2 employees don’t get along, coworkers won’t send me the work I’m supposed to handle, and more

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

1. My company is requiring me to stay overnight for a strategy meeting, but I have a baby

My company has just announced an overnight, all expenses paid corporate strategy meeting. The meeting begins Thursday at 7 a.m. and ends Friday at 5 p.m. Our regular hours are Monday-Friday 8-5.

I have a very small child, under 5 months, and I do not have child care after 6 p.m., nor do I feel comfortable leaving my child overnight.

I was told it is not required but strongly suggested that I go and stay overnight. If I do not, I will be replaced as the accounting manager, and either be demoted or fired. I am not allowed to bring my child to the meeting, and I would have to pay the difference to have my own room overnight with my child. (Again, no child care). Can my company do this? What options do I have?

Wait, they’re telling you that staying overnight isn’t required, just strongly suggested, but that if you don’t do it, you’ll be demoted or fired? That sure sounds like required to me. Also, they’re being totally ridiculous to require this when you have an infant at home. I’d say this to them: “I normally would have no problem with attending this and staying overnight, but right now I have an infant at home and no child care. There’s no feasible way for me to stay overnight. I hope you agree that my work is excellent and I’m committed to participating however I can, but there isn’t a practical way for me to make this work. How can proceed so that this doesn’t jeopardize my job?”

That said, yes, they can choose to be unreasonable and short-sighted and require this, unless you’re able to tie your absence into some legally protected benefit, such as FMLA, other medical accommodation, or religious accommodation. If none of those are options, then you’re stuck with having to decide whether to bring your baby and hire on-site child care for her, or risk your unreasonable company’s wrath.

2. My coworkers won’t send me the work I’m supposed to handle

I work in a small department where some of our duties overlap on certain issues, but it is clear who is the staff lead on all issues. I have recently noticed that the director of communications never refers media and communication related inquiries to me when the subject matter is something I handle and instead goes to someone else in my department. The person in my department is supposed to refer the inquiry to me, but instead he chooses to handle the inquiry. This has at times resulted in inaccurate information being communicated. Others in my department have no problem referring inquiries to me.

I have directly asked them why they’re doing this, and the communications person said that she didn’t realize it was my subject matter area, while the person in my department said it was easier than referring it to me. I just don’t know how to get it to stop continually happening. How do I handle this with the communications person and with my coworker who seemingly refuses to refer projects or issues to me when they squarely fall in my assigned areas of work? In general, I have a great working relationship with both of these coworkers and I would like to continue that.

I don’t know how direct you were when you talked to each of them, but is it possible you soft-pedaled the message? For example, if you just asked why they’re doing it and didn’t clearly ask them to stop, you might just need to be clearer and firmer. For example: “Bob, I’ve noticed you’ve continued to handle teapot inquiries yourself, even though they’re supposed to go to me and not sending them through me has resulted in inaccurate information in the past. Going forward, can we agree you’ll send them on to me?”

If it still continues after that, then it’s time to escalate this by talking to your coworker’s manager: “Hey, I’ve asked Bob a few times to send teapot inquiries on to me, but it’s not happening. What’s the best way for me to get that changed?”

3. Two of my employees don’t get along with each other

I work for a small, privately owned company. We do not have an HR department. I transferred into the management role a few months ago. I have two employees who just cannot get along. They are constantly coming to me to complain about one another over the most minor things. (Example: S thinks K speaks too loudly on the phone.) If it helps to know, K is fairly high performing. She tends towards the dramatics, but is a solid employee. S is pretty new and still in training to a degree, but is not performing as well as I would like. My gut tells me that S is the problem, but now is not an opportune time to replace anyone (two of my six-person staff have been asked to cover different positions while new staff are trained).

They have now started trying to recruit other team members into this battle. It has basically become junior high all over again. I have tried speaking to everyone individually to address and correct all these concerns/perceptions, but it has not seemed to help. Bottom line: these two just do not like one another. I am not super concerned about them not liking one another; this is a place of business, not kindergarten. But it has definitely affected morale. Any advice, short of firing them?

Shut it down. Meet with them each individually and say this: “Having pleasant, cooperative relationships with coworkers is as much a part of your job expectations as any work I assign you. That means that you need to stop bringing me minor complaints about S/K and complaining about S/K to your coworkers. Can you do that?” You should then hold them to that just like you would any other performance expectation, meaning that if the problems continue, you have a much more serious conversation.

I’d also consider whether you need to manage S more closely for a while, since you think she’s the core of the problem and her work isn’t great. Being more hands-on with her for a while should help with both issues. (And related to that, make sure you’re not penalizing K for problems being mainly caused by S.)

4. Can my resume explain what kind of manager I prefer?

I am currently looking for work, and I don’t have much experience in any field I’d be working in so the specific duties don’t matter to me as much as they would otherwise. I find cultural fit to be much more important … and in the past I’ve found micromanagers much more, well, manageable than the managers who try to make friends instead of setting expectations. Is it appropriate for my resume to say, for example, that I prefer a task-focused management style over a relationship-focused one?

Is there a more appropriate way in general to put my expectations, which are largely focused on company culture and management style rather than the details of which company has a better wellness program, out there in a way that doesn’t put off potential employers but saves everyone some time if it’s not a good fit?

Not at the application stage, no. That absolutely doesn’t belong on your resume — which is about what you’ve accomplished, not what you’re looking for. It doesn’t belong in your cover letter either; raising it at the application stage would come across oddly. Since it’s so outside of application norms to talk about what does and doesn’t work for you in a manager, you’d likely appear to be difficult to work with Instead, this is the kind of thing to assess during the interview process, once you’re face-to-face.

5. Made mistakes at work — should it still go on my resume?

I am a senior in college and hold down two work-study jobs. One is as an admin at one of the school offices. The other is as a customer service rep for our music school’s box office. I like both of my jobs and feel that overall I’m not a bad employee. I get work done in a timely manner, am friendly to students/patrons, and have cordial relationships with my coworkers.

The problem is my customer service rep job. I have been at this job for nearly three years and am usually on time or no more than a couple of minutes late (read: less than five). There may be an incidence of extreme tardiness (more than 10 minutes) once or twice in a school year. That is, until this year, when I have had a lot of issues getting to work on time. Part of this is due to the fact that I recently moved and now rely on the (at times very flawed) public transit system in my city. But there have been a couple of instances where I have forgotten about a shift or misread the schedule and been late because of that. I won’t make excuses; I’ll only say that I’m a graduating senior who hasn’t been as on top of their schedule as they should have as of late.

This all came to a head this week when I offered to cover two shifts, and then because of my own disorganization missed them both. This has never happened – late? yes, completely missed? no. More than one missed shift can result in termination. Because it was the beginning of our quarter and my boss understood that anyone could have a bad day, he lumped the two shifts together and only counted them as one missed shift. However, I have been warned that if I miss or am extremely late again, I may be fired. I really can’t afford to lose this job. After my boss emailed me, I immediately replied to apologize profusely and assure him that it won’t happen again.

How should I handle this on my resume when looking for other jobs or opportunities? I’m obviously not looking to tell on myself, but since I wasn’t great at being on time, would it be dishonest to leave this job off my resume so that I don’t have to talk about it if it comes up in an interview? This boss had also previously (before the lateness debacle) graciously offered to serve as a reference for me when looking for jobs and wrote me a lovely recommendation last year when I was looking for internships. Should I not list him now? I think I have enough references to be okay if I don’t but what is the proper/most honest thing to do? (I have had several other internships and jobs, including one at a well-known magazine, and this has not happened at any of those other employers.)

It’s not dishonest to leave the job off your resume. Your resume is a marketing document; it’s not required to be a comprehensive list of everything you’ve ever done. However, being deciding to leave it off, I’d talk with your boss and ask him to tell you honestly whether these issues will impact the type of reference he’s able to give you. It probably will, but it won’t necessarily — so it’s worth hearing what he says before you decide. And in asking about it, you can reinforce that you understand it’s a serious thing.

That said, if you have plenty of other jobs that demonstrate the qualities and accomplishments that you want to show, then it might not be at all problematic to just leave this one out. In general, even aside from the issues with this one job, you want to pick and choose what goes on your resume to paint the strongest picture of yourself — so it’s possible you shouldn’t be listing everything anyway.

{ 211 comments… read them below }

  1. Brett*

    #1 The situation involved might be legal, but it sure sounds a lot like a pretext for discrimination, especially if this is the first such required overnight strategy meeting.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ah, but parenthood isn’t a protected class under federal law. Some states have made it one, but not the majority.

      The EEOC has issued some guidance noting that there are some circumstances where treatment of employees with caregiving responsibilities could constitute discrimination based on sex, but that tends to be more about things like assuming that women’s child care responsibilities will interfere with their ability to do the job well or asking women but not men about child care responsibilities in interviews.

      1. Brett*

        I was more thinking it was using generally legal family relationship discrimination as a pretext to gender discrimination or retaliation for using FMLA. Something like, “Her pregnancy and FMLA showed we can’t have her in this higher role, but we can demote her for this….”

      2. neverjaunty*

        Except if a company is specifically trying to push out women with small children, which is far from unheard of. It’s hard to know what’s going on without more, but this whole “it’s optional but not really and oh by the way no childcare” is sketchy.

        1. AVP*

          But is that illegal to do, necessarily? Assuming the company is pushing out men and women with young children equally?

          1. Gaara*

            That may not be a safe assumption. It wouldn’t be shocking if this is impacting women much more than men.

            1. hbc*

              Well, just because women are more likely to be custodial single parents and take the caregiving role at home doesn’t mean that the company is responsible for that discrepancy. Most of the people looking for part time, school-hour work are women, but that doesn’t mean a company is discriminatory by not offering part time jobs from 9-3.

              You are expected to make your own childcare arrangements, and if a company offers more, that’s a bonus. I don’t think one mandatory night a year is crazy, and while I would want the company to take into account personal situations, not agreeing to supply babysitters is hardly discriminatory.

              1. Natalie*

                “doesn’t mean that the company is responsible for that discrepancy. ”

                Point of fact, the EEOC looks at disparate impact issues as well as deliberate discrimination. I’m not saying that’s happening here, just that in general a company can’t fall back on “we didn’t mean for X to discriminate”.

        2. OP*

          I have child care during the day, but I cannot rely on these same people to watch my child overnight. I have family members watching my child while I’m at work, and it’s pretty much a split-shift for them, as they also work outside of watching my child.

      3. Emily*

        Depending on whether she’s breastfeeding or not and whether that’s a factor of needing separate room, room with a fridge, etc. she could be covered under the PDA. May be a stretch, but thought I’d throw it out there. I know that was the biggest thing for me when I was a mom of a baby under one was being able to pump and having a room/place to pump and store milk.

