updates: how can I get my staff to sign up to work after-hours events, my mom wants to write to the newspaper about my “tragic story of shattered dreams,” and more

Continuing our annual December “where are they now” series, here are five more updates from people who had their questions answered here this year.

1. How can I get my staff to sign up to work after-hours events?

Initially I came away from your blog with the takeaway that I needed to set clearer expectations for staff, reevaluate some of our commitments to outside events, and plan more contingencies for unexpected changes in staffing so that I was not the only backup for these events. We tend to have more outside events during the summer, so most of the changes that I would need to make would likely occur later in the year.

Solid plan, right? Well… sort of…

Shortly after my letter was featured, I became completely swamped with several large projects that were all due around the same time. At some point in the midst of several weeks of chaos, I started to realize that while setting clear expectations, etc. would certainly help, the problem that I’d written in about was also symptomatic of a larger problem with my workload, responsibilities, and general staffing at my organization.

Long story short: I effectively have 80 hours of responsibilities that I am struggling to fit into a 40 hour work week. At a comparable organization, my job would be two jobs in my department would be split into two functions. I was getting so overwhelmed and exhausted by outside events because they typically require time and scheduling flexibility that I just don’t have. The best way that I can describe it is like finishing a marathon and finding out that you have to run a 5K.

So a few weeks ago I met with my boss about this. I drafted a comprehensive report and analysis of my job/workload with data driven arguments for why this must change. The good news is that he is in full agreement with my assessment and is committed to retaining me. The catch is that making some of my proposed changes – namely hiring another person – requires resources that are not presently available. We are a taxpayer funded organization, so there are bureaucratic hurdles that have to be dealt with, as well as pretty firm revenue restrictions (raising taxes: not so popular). The wheels are in motion, but it’s going to take some time. In the interim, I’m trying to work out some stopgap measures to keep things a little more manageable.

I feel like there’s probably a chorus of people who are reading this and saying “get a different job! Go somewhere else!” I do want to clarify that despite all of this, I do genuinely enjoy my job and the place that I work. It’s stressful and lately it’s been more exhausting than normal, but it’s equally fun, challenging, and fulfilling. If the workload issues are addressed, it’s essentially my dream job. While I can’t stick it out forever in the current arrangement, I do want to at least see if these changes can be made before making the decision to leave.

So that’s my update. Thanks again for your insightful feedback – even though things have gone in a somewhat unexpected direction, it’s still given me a lot to think about.

2. My mother wants to write to the newspaper about my “tragic story of shattered dreams” and nothing I say can stop her

Remember my boss, the one who apologised the day I was informed of my layoff? It turned out that he wasn’t involved in the process at all. The manager (the only one allowed to fire and layoff people) thought I was a no-show and decided not to renew my contract while my boss was working from the client offices, without consulting him first. So, when he was told the news he went nuts. The manager returned to our office several weeks later, and my boss confronted him in a loud and angry discussion, and then ragequit! Soon after he left, he was offered a position in a small consulting company created by a local University teacher, and then referred me to the owner, who hired me a on the spot!

However, not everyone was happy. My father criticised my decision, claiming that “it’s too small to be a serious company” (?). On the other side, my mother claims that my ex-boss helping me get a job means he’s in love with me. To me, that doesn’t make sense. I didn’t even try to explain her that pooping where you eat it’s a really bad idea, and I decided to shrug every time she asks me if “there is a hot single guy” there.

And regarding the letter, I’m pretty much sure it wasn’t published. I Googled my mother’s maiden and married name and myself three times a week and nothing of the sort showed up, so I think I can focus in my new job now.

3. Company is implementing weird new pay scheme (#4 at the link)

The strange pay scheme went into effect in March, and was a disaster to morale. It is an operations environment, and so for some people, if you aren’t scheduled to work operations, it was a pay cut, as the scheduled workweek was only 36 hours, and there was no way to make up the hours to 44. For everyone working normal business hours it never was sold well, as in the meetings leading up to how to record our time, we were constantly reminded that legal and HR were on the teleconference, and they all said what was happening was legal. It was bizarre.

There is also poor upper management – one individual moved out to Arizona (we’re based on the east coast) without telling anyone, our customer was unhappy with the poor morale and performance, and one manager in particular liked telling us that we should be grateful to even have jobs. I suppose the joke was on him, since I left that job in August and am earning more with better hours and better leadership. That particular place just issued 60 day layoff notices to many of my former colleagues, and the customer is hiring on the majority of that staff. I think this is partly due to poor management.

4. What do I say when an employee assumes they can do something that they shouldn’t?

I was having problems with an employee who would frequently wander off from his desk for long stretches of time. I wouldn’t stop him because I didn’t feel comfortable speaking up. I got a lot of useful feedback from your readers, and realised there were a few larger problems:

• The employee wasn’t working well with the team and was causing conflict, which I hadn’t properly addressed
• I wasn’t comfortable creating and communicating boundaries
• I needed to check my own ego and make sure I was setting boundaries for the right reasons

I ended up having a series of meetings with the employee to talk about how he wasn’t working well with the team, which was leading to other issues. The first few discussions didn’t really help but eventually we had a constructive conversation about how he wasn’t meeting expectations, and what needed to change.

What worked for me was keeping everything objective, assuming he had good intentions and explaining what is required from the role. This helped ensure that the expectations and boundaries I had were business requirements and not my own ego.

