contacting my daughter’s employer about her affair, former coworkers keep asking if I have a new job yet, and more

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

1. Contacting my daughter’s employer about her affair

First, the behavior coming from my daughter is not her. It’s as though someone has taken her away.

My daughter started a new job end of November. She has always had a strong working ethic and went to college for human resources. We just recently found out she had been partying with girls from work and they have been encouraged her in having an affair. Well, her husband found out she is having an affair and all of us have been losing sleep and are emotionally stressed. He (husband) did talk to her and they had a plan to work it out.

The following day she had lunch with these girls and since has changed her mind and is staying with this guy and his roommate. Last night I found out the guy she is having the affair with is also on a dating site.

My daughter has been with her husband for seven years and he is devastated and wants to work on the marriage. I would like to contact the company and let them know what’s going on and also ask if they have a fraternization policy. What are your recommendations?

Oh my goodness, no. Do not under any circumstances contact her employer. This is not a work matter; this is between your daughter and her husband. Contacting her employer would be incredibly out of line.

I’m sure this is painful for you to watch, but you can’t interfere with your adult daughter’s employment in that way (or her personal life, for that matter).

2. Former coworkers keep texting me to find out if I have a new job yet

I quit my last job two months ago following a period of serious health problems that made working full-time in a stressful position very difficult. This gave me time to have a series of tests (brain scan, various heart tests, etc.) and change medications without my employer continuing to interrogate me about requested time off. I have never disclosed my condition to any employers as it did not affect my ability to do the job and I know that despite discrimination law it would hinder my prospects.

Since then, my health has greatly improved and I am now ready to look for work. My current issue is that several former coworkers (who all quit a few weeks after I left) now message repeatedly solely to ask if I have a new job. I am fortunate that I had enough savings that I could take two months off without worrying. I have not yet applied for any positions. Perhaps I am being overly sensitive, but I don’t want to get into a discussion about my reasons for not applying sooner.

I have now ignored the messages for several weeks. One person almost baited me by adding a “I take it you haven’t then?”

A friend suggested that they might be trying to make conversation, although it seems too intrusive and urgent. One person messages every five days despite the fact I no longer even open them, so there’s no read report. Earlier I planned on responding once I had a job, though now I feel like they don’t actually deserve to know what I’m doing. Am I being too sensitive about this?

No, they’re being weird. But it’s possible that they’re being so aggressive about it because they’re out of work themselves and hoping that if you have a new job, that might be a job lead for them as well. Or who knows.

It’s perfectly fine to continue ignoring the messages if you want, but if these are people who you otherwise liked and/or want to maintain a connection with, you could just respond, “I’m taking my time, but I’ll let you know once I land somewhere.” You don’t need to disclose anything more than you want to disclose — the world is fully of useful vague expressions that you can employ, like “Oh, just dealing with some other stuff first” or “I’m being picky this time around.”

3. Can I bring treats for my staff and not for everyone else in my department?

I work in a department where I oversee all the student assistants. The department has gone through a lot of changes in the past few months, but the most noticeable change has been a change in culture. We used to be a more lively office and we would always have team bonding events (like coffee breaks, walks around campus, lunch get togethers, etc.) and the students were always included. In fact, all of us staff would pitch in to bring things every so often for the students to show our appreciation for their hard work.

Recently, however, we had a change in management and new staff, and other than me, all the staff who orchestrated the team bonding events have left (they didn’t leave because they were fired or anything; all of them had been job searching for a while now). As a result, all the student and team bonding events have ended. The office is quiet all the time, and other than for work purposes no one really talks to each other.

For a while, I tried to liven up the place and maintain that old office culture. I would try to suggest group get-togethers or student events we could all pitch in for. However, none of the remaining and new staff and management seemed interested in participating. I tried doing this on my own and would use my own money to bring treats for the office, especially for birthdays or after completing an important project or deadline, but it was difficult for me to do this. And since I am not as high up as others in my department, I found it slightly unfair that I was buying things for the office when all the other staff who work here earn double and even triple my salary.

I stopped doing all of this but I feel bad for the students. The students do a lot of work for the office and as their supervisor, I want to show them my gratitude. I want to at least continue having events or bring in treats for the students only, but I worry if I do this I will be alienating the other staff. Our office space is fairly small so if I were to do something, everyone would know. Would it look bad if I do this?

In most cultures, it would be fine to do things just for the student workers, especially as their manager, so if you want to do that, you should go for it.

But I worry that you’re putting too much emphasis on that. There are loads of ways to show appreciation for people, and treats and events are usually the least compelling. You have lots of other tools at your disposal, like positive feedback, public recognition, coaching them on skills they want to develop, mentoring them, and offering to serve as a reference once they leave you (which is really valuable for student workers). That stuff matters much more than candy or bagels or so forth.

4. Wearing green to an interview on St. Patrick’s Day

I have a job interview on St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m wondering if it would be appropriate to wear a green blouse?

The position I’m interviewing for is a PR manager position at a mid-size corporate headquarters. Although I intended to wear a suit regardless, I did investigate their social media and website for pictures of employees to see how they dress every day. It appears they are somewhere between business and casual. Most of their employees weren’t in suits (minus the highest up execs), but they definitely dress up more than we do at my business casual office now.

I’ve always been told PR people should dress in very classic colors for interviews, but there is also a marketing/creative component to this job as well. I was thinking a nice black skirt suit with a green blouse (tucked — it’s the kind you can tuck and it’ll still have a nice flowy look) would show professionalism, but would also give me a pop of color to show off a less formal side for the creative aspect. Plus, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I imagine others at their office will be wearing green. I doubt they would pinch me as I walked in the door or anything (haha), but it seems like it would show a spirit of participation if I wore something to acknowledge the holiday, and they do seem to be big on creating a sense of belonging within their team. (They do a lot of “team” type activities, like “fun Fridays” where they go to an arcade or something with the whole office, health initiatives with employee incentives, etc.)

This blouse is nice. I would wear it in another color to a job interview without hesitation. Also, green is a very flattering color on me. I don’t want to look too informal for choosing a non-traditional color, but does the fact that the interview is on St. Patrick’s Day give just cause for wearing a green blouse?

It’s not likely to matter either way.

In fact, there’s nothing wrong with wearing a green blouse to an interview on any other day either (the days of needing to dress only in neutral colors are gone, unless you work in an unusually conservative industry). I wouldn’t do this to make any particular kind of impression though; people are unlikely to notice or read much into it. If you want to wear green, wear green! You’ll be fine either way.

5. Employer asked me to attend a conference before I’ve accepted their offer

I recently interviewed for a director level position with a small organization. About a week following the interview, I was contacted by the hiring manager and told that I was the person selected to fill the role and I should be contacted by HR with an official offer soon. I thanked the hiring manager for letting me know and said that I looked forward to connecting with HR about the offer. A few days later, the hiring manager called me again to say that HR was still about a week away from sending an official offer, but he wanted to know if I would be interested in attending a conference next month on behalf of the organization.

I didn’t expect a potential employer to take the step of inviting me to attend a conference without my having accepted an offer, negotiated salary, and agreed on a start date. That being the case, I responded by saying, “Assuming everything works out with the hiring process, I would be excited to attend the conference and would appreciate the opportunity.”

I feel that until I’ve had a chance to evaluate an official offer I can’t make an informed decision about whether I want resign my current job and accept this new position. My current job is similar in roles and responsibilities and I’m not unhappy with my current organization, so salary will likely be a key factor in my decision. I’m concerned that agreeing to attend the conference signals to the hiring manager that I’m committed to accepting the position. At the same time, I didn’t want to sour a relationship with a potential new employer by coming off as detached or lacking in enthusiasm should I decide to accept their offer. Was my response appropriate?

Yep, it was fine. Your “assuming everything works out with the hiring process” caveat makes it clear that you’re not committing to attend or committing to accept the offer until you’ve discussed the terms they’re offering.

{ 530 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’m sticking this up here at the top so people will see it before commenting: Please do not pile on letter-writer #1 (or anyone, of course, but some of it is already happening with the first letter).

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      Yeah. It might help people to remember that the letter writer is unlikely to take your advice if you call her names or criticise her – so what will you have achieved? Being right on the internet? If the LW feels you don’t understand and are judging her, why would she take in your advice?

  2. Tex*

    Op #5 – It might seem premature to invite you to a (traveling?) conference but I think it was designed to give you a heads up instead of springing it on you with only a week’s notice on your start date. If your boss’ motivation truly was thoughtfulness, then it looks like you chose a healthy place to work with good communication.

    1. Jeanne*

      That’s a good way to look at it. They could be near a registration deadline, too. I’d rather hear ahead than to take the job and find out they registered in my name without asking.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      Totally agree here. Also, conferences are a great way to on-board a manager or higher-up. If your boss attends also, you get a lot of one-on-one time with your boss. You also get an overview of the state of the field, and you get to make connections with others in the industry from day one. I think it’s a good sign for the job.

    3. KR*

      This is what I was thinking. My new job is sending me on two separate business trips for training in my first couple weeks and they let me know as soon as I was a finalist to make sure I was okay with it.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, this sounds like an exceptionally difficult and painful experience for you and your son-in-law. In particular, it sounds like you’re struggling to reconcile what you know about your daughter with her actions, which seem totally incongruent.

    But if you stare way off into the horizon and see a speck, that speck is the line you’ll have crossed if you reach out to her employer. I know that it feels like the women at work that your daughter parties with are driving her behavior. They may be providing her with the cover she wants, but fundamentally, she’s the primary actor making these choices. These women may be egging her on, or maybe they’re not and she’s using them as a convenient cover to try out experiences that she knows you and her husband would see as taboo.

    That doesn’t make it ok, but I think it’s really important to shift focus away from the other women at work. They are not the problem, and trying to find a fraternization policy so that you can use it to force your daughter to stop hanging out or partying with them is not a solution. This isn’t like high school where she’s being peer pressured—she’s an adult, and you have to trust her to make her own choices. I know that’s even more difficult when you feel like she’s acting so out of line with your expectations of her. But her infidelity is her choice and her responsibility to address—not her employer’s, not yours, and not her coworkers’.

    1. Mb13*

      I would like to tag team and heavily emphasis “expectations” of how she acts vs. who she actually like. I am getting a strong strong impression that her coworkers probably supported her in doing what would make her happy and not her mom “expects” of her

      1. Sarianna*

        Yeah, my first reaction to “the behavior coming from my daughter is not her. It’s as though someone has taken her away” is that, well, if that’s how she’s acting, then that’s her. If she is behaving in a certain way, then that’s her behavior.

      2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        And OP almost certainly doesn’t know what’s going on in the daughter’s marriage. You never know what the inside of a marriage looks like, unless it’s your own. Maybe the sex is horrible. Maybe the husband is emotionally absent – or emotionally abusive. Maybe he’s a perfect husband and he’s getting kicked to the curb. Who knows? Not you, mom.

    2. nutella fitzgerald*

      Oh, I didn’t realize OP #1 wanted to ask about the fraternization policy because the daughter hangs out with coworkers. I read the letter twice to see where I missed the mention of the affair paramour also working at the same company!

      1. nutella fitzgerald*

        All of this is to say the idea of contacting the daughter’s employer seems even more sad and inappropriate now. The mention of the daughter going to school for HR and my assumption that the affair was with a coworker made me think that OP wanted to see professional repercussions (assuming, again, that the daughter actually works in HR. Chekhov’s degree!) but now I realize it’s just a desperate parent :/

        1. Christine*

          Usually when a fraternization policy is in place, either the newest hire or lowest ranking individual is terminated. Sometimes both. If you call the daughter’s employer you could cost her job.

          OP #1, is your daughter acting different in other ways, etc. I’m concerned that their might be a mental illness factor playing a role in this, of there are other behavioral changes. Sometimes are children act bad even as adults. All you can do is be there for her while she goes through this, and when it falls down around her ankles.

          1. Elemeno P.*

            Diagnosing a mental illness is a pretty big leap, I think. There was a point early in my career that I partied heavily with my coworkers and acted out due to unhappiness in my life, but I did not have a mental illness. It sounds like the daughter is unhappy in her marriage and not handling it in an appropriate way, and also like she’s pretty young. I hope that she finds a better place.

            1. Midge*

              I agree that we shouldn’t be trying to diagnose the daughter. However, when someone starts acting drastically out of character, it’s pretty standard advice that they should be checked out by a doctor. It’s possible that something medical is responsible for this sudden behavior change. It’s also possible that there is nothing medically wrong with the daughter, but it’s worth checking out.

                1. LBK*

                  Yep. Parents especially. And when you have a kid who’s trying to break away from a parent who’s been setting expectations they don’t want to fulfill their whole life, the last thing that parent should do is double down on it and try to force them into some kind of medical examination. Talk about proving their point.

                2. MoinMoin*

                  If she just finished school and she’s been married 7 years, it sort of sounds like she’s having an extreme version of “let off the leash” syndrome that most people go through in college. This might be her first real job where she’s making her own money and can make her own friends and first impressions without her husband or family around.
                  Just a possible insight, no advice. I’m sorry OP #1, this seems very stressful all around.

                3. Natalie*

                  @ MoinMoin, I’m not sure she did actually just finish school. She has a new job, but of course that happens throughout someone’s career, and the LW mentions her major for reasons I’m not clear on but doesn’t say when she graduated.

                4. MsChanandlerBong*

                  Exactly. My mom knows almost nothing about me, as she bases all of her assumptions on what I was like when I was 13 or 14 years old. I was telling her about a history documentary I was watching, and she said, “But you hate history!” I LOVE history, but because I found it boring when I was 13, she assumes I still find it boring.

              1. Christine*

                Sometimes people act out of character due to depression. I’m of the belief if a marriage or relationship isn’t working, you walk away before you start another relationship. Sad situation all around, and apparently the mother is getting a ring side set.

              2. Artemesia*

                a parent’s expectations and a person’s character may be totally unrelated. People with overbearing parents learn to withdraw and hide whom they are. In this case, the OP may literally know nothing of her daughter’s intimate marital life or work life or who she ‘really is’. I know my parents didn’t know me after about age 14, when I built a shell to avoid their pushiness.

                We don’t know what is really happening here since we only see it through the eyes of a mother who thinks it appropriate to try to micromanage her adult daughter’s workplace. Yes — she should leave her husband before moving on with other parters; but we have no idea about the marriage or her character in general.

              3. Bolistoli*

                I disagree. My parents never knew the full extent of my “character”. Do you think I told them about the things I did that I knew they wouldn’t approve? Of course not. I also had a very bad marriage, and before I got out, I spent a lot of time out and partying. Sure, I should have left the marriage first, but I didn’t. I was young and unsure of myself, and very sad. I certainly was not mentally ill.

                Sometimes (likely most times) people have drastic changes because they want a drastic change in their life and maybe they’re not quite sure how to go about it. With this mother’s attempt at controlling her life, I wonder if she is in a controlling marriage too. Not necessarily abusive, but she very well could be someone who always did what she was told, whether she wanted to or not, or if it was in her best interests. Alison’s answer is short and the point because that’s all it should be. Her daughter is an adult and neither her job nor her marriage are her mother’s business. If she’s worried, she needs to talk to her daughter (without judgment and accusations if possible) and no one else.

          2. Cleopatra Jones*

            No just no.
            Affair =/= onset of mental illness.

            She’s probably just really unhappy in her marriage. I’ve seen many people have an affair as a way to break up their relationship because they weren’t able to concretely express their unhappiness with the relationship to their SO. Maybe just maybe she did try to end it with him, and he wouldn’t listen or he kept trying to ‘fix’ the marriage when she just wants out.

            1. Brogrammer*

              Yeah, we should refrain from internet diagnosing strangers. Both in general, and in particular in a situation like this when there’s a much more likely explanation.

            2. Noobtastic*

              Sometimes, a person wants out of a relationship (more frequently if they married young, but it happens at all life-stages), and either cannot bring themselves to ask for a divorce, or else they have asked and been denied.

              In such cases, they will sometimes act out, as a way of forcing their partner to leave them. That may have been a trigger.

              Now that she has already moved in with her new lover, she may be continuing to act out, as a way of getting her husband to accept defeat, as it were, and leave her to be with her new man, in peace.

              Some people have a very hard time letting go of a marriage, until their partner does something beyond the pale, and it it may be that OP 1’s daughter is very purposefully doing just that, just to get her freedom.

              Or maybe she is having a quarter-life crisis. Those things happen, too.

              I don’t really believe the reasons for her behavior matter, in this case, so much as the fact that OP 1 cannot control her behavior, anyway. Calling her work is only going to 1) adversely affect her job and 2) make her really, REALLY angry with you. And if that happens, she may very well cut off contact with you, which will put you even further out of control than you were before.

              Your best bet is to sit down with your daughter, and ask her what is going on in her life, and LISTEN. No interruptions, and questions only for clarification. Nothing that will sound remotely judge. Save the judgement until you have ALL the facts.

          3. Temperance*

            Eeek. Let’s not armchair diagnose the daughter. I have a difficult parent, and I can see her writing this letter. I think a lack of boundaries is a big issue. Mom shouldn’t have this much insight into her daughter’s marriage, nor should she find it appropriate to reach out to her daughter’s employer to tell on her. I mean, wow.

            1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

              Any parent willing to call their daughter’s workplace to try to get her coworkers to stop socializing with her because they’re bad influences is, at the very least, not making anything less complicated and emotional.

      2. seejay*

        Oh geez yeah, I read it as wanting to find out about a fraternization rule because the affair was going on at work too, but to try to get her daughter away from *friends* at work? Holy hells no, that’s *way* over the line. That’s something a parent does when their teenager is acting out and you want to ground them. You’re lucky if you could pull that off with a 19 year old that lives at home, at the oldest, for the power you might have to wield over a child, but an adult that’s married and not living with you? Do not do this at all. It’s way over the line, no matter how awful their behaviour is and you disagree with it. I would disown my parents if they tried to do something like this to me.

        1. AMG*

          Right. OP1 risks being able to help her family by contacting her daughter’s employer. It would be very damaging to say the least. Your family is going to need you, clear-eyed and as objective as possible.

          1. Artemesia*

            If my parent had done this, I would literally never have spoken to them again. They would be dead to me. This is an incredible boundary violation.

            It is not her friends who are at fault here. She may be doing very foolish things; certainly she should IMHO find better ways to end the marriage if it needs ending, but lots of people especially those who have always been pushed into conventional roles don’t know how to free themselves from a bad marriage. I had an early ill considered marriage and don’t look on my behavior during that period of my life with any great pride. I am actually somewhat proud of myself for having managed to extricate myself without too much damage given my parents’ view that divorce of a child was all about them (their first words were ‘why are you doing this to us.’) My husband was fine just not for me and we managed to end it without trashing either of us seriously. But young people coming out of highly conventional and judgmental backgrounds often don’t have good social skills when it comes to ending a marriage. This may be her way of making that inevitable. She has a husband who wants to ‘work on’ their relationship; it sounds like she doesn’t want to but doesn’t know quite how to get out and is thus creating inevitability.

            Without getting out of that badly chosen marriage decades ago, I would not have my current happy 45 year marriage and great kids.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              It’s comforting to believe the friends talked her into having the affair but reality is that at some point SHE decided to have an affair.

          2. Nervous Accountant*

            This whole situation is pretty sad. It reeks of the episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Marie contacted her son’s employer. That was horrible even for a sitcom, and definitely has no place in real life.

        2. Ashley*

          I would think a parent of an adult looking for their daughter’s company’s fraternization rule is already way over the line.

          1. Artemesia*

            And what does that mean? Even the military doesn’t forbid its soldiers being friends with others of their rank.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              I think Ashley was saying that it’s way over the line for a parent of an adult job to try to find out what the fraternization rule is for her daughter’s company. I’m not sure how you read it.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I think Artemesia’s commenting that a fraternization policy would not achieve what OP want sto achieve (cutting her daughter off from the work-ladies-friend-group).

                1. Anon Tonite*

                  That is what I am getting from the LW too, her goal is to cut her daughter off from her work friends. I also tend to think that for some reason Mom wants to control her daughter even though she is an adult. Parents SHOULD NEVER feel that they can interfere with an adult childs’ employment, it is crossing so many boundaries and just so wrong in so many ways. I understand the personal aspect of this situation but business and personal should not intersect.

              2. Agnodike*

                I think the point is that it seems extremely unlikely that finding out that policy is going to yield anything useful or interesting. What company makes a rule that its employees can’t be friends?

                1. Brogrammer*

                  Definitely seems like that would be counterproductive. In many industries (cough)tech(cough) companies actively encourage employees to be friends and hang out outside of work. At least in part, I’m sure, because whenever I hang out with my work friends, we end up talking about work half the time!

            2. Noobtastic*

              That is true. However, the U.S. Military can, and has, dishonorably discharged male officers whose wives had affairs, because they failed to control their wives.

              My first thought was that OP1 came from such a military background, and thus thought the fraternization policy might be a thing, and it might be appropriate.

              It’s not a thing, nor appropriate, in the non-military, business world.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I may have misread! I read a few times and couldn’t find a connection between workplace and the guy that OP’s daughter is seeing, so I assumed the fraternization policy reference was about the other women. But maybe it wasn’t?

          Either way, I think it’s really important to take a step back and not to contact the employer. Getting someone fired may provide immediate satisfaction, but at a practical level, it’s going to be like throwing kerosene on a fire and will likely drive a further wedge between OP and her daughter.

          And I agree with AMG that a therapist may be helpful in sorting this out (as I’ve often noted, I think therapy is good for everyone at all times regardless of whether there’s a mental health issue or a concrete problem). OP sounds extremely distressed—she notes losing sleep and being emotionally stressed. I know when I’m in an emotionally difficult state, it skews my perspective of what reasonable/unreasonable solutions are, and I sometimes overlook “obvious” solutions because the problem feels so big. There may be some of that happening here, too.

          1. SadieMae*

            I agree therapy could be very helpful for this mom. Partly just to give her someone outside the situation to vent to, and partly to help her reexamine her relationship with her daughter. Several things in the letter – the fact that mom refers to daughter and her coworkers as “girls” repeatedly despite the fact that they must be at least 30ish, the fact that she wants to talk to an adult daughter’s workplace just as a parent would talk to her child’s school, the fact that she doesn’t seem to feel her daughter has any individual agency (no happily married person has an affair just because friends “pushed” her to!) – make me feel this is a mom who has good, loving intentions but regards her adult daughter as a child she is still raising. (As the mom of an adult, I know it is really common and very easy to stay in this mind-set!) Some therapy might help her re-frame all that – which could be calming and healing for everyone involved, regardless of the outcome of this particular situation.

            1. BPT*

              She could be much younger – all the LW said was that her daughter had been with her husband for 7 years. If they’ve been married for 7 years, that could have been as young as 18, so 25 now. If she just meant that the daughter had been with her husband (but not necessarily married) for 7 years, she could be even younger (starting in high school maybe).

                1. BPT*

                  I wasn’t saying that they were “girls” or disagreeing with SadieMae in general. I was just speaking to the idea that they must “be at least 30ish.”

                  But yeah, to me there is a difference in maturity levels between early twenties and late 30s. If someone had a huge personality change around age 30, that would be a little more concerning or surprising to me. If it happened around 22-23, then I’d be more inclined to think that the mother just didn’t know her daughter that well and her daughter is just realizing who she is, and maybe rebelling against a strict upbringing or something. Not that that can’t happen at 30, but it’s more common the younger you are. That doesn’t mean that it’s the coworkers’ fault, it’s just an observation.