        1. Analyst*

          Also, if the baby is four months old then OP hasn’t been back to work that long… OP if you are nursing, it might be possible to get your OB to weigh in that you need to be nursing the baby directly to keep your supply up off-hours, and pumping only during working hours.

          I remember when mine was 4mo and she went into a serious reverse cycle. That was also when we started cosleeping so I could at least get a few hours each night. Best of luck to you, OP!

          1. Analyst*

            Also, OP if you are nursing then you need a private room separate from your coworkers for pumping, by law. And if they end up firing you over this then you do have a discrimination suit.

    2. MK*

      Eh, I don’t know. It’s not inherently suspicious to start having an overnight strategy meeting for the whole company, if they discovered from experience that it’s more efficient to do that than have a series of smaller meetings. Not is it odd that an accounting manager absolutely needs to be there, if the company’s overall strategy will be formed during it.

      The issue I am having is their not being upfront about it. It would be reasonable to say “this meeting is mandatory, you have to be there both to contribute and to be able to do your job well, figure your private arrangements as you think best”. But to say it’s not required, but you will be demoted or fired if you don’t attend, is rediculous.

      1. Jack the treacle eater*

        It’s a lot more than not being upfront. If they require the accounting manager to be there, they should make provision for her to do so and should not to expect her to be out of pocket for something that is entirely work related.

        1. Green*

          The only part that is out of pocket is childcare and/or paying extra to bring her child. Occasional work travel is a normal and accepted thing, and very few places reimburse childcare or pet care or elder care. What’s crappy here is that this is apparently in driving distance from her home and she has a 5 month old.

        2. The IT Manager*

          Nah! People go on business trips all the time, and it’s pretty much unheard of for the company to pay for a single parent’s childcare costs during business trips. It’s just an additional detail parents need to arrange.

          The LW sounds like she’s in a rough situation. Child is only 5 months, and she’s a single parent, but it’s not fair (to all the non-parents/non-single parents) to exempt someone from a business meeting they need to attend just because they have kids. It would actually be discriminatory in an illegal way if a company decided that the men should do the business travel because women stay home with the kids.

        3. BananaPants*

          It’s virtually unheard-of for an employer to pay for unusual childcare costs due to business travel. Once you reach a certain level, at least occasional business travel is to be expected and required. When a child, elder, or pet requires overnight care, employers expect the employee to figure out the logistics.

          I’m essentially in a limited-travel status right now because my husband works a different shift from me and we would need a minimum of 2 weeks to plan for any overnight business trip of more than 2 nights. We do not have a sitter on standby, nor can relatives handle childcare for that length of time. My boss knows that I can’t travel for longer than 2 nights on short notice. Fortunately in my role, such a need would be very rare (maybe once every few years). I recognize the potential impact to my career by passing up certain business trips; still, I can’t expect my husband to lose his job to enable me to drop everything and get on a plane tomorrow to spend 3 weeks in China. If it means I miss out on promotions, so be it.

          However, if it’s within driving distance I see no reason why an overnight away from the 5 month old would be required at all. You may have to go to a business dinner to schmooze or something, but that doesn’t occupy your entire evening and overnight!

          OP: I’d recommend finding a sitter (on one of the big babysitter/nanny search websites) who could at least pick up the baby from the relative who cares for her during the day, babysit while you schmooze with the client, then bring the baby to the hotel. Baby stays with you overnight and either you get up bright and early to drive her to the relative who cares for her, or baby is picked up at the hotel by said relative. It will cost a bit of money for the sitter but better than losing your job or being demoted. Alternatively, since it’s just one night can the relative who usually cares for the baby while you’re at work take PTO, if they have it available to them? Worst case scenario you’ll pay through the nose for an overnight babysitter at your house. It would suck, but again – better than losing your job.

          (Baby staying overnight with you at the hotel assumes that you wouldn’t have to share a hotel room with a coworker, which I certainly hope is the case.)

          1. orchidsandtea*

            Honestly, it’d be some sort of justice if the baby woke up the coworker (and the boss in the next room over) every 2 hours because management was too self-centered to realize it’s a stupid idea to make a mom of a newborn go to a strategy meeting instead of just Skyping in on someone’s phone. I’d sit there in the meeting breastfeeding half-shirtless, but I’m not a nice person and I don’t have very high career aspirations, so probably not a wise choice.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Exactly this. If it’s mandatory, say so. Or they could say “mandatory for management” if that is what they mean. “Optional, but if you don’t come you’ll be demoted or fired” is a passive aggressive way to say mandatory, and a terrible way to dance around the truth – and far more threatening sounding than just mandatory.

        OP, it is totally not normal for companies to say things like that and make veiled threats. Have they made other comments that are similar to this before? This sounds like a toxic company (or at least a toxic boss) and in the long term you should look to get out of there.

        Making people go to overnight meetings and share rooms is also not common in the for-profit sector – especially for management.

        In the short term though, you basically have 2 choices as I see it:
        1) Find and train a babysitter, fast. Depending on how much notice you have, do you have a family member who could come and help out? Any chance your current nanny/babysitter/person at daycare might be willing to keep your baby for the evening? I don’t blame you for not wanting to use an unknown sitter for an overnight trip, and the only other option as I see it is to hire someone to come to the hotel with you, and spend all day Thursday and Friday with the baby – an expensive proposition, and difficult to find someone willing to do that.
        2) Call their bluff and don’t go, or go but don’t stay late and don’t spend the night. But understand that that would be putting your job at risk.

        I’m assuming since OP didn’t mention another parent, that is not an option, either because the other parent is not in the picture or has a work schedule that wouldn’t accommodate this trip either (works nights, already has a business trip, etc). Unfortunately, OP, if you are a solo parent, I think you do need to work on finding an evening babysitter you trust – because what if you get the flu or have appendicitis and wind up in the hospital overnight, etc? The wider you can cast your backup safety net in the long term, the better for you and your child – but I understand that that doesn’t happen overnight, and if your job never required overnight travel before you couldn’t have anticipated this need so soon.

      3. OP*

        I understand having the strategy meeting, but I’m under the impression the work-related portion is ending by our normal close of business time, and the rest of the evening will be going out to dinner and “playing”. I don’t see why I would need to stay later than the work-related goings on, and just arrive by the time the work functions begin again.

        1. Oryx*

          I’d imagine it’s because even if you’re not officially “working” during those hours, a lot of those types of evening activities in these sort of situations are still deemed necessary as a team-building, networking, etc., opportunity.

          1. doreen*

            I once had to attend a week-long event where even those who lived 5 minutes away were required to stay at the hotel. The meetings and training took place during the day, but the team-building/networking happened after dinner. And it was valuable, because 1) I got to meet and spend time with people I only knew as the voice at the other end of the phone and 2) the relationships I formed that week are still helpful eight years later. I’ve been to other week-long trainings where the people who lived locally went home every night, and they just didn’t get the same networking experience as those who stayed at the hotel. Could they have ? Sure, they could have joined us for dinner and gone home when we went back to the hotel – but realistically, who’s going to do that for more than one night? It would negate any benefit from not staying at the hotel.

            I’m not saying that your situation is the same OP, only that it’s possible that there actually is a reason for requiring the overnight stay.

      4. Vicki*

        OP – How far away is the meeting?
        Can you separate the meeting from the overnight part?

        (My group had an “overnight” offsite one year at a venue 90 minutes from the office. I drove home and drove back the next morning.

        Of course, getting there at 8am could be trick but you’d be home over night.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      It’s not a protected class. However, I do think there might be room in there to say something like “I hope you understand that policies like this can have a very negative impact on attracting and keeping single parents, who make up a portion of your workplace.” If they claim to be family friendly, you can also mention that.

    4. Elle*

      I just can’t fathom having to source, recruit, interview, background check, hire, train, etc. a new employee over something like this! Either they just don’t care, or don’t fully understand the impact that replacing the OP will have. It’s utterly ridiculous.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I wonder if they wouldn’t actually fire OP, but rather “demote” her by removing her title and some of her pay, but still give her all (or 95%) of the responsibilities she has now, out of pettiness.

      2. INTP*

        I guess I could see it if overnight work travel is required for the position, and it’s not always possible for that work travel to be within driving distance of home. But I’m going to assume that’s either untrue or they didn’t disclose it to the OP when she received the position since it wasn’t mentioned.

        1. OP*

          Work travel has never been a part of this position; however, this travel IS within driving distance of my home. This is why I don’t see why it’s an issue if I travel home at night, and return in the morning.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Wait so – you are planning to attend the actual meeting either way, but their problem is specifically about you not staying overnight? I…really kind of wonder about how much pull they have as far as requiring you to sleep in a specific location outside of work hours, if you’re otherwise where you need to be, when you need to be there.

            1. Sleeping away from home*

              My company is doing this same thing. I have to stay in a hotel that is five miles from my house for several days because…I don’t know why really. If I find out I have to share a room, I will be driving home instead. There is no way I’m sharing a hotel room with a stranger.

      3. Vicki*

        I’m also thinking, how long ago did they set up this meeting? Because this baby isn’t a surprise, right?

    5. AMG*

      If it were me, I’d bring the baby and get through it, then start an aggressive job search. These people suck and it certainly feels discriminator even if it actually isn’t. It’s not rational.

    6. Anonymous123*

      I’m wondering what the OP’s job is… I just read a management book about a new CEO scheduling an off-site 2-day executive retreat and how it resulted in great benefits. It was just for the c-suite, so CFO, COO, etc. Is the OP the CFO of her company? If not, I’m not getting it…

    7. Steve*

      Is it possible to bring the child to the hotel and have someone watch the child while you are away, a family member etc, but you can remain with the child at night?

  2. Doriana Gray*

    OP #1 – So not only are you being forced to go to this overnight strategy meeting, but then you have to share a room with a coworker on top of that? I know some companies do this, but I never understood it – coworkers do not need to be up in each other’s personal space like this. I work for a company where travel is common, with the occasional division-wide trip to boot, and none of us are made to share rooms for privacy reasons. If a company wants to save costs, they should reconsider forcing people to do overnights, especially for a strategy meeting that should be held during the workday like most meetings are. I would really look into trying to tie this into FMLA or something like Alison said. It’s ridiculous that your company seemingly hasn’t taken into account that some people have families and need to be home for them at certain times, so something like this isn’t feasible.

    OP #5 – If you’ve worked at that job for three years and only now just started having attendance issues, it’s likely your boss would take the bigger picture into account when giving you a reference. Still, you absolutely should follow Alison’s advice and talk to him so that he knows why these things are happening. Not a manager, but if I had an employee who had been doing good work for three years and then suddenly started coming in late and/or just not showed up for shifts, I’d be concerned.

