I manage my daughter and someone complained about her

A reader writes:

I am the director of operations for our practice. I have a daughter who is one of our employees, and I am her manager. She has a seven-month old baby and works part-time from home for our publicly traded company, doing administrative work.

She brought her baby to work recently while she ran by to get some supplies and send an email. A coworker – unbeknownst to us – took a picture of my daughter’s baby playing on the floor at work during this short time and sent it to the HR director at corporate – telling HR that my daughter was bringing her baby to work in the office and that she was afraid to say anything because she feared retribution.

First of all, this was completely untrue – she works from home and does not work in the office. Secondly, no one here has ever experienced retribution. The HR director would not tell me who sent the picture and told this story.

I am concerned on two levels – first of all, what gives this employee any right to take pictures of another coworker’s child and share them with anyone? Is there recourse here? Secondly, without know who has done this, my level of trust for all of our employees has been diminished, as I must now suspect all five of the people in this particular office location of having done such a petty thing. Where are my rights to access of this information?

Well, first, you should not be managing your daughter.

You should not be managing your daughter!

I have to repeat it a second time, because it’s a huge conflict of interest. At a minimum, it will create an appearance with other employees of favoritism and unfair treatment; people are unlikely to believe that you’re able to fairly and objectively assess her and her work and to deal with her in an unbiased way when it comes to everything from assignments to raises to feedback to who ends up on a layoff list if cuts are needed. Or, uh, who you believe if there’s a complaint about her. And frankly, it’s pretty likely that at least some of that is true. There’s a reason that most companies don’t allow people to manage close relatives.

You can see it playing out in this situation, where you can’t take a stance on the situation without it sounding like you’re acting as an employee’s mom, rather than as her manager.

If you weren’t her mom, it might be easier to look at the situation this way: An employee says another employee has been bringing her baby to work in the office and she’s afraid of retribution if she speaks up about it. If you weren’t her mom, you’d probably not instantly assume that the complaint was false; you’d consider that it was possible that it was true and that you just didn’t know the full story. You wouldn’t jump to conclusions but would gather more information, and you’d also be concerned about why one of your employees was fearful of retribution, and you’d take that as a flag that something was going on that needed to be fixed.

Now, is it possible that the complaining employee is acting in bad faith and just trying to cause trouble for a coworker? Yes, it’s possible. But frankly, it’s a lot more likely that there’s something to it — because while people do occasionally make groundless complaints because of ill will, it’s a lot more common for complaints to be sincere. That’s especially true when someone fears retribution! (And in this case, we can understand where the fear is coming from — she’s complaining about the daughter of the person who runs the office.)

So: could your daughter be bringing her baby in when you don’t realize it? Could it have happened just a couple of times, and this employee inadvertently thought it was going to be a regular thing? Could have just been the one time you know about but she’s seen your daughter get away with other stuff and assumed this would be happening more in the future? I don’t know what’s going on, but it sounds like at a minimum you need to talk with your daughter (as her manager, not as her mom) about whether she’s brought the baby in at other times; seek out some information from other employees too, since they may be aware of things that you’re not; and do some soul searching about whether employees might feel you treat your daughter differently than the rest of them.

Don’t get sidetracked by focusing on whether the person who complained was in the right to take a picture of the baby and send it to HR. That’s not the big issue here, and if you focus on that, you’re going to look like your relationship with your daughter is clouding your judgment.

You also can’t dismiss the person’s fear of retribution by just flatly stating “no one here has ever experienced retribution.” If you’re going to manage a family member (and you shouldn’t!), you need to be very aware that people will fear that and that you need to actively work to counteract it. And trying to hunt down the person who made this complaint isn’t exactly going to help you do that.

In fact, don’t try to figure out who complained at all. That doesn’t matter. (And no, your company is not obligated to share that with you, and again, pushing for it will make you look bad.)

What matters is that someone on your staff has raised a complaint that would be legitimate if it’s true, and that you cannot assume without any investigation that you know it’s false. Handle this the way you’d handle it if your daughter wasn’t working there.

{ 708 comments… read them below }

    1. The IT Manager*

      Yes! This letter sounds like it was written by a mother defending her child and not a manager trying to get to the bottom of situation. This letter could have come from an unbiased manager asking about dealing with a difficult situation, but there’s a mother’s defense of her child all over it.

      Does daughter work from home while also being primary caregiver of her child at home? That’s a huge problem.

      Someone taking a picture of co-worker’s baby in the office and saying “this happened at work today”. No problem; it happened. It’s unusual for kids to be in most offices. BTW daughter was bringing her baby to work in the office totally happened. It’s not a lie but a fact supported by photos. It may have been misrepresented, but you’re getting defense about the wrong things in this story.

      And your last paragraph really makes it seem like you’re a very biased manager because your trust now distrust all of your non-family member employees because someone complained about your daughter. People should not supervise family. This is a textbook of example of why not.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        While I assumed the Op is in the same office and knows if/when her daughter stopped by, I too am concerned if the daughter is allowed to wfh while caring for the baby. Most companies have a policy against it, and here we see why. It looked to the complaining employee like she gets to not only wfh but have her baby in tow throughout the day which isn’t fair (unless this day was an exception, like she had a dr appt with the baby and then stopped by the office, but again it’s one of those optics matter situations)

        1. Yvette*

          “…I too am concerned if the daughter is allowed to wfh while caring for the baby. Most companies have a policy against it…” Exactly, a thousand years ago when the company I worked for at the time first instituted telecommuting it was made abundantly clear that working from home was NOT a substitute for day care. You had to demonstrate that there was either a sitter or some sort of day care involved.

      2. Charlie*

        Yeah, if they’re worried about retribution, this letter does a fantastic job of proving them correct. The language is incredibly defensive, punitive, and suspicious.

        1. Physician*

          “Secondly, no one here has ever experienced retribution. The HR director would not tell me who sent the picture and told this story.”

          The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

      3. annonymouse*

        The real issue isn’t “someone took a photo”.

        The issue is “can you effectively and objectively manage at your work considering you supervise your daughter?”

        The answer is clearly “NO”.

        The way you are reacting shows you are thinking more as a mother and grandmother than boss or manager. Instead of thinking “children aren’t appropriate at either a medical or legal practice. I’m glad this was brought up, even if it was a one off.”

        Your first concerns is about a photo being taken and who it was. What will you do if you find out who it was? It sounds like you’d at the very least yell at them – showing them they are right about retribution.

        It is not “petty” if there are legitimate health/safety/compliance issues in play.

        You need to either move to a new location or have your daughter work at a different location because it isn’t fair for anyone.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      OP – You are totally in the wrong on this. By your own statement you said that your daughter was physically at work to email things and pick up supplies. So she actually was at work to do work. No, it wasn’t her regular worksite but it was still work. And she brought her baby.
      Next, look at your statements:

      what gives this employee any right

      Is there recourse here?

      my level of trust for all of our employees must be diminished

      Yes, your employee should fear retribution because you are seeking blood! And for what? Telling the truth! Raising a legitimate issue!

      Kids aren’t protected under workmans comp. Yout insurance downy cover them. I also suspect that it’s against policy for you to have them there. Your director was right to withhold that info from you. If you were my employee we would be having a serious ethics discussion. You are mismanaging.

      1. AMT*

        “How dare anyone say I’m a retaliator? Tell me who said that, and I’ll show them who’s a retaliator!”

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          This is exactly what I was thinking! “I’ll show them retaliation!”

      2. Nova Terra*

        Yeah, this. I get that the OP probably meant the daughter doesn’t regularly work at the office and thus bring her baby to work, but getting all defensive over what is literally the truth–her daughter bringing the baby to the office–enough to ask for “recourse” and whether the employee has “rights” is a big warning klaxon going off.

        1. JS*

          It seemed more as if it was rights of privacy that the employee took a picture of the child which to me too is a bit weird because you dont take pictures of people’s children without permission.

          1. Green*

            You don’t really have a right of privacy in public. It’s evidence of something that happened. We’re all on cameras every time we go to a store. This is a complete side issue, and the only reason OP is worrying about it is because she wants to retaliate against the employee who feared retaliation.

            1. Tennysonlover*

              I think the OP is not acting impartially, but people brought kids to work all the time at oldjob. There were no options for them,

              1. Green*

                But if someone complained at most companies (whether or not children are allowed), they would review the complaint, determine whether it was against policy or within policy and move on. That isn’t happening here because the OP is personally invested in a non-professional way.

            2. Average Joe*

              Well, the company may be considered private property. But most companies will set aside privacy policies in the case of photographic evidence of a policy being broken. If they had just been wandering around snapping pictures of a bunch of people, they would most likely be facing disciplinary issues as well, but a few pictures of a policy violation, the company will just say to them good work, carry on.

              But yes, it sounds like the manager just wants something else to get worked up over, and maybe help build a case for dismissal for them. “I had to get rid of them because they were exposing the company to lawsuits by taking pictures of people on company property.”

          2. Nova Terra*

            As has been said numerous times, this is supporting evidence of a complaint. Presumably the complainant wasn’t putting the picture up on Instagram; it was sent to HR.

            Given the OP’s retaliatory tone, I think the caution of providing photographic evidence was entirely justified.

            1. JS*

              Doesnt matter. I think the compliant would be enough, taking pictures of someone’s child without permission is crossing the line. Its not like HR asks for proof and if they did they are a bad HR dept.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                Without proof it is she said/she said. HR always prefers proof if there is an issue. It makes investigating easier for them.
                As far as “inappropriate” picture taking? Really? The mother brought their child into a place where the child should not be. No permission needed to document it. You don’t need permission to document a true problem.

                1. JS*

                  HR only really needs to see proof as in relation to email correspondence or any inappropriate documents sent. Unless the daughter was told no children allowed the photo doesnt prove anything except the child was there. It doesnt prove how long the kid was there, if it happened all the time, etc. Documenting it is odd and seems petty.

                  A good HR doesn’t buy into the he-said-she-said. They address concerns from both sides and lay down rules for the future. Employees could argue all day on specifics of what happened or what didnt happen, that isnt important in cases like these its making sure concerns are addressed so the issue wont arise again.

                2. Meg Murry*

                  Eh, I think the photo provides proof that the parent brought the child there and was actively working with the kid there – not just walked in and said hello while having the kid in tow. If there was more than one timestamped photo it could also show how long the baby was there – again, that it wasn’t just a 5 minute pop-in to grab one folder and go.

                  Were the pictures totally necessary? Maybe not. But in the “a picture is worth 1,000 words” sense, I think showing baby settled in on the floor while the parent is actively working shows more information than just saying “Jane came in and brought her baby while working”.

                  Also, if the daughter typically works from home – where was she sending that email? Did she pull out her laptop and set up shop in the conference room or front desk? Was she using her mother/boss’s office and computer? Or was it another employee’s office/cube/workspace? Any chance the pictures were showing the baby in a place that could be a concern, like right next to a power cord they could have unplugged, or in a walkway where someone almost stepped on her?

                3. i'm anon*

                  A good HR doesn’t let a parent manage their child either. Seems like LW is within reason to assume that HR perhaps isn’t that great at her org.

                4. JS*

                  Meg – Thats not really HRs call though. Its more of how they structure and run their business which is something CEOs and board should be laying down as culture/good work environment (and if nothing else to deter potential litigation). But LW did say it was a publicly traded company so it does seem to be corporate and it is alarming that they wouldn’t at least have the daughter reporting to someone else.

          3. AF*

            And she didn’t post it on Facebook, she shared it with HR. I understand the privacy concern, but this is relevant evidence.

            1. JS*

              Why do you need evidence though? This isnt court. HR should listen to employee concerns without needing to see pictures. I mean unless she was told explicitly not to bring the kid in at all the pic doesnt prove how long the kid was there, only that they were there.

              1. sunny-dee*

                Well, maybe the complaint wasn’t just that the child was there but that it wasn’t being well watched or was misbehaving, and the photo would back that up. Or maybe this isn’t the first time it has happened and the manager (ahem) has denied that it was happening.

                1. JS*

                  Maybe but its hard to deny that there is a kid in the office as multiple people would see that. There are a lot of factors and what-ifs on missing pieces their could be. I am only going off of the information. It could in fact be that this isnt the first time the employee spoke to HR and was brushed off before but we dont know that.

                2. Snorks*

                  JS, the other employees may not be willing to corroborate the complaint because the manager has shown that they will retaliate.

                3. AF*

                  And sometimes HR really needs evidence, or if the employee was concerned about retaliation (which is sounds like they should be concerned). I’ve made legit complaints to HR about issues with a previous employee, and I had to get a lawyer involved before I was even taken seriously. Additionally, other employees may feel too intimidated by the manager to come forward.

              2. Anonymous Educator*

                HR should listen to employee concerns without needing to see pictures.

                Should doesn’t mean they do. It’s like when Alison prefaces advice with “Any reasonable manager…” knowing full well that some managers are not reasonable.

                1. Marty Gentillon*

                  This is a issue that could result in someone getting in trouble or even fired. Evidence is needed to proceed. The picture turns what could be a false complaint due to bad blood into a clearly true complaint. Makes it it simply actionable, little to no investigation is needed (beyond how often drops this happen?) Workplace complaints should be backed by evidence when possible.

                2. JS*

                  Agreed. Looks like there is a bigger problem in the company if HR doesn’t want to listen to complaints without proof, especially because not all workplace issues you can have solid proof for.

                3. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  I’ve worked for managers or with HR departments with avoidant management styles, and they would use the “show me proof” argument to avoid having to do anything about a reported problem. If the employee who reported this is already worried that her concerns will be brushed off because the employee she’s complaining about is the director’s daughter, then providing proof probably felt necessary to her to be taken seriously.

              3. Jill*

                But if you complained about the daughter of Boss Mom – without any documented evidence – and Boss Mom denied the allegation, who would HR be more inclined to believe? Someone at a Boss level, that’s who. The picture was needed to prove the complaint true.

                And as a mom of two small children, while it freaks me out that people would want to take a picture of my kids without my permission, there is no law against photographing anyone – even a child – when they’re in a public area.

              4. No More Nepotism*

                You wrote: “Why do you need evidence though? This isnt court. HR should listen to employee concerns without needing to see pictures.”

                That’s just not realistic, especially since the daughter and her manager-mother could lie and say that the daughter never brought the baby in. The mother already said it didn’t happen in her letter even after admitting it did! Also, digital photos are time and date stamped in the EXIF data, that can be easily viewed in Photoshop as well as many other photo-related software and apps. Many even include location, like zip code or longitude and latitude.

                1. JS*

                  Nepotism – LW isn’t denying the baby got brought it, she is upset the employee is complaining about the baby in the office when her daughter rarely comes in the office as she is part time and works from home, thought this was obvious. But it looks like you aren’t the only one who assumed she was lying that the baby was there in reading other comments.

                  Unless there is a hard and fast rule about absolutely no babies/kids/small children in the office ZERO exceptions, it shouldn’t be a hot debate whether or not the baby was in the office or not and there doesn’t need to be picture evidence was my point. The “evidence” only proves the baby was there, not for how long, not if they caused a commotion, not if they were left unsupervised, etc.

                  The real issue here is this part of a larger overall problem of perceived favoritism or if the daughter been abusing the lenient policy of occasionally having children in the office.

                  I think the fact of the baby has derailed the real issue. From LW as well as everyone else. If in fact this was purely presented to LW as baby only issue I can see why she is cross. From everything else we can gather, if HR made the employee get hard evidence, if HR framed it to LW as a baby issue and not a management issue, we can tell that both HR and the culture of this company is greatly skewed and not doing LW, the employee or the daughter any justice.

              5. Ruffingit*

                Perhaps this employee knows that evidence is needed because without it, when employee brings the issue to HR, momma bear could easily say “No, that never happened.” With the photo, it can be proven that the baby was there. And given the tone of this letter, I can see why employee would want as much proof as possible in the face of someone who appears to be outraged that a complaint was even made.

                1. Annonymouse*

                  Also JS you’re trying to rules lawyer.

                  Saying that unless it’s strictly stated then it’s ok to have kids in a workplace is not a valid argument.

                  In most workplaces children are not welcome and that’s widely understood without it needing to be written down.

                  It’s like getting upset that someone dobs you in for being on eBay all day when work policy is to stay of social media sites.

                  The concept is still the same: you’re doing something at work that you shouldn’t.

                  Also the person who took the picture had every right to be concerned and need proof judging by the way OP is acting.

              6. Average Joe*

                Yes, this isn’t court, yet. HR can listen to the employee concerns, but if they act on them, they want stuff to help back their position.

                Let’s just say that this was the final straw for the daughter and she had to be let go now. She comes back and sues the company for dismissal without proper cause. The company now has to go to court to defend its actions, and because the manager appears quite vindictive, they may have a hard time getting anyone to testify in court where the manager can see them. With the picture, they don’t need anyone to take the stand, they just show the picture and the write-up of the events.

                As for being explicitly told, that kind of stuff is usually in some kind of document somewhere(usually in the hiring package, last few jobs I started at, it has become a booklet now to read through, can take several hours with all of the legalese in some of them).

          4. Beens*

            I would think you only have “recourse” when someone uses a picture of you or your child for profit, like that young Asian woman being used in the plastic surgery ad recently. But again, it’s really a side issue.

            1. JS*

              I agree its a side issue but if I were OP I would also be annoyed at the picture as well and I do think its inappropriate.

              1. Robm*

                There’s a real obvious and simple way of avoiding people at work taking photos of your baby if you feel that’s inappropriate: don’t bring baby to work.

          5. INTP*

            What if the employee was trying to capture evidence of something beyond “a baby was present in the office”? The OP admits that the baby was playing on the floor, which is not appropriate ever at work. The picture might have captured the baby playing near computer wires or under desks or someone’s chair, or the baby on the floor with the mom across the room, or some other situation far more serious than someone just having a baby around for a few minutes during the day. A baby on its mom’s hip is a possible distraction and annoyance, but an improperly supervised baby crawling around on the floor is a safety hazard and possible legal issue.

            I can see someone needing, or thinking they need, evidence of such a thing to be believed without a doubt by HR, especially if no one else saw it happening as the mom could easily deny it.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Also, it seems weird to me that daughter would think it’s totally fine to come to work, leave baby to play on the floor, while she works presumably with mom to watch baby. It wouldn’t be acceptable anywhere else for an employee to bring their baby to work, plop them on the floor, and have their manager watch the baby.

          6. blushingflower*

            Also there is a HUGE difference between “snapped a photo of a kid at work to send to HR as evidence that the kid was there” and “snapped a photo of a kid and posted it to social media/other public Internet places without consent”

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Kudos to whoever in HR is not giving up the name(s) of the employee(s) who sent the picture. They seem to have their employees’ backs.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I didn’t mean for this comment to fall in the middle of all the discussion about whether the employee should or shouldn’t be taking pictures of someone’s baby. I meant it in response to the OP seeming to be bent on some sort of retaliation and wanting to find out the person’s name. I just think it is decent of the HR department to withhold the complaining employee’s name in this case.

            1. Average Joe*

              I think that’s the general standard now though(for the most part). If people don’t know who complained, it is hard for them to try to get retribution. I’ve had people make complaints about me to the manager and they wouldn’t tell me who it was, but I made a complaint about someone to a supervisor and they ran and told the person all about it, then they repeated said issue directly in front of the supervisor and not a word was said about it.

          2. No More Nepotism*

            Yes. I’m glad to see they’re protecting the employee from a manager who very well might retaliate.

          3. The Rat-Catcher*

            Seriously, this. This is what I expect from HR, especially if the company has an official no-retaliation policy. We get to read so little about “HR acted competently today” that this is refreshing.

            1. The Rat-Catcher*

              Not to say that they don’t! I just realized how that may sound. I think HR departments in general get it right more often than not. But you don’t write in to an advice blog to say “everything was handled correctly and it’s all great!”

      3. TuxedoCat*

        Took the words right out of my mouth. It’s not like the reporter posted the photo on the internet- she used it as a proof to report an issue. It’s smart.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          Think of how different this site would be if people wrote in and also had picture evidence for their gripes – video image of boss stealing lunch out the fridge, picture of 25 missed calls on Cisco desk phone from the same applicant trying to “follow up”, sneaked picture of wacko manager holding files and yapping in the middle of a chemo treatment – yeah, this site would be totally different.

  1. RevengeoftheBirds*

    Who comes into work to pick up supplies and send an email with their baby?

    I can understand if it was a planned visit where everyone could “Oooh” and “aweeeeee” at the tiny human being but this letter seems tone deaf.

    You manage your daughter and that’s in direct conflict with your ability to be objective. If the HR Head were on his/her game they would give you and your daughter the opportunity to discuss and decide who wanted to move departments and ensure that all future roles were not a direct line.

    1. fposte*

      They’d do it at my office and it wouldn’t be a problem. The problem here isn’t the baby, it’s the management chain.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yes, this. It’s a bit silly to expect someone to get a babysitter to watch an infant for five minutes while she stops by to pick up supplies and send an email – something that takes a lot less time than making the ‘fawn over the new baby’ circuit at the office.

        1. AnonymousMarketer*

          I was thinking the same thing. She was probably in the area and just decided to swing by the office to grab the supplies and check her email.

          I agree with Alison that she shouldn’t be managing her daughter but I think there needs to be some more digging into this particular situation.

          1. Sadsack*

            Yeah, but why wasn’t she working? Was she on the clock? Where is her baby normally while she is working from home? Does she have child care during working hours? These are all questions her manager should be asking, but in this case, her manager is her mom. Depending in the answers to these questions, coworkers may really be seeing favoritism.

            1. Anna*

              Well, since she was there to pick up supplies and send some emails I’m going to go with yes, she was on the clock and picking up supplies would be considered working. That’s not the problem here. The problem is that there is a possibly legitimate concern being brought up by an employee and instead of the manager asking relevant questions like how often does it happen? Is her employee able to produce as much working at home with an infant as she would be in the office? She’s asking how dare this employee take a photo of my grandchild and spread rumors about my daughter.

              OP, in a situation like this, which you should really avoid at all costs, you have to actually come down harder and be stricter on your daughter to make up for the perception of favoritism. That’s just how it goes.

              1. madge*

                Yes, and is her daughter the *only* employee allowed to work from home? Telling the other employees that they can’t have the same perk (assuming their jobs could be done off-site) as her daughter is something that does need to be reported to HR. Especially if OP approaches other issues with the same temperament her letter displays. I’d go around her, too.

                1. JS*

                  Madge – lots of employees have different schedules as well as different positions. My work has a flexible WFH schedule for parents. If you have a child you get this benefit, if you dont you do not. Being allowed to work from home has a lot to do with the position, seniority and your companies policy on flextime/work form home.

                2. Green*

                  Your work has a WFH policy *that they don’t allow non-parents to use*? Really??? In the US?

                3. Oryx*

                  Wait, if an employee is childless they don’t get to WFH? That doesn’t even make any sense, because many companies that DO offer WFH to all employees have rules regarding kids not being there because WFH should not be used as a substitute for child care.

                4. DeskBird*

                  I would be so upset if my work had this policy. Especially if those people did not have other child care lined up. WFH is not suppose to mean sort of try to get work done while also watching a child.

                5. JS*

                  To all – My work has a WFH policy for everyone however parents get to take advantage of this more. Such as I can call in to WFH when I am ill or need to make calls etc. However people with kids have pre-scheduled work from home days as in every Tuesday and Thursday they work from home and do not have to call to alert anyone.

                6. Amy*

                  JS, that policy seems blatantly discriminatory. Also, I’d be really worried that parents are using WFH instead of getting childcare, which means that they’re not actually working at home, they’re supervising their children and doing work whenever they can fit it in around that. It’s both unfair to other employees–who might also prefer not to have to come into the office a few days a week–and it reinforces the stereotype that WFH isn’t real work because you can do that and watch a kid or two at the same time.

                7. Angela Harris*


                  That’s messed up. So because someone chose not to have children or doesn’t have children at the moment they don’t get to work from home on occasion as if they dont have a life or responsibilities that conflict with the standard work schedule?

                8. JS*

                  Amy – I disagree that its discriminatory. The dept I am in, doesn’t really need a body at a desk in the office. Perhaps my wording wasn’t the best, we all have the option to WFH but parents are allowed to schedule designated WFH days out of the week. The rest of us can WFH but need to alert our boss and give a reason, like don’t feel good, need to make calls, docs appt, day after vacation coming back late, etc. I WFH about 3-4 times a month versus the 8-10 times parents do. I feel like this is fair, its a very family friendly company and we have the kind of work where it doesn’t matter if you are watching your kids at the same time, as long as its done by the end of the day/deadline.

                9. A Dispatcher*

                  So if someone has an ill relative that is not a child, is that same benefit afforded to them?

                  If the kind of work you do is the type where it can be done from home no problem, kid to watch or not, that benefit should be offered to ALL employees. It’s great to be family friendly, but these types of policies are really alienating to childless employees and I bet there is some resentment over it.

                10. Green*

                  Yeah, JS, that still is inherently discriminatory towards people without children. If the job doesn’t require a body in the desk, why does it require a reason from non-parents and no reason from parents?

                11. JS*

                  Green – The reason for the parents is they have children and need to be at home those days.

                  Dispatcher – I’m sure this would be allowed as well. If you were ill or your family member had a chronic illness I dont think this would be an issue to use those designated WFH days that parents do. You would just have to have a sustainable reason if you were going to schedule days of the week not to be in.

                12. Koko*

                  JS, you may not see this at this point, but I’m curious: Is “Working in isolation helps me focus on projects?” considered a valid reason to WFH on a regular basis? I have no children but I WFH one day a week to get away from all the distractions in the office.

                13. Good Lord, really?*

                  JS, your workplace policy is highly discriminatory and I’m surprised no one with a shred of ethics has reported it . No amount of trying to explain is making it sound less terrible. If pre-scheduled, no-excuse-need WFH days are possible for parents, they should be possible for everyone.

              2. JS*

                I think that there is a bigger concern here. The baby seems to be an non issue as plenty of moms and dads work from home or bring their kids into the office briefly if they need to pick up something or have their kids meet them at their job after school.

                1. madge*

                  Right (sorry – I’m trying to respond to your comment above this one but there’s no “Reply” button there). That’s what I meant with the “assuming their jobs could be done off-site” part of my comment. If all things are equal and the daughter is getting a perk not allowed to others, that’s a serious favoritism problem.

                2. JS*

                  Could be, however she is part-time and that WFH privilege/exception could have been negotiated when she came aboard. Of course the mom being the manager likely had a great influence on that being excepted or not but it was just part of the deal she worked out when she was hired. People negotiate things like compensation, schedule, vacation, WFH when starting jobs, this could be something the daughter worked out.

                  For example at my company all IT and ad ops have a work from home policy but mostly have to come in everyday even though their job doesnt require it. However, one guy moved to FL with this S.O. and they allowed him to telecommute from across country, no one else in the dept has that kind of set up.

                  I think that companies should be flexible with all of their employees based on the employee situation and needs. This isnt going to be the same for everyone.

                3. The Rat-Catcher*

                  Well, and that could well be (that she negotiated it), but this is part of the problem with the mom managing her. Even if she were treated like any other employee coming on, and she gave up vacation time or accepted a lower salary or what have you to get the WFH exception, the mother-daughter relationship is affecting how that is perceived.
                  Personally, I would assume there is more to the story that I am missing, but that’s not most people.

      2. The IT Manager*

        I agree with this. Remote worker is in the area for appointment with child and takes opportunity to swing by office to pick up supplies doesn’t seem odd at all. It should be a quick in and out. Maybe even time to socialize and show off the child with co-workers for a few minutes.

        The sending an email is a tiny bit odd just because presumably the daughter’s work computer is at her house so she’ll have to use someone else’s, and couldn’t this email wait until she was back at her home office?

        1. Mickey Q*

          Right. If she only did it once and it only lasted 5 minutes nobody would have complained. There is a lot more to this she isn’t saying. The daughter probably gets preferential treatment all the time.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Or even if she doesn’t get preferential treatment, OP needs to be constantly very alert for things that could *look* like preferential treatment.

        2. Jess*

          Yes! I wondered the same thing. How does she work from home if she doesn’t send emails from there? Would she just go home after picking up supplies and then send an email? Also, how was the co worker able to take a picture of the baby? Was it left unattended? Unless this person was super sneaky with their camera phone (which is of course totally possible) is it possible that the baby that the OP says was playing on the floor may have been unattended or at least not closely watched while the daughter was in the office? That would bother me as a co worker if not only did someone bring their baby to work but they let it play on the floor and didn’t watch it. To me this doesn’t indicate “I’m grabbing supplies and sending a quick email,” (I’m not a parent so please understand if I’m off base here) but wouldn’t the child be in a car seat or stroller for a quick trip like that? Not set up on the floor to play?