                2. Noobtastic*

                  Reply to BPT – yeah, I thought the daughter read as young, too, and thought maybe quarter-life crisis. It’s common enough, and can result in rather strong character changes, especially if the person has previously been repressed in one way or another.

                  Also, no matter what encouragement she got from her friends, in the end, the choice to have an affair was her own.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              It sounds like mom is very emotionally involved in this whole story. I noticed that “all of us” were having sleepless nights and very stressed.

              This happens many times when people spent bucket loads of time talking about a situation or problem. Too much conversation on one point can lead to sleeplessness and high stress.

              I think the best thing here would be for everyone to try to resume their everyday lives or as much as they can. This dwelling on it, could be pushing the daughter toward her bf, not pulling her back home.

            3. TootsNYC*

              The other phrase that makes me think our mom OP could use some guidance in reframing is her opening line:

              It makes me worry that she doesn’t really know who her daughter is–that she has an idealized and inaccurate image of her daughter.

              I took my 19yo son to the oral surgeon today to talk about a jaw surgery. The surgeon offered to show us an anatomical model of the procedure, “unless you’re squeamish.” No, I said–but then I looked at my son and said, “Wait–I don’t know if it would bother you. You’re 19–there’s a lot about you that I don’t even know.”

              The emotions, thoughts and reactions I have that are not admirable (perhaps “I’m tired of my husband,” or “I’m not sure how much I ever loved him,” or “I like the danger”)–those are not necessarily things I share w/ my mom.

              And if my mom had a really fixed sense of “who Toots is,” I’d be even LESS likely to share them. (My own mom was pretty flexible–I could tell her some pretty awful stuff about myself, but I never told her everything! And the times when she said, “Oh, you’re so kind, always seeking the good for everyone,” it was very, very burdening. Not that I thought she was completely wrong, but she was exaggerating.)

              Mom, the most powerful thing you can do to help you daughter is to SEE her accurately, and and love her even when she does things you think are wrong. You don’t have to approve–but don’t disapprove. Wait; detach a bit if you have to. Let it play out.

              (and remember–it’s her marriage, not yours. If it “fails,” it has nothing to do with you. Don’t take her husband’s “side” over hers, even if his seems objectively more moral; this is where you detach, if you want to ever have influence over her)

        4. Tinker*

          This thing…

          So, I’ve got a friend that my mother disapproves of. Many years ago, I unwisely vented to my mother about a conflict I had with them that was fairly personal and also fairly well my fault. Eventually things got worked out, and my friend continued to be an important person in my life, but to my mother they were that bad friend who did me wrong that she’d rather me not spend any time with. (NB: this was in my late twenties and early thirties.) She perceived my relationship with my friend as being a problem that she wanted to fix. So if I said I had done a thing with my friend, there’d be ice and if challenged open expressions of disdain, and pointed changes of subject to another one of my friends who was considered more suitable. That sort of deal.

          Eventually , my mother suggested to me that maybe I was mistaken about my sexual orientation because I had been misled by my friend. I suppose she figured — like she has about a lot of other things — that if she just made her point one more time then I’d see the light. Well, this was kind of true; we don’t talk anymore and this conversation is a substantial part of the reason why.

          Unfortunately from the perspective of the passionately meddlesome parent, the “we” referenced above is not myself and my friend, and I doubt my mother is particularly pleased about how that worked out. Consider ye well.

          1. LabTech*

            That last point resonated with me. The final straw for cutting off my mom was her threatening to (and eventually following through with) looking up and contacting my manager to tell them about our strained relationship and whatever argument we were having at the time. I was in the public sector at the time, so my manager’s contact info was available online and easy to look up.

            It’s one thing to disapprove of everything I’m doing (and, for the record, I wasn’t doing anything as questionable as cheating on a partner), it’s quite another jeopardize my financial security because of it, regardless of whether or not that was what was intended.

            Basically, be wary of trying to “fix” your daughter’s actions, especially if that means involving people that really shouldn’t be involved in this.

      3. Jeanne*

        I wondered if the affair was with a coworker but there’s no mention. So I guess the boyfriend is not from work, just the friends she has lunch with are from work.

      4. TrainerGirl*

        Yes, this seems like a “I don’t like my daughter’s friends…how can I make them go away so she can’t hang out with them?” question. And when it comes to “friend” hangouts at work, unless they’re causing issues in the workplace, just. step. away. Even if you were a coworker this wouldn’t be appropriate, but please don’t do this. Your daughter is an adult and will do what SHE thinks is best for her. The most you can do is let her know you’re there for her if she needs you or solicits your advice. Until then, please take a step back and have a seat.

    3. Engineer Woman*

      Actually, while I read OP#1’s account, I wonder how OP even knows that the girls at daughter’s work are encouraging the daughter in having an affair. This may be daughter’s way of passing blame, so to speak, so it doesn’t sound like it’s just her own decision making or poor choices, particularly if OP is so involved. I’m just pointing out that OP cannot truly know what is happening and contacting daughter’s workplace is not a good idea.

      So please: No! Don’t contact daughter’s workplace! If the affair ends up as something the company needs to deal with, then leave it to them to manage. Besides in cases of accident or death of employee, I can’t think of any other instance where a family member or spouse should be contacting a company – especially regarding a personal problem.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Also, to elaborate on this: it will be damaging to your daughter’s reputation and career if you call, particularly if she’s young enough to get splattered with the Millennial stereotype of the clueless perpetual adolescent with the hovering helicopter mom with no sense of boundaries. You may be concerned for her, but don’t do that to her.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Interesting. My first thought was that mom wanted the company to fire the daughter so the daughter would be away from these friends of hers.
          Either way it’s over-reaching but the way I envisioned it was just plain cut-throat. What mother wants their daughter fired?

        2. TrainerGirl*

          I’m thinking that if the daughter has been with her husband for 7 years, she’s probably not terribly young. Definitely not at an age where a parent should be stepping in, and especially not in the workplace. And the statement that the daughter is not acting like herself makes me wonder if the parent had an expectation of who their child is, and that’s why they’re panicking and wanting to intervene in a completely inappropriate way now.

          1. Noobtastic*

            I read “with her husband” as dating and married, not married, alone. That is, if they were sweethearts in high school or college, and dated for some years, and only got married a few years back.

            But then, that’s just my viewpoint. It seems to me that lately, people don’t much go in for the meet and marry within three months sort of thing, anymore.

            I suppose it’s possible that the daughter is older, but I just get the vibe that she is younger. Certainly the OP thinks of her as younger.

      2. Marcela*

        Well, with my mom, every time I did or tried to do something she didn’t like, _obviously_ it wasn’t me, but somebody else was brainwashing me. Because my mom _always_ knew better and she _never_ did mistakes, therefore opposition was the work of somebody with bad intentions. Of course, being her daughter, I was to _always_ follow her guidance and if I did not do that, there must be some dark force at work!

        1. A. Non*


          I just got this because I wasn’t willing to sleep over and shovel my parents out. My perfectly healthy parents, mind, who own a snowblower and do know how to use it.

          1. (another) b*

            Ugh sounds like my mom. Did you know that I am the only person in the entire world who moved out of state and how could I abandon my family like this????

        2. OhNo*

          Having grown up with that kind of parent as well, this was also my first thought. I’m sure the OP is a lovely individual and a good parent, but when your behavior brings up echoes of abusive or problematic parents, you know you’re going down the wrong path.

          OP, there are other, better ways to deal with this issue that don’t involve contacting your daughter’s workplace. A good therapist would help you come up with some, if you can’t think of any on your own.

        3. AnonAnalyst*

          Yeah, I know some people like this and the thought process seems to be that only desirable behaviors are under the person’s control, but anything they don’t like is the result of someone else’s influence. I understand it can be hard to accept that people we love don’t always behave the way we think they should so I understand wanting to attribute those actions to someone else.

          When I read this, my thought was that the OP is falling into a similar trap here. Coincidentally, the daughter’s behavior changed when she changed jobs and started hanging out with new coworkers. But I would suggest (as gently as possible) that most people who are committed to preserving their marriage can’t be egged on into having affairs by their coworkers. As hard as it is to accept, the daughter is making her own choices and needs to live with the consequences… but one of the consequences shouldn’t be her parent contacting her employer.

      3. Noobtastic*

        My mother called my boss once, but that was because I could not speak, and had to write notes for her to relay to the boss (email and texts were not an option for me, at that time).

        Other than accident, illness, death, kidnapping or incarceration (basically any time the child would have to call in to say “I won’t be at work,” but physically could not make the call), there are no reasons for a parent to call their child’s boss.

    4. New Bee*

      In particular, it sounds like you’re struggling to reconcile what you know about your daughter with her actions, which seem totally incongruent.

      Yep, and bad choices don’t make her a bad *person*. Have you considered sharing your feelings with your daughter? Not to dictate her choices, but in a “this is not who I know you to be; what’s up?” way? Do you have the relationship and are you able to detach yourself from feeling responsible saving their marriage?

      I’m trying to imagine my mom in your shoes–I feel like your daughter may have gotten with her husband relatively young (as did I), which could make the connection to him and the situation more intense than if they’d (we’d) paired as fully independent adults–and I empathize, OP. Whatever you decide, I wish you lots of luck.

      1. Christian*

        We don’t even know if it as a bad choice. Sure, the mother thinks so, but I have seen enough mothers/fathers who absolutely loved her stepdaughter/son, while the actual partner realized that there are some flaws. He can be a totally nice guy, but utterly lack qualities your daughter needs right now – like being got at sex, having emotional understanding etc.
        This is probably not a sign that your daughter or your stepson are bad persons, but that their relationship has serious damage, possibly rooted in the character of one or both. Maybe it’s best for them to end that relationship? Please try to understand why your daughter does not value the relationship as she did the seven years before – and remember that she has to live with that person, which makes her priorities somewhat different from yours.

        1. Emi.*

          Hm, I think cheating on your husband is definitely a bad choice, even if he’s a bad husband.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes, but whether a person is a bad person is not based solely on one bad choice, even one that’s a big deal. We’re all more complex than the worst thing we’ve ever done.

            We also don’t know the full story from the daughter’s perspective, and there’s a universe in which what she’s doing might not be “cheating” (unlikely, but possible).

            OP is in a really difficult situation, and I think OP’s trying to find ways to avoid feeling helpless (it sounds like she feels that way now). But the hard part is going to be identifying proper boundaries and realizing that OP can’t make the daughter change her behavior. OP can only change the things reasonably within OP’s own control, which unfortunately doesn’t include the daughter’s marital strife.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              “We’re all more complex than the worst thing we’ve ever done”
              Thank you for saying this!

          2. Agnodike*

            Sometimes. Sometimes it’s the least worst choice for one person involved. Sometimes it’s the least worst choice for everyone involved. Sometimes it’s a terrible idea all around.

          3. Artemesia*

            I agree cheating is a bad choice but for someone raised to believe that divorce is evil and that just walking away is a sin, the unhappy spouse may feel like it is the only way to justify their leaving the relationship i.e. blow it up. Yes it is immature, but remember the extended family situation she is in and it becomes understandable as a way to make the split happen.

            1. LBK*

              I think being trapped in a bad relationship has to be one of the most stressful things a person can deal with in their life, so I don’t necessarily blame people who don’t take the best route to resolve it. I think people who do manage to get out cleanly are the lucky ones – not saying most people take the route of cheating, but I doubt many divorces occur with neither person getting hurt somehow.

        2. copy run start*

          Yes, there likely is more going on in the relationship that the OP can’t see. I think it would be best to have a serious conversation with the daughter and see if there’s additional information that might explain what’s going on.

          Regardless, the daughter’s employer has no stake in this game and involving them might alienate the daughter for no real gain. It sounds like OP may have different wishes than their daughter and I think contacting her employer would only drive a wedge between them.

          1. Cleopatra Jones*

            I think it would be best to have a serious conversation with the daughter and see if there’s additional information that might explain what’s going on.

            Or not. Honestly, it really not any of her mom’s business if she is having an affair. The daughter’s sexuality is hers to manage whether her mother agrees with her choices or not. A good rule of thumb to follow is, once your child leaves home do NOT give them unsolicited advice on anything! Not relationships, career management, child rearing, or finances. Nothing. If they ask, sure give them your perspective but other than that…keep your opinions/thoughts to yourself. It makes it so much easier to have an adult child-parent relationship.

            1. LBK*

              Completely agreed. You can provide support and assistance if you feel you need to be parental, but policing your child’s actions isn’t your place nor your responsibility once they’re an adult.

            2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

              I generally agree, but I think parents, siblings, and close friends do get a one-shot unsolicited advice exemption – “I’m gonna say my piece once and you’ll never hear it again, but I’m concerned that you’re making self-destructive and uncharacteristic decisions these days that you’re going to regret and are blowing up your life, and I’m concerned for you. If you need my perspective or help, I love you and I’m here for you.”

              That, however, is several lines behind “Imma call your employer to tattle on you.”

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                I really like this approach. A parent can and should express concern – once! And then back off! – and this is a caring but clear script – manages to not sound judgmental, so that there is a chance daughter would actually talk to mom.

              2. SadieMae*

                Irritable Scientist – as both a mother and a daughter, I think this is a great script, and good advice!

              3. Not So NewReader*

                A family member has a script that goes something like: “I know something is bothering you [or happening in your life]. If you ever want to talk about it I am here.”

                This family member said that half the time she does not even know what the problem is. By referring to “something” or “it”, sometimes the recipient thinks the family member knows more than they actually do. Her point is to get the person talking so the person can begin to sort it out. This family member also realizes that there are no “set in stone” answers to life questions because there are so many differences in individual settings.

                1. The Rat-Catcher*

                  I think that’s a good overall idea if expressed in the right spirit. However, my mother used this to try to “catch” us in something when she thought we’d done something wrong but couldn’t prove it or didn’t know exactly what it was. I didn’t catch on until I was a teenager and she said, “I know you did X” and in fact I hadn’t.
                  However, that may be more parent-child dynamic when the child is still young and there is still a defined authority in the relationship. To just express concern, I think this is good.

            3. Artemesia*

              And if you must meddle, you get ONE shot at explaining yourself. Nagging is just not effective or appropriate; it only drives the daughter further away.

        3. Marisol*

          I don’t think the OP should try to understand the dynamics of her daughter’s marriage. I think first and foremost, she should try to understand the fact that the situation is really none of her business.

        4. Zombii*

          >This is probably not a sign that your daughter or your stepson are bad persons, but that their relationship has serious damage, possibly rooted in the character of one or both. Maybe it’s best for them to end that relationship?

          I missed the part where the OP’s daughter was married to her stepbrother. Wtf is that about?

      2. Manders*

        Yeah, I may be projecting too much of my friends’ experiences onto this situation, but if the daughter came from a conservative area and got married in her teens or early twenties, she may actually be following a pretty normal pattern of just now realizing that she wants a better sex life/non-monogamy/a chance to party/whatever she missed by settling down so young. And I did have a few friends who used a new partner to escape an abusive situation. People are complicated.

        An affair isn’t the most ethical way to go about it, but mom may have to prepare herself to find out that daughter has been unhappy in her marriage for a while or even resentful of the conservative values she was raised to have. That’s tough, but trying to cut her off from her support group at work won’t make it easier.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          I was thinking the same thing – that OP’s daughter is from a conservative culture/religion, going from being under parental supervision to a young marriage. Now she has her own job and money and independence and isn’t willing to toe the line anymore.

          Regardless, this is *not Mom’s business* at all. If the LW wants to talk to someone, it should be her daughter. And/or a therapist of her own – a supportive therapist can be a huge help in navigating tricky family situations. But calling daughter’s workplace, trying to meddle in her friendships, etc. is not something that ever, ever ends well.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          SOMETIMES, notice I am not saying always, women have affairs to get back at their mothers. I was not aware of this pattern. But apparently psychologists are well aware of this as a potential cause and effect issue.
          Please be sure to understand that this does not apply to everyone and does not apply all the time.

          Based on the little that has been said here, it seems like mom has a very strong connection to her daughter. Counter-intuitively, mom’s best answer might be, “Live your life as you see fit.” That might be the reaction necessary for the daughter to settle down and make serious decisions about life.

      3. TootsNYC*

        this is not who I know you to be

        If you have this conversation, may I encourage you not to say this verb?

        Say “not who I have experienced you to be” or “not who I’ve always thought you to be.”

        Better yet–don’t talk at all about “who she is.” Talk about “you’re not behaving in a way that I would have expected.”

        I can’t be more serious about how important semantics are here. Leave room for her to be herself; leave room for YOU to truly -see- who she is, without the incredibly powerful filter of you pre-decision, pre-judgment, prejudice, about “who she is.”

        1. Noobtastic*

          Alternately, leave identity out, completely, and just say, “I’m surprised.”

          Still, I’d recommend “surprised” over “shocked.” Semantics DO have power, and if you want to keep your daughter emotionally close, she needs to feel that you are not harshly judging her.

          Surprise works well, because the daughter, herself, may have been surprised by it all. Romance can be quite surprising.

    5. Liane*

      OP1, even if your daughter was having this affair with someone at her work, and you knew it violated her employer’s policies, reporting her to the company would still be the wrong thing way for you to handle it.

      Rough as it is for you, *talking with your daughter* is the only thing you should do.

      1. AMG*

        I would suggest one more thing: a counselor or therapist could help OP1 navigate this. It’s not a criticism; I’ve been to therapy and it can help you sort out your feelings and next steps. You are obviously upset, understandably so. Therapy can help detach with love and identify actions that are helpful to you, your daughter, and your son-in-law. Best of luck to you.

        1. Kj*

          Yes. I think the OP could use someone to talk to to sort her feelings about her daughter’s behavior. I hear the pain in the OP’s letter. Allison’s advice was great on what not to do; but to sort through feelings, you need to talk to someone about them. A neutral therapist could help.

          1. Noobtastic*

            Yes. The OP definitely needs someone to help talk her through this very painful situation. You think your daughter is making huge mistakes, with huge consequences, and that is a painful thing for a loving parent to witness. Plus, you can’t control her to pull her out of it. It hurts.

            Once you’ve talked your way through your own pain, see if you can get your daughter to talk her way through hers. Whether she talks to you, a therapist, a friend, or an advice columnist, just putting her own situation into words will help her a great deal, and many times just the act of talking helps a person to see their errors and determine on changes. And it is THEIR idea, not someone else’s advice or command, so it means more, and is more likely to work for them, long-term.

            But she needs to feel safe, in order to talk her way through this, effectively. So, get her talking, but don’t let her feel you judging her, when you do it. Listen. Don’t tell her what to do. Ask questions, like “How do you feel about…” or “How is that working for you?” or maybe “What prompted you to make X decision?” or ask for clarification in something is confusing (such as “Who is Bob, again?” or “Which ‘he’ are you referring to right now?”). Also, avoid “Why?” questions, especially in regard to her behavior, because it can come across as whiney and “Why me?” Even if that’s not what you actually say, it can sound that way.

            And don’t be too hurt if she doesn’t want to talk to YOU about this. Be available, but remember that she may need to talk to someone who is a bit more removed from the situation, someone more neutral. If she talks to someone else, don’t eavesdrop or ask for a report, later. Just be positive and encouraging that if she consults her heart, she’ll know the best thing to do.

            Good luck, OP1! My heart goes out to you.

      2. Venus Supreme*

        I agree. I have a family member whose behavior changed drastically. I tried SO hard to get my “old” family member back — bribing them with gifts, shaming them for their actions, contacting outside parties who I thought were the influencers, nothing worked. I think once OP1 realizes she can’t control everything about her daughter she’ll be on a faster track to getting some emotional peace back into her life. So, while she can’t force her daughter to save her own marriage or stop hanging out with her coworkers, she CAN work on her relationship with her daughter, which can be determined by OP1.

        And boundaries are so important. Would it be best if OP1 didn’t talk about the husband or work with daughter? Would OP1 feel better if she called her daughter twice a week and met in person only once a month? This is where OP1 does indeed have control and I think that’s a good starting place to getting serenity back into her life. She just needs to determine what is best at that particular time for her and her daughter’s relationship — it’s not an overnight fix, but I think it’s going to help keep heated emotions in check. I’m sure everyone involved will be looking at this situation differently in 5, 10 years’ time.

    6. Myrin*

      Very wise and kind words as usual, Princess, I have nothing to add and can just say that I’m in full agreement.

    7. Bwmn*

      I have to say that letters like this bring to mind the idea of “life is a long book, and this is just a difficult chapter”.

      While the OP’s daughter personal life is currently in upheaval, it may very well be that professionally things have remained steady. And while this immediate action may seem like a way to stabilize her personal life, it may very well only serve to disrupt her professional life. There are some people (lots of people….) who go through very messy periods personally, but are able to keep work as a functional place that can help bring greater stability later down the line.

      Yes, it’s a bad idea professionally – but the OP seeking out her daughter’s employer may also just as well cause the personal life stuff to morph into something different and more complicated if her workplace also becomes a chaotic environment.

      1. Noobtastic*

        That is a really excellent point, Bwmm!

        Her job may very well be what’s holding her together right now. I hadn’t even thought of that, myself, but saw immediately, that it could be true.

    8. Marillenbaum*

      This is a really thoughtful, compassionate response. It can be really hard to see someone we love making choices that seem really destructive, and it can be even harder to know that meddling would only make things far worse. Still, refraining is the right choice here. It might also be helpful to talk this through with a professional–it sounds like a challenging time, and I think just about anyone would benefit from a chance to get some clear, solid advice on how to manage their emotions around such a tough situation.

    9. Mimi*

      Thank you and everyone else for your comments. I agree with you I will redirect my thoughts and energy. I will stay out of my daughter and son-n-laws issues. I guess I was shocked she would have an affair with someone from work. She is 28 and the man she’s having the affair with 42yo. Her and her husband had just purchased there first home. She stoped going home 3 weeks ago and abandoned him. He’s not perfect and will tell you that. He is going to counseling. She won’t call her friend of 18 years or me even though I send her loving messages every few days hoping she will reach out. I just hope she is safe.
      Thank you for your comments.

      1. Noobtastic*

        Oh, he IS from work? Yeah, that complicates thing even more.

        I hope that you can open the lines of communication again. It sounds like she’s cutting you off, and that hurts. Maybe if you offered an opportunity to talk about anything except work and romance? Made it clear that those topics are strictly off the table, and you just want to chat about world events and the weather?

        The fourteen year age gap can be alarming. It’s not always a problem, but if he’s her work superior, or has seniority, then there is the danger of her being pressured by him, which is kind of scary. But if she does feel pressured, you just have to hope that she’ll come to you, or a friend, or someone, for help in her own time.

        I just want to reach out and hug you right now.

        Good luck, OP!

  4. Lady Phoenix*

    “We just recently found out she had been partying with girls from work and they have been encouraged her in having an affair.”
    Ummm… no, they did not “encouraged” her to have an affair. You make it sound like she’s completely blameless and that she just has some “bad influence” friends. Your daughter is a full grown adult that decided to have an affair. So she needs to deal with the consequences and the follow up regarding this like the adult she is.

    In other words, just stay out of her affairs (pun intended).

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      Agreed. “Peer pressure made me do it” happens to tweens and teens, but not grown-up adults who hold down jobs. Having an affair is your daughter’s choice and hers (and the affair partner’s) only. Don’t bring this to her workplace – either talk to your daughter, and only her, yourself, or stay mum entirely. I know this must be hard for you, but there is nothing you can really do here.

