interviewer is bringing his kid to our interview, do my coworkers all pity me because my job is boring, and more

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

1. My interviewer is bringing his kid to our interview

I have just been advised that the attorney I am interviewing with will have his middle-school-aged child in the interview. I find this inappropriate and unprofessional. What is your take on this? And if asked a question of the child; am I obligated to answer?

Yeah, it’s not great. I’m assuming that there’s been some kind of emergency and he had to bring his kid to work today. But is there no separate room the kid can hang out in during the interview? If he’s middle-school-aged, he doesn’t require constant supervision (unless he does for some reason, in which case it’s going to be a distraction from the interview).

But your interviewer isn’t the one writing in for advice. If he were, I’d tell him not to do it. On your side of things, just roll with it and see how it goes. It’s a bad call on his part but it’s not such an outrage that you should flounce out or anything. And yes, certainly if the kid speaks to you, you should respond; it would be rude not to.

2. Do my coworkers all pity me because my job is boring?

My job involves a large amount of data entry at a nonprofit. Currently my work volume is very high, so some other staff members were assigned to help some of my tasks so that everything can get done. Recently said staff members made some well-meaning comments along the lines of “I’m so sorry you have to deal with this every day” and generally joking about how they can’t believe I don’t have a drinking problem.

I know that these coworkers, whose jobs involve much more varied tasks/interaction with others, did not mean to be hurtful and simply aren’t used to this kind of work. But the thing is, I’ve already been feeling stuck in my current position and frustrated with the repetitiveness of my work. My coworkers mostly work in positions that have a direct impact on our mission and in the community. By contrast, my job is necessary but has none of the “warm fuzzy feeling” that comes with doing good in the world. I was already slightly in the middle of a career crisis, and now suddenly I feel as though I have the “pity job” at my office — like everyone feels bad for me because I have to do the drudge work. The whole situation has kicked my quarter-life crisis into full swing.

How do I deal with this feeling that my job is unimportant? How do I deal with being surrounded by passionate, inspired people and feeling completely uninspired and uninvolved? Help!

Well, the fact that a job isn’t glamorous or particularly exciting has nothing to do with whether it’s important! And your work apparently is important enough that people with those more glamorous jobs are being repurposed to help out with it — so that’s a pretty good indicator of its importance to your organization. I don’t know what kind of data entry you do, but if it’s something like membership work, that’s basically the lifeblood of the organization. Yes, boring at times, but crucial. It’s literally the thing that makes it possible for your coworkers to do their own jobs (all of which have plenty of boring elements too, I promise you).

Your coworkers were insensitive — although I suspect they were trying to create camaraderie, not trying to insult you or condescend to you about your job — but I think you’re taking it the wrong way. I’ve worked around a lot of people doing data entry, and no one ever thought of their work as the “pity job.” In fact, when people were good at it, they were particularly valued, because it takes focus, attention to detail, and a high rate of accuracy, all of which are harder to find than you might think.

Wipe this from your mind and don’t let it mess with your head.

3. Should I greet company VIPs as they pass my desk in the morning?

I come to you with an interesting office etiquette question. We moved to a new office recently. My new seat is on the end of a row of three seats (comparable to an airplane aisle seat) and bumps up right against the hallway where all the C-level offices are. I am in the direct line of sight for every VIP (the CEO and COO in particular) as they enter in the morning. I think some people would find this an exciting way to gain additional exposure—but I’ve become unnecessarily stressed out and befuddled by this. So far, I’ve taken to looking super busy when they enter for the day. Most times, I’ll even have headphones in. I feel odd about being the person who greets these rather intimidating folk first thing, daily. (I should caveat that if I happen to make eye contact with them, sure, I’ll say hi.)

If I see them elsewhere in the office, however, I do make it a point to say hello. I should also add that I am in great standing with everyone in the C-suite and have a very good reputation at the company in general. One last thing – I just got a standing desk. So now, I’m really in their direct line of sight.

What do you think is the best move here? Should I start to cheerily say good morning each day? Go about my business as usual? This silly issue has caused me a lot of undue worry, as I’m not sure they’d even think of something like this.

You are way over-thinking it! They aren’t going to care either way.

That said, since you’re asking for guidance, if you happen to make eye contact, say good morning. But don’t break from your work to make eye contact; it’s fine to just continue on with what you’re doing as they pass you. (This is true with anyone, not just your office VIPs; you don’t need to take your focus away from your work to greet people who are walking by. It’s an office, you’re working, and people get that.)

4. Favoring one employee over another when offering job-hunting help

I am a mid-level employee in a small department in which all of our contracts will soon be up. I have a few coworkers at my level and two entry-level individuals who report to me on specific projects (Jane and John), and we are all managed by our director.

Jane is a new college graduate, and on the projects we share, I have found her to be a pleasant and conscientious worker with good common sense, and a quick learner. John has done this work before and is competent, but his output is much lower, which has led to him having a smaller range of responsibilities, and he requests more guidance on simple tasks.

As we all face unemployment soon, I am wondering if I can offer to help Jane, but not John. I can’t do much, but I have some contacts that I would love to forward Jane’s resume along to. I would not be enthusiastic about recommending John, and I don’t know if it would make Jane uncomfortable if I told her my offer to help is only extended to her and asked her to keep it between us. They’re not friends out of the office, but they work closely together. If I were John in this situation finding out, I would obviously be upset, and I don’t want to be unkind.

I am thinking I just need to wait until our contract is up and we no longer work together, but that wouldn’t be optimal for Jane, who can’t afford to be out of a job for very long. Any thoughts?

You can offer to help just Jane right now; you just need to be discreet about it. And really, this is sort of the nature of recommendations; by definition, you’re not going to offer them to everyone.

After making the offer of help to Jane, I would say this: “I want to note that this isn’t an offer I’m making to everyone, but I think particularly highly of your work. Because of that, though, I’d appreciate if you kept it between us for now.”

If John ever does find out, that framing should help — it’s not that you think he sucks; it’s that Jane is particularly strong and a particularly good match for the contacts you have.

5. Reapplying for a different job after recently interviewing and being rejected by the same place

I’ve recently started looking for a new gig and was lucky enough to make it to the in-person stage at an organization. In the end, they decided to go with the internal candidate and I was flattered that they wanted to have a follow-up call with me to encourage me to re-apply a little later in the year. A couple of days ago, I saw that they were still hiring for another position that I think was really interesting and I might be a potential fit for. I previously hesitated to apply for it because I thought I was a much better fit for the one I interviewed for, and I don’t have all the experience the posting seemed to want. I was wondering what the etiquette around reapplying would be in these types of situations. Is there a way I could reach back out the talent representative that would be appropriate?

How much of a match are you? If it’s a big stretch and it’s quite different from the role you were interviewed for earlier, I’d hold off — in that case, you risk looking like you’re being too scattershot in your approach.

But if it’s not a huge stretch, just a bit of one (you meet 80% of the requirements and aren’t lacking a crucial must-have), then yes, you can definitely reach back out. Say something like this: “I’d be really interested in talking with you about the X position if you think it could be a match. I’d love your advice on whether it would make sense for me to submit an application for that.” (If the answer is yes, they may tell you that you don’t need to formally reapply at all since they have all of your materials, but that’s how I’d frame it.)

{ 150 comments… read them below }

  1. LJ*

    Alison is right. Good data entry people are so important! The “boring” jobs keep the whole place running and have a lot more perks than people in the “fun” jobs realize. I also have a job with a lot of data entry at a nonprofit, but compared to the people with “fun” jobs, I have a more flexible schedule, better pay, and less workplace drama! Plus, when I do my job well, I get us more money, which means the whole organization can do more. That’s critical! I bet your job has more perks than you give it credit for. One thing that helps me maintain my connection to the warm fuzzy feelings is making a little extra time each week to interact with our clients and just help out on the “fun” side. Passion for the mission is usually quite important for most nonprofits, so why not try asking your boss if you could take an hour or two each week to help with something more warm and fuzzy?