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Nah, people carry babies all the time without a carrier or stroller, especially if they’re a little bigger and can sit up/hold their heads up. I was thinking maybe she stopped in to pick up supplies, and someone said, “Hey Rosie, can you take a quick look at this email from Frodo?” Maybe then she sent or dictated a reply. And in the meantime, she put the baby down right there and it was just playing on the floor with a toy it had, or rolling around, etc.

            If we’re going to assume, that is.

            If this were the case, I wouldn’t think twice about the baby being there, especially if she left right after.

            1. INTP*

              But in an office, I don’t think a baby should ever be on the floor, even just for a few minutes. Offices are not babyproofed environments, there are power strips and wires, paperclips dropped on the floor, people distractedly walking around or rolling their chairs not knowing that they need to look out for a tiny human on the floor, etc. I imagine HR would be interested to know this was happening for liability reasons.

              1. B*

                Maybe she left the kid on the floor with the thinking that “there are other people around, so someone will have their eye on my baby.” I would be annoyed too. I have a feeling there is a lot more to the story here.

          2. Beens*

            That’s what I would think too. Maybe it was playing in a car seat, or was she just letting it sit on the dirty carpet to play? I never trust those to be very clean, so that would be my totally off topic concern.

          3. SusanIvanova*

            I could imagine a situation where a co-worker mentioned something work-related and the daughter decided that it needed an urgent reply and borrowed a browser to send email via web-client. But coming in specifically to email does seem weird.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          Right this is what I was trying to say above. Not necessarily odd that she stopped by, but there’s got to be more to it and at very least there’s a perception problem here or the coworker wouldn’t have taken it so far.

      3. INTP*

        I also have a hunch that the employee’s issue with the baby had something to do with the mom’s behavior and not just with the mere presence of a baby in the office. Even if it’s okay to pop in with your baby for a few minutes, it’s probably not okay to let the baby “play on the floor,” which is what the OP says it was doing in the photograph. I think the complaint likely wouldn’t have been made if the OP’s daughter just brought in the baby and kept it on her person or in a carrier the whole time. An adequately supervised baby can be a minor distraction but a baby rolling around on the floor is a whole other issue.

      4. Annonymouse*

        Also it sounds like OPs daughter is supposed to do all her work from home .

        So… What was she doing in the office? Did it count as work time when she drove in? What supplies had to be picked up that your local stationary store doesn’t have? Shouldn’t she be able to access her work email from home?

        Sounds fishy to me…

    2. AnonInSC*

      I have. Sometimes kids get sick and they can’t go to day care. Or, they get a fever, are fine the next day but can’t go back because of the 24-hour rule. I’ve run in with my son to pick up information/materials I need to work from home when I’m able. And yes, I’ve been known to answer an email if it’s time sensitive and I’m able to. I do always call our business manager first to make sure there isn’t a meeting going on or other reason that it would not be a good time. But yes, it happens. And I’m not the only parent who has done it if needed.

      This may be completely different and the LW does need to realize that the fact she’s managing her daughter will cause people to fear retribution, but the act itself if it as characterized isn’t that odd or wrong.

      1. BlackEyedPea*

        You should probably keep your sick kid at home instead of bringing them into the office to infect others, even if it is just to pick up some things.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Uh, kids get fevers for no reason. They’re not sick, they just have a low-grade fever for a few hours, but you can’t take them back to daycare for 24 hours.

          1. Anon and Ashamed*

            AnonInSC mentioned sick kids specifically, in addition to the 24-hour fever rule. But whatever – this is not actually the point of this post.

            1. AnonInSC*

              Perhaps I shouldn’t have said sick – the main point was that yes it can happen b/c things happen with child care. I shared in response to comment indicating that such things don’t happen. In some workplaces they do.

            2. The Rat-Catcher*

              They don’t have to be contagious to not feel well enough for daycare. And if AnoninSC were taking too many days off because their kids were sick, I’m sure there’d be griping about that too.

        2. AnonInSC*

          Which is why I clarified about the fever rule. And an ear infection isn’t contagious – but they still can’t go to school if they had a fever in the past 24-hours. I would never bring a child with the flu in, for example.

        3. BananaPants*

          I’m able to WFH when I have a sick kid (or need to meet the cable guy, or whatever). If they spike a temp at 2 AM and suddenly can’t go to daycare or school, I wouldn’t have brought my laptop home with me the night before. I can’t very well leave a toddler unattended in the car while I go into the building (well out of sight of the vehicle) to grab my laptop and any papers I might have been working on. So she comes in with me, we go straight to my cube and she sits in the chair while I collect my laptop, then we go.

          Parents have been arrested and have CPS involvement for leaving young children unattended in a car to run a quick errand, even with the car locked and appropriate HVAC running. It probably shouldn’t be that way, but it is. It’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

          Besides, not every illness that keeps a child from daycare or school is contagious.

      2. Anon Moose*

        Yes, but I get a feeling that its very possible that it isn’t company policy or is against the company culture for everyone else except OP’s daughter.

        1. designbot*

          Or that OP thinks to herself “but I would let anyone do that!” but those other people don’t know that, and only her daughter has the guts to bend the rules because she knows nothing will happen to her.

    3. Katie F*

      One of my coworkers’ spouses routinely brings the baby over to spend time with him during his lunch break. If we complained I know he would be asked not to, but it’s not a big deal. It’s a tiny office, they don’t stay all that long, and it doesn’t affect our work time. I have also had to bring my toddler on days I wasn’t going to be in the office because her daycare was closed for a holiday but still had to grab something. It just happens – life isn’t perfect and things come up.

      The rest of your comment – I 100% agree. The LW clearly can’t be objective about this, as she instantly assumed the employee i acting in bad faith and didn’t even seem to care that her daughter’s behavior had bothered another employee this much.

      I feel like this isn’t the first time – nobody takes the time to send a photo to HR alongside a formal complaint the first time someone pops by for 30 seconds with a perfectly behaving baby. Either the visit isn’t quite as rose-colored as the LW is making it out to be, or it’s not the first/only visit.

      1. sharon g*

        I totally agree. I also think that the person who complained isn’t the only one who was not happy about the baby, just the only one said something out loud. If the person who complained feared retribution, I am sure the others do too.

        1. Katie F*

          Yeah, either this isn’t the first time or there is something happening with the LW’s daughter that she may not know about that has negatively affected her relationship with the other employees in the office. I wonder – is the LW’s daughter the only one allowed to work remotely? Has that caused contention in the past? Maybe there has been some obvious favoritism that has the other employees resentful?

          I don’t know. I just feel like we’re missing some context.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        ” nobody takes the time to send a photo to HR alongside a formal complaint the first time someone pops by for 30 seconds with a perfectly behaving baby”

        I wouldn’t say *nobody* does this–I’ve worked with a few people who would definitely have done this. But it’s very rare, so rare that the OP should not assume this has never been done before. If she’s in a position to know that, fine, but if she’s just assuming that, she shouldn’t.

    4. Roscoe*

      Yeah, I’ve been at plenty of offices where bringing the kid in for a few minutes wouldn’t be a big deal

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        My company is like this.

        It’s pretty common to see kids in offices waiting because a parent needed to run in and grab something, or waiting for grandma to come grab them for the day.

      2. BananaPants*

        My company is like this. When an employee or their spouse has a baby, usually the baby is brought in for coworkers to meet at some point during parental leave. You’ll occasionally see babies/toddlers/preschoolers around for a few minutes when parents are trading off childcare duties midday or the kid has a doctor’s appointment nearby or something like that. We keep them out of potentially-hazardous areas of course, but well-behaved kids in the office area for a short time is no problem.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Ours is the same way–people stop by with their kids all the time. If I had a baby, I’d probably pop in and let my coworkers have a gander at some point myself.

        At Exjob and especially Non-Profit job, if someone brought in a wee one, we’d yell, “BABY ALERT!” and then the aww-fest would begin. It rarely lasted that long, however.

      4. JAM*

        I even was that kid. My mom did a remote court reporting job where she transcribed stenographer notes. She just picked up a batch of work and dropped it off, sometimes staying long enough to grab a paycheck or ask a quick question of her boss. My brother and I either sat in the lobby or occasionally came into her department area with her since she was usually driving us to/from some activity. It was probably less than once a quarter and it was just that kind of environment where no one cared.

      5. The Rat-Catcher*

        Our office is like this. Of course, we work with children so it’s not uncommon to see kids that are our clients running around for whatever reason. For practical purposes, having our own kids here isn’t much different.

    5. Some sort of Management Consultant*

      Yeah, that definitely happens at my place. People come by to say hi and to run an errand.

    6. Carissa*

      So, if bringing the baby in for a few minutes wasn’t a big deal, why did the coworker snap a picture and make a formal compliant? If the mom manages/works in the office on a daily basis, wouldn’t she know if her daughter was dropping in with the baby regularly? I understand the issue with managing her daughter, but I can also see the flip side of the argument, where the coworker was not making a legit compliant. Maybe the coworker wants to work from home and can’t or whatever.

      If the issue was strictly “parent managing child” I could see someone fearing retribution, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. And I would be pretty ticked if someone took a picture of my child to use in a formal complaint, whether the complaint was valid or not.

      1. SL #2*

        I’m not even a parent and I was pretty horrified about someone taking a picture of someone else’s baby, clearly without their permission, and then sending it to someone else! Even with my cousin’s babies, I always ask the parents if I can take photos of their kids and what the sharing permissions are.

        The coworker could have easily emailed HR about the baby being in the office without sending a photo as proof and it would have the same impact.

        1. Mike C.*

          I think the fear of retribution made the photographic evidence more necessary in the eyes of the person reporting. Either way, I don’t understand why this is being treated as a general “someone is taking pictures of my kid and spreading them around”. This is clearly contained to a business situation, not someone posting things to Facebook.

          1. SL #2*

            I get your point, but retribution can happen with or without the photo. It’s not like a picture of the baby in the office is suddenly going to make Photo Coworker bulletproof and invincible. I’d argue that it made this particular situation worse than it should be because OP is now holding even more of a grudge than she would’ve if the complaint was text-only.

            I don’t want to derail the thread into a debate on online privacy, since I’m pretty sure I made it clear in my original statement, but photos rarely ever stay only in the photographer’s hands.

            1. fposte*

              But they’re not stealing anybody’s soul, either. Absent a specific reason for cover, this doesn’t actually take anything from the baby or the OP.

              1. Anna*

                Most parents would still be (rightly) upset about it. Don’t take a picture of someone else’s kid without permission. Don’t send it to someone else without permission. Even if you think you need it as evidence it’s not cool.

                1. Mike C.*

                  So you feel that a parent’s personal feelings in this trump the ability for an employee to report serious issues in their workplace?

                2. fposte*

                  I think people might be upset about it, but I’m not sure how rightly.

                  We’re in a weird place with navigating the private and the public right now, and as usual, how we act towards kids shows the cracks in our approach. A baby is the least likely of anybody to be damaged by having a picture circulate, but we react most strongly there.

                3. Green*

                  Guys, you can take pictures of people’s children in public without permission. If you’re upset about that, you really need to keep your child out of public places.

                4. Penano*

                  Are we operating under the assumption that anyone taking a picture of a child is doing so for untoward reasons? I’m not sure why this is even really a part of the discussion, because it only seems to be derailing the rest of the conversation.

                5. Anna*

                  No Penano. A LOT of parents like to minimize the amount of stuff about their kids that’s available online for a variety of reasons. They like to control that sort of thing, they don’t necessarily think their kids need to be on social media as soon as they can walk, etc. I know a 16 year old who has NO social media presence (gasp) because her parents don’t think it’s necessary and that it can do more harm than good. That includes people asking her permission if they take a photo and want to show it online. I’ve never actually seen a sane person whip out their phone and just snap photos of other people’s children that they weren’t related to without addressing the parent first.

                  And yeah, kids in public spaces can have their photos taken but if you saw someone doing it, would you just shrug and tell yourself it was okay because PUBLIC SPACE, Y’ALL! I doubt it. And if you were a parent you’d want to know what was up with that. I’ll also point out that a business is not technically public space in the same way that the street or library is. A business can control who is there and also who does take photos there, so that isn’t really a valid argument.

                  Also Mike C. I don’t believe I said anything like that. You tend to use hyperbole as your actual standpoint and it doesn’t really work for a discussion. I’ll also point out that I’m a huge supporter of your right to privacy. That right extends to your children and that does mean that an employee having to make a complaint without “evidence” from a photo of an underage child who can’t give consent will trump the right to present the “evidence.”

                  Back to your conversation of the actual topic.

                6. Mike C.*

                  Anna, it’s not hyperbole – you’ve repeatedly stated that under no circumstances should someone take pictures of kids without their parent’s permission, even when it’s needed for evidence. No consideration nor alternatives for such an employee have been suggested.

                  At the end of your last statement, you even agreed that the feeling of the parent trump the needs of the coworkers, even though there is no established right to privacy in open areas at a workplace. Therefore, it’s not even hyperbole! It wasn’t even that to begin with, I simply wanted you to address the needs of the employee. Again, you’ve said little on that front.

                7. LeRainDrop*

                  This complaint about the co-worker taking a photo of the child playing on the office floor is a non-issue. The law is clear that employees do NOT have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the workplace (other than in restrooms, mother’s/pumping rooms, and such). It seems to me that the co-worker, who has a completely understandable fear of retribution, was wise to take the extra precaution of getting corroborating evidence — what if HR didn’t believe the co-worker? That could lead to an even worse outcome. But with the photo, at least the co-worker can’t be accused of lying about the baby being there. It’s also important to realize that the co-worker is using the photo solely for the purpose of supporting her workplace complaint to the employer, not for personal use or external distribution.

            2. Anonymous Educator*

              But considering how defensive the OP is about how her daughter doesn’t bring her baby into the office, it totally makes sense to have photographic evidence. Otherwise, it becomes a she-said/she-said situation, and guess whose she-said is going to take precedence without evidence?

              1. Christopher Tracy*

                Yup, this. I too would have side-eyed the picture, but given the reaction the OP exhibited, I see why the coworker decided she needed to approach HR with proof. I mean, the proof is right there in black and white (or, more likely, color) and OP still thinks this complaint was false.

              2. One of the Sarahs*

                Especially as it’s a pic of the kid playing on the floor, which is totally a health & safety hazard – it’s not the “bring tiny new baby into office for people to coo over” scenario that people upthread are talking about, it sounds more like a photo to illustrate “OMG I nearly trod on a child”

              3. BananaPants*

                Agreed. While I don’t think bringing the baby in for a few minutes while grabbing supplies is a particularly egregious offense on the surface, the coworker likely wouldn’t have snapped a picture of it unless they had a reason to do so.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Unfortunately, since the coworker didn’t write in, we have no idea what that reason really was.

                  It could be, “OMG Rosie gets to bring her kid in / work from home and I’m pissed so I’m gonna get her in trouble!”

                  Or just as easily, “Rosie’s mum lets her get away with stuff that’s totally against company policy–I’ve mentioned Baby Gamgee before, but nothing is ever done about it because we’re managed by her nan!”

            3. Carissa*

              Exactly. I can understand that coworker wanted proof, but I think you should be careful about snapping pictures of your manager’s grandkids. If HR investigated the compliant and needed photo documentation, then they could have reviewed security footage. I think security footage vs. a photo on someone’s personal phone are very different things.

              Again, I understand the parent managing her child POV, and agree it would be better if one of them could leave/switch departments, but I would not be taking pictures of people’s children.

              1. Observer*

                Given how often security footage goes “missing” I wouldn’t count on it. You also don’t know if the security cameras would capture what was needed – not that the person walked into the building with the child, but that the kid was put down on the floor, which is the significant fact here.

                1. Christopher Tracy*

                  And you’re counting on the floor having security cameras. I’m looking around my immediate workspace now, and there’s not a single camera in sight. There are cameras in our hallway, though.

              2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                Um…my company’s security footage is only the outside of the building and only records during non-business hours. And depending on the size of the company/building there may not be footage at all.

                Many companies require documentation to move complaints forward and judging from the letter writer’s tone/attitude it is *easy* to see her simply saying “my daughter never brought the baby to work.”

                Finally, we are talking about a 7 month-old baby being brought into an office. The photo was likely a picture of the baby carrier sitting on a chair/desk, not the child. I doubt this was an up close shot of the infant.

              3. TuxedoCat*

                As far as I know, there is no security footage in my office. The most you could see is someone entered the building with a baby.

            4. Rafe*

              Eh, no, not buying this. Because OP’s first response was to blow up and say THIS ISN’T TRUE HOW DARE ANYONE SAY SUCH A THING HOW CAN I GET BACK AT THEM?. Even with photographic evidence of the baby on the office floor.

            5. Observer*

              The OP’s response shows why this was unfortunately necessary. The OP claims that it’s a lie that the daughter came in with her baby – and this is despite absolute proof to the contrary. What are you willing to bet that this hasn’t happened before but no one did anything about it because Mom has been saying that Daughter never comes in to work with the baby?

              The next most likely scenario is that the person who sent the picture new that Mom would deny it. It’s kind of hard to argue with that assessment, given that mom is denying it even with the picture.

              1. JS*

                Well I would be inclined to agree with you but the daughter works part-time and also works from home. I am really curious to know what kind of work, or team structure they have going on where someone can not be working 50% of the time as they are part time and the 90% of that time they are at home except for the occasional office trip. How are the other employees getting this perception of preferential treatment when the daughter is only in office 5% of the time.

                1. Observer*


                  Let’s start with the job description. She’s working from home, apparently doesn’t need to have child care in place, gets her supplies from the office, and has a desk accessible to her for the few minutes she pops in. How many other people have this set up?

                  There is more from the OP’s response later on, but the whole framing of the question indicates that someone “guessed” right.

                2. JS*

                  Observer – That could easily be apart of the role or something the daughter has negotiated. Unless there is someone else in her daughter’s exact role with the same duties and responsibilities she cannot say that is unfair or not. People negotiated different benefits so unless its a flat rate of “we only allow this” across the board you cant say she is getting special treatment although I agree that with her mom as her boss anything she gets will look special even if it isnt.

                3. Observer*

                  JS, the reality is that the daughter has an unusually good set up. That doesn’t PROVE preferential treatment, but it certainly helps to explain the perception. Apparently being able to boot someone else out of their desk, or just use someone else’s desk at at a moment’s notice is another thing that’s pretty unusual. Again, not a PROOF, but you have to be pretty unaware to not see that it feeds the perception.

                  I could go on, but the point is this. We don’t know just how much preference the daughter is getting just because she is the daughter. But, there are a lot of things that the OP has written both in the original letter and in the follow up that make it pretty clear why people should perceive favoritism.

                4. JS*

                  Observer – You are making the assumption she is booting someone out of their desk or using a random desk. She could have a laptop and brought it with her.

                  Like I said regardless since her mom is the boss anything she does will LOOK like preferential treatment.

                5. Observer*

                  Nope. The OP specifically says that she saw an email on her phone and needed a computer to answer it on.

                  Now, it’s possible that there really is not preferential treatment, but this kind of stuff certainly looks like it, even without the optics of the Mother / daughter relationship.

                6. JS*

                  Observer – are you reading something I’m not, in the comments where OP replied? In the article it said “She brought her baby to work recently while she ran by to get some supplies and send an email.” It says nowhere here that she needed a computer, kicked someone out, etc.

                  I agree regardless things could look like preferential treatment. Like I said earlier though I would like to know the positions/duties of the other employees or not. It could be a situation that is purely perception or could be a gross show of preferential treatment. This situation is definitely curious as it seems to be a successful public traded company yet has a passive HR and allows a mother/daughter boss/employee relationship. Seems like the culture, work ethics are skewed and if I felt this way and knew HR was unhelpful I would cut my losses and find a new job rather than stay.

                7. Observer*

                  Actually, the OP most definitely did say that she needed a computer – she said that her daughter saw an email on her phone and needed a computer to answer the email. So, what it looks like is that OP’s daughter gets to waltz into the office on a moment’s notice with her baby, and just have the access she needs to do what she wants / needs to. Yeah, absent other information that definitely looks like preference. In other words, even if there is no truly preferential treatment, what the rest of the staff see certainly feeds a perception of favoritism. It doesn’t take a lot of interaction to create that perception.

                  Not that I disagree with you about the strong possibility that HR has been too passive about the matter till now.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                If it’s a lie about the daughter bringing the baby into then there is no need to be concerned about anyone having a picture of the grand baby.

                1. JS*

                  The concern for that is people taking a pic of other people’s kids without permission. If a strange man came into a public park and started taking pictures of kids, in this day in age he would get beaten up or the police would be called and he would be told to leave or arrested.

                2. Jes*

                  Stop trying to make the employee out to be a ‘bad guy’ for taking a picture of a person (even children are still persons) in place with no expectation of privacy. This is a matter that is 100% protected by the courts, and even if the police were called (and yes it happens) if they attempted to prevent a legally protected act, they would be facing civil rights violation suits/charges (and yes that happens too). It is Doubly protected when the purpose of the photography is for documentation of something for legal or reporting purposes. The only legal cause for removal of a person passively photographing children in a public park is if the person is taking vulgar/lewd photos or already has a court order forbidding -them specifically- from the action.
                  Your ‘permission’ is only required if the photo is going to be used for commercial purposes.

                3. Sas*

                  Actually, JS this happens all the time. None of your retributions would be enforced by anyone. A stranger could easily take a picture of your child. So if you have a child in a public place, such as a work environment, be more careful of them. Or, as someone else said, don’t take them there. It’s a harsh reality to anyone. Be an adult about it, that’s the advice that someone should have given this girl. She had what was coming to her, she needs to find a job not directly working under Queen Mama. It is to potentially unfavorable. It is completely unreasonable.

            6. Mike C.*

              You can prove that there are grounds for a complaint with a photo, otherwise it’s one word against another and the manager always wins. What do you want the complainer to do instead?

              1. JS*

                There is only grounds for compliant if she is not allowed to bring her baby in at all. A photo doesnt say how long the baby was there, if it was unsupervised (easy to take a photo from any angle), if the baby was being a distraction, etc.

                Regardless of exact proof, the complainer should be able to go to HR and express these complaints without proof. Even if the mom-manager said she never really brings her child in, HR could still address protocol for when she does as well as official limitation or emergency only times the child can come with her.

              2. Anna*

                I don’t understand the evidence argument. There are complaints made DAILY by employees who do not have photographic evidence that something has occurred and who will have to put their word against the word of someone else and yet nobody is freaking out about that. The photo as evidence argument falls flat on that basis alone. Nobody would ever tell someone that if they don’t have photographic evidence of the theft/sexual harassment/ethical violation occurring they can’t approach HR so I’m not sure why this has suddenly become a Thing. I’d argue that if HR knows Mom is Manager and an employee tells them Manager Mom is showing favoritism, because they realize it can be a sketchy sitch, they’ll take it seriously with or without a photo to prove a baby exists and was in their office.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  They may not need photographic evidence, but there’s no harm in providing it and it can certainly be helpful to have. The employees are particularly likely to feel that way if they already feel skeptical that complaints will be taken seriously because of the parent/daughter relationship dyanmic.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  The fact that the employee felt the need to have evidence says something right there.

                3. JS*

                  Agree with you Anna, however there is likely a problem with HR because you shouldnt need a photo or evidence to have your concerns addressed.

                4. Jes*

                  Many companies will do nothing more than ‘talk to someone’ as a result of a complaint without actual physical evidence, to protect the company in case the employee claims they were being harassed or discriminated against.

          2. Ann Furthermore*

            You don’t know that for sure though. Do we know if the person who snapped the picture didn’t upload it to Facebook with a snarky comment like, “Isn’t this supposed to be a place of business?” or some other complaint? Once something is on Facebook, or any other social media site, it’s out of your control.

            As a mom I share pictures of my daughter on Facebook, and I regularly verify that all my privacy settings are locked down to “Friends Only.” I do this mostly for my mom to be able to see them. I never, ever, ever post pictures of my kid with anyone else’s kid without getting permission first. Ever. If there’s a cute pic from her birthday party that I want to post, I ask first. Or, I’ll text or email it. No pictures I post ever have any identifying information about where the pic was taken either.

            A couple years ago someone I don’t know posted a pic of my daughter on Facebook with one of her friends. Her friend’s mom is friends with the person who posted the pic. That person happened to be at the pool one day with her kids, and my daughter and her friend were there with the daycare provider. She got a pic of them together, and then posted it on Facebook. I was PISSED. Not because she took a picture, but because she shared it. I sent her a Facebook PM and asked her to remove it, but said if she wanted to send it to this girl’s mom, that would be fine.

            Being careful with this kind of thing is not just to protect your kids from predators, it’s to protect their image from being used in a meme without your consent, or from going viral in some other way. I’ve read quite a few articles about people who all of a sudden discover that their kid’s picture is burning up the internet because it was used without their consent. I value my privacy, and I try to take reasonable measures to protect my daughter’s too.

            1. newbie*

              Why would you assume that the photo was uploaded anywhere? There was nothing to indicate that they intended to put it on-line. I agree that if they did, they would be completely in the wrong, but a photo to demonstrate what their complaint is about prevents the disagreement from becoming a “he said, she said” scenario.

              1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                Agreed. I’d think the employee was 100% in the wrong if they posted the picture on Facebook or Reddit or their blog with the caption “Look what happened in my office today!” – but this photo was emailed to the HR director to illustrate a complaint. There’s no indication that the employee also posted it on Facebook. I mean, it’s *possible* – but it’s also possible that this employee is secretly spitting in people’s lunches, or rummages through the recycling bins looking for embarrassing to-do lists, or is an undercover spy for a Bolivian teapot-smuggling cartel, or any number of things. But there’s no proof of any of that.

                1. Jinx*

                  Yes, this. I feel like this thread is getting side-tracked by the picture-taking and all the possible bad things that could come of it, but all we know is that they emailed a picture to HR. I don’t like pictures of kids getting put on the internet at all, but at the same time I don’t class sending a picture of a kid in an office to HR in the same category as uploading the picture for anyone to see.

                  Even if it was ill-advised from a etiquette standpoint, the coworker was probably more concerned about documenting the issue than taking malicious secret pictures of the coworker’s kid.

              2. Ann Furthermore*

                There was nothing to indicate that they didn’t intend to put it online either. In this day and age, people snap a pic and it’s almost second nature to upload it to social media. I’m guilty of it too, don’t get me wrong. But someone taking pictures of my kid without my consent is never, ever, ever OK.

                1. Amy*

                  Well then you should probably never take your kids out in public, because anyone who wants to can photograph them at any time without your permission any time they are visible in public. And no, most of us don’t put all of our photos on social media without thinking about it.

                2. Ann Furthermore*

                  I take reasonable precautions and then put it out of my mind, because it really is out of my control. But that doesn’t mean that I like it, think it’s OK, or that I’ll just shrug my shoulders and say “Oh well, that’s just the way it is these days,” if my kid’s picture shows up somewhere without my consent.

            2. Laurel Gray*

              Completely understood but I must comment that there are plenty of memes out there that were created by people snapping pictures of children while they are with their parents. They can zoom up and boom – baby’s funny face is now a meme about ordering pizza or being out of beer. And these memes are passed around by other adults – including ones with kids.

              1. Ann Furthermore*

                Yeah, I know, and I have never thought that much about it until I read a story about a woman with a disabled daughter. Her picture somehow got placed on a meme with the caption “Share if you think I’m beautiful” and it was making the rounds on Facebook and the like. This woman had no idea what had happened until one of her friends ran across it. So the picture was used without her consent, someone decided to make her daughter the poster child for their cause without talking to her about it first, and worse, she had no control over strangers making mean, nasty, horrible comments. How do you think her child will feel years from now, to learn about that?

                I never thought about the people in the pictures used in memes until I read that article and quite a few more like it. Now I don’t post them, or share them. You never know the story behind a picture, or whether it was stolen and used improperly.

            3. Kelly L.*

              I think jumping to it being posted on Facebook is a bridge too far. There’s nothing like that in the letter, and a whole lot of people would be totally willing to email a picture as proof to HR but wouldn’t risk complaining about their jobs on FB.

              I mean, especially since the picture-taker seems to have reported it to HR in confidence. Why would they do that and then post it publicly with their name attached to it?

              1. Ann Furthermore*

                In this day and age of people sharing every living breathing moment on social media, I would almost be surprised if it wasn’t posted somewhere.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  Why? Why would someone lodge a confidential complaint with HR and then share it publicly on social media under their name? If I don’t want my boss to know it was me who complained, I’m sure as hell not going to post the same picture that’s attached to the complaint on Facebook for all to see.