      1. fposte*

        I do think peer practice still has a big effect on adults (look at the research about obesity tendencies and spending, for instance), but it’s inappropriate for the parent of an adult child to require changes to that child’s peer group.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, I don’t believe for a second that peer pressure vanishes the moment you exit high school. It’s not like you stop caring about or taking into consideration the opinions of others once you’re no longer a teenager.

          1. Uzumaki Naruto*

            Yeah, peer pressure is definitely still a thing as an adult. Of course it doesn’t excuse adult behavior, but frankly, it doesn’t excuse a teenager’s behavior, either. You make your decisions and then you deal with the consequences.

            Unfortunately for the OP, this isn’t something a parent can interfere in. Even the husband shouldn’t be putting you in the middle. I think you should tell the husband that you like him and hope things work out, but that it’s between them and you can’t get in the middle of it.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            No, but, as an adult, your brain should be more mature and better able to control peer pressure-related impulses. The consequences of engaging in poor behavior can increase as you get older and have more responsibilities, too, and an adult should be better positioned to connect the cause-and-effect dots and foresee potential harm better than a high schooler.

            1. Artemesia*

              NO ONE has an affair because their girlfriends ‘encourage them to’.

              Speaking as someone who had a hard time leaving a husband because ‘there was nothing wrong with him’ and ‘he wanted to ‘work on’ ‘ the relationship, this really sounds like a woman who is looking for a way out and has few resources to just make her way out in a mature way.

            2. LBK*

              I think as an adult there’s a societal expectation of higher personal responsibility, but I don’t think you get any less susceptible to being concerned about what your peers think of you. People just hold you more accountable as you get older, so you start making different decisions because you can’t get away with “everyone was telling me to do it” as an excuse anymore.

              1. fposte*

                I think also since we’re less alert to its possibility as adults we don’t always notice it.

                1. Noobtastic*

                  And sometimes, you get that herd mentality thing going, like in that letter a week or two back, about Jane dying, and the whole department running off all her replacements.

                  But, yes, it is much less of a thing than in middle and high school.

              2. Owl*

                While I agree that peer pressure exists in the adult world, I disagree that one doesn’t get “any less” susceptible to it. I am much more confident in myself and my decisions than I was when I was in high school, and it’s only increasing as I get older. I look forward to, as a really old person, giving no fucks at all. Not one fuck will be given.

                1. Lynn Whitehat*

                  Yes. You also have some say in who your peer group is, which makes a big difference.

                2. Phyllis B*

                  Owl, I wish we had a like button. I usually don’t like the “F” word, but this was not only appropriate use, but it cracked me up. Well done!!

                3. Noobtastic*

                  I don’t like the F word, either, but I do look forward to being old enough to be all out of fucks to give.

              3. NotAnotherManager!*

                Has “everyone was telling me to do it” ever been an acceptable excuse? Surely, I’m not the only person whose mother trotted out the old, “If so-and-so jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?” cliche. Rarely has pack mentality or groupthink ended well.

                I’ll admit, though, that I don’t recall ever feeling peer pressure. The desire to be popular never really took hold with me, and I’d rather have a few good friends than be considered “cool”.

                Regardless, OP’s blaming a peer group at work for her daughter’s poor decision making is not cause to reach out to her daughter’s employer. If there has been a sudden change in behavior, that may warrant some sort of medical intervention to rule out other causes, but OP passing it off as peer pressure that rises to the level inquiring about fraternization policies isn’t going to help.

                1. Zombii*

                  Valid points. I don’t think peer pressure really exists as a special class of social pressure, it’s just what adults call social pressure among children, especially when they want to distance their own snowflake from accountability for poor decisions.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I agree, and I also agree that parents cannot appropriately intervene when that peer pressure spills over into an adult child’s life (unless that child asks for help). That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that the women at work are not “pressuring” the daughter to have an affair, but rather, that the daughter is passing on the blame to avoid taking personal responsibility for her actions/unhappiness. There are a lot of other, more likely, scenarios.

          1. Lablizard*

            I read it as the son-in-law saying that the work friends pressured her into having an affair, but the letter doesn’t specify who talked about it. For all we can tell it is the OP’s conclusion.

            I found it interesting that the daughter and the husband had a plan to patch things up, the daughter went to lunch with her friends, and now wants a divorce. It makes me think that the daughter really does want out of the marriage and her friends are supporting in her decision

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              That’s my suspicion, as well. It sounds like she may want out, but when she’s with her husband she feels a lot of social pressure from him and her family to “work it out.” Which could also be why she’s creating a circumstance that would encourage her husband to break off the marriage.

              But as others have noted, when you’re a friend, your job is to support your friend and the choices she makes. So if the work friends are aware that the daughter wants out, and if they know she feels guilt-tripped into making it work when she speaks with her husband, then it makes sense that they may be lending her emotional support/strength to leave the relationship because she’s told them that that’s what she wants. So it’s entirely possible that the work friends are not bad people, but in fact, are good people trying to support their friend. And it’s possible that the daughter is trying, perhaps messily, to leave.

            2. Artemesia*

              This. The husband wants to ‘work it out.’ The wife doesn’t want to do that and is finding support in her friends. ONce you decide to leave, you can go through the motions of reconciliation but that only delays the inevitable.

        3. GreyjoyGardens*

          Point taken – but I find it hard to believe that someone can be peer-pressured into having an affair. “Aw, go on, cheat on your husband, #YOLO and carpe diem!” Maybe I hang out with the wrong sets of friends and coworkers?

          1. Agnodike*

            Sure you can be peer pressured to do something you already kind of want to do against your better judgment. Have an affair, have too much to drink, have “just one cigarette” even though you quit (I am absolutely vulnerable to that one!). Giving in to temptation is way easier if you’re getting social pressure to. It’s just that the responsibility’s still on you if that’s what you choose to do, because you’re an adult and that’s how that works.

          2. LBK*

            I don’t think someone who never had a single urge to cheat in their whole life could be turned into a cheater by others, but I do think someone who might’ve thought about it but had previously kept those temptations under control could be encouraged to do it by others, or at least not actively discouraged. If she has a group of friends that provide an environment where having an affair is seen as no big deal, that can alleviate the stress and guilt that might’ve kept her from doing it before.

            1. LBK*

              Or rather, not that it’s no big deal, but that they won’t judge her as harshly as others might; they’d be willing to look the other way or be more understanding/accepting of why she felt the need to cheat than others might be, and I could see that giving her emotional permission to act on urges in a way she hadn’t before.

              1. fposte*

                Yup–that’s one reason why I used the term “peer practice” rather than “peer pressure.” The mere fact that your friends do something regularly and accept it makes it a lot easier for you to do the same. Which is great when that “something” is getting more exercise and planning financially for your future–not so great when it’s spending above your means or getting drunk every night.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  The practice is more sneaky than the pressuring.

                  This brings to mind the old adage about being careful who your friends are. We tend to gravitate toward what our friends are doing.

                  Bare bones, our friends can lull us into believing it’s okay not to try harder or that we can’t effectively stand up for ourselves and so on.

  5. BuildMeUp*

    #1 – Nooooo! Please, please, please don’t do this. You could irreparably harm your daughter’s reputation and career, and it’s unlikely to help the actual situation.

    It sounds like your daughter needs some time away from her husband to sort things out. Who knows – with a little time, she may decide she wants to work things out after all. But interfering at this stage will probably just make things worse. Please try to give her her space and let her work through things on her own.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, your coworkers are being really strange and fairly rude. You can of course take the high road that Alison has provided, but frankly, I think you’re justified in ghosting them if you prefer. If I were in your shoes and this were their way of “staying in touch,” I think I’d prefer not to stay in touch. You’re not being over-sensitive.

    1. BuildMeUp*

      I agree – ghosting seems perfectly fine in this situation.

      It seems like this might have been a somewhat toxic workplace. The OP mentions being interrogated about requesting time off, and that these former co-workers all quit soon after she did. I’m guessing that might have something to do with the odd behavior – maybe they quit without something lined up and are worried about it, or just overly competitive.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Yes. They’re being jerks, OP, and you should continue to ignore (and maybe even block) them.

    3. Dot Warner*

      Yes, OP2, you’re definitely not being oversensitive. They’re being nasty and if you don’t want that in your life, it’s totally OK to block their numbers.

    4. Antilles*

      This is especially true since their question about “how’s the job hunt going?” doesn’t seem to be coming with a side of “…and how can I help?” but instead judgment about how you haven’t found anything yet.
      Also, for whatever it’s worth, you shouldn’t feel the slightest bit worried about a two-month employment gap, because that isn’t the slightest bit unusual. It’s very common for people to want to be choosy if they left a ToxicJob, want to take a mini-vacation or even just that employment processes drag out a little.

      1. Anna*

        That’s what I got from it. Especially the “I’ll take that as a no” when the OP didn’t respond. As if their silence were embarrassment rather than disinterest in answering an invasive question.

    5. Newby*

      I could see someone asking about the job search once, but no response is a clear signal that it is not something the OP wants to talk about. Asking every five days with no response is really bizarre and following up with a comment about how no response means no job yet comes across as a put down. Sometimes people like to commiserate with each other about job hunting, but they don’t seem to be volunteering anything about themselves. I would probably say “You ask about my job search every five days. What is going on?” And if they say they want to keep in touch or are concerned or really anything other than an apology, “I do not want to talk about my job search. Please stop asking.” Then again, I can be uncomfortably direct at times.

    6. Kathleen Adams*

      I don’t know. They are being weird and jerky, but I think there’s more to this than mere jerkiness. I can’t think of even a jerky reason why former coworkers would be so obsessed with somebody’s possible new job. So I have to think that there’s more to it than that – though there is, of course, no reason why jerkiness can’t be an unpleasant side effect, just as it is here.

      So I like Alison’s script. If the coworker is someone you always liked before, there’s nothing wrong with a polite, fairly non-committal answer. But if it’s someone you never had a real relationship before who has, for no reason at all, gotten interested in your activities post-job, than by all means ghost them.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I think I would use Alison’s point about taking my time. Then add, “I really don’t want to talk about MY job search any more. So, how have you been?”

      This lays the groundwork for the next time they ask. “Oh remember? I said I did not want to talk about it. So, have you seen any really good movies lately?”

      The pattern here is set/maintain the boundary then redirect the conversation.

      This assumes that OP wants to have a friendship with these people. It sounds like OP does not trust them and for that reason perhaps there is no logic to maintaining a friendship. In that case a simple, “Sorry perfer not to talk about it” should be enough.

  7. Mike C.*

    OP 1: Your daughter is an adult and a sentient human being with agency to make decisions in her own life. No one made her do anything.

    Let’s be honest here – you’re mad at the situation and you’re just looking to take your anger and frustration on a bunch of strangers. You want them to lose their jobs, lose access to their healthcare and be unable to pay their bills, afford shelter, feed their families and so on all because you believe that they made your daughter have an affair.

    Stop for a moment and think. Is that what you really think is the right thing to do? The just thing to do? Did they put a gun to your daughter’s head or could it be that maybe you don’t have all the facts about the state of your daughter’s marriage?

    This isn’t your marriage and this isn’t your life. Stop trying to interfere with the lives of complete strangers – the only person responsible for this affair is your daughter. You’re acting like a stalker and it’s scary. Please heed Alison’s advice and stop trying to interfere.

    1. Wow*

      She’s not “acting like a stalker.” She’s acting like a mum. Good to know that we’ve decided to disregard Alison’s rules and beat up the OP.

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        Yeah, not liking how this is going. Even if you feel the LW is in the wrong, there are different ways of expressing that. Which is why everyone also jumped on the person who used the word unacceptable in an email yesterday (which wasnt ok either).

      2. Dizzy Steinway*

        Not that this necessarily constitutes parenting in a healthy way and I actually don’t agree with you that she’s acting like a mom – but whatever the view it can be expressed politely.

      3. Panda Bandit*

        She’s acting like a mum who is stepping way over the line of acceptable parental behavior. While I think some people are being too harsh on her, she is planning to do something that she definitely should not be doing.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think that saying someone is acting like a stalker is calling names; it’s describing a behavior (although one that I don’t think is actually happening here). Regardless, let’s move on from this. Thank you.

        1. AMG*

          Aside from that, I read this as tough love. Mike C is a very direct communicator. It’s blunt but for someone like me, that’s exactly how I need to hear things. Especially if I am emotionally spun up. Let’s not pile on him either.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Agreed. Having read dozens of Mike C’s comments, this was very carefully phrased, and it’s clear to me that he tried to craft a “less harsh” response while offering his frank appraisal of the situation. That seems completely appropriate to me.

            1. LBK*

              Maybe this is a false impression, but I get the sense that the commentariat has a lot more churn nowadays than in the past and that means reputations no longer precede you; I don’t know that those of us who are regular commenters can really rely on getting the benefit of the doubt anymore since it seems like there’s a lot of newer or one-off commenters who don’t have an established sense of how people write. I certainly don’t feel like I get that benefit of the doubt anymore and have to be more explicit about caveats and context than I have in the past.

                1. The Other Katie*

                  You guys still have a fan club! Half the time I just come here to read your comments and look for Jamie. I’m a long time lurker/infrequent commenter.

                  And on topic, I agree about Mike C.’s post. It was tough love, but certainly wasn’t calling anyone names or being rude.

                2. The Other Katie*

                  I should have clarified – the great community of commenters is why I come to the comment section. I come to the blog because Alison is awesome.

                  And this is why I don’t frequently comment. I can’t keep my thoughts straight long enough!

              1. Mike C.*

                I think this is a really fair point. I still remember the days when a really controversial post got almost 100 comments!

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I’ve had that feeling, too, LBK, although I can’t tell if it’s just a feeling or a real and permanent difference.

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Interesting. I wonder if it’s possible to have giving letter writers and fellow commenters the benefit of the doubt be part of the commenting rules. It’s a pretty good rule for life in general.

                1. Ultraviolet*

                  That might be an effective way of rephrasing the “don’t nitpick language” rule. I think that one tends not to discourage the behavior it’s meant to, because it sounds like “don’t argue about unimportant word choices,” and people usually feel that what they’re calling out is important. “Give people the benefit of the doubt” doesn’t suggest that the concern is unimportant, just that it should be approached in a certain way.

                2. So Very Anonymous*

                  Out of nesting, but agreeing with Ultraviolet. I like the idea of framing it as giving OPs and commenters the benefit of the doubt.

      4. AD*

        Respectfully disagree that OP is just “acting like a mum”. She’s considering a path of action that can have grave consequences for her daughter’s career and reputation.

      5. MashaKasha*

        While I agree about not beating up the OP, this is not “acting like a mum”. As a mother of two adult sons, I hope they sit me down and have a serious talk with me if I ever act like that. I would really really like people to not perpetuate the idea that being overly involved in the details your adult children’s personal life that are not any of the parent’s business (I’d put anything that involves sex, marital issues, and “partying with the girls” firmly into that category), trying to influence said personal life by calling your child’s employer, and all around treating the adult child as if they’re eight years old, is “acting like a mother” – it is not.

        1. Michelle*

          Agreed. The OP is overstepping her boundaries and should not call her daughter’s employer. I think that could possibly cause the daughter to cut off contact with the mom.

        2. sstabeler*

          I’d say “acting like a mum” is actually precisely the problem- it’s acting like the daughter is still a kid and the parent can still exert parental authority over their kid. My advice for the OP would be to ask their daughter if they are sure they do not want to try to salvage the marriage- but otherwise, largely keep out of the matter.

        3. Artemesia*

          Me too. I am an adult Mum and would never in a 1000 years consider meddling in her work life — even when the boss himself is behaving badly which has happened. You just have to honor your children’s adulthood.

          I have observed as an advisor or University students young adults whose parents have ruined their college experience and perhaps their lives by not honoring their adulthood and letting them make their own decisions and mistakes.

          And leaving this husband is not necessarily a mistake. Leaving my own first husband was necessary for me to have the great life I have had since. And there was ‘nothing wrong with him’ except we were poorly matched and had made a mistake in marrying. I have no doubts his second marriage and life are far better for me having left him as well; I certainly hope so.

    2. Pontoon Pirate*

      Not that I think the OP should go down this path at all, but she didn’t say anything about wanting them to lose their jobs, health insurance, etc. etc. She said she wanted to find out if there was a fraternization policy in place. I think you’re making some really big leaps here that aren’t beneficial to the discussion at hand.

      1. AD*

        I think Mike was spotlighting the possible repercussions to the actions OP is contemplating doing (loss of job, insurance, etc. being a worst-cast scenario).

        If commenters are being inappropriately suspicious of or patronizing towards OPs we can call that out, but I don’t think Mike was doing that at all.

      2. Marcela*

        But you need to take the argument to the very end. Why does she want to know about the fraternization policy? Once she discover there is one, will she just hung off the phone and stay content in the knowledge that yes, there was one? No at all!

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yes. Knowing there is a fraternization policy does what for OP? It sounds like a lame excuse to contact the daughter’s employer to, as she said “let them know what is going on”. Tattling to an employer that other employees are a bad influence on one’s child will reflect poorly on no one but the caller and the employee, and, in this case, would be sharing negative personal details about the employee that they have no need to know.

          I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The number of reasons that anyone, other than an employee, should contact an employer is so short I can count it on one hand. Unless the employee is incapacitated or dead (or has asked a partner to, say, pass along news of a baby’s arrival/coordinate insurance coverage for a new arrival), NO ONE but the employee needs to speak to his/her employer directly.

      3. Artemesia*

        Calling the boss to tattle on their employees and blaming them for ‘fraternization’ is designed to ruin their jobs. What else would it be for? She wants the workplace to police her daughter’s friendships. There is no purpose for this but to punish people she blames for her daughter’s behavior.

      4. Creag an Tuire*

        But why else would you contact their employer? Even if you don’t expect it to result in an instant firing, any work discipline has this threat at its core (at least for the vast majority of us who work not out of some abstract sense of self-realization but because we can’t pay our bills with snarky forum comments and Doctor Who fanfiction). That’s why contacting somebody’s employer for anything short of direct job-related malfeasance is rightly seen as A Low Blow.

    3. Alex "Barney" Barnaby*

      I can’t think of any situation in which it’s appropriate for a parent to contact an adult child’s employer, except when said adult child has had a medical emergency and someone needs to know why she won’t be in work.

      It’s not your job to monitor her workplace. You’re not part of it; you’re not managing this team; and regardless of what problems it creates, it’s absurdly inappropriate for you to try to “fix” them.

      I am wondering if you are hoping that your daughter will lose her job.

  8. Mb13*

    Lw 1 may I recommend Dear Prudie or Captain Awkward or Dan Savage (or my personal favorite The Bad Advisor) they’ll be able to help you more.
    P.s. Just because your son in law wants to make this relationship works doesn’t mean that your daughter should. And I would like to add that it’s way way more likely that her coworkers aren’t some evil conniving women; but we’re trying to encourage her to enjoy herself more and end what is probably an unhappy marriage.

    1. Jeanne*

      We do seem to get quite a lot of questions her that in the end aren’t really about work. They’re more about our relationships with friends and family with a bit of a work connection. We spend so much time at work that a lot gets connected. But Alison’s advice is NOT like Savage’s and may be better suited to some.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I actually find the questions that are heavy on relationship stuff among the most interesting. If they have a work connection, I’ll answer them. (I think a couple of times I have answered them even when they didn’t have a work connection, because I can’t always resist.)

        1. Mookie*

          People rarely compartmentalize neatly or consistently, so there’s plenty of real-world value to this. There are periods and places in our personal lives where lack of experience or knowledge, ignorance of decorum & “manners,” poor ethics, and just plain bad habits and bad attitudes wreaks merry havoc, and that havoc can readily bleed into professional spheres (and vice versa). Your advice and the commentariat’s advice, I find, to be very easy to translate outside of work.

          1. Mookie*

            Plus, emotionally stunted or emotionally illiterate people exist everywhere; they certainly don’t leave their illiteracy at home, more’s the pity to their co-workers, managers, and underlings.

        2. The Other Katie*

          I love it when you go off of the work topic sometimes! You give such wonderful advice, it really applies to more than just work life. I frequently try to think of what you would do when dealing with a difficult social situation.

    2. Hal Jordan*

      As someone who has been the victim of a situation similar to #1, I would like to address a few of the points here:
      – Ultimately it is the decision of the person/s committing the affair yes
      — in my situation, however, there is some degree of obvious manipulation from my spouse’s friend circle (again, ultimately spouse’s choice, but it should be worth noting the person initiating the affair is one of spouse’s close friends who was able to play on the vulnerability)
      – Yes the marriage very likely has issues, but encouraging someone to end it instead of encouraging them (first) to try and rebuild it is terrible advice; divorce should not be the first consideration in trying to solve an unhappy marriage – I know if my situation was reversed all of my friends would tell me to pull my head out of my ass

      “And I would like to add that it’s way way more likely that her coworkers aren’t some evil conniving women”

      Fitting you should say that, because you should read the Facebook message I was sent by someone who totally wasn’t being an evil conniving woman.

      This letter is so similar to my own situation that it’s not funny (although I doubt there’s really any time this kind of situation is funny).

      1. Kathlynn*

        Also note that an unhappy marriage is different from an abusive marriage. In the case if abuse or suspected abuse, it’s okay to encourage and help a spouse or partner to leave early their relationship. Though, having an affair isn’t usually a good way to do so.

      2. hbc*

        I’m sorry for your situation, and sometimes it’s true that someone wouldn’t have left or strayed if it hadn’t been for specific circumstances. But…if one partner in a marriage is only around because they luckily haven’t bumped into people who don’t respect their marriage, it was a shaky foundation to begin with.

        It is undeniably hard not to blame the outside influence rather than the person who was so easily influenced.

        1. Kj*

          Co-signed. Maybe peer influence can push someone over the edge- but if they were close to the edge anyways, it wasn’t a strong marriage.

      3. TL -*

        As a friend, I definitely feel my obligation is to my friend and not to their marriage. That is, if they tell me they’re unhappy, I would ask if they wanted to work on their marriage. If the answer was no, I would not encourage them to try to fix things. And if they told me they wanted a divorce, I would support that regardless of whether they’d tried to fix things or not.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, me too. I see where you are coming from, Hal Jordan, but if my friend is unhappy in a marriage, I want what works best for them. Sometimes ending the marriage is the right thing to do, and “working on it” just painfully postpones the inevitable while doing additional damage to both parties.

          But in any case, I think discussion about what the daughter’s friends should or should not be doing is a bit of a derail, and we need to be focusing on the OP.

        2. The Rat-Catcher*

          DH and I have a deal that if either of us ever wants out, we say so. Maybe there is some value in “working on it,” but I love being married. To hear that he was no longer happy but would stay with me and “try to work on it” would be a blow in and of itself that I’m not sure we could recover from.
          YMMV, of course. We’re not everyone.

      4. Natalie*

        I’m sorry, I really disagree that anyone has a moral obligation to try and rebuild their marriage before they consider divorce. Everyone is always free to leave, because they want to leave. Ending a relationship is not some kind of nuclear strike that should be saved for the most extreme cases.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          I wholeheartedly agree. In the words of Cheryl Strayed, “Wanting to leave is enough.”

          1. Natalie*

            I love that essay. It was foundational for me when I was in an “okay, I guess” relationship but felt like it was silly to break up because “it’s not that bad”.

        2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          In my observation, rebuilding a marriage usually doesn’t work anyway. If it’s broke, it’s broke.

