about those interns fired for petitioning for a more casual dress code…

Last week’s post about the interns who were fired for petitioning for a better dress code got a huge amount of attention across the internet and beyond — it ended up getting covered by the Today Show, the Daily Mail, and a whole bunch of other places. Much of the commentary on it was of the “kids today” hand-wringing variety.

Today at Inc., I’ve reprinted the piece but with an intro about the internet’s response. You can read it here.

{ 500 comments… read them below }

  1. Nanc*

    On the plus side: the intern is an Ask the Manager reader so in future they know there is a source to get advice about new to the workplace issues.

    Honestly, I was surprised this is the post that went viral, there are so many wacky work situations that you respond to–to the point that I often think “Hmmm, my weird and annoying co-workers really aren’t so weird and annoying after all!.”

    1. hayling*

      I’m actually not surprised. People loooovvee to blame Millennials for all of society’s woes. I wish more people would remember that they were young and naive once too!

      1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

        Humans have been blaming the younger generation for things, or saying they have it too easy, aren’t as capable, etc since there was a younger generation.

          1. Nanc*

            Let’s throw in good old Cicero!

            Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.

            1. fposte*

              Which interestingly doesn’t include the famous Socrates quote about those darned youth.

              1. LawLady*

                Unfortunately that quote is actually of questionable provenance. (Sorry, I try not to be a pedant, but sometimes I can’t help it!)

        1. A Girl is No One*

          And the younger generation has been saying the older one is out of touch and too critical for just as long! ;)

          1. LQ*

            At least the younger generation has the excuse of having not been there done that! :)

            1. A Girl is No One*

              I learned so much from my grandmother and my mother. I’ve never had to write AAM even once. :)

              1. ShianaTheGreen*

                Realistic adults shouldn’t be making blanket, black and white statements about how the world works, especially when it’s a comment about a group of people they are not a part of. It’s easier than facing reality, but it’s less true and more childish.

        2. Applesauced*

          “I was very dumb when I was 14. (There was) no twitter, no facebook, so I was dumb in private.” Will Smith

          1. WorkingMom*

            Thank goodness there was no social media to document and archive my youngster stupidity. At my first job out of college I took a stand on something so stupid. Not to the degree of a petition, but simply a comment made that found it’s way to management and when called to the carpet for it, I stood my ground. Man that was dumb. Thank goodness I wasn’t able to post about it on social media! These current younger generations DO have a tough time, I believe. Not only do they have to deal with being young and dumb like we all did, but they also have to learn to navigate social media responsibly, and understand the risk and impact of social media. That’s hard enough for many adults to figure out, let alone tweens and teens.

        3. Bob*

          Oh those young people, with their silly ideas like democracy and equal rights! In my days, why, a peasant looking askance at their betters would be whipped!

          1. MT*

            We actually did have a Letter to the Editor a few months back claiming that the *real* problem with schools these days is that kids no longer receive corporal punishment.

            My eyes were the size of pancakes as I read it.

        1. Jayn*

          More generally I think people forget that we’re all born knowing absolutely nothing and everything we know had to be learned at some point. It doesn’t help that some things we can pick up and some need to be pointed out to us, and what falls into each category varies from person to person.

          Thank you Allison for pushing back against the ‘kids these days’ narrative.

          1. Emily*

            Kind of like how every time my mom catches me silently rolling my eyes because she’s asked for help connecting to the printer or changing her password: “Hey, don’t forget that I’m the one who taught you how to use a spoon.”

            1. Renee*

              Stealing. I could have used this when I was informed I was liking posts on Instagram the wrong way.

            2. zora.dee*

              I love this! My mom is the opposite, she’s always apologizing when she asks how to do something with tech, even though many of them are about confusing things so it’s an understandable question! I’ll have to tell her this line next time “Remember, YOU are the one who taught me how to use a spoon!” :o)

            3. Not So NewReader*

              I always say if a teacher does a good job teaching the student, the student then becomes a teacher. However, the original teacher is absolutely necessary to start this process.

            4. Spot*

              Yes, but I wasn’t terrified I was going to cause the downfall of civilization every time I picked up a spoon.

            5. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

              “Yeah, mom, but I didn’t keep coming back asking you how to use a spoon every time I had a new kind of food on my plate or a new spoon.”

        2. Kyrielle*

          This, but also, if someone didn’t make a mistake this significant, they forget that they might not have realized this was as big a deal as it is. If they did or would have realized, they forget their peers who wouldn’t have.

          So they compare the more-extreme mistakes of the Millennials, to a more middle-of-the-road or even sophisticated sub-set of the Baby Boomers, and conclude it’s generational. If they compared to the more-extreme mistakes of the same generation, though – I think they might find a lot closer match in “oh, yeah, things are kind of the same….”

      2. Camellia*

        Agreed! And you know what? At least they were (apparently) polite about it! When I read the original post my first thought went back fifteen years when I had a serious case of plantar fasciitis and my doctor gave me a note to allow me to wear athletic shoes to work during treatment. I didn’t think anything about it until a couple of weeks later when a male coworker blocked me rather aggressively in a hallway and snarled, “Nice shoes!” I shot back, “My doctor likes them!” and he moved aside. So I asked around and discovered that for some reason people were thinking I was getting away with something, breaking the dress code with no repercussions! Seriously, if even one person had asked me about it I would have gladly explained. Instead I just waited until the next group meeting, raised my hand like I had a question, then stuck my athletically-clad foot up in the air and waved it around while explaining that I was on doctor’s orders and it was only temporary.

        1. KarenT*

          You coworker is an ass! I also wore running shoes for 6 weeks of plantar fasciitis treatment, and was surprised by how many people commented on it. HR was fine with it, my manager was fine with it, why on earth did anyone else care?

          1. Nighthawk*

            What is wrong with your coworkers that they are commenting on your footwear? Do you work with a bunch of troglodytes?

          2. anonabon*

            People care because they want to wear comfortable clothes, too. Medical condition or not, we all know professional and comfortable tend to be mutually exclusive conditions – ESPECIALLY with regard to footwear! Women’s shoes in particular, and no I’m not wearing 6″ stilettos and then complaining that my dogs are barkin’.

            I noticed one of the things that the interns who got fired specifically honed in on, was footwear. They wanted to be able to wear non-leather flats. Is this really so extreme? As a woman with wide feet and bunions to boot, I’d love a more lax policy regarding footwear in my office (so would my podiatrist!). I’m not going to question it or kick up a fuss, but we aren’t even allowed to wear sneakers here on Casual Friday (not even “fashion” sneakers; jeans are okay, t-shirts okay, but specifically no sneakers). Yet there is a woman who wears ratty gym shoes every day. Even if intellectually I know that there must be a reason she is excluded from the footwear policy, it’s hard not to feel resentful when her particular set of sneakers is especially unprofessional.

            If exceptions are so easily made, it also makes you realize just how arbitrary standards of professional attire are in the first place. Forgetting the impact on perceived equity as a whole, when rules are arbitrary to begin with, applying them unevenly undermines people’s willingness to tolerate them.


            “No bananas in the office.”
            “Well that’s a silly rule, but there must be a reason for it. Bananas must be detrimental in some way to the office dynamic.”
            “Jane gets to eat bananas though.”
            “Oh. Well, maybe she has a potassium deficiency. But if her eating bananas doesn’t in anyway upset the balance, then why can’t I eat bananas? Suddenly this rule seems arbitrary and controlling, and I’m less willing to let it slide because in my mind it represents an abuse of power for no reason than to assert authority beyond the scope of what this job requires.”

            Or whatever.

          3. Jenny*

            I had the same thing when I was given permission to sit down at work for medical reasons. No pushback from managers at all, but my coworkers turned into the medical police.
            “You can’t sit down” and when corrected on that, “You can’t sit there, the customers will see you”. Maybe the customers in a pharmacy might understand why a person needs to sit down.

            Another shop in the same chain I worked at with the same permission, the people said nothing to me but every single time I got up, they would take my stool and move it around the corner so I couldn’t sit on it.

            1. Elaine*

              Same job. Same issue. I sat sometimes when I was pregnant and at one site I worked at, apparently this was a big issue worthy of talking about behind my back and the manager removing the chair from the pharmacy and telling me that other pregnant ladies hadn’t needed to sit so he didn’t understand why I did. He reversed himself the next day, so I like to think he went home and related the story to his wife and she told him he was a moron.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          I’m always amazed at how stuff like this gets perpetuated and no one thinks to just ask!

      3. Sadsack*

        Alison’s follow up was well-written, and I bet no other media will pick it up because it isn’t sensational or accusatory, which is a shame.

      4. all aboard the anon train*

        Or that most of the “issues” people have with Millennials are issues that apply to people from other generations as well.

        1. designbot*

          Or the only difference being that millenials have more tools for organizing and communicating than the did. These days a group of interns can organize something like this through a company IM platform or facebook or snapchat messages, while a decade or two ago we all just would’ve stewed about it and maybe made a snarky comment here or there.

          1. Rafe*

            Huh. Queer Nation and Riot Grrrl and ACT-UP and the Million Man march on Washington and the sit-ins and walk-outs of the 1990s were all done without social media. If anything, it seems there’s more rather than less apathy today. Occupy Wall Street is the only major nationwide social activism I can think of recently, it was already 5 years go, and was famously poorly coordinated despite all the Internet-era communication tools.

            1. all aboard the anon train*

              I actually think technology sometimes hinders my generation (and older generations) in activism because it’s led to a lot of people who think reblogging or liking a post about a social issue is equivalent to getting out there in person and marching or doing something.

              Not to mention, while social media can be a great tool for getting the word out, it also works against that very goal and sometimes quashes movements before they can begin. I mean, if you’re having a super important surprise demonstration, posting the location, date, and time on social media just means it’s no longer a surprise and the people or thing you’re protesting against has time to prevent the protest, you know?

            2. designbot*

              Right and all of those were big issues that were completely worthwhile to go to the effort to organize. My point isn’t that it was impossible to communicate or organize back in the day, but that it’s SO convenient and easy to now that non-issues like the dress code manage to get traction that I don’t believe they would have in the past when it took just a little bit more effort.

      5. Rafe*

        Seriously? Generation X were called “Slackers” for the first years during the early-1990s recession when many couldn’t find jobs. (And then part of that generation became the overnight dot.com millionaires, and then the ones who lost when the dot-com bubble burst.)

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Oh yeah, I remember those years. I had just graduated and was lucky to get a job in my field. There was such a hue and cry over “kids today and their filthy grunge music!”

        2. Lindrine*

          Me too. I also was in college and graduating college then. And while I want to do whatever I can to support younger co-workers, there is also this weird movement to put millennial on podiums and do special things to accommodate them that internally grates on me. I don’t remember anyone trying to change workplace norms to accommodate us. I feel like we had to fight for it. But still – with all that yeah it happens over and over again to each generation this “OMG what will we do with these youngsters????!!!!”

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            Where do you work where Millenials get put on pedestals and the rules rewritten for them? Because I’d like to work at that place – every place I’ve worked post-undergrad has made me bust my ass.

          2. NoBadCats*

            Yeah, I was in the GenX influx. WE made visible tattoos, odd colored hair, and the Goth asthetic acceptable in the workplace… and the generation that came after us just shat all over it.

            Sorry, still grumpy over that.

            1. A Millennial*

              “MY generation did things right, the current generation is BAD…”

              missed the point like woah.

      6. Fawnling*

        Yep. If I do anything wrong my coworker blames it on me being a Millennial – I am 28 and he is 31. I give him huge eyerolls and ignore him.

        1. Nonnie*

          It was my birthday a few weeks back so I was included in the office-wide June birthday email. My coworkers all asked me how old I was, I said 27. One coworker scoffed and said “ugh, you’re so young.” She’s 29. WTF. I raised my eyebrows and just didn’t respond.

        2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          He’s a millennial too – he’d have been born in 1985. Old millennial, but.

      7. Sean Boon*

        Nope, never got fired or reprimanded for not following company policy. I did what was asked and I didn’t question it. I wasn’t the owner of the company, so why would I feel like Im entitled to request a change. The problem that young adults face is getting past their narcissism.

      8. staceyizme*

        I like the millennial crowd I’ve met. They have a fresh face forward in that many of the things they’re trying are being done differently, for the most part, and that’s a good thing! For every viral anecdote about how “them durn kids” messed up at school, work or in a family setting, there are tons of stories about them innovating in all of those areas. They’re fun to talk to about politics, ideas of all kinds and how they hope to reshape the world around them. This comment got a tad sappy, but I think millennial young people are going to do very well indeed, overall.

    2. Bea W*

      I kind of feel like if you’re going to circulate a petition at work, it should probably be for a hill worth dying on, like unsafe working conditions or lack of paid time off, but more casual dress code? From interns, not even by people who are invested in a career there? WTH?

  2. animaniactoo*

    I really like your preface to the piece on Inc. On another column I follow, a commentor once said “You know, we all do this kind of stuff when we’re young and stupid. It’s not like they hand out an Adult Instruction Manual” (or something along those lines). The Adult Instruction Manual quickly became an in-joke particularly when somebody is missing a few pages, and it’s okay, just pass them the notes.

    1. justsomeone*

      Oh man, I really wish there were an Adult Instruction Manual. Some days it feels like I’m missing chapters….

        1. staceyizme*

          Me too! Maybe it should be an “Adulting Instruction Manual” series or encyclopedia!

      1. animaniactoo*

        Nah, as the joke goes, you just haven’t gotten to them yet. 8•)

        btw, credit for the term goes to LondonNewYorker, a regular commenter on Carolyn Hax. I think I’ve seen her avatar over here a few times, but might be 2 people using the same avatar.

      2. C Average*

        There’s actually a book called “Adulting” that’s pretty good. It covers a lot of things that are often addressed here in the comments section. I definitely needed it more before I began reading. this blog and its comments

        1. fposte*

          She had a great blog, too. I really liked it and I’m a few decades over her target audience :-).

          1. Gandalf the Nude*

            Aw, beat me to it. :) Wish the blog were more active these days, but it seems to have fallen off since the book was published.

      3. LN*

        I never got my copy. I bought a house last year and I find myself constantly thinking things like “what the hell even IS mulch???”

        1. Angela*

          My big shocker with home ownership was having to replace our roof. My parents had always rented and things like that just never really occurred to me.

          1. alter_ego*

            My central air system just stopped working (in july, of course) and since my coworker was the one to install it for me (I’m in a related industry) I asked him if he had any simple ideas before I called a repair guy. He asked when I last changed the filter. I said “there’s a filter?” He was very upset that I hadn’t changed the filter in 3 years, but he never told me to! And while we had central air growing up, my parents dealt with that stuff without involving me. Why would they?

