terrible intern is our director’s son, boss wants to control our bathroom breaks, and more

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

1. Our terrible intern is our director’s son

One of the directors at my work who is three levels of management above my manager has brought his son on as an intern. His son has been assigned to the same department I work in, and since I am the most junior person in the department I am often assigned to show him entry-level and junior tasks and have him work on those with me. But his son has the reading, writing and communication skills of a child. He has misspelled his own name and his father’s name on memos. He misspells common words (fone, emale, memoe); doesn’t use things like commas, periods, or capital letters; and writes everything in one long run-on sentence. He was unable to file things in alphabetical order without checking with me to confirm the order of the letters.

I tried to help him because I honestly thought he had a learning disability and I didn’t want to embarrass him by bringing it up. But he keeps making bigger and bigger mistakes. Last week he sent a typo-filled, run-on sentence email to another department and that person’s manager went to my manager because no one could understand what he had written in the email. When the director found out, he was very upset and got angry that anyone would say anything about his son’s writing skills. I was present in the meeting when the director came in and went off. He said his wife home-schooled his sons and she taught them everything they needed to know and no one should question his son’s ability.

Before the blow-up, I went to my manager because fixing the mistakes were taking up more and more of my time. After the blow-up, my manager told me to leave it alone because the same thing happened when his older son was an intern (before I worked here) and anyone who brought it up would incur the wrath of the director. I’m less than two years out of school and don’t have any experience to help me deal with this. I’m scared of saying or doing anything to make the director upset, however trying to fix the mistake his son is making is getting in the way of my own work. Should I talk to my boss again or do something else about it?

Disclaimer for my letter: I don’t think there is anything wrong with homeschooling if it is done properly. My complaint is about my director’s son only and I don’t mean to imply all homeschooled kids have terrible writing skills.

The director is doing his son a terrible disservice here, at least if the son might ever have a need to hold down a job anywhere else. But that’s not your problem, nor is it anything you can do anything about. It sounds like the director has made it clear that he’s not to be questioned on this, and so apparently you’re going to have a terribly unskilled intern for the next however many months.

Go back to your boss and say this: “I understand that we shouldn’t raise the problems with Fergus’s work. Can you give me some guidance on how I should handle issues X, Y, and Z that are coming up when I work with him? How would you like me to handle those?”

You don’t need to solve this yourself. You just need to identify for your boss the problems it’s causing for you (workload, or whatever else) and let him tell you how he wants to handle it. It’s possible that he might tell you to just give the son busy work that no one will really see, or that yes, you really do need to prioritize correcting his work over another project, or who knows what. But it’s his call to make, as annoying as the whole situation is.

2. Will this help you get an interview?

My best friend has told me her secret to landing an interview. She lives in a big city, so there is a lot of competition for jobs. She told me that whenever she submits her application and resume somewhere, the next business day she calls and asks to speak to someone who works with the hiring for the position to check if the file uploaded correctly. She says “I use a Mac, and sometimes, for whatever reason, my resume files uploads as a Pages document, which I know not everyone works with. I just wanted to double check that everything can be opened and reads correctly.”

Is this good advice? She says that what happens is that they hear her nice phone voice while looking at her resume, which makes them more inclined to pick her. Is this true? It’s worked for her, but I’m not sure.

No. I promise you that quite a few people who receive that call are thinking, “Why didn’t you just send it as a PDF then?” She’s intentionally annoying people rather than using an obvious solution, which doesn’t exactly make her look resourceful.

This is not the secret to landing an interview. She’s likely landing interviews in spite of it rather than because of it.

A nice phone voice is just not that compelling, and I say that as someone who loves voices.

3. My boss wants to control our bathroom breaks

I have IBS. It’s not the prettiest medical condition and it means that I have to use the restroom more often than most. I work in a very high-pressure sales environment and my manager has started to be really controlling about when we can use the restroom. His logic is that if we’re in the restroom, we’ll be missing sales calls.

Today he told our team that we could only use the restroom during our mandated break time. (And for some context, we often are required to work through our break times!) He thinks that if I need to use the restroom more frequently than that, then I need to take a sick day.

IBS is a chronic chronic condition. I can’t just take sick leave every day that I think I’m going to need the restroom more than three times. Honestly I don’t know how to proceed here. This department has such a toxic work environment that the stress makes my IBS worse (of course!) I want to go to HR, but I’m concerned that rocking the boat will impair my ability to transfer to different less stressful department.