                2. On the Phone*

                  But there’s no reason! People share a lot of stuff, but that doesn’t mean they’ll upload a picture of something they eye complaining about at work. All kinds of stuff happens in people’s lives that they don’t post online.

                3. Kelly L.*

                  Yes, this! Just because you (Ann Furthermore) know some people who post a ton about their lives on social media, doesn’t mean everybody does. And, even if somebody posts a lot on social media, it doesn’t mean they actually share everything that ever happens to them. They make a choice to share each one of those things, so it’s often pretty curated, even if the posting is frequent. And while you’re in the middle of making a confidential complaint to HR is a good time to curate!

                  And again, it’s nowhere in the letter, so why are some assuming it as a given?

                4. Ann Furthermore*

                  Yeah, it’s an extreme assumption, I don’t deny that. But in this age of the Kardashians, where privacy is becoming almost a quaint notion, there are plenty of people out there who would do this. Is the person who took the pic of the OP’s grandbaby one of them? I don’t know. But just because you (and I mean the collective “you”) wouldn’t do it doesn’t mean you should assume that no one would.

            4. TuxedoCat*

              If the complainer uploaded the photo to social media, it’s incredibly unprofessional and should be dealt. And foolish on the complainer’s behalf, because that’s just begging to get caught. But there’s no proof that happened.

            5. Case of the Mondays*

              Thanks for this explanation. I don’t have kids and really always wondered what the big deal was with parents that freak over having their kid’s picture taken. I’m a hobby photographer. One beautiful snowy winter day, I took some photos at a local outdoor ice skating pond in the middle of downtown that vaguely showed some kids ice skating. You couldn’t even make out their faces. A mom literally chased me down and asked me 100 questions about why I was out taking pictures of kids. I showed her the pics and she asked me to delete one that just showed the back of her kid’s jacket. WTF?? The only thing I could think of is they were in witness protection or hiding from a stalker but if that’s the case, I don’t think they would be out in a public place in the middle of town.

              The not ending up a meme thing makes a little more sense but even that, there’s really no harm. And even in the true worst case that everyone fears, that some creep gets his kicks looking at pics of your fully clothed kid, the kid never even knows this is happening so really, what harm is there?

              Seeing mom flip out on a stranger for taking a pic is likely going to do a lot more damage to your kid.

              1. Ann Furthermore*

                Yeah, it seems like that mom overreacted. And, right or wrong, we are now in an age where people who go alone to parks or other places where kids hang out are regarded with suspicion. I’m not saying it’s right, or justified; I actually think it’s pretty sad that things have come to this. Maybe that mom thought you had some kind of super telephoto lens and were taking close-ups of the kids, including hers, and that’s why she chased you down.

                As to the sentiment expressed in your second paragraph, I so strenuously and vehemently disagree with you there that I’m going to tell you that we’ll agree to disagree.

              2. Simonthegrey*

                My best friend from years ago was a hobby photographer. She loved to take her then-toddler to the splash pads in town and take pictures. She would always go around before she started and ask whatever parents she could find (or grandparents, babysitters, etc) if there was an issue if their kids were also in the shots. The truth is that parents can be over protective, yes, but it can also be scary to see a person you don’t know taking photos of your child.

              3. Photographer*

                “A mom literally chased me down and asked me 100 questions about why I was out taking pictures of kids. I showed her the pics and she asked me to delete one that just showed the back of her kid’s jacket. I showed her the pics and she asked me to delete one that just showed the back of her kid’s jacket.”
                This is a textbook case of why you don’t respond to unreasonable requests. In a situation like this, you need to be assertive. “No, I won’t be showing you my photos. Period.”

            6. Mephyle*

              OP would like to know who sent the photo so that she can not retribute them, but HR won’t tell her. This strongly suggests that in this case it wasn’t posted to Facebook or other social media, otherwise OP would know or be able to find out who took the photo.

            7. neverjaunty*

              We can invent all kinds of things that people mentioned in the letter MIGHT have done (like uploading a photo to Facebook with a snarky comment), but why do so?

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Unless they’ve complained about it before and been told “Oh, I doubt that actually happened”. A big assumption on my part, but considering the management issues this company seems to have, I can believe that HR might have been dismissive of complaints about the mother/daughter pair before.

          We’re getting into the weeds here, I just wanted to point out that there could be reasons that a reasonable person would feel the photo was necessary. And if you bring your kid out in public, to the workplace, their image will probably be captured by security cameras and such, so a photo specifically just to send to HR (and not, say, shame the mother/daughter on social media) is not a huge violation of privacy or boundaries.

          1. SL #2*

            I don’t think security cameras and an iPhone camera can be equated to the same thing, privacy-wise. Even if I happen to be walking by a security camera and it catches me and my (hypothetical) kid, I know that footage is being taken and used only for a specific purpose. Not so much with a secret photo that someone else takes specifically to share with anyone, public or not (fat-shaming photos come to mind).

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              But in this case it’s the exact same thing—it’s being taken and used only for a specific purpose. The outrage from the OP isn’t that the photo is then being used in a commercial or posted up on Facebook. The outrage from the OP is that the photo was taken at all.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep — I’m guessing they took a photo because they were concerned about being able to prove it happened, and there’s probably a reason they feared that would be an issue.

            1. JS*

              If they are at a company though where HR needs photographic evidence to lift a finger, and they believe the their manager’s daughter special treatment and they fear retribution, I would be actually scared to go to HR. This would be the time to find a new job.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                They are at a company where the manager is denying something happened even though it DID happen. Hence the need for an additional level of proof for HR. If the manager were honest then perhaps the photographic proof wouldn’t be needed.

          3. TuxedoCat*

            I’m in an office where unless it’s very well-documented, a complaint (no matter how valid and how many witnesses) is treated like a “he said she said” situation.

        3. Important Moi*

          “Hey Co-worker, I’m about to complain to HR about your child being here because I’m uncomfortable about complaining to your mom who is the child’s grandmother. I’m concerned about Grandma’s reaction towards me. I don’t think HR will believe me if I don’t have proof. Do you mind if I take a picture?”

          Just the the tone of grandma’s email tells me that employee has the right to be concerned about retribution.

        4. Fuzzyfuzz*

          I am a parent and I completely do not understand the outrage about this. My kid is out in public on a regular basis and could be photographed by any number of people without my knowledge. I can’t even to pretend to be able to control what happens to all of these images. It’s also more than a little precious of the OP to focus on that as the major offense here (as many other commenters have pointed out).

          1. Laurel Gray*


            I’ve seen memes that are made from pictures of kids whose parents did not take or authorize the pic yet they are photoshopped and passed around by adults (who have kids) and laughed at. In 2016 you have to go Michael Jackson “blanket” with your child to protect their image completely.

          2. Ann Furthermore*

            I do get the outrage, and I try to protect my privacy as well as my kid’s. As a courtesy to other parents I always ask if they’re OK with me posting pics of their kid with mine. If they’re not, then I email or text it to them if they’d like to have it. Just because the concept of privacy in our culture is vanishing sure as hell doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try like hell to preserve mine, and respect the privacy of others.

            I get that my kid is out in public every day and could be photographed without my knowledge or consent. It doesn’t make me like it. I take reasonable precautions and hope that suffices, and then move on, because obsessing about it won’t solve anything.

            1. Fuzzyfuzz*

              I guess I just don’t understand why the posting online worries people. What do they think clandestine photographers are doing with the pictures? And even if it’s something icky, what are the chances they’d ever know about it or be directed affected?

              1. Ann Furthermore*

                Because it’s a sick and disgusting violation, plain and simple. The idea of some pervert doing God knows what with a picture of my child, or any child, makes my blood boil. It happens. Is it as pervasive as some might have you believe? Perhaps not. But it happens.

                The point is that you don’t know what someone may plan to do with pictures they grab off the internet. Maybe put them in a meme of some sort. If it’s an unflattering picture, maybe a nasty, mean-spirited one. Maybe Photoshop to alter the picture in some way. Who knows?

                I read a story recently about a gay couple whose wedding picture was used in an ad for an organization whose mission is to ban gay marriage. Do you also classify that as no big deal? Should that couple just let it go?

                1. SarahTheEntwife*

                  If they wanted to pursue it, that would almost certainly be copyright violation since presumably the organization didn’t take the wedding pictures themselves.

        5. CeeCee*

          While I agree that people should absolutely not be taking pictures of other people’s children, I think this situation is slightly different. It seems like an employee covering their butt. If they fear retribution, they probably also fear the complaint turning into a he said/she said situation and being overthrown by the boss.

          Employee sends note to HR: “Coworker brought baby to work” (No Picture)
          HR talks to Boss. Boss responds: “She absolutely did not bring in baby.”
          Now the employee has been discredited, to an extent.
          If the employee then said: “Yes, she did. Here’s a picture for proof.” It would be a bit weird that she took a picture and was just holding on to it.

          In this case, she presented it up front and said, essentially: “Look, there was a baby in the office. No one can deny it.”

          So while I don’t agree with taking pictures of other people’s kids at all. I think the employee, if he or she is regularly intimidated by their boss, didn’t cross boundaries in an excessively offensive way. (Other than that it was used to back up a complaint, which the person being complained about might find offensive.)

        6. LawLady*

          I’m not sure that I get this. When you take your baby to a store, the image is captured on video cameras. Those images are stored, and can be used by police and prosecutors in court.

          And when you take baby to a parade, his photo can be snapped by anyone there and emailed or put on Facebook or anything. What is particularly more harmful about this picture?

      2. Kate M*

        I mean, I get wanting to protect your child’s presence on the Internet or whatever by limiting pictures taken. But this was in public, so you have to assume that someone is going to have a picture of your child at some point. And it was sent to HR – not posted online or anything, which I think is totally valid. (Maybe the complaint in general is or isn’t right, I don’t know, but I would guess there’s something to it.)

        I just hate the “think of the children!!” arguments when a parent wants to complain about something they don’t like.

        1. anon for this*

          This! As I’ve seen on the internet, people are outraged when people take pictures of someone else’s child without their parent knowing, but usually never outraged when someone takes a picture of a stranger to share it online or with other people. They’re just as bad.

        2. Roscoe*

          I don’t know. I have no kids, and I still have a problem with that. I can’t see snapping a picture of a random co-workers kid and sharing it at all. Just because its HR, doesn’t mean its ok. A security camera and a camera phone aren’t the same thing.

          1. Kate M*

            I mean, at this point, I think it’s safe to assume that privacy (unless you’re in your own home) isn’t really a thing. If you’re in public, someone is going to have a picture of you at some point, whether you’re in the background or they intentionally meant to take a picture of you. It shouldn’t be an inappropriate picture, but still.

            Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think it’s ok for the paparazzi to take pictures of celebs kids and make money off them because the kids didn’t sign up for that. But for a picture to send to HR because an employee was (possibly) being inappropriate by bringing her kid to work, I have no problem with.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq*

              Yeah, like upskirts are an invasion of privacy. Someone taking pics thru your living room window from outside is an invasion of privacy. A human person, out in the human world with other human people in a public place is not a place where you have the expectation of privacy.

              1. anon for this*

                They still walk a fine line, though. There’s a lot of people who take pictures of strangers on the subway or in parks or wherever only to mock them online. There are so many sites dedicated to mocking strangers. I think anyone in a public space should expect to be in someone’s picture, but to take a picture with the intention of posting it online to shame the person is an invasion of privacy imo.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  Yeah–things like People of Walmart, I think I’d class under “rude but legal.”

                2. Green*

                  Legally, public photos are really only problematic if they use the photos for commercial purposes or if they say something false and disparaging about you, etc.

                  There is no expectation of privacy at work from your coworkers taking a photo for work-related reasons. You can express your preferences, sure, but it’s not a universal or legal outrage.

                3. Anna*

                  Yes, but a business is not a public space in the same way a train, or library, or the street is. Unlike those places, a business can absolutely control who comes and goes and even who does take photos on site (ever see signs in a shop that forbid shoppers from taking photos?). So the argument about it being a public space doesn’t fly. It may not be codified by law, but simply being present doesn’t mean you consent. Especially a baby who cannot give consent.

                  Anyway, I don’t believe the coworker was forced to take a photo as evidence unless it was specifically because the issue came up with HR before and the coworker was shut down because of lack of evidence. That’s a shitty HR department if that’s the case. The reason I think “photo as evidence” is a bit of a weak argument is because there are plenty of other things a person can go to HR about where they wouldn’t reasonably have evidence, except for their own word. If HR is doing their job they would investigate the issue. We have no indication that HR is not doing their job and wouldn’t take it seriously unless there’s a photo to prove it happened.

              2. Roscoe*

                Put it like this, if I just started taking pictures of hot women on the train, even if I never posted them online, if people found out, they wouldn’t think it was right to do. Its not illegal though.

                1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                  But it’s not a personal use thing. This was a documentation of an issue.

                  If there was a woman doing something illegal on the train, and you snapped a picture of her to hand off to metro authorities as soon as you exited, that would not be a problem.

          2. Observer*

            No, they aren’t – which is one reason why the phone camera may be necessary. We have a fair amount of camera coverage in our office, but there are a LOT of places in our space where the only way to document something like this would be a camera phone.

            1. fposte*

              And I think it’s weirder to demand to pull security footage (which gets quickly overwritten anyway) when you could have just snapped a picture.

        3. Julie*

          I don’t get it either. If it were revenge porn or something of a compromising nature, I’d understand, but out in public? Do you know how many cameras are out in public? Do these same people complain when their kids end up on jumbotrons at sports games?

          I can see an issue if the coworker posed the baby or sold the pictures for profit to be used in some ad campaign without mommy’ knowledge, but this? Overprotective grandma mentality is what it sounds like, and a weak defense to distract from the more important issue.

      3. fposte*

        I don’t know if bringing the baby in at the OP’s workplace was a big deal–I was just saying it’s not an automatic no-go in offices across the land. It could be that this is about a frustration beyond the baby’s appearance; it could be that the baby is in a lot more often than the OP is realizing; it could be that there’s a no-baby policy; it could be the co-worker is wrong about it being a problem at all. Or some combination of the above.

        1. Artemesia*

          Or it could be that the other workers are really annoyed that the boss’s daughter gets a cushy gig where she ‘works’ from home while caring for an infant and people are pretending this is an acceptable work assignment. I find it outrageous that anyone would be allowed to be an AA from home while being a full time care giver and I am guessing that it isn’t an option afforded to others in the office.

          1. madge*

            +100. Sign me up for that gig. No wonder her co-workers are (or seem to be, rightfully so) frustrated.

      4. TootsNYC*

        <So, if bringing the baby in for a few minutes wasn’t a big deal, why did the coworker snap a picture and make a formal compliant?

        I think the complaint was made, etc., because there’s an underlying resentment about the managing having a daughter with a apparently cushy work-from-home gig.

        And this is just one of the reasons why the OP should not be managing her daughter–it creates the opportunity for this sort of resentment.

        1. fposte*

          Or, to put it another way, we don’t know why the complaint was made–and neither does the OP, because she’s focused on the picture-snapping rather than the possibility of a problem that she needs to address.

        2. Carissa*

          That was one of my thoughts, too. Maybe the coworker would like to work from home but can’t because OP’s daughter has that gig.

        3. Daria*

          That was my thought- are the other employees allowed to work at home? Is this special treatment for just the daughter bbecauseof the baby? As someone said upthread, is her daughter a full-time caregiver while trying to work from home? Would this fly with other employees? I have so many questions.

      5. IT_Guy*

        I don’t think the mother has an expectation of privacy by bringing the child in to a (relative) public place.

      6. BeautifulVoid*

        If the mom manages/works in the office on a daily basis, wouldn’t she know if her daughter was dropping in with the baby regularly? I understand the issue with managing her daughter, but I can also see the flip side of the argument, where the coworker was not making a legit compliant.

        I thought of this, too. Don’t get me wrong, as a whole, I agree that the mother should not be managing her daughter, and the whole tone of her letter pretty much explains exactly why. However, I’ll admit that it’s a pet peeve of mine when someone complains “X happens all the time!”, and after some digging, X has only happened once or twice. For me, it kind of ruins that person’s credibility and original complaint, but mileage varies, of course.

        1. BeautifulVoid*

          I forgot to clarify – even if the complaint is not legitimate, there are ways to react and investigate and make sure everyone’s feelings are heard and maintain a healthy office environment. This isn’t it.

        2. designbot*

          On the other hand it seems plenty likely that the letterwriter would say “oh no, that never happens!” when actually it happens say, every other week. Or that she’d say “but it’s only for 5 minutes!” when it’s really for half an hour.

          Or maybe in an office where the baby in question wasn’t the boss’s grandchild, the coworker would simply be like “hey, is this going to happen a lot? I find it pretty disruptive.” and that would basically be the end of it. But because the boss is unapproachable on this topic, it’s escalated.

          1. Anna*

            In other words, an objective third party needs to come in and take a look at things, which they should have done even without a photo of the baby.

            1. Observer*

              Sure, they SHOULD. But when you get a confident “Oh, this is SO not a thing” it can be hard to get past it. This picture makes it far more concrete and something that HR is less likely to accept this way.

      7. JS*

        This! 100% Not only that they said it was a smaller office and it could only be 1 of 5 people who complained. There isnt anyway OP couldnt know if this was a bigger issue.

        Also people in the comments are being way too judgmental and assuming things about OP that this isn’t the whole story, etc, etc. Nepotism happens all the time, so does people hiring and managing friends, giving friends and family promotions etc. It doesn’t seem like OP is giving her daughter any special treatment as her daughter works from home and isnt in the office to receive that treatment. WFH could be special treatment however that could also be based on job description, seniority, and if the employer has any parent only benefits. Not to mention any arrangements the daughter may have asked for and discussed before taking the job.

        Also I don’t care what the picture is for I would be livid if someone took a picture of my small child without permission.

        1. Isben Takes Tea*

          It would be your right to be livid, as you have the right to feel however you feel. However, there are no legal rights being violated, and as it has been clearly stated up and down this thread, the photo is not the issue.

          Additionally, the whole point is that the OP is not a mother or grandmother whose child or grandchild was photographed in an office setting. The OP is a manager who received an anonymous complaint from someone who fears retribution about another employee. This is the issue.

          1. JS*

            I didn’t say there was any legal rights being violated. Its not illegal to be rude or be weird. However it IS part of the issue as clearly the OP feels slighted that not only is her employee going around her back but taking pictures of her grandchild to show to HR as “proof”. (Which is an odd concept because why would HR need solid “proof” to listen to your complaints??)

            The employee’s fear of retribution is their own perception. OP cannot fix their perception or the issue if there is one if she cannot talk to the employee about their issues. Like you said I have the right to feel how I feel, so does the employee. Everyone’s perceptions arent always grounded in fact. Not sure if this was provided to OP but in order to rectify this issue they are going to need to know the full extent of the employees complaints and why they fear retribution.

            1. Isben Takes Tea*

              Right, but Alison’s point is that OP has to separate her perception as a grandmother out of the picture. And an employee didn’t “go behind her back,” she followed appropriate established guidelines to how to report an (alleged) problem when fearing retribution.

              The OP can be hurt that the employee didn’t trust her to come to her directly, but it’s her job as a manager to address the issue of the bottom-up broken trust.

              I’m sincerely glad you’ve never been in a situation where HR (or anyone else) has actively listened to your complaints without “proof,” as you say. (It should always happen, but it frequently doesn’t.)

              1. JS*

                I was making the point OP felt like the employee went behind her back as OP seemed to be shocked that this was even a concern. If the employee felt this way OP was not aware previously. Like I said, OP needs to have a talk with the employee or employees, if more feel this way, on their perceptions and concerns.

                I didn’t realize so many people dealt with bad HR departments. As I mentioned in another post, a good HR dept doesn’t ask for “proof” in most cases (since in a lot of cases the proof is subjective or up for debate when it comes to social work place issues). A good HR dept listens to both concerns, does not point the finger but works with both employees to compromise on a workable solution.

                This isn’t a work place sexual harassment case or fraud. An employee is just concerned about preferential treatment, regardless if there is proof or not this is a case where HR and the manager still needs to listen and address the employee’s concerns and take them seriously.

                1. TL -*

                  The OP doesn’t need to talk to the person with the issues. The OP needs to change her management style so their perception of her changes. She knows it an issue and no amount of telling people she’s not biased is going to do anything – her behavior has to show it.

            2. Nova Terra*

              No one needs “proof” to listen to a complaint. But investigating a complaint is a hell of a lot easier when there is evidence. The OP already tried to minimize and deny the baby’s presence when there was photographic evidence to the contrary. So in the theoretical situation where there was no picture, I think there’s a high likelihood that the denial would be even more ardent, and the complainant would be in a far weaker position because she didn’t have proof to back up her claim. And in terms of invasion of privacy, a photograph emailed directly to HR ranks pretty low (I won’t assume it was plastered over the internet or anything because there’s been no such indication).

              Given the OP was so…defensive? (I want to think of a softer term since the OP does seem to be reasonable in the comments, but I can’t think of one at the moment)…in the original letter, I think a fear of retribution was reasonable. HR can perfectly convey the full extent of the complaint submitted to them without revealing the complainant. That allows the OP to address the complaint and rectify the behaviour if needed, and sidesteps the possibility of retribution.

            3. A Dispatcher*

              ” However it IS part of the issue as clearly the OP feels slighted that not only is her employee going around her back but taking pictures of HER GRANDCHILD [emphasis mine] to show to HR as ‘proof’. ”

              Ah but see herein lies one of the biggest problems with this letter. This was not a picture of HER GRANDCHILD, at least in this context. I mean yes, technically the picture is of OP’s grandchild, buuuuuut, in this situation she simply cannot look at it that way. It was a picture of a subordinate’s child taken as documentation of another subordinate’s complaint. There is just absolutely no way OP would be so indignant over the picture-taking if this happened to any other employee, and that is the big problem here. OP not only cannot manage impartially, but doesn’t have any clue at all just how bad at it she is.

            4. Artemesia*

              I don’t think the picture is at all the issue — it is entirely the fact that the obvious favoritism and fear of retaliation is being called out.

        2. Kate M*

          Seriously? Your argument is that this type of thing happens plenty so people should just let it go? Sure, nepotism happens where a family member might get an in with a company because of who they’re related to. That doesn’t mean that a family member should ever SUPERVISE a relative. It’s been covered on this site many times that people should not manage friends or be too close with their employees. It opens up a whole list of problems. Being fair and impartial is crucial, but also SEEMING fair and impartial is crucial.

          You might be the fairest person in the world, but if you’re close friends with one of your employees, other employees might not come to you if there’s a conflict of interest. It doesn’t matter that you would have been fair – just the act of seeming to favor one employee over others made it effectively a problem. You should not prioritize your personal relationships in a work situation.

          And that’s fine – be livid about someone taking your kid’s picture. That doesn’t mean there’s going to be any recourse about it. So it’s a complete nonissue in this case.

          1. JS*

            I’m saying it happens, regardless if it should or not, people date, are best friends with and are relatives with their boss. The issue to be resolved is the employee’s perception of what special treatment is going on and why they feel like they cant speak up. Also it is SUPER odd that HR would ask or an employee would take a picture of their compliant to send in, especially since its someone’s child. That just tells me that the complaining employee is being factitious.

            1. Jinx*

              Maybe I’m misunderstanding your argument, but that doesn’t make any sense at all – she sends proof to HR, so she must be being facetious? The employee’s complaint specifically said that she fears retribution for reporting favoritism, and situations like this often come down to he said / she said. If she has proof, why shouldn’t she provide it?

    7. enough*

      I brought my child (son about 3) to work one day on a day off to help with an emergency. It does happen but should be very rare and for a very short time.

    8. Anonathon*

      Hmm. So at first I thought that the photographing employee was maybe being a busybody. I telework once a week, and I could see bringing my kid along if I wanted to swing by my office (maybe en route elsewhere) and pick something up. In that case, it’s just an errand.

      That said … I have childcare for my telework day because I can’t work (remotely or otherwise) and watch my kid at the same. A) it’s not allowed under our policy. B) it’s not doable anyway. If I needed to swing by the office on that day, I probably wouldn’t bring her along because it wouldn’t be necessary. So now I’m wondering if the real issue is that the OP’s daughter gets to work from home as a substitute for lining up childcare? And maybe HR doesn’t know that? Because that really would be a serious problem.

  2. AMG*

    “Don’t get sidetracked by focusing on whether the person who complained was in the right to take a picture of the baby and send it to HR. That’s not the big issue here, and if you focus on that, you’re going to look like your relationship with your daughter is clouding your judgment.”

    Because it IS clouding your judgment. You sound as though you have entirely missed the point, are approaching this from an emotional place, and are not managing this as much as you are protecting your kid. This is not right and I don’t blame that employee a bit for wanting to remain anonymous. You have outright said you wouldn’t trust that person. Depending on how good an employee your daughter is, this has huge potential for dysfunction.

    1. AMG*

      In fact, I can only imagine that if I were your HR person reading this I would be very concerned.

    2. Bwmn*

      I also have to say that the concerns around “who has the right to take the photo of a coworker’s child and send them to anyone” – it sounds as though the OP’s initial response is both about protecting her daughter as well as her grandchild. This is not about assessing the workplace situation, but really allowing familial relationships and feelings to impact your thinking.

      My guess (which may be totally wrong) is that the coworker who sent it probably felt that the OP’s daughter has received a number of microadvantages over months/years and this was just a particularly visible version. In regards to steps forward with HR, in addition to treating the complaint seriously – it might be worth looking through previous employee situations to see if any trouble regarding your daughter has ever been brought forward. If all staff know the relationship between the OP and the daughter, then that likely has a cooling effect of anyone wanting to express any concerns. So the fear of retribution may strictly be that “I’ve worked here for 3 years, and despite seeing xyz concerns or struggles that employees have had with daughter – no one has ever come forth. The fact that no one has raised those concerns may be because of retribution.”

      Just because no one has ever received retribution does not mean that an environment doesn’t exist that would generate a fear of retribution.

      1. Sunshine*

        Your last paragraph nailed it. Even if there is ZERO solid evidence of the daughter getting preferential treatment, the stage is certainly set to create the perception that it’s happening. It completely negates Mom’s authority with her team, whether or not it is real.

      2. Sparrow*

        This! My guess is that it was the last straw for the co-worker, and it was something tangible they felt was reportable. This seems like the kind of action one finds far more offensive when you’re already frustrated or annoyed by the person committing the act.

      3. Green*

        AND OP IS NOW ACTIVELY TRYING TO RETALIATE AGAINST THE EMPLOYEE. It is baffling that she doesn’t see that.

      4. JS*

        I could see that, however if her daughter has always worked from home I would be curious to know what preferential treatment or perception of it they think the daughter is receiving. Or if they even do the same work. Got the impression that the daughter was admin but everyone else was a higher ranked employee.

        1. Dot Warner*

          If everyone else is higher ranked, there’s even less reason for the daughter to get a privilege that no one else has.

  3. GreenTeaPot*

    Not only should OP not manage her daughter, under the most ideal circumstances, the daughter should work elsewhere. The OP set herself and her daughter up for this situation. That she or he had the audacity to complain only compounds what is wrong here.

  4. Mike C.*

    Given that your first responses were to become angry at the thought of someone taking a picture at work and your newly founded lack of trust for five of your coworkers, why shouldn’t they fear retribution? You’re already making that person (and four others who are completely uninvolved!) suffer.

    1. newbie*

      I thought the same thing. The fact that the response was to not trust the other employees and try to figure out who did it (and being angry that they complained) means that the fear of retribution is at least somewhat justified. The response should be to talk to the daughter and say that she should not bring the baby into the office. It sounds like avoiding a repeat would be very easy since she rarely needs to come in at all.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or, a response might be to call all the staff together and say, “I understand people are concerned about a colleague bringing their child in briefly. I want to assure you that this is a perk that any of you could do as long as the visit is short–if you have a day off for doctor appointments, you can stop in w/ your child in tow. Or if you need to do a child-care hand-off to Grandma, it’s OK w/ me if your child is here for no longer than an hour in the morning or evening.”
        “However, it does need to be disruptive. Let’s talk about how this might play out, and what we can each do to be sure that our kid isn’t creating problems for others.”

    2. neverjaunty*

      And demanding to know who did it, and wondering what action you could take against that person. OP, you’re just confirming everything the anonymous person was worried about. Can’t you see that?

    3. themmases*

      Yes, the letter basically says that they are planning retribution. So why shouldn’t people fear it?