            Home ownership has been one “that’s a thing!?!” moment after another.

            1. Kristine*

              My husband and I bought our first home last year and I am constantly calling my mother and asking why she didn’t prepare me for this. A lot of the time her response is “Huh, that’s just so normal to me now that I didn’t think to mention it.” Gee thanks Mom.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It definitely seems true that in previous eras there was a real emphasis on teaching skills that we now have to rely on the internet to find out about. I’m so curious about why that changed. (I think part of it is actually related to changing gender roles — there’s less “you have to know X, Y, and Z to be a proper man” now and so forth.)

              1. animaniactoo*

                That’s really interesting to me – there’s a whole host of things I don’t know about home ownership, or car ownership because they weren’t passed down to me and I’ve had to figure them out on my own – usually after an issue came up.

                But I was definitely raised to know how to use a hammer and a screwdriver properly as well as how to cook, because my parents didn’t believe in gender roles. My husband and I have taken a look around at that, and passed some stuff down to our boys on you must know how to do the basics of cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Our stance is that they may always go for microwaveable meals/takeout once they leave our house – but that will be because that’s what they want to do, not because they don’t have any other choice.

                I’ve talked to them about budgeting and other financial stuff, because that’s stuff where I floundered because my parents talked to us about money being tight right now but never how they calculated household budget, etc. My parents gave us enough of a critical thinking basis that I could figure a lot of it out on my own, but that’s not the same as being in the loop on this particular life skill.

                Also handled by us: Drinking. We decided that it was far better for us to allow them to have alcohol from time to time after they passed the age of 15 so that they’d know how it affected them, get used to the effects, it wouldn’t be some “forbidden lure” thing. So they could have more of a background to make choices about drinking when out with friends, etc. with their eyes wide open. If we wanted them to drink responsibly, we had to let it start in our presence and be practiced there. The funniest was the time my husband let them have more than 2 drinks each and then made them do their homework in that condition – and then review it in the morning.

              2. Lissa*

                I wonder if part of it is the fairly new attitude about parents being the one to impart all information, and obviously no parents are going to have *all* information. As well as less extended family living together situations. I grew up in the 80s and my parents were both not handy people. At all. I never learned anything about repairing, crafting, maintenance etc. But I can play nearly every card game known to man ;) And, when my mom passed away when I was a preteen there was no extended family around to take over the things she might’ve taught/showed me. That’s obviously just one example but it does make me think. I know there’s a lot more controversy these days about schools/other adults correcting or teaching kids things, so it *all* falls on the family unit at a time when we’re also more spread out away from extended families due to more people moving etc.

                1. animaniactoo*

                  Interesting, I think there’s something to that outside of the vocational schools which are specifically supposed to teach you certain things.

                2. Meg Murry*

                  There’s also been a huge shift in schools focusing only on academics and therefore either throwing all their resources behind bringing up test scores or behind only things that are “college prep” – which means that things like Home Economics (later rebranded things like “Family and Consumer Science”), Shop and Drivers Ed have been phased out – especially since those take a lot of physical space and/or can be an insurance nightmare (I seriously can’t believe more people didn’t cut their fingers off or burn down the school when Home Ec and Shop were required subjects at my middle school until a few years before my time). What that means is that I got a lot more advanced math, science, foreign language and music classes than my parents generation ever did – but I also was doing it in a family with 2 working parents that didn’t have time to teach me to do more cooking than boil water for pasta or home repairs beyond the basic “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” – and I was one of the lucky ones with more life skills than many of my peers when I went to college (I had to teach more than one friend how to thread a needle to sew on a lost button, or that you can’t put aluminum foil in the microwave or bacon grease down the sink, etc).

                  I do think that loosened gender roles that meant that all boys took shop while all girls took Home Ec, and women no longer expected to be home makers by default played a role as well.

                3. Spot*

                  I got lucky in that my dad was a construction worker and could fix just about anything, so I learned a few things from him. The first time my husband and I got a flat tire while we were driving together, I was the one who put the spare on. I’m also the one that does all the little home repairs in our apartment and assembles the IKEA furniture.

              3. Pennalynn Lott*

                I’m such a geek that when I bought my house I also bought a bunch of “How-To” books about home ownership and home repair. But that’s mostly because I saw my single mom get swindled horribly by shady repairmen (some of whom were relatives). I wanted to make sure that never happened to me. So even if I can’t (or don’t want to) repair something myself, I have a good idea of what’s involved, and know what questions to ask and how to inspect the work.

                1. JessaB*

                  The homework thing is kinda brilliant. I mean kids do not understand what being impaired is, they all think it can’t happen to them, and they have no self judgement WHEN impaired that they might be.

                  Someone will probably say you should get in trouble for that, but honestly I agree that it’s better to understand it when you’re at home with supervision than when you’ve suddenly crossed an imaginary line and become an “adult” and have to figure it out on your own in the moment having never experienced it before.

                  Also if you can get one of those portable breath test things (I think you can get them now in pharmacies to check yourself,) you might wanna show em exactly how little it takes to blow an illegal amount to drive with.

              4. Not So NewReader*

                I think there are wide variations in each generation. I have peers whose parents taught them a lot. My parents (greatest generation) did not believe in teaching, so I (boomer) kind of missed the memo on some stuff.
                But if I go back to my grandparents (silent generation), I don’t see evidence that they taught my parents that much, either. Matter of fact, the stories that are left are kind of rough. Leads me to conclude that families keep doing the same thing over and over until one person decides to do something different.

                I do remember my parents talking about Dr Benjamin Spock and quoting him as saying, “If you try to teach your children things, you will ruin their minds and they will be unteachable in school.”
                I never bothered to look to see if Spock said that. It really does not matter because people act on what they *believe* others say, not on what others actually say.

              5. TootsNYC*

                Some of it is that parents don’t have that much time.

                There was a study showing that kids who grew up in households w/ an at-home parent did more chores (and presumably learned more stuff like this) than two-parent households.

                Because it takes time to teach kids this stuff.

                Also, when I was in school, there was shop class, and home ec. Now there isn’t money for that.

                Also, parents themselves don’t do that stuff much anymore, they hire people, so they don’t think about teaching kids that.

                and ALSO: Our parents were just winging it too–they all had a “first time” to call a plumber, figure out the air conditioning, learn what mortgage stuff was. We just didn’t see it!

              6. Library Director*

                Agree with other comments that with the cutting of home ec and shop many of these skills were left behind. The push for everyone to attend college instead of a trade school has left us with a skills shortage in the US. Way back in the 70s I took Girls Shop. We learned everything from how to change a tire to using power tools. Fifteen years ago we insisted that our oldest son take Math in Society rather than trig and pre-calc. He’s used those skills in his every day life.

            3. calonkat*

              And as life circumstances change, there are always new “that’s a thing” moments. I had a college apartment with an ancient, non-frost free fridge, I’d never had to defrost a fridge before!
              Central air is also new for the house we moved to, but we just signed up for the maintenance program a local company offers. Checks the A/C and the heating twice a year, and means they call us to schedule an appointment!

          2. Jayn*

            Kind of the up and downside to owning, isn’t it? On the upside if something is broken you can just deal with it yourself rather than waiting a week for your landlord to handle it. On the downside if something is broken you have to deal with it yourself because there’s no landlord to handle it. There are definitely days I miss renting.

            1. Christopher Tracy*

              A week?! My maintenance man repairs my issues same day or at least within 48 hours. He also hung my wall sconces (and bought the wall mounts for them because the stupid store didn’t put them in the box – who sells sconces without mounts?!) and my curtains. If I ever move from my current building, I’m taking him with me.

              1. Jayn*

                Twice :s And three phone calls each time. Our next apartment had MUCH faster reaction to repair requests (and was much nicer generally)

              2. Daisy Steiner*

                O ho ho ho, I had a puddle of water in the carpet by my bed for TWO MONTHS before our landlord did anything about the leaking walls! And the toilet went halfway through the floor (2nd storey) and stayed there for 3 months!

                Not to turn this into a Four Yorkshiremen sketch or anything, just that I would have killed to have a landlord who solved things in a week!

            2. Isabel C.*

              This is, in fact, why I never want to own a house. My home repair plan has two steps: put a bucket under it and call the super.

            3. Rana*

              This is why we ended up buying a condo. It’s reassuring knowing that there’s a bunch of other families to share the burden of big building-related expenses and the effort of getting things handled. It helps that we’re collectively a pretty helpful, cooperative bunch. So those of us at home with young children volunteer to hang around to let the handypeople in, while those with gardening knowledge keep up the yard, those with business experience vet the contractors, etc. There’s still stuff that falls only on our shoulders (like when our fridge died) but it’s nice not having to worry about all of it on our own.

      4. animaniactoo*

        I’m well aware the chapter I’m currently missing is on being prepared for old age with my husband. Even after dealing with my grandparents. He was recently sick in a way that gave a really good preview for old age, and I am so not ready. No no no no nono no. Maybe we’ll have our acts together better before then? Cuz I know how I *plan* to handle it (not be my grandfather), but actually getting there is going to take some doing…

    2. J.B.*

      You mean that one I got along with “how to parent” I got before taking a baby home from the hospital? Y’all didn’t get those? Must be why so many helicopter parents are ruining their kids!

      On another note I remember talking about some gen x article when I was in high school. I was surprised to learn I was gen x! My sister is millenial though, so clearly Gen x is superior :)

      1. many bells down*

        I am apparently squarely Gen X, but growing up I always thought it was people 10 years older than me. Talking about things the “Gen Xers” who were 22 were doing wasn’t really very relevant to me as a 12-year-old!

    3. Morning Glory*

      Sign me up for that manual :) It’s frustrating that so many people believe that these things are innate. They’re not.

      1. OhNo*

        Either innate or “common sense”. There’s no such thing as universal common sense, really. It’s just rules of behavior that you pick up subconsciously as you’re growing up that leaves you with the impression that you can’t/shouldn’t do X.

        1. Jenna*

          Common sense is just something you learned so long ago that you don’t remember learning it.
          It also varies tremendously by region, culture, and so many other variables. You can learn a lot about an area by figuring out what “everybody knows” sometimes.

      2. TootsNYC*

        definitely frustrating.

        Especially because everybody who acts like they’re an expert actually had to learn it at some point!

        Sure, you learned how to sort laundry at age….12? But you would be a rookie still if someone hadn’t decided to teach you.

        It’s actually EASIER for people today, because we have YouTube! And Google!
        My parents had to wing it. Or ask the next-door neighbor. Or quiz the A/C guy when he came to fix it. I just didn’t see them do it.

        (Mine couldn’t even call home to Dad and say, “how do you fix this?” bcs long distance was really expensive!)

  3. Unicorn Horn*

    You’ve made the big time, Alison! (Again!)

    There should be more stuff on adulting out there. It would mean less pain on both sides of the equation.

    1. Sadsack*

      I saw yet another reference to an AAM column just this morning. It was about the person who wrote yesterday about her former employee who quit when she couldn’t have 2 hours leave for her graduation. I didn’t read the yahoo article because why bother. These posts are blasted out online just so people have someone to bash.

      1. Sami*

        I saw that column in a Jezebel article. And the comments were and are (usually) fairly decent.

            1. TootsNYC*

              That’s because Alison herself put it there–see above.

              (unless you mean it’s elsewhere on Inc.? That would be weird.)

            2. Friday Brain All Week Long*

              I saw it on Buzzfeed last night too. The comments are so sad… “I thought this letter was fake, but then I remembered [insert even shittier thing a boss did to them].”

  4. AnotherHRPro*

    Alison: I’m wondering if you heard back from the intern. I didn’t see the OP leave a comment to the original post but I might have missed it. It would be interesting to know how they feel after their letter went viral. I’m sure he/she wasn’t expecting their letter to hit the national spot light and I’m sure that some of their friends & family recognized them as the letter writer.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Yeah, I feel bad for the LW. It must be really, really hard to read so much negativity about your own mistake. :(

      1. CaliCali*

        If they didn’t have the self-awareness to realize how poor of an idea the original petition was, I doubt they’ll have an immediate realization of their mistake. This one will take years to unpack. Youthful hubris tends to be undone by time, not facts.

        1. CMT*

          Agreed. I also think they may be feeling a bit defensive after the huge, negative backlash. I probably would be too, at least in the short run.

          1. BRR*

            I know I would be. To a certain degree the hundreds (thousands?) of dumb yelling people are agreeing with Alison’s response and so it’s probably hard to think about the situation when you are partially acknowledging all of those jerks are right.

          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Yes. It’s really, really hard to accept that you’re wrong when people are yelling at you about it. So much safer (psychologically) to dig your heels in and insist to yourself that they must be wrong.

            1. TootsNYC*

              That’s why it’s so important to give critical feedback in an even and sympathetic way. As Alison herself does so well.

          3. Tomato Frog*

            Also, what people say isn’t always the best indicator of whether they took advice to heart. I’ve noticed that it’s not uncommon for people to dig in their heels verbally but actually change their behavior anyway.

            1. SirTechSpec*

              Yeah, a good friend of mine once said “The way I absorb new ideas is by arguing vehemently against them.” I think it’s pretty common.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Good observation. It is wise to watch people’s actions. They can argue strongly against doing X, then quietly turn and do X. It seems to be a part of human nature. I always figured in the actions went in the right direction, then the point was taken. No one likes being painted into a corner.

        2. Angela*

          Seconded. When I was younger, I definitely tended to “dig in” when confronted with a mistake and try to prove how right I was. It takes experience to be able to graciously realize when you’re in the wrong. I know I’m still working on this, after all, who wants to be wrong?

          1. Cafe au Lait*

            Yep, me too. There are sometimes I look back on my younger self, and go “Ooooooooo.”

        3. Florida*

          ALL hubris, not just youthful hubris, tends to be undone by time, not facts. Think about how many times you have presented facts to a 40-, 50-, or 60-year old and that did not persuade them.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Frankly, youthful hubris is actually the best kind… I’ve found that the older you are the more likely you are to stick to your guns with “No, I’m right, the facts are wrong” and never give in.

            Which is certainly not to say that everyone over 40 is a hopeless stick-in-the-mud. Certainly it’s never too late to learn. But younger people tend to be kind of slapped in the face with experiences that make them reevaluate, and those get fewer as you get older.

            1. OhNo*

              Agreed. It’s much easier to change your mind when you can say, “Well, I was young and I didn’t know any better”. People will accept that without much shaming or putting you down.

              But if you try changing your mind as an older adult, you get a very different reception.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              I am laughing. I think that if a person wants to “look younger” they can keep their thinking flexible and their words thoughtful. A 30 y/o can look pretty old if their thinking is rigid and their words slow lack of thought.