Well, you can try talking to your manager first, but your manager has shown himself to be a bit of an ass, so you may end up needing to go to HR in the end anyway.

But if you want to start with your manager, say this: “I have a medical condition that means I need unrestricted access to the bathroom, so I’m not going to be able to comply with that restroom rule. I can bring in documentation from my doctor if it’s necessary to request this as a formal medical accommodation, but I’m hoping that we can just handle this informally and that you know enough of me and my work to know that I’ll handle it responsibly.”

If he pushes back, at that point you’ll need to go to HR and explain that you’re making a formal request for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. You can also mention that you’re concerned that your manager will hold this against you and that it could impact your ability to transfer in the future, and say that you’re therefore requesting protection from retaliation (use the word “retaliation” since retaliating against you for this would be illegal).

4. Am I complicit in my coworker’s slacking off?

I teach in the college of business at a large university. My department is relatively small, and we’re fairly tight-knit, inasmuch as a group of introverted academics can be tight-knit.

I attended grad school with one of my fellow instructors. We weren’t that close then, but are friendly now. This coworker has made it clear that she’s all too happy to go above and beyond for me in any capacity that would help me. She’s offered to cover my classes if I feel like I need a day off, or to help me design new curriculum for my class. I don’t need this help, and I never take her up on it.

Occasionally, this coworker will be late to her classes. It’s not uncommon for her to send a text 5-10 minutes after her class was scheduled to begin asking if I will go babysit her students until she can get there. Many times, I don’t get this text because I am actually in the middle of teaching my own class.

My question is, should I take this directly to my boss? While my coworker is absolutely in the wrong for asking this of me, I don’t want to feel like a rat. (Ideally, students would complain about her.) And by not telling my boss, how complicit am I for covering this up?

I don’t think you’re obligated to report this to your boss, and not speaking up doesn’t make you complicit, particularly in an environment where professors are generally trusted to manage their schedules themselves, even if that includes the occasional odd choice (although this does sound more than occasional). That said, I also don’t think you’d be in the wrong if you did decide to give your boss a discreet heads-up. Do what you will with this one!

5. Explaining I was laid off after two months

I have recently accepted and started my dream position. I was more than excited to stay with this company and the role for a few years. I started working in January and unfortunately was laid off (made redundant) at the end of February. I’ve been given a glowing recommendation from this company as well. The job title I have (had) is important and in my field, it is important to retain that title OR move up.

Is it okay to write on my resume “ask me about this role,” or to explain I was let go because of budgeting issues in a cover letter? I’m not worried about explaining this role in an interview, I’m worried that I won’t be able to get in the door if I leave it unexplained on my resume.

Don’t write “ask me about this role.” That’s way too mysterious. It’s fine to just note “(position eliminated)” on your resume next to the dates for that job and/or to say something similar in your cover letter.

That said, it might not make sense to include it at all, since you were there for less than two months. Typically I’d recommend you not include jobs that only last a couple of months (unless they were designed to be that way from the start) since that’s not enough time to have really accomplished anything you could put on a resume, or even for the position itself to be resume-worthy. Including it really just says “I was hired for this role,” but doesn’t say anything more than that.

{ 483 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*

    #2 Where I work that call would never reach me. It would be directed to our internal recruiter as she oversees recruitment and our hiring system. Our recruiter does not decide who I interview, so dazzling her with a ‘nice phone voice’ will not help a candidate at all.
    And I would also be wondering why you didn’t submit a PDF as well.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed—if a candidate did this, I would find it annoying, not attractive… especially because most non-online-form-style job postings request your supporting documentation/ application in .pdf format, and calling to see if it came over in Pages format would just emphasize that the applicant can’t follow basic directions. This is not a winning strategy in most fields (maybe it’s different in sales?).

      1. PB*

        Yes. I am a long-time Mac user, and I know that documents don’t magically transform from .docx or a PDF to Pages. If a candidate told me that some of her documents upload as Pages “For some reason,” I would be seriously concerned about their technological skills. It wouldn’t be enough to automatically reject them, but it would be an instant yellow flag.

        1. Observer*

          For any job requiring any level of technological know how, it would be an automatic dis-qualifier. If you don’t know how to keep your documents from “somehow” coming in as Pages, I’m going not going to believe that you know how to use a word processor, certainly not word.