    1. Sparrow*

      This is a good idea! I agree with everyone that data entry is incredibly important, but the reality is that it’s just not a good fit for everyone and I think that’s the root of OP’s problem here. Perhaps getting more in touch with the mission would allow them to remember why they got into this work in the first place, and that might be enough to motivate them. But if it’s not, that’s ok! It sounds like OP might ultimately be happier in a different job that would allow them a wider variety of work or at least a closer connection with the outcome of that work. If that’s not possible at their current organization, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere.

    2. Mark in Cali*

      I used to do data entry, and now I’m in more of a strategy role. There are days I miss the “put A here, and do this with B,” kinds of work, but I can remember the days when it did get so boring and repetitive. I long for that perfect balance of a role with both task-mastering and planning.

    3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I’m one who loves data entry. Give me a spreadsheet and a bunch of stuff to enter and I’ll happily sit for hours and hours entering. If you can add a challenge to it, like also analyzing the data to find anomalies that’s even better.

      I got the same kind of comments (how do you do this all day??) when I went out on leave and had to train someone to do my job. A lot of people just could not imagine liking what I did all day. I went through 3 people trying to train someone to cover my leave before we found someone with the right amount of focus that could 1. handle the volume and 2. be accurate. A lot of data entry is mission-critical. It’s harder for people to realize it right away, but those little pieces all have to be put together so someone can take it and do the “more exciting” work with the information!

      1. Chinook*

        I am another one who enjoys data entry (to the point of being excited of helping design new databases because data entry should never be pointless) and I can understand the OP’s frustrations at the comments if she otherwise like the job. I have learned to have comebacks on hand to the “how do you do this all day” that include “what, I get to listen to music and see immediate results – how is that a bad thing?” and “it is so much better than writing reports that no one sees.”

        But, if the OP doesn’t like the job, then it is time to start revaluating what you would prefer to do and if the risk of an unknown job is worth a change. The thing with data entry is that it is always there, good people to do it are hard to find, the hours are predictable and, while important, it is rarely something that has emergencies (so no one calls you in the middle of a vacation to do more). If you can except that a boring job is good enough because it pays the bills that allows you to do enjoyable stuff outside of work, then that is good enough.

  2. dragonzflame*

    #1 – chances are, you’ll find the kid is quietly occupied with their phone or a book. When I was 10, 12, something like that, my mum was studying at university and I sometimes had to go along to her classes and tutorials. I was under very strict instructions to be seen and not heard. It’s probably just as awkward for the interviewer as for you!

    1. DragoCucina*

      Agreed. Sometimes things happen and this type of situation cannot be avoided. My youngest son sat in one of my grad school classes. Everyone commented that at first they were surprised, but quickly forgot he was there because he sat in a corner and read. During a tornado warning he came with me to a class I was teaching. The only time he spoke was to act a fact to be the Walt Whitman discussion. It’s not ideal, but the child’s not a toddler either.

      1. Michelenyc*

        This reminds of the time I was taking Human Sexuality and a woman thought it would be OK to bring her grade school age kids to class. Any other day would have probably been fine but on this particular day we were watching a very sexually explicit documentary. When I say explicit it did show everything. The professor actually had to tell her that it would be better if she missed class that day. I was shocked when she said, oh they can just read and the professor was like this is not optional for you. We’ll see you on Thursday.

        1. Pwyll*

          Something similar happened to me in law school. A good friend brought her oldest (~10 years old) to our Torts class. The Professor went to her and explained that he didn’t think it was a good idea that specific day, because we would be covering a really difficult series of cases about the deaths of children.

          The little snot, who they thought was too far away to hear, loudly announces, “Oh that’s fine, my dad’s a Doctor. I hear about dead babies all the time!”

          She decided to just take the absence.

            1. Pwyll*

              Funniest thing is that it’s pretty much not true. Dad is a heart specialist in an elder facility. He doesn’t work with children at all, and certainly not with babies.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            Yeah, middle-schoolers are mature enough to follow the interview and form their own opinion about the candidate. Even with their nose stuffed in a book or their eyes stuck to an iPad. What candidate would want a middle-schooler’s opinion of whether they should be hired or not?

    2. Fjell & Skog*

      Additionally, perhaps you could see it in a good light, i.e., that this employer may be flexible when “life” happens. Maybe this flexibility doesn’t extend to all levels, but if this person would be your supervisor, maybe they will be understanding that sometimes things come up, and you have to deal with them in less-than-ideal ways to be able to work and deal with life outside of work as well.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I wonder too if it’s not some “take your kid to the office” thing. Because it’s pretty weird for the kid to be IN the actual interview. A child that age doesn’t need to be watched, unless he has some kind of medical or other condition where he needs supervision.

    4. BananaPants*

      Sometimes it’s unavoidable. If I had to bring my 6 year old into the office unexpectedly, I would give her a book or her tablet with headphones, and park her just outside (where I could see her) with strict instructions to stay quiet unless she’s bleeding. The 3 year old would be quiet enough with her tablet/headphones but I’d have to keep her in the room. A middle school-aged child should be able to quietly occupy themselves at dad’s desk without too much issue.

      Bear in mind that in many parts of the US, it’s illegal to leave a child alone without adult supervision. I think those laws are beyond absurd but some parents do have to contend with them, and if the usual after-school care falls through at the last minute they may not have a lot of alternatives short of bringing the kid in or rescheduling the interview.

  3. Panda Bandit*

    #2 – Boring is only a matter of opinion. I’d love a job like yours. Your organization knows that what you do is important. They wouldn’t have given you helpers if your tasks were meaningless.

  4. Cortney*

    #2 – I’m the ED of a non-profit and a one-woman show (so I do all my own data entry). Data feeds all the other work that I do and is the only way I keep the money coming in — I can’t function without it. Don’t for one second think that your work is unimportant and not mission-critical.

    1. Venus Supreme*

      Yes, this! I did data-entry as part of my old job’s duties and tasked my most trustworthy intern to assist me in it. I knew she could do it, and I would’ve been lost without her. Data entry is critical!

      As for not having the warm-fuzzies, I think it simply has to do with your fit within the organization and its mission. It’s the whole “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” — I personally dislike accounting, but it’s still vital to a company. I wouldn’t be fulfilled working with numbers all day, and I know our organization’s business manager wouldn’t enjoy writing all day (like I do). It’s all relative!

    2. KTB*

      Agreed, agreed. I used to do data entry (and other things, but lots of data) for a large community foundation. When I was out for three weeks for my wedding and honeymoon, my boss absolutely made sure that my duties were completely covered because they were necessary for keeping the foundation running. It wasn’t the most glamorous job, and I often felt like I wanted the warm fuzzies of the mission side, but what I did was keep the donors happy. So there’s that.

  5. seejay*

    LW #2: I did data entry for four years (off and on). The place I was hired at kept calling me back because I was fast, accurate, helpful, friendly and quiet. Is it boring? To some degree. Is it important? Very. I got all the data the scientists and researchers needed for fish biology and water chemistry in the system so they could study and analyze it for conservation and restocking purposes. They got the spend their time out in the field collecting the samples and documenting it. Sure, it would have been more fun to be out in the boat catching fish and dunking test tubes with them, but I wasn’t studying biology, ergo I did not get to go out on the lakes, I got to play on the computer instead.

    So yes, it’s important. The data keeps the business running (or the water flowing or the fish swimming, whatever industry you’re in).