              This is funny to me, because for a few years now, I have had to remind myself of my own beliefs and kind of give myself a little kick in the butt here and there.
              The counterpoint is “don’t keep your mind so open that your brains fall out.”
              It’s a constant effort to find that middle ground.

        4. Former Border's Refugee*

          It’s true. There’s plenty of stuff I thought was a good idea when I was 20 (both work related and not) that it took 5-10 years before I could look back and go “….wow that was dumb.” And it’s not “Why did I think that was a good idea” but “I know why I thought it was a good idea, I remember my thought process VERY WELL. I was just young and stupid.”

      2. AnonInSC*

        I think I’m more amazed by that than the letter itself and the response. To still not get it when your response was spot-on and majority of the comments were respectful. As we all have set, we’ve all done things that in retrospect we cringe at. And we had to learn somewhere. It’s the not learning that’s more than a bit concerning. (And that’s something people at all ages can struggle with!)

        1. AnonInSC*

          I am glad she is anonymous still. There is no need for more of a pile-on with a name attached to it.

        2. anonabon*

          I wouldn’t say most of the comments were respectful. Well, maybe on AAM, but not outside of it. Whole articles were devoted to tearing down the interns in question; some were more tactful, but most were downright derisive. Too many people – as Alison herself is trying to do damage control for – took this as an opportunity to judge the innate character of the intern(s), to dismissively deride them as “foolish, entitled Millennials” with misaligned priorities.

          If I made a mistake — and a mistake I legitimately believed to be the appropriate, mature, thought-out course of action, at that — and then it was turned into, well, a joke about my generation? You bet your bum I would get defensive. Hell, I’d be thinking, “Oh yeah? Well, I’ll be your boss one day, and we’ll see who has the last laugh.”

          There’s something called “the backfire effect” where people, when confronted with factual or logical challenges to their principles, beliefs, or ideologies, tend to double down on what they believe, instead of accepting the reality and moving forward. I would say this is all the more true when we are talking about matters purely of decorum (like, for example, what constitutes professional attire) and majority rules.

      3. Expected to pay more than my fair share*

        While the whole thing got out of hand from the initial push back on the dress code through the mass firings to all the Internet comments the one area where I had problem that got lost in the shuffle was what appeared to be the LW’s idea of business casual. I wondered what kind of clothes she thought would be appropriate if she thought running shoes were business attire of any sort outside of retail and NIKE.

        1. Foxtrot*

          Yeah, I was lost after LW mentioned adding sandals…
          A few of the comments in the original post mentioned how hard it can be to afford a business wardrobe on a college salary. I would have been more sympathetic if the LW was trying to get her cloth ballet flats to pass or work with her boss to see if they could make what she currently owned fit into the dress code. Open toed shoes were such a stretch, though!

          1. Sadsack*

            Well, open toes are fine in my business casual environment. Policies tend to differ from place to place.

            1. aebhel*

              Yeah, sandals are generally fine where I work, as long as they’re reasonably professional-looking (no flip-flops, etc). But we’re on the ‘casual’ end of business casual and, more importantly, work in an old building where the A/C is unreliable. Making everyone wear socks and leather shoes all summer would be unbearably cruel. :P

          2. animaniactoo*

            I have to say that after spending a few days in Florida in a not-so-well-air-conditioned space I have more sympathy for the sandals push. On the other hand, I see sandals everywhere I’ve been down there, so probably not an issue there!

            1. Florida*

              Agree. There are tons of people here who were sandals to work, and they don’t all work as lifeguards. Acceptable dress varies widely depending on the office, industry, region, etc.

          3. Alton*

            I think dressy sandals are mote commonly accepted in offices than athletic shoes. Most of the women in my office will wear strappy sandals and open-toed heels, even when they’re “dressed up.” It’s obviously not the norm in the LW’s office, but I think they are in a lot of more casual offices.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Same here! And good lord, I’m grateful for it. I hate wearing socks and only grudgingly do it during the months that it’s well and truly too cold for open toes — but I push the envelope as hard as I can and slam into open toes the minute it’s even sort of warm enough to maybe consider it, and hang on till the bitter end in the fall. My sandals are dressy (and unfortunately pricey!) and I’ve never felt I looked unprofessional in them.

        2. super anon*

          it might also be because the dress codes at universities can be a lot more laid back than your typical office. my university has no official dress code. the guide is business casual, but there’s no written rules. a lot of people in our office wear birkenstocks and shorts to work, and i wear jeans regularly. also, the people who work directly with students (advisors, etc), tend to dress way more on the casual side because of the nature of their job. i’ve never seen someone wear a full suit in my office, and i’ve only ever seen blazers pulled out for faculty tv and news appearances, but even then they tend to still pair them with jeans. if your only exposure to how adults dress at work was the staff at your university that you interacted with, i can see how you would think running shoes and sandals are acceptable attire.

          1. Alton*

            I was thinking the same thing. A lot of university environments are pretty casual, even in the offices. The only university employees I’ve encountered who regularly wore suits and ties and dress shoes were in high-level administrative positions, like the provost’s office.

        3. Professional Sweater Folder*

          Heck, I work retail and I can’t get away with running shoes and sandals.

      4. animaniactoo*

        So that’s someone who’s going to need to learn this the really hard way… hope it’s not too painful a lesson in the end.

        1. K.*

          She already learned it the hard way! She got fired and had her gaffe criticized on a national level. I’m guessing only time (like, years) will give her some perspective.

          1. animaniactoo*

            Yes, and the really hard way is when she gets fired from a job that she needs to pay bills, etc. Doesn’t get promotions. Gains enough experience to look back on this and cringe. Etc.

          2. March*

            I have to worry that if she hears about her letter going viral (which wouldn’t be a stretch, I’ve seen articles about it on a site or two) and sees people huffing about “kids these days” or millenials or entitlement, etc., how will that impact her view of the situation? Will she get her back up and go “well previous generations [x]”, or will it act as a wake up call?

            I hope that so many people cringing over her actions will help her reflect on it, but… I don’t have high hopes.

      5. Juli G.*

        Aww, that’s really disappointing. I’m going to cross my fingers that in 5 years, OP sends another update after more time outside of her university years.

            1. Ellie H.*

              I had no idea that was a line from Game of Thrones! I just thought it was a common expression (maybe a more recent one, but still). The more you know.

              1. Florida*

                I didn’t know it was from Game of Thrones either. Even so, I don’t think it’s OK to use a patronizing line, just because it’s a popular line. I guess I’m in the minority on that so I won’t harp on it anymore.
                *I didn’t mean to offend any harpists with that last line. ;)

                1. Dot Warner*

                  Wow, I didn’t realize I’d upset so many people. I’ve only read the GoT books, and without seeing how the line was delivered on the show, I thought it was intended as fond exasperation rather than patronizing.

                  I was not intending to pick on or demean the OP and I sincerely apologize for coming off that way. OP seems like a well-intentioned but frightfully naïve person, and I’m disappointed that they don’t appear to have learned anything from this experience.

              2. anonny*

                In the GoT universe, “summer” (a general period of warmth) lasts for many years, and “winter” for many years as well (essentially mini-Ice Ages). The expression is often said to children born in the years-long “summer” period to express that they cannot know how hard the winter will be, because they have not yet experienced it in their lifetimes.

            2. Kyrielle*

              …I didn’t comment when I saw it, but I did think it was horribly patronizing. The sense of ‘delicate flower’ comes across, the meaning is clear, but – without the context I think it maybe comes off harsher than people realize.

              1. TootsNYC*

                It’s patronizing, but I think of it as someone who’s only in the summer of their life, and hasn’t lived long enough to get to fall. Or someone whose life has only been full of summer.

                but yeah, patronizing.

      6. Aurion*

        In fairness, I think many (maybe even most) people would get entrenched and defensive when the entire internet is calling for your head on a pike. I know most of the comments here were relatively even-keeled but I’ll hazard a guess to say the rest of the internet isn’t as polite or well-moderated.

        I think the OP will come around–whether by consideration of your response after the internet storm blows over, or by live-learned experience. The latter will take a little longer, though.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Even with out the net weighing in, the set up was not good from the get go.

          When people take an extreme action, it is really hard to come back from that extreme position. REALLY HARD. I mean, OP put herself waaay out there, petition, policy rewrite, meeting, that was a LOT. OP sincerely never expected the NO word. It does not matter why she did not expect the no word, because the net result is the same: she dug her heels in.

          We will say here, “is this the hill to die on?” and it’s this very type of thing that we are talking about. You push hard on something and then find out that the price is veerry high. Do you want to pay that high a price?

          Personally, I would not pick sandals over food on my table. OP is not there yet. Maybe OP never will be. Or maybe OP will get there tomorrow. We don’t know.

        2. anonabon*

          Honestly, I hope she doesn’t come around! I hope she sees this fiasco spark a flame of entrepreneurship in her, that motivates her to start her own business where she employs a more collaborative management style… and a lax dress code ;)

          One thing I have not appreciated about this whole debacle, is this subtle underlying theme that the important factor in maintaining a successful career, is learning to suppress your own needs in order to fall in line for the sake of falling in line. There’s also been this rigid, anti-innovation approach to what constitutes professionalism. Learning to prioritize is important. Learning what, if anything, you have to leverage is important. Learning how to appropriately broach topics effectively and respectfully in the context of workplace hierarchy is important. The OP/intern has a lot to learn from this experience… But “shut up and sit down” should never have been emphasized the way it was.

          1. Aurion*

            I don’t think adhering to a dress code falls within the realm of “suppressing your own needs” unless OP has needs (rather than wants) that conflict with the dress code, which the original post doesn’t imply. I also wouldn’t call abolishing a dress code to be “innovative”; I think the bar for innovation is a lot higher than that.

            Interns lack experience and judgement for the most part (as this debacle showed). Whether the dress code is truly necessary for this line of work is up to debate, but interns likely don’t have the full information to make that call.

            It comes down to picking your battles. Learning to prioritize, learning to leverage, learning to approach topics effectively…yes, they’re all important. But as interns, I think the message should be amended to “sit down until you have the knowledge/wisdom/experience to see the whole picture“.

      7. Stephanie*

        Ouch. That being said, I cringe at a couple of the things I did when I was an intern.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes, I consider myself extremely lucky that the worst that happened at my internships was that I didn’t get a full-time job out of it, considering how clueless I was going into one, and how much I screwed up another. I wouldn’t have organized a petition like OP, but if another intern approached me with it and said “X other interns already signed my proposal for a more casual dress code” I may very well have signed it.

          While I feel bad for OP, I feel really bad if there were other interns that got caught up and signed the petition but weren’t part of the group that had been organizing it or asking their managers about changing the dress code, etc. They shouldn’t have signed something without knowing what it was they were signing, but I could see getting caught up in groupthink of this being a good idea. When I was an intern we had a far less controversial suggestion we came up with over lunch and excitedly brought to the intern coordinator – luckily, she was really patient and kind and took the time to explain to us the reasons why our brilliant idea actually wouldn’t work out (which seemed obvious once she pointed it out, but hadn’t have occurred to us as starry eyed newbies), and told us to keep coming to her with ideas like that and she’d help us figure out which ones had a something at the core of the idea we could roll with.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            I wouldn’t have organized a petition like OP

            I can’t remember if it was ever stated how many interns there were caught up in this? Because the one internship I did — which was five days/one work week long — I was the only intern. Even if I had had an issue, I wasn’t there long enough and I didn’t have anyone to gripe about it to!

            I can see how if there were a lot of interns and they were all being treated as “just another intern” that they would bond over their shared experience of the place. Not saying that what they did was right, but there have been some stories recently (including here) about giving contractors/interns something that visually differentiates them from permanent workers — and they have noticed they are treated differently. If that business does a lot of internships, it could be that the employees there have intern fatigue (for lack of a better word) and just aren’t all that interested in doing that training/managing any more (if they ever were in the first place). Especially when these people are just going to leave at the end of the program. I think it would take a special kind of individual to put in that much energy, time, investment on someone who isn’t going to be sticking around.

            Once again, not saying it was the right move — not at all. But upon further reflection, I can see how it could have happened.

            1. Meg Murry*

              Yes, I’ve worked at places where the was a whole “class” of interns, and one of the things I wish I would have learned was to spend more time networking with the rest of the staff and not eaten lunch with a pack of interns/co-op students almost every day. Whereas the summer I was the only intern, I had no choice but to eat lunch and take breaks with the rest of the employees, and I learned a lot more that summer.

              The places with “classes” of interns also had the issue that if there was a lot of downtime, the interns would seek out each other, not the other busily working employees – so I could totally see a “we should propose a more casual dress code” come out of a long lunch with other interns, and a proposal/petition being written when there was no other work left to do because the intern hadn’t been fully trained enough to be useful.

              1. Stephanie*

                Yeah, same. I was with a class of interns (many of us who relocated for the summer) and yeah…we just all ate lunch with each other. At best, we socialized with the college hires who might have been a year or two older. I could see how if you got a group of naive college students together, this idea could have arose.

      8. Mustache Cat*

        Probably feeling quite a bit defensive and dug-in after the huge backlash. I’m glad she’s anonymous at least! (although likely her coworkers and friends/family know exactly who she is)

      9. BethRA*

        Double ouch. Curious though, if that was before or after the column came out. They wouldn’t be the first person to get defensive and double down on something after being piled on (rightly or not)

      10. Lemon Zinger*

        Part of being an adult is learning to accept criticism gratefully and take experiences like this as lessons learned. Hopefully OP comes to see reason soon.

        1. AnotherHRPro*

          Yes, this is the biggest lesson that the OP needs to learn. And for some, this comes in time. For others, it never comes. I really hope I never hire the OP until they understand this.

      11. Jodi*

        Do you share your responses with people before posting? Or “warn” them that you’re disagreeing in a “Brace Yourself, the Comments are Coming” kind of way?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I send them a link, usually ahead of time, with the date/time it will be published, but not the response itself (unless it’s really time-sensitive and then I do). Occasionally I’ve warned people that I think it might be a heated discussion, although I should probably do more of that!

      12. Observer*


        Did she (for convenience) explain how they would have factored the accommodation into their argument?

  5. irritable vowel*

    Your post yesterday about the manager who wouldn’t let the employee attend her graduation got mentioned on Jezebel!

        1. AW*

          OK, but then why not the post about the manager harasing the OP during their chemo therapy?

          1. Anxa*

            I think the college graduation one was more relatable. I think few of us had something on par with being asked after 6 years not to go to your own graduation.

            But I think it was a more exaggerated version of a more common experience of jumping through hoops to please your manager and being a team player and having no appreciation shown in return. Who among us hasn’t fantasized about walking out when managers are being unreasonable?