    2. Gaia*

      I was going to say the same thing. Unless I happened by a ringing phone and answered it this call would never get to me. It would get to, if any one, our internal recruiter and he doesn’t choose who gets interviewed. But he would tell me about the weird candidate that knows she has a problem with resume files uploading and hasn’t fixed it yet. So that wouldn’t reflect well …

      1. Wendy Darling*

        It’s also literally not possible for your Word resume to just ~mysteriously~ upload as a Pages file because you use a mac — if that happens either you saved it in the wrong format and didn’t notice or you uploaded the wrong file. As a tech-savvy person, all this says to me is that she isn’t.

        1. MillersSpring*

          Exactly. Pages files can be saved as PDFs, and Word is available for Macs. I’ve used both on my Macbook. This excuse does not hold water.

          1. Jesmlet*

            Pages also can be saved as word docs if I remember correctly since I did this all the time in college. This would get an eye role for such an obvious attempt at cutting the line and unless she was literally the best candidate on paper, a relocation to the rejected pile for me.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          As a tech-savvy person, all this says to me is that she isn’t.

          Or that she assumes I’m not. Which isn’t any better.

          1. Emi.*

            It also has this weird “I want you to know I have a Mac” vibe, like we’re supposed to think that’s special. Honey, it’s not, and I’m 100% judging everyone who thinks it is.

            1. hermit crab*

              Ha, yes! Do people still do that? Mac superiority was such a thing where I went to college. Like, I dated this guy who learned that I preferred PCs to Macs and then seemed surprised that I was an (otherwise) intelligent person.

              1. pinyata*

                Oh yes, people still do that. I work with one, who will loudly proclaim to everyone that he’s choosing to sit at a spot with a Mac when we’re in a classroom with both PCs and Macs.

                1. Artemesia*

                  Wow I have always had Macs since the days of the old SE box; have probably owned 15 of them between me and my husband and have totally missed that this is a thing to be proud of. I like them because they are stable and easy to use and all of ours have lasted forever; I am typing this on one that is 10 years old and we have 3 others at the moment. But it is just a tool — didn’t know that anyone thought it had snob appeal. How did I miss this?

                2. Honeybee*

                  @Artemesia – Apple went through a deliberate marketing campaign in the mid-2000s to position Macs as the “cool brand” to young people and artists. The iconic “Get a Mac” campaign, which ran from 2006 to 2009, was largely responsible for this. I know that when I started college in 2004, the Mac snobbery was just starting to be a thing, and by the time I started graduate school in 2008, it was a full-blown phenomenon. I remember feeling like I had finally arrived when I bought my first (and only) MacBook in 2012. I also remember that when I was in college 2004-2008, the vast majority of students had PCs, but if you go to a random college campus now I’ll bet that at least half and in many cases the vast majority have MacBooks.

                3. Chickaletta*

                  Macs tend to be more expensive than most PCs, so some people make the assumption that Mac users have money to burn. (“Oooo, you can afford a Mac, la-tee-da. Must be nice.” etc.)

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @ Artemesia, everything Honeybee said, but also Mac went out of its way to market its laptops and software as uniquely well-suited for “creatives” (that’s technically true, but only if you’re operating at a really high level of sophistication). I remember reading a figure that said Mac occupied something like 90% of the market share in laptops for folks aged 18-29 in 2009.

                5. Annonymouse*

                  I almost cried at my work when they switched me from a PC to a Mac.

                  If the command button does the job of the ctrl key then why not switch them?

                  Why doesn’t my tab key work to tab through menus?

                  And it’s an older model so it was 40% slower than my PC until they upgraded the ram.

                  On half my shifts I’ll sneak in to where my old PC has been set up and use it instead.

              2. Emi.*

                When I was in college, people weren’t exactly superior about it, but they would say “I have to pick up my Macbook before I go to the library,” whereas everyone else would say “my laptop” or “my computer,” even if we had a brand loyalty to Lenovo or whatever. They’d also say “I dropped my iPhone” instead of just “I dropped my phone.” It was weird, like saying “I’m getting a ride to the airport from my father, the inventor of Toaster Strudel.”

                1. hbc*

                  I would like to shake your father’s hand. When you get the toasting just right, that’s a little slice of heaven out of the freezer.

                2. esra*

                  @hbc My trick is to stab some small holes in the centre with a knife so it cooks evenly + flip halfway through toasting. Magic every time.