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        I was coming here to say exactly this.

        OP, you seem more annoyed (actually, angry) that this person did this than concerned that they don’t trust you. Your question to Alison wasn’t “What can I do to create more trust in my office?”, it was “How can I hold this person accountable?” Which, when regarding a person making a complaint in good faith (which you have to start out assuming, if following Alison’s management advice) . . . is retribution.

        1. the_scientist*

          I am actually sitting at my desk cackling over this letter because the whole thing is just so…..nutty. Honestly, this is my favourite type of letter to read- a complete lack of self-awareness in the letter writer, family business politics, and a letter writer planning retribution? I’mma pop some popcorn, because this is about to get REAL good.

          1. KT*

            Yeah…the horrible part of me delighted in this. The complete lack of self-awareness is staggering

              1. Pontoon Pirate*

                Yeah, but it’s not nice to frame it like people write in to entertain us. If I thought I’d just be made fun of, I wouldn’t write in for sure. People ask for advice because they don’t know if what they think/feel/do is within the spectrum of reasonable behavior. Not everyone has the same barometer for that sort of thing.

                1. SL #2*

                  Yeah… I even hesitate to comment here sometimes because there’s reactions like the_scientist’s where it feels like you say something and then immediately get made for fun for a ridiculous statement. It’s very rare, but the crazier letters tend to bring it out in everyone.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  I don’t feel one bit bad for making fun of the Duck Club letter–though of course, we weren’t laughing at the OP but at the situation.


              2. neverjaunty*

                “Half the fun” for what you quite correctly characterize as the horrible part of you.

                1. KT*

                  Oh please. Like everyone here makes duck club jokes because they’re making scholarly references to management lessons they learned.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  “The horrible part of me” was from your comment, actually.

                  But as Elizabeth West pointed out already, there’s a huge difference between being entertained by a situation and being entertained at a letter writer’s expense.

                3. Zillah*

                  Ugh, sorry, Alison – I just saw this. :( I’ll stop commenting in this subthread now.

          2. Zillah*

            This is both unkind and not remotely constructive to the OP, which we’ve been asked not to do. I agree that the OP has mis stepped here, but there’s a respectful way to say so and this isn’t it.

            1. Green*

              This isn’t the nicest way to frame it, agreed. But LW’s response here demonstrates that she’s still missing the larger issues (that she doesn’t have professional distance and is in fact attempting to take retaliatory action against the reporter!) in favor of focusing on the topics she was caught up in in the first place.

              1. Zillah*

                Respect isn’t something that should be reserved to people who immediately agree with what Alison or commenters say. There’s no “but” here.

                1. Green*

                  I was referring to the accuracy of the complete lack of self awareness and the letter writer planning retribution while saying that there was no retribution. The glee is rude, but the analysis was accurate. And I get to have a “but” if I’d like to have a but–there’s a limit to how much policing you can do.

          3. Isben Takes Tea*

            You’re very lucky that this seems like entertainment, as opposed to people who have to deal with real issues in their workplaces. Not everyone has the option of just finding a new job. Also, sometimes letter writers actually get good feedback here that can reframe their issues in proactive ways, but only if we meet them as equals.

            1. KT*

              Again, where was this holier than thou attitude when the duck club post was up? People laughed at the OP and tore her apart, and this person is downright oblivious.

              All the jokes about WTF Wed are always about laughing at the crazy posts. It happens. Laughing at wacky stuff is okay

              1. Zillah*

                Alison has repeatedly asked people to stop talking about WTF Wednesday for exactly that reason – because it can be belittling to the OPs. I also don’t recall anyone tearing the OP from the duck club letter apart – there was a lot of laughing, but it was at the situation, not at her.

                1. Petronella*

                  Oh I remember people laughing at the OP (I was one of them). The tone of the OP’s letters, both of them, was just weirdly naïve, passive, and affectless. Some commenters compared her to the narrator in a bad porn story.

              2. TootsNYC*

                It’s really rude to laugh at wacky stuff when the person who DID the wacky stuff is standing right there.

                And on this blog, the people who write in *are* “standing right there.”

                So–don’t say something here you wouldn’t directly say to their face.
                We may feel as if we’re only talking to other commenters–but the person who wrote the letter is in the “room.”

                And those letter writers are real people–not characters in a novel.

                1. Laura*

                  I have the feeling the scientist would say it to the boss’s face -as would I. So that might not be the best rule of thumb!

    4. CoffeeLover*

      The lack of self-awareness in this letter is almost poetic. OP proved Alison’s point through her own questions. I also love how Alison cuts throw all the distracting fluff and gets to the nitty gritty. “Forget the damn picture and witchhunt, focus on the real issues.” This is one of my favorite AAMs.

      1. AF*

        Yes! Alison’s advice here is absolutely perfect. And saying it in a way that the OP has to see that she’s behaving poorly.

    5. Clever Name*

      That’s what I thought too. In one breath the OP says “no one here has ever faced retribution!” and then in the next conveys the message that they want to track down the complainer. Why do they need to know who complained if not to find some way to enact consequences for that employee? I’m sorry you’ve lost trust in your employees (except your daughter, I suppose). I hate to say it, but your employees probably don’t especially trust you either.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        That’s exactly what struck me — the OP was making the point in her very letter that the employees DID need to worry about retribution, and that the daughter IS being treated like a daughter, not an employee.

      2. Formica Dinette*

        Maybe OP left out the last part of the sentence: “No one here has ever faced retribution…until now!” ;)

    6. Joseph*

      This, this and more of this.

      Your reaction was “I need HR to tell me who did this!” That sounds like EXACTLY the kind of retribution that Mystery Employee X was worried about.

    7. LQ*

      Absolutely agree. This feels like retribution waiting to happen. Already I would say doing it (retributing?) in trusting everyone who isn’t the daughter less.

    8. Ashley the Paralegal*

      +1000 This was exactly my thought too. Daughter broke the rules, but OP is hell bent on finding (and presumably punishing) the whistle blower when OP should be more concerned with creating a workplace where her employees aren’t afraid of getting into trouble for raising legitimate concerns.

    9. Jinx*

      The focus on the picture is really bugging me, and I think I’ve figured out why. It’s a “grandma” response when OP should be having a “manager” response. This is why managing family isn’t a good idea. Even if you are professional, you won’t be able to stop yourself from thinking of that person and anything that happens to them as “family stuff”. It’s a natural reaction, but it’s really coloring OP’s judgment here.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        Yep, I just posted something similar above. I can absolutely guarantee OP would not be so indignant, if upset at all, had this been a photo of anyone else in the office’s child.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, even if she hasn’t done anything retaliatory, it’s possible to convey an attitude toward them that could make them afraid or worried about speaking up about anything.

  5. fposte*

    Keep in mind also, OP, that while this feels from a maternal standpoint like you’re helping your daughter, from a professional standpoint you’re not. If you turn it into a witch hunt, it hurts her not just at this workplace but at any future workplace, because no one knows if she can do her own work unshielded.

    Let somebody else handle the situation, and let somebody else manage your daughter.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      And any raise or other recognition she gets will be chalked up to her being your daughter as opposed to earning praise in her own right.

      That alone is extremely harmful in so many ways.

      1. Emmy*

        Yes, and it does flip the other way. Husband worked for his father’s company and it “looked” like he got preferential treatment. “Look! There he goes jumping into daddy’s posh suburban in the middle of the day! Must be nice.” when the truth was “Look! Here I go, driving my dad’s vehicle because mine’s too small to pick up my younger brother and his friends from baseball practice and take them all home even though I’ve got purchasing reports I need to get done right now, but my boss (dad) needs someone to pick him up and he’s my boss so I’ll be working late to get those done after I return from driving a truck of loud junior high boys around.” Another brother got the “Ooooh, he gets all the best equipment!” when he did get the good stuff, never mind that he was the best out there at what he did.

    2. Manders*

      Yes, this is an important point. OP, you’ve put yourself and your daughter in a situation where everything you can do about this complaint risks harming either your professional reputations or your personal relationship. This is why people don’t manage their relatives, unless they’ve started their own business and are up-front with potential employees about the fact that it’s family-run (and even then, it takes a fair amount of tact to both make your other employees feel valued and preserve your relationship with your kid).

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, this. You have your daughter working for you, OP. You can expect to encounter this type of situation over and over. People feel uneasy when the coworker is the boss’ kid. What have you done to ease their concerns?

        The few times I have worked with the boss’ kid, the boss put the kid waaaaay over in the corner and stayed away from the kid most of the time. Even though she did this, the rumor when right around, “The boss’ kid can do no wrong” and so on.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


      I’m just imagining myself as the hiring manager for the next job the daughter is looking for — contacting her previous boss only to discover it’s her mom would be very, very concerning to me, and I definitely wouldn’t put any weight in that reference whatsoever.

      1. Joseph*

        Excellent point. I’d basically discount ANY reference from a family member – regardless of the content.

        >You say really positive things? Of course you’re going to say your own kid is fantastic!
        >You say really negative things? Is this really work related or is there some unresolved personal drama?
        >You gave a mixed review of both strengths and weaknesses? Wait, even her mom doesn’t give her a great review? Really?

        1. Alice Ulf*

          Exactly–no matter the response, the questioner is going to keep that family relationship in mind and constantly consider ulterior motives.

          Insert image of Admiral Ackbar here. ;)

    4. TheLazyB*

      We don’t know if the OP is mother or father to the daughter. I jumped to mother too, but it’s interesting to think about both.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’m wondering if part of that is our basic bias toward using “she” as the neutral pronoun.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I think it’s because Alison said “mom.” Alison can often see identifying info that we can’t, so I think I assumed Alison knew she was a woman.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          I have that bias. I always assume female unless male is explicitly stated, just to slightly counter-balance the strong push in English-speaking cultures for male to be the unspoken default.

        3. Ms. Didymus*

          That’s actually one of the most interesting parts of this site. Most fall in line with “he” but this site goes with “she.”

  6. I'm a Little Teapot*

    OP indignantly insists “no one here has ever experienced retaliation” and then in the VERY NEXT SENTENCE is outraged that HR won’t let her know who complained (for what other reason than that she can retaliate?)

    I have never seen such a staggering lack of self-awareness. Forget managing her daughter; it sounds like OP shouldn’t be managing anyone.

    1. AdAgencyChick*


      When I read the first two sentences I instantly assumed this was going to be about a small family business. Then I read the third sentence and I was floored. How is this allowed at a publicly traded company?

      I think OP and/or her daughter need to look for another job.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        I’ve worked at (currently do now) publicly traded companies and there are relatives throughout but not in direct command. I can’t imagine working with a mother boss and daughter colleague (I probably wouldn’t either). If I was the HR rep I would already start the paperwork/discussions to put an end to it. The OP is in the early stages of potentially destroying an entire department of competent employees who get along and work well together.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Yeah, such has been my experience as well — plenty of sons and daughters get their first “in” to a company because mom or dad works there. And it mostly works as long as there’s no direct reporting relationship, which every agency I’ve ever worked at has had a formal prohibition against.

          That’s what I’m amazed by — that a direct reporting relationship is allowed to exist. Even an indirect one can lead to favoritism (my last agency was stingy with raises, but somehow opened its pockets for the daughter of the head of the finance department, even though the daughter worked in a different department, and gave the daughter a higher raise than her boss thought she deserved). And OP’s company allowed her to be her daughter’s boss? I don’t get it.

          1. MsMaryMary*

            When I worked at a publicly traded company, family members (husband-wife, siblings, parent-child) couldn’t work on the same team together, let alone manage each other.

            I’m wondering if corporate hasn’t put the pieces together yet. Or hadn’t put the pieces together previously and is trying to figure out what to do. If OP and her daughter have different last names and there’s no onsite HR, corporate might not know there’s a conflict of interest. I used to work with sisters who had to self-disclose when they were assigned to the same project: “Um, you know Sansa is my sister, right? Do you still want me to start working on the King’s Landing project?”

            1. Ashley the Paralegal*

              This is a good point. Lots of family members have different last names and if OP didn’t disclose this initially, HR may have had no idea.

            2. Ro*

              I once worked at a large, multi-national company (albeit a privately-owned one) with the exact same type of policy. However, the CEO/President hired a long-time friend and his wife to manage a new division. Although I had only one boss on paper, for all intents and purposes, I reported to two managers. (On paper, the reporting lines all looked legit, but in practice we had a puppet manager and then these two who kind of answered to nobody running the show.)

              One of my many duties was to arrange travel and make personal arrangements for the husband, only to have these things picked apart each time by his wife/re-done by her. That job was a special ring in hell. So glad I got out of there. I knew the wife was badmouthing me behind my back, but I didn’t care. About 1 month after my replacement started, she called me (in tears) to learn the real reason I’d left the job. Luckily, a restructuring and the retirement of these two loons (they were up in age when they were initially hired) meant she didn’t have to suffer too long.

              So sometimes even when a company has a policy of family members not working together, it can still happen (and wreck havoc on the organization and morale). Seriously, this rule should be right up there with don’t marry a biological relative. No good results from this!

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Very true. I got a job through my mother — but she was in the finance office and I was working as a security guard for the property! No way in heck did she have any authority whatsoever over me.

        2. KT*

          Yeah there are plenty of companies where relatives work at the same place, but not in the same departments or line of command.

          At my last job, I worked at the same company as my dad, but we were in different departments and different buildings (I actually never saw him the whole time I was there!); my brother wanted to work there, but because he wanted to be in IT like my dad, he wasn’t considered.

          1. Recent Grad*

            Yeah, my dad and my brother were in the same work group at a large corporation for 8 years. They weren’t in the same command chain, but people often assumed nepotism was at play when the opposite was the case. (My dad had actually petitioned against my brother getting the job.)

        3. Ama*

          I suspect it might be because the daughter is part-time — I’ve worked several places where part-time employee appointments aren’t scrutinized quite as diligently as full-time. (I don’t agree with that approach, but it definitely happens.)

        4. RVA Cat*

          This. Since the daughter is already working remotely, it could make it easier to transfer her to another department outside of her mother’s chain of command.

    2. Anon for personal family info*

      Exactly what I came here to say. I can certainly see why the other employees fear retaliation. Perhaps “no one (currently) here has ever experienced retaliation”, but I would bet someone has in the past, perhaps even loss of their job.

      1. Forgot to change my pseudomyn*

        Oops, wasn’t supposed to be anon, but I can’t out myself now.

    3. lulu*

      But she doesn’t want to retaliate, she just wants ” a recourse” again the person who complained about her daughter. Completely different!

      Also I wonder how many other employees are allowed to work part-time from home while watching their baby, presumably without childcare. That would definitely be seen as preferential treatment

      1. KT*

        ^THIS! That’s what stood out to me. This sounds like the daughter has a pretty cushy gig, working part-time from home with the baby. I somehow doubt other people get the same treatment

        1. the_scientist*

          Seriously! That is an *extremely* cushy gig, and I’d bet half my next paycheque that other employees don’t have this type of opportunity available to them.

        2. RVA Cat*

          Plus how the heck does she get anything done? At seven months the baby’s is crawling all over the place.

    4. Anon Moose*

      “I need to know who they are because now I don’t trust anyone.” Yeah, that in itself is why they did an anonymous comment to HR rather than going to her! What on earth “recourse” does she need because someone sent a photo of a person who was in their workspace to HR via private email? And how would it be different than retaliation or treating them differently in the future because they complained about your daughter?

      1. SH*

        The CEO of my company hired his son before I joined but his son had to take on tedious assignments until he proved himself. I think these arrangements can work but it depends on the individuals. In the OP’s case, I don’t think it’s a good idea long term.

    5. Katie F*

      I guarantee that if you asked the LW about it, she’d swear up and down she “just wants to have a conversation” and “get to the bottom of this”. But in the end, the result will be either outright retaliation or at least an ethically-shady intimidation of employees by showing them they can’t trust HR to maintain basic privacy standards.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      OP, how do you know with absolute certainty that no one has experienced retaliation in your company? It is possible to have an interaction with an employee and think it went perfectly fine, then months later find out the employee is STILL angry with you for what was said. In part because they feel you gave the perk assignments to others, or okayed vacation to others or whatever. It is possible that your employees/cohorts believe you to be vindictive and the reasons why do not connect for you.

  7. Snarkus Aurelius*

    OP, do you really not see the irony here?

    Your job is to manage your employees. Yet when someone complained, your first and only instinct is to defend your daughter, automatically assume the complaint was false without considering it*, and out the person who complained. None of that is doing your job.

    Serious question here.

    If you say there’s no fear of retribution, then why are you hellbent on finding out who this person is?

    *I imagine that because this is your daughter and grandchild, you’re not in a position to assess the situation fairly.

    1. Laurel Gray*


      Also, because the mom in me is going to explode if I don’t just type it already: what the hell was a 7 month old baby doing on the floor of a place of business? Maybe not a direct OSHA issue but still a safety and health hazard to be concerned about.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Right??? Like… eeeeew… the floor of our building is gross. No way in heck would I put a baby down on it!

      2. Anne*

        I would assume the mom put down a blanket first…at least, that’s what I would have done with my non-mobile 7-month-old.

        1. nonegiven*

          I’ve seen a baby younger than that scoot halfway across a room in less than 60 seconds.

        2. Mae North*

          That’s what happens in my office when babies visit for whatever reason: blanket on the floor, baby on the blanket, people interested in babies may stop by to chat to parent/coo at baby. It’s pretty normal around here – in fact we’ve had a ‘baby boom’ in the last year and a half, so there are a lot of babies that could potentially be brought in.

      3. fposte*

        Eh. Babies go on floors all the time. They’re less likely to catch something off a floor than they are off of people’s hands, and there’s no falling risk. My main worry with a 7-month old is they might be crawling, and that’s a safety hazard for everybody around :-).

      4. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        I assumed that since the mom was popping in the infant likely never left their carrier.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            I totally glossed over that! When most of my coworkers have popped in with their young babies it has always been it the car seat/carrier thing, so I kind of just assumed :)

      5. INTP*

        Exactly! Offices are not baby-proofed environments. There are power strips, wires, small objects people may have dropped, people walking around or rolling their chairs around in a hurry and not staring at the floor because they assume everyone in the building is above 3 feet tall, etc. Even if it really happened once, it’s something HR may be interested to know about. I know babies can safely play on the floor in their baby-proofed homes and in other public places while they are being closely supervised, but I can’t imagine it being safe in an office while mom is actively working.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am not understanding what is so hard about saying, “Daughter, do not bring Grandchild to work.”

      What is so hard here?

      What if there were a more serious issue, with your daughter’s work, then what? If you can’t just say, “Hey don’t bring the kid”, how will you tackle performance and work quality questions?

  8. esra*

    Since this place is big enough to have HR at corporate, I’m going to assume it isn’t a family business. That’s pretty much the only time it’s okay for relatives to manage each other, and anyone who has worked for a family business can tell you it doesn’t work well 98% of the time. There are probably at least one or two sane family businesses out there, although I don’t know anyone who has worked at one.

    1. Chloe Silverado*

      I actually work at a sane family business! Over the years the company has gotten quite large though, so by the time I started working here there were plenty of non-family members in senior management roles.

  9. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Ouch, OP. Ouch.

    Something Alison touched on, but I really want to highlight: An employee can fear retribution over this even if there has never been an instance of retribution before. The person they’re complaining about is your daughter, and you’re her boss. You don’t need a track record of taking complaints out of the complainer’s hide for people to feel understandably uneasy about bringing it up!

    […] first of all, what gives this employee any right to take pictures of another coworker’s child and share them with anyone? Is there recourse here?

    I can’t imagine how there would be. If you’re in the US, there’s no legal right to privacy when you’re out and about, and in an awful lot of workplaces you’re on camera all the time anyway. Unless a state law prevails regarding taking pictures of individuals without their awareness, what the employee did was fine. And, in fact, since the employee was documenting working conditions, there’s a case to be made that the privacy issue would be clouded anyway.

    Secondly, without know who has done this, my level of trust for all of our employees has been diminished, as I must now suspect all five of the people in this particular office location of having done such a petty thing. Where are my rights to access of this information?

    Those rights don’t exist. Why on earth would they? Take your daughter and grandchild out of the picture for a moment, OP, and consider if you really think managers ought to be able to access the identity of people who have made anonymous complaints and fear retribution. That would be enormously problematic for a lot of ethics reasons. Usually corporate offices want to know if someone is playing funny with the rules; they don’t want to discourage people from reporting by exposing the employee making the report to retribution from the manager.

    And this cycles back around to that first point about retribution. When you’re feeling like you “can’t trust” someone because they raised a concern with HR, and you’re insisting that you want to hunt down who did it… what would you do with that information? I honestly don’t expect that you would be able to handle this person totally neutrally as their manager going forward. That would result in retribution, whether intentional or not. That’s exactly why they made the complaint up the food chain and asked to stay anonymous.

    1. BRR*

      +1 to the first part. Just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and prevent it. There are many things that shouldn’t happen at all and you should try and prevent them from occurring.

    2. Bwmn*

      I mention this upthread, but I really believe the fear of retribution may simply be tied to two things – 1) knowledge that the OP is the mother of the daughter and 2) no one has ever come forth or reported any difficulties working with the daughter.

      The reality of a cooling effect could easily be in play. Because of a fear of retribution or problems, employees won’t do anything. So if I’ve been there for a year or more, and despite seeing other employees not having great relations or even just minor concerns with a certain employee – if those issues are never addressed and no one feels comfortable coming forward – then it’s entirely reasonable that someone might have a fear of retribution.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, absolutely. It’s an extension of Alison’s repeated refrain that managers shouldn’t be best buddies with their reports. If the coworker who eats lunch every day with the manager and chats with her constantly is doing something wrong, I’m going to think twice and thrice and more than that about whether I want to bring up a problem with that coworker, even if my manager is otherwise awesome. And this is way more than best buddies!

        1. Bwmn*

          Exactly – my department has had an Interim Director for six months now and no signs of what’s going to happen permanently on the horizon. While Interim Director has experience in management, he does not have any experience in our department’s functioning and has created a frustrating dynamic in the department regarding long term planning and thinking through challenges. He also happens to be super tight with our CEO. I know that any frustrations I have about this situation – even if expressed to HR – would ultimately go to the CEO.

          Personally, I have no interest in risking just asking what is happening with long term leadership of the department because while the chance of some kind of retribution may only be 50% – that’s 50% I’m not chancing.

        2. TuxedoCat*

          This is my workplace. Coworker got cozy with the big boss (having regularly scheduled lunches), and no one wants to complain.

          The thing is there has been retribution to those who complain; I’m friendly with someone who has complained and has had a valid complaint. It’s not as extreme as firing someone or a PIP, but it’s there. It’s a shame, because the person who complained was an outstanding colleague and the big boss’s best friend is mediocre at best. I say the complainer was an outstanding colleague because she left and I’m looking to do the same.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          We don’t know, but I don’t think it’s relevant. If the OP is a father instead of a mother, all the same problems exist.

          1. Zillah*

            It’s not relevant to the advice, no – but there’s value in being aware of our assumptions and blindspots, which are often influenced by stereotypes.

          1. Zillah*

            I hadn’t seen the OP’s comment when I posted this, and I don’t believe that Bwmn did either, based on their reply to me.

            1. fposte*

              Well, Alison does in the response, which probably had some effect there. (Are there two of you now, btw, or did you post a few times with a link in your name?)

              1. Zillah*

                Ahhhh, that makes sense! :P Thanks!

                I might have posted with a link in my name a few times – I think I had my email address in the website field in my phone at one point. I don’t think it was recent, though.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Well, because I referred to her in the post as being the daughter’s mom (which I did because I assumed she was a woman based on her name in her email to me).

    3. Joseph*

      With regards to the photographs, you are correct – there is no legal right to privacy in public areas.

      Notably, even if you *did* hypothetically have such a right, a large publicly traded company certainly has a clause in the Employee Handbook (which you agreed to!) that explicitly waives the right to privacy in the workplace.

    4. newbie*

      It’s also possible that they have experienced retribution in the past. The OP seems to lack awareness of how her actions could be perceived. In the letter she talks about wanting to track down the person who complained and implies that it is for retaliation while at the same time saying that her employees should not fear retribution. Her assertion that it has never happened is therefore a little suspect.

    5. AF*

      And this is why whistleblower laws/policies exist. Even if the complaint is not valid, employees have a right to expect a level of confidentiality and protection from retaliation. If you work at a publicly-traded company, I hope it’s big enough to have this type of policy. The OP is destroying any respect her employees may have had for her by trying to retaliate.

    6. INTP*

      +1 to the first part, and I think the letter basically proves the employee was right to fear retribution. Your manager distrusting you for something you did IS retribution – it affects your career and day-to-day working life. The OP is already actively retributing. She is just going against the entire office since she doesn’t know which individual to single out.

  10. ha*

    Good morning OP! I think your other employees may also be nervous as your daughter also has a plum job – WFH, part-time, and it’s perfect for a new mother. Even though she did get this position through regular means, your relationship could easily make that look like favoritism. I suggest meeting with HR, and go over all the complications that the family ties create. Perhaps corporate can transfer her to another practice?

    1. sparklealways*

      Did she get this job through the normal channels? I’m confused if / where it said that, so I may have missed it.

      Based on the details that are given about the size, type of company and lack of self-awareness I am seeing by the OP (and I am jumping to quite a few conclusions)… I question if corporate is aware that the OP is managing her daughter.

      1. K.*

        I wondered that too. I can’t imagine any workplace that’s not a family business signing off on a mother managing her daughter. It’s easy enough to slip by corporate (different last names, etc.).

      2. AMG*

        It also makes me wonder if this is the first time HR has had a question come up about this arrangement. Perhaps that is the reason OP is so upset. It’s already on the radar, and/or already An Issue.

    2. INTP*

      Plus, a work-from-home admin job is VERY rare. Usually admins have some physical office tasks (faxes, copies, etc.) and need to be near the employees they support. That struck me as unusual before I even read the rest of the letter. So I have no reason to suspect that job only exists because the OP created it for her, of course, but I definitely see how it could look suspicious to other employees.

  11. Kate M*

    I think it’s kind of ironic that you say that nobody has experienced retribution, and yet you’re trying to figure out what recourse you have about this complaint and whether you can find out who made the complaint. I’m guessing you want this information to create consequences for this action? That seems like retribution to me…

    It seems like you already believe your daughter’s side without looking into it. I mean sure, if an employee made a false statement about another employee there should probably be consequences, but I’d look at all the possibilities Alison suggested.

    And don’t manage your daughter!

  12. TL -*

    I worked for a husband and wife team where the husband wasn’t allowed to manage his wife, who was in a managerial position over one of his projects but wasn’t allowed to manage his employees. She managed his employees, he didn’t manage her, no one knew her manager.

    He never retaliated against anybody complaining about her because he made it so clear in very small ways that he wasn’t interested in hearing it that nobody complained. There were lots and lots of problems with her but nobody ever felt like they could say a word. It seems like you might be freaking with a similar situation.

  13. nowhere man*

    If I was the OP and the employee wasn’t my daughter, I would still probably assume the complaint was false. I would still investigate, but I wouldn’t assume the complaint had merit. Unless this is a case where the daughter is working “primarily” from home, which implies some office time, the OP said she works part-time from home. I would check with the daughter to be sure she isn’t stopping by on her off time, where other employees might get confused and think she’s there in an official capacity. Social visits could be misinterpreted.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      So you are saying that if you were the OP you would investigate it while assuming it was false or if you were the person in HR? Either way, if you are directly managing your child in a business that you do not own, would you really be able to objectively investigate a complaint made against her? Would the perception to the rest of the office be that you objectively investigated?

    2. neverjaunty*

      ….so in a completely different situation than this letter, you personally would react differently? I’m not sure of your point here?

      1. nowhere man*

        I’m saying that whether or not the relationship existed, I would be dubious of the anonymous complaint, since she says the job is work from home. I think the OP is in dangerous territory, due to her role in managing her daughter, but I feel like everyone is reacting more to that than the event that led to the complaint. Regardless of that relationship, why would you assume the complaint was true if the subject of the complaint does not work in the office? I think this situation goes to show why you shouldn’t/can’t manage family or friends, but we can’t change that this is how it is for the OP.

        1. Observer*

          Because there is actually a picture of the child on the floor. So, not a 30 second visit to grab some supplies with one hand and out the door.

          How much of a problem is it? We have no way to know, but given the OP’s reaction, it’s pretty clear that she’s not about to to figure that out.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          This right here is why people take pictures. I think that 75% of my bosses would not have believed the complainer. Let’s face it, if the boss does not believe a complainer then they save themselves a bunch of work.