          2. Dynamic Beige*

            OK, I just have to say that I was really busy when that one was posted and my brain is still hurting over it (I read it last night). There was someone who posted about their manager/boss showing up to a funeral to check up on whether or not they were actually there, which was also uh… what? But based on that, in Bizarro World where there are no manners, I could see how a boss would show up at a cancer clinic to “prove” the employee was faking, malingering or on an interview for another job — once. Maybe. Because there have been some stories on the Internet over the past few years where someone faked getting cancer for attention/money (crowd funding). And if it’s on the Internet, that means it’s a) true and b) everyone is doing it [rollseyes]. So I can sort of see, in a weird, twisted, completely horribly wrong way, that someone with some issues around control would do something like that. But every week? That’s some special level of clueless/tone deaf/insensitive/stupid jerk assholery right there. Unless this is the plotline for someone’s really bad idea for a romantic comedy and “Ned” is just showing up because he’s so, so, sooooo in lurve with OP but this is the only way he knows how to show it. (ugh, I just threw up in my mouth a little)

      1. sunny-dee*

        I think because (like the intern one) it is so small and petty and easily avoidable. Small indignities are somehow more real – and more insulting – than massive transgressions. They’re easier to latch on to.

      2. Expected to pay more than my fair share*

        I think it’s because there are so many areas the the LW touched on. Including but I’m sure not limited to the following. 1) Not rewarding a high performer, 2) being rigid in enforcing the seniority rule, 3) letting employees made their own decisions about switching coverage 4) assuming personal back ground is the sole cause of professional behavior, 5) not understanding her own hand in the out come, 6) deciding what has value and what doesn’t (concert tickets vs graduation ceremony).

      3. Apostrophina*

        From the comments I saw at various places, it seemed like a combination of people who questioned the veracity of the letter and people telling their own stories very much *like* the one in the letter. You’d think that would cancel out at some point…

        1. K.*

          Yeah, I read a lot of comments that were like “Pfft, this isn’t real” that were followed up with “I’m sure it is, because my manager fired me for taking a day to go to my mother’s funeral” or whatever. There seem to be a lot of managers who question their employees’ bereavements.

          1. E*

            For folks who have never had a really bad manager, it probably seems not real. For those who have been in similar work situations, it’s oh so real and could be worse at times.

            1. many bells down*

              I showed the story to my husband, and he went “Heh. That sounds like [Old Boss’ Name].” His last job was very toxic; he didn’t think it was the least bit implausible. [OldBoss]’s company collapsed around him a year or so ago, but he still thinks he’s an innovator and a great guy to work with.

      4. Adlib*

        I think the ones that are written expecting an answer on “how to” do or say something, but then it ends up being a problem on their end are somewhat unexpected and by default more interesting to the casual viewer.

      5. Mimmy*

        Possibly because of the number of comments? I was like “wow! Another high-comment letter!”

      6. animaniactoo*

        I suspect because it’s such a black-and-white issue with a high emotional value/context that most people can relate to strongly. Now that you’ve been “found” by these other sites, I would expect similar kinds of posts to get similar attention.

            1. Belle*

              Before you know it you will need to hire a helper to moderate then :) I can’t imagine the amount of time it would take to monitor after it goes national.

                1. Margali*

                  OK, now you’re going to make me get caught reading AAM at my work desk if you make me snort-laugh like that!

                2. JessaB*

                  Thanks for making me spit Pepsi on my keyboard, I was swallowing when I read this. I should have learnt by now. Do NOT ever for any reason be drinking/eating when reading AAM.

            2. Busytrap*

              I… oh my gosh. I just went back to look at the original letter (which I read when it first came out … and then heard it being discussed on several Sirius news channels on my way to work the other morning and felt super proud of/for you! Which is an admittedly weird thing to feel for an internet stranger, but well, I did :)).

              I just want to note that you deserve to be rich if you moderated all of the comments that came your way last week! Looking at what you let through, I shudder to think of what you probably blocked. My goodness. So just a thanks from a regular reader, sometimes commenter, for keeping this space so awesome, positive, productive and helpful, both through your posts and through your fabulous comment section. :)

            3. KG*

              I can’t imagine the amount of work you put into moderating, but as one small voice, I want to say I am so, SO grateful for your moderation philosophy, as well as the tone you strike in “setting up” posts that you know will be controversial. It’s really lovely to have a corner of the internet where the comments section isn’t an unmitigated cesspool, particularly when talking about such important stuff! I recommend AAM constantly, and I always mention that the comments section is wonderful.

          1. animaniactoo*

            Yeah, I suggested on the original post that you might want to look at grabbing a couple of extra moderators who can kill the most egregious stuff. At least for a few weeks while a whole new wave of people get used to the commenting rules here.

          2. Michaela T*

            I wonder if it would help to link the commenting policy right at the end of psts, and have a blanket statement there as well like The Mary Sue’s “—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—”. Maybe the new people need to be told the rules and overall tone of this website more explicitly.

            1. Rana*

              My experience is that such policies are mostly helpful in that they give people something to point to when shutting someone down so that cries of censorship or being picked on are kept to a minimum. They’re not so good at preventing bad behavior by people choosing to be annoying.

              What does help, based both on my experience as a reader and as a blogger, is (a) having the author(s) actively engaged with the comments, (b) having a community of commenters who will enforce the norms of the group, and (c) closing comments when things look like they might get out of control.

              1. SirTechSpec*

                I definitely read this as “My sister, who is in law, makes $967 an hour” and thought “Wow, I wonder if that’s what she bills or what she takes home…” XD

                1. K.*

                  My fault for not putting dashes in “sister-in-law” – was typing on my phone on the fly. It was meant to be a play on those spam ads floating around that say you can make a ton of money in a short time on the internet.

                  (I have neither sister nor sister-in-law.)

              2. Dynamic Beige*

                The ones I always find amusing are the “This ($YourCity) Mom makes $497/hour on the internet. Click here to learn how she does it!” Uh, yeah. I bet it’s a service that deletes malware (temporarily) after you click on the ad and get malware installed or something.

                In some of the meetings I’ve done over the past year, it’s actually kind of frightening and insidious how much information corporations have access to about you and how they’re using it to market to you. If I did that stuff as a private individual, it would be stalking or harassment or something Not Good. I know that I have looked at a certain product or service and the next website I go to, the ads are often what I was just looking at. Sometimes, all the ads on the page are for that and it’s really disconcerting to see 6 ads in various shapes for one thing.

      7. CMT*

        I thought the letter wasn’t real, which I know is something we’re not supposed to bring up. But, it was written in such an outrageous way — the incredibly sympathetic employee and the outrageous, out-of-touch manager. Letters that are that extreme are like click bait-y trend pieces. They don’t inspire nuanced conversation, just a lot of outrage or agreement. When blog posts are like that I end up feeling played for clicks and page views. I read your response yesterday, because obviously it was going to be great, but I took a hard pass on the comments, because I figured they were all going to be variations on the same thing.

        1. BRR*

          I like to think that even if a letter isn’t real, Alison chooses to publish letters that could very likely be a real situation or close to a real situation and it’s still a good learning opportunity. Also something that I like to think has happened by reading AAM is that while I may not have a situation like the letter, I’m learning how to respond to things better as a whole.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Ditto! And that’s true of the graduation post–there are a lot of things to take away from that, for managers and employees alike.

          2. JessaB*

            Exactly, if they totally ring false she doesn’t but if she’s not sure and she thinks it’ll be something interesting/important to other readers, she will. It’s really, really hard to guess if something is real or not online. I think she’s right in taking an “I’d rather be wrong and post something fake, and get decent discussion, than NOT post something real and fail to help someone who really needs it.”

        2. Florida*

          I know I’m not supposed to bring this up, but I’m going to bring it up. If you know the expectation, then why bring it up?

            1. Florida*

              Exactly. There are tons of examples of people doing this. Sometimes I think the people who use these phrases believe that if they recognize that it’s not right, then it somehow makes it OK. In my opinion, it actually makes them seem like a bigger jerk. In some cases, you can assume ignorance over malice. But if the person explains right up front that it’s not ignorance, then what’s left?

          1. Anna*

            I think CMT’s point is valid and is not questioning whether or not Alison got duped.

            It’s okay. Sometimes it’s all right for people to bring stuff up when there’s context for it.

            1. Florida*

              It’s not about whether Alison got duped or not. It’s about sending a message to OP that your situation is so outrageous, we don’t even believe it’s real. How would you feel if you were the OP and you did something that people were questioning whether it was even real?

              1. Anna*

                That’s why it is usually discouraged. However this precise thread is about the response to the original post and for that reason it is absolutely appropriate for CMT to mention their thoughts when they originally read the post. Appropriate here; not appropriate in the thread where everyone was giving advice to the OP. See the difference?

                1. Florida*

                  I’m sorry, but I don’t see a difference. Whether it was the original post or a post that is about the viral-ness (is that a word?) of the original post, either way it is questioning the honesty of OP.
                  Also, in both posts people posted their reactions to when they read it. If you look at the comment thread of the original post, there are dozens of posts that say, “Wow” (or something similar.), which is sharing their thoughts on what they thought when they read the post, and isn’t exactly advice. So, I don’t see how this thread is different or how the subject matter of this post makes it OK to question to honesty of OP.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Eh, I could argue it either way. But I figure the horse is out the barn on it at this point. There’s been so much debate about it that I’ve given up trying to police it.

        3. Guest*

          I think it’s fine if you don’t believe the letter is real, but I reread and I honestly can’t see what’s so unbelievable about it (I will say that the throwaway lines about the employees hardships are a bit odd) but it just seems odd to me to be that critical of it.

      8. Grey*

        People just love “Fail” posts and videos. Just look at failblog, FailArmy, or half the shows on TruTV and Spike.

        The graduation post was a good example of Fail.

      9. Mockingjay*

        Because a lot of us see aspects of ourselves in that employee (hard worker, reliable, or wanting to get an education and make a career), and because the OP’s managerial conduct violated professional norms beyond the pale.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Never mind; this isn’t pertinent. I was trying to post on another thread (had two tabs open) when Shockwave crashed and reloaded the page. Sigh.

          1. Megs*

            Curse you shockwave! I just had to shut everything down because of that. Every so often it does not want me to read the comments.

      10. Mustache Cat*

        I think not because of the situation being outrageous, but rather because the letter writer(s) were outrageous.

        When the letter is written from the victim/person who was wronged, it’s a bit of an additional step to be blindly angry at the wrongdoer. But when the letter is written from the wrongdoer, and demonstrates a frankly “hateable” amount of lack of self-awareness, it’s a perfect target for the internet to directly vent its rage.

        Two posts went viral recently, and that is what they had in common.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Yep. And also – we default to believing the letter-writer, but we also know they can be biased. The victim may have taken something the worst possible way or left out nuanced phrasing. The wrongdoer? If they’re the letter-writer, we tend to assume their bias would be shifting it in their favor if anything, and if it is and they still come off that badly…well.

          Plus, both were looking for advice on how to keep digging into that hole they found themselves in.

        2. Sami*

          Because when people commented, it would feel like they were actually talking to the OP and in doing so letting out whatever outrage they felt. Talking to (commenting about) a “victim” isn’t as satisfying.

          1. OhNo*

            Yep, this. Rage is easier to express than sympathy.

            Whether or not the author is who they said they were, it feels really good to bleed some anger off at the “bad guy” directly. Telling a victim what they can/should do isn’t as emotionally satisfying, and you don’t get that immediate endorphin hit the way you do from yelling at someone.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Articles that provoke emotions tend to go wide spread.

          Did you ever try checking your emotions as you go through the headlines? Up and down and all over right?
          And sometimes you read the story and find out that the story has nothing to do with the headline. “Cure for cancer FOUND” and you read down, scientists found a cure for a rare cancer in laboratory ants that works 2.38% of the time. In other words, the article was about NOTHING.

      11. oranges & lemons*

        I get the impression that for both letters, a lot of what people were responding to was the tone. If either of them showed a bit more uncertainty or regret for their actions, I think people would have responded differently. But both seemed pretty convinced that it was the other people in the situation who behaved badly. That dissonance also seems to be what readers are picking up on when they say that the second letter reads as fake.

      12. Alton*

        Stories about hard-working students who are barred from graduation or denied proper recognition seem to be popular on clickbait-friendly sites. Usually it’s opposition from the school (not allowed to walk because of a strict dress code, denied valedictorian based on a clerical error, etc.) but this is a long the same theme.

    1. Jen RO*

      That post even made it to my friends group! I had never before seen anyone from my country share an AAM post, and two different people (who didn’t know each other) shared it yesterday.

      1. Hlyssande*

        Yeah, I saw it in my FB feed last night from someone who definitely isn’t the type to read AAM. She’d found it elsewhere.

    2. J.B.*

      I was impressed by your response,and since you are coming from the management side people are happy to see the humanity and the forthright “you blew that one”. I hope that the letter writer learns from it.

  6. Spunky Brewster*

    Yesterday’s post about the employee who quit on the spot made it on the Huffpo!

    1. SystemsLady*

      The disheartening half of that is I feel like when the person actually writing is in the wrong is when these types of things tend to get linked the most.

      Sure, really ridiculous third person stuff will too (can’t believe “submit your liver [donation eligibility test] or be fired” didn’t shoot off).

      But the letters here are so vague you only get the potential for incredulous satisfaction there, not the satisfaction of bringing down somebody who “exists” in the context of having personally written in, or being publically identifiable.

      I’m starting to see the hunger for the latter as an unhealthy aspect of the Internet, whether the “attacking” is justified or not.

      The worst part is being attacked the way other parts of the Internet attacked this OP tends to encourage people to double down on their original intentions, even when they were originally capable of challenging them and willing to try! Something I think Alison does a great job of steering toward, even if by sheer comment count you’d normally expect a very angry pile on.

      If that OP comes back with an update, having apologized to their employee and hired them back in a higher-paying role, for example, that’s a link I’d want to get shared around even moreso than the original.

      Same if something similat happened with this OP, though unfortunately it sounds like this OP is doubling down.

  7. Mike C.*

    Wow, the first comment on the Inc. page immediately goes into the same “kids these days” rant that Alison warned off in her first paragraph. >.<

    Again, I appreciate the fact that Alison doesn't go for the cheap shot here – there are things we all screw up about and hearing the nannering "tut-tuts" of morning show hosts between their second and third glass of wine is enough to make me scream.

    Ugh, I've already deleted half this rant, so I'll leave it at that.

    1. Critter*

      Are they really drinking wine in the morning or is that a joke? Should I be jealous?