              3. Temperance*

                It’s totally a thing, and I find it hilarious because I know so many tech people now, and they all universally hate Macs. They aren’t as customizable as PCs.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  My brother’s a Mac person, and I’m not, for exactly that reason. I can crack my case and tinker – add stuff, upgrade pieces – whenever I like. He can’t.

                2. Honeybee*

                  I had one MacBook for four years and switched back to a PC right after the launch of Windows 10. In addition to what you mentioned, my PC was also half the price of a comparable Mac, and it has more features (a touch screen, a better screen and it folds 360 degrees around).

            2. Parenthetically*

              That’s exactly how I took it as well. Like, I too use a Mac, but is this still A Thing?

            3. Taylor Swift*

              No, I don’t think it does. At most it comes across as a very obvious excuse to call and get to talk to somebody.

      2. Julie Noted*

        Thirded. No kidding OP, if you did this to me you’d flag yourself as someone who makes no attempt to fix problems, which is the fastest way into my nope pile. You’d be out of the running before the phone call ended.

        I’m sure your friend is lovely, but this is terrible advice.

        1. Czhorat*

          It’s video-game logic in which each party of the hiring process is a puzzle to be solved by trickery or cleverness. The real world doesn’t work that way.

          And yes, the call goes like this:

          “Can you check if my resume opened? I sent it in ‘pages’ because I have a Mac”

          “Please sent resumes to us in .DOc or .PDF format, as requested in the job posting”.

          If you are at all remembered, you’ve set yourself apart in a negative way as compared to the applicants who didn’t need extra instruction on formatting their resume. Best case scenario is that it’s forgotten.

    3. Michele*

      Same here. Plus, with our screwy system, it can be several days before I even get the resumes from HR, so even if someone did get ahold of me, chances are that I haven’t gotten the resume yet.

    4. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      As the internal recruiter who might field these calls, I would probably say, “Oh! I am also a mac user! Did you know you can use Google Docs to convert your document to PDF for free? Here, I’ll send you a link so you don’t have to worry about this anymore!” Said with a smile. And, nope, this exchange would never make it to the hiring manager.

      1. nnn*

        Aside: I didn’t know you could use Google Docs to convert your document to PDF for free, so thank you!

        1. Sydney*

          Me either. But Macs also are able to convert anything to a PDF without downloading a program.

        2. Honeybee*

          You can, but you can also use Microsoft Word if you have it. They have a save as PDF option. So does Pages, incidentally.

          1. nnn*

            I never knew that either! Word didn’t used to, and it’s been several versions since I’ve actually needed to make a PDF so I never looked into it. Thanks!

            1. Fafaflunkie*

              Definitely. All you need to do is under the file menu, click Export. Then you can save that .doc or .xls in .pda format. It’s been there for quite awhile actually.

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        If I were a recruiter and also mean, I would be very tempted to say “Oh, I’m so sorry- being able to send documents and ensure that they arrive correctly is actually one of the job requirements, so I’m not sure you’re qualified and I won’t be able to move you forward. Best of luck in your search!” and hang up.

        This is why I am not an internal recruiter.

      3. Elizabeth H.*

        Really? A couple times I have been sent a .pages file and it is a huge pain in the ass (I eventually learned you can log in to iCloud and open it, but you have to have an iTunes account, which I happen to have, but easily might not). I just tried opening a .pages file in Google Docs to see if this is true and it doesn’t open . . . it would have been easier to do that instead of iCloud. Did you just mean that if you’re using a Mac, you could copy and paste your text into Google Docs and make a PDF that way?

        1. Cassandra*

          You can, but it isn’t necessary. Pages saves easily to PDF.

          (Machead here, because the underlying *nix is useful to my work.)

        2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Yes, that’s what I meant … I admit that I didn’t realize Pages doesn’t work in Google Docs (also, I don’t know any Mac users that actually use Pages on the regular). I do, however, use the PDF conversion in Google Docs!

          1. Honeybee*

            I used Pages just to try it when I was building a resume for my last job search, and I actually found a resume template I really liked for Pages. But I saved all of them as PDFs. And the downside was that now that I have a PC again, I can’t use that resume template anymore – it doesn’t convert properly from my old Pages documents even if I open them in Word, or from PDFs. So I had to start over with a new one.

        3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          Yeah, sometimes I have students who turn in a .pages file, probably so they have an extra day or so to work on things before I tell them I can’t open it and need the PDF. I use CloudConvert to convert pages to .doc, though it isn’t a perfectly smooth transition and i can only do so many per day. I don’t have an iTunes account so I can’t go that route.