Sidenote: I’ve since learned that written communication is an area of growth for me, which was highlighted by some of the confused responses to my question. So thanks for helping on that front too :)

5. Getting people to save their work on shared drives (#5 at the link)

About a week after my question was answered, one of my team members quit without notice by sending me an email with her resignation which cited personal obligations and dropping off her laptop at the front desk. She made no effort to send me anything she had been working on and left a couple of projects unfinished. There may have been work saved on her hard drive, but at that point it was not worth the effort to request from IT that they recover it. For some background, she had only been in the position four months and had already displayed some poor work ethic, low productivity, and an excessive desire to work from home, although she was quite pleasant and agreeable in general.

When I shared the news of her resignation with my other team members, it gave me a good opportunity to highlight the need to save work on a shared drive because I know they would never want to leave me in the lurch on purpose. One team member has definitely improved on this aspect, and the other is much older and set in his ways so I still have to remind him and plan to bring this up as a general pattern to resolve if it keeps happening.

Thanks for the advice!

{ 97 comments… read them below }

  1. Jeanne*

    #2, I know this is easier said than done but I think your best option may be to stop sharing things with your mother and father. It’s really hard. I’ve been there to a lesser extent. It probably takes therapy. But they seem a little crazily involved with your work life.

    Good update that you have a new job though. You must be a good worker for your boss to feel that loyalty.

    1. Joseph*

      Not only are they too involved, their advice is flat out *terrible*. I know the original post said she lives with them so she probably needs to pretend to listen, but I’d certainly put them firmly in the “hm, that’s an interesting idea, I’ll, uh, think about it” camp.
      My father criticised my decision, claiming that “it’s too small to be a serious company” (?)
      What the heck does “too small to be serious” even mean? Pro tip: Almost every company, no matter how big, started with some guy running it from his basement or a couple people renting a broom closet-sized office or something of that sort.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The reactions of OP#2’s parents reminded me of our previous LW in Scotland, whose mother is on her bank account (!) and deducting obscene amounts of rent money (!!) as a means of control. It sounds like OP#2’s parents might be in the same general category of parents. :(

          1. Katie-Pie*

            Hmm, not sure it’s going to let me post the link. After the AAM domain, add: 2016/12/updates-boss-wants-to-talk-about-her-feelings-all-the-time-mother-is-a-destructive-force-in-my-professional-life-and-more.html

            It’s #2

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Sometimes I’m glad I’m from a generation whose parents didn’t give a crap about our careers. LOL!
          Sure they didn’t help us, but as long as you had a job, it was enough for them.
          I’ll admit, I find it hard to fathom “helicopter parents” like these. It’s just so different from what I and most of my friends experienced, where your parents pretty much washed their hands of you at 18 and sent you off into the world.

      2. toomanybooks*

        Eh, to me I read “too small to be serious” as totally a dad thing to say. But I’ve also (in the past) been in the situation of living with Very Involved Parents who sometimes had bad career advice that I knew was bad. I agree that it’s good to tell these parents as little as possible, but I also know that when you’re living with helicopter parents that might not be much of an option.

        This mom definitely has an overactive imagination, though. Maybe she should be a novelist.

      3. LJL*

        My dad also wondered about my current company since he’d not heard of it. My response of “it’s big enough to write my paycheck” seemed to satisfy him.

    2. Marzipan*

      Yes. This. #2, to be honest, in your place I would no longer be telling my parents anything about work, including where I was working or in what role.

    3. Artemesia*

      Not only stop sharing things with your parents but start thinking about where in the country you might like to live that is at least 500 and preferably 2000 miles from your home town. Seriously, when you have parents that constantly meddle and nag and undercut your sense of self worth as an adult (who seems to be making sensible decisions from here) then putting some physical distance in may improve your life a lot. And there is no urgency. Perhaps vacation somewhere that looks promising and see what you think. If you have old college mates who have settled elsewhere, perhaps renew the acquaintance and explore opportunities there. And when something great comes along put your hat in the ring.

      1. eplawyer*

        This. x1000. You are working now. I don’t know your financial situation but start saving now to get out on your own. Open a bank ccount — without your parents’ names on it. Save up until you have enough to move. Then do it.

        Your parents are weirdly stuck in the past with unrealistic views of what it takes to be employed in 2017. They want you to be teachers because to them that is a steady job. You teach, you meet a nice fellow teacher, you get married, you have babies and you take 2 weeks vacation every year from the house with the white picket fence and the dog. That was their dream. They do not realize it might not be what you want. YOu can’t make them see it. All you can do it get out and live your own life.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        This is a bad approach. It’s running away from the problem. The correct approach is to establish adult appropriate boundaries and enforce them in an adult manner. This exercise will also help the OP for other life issues.
        I would suggest that OP adjust their tactic to go “low contact”. It is a method for people that have boundary stompers in their lives. There’s lots of good info out there.
        Eventually OP will want to move out and establish her own life. But the best reaction to boundary stomping is no reaction at all. Just go live the life you want.

        1. Artemesia*

          IMHO the ‘correct approach’ with a mother who wants to send a pitiful personal story about her daughter’s attempt to find work to the frigging newspaper is to move as far away as possible. Such a parent is monstrous and will never be anything but an intrusive pain to the OP. This isn’t normal busybodiness that everyone needs to overcome by establishing boundaries. This is a beaten down OP who has no idea what a healthy relationship looks like and has no real chance of establishing firm boundaries in this environment.