      1. Mike C.*

        At the very least they are on the Today Show. I will admit that I’m a little jealous. Who wouldn’t love to spend their mornings getting sloshed and complain about how much kids suck?

        1. Sadsack*

          Hmm, I wouldn’t. But I guess it is fun to imagine that I lead a life where I could get away with doing that. Honestly, the idea of two grown women sitting around getting drunk every morning is really sad and unappealing.

      2. Stephanie*

        Hooda and Kathie Lee – working evening shifts (and being unemployed earlier) has exposed me to a whole world of daytime TV I was ok being ignorant of.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Or maybe there’s a little something in their coffee. That would be more my speed, if I were going to drink in the morning.

      4. Ellie H.*

        If I had to be on television in front of everyone, I’d need a drink first too :/

    2. BRR*

      It’s like they didn’t read the article. Or they did read it but they know it all and didn’t take the opportunity to try and learn something. One part of that comment that sticks out so much is “they [millennials] need to learn how to work with us [workers with more experience].” That’s a terrible way to think about things. It’s a two-way street to some degree. If you have hundreds of thousands of people entering the workforce, you won’t remain competitive as an employer if you aren’t adapting. And yes, people with less experience should look to others for learning opportunities but age/experience does not always equal how correct you are about things (like the previous letter with the coworker who treats the LW like a child and won’t record their knowledge or the manager from yesterday). Even people who usually get things right can get things wrong.

      The comment on inc is just perpetuating another stereotype, that people with more experience come with “a know-it-all attitude, don’t ask questions, and think they know better than anyone how to lead (thank you commenter for giving me the language to use).”

        1. Grapey*

          How can millennials pay into social security if none of them have jobs, as they claim?

          (tongue in cheek comment from someone a little older than millennials but much younger than a boomer who sees points from both generations)

      1. pope suburban*

        I would love to “learn” that! Please, point me to these jobs with older people who are actually willing to train! Or any jobs at all, really! Or, y’know, sit there and bash me, and cut me out of learning to do things because I haven’t already done them, you could do that too, show hosts, and I’m sure there won’t be any problems from all the lost knowledge when folks start to retire.

        Bleh. Bleeeeehhhh.

    3. LN*

      “We’re the grown-ups” is the part that got to me. In spite of my lack of Adulting Manual, I’m pretty sure I’m a grown-up. I can buy alcohol and rent a car and everything. It kinda reminds me of how my mom always complained that I wasn’t “mature” and didn’t “take initiative” while continuing to treat me like a five-year-old – people WILL act like children if you treat them like children, because you’re not really giving them the option to do anything else. I suspect a lot legitimately bad encounters that people have with millenials have a LOT to do with their built-in expectations, and how they treat us as a result. If you go in assuming that someone is a fully functioning adult, and give them the trust, respect, and breathing room that entails, they’ll act a lot differently.

      1. VintageLydia*

        “In spite of my lack of Adulting Manual, I’m pretty sure I’m a grown-up.”

        No kidding. I’m 30. I own a home and two cars, birthed and raising two children, and have every marker of adulthood I can think of. Something tells me they’re really not thinking of people like me when they say “Millennial” but we are a huge portion (majority portion?) of that demographic right now. But these complaints are always leveled at late teens to early twenty year olds, not the late twenties and thirty-somethings. Anyone with half a brain can see it’s about YOUTH, no matter the year one was born, and a lack of experience. Kid’s will grow up. They will learn and grow and find (or make!) their place in society. Give them a break. None of us were perfect at 18 years old. I doubt very many are perfect at 50 or 60, either, for that matter.

      2. Temperance*

        The phrase “take initiative” makes me see red. I’ve only heard it used by people in certain craptastic contexts – like about you “taking initiative” to clean harder at a minimum-wage job, not that it will help you any to do so.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      IMO, seeing these type of naive “new to the workplace” types of questions helps keep me grounded.

      I have a rising college freshman, and sometimes I think, wow, you guys are really dumb when some of his friends are talking. These posts help remind me that they’re not dumb, they’re just young and haven’t learned those lessons yet. It’s saving my relationship with my son!

      1. Sarah*

        I’m 23 and even my my 19-year-old brother astounds me with some of the naive or even inconsiderate things he does. It keeps me grounded, too- it reminds me of how naive I was at his age, and how much I still (probably) have to learn!

    5. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I’m unendingly baffled that masses of people don’t call hornswaggle on millennial bashing. It’s so o-b-v-i-o-u-s-l-y what the older generation always says. Always. In All Times.

      I sometimes hear it at work from older folks (like you know, almost as old as I am!), and I’m “what are you people talking about”. Almost all of our new hires are millennial, have been for years, and almost all of them are great. I daresay the same “great v not great” percent of any generation. I’ve seen a few generations now, ffs; I have standing.

      What is wrong with people? (I suppose I should ask “what is wrong with [their generational cohort]” in order to fight fire with fire?)

      1. Anna*

        I absolutely believe that the generations have attitudes or beliefs that are constructions of the era they grew up in. It’s a truth you can see going back years and years. And years. However, I don’t think every mistake can be blamed on their generational attitude. I just saw an article recently that blamed the millenials’ attitude on their baby boomer parents and was really impressed with how they managed to disparage two groups in one article. Plus a lot of millenials are children of MY generation so it was like they were trying to get in yet another dig on baby boomers.

        I wish the media would tell Gen Xers how lame they are so I can know how to act.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          I agree that cohorts are influenced by growing up in their times. Those of us who were raised by depression era parents, for example, can tell you stories of what specifically characterized the depression era generation.

          Anyway, I’m a tail end boomer (1961) and boomers have been taking crap since forever. I swear that 98% of everything said about millennials was also said about boomers at the same age but I do not remember this incessant piling on ffs.

          These. Are. Our. Kids. WTH, people? Why all the talking shit? It’s bizarre, now stop!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This has puzzled me.
            The Greatest Generation complained about us boomers. “but-but-but, YOU created US!”
            And now the boomers complain about the millennials? The implication here is that boomers are saying, “we did a crappy job with our kids.”
            No one thinks about that part.

            1. Christina*

              Well, no, it’s always everyone else’s kids who are lazy and entitled–never their own!

              1. SystemsLady*

                Which I don’t think they realize or want to say still implies the *rest* of their generation did a bad job to produce this terrible generation.

  8. Apollo Warbucks*

    The daily fail is the worst, why they picked this story up I don’t know it’s not like it’s about house prices, immigrants or princess Diana.

        1. GingerHR*

          They are surprisingly good on archaelogy (which is very odd, as it’s several syllables past their bedtime).

          1. Sorin*

            Probably because they copy wholesale from people who actually know what they’re talking about.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah, but sadly they’re far from the only ones. :(

              British Airways’s website trumpets about the perks of their premium economy, called World Traveller Plus. “Free juice and a free newspaper when you board!” When I got on the plane and discovered it was the Daily Mail, I was like, “Seriously? LOL!” (The rest of it was okay, though.)

  9. Bowserkitty*

    I’m excited that you’ve gotten your big break (so to say), and that we had a lot of good insight from new commenters, but it was disheartening to see outright insults from some commenters on both that post and yesterday’s post.

    And I like your preface on Inc – the millenials being the first to come up with protests thing made me chuckle!

    1. AnonInSC*

      Yeah…can’t you just hear people complaining about that entitled Sam Adams dumping all that tea in a temper tantrum. And that petition sent to King George!

      1. Critter*

        Holidays? A 40 hour work week? Safe working conditions?! Why can’t these people just be grateful to have jobs!?

      2. Mike C.*

        Martin Luther was such a crybaby! Why didn’t he deal with the issue internally like a real professional would?

          1. OhNo*

            This whole string of comments is great. I want to print it out to hand to every person who goes on about those darn millenials and their complaining!

  10. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I really like the intro! And I happen to agree with you … I read it as a “new to the work culture” thing rather than a spoiled millennial thing. One of my big pet peeves is when people dismiss younger people just because they’re young – we were all that way once and we were all given the opportunity to learn! Personally I learned by asking my mom questions about how to act, what to expect, etc. but not everyone has that option, and a little compassion goes a long way.

    I am a little surprised to learn that the OP stands by the original stance but maybe some lessons need to be learned twice.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I wonder how much of that is defensive doubling-down on a bad decision. Admitting one was wrong can be a pretty vulnerable feeling, and one might not want to do it with what seems like the whole entire internet poised to peck.

  11. BRR*

    Thank you Alison for continuing to fight against the “kids these days” mentality. I’m not sure if I still count as a “kid” but the things people say about millennials aren’t restricted to an age group.

  12. LNI*

    Not related to the content, but in the middle paragraph of your intro, naivete is misspelled. It’s missing the final e.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Just FYI, when you hit reply, there’s a link write above the comment box that goes to report a typo or other common issue.

    2. SophieChotek*

      On related note, when I try to link to the inc (because I wanted to read the AAM intro) I keep gtting a “503 backend error” message from this site…(tried the link 3x)
      But then when I went over the actual site and typed in the URL, then it showed up…
      Might be a momentary glitch…

  13. Cat like that*

    First comment on this article: “It is too much to be told how to work with Snake People – they need to learn how to work with us. We are the grown ups. We are the ones with years of experience, who learned from those who had years of experience when we were the beginners. Snake People come in with a know-it-all attitude, don’t ask questions, and think they know better than anyone how to lead.”

    This reminds me of a generational keynote I attended last year. The speaker asked baby boomers in the audience what they thought of millennials. They started shouting out the normal things like “lazy”, “entitled”, etc. Then the speaker said, “So when your new hire walks in the door on their first day, you already have a negative impression of them and their work. How happy do you think they’re going to be working for you? How inspired are they going to be to give you 100%? ” The room was silent.

    1. Carly*

      Oooh I love that. I have to frequently remind my dad who raised this generation he likes to complain about so much.

      1. EmmaLou*

        Oh, but that’s not you! He raised you just right. It’s those other people who messed up their kids! Not that I’ve ever heard anyone say “Not my kid!” Buncha beatniks!

      2. Adam*

        Yep. That’s what drives me the most bananas. Even though “Millenial” can apply to people in their early 30’s (so technically I am one) everyone seems to picture high school kids and college undergrads. The REALLY freshfaced cherubs.

        Well guess what. Barring some extreme life circumstances, the only things human beings know at that age is what their adult figures have taught them.

    2. OhNo*

      What a great way to frame that outlook. It’s a really good point – why would a younger worker want to do good work for you if they know you think they’re lazy/entitled/whatever.

      Man, I’m going to have to keep that one in mind.

    3. Honeybee*

      And the Boomers are forgetting that their parents’ generation was saying the same things about them in the 60s and 70s – that they were lazy, shiftless, entitled young adults who were running around destroying society with their free love and bra burning and draft dodging. People also said the same thing about Generation X. Literally every generation has complained about the one or two after it; there’s a quote from some famous Greek philosopher complaining about the lazy teenagers of his era (Socrates? Aristotle? don’t remember).

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep, some of the worst millennial bashing is coming from my fellow Xers, and I’m like…have you literally forgotten that we were called entitled, lazy, disaffected, too glued to our video games, our fashion and music sucked, and something something participation trophies? And these same people post all the “Remember back when we lived in the totally idyllic world where we all made our own artisanal cheese at home and never saw a processed food and walked uphill both ways”–People, we drank ECTO COOLER and rode in mom’s hideous van.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Everybody’s fashion sucks, from the right perspective. Or everybody’s fashion is awesome, from a different perspective. :D All that 90s stuff is selling as vintage now! And my mom couldn’t figure out why I kept buying all this funky 70s stuff–to me it was awesome, to her it was a decade best forgotten. LOL!

              1. Dynamic Beige*

                Some of my high school friends had family in the UK. Apparently over there they were called Snow Washed, which lead to a huge fight during a visit, “Snow wash!”/”Acid wash!!”

        1. Anxa*

          Is Hi C Ecto cooler the great bridge between Gen X and Millenial?

          Are we part of an overlap generation defined by the reign of Slimer themed Fruit Drink?

          Kidding of course. It’s a useless marker now that they’re bringing it back.

      2. fposte*

        Now that I look it up, it’s been debunked–it’s supposedly Socrates, but nobody can find it anywhere.

        1. addlady*

          Well, here’s something on Socrates complaining about that newfangled technology, writing. Which, well, makes a lot of sense actually, especially in the context of this letter. For instance, he talks about how words can’t defend themselves, something which makes this letter a very attractive target.


    4. Natalie*

      Sigh. The oldest Snake People are in their early 30s, plenty grown up. Some days I’m pretty sure half the people bitching about millennials are one themselves…

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        When is it OK to start whining about the new generation. There’s got to be after millennials, right?

      2. A Definite Beta Guy*

        I tell this to my Brother-In-Law frequently.
        “Those darn millenials! Millenials are the worst!”
        “You were born in 1983. You are a Millenial.”

        1. Adam*

          I listen to a radio show where one of the on-air producers is about 35, so right on the cusp of a Millenial. She ALWAYS trys to make herself a gen-xer when the subject comes up.

          1. Oryx*

            As someone on the cusp, I still maintain that Gen Y — that very small generation between X and Millennials — is actually a thing.

            1. ace*

              Generation Catalano (referencing My So-Called Life) is another term I’ve heard applied to those of us on the edge of Gen X/Millenials

              1. zora.dee*

                The Generation Catalano post is amazing, I re-read it all the time. Everyone should google it.

            2. Adam*

              I think I might be one too. I liked “The Oregon Trail Generation” myself. We were old enough to remember a time when technology advanced at a steady pace but were on the frontlines of the tech explosion as well.

              1. Oryx*

                Yes, I like the Oregon Trail Generation description, especially in the context of the article that went along with it.

                1. Mona Lisa*

                  I so agree with this. I maintain that, as someone born in 1987, I had a completely different childhood from my youngest sister, who was born in 1993. I definitely feel that I’m part of Gen Y/the Oregon Trail Generation, and she is completely a millennial.

            3. ThatGirl*

              Not to be pedantic, but Gen Y is actually an alternate name for Millennials. Same generation.

            4. Serafina*

              Yeah, prior to the actual turn of the millennium, we were called Generation Y if we were born after 1979. The term Millennial started getting tossed around in 1999 for those of us who were graduating then.

              1. Anxa*

                I was born in ’86 and I wonder often why peers seem completely oblivious to the term. It was thrown around a lot when we were kids.

  14. Critter*

    It’s just so deeply unfair with the “kids these days” thing. I’ve seen behavior like that from employees of ALL ages. I know a group of people who have been in their positions for as long as I’ve been alive petitioning for the resignation of their boss with totally baseless accusations. It’s fairly common.

    1. Anxa*

      I think that’s a good point.