          1. fposte*

            I’ve known a couple that have genuinely rebuilt, but you’re right, more often staying together seems to be just a freezing in place.

          2. Agnodike*

            If you have a specific issue related to a skill deficit or attitude misalignment, and you work on fixing it, you can have great success rebuilding a marriage. If you have unalterably different priorities or have incompatible visions of what the relationship should be like, it’s broke.

        3. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Yes. And sometimes, marriages are broken because they *never should have happened in the first place*. With my first marriage, we married young and I was not clear on what adulting was, plus I wasn’t particularly self-aware and oh my goodness, neither was he. We were ultimately just drastically incompatible in multiple ways. Sometimes, it cannot be rebuilt because it was never well-built to begin with.

          1. (another) b*

            Yep. I got a lot of flack for divorcing at Kim Kardashian speed in my 20s but it was broken and never would have worked. We are both remarried now.

          1. Artemesia*

            +1000 to this. what purpose has marriage if not to be a pleasure to the two participants? And before kids, that is all that matters.

      5. Oryx*

        If one of my friends came to me and said “I want to divorce my spouse,” I would support them 100%. My loyalty is to my friend — not their marriage and not their spouse — and if my friend has decided that ending their marriage is the right choice, I’m going to trust them on that.

        Divorce isn’t a moral failing and neither is supporting someone’s decision to end their marriage without trying to work hard on fixing it first.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It used to be you had to stay married no matter what. This hurt a lot of people and that hurt trickled down through generations.

          Collectively, we are smarter than we used to be. We respect what people are saying when they say, “I. can’t. do. this.”
          We also realize that people are not stupid. If they wanted to fix it they would say they want to fix it. “I can’t do this” does not equal “I want to fix it”. Those are two different statements and we now understand that.

          A family member said to me, “Don’t be surprised if I call you one day and tell you I have left my husband.” I said, I go with what I see in front of me. Every day that you are there I assume you are choosing to be there, unless you say you need help. And I follow your lead and show respect for your marriage. When you call and say you have your own place, then I will turn and respect that decision, also. I don’t see any ambiguity in that. I have no way of knowing what goes on behind closed doors, it’s not mine to judge. It’s only mine to follow along.

      6. Malibu Stacey*

        On some level I can see that it can be argued the coworkers here and your spouse’s friends didn’t have your back when they should have. Even if that’s true, it would still be a mistake to bring that into the workplace.

      7. Artemesia*

        For a marriage of very long standing and with kids, then ‘working on it’ should always be the first approach unless there is abuse, BUT for a newish marriage without kids, there is no reason to settle for tolerating each other. Divorce may be the best possible outcome. We don’t hear of kids here. But assuming this daughter has none, pushing her to stick it out when she doesn’t want to is likely to end up with kids then stuck with her in an unhappy unfulfilling marriage. There is no reason for a marriage other than the happiness of the two participants before there are kids involved. Encouraging her to stick around is likely to just postpone the day when they split and make it worse all around.

        1. LBK*

          Totally agreed. Staying in a marriage for its own sake is pointless; the piece of paper your marriage license is printed on doesn’t care if you break up or not, and if you’re unhappy together and don’t have kids, that’s the only thing keeping you together.

          And I’d argue that even if you do have kids, you’re better off splitting up a lot of the time. Kids aren’t dumb and often I think they’ll be better served growing up under a healthy divorce (so to speak) than an unhealthy relationship.

        2. Creag an Tuire*

          I’m not even sure I believe in the “kids” caveat anymore — at most having children merits one or two more extra “are you sure”s, but if the marriage is truly falling apart, then the kids are going to be better off with two reasonably cordial co-parents then two married parents who hate each other.

          1. tigerStripes*

            ” the kids are going to be better off with two reasonably cordial co-parents then two married parents who hate each other.” +100

      8. Creag an Tuire*

        – Yes the marriage very likely has issues, but encouraging someone to end it instead of encouraging them (first) to try and rebuild it is terrible advice; divorce should not be the first consideration in trying to solve an unhappy marriage – I know if my situation was reversed all of my friends would tell me to pull my head out of my ass

        Hal, I want to send you Manly Hugs for what you’re going through, but I don’t agree with this. I wouldn’t support an affair but if a friend told me he was unhappy in his marriage, I wouldn’t tell them to “pull their head out of their ass” and keep the marriage together for the sake of… what? The abstract institution of marriage (which has already survived Las Vegas, Elvis impersonators, and reality television)? The other partner who, instead of going through a painful divorce gets the privilege of spending the next several years with a distant, resentful partner who finally snaps and throws a plate at their head? No. You can’t fix a marriage that both partners don’t want to fix, and if someone can be “convinced” not to fix it, they already didn’t want to fix it.

        I’m sorry.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Agree. We also don’t know anything about the backstory between these two people. Maybe they *have* been trying to make it work for months or years and for whatever reason having an affair is the next step in this process.

      9. Mb13*

        Sorry about your situation green lantern. I don’t want to assume anything about your marriage and why it ended. But again so very rarely do people randomlly decide to act out a modern rendition of Othello and try have their friends marriages end for no reason. It could very likely be that your friends would have told you to pull your head out of your ass, based on how you view the relationship. It’s very likely that your ex viewed the relationship (and you) as soo doomed and went to friends for support to get out. I think it’s best to asses every relationship and see if it’s fixable, mutually work on the patching up errors, or in extreme situations decide that’s way to broken and leaving with the support and understanding of your friends is the best answer. There’s no fit all formula for ending a relationship and it changes based on how bad things are

    3. eplawyer*

      I just want to emphasize the part about the son in law. He may not want the marriage to end but the daughter clearly does not want to make it work. He cannot force her to stay in the marriage. She is stating in no uncertain terms she wants out. Whether you agree with the reasons she wants out or not, they are her reasons. It is her life. By choosing the son in law, you are risking your relationship with your daughter. You may not like how she is acting, but it is highly possible she saw this as the only way out. If she came to you with any doubts about her marriage, she probably got “but he’s a nice guy, he loves you, work it out dear.” But she doesn’t want to work it out.

      Her work situation has nothing to do with her marriage. Her co-workers did not tell her to end her marriage. That is her decision. Getting her fired by going to her employer is not going to get her to stay married — except she might need his money until she finds another job. And that is a crappy reason to stay married to someone.
      Plus your daughter will be twice as angry at you for interfering in her marriage and her job. If you want a relationship with your daughter, you need to step back. Talk to your daughter not about why she won’t stay married but about what she wants. Then listen to what she is tellling you.

      1. Artemesia*

        Getting her fired may well lead to her moving in with her affair partner and rushing into another unwise marriage.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          See this is exactly what I did not get. My first thought was why does mom want daughter fired? That will just help to ensure she will stay in the arms of New Man.
          And the chances will go sky high that she will cut her mom out of her life.

  9. Observer*

    #1 My heart breaks for you . I would be besides myself if my daughter did this.

    But. But.

    She is NOT a child and you need to deal with her as you would with any adult. Secondly, unless you have serious (other) reasons to suspect mental health issues this IS your daughter, no matter how out of character it is. Also, please don’t blame the “girls” from the office. While their advice may be devastatingly bad, she’s the one making a choice here, not them. They haven’t kidnapped her or forced her to party with them. Oh, and they aren’t “girls” either.

    What exactly do you think her employer is going to do? Are you trying to get her fired? Unless the guy she’s moved in with (this is more than dating) is her superior, they are NOT going to fire *him*. (And, don’t try to tell them that he forced he to move in with her – it’s not going make a sdifference.)

    Don’t think that if she gets fired she’s coming back to her husband. It’s just not likely – on the contrary. Not only that, she’s likely to cut off contact with you. Now, if you feel that you need to cut off contact with her I do so on your terms, not through causing her to get fired. But, that’s really a scorched earth type of act, and I would STRONGLY suggest seeing a therapist or counselor before doing much of anything else.

    This has nothing to do with her work ethic. And it’s not a workplace problem, except in that you are thinking of involving her employer in something that has nothing to do with them. Leave them out of this.

    1. pope suburban*

      Yes. This. It is, essentially, not OP1’s circus and therefore not her monkeys. Which is not to say that this is not a painful, confusing, concerning time for the family. Of course it is, especially when someone is acting very far out of character. But boundaries are still a thing, and still need to be in place. The daughter is still an adult, and still responsible for her own decisions. Frankly, I find myself wondering if the daughter has not had people trampling her boundaries and/or telling her who she is all her life, leading to a feeling of being stifled and needing to break free and assert her independence (Though, wow, what a way to do it), but that’s a little far afield for a work blog. Point is, OP1 needs to maintain separation of church and state, as it were, and seek support from a therapist, close friend, or clergyperson. Daughter’s HR team is not on that list, and does not need to be involved.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Actually not. I mentioned upthread that psychologists know that SOMETIMES women who have issues with their mothers will take on affairs or just hop from man to man. It’s a way to get back at their mothers who are controlling personalities.
        Again, be sure to understand that this is not everyone and not all the time. It is very possible that this has absolutely nothing to do with OP’s setting.
        It does seem to show though, the harder someone tries the control the situation, the more likely the situation is to go in the direction that the person does not want it to go.

    2. BananaPants*

      Yes. I would be devastated if my hypothetical adult daughter was doing this. From mom’s perspective, her daughter is acting in a way very much out of character and it seems like it started when she began hanging around “the girls” at work. While contacting her adult child’s employer would be inappropriate, I can understand why a parent who is devastated at a sudden change in behavior and lifestyle, and looking for answers, would think that was a viable option. Some commenters are being pretty harsh to OP1 and I’m glad Alison addressed that.

      It’s reasonable for OP1 to question if the daughter’s new colleagues have been influencing her in a negative way. The problem is that even if they are, there’s nothing that OP1 can *do* about it. It’s just not her place to contact her daughter’s employer in any way on this. Not her circus, not her monkeys.

      1. fposte*

        I also think it’s a parental approach that’s common when your offspring is a child and teenager, since the kids they hang with do influence their behavior and vice versa. With an adult child, this is the closest you can get to calling the other kids’ parents.

        (Please note, OP, I’m not saying this is an acceptable action–I’m just saying that I can understand why your mind might turn that way.)

        1. LBK*

          I think it’s a wrong read on the situation in this case; I think the idea of “bad influence” friends is more applicable when you’re younger and peer pressure to do things you wouldn’t normally want to do is a bigger factor, but as an adult, I think it’s the inverse – that these are probably feelings and decisions the OP’s daughter had already been struggling with, and the people she ended up clicking with are people who aligned with that.

          Overall, I just get a very unnerving sense of dehumanization. The OP describes her daughter like a TV show character who’s being badly written in the later seasons, not an autonomous adult who can make her own choices (which includes choosing to hang out with people who may not discourage her from having an affair).

          1. fposte*

            Oh, totally agreeing that that’s not the right way to see it; just that I can see how somebody might manage to get there.

          2. Marcela*

            LBK, your last paragraph put tears in my eyes. That’s how my mom used to talk about me. Like I was a beautiful doll in her image, a moving doll. Once, in my presence, she told somebody that i was so adorable before being a teenager. When I became a teenager and got a sense of myself, and started to disagree with her, I stopped being that compliant doll. My parents even gave me her nickname as my legal name, as I was supposed to be a “mini my mom”. And our biggest fights were about how I could claim that being exactly like her was a bad thing. And I only wanted to be me, I wasn’t even saying that whatever she is is wrong!

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Marcela, I am so sorry. That sounds so cruel and depersonalizing, and I am sending you huge hugs. There are so many parents who think having a child means having a replica of themselves, and although it’s not intended to be abusive, they convey their disappoint in not having a mini-me in ways that are often emotionally abusive and manipulative. (My favorite move? Redirecting the conversation from your child’s pain to explain how your child raising an issue re: their independence hurts you.)

              You are you, and you get to be you, and I’m sorry your parents were not supportive. :(

              1. Artemesia*

                I have always been grateful that my wonderful daughter is nothing much like me and thus I have not been tempted to try to live her life for her but just to appreciate the great person she is. My son is like me and thus I am more likely to feel like I know what is best for him and have to step on my tongue not to tell him as he is quite capable of making his own choices.

  10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, it sounds like you really loved the “old vibe” of your workplace and that the transition has been tough. But it also sounds like trying to recreate the vibe (a) isn’t working, and (b) is making you feel resentful because you’re floating the costs out of pocket.

    So it sounds like it might make sense to reframe what “appreciation” could look like given the current composition and personality of your workplace. As Alison noted, treats and other social activities are lovely, but there are much more effective ways to show someone you appreciate them for a job well done (because at bottom, they’re basically doing their jobs, but they’re doing them diligently and well).

    When I was a student, I found sincere praise/feedback and opportunities for professional development, mentorship, and academic opportunity way more valuable than a bonding event or snacks. And I’ll be honest—I still remember my professional feedback, but I couldn’t tell you whether my boss treated us (I think she did but honestly have no recollection of it).

    1. fposte*

      Even something like taking each of them out for coffee to talk about their future directions could be really helpful. If they had to do an application and an interview, you’re also in a really unusual position of being able to give them tips on where they could be stronger next time.

    2. kbeers0su*

      I also think it would be valuable to take a step back and look at why the change may have occurred. This may have been an intentional shift in the culture of the office, especially if the new leadership was brought in to professionalize the office. I’ve worked on college campuses for 15 years and there are some offices (usually heavily student run) that are more boisterous and unprofessional than they should be. Depending on the work that you do, the new culture may be more appropriate. For instance, if your office doesn’t only serve students, then certainly a more professional environment- which would be more welcoming to faculty, staff, and others- would be more appropriate. I also think it’s a good learning experience for your student employees to understand that work environments don’t tend to have a lot of these coffee breaks, celebrations, etc. Part of your responsibility as a student employer is to prepare your students for the work world, and getting them to understand that work culture is different than student culture is a key lesson.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        I think this is a great point. I’ve been in workplaces like this, and it can feel like the new boss coming in is just a big meanie-pants micromanager, *but* sometimes workplaces can get so slipshod and unprofessional under the disguise of it being a “fun,” “casual”, “self-managed” workplace, that new powers-that-be are brought in to professionalize things – and that can feel like rigidity and micromanaging and no fun. But there is ultimately a reason for this.

    3. Manders*

      This is well put. They may be students, but they’re probably trying to take their careers seriously if they’re in college and working now. Feedback and mentorship are probably exactly what they want right now.

      Just in general, I’ve found that treats (especially when they’re potluck or the group is expected to take turns bringing them in) are a nice extra thing for a department that’s already happy, but they can’t fix a department that isn’t clicking or has legitimate work-related issues.

    4. JustaTech*

      Professional feedback is a huge gift to students, even if it is the kind of gift you don’t realize you’ve gotten until after you’ve left that job. I’ve experienced the reverse, where I didn’t realize the kind of unprofessional habits I’d been exposed to until after I’d left a particular job.
      To have already developed good professional habits, and to know what good management and feedback looks like will serve them so well in the future, both making them better employees and giving them a good baseline for what’s normal and what’s not.

      Even if it isn’t as fun as bagels.

      (Also, bad managers who try to buy morale/loyalty/compliance/silence with bagels are painfully transparent.)

    5. AliceW*

      Bonding events-no thank you. But candy and bagels and other free goodies? Yes, please! Do not underestimate the power of free food to boost morale. My workplace has professional development, helpful feedback, opportunities to grow etc. But if they provided a free breakfast or lunch spread every once in a while , it would be much appreciated.

    6. Michele*

      I agree about the professional feedback and would like add that the OP offer to write letters of recommendation for the students who do a good job. I remember when I was an undergrad not having a close enough connection with most of my professors to request letters of recommendation. It can be awkward to ask, so letting the students know that you can help them in this way can be greatly appreciated.

  11. nutella fitzgerald*

    One year, my boss had three interviews on St. Patrick’s Day and asked one of my coworkers and me to sit in on part of each one. All three candidates wore green tops, and when we were debriefing after the last one, my coworker kept referring to each of them as “the one in the green”. We wasted a good amount of time arguing about who had seemed like the best fit for our team before realizing it was possible we were talking about different people.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Hee! This is really cute.

      (Also, love your user name! It’s classy and making me hungry at the same time.)

    2. CoffeeLover*

      Haha so maybe there’s something to be said for NOT wearing green to an interview on St. Patty’s day so you stand out.

      1. Gadfly*

        I always wear something with a snake and joke about being team snake. Maybe not for an interview…

    3. Leah*

      Haha! OP here. As someone else said, perhaps that means there is something to be said for NOT wearing green. It might make for better conversation even? I have to admit my reasons are selfish in part – green is a flattering color on me ;)

      My sincerest apologies to everyone I offended by saying “Patty’s.” I assumed the shortening of Patrick would be spelled with two Ts, rather than “double Ds.” I did a semester abroad in Ireland in college – I should know better!

      After reading the comments here, I am curious. Is it not universally common to wear “festive” colors in your workplace?! There’s a particularly celebratory culture where I live (Savannah, Ga), and it’s extremely rare for someone not to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, to the point it would stand out a little. I guess I assumed it was true everywhere, but maybe not?!

      1. Michelle*

        The spelling is because it’s not an abbreviation of Patrick, but rather Pádraig.

  12. Dizzy Steinway*

    #1 When you have an idea of a person it can be hard to reconcile that with a conflicting reality. I hear that you’re desperately looking for an explanation. But here’s what you might want to try to remember here: your priority is solving the issues you wrote about and working out who’s to blame. While your daughter’s employer has different priorities – and if they do have a policy then it could get her fired. It’s also important to remember that her employer can’t actually talk to you about personal things.

    You can’t get a perfect solution in an imperfect situation – all you can do is find the best one possible/available to you. Pushing for your idea of the perfect solution could end up meaning you lose your daughter altogether. It may feel like that’s already happened, because it’s hard that she seems to have changed, but sometimes it feels like people have changed when we realise they don’t match our idea of who they are or should be.

    Please don’t contact her employer. Maybe talk to someone, eg a therapist, to help you cope (not for tips on fixing her marriage but to work on accepting things as they are). I hear that it’s hard to accept but the idea you have of your daughter isn’t who she is – she’s allowed to be different from that.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      +1 to seeing a therapist to work out OPs reactions to the issue and to learning how to manage/deal with the circumstance.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep, the sleepless nights and the stress levels are good indicators that investing some time with a counselor might be a good idea. From my own perspective, I see lots of grieving going on here in OP’s story.

        I had a friend tell me he got divorced. (I have to spare the details here.) I sat down a cried for a few minutes, for many reasons, the people involved, the fact that this looked like a solid marriage and in general for all the uncertainties that life seems to have. Why is life so hard and does anyone ever catch a break? Just when you think something is certain, you find out it isn’t. This is all very jarring. And most of us grieve that when we see it.

  13. IrishGirl*


    As an Irish person, I find the level of decoration/dressing in green for St Patrick’s Day in the US quite unusual. The sole consideration I’d give to whether to wear a green top would be if it’s appropriate interview attire or not.

    Slight side note- please never refer to the day as Pattys day or St Pattys.

    1. Ismis*

      I’m also Irish and I think it’s quite cool! I used to work with a lot of overseas nationals in Dublin and we used to have good fun with face paints etc (it was a bank holiday, of course, but we had to support the rest of Europe) and now that I live abroad, I have been known to have a few green balloons at my desk and knock back a few Guinness (only joking!)

      ‘Patty’s’ does set my teeth on edge, but I guess it’s our fault too for emigrating everywhere and not keeping things in house :D

      1. Ian Mac Eochagáin*

        Thank you. This wearing green nonsense is so cringeworthy. Paddy’s Day really is the American national holiday, not the Irish one.

        Oh and as for the “Patty’s Day” thing: I’m sure you’ve both seen the article in the IT about that. Mildly funny.

        1. Ismis*

          Ah – I think cringeworthy is a bit harsh. And let’s face it – St Patrick’s colour isn’t even green, it’s blue!

          Personally, I think the focus should be off Paddy’s Day – it’s a fun day where everyone is welcome (and knows it’s Irish). I just want everyone to know that Hallowe’en was us too!

          1. Michele*

            I thought we wore green as a nod to the “Emerald Isle”. It is just a color that Americans associate with Ireland in general, not St. Patrick in particular.

            Here is an example of truly cringeworthy. When we were in Waterford touring Reginald’s Tower, another American (from Florida, of course) tried arguing with our Waterford born-and-raised tour guide who was working on her Ph.D. in Irish history about when St. Patrick lived. I told him that she was right, he believed me because apparently a random American knows more than the guide, and I apologized to the guide on behalf of all Americans.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Yeah, I think “nonsense” and “cringeworthy” are pretty harsh for something a whole lot of people enjoy. But I’m only Scots-Irish, so what do I know? ;)

        3. AD*

          Ugh, do we really have to do this here?

          Someone else on this page said wearing green is “unprofessional” and now we are told that the way Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is “cringeworthy” and “nonsense”.

          Another day, another disappointing round of comments at AAM.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            We don’t have to do this, but I think it’s ok for actually Irish people to express frustration over a holiday that’s observed in a way they find distasteful. It sounds similar, to me, to folks criticizing how Cinco de Mayo is celebrated. We don’t have to derail with an argument on cultural appropriation, but it seems like fair commentary that’s within the ambit of the letter.

            1. AD*

              There’s fair commentary, and there’s painting the actions of a great many people with a broad brush and using language like “nonsense” and “cringeworthy”.

              And I respectfully disagree that each post on AAM has to become a referendum on how commenters feel on issues really outside the scope of what letter writers have reached out to ask about. By definition, that’s derailing.

            2. AD*

              And your reference to “actually Irish” is troubling to me. Who is the arbiter of what is “actually Irish”.?

              1. fposte*

                I think when there’s an actual country involved, it’s fair to consider that what happens in the country is more authentic to the country. That doesn’t mean it’s purer or older, or that hyphenate immigrant culture doesn’t have its own authenticity, but that I think “what happens in Ireland” is a reasonable benchmark for what constitutes “Irish.”

                1. Kate*

                  Unfortunately I have seen “Country of Origin American” people being derided by “Country of Origin” people, not that that is happening here.

                  As a person of pretty recent and from more than one relative Irish descent, I think St. Patrick’s day is pretty great. I wish it focused more on the contributions of Irish people to America, but it is still an overall celebration of Ireland and the Irish.

                  No other country gets a whole day of celebration here in America.

                2. fposte*

                  @Kate–Yes, I also don’t think it’s appropriate for Slobovians to tell Slobovian-Americans that they’re doing their American celebration wrong–it can be exactly correct for the Slobovian-American tradition, whether that means it’s diverged from the Slobovian tradition by changing or by staying the same when the Slobovians have added lasers and Pop-Tarts. My statement about the “actually Slobovian” is fully aware of the reality that holidays everywhere are weird and shifting conglomerations of culture and tradition, so that it’s possible for the most authentic contemporary Slobovian holiday to include lasers and Pop-Tarts even if the Slobovian-Americans like the 19th century version with candles and Slobcakes. “Actually” doesn’t mean “least adulterated from historical roots”–it just means what the people in the country are doing.

              2. Oryx*

                I’m German by way of my great-grandparents but I’d never call myself German: I’m an American. So if someone from the country of Germany corrected the way Americans celebrated Oktoberfest, I’d listen to them because they are “actually German.”

                1. AD*

                  @Artemisia Agreed. Traditions and culture are fluid, and policing how those traditions morph or change from one era or one country to another is a minefield of sensitivity.