          1. Lance*

            Yeah… the problem here is, ‘establishing adult boundaries’ is quite difficult with people like these who don’t seem like they can be reasoned with very effectively. And not only that, said people are her parents; large forces in her life who she currently lives with. So I agree, get away when you can, LW.

            1. Letter Writer*

              Yes, based on the original letter it appears that LW has tried the “set a clear boundary” approach. If you firmly say, “Mom, please do not do X” and mom says “I”m going to do X anyway,” which is what was described, how exactly do you set that boundary more firmly? How do you enforce a boundary when the situation is you saying “Please do not X” and they say, “No, I think it’s best if I do X, so I’m doing it”? Sometimes the only solution is distance.

              And I mean, sometimes running away from a problem is appropriate. If my house is on goddamn fire, I’m going to run away from that problem, you betcha, so I don’t end up on fire too.

              Sometimes all you can do is put some distance between you and the problem.

              1. NOT letter writer*

                Crap, this is not the LW in question, this is someone else with “Letter Writer” saved in the Name field by the browser. Oops. Sorry!

        2. Jadelyn*

          I feel like this is a both/and situation, rather than an either/or situation. Go low-contact, establish and enforce boundaries, AND get the hell outta dodge.

        3. Anna*

          The correct approach is actually whatever makes the OP able to deal with overbearing parents. Sometimes the boundaries a person is setting have to be physical and that’s all right.

        4. EE*

          It’s also a bad approach since it would end up with OP in a man-made island avoiding the ire of Icelandic fishermen.

        5. Zombii*

          There’s nothing wrong with running away from a problem if the problem is adults who refuse to respect adult boundaries. Sometimes running away is how adults keep themselves safe (mentally, emotionally, physically, etc).

          I don’t think half the country away is the only way to go, but at a minimum she should probably get out of her parents’ house, yes?

        6. Elizabeth Bennet*

          You have to go back and read the original letter. These parents are terrible, interfering helicopter parents to the point of near-abuse. She has to at least move out of their home, and stop taking financial help from them. Ideally she moves at least 500 miles away. Once physically separated, she will be able to gain the strength to see that she doesn’t have to do what they say, she doesn’t have to keep sharing her life with them, and that will diminish their power to do things like write about her to the newspaper, let alone to abuse and disrespect her.

          I had deeply overbearing, bullying, interfering parents, and it took moving across the country for my first real job before it even seemed possible to stand up to them (I was forced onto a career path I hated by my insistent, domineering father, and unfortunately was good at it–only 3000 miles away did it occur to me that I actually didn’t have to do this). Even after I got married, moved back to my home state, but was still 500 miles away, it still took a really long time, encouragement from my husband, and actually from HIS parents, who were wonderful, empowering, lovely people, and years of therapy, before I could actually step up and switch to the career I’d always wanted (and which I have been very successful at), before I could stop feeling like I had to share everything with them. Sometimes it’s really necessary.

          They have both passed on now, and it’s astonishing and ridiculous how much I miss them, and how sad I feel that this was how they felt they needed to be. I can see now that it was out of fear, and ultimately out of love that they behaved that way, and I forgive them, but I also know I truly, truly needed to put some serious distance between myself and them in order to live my own life.

          1. Mockingjay*

            I had small town, overly religious parents who couldn’t fathom that I wanted to explore the world. Fortunately, I married someone who loves travel and new experiences. We moved to another state, then to Europe. My mother didn’t speak to me for a year. It was wonderful.

            I’m on better terms with my parents now, but I don’t share anything detailed with them. 1), they aren’t interested because it’s not about them; or 2), it’s not something they would ever choose to do so it freaks them out.

            It saddens me somewhat that they have little interest in my children. They don’t have any interest in my niece either. But that’s on them.

    4. Marillenbaum*

      Seconding the recommendation to keep mom and dad out of the loop. I have a good relationship with my parents, but they have Very Definite Ideas about things that don’t jive with either existing norms or my own standards, and sometimes it becomes an issue when I do something (professionally or otherwise) that they don’t agree with. Ultimately, I’ve had to realize that I’m 26 and a grown-ass woman, so these choices are mine and don’t require their approval–and if that means I don’t walk them through every decision-making process, that’s just a natural part of being a grownup.

    5. Jill*

      Yes, my parents are good, well-meaning people, but I discovered at some point in my life that for me to retain my sanity they need to have very little actual information about me. How am I doing? Great! How’s my business? Great! How’s my love life? Great! Everything is great and wonderful 100% of the time.

      It kinda sucks when you can’t show any weakness but goddamn does the unsolicited advice dry up quick!

      1. Artemesia*

        The right thing to do but sad. One of the benefits of being a parent who doesn’t try to micromanage their adults kids’ lives is that they 1. do ask and listen when they need advise we might offer and 2. are rather open about their own lives — both happy and challenging parts. It must be sad to have this huge wall between oneself and one’s own adult kids. (not that I have any illusions that they share everything)

        1. Jadelyn*

          +1000. My mother always made a point of supporting my decisions even when they didn’t match what she thought I should do and even though she tends to slip into being a bit of a helicopter parent sometimes, she’s willing to understand and graciously step back when I have to break out the “Mom, I’m 31. I’m not asking permission, I’m telling you what I’m doing about this situation.” My father, on the other hand, tended to micromanage, lecture, and shame me anytime I did anything other than exactly what he thought I should be doing with my life – and half the time even when I *did* do exactly what he said, if it didn’t turn out 100% like he’d envisioned.