      I think generation does have influence, but age has more. But even then, I do feel a little out of the loop because while I’m sure I was naive at 22 and am naive at 30, nothing about that intern’s experience or attitude sounds familiar to me.

      I do bristle at the “we were all like that at that age” because I don’t think it’s true. That said, it’s not a particularly novel or new thing. And individuals are individuals.

  15. Honeybee*

    It kills me when people pull out the “kids today/those Millennials” complaints, but particularly when it’s Baby Boomers complaining about Millennials being activists about something. Do they remember the 1960s and 1970s, like, at all?

    1. LN*

      I saw an article by a self-hating millenial talking about how “our parents never would have been so disrespectful as to protest the police!!!”

      Oh honey. Honey. No….

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Or even their grandparents. And great-great grandparents.

        *shoutouts across the decades to A. Philip Randolph and C.L. Dellums, the Reuther brothers, and even Uriah Stephens and Lenora Barry and anyone else investigated and harassed by the Pinkertons and their inheritors*

        1. Library Director*

          Yes! Today’s grandparents were the flower children of the 60s and 70s. Not modeled after Aunt Bea on The Andy Griffith Show.

      2. themmases*

        A work friend posted a video of a young woman doing the same thing, listing all these stereotypes of millenial behavior and claiming they were true and she wanted to be better. It drove me nuts!

        All she is really saying is that in her experience, *she* and all of *her* peers are like that and whether they are or not, she’s fine with insulting them on the internet to have a video go viral. Sounds real credible!

        I am a millenial too and I know very few people who fit the stereotype. The ones who do are just acquaintances. It’s not really about age, it’s about acting right and only associating with people you respect. When people spout these stereotypes, they’re basically saying that a) they believe click bait over their own experience of the people around them; or b) maybe it says something about them that they associate with so many people who suck.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            I think there are people in just about every demographic who fall for some version of respectability politics.

    2. Adam*

      For those that do let me guess: they were protesting stuff that actually “mattered”, right?

    3. Mel*

      Except most boomers remember protesting about things like civil rights, women’s rights and vietnam not the dress code at work. I don’t think you see boomers laughing at millennials who stand up on big issues

        1. Mel*

          you have to admit though “protesting” via Twitter or Instagram or a change.org petition doesnt really carry the same weight as the old school methods

          1. aebhel*

            Yeah, but there are people marching and picketing too, and getting pepper-sprayed for their trouble, so…

    4. Library Director*

      I’m reminded of a cartoon that depicted the Woodstock reunion as a black tie cocktail party. It was in the New Yorker if I remember correctly.

  16. Rebecca*

    I can understand a dress code for client/customer facing jobs, as in, you directly interact with customers face to face. The original letter stated “Even though the division I was hired to work in doesn’t deal with clients or customers, there still was a very strict dress code.”

    So why such a strict dress code? I don’t get it. As long as people are neat, clean, and reasonably dressed, why does footwear matter so much? Yes, rules are rules, but rules for the sake of rules are just pointless, IMO. I agree with Alison’s assessment, the interns approached this incorrectly, but I’m still wondering about the dress code in general.

    For the record, I’m over 50 and have been through the dress code wars of my youth. At my first office job, which was also not customer facing, I was faced with panty hose requirements, no back pockets on pants, dresses were preferred, that sort of thing, all required for a job that paid a bit more than minimum wage.

    1. Stephanie*

      Some places are like that. My current job has a sort of strict dress code. I think we get away with a bit more since we’re on the evening and night shifts, but given the amount of hand-wringing over my coworker’s ponytail, you think he shows up to work in a Speedo nightly.

    2. Artemesia*

      No back pockets on pants? Even my suit pants from back in the day as a professional woman often had pockets. Is this really a thing?

      1. Kelly L.*

        Ugh, I hope not. Lots of my pants don’t have back pockets, and it annoys me to no end.

          1. Elsajeni*

            Probably — most of my strict-dress-code jobs have had weird rules like that, I assume to cut down on rules-lawyering. Whether a pair of pants are “jeans” or not is more subjective than whether they have patch pockets or rivets at the seams. (To be fair… I used to break those dress codes by wearing khaki-colored jeans all the time. “No, these are khakis, see? *covers rivets with hands*”)

            1. Stephanie*

              Yeah…guilty as charged with a gray and khaki jeans. Sometimes you don’t finish laundry in time…

      2. Rebecca*

        No jeans, no back pockets on dress pants. It was silly, and only applied to women. Men’s dress pants had back pockets, and that was OK.

    3. Jesse*

      But if that’s the dress code for the job, maybe they don’t actually want that job? I’m assuming it’s law/finance/politics in NYC or DC, as I don’t know how common actual formal business attire is elsewhere anymore.

    4. themmases*

      There could be lots of reasons. Some fields are just more formal. Some companies also have a single dress code with few or narrow exceptions for certain jobs. The other jobs in these interns’ career path could involve seeing clients or senior management and the interns just don’t know. They could see clients in public areas of the building. The internship manager could just think it’s an important part of workplace norms that interns should experience.

      I think it’s pretty understandable to not like that, and even to take that into account when interviewing in the future. But for all an intern in their first job knows, this is the norm in their entire chosen field. Or it could be outweighed by something great about this company that would be worth it to them, if only they knew.

    5. Joseph*

      This was discussed in the one thread of comments of the original article, but there are plenty of potential reasons for a dress code even if you don’t deal with clients:
      1.) It may not be your job per se, but that doesn’t mean clients/customers will never see you – maybe they’re seeing the division next door, maybe they’re stopping by to see your boss, maybe it’s just a chance encounter in the elevator.
      2.) Nobody else in the office gets this perk (except for one medically necessary case). Interns don’t get perks the rest of the team doesn’t.
      3.) Dress code is part of the office culture. Right or wrong, you will get a different culture if everybody wears shorts and sandals compared to suits and dress shoes.
      4.) People in other divisions will judge the interns (and by extension their managers) if they’re not wearing appropriate clothes.

    6. Florida*

      Sometimes it also about safety, particularly with footwear. Once I had a job at a resort where we used golf carts to get around the resort. Most of their worker’s comp claims involved getting in and out of a golf cart. (Who would’ve guessed?). So they were strict on shoes – no flip flop-type shoes, no sandals, no open toed shoes, etc. It was really about safety and worker’s comp.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, it’s totally a safety issue at my job. Also, that would explain why I always see resort workers in sneakers…

    7. Isabel C.*

      I tend to agree. At this point in my career, I’m unlikely to accept an offer from a company whose dress code is more than “neat, clean, and in good repair”, and were I in a position to do so (have spent a year or two there, know the drill) I might politely ask what the reasoning behind such a code is and if it might change.

      A job with a strict dress code is sort of like one with a strict no-telecommuting policy: if the only reason it’s in place is “office culture”, that’s not a culture I see attracting many employees today, or at least not those with much choice.

    8. FreelanceVandal*

      The customer service department of a company I worked for had a strict dress code when I hired in. There was absolutely no face to face interaction with customers as everything was handled by phone, online or via email. The justification was that the group was the proverbial foot in the door and the director wanted to make sure that everyone was making the best impression with outsiders. Still it felt more than a little weird to be wearing a tie at 1:00 am.


  17. Construction Safety*

    Prior to my first real job, I had: served in the USN, worked on a golf course, worked at brick yard, worked at a swimming pool construction company; delivered pizza, refereed hundreds of hockey games, been an RA for 5 semesters and worked in a machine shop. And yet, I still managed to make several noobie mistakes.

      1. Construction Safety*

        Agreed, but for me they weren’t. Just temps before I got out of college & started the rest of my life.

      1. Sorin*

        40 hours a week with dental!

        I don’t know why, but somehow when I was growing up I internalized “dental plan” as important to “real job”.

        1. Rhiannon*

          In that case I’ve never had a “real job”. I’ve been working 9-5 office jobs for about 6 years. Maybe one day I’ll make it to “real” :)

  18. Katie the Fed*

    I was genuinely shocked by how vicious the comments got. There are a lot of sanctimonious people out there who never made a mistake.

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, I’m really not a fan of that sort of vicious virtue-signalling. It leads to parental competitions about how nasty they can be to their kids, videos of cell phones being smashed and other assorted ugliness.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Yeah, whatever discipline or instruction goes on between parents and children should be mainly private and not an opportunity for parents to signal their virtue at the expense of publicly shaming their children. My one SIL chastises her children via Facebook all the time; it’s obnoxious.

        1. aebhel*

          This. Most of that nonsense is really appalling, and it’s not about actually teaching the kid to behave better, it’s about signalling that *I* am a Virtuous Parent Who Doesn’t Tolerate That Nonsense at the kid’s expense.

    2. Megs*

      I more or less skipped that thread entirely. I’m happy for other people to discover the awesomeness of AAM, but it’s a drag when people show up just to pee in the pool.

      1. Leatherwings*

        Yes, especially because so many people just feel so indignant about how THEIR rude comment just really needs to be voiced. Like they’d be depriving us all of their wit and righteousness if they held it in.

        1. Megs*

          Absolutely. Especially when I’m upset about something, I really try to keep it to myself if it’s just going to echo what a bunch of people are saying already. I remember a few weeks ago when the “menstrual products at my desk” post went nuts, eventually it seemed like people were just repeating the same three arguments in a giant cycle.

          Something that might be useful going forward if the site keeps going viral might be to lock comments after a certain period of time – maybe a week. Those late drive-bys aren’t part of the conversation and usually just pile on.

          1. Ultraviolet*

            On the other hand, it’s not a given that the comment section is or should be a conversation. Not all comment sections operate that way. Some people do just want to express their opinion and go on their way, and to those people it makes no sense that they should not be allowed to participate just because some other people with similar opinions got there earlier. It’s one thing to ask that people be sensitive about pile-ons, as the commenting guidelines currently do. But moderation aimed at cutting out comments that don’t clearly contribute to an on-going conversation is actually a big step that would have a pretty decisive impact on the website culture.

            1. Megs*

              Do you really think the culture here would change if comments were closed after a week? That leaves plenty of time for people to comment, whether as part of a conversation or not, but reduces the amount of late “ME TOO!” comments which I really do think are more likely than not to be pile-ons or if nothing else, redundant. Comment sections may differ, but in my time lurking, then commenting here, it seems like the vast majority of threads are quite heavy on the “conversation” aspect, and rarely have much said past the first day. I don’t mean to say that one-off comments are necessarily bad, or anything, just that I think it wouldn’t hurt the community and could help moderation if things start getting out of control. Would people really feel left out if they couldn’t comment on a week-old (or month-old, or year-old) article?

        2. Lissa*

          This is what I don’t get about pile-ons. If you have already had dozens to hundreds of people calling the person in question names, *why* would you need to make a similar post yourself? I sort of get it a bit more in a thread like the graduation one, where people seemed to use it as a way to vent about times they weren’t allowed time off unreasonably — ie people were taking it personally. But I can’t imagine that many people have negative personal anecdotes about interns and petitions?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think it’s a feeling of “yes, other people have said this, but I have a particular angle/point/way of wording it that will be especially compelling.” And sometimes that’s really true!

            1. TootsNYC*

              I feel like most of the people here are really good at finding the extra thing to say that’s valuable or interesting. The way of framing it, the small detail that makes them think of something else to add, and best of all, the “here’s another takeaway” comment.

          2. Anna*

            One of the things I liked about both the posts that have gone viral is that there wasn’t that feeling of pile on. Nobody was calling the OPs names, just expressing some thoughts about their letters. I was very worried about a pile on but most people kept it cool.

          3. Observer*

            In addition to what Alison says about feeling like you have something different or another viewpoint to add, if you start commenting relatively early on and then don’t refresh till later (this happens to me a lot), you wind up posting after a lot of others posts, but you haven’t seen them yet.

          4. Ultraviolet*

            For what it’s worth, that kind of thing (similar comments making the same point in slightly different words) does happen even in posts where no one is criticizing the OP. So the driving impulse isn’t entirely a desire to hurt the OP.

          5. Emilia Bedelia*

            There’s always a few comments that explicitly say “I haven’t read all the other comments , but….” (and then proceed to say everything that has already been said by all the other commenters). I’m sure there are others who don’t admit to not reading.
            I think a lot of other websites don’t have the same discussion atmosphere in the comments, so people don’t really care if they’re adding anything constructive. Just think of YouTube- the comment section is more “here are my thoughts on this thing” rather than “let us all constructively talk about this together”

    3. J.B.*

      And if you want your kid to go out and do things, they need to fail first. I cringe at my teenage and college age job behaviors. Really really stupid! But I had at least wised up before my first real job (and more so than some of my cohort in grad school!) With a little wisdom and determination you can get things done, even sometimes in government.

      1. fposte*

        I’m doing a lot of stuff involving the importance of failure right now, and it’s fascinating. I think this kind of chest-beating ends up making mistakes worse, because people hide them.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Or worse, they don’t even TRY! Because they’re afraid to fail, and afraid of having people nastily criticize them.

  19. TN*

    The “kids these days” mentality really burns me. I’m on the cusp of the Gen X/Millenial generations and I get some push back at times in jobs I’ve had. The part that bothers me the most is that we were taught to question, to never settle for less than the best, to know your worth and to fight for it – and then we are told that makes us lazy, entitled, unappreciative. Granted, those emotions can eke through sometimes but I often take offense when I question a practice and am told “Millenials – You think you’re so smart.”

    Um, yeah man, I do. I think I’m incredibly smart. Don’t beg for innovation and leaders of change, them lambast those you have made in that mold.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I remember when my generation, Gen X, were decried as bringing about the certain downfall of civilization. Now we’re hardly mentioned, with all the volleys being fired between Millennials and Baby Boomers.

      1. fposte*

        I think of the description of Boomers being the bulge in the snake, working their way through; poor Gen X became the valley between the Boomer and Millennial bulges.

    2. JMegan*

      Don’t beg for innovation and leaders of change, them lambast those you have made in that mold.

      This is it exactly! Innovating and leading change and so on are hugely important skills, that we all have to learn at one time or another. And all of us are clumsy when we’re learning new skills, especially when those skills tend more to the “social” side than the “technological” side. This stuff doesn’t come naturally to everybody.

      I’m not surprised the interns failed at their first real-world application of advocating for change in the workplace. As I said in my comment on the OP, they were never *taught* the real-world application of these skills. They were taught how to be good writers, and how to lay out a good argument, etc, but were never taught about workplace norms, picking your battles, and so on. So they tried what they learned, stumbled, and fell.

      The good news is that they tried – and failed – in a relatively low-risk environment. It was a serious mistake at the time, and it had serious consequences at the time, but it’s not likely that it will follow them through their entire careers. (Assuming they learn a bit more about it in time, that is – from Alison’s recent correspondence with the OP, it sounds like they’re not quite there yet!)