          1. Honeybee*

            I remember students trying to use that trick. Professors started saying that students were responsible for any technical snafus or file opening errors, and if I couldn’t open the file on the due date then the paper is late.

            1. Sarah*

              Yep, I had to go to that after so many people trying to get around deadlines by submitting in weird formats or “corrupted” files. Luckily we now have an online submission system that can be set to only accept Word files or PDFs, so they can’t even get to the “submission accepted” screen without using the proper format.

            2. Fire*

              I TA’d/tutored/graded for a 100 level comp sci class (basic Excel and Access) back in college, and all our assignments were submitted through Blackboard. Blackboard will CONSTANTLY mess up files even if it’s all correct on the student’s end, and so we gave extensions if we couldn’t open the file. I don’t remember it happening more than once for once student, but I would not be even slightly surprised if someone was aware of Blackboard’s issues and engineered an “extension”.

          2. Elizabeth H.*

            This happened to me once, and it didn’t occur to me after the fact it might have been for this reason, esp. because the file she sent me afterwards, was a completely random different file (it was a resume and the title was her name. On the other hand, I do that for a lot of stuff where I’m submitting something to someone who is receiving the same type of document from multiple individuals – like a paper or a resume – so I can see that you could easily grab the wrong file from your download folder if you weren’t looking at the last modified date. I end up with a ton of different “H Elizabeth” or “H Elizabeth Resume”-style named documents in my downloads folder because I always re-download the file from wherever it’s attached to to make sure it’s the right now) She was a really dedicated and smart student so it would be a little incongruous but definitely not impossible.

        4. JessaB*

          I just Google-fu’d .pages files because I’ve never seen or received one, but it seems it’s kind of easy to convert them. Surprisingly it says rename the thing from .pages to .zip and you can open it in Word and stuff. No idea if it works I don’t have a file to test it on .

          Google is my go to because if I pop in the extension it’ll tell me what to use to convert it or point me to a conversion programme that I can either use on line or install. I have a PC running Win7 and my MS Office is like 15 years old, so when I started getting docx I needed to get a converter file from Microsoft. It was free and once installed I can now read those things that end in x.

    5. Antilles*

      Yeah, this is one of those tricks that sounds reasonable on the surface, but *only* if you’ve never actually been on the hiring side and seen how things work on the other side of the equation. Not only the “call doesn’t reach the right person”, but there’s plenty of other issues with this technique:
      >Due to the volume of resumes, decision makers either (a) review resumes right as they come in or (b) do it in batches. In the former case, your clever trick doesn’t matter because I’ve already decided based on your resume; in the latter, I’m just going to say that I haven’t yet but if you’re worried about it, please just send me a PDF.
      >Most applications explicitly ask for either a .doc or a PDF. Hiring managers notice when people fail to follow directions; for some people it’s a straight-up “resume in the trash”.
      >Because there are so many nutso applicants (‘gumption!’), many companies do not list the hiring manager’s phone number any more.

      1. JessaB*

        True I have never seen a submission site that doesn’t ask for either doc or pdf. Although it would be hugely nice if the things sent out an email going “do not reply to this, but yes we got your stuff.”

    6. Lance*

      Besides that, what’s a ‘nice phone voice’ actually going to benefit her with? Unless she’s applying at a call center, or for a receptionist position, or something where she’ll be on the phone often… I’m honestly seeing almost zero things that a ‘nice phone voice’ would help qualify her for, or endear her to.

      1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        I’ve been recruited (not necessarily offered a job on the spot, but asked if I would be interested in roles at a completely different company, unsolicited) solely based off of my telephone interactions with people, with me in a reception or an administrative capacity multiple times. These are not situations where I’ve gotten to know the other party or they’ve been able to see any other part of my work. This is solely from how I answer the phone/transfer them on to requested parties. I’ve also been complimented on my “telephone” manner multiple times.

        This is a thing for some people, apparently…

        1. JessaB*

          Train announcer sounds fun, is that something you did live like “All aboard the Venice Simplon Orient Express,” or did you make recordings like the lady that did them for the date/time/weather phone numbers.

          Alison, I know it’s slightly off topic, but it’d be really great if you could get Marzipan to do an interview on that job. Sounds really cool.

      2. Eliza Jane*

        I actually think a nice voice does help. It shouldn’t, but hiring isn’t a totally objective game. I tend to do extremely well in interviews for my purely technical positions in part because I present as warm and welcoming and extremely friendly. A nice phone voice is the auditory version of being attractive.