                  I’m not Canadian myself, but I’ve heard from people in Quebec that they’re so tired of feeling that their francophone culture and language are not “real French” by those in France. Not meaning to open up this conversation to derail further, but “real” cultural traditions and artifacts are highly subjective, and no one can be or should be an arbiter of measuring or approving authenticity.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                AD, I’m not going to comment further on this issue because I think it’s derailing. I understand you’re upset. I’m happy to talk it out in open-post on Friday, if you like.

        4. AKJ*

          It’s an Irish-American thing. Like corned beef and cabbage. It’s all we’ve got left! (I’m kidding! Please don’t jump on me!)

          Although I’m very proud of my Irish heritage, for whatever reason I’ve never felt the need to make a big deal out of St. Patrick’s Day. I live in an area that does not have a lot of people of Irish descent (upper Midwest – nearly everyone is of Scandinavian or German descent) and I’ve had it happen where I’m the only person of primarily Irish descent in the office… and the only person not wearing green… or planning to get rip-roaring drunk after work.

    2. blackcat*

      The americanized St. Patricks Day seems a bit similar to the americanized Cinco de Mayo. Both have departed significantly from the origins in other countries, been appropriated in odd ways, and become an excuse for people to drink.

      It seems odd to me to acknowledge either in an interview in any way. On the other hand, I wear lots of green (I look good in it), all the time, so wearing green to an interview doesn’t seem out of place to me, no matter the day.

      1. Czhorat*

        I broadly agree, but also understand the desire to participate in a cultural moment regardless of its relationship to the actual origins.

        I sometimes wear something subtle on St Patrick’s Day. A necktie with a bit of green in it. Dark green socks. That sort of thing. Part of my concern in wearing a bright-green blouse would be that, as you said, it’s become a day of public drunkenness [and, around here, the annual fight over whether or not gay groups can march in the parade up Fifth Avenue]. It’s not the kind of event or behaviour with which you necessarily want to associate yourself as a job candidate. I’d probably suggest skipping it.

        1. Allison*

          Hey now, there are plenty of people who wear a little green to work on St. Patrick’s Day and just have a nice corned beef dinner with an Irish beer (or two). It would be unreasonable to assume that a green blouse (did the OP say it was bright green?) is any indication of what she’ll be doing later that day.

          1. Czhorat*

            I didn’t mean to say that it was.

            What I meant is that it may create an association with the celebration in the interviewer’s mind, and that association might include drunken debauchery. The interviewer might also be a Catholic of Irish descent and find our appropriation of the holiday bothersome. THe interviewer might be a Protestant of Irish descent and have a whole other set of issues with it.

            I think the prudent choice is to steer clear. This isn’t a very strong opinion, but an abundance of caution.

            1. TL -*

              I grew up in south Texas and I now live in Boston and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone of either Mexican or Irish descent offended by their respective holidays. I’ve had people from both countries tell me it’s celebrated differently back home, but that’s about it. I think the OP is safe.
              I also think the op probably doesn’t want to work for someone who would assume wearing green on St. Patty’s day means you spend a lot of time drunk.

              1. Allison*

                I’ve met Irish people, or people who’s parents or grandparents came from Ireland, who roll their eyes at how Americans celebrate the holiday, but no one ever seems offended by it. One of my friends mentioned that blue is the “real” color of the holiday but it doesn’t bother her that people wear green; she is, however, annoyed with all the people who assume she likes the holiday. She doesn’t.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Oh, TL, come to California! We are all stocked up on folks who find Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day deeply offensive. (Personally I think the criticism is accurate and fair, but I understand that my framework is not the prevailing one in the country.)

                1. TL -*

                  I’ll be there briefly in July!

                  I don’t really feel it to be accurate and fair but perhaps that is because I grew up in a very Mexican-American area and I/non-Mexican Americans were clearly invited in to celebrate these holidays. And the holidays were already significantly different than they were in Mexico – I don’t think people minded that they kept changing over time. (This may have been influenced by the fact that my peers were either 3rd generation Americans or their families had been residents of Texas since the vaqueros roamed the plains.)

                  And to be fair, I’ve met a couple of non-Irish/non-Mexican folks who don’t like the practice.

                  Though we’re probably getting really off subject here, it’s really interesting to think about!

                1. fposte*

                  Ha, apparently there’s a whole website called paddynotpatty.

                  (In the U.S., you do see Patty with some frequency–I get why, orthographically, but I’m not a fan.)

                2. Parenthetically*

                  One of my (Irish-ancestry) students wrote a very in-depth essay last year in defense of the Irish Revolution, and her wrath towards seeing “St. Patty” is fairly comical.

          2. Jessesgirl72*

            I’ll be wearing green, and won’t be drinking at all.

            And if any appropriation is going on, it’s the Irish Americans thinking corned beef is in any way Irish… LOL

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              My parents always called it “New England boiled dinner.” (We are in New England. Obviously.) We had it at various times all throughout the year, not for St Paddy’s Day. Somehow, even though I am near Boston where there is a very healthy Irish-American population, I was not aware of its presumed like to St Paddy’s day until I was an adult.

        2. TL -*

          We celebrated both days in my school though – not with rampant drunkenness but with decorations and food and a history lesson for Cinco de Mayo. In college, they were definitely days of drinking but I wouldn’t assume any adult celebrating was out getting wasted.

        3. caryatis*

          Celebrating St Patrick’s Day is very mainstream in the U.S. Don’t show up drunk to the interview, and I don’t think anyone will assume you’re planning to get drunk just because the interviewee is wearing green.

          1. Ayshe22992*

            To add to this, even if you do plan on getting s***faced, as long as its not at work/interview or going to affect your ability to work in any way…no one needs to worry about it. I know plenty of drunks who don’t wear green for st patrick’s day and plenty of people (like me) who wear green but aren’t into drinking. plus. people drink literally every other day of the year and its not an issue at work.

        4. Temperance*

          I have Irish heritage and am very proud of it. For us, it’s about celebrating our culture, not drinking to oblivion. There are groups like the Irish ADL fighting these negative and false stereotypes.

          1. blackcat*

            Oh, yes, I mean that *some* people treat the holidays that way, and that’s not a great appropriation of the holiday.

            For plenty of folks, it’s a pleasant celebration of heritage. But I am uncomfortable with the way that non-Irish folks and non-Mexican folks treat St. Patrick’s day and Cinco de Mayo as “Woo let’s drink” holidays. FWIW, I am also as a person of Irish descent–I’ve even gone and visited long-lost relatives in Ireland.

            1. TL -*

              I mean, I do think there’s an element of being invited in to celebrate these holidays (at least, that’s how I’ve always felt) and then the holidays growing from there. With both those holidays, I definitely feel like those who are of Mexican/Irish descent are still majorly influential in how the holidays evolve. But we’re also an immigrant culture and every holiday that’s brought in and catches on is going to take on an American nature very different from the original culture’s interpretation.

      2. Kriss*

        in New Orleans, they have a parade & throw beads & cabbages. I thought my coworkers were kidding & they said no, you carry a laundry basket with you to catch a cabbage to fix for dinner.

        oddly enough, they don’t do anything for Cinco de Mayo. although that may very well be changing. when I was living there Cinco de Mayo was a fairly new thing for the US to celebrate & since Katrina they’ve had a large number of Mexicans immigrate there & New Orleans has a way of absorbing new residents & transforming their celebrations into something that is uniquely NOLA.

        1. Dee*

          Yes, Irish and Italian immigrants were in New Orleans long before the influx of Latinos after Katrina. Often St. Joseph’s Day is celebrated along with St. Patrick’s Day.

    3. Thumper*

      I’ve always gone all out on St. Patrick’s Day but that’s also because it’s my birthday and I like being able to get away with dressing ridiculously.

      That being said, I’ve always wondered what the celebrations are like in Ireland. I’d love to celebrate my birthday there one day.

    4. ArtK*

      A Scottish folk singer of my acquaintance said something that could apply equally to people on St. Patrick’s Day.

      “There are three groups of Scotsman. The first has never left Scotland and they’re very Scottish. The second were born in Scotland but emigrated, and they’re even more Scottish. Then there are the ones who weren’t born in Scotland and they’re the most Scottish of all!”

      1. Natalie*

        My dad’s side is super into being “Scottish” (i.e. Scottish-American) – my aunts and uncles went to Gaelic camp, play bagpipes, do Highland dancing, etc, etc. The most recent emigre arrived before the Civil War and, for that matter, most of them lived in Ireland for a few hundred years between Scotland and the US.

        So what I’m saying is, this seems 100% accurate. Not that I don’t like the bagpipes and whisky.

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          We were the opposite — we were “Scotch-Irish” and mom was really hardcore about our Irish heritage, learning Irish (Gaeilge), visiting Ireland, learned Celtic artwork, etc. Meanwhile, my grandmother, the genealogy buff, finally succeeded in tracing mom’s side of the family all the way back to Belfast…

          …where, as it turns out, Great-Great-Great Grandpa Tuire spent about a day stretching his legs before continuing on to America. He’d boarded the boat in Glasgow.

          1. Natalie*

            This is rather funny, because “Scotch-Irish” is a term that was completely made up for the opposite reason – Irish immigrants who wanted to distance themselves from being Irish.

            Ulster Scots, who were Protestant Irish dissenters, mostly immigrated to the US in its much earlier years. Quite a few of them were Scots if you go back a half-dozen generations but others were English or Welsh. They identified as Irish when they first immigrated to the US during the Revolutionary era. It wasn’t until large waves of Irish Catholic immigration and rising anti-Irish bias that they added the “Scotch” part and started playing up that part of their heritage.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        It makes sense–when you live in the country of your heritage, you don’t have to do anything special to have a connection to that country. The more removed you are from it, the more you have to do special things, like exaggeratedly adopt culture markings from that country, in order to feel or show a connection to it.

  14. Dizzy Steinway*

    #3 “And since I am not as high up as others in my department, I found it slightly unfair that I was buying things for the office when all the other staff who work here earn double and even triple my salary.”

    I’d just like to caution against assuming that having a higher salary means someone has more money to spare. You might know how much someone earns, but that’s not the whole picture.

    And even if they do have more money, it doesn’t mean they’re obligated to spend it on lots of work gifting. It’s possible that other people in the office were actually looking for a way to stop donating to things or are relieved that the person who organised it has moved on, as not everyone welcomes constant requests for money.

    Also, being a student worker is potentially a way of learning about work norms. If you teach them to expect constant rewards for completing projects / bonding events / etc you actually aren’t doing them any favours as most workplaces will not be like this.

    I hear that you feel bad but try to remember that feelings aren’t facts.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      Also, when you choose to do something and others choose not to, it’s important to remember that making a different choice doesn’t mean it’s unfair.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        I see this happen with this kind of office stuff a lot, and I absolutely agree – it’s not really fair or useful to resent people for not doing something that you want to do. Bringing in treats is giving a gift, and that kind of gift-giving shouldn’t be treated as compulsory.

    2. pinyata*

      “being a student worker is potentially a way of learning about work norms” —

      this is an important point! My first job in high school purchased large spreads of food for everyone working there on Saturdays. When I started my next job, I didn’t bring a lunch on my first Saturday there, assuming lunch would be provided. I just figured that’s how it worked on Saturdays in the working world. Wrong! :)

  15. Dizzy Steinway*

    #5 Conferences often fill up so it sounds like they wanted permission to put your name down. I think your response was perfect!

  16. ..Kat..*

    #3: If you do birthdays, please do EVERYONE’s. Or do a monthly one that covers everyone for that month. I am truly sick of being asked to contribute money for some people’s birthdays, while other coworkers are ignored.

    1. Kate*

      The tricky bit there is that while some people love being celebrated, others hate it with a firey passion and would rather keep their head down and celebrate with friends or family only (and that only grudgingly because convincing my parents that no I don’t want to go to dinner is a battle I lost a loooong time ago!).

      It’s hard to balance the (for lack of a better description) introverts against the extroverts while not judging or excluding people, or making assumptions. Which is why this kind of thing is so hard at work! I’d much prefer an annual cake for the opening of the office than for birthdays…

      1. fposte*

        So you have an official keeper of the birthday rota and you ask people to let you know if they’d like to be left off.

      2. Newby*

        We do it monthly. No one is put on the spot and no one is skipped unless they fail to mention that their birthday is that month when the boss asks “whose birthday is this month?”

      3. Michele*

        That is another reason to not do individual celebrations. I have also seen it where the boss only remembers the birthdays of a couple of favorites, and that just creates bad feelings. The letter makes it sound like it is a university, so I would just do beginning or end of semester treats that celebrated the time people were working together instead of birthdays.

      4. Stardust*

        Exactly! I was given the task of making sure we sent birthday cards and made announcement but some people complained they didn’t want to have their birthday on the announcements ever (they said they told the last person in my role). I think one said they didn’t celebrate birthdays fir religious reasons and the others just didn’t want it acknowledged because it was going to make them uncomfortable. Who knows? Maybe the people you think we’re ignored had not wanted the attention.

    2. Manders*

      Yes! The problem with this sort of moral-building initiative focused on birthdays (or other personal events like weddings and babies) is that if it’s applied unevenly or someone gets forgotten, that can make employees feel even worse. So do be careful about over-committing to being the party planner or starting strong and then getting forgetful a few months in.

    3. Ayshe22992*

      This just happened to me. My bday is leap day but I celebrate on the 28th. I was gone on vacation that week but I didnt even get the obligatory card that everyone signs for everyone. Another girl in my department, who is on vacation for her birthday this week, got a potluck, a decorated desk, and a fancy card

      1. Manders*

        Ugh, I had the same thing happen with my wedding. It fell near Christmas, so I guess everyone forgot about it while planning other parties, but the coworker whose wedding was just a few weeks later got a nice card and cake. I didn’t even want a big fuss made over me, and I really like the coworker who was celebrated, but realizing that I’d been totally overlooked was really demoralizing.

        1. ayshe22992*

          It wouldn’t have been so bad it most of my siblings had bothered to remember. And I have major problems with the coworker who got it all. Shes rude, crass, and acts better than everyone.

  17. 'Tis I, LeClerc*

    #1 NOooo. Your daughter’s affair is her personal business, and as long as it doesn’t affect her job, her manager doesn’t (shouldn’t) care. And even if it DID affect her job, you really should stay out of it. I realise you want to help, but you won’t be doing her any favours if you got involved.

    #2 It sounds like they’re looking for work themselves (you say they resigned shortly after you), and they hope you may have some leads for them. Just pretend you don’t notice that they’re being weird.

    #4 I think as long as your green blouse looks professional, nobody would even notice. And if they do, they won’t think it’s weird.

    #5 I think you handled it very well.

  18. MommyMD*

    Nothing good will come from contacting your daughter’s employer. It may cost her her job. She could very well find herself getting divorced and unemployed. Do not give into that urge. Also, she may never forgive you. Let her deal with her job and her marriage. She’s an adult.

    1. The RO-Cat*

      It may cost her her job

      I’ve seen at least one instance where this wasn’t just a risk, taken into account and accepted, but one of the few results the person wanted to achieve.

      OP1, I know first-hand the pain and torment of seeing your child go astray. I understand the grief, fury, shame even, the unbearable urge to do something, anything to just make all of it go away. I know exactly what it’s like to believe your child is the same mannered, likeable kid you grew up and that it’s only the entourage that’s driven him/her astray. But, as I learned the hard way, the most others can do is to enable a pre-existing propensity; in the end, it’s the now-adult, posessing agency, who makes these choices. You can try to persuade, influence or convince, but in the end the question I had to answer was: when I die, how would I assess my behavior with regard to my child in these moments?

      Pressure won’t work; controlling (relationship, income, environment etc) won’t work. Do you want your child to follow the social script you desire, no matter her feelings? Or do you want her to be able to use this situation as a learning moment, to grow and avoid such mistakes later in life?

      In the end, another question I aked myself was: do I want my child to trust me, or obey me? In my case, trust was the answer and we look back (at a moment as painful, but in a different set of circumstances than yours) together and laugh; and we both learned the lessons we needed.

      Now, the answers are yours to give, if you ask yourself those questions, and they will shape your actions. I’d suggest you take some moments before answering; when emotions run high it’s the worst time to make decisions. Just know that one day you’ll likely look back at what you did. Will you cringe, or will you be proud of your decisions?

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        do I want my child to trust me, or obey me?

        This is something every parent needs to ask themselves. And if they want their child to trust them, they need follow through and make sure their child can do so. Thank you for this post, it’s so compassionate and filled with excellent advice. I’m glad things are better for you and your family now.

        1. Mb13*

          I’m a fan of Disney movies and one of the things I loved in Moana is that her grandma guides her through love and trust, unlike say the little mermaid’s dad (and many other parents) who try and control their children through obedience

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

            Oh, that is so good to hear! I’ve been wanting to see Moana and this makes me want to watch it even more. This is such an important message that will hopefully get through to people.

            I love aspects of The Little Mermaid, but hated the father. He was awful. The scene where he destroys her belongings is devastating. So hearing that Moana is far more advanced is very uplifting!

      2. Observer*

        So well put.

        I would add one thing. Even if you think that it is better for your child to obey rather than trust you, please understand that your ability to force an adult child to obey is extremely limited. Ultimately, your best chance to influence your child is through trust. She is an adult, and you simply cannot force her to do what you want her to. If you maintain a trust relationship, she may eventually listen to your advice, however.

        1. Aveline*

          I think she’s going to the employer to try and force compliance, since her daughters not obeying either her husband or her mom. I don’t think mom really understand that the employer can’t force her daughter to behave. The only two outcomes are going to be either they do nothing about it or they fire the daughter. Firing the daughter would not prevent her from seeing these friends or the other man. I actually think it would drive her deeper into their arms!

          1. Observer*

            That may be what Mom has in mind – but as you say, it’s not likely to work. And, that’s a key thing to keep in mind. As parents, we think we get to choose between obedience and trust. But, once our kids are adults, that’s just not true. We get to choose between trust and no influence at all. Obedience is not something we get to choose.

      3. Aveline*

        I was just coming on here to ask the letter writer if they were contacting the employer in an effort to get their daughter to comply with what they wanted. I suspect that they may be knowingly or unknowingly trying to force their daughter to behave in a certain way, not to get her fired. Mom is found that she can’t get daughter to do what she wants, son-in-law I can’t get daughter to do what they want, so they’re going to the employer as a last resort to force compliance.

        I’ve seen this happen before. People seem to think that employers are parents income force people to behave in certain ways. They can’t. They can only fire them.

        Mom must think “if I go to the employer this behavior will stop and she will return to her husband.” There’s absolutely zero chance of that being the result.

        This is an about helping the daughter in anyway. It has to be about getting the daughter to do what she thinks the daughter ought to do.

        One of the hardest lessons being an adult is learning that you can’t force people who are not your children or you prisoners to do anything. Even if you are hundred percent right and what they ought to do, they still have free will!

        I run into this all the time with my elderly clients. I have children to tell me that they have a power of attorney. So they should stop mom and dad for making a bad decision. I told him as long is an adult is legally competent, they can make the most stupid decisions on the planet, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

  19. MommyMD*

    I vote do not wear green. Dress professionally and be prepared. Forget about minor holidays.

      1. Jolie*

        This may vary from field to field, but actually I think you want a colour that makes you stand out /doesn’t look like exactly what everyone else is wearing. You’ve got to be memorable.

        1. Someone*

          I don’t hire people based on their clothes. Unprofessional dress can knock you out of the running, but I want you to do a job, not look pretty. Clothes are such a tiny part of your interview.

        2. Amber T*

          I’m in a fairly conservative work (at least similar in dress to the way OP described) and the outfit she described sounds perfectly fine to me. A neutral suit (black, gray, navy) and a pop of color in the shirt is perfectly acceptable here. For the most part, at least. But I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at a suit like the one she described.

          Off topic a bit, but I will tell a short story about a vendor who came to give a presentation and was dressed… not like us. It was a pair that came in. I’m not sure what they were presenting (I wasn’t part of the meeting, just happened to be by reception when they came in), but she was wearing something that was fine for office, but he was wearing a blue suit (not navy, just a bright blue suit), with a highlighter yellow shirt, pants hemmed too short (as he was walking they were above his ankles – in his defense he was fairly tall, but…) with bright yellow and pink plaid socks, and beige shoes (not quite men’s dress shoes, not sure how to describe him). I work in finance, so this outfit got a lot of side eye. It was certainly an interesting combination.

          1. Ayshe22992*

            its a very hipster-ish (for lack of better term) way of dressing. I personally LOVE bright colors and wear as much as possible (but I understand professional norms) and pants hemmed a little high is also a thing. I don’t get it, but its a thing

            1. Amber T*

              That’s exactly it! It stuck out like a sore thumb here but I described it to a friend who works in a more creative field and she said that’s perfectly normal for what she sees.

              We do have one partner here who loves wearing ridiculous socks. He’ll wear the typical neutral pants and the typical dress shirt, and his pants are normal length when he stands, but when he sits (and pulls the hem of his pants up – why do men do that?) you can see all sorts of crazy socks. Nothing “unprofessional” per se (no rubber ducks or hula dancers), but they’re bright and patterned. It’s always amusing :)

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, this sounds field dependent. But even stodgy lawyers would be fine with the blouse OP is describing, and the company she’s interviewing with sounds less stodgy than that. Nothing inherently unprofessional or signalling about a green blouse, including wearing one on the holiday.

          1. Uzumaki Naruto*

            Stodgy lawyers would be fine with it, but I do suspect they would think “I wonder if she’s wearing green *because of* the holiday?” Which may be fine (it probably is!), but it’s something I would at least consider.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Sure, but I wouldn’t go from “oh, she’s wearing this for SPD” to “she’s going to get blackout drunk later today.” :)

      2. MommyMD*

        It’s not unprofessional. But personally when interviewing for a position, I would never want to come across as “cutesy” and going in with a green blouse may indeed come across that way. Especially if she is wearing it only for the purpose of “wearing green”. We sometimes make slight projections we are unaware of though others can pick them up.

        1. Grits McGee*

          I was trying to think of why the idea of wearing green to an interview on St. Patrick’s day was making me feel apprehensive, and “cutesy” articulates it perfectly. Honestly, the blouse is probably fine, but if I were in OP’s position I’d want to consider how important being seen as “serious” is before wearing it to an interview.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s a fair critique, and in that context, I agree.

          But I also think OP is over-thinking this. The length of the letter made me feel that if this much justification is required, maybe it’s not a great idea. But either way, I don’t think it would actively hurt her.

        3. LBK*

          I suppose it depends how stuffy you expect your interview subjects to be but personally, I want someone I’m interviewing to show me what they’ll really be like while I’m working with them, within reason. If they’re someone who likes to dress thematically for holidays (which is perfectly fine in most offices), I don’t see any reason they should have to hide that just for an interview. I mean, wearing shamrock glasses and a leprechaun hat is a little much, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with wearing a green shirt to an interview, and I think it would give me a little bit of a peek into that person’s personality. I like my coworkers to be humans.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      A blouse like the one the LW describes is perfectly professional, even in a bright color. She’s not planning to dress like a leprechaun.

    2. Meredith*

      Since she said it was a blouse she wouldn’t hesitate to wear on other interview days, I say go for it and wear green. That said, I don’t really celebrate St Patrick’s Day (no Irish heritage, and it’s never been important to me otherwise). I often forget to wear green on the day and probably wouldn’t notice or make the connection that the green blouse was chosen as a recognition of the holiday. That’s just me, though.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Agree with the others; I don’t think green is an inherently unprofessional color. What’s more, what may be a “minor holiday” to you could be someone else’s absolutely favorite day of the year. If I were the interviewer, I’m not even sure that I would connect the green blouse to it being St. Patrick’s Day. Wear what makes you happy and confident, so long as it’s the right style for an interview!