    1. Green*

      I know everyone may not be able to do this, but I would just generally pay for an upgrade to my own room if my company asked me to bunk with someone else. I only bunked with a co-worker once, and it was an actual friend, and we were traveling on a pro bono case and had to keep the budget down. Anything else just seems super weird to me. (But, yes, OP is correct that her employer is being unreasonable and should allow her to just go home after the business portion of Thursday and return Friday morning.)

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I would pay for my own, too, but that sucks for people who can’t afford to upgrade. Then again, I’m a firm believer that in most companies/situations*, if something is mandatory, the company should be the ones footing the bill.

        *I get that in some employment situations like in academia, travel may not be in the employers budget, so I’m not talking about those situations.

    2. MK*

      #5, I got the impression the OP has been having attendance issues all the time, just not very serious ones; being late occasionally, and then the missed shifts incident happens. If so, her manager wouldn’t be unreasonable to see this as an escalating, rather than a recent, problem. That said, it sounds to me that he does see the big picture in this and generally values her as an employee, so I think we reference is fine, as long as there are no more such issues.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, I read it the same way – that the OP has always had attendance issues, and they’re getting worse. Maybe she’s a great employee in the time she’s there, but being consistently late is not a good thing for a reference to mention.

        1. Bleu*

          Yes, and outright missing shifts? If those were no-call no-shows (like it sounds from the letter) that’s definitely not something OP wants a potential new employer to hear on a reference check (it’s immediate grounds for termination at many places).

          This is an aside, but OP should probably also plan for interview questions about her biggest weakness or challenge or room for improvement or the like — and maybe choose something completely different from this (OP seems to want to be very honest, but this doesn’t have to be the “weakness” she herself brings up at an interview because other candidates will choose faux weaknesses that are actually strengths). She might want to choose language to address it smoothly if asked directly.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t mention the attendance problems as a weakness either. That’s a little too honest.

        2. Chalupa Batman*

          Probably, and OP may not necessarily see the pattern. Story time: when I was a college senior, much like OP, I was working a retail job that I liked and was pretty good at. But when I had my review, my manager said my work was great, but I had called in a LOT. It added up to about once a month, which was a lot for a part timer in a job that requires coverage. However, it doesn’t feel like a lot when you’re calling in. At that phase of a career, it’s easy to forget that you’re part of a system that doesn’t work when you go rogue. I was dealing with depression, so if I was down, sick, or even just likely to be late, I would call in. I figured I lost out on the money, so if I wanted to call in occasionally I could, without considering that I was actually needed there-that’s why I was scheduled. Seeing the pattern helped me understand that. It was a very valuable lesson.

          1. Elsajeni*

            Yeah, I think this is something that a lot of people learn the hard way as they’re making the transition from “student,” where skipping class really only hurts you, to “employee,” where calling out messes up coverage and impacts deadlines and generally affects a lot of other people’s days in addition to yours. I really appreciate my first boss a) putting up with my nonsense for as long as she did, and b) pointing out to me that it was nonsense and I’d better fix it.

  3. MathOwl*

    For #5, I’d like to add we all make mistakes at times, small or big. Someone may very well have a general strong work ethic and sense of responsibility with the occasional slip-up. So in a way, if your resume has enough on it that it is filled with positive experience, somewhere the good far outweighs the bad and it makes sense to represent things that way.

    1. my two cents*

      Also, it’s a work-study position and any student’s senior year in college is going to be a whirlwind. Talk to your manager and insure any reference they’d give would be positive, but if not just leave it off your resume. I, too, worked a work-study job during college and my attendance was…spotty, at best. I didn’t use any of the ladies I had worked with as a reference, though we were on great terms and I’ll still stop by the college and visit if I have a random day off. They had understood that we were still students, afterall.

      The one BIG BIG BIG reference I was able to provide was the name of my program advisor. Be sure to ask them first and let them know what kinds of jobs you’re applying for – they’ll be able to tailor the reference accordingly. I was a b-ish student, but my advisor was able to speak to how quickly I picked things up, how I was the team lead for the senior project, and that I’d do well in a support role as opposed to a dev role.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Most employers are going to prefer talking to managers rather than academic advisors though — and if you’ve got jobs and internships on your resume, it’s going to look odd if you’re not offering up managers (and good employers will just ask you to put them in touch with those managers instead of the advisor).

        1. my two cents*

          Well, yeah – leaving all of the managers off your reference list would look ‘odd’. I’m saying that my advisor reference trumped the managers from my food service and retail jobs during college. I did not have an internship during college, and the work I did as a student worker was trivial and <10hrs/wk. So yes – my advisor was the strongest reference I had. I had landed my job well-before the other kids I graduated with back in '07.

          Work-study positions are not internships, and I don't think they can be lumped together like that. Student worker positions run the gamut around campus, where an internship would be in the specific industry from an outside employer. Presumably a 'good employer' would care more about an internship manager, but OP only has the 3 years with the student worker manager for a possible reference. If the student worker manager is going to give a not-great reference, an alternative (that worked very well in my case) is to use an advisor.

        2. B*

          I am a college professor, and students often ask permission to list me as a reference. I have been called by employers about these graduates exactly 0 times, so I don’t think they see me as a very useful reference. I have, however, written letters for graduate school and internship placements, and those seem to matter to their audiences.

    2. Steve*

      Regarding 5:

      In the professional world where jobs aren’t in shifts, people come in at varying times. In all of the jobs I’ve worked in,. people usually have a 30 minute window to start working. If you are worried about a reference, I wouldn’t. You can always add an internship, but you you should definitely include the experience on your resume. It sounds like your manager took pity on you. Do a great job for the rest of the semester and speak to your boss about getting a positive post grad review.

      Also, try using google calendar or something to alert you when you have shifts.. Learn to be more organized now before you have a kids and a 401k.

  4. MillersSpring*

    OP #2, this exactly happened to me. I was hired to handle PR and media relations for certain segments of the company, and my counterpart had trouble referring inquiries to me. I asked him about it twice and he dismissed it each time as a simple oversight and/or just easier to handle these inquiries himself. (Making matters worse, we were without a boss–literally reporting to the CEO for a few weeks until the SVP started, who then went through the recruitment process to hire our eventual boss.)

    The third time it happened I immediately stood in my coworker’s cube and confronted him. Reminded him that his responsibilities had changed, that even if coworkers or reporters were his best buddies that he needed to refer them to me, and that his new mantra needed to be, “Actually, you need to speak with MillersSpring, not me. I wish I could help you, but this is how we’re dividing the media inquiries now.” And I asked him to confirm that this would not be a challenge for him.

    That’s all it took. He complied, totally respected me for calling him on his crap, and later admitted that he was being selfish and worried that I wasn’t going to handle the media inquiries well. Seeing me excel put him at ease, and we never had the problem again.

    Hope my anecdote is helpful!

    1. AMG*

      Good for you! The 2 times I had that issue, I was very direct and was promptly very ignored. I had to go to my boss and say that I couldn’t do the job because I didn’t have the information. Boss was so anti-conflict that he couldn’t bring himself to discuss it with his other report (my coworker).
      OP will need her manager’s support, and her coworkers support or this isn’t going to happen.

  5. Penny*

    My heart breaks for every single family in your country that suffers because of a lack of government protected maternity leave. I have up to 12 months off with my job protected, more than half paid by my employer and the governmenot. I cannot understand how a woman with a small child is expected to make these sacrifices. It’s just not right.

    1. Anna*

      Some people, both mothers and fathers, want to go back to work as soon as they can after bringing a new child into the household. We have no way of knowing whether the OP prefers to work, rather than preferring not to work. All we know from her letter is that she is the sole childcare provider for her baby in her non-work hours. So I think lack of paid leave isn’t relevant to this question, which is about whether a person with a job should be fired or demoted because an unscheduled overnight trip is not possible to her due to her personal and family circumstances. Whether she would prefer not to have the job at all, and would rather not work while her child is an infant, is both a totally separate question, and not really relevant to this question.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        For that matter, we don’t even know what country the OP is in. The default is to assume American unless otherwise specified, since Alison is most familiar with US laws, but it’s still an assumption.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          But It’s a fair bet that the OP is from America. Most of the rest of the industrialised world has employment law that would provide maternity leave for at least 5 months and would prevent arbitrary demotion based on not attending an over night trip.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’m pretty sure that’s actually not true; a quick search makes it look like Spain, Japan, Germany, China, Switzerland, and others offer less time than that. But again, we’re off-topic so we should move on. Thank you.

            1. Apollo Warbucks*

              Sorry that’s my mistake. You’re right about those countries having less leave.

              I was think 6 months was the norm, and thinking of paid leave which the U.S. is one of the few countries that doesn’t offer any.

            2. Kate R. Pillar (DE)*

              Germany is more nuanced – very rough overview below:

              There is mandatory paid leave at full pay (paid by health insurance up to a point, rest made up by the employer) for 8 weeks after birth – the mother, if employed, is not allowed to work during that period (self-employed is another matter…).
              In parallel, up to 14 months of parental leave (12 if only one parent takes any) paid at 65% of previous income but capped at 1800 EUR/month are available for either parent.
              Unpaid leave can be used after that – your job needs to be kept open for you until the child is three years old if you choose to stay away that long.

              There are more options where the paid parental leave can be extended to twice as long for parents returning to work part-time, but then payments will only cover 65% of the pay gap between part time and full time, again with caps.

              Sorry for derailing – it’s just that those eight weeks you probably found on Germany are not the whole picture.

          2. MK*

            Also, maternity (parental) leave is not mandatory. People do sometimes choose to return to work earlier; in my country there are option to convert part of the leave to monetary compensation or to a longer part-time period.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Seriously. I have always wanted to work. I support both other people’s choices and better family leave in the US but women not wanting to work in the first year after having a baby is not a default.

        Also can I say: assuming that a woman would not want an overnight opportunity with a 5 month old at home would not be cool. I was embarrassed to have to have someone (who happened to be a man) point this out to me a few years back. There was a West Coast conference and we were discussing who should attend. Glenda was an obvious choice but I said “Oh, she’s got a less than 6 month at home. She can’t travel.”

        I said this! Me!

        And the guy manager says “That’s not cool. You can’t decide that for her.”


        We offered it to her. She, after some talk and logistics strategy, declined but it was her choice. (And I gave myself a stern talking to. That will never happen again.)

        1. BRR*

          I’m also a always want to work person. I’m not planning on kids but if I do I would love them and want to work.

          I also love that you gave yourself a talking to.

        2. hbc*

          I think I did some traveling when my kid was about 8 weeks. Some aspects were no picnic, but being able to sleep through the night was heavenly.

          1. AnonInSC*

            I would have killed to sleep though the night. But she may not be able to – if she’s breastfeeding, she’ll have to wake up and pump anyway.