    1. Former Invoice Girl*

      Yes, this.
      Most of my jobs so far have had a heavy emphasis on data entry, and while they may have been boring or overwhelming at times, what I did was important (not saying this to inflate my own importance, just to illustrate the point). I worked for a family accounting firm one time where I basically entered numbers and short descriptions and tax rates into a program all day long – these were the data my bosses worked from every day. My previous position was basically being an admin and correcting / downloading invoices, which were then used for customs clearance for our many shipments.

      I always had plenty to do, and always had enough opportunities to sharpen those skills that needed sharpening (I’m now able to concentrate better on repetitive tasks; I’ve been complimented on being fast, accurate, and detail-oriented). There are many people who are great at projects or at more glamorous things, so to speak, but not at all great at the kind of work you do. As seejay says above – your work keeps the business running. Your work has significant value and I hope you’ll be able to recognize that.

      1. Koko*

        Yes, there is a certain comfort in those kind of tasks. I’m also a person who loves cleaning, and I get a similar satisfaction from working with data that I do from cleaning.

        I’m in a role now where when I find data issues I’m supposed to pass them to the person whose job it is to handle that stuff, but it’s hard sometimes to stop myself from doing database repair every time I come across something odd. Especially when it’s something that is likely too low priority to be worth anyone’s time to fix, but inside I’m just squirming to fix it. I could easily spend entire days fixing things like inconsistent coding and naming conventions, fixing capitalization errors, standardizing hierarchies, etc.

        1. seejay*

          My partner has mentioned going into database work as “if you can deal with how dull and boring it is, it pays really well” without realizing how much I love working in databases. That’s primarily because I like data and fixing the structures and standards etc.

          Depending on how things work out after I’m done my masters (where databases is one of the paths I’m taking in my courses) I might pursue it. It’s not a definite yet, since I currently have nearly 10 years in UX in actual work experience at this point, plus it’s not really my actual passion and career path, but it’s one of the options I’m willing to entertain since I do enjoy it enough to consider it.

      2. Blue Anne*

        Yes. I honestly love data entry. The absolute best tasks are ones where I can put an audiobook on my headphones, get in the flow and enter things into systems for hours.

        Sadly, I haven’t found a role that does that all the time and pays what I’m used to.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t mind doing some of it, but I would hate it if that were my only duty all day. I did a temp job like that once and was like, “Please don’t send me back to that office again.” I nearly went mad.

      1. seejay*

        Data entry isn’t for everyone, but I enjoyed it because I’m a stickler for details, I have an extremely fast typing speed and it was extremely accurate for numbers at the time (I was entering primarily water chemistry measurements and fish population data and measurement statistics). I could have the binder propped open on one side with my left hand on the ruler, my right hand on the numpad and just punch out numbers at 150-180 wpm, depending on spacing, fields I had to skip, decimal places, and the handwriting (some of the guys had terrible chickenscratches and I had to slow down to make sure I was reading it ok). Since I was on a contract and the amount of money I was going to make was set, the less I worked per day meant the longer my contract would extend so if I could clock out after 5 hours, that meant more hours tacked on the end of my contract. It was a really awesome summer job when I was working my way through university (or during semesters and a not-summer job). It was mindless, I could zone out, think about homework or whatever else I had going on, listen to music.

        Sure I got bored easily and I wasn’t challenged very much, but I found ways to make it challenging when I could (usually by trying to speed up or break my records). That being said, it definitely isn’t for everyone and being where I am now, I don’t think I could go back to it!

  6. Fiona the Lurker*

    #2 – I’ve done a lot of ‘boring’ data entry at times and yes, it can get tedious – although I find the repetitive patterns reassuring and they enable me to get up quite a high speed, which is always satisfying. At the same time the amount of it is conditioned by the number of clients requiring the service, and that’s good for the whole section. Plus, you do at least have a quantifiable outcome to your work which many people don’t. Your colleagues may take pride in other aspects of their jobs, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to take pride in in yours.

    1. Former Invoice Girl*

      >Plus, you do at least have a quantifiable outcome to your work which many people don’t

      This is so important.

      1. JM in England*

        Plus various studies have shown that jobs with a quantifiable outcome and/or a well defined endpoint tend to have a lower rate of burnout.

  7. Random Lurker*

    #1 – I think this is a data point you have to use when evaluating the candidate. Some are going to tell you this isn’t a big deal. I disagree. Is it a childcare issue? While I’d be sympathetic, I’d be concerned that this will be a regular issue with him/her once they are employed. Maybe your office would be ok with a middle schooler hanging out occasionally, so that isn’t so bad. If it isn’t a childcare issue, their judgement would be so suspect that it would be a huge mark against them. I don’t know if it is appropriate to ask about the situation or not, but if it comes up, I think it really is something you should probe as an interviewer.

      1. Random Lurker*

        I know, which is why I suggested to the OP to use this as a data point when evaluating the candidate.

        1. Wooly Eyed Samuel*

          The OP is the candidate. The person bringing the child is the interviewer. Your comment has them reversed and thus your advice does not pertain to the actual situation.

    1. BananaPants*

      Except it’s the interviewer bringing their kid into the office, not the candidate. The OP is the candidate.

  8. Pot Meeting Kettle*

    OP 2 –
    Just speaking from personal opinion, my design firm has all sorts of people, ranging from designers, technical staff, admin staff, HR staff and cleaners. I never ever judged any of their work as particularly exciting or boring — because all of them are critical to making the project go smoothly! Everybody, including you, is critical to an office, otherwise I am pretty sure they wouldn’t have created the job.
    I suspect your coworker is just finding random things to say during the lull. Or maybe like me, they are feeling a bit guilty that they are adding to your work load and expressing (what they thought) was sympathy but was taken the wrong way.

  9. Pudding*

    #1 – I personally don’t see the big deal. Multiple times I’ve been in interviews where there are employed adults who are sitting with the interviewer that look like they are just being babysat.

    Since the kid is in middle school my impression is that this could be a job shadow situation and the kid will be quietly observing what job interviews are like – it isn’t a screaming toddler!

    The best thing to do would be to introduce yourself to the kid, perhaps offer a handshake and ask a question or two about school. That could set you apart from other candidates that ignore the kid or loom down their noses.

    It could also be a test – especially eith attorneys you are going to have clients that have their kids tagging along, or some of your clients may be kids. The interviewer may look at how comfortable you are and how you interact.

    1. Myrin*

      I hadn’t even thought of this being a shadow situation but you’re absolutely right, it sounds like that could be it! I was wondering why the kid couldn’t be in literally any other room (if they need supervision, that probably can’t be provided properly during an interview; if they don’t, why can’t they wait outside/do something else?) but it makes perfect sense if they’re supposed to learn how interviews work.

      1. Tab*

        In that case wouldn’t it make sense to ASK the job candidate to agree to having a kid in their own interview. A job interview is a big deal. I would not be ok with this at all.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      If it were a job shadowing situation, I would hope the interviewer would have informed the OP about that. Why make a situation sound potentially awkward when instead you could let the candidate know they’re part of something pretty cool?

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, and it also seems like it would significantly influence how the candidate should interact with the kid. If it’s just an emergency-childcare situation, I’d pretty much politely ignore them unless they initiated conversation, but if I knew they were there to actively observe/shadow I’d be much more likely to try to include them in at least the initial hellos.

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        A job shadow situation sounds like the most likely, but if that ends up being the case, I would take this as a data point about how this office is run. It doesn’t sound like the interview was set by the interviewer, so I’d be wondering what other kinds of important details the admin/receptionist/HR person (whoever the actual person that set the appointment is) fails to pass along in their communications.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Oh, I see. You mean they should have told the OP specifically about the “bring your kid to work day” aspect of it (if that’s what’s happening).