        I once had an interview where the guy basically told me on a phone interview, “You’re totally unqualified for this job, and I have no idea what on earth how you’ve made your career work, but I kind of want to hire you anyway!” Which, apart from being sort of insulting, was a commentary on how I sounded, I think.

        1. Mike B.*

          It helps more than an unpleasant phone voice, but if people only hear it because you call them for silly reasons, it’s still not a net positive.

        2. Just Jess*

          Agreed. I’m way late to this thread and it seems to have gone a certain way yesterday based on the population of people likely to comment on a blog like this. This technique could easily and subconsciously work as long as the hiring manager is available (think non-tech small businesses without internal recruiters) and doesn’t expect new hires to be familiar with PDF conversion (think industry and age diversity, as well as the examples below of job postings still requesting MS Word format). That being said, there are waaayyy better techniques to use and actual skills to develop as opposed to bucking the system through people interactions in this way.

      3. JoJo*

        So many people these days have no phone manners whatsoever, so it’s a pleasant surprise when someone sounds polite and professional on the phone.

        I’m talking about people answering the phone with a “huh”, mumbling, slurring their words, getting offended if they’re asked to repeat themselves, or getting pissy because I repeated the number or name back to them to verify if I had the correct information, making a call while chewing gum, and ending the call by abruptly hanging up.

        1. Observer*

          This is true. But making a call to say that you couldn’t upload necessary files in a standard format hardly sounds professional. It it kind of cancels out.

        2. Fire*

          I’m about to head out to a Phones shift at a delivery place and oooooohhhhhhhhhh mmmmmmmyyyyyyyy ggggggooooooodddddd people mumbling their phone number really quickly and then acting put upon when I ask them to repeat it slowly or repeat it back to them to make sure I got it if I managed to keep up.

    7. Temperance*

      I would honestly just be annoyed. You’re calling and wasting my time when the job posting says no phone calls, and you’re a.) a Mac user, b.) not computer savvy, and c.) obviously trying to curry favor.

    8. neverjaunty*

      The whole thing about how it “works for her” reminds me of the John Mulaney routine where he jokes about waking up after blackout drinking with more money, and figures he could become a financial adviser.

      “Did that work?!”

      “It didn’t NOT work.”

    9. Former Computer Professional*

      The last time I was actively job hunting — admittedly, a few years ago — job postings were still saying that resumes should be in Word format ONLY. Sending a PDF was a good way to wind up in the circular file.

      1. Mike B.*

        That would concern me today. What do they want to do with my resume that can’t be done better in PDF?

        1. MillersSpring*

          A few years ago, several recruiters wanted my resume in Word because they pulled my personal details off the top and subbed in their agency header.

          1. Mike B.*

            And that’s a relatively innocuous alteration. Recruiters have also been known to rewrite things to better fit the position being filled. I don’t know if there are often incentives for internal HR and managers to do this, but I’d prefer not to find out.

      2. ZuKeeper*

        Oh ick. I’m glad that seems to have changed. I used to have to print out resumes all the time. The different versions of Word don’t tend to play well with other versions, which can make things tough to read as formatting goes all wonky. I’ve had candidates hanging over my shoulder and telling me to change this, that or the other before I print it and really, I don’t have time for that. I’ve also had them ask me to move so they could fix it!

        Want to make sure your format is saved correctly? PDF it. Want that fancy (and really unnecessary, not to mention hard to read) font to show up? PDF it.

        And please don’t plop your Mac in front of me and ask me to get/convert the file for you! It’s your machine, if you don’t know how to use it, why would I? Or “Can’t you just get it off my phone?” Shouldn’t you have been prepared??

      3. Tau*

        Last job search, I gave a recruiter my resume in PDF and he asked back a few days later saying that the company would like to have “the Word version”.

        …I’d written it in LaTeX. There was no Word version.

        1. Turkletina*

          That happened to me, too. Not only was it a pain in the behind to create a Word version, but the result seemed so ugly compared to my carefully formatted LaTeX resume.

      4. Jadelyn*

        Really? I love the hell out of people who send resumes in PDF format, since that way they’re guaranteed to come out formatted correctly on my screen. And, because our distribution process to hiring managers involves making bundled PDFs to send them of all the resumes we’ve gotten in a given week for their position, it takes a step out of my processing since I don’t have to make the PDF myself.