  14. George*

    “First of all, this was completely untrue – she works from home and does not work in the office.”

    And yet … there was a photograph taken of the baby, presumably in the office?

    I agree with Alison – you’re looking at this situation from completely the wrong angle. The issue isn’t the employee taking a photo of your grandchild. The issue is their complaint. You say “no one here has ever experienced retribution”, but then you write, “my level of trust for all of our employees has been diminished, as I must now suspect all five of the people in this particular office location of having done such a petty thing”.

    This coupled with you wanting to find out who sent the complaint makes it sound like you have some kind of retribution in mind.

    Either way, you have to reassess the situation from a neutral standpoint.

    1. George*

      (I wanted to clarify that “This coupled with you wanting to find out who sent the complaint makes it sound like you have some kind of retribution in mind.” wasn’t meant to come across as the OP planning revenge or anything; just, if she’s so set on finding out who she sees as betraying her in taking a photo of her grandchild, there’s bound to be some kind of backlash for the employee who made a complaint.

      I don’t know, maybe I read the letter wrong, but that’s what I got out of it).

    2. A Bug!*

      This coupled with you wanting to find out who sent the complaint makes it sound like you have some kind of retribution in mind.

      More to the point, OP, it sounds like you might have a different idea of what constitutes “retribution” than your employees do. Retribution doesn’t have to be quantifiable or intentional. In fact, it’s usually not quantifiable and it’s often not intentional. It’s quite often a matter of an employee facing subtle changes in how she’s treated by others, how closely-scrutinized she is; an overall shift in how welcome she feels at work.

      And since you claim to be unable to trust anyone in your office if you don’t know who made the complaint, that means you consider the complainant untrustworthy for having made this complaint about your daughter. I have a hard time believing that lost trust wouldn’t come through in how you deal with that employee, so it seems to me that the concern about retribution is quite warranted.

      Either way, you have to reassess the situation from a neutral standpoint.

      Honestly? I’m inclined to say that she needs to reassess the situation from an off-neutral standpoint. When you’re in a position where there’s an visible risk of preferential treatment, you pretty much need to err in the other direction so that people can see and trust that you’re on the up-and-up.

      By the way, OP, why doesn’t your daughter have remote access to her e-mails if she works from home?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Not being able to trust anyone is a really bad set up. This means the only person OP can trust is her daughter and therefore fulfills the prophecy of favoritism.

      2. nn*

        I thought that too. Maybe OP defines retribution as stalking, violence, or some over the top reaction which she knows she would not carry out – but employee is only thinking of less raise, less respect, less flexibility, less plum assignments etc.

  15. Government Worker*

    My first instinct is that the complaint was made by an employee who is unhappy about the whole setup and latched on to the baby in the office as a concrete thing to complain about that might be taken more seriously than the broader, vaguer concerns. OP, do you and your daughter talk about the baby on the phone where other employees can hear? Do you talk about your grandchild a lot in the office? Is it possible the quality of your daughter’s work has suffered since the baby was born and you’ve gone easy on her as a manager because you have a lot of sympathy for her as a new parent? Or that other employees could perceive that she does less work than would be required of others in her position? If most employees are full time and work in the office, it can be hard to ensure that everyone has an accurate perception of the contributions of a remote part-time employee (that includes your assessment of her work, your daughter’s assessment of her own productivity, and the other employees perceptions when they are not be privy to the details of her work performance).

    People’s views on new parents, part-time positions, remote workers, and conflicts of interest each contribute to problems we hear about on this site individually, and you’ve got all of them piled up together. I’d be more surprised if there *weren’t* anyone unhappy with the arrangement.

    1. fposte*

      That’s a good thought. I was thinking that there could be somebody who would like the same setup, too.

    2. NK*

      This is what I was thinking. I think it’s plausible that the actual complaint wasn’t really true (at least, repeated visits, obviously at least this one visit occurred), because it’s a pretty objective thing that the OP should know – whether her daughter and grandchild are physically showing up to the office. But I suspect that the person who reported it is generally unhappy with the entire arrangement, and they felt like they needed hard proof of impropriety, and the picture of this office visit was all they felt they had.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, if this truly is the first time in months (or the first time ever) that the baby has been in the office I’d look at it as this being the real issue.

    3. BRR*

      That’s a really good point. They might just be unhappy with the daughters performance but there’s nothing they can really do. I had something similar happen when a team member was in a relationship with the boss and it left us one person short. I would have tried a lot to fix the situation because it was a real burden.

    4. Chickaletta*

      +1 – There’s more to the story. This isn’t just about the baby being brought to the office for a few minutes; there’s a larger problem at hand.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, there’s a lot more to this story. It sounds like a straw that broke the camel’s back type of story.

    5. The Rizz*

      Yeah, this is like a pile of AAM commenter triggers all in one letter. I think people are being rather unfair to OP but that’s just me.

  16. Isben Takes Tea*

    OP, you seem more upset that you “can’t trust your employees” than the fact that at least one of them felt they couldn’t trust you. I think this is the big-picture issue that will affect the office moving forward, and you have a lot of power in addressing it proactively.

  17. Roscoe*

    I’m going to give the OP a little benefit of the doubt here. While I agree that you shouldn’t be managing your daughter, I actually can see being uncomfortable that random person is taking pictures of a baby in the office and sharing it who knows where. I mean, if anonymous co-worker would send it to HR, who is to say she wouldn’t post it on facebook complaining too. The problem is, even though I can see your frustration and being uncomfortable by that, the fact that are you are the kids grandmother definitely makes your response a bit unbiased.I think if your daughter had an issue with that, it would be within her right to raise it, but unfortunately not to you.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I mean, if anonymous co-worker would send it to HR, who is to say she wouldn’t post it on facebook complaining too.


      I mean, I have access to people’s photos, since I work in IT. Often I will help people copy their very personal photos (yes, which theoretically shouldn’t even be on school-owned computers, but most schools I’ve worked at don’t police such policies) to external hard drives or to new computers, and I’m professional, so I don’t keep copies of those photos myself or upload them to Facebook or email them to other people. I don’t even look at the photos unless I have to.

      What you’re saying is essentially the same as “HR wants my social security and birthdate? They say they’re using that for payroll and benefits, but who is to say they aren’t using it to steal my identity and open up new credit card accounts without my knowledge?”

      1. Ashley the Paralegal*

        Agreed. Plus, if the co-worker is wanting to remain anonymous, he or she probably isn’t going to then post the picture on Facebook and give themselves up as the whistle blower.

    2. Jinx*

      But… sending it to HR isn’t anywhere near the same thing as posting it on Facebook (or some other public site). It’s two separate situations with two very different contexts.

    3. HRish Dude*

      “I mean, if anonymous co-worker would send it to HR, who is to say she wouldn’t post it on facebook complaining too. ”

      I really wish you could walk us through this, because I’m honestly having a trouble figuring out this leap in logic that you’ve made.

      1. ToxicNudibranch*

        I mean, if I purchase a bucket of worms and use them for fishing, who is to say I won’t also fling some at my admin to signal I’m ready for lunch?

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Meanwhile, the employee is saying “Boss’ daughter works from home, works part time, gets lots of comfy perks like that. I will try to ignore it. But now the granddaughter is playing on the floor in the office? What is NEXT? When does this favoritism stop? I am not sure if I trust this boss.”

  18. Letter Writer*

    While I am a bit taken aback at the veracity of the first comments to my query, I am appreciative of the viewpoints of those whom I know are completely neutral to this situation. I can understand how it obviously sounds, and have no desire to be preferential in the treatment of any of our staff – much less one of my children – however, fortunately, her work speaks for itself and there is absolutely no complaint of that. I think that is the root of my questioning – the complaint is not about the work; it isn’t even about the fact that my daughter is a direct report to me; it is all about bringing the baby to work – which she isn’t doing. And in answer to your question “who comes to work to pick up supplies and send an email with their baby?” A mom working from home who has been asked to work on a project that day and needs to come pick up the supplies for it , or who responded back to an email that she got on her phone, but needed to send out quickly with some attachments . I suppose we can always find ways to work that don’t seem to fit the norm. Out of the above comments, what resonates the most with me is the incredulity that is felt for a parent to be managing a family member. I can understand that and am taking steps to make a change – it will protect her and me and all of the other staff – who are equally as important in the workplace. I am still amazed that anyone would think it is ok to take a photograph without permission and send it to anyone. Clouded judgment or not, that seems rather invasive to me – rights shouldn’t be waived because someone is a family member. Trust is a necessary factor in every part of life; I am disappointed that anyone would think they couldn’t trust their concerns with me. Right or wrong, this just feels like someone going behind my back in a really detrimental way. We all think of everyone in our group as “family,” so perhaps that is also why this is surprising to me. Thank you for your comments – they are insightful and truthful – always good to provoke thought out of its entrenchment!

    1. fposte*

      Thanks for responding, OP–I know this wasn’t an easy one to hear. I’m glad to hear you’re considering the implications of the strong reaction to that reporting structure.

      I also think it’s worth considering Government Worker’s point that what the employee was frustrated about wasn’t just the presence of the baby. Do other staff have the same work at home privileges, and can they bring kids in with the same frequency? Has this been made clear to them?

      1. KT*

        This, to me, is the crux of the problem. If the work from home scenario isn’t available for everyone, you’re going to have a lot of resentment (and rightfully so, if this arrangement is only for your daughter)

    2. KT*

      Thinking of coworkers as a “family’ is the first red flag. You’re not (except in your case!). That leads to seeing things as betrayals when they’re legitimate concerns.

      Moreover, it’s completely legal to take pictures and share them; it’s why the papparazzi can do so much with celeb kids. They didn’t do anything “wrong” by taking a photo of something they thought was unfair or rule-breaking and sending it to HR. I do think your daughter is clouding your judgment…if a person had video of a staff member stealing and sent it to HR, would you have the same reaction?

      1. lulu*

        I also think sending a picture to HR to document a situation they feel is inappropriate is not like taking a picture and posting it on social media. The photo is not the issue here. I understand feeling betrayed when your employees go to HR instead of bringing something up with you, but trying to force HR to reveal their name is not going to alleviate their concerns. It would be better to take a step back and reflect on what in your behavior made it difficult for them to approach you. Treat this less personally, take a beat, and look at the big picture.

      2. Hornswoggler*

        If your co-workers are ‘family’ (which I agree is NOT a good attitude int he first place – and open that I’ve had to combat in previous workplaces) – then do you consider yourself their ‘mother’? In which case, is your daughter their ‘sister’? And is reporting a complaint therefore some sort of sibling betrayal?

        Once you actually analyse the use of the word ‘family’ in this context, and start addressing its ramifications, you’ll start to see how absurd (in the pure sense) it is.

        I was once told to look upon two of my superiors as the ‘mother’ and ‘father’ in the organisation – neither of them old enough to be my parents and one of them only a few days older than me. I remember my colleagues and I being absolutely furious at the ‘family’ metaphor – we all had our own families, thank you very much.

      3. Anonyhippo*

        Exactly. People work for you because you pay them to do so. They are not your family. You are not their parent.

        I find this mindset totally infantilizing and demeaning. Stop it.

        1. LJL*

          I have to say that, while I love some of my current and former co workers as if they were family, every work situation in which a supervisor has stated “we’re just like a family here!” has been quite dysfunctional. I now see that term as a warning sign.

    3. esra*

      I am disappointed that anyone would think they couldn’t trust their concerns with me. Right or wrong, this just feels like someone going behind my back in a really detrimental way. We all think of everyone in our group as “family,” so perhaps that is also why this is surprising to me.

      This really stood out to me, and I think this is where you’re losing the plot a bit. You may think of the group as ‘family’, but you aren’t. Except, of course, with your daughter. There’s no way that can’t stand out to people. I’d honestly be surprised if people could trust their concerns with you. That would be incredibly awkward in any situation, personal or professional, to complain to a parent about their child. I think you need to stretch a bit more to put yourself in the employees’ position and see how limited they might feel their options are.

      I personally don’t think it’s okay to take a photo, so I wonder how far gone this person felt things were that they went to those lengths.

      1. BRR*

        Whether or not you think your employees can come to you is in a way not relevant because it sounds like they don’t feel like they can come to you. And they’re the ones who need to feel like they can.

        Also in a recent post there was an interesting comment thread about offices that describe each other as family. I wish I could find it but if I remember right it basically was a lot of good thoughts on how they are different and with how they’re structured can’t really be the same.

      2. Janey*

        LW, the fact of the matter is, they *didn’t* come to you with their concerns. As the manager, it’s *your* responsibility to make sure they’re comfortable enough to talk to you about things. If they didn’t, that’s on you, not them.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      Please try to see it from the employee’s POV — this wasn’t motivated out of a desire to go behind your back and “get” you, but rather out of fear. I completely understand why this employee didn’t feel like she could trust her concerns with you.

      1. BRR*

        Exactly. It was done because there might not be any other option. When you say her work speaks for itself who is judging it? And nobody may complain of it for fear of retribution.

    5. Kate M*

      I think you’re looking at this personally – “going behind your back.” One of the reasons HR is there is to field complaints from employees when they don’t feel they can talk to their manager. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. If you’re disappointed that someone wouldn’t trust you, the way to remedy that isn’t by hunting down the person who made the complaint, it’s looking at what you’re doing and seeing if you can change something (which it sounds like you’re doing).

      It’s good that you’re looking to make changes, but really look at the whole situation, not just the parts that are detrimental to your daughter. Her work may be excellent, but maybe other employees who have excellent work feel they don’t have the same benefits.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Even if they don’t want those exact benefits, seeing that a colleague has a cushy gig, and that it’s apparently because of a familiy relationship–something the employee will never be able to replicate (If the cushy gig was because the colleague sold so many widgets, a colleague could try to sell that many widgets)–it’s going to create resentment.

      2. Juli G.*

        Can I say your employees SHOULD be going over your head and you should encourage that? I had a tricky situation for awhile – a little less direct but not ideal. I was very clear that all issues should go to my boss and I should not be involved unless my boss thought it appropriate.

        It’s not that I didn’t trust myself to handle things with integrity. It’s that I didn’t anyone to question my (or my family member’s) integrity.

    6. Laurel Gray*

      “I suppose we can always find ways to work that don’t seem to fit the norm. Out of the above comments, what resonates the most with me is the incredulity that is felt for a parent to be managing a family member.”

      Incredulity? It is inappropriate. Directly managing a child, spouse, parent or lover in a place of business (that isn’t a family run business) is inappropriate for a variety of reasons. The best step you can take to protect everyone in the workplace is for you and your daughter to not work in the same department with her reporting to you.

    7. neverjaunty*

      Have you considered why one of your ‘family’ might have felt it necessary to actually take a picture and send it to HR anonymously, rather than simply coming to you directly and raising the issue?

      Thinking of your employees as “family” is partly at the root of your problem here – you’re not seeing it as a business relationship, but as a personal one, which means that normal workplace behavior may feel like ‘betrayal’ or a personal insult.

    8. Katie the Fed*

      On the issue of taking a picture of the baby – yeah it’s a little weird, but your daughter put the baby in that situation by bringing her to work. Had she left her at home with a sitter, it wouldn’t even be an issue. ANd it’s not like it was posted all over the internet – it was used as proof for a complaint. I do think it’s poor judgment to bring the baby to the workplace without prior permission to do so.

      Agree wholeheartedly that ” Trust is a necessary factor in every part of life; I am disappointed that anyone would think they couldn’t trust their concerns with me” – I think you need to focus your attention on WHY they felt they couldn’t go to you. When employees are complaining about their boss to their boss’s boss, something has gone really wrong. It’s a symptom of a bigger problem. You need to focus on that.

      1. Adam V*

        > On the issue of taking a picture of the baby – yeah it’s a little weird, but your daughter put the baby in that situation by bringing her to work.

        > ANd it’s not like it was posted all over the internet – it was used as proof for a complaint.

        +1 to both of these.

        1. Zillah*

          Yes. If it had been posted online, that would be an entirely different issue.

          I do understand why the OP is perturbed, though; I certainly would be, if a coworker took a picture of me to send to HR. It just feels a little slimy.

          1. Mike C.*

            What would your alternative be if you wanted to ensure you had evidence and it didn’t turn into a he said/she said situation?

            1. Zillah*

              I don’t know that there is an alternative. I’m just saying that there’s something a little squicky about it, and it would make me feel uncomfortable.

            2. KAM*

              especially since OP keeps insisting that her daughter doesn’t bring the baby in to work… when she clearly brought the baby to work. Even if it was just for an hour.

              1. Alex*

                That is the part that I am really not getting – the insistence that “it is all about bringing the baby to work – which she isn’t doing”. She obviously did. Why is this even in dispute? You might say “she did bring the baby to work but it’s fine because x, y, z” where x, y, z might be organisational culture, examples of others having done so in the past, your daughter seeking approval beforehand etc. But to deny that this happened (especially given that there is photographic evidence) is very strange behaviour.

          2. LCL*

            Some people will always choose the slimy way first to handle interpersonal conflicts. I am perturbed on the OPs behalf, because of the anonymity of the complaint. She doesn’t need to know who sent it for retaliation purposes, she needs to know for professional reasons-she has to be able to protect herself. The person who takes and sends anonymous pictures, jumping the chain of command, is the same person who will blind CC others on what is supposed to be confidential emails, and other dirty tactics.

            1. neverjaunty*

              ….what? This was a complaint to HR. And the “chain of command” was the enployee’s mother. I’m not following reading all this into the photograph.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah, this makes no sense to me. It’s fine to go to HR about something like this if you don’t trust your manager to handle a complaint appropriately, and that’s likely to be the case when your manager is the person’s mom.

            2. Anonymous Educator*

              They’re not dirty tactics if the confidential emails are incriminating. If you just say “Hey, look at these confidential emails,” that’s wrong. If you say “I know these are supposed to be confidential, but I believe our company may be doing illegal things that could expose our company to criminal investigation/prosecution” there’s nothing dirty about it. In fact, it’s dirty to not bring it up.

              Sure, bringing your baby to work isn’t anywhere near in the same league as insider trading or embezzlement, but the idea is that you can breach confidentiality if you’re bringing up a legitimate issue. And, no, taking a photo of a baby in your workplace isn’t breaching confidentiality.

              1. Ashley the Paralegal*

                +1 You hit the nail right on the head. The co-worker didn’t take the photo is use for nefarious purposes. They took it as evidence and presumably gave it only to HR for that purpose.

            3. Observer*

              This is the kind of attitude that made it all but impossible for people to report complaints of harassment and the like. After all, if you’re a slime ball because you reported your boss’ misbehavior to someone other than your boss, what are your options?

              Again, keep in mind that even now, it’s clear that the OP doesn’t see that there even MIGHT be a problem, other than the totally technical one of managing her daughter.

            4. Green*

              (1) Many large corporations have multiple reporting mechanisms for ALL issues related to the workplace. You can equally report to your manager, HR, Legal, or our third party operated hotline. Jumping chain of command (especially when the chain of command has such a clear conflict) is not at all unreasonable here.

              (2) “Protecting yourself” from that employee, by treating them AT ALL differently than you otherwise would have, is retaliation. Many large corporations also have complete non-retaliation policies for any good faith report.

              (3) Anonymity where possible is an important part of maintaining a reporting culture where people feel that they can speak up without being harmed if there is something that seems like it isn’t right. It’s not slimy; it protects the company.

              1. Christopher Tracy*

                +1 to all of this. The Senior VP of my division always tells us that if we have workplace complaints and don’t feel comfortable talking to our supervisor, manager, or someone in upper management, we should go talk to HR because that’s what they’re there for.

            5. Zillah*

              Whoa, hold on. I’m not passing any judgment on the OP’s coworker’s broader approach or ethics – it sounds like this may well have been the best of a few bad choices, given that the OP’s relationship to the employee being complained about. I’m just saying that knowing people are photographing you when they feel like you’re doing something wrong is uncomfortable.

              1. Green*

                I was responding to LCL’s comment, Zillah.
                Look, most of us would be annoyed if someone took a picture of us doing something wrong, because nobody wants to get turned in for doing something wrong and nobody likes to feel they are being watched. We would take it personally and have to spend some emotional effort to handle it professionally (i.e., when we realized that it’s really on us for doing the wrong thing or on HR to determine that there was nothing wrong done). The issue here is that OP is annoyed that someone took a picture of HER DAUGHTER doing something wrong and wants to fight this battle as a momma bear instead of reviewing it as potential evidence of employee wrongdoing, determine whether there was in fact wrongdoing and move on.

                1. Zillah*

                  … so was I, which was a reply agreeing with something I said. I wanted to make sure it was clear that I didn’t share LCL’s opinion.

          3. Kelly White*

            I get that the picture thing is weird- but the OP says:
            “telling HR that my daughter was bringing her baby to work in the office and that she was afraid to say anything because she feared retribution.
            First of all, this was completely untrue”

            Well, it really wasn’t completely untrue. She was there with the baby- the co-worker has a pic. This stood out to me- is it possible that she brings the baby in more than you know?

            It could be a disgruntled co-worker, but have you heard complaints or issues about your daughter before and dismissed them as being “completely untrue”? Because if I was the co-worker and got that response, or even that vibe from you, I would never, ever come to you with an issue, as I would think you wouldn’t be objective.

            1. Zillah*

              I agree, and while we’re missing some information, I’m not sure that there was a better way to approach this, given the situation. Actions can be warranted and still feel uncomfortable; this may well fall into that category.

      2. LQ*

        I think that it is important to note that it was used as proof. This person didn’t feel like they could just say it was a problem, they sent in proof that it was a happening.

    9. B*

      OP glad to see you reading through the comments and trying to understand from the other point of view. I have to agree with your employees that I would have lots of resentment and feel completely justified with retribution. With regards to the picture, I have two thoughts. Once your daughter brought your grandchild into the office there is no assumption of privacy as it is a business. As well, the picture taker probably wanted proof to show HR for the simple reason if she went directly to them and you were asked the assumption is you would lie/cover for your daughter. That is one of many issues with managing your own true family.

      While it’s nice you look at your group as a family, they are not. They are employees brought in to do a job and do not feel they can trust their manager. As you have said, you are incredulous HR will not tell you who made the complaint – why should they trust you?

    10. Manders*

      I’m not sure what you mean when you keep talking about “rights.” Do you think it’s illegal to take photographs in your own workplace? Do you believe that babies have to sign photography waivers when someone snaps a shot for non-commercial use? You’re getting very hung up on the fact that a photograph was taken of the baby, and maybe it’s not the most tactful way that your employee could have gone about it, but it’s not the actual root of the problem.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I am still amazed that anyone would think it is ok to take a photograph without permission and send it to anyone.

        It is completely legal, and I think you are behind the times with this attitude. I understand that some people such as yourself think that permission should be given, but that’s not the world we live in any longer. It is completely legal to take photos in a public place. People run around everyday with a camera on their phone and take tons of pictures which they immediately upload to social media. Taking a picture to document a workplace issue is certainly justified; it is perfectly okay and less of an “invasion of privacy” than posting a picture on social media or tagging someone in a photo.

        1. Adam V*

          > It is completely legal to take photos in a public place.

          Do note, however, that a workplace is not “a public place” and such rules don’t necessarily apply. Imagine a brokerage firm where the employees work on confidential merger discussions, or law firms, etc. It’s completely rational in such cases for workplaces to say “no photos or cameras or cameraphones allowed, due to the secrecy of our work”.

          While I agree that in this case it’s important to allow the picture because it was taken for a specific, work-related purpose, didn’t leave the workplace, and was necessary to back up the claims of the complainant, it’s not correct to say “I can take whatever photos I want”.

            1. Adam V*

              Exactly. In such cases the rule is usually drilled into your head during orientation / training. There’s no such rule in this case (or at the very least, there’s nothing so obvious that the OP was able to say “everyone in the company knows that cameras aren’t allowed, it’s in the company handbook, etc.”).

              My point was simply that it’s no more correct to say “cameras are always allowed” than it is to say “cameras are never allowed”.

            2. Observer*

              And in such workplaces, bringing your baby into the office would generally be an issue, and working from home and from your phone would be an issue as well.

        2. LD*

          It may be that the idea of it being illegal to take someone’s picture comes from the situation of using it for commercial gain. There have been lawsuits related to using images of celebrities because their images are considered valuable and some advertisers used them without permission. It’s widely (maybe not accurately) believed that people’s images (typically celebrities) may not be used without compensation or permission and the rights to their images are typically inheritable by their families who then have control over their use. There is also a lot of concern over images of children on the internet. Although neither of these situations (valuable celebrity photo nor child photo posted on the internet) is the situation here, both may be a cause of confusion.

          1. Rana*

            Yes. As a parent of a small child, I am fairly conservative in how I allow images of her to be shared, especially online. As a photographer, I know that there’s nothing illegal – though, perhaps, somewhat unethical – about doing so if no money is involved. There’s a reason model releases exist – the law makes it fairly clear that ordinary people do have the limited right to not allow someone else to make money off their image without permission and/or recompense. (Celebrities are an exception, as they are considered a sort of public property.) It gets complicated with things like photographs taken in public places; some photographers get signed permission from their subjects if they anticipate trying to sell the image later, others do not.

            But neither of these situations describes what’s going on here: a child photographed in a private setting for a specific, non-monetary and non-exploitative use that won’t be shared with the public. So it’s annoying, but, in my opinion, neither illegal nor unethical.

        3. TootsNYC*

          Well, “think it is OK” is not about legality.

          It’s about ethics, etiquette, “soft” and hard-to-prove (and hard-to-agree-on) stuff like that.

        4. AW*

          I think you are behind the times with this attitude…People run around everyday with a camera on their phone and take tons of pictures which they immediately upload to social media.

          We can go back several more decades to video news coverage. I would think the frequent use of footage of people walking around outside, minding their own business would make it obvious that you don’t have to get people’s permission to photograph or record them in public. In fact, I’d think crowd photos in newspapers would make that clear. No one is trying to track down the thousands of people in their photo of Times Square before publishing it.

      2. Retail HR Guy*

        In my experience the right to not be photographed is one of those mythical “rights” that many people believe in but that has no legal reality. Others examples I’ve noticed include a right to control any information about yourself (“They have no right to keep a file on me!”), a right to purchase items for a lower price if there was an advertising mistake, and a right to have others “put it in writing” upon demand.

        I don’t know where OP is getting it from, but she’s not alone in this common misconception.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          It is a right in some countries, so that could be where it’s coming from.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Which countries, out of interest? I ask, as someone with a recent photography degree, and I know that the UK & USA don’t have this right, or any European countries that I know of. If someone’s in a public space, they generally have no right not to be photographed except in specific circumstances like harassment/upskirt etc. There are rights about how photos can be *used*, so I would need a model release form to use a photo for all commercial/some artistic uses – but not for news photos, eg.

            I find this super-fascinating, so I’m genuinely interested in which countries have different laws – and how they’re policed, because it would be impossible to have “no photos without permission” law in reality at busy tourist spots and open air events where there are crowds of people.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I believe things like this are a clash of etiquette and legality.
          Or a perception that “fairness” is what legality is all about.

          It’s bad etiquette to photograph someone without them knowing it. But it’s legal, if it’s in a public place.

        3. Joseph*

          There’s an oddly large number of these mythical rights, but here’s a few more business-related examples:
          1.) In about 75% of US states, people have no requirement to get your consent before recording you. It’s called “one party” consent – you can record any private conversation as long as *one party* to the conversation consents. And yes, the person making the recording can count as one party, assuming they are actually part of the conversation.
          2.) Free speech applies exclusively to government actions. Your company firing/disciplining you for being outspoken is not a legal violation outside of very specific circumstances such as discussion of working conditions.
          3.) Illegal actions in hiring/firing have nothing to do with fairness or justice. There are a few specified protected classes of information that cannot affect employment decisions (e.g., gender). Outside of that, they’re free to fire you for any reason whatsoever.
          4.) Private companies generally have the option to refuse service to any customer for any reason.
          5.) There are zero legal requirements around PTO, so it’s completely up to your company how’s it’s distributed, what PTO needs to be used for, how much anybody gets on an annual basis, and even if they bother to offer it period.

        4. Jes*

          The advertising mistake one depends where you live, as many places unless the company makes very clear (posted) that it was a mistake, it can be legally considered False Advertising, which is where that one stems from.

    11. Liz Cat*

      I just want to say I really respect your reaction to what must seem like harsh criticism. It sounds like you’re taking much of it to heart.
      (Though I would caution against thinking of other people in the office as family. That gets problematic, too.)