    4. Whats In A Name*

      Interesting that you think green indicates unprofessionalism. I look the best in green – compliments my skin tone, hair color and eyes. I have green blouses that I wear under tailored suits for presentations and interviewing and a Kelly tailored blazer I wear at the office or generally any time I need some extra polish to an outfit.

      I think as long as the green top isn’t similar to my “I Love Shenanigans” Tee that I bought at Target with a 4-leaf clover on it she’ll be fine.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I had one of those Target St. Patrick’s Day-themed shirts ages ago, and because the screenprinted part was fairly small, I actually did wear it under blazers and cardigans to work sometimes! No one was the wiser — it just looked like a pretty emerald-green accent under a neutral.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          Mine is definitely not hideable in this instance, but I have been known to wear otherwise inappropriate shirts under blazer if I can hide the inappropriate content!

    5. AnotherAlison*

      I fall on the side of green being fine on another day, but I’d vote against wearing it on the holiday. Now, a PR job is totally different from what I do, but the types of people who go all out on holidays are a different breed from most of the people I work with. A green blouse /= shamrock earrings, but I might wonder if you’re the person who is going to have a Halloween sweater, a Christmas sweater, and try to get me to participate in a holiday office decorating contest. [If you’re the best qualified, I am not going to let your blouse color factor in, but my first impression might be skewed.]

      1. TL -*

        But there are a lot of places where having different holiday sweaters would be just fine – I’d be really happy if one of my coworkers wore a Halloween sweater!

        1. AnotherAlison*

          But you can’t be sure if you’re at one of those places until after your interview!

          Just a data point, but there are three national major players in my industry in my city. We have business casual dress. One requires ties for men and pantyhose for women. The third recently went to a jeans-every-day dress code. Someone who likes fun sweaters is probably going to fit better at the jeans place than the pantyhose place.

          1. Anna*

            But it’s neither jeans nor a holiday sweater; it’s a color of top. If you think a green top with a suit jacket = a Halloween sweater, you may be jumping to some bizarre conclusions.

      2. MegaMoose, Esq*

        Eh, I think the OP is over thinking this. Wearing green on St. Patrick’s might mean 1) they’re recognizing the holiday, 2) they forgot the holiday and just like green, 3) they like green, remembered the holiday, and decided to do what they were planning all along regardless. Reading into it would be a pretty silly thing for an interviewer to do, unless it’s in aggregate, like the comment above where every interviewees wore green.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I think this is one where it doesn’t matter either way–it doesn’t look too themey if she does but nobody’s going to hold it against her if she doesn’t.

      3. MommyMD*

        Another Alison, thank you. There is nothing inherently wrong with green. I also would wonder if she’s going to dress in Easter egg colors in the spring.

        1. Newby*

          I don’t really see why wearing pastels in the spring would be problematic. Unless she is actually wearing a shamrock print or had Easter egg earrings, it is just a color. If she likes to coordinate her color choices to the season or holiday, I don’t really think it is a problem.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq*

            Yeah, I’m really thinking this fear of being thought “festive” (the horror!) is going too far. Should one also avoid orange in October? Red in December and February? Just dress interview (and weather) appropriate. Everything else is personal preference.

        2. Lablizard*

          I would think spring is the time for pastels, so don’t understand the issue. Isn’t the some super old school fashion advice that spring is the only time pastels are appropriate?

          As for the green blouse, I look amazing in green and will wear it to an interview, no matter what day it was. If someone jumped to the conclusion I did it for a holiday and judged me for it, I would think they were weird. Of course, given my name, it is highly unlikely anyone except the most clueless woul think I was dressing for any Christian themed holiday, so maybe I can’t see something?

        3. Whats In A Name*

          What? I don’t even celebrate Easter and I wear pastels in the spring…because I am not sure what other season they are appropriate in.

        4. LBK*

          If you want to wear pastels in spring, orange and black for the whole month of October and red and green in December…so what? As long as we’re just talking about the color of their clothes and it’s nothing too garish or inappropriate, I don’t see what the problem is. Some people just like to dress seasonally, how does that in any way reflect on their performance as a worker?

      4. Agnodike*

        But what if you *are* the person who is going to have a Halloween sweater and a Christmas sweater and who would be participating 100% if there were a holiday office decorating contest? That’s a perfectly fine way to be, as long as you’re not otherwise being obtrusive or impeding your colleagues’ ability to do their jobs. It might not be your favourite flavour of coworker or employee, but there’s nothing wrong with it.

        I know plenty of people who work in industries where sober business dress is the norm, who wear jack-o-lantern earrings on Halloween or a Christmas tree tie clip on the last work day before the holiday. It doesn’t seem to have impeded their careers any, and it’s something they enjoy.

        1. LBK*

          Agreed – people do actually dress in holiday attire when they’re hired, and while I think a bevy of adornments is a little much for an interview where dress code standards tend to be stricter, I don’t think enjoying wearing themed colors is a negative trait that should be hidden in an interview.

    6. Michele*

      I work in a fairly conservative field, but a black suit with a green blouse would be completely appropriate for an interview.

    7. Bork*

      I took your comment as ‘don’t wear bright green’. Neon green. Bright St. Patrick’s t-shirt green. Same with the pastels comment…are you wearing cottoncandy colored pink to an interview? Ehhh, shouldn’t matter but I wouldn’t recommend it. A soft pink (blush) shirt or suit in spring…sure.

      IDK why, but I imagined the OP considering emerald (gorgeous color OMG) or a darker green. Shrug.

      I’ve only interviewed 10 people in my career and everyone has worn black or navy. While being memorable is important, I want it to be because of your thoughtful answers not because you wore orange. Different strokes for different folks though.

  20. lokilaufeysanon*

    LW1: Please, for the love of all things good, cut the umbilical cord. I felt smothered reading your letter, please take a step back. That is not going to end the way you think it will. I doubt your daughter is going to be thankful that one of her parents called up her work and aired her dirty laundry. I think you need to stop and think how you would feel if one of your parents did that to you. If you’re honest, you wouldn’t appreciate it.

    Your daughter chose to have an affair. Your daughter chose to go out and party. These are your daughter’s decisions. I’m certain she is acting in a way contrary to how you raised her, but at this point that horse has long left the barn.

  21. Enya*

    #2: You could just say, “No, I haven’t found a job yet.” They don’t need to know that you haven’t applied anywhere yet.

  22. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    #1 – I get it, believe me. One of the hardest things in life is to watch someone you care about hurt themselves. Your daughter will have to make her own mistake, though. She will need to learn on her own that the people around her are not her friends. There isn’t much you can do but be there for her. You can’t live her life for her, as much as you might want to (and like I said, I really understand how much you might want to!).

    This isn’t the same situation, but it might help give you another perspective: A long time ago, there was someone in my life I thought was my friend. She wasn’t. I ignored the warning signs and a particular situation spiraled out of control to the point law enforcement got involved. I was terrified and don’t think I’ve ever been that scared since. Thankfully, the police believed that I had nothing to do with what happened, but it was an awful experience and I never want to go through something like that again.

    However! Here’s what came out of it. I have never, ever let things go since then. If I get even a hint of something shady, I’m done with a person. I value real friendship, not someone who plays fast and loose with ethics and doesn’t care about doing the right thing. While the experience was terrifying, it was a huge wake-up call for me to re-evaluate my life. If I hadn’t gone through it, I might have repeated the mistake and ended up in serious trouble.

    So, not meaning to make this all about me, but to give you another perspective. Be there for your daughter if things get tough, but let her handle this on her own. If she doesn’t deal with the consequences this time, she won’t learn the lessons for avoiding the situation next time. It won’t be easy, though, and you may want to tell a sympathetic friend about what’s going so you can vent to them and get advice. Good luck.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      * make her own mistakes

      Why do errors always make themselves visible after posting???

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Thank you for allowing me to save face :)

          But honestly. I read my comments several times, don’t see mistakes, and the instant I post, all the errors show up! Just ridiculous.

  23. MW*

    OP1, I don’t think your action would have the desired outcome! If you contacted your daughter’s employer it would be very embarrassing for her and could really drive a wedge between you. I would be *furious* if one of my parents contacted my employer in this way, no matter how inappropriate my behaviour. I think if you do this, there’s a good chance you’ll just drive her further away.

    Have you had an honest, heartfelt conversation with her? I definitely think you need to take this up with your daughter herself, as no-one else can change her behaviour. Maybe she has a really good reason to act this way, perhaps she’s been unhappy in her marriage for a long time and her new friends are the first ones who really let her express her frustration. Maybe not. But all you can do is listen, express your concern, and offer her your support.

    I’d also recommend pursuing a non-work related agony column (Slate’s Dear Prudence? Captain Awkward?) for advice.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Agreed. Mom doesn’t need to talk to the daughter’s employer, she needs to talk to her daughter.
      If the daughter was addicted to heroin, in a fightclub, or went missing for 2 weeks, then you could call the employer. And even then, the call would be to inform the employer of your plan, not to expect the employer to take care of the situation.
      Talk to the daughter, find out what is going on. Reconnect. And then you can sleep at night because you will have the answers you need. Daughter’s boss won’t have the answers.

      1. Allison*

        I dunno if I would tell the employer about a drug addiction, or if they were in a fight club, unless they were hospitalized or about to be taken to an inpatient facility (and they didn’t know yet . . .). Even then, I’d just say they needed medical leave and not specify why.

        1. fposte*

          I cannot imagine what I would do if somebody warned me one of my staff was in a fight club. Mostly wonder who my largely teeny staff was finding to fight that wasn’t cleaning their clocks, I guess.

  24. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    #3 – The best treat is positive feedback, I promise you. At that age, a small note saying ‘You did a good job, thank you!’ meant everything (and still would, to be honest).

    Do you have a method of keeping track of who does what? Maybe what you could do is have an Excel spreadsheet with people’s names and particular projects they worked on. You can update it when they do something outstanding or with their positive qualities (e.g., has excellent phone skills, very organised, etc). Then when the times comes to write a reference, you’ve got a handy list of specifics. (I got the impression you had a lot of student workers come through, so ignore this suggestion if that’s not the case or you have an amazing memory.)

    1. Future Analyst*

      I really, really like this idea. I would take great feedback or a great reference over all the treats in the world!

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        And in addition, not every can have treats, so positive feedback would make sure everyone is included.

  25. Kathlynn*

    For the shirt? I think the only time it would be an issue is it were a bright/neon color. Which a lot of people don’t like in large doses.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      And even that depends highly on how it works for the person wearing it! I see plenty of coworkers in what would be considered “loud” colors that suit them beautifully — nothing unprofessional about it! (There is one dude in my office who rocks bright Barbie pink and it makes him look fantastic — I am soooo jealous.)

      1. Parenthetically*

        Absolutely! Even a really bright green would be lovely under a grey or black jacket!

    2. Dot Warner*

      Yep. As long as it looks good with the rest of the interview outfit, I say go for it!

  26. Jolie*

    The green blouse sounds lovely.
    My go-to job interview outfit is : red lace blouse, red wool skirt with black trim and grey flowers, classic black suit jacket, black sheer pantyhose, black heels, Audrey Hepburn chignon with red bow in hair.

    Then again I’m looking for project co-ordination and social media jobs in the charity sector. Private sector people may dress differently, I’m not very familiar with it.

    1. caryatis*

      Wow. I would never wear red lace or a red bow to work–let alone an interview. Any kind of lace blouse is pushing it. But, I guess you know your industry better than I do.

      1. Jolie*

        I always thought of lace top+ pencil skirt in navy combo as “office wear for that kind of workplace where they actually have a dress code” (as opposed to the kinds of places where I work, where no one would bat an eye at someone in a hot pink cardigan sitting in the next cubicle from someone with blue hair and five piercings, next to someone in traditional Muslim dress.) Now I feel really out of touch.

        Just curious, what do you wear to work & what is your field?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Pencil skirt, yes. Lace has traditionally been considered out of place in more conservative environments in the daytime. But it may be fine for the places you’re interviewing!

    2. Emi.*

      Whooaaa I would never dress like this for an interview, or for work at all. Your dress code sounds like fun, though.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        Add me to the envious crowd – that outfit sounds great. I’ll just be over here admiring in my black or charcol suit with a “pop of color.”

        1. Michele*

          Same. Woman in a traditionally male, conservative field here. I wouldn’t even wear a skirt to an interview. I stick to neutral pantsuits with a simple blouse and black shoes.

          1. Natalie*

            For whatever it’s worth, on women skirt suits are the more conservative option versus a pantsuit. Pantsuits actually used to be somewhat controversial for professional women.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              The legal field is like this, too – can I wear pants to an interview/court is, sadly, still a discussion.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Seriously. Ask me about the county judge who won’t let women attorneys appear in pantsuits (skirt suits and dress suits, only—pantsuits are unseemly and informal), or the federal district judge who kicks you out if you aren’t wearing pantyhose when the weather is over 90F outside.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I know. I often envy the sartorial chicness and flexibility of less-stodgy employers :(

      3. Jolie*

        As my current contract is nearing the end and I started job-hunting again, I actually put together 3 different outfits, took pictures and asked all my friends with a good sense of fashion / careers I liked about advice.

        Option 1 was : same classic black suit jacket, same red lace blouse, multicoloured scarf, navy pencil skirt with just a little painted tulip on. Most of the friends I asked (and my mom) said: nope, way too stodgy and corporate.

        Second option was just what I described, and it overwhelmingly won the popular vote by a landslide.

        Third option was : deep green turtleneck, wool suit jacket in mustard /plaid pattern, same navy pencil skirt from #1. A few people liked this outfit best, I ‘ve been told it’ s “very Peggy Olson”, and I may consider wearing it to job interviews in the future, although ultimately I feel more comfortable in red and that particular outfit is more flattering for my figure.

        On a normal day at work, I usually wear either skinny jeans or skirts with bold brightly coloured sweaters (hand-knitted or cashmere). Pinafore dresses or knee – length sweater dresses are also options. In the summer long flowing hippie skirts.

  27. CoffeeLover*

    OP #3 – As a recent graduate (and therefore recent student worker), I never really cared about these kind of things. Don’t get me wrong, treats are always great, but it didn’t impact my job satisfaction in any significant way. I think that’s true for most people and is probably why you’re having trouble getting others on board. It’s a lot of work for a little reward.

    I think there’s a bit of a misconception that young people need that “buddy” culture at work. Maybe because we hypothetically have less obligations outside of work?

    I worked for one those big companies (Big 4) with an army of young employees that did a lot of team-building type events . Honestly, it was a chore for a lot of us. The others (the one’s that attended every event) were the type that would act borderline inappropriately at these events (i.e., drinking too much). In the end, you start to realize it’s better to just not attend and develop relationships the way the other adults in the office did – working on cross-departmental projects, helping each other out, going for coffee, etc. As Dizzy Steinway mentioned above, regular employees don’t expect/get these kind of perks so why pretend that’s the way the world works for the sake of the students. I think it makes it harder for new grads/students to learn about appropriate behavior and relationships at work. It also encourages a bit of a high-school mentality which is not something you want.

    I’ll also add that a company that focuses too much on employee perks and team-building events, is usually a company that doesn’t actually treat its employees well. Instead they try to use smoke and mirrors to convince you it’s not that bad. In my case, it was a company that expected you to work constantly – I mean 16hours days for weeks on end – with no compensation. By the end, those events had the opposite effect – made me more bitter than anything else.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Seconded. If someone brings in treats, I remember the treats, not where they came from. There have been times when a manager will walk around with a box of donuts and offer them to each employee at their desk, and that is memorable. But it still doesn’t register on the work satisfaction gauge.

    2. Anonygoose*

      I fully agree that many young people (myself included) expect/seek a buddy culture at work… I think it has to do with the fact that there is less going on outside of work, often young people move for work and don’t have family or friends nearby, and often their prior work experience is in places like retail/restaurants where colleagues become very close friends. It actually was kind of hard to adjust when I finally entered the professional world.

      1. Natalie*

        I also suspect that the less experienced employees who *don’t* like that sort of culture don’t feel comfortable pushing back on it. If I had entered my field (accounting) earlier I probably would have spent some time at one of the Big4 firms CoffeeLover mentions, but at 22/23/24 I would have felt pressured to go along with all of the socializing even though it would be exhausting to me. Whereas Today Me is both more experienced at gracefully declining invitations and more comfortable doing so.

    3. Cassie*

      When I was a student worker, my boss would occasionally buy me a coffee or a tea cake – usually when she went to buy something and would bring me something back. It was a nice thought (came out of her our pocket). I know one of my coworkers who oversees a couple of student workers will take them out to lunch in June. Nothing fancy – just some fast food or whatever’s nearby.

      My sentiments with CoffeeLover are similar – these treats didn’t impact my job satisfaction. I wouldn’t expect to get stuff like that (we do have plenty of leftover food from meetings and such that student workers, students, staff, faculty, random people are free to take). It’s similar to how I feel as a staff member. Treats are nice, but they mean nothing if the overall work environment is terrible. I prefer a steady (pleasant) work experience – like a flat line graph. I don’t need major highs (staff picnic! day at the beach! birthday teas!) with major lows (people screaming at each other).

  28. Britt*

    OP 1, in 2009, I was your daughter. Granted, I wasn’t married but let me set the scene. Just started new job. My “manager” was a joke and a huge trainwreck. More content to send me memes and smoke outside then do any office work. I was living at home after graduating and in a relationship with a guy for over 3 years. We were about to move in together. I didn’t know it at the time consciously, but I was miserable. I felt stuck, mostly by my relationship who everyone (including and especially my parents) took at face value and didn’t see what was going on underneath. No abuse, but we were just very wrong for each other and staying together was part of my depression. So when a really sexy guy at work (who was labeled trouble) started flirting with me, I fell right in. With the encouragement and friendship of Bad Influence Manager, I made some really bad decisions. Ultimately though, I had to go through with it and experience it. I did hurt people and damage my (personal and professional) reputation along the way a bit but I was 22 and kind of a moron. Eventually I landed a different job and dropped the manager as a friend. It was the kick in the pants I needed to get my act together. I guess what I am trying to say is rather than contact the employer, contact your daughter. Have a real, honest conversation about where you see this path leading her and find out if there is anything going on beneath the surface there. Mine did and even though I was tight lipped and brushed her off, I was glad she was there when the cards fell and when I could finally help her understand what my old relationship was like.

    That hot flirty coworker? We’ve been together 8 years, 4 of them married with a beautiful daughter. I would urge you to take the work place out of this and continue to focus on communicating with your daughter. Contacting her employer will only push her away and make you look overbearing. I’m sorry you’re watching your child go through this.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      I hate you had to go through the heartache but I think your message here is spot on: you have to learn these types of mistakes on your own to really grow through them and learn from them. Forcing a hand in anyway is not going to be a good outcome for OP and might drive even more of a wedge between the 2.

      I have real sympathy for the OP; I can’t even begin to imagine how hard this might be for her, but I do think the daughter needs to work through this in her own way, not in the way mom thinks is best. Which is probably very very hard for a parent to practice.

  29. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)*

    I wore a red shell under a black skirt suit for an academic interview on Valentine’s Day once. I only got subtle positive responses (the students loved that I did it, the department chair said at the end of the day “I know I’m not supposed to notice things like this but I love it!”).

    That was not nearly as weird as the dinner after the interview, where the hostess anxiously asked if the special lovers menu was OK for our clearly business dinner.

    There were fantastic pink specialty cocktails.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I cringe at this, only because I think dining out on Valentine’s Day is a special level of hell. Like that scene in the (generally terrible) 2nd Sex and the City movie. Not at your red shell, which sounds very nice.

      I had a meeting with clients last Wednesday and realized I had nothing red to wear (sooooooo not my color, no indeed). Every other woman at this client site wore red. I complimented all of their red and I kept apologizing for my lack of red. Wish I’d had my own red shell!

    2. Spoonie*

      Special Lovers menu. I’m having flashbacks to my last business dinner and…whew that would have been priceless to see the blush on Dept Manager’s face at that question. And see him (6’5, built like a linebacker) drink a pink cocktail. Thank you for this visual, it’s made my morning.

    3. Hrovitnir*

      Haha, the special lovers menu for a work dinner is pretty epic. Especially the pink cocktails.

    4. mamabear*

      OMG, that is hysterical. How in the world did you respond to the hostess’s question? I’m dying of secondhand embarrassment.

  30. Lady Julian*

    OP2: I admit that public recognition & words of praise are, especially in a business context, more meaningful than a bag of Hershey’s Kisses picked up at the store. But giving people things, or receiving things, especially if it’s a special treat or a homemade gift, is a way that some of us show appreciation. I’ve found myself accompanying apologies to friends (non-work contexts) with nice chocolate, as a way of underscoring sincerity; and after the election (I’m progressive) I baked my friends and neighbours muffins. So don’t discount treats as a meaningful way of appreciation!

    OP3: It is worth nothing that in some areas of the country (especially those with Irish and/or Catholic roots) St. Paddy’s Day actually has religious significance, and which color you wear is a mark of allegiance. A friend attending a strong Catholic school in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area several years back once wore orange on St. Paddy’s Day (She’s Protestant) and found that she offended a few of her acquaintances through her ignorance.

    1. fposte*

      I would almost characterize that as political rather than religious; I think there are Catholics who’ve never set foot in a church who’d get annoyed about orange on St. Patrick’s day.

      1. Emi.*

        It’s also that the political and the religious are very difficult to disentangle in this context.

      2. cbackson*

        I have to say that I don’t have a ton of tolerance for that, though. Sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland is an extremely complicated issue. While my sympathies lie with the Republican side, the Republicans aren’t blameless in terms of their tactics, and therefore US Catholics (who from a statistical perspective probably aren’t even Irish by background) are not entitled to the default allegiance of everyone in the United States, as demonstrated by refraining from wearing orange. What’s more, the odds that a US Protestant is wearing orange on any given day to show Unionist leanings are essentially zero. In fact, the odds that an American who isn’t of Irish descent even knows what that orange signifies are vanishingly small.

      3. cbackson*

        I would have very little tolerance for that. You don’t have the right to require me to choose a side in the political conflict in Northern Ireland or to interpret my fashion choices on a particular holiday as a statement regarding a sectarian and political conflict in another country in which I’m not involved. US-style St. Patrick’s Day celebrations? Not really something I get into, but harmless fun for lots of people. The Catholic/Protestant conflict in Northern Ireland? A complex political issue that has taken thousands of lives. If somebody wants to interpret me wearing orange on St. Patrick’s Day as a statement of support for the Unionist cause, I’m going to tell them that I interpret them wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day as a statement of support for the RIRA and ask them to justify the Omagh bombing.

        I tend to sympathize with Northern Irish republicans from a political perspective, but I have very little patience for poorly informed Americans who romanticize the IRA. The Troubles were incredibly complex, and a lot of innocent people died at the hands of paramilitaries on both sides. Nobody gets to draft me into that fight based on my clothes.

      4. Lablizard*

        Huh, I never knew that was an issue. I hope I haven’t ever done this. In my defense, I didn’t grow up in a country that celebrated this or had many Irish people

  31. nnn*

    OP1: As a parent, your first loyalty in this situation is to your daughter. Not to your daughter’s husband, not to the abstract notion of fidelity. You don’t have to approve of her actions, but you do you need to act in her best interests – or, at a minimum, not act in a way that hinders her best interests.

