said “I wasn’t invited to the meeting” and I find it a little off-putting that he went to management after only hearing something by accident.

    If the OP a supervisor of some sort working under his parents, then I could see meeting with them to try and fix the valid concerns. But if he is just another employee, well, I’m not sure I’d have gone straight to the owners of the company with “Bob is being a jerk” type information.

    I can understand being frustrated working with someone who complains all the time but maybe there’s better ways to handle this, as Alison mentioned. I feel like whoever was running the meeting should have put the kibosh on the complaining. And if that person can’t do that, then maybe there shouldn’t be meetings without management or at least someone who can keep the meeting focused and professional.

    The second interaction ,”don’t repeat this” should have been addressed on the spot. Weird vaguely threatening talk like that is unacceptable. Rather than the employee actually being foolish enough to talk smack to the owners’ kid, I’m actually wondering if it was some sort of test to verify that OP was the one who had gone to management with the reports of complaining?

    I guess I just think the OP and his parents maybe need to draw a clearer line between we are parents/child and we are owners/employee. If the OP wouldn’t go to a non-family manager/owner, maybe don’t go to your parents.

    1. neverjaunty*

      We know that Complainer is foolish enough to keep on with the exact same behavior that got him reprimanded. I don’t see how it’s a huge stretch to take “better not repeat this” (not “don’t repeat this”) as exactly the vague threat it is, and not just a test of time kind. Also, it is rather foolish for Complainer to assume that the child of the company’s owners would never, ever report any bad behavior she witnesses.

      1. Beti*

        Fair enough. I’m not saying that the complainer is any kind of brainiac so maybe it was both a test and a threat: “If you ratted me out, don’t ever do it again”. Either way, letting it slide isn’t working since the guy is still complaining.

        I just think that being the boss’ kid and an employee is a hard thing to manage. I wouldn’t want people to either feel they couldn’t talk freely around me or shine me on thinking I have the ear of the owners. Obviously, I don’t know the structure of the company and who is a a manager of whom, I’m just saying that the OP should handle things as if s/he isn’t related to the owners.

        1. Nicole*

          It may be true I may not have gone to the owners right away if they weren’t my parents. However, my goal is to look out for the best interest of the company. And I probably would bring it to the attention of the appropriate people if it did continue (which at this point I could tell you it would…)

          It is a challenge with the owners being my parents, which is likely what made this situation so difficult. I do agree he was “testing” me to see if I was the person who ratted him out. While I stayed quite this time, next time I will say something to him directly.

          Thanks for the advice!

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Listen, I’ve worked in a family business, as non-family member for 25+ years, and I’ve watched as the second generation (who are *awesome*) has integrated themselves in the company. It’s a special kind of challenge to be one of the workers and also a future principal of the company at the same time. The grace with which they did it is one of the reason I admire them so much.

            It sounds like you’re at an early stage where you have the responsibility of being a family member without the power…you’re in the “proving yourself” stage. ‘sokay, don’t twist yourself into a pretzel over it. A family member within a family business is **never** going to be just another employee and any employee within the business who thinks they will be is an idiot.

            All you can do is give your parents your best input, let them run the business as they see fit, and then focus on your own stuff. But you aren’t going to react the same as anybody else punching a time clock and that’s how, eventually, you get ready for whatever responsibilities come next.

            1. Cat*

              I have to say – this is why I could never work for a family business, no matter how well run. I want to work somewhere where people get ready for what’s next through merit, not through some kind of semi-feudal hierarchy (even though that can be accompanied by merit). I know it works well for some people, but every time people talk about the dynamics on this site, it makes me want to run screaming as fast as I can in the other direction.

              1. Ruffingit*

                I’ve worked for family businesses three times and all three office environments were a microcosm of the dysfunctional issues within the family. Made it really tough some days. I try to avoid family businesses now for that reason. Very few people are able to separate work from family issues.

                That said, I’ve known people for whom the family business thing has worked out well. It just hasn’t for me so I avoid it like the plague.

              2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                I am really lucky.

                One of the things that worked well was the parents required the sons to establish independent careers before joining the company. They went to good schools and then got career track jobs in other industries…they even lived in different parts of the country before, one by one, making the active choice to come back and join the company.

                So, they brought a lot when they came. + the family has a strong work ethic and an aversion to “status”, really I’m just very lucky.

              3. Nicole*

                I’m not sure how the post equated to the business being a hierarchy, but a lot of family businesses start with the next of kin start from the ground up. I started working for the business by taking out the trash, answering the phone, and doing all of the grunt work. I went on to earn my MBA and work for other companies gaining experience from the past couple of years. The position I am in now was earned by merit, not my last name. However, when your family’s livelihood is at stake you tend to be more passionate then if you are working for someone else.

                Not to say all family businesses are perfect, but I think judgmental to say all are based on hierarchy.

  12. Alexa*

    I’m in a similar situation as #3. What kinds of information would people recommend including in a telecommuting proposal?

    1. Telecommuter?*

      Thanks for posting #3! I’ve been searching for more information about proposing telecommuting, as I’m hoping to make ta request like this soon, too. The small company I work for doesn’t currently have any full-time telecommuters, so I think it could be a hard sell. But I’m also interested in any advice people have about what to include in the proposal.

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