    12. Emmie*

      Although it feels upsetting, reporting to HR isn’t always going behind a manager’s back. It’s an avenue for those employees who feel that they cannot bring the issue to their supervisor, or want to raise an issue anonymously.
      Perhaps the picture was intended to be substantiation for the event. Is there something about your management style or reputation that would make a person feel like they need to do this? You and your daughter may have very good reputations, so someone may need to feel like they need to do this as support. Also, it sounds like the baby may have been unattended for a short moment. If that’s true, it’s a liability issue. If it’s not true, it doesn’t change the other concerns.
      Also, what is your company’s work from home policy in reference to childcare? When a person brings a baby into work, it gives the appearance that s/he is also possibly doing the same during work from home hours (I.e not taking the baby to daycare.).

    13. Anon Moose*

      You’re angry about the photo- that is what you’ve chosen to focus on. I don’t really get that. As far as I can tell, it was a private email sent to HR, not posted on any social media site. The baby was in a public workspace apparently with many people. There’s no indication that anything inappropriate was intended other than to prove that “this is happening” to HR (perhaps because they didn’t think they would be believed). No harm has come to the child or the mother. How is that any different than say, they took a screenshot from a security camera to prove the same thing? Its not like they are maliciously following the mother taking pictures in order to harm her- it was a one-time thing to provide evidence for their complaint. That that is your first indignant reaction is very very troubling. Its just very very out of proportion. The privacy angle is a straw man that doesn’t justify your reaction at all- instead its proving the point that you are not objective.
      You’ve glossed over the two prongs of the complaint that are way way more relevant: a. that there was a baby in the workspace and at least one person felt this was disruptive/inappropriate. b. that this person did not feel comfortable talking to you about it because of fear that you would take it the wrong way. (Which you are!) You are not evaluating the complaint on its merits. You are trying to find out who it is- why? You are already feeling like you need to treat your staff differently based on the fact that the complaint exists at all. Do you not think that would be a reasonable thing to fear? If say, Rosa from accounting had come to you directly, would you also trust Rosa less? Would you have dismissed the complaint and acted defensive? Would you berated Rosa about taking a photo? Even if you wouldn’t, you are right now faulting employees for following your internal complaint process by going to HR. You’re already retaliating.
      Also, ok, even if the complaint is not valid, (absent other evidence you’re not hunting for, as Alison said) you’ve shown that you can’t be objective about this. And you’ve shown absolutely no intention to actually figure out what is behind the complaint. Very likely, as others have commented, its about the unprofessional situation of you managing your daughter, and the fact that she has some sort of part-time gig that seems very very preferential. Your employees feel uncomfortable with the baby and with this situation. That’s the story.

      1. Artemesia*

        There is nothing illegal about taking a picture of someone’s kid anyway. You don’t have to give permission to have your child photographed. This is a total misunderstanding of how photographic releases and such work.

        1. Jinx*

          I think this issue is controversial because it is legal but some people have a visceral negative reaction to it. OP may be one of those people. I don’t think it’s wrong to be wary of people photographing children, but I think OP is approaching it like a grandmother and not like a coworker or manager. I really don’t think OP would have the same reaction if another coworker’s baby was photographed; she needs to evaluate that.

      2. AMG*

        This. You are focused on the picture when you should be focused on your off-base reaction. The fact that you still aren’t thinking of it like that tells me you still have some growing to do in this area.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        OP, I hope you can let go of the whole photo issue and deal with the core issues.

        I think the piece of the puzzle you are missing is this: There is an unspoken rule in leadership, the right to lead people means forfeiting some expectation of privacy. This means you and yours may be photographed. You may be quoted in a newspaper or worse yet, misquoted in a newspaper. BTDT. It’s not fun.

        What you need to know, and dang, this comment is buried where you will never see it, is that the higher up the ladder you go the less and less you can expect you and yours to retain privacy.
        I am not going to debate if it’s right or wrong because the reality it this is the way it goes in leadership. If you do not like random photos of you and yours perhaps you need a job that is more behind the scenes.

        For the record, if you lead people, you and yours may be randomly photographed, you may be randomly quoted in a public forum, you may be randomly misquoted in public also. This ought to be spelled out in leadership books/articles because it’s a recurring situation.

        Given your leadership role, your expectation of privacy is not realistic.

        Let’s go with what you are saying and run it out- the next step in logic is to tell your daughter not to bring the baby to work because someone will photograph it. No matter how you slice this one, it comes out the same. Why can’t you tell your daughter not to bring the baby to work?

        Yes, I am feeling a little frustrated here because I feel that a leader should be able to consider all sides of a situation. You are putting your family ahead of your employees. You have a conflict of interest here.

    14. DeskBird*

      I think that as long as your are your daughters direct manager – no one on your team is going to feel at all comfortable bringing any concerns about your daughter/her performance/your management of her to you. It is one of the reasons that managing family is a bad idea – even if you are totally fair and treat everyone equally – your employees are never going to be comfortable bringing these issues up to you.

      The Big Boss at my company just put one of their children in a job in the company – and no one even wants to go near that desk anymore. There is a massive undercurrent of uncomfortable feelings on what will happen if you bring up an error or have an issue with the child now. I feel so bad for the person that has to train them.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Yes, this. OP, I think you’re underestimating the impact on workplace dynamics of just having a family member on your team, regardless of whether you’re actually treating her any differently than any other employee. Rightly or wrongly, people will assume that you are not able to be impartial and will be concerned about mentioning any issues to you.

        Here’s another tangible example, to go along with DeskBird’s: I work for a small company. While I’ve worked here, one member of the owner’s family also has worked for the company full time, and others have come on for certain projects or limited periods of time to help out. We’re a close-knit group, and I suspect that the owner would have a similar feeling about our group to the one you have described as being the general dynamic with your team. However, no one at the company will ever say anything negative about the family members to the owner (who is technically their direct manager). If we’re having an issue, we might discuss it when the owner isn’t around, but the potential blow back to anyone who mentions concerns to the owner isn’t worth it.

        So ultimately, things happen that raise concerns among some of us in the group and end up impacting some of our clients, and we occasionally get the blame. That’s not to say it happens a lot – generally, we all like the family members and they do good work. But things do happen that we would raise to a manager if it involved any other employee that we don’t discuss because we don’t know how it will be received and what the impact might be on us.

        Please don’t think about this as being a betrayal or that you can’t trust your team. They’re probably just trying to figure out how to navigate these issues given the awkwardness of the situation.

    15. Righty*

      Also ” however, fortunately, her work speaks for itself and there is absolutely no complaint of that.”

      How would you know?? Obviously, at least one employee doesn’t feel comfortable bringing complaints to you about a minor thing. How would you know there are no complaints about her work, or the general situation, where the employee also fears retaliation?

      “I think that is the root of my questioning – the complaint is not about the work; it isn’t even about the fact that my daughter is a direct report to me; it is all about bringing the baby to work ”
      Its very very possible that this petty complaint is BECAUSE of other issues that are possibly hidden because of fear of retaliation. At the very least, the issue you’re mad about- that the employee did not come to you directly is DEFINITELY directly related to your daughter being a direct report.

      1. TuxedoCat*

        At my work place, there are no complaints about the big boss’s golden child because we all know better but the work is not good. The one person who did complain (and it’s not well known around the office) did get retribution and left the job, even though she was the superior employee.

        1. AMG*

          Exactly. Or perhaps her work is good, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an issue with bringing baby in. Find a sitter. Go in after hours. Meet OP for lunch and OP watches baby while mom grabs supplies. Buy supplies and get reimbursed.

      2. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

        Yeah, my boss’ daughter worked here for a long time, and he couldn’t be unbiased about the quality of her work AT ALL, and obviously no one else felt comfortable about bringing complaints to his attention. Now that she’s left the company, I think he’s seeing that someone else in the role is far more productive than his daughter was … but I still don’t think he’d admit it to himself.

        1. Marty Gentillon*

          One other thing, it sounds like you are trying to be equitable by treating your daughter the same as any other employee. This is fundamentally impossible. This is also the big problem with managing a friend or relative: in order to do establish equality you must hold them to a higher standard than a non-friend or non-relative. If you try to treat them the same, your personal biases will probally prevent success. Even if you suceed, no one will bieleve it. You will know that you are succeeding in this, when people feel that you are being somewhat harsh. Only at this point will people be willing to complain about your friend/relative.

          As for good advice: 1) recuse yourself: when a problem arises with your daughter, let someone else (pereferibly someone you don’t have any power over) handle it. This goes for preformance reviews as well. 2) Be very clear with everyone about why your daughter gets any kind of perk (work at home). Make sure that everyone else gets it. 3) Remember, your daughter is better than everyone else. Her exemplarly work is is to be expected, and you would accept nothing less. As such, she doesn’t deserve any additional rewards (except for your pride and loving kindness), preformance bonuses are for “lesser” people. (slight sarcasm impllied on point 3)

          As for a good example: look at Blue Bloods. The Regan children have to do twice as much work as anyone else to earn a promotion or other kudos (beyond I am your father and therefore proud). Having their father as poliece chief is more of a liability than a benifit for them.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I am trying my best to keep OP’s side of the story in mind. But I am seriously questioning whether I would want to work for OP. OP, I think you still have your heals dug in and I find that concerning.

        1. ElCee*

          I agree. She is still stuck on the photo. As has been emphasized, that’s sooo not the issue.

          1. Alex*

            1. Still stuck on the photo
            2. Still denying the daughter brought the baby to work
            3. Stuck on the method of complaint – i.e. the anonymous staff member going to HR rather than to her
            4. Stuck on characterising the issue in terms of the photograph being ‘invasive’, the complaint feeling like a betrayal / ‘someone going behind my back in a really detrimental way’
            5. Blurring the lines unrealistically – ‘we think of everyone in the group as “family”‘ while employing actual family.

            If the letter writer truly believes ‘trust is a necessary factor in every part of life’, why did she attempt to undermine HR and its processes by asking HR to reveal the identity of an anonymous complainant?

    16. Observer*

      I haven’t read the responses to this, so I may be repeating. But some points…

      1. It makes no difference whether it’s ok to take a picture. It IS NOT YOUR BATTLE TO FIGHT. Any privacy rights that might exist would lay with your daughter, NOT you. Why on earth do you even thing that *you* should have any recourse?

      2. It’s clear that someone felt that they couldn’t trust you. The reality is that you need to look at why that is. Given both the original question and this response, it’s clear to me that it’s NOT just a paranoid co-worker. You are laying blame on that person for not trusting you, without any thought whatsoever about your side of the equation.

      3. You need to ask yourself what is really going on here. You say that everyone seems “like family”. So, why did someone do this? It’s hard to believe that it’s some well hidden pathology. It’s much more likely that either this wasn’t a one-off really, really short visit that was basically non-disruptive or it was a symptom of what others see as regular over-stepping of boundaries.

      4. In general, you are in no way capable of managing this situation professional, it seems to me. To the extent that the co-worker did this “to” anyone, it was done to your daughter, who is merely one among several employees. But, you are treating this as something that was done to YOU – which could make sense in personal relationships. But, not in employment relationships. You are reacting to an employment situation in a totally personal manner.

      1. TootsNYC*

        These are all such great observations!

        Especially the idea that the OP is treating some of these as if they were done to HER, when they really were done to her daughter.

        1. Rana*

          That’s a really great point, yes! The OP’s indignation was so great I lost sight of this being about her granddaughter’s image, not her daughter’s. Sorry, grandmother, you don’t have any rights here, even if they existed, as you are not the baby’s legal guardian. Your daughter is the one who gets to make that call, not you.

          1. Rana*

            Which also makes me wonder, OP, if you are struggling with boundary issues across the board. You’re overstepping all kinds of lines here – not just going mama bear over a child who is not yours, but also ignoring what should be a clear bright line between personal relationships and professional ones.

            Your employees are not your family; your family should not be your employees. You should be loyal to your company’s interests at work, and your family’s interests at home, but right now you’ve got that all mixed up, and it’s hurting everyone involved.

      2. Jaguar*

        I hate that “we’re like a family” thing when it comes from management. I have no obligation to my family, they don’t give me money, and most importantly, my family doesn’t get to set rules about what I do with my time. That means I can say whatever I want to them and I don’t need to trust them. My boss, meanwhile, is the complete opposite – if don’t trust him, I’m not going to say things to him that could jeopardize my career.

        “We’re a family” is a way for management to try and buy free loyalty. Maybe that’s not what you’re doing, OP (but maybe it is and you don’t realize it?), but it’s what many bosses do, so when you say stuff like that, even if you aren’t trying to manipulate your subordinates, that’s what they’re going to hear. How often have you heard employees tell their bosses, “but we’re like a family!” It would be insane.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        As Alison might say, “OP, you have been asked to speak to an employee about bring their child into the workplace. Can you do that, can you speak to this employee?”

      4. Alex*

        I’m fascinated by the ‘trust’ aspects of this. The letter writer is behaving in ways that don’t imbue trust – managing her daughter, denying that the daughter brought her baby in (despite literal photographic evidence), seemingly wanting to expose and punish the complainant, undermining HR by acting like it’s some huge betrayal if an employee makes a (legitimate) complaint to them, acting outraged at the idea of retribution while also trying to seek out information that would assist in retribution, taking this matter very personally, and losing trust in a whole team because of it.

        Nothing the letter writer is doing, and nothing about the way that they’re framing this matter, is trustworthy or trust-inspiring from my perspective. Frankly, if I were your employee, when it came to your daughter, I wouldn’t trust you as far as I could throw you – your judgment seems to be wayyyy out and your ability to separate out fact from fiction, professional from personal, seems non-existent.

    17. R Adkins*


      He said the NLRB then gave five examples of protected activity that are covered by this ruling. These include:

      recording images of protected picketing;
      documenting unsafe workplace equipment or hazardous working conditions;
      documenting and publicizing discussions about terms and conditions of employment;
      documenting inconsistent application of employer rules; and
      recording evidence to preserve it for later use in administrative or judicial forums in employment-related actions.

      In this case it would most likely be either inconsistent application of employer rules or evidence for later use in administrative forums. Either way — the workplace is not private and pictures are allowed in several circumstances — whether a child or an adult.

      1. Jes*

        And those are specifically cases that they Cannot prohibit you from taking photos for…

    18. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just FYI, I’ve changed the OP’s user name from her actual name to Letter Writer, for anonymity. (Wanted to explain in case that confused anyone.)

      1. AMG*

        Good–I was concerned she would open herself to negative consequences as a result of making her post essentially public.

    19. Sadsack*

      Patricia, have you ever taken an ethics course? The perception of impropriety can be just as damaging as actual impropriety. Your employee went to HR because she felt that she could not bring the matter to you because you are her coworker’s mother. Maybe you are completely impartial at all times, and maybe not. It doesn’t actually matter. Your employee doesn’t feel comfortable complaining to her coworker’s mother about her. Your employee didn’t “do this to you,” but went the only reasonable route that she thought was available to her, which was bringing the matter to HR. This is why you should immediately change the reporting structure there. Knowing who went to HR is irrelevant. The problem here isn’t that you can’t trust this employee, it is that the employee, and probably others, cannot trust you simply based on your relationship with their coworker, regardless of how you manage her.

      1. A Bug!*

        This is important, and I’m happy that you’ve already resolved to make changes, OP.

        It’s not that you can’t be trusted to treat your daughter impartially; it’s that there’s nothing preventing you from giving her preferential treatment if you were so inclined. And, if you were “so inclined,” you would never say so – you’d say “you can trust me, you’re all family to me, so I’m hurt that you might think otherwise.” There’s a whole class of transgressions that could never happen if people could tell trustworthy people apart from untrustworthy people.

        So how can you get your employees to know that they can actually trust you on this? By recognizing that they shouldn’t even be in a position where they have to. By making those changes you refer to. By rearranging the situation so you have no authority over or involvement in your daughter’s employment whatsoever. By making it so that you are never in a position of advocate for your daughter, or in a position of choosing between your daughter and any other employee on anything. By understanding that the only way your employees (and other observers, such as people who are assessing your daughter’s accomplishments) can be truly confident that you’re not pulling strings for your daughter is by putting those strings in independent hands.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Leadership also involves removing emotions from the equation. I can see where you are hurt, OP, but so are your employees. Your hurt does not trump their hurt. Matter of fact, if you fail to address this lack of trust issue on their part, then you have missed a huge component of your job.

    20. Big10Professor*

      A lot of us are also shocked that she works from home while taking care of her baby. Most large companies have a WFH policy that states, in no uncertain terms, that WFH is not childcare. There’s literally no way someone can do both things at the same time without sacrificing quality.

      1. nonegiven*

        Do we know absolutely that the daughter doesn’t have daycare? Just because she stopped by with the baby for supplies. It might have been on the way to or from daycare or some other errand, it may have been, normally, a non working day.

        1. ToxicNudibranch*

          We don’t know that. However, what we do know is that stopping into the office specifically to engage in work business (get supplies/send emails/etc.) gives the *impression* that she is caring for her child during her working hours.

    21. AF*

      Letter Writer – I’m so glad you wrote in! I understand where you’re coming from with the privacy issue, but I think your tone in your letter sounded like you were so angry that you wanted to punish the person who took the photo. I also wanted to clarify something – when you said your daughter wasn’t bringing her child to work – did you mean on a regular basis? Because your letter and your response said that “she doesn’t bring her child to work,” and yet, in this one instance, she did. So your concern is that the employee seemed to be complaining about a pattern of bringing the child into the office (which you said isn’t happening), and not just the one incident, correct?

      And clouded judgment IS relevant here. Please consider what other people are saying about having evidence for what the employee considers to be a problem. EVEN IF you don’t see it as an issue, you have to understand that one of your employees is having a problem with something they see in the workplace. Also, consider that there is a whistleblower protection for people who want to bring their concerns to you, or HR, or anyone. People SHOULD feel comfortable talking to you, but for whatever reason they don’t. They needed to take it to HR. The tone of your letter indicated that you were mad at the suggestion that there was a problem. Maybe the complaining employee is bitter, but you still manage that person and address their concern (or whatever the larger issue is that led to the concern).

      I’m glad you’re open to the feedback and comments as well!

    22. Student*

      You can’t protect your grandchild from having pictures taken when he or she is in public. I can understand why this bothers you. I don’t like having my picture taken, let alone shared, without my knowledge or consent. I sympathize deeply with this point. However, society disagrees profoundly with that notion of privacy now. We’ve been out-voted, and we have to live in this world where anyone, anywhere, may take pictures or video of us. Objectively, this photo causes no harm to your grandchild – it wasn’t widely distributed, it wasn’t used to mock the child, it is not blackmail material. It’s a baby photo that causes no harm to the baby. It’s just not what you’d prefer, and you need to either let this issue go or hide your grandchild in a windowless basement forever.

      Your focus on the photo, despite being a legitimately unpleasant occurrence, is misplaced. Your employees feel you favor your daughter, and fear bringing issues to you. Time to learn to lead them better. Moving your daughter to report to a different boss is a great first step, but it won’t repair the fences you need to mend by itself. Addressing the core problem with your employees directly might help. “I realize I’ve had a blind spot about managing Daughter. She’s now reporting to Other Boss to remedy that. I realize in hindsight this probably came off as favoritism and nepotism. That was not my intention, and I recognize now it created an awkward and divisive environment where we couldn’t all put our best work forward. I hope this move restores some of your faith in me, and you feel more comfortable airing complains or concerns to me directly from now on.”

    23. ThursdaysGeek*

      And remember, if you really were all “family”, then you wouldn’t be complaining about one family member taking a picture of a family baby, right? So you see, you aren’t really considering the others as family either. They’re family, except when they aren’t.

    24. Schnapps*

      “We all think of everyone in our group as “family,” so perhaps that is also why this is surprising to me.”

      Are you sure everyone in the group feels the same way? It strikes me that, if the people you’re managing feel like they are your family, they would have come to you directly. It sounds to me like you think all your workers trust you implicitly. Their behaviour, however, says otherwise. You may want to take a step back from this, and maybe discuss it with your supervisor who might be able to provide a separate point of view.

    25. enough*

      “fortunately, her work speaks for itself and there is absolutely no complaint of that”

      Who doesn’t have any complaints? You or the coworkers/others in the company. As her manager you are the one to evaluate her work. I know that there is no way that my daughter’s could possible be as perfect as yours seems to be.

    26. Engineer Woman*

      I’m very happy to see that OP/Letter Writer is reviewing the comments. As to a few of your points:
      1) it is all about bringing the baby to work – which she isn’t doing.
      Well, maybe she isn’t doing it on a regular basis. Maybe she does it from time to time and coworker thinks it is dangerous or inconvenient to have a baby at work. Maybe coworker can’t understand why he/she cannot from time to time bring in a baby to work. But the fact is that your daughter did do it at least once, and therefore, the complaint was made.
      2) And in answer to your question “who comes to work to pick up supplies and send an email with their baby?” A mom working from home who has been asked to work on a project that day and needs to come pick up the supplies for it…
      Does this mom who works from home not have childcare while working? She balances work and caring for baby at the same time? This doesn’t seem like a good or productive working environment as a normal process. Or was this a day in which your daughter wasn’t supposed to work, but had to contribute to a urgent project? I think that would then be your answer to HR. “My daughter wasn’t even supposed to work that day, had to come into work to pick up supplies for this XXX urgent project and thus brought in her baby. I think if you speak again to complaining employee, he/she will tell you this has been the only time my daughter has come into the office with her baby. However, as it seems one of my employees feels there may be bias in my managing my daughter and is uncomfortable in sharing his/her complaints directly to me, please be aware I am addressing it in the following manner….”
      3) Right or wrong, this just feels like someone going behind my back in a really detrimental way.
      You might want to take a step back from your emotions. To me, and it seems to other commenters as well, that you are in a retaliatory mode. As such, how can your employee feel safe in making a report against your daughter to you? Your employee / daughter’s coworker is not going behind your back. Your employee does not trust you to review the complaint fairly and you need to look at how to fix the working environment so that your employee can feel safe to share feedback and complaints. Moving your daughter out of your reporting line, which it looks like you are taking steps to do, should help greatly to lessen or eliminate the appearance of any bias.

  19. cheeky*

    I find it very surprising that a publicly-traded large company wouldn’t have a nepotism policy in place, but what is the ideal solution to this? Should the LW ask to be transferred? Should her daughter?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      She should tell her boss that someone else needs to manager her daughter because she can’t effectively do so and it’s creating problems with the rest of the team.

    2. Chickaletta*

      Oh, you’d be surprised. I worked for a public company where the CEO’s son and son-in-law were both VPs. The son-in-law was my manager and he could basically come and go as he pleased and was a mediocre VP on several levels (in my opinion, but I know employees sometimes have skewed views of their managers since we don’t have access to all the information they do, but he was definitely not at the top of “best person I’ve worked for” list.) But he sure got paid well for being in the office 4-6 hours a day…

      1. Laurel Gray*

        wow @ a publicly traded company? Shareholders/board knowledgeable of this and ok? Wow again.

        1. Chickaletta*

          I suspect the family probably holds a lot of the shares and the CEO is president of the Board.

        2. anon for company details*

          I used to work at Franklin Templeton, which is a publicly traded, Fortune 500 company with several family members working in the C-suite and other high position. I was entry-level and didn’t stay all that long so I’m not super familiar with how it all worked out in practice, but it’s definitely not unheard of.

    3. Jennifer*

      I dunno, my industry is having a scandal right now about nepotism and one relative supervising another one DIRECTLY just like this case.

    4. AFRC*

      Not necessarily. I interviewed for a high-level board liaison position at a VERY large national nonprpofit organization and made it to the final round of interviews. During that interview, I learned that the Lead Counsel (who would have been my boss, and with whom I interviewed at the 2nd to last interview) was married to someone who was related to one of the board members. The board members I interviewed with also spoke very highly of her, like she walked on water. I figured out from an online search that it was likely the board member’s nephew. After the interview, I emailed the hiring contact I was giving (an admin for the Hiring Manager) and asked her whether there was a relationship (so I’d know what I was getting into), and a policy in place for this kind of situation. All I got was a response that said “our policies are comparable to other large nonprofit organizations,” but no confirmation to my question about the actual relationship. I’m not sure if it was out of line to confirm whether there was a family relationship there, but I felt justified in knowing whether there was a policy to identify and deal with these kinds of conflicts. And, surprise – I wasn’t hired for the job. I got a form rejection and no feedback as to why they didn’t hire me. And the person who DID get the job only lasted 9 months. So I’m pretty sure there was something fishy going on there, but I’ll never know for sure. But oh, to be a fly on the wall.

  20. Courtney*

    I wanted to add my two-cents, as a daughter who is managed by her mom.

    I have to disagree with Alison in that, there are actually some times in which managing a close relative works out fine. I work for both my parents, (our family owns a very small, 11-employee company). I am the HR manager, office manager, administrative assistant, and a hundred other roles within our company.

    The way my working relationship differs from OP’s though, is that my parents do a fairly good job of remaining unbiased. Once, I received a complaint from a coworker that I was using my sick-time “too flexibly” (which, for the record, I was not. Once every three-to-four months hardly constitutes as problematic). But my boss (AKA Mom) investigated the complaint with the employee, checked my use of sick-time against that of other employees, addressed the alleged issue with me (without revealing names or other identifying details), and wrote up a report to put in both of our files, sans disciplinary action.

    For what it’s worth, it seems to me that it is entirely possible that OP’s daughter IS abusing the unspoken power that comes along with being the “manager’s daughter.” I would never consider bringing my child into the office, for any reason, even if just for a moment, BECAUSE my mom is my manager, and that would seem as though I was taking advantage of the arrangement. But she had her baby in the office long enough for a coworker to snap a photo of her playing on the ground? I’m sorry. It seems as though ‘daughter’ has a higher-than-she-should comfort level with the whole thing, and that’s because…HELLO, you’re her MOM. Lay some ground rules. If you’re going to manage a team, you have to OBJECTIVELY manage every member. This includes your daughter, no matter how hard that may be.

    1. esra*

      Small family businesses are definitely the exception, but honestly, I have pretty much never heard of anyone who wasn’t part of the family having a positive experience in one.

      1. Courtney*

        Yep. I’ve worked for mother-daughter (and mother-son) duos in the past that caused nothing but problems for the rest of us.

      2. K.*

        I would not consider working for a family business when I’m not part of the family, ever. Full stop.

          1. Petronella*

            Same here. It’s an awful situation to be in and is associated with some of my very worst work experiences ever. It’s soured me on the whole “small family business” thing, even outside of working for one.

      3. (Another) B*

        My husband kinda hated working for his dad because he was extra hard on him, haha. I believe it.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      “The way my working relationship differs from OP’s though, is that my parents do a fairly good job of remaining unbiased. ”

      I’d be really curious if your employees had the same perspective.

      1. neverjaunty*

        This was my thought too. It may well be that this is one of the few companies where parent-managers do an excellent job of creating a fair work environment – but “it works for me, the kid managed by her parents” is not the same as “it works for the non-family employees”.

        And obviously in the LW’s situation, it’s not working.

      2. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

        Yeah, same here. My boss and his daughter both viewed their relationship as strictly business and she thought he had higher expectations of her. This was NOT how it was perceived through the rest of the company – not even remotely.

        1. TL -*

          Yup. My former boss and his wife thought the same thing and we the employees did not. (She also has a bad track record with jobs where she’s not working with he husband, so there’s that.)

      3. Courtney*

        I’m curious as well. It’s definitely difficult to gauge, as there’s no way to really know how my colleagues perceive my relationship with management.

        One thing we have found helpful, though, is having an anonymous drop-box in place. It’s an online forum (a lot like this comment section) that allows employees to make anonymous complaints, suggestion, and general feedback. There have been comments about everything under the sun (from “Let’s get new toilet paper” to “I saw X employee sexually harassing X client”), and there was one comment about my sick leave.

        I know it isn’t a perfect system, but it’s something.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          In an 11 person business where the husband and wife own it and a daughter is a fellow worker? I still wouldn’t be comfortable naming names if I had an issue and could speak up anonymously. That also includes complaints about unrelated employees. However, I applaud you for having the system in place.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            Agreed. I commented about this up thread, but I work for a small, family-owned business and we pretty much don’t say anything about any of the family members that work here due to concerns about how that might impact us. We don’t have any system in place where you can submit concerns anonymously, but I still don’t think I would.

    3. KT*

      Yeah, there’s no way for you to KNOW that it works well. Your coworkers may think you get very preferential treatment, but can’t say anything about it

      1. Courtney*

        I can absolutely see where you’re coming from, and we certainly try to be as sensitive to that fact as possible.