          I live with my mom (she’s disabled and I’m not quite financially self-sufficient, so it works out for both of us) and we have a very good relationship.

          My father and I haven’t spoken in over 3 years. My brother hasn’t spoken with our father in more than 5 years.

          That’s what controlling parenting gets you: no kids.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Haha, I’ve had the “I’m not asking permission” conversation a few times. It’s weird how easy it is to slip into the “kid vs adult” mode. I once casually mentioned that I wanted to hire a snow plow for my driveway for the winter, and mom immediately panicked and started listing dozens of reasons why I should not do it and how a plow will destroy my driveway. I spent at least ten minutes arguing with her and trying to prove that a plow will do me no harm until it suddenly dawned on me that the conversation we were having was not normal, and I was like “Wait, wait. Why are we talking about this? I wasn’t asking permission, I was telling you about my winter plans.” She seemed surprised and hurt. I own my house and she does not live with me, so it was extremely strange.

            She also used to endlessly complain about my son’s girlfriend’s looks and comment on how he could’ve done better. Until one day I finally flew off the handle and told her off, and thankfully we never had that discussion again. (Just goes to show you, it never ends. She and I could be 100 and 70 yo and we’d still be having these talks, about my great-grandkids, or my choice of a retirement home for myself, or what have you.)

      2. MashaKasha*

        Yeah that’s pretty much what I do with my mom. The few times I’ve shared something personal, it came back to bite me months later (who said old people’s memories are bad? my mom’s is like a steel trap when it comes to those things!) I agree, it is kind of sad that I cannot have a normal human conversation with her. But it is what it is.

    6. Pennalynn Lott*

      “Thank you, Mom/Dad, for caring enough to share. I promise to weight your input carefully.”

      Scrub. Rinse. Repeat.

    7. Sas*

      At least the Lw is able to see this negative involvement. Some people do not. Some people allow their parents that are controlling in many aspects of their lives. Some people allow for the parent to start treating their partners with no respect. At least you see this, and the other commenters that see that it is wrong also.

  2. Elizabeth West*

    If you can, stop talking about your job / career / work stuff with your parents. It’s none of their business. I can’t remember if you live with them or not, but if so, it’s time to save up and get out.

    #3–Wow, that sounds like total crap. I’m glad you got out of there.

  3. Student*

    #2 I’m sorry your mother doesn’t value you for who and what you are. My mother sees me as nothing more than a potential baby-making machine too, and was contemptuous of my career choice to do something meaningful to me in a male-dominated field. My father is no better.

    The best thing you can do for yourself with parents like ours is move out. Even if that means you have less money, take on some debt, or have to take up with an unpleasant room mate, it’ll be better for your long-term mental well-being. Your parents think dragging you down and keeping you “in the nest” is somehow doing you a favor – it’s not, but they will drag you down, with the best of intentions, for as long as you let them. Eventually, they will wear you down and burn you out by whispering that you ought to just settle for what they think is best whenever things don’t work out. With an unpleasant room mate, it’s not as personal, they don’t know where all your buttons and weak spots are, and they aren’t deeply invested in holding you back – so even if they’re utterly miserable, they can be more bearable and easier to deal with than parents like this.

    1. KJ*

      Yeah and a good roommate can even help- I have had roommates who helped me figure stuff out and it was great. I agree that moving out could be life-changing. I know it is hard to do and scary due to the lack of safety net, but the payoff can be really worth it. Do you have any other relatives who could help you by offering advice/support? Your boss seems willing to be a career mentor for you, now you need an “adulting” mentor (or some really good books on finance).

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Seconding the power of an excellent roommate. One of my first roommates after college was a girl I’d been friendly with in undergrad who tipped me off to a cheap living situation; she turned out to be the greatest person I ever lived with. We had great talks about dating and mental health, kept each other on track to meet our goals, and she introduced me to the joys of drinking bourbon out of a mason jar on the kitchen floor. She seriously changed my life for the better during a rough time.

        1. teclatrans*

          Oh, gosh, this conversation is reminding me of my first roommate. She didn’t save me or anything, but I learned so much from her. She was older (early 30s to my early 20s) and she had done so many different things (musician, artist, teacher with a master’s degree, yoga instructor, and more), whereas I was paralyzed and not following any interests or passions because I thought I had to Decide On My Life Path. She was also the best dinner companion I ever had (we’d go out to our favorite restaurant and both pull out reading material, yay), and in general I leveled up in adulting through that experience.

          Come to think of it, I met a number of wonderful women throughout my single-with-housemates life. Cohabiting wasn’t perfect, there were many issues to work out, but those all helped me grow and I had caring people around me at a time when I was feeling adrift from family and childhood friendships.

          So, um, yeah, vote of confidence for living with housemates, especially when young and newly fledged from the nest.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, congratulations! I’m so glad that things worked out, and I hope you’re enjoying your new role. I have to echo others and say that it may make sense to censor some of what you share with your parents. Based on your original letter and their current reaction, I don’t think they’ll ever be happy with what you do unless it’s teaching typing in high school (which is seriously one of the less rational ideas I’ve ever heard). I wish that they could be happy for your success instead of constantly trying to tear you down. Please know that you sound like you’re kicking butt and taking names, and I’m excited to hear about your future adventures.

    OP#3, wow. I am so glad you were able to transition out—your previous employer sounds truly awful and exploitative.

    OP#4, it sounds like you’ve done fantastic work trying to integrate the advice you received, and it also sounds like that’s coming with deep introspection. Both things sound great, and I’m glad that things feel like they’re improving—congrats!