    3. J.B.*

      Totally with you! Harvard Business Review had an article about 9 ways to kill innovation-companies saying they wanted it and then being self defeating.

    4. Dynamic Beige*

      Don’t beg for innovation and leaders of change, them lambast those you have made in that mold.

      You can be an innovator and change leader — when *I* say you can!

  20. Anon Moose*

    As a millennial, I just want to reiterate to Allison and the general commentariat here: THANK YOU for being one of the few blogs (much less a blog about the workplace) on the internet that doesn’t stereotype millennials as awful at work and actually helps them understand professional norms and what advice to take and leave from our elders while being RESPECTFUL of our general strengths and contribution too! It has been so helpful to me personally and also to several peers I have pointed (pushed) in the direction of this blog.

    1. Adam*

      I’m starting to feel like this ties into the weird shift in entry-level job expectations, like how so many “entry” level jobs require 2 years of experience now? I remember Allison posting a blog a while back about how many employers don’t want to train up and comers for various reasons and are pretty much looking for people who can hit the ground running, but this practice is creating a gap in workforce ability for those new to the game. I wonder if this also extends to “professional behavior” as well, even though as clear by so many of Allison’s posts people of all experience levels are daunted by workplace etiquette.

  21. Mustache Cat*

    Thank you for the intro, Alison!

    I’m glad Alison has more ad revenue these days, but I can’t help but shudder when a post here gets picked up on other parts of the internet. The inevitable swarm of comments that don’t adhere to the commenting etiquette here makes my head hurt.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Don’t worry, I’m on it. I’m waiting to see what happens after this week. For now, though, I have moderation turned on for both of those posts, so that everything posted there has to go through me first. If in a few weeks it looks like the problem requires a bigger solution, I’ll figure something out — but my hunch is that that’ll take care of it.

    2. Kirsten*

      I agree. I’m mostly a lurker, but this is my favorite comment section on the internet and read it on a regular basis. I enjoy the regular commenters and the inside jokes, and especially the fact that most commenters seem smart and articulate, and it makes me kind of sad to see how different it is when it’s masses of random commenters vs the community that’s developed here (not to mention that it’s really weird to see occasional people referring to Alison as ‘Ms. Green’ in their comments!).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        One silver lining is that it really highlights how nice the community here is, when you contrast it with what the rest of internet looks like!

        – Ms. Green

  22. March*

    It just hit me that there’s a not-insignificant possibility that the company these interns were fired from saw the letter, considering that it has gone viral. Given the way OP talks in it, I have to wonder how they feel about their decision. Probably not regretting it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      So, my cousin works with someone whose friend works at the company that fired the interns. Apparently they’ve all been instructed not to talk to the media (which is exactly how it should be handled — not because the company did anything wrong, but because they understandably want to keep control of the message). So far, I don’t think the company has been named.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        I think it is great that no one has been named. An awful lot of things never really go away even before the intertubez and now it is even easier to dig.

        1. Pwyll*

          While I’m glad the company hasn’t been named, it’d be a bit silly to think the media wouldn’t take notice when they wiped out their entire intern class.

          Sounds like they have a great PR team, though. Unified messaging (even if it’s no comment) is really important in situations like this.

      2. March*

        Wow, it really is a small world.

        I’m glad the company made the call not to let anyone talk to the media, and I’m even more glad they haven’t been named.

      3. Ash (the other one)*

        I do wonder what industry the company is in, though — both for having what seems like a large pool of interns as well as having the dress code they do. It doesn’t change much, but adds interesting context to the story.

        1. Debbie Downer*

          My guess is insurance. It’s an industry that has both formal internship programs and a strict business dress code.

          1. Insurer*

            I worked for an insurance company and it was business casual all the way, with casual Fridays.

          2. Christopher Tracy*

            Not necessarily. The company I work for is business casual and is not at all strict about enforcing the dress code (though they sometimes should be).

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              I’m going to guess something to do with finance or law, as those are both notoriously strict/old school in their practices. My experience with insurance is that it tends to be business casual, at least in my part of the world.

        2. Evan Þ (glad to work at a place without a stiff dress code)*

          My guess would be something financial or media-related.

        3. Megs*

          It could also be a law firm, which could also explain how quick they were to let the interns go: internship programs have been on the way out generally and they may have been on the cusp of ending their program entirely.

          That said, questioning the dress code in a law firm would be so bizarre I have a hard time thinking of even an intern doing it.

        4. mirinotginger*

          Re: large number of interns, I work for a very large aerospace company located in a city that is also home to several other very large tech and online shopping companies. My company alone hired over 1000 interns last summer, and there were probably 2-3k or more other interns at the other 3-4 companies. So 15 or 20 interns isn’t that many for lots of different companies

        5. Meg Murry*

          Actually, it doesn’t say how many interns there are, just that “many other interns felt the same way” and then that they all decided to sign the petition except one that declined.

          So by that reading, I’m going to assume that there were probably at a minimum of 4 interns, but it could be significantly more – as others have said, I’m guessing somewhere in the realm of 10-30. And I have a running list in my head as to what industries wear full business suits/blazers daily and would expect that of the interns.

          But unless there was some kind of gag order that also went out to the interns, or unless it’s been buried under the flood of other internet rage, I’m kind of surprised none of the other interns have showed up on the internet to tell their version of the story – because I’m sure there is at least one who signed the petition but wasn’t otherwise all that involved that is totally kicking themselves. Or the roommate of one of the interns, sibling of one of the interns, etc.

          Especially with today’s culture of “name and shame” I’m surprised that hasn’t surfaced yet. Unless they are still trying to pit various media outlets against each other for the “exclusive” story.

          1. March*

            I would be surprised if there weren’t nondisclosure or confidentiality agreements included when they accepted the internship. If any of the other interns have realised this was a bad idea, they might be either too mortified to say anything, or they could be thinking that this would fall under an NDA or confidentiality agreement. My work terms almost always had confidentiality agreements and since it can be hard as a student to figure out what’s acceptable and what isn’t unless it’s spelled out (like sending a petition to your boss about the dress code), it’s safer to assume that absolutely everything is covered by it and to keep your mouth shut.

          2. Observer*

            I’m betting that the older and more experienced relatives and friends of the ones who weren’t so involved are telling them to keep their mouths shut. “Yeah, it totally stinks, but DO YOU WANT TO GET HIRED ANYWHERE OR NOT!?” Given what just happened, a lot of them might just be ready to hear that part of it.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Oh, that coincidence is so funny.

        Do you have many coincidences like this come up?

        The last I read we are all not more than six degrees of relationship apart. But I wonder if it’s actually less than that.

      5. TootsNYC*

        I’m also glad the company hasn’t been named, because that would “out” *all* the interns from there.

  23. VX34*

    As a quote-unquote “Millennial”, I think that this should have been a great coaching moment for these interns instead of a dismissal.

    No, I don’t think I would have gone about doing what they did. I don’t think it was a prudent action to take, and it is possible that somewhere, along the line, a system of authority (parents, school system, university, etc.) did give them the feeling that what they were participating in was a reasonable course of action.

    But that’s where a great employer should have been able to say “Okay, so. Part of being an Intern is learning about How to Function in the Workplace, and today’s lesson is ‘Do not Petition your Employer to change things you have no standing to demand changes for’. This wasn’t some sort of safety violation at a work site. It was a dress code that was not immediately palatable.

    This isn’t “Petitioning the government for the redress of grievances”. This was a de facto demand that an employer change their decided-upon policy of dress because a group of people Did Not Like It.

    I do feel like, in the context of the letter, the employer totally overreacted and was unreasonable in their response. Does that make what the petitioners did correct? No. But this should have been an internal teachable moment, not a Viral Post about Those Darn Kids These Days. It should have never came to that.

    1. Emilia Bedelia*

      I think having a big class of interns probably contributed- I certainly remember complaining with my fellow interns about doing the boring jobs for other people when I was in college. with more than 2 intern coworkers, I think it would be easy to get into an echo chamber of “we are being SO wronged!!!”

      Also, “pushing back as a group” is something that is advocated all the time on this blog! “If you don’t something, ask if it could be changed” seems like really reasonable advice- this entire situation so clearly is just an inexperienced interpretation of lots of advice. One of the most annoying things about being an intern is, you’re not only learning office norms for the first time, you’re learning *intern* norms. As we’ve seen from multiple posts recently, people hold interns to a higher standard in some ways, so sometimes it’s really really hard to figure out what things are OK. It’s really the attitude that pushed this over the line for me.

    2. Joseph*

      “I do feel like, in the context of the letter, the employer totally overreacted and was unreasonable in their response.”
      The one thing to keep in mind is that we may not necessarily have gotten the full story.
      (a) There could have been other issues and this was just the straw that broke the back of some already “meh” performers
      (b) It sounds like a detailed proposal, which means they may have spent lots of company time (and resources?) preparing it.
      (c) How was the letter presented? Did they come off too strong and manage to insult the managers as part of it? Was it sent over the managers’ heads, ruining the chain of command? Did the group head find out about it and bring down the hammer on the intern’s managers for *their* poor judgment in letting the interns waste time with this?

      It may be an overreaction. It may be part of a larger pattern and/or so insubordinate that the management had no choice but to act.

      1. wellywell*

        I also wonder if the protesting interns would really have gotten the message without being dismissed, or if they’d have seen the “you just don’t do that” conversation as an opportunity to dig in their heels even more and debate the issue. Because they were so sure they were right.

        They might not get the message ever, but that’s no longer that employer’s problem. And I am sure it is a relief to them.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        I think, too, that the fact that this was the second time some of them had pushed for changes to the dress code played into it.

        If I were one of the supervisors, I wouldn’t have been bothered by the interns for asking for clarification or asking if there was any flexibility in the dress code. But if I’m asked, and I clearly tell you “no,” coming back with a petition signed by you and your fellow interns is not going to improve the situation.

        At best, it looks like I have to do a lot more coaching on professional norms than I was perhaps anticipating at the outset of the internship. At worst, it looks to me like you are potentially uncoachable (they got this fired up about the dress code? what will happen when I give them constructive feedback on their work?), or that this is a battle I’m going to have to keep fighting for the whole summer. This, by the way, is in addition to all of Joseph’s very valid points that would also play into the decision.

        I honestly don’t know if I would have fired them all, but I don’t blame the company for doing it. As an intern, you generally get more leeway since it’s expected that you’re there to learn, but that only goes so far. The company was completely within its rights to (reasonably) determine that they didn’t wish to spend any more time coaching this group.

        1. VX34*

          All of the responses to my comment are really valid, and why I wish we did have the larger context of what happened.

          It could very well have been part of a larger problem. It could very well have taken legitimate Company Time / Resources to put together. Maybe this group “Wasn’t coachable”, however based on the other Bad Intern stories we have read…I am skeptical that they were cut from that type of cloth, you know?

          I also don’t think that this story should detract from the “Gain support for things with group action” advice. But it definitely has to make sense and not, well…I’ll be really honest, unless a dress code is particularly onerous or unfairly applied (IE; Men get jeans and women must wear pantsuits)…how you dress at work is really a pretty small issue to be rankled by.

      3. KTB*

        In the original letter, the OP mentioned that several of the interns (including him/herself) had already asked their managers about loosening the dress code and been told “no.” The entire petition was an attempt to get someone else to overrule their managers. That alone displays pretty poor judgment in the workplace.

  24. Susan*

    It saddened me that some of the comments were so full of vitriol that it didn’t leave much room for the OP to respond. I always thought of the site as a place for self improvement in the workplace. We should be rallying around the letter writers if they’re willing to take Alison’s advice as a wake-up call. Some letter writers have been very gracious in receiving negative feedback, but for it to be effective, I feel like it had to be said in a respectful way, not in a dismissive/rude way. These are real people — not made-up scenarios for us to get riled up about just for the sake of it.

    1. Anna*

      That’s interesting because my read on it was there was very little piling on or vitriol. I was actually watching for that because I didn’t want to see it happen and it didn’t.

      1. Susan*

        Yeah, I think the tone of some of the comments is why Alison ended up closing the comments on that post.

        Granted some people aren’t going to feel comfortable interacting after their letter is posted regardless, but I definitely don’t think it helps when people are acting like “wow … kids these days are so dumb” versus something like “Hey, I’ve been there. This the the numbskull thing I did when I was 21, but you just got to learn from it and let it go.”

        I just wanted to throw out the modest proposal that this site isn’t Gawker (where we all just point and laugh), but a place to get advice.

  25. Girasol*

    What a great header, Alison! I did stuff like that when I was fresh out of school. I was a freshly minted grownup of the hippie era and my school counselors told us the world would be our oyster as long as we went to college so we deserved better treatment at work! I blush now at my behavior but it seemed to make so much sense at the time.

  26. Ash (the other one)*

    There’s something about rolling eyes at interns that has existed for a long time. The was a viral blog several summers ago that I still refer my newest interns to as learning material, called “DC Intern Blog” which was all about the groan-worthy moments of DC’s interns. As Alison said, it’s not about the generation, it’s about not knowing customs, feeling entitled especially if working for somewhere “powerful” like Congress, or simply being way-too-overly-excited about having an internship.

        1. Ash (the other one)*

          Wow. I haven’t been reading this summer (way too much work to do and only so much time for blogs, including AAM!), but that one is amazing.

    1. Lore*

      Is it just me, or does that Buzzfeed writer look like she could be your sister? (At least in the particular headshots Buzzfeed used for both of you?)

    2. AnonInSC*


      I do find it interesting that it wasn’t the chemo-interrupting or “give me your liver” boss that got the major buzz. The theories of how it’s because the LW themselves were off-base seem about right to me.

      1. A Bug!*

        Those letters weren’t written by the actual bosses.

        The letter from the graduation-denying boss is a really interesting one to me because it gives a window into the thought process of a person who, from the outside, appears to be just a really awful and cruel-hearted person, but who is actually just severely misguided and a bit oblivious. And I think that’s often the case when you’ve got someone who looks like a monster. I hope that the responses to her letter don’t cause her to put up walls, that she’s able to take the practical message away from it!

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          In my very first job in high school, a fellow employee came up to me one day in June and said, “You have to work for me on Thursday, because I have to play in band at graduation.” I looked at him and said, “No, I don’t. I have to cross stage at graduation on Thursday.”

          I kind of assume that he grew up to become very like this manager. (It’s possible his social skills got slightly better.)

  27. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

    I discussed that post on Twitter and the commentary about it being a generational thing – it’s so not. I have managed staff who did the exact same thing who were of Gen X, and a friend managed staff who also did the same thing and they were the generation before that. And I’m quite certain that if you polled managers in previous generations, *they* would recall similar incidents from young and new to the workforce folks. And some of them learn from the experience, others don’t.