            Something about the letter makes me think they aren’t a friendly workplace for breastfeeding mothers needing to pump, either.

            1. hbc*

              Yeah, personal mileage varies a lot on that. I could go six hours if needed, and my kid was waking up every 2.5, so it was an unqualified win in that sense. Less desirable was setting up the pump in a bathroom stall during a layover so I wouldn’t have to break out all the equipment next to some stranger on the plane.

        3. Green*

          Yep! The friendly assumption designed to help her spend more time with her family is actually discrimination if it results in her not having the same opportunities as others. Good catch from the male colleague, and good self-check from you.

      3. Nerdling*

        Word. I love my kid, but I’m someone who wanted and needed, for my own sanity, to come back to work when I was ready. 12 months of leave would have had me tearing out my hair and probably spiraling downward into even deeper PPD.

        The fact that the OP’s company appears to be run by unreasonable jackwagons is pretty much completely unrelated to maternity leave. The idea that an overnight retreat can be so important that missing it leads to demotion or firing but not so important as to be mandatory is, quite frankly, asinine and laughable. The OP’s child could be two years old and the situation would be just as insane.

    2. Chriama*

      Uhh if OP is a single parent or her spouse travels a lot then she’d have this issue until her child was about 12. No one would be comfortable leaving a kid alone overnight without supervision and her company’s hard line about this is more relevant than the federal maternity leave policies.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I think a lot can happen between a 5mo and 12! Just because it’s an issue now for the OP, doesn’t mean it always will be.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          A lot did happen between five months and twelve years, but that didn’t include the ability to be left alone overnight; that comes later.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I need to check what autocorrect does to my typing before I submit my comments. I meant to say:

            A lot can happen between five months and twelve years, but that doesn’t include the ability to be left alone overnight; that comes later.

        2. fposte*

          I think Chriama’s point is that a year of parental leave doesn’t automatically solve the problem , since you have a kid needing supervision for over a decade.

      2. CADMonkey007*

        Leaving a child unattended is not the issue here, it’s about a parent leaving her infant in the care of someone else for a longer duration than she feels comfortable. It is pretty common for parents to prefer not to leave an infant overnight, in particular if mother is breastfeeding. Once the kid is a toddler & weaned, yeah leave the kid at grandma’s or hire an overnight sitter – it’s much easier on kid and parent to make those arrangements.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      And we appreciate your heartbreak, but it really has nothing to do with this question.

    4. BananaPants*

      This is way off-topic, but I’m a working mother in the US and I don’t need or want your pity. I’m my family’s bigger breadwinner and even making half of my pay for a year wouldn’t be sufficient to keep us financially afloat. That aside, I like my job and while I would have liked more than 12 weeks off with each baby, I also would have gone stir-crazy at around the 6 month mark and wanted to go back then.

      Save your heartbreak for the women in the US who have zero job protection and zero paid leave and end up going back to work 2 weeks after having a C-section because they quite literally have no other choice if they want to keep a roof over their heads. Having 8 weeks of paid leave and the financial means to take 4 more weeks of unpaid leave still left me better-off than the majority of new mothers in the US (and my employer now offers 12 weeks at full pay, so if we have a third I’ll really be more fortunate than most).

      It sucks that the US doesn’t have guaranteed paid parental leave, but it isn’t really relevant to OP1’s problem. This would be an issue a year from now, too – realistically most kids can’t safely be left alone overnight until they’re teens. My kids are 5.5 and 2.5, so not babies anymore (!) but my husband working 2nd shift makes it inconvenient, stressful, and expensive for me to go on a business trip since I care for the kids in the evenings when he’s at work. We can’t very well leave the kindergartener in charge of her little sister and the dog until 11:30 PM when daddy gets home, you know?

      Based on what OP1 has said, she probably needs to find childcare for this occasion or accept the possible consequences at work. It’s not rational that she’d have to stay overnight (given what she’s said in the letter and the thread) but I wouldn’t count on much reason, given that they’ve made it essentially mandatory without actually saying so.

    5. Callie*

      I would have stabbed my eyes out if I had been required to stay home for 12 months. I would have appreciated more than the 6 weeks I got, but… I was a teacher and by week 4 of summer “vacation” I was ready to go back. I’m not cut out for staying at home.

  6. BobtheBreaker*

    #1-If its a company wide thing you might not be the only person in this situation. If there is a good number of you, maybe that fact can be leveraged to get the company to sponsor, on-site, childcare; or you’ll can pool resource to hire a caregiver(s) during meeting times.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, that’s a good call. Even if she’s the only one with an infant, there may be others who need to go home and not spend the night in the hotel, because of caring for parents or spouses or disabled children or any number of things. The OP should see if she has any allies in making that request (and attending the meetings but not staying overnight does seem like the most reasonable/easily approved request to me).

  7. Rocky*

    OP#1 can you propose to your employer that you bring the baby to the hotel overnight and the company picks up the extra cost of a single room – on the grounds that you don’t want another employee’s sleep to be disturbed by your baby? At five months she/he must surely need feeding in the night. Your employer may be more sympathetic when they see it from the point of view of another employee sharing your room. If there are evening activities planned at the hotel, but outside your normal working hours, you could ask either to be excused from those, or if they are compulsory, that your employer picks up the cost of childcare for the evening.
    Like Penny, I come from a country with 12 months family leave. I think Penny didn’t realise that remarking on our good fortune (to have the option) could come across as smug. As it happens I took only 6 months when my youngest child was born because I was eager to get back to work.

    1. Green*

      Paid childcare is fairly unusual. I don’t want to discourage her from asking, but it’s pretty unlikely to happen.

    2. Gaara*

      That would be my argument for getting a single room. “I have to bring baby to sleep with me, so the company should pay for a single room so we don’t disturb Sally and keep her up all night.”

    3. AnotherHRPro*

      Most larger companies would have a rule in place that would say that you can not have an overnight guest in your shared room.

      1. BananaPants*

        Most larger companies wouldn’t require employees to share rooms to begin with.

  8. Jack the treacle eater*

    #1, does the company have any other issues with you, or the quality of your work? Just thinking whether they’re simply totally unreasonable, or whether they are trying to put you in an impossible situation as a pretext for dismissal for some reason (wanting to move a favourite into your job?)

    Alternatively, is there a possibility of having misinterpreted the threat to demote or fire, or might it be that a bullying manager is putting their own spin on the situation?

    Assuming your work is excellent, it seems totally insane that a company would risk losing a good employee – and suffering all the costs, risk and extra work associated with hiring – to make a point like this; and questionable whether it’s a company you might want to continue working for long term.

    Is it worth going to the higher ups, if you haven’t already – whoever decided that attendance was compulsory, or is responsible for organising the meeting, or even the CEO – and asking whether this is really what was intended? If following Alison’s advice, I’d certainly be stressing very heavily your commitment to the company, with examples if you have them. I did think whether you could point out the knock-on effects of dismissal for them, if they seem serious, but there’s a risk of that being seen as a threat.

    To be honest, I could not believe it when I read this; it’s frankly outrageous, and I can’t help feeling would (rightly) be cause for an unfair dismissal suit under UK law.

    1. BRR*

      I can’t imagine the company would schedule and pay for an overnight strategy meeting to fire one employee. My guess is they want it to happen without considering that employees have responsibilities outside of work.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I don’t think Jack was suggesting that the whole strategy meeting itself is a nefarious plot to oust the OP, but rather that the absolute inflexibility is.

        1. RVA Cat*

          This. I get the sense that perhaps they didn’t handle things well during her maternity leave and they’re taking it out on her for some insane reason.

          1. RVA Cat*

            Also, since LW #1 does not mention a partner, I’m wondering if the inflexibility could be that they’re being judgy towards a single mother?

            1. CreationEdge*

              It feels less like judgment to me and more like the inability to grasp the depth of the issue here. The management has a “make it happen” attitude.

              The fact that they don’t seem to appreciate the problem is definitely a concern. Hard to work under people that want to control aspects of your life without regard the challenges it brings you. I’m sure the idea of a new mother never crossed their mind in planning, and lack of foresight becomes this inflexibility.

              I could be way off base, but I see and hear more about people just not understanding. My university is terrible in accounting for parents like myself, despite thousands of us on campus.

        2. Tamsin*

          Yes, the inflexibility reads almost like the employer would have axed her while on maternity leave if they could have gotten away with it. It’s that … extreme and unreasonable.

      2. Jack the treacle eater*

        It’s not the arranging the meeting I’m thinking of, it’s the insisting so rigidly on the particular employee’s attendance without being prepared to make any accomodation, including paying to enable her to attend an effectively compulsory business conference.

        Not considering employee’s life outside work is sadly commonplace; saying ‘oh, in that case we’ll fire you’ isn’t so much.

    2. misspiggy*

      Agreeing with everything here. It’s not so much the hard requirement to attend that’s bothering me (although it’s unreasonable) but the refusal to choose a venue with on-site childcare, and to pay for that and the extra room costs. These adjustments are so small it doesn’t make sense not to provide them, unless a) higher ups are unaware they’re needed, or b)the company is trying to force this particular woman out.

      1. Colette*

        I don’t think it is the employer’s responsibility to select a site with child care. They might have liability issues (if they select the caregiver and something happens) and the OP might prefer to make other arrangements after they’ve made arrangements. Besides, there are other responsibilities other employees might have (elder care, for example), and they can’t solve them all.

        Personally, I would hate an overnight event and I think they’re being ridiculously rigid with the OP, but that still doesn’t make them responsible for child care.

        1. MK*

          Frankly, I wouldn’t say that they are being unreasonable or ridiculously rigid for demanding the OP’s attendance, or at least not necessarily. It’s possible that it really is essential for the accounting manager to be there, and it’s not a given that the meeting isn’t imprtant for the company just because it’s the first one; in fact, that might be the reason they are insisting. But think their manner is at the very least odd; why not simply say attendance is mandatory?

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            It’s rigid in that they are insisting on making it an overnight meeting and that attendance is (effectively) compulsory. Do they really need to have everyone there, asleep in a hotel room at 3am? What is going to get accomplished between the hours of 5pm and 8am that otherwise would not? Other than to discomfit their employees and create a bunch of extra hassle for everyone, that is.

            1. BananaPants*

              Offsite meetings aren’t uncommon. The rationale is that being away from the office and home gives everyone the chance to focus on the tasks at hand. There’s usually schmoozing/networking or even flat-out work involved after 5 PM. It’s just expected for people in certain roles.

              If the employer wants overnight attendance to be mandatory, they should say so. It impacts OP1 and probably other employees who have children/elders/pets to care for overnight.

          2. Colette*

            Expecting her to attend may be very reasonable, but most good employers would work with her to make that possible or at least acknowledge that it’s an inconvenience rather than claiming it’s optional but that not going will hurt her career.