  5. Artemesia*

    #1 When there is always too much to do and you have already figured out how to work efficiently and delegate what can be delegated and there is still too much then the next step is to drop some lesser priorities. I would stop putting in long long work weeks and seriously identify things that can be let go. Get brutal about it. Drop some things; put some things in a stack for ‘when we hire a new person’. Let the boss know that these things cannot get done. He may get suddenly creative about getting appropriate support if they are important for him.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      +1. I’d go to the boss with a list of things you can get done in a reasonable workweek, and negotiations from there should be about what tasks should be included on the list — but NOT the overall amount of work.

      It sounds like this boss is at least somewhat reasonable, so hopefully that will help to take some of the load off OP.

    2. TootsNYC*

      yeah, you really do have to take things off that list. Just off. Leave them undone–“there isn’t time.”

      They’ll find the money then, if it’s important enough.

      And if people don’t want to pay for it, then they shouldn’t get it. There’s no “having your cake and eating it too.”

      Heck, it should be interpreted as meaning “they don’t WANT it.” So don’t do it.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. This. This. Of course they will want the OP to do everything for free; if she leaves, and these things are important they will magically have the resources to hire enough help to get it all done, or they will drop some of the necessary tasks.

        I could describe many incidents of cases where people were overburdened at work and must get the jobs of 2 or 3 people done and where additional money for raises was impossible — and when they left, voila, the money appeared for the next persons, or a more reasonable schedule was created for the next person. They don’t have to pay if people will work for free.

      2. TootsNYC*


        But I was also thinking about the taxpayers. Taxpayers don’t get to have services and programs they aren’t willing to pay for.

        And taxpayers use money to set their priorities.

  6. Jessesgirl72*

    OP1: I hope you are still implementing some of the even staffing changes while you wait for your position to be split.

    OP2: Stop sharing anything about your work with your parents. I expect there is other boundary setting you all would benefit from, as well.

  7. Sabine the Very Mean*

    I am a person who cannot live with roommates. Partners, sure. Best sibling, okay. But in this case, I advocate for finding a room to rent for cheap or finding a few roommates to share a place with. This OP needs out like yesterday.

  8. valereee*

    OP#1, have you and your boss discussed prioritizing? If you have 80 hours of work to fit into a 40 hour week, you need some input on which tasks are less important.

  9. animaniactoo*

    OP2 – If it helps, you are not alone. My dad is a great parent in most respects. He’s fantastic with toddlers. Great to talk to as an adult. And he outright SUCKS at the range of about 17 to early 20. The only way – and I truly mean the only way based on observable pattern – to get him to acknowledge you as an adult and stop trying to parent you is to move out and be (relatively) self-supporting for at least 2 years. After that, he starts to settle down. Doesn’t matter if you have a job and are contributing to household as a full participant, financial, upkeep, etc. That doesn’t trip the switch. Only being out of the house does.

    Now, this may not be true of your parents, they may never settle down and you may indeed need to try to limit what you tell them (although I think basic facts of job and company size, etc. are going to be somewhat unavoidable if you’re going to maintain a relationship with them). But… just in case, because so many people are predicting eternal disaster, tossing out here that all may not be lost and once you’re truly on your own, your parents may chill out. Which is not to say that they’ll never worry again, simply that they may approach that worry in a more reasonable one-adult-to-the-other fashion. Maybe.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      My inlaws are like that, to an extent. My husband’s younger siblings have moved out and 2 are now married as well, but there is still a certain amount of financial and other support heading their way. With that comes equivalent levels of unsolicited advice and not being treated as an adult.

      My husband was entirely self-supporting once he left college, and would respectfully decline offers of airfare or hotels being paid for, because he is aware of strings involved with those kinds of offers. So he is treated wholly as an adult and they don’t try to meddle anymore. It just took some firm and consistent boundary setting, as well as earning their respect by no longer being a mooch. (My FIL will talk about how nice it is that we’ll pick up a dinner check, instead of the rest of his children always expecting him to pay)

      Setting and enforcing boundaries works with even moderately abusive parents. Really, it’s the ONLY thing that works, other than cutting them off entirely- and that is a form of boundary setting, too.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      There really is something different about moving away from home. While I went to college out of state, something about still being home on vacations didn’t trip the adulthood switch for my mom (who tried to ground me for being out late when I was 19–bless). After I graduated, moved out of the country, and then got a job 2,000 miles away, I was An Adult (even though she does still buy me clothes sometimes because “they’re so expensive, and you don’t make much”). It’s a much more solid foundation of mutual respect–she tells me how often I need to clean my oven, or how to badger my landlord for repairs, and I send her AAM articles so she can ace her performance review.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I’m guessing the OP’s parents are more like mine. You’re NEVER an adult. My sister is 30, moved out 4 years ago, got married this fall, has a professional job, owns her own car, and they still picked up her check when we all went out to dinner recently and try to make her life decisions. I have been married for almost 2 decades, have a son in college, and one in middle school, and that MAY be the threshold because I haven’t been parented by them in a while and they didn’t pick up our check. (Honestly, though, this is a very recent development. The little league baseball debacle of 2012 wasn’t long ago. . .a case where my dad tried to undermine my parenting authority.)

      Limited information and standing by your decisions, no matter what type of berating, second-guessing, or judging they do is the only way to manage the relationship.