        1. Koko*

          PDF is definitely the gold standard to me.

          Up until maybe 2005 I think PDFs were risky because the processing speed and internet speeds of that era meant that PDFs were enormous files that took forever to download and a lot of resources to open and required a special software that people might not have even had installed. It was considered very bad etiquette to link to a PDF without flagging it as “(PDF – large download)” or similar.

          But in 2016 a PDF is a tiny file that’s easily handled by standard software installed by default on most computers. It’s become the standard now.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          Ditto. To me a PDF file shows that you considered the formatting. Although not a 1:1 correlation, the people who put thought into a good resume format usually use PDF, and the ones who put no thought whatsoever into format submit Word resumes.

          1. JessaB*

            I have mine ready to go in both, that way whatever they ask for they can have. In my case I’m even further off the curve, I do my initial work in Word Perfect.

    10. Christine*

      If I received that call I would assume that the person didn’t know how to convert or save documents as a PDF. That I would be spending more time training them on basic skill that they should all ready have.

    11. Honeybee*

      I would be wondering, at least a little, about your technical skills. Using a Mac doesn’t mysteriously make documents upload as Pages documents – they only become Pages documents if you create them in Pages and save them that way. If you use Word on your computer and save it in Word, it becomes a Word document. So I’d be wondering why this applicant either used Pages to create her resume and didn’t save it as a PDF, knowing that not everyone uses a Mac – or why she thinks document types magically change by accident?

    12. Koko*

      Yes, there’s a very real risk that OP’s friend is making herself appear technologically inept. “Did my attachment work?” is a question I expect to hear from my grandmother who sees computers as mystery boxes that work in inexplicable ways so she’s never sure if she’s done the right thing or not. Someone who can use technology confidently knows how to send an attachment correctly and doesn’t worry that it hasn’t worked.

    13. HRperson*

      As an HR person I can tell you that a trick like this is not going to score you an interview because we will think that you don’t know how to follow instructions. As a government agency we spell out everything for you and so when you don’t follow those instructions it just makes us annoyed. We in HR do an initial screening but all we focus on is whether you 1) followed the application instructions including attaching anything we asked for and 2) the minimums that the department has set. We don’t care if you have called us or not. It’s also annoying if someone calls before a job has closed or the day after a job has closed to check the status of their application. We aren’t robots and we actually look at all applications so no we don’t have this one job out of the other 2-5 jobs that closed yesterday screened yet. Sorry but screening usually takes about a week so we will let you know. I am always really nice to people are nice to be but sometimes the things people come up with just annoy me.

    14. Bonky*

      Same here (and people like #2’s friend are one of the reasons my organisation uses a recruiter). I would never receive this call – but a note would be made by the recruiter, and we’d both wonder at the caller’s lack of technical capability.

  2. LisaLee*

    Ugh, #1. I’d be tempted to make up some “practice” projects that no one will see. Is there some kind of online training you can sit him in front of for a few hours a day (like Excel courses on Lynda or something like that)?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Or can they assign internal, low-importance projects to their intern so there’s no risk of it getting out to clients? The director doesn’t sound reasonable, and I’m frustrated that he would set his kids up to fail in this way, but there’s not much you can do about that.

      So I think it’s going to be important to minimize the amount of corrective work you have to do and to lower the risks in general. And don’t correct his memos/spelling or emails if they’re incoherent; let them know you’re no longer editing his work or internal communications, and let the chips fall. It sounds like the other managers know this is not your fault and that there’s no real corrective option.

      1. MillersSpring*

        Sadly, alphabetizing is an internal, low-importance project that the guy couldn’t handle. Anything related to spelling or communicating sounds like a no-go.

        IDK, maybe he could sort office supplies or organize other materials. Are there calls he could answer/make or physical tasks he could perform? Some people do better at tasks that are more interpersonal or kinetic.

        It could be cool to discover or tap into his hidden aptitudes.

        1. Emi.*

          “Johnny, I really need these paperclips sorted by color, and when you’re done can you sort the pushpins as well?”

          1. Hanna*

            My first thought really was to give him a box of junk and ask him to find the paperclips!

        2. JessaB*

          Maybe not. If you give him one of those sorter strips that have the alphabet on them (they come in book format or like a long ruler with strips,) you can’t mess up whether c comes before e if you have to place the papers in the sorter first. Also you can make a piece of masking tape with the alphabet or get one of those kids rulers from a school supply place. But if filing is the safest thing you have that you can give them to do, it can be adapted.