        2. misspiggy*

          Not legally – but in my female-dominated field, this type of issue would be covered by the company if attendance were mandatory. Because otherwise, only people with no baby-care responsibilities could attend, and our meetings would fail because we’d lose key attendees.

          Elder care is a bit different than babies, who generally need much closer maternal care including breastfeeding. In practice, babies become part of many of the big meetings I attend. These are often government and NGO staff in very conservative areas, but no one bats an eyelid when babies are being discreetly breastfed during sessions.

          1. Dangerfield*

            I work in another heavily female-dominated field, with a very large proportion of female employees between the ages of 25 and 40 and therefore with a high proportion of mothers, single or otherwise, and they would never even consider paying for childcare for mandatory out of hours travel or meetings. I think that’s very unusual.

      2. The IT Manager*

        Woah! refusal to choose a venue with on-site childcare

        I’d say most hotels especially business hotels won’t have on site childcare available. Again, the company is planning a business conference/business trip. It is not normal for them to factor in paying for childcare for any employees who want to take their child. Not normal!

        This sucks for the LW. I have the impression that she did not expect to have to travel for this job so this is an unpleasant surprise and introduces some very difficult logistics, but some of the commenters responses make me wonder what they know about business trips and what’s normally provided and reimbursable expenses.

        1. Sunshine*

          Yep. The employer didn’t handle the communication piece well, but everything else is just normal practice. It’s not the company’s responsibility to cover childcare. Period.

          1. AnotherHRPro*

            It really isn’t the company’s responsibility to cover the various types of personal conflicts we all have with work. We don’t know how important this meeting is. If it is a normal every day business meeting/trip then the response is unusually harsh. If this is a unique, special or critical meeting for the business, it may not be. We really don’t know.

            There are times when our personal lives get in the way of work and most reasonable companies try to work with each individual but you really can’t accommodate everything. Sick parents, pets, legal issues, childcare. We all have complicated lives for various reasons and I really don’t think it is you can expect an employer to help us deal with all of them.

            I recommend the OP have a follow up conversation with her manager to get a better understanding what in particular is so important about this meeting and to get a sense if these types of trips should be expected in the future and how frequently. She also needs to get a better understanding of the implications of not attending. Then she can decide if this job is worth it. That is a very personal choice that only she can make.

        2. JessaB*

          This and also, even the ones with onsite childcare usually draw the line at infants because most areas have laws about ratio of childcare workers to children and infants require a far higher amount of staff and often special regulations because they aren’t able to move around at all on their own like toddlers can. It’s expensive in terms of equipment (must be safe and checked to make sure it wasn’t part of a recall,) and having to constantly watch them. Even places with great childcare don’t always have infant care (usually listed as somewhere between newborn and about 18 months.)

          Heck even the Queen of childcare Disney Cruises does not permit children younger than 6 months to even sail and on cruises of more than 10 days children must be at least 1 year old. So even at a place dedicated to kids this particular child would not be permitted.

          Most hotels do not want the liability of very small children.

  9. Panda Bandit*

    LW #4 – Someone can be a micromanager and still be strongly focused on relationships. I had two managers who were a blend of all the worst parts and they were walking disasters. Be careful what you wish for.

  10. Chriama*

    OP#1 – so a 2 day corporate strategy meeting where if you don’t stay overnight at the hotel you’ll be demoted and potentially fired? I have to wonder if something else is going on. Is this a small company that insists on a certain level of “buy in” from it’s employees and resents the idea that you’d have other priorities? Is it that the person who made the decision to host the meeting or the person who gave you the news has reason to resent you or want you gone? It just seems crazy to me that they’d go through all the trouble of firing a good employee and replacing them for something like a 2 day meeting. You say you’re the accounting director but don’t have childcare after 6pm. Could this be a response to your new reduced availability and a desire to “test your loyalty” so to speak?

    Anyway OP the point of all this speculation is to encourage you to consider what the end game is for whoever is threatening your job. This doesn’t sound like an incident that’s isolated from any situation at work, whether or not you’re aware of it. Figuring out why they’re threatening to have you gone is important in determining whether or not you need to be job searching and how to plan your exit if so.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      For all we know, this meeting could be to announce a significant change to their business model. A merger, a new product line, layoffs/restructure, etc. It could be a very important meeting that requires all leaders to attend.

      The real question that the OP needs to determine is what price she is willing to pay to keep her level and possibly her job and is it worth it to her.

  11. Ruth*

    No 5.- Could you possibly sway the situation to say this is out of character for you and you appreciate it is not ideal, but it has been a great learning opportunity for you to work on this weakness and it is something that you are working towards improving?

    1. John*

      Honestly, it doesn’t sound out of character to me. Repeated tardiness, “a couple of” past instances of missing shifts, excuses like bad public transport, insistence they are “not a bad employee.”

      I’m trying to think back on my career and when I’ve ever missed a shift. The closest I can come is oversleeping on my 5:30 a.m. paper route as a teen (and still getting them delivered in time for school).

      1. Artemesia*

        This. The letter was a litany of lateness and missed shifts that ‘only happened a few times.’ One screw up is one thing, but lots of ‘only a few minutes late’ and ‘this only happened once’ and this thing ‘only happened a few times.’ sounds like a pattern of unreliable attendance.

        The letter had the tone of continuous excuses for ‘minor’ infractions that add up to lots and lots of lateness and absence. I’d probably leave this one off the resume and then do some soul searching about this issue for future jobs.

        1. AnotherHRPro*

          100% agree. The manager may say that she is a good, hard working employee but will no doubt mention the reliability issue. OP, just leave this job off of your resume.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, and even if the manager feels he can still give her a good reference, he may be asked directly about attendance and punctuality and isn’t likely to lie … which is something the OP will need to factor in.

      2. NutellaNutterson*

        But there’s also a big difference between jobs where you MUST be at your post on the dot, and ones where there’s an expected window for arriving. It sounds like this gig is the former, so perhaps the OP will be able to seek work where success isn’t framed as punching in to the minute.

        It sounds like OP has detailed literally every instance of lateness in their work history. Through that lens, it sounds really bad. I think many people wouldn’t even be able to do that, as there would be so many. When we are talking about documenting for less than five minutes, it’s a really extreme setting, imo.

  12. Julia*

    Ugh, I feel with OP2. In my case, things have escalated to the point of #3, where my co-worker will not give me information I need and sometimes behave in a hostile way, yet our boss says we’re not in school and I need to fix this myself.
    OP3, are you sure you have the full picture? Is not maybe one employee sabotaging the other?

    1. Artemesia*

      Your manager is a tool. How exactly should one employee ‘fix’ the deliberate undermining of another employee?

      1. Julia*

        I really want to know the answer to that question, but whenever I try to ask, I get a lecture on my being unfit to work in a team.

        1. yep*

          That is the excuse they used when they fired me after I refused to let a bully harass me daily. Ok, he kept it up daily, but I kept bringing it up every time he told me how stupid I was or how I was unqualified for my job (I wasn’t) or how I’d never get hired for this at any other company (I have, twice since then), or how he’d say “send that to me, I’ll incorporate it into our project” and never would, wouldn’t get his part of the project ready to put in front of customers on time, etc etc. I’m saying all this to say if you’re in this kind of situation, keep your head up and if it doesn’t get better, find something new. Quit before they can fire you.

          You’d be surprised how often the person being bullied or harassed gets fired to “keep the peace”.

          1. Average Joe*

            Yep, having that same kind of issue right now as well. Had a guy try calling me racist for asking if the guys at work had read a medical article and threatened to attack me. Manager called me in for a discussion, very obviously was ready to make it my last day, but was able to talk him back from it(he may also have realized how bad that story would have looked for them had I gone to HR or even the media with it).

            I never complained to management about any of his racist like and demeaning remarks that he made towards me, hoping that we could push past it and at least have a cordial working relationship. I made a small log of some of the stuff that he said, just in case(for the most part anything that I said that could be in some shape or form be taken as slightly derogatory, he had made a similar comment directed towards me prior, that would be derogatory no matter how you looked at it).

            Now someone is making “anonymous” false accusations against me(but the manager knows who it is), that would be grounds for instant dismissal if true. Obviously I didn’t do what I was being accused of, but the manager still had to call me in for a meeting about it.

            So I’m not sure what they are planning for me. Could just be keeping me around for probation because I do good work, then get rid of me with no notice at the end because the 1 guy didn’t like me. I’m also worried that if I stay on, I’ll pretty much be stuck down until the manager is gone. As far as I know, nothing has gone to HR(whether that is from policy or the manager is trying to protect the one(s) accusing me of stuff since obviously false claims should only hurt their reputation with the company and not mine), but even false accusations against me could be biasing the manager for future performance appraisals and opportunities subconsciously.

    2. Windchime*

      Yeah, I was wondering about #3 as well. I have had coworkers in the past who literally YELL when they are on the phone and it’s really distracting. I know managers don’t like to hear these kinds of complaints, but it’s very taxing to listen to someone holler into the phone all day long–I can’t even hear myself think with that kind of racket going on. So please don’t just summarily dismiss a complaint of loudness; at least look into it and see if there is any merit at all to it.

      1. Julia*

        Mine does the same, together with a very fake, shrill laugh, and she slams doors. But I can’t even get a headset to hear my own phone calls because manager thinks we don’t need them…

  13. Dangerously Cheezy*

    #1: I would try to negotiate with them… I have the feeling like the threat is probably a blanket threat with no substance. They tell everyone they’ll be demoted fired and suddenly everyone shows up at the meeting, do your bosses seem like people that’d fire or demote you for missing a meeting? You could always go to them and ask them to make it possible for you to go, demand they pay for you to bring the baby in addition to child care while you are unable to be with her. Remain firm that you cannot just leave a 5 month old alone for a meeting – especially if the overnight portion is staying in a hotel and not actively working. If they are unwilling to pay then continue negotiating, is it possible for you to telecommute for any part you will physically miss? Are there contributions you can make prior or after the meeting instead?

    #5: I think including it on your resume and talking about what happened in interviews can be a great thing… analyzing the situation will give you a great answer to those questions that ask you for an issue you had and what you did to improve. So you explain the issue of your organizational issue that resulted in your two missed shift, explain how appalling and unacceptable that is for you, and then explain the system that you put in place to avoid that ever happening again. Unless you are going somewhere that schedules shifts (apart from a regular work week) then it’ll be a non-issue in the job anyways.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, if OP#5 can find a way to turn this around, this could be an excellent example of “tell me about a time you failed” or “tell me about a difficult situation you were able to work through” in a situational interview. If you can talk through how you juggled 2 part time jobs with full time classes, and what you implemented to be successful, I think you could turn this into a positive, assuming you haven’t completely blown your goodwill with this manager.