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yes, this. There’s a big difference between “a kid will be there, please ignore him” and “Johnny is job-shadowing your interviewer today, so we wanted to give you a heads-up, and he’s going to be taking notes and might ask you a question if that’s okay.”

        2. Myrin*

          I was just going to comment that! The OP has been informed about the child being present. She doesn’t elaborate on that which I guess she would have if she had been given a reason about the child’s presence but then again, maybe not; the letter is very short in general, so why not in that regard, too.

    3. Purest Green*

      Multiple times I’ve been in interviews where there are employed adults who are sitting with the interviewer that look like they are just being babysat.

      Hah! This is true. I don’t care if it’s an adult or child, it’s awkward to have someone else in the room who says absolutely nothing and is never referenced, acknowledged, etc.

    4. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Yeah, my first thought was that it was a job-shadowing thing. That seems more likely for a middle-school age child. Otherwise they’d just stick the kid in another room with his homework.

    5. NolongerMsCleo*

      That was my thought. That it could be a take your kid to work day or a job shadowing day.

  10. Audiophile*

    #2 I go through this a lot. I also do a fair amount of data entry at my job and the person I sit near regularly says “I’m glad it’s not my job,” or “better you than me.” I’ll just say “that’s not nice” or “wow” and that tends to get the person to switch topics.

    It’s not out of meanness or pity, as Alison said it is out of camaraderie. I try not to let it annoy me.

    1. cataloger*

      I agree. As a cataloging librarian who works with librarians with different kinds of jobs, I get a lot of this, and I think it’s just meant as good-natured ribbing. They’re nice people anyway, so I think if they really did think less of my job, they wouldn’t mention it!

  11. Employment Lawyer*

    1. My interviewer is bringing his kid to our interview
    If it’s a small law firm, this may just be “how it is.” My kids often come to my office, and while I would never have them at an interview (that’s strange) they might well have ended up in the office while I was interviewing.

    Part of the reason people have small firms is so that they can, well… have their kids in the office after school, or whatnot. Having them in the ROOM is strange, but having them in the OFFICE is perfectly normal.

    3. Should I greet company VIPs as they pass my desk in the morning?
    It depends how low you are on the totem pole. Looking up and acknowledging them is a sign of respect which might or might not be required: if you’re a secretary you should greet them all by name in the “good MORning, Mrs. President!!” sense; if you’re a manger you can just acknowledge the ones you happen to see.

    1. Pwyll*

      #1 – basically this. At my firm we don’t really have extra space, so if all the conference rooms are booked for clients, it wouldn’t be strange at all for us to have nowhere to put the kid. In that case, it certainly makes sense for him to sit in on the interview in his parent’s office. Otherwise he’d pretty much be sitting in a hallway.

  12. Wendy*

    I get seriously annoyed by the pearl-clutchers when it comes to kids in the office and the terror of Kids Signifying Unprofessional. It’s deeply sexist and comes from the fear of being classed with people who do women’s work, meaning worthless work.

    Yes, kids can be disruptive. So can construction outside your building, but you don’t work up into a lather about the unprofessionalism of working near construction. So can bad weather. So can illness. So can quite a lot of things, but you don’t get all het up about how degradingly unprofessional they all are. Kids, though, yes. What are you, a babysitter? <= childcare=demeaning work.

    It's nothing but sexism, even misogyny. So stop it.

    Children are not only a fact of life, they're the only hope your business has of staying alive. Somebody's gotta make them if you want jobs (and doctors) when you're 60. Our country also bites when it comes to acknowledging that there is not a smiling cookie-baking mom at home, and that parents have jobs. For that you can blame the fundamentalist-religious, but you can also refrain from making things worse by recognizing that you, too, share this society with parents and children. Who will one day be changing your bedpan and running your country and buying your company's services and paying into Social Security while you're spending the money.

    Yep. Knock it off.

    1. Anononon*

      Your entire argument is a straw man. The question has absolutely nothing to do with having kids at the office and everything to do with an interviewer potentially specifically bringing a kid into an interview.

    2. Adlib*

      There was nothing in the letter about this kind of thing. The LW just wanted to know how to handle the situation as it’s not common to have a kid in the interview.

    3. Joseph*

      I don’t think having a kid at the office during an interview is equivalent to construction though because there’s literally nothing an interviewer can do to stop construction at an adjacent property. Whereas there are plenty of ways to deal with a (middle-school!) kid that aren’t “Have him sit in the same office during an interview” (visit a friend, pay for him to see a movie, ask him to sit in the reception area/hallway and play on his phone, etc).

      1. Jayn*

        Not to mention that the construction will not directly interact with you–it’s just there. A child, depending on age and temperament may demand and/or require attention from the adults present. My father took me to work with him a lot and I wasn’t always good at sitting still and keeping myself entertained.

    4. Employment Lawyer*

      I take my kids into the office all the time (and I’m a man, FWIW) but I would never have them sit in on an interview. Largely that is because an interview is inherently personal and a bit invasive. I may ask someone about all sorts of things which I need to know as an employer, but I would never tell those things to random folks, or to my children.

    5. Mike C.*

      It’s not sexist to not want to, in general, deal with children. I and others have laid out many, many reasons why working with children in an environment where children are not expected can be an unpleasant to downright miserable. Many of these reasons actually stem from the bad behavior of the parent! So don’t dismiss others simply because they aren’t simply thrilled at the sight of seeing children in the workplace.

      And in the case of the letter, it’s really no big deal.

    6. Trout 'Waver*

      Seeing as how children take one biological female and one biological male to make (at least without advanced technology), it strikes me that children may be the least sexist topic conceivable (pun intended).

      Now, forcing one gender to take a larger role in child care is sexist. But not wanting kids around isn’t.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Except that childcare is seen as women’s work and a problem for women employees. See, e.g., far too many letters and comments around here where women (but almost never men) are asked about childbearing plans, or where employers talk about not wanting to hire women because they’ll just go on maternity leave.

        That said – I don’t think this letter has anything to do with these issues.

          1. Blue Anne*

            It’s a bit facetious to say “Oh, that part of it is sexist, but in general it’s not” on this issue, though, because the assumption that women are the main caregivers for children is really the majority of the issue. It’s kind of like saying “Pay inequality isn’t sexist, it involves all genders. The only part of it that might be sexist is if you pay women more than men.”

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              It is not sexist to view children in the workplace as unprofessional.

              There is no contradiction between the viewpoints that children don’t belong in the workplace and that the government/employers should pay a living wage and provide or subsidize quality child care outside of the workplace.

          2. neverjaunty*

            I did. That was the point of my comment; to say “this is only bad when we make it women’s problem” ignores that, in fact, it is seen as (and often is) disproportionately a problem for women.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              I’m really struggling to see how “Except that childcare is seen as women’s work and a problem for women employees” is a refutation of the statement that it is sexist to make women be the default childcare providers.

              Is the issue that I said “one gender” instead of “women”? If so, I was only doing so to avoid arguments about inherent bias (which I acknowledge exists), not because of some goofy “All lives matter” argument.

              1. Brogrammer*

                He’s saying “Not wanting kids around isn’t sexist because it takes both a man and a woman to produce a child” is missing the forest for the trees because securing childcare is an issue that disproportionately affects women.

                1. Trout 'Waver*

                  Liking kids around has absolutely nothing to do with sexism. Absolutely nothing. Calling people who don’t like having children around sexist is way off base and very much not productive. I love kids. I don’t want kids in my workplace.

                  It is a completely separate issue from the burdens of childcare disproportionately affecting women. I strongly believe that the answer to that issue is to A) provide all parents with access to high quality affordable childcare so that they don’t have to bring their children into work; and B) Provide adequate benefits and compensation so that parents can take care of their children’s emergencies and illnesses without it affecting their work.

                  Also, in case you missed it, I did in fact acknowledge that one gender (women, obviously) is disproportionately affected by child care in that very post.