    1. SystemsLady*

      My parents made almost every mistake people whine about millennials supposedly uniquely making (though they were precarious enough to anxiety out of most of the workplace ones). Not only did they turn out just fine, they frequently comment about how mean and hurtful those articles were and are. And they take it in pride that my siblings and I have had a much easier young adulthood – they don’t get all “you gosh darn kids, we never [or at least I don’t think we did]” when we make mistakes.

      Almost every “millennials and their technology” article gets laughed at as well, because they’re commonly about things my parents and/or their co-workers love as much or more than my siblings and I (my dad and his department are the kings of chatspeak on messenger – until autocorrect his texts often confused me, they get iPhones where my siblings and I don’t, etc.).

      My parents are awesome, by the way :). Young adults are young adults, and people who choose to be rude about that are just the same.

      In my experience, half the time they’re spitting out self-justification for their own young adulthood as you allude to. Maybe the ones who learned their lessons could stand to remember how they were learned and share their wisdom more often.

  28. Chaordic One*

    You know, I think that the interns probably had a reasonable request and I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. Based on the information provided, it’s hard to know for sure.

    Alison was certainly correct in that the management overreacted. I’ve recently read about Wall Street firms that have been having trouble attracting top young talent and feel they are losing it to Silicon Valley. (Something like only 4 applicants for every opening, instead of the usual 7 or 8.) They are finally implementing casual Fridays in an attempt to be more appealing to prospective employees.

    In an office where you rarely meet the public I would think it should be O.K. for men to wear polo shirts and docker-style pants and for women to dress similarly. I feel that blue jeans and t-shirts are kind of a slippery slope because while new ones look neat and clean, there’s always someone who will wear old ratty-looking ones and those people really do look like slobs.

    OTOH, I have worked in offices where there was no dress code and the people really did dress like slobs. The ones who did not bathe regularly were the absolute worst, but the appearance of even some of the ones who were clean but sloppy was sort of a distraction. But then I’m turning into an old crab. Hey, get off of my lawn!

    1. JMegan*

      It’s not so much that the request itself was unreasonable – certainly there’s an argument to be made for a more relaxed dress code in lots of situations. The problem was that multiple interns had already discussed the issue with their managers and been told no, and they went ahead with their petition anyway.

      Even if there is nothing more to the situation than what’s in the letter, I think it’s safe to assume that the managers were fed up with discussing the dress code with the interns, and saw this as a way to end it once and for all. I probably wouldn’t have handled it with a mass firing either, but I can certainly see where they were coming from!

    2. Observer*

      In fact, Alison did point out later that there is an argument to be made that most dress codes go too far. But, the issue wasn’t that they asked for a more relaxed dress code, but how they went about it, and the fact that they wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, despite the fact that they had neither the standing nor the context to do that.

      What really blew people away, I think, is that when faced with the reality that they had acted while missing a crucial piece of information, they (or at least the letter writer) didn’t acknowledge that they had acted with insufficient information. Instead they complained that no one had told them!

    3. TootsNYC*

      I work in a place where men wear polo shirts & dockers, etc., and it is a VERY different vibe. I see the power in saying, “Wear a suit.”

  29. Donna*

    It’s disappointing that so many people feel that interns represent the millennial workforce. Many students can’t afford to do internships–they have to work over the summer, or have transportation issues, or there just aren’t enough internships in their areas for everyone to have one. (And of course, moving to NYC or DC for the summer to do an internship is too expensive for most students.)

    Speaking of those workers, if millennials were truly as bad as many people seem to believe, then the malls would shut down because that’s mainly who I see working there. But no, our malls are open on time, the merchandise is clean and organized, the people are friendly, and the food is delicious–almost all of it is run by millennials.

    1. Jaguar*

      Whoa, what? The food is delicious in a mall? Your millennials are kicking our millennials’ asses.

    2. Charlotte Collins*

      As a former mall worker, I can guarantee many of those employees have way stricter dress codes than what the LW was complaining about. (Uniforms, requirements about wearing the clothing sold at the store, etc.)

    3. aebhel*

      This. I really think that when people say ‘millennial’, what they really mean is a relatively small, privileged subset of young college students. That’s not a representative sample, guys!

  30. Diax*

    Does anyone else find it more annoying when people complain about people complaining about millenials, than people complaining about millenials? This has been going on since the beginning of time; there’s nothing special about us. And I can guarantee we’re going to be doing the same thing when we’re 60.

    1. Megs*

      Nah, I definitely find the complaining about millennials more annoying, but we’re certainly all entitled to be annoyed at whatever. It’s all just a big circle of annoying, after all.

  31. Pennalynn Lott*

    “Kids These Days” — I remember flying home to Texas from California one summer back in my mid-20’s. My mom and I stopped at the local 7-11 for something. I think she was going to run in for a cup of coffee while I waited in the air-conditioned car, because I remember her looking at a group of teenagers who were hanging around outside the 7-E and then saying to me, “Lock the doors.”

    I laughed and laughed and laughed. She got all confused and demanded to know what was so d@mned funny. I said, “Mom, they’re what, 12 to 15 years old? They’re on BICYCLES. And they’re hanging out at the 7-E, just like me and my friends used to. As a matter of fact, we used to hang out at THIS EXACT 7-11! They’re not hoodlums, Mom, they’re KIDS.” Seriously, we’d do nothing but stand around looking cool, sipping on our rapidly melting Slurpees, waiting to see who else would ride their bike to the store and be cool with us. :-D

    The more things change. . . :-)

    1. Pennalynn Lott*

      Oh, and to bring it more on-topic. I’ve contributed this to threads before, but I certainly made an @ss of myself back when I first joined the working world. Like ordering a pizza from a competing restaurant to be delivered to me at the pizza place I worked at when I was 16, as a means of handing in my resignation.

      Or showing up for my 2nd interview in what would have been my 2nd “professional” office job wearing skin-tight jeans and slouch boots, then leaning back in my chair and putting my feet up on the conference table. . . in the middle of the interview. . . with the partners of the company. (Oof).

      And I was born in 1966. Definitely not an “entitled Millennial” back then, just a very inexperienced young person who didn’t know any better. Ya know, same as today’s younger Millennial’s and Generation Z. You don’t know what you don’t know. (Right up until the minute it bites you in the @ss, and then you never forget it!)

      1. Bowserkitty*

        The pizza thing may be immature, but I found it hilarious.

        How did that interview go, however!? That’s guts there. LOL

  32. stevenz*

    I’m going to toss a firecracker in the middle of this tea party (the old kind). I’m a baby boomer and have a lot of friends and associates in my age category who hire and manage. The reviews of younger people – and I get the X, Y, and Zs confused – are not flattering. Research seems supportive of a change in work behaviours over the past few decades. I must emphasize that IS NOT entirely the fault of the workers; a lot of that is laid squarely at the feet of employers who have conspired to make the workplace as rigid and dehumanized as they can. Shrinking benefits, a near elimination of any sense of job security, and all around oblivious management has turned people (“Our most important asset!”) into something like office supplies. This has affected everybody – except those making the “hard decisions” (which directly relate to their bonuses and stock price). Not a textbook environment for motivation.

    You may not like generalizations, or criticism but work attitudes have certainly changed. Younger people do indeed have less sense of loyalty to their employers or intention to stay at their jobs for very long. That’s balanced with employers having *no* loyalty to them, and being ready to replace anyone at the drop of a hat – or petition. But work values overall seem to be not as strong as the baby boomers expect now. Put as much of the blame you want on scurrilous employers, or tolerance of economy-destroying corruption, off-shoring, government bought and paid for, reduced worker protections, but the individual still has an obligation to give their employer their best whether they deserve it or not. I’m actually OK with slipping out of the office on a Friday afternoon to go surfing or a two hour lunch from time to time. An employer who looks the other way on things like that is probably a good employer to work for. (I feel very strongly that sneaking out of work to go to a baseball game is a long and storied American tradition that should be perpetuated at all costs – as long as there are day games – and I’ve done my part.) But I have friends who are lawyers who are shocked at the low ethical standards of their younger associates, to take one example.

    I have taught at the undergraduate and Masters levels and students really do seem to have little appreciation for the connection between working hard and being rewarded. There are always a few good ones, but a few aren’t enough to make the world a better place.

    Look, I’m actually glad I won’t have to be in this kind of work environment much longer. It sucks, generally speaking; I wouldn’t trade places with you, except for the opportunity to go back and make some changes with the benefit of what I know now. But now that you’re there, do your level best because those who do will still benefit in the long run. And be careful – the longer you’re working the more expendable you might get. There is always someone younger and cheaper and open to abuse. My generation has felt that, and I fear it’s only going to get worse.

    1. Dan G*

      That’s why I originally wrote “take heart, original letter writer, you will win in the end!”

      Younger workers are very conscious of these issues, especially since formal work attire can be a huge “hidden cost” to some jobs and a massive headache for women that have to navigate an increasingly ambiguous (and judgemental) work fashion scene– having a casual dress code is becoming more and more important if you want to hire qualified workers, especially in some fields and in some cities like IT and the west coast

      They were ahead of the curve and they went about it backwards (“this is what we want!” rather than “here is the business case”) but it’s not going to matter, eventually the company will change its dress code or accept that they are hiring less qualified candidates, having lower retention rates and having to spend more because they won’t ditch the coat and tie

      I laugh when my dad rants about his employees being on social media, studies show that a significant number of millennials wouldn’t work a job where they can’t occasionally check facebook and what’s he going to do? not hire anyone because the rule is that important?

    2. Vendrus*

      This feels really weird to me, because what I’m hearing from parents and teachers (pretty much all of which are talking to me because they have kids at/about to go to university, and I finished only a couple of years ago) is the opposite. There’s articles around about it now – students are under enormous pressure to achieve and it’s the cause of soaring mental health issues at the end of high school and at university in particular.

      We are told again, and again, that if we don’t get a good education and a good result – usually implied to be a 2-1 at minimum – we will not achieve. We will not get a job without it, or if we do, it will mean living at home because it won’t be enough to support ourselves. On the other hand, we have the massive unemployment issues and are told (often accurately so) that even a good degree doesn’t guarantee us a job. I can understand students becoming disaffected just as easily as the ones who had nervous breakdowns.

      God forbid you don’t have a knack for academic skills – there’s almost no vocational studies and even fewer apprenticeships. No wonder people end up taking borderline pointless degrees they don’t care about – that’s the only way they’re going to tick the box that almost every employer is asking for.

      So… yes, attitudes have changed (though it depends on where you are as to which direction). But it’s far from all one way, and given how many stories there are on this site along of unethical practices among older employees… well. I think it’s safest to say that as far as I can tell, it’s pretty much business as normal as far as the people themselves are concerned.

      The rest of my post was starting to sound ranty, so let me end with this: Please don’t look down on your students unless you are absolutely sure you know everything significant that’s going on in their life. Everything from mental health to finances to home problems can lead to it looking like they’re not working hard, when all that’s happening is they’re having to work hard at something else as well.

    3. Anon Moose*

      You should at least consider that part of what you’re hearing is because of your friends and their relative places at work. And also that many young workers are shocked at the work ethic/ ethical standards of their older coworkers/ bosses as well. And maybe remember that baby boomers… you were the big young generation with “Don’t trust anyone over 30” and those “dang kids with the music and the hair” and those disrespectful young protesters who were pro-civil rights, pro- women in the workplace, pro-free love, anti-war, i.e. pro- and anti- many norms that your elders likely found horrifying at the time.

    4. ElCee*

      You acknowledge that most American employment models no longer reward longevity. With no material gain (pensions, paths to promotion, rewards for hard work) to being loyal to one employer–in fact, with a majority of the conventional wisdom urging people to “move out to move up”–why wouldn’t younger workers do that? Changing employers more often than in the past doesn’t correlate with being a bad employee while you are there and it seems you are correlating the two? Not sure.
      “Work values” is really vague and your impressions seem to be filtered through, as you say, the experience of people similar to you in age and, I imagine, in socioeconomic status. So I guess I would take those impressions with a grain of salt.
      You’re certainly right that things will get worse before they get better, though. Sometimes it feels like this stuff goes in cycles, history repeating itself, etc.

  33. newlyhr*

    the biggest difference I see is that the period of childhood or adolescence continues to lengthen. So those of us who were married and parents at 23 don’t understand 23 year olds who don’t know how to sign a lease or interview for a job. We have to remember that the growing up period has lengthened for every generation. Why is worthy of its own separate discussion, but it is the reality. So the 23 year old of today is not really the same as a 23 year old from an earlier generation. And on the positive side, a 60 year old today isn’t at death’s door the way a 60 year old was in 1900. Just like 50 is the new 30, 23 might be the new 13 (or 15, 16…..).

    1. Isabel C.*

      Right, and in some ways, “adult” differs between generations and locations.

      I’m 33 and consider myself adult, mostly, but I know nothing about buying, repairing, or owning either a car or a house: I live in a city where it makes more sense to rent and take public transport/Zipcar/etc, and I don’t see myself moving any time soon. (I have a couple friends ten years my senior who don’t even know how to drive–and had a great-aunt who never learned, actually, for similar reasons.) Where my parents live, in a much more rural environment, I think these skills are much more “standard adult.” For me, “adulting” skills include knowing how to navigate public transport and the terms of rental agencies, or knowing who to call when That Girl Downstairs starts making noise at 3 AM.

      Most people do still need to find and keep jobs, so it’s more that the specifics will change: “adulting” career skills like handwriting thank-you notes or having dinner for your boss are stuff my parents needed to know, but which I’ve heard of virtually no workplaces requiring or even using during my time. On the other hand, sending professional emails or being in touch when working remotely are much more important.

      It’s an interesting shift. As a gamer, I keep thinking of it as an edition shift in what skills go with the “adult” character class, but: nerd. ;)

  34. Jamie*

    I agree the issue isn’t a problem with ‘young people today’ or a ‘generational’ issue. However I disagree the problem is being young and/or a lack of experience. The problem is an inability to think critically and a lack of common sense. These problems definitely aren’t unique to young people.

    I started working at my first professional job in 2014 so I’m still relatively new to the workforce. From my perspective as a young professional, it’s obvious interns writing a petition demanding a more casual dress code because they saw one person not following the dress code is a flat out idiotic idea. That’s not something that anyone with a high school diploma should have to be told regardless of job experience.

    That’s basic common sense that’s right up there with other common sense gems like ‘don’t show up to job interviews drunk’ or ‘refrain from removing your pants and dancing on top of your desk while blasting Baby Got Back from your computer speakers’ .

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