    4. TootsNYC*

      Speaking as a parent who is going through this transitional time, it’s a really hard thing to do–to change how one parents.

      And I anticipate that it will get way easier once my kid truly moves out.

      Because in a way, if you’re in my house, eating my food, using my shower, etc., that makes it hard to view you as a full grownup. It’s much easier once that distance has been established.

      But I hope I wouldn’t give such horrendous advice, even if I was too involved!

      1. animaniactoo*

        Fwiw, I’ve been working through it for awhile now. I’ve found the most useful approach for me is to approach it as what is acceptable from a roommate, with slightly more power balance on my side because I own the place.

        So here is where I am willing to stretch and help you out as a parent (including charging below-market rent, but still rent and not a pittance for it because you need to deal with the way life works if I’m not available and I do you no favors by not allowing you to experience the need to pay rent) and push you a bit now and then. Over here however, is the space in which I am not willing to put up with this from a roommate and so your lack of showers that assaults the nose is not acceptable not because I am your parent, but because that is offensive to inflict on people around you and can’t treat people you live with like that and therefore you can shower or you can move out. Your choice. In this same space is the space where you get to as a rent paying roommate complain to me about my leaving clothes in the bathroom when I’ve showered and push me to stop doing that.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          My parents didn’t even charge me below-market rent. But it included meals and utilities and my mom still did my laundry- not because I expected her to, but because she has a Thing about other people using and possibly messing up her washing machine, and about only washing full loads. (She did get the washing machine to last 30 years, so who can say she’s wrong!) When we would argue about the state of my room, I started paying her minimum wage to clean it for me- and wished I could have done that as a teenager! LOL I still did the weekly chores I’d done as a kid, since I was still living there and that’s part of being an adult. They were really good about treating me like an adult, since I WAS paying substantial rent and working. So I came and went as I pleased- but I’d call to let them know if I was going to be later than usual or not come home at all, as I always consider common courtesy/safety for roommates.

          I think it helped that my grandmother was SO overbearing even after my mom was married with two kids, and she didn’t want to repeat that.

          1. MashaKasha*

            My kids and I try (but not always succeed) to let each other know when we’re coming home late or not at all. But I’m more relaxed about that now, after a fellow parent of an adult child introduced me to this bit of wisdom – “never worry that something bad has happened when your kid is out late and doesn’t call. If something bad does happen, rest assured that someone will call you. No calls is a good thing.”

          2. MsCHX*

            “…a Thing about other people using and possibly messing up her washing machine, and about only washing full loads.”
            made me break out into a full grin. LOL!

        2. TootsNYC*

          I’ve also been focusing on the “roommate” aspect of it.

          But there’s also this: Like Jessegirl72’s parents, I’m not charging rent, because she’s not in a position to pay it.

          So that changes the dynamic a little–or, maybe it adds one.
          The only reason she’s allowed to live here is because she’s family. She when she doesn’t come out and act like family (say hello; eat dinner at the same time as us), it’s a little galling to put up with it. Because it is a bit of a hardship to have her (and her stuff–omg, the stuff eating up the storage space) here.

          I haven’t figured out what to do about it, or how to handle it.

          Maybe I should make her put her stuff in storage–that’s less money per month, but it would lighten the impact on us.

          We don’t even make her do chores–mostly because I would then just add in the dynamic of us counting on her to do chores that she doesn’t do, and then I’m back to nagging her, which resurrects the parent/child dynamic.

          I do think both sides have a responsibility to do the things that erase the dynamic. And “living at home” is NOT “doing your part to erase the dynamic.” So also “not doing anything with your time or day” is also not “doing your part to change the dynamic.”

          1. animaniactoo*

            The primary reason for the below-market rent is because it would be most of his paycheck to take market rent. However, on the flip side of that is when he asked me to lower his rent further because he’d lost hours, I said no. He still had enough to pay rent, sock a little away, pay for his transportation, etc. And what I needed him to understand is that in the real world, when your salary goes down, your rent doesn’t go down unless you move somewhere even cheaper.

            All conversations that are about the need for him to find a better job, be more dedicated about jobhunting, keep up with chores etc. are predicated around the idea that if we do not hold him to this, then we are enabling him and this is not okay. So, yes, my darling child. I will kick you out even if it means you have to sleep on the street. Because I cannot work harder to keep you fed and sheltered than you are willing to work yourself. If I am, I am contributing to the problem and I won’t do that.

            We’ve had conversations about if I kick you out, it doesn’t mean you’re not family. You’re still welcome to come over and hang out sometimes and have dinner with us and stuff. But you can’t live here because you’re not holding up your end, and it’s not helping you if we let that continue. So we won’t do that.

            He’s still not where he needs to be, but he’s a lot further along that path than he would be if we weren’t basing our conversations on those touchpoints. And really… I would only make him sleep on the street for a couple of nights (if he couldn’t find a place to crash) before I indicated a willingness to try again if he would. But yeah, I’d make him do it if it came to that. He appears to be pretty clear on it.

            1. MsCHX*

              I think I love you!

              Sounds like how my parents were with us and how I plan to be with mine (who are 17 and 18).

      2. MashaKasha*

        My (almost) 24yo moved in with me this summer. He pays me back for the portion of the food (his idea, that I did not object to) and does a ton of house projects. He’s very good with his hands. Bakes bread from scratch, too. Plus, he’s company. His brother lives with me too, but between work, school, social life etc he’s never home. Honest confession, I don’t want either of them to move out. Weirdly, I cannot abide the very idea of having a roommate; had a total of ten of them during the five years of college and two years after that, and hated every minute of it. I guess I do better with a roommate that I have myself raised to my precise specifications.