      -Google Calendar, google calendar, google calendar! Or some other calendar on your phone or computer. Get in the habit of putting your classes and your work schedule there every week. And if you offer to trade shifts or pick up a shift, you should get in the habit of checking your calendar first, then accepting the shift, and IMMEDIATELY putting it in the calendar. Then you also have to get in the habit of checking the calendar for the next few days at least once a day, preferably multiple times a day.
      -If transportation is an issue, could you trade shifts or ask your supervisor if he could schedule the bulk of your shifts for after your classes, when you will already be on campus for the day? If you’ve been there 3 years, I’m assuming you have more seniority than almost any other student worker, it doesn’t seem crazy to at least ask if you can be scheduled for later shifts instead of earlier, assuming the box office is open then. Not insist in an entitled way, but just ask politely.

      I agree that it makes sense to talk to your manager and ask whether you would get a good, neutral or negative reference. 3 years at a work study job is a nice long stint, and I’d hate to see you have to throw it out over a “what-if” scenario rather than talking to your manager.

  14. Newbie*

    LW #5: I’ve managed student workers for many years and know that the demands of academics and other obligations can impact work. But I also feel that part-time on-campus jobs are also part of the larger educational experience for students. While the main intention at college is to learn in the classroom, your part-time work experiences should be helping to guide you in workplace etiquette and expectations to prepare you for the full-time work force.

    I have had student workers that were generally good with their work performance, but may have had a tough semester where certain things slid, such as attendance. I’ve also fired students who repeatedly were late or missed shifts without notice. A lot depended on the individual situation and overall work performance. The way the student handled the issues was one of the largest factors – did they take responsibility for whatever the issue was and work to resolve or avoid in the future.

    So do speak with your supervisor to ask if he is willing to be a reference or if your recent tardiness has negatively impacted that. Or, as others have noted above, if you have other references that can more positively speak to your experience, skills, and strengths, just leave this job off your resume.

    1. Bwmn*

      This is so beautifully put.

      My senior year, I had a student job at the university hospital that was two parts. One was to do data entry and the other general departmental admin. At the time the data entry portion was ideal for me, I showed up to my assigned computer and went through the stacks of paper with my headphones on. The general admin was really tough for me because it really required chasing down tasks for any given day and had a lot of odd dead time. At the end of the first semester I spoke up that I felt stronger in data entry than admin (which had to be painfully obvious as it was) and was allowed to switch over to just doing the data.

      I really appreciate that at the time, it was treated in the way of trying to work me and my realities that while I needed the job and wanted to do well – it also wasn’t my #1 priority. Ultimately it may be that putting this job on a resume isn’t ideal (and isn’t needed), but before you just assume that you’re reputation there is in a problematic place – talk to your supervisor. They may be more hard line, but they may also be sympathetic to the student realities.

  15. Stan*

    #5 I’m not sure where you’re located, but in my neck of the woods, colleges have 4-6 weeks left before breaking for the summer. That’s a significant time period to show your manager that you’ve learned your lesson and begun managing your schedule better. A strong finish coupled with previous solid work may allow your manager to give you a good reference. At this point in your life, it would be a shame to have to leave off a job off your resume (as apposed to choosing to leave off a job because it doesn’t highlight any skills for a particular application).

    1. Katie the Fed*

      It depends if the manager is the type to do a quick correction and then move on, or if he’ll bring it up for years. I’ve had both. One I worked for during a particularly tough time with my dad in the hospital and I got a little too emotional at work a few times, and if I see him now 8 years later he’ll still say something like “oh, I hope you’re doing a better job dealing with adversity because you used to get way too flustered!” Then there are the bosses who move on and won’t even remember the conversation a week from now as long as you correct the behavior.

      1. mskyle*

        It also depends on how many actual shifts she has left – if she’s working two shifts a week and shows up on time/early for eight shifts in a row that’s good, but it’s not exactly “wow, you really turned it around” territory. I supervised student workers for many years, and I mostly just learned to work around this type of worker – scheduling them for less-critical shifts, etc.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          This former boss always reminds me of the way my mom still swears that I won’t finish a soda when I open it. MOM! I was EIGHT!

          1. alter_ego*

            If my mom calls me in the afternoon on the weekend and I don’t pick up, she asks me, every. single. time. if I was still asleep, despite the fact that I have slept past 10 AM since I was like, 13, and past 8 AM since graduating college. Parents fixate on the weirdest things as being part of your identity.

    2. Erin*

      I agree. It really sounds like the manager likes and appreciates the OP – giving her a break on the two missed shifts, the reference letter, etc. – if there’s time to turn it around, just turn it around! I wouldn’t leave this long-term job off the resume if unless we really, really, needed to.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Agreed! Holding down the same part time job for three years while in school is not an insignificant accomplishment. That alone tells potential employers something about your work ethic. I think the positives of keeping it on FAR outweigh the potential negatives. And frankly, “I struggled with some attendance issues my senior year, which ended up being a great lesson in time management and prioritizing” is not too shabby of a “tell me about a time when…” story.

  16. CADMonkey007*

    #1 Is the retreat close enough that you could negotiate to attend during normal work hours, but return home for the evening?

  17. Brandy*

    #1. I’m going to leave aside if this is fair or not, since that has been covered. But assuming you want to try to keep your job, here are some suggestions as occasional after hours/overnight business travel isn’t uncommon and it may come up again in the next 12 months for you (even in a non client/non travel role there will be networking, trainings, conferences…I wouldn’t be happy if my employee dodged them all because of a young kid, though I would certainly be flexible) :

    1. Offer to attend both days, all hours, but sleep at home (you don’t mention of this is a flight or a drive, I’m assuming to a drive). Make arrangements for childcare until you dyer home/when you have to leave (presumably after 6 and before 8). There is a cost to this, yes, but it’s a one a year deal and you’ll keep your job. If your kid is at daycare, see if teachers are interested in taking baby home to your place after. Do a trial run a few days or weeks in advance so everyone is comfortable. Also check out other sitter options NOW so you have time to vet them and do a trial run in advance.

    2. Go, and bring the baby. You’ll presumably need childcare there too; if it’s a good hotel they will have some options- you should call ahead.

    *these are not cheap options, but you have to weigh them against losing your job*

    3. Depending on the rapport with your management and frankly, how much you want to raise an issue, as if remote/video attendance is possible. I’ve had to do one of these remotely before (I too had an infant but was planning to travel- and got a double ear infection and could not fly on dr’s orders). It was awful since everyone was together and I was the voice on the phone….but there was nothing I could do about it.

    1. Erin*

      “*these are not cheap options, but you have to weigh them against losing your job*”

      Yes. If it really truly comes down to it, it may be worth it to spend that money. You’ll have a lot less money if you lose the job.

    2. Sans*

      I think 1 or 2 are your most realistic options. I think their “not required, but oh yeah, you’ll be demoted or fired” approach is unacceptable, but the reality is I’m sure you can’t just walk away from this job. Spend the extra money, do option 1 or 2 … and then start looking for another job.

  18. Beezus*

    #1 – I’d be tempted to flip the threat of demotion/job loss back on them and tell them that letting me skip the meeting was not mandatory, but the consequences might ultimately be losing me as an employee or losing my goodwill and engagement, not to mention risking the goodwill of any other single parents on the payroll. (I don’t actually recommend doing this, but it seems like they’re asking you to consider whether you want to die on this hill, without thinking about whether they do.)

    1. Jack the treacle eater*

      The difficulty with going down that road, if it’s a job you at all value, is that a bullying employer can see it as a threat and it just escalates the situation.

    2. MK*

      They told the OP they will demote and maybe fire her, if she doesn’t attend, so it sounds as if they did think about how far they are willing to go. Sure, they might be bluffing, but is the OP ready to risk this? Also, telling an employer who seems willing to fire you that they risk losing your goodwill and engagement isn’t much of a threat; they might take you up on that and let you go then and there. And in all these scenarios the OP will end up with an adversarial relationship with her boss. One has to keep in mind that solving workplace disputes isn’t only about “winning”; you have to leave with these people for an indefinite amount of time.

      1. Beezus*

        I agree, that’s why I said I’d be tempted but didn’t actually recommend doing it.

        I don’t think they’ve thought through the consequences to the business of a policy like this. I think they think that if they threaten her job, she’ll do what they say, and they haven’t thought about the big-picture long-term repercussions. I wouldn’t be willing to stake my job on that in the OP’s shoes, because that’s a huge risk, but treating people that way is a crappy way of doing business and has a ripple effect way beyond the one employee and one overnight meeting.

    3. TootsNYC*

      “Risking the goodwill of any other single parents on the payroll.”

      And risking the goodwill of lots of other people on the payroll.

      I had great childcare options, and this wouldn’t have been a problem for me at all back then–and my kids are grownups now. But I’d really think a lot less of a company who wouldn’t work with my colleague on this, and who would threaten to demote or fire them.

      1. Beezus*

        Same. I have good childcare options and could make something like this work in a pinch, but I’d sour on an employer who made someone else do what they’re asking of the OP.

  19. MaggiePi*

    OP #1 IANAL but it is certainly possible that if you didn’t use all your FMLA leave for the birth, or it’s a new year (depending on how your office calculates a year) that this could be covered by FMLA.
    From the DOL website: “Leave to care for a newborn child or for a newly placed child must conclude within 12 months after the birth or placement.”
    So I don’t think the law cares if your baby is 5 hours or 5 months old, if you need to time to care for it and you’re a covered employee.

      1. MaggiePi*

        That’s a bummer, and I certainly understand. My workplace is too small too.
        I would babysit for you if I knew you! I love babies.

  20. Public Accounting*

    #1, on the off chance that you do have a partner/spouse at home and just don’t *want* to leave your baby overnight, this is my two cents– my husband became a much more confident parent after I went out of town Friday afternoon-Sunday afternoon around the time our daughter was 6 months old. Having to take care of her on his own really increased his confidence and had the added bonus of him not asking me how to do every single thing going forward. If you’re a single parent, obviously my advice is way different, but it’s something to consider if this is just something you don’t want to do.

    1. TootsNYC*

      And, on the off chance that you *are* a single mom, let me say this:

      Getting your child used to the idea of having other people and not mommy around is a really good thing. That happens with daycare, of course, but getting your child used to it in the evening creates a huge strength for that child–they build confidence, and the logistics of your life get so much easier when your kid is flexible and confident enough that you can park them with someone else and have them still be happy.

  21. Erin*

    #1 – Uh, yeah this doesn’t sound optional. “Strongly suggested,” my foot.