                2. Brogrammer*

                  Kids in the workplace are a nuisance, no argument there. The argument comes into play because they’re not fundamentally different from other workplace nuisances, but they’re often treated differently.

                  The building next to mine is undergoing heavy construction right now. I would happily trade construction noise all day every day for a middle school aged kid reading quietly in the corner once in a while.

                  Your proposed solution is great, but it isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          I worked at a place where the owner would walk around the the female staff and say “Hey ladies, listen up! Don’t get pregnant ok?”

    7. Important Moi*

      I didn’t see your comment before I posted below. I agree with you. I just couldn’t articulate what rubbed me wrong about OP#1’s concern.

      I don’t believe the kid will be asking OP#1 questions at the interview.

      In fact, I think this questions merits a follow up. I would like to know how the interview goes.

    8. MashaKasha*

      Just because some of today’s children will be one day performing surgeries on me, running the country, and interviewing me for jobs, doesn’t mean I want them to do so while they’re in middle school. Even in an assistant role.

      Further, the letter explicitly states that the interviewer who’s bringing the kid to the interview is male. Please help me understand how not agreeing with his decision to have his kid in a job interview is misogyny.

    9. Mark in Cali*

      Omg, please let me never work with Wendy! I don’t think I could breath without being called a misogynist (while I’m clutching my pearls, of course).

      1. Tequila Mockingbird*

        It doesn’t sound like Wendy would last long in any office environment, anyhow. She’d probably drag her kids to work, let them run wild, and shriek “MISOGYNYYYY!” if anyone said anything about it.

        1. Wendy*

          As it happens, Wendy’s lasted for many years in her office environment, where others are grateful to her for helping to protect tolerance for children at work. Nearly every adult working there is at some point a parent with small children; nearly every parent must at some point do something the business world used to — and on this board, apparently, still does — get into a panic about. Leave early to pick up a child. Bring a child to work on a snow day. Bring in a child who’s been ill and is better but hasn’t yet had the requisite 24 hours without a fever.

          I cannot recall a single instance of anyone’s children running wild at my workplace, including mine. It could well be because the parents are polite and intelligent people, but we all know that kids are who they are regardless of the parents. It might just be that kids aren’t generally the hellions that someone without kids, and who’s maybe a little afraid of kids, imagines.

          We do quite often have kids in the building. We also have a lactation room. We still manage to get several million dollars’ worth of business done each year.

          Every now and then we do get an employee — almost always male — who objects strenuously to women’s having the nerve to have children in the first place and the burden this places on others. And yes, I am quite vocal in arguing against and making it clear that this is in no way welcome or appropriate. I am also vigilant in helping to see that women who do have children are not, in roundabout ways, punished for it at work — mommy-tracked or otherwise sidelined. It is, unfortunately, necessary in the face of bias against female parents in particular.

          I will say that not infrequently the comments are met with “don’t be so sweeping” or “you catch more flies with honey” or some such. I wish that honey really did to the trick. Unfortunately, when it comes to these issues, it’s a sad failure. It’s true honey doesn’t make people angry at you, but it also fails to get the job done. So. Yep. Next time you’re upset about the specific nuisance of a child’s presence, ask yourself:

          1. Is the child actually disruptive;
          2. Are you upset because you feel in some way demoted;
          3. Would you be this upset if the unusual thing visiting the office had four legs;
          4. Would you be the same kind of upset if the disturbance to your workday involved, say, someone installing IT for an adjacent department, or jackhammering in the parking lot outside.

          If the child is not actually disruptive, or you feel demoted, or you woudn’t mind a dog, or you’d be tolerant of something you imagined as “businessy”, then ask yourself some hard questions about how you regard children and those responsible for taking care of them. Also consider what kind of hypocrisies you’re bringing to bear: do you want future customers and service providers to arrive fully formed from space? To be grown in colonies far away from you? Who do you think should carry out this task?

          Finally, consider that the parent probably does not want to bring the child to work. Work is not a notably fun place and it’s not generally built for children, and more than likely there’s some pissy co-worker there who’ll hold a grudge and, if the parent’s a woman, decide that the woman’s incompetent at managing her life. That means there’s probably a pressing reason that the parent, your co-worker, is doing this. In America, it’s frequently to do with the fact that we have no coherent childcare system, largely because religious conservatives refuse to pay for one. That’s a social problem, and you are part of the society. So if you don’t want children coming to work, then make it your business to make creches and preschools and after-school care a voting issue for you — and vote.

          We have, as it happens, an election coming up in which one of the candidates does very much support adequate national childcare systems, and knows enough about how they work, and their politics, to help bring such things into being. If you don’t like kids coming to work with their parents, may I suggest you vote for her.

          1. Been There, Done That*

            Clearly this hits a nerve with you, and that’s your privilege.

            But if you’ve ever had a boss abruptly drop her baby in your lap to dash outside and move her car as the parking patrol bore down (I have), or worked in a husband-and-wife owned business in which the owners brought their little kids to work, turned them loose, and expected all the employees to do double-duty as babysitters (I have, in a shop full of Xacto knives and hot wax and all kinds of equipment that could cause injuries), you understand how this can be a legitimate workplace concern. If a potential boss had their child present while interviewing me, I would wonder if I could be expected to play nanny while mom or dad met with clients, took conference calls, etc.

    10. Paige*

      This is a bit … presumptuous, harsh, and also outright incorrect. We’ve had several letters here where the entire board has discussed examples where it is inappropriate and unprofessional to bring kids in the office, or not provide appropriate guidelines for the kids when they’re in the office, or effectively requiring someone else in the office to take care of the kids or hide the kids for you or whatnot — and not be sexist in making any of those points.

    11. Stellaaaaa*

      This isn’t the most obvious automatic route to take with this, IMO. Lots of people have limited patience for other people’s children. There’s roughly a 75% chance that the kid will misbehave or interrupt in at least some minor way; no one expects kids to be as well-behaved as their parents think they are. We’re talking about an adult’s livelihood here. Having a child in the room during my job interview would rattle me and I view it as an inappropriate move on the interviewers part. What if the kid interrupted me? What if I felt that the child was torpedoing my interview or that the interviewer’s attention was divided? These aren’t fun things to have to plan for on top of all the other stresses of interviewing. The kid’s in middle school and can likely be left alone for an hour (and if she/he can’t, then that kid doesn’t belong in the room). She/he doesn’t have to be in the actual room during the interview.

      1. Wendy*


        These are reasonable questions, but they also have reasonable answers. The child’s not an alien life form, so the way you handled such things would just be a visible part of how you handle other people and unusual situations at work.

        1. Why would a child’s presence rattle you? I’m assuming it’s not an evil horror-movie child. I would be a little concerned about an employee who was made nervous by a child’s presence — they exist, it’s a thing they might encounter.

        2. If the child interrupted you I’d expect the interviewer to apologize and handle the child. If the interviewer could not handle his or her own child, that’s valuable information for you. A parent who can’t discipline his or her kid is not likely an effective manager, and you have to ask yourself whether or not you want to work for such a person. As for the bump — um, recover. You’re going to be interrupted on the job. If you can’t get back up after that, it’s not good news.

        3. I can’t imagine how the child would “torpedo” your interview. By asking you hard questions about how you handled difficult things at your last job, or by bringing up your collection of speeding tickets?

        4. If the interviewer’s attention is genuinely and obviously divided, with the parent apologizing for all the disruption, then you need to show initiative. Say, “I’m sorry. I know it’s a huge job being a parent, but this interview really is important to me and I’m sure it’s important to you, too. So maybe this is not the right day for it, but I really would like the opportunity to show you why I’d like so much to work for you and your company. Would you be more comfortable if we rescheduled this for another day? I’d be happy to do that, and actually I’d welcome the chance to talk with you more.”