  10. Jenbug*

    OP#1 – even if the changes aren’t coming immediately, you are lucky that your boss agrees with your assessment! in the meantime, I would ask about possibly delegating some tasks to coworkers or getting your boss’s help with prioritizing your tasks.

  11. Observer*

    #1, I’m so glad that you have gotten some clarity. That’s always a good first step. If you’ve been implementing the other suggestions and have a good chance of bringing on the extra staffing, it seems like you’re on target to a decent resolution. But, as others have said, in the meantime, see what you can do about prioritizing and dropping some tasks. Also, document your head off as to how long each task takes. (That will also make it easier to make the case that you need additional staffing.)

  12. A. D. Kay*

    OP2, I echo the other commenters about limiting the info you provide your parents. And one handy phrase is, “Thanks, I’ll think about it.” Captain Awkward has some great scripts for getting smothering parents off your back. And honestly, from what you have told us, even if you did become a typing teacher, your parents still wouldn’t be satisfied. They would just find something else to criticize you about.

  13. SusanIvanova*

    “one manager in particular liked telling us that we should be grateful to even have jobs.”

    Does that ever do anything except make people start looking harder? When my software company merged with another one and people started leaving – in the middle of a tech boom, so recruiters were circling like sharks – that was the answer we got when we asked what would be done about attrition. The result: attrition accelerated.

    1. Turtle Candle*

      Right? It’s literally saying “the only thing positive about this job is that it IS a job.” We require weekly swims in the alligator pit? Well, what are you complaining about–at least you’re employed!

      It doesn’t take a genius to see that if the only positive thing about a job is “at least you’re employed” that they might very well be able to do quite a lot better elsewhere.

      1. Lance*

        Pretty much. And saying ‘you should be grateful to have jobs’ is very easily countered by ‘you should be grateful we’re still working for you instead of leaving en masse’.

    2. Zombii*

      “You should be grateful to even have this job” is a relic from the recession. I can understand it would be hard to break this habit, since the recession was going on pretty much the whole time I’ve been working, but eventually companies may realize they don’t have all the leverage anymore and stop saying stupid shit like this. (Probably not the shitty ones, but I can dream, right?)

      1. Grr*

        Which recession, though? It’s been trotted out for at least 30 years. Most likely longer. It’s less a relic than objective evidence that you work for an ass and need to find something better.

        1. Roz*

          ^^ This!

          I have heard that line for all of my years being alive – whether it was trotted out by employers, friends, family, whatever it seems to be the go to – and it doesn’t need to be.

    3. jamlady*

      My last manager said that to me when I brought up the fact that my co-workers and I were tired of working 80 hour weeks as exempt employees that were barely above the threshold. I got a job offer an hour later. That was a fun phone call back to her.

  14. Rose*

    OP#2 One idea if the story is ever published and you’re worried about people finding it:
    -“clean” up your online identity. There are a lot of online guides for this, but basically be active and post some of your own content (how about a women in tech blog!) and her result will be pushed down
    -publish an IHTM on xojane about how your mom posted this about you. That’s kindof the nuclear option, but it would let you tell your own story in your terms and have it be out there.

  15. emma2*

    #2: I thought I had helicopter parents, but this OP’s parents sound downright insane (especially the mom!) Seriously – someone who decides to hire you is in love with you???

    1. MashaKasha*

      Yes, this is so out of touch with how things usually are in the workplace. And then, in the same breath with this insanity, they proceed to give OP2 work-related advice! nope.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      OP, only you know to what degree you see this stuff, but if you are listening to a bunch of this stuff you are getting a distorted view of how the world works and how life goes.

      My parents had strange ideas, although not as bad as what you are showing here, and it took me into my 30s to shake off most of it. It probably would have been processed faster if there was internet in those days. Keep reading reliable sources such as AAM, CA and Carolyn Hax so you can stay grounded and informed.

      I am still clenching my jaw over the statement that you were hired because the boss is in love with you. No, you were hired for you skills/abilities and understanding, all the right reasons to hire someone. Hang on to that thought, OP.

  16. Schmooples and the Binkie-Boo*

    #4 I take regular breaks from my desk because I have anxiety and PTSD and sometimes I need time out. However, my line manager is officially aware of this as an accommodation for a mental health issue and I’m otherwise very productive and work well.

    I just wanted to mention this as it’s worth asking the employee why he’s wandering off just in case the reason is something you need to know about.

  17. Pam*

    #2 I find your parents’ view in your recent hire to be, um, interesting. If I were you I would be so proud. Your boss was so angry about your firing, he quit. And then, when he got a new job, he thought of employing you! That means you made a VERY good impression on him as an employee. As for they company being too small…I don’t know if that’s possible? I’ve gone back and forth between different sized companies, I’ve never thought this was an issue. Your patents may not be…but I’m proud of you!

    1. MashaKasha*

      ^^^ This * 1000. He’s not “in love with you”, OP, good grief – but he values you A LOT as a worker. That is a very good sign for your future career.

      1. sstabeler*

        I’ve occasionally heard “your boss must love you” in the sense of “your boss must love having such a good worker”- and the boss quitting when you are fired is a good indication that you were a valuable subordinate ( I’m wording things very carefully so as not to imply romantic feelings being involved)

        while I agree it’s likely the mother actually is talking about romantic feelings, thinking of it that way might help be less irritated at her mother.