    I have so many questions. Did one person, your boss, tell you this or are they really saying this as a group/company? How much notice are they giving you, here? It might be reasonable to assume you can get child care a couple months down the road, but if this is somewhat of a last minute trip then that’s absolutely ridiculous. Are you close enough where it would be feasible to attend both days without driving overnight? Is this trip for something informational, where you could get the info learned there later on, through a webinar or could there potentially be some other sort of compromise we’re not thinking of?

    Assuming child care is truly not an option that evening – for financial reasons, or you don’t have family nearby, or what have you – I would go ahead and try to push back on this. I would point out that you were told this is optional, or “strongly suggested” but then were also told you could be fired.

    Can you appeal to someone higher up who is reasonable? As in, not necessarily your direct boss, but maybe their boss?

    “Jane, I’m afraid I have a dilemma with this upcoming trip, and I’m getting mixed messages in terms of what’s actually required here. Lucinda told me it was strongly suggested I attend, but then afterwards she seemed to indicate I could get demoted, or even fired, for not attending. I have a four-month old at home, and getting child care that evening is truly not an option right now. I would absolutely attend if I could, but it is not looking feasible for me, and I certainly don’t want to put this job I love in jeopardy. What do you think my options are here, or what is the best way for me to handle this?”

  22. Employment Lawyer*

    #1 is insane.

    You should know that the FMLA provides for child care leave through the first year. If you didn’t use it all up you may have fmla leave: “”Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:…the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;…” THis leave can be used even if you’ve already returned to work.

    You may also have additional childcare leave under state law.

    Finally, you may also have sick time. For example, in Mass. you would be entitled to call in sick if your kid was sick; they can’t request verification and you can’t be penalized for doing so. You may have similar provisions for sick time in your state. While I don’t normally advocate lying about sick time, this may be one of those times where it’s reasonable. I sure hope your five-month-old doesn’t start “acting sick and a bit off” or you’ll have to take your child to the doctor…

    AAM, you should start asking people to post their state when they ask a question; much of this stuff is state specific.

    1. MaggiePi*

      Happy to see a real lawyer (I assume based on the handle) back up the FMLA option. Hopefully OP qualifies!

    2. Florida*

      When it comes to the legal aspect, it is state specific, but I don’t think AAM is in the business of giving legal advice.
      Also, if she gives advice without regard to state, it is something that applies to all of us. If AAM said, “Well, you live in ___, so you can tell your boss that you will not travel because ____ law allows that,” then what would the rest of us learn from it?

      I totally understand your point that many employment laws are state specific. I just think it is more helpful if the advice is broader than applying to one small state.

    3. MK*

      I am not sure about this, mainly because the subject has already been raised and they know the OP doesn’t want to go. If she or her child conveniently become ill during those two days, it’s going to be assumed that she lied, even if they can’t prove it. And maybe she can’t be penalised for it, but now her boss will regard her as someone who lied to get out of a meeting. Not a great outcome.

      1. Oryx*

        This. It’s gonna look super shady if the OP (or the OP’s child) suddenly becomes sick the very same night the OP has already indicated they don’t want to stay overnight.

  23. CAA*

    #5 – You can put the job on your resume and still talk about the work you did without talking about your attendance problems. (If the job is on your resume, then you may be asked why you left, so do everything in your power to make sure you don’t have to say “I was fired for attendance issues.”)

    The converse is also true. If you leave it off and you get a question like “tell me about a time when you made a significant error at work and how you handled it”, then you can still talk about this job and the tardiness problem even if it’s not it’s on your resume.

    Also, you are not required to have a reference from every job you list on your resume. You may have to put your supervisor’s name and contact info for each position on an application, but you will usually provide a separate list of references when they are requested. If you have enough good references who supervised your work at internships or positions more relevant to your academic field, then don’t use this one as a reference. Most companies will never contact someone listed as a supervisor but not a reference unless they are doing a background check. If they are doing a background check or employment verification, it may be done by a 3rd party company that specializes in employment verification and is not looking for additional references.

  24. A Teacher*

    Beyond the simple breastfeeding/bottle feeding issues: there are a lot of reasons why someone can’t just stay with the child or the child just can’t stay with someone else- specifically in my case, I’m in the process of adopting a child. I can not leave said child for more than 23 hours without needing to send them to respite care (another foster home) even if my parents are able to watch, another “babysitter” is just not an option. I’m also not implying that is my employer’s problem that I’m a single parent, but the inflexibility of this employer is awful. I don’t know what to tell the employee to do but to try and push back.

  25. Mockingjay*

    #4: OP, I’m glad that you realize that you prefer a task-focused culture to work in. So do I.

    My current job is a relationship-based culture. I hadn’t discovered AAM when I interviewed, so I only asked questions regarding work products and functions, and none regarding employee / supervisor relationships. [I did ask why the position was open; it was a new contract so there was no history for the position.] Not my best decision.

    Follow Alison’s advice and read up in her archives. Here’s another one.

    I’d be interested in a follow-up on what responses you get in interviews.

  26. Not Karen*

    #5: I’m confused as to why they are not calling you to ask where you are when you don’t show up for work. They let you miss the entire shift instead of having you come in late?

    1. MK*

      Quite apart from the fact that no company is obligated to hunt down employees to get them to come to work, it’s possible they tried to reach her and weren’t able to. Or that they did call and the OP wasn’t in a place/position to be able to go to work in a reasonable time frame.

    2. JMegan*

      Twice. I had the same question.

      OP, I know how difficult it can be to keep all the balls in the air, and how awful it can feel to make a mistake like this. But the good news is, you are early enough in your career that this really won’t be a big deal a few years down the road. And it does sound like you have a good relationship with your boss, so it might be salvageable if you make a big commitment to changing your behaviour starting right now. Good luck!

  27. Been there*

    #3 You have two employees creating drama. Don’t fall into the trap of believing one is better than the other just because she gets more of her work done. Drama is hugely expensive. It wastes time (especially yours), it depletes morale, and it drives away good employees who don’t want any part of it. And when you discipline for it, it tends to go underground where it is harder to root out. Start the disciplinary process for both, be really strict about your expectations, and be prepared to fire them both.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Eh, I don’t know. I was once the innocent victim in workplace drama – with someone who wanted to stir up shit with me constantly in a very passive aggressive, can’t-QUITE-pin-him-down-on-things kind of way. This person would constantly do shady things, make me look bad, etc, but never in an overt enough way that I could say “AHA! I caught you!”

      And my manager decided to take us both to task on it and wouldn’t listen to my side at all. As a manager now, I totally get that, but I felt really betrayed and unsupported at the time. I was young and didn’t have some of the right problem-solving skills on this, but the guy was also just being a total butthole and I didn’t know how to deal. So then in addition to dealing with butthole coworker I had to deal with a manager who thought I was a key part of the problem, which stressed me out even worse.

      1. AMG*

        This. I had a coworker starting bs with me and finally decided t leave me alone. My boss–who is generally awesome–thought it was my fault, and praised me when my coworker finally backed off. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

      2. Been there*

        The OP said both of them are recruiting supporters. Both are described as creating drama. No one is an innocent victim here.

        1. ugh*

          It might appear that way on the surface, but that might also be a knee jerk reaction to “omg drama exists!”.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I had this happen too at an old job. The coworker in question had moved to another position and I took hers, but she apparently changed her mind and started sabotaging/harassing me, probably hoping I would quit so she could have her job back. I finally snapped and said to another coworker that she was a bitch. My boss got wind of this and asked me in private what the hell was up, so I told her. It never happened when she was in the room, so she was unaware of it. I acknowledged that my comment was inappropriate, and my boss said, okay, I’ll take care of it. Don’t call people bitches anymore.

        She must have said something to her, because it stopped. Soon after that, coworker was a no-call, no-show and she was let go.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, my take when I was a parent or a babysitter what that the first kid to punch somebody wasn’t actually the one who started it.
      I really freaked one kid out at my 9yo son’s b’day party; we were having a sword fight w/ foam swords, and Fernando was really smacking people hard. I saw it from across the long room and stepped closer to see if I needed to intervene, because Phil was using his words like a boss and saying, “Hey, that hurt!” and “Don’t hit so hard!” and Fernando wasn’t listening. Phil and I realized this at the same time, but the kid of course was closer. I started over at a fast walk to speak to F. and pull him out, but Phil had already decided the only way to get through was to go after F., and boy did he! He just started deliberately, relentlessly slapping F. as hard as he could with the foam sword, and F. was really shocked–and it hurt!–and said, “Hey!”

      Phil looked kind of guilty when I got there (about 7 slaps later) and was totally flummoxed when I said, “Fernando, do you know why Phil was hitting you so hard? That’s exactly how it felt when you were hitting people with the sword–he tried to tell you, but you didn’t listen to him, and he wanted you to know how it felt, so you would stop. Now please go sit down for a couple of minutes and figure out how you’re going to play when you come back to the game.” And then to Phil I said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t get her fast enough to intervene and you felt it you had to do it yourself. It’s a good idea to try to get a grownup to help, but I understand why you felt you needed to take care of it yourself. Go back to playing.”

      Freaked Phil out totally.
      But he was actually in the right–and he WAS right, because I don’t think Fernando would have “gotten it” without actually feeling exactly how hard he was hitting, and how much it stung.

      Someone who hadn’t been observing as closely as me would have assumed Phil was in the wrong–but he wasn’t.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, my take when I was a parent or a babysitter what that the first kid to punch somebody wasn’t actually the one who started it.

        I’m confused, because the story you’re telling is the exact opposite of this. Fernando threw the first punch, Phil retaliated, and you’re saying that Fernando was in the wrong, but also the first kid to punch wasn’t the one who started it….

        1. TootsNYC*

          Fernando’s “strikes” were within the game–just too hard. Phil’s was a very concerted attack. Someone just watching absently wouldn’t have noticed Phil’s earlier attempts to talk to Fernando about it; they’d have only seen the flurry of the concentrated, deliberate attack. They’d have thought Phil started it.

          Because I was watching closely, I knew it was Fernando.

          It happens w/ verbal things as well–someone says something nasty, and the other person yells at them. The first -outward- sign of it is the yelling–but the nastiness was started by someone else.

        2. JessaB*

          I think the point is that usually the first person the adult SEES, often the one who starts it makes sure nobody gets to see them hitting the other kid first. So Jo hits Sam and then Sam hits back but the adult only SEES Sam hitting. If they don’t check it out the knee jerk reaction is that Sam is in the wrong.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Also, the person who hits has frequently been goaded into it; it’s somewhat rare that an altercation starts with a punch or slap.

            And for kids, there’s a difference in verbal ability that often gives the verbally adept a really powerful but *invisible* weapon (their words), and the kid who can’t compete on that level will punch. Non-verbally-powerful kids will start with pushing or some other low-level physical aggression before the escalate to hitting.