    And it is in no possible way in your daughter’s best interests to put her employability at risk. Even if it’s in her best interests to get a different job, you aren’t helping achieve that by attempting to get her in trouble with her employer. Being fired makes it harder to find a job than not being fired. And even if she isn’t fired, a future job will want references, and might opt not to hire her if her reference tells them that her parents contacted the employer with unsavoury information about her private life in an attempt to get her in trouble.

    1. Minerva McGonagall*

      “As a parent, your first loyalty in this situation is to your daughter. Not to your daughter’s husband, not to the abstract notion of fidelity. You don’t have to approve of her actions, but you do you need to act in her best interests – or, at a minimum, not act in a way that hinders her best interests. ”

      So much this. While my brother’s marriage was falling apart for unrelated reasons, he had an affair. The third party was a fling on a business trip, not his wife’s best friend or 20 years younger than her or in some other way adding insult to injury.

      At the end of the day, he’s my brother and we love each other. I made clear I wasn’t thrilled with what he’d done, but I understood how miserable he was in his marriage, and he still had my loyalty and support as he dealt with the fall out.

      On the other hand, our father and stepmother took their daughter in law’s side, going so far as to plan a vacation with her not long after she served him with divorce papers. (They had never done combined family vacations during my brother’s marriage!) Not only did they irreparably damage their relationship with my brother, seeing their lack of support for him severely damaged their relationship with me.

      If you want to continue to be a part of your daughter’s life, please think long and hard before interfering in it.

      1. Parenthetically*

        A big Carolyn Hax-esque WOW to your father and stepmother!

        On the other hand, a relative of mine got nothing but ire and blame from her in-laws as her marriage was falling apart — sure her husband had been cheating, racking up thousands of dollars in debt on porn and strippers and toys for his hobbies, but according to his parents, SHE was the bad guy for initiating a divorce, and they let her know it at every opportunity. Surely there has to be a middle ground where the parents of a person who is having an affair can offer support and let the spouse know they don’t condone what’s happening without overstepping.

      2. CoffeeLover*

        Wow… not sure what your parents were trying to accomplish there. Especially with the vacation (what an unnecessary jab at your brother). To choose your ex-DIL over your son… I wonder which one will be at their deathbed.

        My brother-in-law’s wife cheated on him (for a while) and left him (recently). Her parents are very religious and did not take kindly to the infidelity or the divorce. They basically disowned her. That was not cool of them. Not cool at all. I don’t condone her actions, but I felt bad for her. Her parents threw away their relationship over nothing (in the grand scheme of life). She’s now happily living with the new guy and has moved on (relationship with the parents is still non-existent). My BIL isn’t a bad guy, but he wasn’t the best husband.

  32. nnn*

    OP2: If you want, you could turn the burden back on them. “Not yet, why? Know of anything?”

  33. Argh!*

    #2: I have a friend who called it “funemployment” (while she vacationed & recovered from a toxic work environment). Nobody nagged her about her job hunt.

  34. MuseumChick*

    OP 1,

    This has got to be such a hard situation for you to watch happen. I had a friend who did something similar and it was very hard to not scream “What are you doing???”” at her. Most of this has been covered in other posts but I wanted to give you my thoughts.

    1) Do not contact her employer. It would be inappropriate and there is strong likelihood it will merely make you *appear* overbearing/”crazy”.

    2) Your daughter is an adult. Thus she is capable of making decisions about her life, even when you disagree with them.

    3) Similar to above, as an adult is is allowed to choose her social circle, even when you disagree.

    4) You are 100% allowed to set clear boundaries with her. When my friend had an affair with a married man I told her VERY bluntly “I don’t want to hear about. I don’t want to meet him. If I see him in a social situation I will be polite but I have no interest in getting to know him at all.”

    5) While you may like/approve of her husband, no one knows what really goes on between a married couple behind closed doors. Their marriage MAY have been great, it also MAY have been terrible. Only the two of them know for sure and even then, they most likely have widely different opinions on the quality of the marriage.

    1. Emilia Bedelia*

      I agree with your point #1 in particular. There have been letters in the past of people who are worried their overbearing/abusive/estranged family members will contact their employers, and the advice is always “This will look worse for them than it will for you”. The daughter is the “known quantity”, and the parent is completely unknown – there’s no real reason for the employer to believe you over her. The employer will not want to get involved in this drama. If they are at all reasonable, they will ignore it, or give the daughter a heads up that someone is contacting her employer and trying to get them involved in her personal life.
      This is a really tough situation to deal with, and that sucks, but contacting the employer is not going to get the results that you’re looking for.

      1. MuseumChick*

        When my friend had her affair, I was pissed. I can only imagine how I would feel if I had a grown up child who I found out was having an affair. At the very least I would make my feelings abundantly clear, but I would never consider contacting their job.

        Emilia, you’ve pointed out something I hadn’t considered, that the daughter’s employer will probably tell her that someone is contact them about her personal life. That won’t lead to anything good between mom and daughter.

  35. Anon this time*

    OP #1 – I’m so sorry for your family. But as Alison said, do not contact the employer. If her behavior is impacting her work, the employer will manage it as they see fit.

    At my former employer, there was a similar situation.

    One of the (married) HR Reps had an affair with a (married) employee – the employee was one of the employees she “supported” as an HR Rep.

    The same HR Rep also had an inappropriate relationship (emotional or physical affair – never did find out) with another employee’s spouse.

    The company did an investigation and the HR Rep lost her job.

  36. Fronzel Neekburm*

    My heart goes out to LW 1. I agree – don’t contact your daughter’s employer – but I can see why you would want to do something to get the daughter you think you remember back. I understand feeling helpless and wanting to do something. Just know that you will all get through this. The best thing to do now is be there for your daughter and her husband.

  37. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    OP1 –
    This is 100% none of your employer’s business — unless the person she’s having an affair with is in her chain of command, what do you think her employer is going to do? What interest do you want your daughter’s employer taking in her sex & marital life?

    Something I noticed missing from your letter was your daughter’s take on this. You’ve talked about how her husband feels, and you’ve talked about how ‘we’ are losing sleep over this — but have you talked with her, or more importantly, listened to her about what’s going on?

    Here’s my analogous storytime:
    When I was in college, I was engaged to someone who, on the surface, seemed like an angel — and for as long as I was socially isolated, being a non-party person at a party school, I stayed very close with my fiancée and we seemed like the “perfect” couple. Shortly after meeting a group of new friends from outside my college, my behavior changed greatly, and I broke off the engagement quickly after spending a weekend with those friends.

    The story underneath the story was that my fiancée was extremely manipulative; during the time I was isolated from others, I thought that my discomfort around her was a natural consequence of being an extreme introvert. I was similarly uncomfortable around my classmates, so why should someone else be different?

    After I spent the weekend with those friends of mine, and didn’t feel in the least uncomfortable or manipulated, it put into perspective how bad I felt about my engagement. It made me realize that it wasn’t natural for me to feel that way around someone I cared about, and that going forward with the wedding would be a terrible, terrible idea. However, to a lot of people, it looked like I had fallen in with a group of new people and then immediately did a 180 from devoted future spouse to accusing jerk. The optics were bad, but the story underneath was very different.

    So — while your daughter’s situation and mine aren’t identical, I think you really need to hear and absorb your daughter’s perspective on these things. If her behavior has changed drastically — why? Very few people hurt others just for the sheer joy of it — if you have known your daughter not to be that kind of person, then give her the benefit of assuming that there is an internal consistency to what she is doing, and listen to her tell you about it.

    And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t talk to her employer. What makes you think they’ll even believe you?

    1. Whats In A Name*

      I am sorry this happened to you, as I was in a similar situation & understand exactly what you mean. Everyone thought we were the perfect couple – but me. Turns out BF was controlling and once I realized I was happier making my own decisions and having a few girlfriends my behavior became “out of character” but it was actually my true character – someone with her own identity. Lots of people thought I was a bad person for a long time.

      I don’t necessarily agree with the affair, but I do understand there is likely more going on here and the mom’s allegiance should be with the daughter, not the relationship. And maybe someone (like a therapist) can help her better understand what that looks like.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        In a weird way, I’m not — it was a really, really valuable life lesson, and I managed to get out of it when it was still a matter of giving back a ring, rather than getting a divorce!

        Also, it’s amazing how much energy general-you can be tricked into putting into making a terrible relationship look like storybook perfection on the outside. It’s a shame there’s such a social emphasis on having a relationship that looks good, rather than a relationship that IS good.

  38. Office Plant*

    #1 – She’s an adult. There’s more to the story, and you’ll probably never know all of it. Step back, focus on things in your life that you can control, stay out of her business, and decide what you can or want to do to be there for her if she needs it.

    #2 – I’ve been in this situation. Not the exact same thing, but I’ve dealt with people who want something and won’t stop contacting me. In my experience, they’ve always turned out to be people with bigger issues who don’t respect boundaries and think other people owe them things. I’ve gotten kind of skeptical about texts and emails from people I’m not good friends with. My first thought now is, “What do you want?” If anything seems weird, I don’t respond. If they keep contacting me, I block their number. It’s really hard with professional contacts and people you’ll probably run into again. But if things get awkward later, you can always say you didn’t get the message.

  39. RVA Cat*

    #1 – Please try to disentangle yourself from your daughter’s marital drama. This is for her and your son-in-law to work out on their own. If you are having difficulty coping (losing sleep, etc.) maybe it would help to see a therapist?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was thinking this as well. It sounds like mom is very, very disturbed by the situation. I don’t want to belittle it, but the daughter isn’t in mortal danger. She is making a life decision. People fall out of love and get divorced.
      If the thought of the daughter separating from her husband is this torturous, then mom should seek out some support to help her understand the transition. A therapist could give her specific, safe, steps to take.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think a therapist can be helpful and agree that talking to someone could help OP identify concrete things to do so that she feels less like a helpless bystander.

        But I also think it’s ok for OP to be distressed. I have a friend who was the “other woman” (knowingly) and another who cheated on her fiance right after they moved cross-country together. In both contexts, the circumstances of the relationships made it clear that these were morally/ethically dishonest and unkind things to do. And in both circumstances I was extremely disappointed with my friends and had a hard time supporting them without condoning their behavior. Which is all to say that it’s ok to have a strong emotional reaction, but it’s not ok to cross boundaries to try to force your child to “see the light” in the way you see it.

  40. Important Moi*

    OP#2: I don’t know if anyone has said it, but whatever cellphone you have, you should be able to block calls and texts. If you aren’t able to or choose not to, choose a simple response and repeat ad nauseam.

    “I’ve not found one yet. I’m doing well. Thanks.”

    “I’ve found job. I’m doing well. Thanks.”

  41. boop the first*

    1. This is not a parallel, but people say the same thing about kids who murder. The truth is, you just don’t know people as well as you think you do. Evidence seems to point to Daughter just… not enjoying the married life. She may not be handling it well or correctly, and it may not match your idea of her character… but this is not the first time spouses have considered innocent bystanding women to be evil and conniving in order to fit their victim narrative.

    What she is doing sucks, for sure, but I don’t believe for a minute that it was Daughter who said her work friends are driving her behaviour.

  42. Here we go again*

    #1 – I echo everyone else’s advice about not meddling in her work matters, but I’m also not sure what outcome you were hoping to achieve by contacting them in the first place.

    The worst case scenario is she and a bunch of colleagues lose their jobs and deal with unexpected financial consequences and she resents you/never speaks with you again and you lose your daughter.

    The best case scenario….? I really can’t think of one. I suppose you may be thinking that she leaves this guy and goes back to her husband, but that is between her and the husband to work out. Not her and her employer. All you can do for your **adult** kids is be a support system and try to point them in the right direction, but anything past that is inappropriate.

  43. Czhorat*

    THere’s been a fair bit about OP1, and others have said most of what needs saying about the affair and the parent’s involvement. I’ll bring it back to work with one note: it’s almost never appropriate to contact the employer of your child, parent, or significant other. Issues they have with their job are theirs to deal with. Personal issues with them and their families are for them, their families, their friends, and their therapists. The moment you dial their employer’s phone number you are almost certainly crossing a line.

    I’m sure there are exceptions, but this kind of thing isn’t one of them. Not by a long shot. I’ll aside that rules about “fraternization” usually involve romantic and/or sexual relationships; I don’t know of any office or work environment in which coworkers aren’t allowed to go out for a beer after hours. In fact, that’s usually a positive sign.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, that’s a good point; I do think the OP is thinking about the workplace more like a school, where the powers that be might break up a troublesome friend group by changing their schedules, etc.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Even in middle school, most schools aren’t happy to get calls like this as it generally amps up the tension and has the opposite result (ie. the kid will become even more attached to the questionable group). Also, just like in the workplace, most schools aren’t keen on monitoring specific students every moment in the hall and at lunch. In a case of bullying where one student wants to get a way there are some things we can do but with friends…

        1. Czhorat*

          In middle school it’s different in that the kids are still kids and can’t always appropriately advocate for themselves and lack the maturity to make all of their own decisions. That said, what’s appropriate changes through the years; if your kid is ten years old then there are times you can call teh school. If they’re 19 and in college, probably not. In between it’s more situationally dependent.

          Believe me, no employer wants family drama. The VERY BEST case scenario is that the HR person you call will roles their eyes before hanging up on you and the daughter will get some teasing for having mom or dad call the office. The worst case is that it impacts how they are seen by their employer and hurts future raises, promotions, etc.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            Not that 19 and in college stopped several parents of my students from calling and demanding to know why they’d gotten a D on my midterm, mind you.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              I played an April Fools’ Day prank on my parents (in very poor taste, I have to admit in hindsight) by telling them that during my laaaaaast semester, I suddenly wouldn’t be able to graduate and would have to take at least another two years of school.

              I ended up talking down my mother from calling the president of the university. 21 and in college didn’t stop her!

            2. TL -*

              The best thing about paying for my own college was telling my parents if they wanted to know my grades, they could pay for my tuition. :) Bliss.

        2. Arjay*

          Oh God, my overbearing mother found one of my grade school friends to be overbearing as well, and she insisted we be assigned to different classrooms in fifth grade in, oh, 1979. The separation didn’t take too well. I was that same friend’s maid of honor in 2012.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The moment you dial their employer’s phone number you are almost certainly crossing a line.

      Unless you are calling to let them know that the employee is hospitalized and unable to speak for themselves, this is good advice.

    3. Cleopatra Jones*

      Is getting in ‘trouble’ for fraternization really a thing outside of the military?

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Somewhat, but only if it’s a romantic relationship that constitutes a conflict of interest.

      2. dawbs*

        well, usually not, but an AWFUL lot of employers do have ‘ethics’ or morality clauses in contracts or handbooks. And apparently there are ‘implied’ moral clauses that someone who is far far more lawyerly than I am probably understands

        Usually not enforced…but we’re still a society that thinks “drunk pirate’ photos off the clock are reasons to deny someone a teaching certificate. So, I don’t think it’s completely out of left field to consider it something of a possibility that it might be a thing.

  44. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    #1 – I may have overlooked a discussion on this or maybe I’m alone here – but something about this really set off my spidey-senses about the son-in-law. Maybe it’s just because it’s so outside of what I would do, but it seems…manipulative(?) to go to the parents of my spouse about bad behavior. OP, I’m so sorry you are going through this, but please be mindful that you aren’t married to your son-in-law. Your daughter is. This could very well be her way of getting out of a bad situation. One that she could be too embarrassed to tell you about.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      It’s not necessarily him.

      I had a friend who was cheating on her husband. When he’d finally had enough and filed for divorce (at fault, since she was threatening to take HIM to the cleaners. And I know it’s true, because she was bragging to me about it. Like I said HAD a friend) her parents were horrified and eventually he had to tell them “Look, she’s your daughter! She was wrong, but you need to be supporting her, not me!”

      It may even be that they are getting the information from their daughter, not him.

    2. Malibu Stacey*

      I’ve actually known cuckolded people who see telling their in-laws and spouse’s friends about the affair as a deserved consequence for cheating. I don’t agree – to me it’s slut-shamey and authoritarian.

      1. fposte*

        I think there’s another slant on that, which is that they’re not obliged to keep this information secret to protect somebody who’s treated them poorly.

        1. Aveline*

          Particularly if the other partner is going around blaming the wronged spouse. I’ve dealt with plenty of divorces where there were narcissistic men who cheated repeatedly and publicly blamed the wife for the break up and revealed all of her secrets. In that case, sunlight is the best disinfectant

          1. fposte*

            It’s kind of an interesting taboo, really, and when you think about it it’s kind of odd. MIL says “I can’t believe you’re breaking up with my son.” It should be perfectly okay to say “He’ll always be a great dad and I respect that, but adultery is a dealbreaker.”

      2. Aveline*

        That depends upon what the spouse is telling their parents. Also, how are those parents treating their son or daughter in law? If it’s recenge, it’s not appropriate. If it’s because your mother-in-law’s calling you every day to complain about how the breakdown of the marriage is your fault, then I can understand why you might inform them of the truth.

        It isn’t black or white and really depends upon the context and the motivation.

        My former sister-in-law I was really horrid to my husband’s brother. When my mother-in-law was ranting to her son about saving the marriage, I quietly informed her that the sister-in-law was an absolute manipulative jerk who had been cheating on him for years. Trust me, I’m neither sex negative nor authoritarian.

        If you cheat, particularly repeatedly, and then try and blame your other partner for everything wrong in the marriage to everyone who will listen, then you can’t get upset if your partner tries to set the record straight from their perspective. If you cheat once, then quietly bow out of the relationship and don’t blame your partner publicly, then you deserve equal consideration.

        1. Malibu Stacey*

          @ Aveline & Fposte – I should have clarified that I was speaking about the cuckolded spouse proactively volunteering the info as a punishment; not telling the truth when asked why they are separating.

          1. fposte*

            I think it’s even okay to volunteer, and I don’t think it’s slut-shamey to report when somebody’s adultery made a relationship untenable; I just don’t think you should chase people down who aren’t relevant in an attempt to scorch the earth.

    3. Anonygoose*

      My thought is that they married fairly young – I’ve been with my SO since I was 16. He is essentially another son to my parents, and while they would not be the type to side with him rather than me in any situation, other parents might not be. If they have known him for all of his teenage and adult life, they might have a really hard time being impartial when (it appears to them that) their daughter is completely in the wrong.

      That said, they definitely should back out of the situation as her daughter is an adult and can make her own decisions, and if they want to make sure their relationship with their daughter stays intact, then staying out of it altogether is the right thing to do.

    4. Collarbone High*

      Yes, I picked up on this too.

      OP 1, how did you find out all of this? Did your daughter tell you? Or did your son-in-law?

      If it’s him … these might be the actions of a heartbroken man trying to save his marriage (and going about it the wrong way; this is between them). But enlisting family and friends to pressure someone to stay in a relationship is a classic tactic of abusers. So is trying to separate the victim from anyone who might encourage them to leave, and attempting to cut off sources of income to make the victim dependent on the abuser.

      Calling her employer could help accomplish all these goals.

      There is literally nothing to gain by calling them, no matter what the situation is, and everything to lose.

  45. Kate*

    OP #1, this sounds so painful. Alison and everyone else has laid out why contacting your daughter’s employer is a terrible idea, but I want to add one more thing. The best thing you can do for your daughter is maintain a healthy relationship with her so if/when she wants to extricate herself from this affair, she knows she can turn to you for support. “Healthy relationship” doesn’t mean blind support. She can know you think adultery is wrong and that you’re concerned about her partying. But she needs to feel that if she needed help changing her situation, someone besides her coworkers would be available to help. If you contact her employer, you will very likely irrevocably damage your relationship with your daughter. She may dig her heels in even further. You will make it that much harder for her to change her behavior because you’ll be weakening her support system.

    1. RVA Cat*

      I’m also wondering if the OP is fixating on the affair, when the behavioral changes and “partying” *might* be signs of a substance abuse problem.

      1. Aveline*

        Actually, based on how mom is behaving plus my experience as divorce attorney, I would say that they married young when they were still kids. It could simply be that she’s now figuring out that she shouldn’t of got married and had kids at a young age and the values and expectations she was raised with are not satisfying.

        Of course, there so much more that we don’t know here than that we do. We’re all guessing.

        This is also beside the point. Mom needs to stay away from the employer and focus on her relationship with her daughter. Mom also needs to step back from her son-in-law. It seems there’s a somewhat unhealthy dynamic here somehow.

  46. Jessesgirl72*

    OP1: Nora Ephron had a quote about no one knowing what really is going on in a marriage, even in your own.

    Your daughter hasn’t been possessed by aliens, and even if her coworkers are encouraging her to leave her husband (and yes, I’ve seen it happen that coworkers decide this and talk someone into it), it’s still her decision. It may even be the right one.

    The cheating was bad, but it’s her life. The sooner you let go of the “We didn’t raise her this way” and let her take ownership and responsibility for her OWN life and decisions instead of how it reflects on you, the happier you all will be.

    Love your daughter, flaws and all, and concentrate on your own life and own marriage, not hers.

    1. Czhorat*

      We don’t have proof that her daughter wasn’t possessed by aliens or, for that matter, demons. For the latter we could try an exorcism; alien possession is highly dependent on what sort of aliens they are.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        LOL I know that Alison wants us to take the OPs at their word, but I don’t think that extends to believing them when they say their daughter has been “taken away” There just might be more reasonable explanations than body snatching! ;)

  47. Channel Z*

    OP3 Have the students expressed that they want more social events? It could be that they don’t want them, or they want to do their own thing without the manager(s). Sometimes these social occasions at work can be a nuisance, as they interrupt the work flow or they feel awkward and forced. I agree with previous advice, your professional guidance will be far more valuable to them than treats.

  48. Humble Schoolmarm*

    OP 3, in my field, it’s pretty much the norm for admin/the social committee to provide breakfast goodies a few times a year. This year has been a tough one and I have noticed and appreciated it that we’ve had some treats on days we’ve felt particularly downtrodden. That being said, the coffee and muffins don’t make the culture positive, they’re reflections of the fact that it already is. Sincere thank yous and positive feedback are, as Alison said, what counts the most.

    1. fposte*

      Does that come out of the admin’s personal pocket? That’s a practice that might be worth changing if so.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Oops! I just realized that most folks here use admin as office manager or administrative assistants. For me, admin means my manager/boss.

  49. Jessesgirl72*

    OP3: I’d also like to point out that the students are already being rewarded for their hard work- they are being paid! Hopefully they are also gaining skills and experience and a good reference.

    The occasional treat is nice, but it shouldn’t be the focus- for you or for them!

    Office cultures change. Perhaps you should consider that you no longer fit in your current one, and you need to either adjust your expectations or seek out somewhere with the culture you want.

    1. Rachael*

      I understand that logic, but one of my managers put it nicely for us “worker bees”.

      She always said: “Your salary is to pay you for the work you do. My treats are to show you that I appreciate the effort you put into the work you do”

      As a worker bee it was always nice when someone rewarded us for doing more than “just our job”. Team building is very important for a positive atmosphere!

  50. Allison*

    #4 No one will care whether you wear green or not, especially if it’s just a subtle nod to the holiday – a subtle pop of color, or a muted shade, is absolutely fine.