        We have some fairly lax policies that apply to all employees, no questions asked (e.g., WFH, Flex-time, etc.), that other employees take more advantage of than I do. Additionally, I don’t work in any of the same departments as our other employees; my duties are completely separate, and so I am not vying for the same opportunities, and, in fact, have passed up opportunities that I didn’t feel I had rightfully earned (e.g., representing our company at Big Name conference across the country), and recommended more qualified employees in these situations.

        There is no family/”home” talk at work (and no “shop talk” at home), and we have a strictly professional relationship in the office. That’s something I make sure of, as I am hypersensitive to nepotism, since I was previously employed by a mother/daughter duo. As a recent college grad, I was wary to take the position. I am modest in my work, I work very hard, and I am not unfairly rewarded or treated better than other employees.

        1. Nova Terra*

          I think it’s just difficult if you have family members (or other close relationships) in the chain of command and that fact is known by all people. Maybe it’s objectively doable (you and your mother seem to have a decent grasp of it), but the optics aren’t good regardless, and this is a case where the optics matter as much–if not more–than the truth, because said optics will influence the other non-family employees’ thinking.

      2. Cambridge Comma*

        I imagine it might be reflected in the turnover of non-family employees, though.

    4. Chickaletta*

      I think you touched on a very good point when you said, “BECAUSE my mom is my manager, and that would seem as though I was taking advantage of the arrangement.” If family members do work together, they should hold each other to a higher standard in order to counterbalance the perceived bias. They have to be extra careful about the little benefits that a regular employee can get away with because as soon as they get something special, other people are going to wonder if it’s because of their family ties. That may be the heart of the problem that OP has – she claims her daughter doesn’t bring the baby to the office, but when the baby was in fact there for a short time it was perceived as a bias.

      1. sstabeler*

        it’s actually another reason it isn’t a good idea to have relatives working together- the “they’re so fair I do twice as much work as everybody else” problem, which is where the kid gets treated unfairly because they don’t get as much slack as any other employee- which can cause issues for the relative that is being managed.

        In short, even though I have worked for my father in the past, which more-or-less worked out, I agree it’s generally better not to have relatives working together, because it almost always causes more trouble than it’s worth- ESPECIALLY in a company large enough to not actually need one relative supervising the other.

      1. Adam V*


        Keep in mind that when you’re on the inside, it’s hard to see exactly how it looks from the outside.

      2. Courtney*

        I can certainly understand this, to an extent.

        However, it is a small, family-run business, and it always has been. This was clear to ALL employees before they were hired (My mom is CFO and dad is company President). Some people, believe it or not, actually prefer family-run businesses for the flexibility and wider range of benefits they offer, and they’re willing to take certain trade-offs. And a couple of our new-hires actually left larger, big-name corporations to work with us because they liked the way our office is run.

        It’s important to recognize that what is a deal-breaker for some, may actually be a preferable situation to others.

        1. Mike C.*

          Some people, believe it or not, actually prefer family-run businesses
          recognize that what is a deal-breaker for some, may actually be a preferable situation to others

          Come on now, the idea that different people may have different preferences should be a given. That doesn’t diminish the favored status you have as a member of the family.

    5. Courtney*

      I just want to elaborate on my original post by reiterating “there are actually some times in which managing a close relative works out fine.”

      I am by no means saying it is always going to work, and there are certainly situations (like OP’s) that are inappropriate and should have never happened in the first place.

      In the case of a family business though, I think it’s reasonable, and is a perfectly acceptable arrangement, if it remains as unbiased as possible, and if equal treatment is extended across the board.

      1. Blue Moon*

        Sorry, but you are not in a position to offer an objective assessment of this situation. That’s kind of the whole point.

      2. LJL*

        I have to say, though, that while I would be wary of the situation, it sounds like Courtney’s company has put in place safeguards to avoid favoritism or even the perception of it. Of course it might look different from the inside, but I think Courtney’s company deserves kudos for putting these practices into place.

    6. straws*

      I do agree with some of this. I unfortunately manage my sister. I’ve been given no choice in the matter except to leave, which I can’t afford to do right now. I hold her & her actions to a much, much higher standard than others to try and compensate for perceived favoritism. I’m sure thoughts still cross other employees’ minds, but there’s little to complain about because we’re so careful about it.

      1. Courtney*

        Ouch. I can’t imagine managing my sister. That must be tough. Unfortunately, for familial/workplace relationships to work in the slightest, both members absolutely HAVE to be on board with the unbiased/no-preferential-treatment arrangement.

        My sympathies to you. You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

      2. straws*

        Actually managing her is fine, because she’s fantastic at what she does & we work well together. It’s the concern/reality of others’ perceptions and my lack of ability to fully advocate for one of my employees that really sucks. At least she doesn’t give me many opportunities to be seen as “covering” for her :)

    7. Well*

      The unfortunate thing that your example illustrates is that, like all conflicts of interest, there isn’t just a problem with actual conflicts of interest. There’s a problem when there’s a *perception* of conflicts of interest.

      I mean, take your example. I can pretty much hear your coworker’s voice now:

      “So I let the owners know, because I care about the company, right? And of course her MOM handles the investigation. And – surprise surprise – she came away saying there wasn’t an issue. I know, right? But not just that, get this, cherry on top – she writes up a ‘report’ of my complaint that goes in my HR file! I mean, can you believe it? I try to tell her about her daughter abusing her sick days, and I get a report in MY file?! Of course she said her daughter got one too, and it was a ‘non-disciplinary report’, but this’ll teach me never to complain again. I’ll just keep my head down the next time her daughter is ‘out sick.’ Yeesh!”

      Fair to you and your mom? Maybe, maybe not.

      But even if the outcome was correct and you haven’t done anything wrong, the problem is that it’s very likely your co-worker won’t see it that way. If you think the outcome here didn’t very likely damage the trust of your coworker in your mother, I think you’re being naive. I know that’s harsh, but part of the problem with these situations is that even if you haven’t done anything wrong, the *perception* of special treatment is very difficult to dispel, and that has real implications.

      1. NK*

        That all may be true, but it is part of what you sign up for when you decide to join a family business. I personally have never worked for one – I prefer large companies for a wide variety of reasons – but as Courtney said, some employees prefer a smaller, family-run company. Unless family-run businesses that employ non-family members cease to exist, this is always going to be a potential issue. I think Courtney’s example at least illustrated that some family-run businesses do try hard to be as fair and unbiased as possible, even though the question of conflict of interest is impossible to remove.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I try to tell her about her daughter abusing her sick days, and I get a report in MY file?!

        Yes, this is the part of that story that stuck out to me. Putting something in the file, even if it’s “non-disciplinary,” is still disciplinary. Once the investigation took place, and I had explained the outcome, I don’t know that I would have documented it.

        Though I suppose I might also think, “This complaint is so clearly bogus that I want to keep a record of the fact that this person made such a bogus complaint.” Still…

    8. shep*

      I did work for my dad very part-time in undergrad, but I did very specific out-of-the-way jobs that didn’t interfere with other employees. As an adult, and in a full-time capacity, I work at the same smallish org as my mom (although we’re in entirely separate divisions/chains of command, and it’s a cold day in July when I actually run into her in the wilds of the office).

      I’d never want to work FOR either of my parents in the capacity I work now (professional office, full time, etc.). They’re awesome people, but that’s just a Pandora’s box of potential HR issues, whether real or just perceived. My org has nepotism stipulations to prevent these issues, and I’m grateful for this.

      During grad school, I worked what were essentially full-time hours at a franchised tutoring center for a mother-father-daughter team. It was DISASTROUS and in retrospect I’m surprised I survived. I distinctly remember my supervisor shouting over speakerphone at her mother during admin hours, when just she and I were in the center. I retreated into my office down the hall and shut my door, but I could hear the mother going, “How dare you talk to me that way!! Is anyone there?? Is Shep there??” and my supervisor bellowing back “NO, SHEP’S NOT HERE! NO ONE’S HERE. WHY ARE YOU SO AWFUL??” (Also lots of expletives.)

      I mean, my supervisor was very nice to me personally, as were her parents, but ducking the flying daggers was exhausting, and there was no HR to go to.

      1. shep*

        (I also realize this is a VERY extreme example of the ways in which a parent managing a child can have averse effects on the work environment, but it’s kind of crazy and I had to share.)

    9. Viktoria*

      I am also managed by my parent, in a similar role, in a 5-employee family business (including my parent and myself). We don’t have anything near as formal as the process you’re describing- there is an unlimited sick leave policy for everyone, we don’t keep employee files, etc.

      It is difficult but hugely important, in my opinion, to guard against the appearance of preferential treatment, even in a family-run business. I think even more so because some amount of subconscious bias is inevitable. In my case, my parent is not a very active manager, so I try to make a point to hold myself to the same or higher standards as everyone else. I am also the newest and youngest employee. We all have the same amount of vacation time, one employee works part time from home while I don’t have that option, I make a point to work the full work day and sometimes stay late even if some of my coworkers are more lax (it’s a very casual environment). I run payroll so I know how my salary stacks up, and while it’s very generous, it’s considerably less than the more experienced employees, as it should be.

      I’m not saying it’s perfect. I’m sure my coworkers might feel uncomfortable making a complaint about me, while I feel totally comfortable giving feedback on them. I also have access to my parent in myriad informal ways – chats at dinner, etc. But because of all that, I think that we have a responsibility to make sure that the other employees are treated fairly in any measurable, objective standards (salary, vacation, other privileges)- I think that’s the only way to avoid resentment. I’m very friendly with one of my coworkers, the one who works from home some days, socially as well as at work, and I *think* and hope that she is happy with her job and not resentful. I can never know with certainty, of course -the best I and my parent can do is attempt to foster the right conditions for happy employees.

      I have also worked as a non-relative at a family business that was very obvious in its preferential treatment of family members, and I know first-hand how unpleasant and demoralizing that is. So I try to take it very seriously.

      1. Viktoria*

        And all this is not to say that the LW’s situation is appropriate. On the contrary. The only place this should be happening is family run businesses, and even then it can be fraught.

  21. Katie the Fed*

    OP – you have some BIG problems here! Your employees don’t trust you to take action in response to their complaints and are going above your head. When you’ve lost your employees’ trust, you’re in big trouble. Why should your boss pay you to manage people if they’re going to jump the chain of command and go right to him? And I have to say, your reaction completely justifies their mistrust – you’re more focused on finding out who did it than in rectifying the problem.

    The picture-taking is a little inappropriate but speaks to that lack of trust – they wanted evidence to back up their claims.

    The best thing you can do in this situation is ask for your daughter to be moved under a different supervisor, and focus on rebuilding trust with the rest of the team.

    1. Green*

      I’d rather not reconfirm her view of “going above her head” here; in fact the most reasonable response for an employee here is to opt out of a reporting line with such a clear conflict of interest. That’s inherent in the situation and not really something OP should be indignant about.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I have no idea how you think I said that she should be indignant about it.

        1. Green*

          I don’t think that’s what you said; I think that’s how she’ll read it, as confirmation that someone “went above her head” instead of engaged in a perfectly normal reporting process, considering the situation.

  22. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

    Speaking as someone who works for someone who manages his daughter: it’s also possible that this is the first occasion where the person who complained had a concrete thing to complain about. There are so many examples of favoritism that have happened in my office and there have been very few circumstances that I could come up with something concrete to complain about. So it’s worth looking into whether there is a pattern of favoritism or any other family dynamics that affect the team and other employees.

    1. Anon Moose*

      Yes! Its probably one of a line of many many small things and resentments. All of which harmed employee morale and showed preferential treatment, but this is the first concrete clearly-against-policy thing that the employee(s) had to show HR. There is a much bigger story here, I would bet.

  23. Cleopatra Jones*

    Oh, OP.
    You keep using that word but I do not think it means what you think it means.

  24. Anonymous Educator*

    People have brought up all good points. I’m just a bit confused as to what the issue here is.

    She brought her baby to work recently while she ran by to get some supplies and send an email.

    telling HR that my daughter was bringing her baby to work in the office and that she was afraid to say anything because she feared retribution. First of all, this was completely untrue – she works from home and does not work in the office.

    How is it untrue if you just said that your daughter brought her baby to work recently? Is the allegation that your daughter is bringing the baby into work every day or that your daughter brought the baby in once? I would say if HR is concerned about your daughter bringing the baby in on a regular basis, that’s fairly easy to investigate (without you being involved). And if the issue is your daughter bringing her baby into work once, you’ve already freely admitted to that (and supposedly so has your daughter).

    But, yes, you absolutely should not know who is involved or have any opinions about whether this is petty or not. Recuse yourself, as you should.

    1. fposte*

      I think what the OP is saying is that the complaint made it sound like the daughter was an in-office employee who always had her baby by her side. Even if it’s not true, though, I think HR needs to figure out what’s going on here.

      1. Kelly White*

        I can understand how it sounds like that (her daughter being an in-office employee)- but wouldn’t HR know that the daughter worked from home? If the OP is saying its completely untrue that her daughter worked in the office with the baby, its not- she may have “stopped by”, but from the OPs letter, she did do some work.
        But in her next breath she says it’s completely untrue (implying daughter never brings the baby in to work)! Is that how she responds to all concerns about her daughter?

        I don’t doubt that the complaining co-worker may be disgruntled, but if I was OP I think it might be a good idea to really sit back and think about WHY someone would feel like if they were making a complaint that they would need photographic evidence.
        If their supervisor responded to a concern about her daughter by saying its completely untrue – when its not, perhaps the co-worker felt the only way to be heard was to have the photo.

  25. Anonymous Educator*

    Secondly, no one here has ever experienced retribution.

    Just for clarification—when you say no one has ever experienced retribution, does that mean people have complained about your daughter in the past and never experienced retribution? Or do you mean no one has complained, so no one has faced retribution? If it’s the latter, that’s a pretty meaningless assertion. That’s like me saying “I’ve never lost a million dollars.” Well, I’ve never had a million dollars to lose, so of course I’ve never lost a million dollars…

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am working on my second million…. my first million did not pan out so I had to start again…

  26. Caitlin*

    I know this isn’t the main point here, but I just want to jump in and also reiterate that you can’t work from home while acting as the primary caregiver for an infant. This seems like it is the case, since OP states in the thread above that the reason for bringing the baby to work is that she is a “mom working from home who has been asked to work on a project that day”.

    1. KT*

      That stood out to me too, and might be the real issue here (and why the employee felt they needed a ‘concrete’ example to send to HR). If employees are mad at her work setup and that she can work from home without childcare, I completely understand; I’d be ticked too

      1. Laurel Gray*

        This! When I think of people working out WFH arrangements from their employer and they have a small child, I still think of the child care expense but the savings being time that the commute would have ate into. If I have a colleague working from home to be with an infant, I would want to work 6 hour days so I can meet my kid at their bus in the afternoon and save $600 a month for the 1.5 hours a day after school program.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Or, with an infant, have appropriate child care and be available to (take a break and!) nurse the baby when needed, rather than having to pump and store it.

    2. Roscoe*

      I think it depends on the job. If you have to collaborate and things need to be done during business hours, I agree. But there are plenty of jobs that you just need to have X task done by Y date. So if someone gets up early and works til the kid wakes up. Works more during their nap. And more when they sleep, its very possible.

    3. Chickaletta*

      Yes, this. How is she working from home if she has to come to the office to check email?

    4. Artemesia*

      Absolutely. When my daughter arranged to work from home a couple of days a week, one of the things she had to establish was that she had child care during that time. Other employees are probably resentful that the ‘daughter of the boss’ has this cushy job where she dabbles in work while actually taking care of a baby. How many AAs get to work at home? Probably pretty much none who are not daughters of the boss.

      If I were HR, I would have requested that this arrangement be terminated and would probably have recommended examining the OP’s work record as well.

    5. Amtelope*

      Well, it depends on the job and your arrangement with your employers. We have some part-time contract employees who are either paid per chocolate teapot they complete, or who don’t work a set schedule and bill us for the hours they put in, which may be spread out in small chunks throughout the day. Either of those setups could work for someone who’s fitting their working hours around taking care of a baby.

      Working a set part-time schedule where you’re supposed to be at your desk and available to your co-workers for four hours straight … that’s going to be a problem.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      This could be part of the complainer’s point. The complainer knows OP is going to say “Well she is working on a very large project and …..” kind of setting OP up to report that her daughter does not have child care at home. Something perhaps everyone is aware of and has no idea what to do about the unfairness here.

  27. animaniactoo*

    “first of all, what gives this employee any right to take pictures of another coworker’s child and share them with anyone?”

    I’ll address this piece. Yes, there have been lots of privacy and fear-of-perv-drooling righteousness around photos taken of kids. However, while anyone can request that someone not take a picture of their child, in reality there is no law against this whatsoever. The only laws are against someone *profiting* off such a photo.

    So – they have the right of everybody, everywhere, who can take a picture of anyone, for their own personal use. It may seem that you own those rights due to all the fear-mongering around this kind of stuff, but actually – you don’t. You can’t even insist that somebody *stop* taking pictures of your child if they’re at a public park or such. You can only remove your child from the situation.

    With that said – this was today’s incident of “employee happened to be in the area and brought baby with them while they ran in to do X & Y”. Your telling of it is so blasé that it seems very likely that this is not an isolated situation. It’s happened before, and you’re thinking that because these are all quick little incidents, they don’t count as “bringing her baby to work” – because she “doesn’t work in the office”. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that the office is a place of work and she is indeed bringing the baby in with her rather than making childcare arrangements to let her run in without the baby.

    From the very indignancy of your response to this, I would have to say that your employee is right to fear that bringing it up to you would mean that at best you dismissed their complaint, and right to fear some sort of retributition – even subtle cold shoulder stuff – if they allowed HR to name them.

    You may not realize it, but your attitude here is shouting very clearly that the problem is not that the employee has misrepresented the situation, but rather that the employee is RIGHT about you and your response. And that’s true even if they are blowing this up out of proportion. Which – from way over here on the internet – I’d say is not the side of this I’d be betting on. I’m betting that you don’t see bringing the baby to the office for 5-10 minutes on a regular basis while she runs in to pick up or drop off work as “bringing the baby to work”, and you don’t see it as a disruptive issue – even though it likely is. Any time you bring a kid with you someplace, you are almost guaranteed to be there longer as people ooh and ahh and coo over the baby and it extends the schmoozing time, etc. That’s probably happening here and somebody is bothered by it. For all you know it’s somebody struggling with infertility or something else painful related to kids, and who can’t stand dealing with this regularly at their office where they would please just like to be able to do their job and go home and deal with the other stuff.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I was saying upthread, the higher up the ladder you go in management the more your have to throw away your expectation of privacy. It goes with the job, if you are a leader your private life can become very public, including photos of you family and quotes from you repeated in a public forum.

      It’s really moot to argue whether it’s right or wrong. The best service to OP is to point out that reality is privacy goes away with the higher leadership roles.

  28. LavaLamp*

    I’m confused as well. Presumably; the OP is there and can see if the baby is there or not, familial relationships not withstanding.

    My reading of this is that an anon employee complained about said baby being at work much more often then is actually objectively true and the OP is bristling because it’s obviously not true, and she feels someone is trying to make trouble.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, this is just my read on the situation.

    1. Student*

      I have no idea how this specific office works. I can tell you that at my current job, and several prior jobs, the manager was much more distant and hands-off than you seem to be familiar with. I could literally bring an elephant in to work and have my boss not notice, potentially for months, unless someone complained about said elephant. I once had a boss complain about my hours after I’d been working those hours consistently for 1.5 years; he didn’t remember the ancient email I’d sent to establish those hours (8-5), made a guess about my normal hours instead of asking me, and got irrationally angry when I wasn’t at work on a single occasion when he stopped by outside my normal hours at 6:15 PM. I know that’s not the case in many jobs, but there are jobs where a manager isn’t checking in on you more than once a week/month/year.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I think OP needs to figure out what is happening. She says her daughter never brings the kid to work… except one day… . Never means “zero”. Never does not mean “one”.

      Yet another painful component of leadership, watching word choice and making sure your thoughts are in agreement with each other.

  29. Lauren*

    Edited from the original post:

    I have a daughter who is one of our employees, and I am her manager. She … works part-time from home for our publicly traded company, doing administrative work.

    She brought her baby to work recently while she ran by to get some supplies and send an email.

    … she works from home and does not work in the office.

    … what gives this employee any right to take pictures of another coworker’s child and share them with anyone? … my level of trust for all of our employees has been diminished, as I must now suspect all five of the people in this particular office location of having done such a petty thing.
    My response:

    I have read the comments to date including yours, OP, but I still find myself appalled. I have never known of any admin assistant who gets to work from home so that alone would leave me astonished and knowing your daughter has preferential treatment. And then she brought her child. And the only thing you are angry about is other employees (probably) feeling resentful and filing a legitimate complaint with a photo?

    If I were in corporate at the company–and it completely baffles me how you are allowed to manage her; did you also hire her or push someone for her to get that part-time job and how did she get it, in fact?–I would separate you two so fast your heads would spin. And her job would get a hard, serious look and probably be eliminated. This situation stinks so much I think everyone of your employees would rather sit next to a three-week-fish than live with this any longer.

    If I sound angry, you are right. I am. I find this beyond outrageous and think you both should be booted out of there.

    1. LQ*

      (This may be a slight aside but depending on what doing administrative work is I could totally see doing it from home. That could include stuff like data entry, here’s a giant pile of stuff, enter it into our system could be considered “administrative work” and there is no reason it couldn’t be done from home.)

      1. Emmy*

        And also pretty easily with a baby who isn’t very mobile on her own yet. Once the baby starts moving around and sleeping less, it will get harder.

        Admin things you could do at home with a baby:
        as noted: data entry; relabel these files; (yes, files out of the office, but it does happen), make a flyer for this event, write letters to investors, board members, clients… and so on.

    2. Amtelope*

      Wait a minute, there’s plenty of administrative work that can be done from home — data entry, typing, scanning, etc. Just because your company doesn’t hire people to do administrative assistant work remotely doesn’t mean no one does. (Our company does, for example — we require a lot of re-typing or scanning of printed documents, and that work can be done just as easily from home as from the office.) I don’t think that’s a red flag or particularly strange.

    3. TG*

      When I was an admin, every bit of my work save things like filing could be done from home. Work came via email and was done in the online system. It’s completely believable to me that an entire admin job could be done by telework.

  30. Roscoe*

    Ill be honest, I’m very surprised at how many people are fine with random co-worker taking a picture of someone else’s kid. While its not illegal, I don’t think its something most parents want either. I would never just snap a random pic of my friends kid without the parents permission. I have no kids, so I have no dog in the fight. It just seems like one of those things that you don’t do, even though you can.

    1. Nova Terra*

      Well, this isn’t a friend snapping pictures of another friend’s kid without permission. This was evidence of a complaint directly to HR.

      I wouldn’t snap a picture of a coworker or friend’s kid without permission either, but the legitimacy of photographic evidence supporting the complaint makes this an exception to the rule, I think.

    2. Lauren*

      Plus, think about it. It was probably a picture of the kid from a distance–because the complainant didn’t want to be obvious about it–and likely without showing the face because you don’t need to. Just show the kid on the floor. That’s all that’s needed.

    3. Kyrielle*

      As long as the *only* use the employee put that picture to is to document the baby was in the office, I have no problem with it – and wouldn’t if it was my baby, either. Unless the company has a policy against it, it’s both legal, and relatively harmless. (If they posted it all over a social media, I would be bothered. That stuff hangs around longer than people think, and it’s not their kid. HR’s emails are not the same thing.)

      We have no evidence the picture was used for anything else. It’s entirely possible that whatever camera or phone it was snapped with no longer had a copy – if for some reason I was the employee who took the photo, the very latest point at which I would have a copy of that photo on my personal device would be waiting until HR confirmed receipt of the email containing it. I would probably get rid of it once it was transfered to my work computer if I moved it over to a work device before sending it in.

    4. Isben Takes Tea*

      I agree completely, but the issue isn’t “an employee keeps taking photos of another employee’s baby at work.” The issues are
      1) a mother is managing her daughter
      2) there are issues in the office an employee won’t talk to the manager about
      3) an employee fears retribution
      As Alison says, the photo is not the issue.

    5. Anon Moose*

      The use of the photo makes me think that complaints where its only the employee’s word have not been taken seriously in the past. Its a weird step otherwise. But a one-time photo sent privately to HR as documentation is not a violation of privacy, or if it is, its small in comparison to all the other things wrong with this situation.

      1. Small Business Employee*

        Absolutely. Someone gathered “proof” because their words weren’t taken seriously in the past. In my opinion.

        1. Kelly White*

          This. I don’t believe that someone would send a photo of the baby to HR unless their previous complaints/concerns were dismissed because the OP says “its completely untrue”. At that point what is HR to do- it becomes her word against his.

          My guess is that this is not the first complaint about OP’s daughter.

    6. Macedon*

      Except this was proof backing a claim, not a picture used for exploitative or entertainment purposes.

      What should worry us – and OP – is the fact that this employee felt from the get-go that her complaint would be dismissed if they didn’t go as far as presenting evidence of the baby being there. The employee knew straight off that their claim would be called into question – and it was, even with the picture involved.

    7. Observer*

      As Alison says, context matters.

      This wasn’t someone just randomly taking pictures “just because” and then posting them publicly. This was someone taking a picture to document a problem – and from the OP’s response, it’s pretty clear that the documentation was a good idea.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        Right. Same with if you took pictures of teens (also minors) playing baseball in the streets and denting vehicles. How much of a leg would you have to stand on if you went to their home and tried to get $ for the damages from their parents without the pictures/video footage? It sure makes Judge Judy’s job easier.

    8. Margaret*

      If someone were taking a picture just to have a cute baby picture for their own enjoyment, it’d be creepy. If they were planning to post it on social media, it’s be a violation of privacy. Taking a photo to show proof of some kind of (perceived) workplace violation seems like a totally reasonable thing, presuming it’s not shared beyond HR and whoever else would need to be involved within the workplace.

    9. Mike C.*

      I’ve asked this several times now, what should the employee have done to document the issue instead?

      1. kms1025*

        why did it need documentation, four other people saw it happen, just report if necessary…but I question why the report was even necessary???

        1. Juli G.*

          Because the problem was the boss’ grandchild/daughter and the reporter can’t count on/ask the others’ to stick their necks out?

        2. Mike C.*

          If I complain about someone who my manager will instinctively protect and provide no evidence, it becomes their word versus mine and ties go to the org chart. Documentation changes the calculus.

    10. Ashley the Paralegal*

      As others have said, the context is important here. Taking a picture of someone’s kid because you thought they were cute or wanted to post something hurtful about them online is totally different from taking a picture of a child because you had concerns about a situation. If someone had taken a picture of someone else’s baby who had been left alone in a car, would this be an invasion of privacy? What about someone documenting bruising on a child as evidence of potential child abuse? What about someone videotaping a parent screaming obscenities at a child in a public place? You see, context matters here. You can’t just use a blanket statement that photographing a child without permission is wrong.

      1. Roscoe*

        So you are comparing this to child abuse now? Yes, when there is a child’s safety at play its a bit different. This was not the case here.

        1. Mike C.*

          No, she’s not comparing this to child abuse. She’s providing a number of examples where the specific context of each situation overrides a basic preference over not photographing children. The only comparison is that like her examples, the context within this letter also allow for an overriding of the basic preference.

        2. Ashley the Paralegal*

          What Mike C. said. I’m definitely not suggesting any of this is abuse. Just pointing out the important of context in determining if something is right or wrong.

    11. Mando Diao*

      She brought her baby to work and left her on the floor unsupervised while she went to run errands and check her email. Somehow I think only the manager’s daughter could get away with dropping her kid off at the office and then leaving to do other things.

      1. Rana*

        Wait, wait. That’s a bit of a stretch. There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that the child was unsupervised at any point. It could very well be (and probably was) a situation where the mother briefly set her child down by her feet in order to sit at a chair and type (which is pretty difficult with a baby in your arms).

        All we know is that (a) the baby was on the floor at some point; and (b) the baby’s mother was there to pick up supplies, and (c) while there, the mother used email. To go from there to the idea that the baby was just left lying on the floor by itself while the mother was elsewhere is a considerable leap.

        (Though, if true, I can see why the coworker would be concerned. But there’s nothing in the letter to suggest this very unlikely scenario is what happened.)

        1. Mando Diao*

          How else does a coworker manage to take a picture without either the OP or her daughter noticing?