  18. Liane*

    I skimmed through the original post comments for #1, and something really stood out for me. A LOT of commenters called out the OP for using the word “volunteer,” and/or for not making clear that the events were Mandatory Job Requirements not Optional.
    Even after OP stated in the letter that this was common in her field.
    Even after OP posted *multiple times* that it was made clear, starting with job postings, that these were required duties.
    Even after OP posted *multiple times* that she didn’t use “volunteer” anywhere in her letter.
    Even after Alison posted that she was the first person, not the OP, to use “volunteer.”

    Tl;dr: people piled on the OP for a mistake she never made because they didn’t seem to have read the whole letter or previous comments before posting their assumptions.
    As a group, we usually do better than that.

  19. a different Vicki*

    I am not a lawyer, but if I kept being told “we talked to our lawyers, and this is legal” about something iffy I would consult a source other than the person who wanted to do the thing in question. Not all lawyers are both honest and competent (not because there’s something wrong with lawyers, but because they’re human), and neither are all their clients. A dishonest person can say “I consulted my lawyer, and they said this is legal” without ever talking to a lawyer, or even though the lawyer told them it would be illegal.

    If you tell me once “I talked to my lawyer, and she said I can do this,” I might still check elsewhere, just out of caution. It’s the repetition that would make me suspicious, especially if nothing specific and relevant was being said, just repeated “this is legal” rather than “we checked with X agency and looked into the FLSA, and that doesn’t apply here because Reasons” or “the Magna Carta has nothing to do with this, and also, we’re not in California.”

    (I realize this isn’t directly relevant to the OP, since she has moved on to a better job and her former employer is laying off lots of people, but it seems worth noting.

    1. Zombii*

      This. ExJob was fond of doing things that were definitely not legal according to wage laws—scheduling an extra 15-minute break into a shift if the employee worked a couple hours overtime, but the break was unpaid—and they were under the impression there was nothing wrong with this because they never asked the lawyers.

      (Also note that corporate lawyers may have a different interpretation of the law than any reasonable person would have (and especially note that some “corporate lawyers” might turn out to be someone in HR who “took a few law classes, so that’s pretty much the same thing right?” Ask me how I know).)

    2. DragoCucina*

      #3 I concur with ADV. I’ve found from experience that a lawyer can only solid give advice based on the information given.

      We had an weather incident. Historically the staff would have been paid. The policy was vague. The Board Chair directed payroll not to pay. Next board meeting the rest of the board said, “This is not right. We need to make our people whole.” Board Chair contacts the city attorney who is given some facts. Attorney says what Chair did is legal and cannot be changed.

      In a later conversation with Attorney it turns out he wasn’t given all info. With all info he would have given different advice.

    3. I fought the Law and the Law won*

      I agree 100% with this. Never ever believe a lawyer who you are not paying. If you are not their client, assume that everything that comes out of their mouth is bullshit.

  20. Old Admin*

    #2, would you consider relocating or even going overseas for work?
    I presently work for an IT company in Europe, and the job market, especially in Germany, is desperate even for entry level developers and tech people, including women and people who only speak English.
    Maybe that’s worth a shot. Good way to put distance between yourself and family. :-)

  21. Woman of a Certain Age*

    #2 You don’t say how old your parents are. My parents became terribly nosy after they retired and they’ve gotten progessively worse as they age and their health declines and more and more of their friends pass away. Their world is getting smaller and they seem to be trying to live their lives through me.

    My father is especially difficult because there are so few people his own age left. Neither is particularly open to making new friends. My sisters each call them a couple of times a week, but sometimes I’m the only actual person who speaks to them in a given day.

  22. Roz*

    #3 – Good on you for not taking that “you should be happy you have jobs” line.

    I had a similar experience at my old job, where I was doing 2 jobs, had very confusing expectations, people who were not qualified were promoted and those who exceeded all expectations were given a pat on the back and an insulting 1% increase and told to be happy about it. We were entering a major reorganization (that was needed – but I had no confidence the CEO would pull it off smoothly) and he often liked to say “well it’s a hard market, and you should be happy you have a job”.

    I had enough last year and decided to go looking for something better, even though I loved my boss and the work was what I wanted (I thought). I don’t know if it was because when he said “at least you have a job” I took it as a challenge, but I went and found a better job, that fit my skills perfectly, closer to home, and with comparable benefits/pension and a 40% salary increase! 40%! I almost wanted to rub it in his smug face that regardless of market, if you have skills you can get a better job. Also my current manager actually manages people and workload well so no one is overwhelmed to the point of ineffectiveness. Imagine!

    So whenever I hear those famous words “at least you have a job” I think – I’ll show you!

    I’ve been at my new job for a year and it is amazing how a good fit and a good manager really change your outlook on life.


  23. PersephoneUnderground*

    Re: #2 with the parents without boundaries. Anyone who recognizes their situation in that letter, or who has parents who remind them of those (and the LW as well of course) should read “If you had Controlling Parents” by Dan Neuharth, PhD. It’s really an easy read, and is a go-to for professional psychologists on this issue. My husband read it and felt *so relieved* to see that it was really, really his parents with the problem and not him, and that he wasn’t alone in dealing with this kind of problem. Can’t recommend it strongly enough.

  24. Minocho*

    You know, I heard almost the exact same story as in #3 from my brother a couple years ago…and it sounded fishy then.

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