        In other words, be assertive without being rude, show the prospective boss you understand, get the prospective boss out of a corner, and come back on good terms at a time when the interviewer really can give you his or her full attention.

        It’s not just children, of course, who can disrupt an interview. If something’s cooking on your interview day, with people popping in and out of the office to talk urgently to your interviewer, you can do the same thing. It’s not every workplace that has the luxury of sequestering interviewers to focus fully on candidates.

        5. Child being in another room: Well, it depends. If co-workers are generally intolerant of having kids around, and have made it plain that They Are Not Babysitters, then the interviewer might be required to keep the kid in the room. It does cut both ways.

        1. Important Moi*

          Wendy, I agreed with you but kept my comments to minimum. I’m glad you responded. See you in the comments!

    12. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, kids can be disruptive. So can construction outside your building, but you don’t work up into a lather about the unprofessionalism of working near construction. So can bad weather. So can illness. So can quite a lot of things, but you don’t get all het up about how degradingly unprofessional they all are.

      Actually, I *would* find it unprofessional to do construction in the office (unless you’re a construction worker). Or to do something that creates bad weather in the office. I would absolutely get worked up into a lather about that.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Hah, good point. “We will be replacing our AC system during the month of July, so throughout this month our office will not have working air conditioning” would absolutely get me worked up into a lather. Which is why nobody does this!

    13. Elizabeth West*

      You make a good point about people thinking of childcare as demeaning work, but it doesn’t relate to this situation.

      If this is for the kid’s school project, like a shadow thing or something related to a unit on jobs, I probably wouldn’t mind (and it’s good that they let the OP know ahead of time). But just to have someone’s random child in my interview for no reason? That’s weird no matter which parent has them that day. And as I said above, a middle school-aged child shouldn’t need any supervision during that time unless she/he has some kind of medical condition. In which case I also wouldn’t mind, assuming Mom or Dad couldn’t have the caregiver that day for some reason.

      Kids in the office are fine. Happens a lot around here–I have to badge them when I’m on the front desk. I hear my male coworker’s child every once in a while and it doesn’t bother me at all. They’re not running up and down the cube aisles screaming or jumping, etc.

    14. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Wendy, please don’t make huge sweeping generalizations like that. I dislike children in the office because I dislike children not because I dislike my fellow women. I do in fact hold child caregivers and other similar essential & non-glamorous jobs in high esteem because they can be horrible jobs and I’m glad there’s people who want to do them. And I myself get seriously annoyed when other people insist that I must like children and must welcome them everywhere at all times. And insist that I’m a terrible person if I don’t.

      BTW, “pearl-clutchers” seems like an awfully gendered phrase to use when attempting to call out sexism/misogyny….

      1. Wendy*

        Disliking children has nothing to do with reacting to them in the office as though personally offended and demeaned. Most of us don’t like, as I said, loud construction going on in the building or outside it, but we don’t react as though it’s impugning our professionalism. With children in the building, people do. And there’s a reason for that. Construction, however disruptive, is business! Therefore important. And one must tolerate it. Children, on the other hand, belong to some other world — some invisible world of invisible women who are supposed to be keeping them occupied and away from the working people of the world.

        It’s no different, in the end, than the 1970s outrage of daddies asked to change a diaper.

        Fair call on the pearl-clutching.

    15. oranges & lemons*

      I’m completely with you on the importance of valuing and supporting childcare, but I really don’t think bringing kids to work is the solution for that. By definition, if a kid needs enough care that they’re brought into the office, they won’t be able to receive it while their parent is trying to work, and will likely be disruptive to their parent and anyone trying to work around them.

      1. Wendy*

        Well, that’s certainly not true of a middle-schooler. I wouldn’t even say it of a fourth-grader. A sixth-grader might be too young/immature to be left alone at home for hours on end, especially if the workplace is far from home, but will happily work/play on his or her own, without direct supervision, for most of an hour at a time. It sounds to me like you just don’t know much about the needs of kids at various ages.

        I wouldn’t bring a three-year-old in for any length of time, but that’s a different story.

        “Valuing and supporting childcare” while refusing to recognize that parents actually have not got, in this country, any kind of coherent or affordable childcare and might indeed need to bring children to work is not…well, it’s not valuing or supporting childcare, I’m afraid. I think it’s what they call lip service.

  13. KL*

    OP 2 – I have done a lot of data entry and work over the past few years. And I’ve also gotten the apologies and complaints about it being “boring.” While it may not be always be “exciting,” it’s an important job. I love that my boss trusts me enough to just hand me our data requests and doesn’t worry about having to go through everything after I’m done. Plus, the skills you gain from this (like attention to detail, the ability to focus) can be applied to projects down the road when you decide you’re ready for the next challenge.

  14. Anononon*

    Is #1 my old boss? (If that’s the case, run!) There was at least one time when he had his kids at the office, and he specifically had them sit in on the interview. Partly to “show off” to his kids and partly as a mind game for the interviewee.

    1. MashaKasha*

      I’m glad somebody mentioned it being the mind game. Especially if it’s a small firm and the interviewer is the owner, what kind of message does it send? “Just so we’re clear, if I hire you, one day you’ll be reporting to this little fella right here.”

      Kids in the office = OK. Kids sitting in on an interview = I’m scratching my head.

    2. Anna*

      Did your boss tell the interviewee the kids would be there? Because that would make a difference, I think.

  15. Bad Candidate*

    #2 My job is pretty much data entry. I think the frustrating thing isn’t the boring part, or feeling like it’s unimportant, it’s feeling like YOU are unimportant. I know not all companies are like this, but at mine we’re very much treated like we are highly replaceable. Pay is low, appreciation is non existent, and there’s little to no opportunity for growth. Hopefully that’s not the case at your place, but I think it maybe sometimes feels like that.

  16. Tomato Frog*

    #2 — Your coworkers are certainly tactless, but if I made comments like those to someone (I hope I wouldn’t, but I might), I would mean that I’m impressed with the person’s ability to do the work, not “you are a tragic figure.” I think your own insecurities are causing you to take the comments to a place they were not intended to go, at all.

    1. Karo*

      This. I’ve definitely said something to this effect to people before without thinking of the other side of it, and I’ve always meant it as a compliment – that they have more stamina or are more focused or more dedicated than I.

  17. Dang*

    “And if asked a question of the child; am I obligated to answer?”

    Are you actually worried the kid and parent are going to take turns with the question? I’d bet the kid will be on an iPad the whole time and seriously doubt he or she will be interested in listening or asking questions.

    1. Pwyll*

      The evil part of me wants to make this happen at some point.

      I do suppose I could see a situation where someone could actually be worried about their interactions with the child, especially if they have limited interactions with kids in general. An old friend was a single child, no cousins, and none of our friends at the time had children. She was VERY uncomfortable around children. When someone brought their 10 year old into the office, she basically spoke to her as if she were a toddler because she had no frame of reference for how to talk to anyone who wasn’t an adult. So, it’s not all that outrageous of a question I suppose. But I agree with you: kid will be on a device of some sort and not paying any attention at all.

      1. fposte*

        Now I have this whole fantasy where the firm is really masterminded by the kid and adults are just puppets to put a public face on it all.

        1. Alienor*

          What if the kid is the younger sibling of that intern whose dad told the company he was a super-genius and they should listen to his ideas for running things?

    2. Kaytee*

      Unless the dad thinks it’s cute to have the kid ask, “So, why do you want to work for my father?”

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      I get where OP#1 is coming from. If the kid was just going to sit on an iPad the whole time and not engage, why are they in the room in the first place?

  18. Pwyll*

    #2 – To be honest, I miss having data entry as a part of my job. There’s something a little zen about being able to dissociate for a while and just let my fingers do all the work (depending on the type of data, of course).