      2. Been there*

        These are not children though. Adults should not react to drama by creating more of it. These employees are recruiting others to their side of the “battle” and their behavior is described as “junior high.”

        1. TootsNYC*

          I agree–grownups should outgrow this, and hopefully have the skill to figure out how to handle that sort of non-physical, subtle aggression.

          It’s just that the person who wants their “discipline” to be -accurate- needs to recognize that sometimes the person who started it isn’t the one creating obvious, visible problems.

        2. ugh*

          That could be the OP’s version of it. I was talked down to, harassed and bullied and when I pointed it out I was told I was starting a “slap-fight”, so it’s not always as it seems. Pointing it out it seems was “causing drama”. Careful also because this is something that is often said of women, that they are being “dramatic” when they point out someone’s ill behavior toward them.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Right! And the best course is to not make any assumptions, but to probe and observe more carefully. You want to get it right.

    3. Been There, Done That*

      This struck a nerve, because I’ve been the “new kid” targeted by a long-term employee who kicked off a snarky turf war and was expert at manipulating the boss. It’s an easy out to blame the person who’s less of a known quantity (“We never had any problems before Jane was hired.”) Longevity on the job doesn’t always = rock star and being new and still learning the ropes doesn’t isn’t the same as being a lower-quality employee. My boss never questioned the long-term employee’s accusations/complaints or motivations; I was reprimanded, and speaking up for myself only made it worse . While of course you can’t have this kind of nonsense in your workplace, you need to be fair and objective and take a good, hard look at the true source. In my case, I heard the boss described more than once as playing favorites (costing him/her a lot of respect); you don’t want that either.

  28. I was K in #3 once*

    #3 Please take a good hard look at S. Especially if K was a high performer and generally got along with everyone before this new person came along.

    I was in this situation where I was absolutely loving my job, was a very high performer, had a lot of say in how the company ran and then they hired a new guy. This new guy was intimidated by me, wanted control of processes I was running (he made this VERY clear), and would complain about me to the boss, ignore work we were collaborating on, bully me behind closed doors and eventually convinced the boss I wasn’t needed by lying about his work vs my work. This happened gradually and escalated over 6 months, but started out very much like your story here.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Yes. I’ve seen and experienced this too. OP3 should closely watch both and see what’s happening. There may be some things that are being pinned on K that are due to the fault of S. Things aren’t always as they appear.

    2. NicoleK*

      Yes, this happened to me too. I got along with everyone and was doing great until Boss hired new person. The new person refused to work on any projects of mine (there were many other issues). I tried working things out with the new coworker and finally went to our Boss when that didn’t work. Boss was conflict avoidant and did absolutely nothing about it. I started looking for a new job by the 3 month mark and was gone 6 months after new person joined the team.

  29. LQ*

    #4 – This is something many people don’t know about themselves so I think asking about it directly would be weird, but would also likely get it wrong.

    Having some questions that you can ask in the interviews is going to be much more useful and give you more information. I also wouldn’t assume that relationships and micromanagement are opposite ends of the same spectrum. I would say in my experience there are usually multiple spectrum from not caring about the people on the team to very much caring about the people and relationships and another spectrum of how closely they manage the work.

  30. Ann Furthermore*

    #3: Alison is right. This needs to be shut down. It’s not an issue of them not liking each other, it’s an issue of being professionals and getting their jobs done. You don’t have to like someone to be able to work with them. In addition to telling them what Alison recommended, talk with your staff and tell them to let you know if they keep complaining about each other to them, because you’ve told them to stop and you need to know if it hasn’t. Also tell them to respond to complaints from these two with something like, “OP said she doesn’t want me spending time discussing this, so please don’t talk to me about this again.”

    For what it’s worth, your team might not mind pitching in and picking up the slack for awhile if you need to let one of them go. Given the choice between, say, 8 hours a day of drama and backstabbing and 9 hours a day of a peaceful work environment where everyone gets along, I’d be OK with the 9 hour option for awhile, until a replacement was hired.

    Or, you could just say what my husband says in situations like these. He runs a small business with fewer than 10 people, so there is no HR department. He’s HR. When he has 2 people not getting along, he’ll sit them both down together and say, “We’re not here to hold hands and take long warm showers together. We’re here to work, and make money. Figure it out, or one or both of you is going to get fired.” That usually solves the problem.

    1. Artemesia*

      I agree. The OP needs to be firm and clear. But when the problem didn’t occur until a new person comes on board, unless the ‘old’ employee is obviously undermining the new one, I would focus on the new figure in the mix. She needs to be closely managed and both of them need to be told that if it continues their jobs are at risk. It isn’t about liking, it is about producing and the OP needs to get a lot more no nonsense.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        And it IS entirely possible the old employee is undermining, bullying, even lying about the new employee. New employees do need appropriate management; but that’s not the same as holding them under a microscope waiting for them to screw up so you can blame them for all the problems and have an easy excuse to can them, thus “solving” the problem.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Also be sure to never address the SUBSTANCE of their complaint. Address the fact that they’re complaining, their tone, etc.

      If there is some actual business-related substance to the complaint, deal with it definitely later.

      1. ugh*

        This is terrible advice all around.

        If the complaints are relevant, they need to be addressed. If one employee is undermining another, the manager needs to deal with it. It’s part of your job as a manager to navigate this situation.

        If there is a problem between two employees, you can’t just say “not my problem y’all deal with it”. That is how it escalates.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Oh, I think you should deal with the substance–just not right then and there. Especially because there’s a pattern of people using the boss to fight their battles.

          So the first, biggest problem she’s got is the complaining and the tone and the “making boss fight my battles.” Address that first, because it’s the biggest deal.

          Deal with the “loud on the phone” problem a little later, and somewhat discreetly.

          It will become clear that the substance will get taken care of, but disconnect it a little from the complaining conversation. Someone who doesn’t want to create drama will then be content, because the problem will be solved, but someone whose main goal is to manipulate the boss will lose some of that leverage.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Sorry, I realized I left out an important clause:

        Never address the substance of their complaint IN THAT FIRST MEETING when they are complaining.

        Deal w/ the substance, *if* it has business implications, later.

        And I only mean this for situations like the OP’s, where the complaining is the main problem.

  31. AnonasaurusRex*

    OP #1 if you are breastfeeding, you could request a private hotel room as an accommodation for pumping while you are traveling. Workplaces still have to ensure that if the travel is required for your job, that there is a private location for you to pump or breastfeed.

  32. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

    OP5, you say “I won’t make excuses,” but you are making a lot of excuses. You’re a college student. It’s OK to make mistakes. But you’re not going to learn from your mistakes unless you can see them clearly and acknowledge them.

    Being “no more than a couple of minutes (read: less than five)” late is being late. If you’re considering yourself on-time when you’re less than five-minutes late, you need to re-calibrate your standards for being on-time. It sounds like this is a consistent pattern that is escalating. I’m not saying you’re the worst person ever or should be shamed or should feel terrible or should be fired. But I do think it would be helpful for you to take a look at how you think about timeliness, and how you evaluate your own behavior, and consider whether your way of thinking about timeliness and your pattern of behavior is going to get in the way of being successful after you graduate.

  33. RobotCat*

    OP #3
    I inherited two employees once that loathed each other and spent large amounts of time complaining about the most trivial of things. Previous managers had coddled both of them- they didn’t have to work near each other, they didn’t have to work extra shifts with each other, etc The list was ridiculous. After verbal warnings to both, I started disciplinary actions. Both were amazed- they had never been disciplined before for this behavior. It became quickly apparent I was not taking sides or fueling the drama, and you know what? They may still hate each other but they keep it to themselves while working together. I was enforcing the company policy of treating coworkers with respect and working as a team. You need to shut this down with disciplinary actions if talking and coaching has been exhausted.

    And letting one of them go may have to happen.
    I once fired someone for performance during crunch time. My boss was appalled, saying that even if this person was sub-par and producing bad work we couldn’t “afford” to let them go. My stance was we couldn’t afford to keep them, citing all the wasted time managing unnecessary drama and redoing bad work. My boss let me fire him.
    The result? My remaining employees were relieved he was finally gone. I would imagine yours will be too.

  34. jhhj*

    #5 – part of what they hire you for, in a customer service/customer facing job is just plain presence. You can be the best employee ever when you show, but if you aren’t there when you are expected, you’re not fulfilling your job duties. There are jobs where presence isn’t an issue, and jobs where it shouldn’t be but culture has it as an issue — but customer service is one where, typically, presence is one of the most important issues, and it’s impossible to be a good employee if you’re often late and/or missing shifts. This is something a lot of people have trouble learning, it isn’t just you.

    It’s hard to tell exactly how often or how much you are late, and your boss might well be sympathetic and still give you a good reference, but you have to ask and findn out.

  35. BananaPants*

    OP1, It’s possible this really isn’t an important meeting – then again, given that it’s an all-expenses paid corporate strategy offsite, it may well be more important than you realize. Your employer is spending a lot of money on this event and it’s possible that something big like a reorg will be evaluated. While it sounds like the delivery sucked, you’re definitely getting the message from your boss that you’re expected to be there if you want to stay on your current career trajectory. It would suck for you to bail, have them announce a reorg or layoffs, and then have a target on your back. As a single parent/sole breadwinner you really shouldn’t jeopardize your job over this.

    I think your best bet is one of the following:
    1) Pay for overnight babysitting or ask the relative who cares for your child during the day if they can take that shift off and care for the baby overnight. It sucks and may cost money, but it’s just for one night.

    2) Make arrangements for babysitting at the hotel site (or transportation between the usual childcare location and the hotel) and pay the extra amount to have a hotel room to yourself, with the baby staying overnight with you. If you happen to be a nursing mom this may be preferable to you than having to wake up overnight to pump.

  36. NicoleK*

    #3 Things to keep in mind when two employees don’t get along:
    1. How was K before S joined the company ? (focus on production, attitude, and relationship with other team members)
    2. Is anyone else complaining about S? Is anyone else complaining about K? It’s telling if several employees are complaining about one person
    3. Don’t discount or ignore the minor complaints. Sometimes behind minor complaints are legitimate complaints and as the manager, it is in your best interest to figure out if there is a legitimate complaints against an employee
    4. Ignoring the conflict is the worst thing a manager can do
    5. Don’t automatically assume it’s a personality conflict
    6. Good employees want to work with other good employees. Good employees will leave if bad employees are not dealt with
    7. Don’t automatically label the employee who complains as the problem child. That may not be the case

  37. AstroDeco*

    OP#1: If the worst happens and your company replaces you, would this replacement have attended the meeting you missed? If this isn’t likely, this might be a bargaining chip.
    I’m sorry that your company is forcing this decision on you, especially since it’s masked as “optional although if you don’t attend there are consequences.”
    Please update us!

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