  51. Seal*

    #3 – Coming at this the perspective of a manager who took over a department with student employees where the type of atmosphere you mention was literally forced on everyone (as in there were written rules for what was celebrated, how it was celebrated, and how much money everyone was expected to contribute, which was COMPLETELY illegal at our public university so I still don’t know how the former manager got away with it). Please discuss the whole rewards/party/recognition for student employees thing with your boss to make sure everyone is on the same page. While I certainly don’t disagree that you want to recognize your students’ contributions, a little goes a long way. Trying to keep track of who did what (unless it’s an especially outstanding contribution) or birthdays or other milestones will drive you batty and might lead to resentment amongst your students if you inadvertently miss someone or leave someone out. When I took over my current department, one of the first things I did was get rid of the mandatory party policy in favor of end of the semester pizza parties, where I buy the pizza and the full-time staff does a potluck. The students love it (free lunch!), the staff loves it because it’s only a few times a year, and everyone contributes so no one is stuck paying for everything.

  52. Leatherwings*

    OP#3 I totally agree with Alison’s suggestion to really focus in on positive feedback, mentoring, skill development, and references first and foremost.

    That being said, as a student I fulfilled the stereotype of loving free food. I put myself through school and a free sandwich or cookie could really brighten my day. Even little things like that felt like they eased my financial burden a bit. I say if you want to do this occasionally in addition to the professional stuff, it would be a really nice gesture.

  53. Annony Irish Person*

    #4 I realize this is hard but…does your interviewer have an Irish last name? Wear the green.
    Is it in Boston where the only recently rescinded “Evacuation Day” Holiday for Suffolk County has been eliminated? Then wear green.
    I live near Boston, green is the only color you wear on St. Patrick’s Day. I have even had bosses (not good ones) joke that you will not be paid unless you wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.
    If you live anywhere else, wear a tiny something green (pin or jewelry) to cover yourself, if you feel the desire. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. Wear your best interview kicking a** outfit, and good luck!

    1. Dankar*

      I was thinking this, too. In New Haven, and Boston certainly, I think people would actually notice that you’re not wearing green. I don’t know if anyone would care, but they would notice.

    2. a different Vicki*

      Or maybe not. One of my closest friends is Irish. Not Irish-American: he was born and raised in Ireland, and when he happened to be in Boston on March 17, didn’t want to go out for dinner because he didn’t want to deal with someone seeing the name on his credit card, hearing his accent, and wanting to make a fuss about him being Irish. He wouldn’t think poorly of you if you wore green, but he wouldn’t count it as a point in your favor either, and he would probably try hard not to hold it against you if you made a point of “I’m wearing green today” or asked why he wasn’t.

      And now I’m reminded of another friend who shares his surname. She’s Swedish-American, and took her husband’s name when she married. I don’t know what she’d think if someone tried to bond with her over “shared Irish ancestry.”

  54. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP#2 – I was terminated from a toxic work environment and it took me several months to be ready to start applying for new positions. When I was ready, I was extremely picky about what positions I was applying for because I didn’t want to start at the beginning again when I had so much experience. My former coworkers occasionally reached out to me to see how I was doing and I would usually just say something vague like “Oh, I haven’t found a good fit yet” or “Still looking and enjoying not working 10-12 hour days”. If your former coworkers aren’t willing to accept those kind of answers or are being rude, you have every right to ignore their messages.

  55. animaniactoo*

    OP1, I think you need to take a step back and look at some things.

    I get that you care about your daughter, and most of this is coming from a place of concern. But you don’t seem to be doing a very good job of letting your daughter be an adult who gets to make her own choices… which includes the choice of who she listens to.

    First, I’m curious about where you’re getting your info from? And if it’s coming from your daughter, how much are you really *listening* to her rather than speaking from a pre-set mindset and talking at her?

    It’s pretty clear in your view that if nothing else, your daughter shouldn’t “throw away her marriage” and a man who still wants to be with her. But to her she may have figured out that they are fundamentally incompatible enough that staying married is a mistake for her no matter how much she cares about him or he cares about her. That to “successfully” continue the marriage means making changes that goes against the core of who one or the other of them is, and it’s just a deal breaker to ask or participate in one of them pretzeling themselves to continue to make it work. Rather than walk away and allow each of them a shot to be happy without pretzeling themselves. She may place more importance on that than you do… and even though she’s your daughter, and you raised her, she’s also an adult who gets to have her own feelings about that and make her own choice about it, even when those are fundamentally different from yours.

    I’m going to break this next part into a separate post because otherwise this will just be too long.

    1. animaniactoo*

      But secondly, let’s say you’re right… she’s making a huge mistake.

      People will make mistakes for all of their lives. They’ll learn from some. Not from others. But they do so from a freedom of choice. Because, while you may want to “save” her from this choice – we are all entitled to go to hell in our own way. And we need to respect that in others so that we can ask for the same respect in return.

      There are things you do in your life that others would say are a huge mistake. They’re “bad” for you. Whether it’s your weight, or your choice to stay married, or staying stuck in a job when you could make more money elsewhere, or your insistence on cooking vegetables until they’re dead and there are no nutrients left in them. Somewhere, there’s something. But there’s a reason that it’s either your struggle that you don’t need any more voices getting down on you about, or it’s something that works for you and your life. Because you are you, and you live in your own head and you know what you can deal with – at that moment.

      So… please take a step back from working to “rescue” your daughter, listen to her, allow her to make choices that work for her – for now – even if you disagree with them or they ARE a giant mistake. I mean maybe the mistake she’s making here is how she exits a marriage and a style of life that doesn’t work for her, but she can’t do it unless she goes “whole hog” and rebels against the whole thing and the “loving pressure” that keeps her in it. Maybe it’s the only way she can deal with the persistent views and approval/disapproval of her actions and the voice in her own head of who will approve/disapprove as she figures out what really works for her, rather than those in her life whose approval she has always wanted.

      In the end, here’s the big question – do you trust her to be able to deal with the fallout? Why or why not? Are you willing to help her deal with the fallout, and do you want her to be able to lean on you if she needs it? If so… you’ve got to respect her freedom to make her own choices, and allow her to be an adult who does not need other people to try and move in to rescue her from them before she’s ready. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever tell her you think she’s making a mistake. It does mean that you need to do a lot more listening and letting go and you can’t *push* the fact that you think she’s making a mistake after you’ve raised it and she’s heard you out. You have to step back and wait and see how things unfold. Support her in whatever ways you can and feel comfortable with while she works through this for herself. But passively, from the sideline.

      And if they do get divorced and you’d like to maintain a relationship with your son-in-law… please do so as something completely separate from your daughter and “family” time, unless she says it’s okay to include him in family time.

      1. RVA Cat*

        AMEN to all of this.

        Relationships would be a lot less stressful if people would realize that “loving pressure” is a contradiction in terms.

  56. bunniferous*

    The only people who truly know what is going on in a marriage are the two people in it.

    To the first OP: I of course agree with you that affairs are Not Good. But affairs are a symptom, not a diagnosis. Unfortunately this is between your daughter and her husband to sort out. Interfering in her work situation is a sure way to make sure you no longer have ANY contact with your daughter whatsoever. Please refrain.

  57. Bend & Snap*


    I know it’s hard, but you need to remove yourself from the situation. Support your daughter if and how she asks, and otherwise, don’t interfere with her work or personal relationships.

    You don’t know what happens behind closed doors, whether her marriage is good or something it’s better for her to leave. You don’t know she’s making a mistake. And even if she is, it’s her mistake to make.

    Everyone will be happier and more comfortable if you step back from being over involved and over invested.

    This is very much Not Your Problem.

  58. Minister of Snark*

    Re #1

    What in the blue hell?

    Maybe the reason your daughter is struggling with adult responsibilities like marriage and work is that you never backed off and allowed her to learn adult coping skills. I can’t tell if you want to call her boss to punish her for her behavior or because you want to get her back “under control” and think the boss will help you or because you honest to God don’t understand how enormously inappropriate calling her boss would be. And I don’t know which motivation is the worst.

    I get that you’re hurt and upset, but please stop making this situation about you and your feelings and managing your image. It sounds like you’re worried that your daughter’s behavior reflects badly on you. Even in anonymous letter to an internet stranger, you qualify her actions as “not really your daughter” and “as if someone has taken her away.” Yes, this situation sucks, but it’s not about you or how people perceive you.

    Drop the rope and let your daughter run her own life, for better or for worse. Stop interfering. DO NOT CALL HER BOSS.

    1. (another) b*

      As I said above – when I got divorced my mom was concerned that she looked like she didn’t raise me well – “what will people think of me as a mother?????” ………………

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “It doesn’t matter what people actually think. YOU have already decided, Mom, that other people will think you are an idiot.”

        Grrr. I hate that question because it’s so manipulative. I think the real answer is, “Those folks who sit in judgement of your parenting skills are not really your friends.”

        My mother lived her entire life in accordance with what SHE thought other people thought. Ironically, she started having difficulties that involved VERY public meltdowns. The person so concerned about what others thought made a massive “spectacle” of herself on more than one occasion. I have long thought that this type of “what will others think?” stuff causes brain rot. Some trains of thought are just the road to no-where.

  59. Sarah*

    OP#3 — It’s been interesting for me to read all the responses here…for me personally, when I was a student I LOVED free food and other small social celebrations. Now, granted, I have never worked in the “real world” (I’ve been a student, grad student, postdoc, and now professor), but I’ve appreciated these things at all of those levels. And, I don’t think it’s totally accurate to say “real world” jobs never have these things — my spouse works in a regular old office job, and their office is constantly doing free lunches and monthly birthday treats and has an over-the-top Christmas party every year. So it’s not like doing this is SO out of the norm with non-academic workplaces — it really just depends on the workplace.

    I totally agree they’re not THE one most important thing to focus on — letters of recommendation and public praise are important as well, for sure! But, I absolutely think these things are appreciated by students, especially if you might serve a student population that is on a budget and couldn’t necessarily afford all the treats otherwise.

    That said, obviously you can only fund what you can fund! I think it is perfectly appropriate to bring in treats for student workers if and when it is in your budget, and let other staff participate only if they choose to contribute themselves. You could also consider talking to your department chair or whoever else is responsible for the money in your department, and ask about whether it is possible to get a small budget for, say, an end of semester pizza party or whatever else you want to do to show appreciation for the student workers. You could also consider bringing in smaller/less expensive treats for students — students tend to be pretty happy with a $2.50 box of Oreos or Halloween candy that’s gone on sale, so I wouldn’t stress about constantly bringing in expensive items/throwing large parties.

  60. Anonymous for this*

    OP1 – you could have written this letter about me. My (ex)MIL tried to contact my employer after I had an affair. While I won’t defend cheating, my ex was abusive and the only place I found support to leave him was in my workplace. If my employer had believed my MIL, I would have lost my job – my only means to build the funds to escape the abuse.

    I understand your desperation and fear and confusion at your daughters actions, but please OP1, just talk to her. Approach her with an open mind and from a place of love and concern. I wish my parents had done that for me in the throes of my affair. Providing a safe place for her to express her dissatisfaction with her marriage may be just the thing for you to feel like you know your daughter again.

    1. Manders*

      I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I’ve got several friends who were in similar situations, and I don’t think they’re bad people for messily ending a relationship that was already a mess in the first place. A lot of their choices didn’t look so great at first glance, especially to their conservative parents, but there was more going on under the surface.

      Mom should discuss this privately with her daughter–but first, she should prepare herself for the possibility that she might find out uncomfortable things about her daughter or her soon to be former son-in-law.

  61. emma2*

    I know a lot has been said about OP1, but….she seems like a textbook helicopter parent. And no, don’t contact her employer.

  62. Grits McGee*

    OP#3, do you think part of your frustration is that you miss the more social atmosphere that your office used to have and that is bleeding into the stress you’re feeling about making sure the student workers get treats/fun activities/etc? You may have more luck getting people interested by proposing activities that don’t require much effort or expense on anyone’s part- like seeing if a group wants to eat outside or go out to lunch, or take a walk right after work.

    And I wouldn’t worry too much about the student workers. If their experience is anything like mine, there are tons of opportunities for free food and social activities pretty much everywhere on campus. Treats are always lovely, but I’d be bummed if I realized that it was a burden on my supervisor to provide them.

  63. Vancouver Reader*

    OP1, IME many women seem to go through a phase when they turn 30. It’s like a switch went off and they suddenly have to do or try new things.
    We had a couple friend who seemed like the perfect pair, but when she turned 30, she decided she needed a complete life change. She moved to the other side of the country and went into completely different field than what she had studied in school and had developed into an amazing career. Her parents were heartbroken because they didn’t get see her as much and they loved the guy she’d been with. Her company was sad to see her leave as well because she’s still been an excellent employee.
    Not saying that’s what’s going on with your daughter, but remember she’s an adult and she may not confide in you about everything in her life. It’d be very tough to watch sure, but remember that we all make our own choices in life, and whether or not others agree with them, it’s our choice.
    I hope that you will eventually find a balance with your daughter.

    1. Agnodike*

      Maybe we could do justice to the difficult situation in which OP1, her daughter, and their family find themselves without making generalizations based on age or gender? I’m not sure what, if anything, useful the generalizations add to the conversation.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Ugh, yeah, this reminded me of when I finally took the steps to end a long, dragged-out, unhappy marriage that made everyone involved in it miserable, including the kids. I got several comments from well-meaning friends(?) along the lines of “Oh, you’re having a midlife crisis, I get it.” They were not helpful.

        1. Agnodike*

          Agree 100%. Even if you were having a midlife crisis (whatever that means), it’s so dismissive and minimizing to say “Oh, I get it.” “Oh, I’ve reduced you to a stereotype instead of listening to your experience or offering support” is what that really means. Even if it were true that women have some kind of weird total brain change at age 30 (which you’d need a lot more evidence to support than just “a friend of mine turned 30 and revised her life plan”), so what? What benefit would that extra information give you? As an approach, it doesn’t seem to do much good, and it does have the potential to be pretty hurtful.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Ok, I’m halfway through 30… when is this brain change coming, and does it involve me learning to stop procrastinating on literally everything in my life?

      2. Vancouver Reader*

        I didn’t mean it as negativity, I was just sharing my experiences. I’m sorry if I came across wrong, it was meant anecdotally and suggesting other reasons why the daughter may be conducting herself in this manner.

        1. Agnodike*

          Apologies for belabouring this a little bit, but…why would it matter? If the OP’s daughter were indeed “going through a phase,” how would that affect the OP’s reaction or behaviour? Your anecdote about another person who made a major life change, under different circumstances, didn’t offer a suggestion or advice, just a generalization about women in their 30s.

          1. fposte*

            I thought it was relevant in terms of why the daughter might be behaving in ways the mother didn’t recognize. And I don’t see a big problem with the generalization–age groups and life progressions do sometimes mean there are commonalities it’s appropriate to discuss.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            People can decide they want more out of life at any age or for any number of reasons.

            My mother’s response to everything I mentioned was, “you are going through a phase”. This was not informative to me. It did not tell me how to handle the supposed phase nor did it explain why the phase was happening to me. What it did do was end the conversation. After hearing it about 200 times, respect walked out the door.

            In current time, I have a friend who is keen on mentioning that women who are in their 30s go through a phase and if it hits them, they leave their men. I find this statement ageist/ sexist and it also removes any responsibility either partner has from the story. In short, it’s an over simplification that removes the fact that there are fellow human beings involved here.

            First and foremost, OP’s daughter is a human being.

            I remember a family member who started running a way a lot. He got into drugs. Hey, he’s 15, this is what 15 year old boys do, it’s a phase.

            He was a human being…. abused by Catholic priests. And there was NO adult around him who would believe him. After enough trial runs, one day he ran and never came back. It’s been over 30 years. I do not ever expect to see him again.

            OP, make dang sure you have all the correct information before you decide to take ANY steps. We don’t know what it is we don’t know.

      3. emma2*

        Yeah, most people I know in happy marriages did not obliterate it the minute they turned 30. I think if someone is “suddenly” ending a marriage…they were unhappy for some time.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Agreed. I truly believe that are no “sudden” endings to relationships. People who leave marriage like this have usually been unhappy for a long, long time.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            This fits my experience to a T. I think for a lot of people, the more rough their relationship gets, the harder they try to make it look happy and perfect on the surface.

          2. emma2*

            There might be a pattern where many people feel obligated to get married in their twenties, and once they have been in the marriage a few years, realize that they made the wrong choice. However, not everyone takes action by the time they are in their 30s – some wait much longer.

            When I read OP1’s post, I immediately thought of a scenario where her daughter was…shall I say…very very encouraged into a marriage of her parents’ approval, and then came to regret it. Just because this is something that has/totally would happen in my own family. (But I don’t want to make assumptions regarding OP1)

        2. Bend & Snap*

          Yep. people were shocked when I ended my marriage, although i’d been planning my exit for more than a year.

          Nobody had the gall to call it a midlife crisis, at least to my face.

        3. Gadfly*

          Part of my definition of a happy marriage is one that can cope with some pretty major changes.

    2. MuseumChick*

      I think it’s important to remember that changing your life drastically is rarely as simple as “flipping a switch”. I went to grad school at 29 after years of thinking long and hard about the career I wanted. It was completely different from what my family saw me going into. But they were not in my head, nor did they live close to see all the time I put into thinking about what I wanted.

      Likely, the OP’s daughter has been unhappy in her marriage for a long time. It doesn’t make the cheating right, but I highly doubt she just woke up one day and said “Time to destroy my great marriage.”

      1. Tinker*

        “They were not in my head” so much this.

        At some point, my parents became attached to their role as parents of a child, and it started to become sad and kind of threatening to them to see evidence that this phase of their life was actually over. (I’m guessing, based on observed reactions.) So they started to not see it, and because I like to minimize trouble for myself and also not cause people upset (in that order, to be honest) I leaned toward downplaying the more adult-like aspects of myself in their presence. It helped them to believe that although I was doing things that they could feel pride in that were not things that children do, that I wasn’t really an ADULT adult like other adults.

        I think it’s very likely that my folks would express body-snatching type sentiments if they were able to observe me in my daily life without me knowing — that I was acting like “not her”, that it was as if their sweet little girl had been taken away. But when everyone else in my life — and these are by and large people of fairly long acquaintance — would say that I was acting like “absolutely them”, in a way consistent with tendencies I’ve shown for decades, I don’t think that the odd one in this scenario is me.

    3. Manders*

      I was actually thinking about this when I saw the letter this morning. We talk a lot about the changes that people go through in their teens and twenties, but now that I’m closing in on thirty, I’m seeing a lot of people in my social group making big life and relationship changes. It’s right around this point that many people start thinking seriously about owning property, or having kids, or choosing the area they’re going to settle down in, or how they manage their relationships with friends, or how they’ll deal with aging parents, or managing money in a way that’s not paycheck-to-paycheck. A lot of issues that don’t seem like a big deal in your early 20s can become dealbreakers around age 30.

      That’s not to say that everyone goes through this, or that it happens exactly at age 30, or that it’s like a switch flipping. But it is a time when a lot of people start asking themselves some hard questions about what they want in the long term.

      1. Tinker*

        Yeah, I was something of an adult at 30 in that I was managing my own life, I’d acclimated to working professionally — I’d bought and subsequently sold a house by that point, that sort of deal. But after then was when I really started looking at my life as being actually mine, and at the notion of making even fairly major decisions according to what I was looking to get out of said life. And, for that matter, treating myself as the authority as to what I wanted rather than expecting to be informed about this by other people.

        The framing as some sort of wild and inexplicable thing is a bit weird, and particularly “a phase” which usually conveys a time-limited period of less characteristic behavior rather than a move toward greater authenticity. Some decisions might look like that, perhaps, but I think that’s usually more about what other people see than what the person doing the thing actually experiences.

        1. Anon attorney*

          I love everything about this comment, and it really resonates with my current experience. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  64. Rachael*

    OP#1, now is the time to stand back and put all your thoughts in perspective. Yes, this is a horrible time. And yes, it will take some time to get over it. However, it is just a blip of time in your own lifetime (and hers). Do you want to risk damaging your relationship with your daughter? If you contact her employer it may have devastating impact on your relationship with her that may span decades. Try to put the emotion away and be there for her; you are her mother.

    When my husband left me his mother was devastated. His reason was “he had to figure himself out” and she could not accept it. She sided with me and it took a heavy toll on their relationship. It also made me very uncomfortable. I’m not sure that he will ever forgive her and they are slowly rebuilding their relationship…without me.

    Your children will do things to disappoint you through their lives, but sometimes you have to sit back and support them through the bad decisions. She will always remember how you reacted.

    1. Agnodike*

      “Your children will do things to disappoint you through their lives, but sometimes you have to sit back and support them through the bad decisions. She will always remember how you reacted.”

      I agree with this intensely. If I did something that my mother disagreed with, even something that was pretty egregious, and her reaction was to say that I had stopped being myself, or that she felt that someone had taken me away [from her], that would be devastating to my relationship with her. Part of having an adult relationship within a family is accepting that the people you love are complex and flawed, and that sometimes they’ll do things that you think are dumb, or harmful, or otherwise inadvisable. I can’t imagine having a relationship of any kind with someone who only believed I was myself if I never made a serious mistake.

  65. Colleen Fitzgerald*

    I’d find it odd if you weren’t in green on St Patrick’s day, but I’m Irish so….

  66. Wacky Teapots*

    OP#1–My mother was just like you. Please please please don’t meddle in her career. Her life is HER LIFE. Yes, it affects your grandkids but, you WILL destroy your relationship with your child over this. Stay out of her marriage. Stay out of her career. Be there for the grandkids but, DO NOT MEDDLE. You cannot fix her problems. She is an ADULT that needs to fix her life. Stay out of her marriage! Be a sounding board for the grandkids, not her long-suffering spouse! You cannot fix this.

  67. HRish Dude*

    OP5 – I think you nailed it. I also think your potential new boss nailed it by giving you a heads up that the conference was occurring.

    Basically everyone nailed it in #5. Good job, Team 5.

  68. Anon attorney*

    Hi OP#1, its been made pretty clear that going to your daughter’s workplace is odd the table. I wanted to add that I think the thing that will most likely maintain your relationship with your daughter is the thing that is hardest of all to do -let go. You are not responsible for her actions. I’m not saying you have to approve. That is your decision based on your own values. But you also need to accept that your disapproval may not be the basis on which she makes decisions about her own life and that she has different values. That is part of being a separate adult. If you detach from the situation it is much more likely that she will continue to involve you in her life and let you share in which she truly is. If you push, and certainly if you interfere in her work life, she may very well feel that the only thing she can do is set a very firm boundary and you will be on the outside of it. I’m speaking as an adult whose mother thinks her wishes should be paramount in my life choices. All this means is that i am careful what I share with her. And i don’t feel truly understood, accepted or loved. The cliche that letting go is the way to secure love is a cliché for a reason. I share these thoughts in peace and hoping better times lie ahead for your family.

  69. RB*

    The more I think about this (#1) the angrier I get. I was giving the mom the benefit of the doubt, thinking that she was simply oblivious to basic norms of human behavior, but I don’t think it’s that at all. No one is that naïve (very few folks) and I think this is arrogance, pure and simple. The arrogance of thinking that says “I know what’s best for you” and is really a control mechanism. Stop trying to control other people’s lives, Mom.
    And surely, if you write to an advice columnist and propose an action that is so far outside of those norms of human behavior, you should expect some piling on, or in this case, stating the obvious.

  70. RB*

    #4, your outfit sounds lovely. Anyone who would take exception to wearing a bright color under a black suit is really weird and picky and you wouldn’t want to work for them.

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