    It sounds to me like you’re becoming dissatisfied with the job itself, though. Is there any way for you to speak to your manager about opportunities for you to do work that more directly ties into the mission (or is more easily seen)? For example, it’s generally good practice for a non-profit to put out an annual report to its funders or members. Is the type of data you enter the kind of thing you could turn into a graphs or charts or other types of infographics in Excel that could be included in that type of report? Do you have any ability to start interpreting some of that data to give others some insights?

    Even if analysis isn’t in your wheelhouse, it wouldn’t hurt to see if there’s some other work that needs to be done that you could help with, if for no other reason than to give you a little more variety in your day. Non-Profits (hell, all organizations) usually have all sorts of things they put off because no one is available to do it.

  19. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#2, If you’re unhappy doing data entry and your coworkers make comments like that, use it to your advantage. Tell them that you’d like something more creative, but are happy to help out however you can. Then ask if they have any more creative tasks you can assist with. Or ask if they’ll support you if you apply for a new internal position.

    There are a great many people out there who are very happy working on projects like data entry. Some people enjoy the fact that each project is discrete, their work is easily quantifiable, and it has an obvious start and stop. Often the creative types project their own opinions by turning “I would never be happy doing that project” into “Nobody would ever be happy doing that project.”

  20. ZVA*

    I think the core of LW2’s question is I’ve already been feeling stuck in my current position and frustrated with the repetitiveness of my work. It seems to me that their coworker’s comments, instead of causing a new problem, exacerbated an existing one… and I’m just not sure they can simply wipe that problem from their mind! Insensitive comments are one thing; deep dissatisfaction with one’s work is another thing entirely. It’s possible that LW2 should seriously consider changing jobs… with the caveat, as Alison mentioned, that any job will have boring elements to it.

  21. Important Moi*

    To OP#1 – I’ve not had a chance to review the other comments, but I would respectfully suggest you keep your disdain for the “inappropriate and unprofessional” behavior of having the interviewer’s child present to yourself by being aware of you body language when being interviewed.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Yeah. I agree it’s not appropriate for a kid to be in an interview, but I’m also not totally sure what OP thinks is going to happen if the kid asks a question (which seems unlikely, he’d probably only say hi right?). Is she just going to pretend he didn’t say anything? It’s not like a middle schooler is going to be following up on questions about her experience, so just be polite to the kid. He doesn’t want to be there either.

      1. Alton*

        Yeah, it seems unlikely that the kid will be participating in the interview. If he did try to do so for some reason, there’s really not much to do but answer politely and let the interviewer/parent take the lead. But it’s really unlikely that the kid is going to be involved, and if he did start asking interview questions, his parent/the interviewer would probably be mortified

  22. Observer*

    #2 I’m going to agree with the others who say that data entry work is the lifeblood of the organization. That’s not just nice talk – I’ve seen organizations shut down because they couldn’t wrangle their data. Even when it’s not membership work, which is obvious, the organization would really not be able to function without the data entry.

    You might be able make an argument for a more varied job, though. Many organizations are moving away from dedicated data entry staff for many types of situations. It’s not always appropriate, but for many situations, building data entry into workflow is actually more efficient than doing it separately.

  23. overcaffeinatedqueer*

    #1- it’s a middle schooler, not a toddler, and if the interviewer is a lawyer, the other conference rooms may actually be booked, or the interviewer has to use their office, and the office may not be set up to allow the kid to be in the hall, or the person can’t kick their kid out of their office without disrupting others.

    The kid will be 11-14; mature enough to not make distracting noise, to shake hands, and so on. They’ll probably be absorbed with their phone/music/game/book, and may not even hear you.

    My mom was a foreign language teacher for high school, and ran a student exchange to that country. She would alternate taking me and my brother to the country with her, for the month.

    Of course, her foreign counterpart also had to teach, and it was just her and me- so, when I was young, she would either put me temporarily in preschool/kindergarten there, or, when I got older (6-11 or so), just keep me with her for her meetings with the US students, English classes for the foreign students, and time in the teachers’ lounge.

    Granted, I was a really smart bookworm, but it was easy to manage me AND teach- she was very firm in telling me, “don’t interrupt during classes, here are some books/coloring/a muted Gameboy/etc.” When I got to be 8 or 9, too, she would let me go for a walk or pick up food for lunch or snacks, while she taught.

    Point being, kids at work can be done, and gets easier the older the kid is.

  24. AnonEMoose*

    OP #3, your question reminds me of something that happened to me some years ago. At the time, I sat outside a couple of executive offices – and the cube directly across from mine, with an aisle between, was occupied by a woman who happened to have the same first name as I do (let’s say “Adrienne”).

    The offices were occupied by “Fergus,” who was (not exactly, but sort of) the equivalent of a vice president, and “Janine,” who was one step down from Fergus in the hierarchy. The other Adrienne’s job included some assistant-type functions for the execs. Mine wasn’t an assistant role; I did need decisions from Fergus on some things, but rarely needed to interact with Janine, although things were always pleasant when I did need to.

    So, Janine would come in, or come by, and say good morning to the other Adrienne or talk to her about work stuff. I’d smile or whatever if we happened to make eye contact, but otherwise would just keep on with my work. One day, Janine said to me, “You never look up when I say ‘Adrienne.'” And I said (without thinking), “That’s because you’re never talking to me.” I didn’t mean that I was upset by this or took it personally in any way – she was beyond busy and needed stuff from the other Adrienne all the time, and not so much from me, and she was never less than gracious on the occasions when we did need to work together. But every day after that (if she was in the office), Janine would stop at my cube just to say hi and chat for a minute. Which I thought was nice of her, but I always found it kind of amusing, too.

    I think you could take a bit of a lead from the executives themselves. Look up and smile and say good morning (or whatever is appropriate) if you see them coming by, and see how they respond.

    1. OfficeOverthinker*

      Hi – I’m the person who wrote in for this question. This is helpful! I think things like this are interesting – I wrote in because I actually asked the others in my row what they thought and they all were stumped as well! I think the eye contact thing is a good rule as well.

  25. Bibliovore*

    Middle schooler in the interview. Yep. pretty weird. Most likely the kid would be off to the side playing games on a device or reading.
    On the other hand. There is a part of me that thinks wouldn’t it be cool not to ignore the kid. Have extra resumes on-hand. Hand one to the kid. Shake their hand. Introduce yourself.
    Answer questions and address all participants in the room.

  26. Observer*

    #1 I suggest that you keep in mind that a middle school aged child is also person to whom you owe basic courtesy. And, although you didn’t ask this question, I would also suggest that you keep this in mind when talking to people like the receptionist.

    If you find yourself grappling with the notion that people “beneath you” deserve to be treated courteously, I suggest you keep in mind that how you treat these people can have significant repercussions to your career. No one ever lost a job or opportunity by being polite to the receptionist, waiter, checkout clerk or middle schooler in the room. But, being rude has had unexpected repercussions.

    1. Mark in Cali*

      Question: let’s say you were in an interview at a restaurant or something and the person who was going to hire you was very rude to the waiter. Let’s say this made you decide, even though the offer was very good, that you weren’t going to work for this person. Do you politely decline the offer (if/when made available), or do you say very matter of fact, “Thank you for the offer, but I was off-put by how you treated the wait staff at the interview and because of that I don’t think we’d be a good fit in the long run.”

      I feel like most smart people understand how something like that is very telling, but then again someone who treats a waiter or service role with disrespect probably isn’t that smart.

      Just curious. I’m sure there’s an AAM article about this situation.

      1. Observer*

        I think a lot depends the dynamics of the situation. Are you likely to burn a bridge? Can you afford to burn that bridge? Those are the two most important questions. Or, to put it another way: What do you expect to accomplish, and at what cost?