          1. Rana*

            With a phone? Easy. Mother’s looking at her computer to send the email. OP is doing something else or looking the other way. Click. Picture taken. It doesn’t have to be a carefully composed shot; a quick aim and shoot is enough.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      If OP continues to dwell on the photo issue, it will be seen as a crutch or a tool of distraction by others, to draw attention away from the core issue. In other words, if OP dwells on the photo she will discredit herself.

  31. Artemesia*

    Anyone can legally take a picture of your child and they can post it or use it in an artistic context without permission; if they used it in an advertisement, it would require releases.

    How relevant is that? Not at all. This was documenting a violation . The OP has made clear that anyone who has concerns about the daughter WILL face retribution because she is complaining that she doesn’t know ‘WHO did this’ presumably to provide consequences.

    This is a wake up call to insist that the daughter report to someone else ‘to avoid any appearance of favoritism) and to do some soul searching about this clearly retaliatory attitude towards the situation. The fact that the daughter works from home when presumably others are not (that isn’t clear) is already about ‘special deals’ for the daughter. If she is ‘working’ at home and paid hourly while also caring for a baby — well what a sweet deal that is. Is it available to other employees.

  32. newlyhr*

    OP take this opportunity to show that you are a manager who can be trusted and who treats people fairly. Thank the HR people for bringing this to your attention, tell your daughter to leave the baby at home, and suggest to her that she find a new job. Then, at the next staff meeting, thank your team for bringing this concern to your attention and that you have addressed the matter. And then move on and don’t speak of it again.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Perfect advice.

      See, it’s not about you trusting your team, OP. It’s about YOU, as a leader, earning their trust.

  33. HRish Dude*

    I’m sure this has been brought up already, but I find it odd that on one hand, OP claims there is no retribution at her office, but at the same time, wants the complainant’s name and is wondering what action she can take against her.

    OP, you’re wanting to take action against a subordinant for making a complaint – that’s pretty much the textbook definition of “retribution”.

  34. Small Business Employee*

    Yes and it worries me about what the “action” would be. Being denied the opportunity to work on interest projects? Being pushed out the door? My position eliminated? Unfounded disciplinary actions?

  35. GigglyPuff*

    I can’t help but be curious since this is such a large company, is the relationship between the OP and daughter even known by the company? I can see them having different last names, and while people in the department might have caught on to the relationship, maybe HR doesn’t know? I can see the person who took the picture believing HR was slacking allowing the OP to manage the daughter, and wanted “proof” to show favoritism. IDK like others have said, it’s unusual there isn’t a policy against this.

  36. Brooke*

    “Secondly, no one here has ever experienced retribution. ”

    No one? Ever? Come. ON.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I can believe it, because no one ever probably felt comfortable lodging a complaint with the OP.

    2. Rana*

      Plus, also, just because they haven’t experienced retribution doesn’t mean that they are being unreasonable if they think that it is likely or possible.

      The OP’s letter and follow-up response make it clear that such worries are, in fact, reasonable ones.

  37. Yogi Josephina*

    Wait, I’m a little lost. Everyone is saying that the OP is trying to deny the truth that her daughter IS bringing the baby into work, because there’s a photo proving it, and doesn’t understand why the OP is arguing that.

    But all that photo proves is that that one time, while the daughter was running a quick errand, she had her baby with her. It seems that she wasn’t in the office for even an hour or so. That was when the employee took the photo.

    If all that is true, and the employee then sent the photo to the HR director with the explanation that Daughter had Baby in the office with her and she fears retribution for saying something, that IS pretty egregious misrepresentation. “Daughter had baby with her for 20 minutes when she stopped in last week” is very much not the same thing as “Daughter is always bringing her baby into work – look, I have a photo to prove it!”

    It’s kind of coming across as though the employee is trying to get the Daughter in trouble, to be honest. I can see why someone would take issue with that – misrepresenting and skewing the facts to make a situation look like something it’s not really isn’t cool. I’m surprised no one has commented on that?

    (Unless I’ve totally misunderstood this – let me know if that’s the case).

    Either way, that said, all the stuff being said about favoritism and how a mom should NEVER EVER EVER manage her own daughter, I agree with 100%.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      But the OP’s original messaging about this is confusing. She admits her daughter brought the baby in, but then later says:

      telling HR that my daughter was bringing her baby to work in the office and that she was afraid to say anything because she feared retribution.

      First of all, this was completely untrue – she works from home and does not work in the office.

      It’s not “completely untrue.” If anything, if you go with your interpretation of things, it’s partially true, in which case the reaction should be “I believe it was just that one time. Is this employee concerned that it’s happening on a regular basis? If so, I don’t think that’s happening, but I would encourage you to investigate.” The reaction should not be no one here has ever experienced retribution.


      what gives this employee any right to take pictures of another coworker’s child and share them with anyone? Is there recourse here? Secondly, without know who has done this, my level of trust for all of our employees has been diminished, as I must now suspect all five of the people in this particular office location of having done such a petty thing. Where are my rights to access of this information?

    2. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      I mentioned this up thread but as someone who has worked in a similar situation, I would guess there’s a lot more going on – stuff that may not be concrete or specific complaints, but just general favoritism. If this is the first time she’s had evidence of something, that might be why she sent it. of course I don’t know for sure, but I didn’t get the impression that the employee was trying to get the daughter in trouble. If that were the case, I think the OP would have mentioned similar things happening in the past.

      1. designbot*

        I just came out of a workplace with non-familial favoritism that I was fairly vocal in my opposition to. I can assure you that by the time someone moves out of just whining to friends and into documenting and complaining to HR it’s pretty likely they’ve realized that the manager is the problem more than the person on the receiving end of the favoritism. OP should be making sure that her own job is secure, because it’s the one in jeopardy over this sort of thing.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree. Usually this happens when the employees have been talking among themselves for a while.

    3. KR*

      Because the OP is managing her daughter though, she probably won’t be able to objectively look at the situation though. It may be the case that the employee is trying to get the daughter in trouble, but OP has a conflict of interest that is preventing her from looking at this without favoring her daughter.

    4. AFRC*

      In my response to the OP’s comment, I asked her to clarify if she meant that the “bringing the baby to work” was on a regular basis. Like if the complaint was that her daughter brings the baby in frequently, or if this was just a one-time thing (and that the photo was evidence of a pattern). I think it might have been the phrasing, not that the OP has no grasp on reality and can’t see that bringing the baby to the office (which the OP witnessed) means that, uh, she brought the baby to the office. But you’re right, it’s not clear.

  38. Colorado*

    I couldn’t read through all the comments but the first thing that popped into my mind was this was the last straw for this employee. I imagine other things have been building up regarding favoritism or what not and this just was too much. So a complaint was filed. I think it’d be unusual for everything to be peachy and then out of the blue, this person complains. There’s more to this story.

  39. kms1025*

    OP I am going to go against the grain here. I find this kind of petty jealousy appalling. Unless you have shown extreme favoritism to your daughter, and I’ve read nothing into your letter that indicates so, and unless your daughter’s work from home arrangement had not been approved…I too would be ticked off at this show of petty jealousy. I don’t know what gets into people, but I think its sad. I have no indication that your daughter’s working arrangement has any negative impact on anyone else. At the end of the day, they are free to seek out a similar arrangement with your company, or another one. There seems to be more to this story from one side or the other, but on face value I would be right there with you, ticked off at the pettiness of people I work with day in and day out. Just try to put this behind you, recognize that you and your daughter have to work twice as hard to be perceived as being fair to everyone involved, and try not to let this impact you in any further negative way. I’m so sorry this happened to you. Don’t try to get to the bottom of it, just move on with your head up.

    1. AMG*

      How do you know it’s jealousy, or that it’s related to her working from home? For that matter how do you know she hasn’t shown extreme favoritism? There’s more to the story, and OP is either unaware or unwilling to admit. Given her focus on the picture and not her own behavior, it strikes me that she is not willing to take a look at what really might be going on.

    2. AMG*

      And really, in order to move forward with dignity (i.e., ‘move on with your head up’), you have to behave in a dignified manner. She isn’t doing that. That’s the whole point of the post.

      1. fposte*

        Well, we know she’s thinking about not doing it, but we don’t know how she’s actually behaving.

        1. AMG*

          Being suspicious of everyone who is ‘like family’ because one of them took a picture is not very dignified, nor is having an odd reaction to everyone else but not looking at your own behavior. Just my opinion.

  40. Erin*

    FWIT, managing family members aside, I do think it’s legitimate to complain about someone taking a picture of someone else’s child. It’s not something *I* would really care about, but a lot of people feel strongly about other people taking – and sharing – photos of their children. That was really inappropriate. And yes, petty.

    And, from what I’ve seen with my own office norms, it’s not uncommon to bring a baby in the office, as long as it’s very quick and not a regular thing. Assuming it’s not a regular thing (which is worth exploring), I don’t necessarily think that was poor judgement.

    I have a huge pet peeve, especially with small offices, when people make complaints about people to other people instead of just talking to them directly. I hate that. How hard would it have been to say, “Hey Corrine, your daughter is really cute, but when you bring her in the office she cries a lot and it’s distracting. I don’t want to be a jerk, but would you try to avoid bringing the baby in here if possible?” Instead, it has to go from Complainer to HR to OP to Daughter. WTF.

    Although if we’re giving her the benefit of the doubt and she really was just there the one time, for a few minutes, then for heavens sake suck up the baby crying or whatever the problem was for five minutes – it probably didn’t need to be addressed at all.

    Again assuming benefit of the doubt: Obviously employees are pissy about the OP managing the daughter, and this is a clear fabrication of that if it’s as the OP described it.

    If you can’t get out of managing your daughter I would err on the side of transparency and try to tackle this head on. In other words, don’t tiptoe around the fact that she’s your daughter – acknowledge the awkwardness of that and encourage employees to come to you with any problems, with anyone. Even though it’s probably unnecessary, it would probably be a good idea to say something like, “I spoke at length with Corrine about bringing the baby in the office and I can assure you it won’t happen again.”

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      Right. I don’t think any of us are advocates of going around and photographing people’s children. And it could very well be that the employee was being petty or jealous.

      What we know from the OP, though, is that she has put herself in a very difficult-to-defend position. The issue is trying to get the OP to recognize this and by hopefully addressing the larger problem, the other problems will either disappear or be able to be addressed head-on.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      It’s not something *I* would really care about, but a lot of people feel strongly about other people taking – and sharing – photos of their children. That was really inappropriate. And yes, petty.

      We haven’t seen any evidence of the employee sharing the photos, except with HR, which many of us have made a good case for being appropriate. It’s not plastered on the Internet.

      And, from what I’ve seen with my own office norms, it’s not uncommon to bring a baby in the office, as long as it’s very quick and not a regular thing. Assuming it’s not a regular thing (which is worth exploring), I don’t necessarily think that was poor judgement.

      I’ve also worked in places where bringing in a baby is perfectly fine. Apparently, the OP works for a company where it’s not. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have felt the need to say this was completely untrue. She would have just said “What’s the big deal with bringing in a baby?”

      I have a huge pet peeve, especially with small offices, when people make complaints about people to other people instead of just talking to them directly. I hate that. How hard would it have been to say, “Hey Corrine, your daughter is really cute, but when you bring her in the office she cries a lot and it’s distracting. I don’t want to be a jerk, but would you try to avoid bringing the baby in here if possible?” Instead, it has to go from Complainer to HR to OP to Daughter. WTF.

      Given the circumstances, it doesn’t seeem as if the OP would have been receptive to a direct complaint. It sounds as if the employee felt uncomfortable enough about potential retribution and about lack of impartiality (both of which we’ve seen evidence of in the original letter) that a direct approach wouldn’t have seemed appropriate.

      1. KR*

        To your last point, going through HR was a completely normal thing to do.
        For instance, if an employee in another department who I don’t supervise is doing something that I think is wrong and affecting business, my first step is to tell my manager. My manager then would speak to their manager and their manager would speak to the employee. If it came from me, it wouldn’t have the same meaning because I don’t supervise that employee. By passing it through the management chain, it means that their manager can gauge how appropriate the complaint/feedback is or if they need to take some other step to mitigate it (say the employee had been warned before not to do x, so my feedback is a step towards a PIP or retraining or something).
        In this case, the employee felt like she couldn’t trust her manager to act impartially so she went through HR, which is supposed to handle things like this.
        And while the picture issue is a bit dicey, the OP can’t look at it through the lens of “This person took a picture of my grandchild without permission, that’s so inappropriate.” but more through the lens of, “My employee felt they needed to have picture evidence to have me and HR take their complaint seriously -why don’t my employees trust I will take their complaints impartially.”

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Honestly, even if the OP were the absolute fairest manager ever, I still wouldn’t feel comfortable approaching her with criticisms about her own daughter. Judges do (or should) recuse themselves from presiding over a case in which they have a conflict of interest. Managers should do the same. If I were in the OP’s shoes, I’d actually encourage my direct reports to not complain to me about my daughter but to go to HR with any issues they couldn’t direct to my daughter directly.

      2. Erin*

        I acknowledge your very decent points but I think I have to stick to my guns on the photo one.

        Also, FWIT should be FWIW, heh. I virtually never do abbreviations, and this is why. :P

    3. designbot*

      I’m not so sure it’s legit to complain about someone taking a picture of someone else’s child. It’s legitimate to complain about someone taking a picture of *your* child, surely, but this was not her child. And in the workplace, her role is not grandma, it’s boss, so the fact that this is what she fixates on clearly demonstrates that she has her grandma hat on, not her boss hat. If her daughter was complaining about the picture, I’d be more willing to cede that ground, but LW’s place here is to solve the workplace dispute.

    4. Student*

      You have no basis to assume the employees didn’t try to work it out among themselves (and nothing that says they did, either). You do know there is at least one extenuating circumstance – the employee you’re complaining to is the boss’s daughter.

      I try to deal with people directly. I made an exception once – because I was in an environment where I felt extremely unsafe with raising a direct complaint. I don’t take that lightly, and I would’ve preferred to deal with this person face-to-face, but I took all the elements at hand into account when I opted to involve someone else later instead of address it in the moment personally.

  41. E*

    One thing I haven’t seen addressed yet (although I could have missed it in all the comments) is that it is perfectly normal for an employee to take a concern/complaint to HR if they don’t feel that they can talk to their manager about it. Regardless of the mother/daughter situation, that concept is standard anywhere I’ve worked. Managers are supposed to encourage employees to go to HR with any issues, if they can’t talk to their manager, because sorting out issues keeps little things from turning into bigger problems. The mom-manager mentions not trusting her employees, but this isn’t a matter of trust (unless there is something about daughter’s visit that she didn’t want HR to know about). The employee who complained followed office protocol, as far as I can see, regardless of whether she misunderstood the baby’s presence for this short period of time.

    1. Green*

      I posted something similar, deep in a nested thread, so I think this is important to highlight. In a healthy manager-employee relationship, you can bring something to your manager. In a healthy manager-employee relationship, you can also bring something like this to HR if you feel more comfortable doing so, without making your manager angry.

    2. Observer*

      Yes. The manager on our office with the highest turn over in her department apparently was in the habit of telling her direct reports that they weren’t allowed to go above her with issues and complaints. We didn’t have an HR department at the point, but she did get slapped down for it when someone “went behind her back”.

      At least she had the sense to swallow it and not treat the person like a snitch.

    3. LCL*

      Here, managers aren’t supposed to impede or discourage you from going to HR. But we are encouraged to work things out on the unit level. The culture here is that complaints are taken to HR for the really egregious things, eg name calling or illegal discrimination. But simple day to day friction is supposed to be worked out amongst ourselves, and the persons who go to HR at the drop of a hat are not trustworthy. HR has the shotgun, and their aim isn’t too precise, so you don’t want it aimed at your group unless something bad is happening.

      I am thinking this is another one of those blue collar-white collar divides. If HR would ever tell us the result of their investigations they would be trusted more. But they operate in secrecy, which causes them to be seen as the inquisition, not allies.

      1. Green*

        This isn’t a great thing to work out at a unit level because the manager has a clear emotional reaction to complaints about her daughter and an inappropriate conflict of interest.

        [Side note: in the vast majority of circumstances, HR and Compliance only tell those who are directly impacted (or otherwise *need* to know) the result of investigations. ]

  42. HR Caligula*

    Lots of good comments and suggestions.

    To clarify a few legal points:
    HR could legally have shared the complainers name with Mother Manager.

    M. Manager could have legally retaliated against complainer.

    Complainer would have no “whistle blower” protections against any retaliation.

    That said, it’s good to note the company does have some good practices.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Right, that would all be legal — but not good practice, which is the part that I think it’s important for the OP to understand.

      1. Green*

        Legal also does more than answer questions about the minimum the law requires. We also help to protect the company generally by putting into place policies that will more broadly protect the company in a greater number of circumstances. Most companies in regulated industries, for example, are going to need to have wide-ranging non-retaliation policies and pretty strong reporting culture. Companies that have foreign operating sites are going to REALLY want to have a wide-open reporting structure with multiple ways to report and non-retaliation so we can resolve bribery/corruption issues immediately, and those policies will typically extend to all good faith reporting of *potential* issues.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I worked for a place that would reveal the names of the complainers. Everyone quickly learned not to report anything. The stuff that went on … and no one said a word.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I’m actually a little surprised that HR would go so far as to mention the photograph. I think if I were the HR person, I’d just say to the manager: “We’ve received a complaint that your daughter is bringing her child in to the office. As you know, the company policy is XYZ, and I’ve explained this to your employee. But you should be aware that there’s a problem here.”

          1. Janey*

            HR: “We received a complaint etc etc.”

            OP: “My daughter NEVER brings her child into the office! This complaint is obvious slander, and I demand to know the identity of who said it!”

            HR: “We have photographic proof that she did it, and no, we will be not be telling you who complained.”

            OP: “How dare!”

  43. Roscoe*

    What’s interesting about this is everyone is saying “there is more going on” and deciding that the OP isn’t giving the whole story. On some occasions, we are supposed to take OP at their word. But when the masses don’t like it, then its apparently fair game to speculate all you want about all of these other issues you assume are going on.

    It’s fine to say “I don’t think any good can come from you managing your daughter”. Totally different to say “I suspect that there is more going on and OP is doing X,Y, and Z”

    1. Observer*

      Oh, we are all taking the OP at her word. But, we can draw conclusions from what she says. And, it turns out that the OP supports this particular conclusion that there is more going on with her response.

    2. MT*

      even if we take her at her word. There is nothing wrong with taking issues to HR. And there is nothing wrong with taking pictures of the issues they need to complain about.

    3. fposte*

      Most of the speculation is about the person who took the picture, though, and they didn’t write in.

    4. Roscoe*

      I’m referring to people who above accused OP of not disclosing that they are managing their daughter, or saying that they are treating their daughter differently.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Well, no, you specifically said “everyone” and “the masses”. Once you’ve played the Lone Voice of Reason In A World of Sheeple card, it’s a little hard to dial it back, y’know?

    5. INTP*

      We can take letter writers at their word without taking every other person involved in the situation at their word too. I don’t think Alison or the commenters were questioning whether the LW is lying that her daughter has only brought the baby in once, but whether the daughter might be lying (or omitting truths) to her.

      As far as accusations of retaliation or favoritism, I think that is written in the letter. OP currently distrusts her whole staff and presumably plans to distrust the complainant if she figures out who it was. Distrusting your employee for making a complaint is a form of retaliation – not obvious, severe fire-the-whistleblower retaliation, but it damages your career to have a manager that doesn’t trust you, so it’s still a significant negative consequence. I do believe that the OP isn’t retaliating intentionally, but the evidence that she is doing so on some unconscious level, probably due to emotional reactions to situations, is right there in the letter, even if you take it at face value.

    6. i'm anon*

      It’s hard to take an OP at their word when their letter shows a significant lapse in judgment in other areas.

    7. designbot*

      Well, the OP’s word says that the daughter came in with her baby, and then in the same breath that it was absolutely untrue that there was a baby in the office. I feel like that’s LW showing us what she means–that she’s willing to stretch the truth a bit to fit her story, overlook some things that she considers minor or not that important. If you’re taking OP at face value, which of her faces are you listening to?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        That can be a way of speaking that some people use. Hopefully, OP, does not use it often and it is just because she is upset here. I have had bosses who spoke this way at least half the time. No one knew what was expected out of them and no one understood how to handle various issues. One boss in particular was very good at this, “never do X” then ten minutes later, “always do X”. No matter what you did you were wrong.

    8. Mando Diao*

      OP notes that the employee feared retribution, and then a few paragraphs later asks if if would be okay to dole out retribution. This is a manager who wants to punish someone for going to HR. Even if HR thought the complaint was bogus, I’m hoping they told the employee that and sent her on her way. But the employee wasn’t wrong to report something she thought was unfair and unprofessional.

  44. Ivy*

    “Part time from home,” “only brought the baby once…” Sorry, OP, but I don’t quite believe either. What would you think if any other employee did this?

  45. Meg Murry*

    One other thing that the Letter Writer doesn’t mention – what did HR do/say? Did they advise LW that her daughter shouldn’t be bringing in the baby and LW needs to address that (or that HR already did speak to the daughter and is just looping OP in as the boss)? Did she say that there is a concern over jealousy or appearance of favoritism between the LW and the daughter and they need to address that? Did HR calm the photographing employee down and tell them that she would talk to the boss but it doesn’t look like any rules have been broken and the employee should mind her own business? Or did HR just talk directly to the daughter, and the daughter told her mother/boss about the picture and now LW is livid about the photo?

    Or did HR just forward a redacted message that said. “One of your employees complained about Jane bringing in her baby, here’s the email and picture that was sent. Thought you should know.”

    I’m curious if HR took any action or gave the Letter Writer any advice, what it was and what LW is doing with that advice, because that wasn’t addressed in the letter at all. LW instead seems focused on how to deal with the fact that one of her employees took a picture of her granddaughter, and being mad at the HR Director for not telling her who it is, rather than the big picture. And maybe the big picture truly is that LW has a bunch of catty, pot-stirring employees who tattle-tale and play “that’s not fair” all day and the picture taking is a symptom of that and actually is the biggest part of the problem. But I don’t think that is really the whole story.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It seems to me that if OP is that upset over the pic, then she should take care of the immediate issue and go back to HR and ask them to consider a policy of no cameras, no photos.
      OP sounds like she is feeling powerless here, and that is an illusion, not real.

      1. Observer*

        If I were HR, I would be very leery of a no cameras, no photos policy in this regard. One area where worker protections are quite string in the US is the right to discuss (and document) workplace conditions. “I don’t want anyone documenting my favoritism” is NOT going to go over well with anyone who is aware of this. (Nor of anyone who is concerned with making sure that managers actually avoid favoritism to the extent possible.)

        1. Longtime Reader*

          How can you enforce no cameras with almost every cell phone having cameras on them??

          1. AW*

            By not allowing cell phones.

            That is an actual thing in call centers. There’s one in the building where I work and there’s a big sign on their door stating that recording devices are not allowed and has pictures of example items that includes cell phones and audio recorders (the type for taking audible notes).

            I assume they have to leave their cells with someone, locked up someplace, or just leave them in their car because there’s usually someone standing outside the building talking on their cell at any given time. So they’re bringing them to work but can’t use them in their office.

            (Side note: before I found out it was a call center, my head canon was that they were working on new tech for their company and didn’t want any of it leaked.)

            I think this is a horrible idea in the OP’s case, but it’s a thing that happens.

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              That may work in a call center, but that sort of policy wouldn’t fly in any place I’ve worked (schools and offices)—not to mention that it creates overhead: now someone has to be in charge of checking for and collecting people’s cell phones at the beginning of the day and then redistributing the cell phones at the end of the day? Wholly unnecessary. Easier fix: don’t be your daughter’s manager.

            2. KR*

              I think this is mainly due to privacy. My friend worked in a call center and it’s all to do with privacy because they deal with personal information like phone numbers, credit card numbers, addresses, and so on.

              1. Observer*

                Yes. And that’s really the key – in order to ban something like cell phones or cameras you really need to be able to show that there is an over-riding business need. Otherwise, the first time someone gets made enough at you to talk to the NLRB, you are in trouble. If the explicit reason for the policy is to keep people from documenting workplace issues – Oh Brother!

                In this context it would extremely difficult to argue that this is not the reason for such a new rule.

  46. Purple Jello*

    Is she working from home PT with a babysitter, or trying to work around the baby? Does she have set work hours that she’s always available? Is she responsive to her coworkers’ requests, or does it depend upon care of the baby?

    Working from home with a child has the employee starting in a perceived privileged position: she needs to perform BETTER than she would in the office, and only rarely not be available. Part time only makes it harder, especially if it’s flexible: how do people know when she’s available.

    If everyone else (or anyone else) thinks she is not held to the same standards, it will be perceived that she doesn’t have to work as hard. It’s frustrating enough with the part time employees IN the office, and we can see when they are here. If she is not responding immediately, even if it’s not her working hours, it will be thought that she’s busy with the baby instead of working.

  47. Mando Diao*

    It sounds to me like this working situation has bothered the employee(s) for a long time, but instead of going to HR with a bunch of ambiguous stuff, they waited until there was something concrete to report. Kind of like getting Capone for tax evasion. But seriously, this really isn’t about bringing the baby to work. It’s about the employee jumping at the chance to have photographic proof of something the OP’s daughter did wrong.

    1. Mando Diao*

      I’d like to add:

      I don’t think anyone else has brought up that the picture (as described) is of the OP’s daughter’s baby on the floor essentially unsupervised. It’s telling that neither the OP nor her daughter were around to know that the picture was being taken. Was another employee left in charge of the baby (and we don’t know how old the child is, but OP used the word “baby”)? Are any other employees allowed to drop their babies off at the office so they can run errands unencumbered? Why couldn’t OP’s daughter bring her baby to Staples with her? What were these errands? Why couldn’t she log into her email while holding her baby? Forgive me for jumping the gun here, but I can’t think of a way for this to play out that doesn’t have the daughter using a staffer as a free babysitter while she did non-work things away from the office.

      1. Zillah*

        It’s telling that neither the OP nor her daughter were around to know that the picture was being taken.

        I wouldn’t jump to this – with camera phones, it’s easy to take a pretty covert picture. They may have been standing there with the baby, and just not registered or noticed someone fiddling with their phone.

  48. art_ticulate*

    I have literally one hundred questions about this situation.

    Okay, cards on the table, I only made it through about half the comments, so I’m probably repeating what everyone else has said. Thing is: ALL the things in this letter could be true. The person who complained to HR might be a pot-stirrer who complained for no reason other than to cause trouble, but that doesn’t mean that the daughter isn’t ALSO receiving preferential treatment and that the environment in the office isn’t in need of some serious help. Plus it’s pretty obvious that the OP is chomping at the bit to retaliate while denying that they want to do so, which is why the HR complaint was made in the first place. Yikes.

    I am guessing that what the OP means by saying about admitting that the baby was on the floor while also denying that the daughter works in the office is that the daughter actually works from home, so she wasn’t really ‘at work’ when the incident happened, and therefore the complaint was only made to be spiteful and petty. I get that! But again, there’s a reason that person feels that way, and whatever that is, whether they’re right about how your daughter is being treated or not, it’s gotta be dealt with!

    Anyway. I get that parents’ hackles are raised when you perceive someone as messing with your kid. But! You’re not doing yourself or your daughter any favors! I mean, I wonder how aware your daughter even is that this is apparently A Thing at your office, since she’s part-time and works from home. She may be blissfully unaware that anyone has a problem with her being the favorite, and you getting defensive without actually handling the issue? Is kind of just proving to everyone else that she is, in fact, the favorite and that Mom will jump to her defense at the tiniest slight.

    And this is why you shouldn’t manage your family members!

  49. enough*

    Read a lot but not all the comments. The one thing that seems to have been missed in this discussion is that if there were no problems and this was just one single troubling making coworker then the LW has bigger problems in that she doesn’t know her employees well enough. I find it difficult to believe that one employee has just this one issue just this one time and has been exemplary otherwise.

  50. nn*

    We have a very clear policy on not managing family – same as surgeons don’t operate on their own families – etc. Can’t even imagine why this would be in question. Sure they can work in the same spot but not as a direct report.

  51. The Rat-Catcher*

    “Where are my rights to access of this information?”

    You don’t have any. The employee is being protected from retribution by that. “But I wouldn’t retaliate!” you say. And you know, maybe you wouldn’t. But the whole point of HR is for employees to have a safe place to go to make complaints. You might be a good manager, but is every manager at your company good? And has every past manager ever been good? If you can’t say “yes” to that, you have just answered the question of why HR has a policy like that. People who would retaliate do exist, and HR doesn’t have a crystal ball to tell them which managers those are, so they have to come down on the side of the employees.

Comments are closed.