        1. Mark in Cali*

          Well, I guess the question is a bridge more important than letting rude people know that they are appreciated. I know we aren’t in jobs to teach each other life lessons, but we are all people in the end.

          1. Observer*

            Sure. And the question is not simply answered. As I said, not everyone can always afford to burn a bridge.

    2. Wendy*

      Spot on.

      The middle-schooler will, in fifteen years, either be someone’s boss or close to being someone’s boss. And the odds that the middle-schooler will remember being there during the interview aren’t bad at all.

      Long ago, when I was a middle-schooler traveling in the Netherlands with my parents, my mother took me on a tour that included a stop at a gem-cutter’s. I had an eye for stones — worked in jewelry for a while, later on — and I had questions for the man who was explaining the process for us. He answered my questions at length, bringing out other samples to show me what he was talking about. I was a 13-year-old girl, mind, and the only child on the tour. Much later it occurred to me that it was a little strange for him to hold up the tour and talk to me so seriously, and I asked my mother about it. “He saw a customer,” she said. And she was right.

      1. Observer*


        It’s not just 15 years later that you need to worry about, though. Plenty of support staff and retail job types are not so far from becoming your colleague or even boss. (Keep in mind how many people work through college.) Lots of receptionists (and other support staff) have the ear of higher ups in their company. You don’t always know who is watching when you act out. And, sometimes you may be making a mistake about the identity of the person you are talking to. (I particularly like the story someone posted about someone being very condescending to the boss because he assumed that she was the receptionist while he was going to talk to the “big boys”.)

        And, of course, regardless of whether the kid should be there or not, the parent WILL notice if you are gratuitously rude (which refusing to answer the kid’s question, in the unlikely event that he would ask one, would be). And, when he has, and shares, his bad opinion of you it won’t be that “OP responded less than perfectly to my unprofessional decision.” It will be “What an . Way to full of himself.”

      2. Been There, Done That*

        The child might be a boss someday, but at middle-school age he isn’t the boss of anything.

  27. Alton*

    #2: It sounds like data entry might not be a good fit for you long-term, which is all the more reason to see if there are ways you can branch out a little if your schedule allows it.

    But I also think it can be common to feel a little discouraged and left out when your job duties are very different than your coworkers’. I deal with that–I’m an admin, and most of my coworkers are doing research and other “cool” stuff. Even though I woukdn’t really want their jobs, I do feel out of the loop sometimes. One thing to keep in mind is that not only is stuff like data entry important, but sometimes it can be rewarding in its own right. Not for everyone, but for people who like more repetitive tasks or who prefer to be behind the scenes, it’s great that a variety of roles are needed. For some people, being able to work in a field they like by staying in the office and doing data entry is a plus, not a minus! I’m not saying you have to like data entry if you truly would be happier doing the type of stuff your coworkers do, but don’t let people make you feel like your job is inherently undesirable because it’s not as glamorous or “fun.”

  28. Pari*

    #1 if you find it that unprofessional and inappropriate it may not be the environment for you. Don’t go if it bothers you that much.

    1. Moonsaults*

      That was my response as well. Since I’m used to working with people who bring their kids for a variety of reasons and know that if a kid is dropped in like that, they will probably be at the office way more than you’d like over the course of working there.

  29. PK*

    1. I’m on the ‘It’s unprofessional and inappropriate’ bandwagon right with you but I’m pretty “anti-kid in the office” in general. In all fairness, my personal experience has been that 85% of the time, they are a loud and obnoxious distraction. That being said, unexpected stuff happens. I do think the kid should be in a different room like the breakroom or the interview rescheduled. If that’s not an option, I think you’ll just have to grin and bear it. I would find it a bit off putting if the kid is anything more than a silent observer though and I would view it negatively for the company as a whole if the kid acted up. It’s just not a good first impression.

    1. Christine*

      I’m with you. I do not have children and have no patience with them in the office. I find them a distraction because as an administrator I have had to defend my territory with the professors. I’m not a free baby sitter when you bring your child to campus. It would have put me off the job interview totally. The interview needed to be rescheduled when the child wasn’t there. I would have found it distracting.

      I hope it’s not a sick child sitting in on the interview. That would suck. I was also taking classes during my lunch hour and I had one faculty member that would bring his sick daughter on campus a few times per semester and have her sit in the class room versus his office. He had a strict absent policy also.

      1. PK*

        Exactly. I’ve seen too many examples of people foisting their kids off on others or ignoring their kid’s disruptions. It can be infuriating. I get that stuff happens and not every kid is as bad as the last but as a general rule, kids don’t belong in the office.

    2. Alienor*

      A middle schooler is barely a kid, though. As a 12- or 13-year-old, my daughter thought it was mortifying if *I* said or did something that might draw attention to her in public. There was no way she was going to make noise and run around in my office – on the rare occasions when she had to go there with me for some reason, it was all I could do to get her to say hello to people who spoke to her.

  30. Frustrated Optimist*

    #2 — I agree heartily with all who said that data entry is valuable work and and can be fulfilling for the right person.

    That being said, if you’re ready to move on, I know it’s demoralizing to hear co-workers denigrate the work you *are* doing competently until you can find something different. I used to be in a job that shared some elements with data entry, but also involved a lot of aggravating customer contact. A co-worker (who I thought was a close friend) on occasion would cover for me when I was out. She knew I was job-searching and having a rough time of it. Nonetheless, after covering for me for one day, she told me, “Your job sucks!!” *Sigh.* Yes. Yes, I know. And you know I’m trying to get out. Thanks for the “support.”

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I would have assumed she was supporting your opinion that your job was aggravating, and your decision to find another one.

      1. Frustrated Optimist*

        That was probably the overall message of what she wanted to convey. Yet, I still took pride in the job I was doing, and similar to LW #2 here, there was just something vaguely humiliating in hearing that other people find your work lowly. If she’d said something like, “Wow, this is really tough — I give you credit for keeping it together in this job until you find something else,” it would have been much better received.

  31. Moonsaults*

    #2, I know how you feel because my job often gets a lot of “how do you handle doing this all the time?!” kind of comments. Mostly due to the fact I’m doing paperwork, phone calls or anything else that drops into my lap.

    Keep in mind that I hear this from every level around me, from my boss to the entry level production workers. So it’s just someone observing that they personally don’t want your job for any number of reasons. I don’t take it personally because I don’t want their jobs either, I just keep it to myself.

  32. CMT*

    I think most of the responses two #2 are kind of missing the point. OP2 doesn’t seem to need reassurance that her job is important (which is honestly coming off as a little patronizing in some of these comments). She doesn’t want to do the job anymore and is feeling stuck, which makes the comments from the coworkers sting that much more, even if they are well-intended. I don’t know that I have a lot of advice for OP2, other than to start looking for something new, but I know that feeling well and it sucks. I can sympathize.

  33. Angel Ser*

    I commented on the ‘boring’ job remarks on another post. The post about thankfulness. I too, work in a nonprofit and I’m the only one in my dept. who is not a therapist or social worker. My job is heavily administrative, but it also involves contact with families receiving services. This particular employee has taken it upon herself to mentor me, motivate me, guide me, and thank me for “everything you do for us.” Um, it’s my job. If anything I do it with them not for them. I’m the only one in the department she gives a term of endearment to. If I stay a little late, she’ll give me a worrisome look and exclaim, “You’re still here!” She has asked me if I plan on finishing school, assuming I don’t have an education. She even goes as far as suggesting I should be their supervisor. I can’t, since I don’t have the credentials, but thanks for the pep talk. No one else in the office acts that way. I don’t mind people thinking my job my be boring, but this woman is just plain patronizing.

Comments are closed.