      2. Lablizard*

        I would enable the automatic grammar and spelling check on his email and set it so that it won’t send unless he runs it or manually rejects the scan. I would do this more for me than him since his emails would aggravate me. For work tasks, I would have him count things that didn’t need to be counted like paper supply, number of phone headsets, number of wired vs wireless mice/keyboards, etc. in the department. Pointless, but no writing involved.

        1. Lady Blerd*

          I have a feeling that based on the spelling mistakes LW1 has included, Spellcheck would probably still lead to a nonsensical text, emale could be male or female or email and who knows which one he’d pick.

          1. Lance*

            Definitely agreed; spelling/grammar checks basically function, but they’re far from perfect. It’s hard to fix what’s already that far gone.

            1. Hellanon*

              Spellcheckers also require you to make choices, a task he doesn’t appear to have the literacy skills for (says the teacher of remedial writing).

          2. Liane*

            Also, spellcheck won’t flag things like wrong homophones/homonyms or when your typo is also a word. So when he types “cane” instead of “came,” he won’t even be given a choice.

            Ordinarily, I would suggest Intern read his writings before sending/turning in, from end to beginning. This makes errors pop out. But I just don’t think it will help, since it does require the writer have some knowledge of mechanics and spelling, and unfortunately it doesn’t sound like Intern has enough.

      3. Vin Packer*

        Yeah I think this is the best solution.

        Trying to teach the kid anything has a high potential to backfire, and may not really be OP’s skill set anyway.

        I know three families that homeschooled. Two were fine; the third is like OP describes: barely literate, nonexistent critical thinking skills, etc. Yet they are convinced that they are the most erudite people on the planet, and anybody who says “that’s actually not how you spell ‘phone'” is an ignorant sheeple.

              1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                I find it’s particularly the case with parents who want to limit their kids’ exposure to the science on evolution and climate change.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                To my knowledge, as long as a base curriculum is met, there’s nothing anyone can do. They’re certainly not doing their kids any favors, since the bare minimum isn’t going to help many of them become and stay employed.

                1. Pineapple Incident*

                  Unfortunately in rural areas numbers for this sort of phenomenon might only be estimates. While I think “a lot” is likely an exaggeration, there are certainly people who could raise their children off the grid- no one who cared would be the wiser if people had home births/didn’t fill out birth certificates, don’t send children to public school and simply “homeschool” with whatever standards they feel fit their household. Homeschooling regulations are also a state-by-state thing, so technically speaking among residents of the many states with little regulation on the subject, parents wouldn’t even need to certify that their children have passed achievement tests in order to continue with whatever learning plans they’ve been using.

        1. Witty Nickname*

          As a former homeschooler (3rd grade through high school), I can say that your anecdotal data matches what I experienced. Most of my friends who homeschooled at least knew the basics of spelling, grammar, and math (I grew up in ultra-religious homeschool circles, and will be the first to admit my science education is lacking. I defer to actual scientists to inform my beliefs on some of the more controversial topics, since they know way more than I do), but about 1/3 of them are like this kid. Or at least they were several years ago when I finally had to disconnect from them on Facebook because I couldn’t take the atrocious spelling & grammar or lack of critical thinking skills anymore.

          That said, I’ve gotten plenty of emails that made zero sense and had terrible spelling and grammar from people who weren’t homeschooled as well, so I don’t think this is uniquely a homeschooler problem. The real problem here is that the intern doesn’t have the basic skills needed to succeed at the internship, and the director (in the role of director, not father) refuses to acknowledge that it is a problem. This is impacting the OP’s work, so I think Allison’s advice is perfect here.

          1. Vin Packer*

            It was the unique combination of the terrible spelling and the defensiveness about how it can’t possibly be terrible spelling that set off the alarm bells for me. Funny that your experience is divided into 2/3 – 1/3 as well!

            There are definitely plenty (plenty!) of conventional-school-educated people who can’t spell, but, IME, they generally aren’t in this much denial about it.

        2. Annonymouse*

          Am I terrible for thinking you could get him to look up words for you on Google/ a dictionary?

          Fergus, can you look up what random word means for me?

          If he uses a dictionary it will take him a while to sort out letters and spelling.

          If google it will spell correct it for him.

          And hopefully he learns something in the process.

      4. Artemesia*

        This I would not correct his work and make sure it only went internally and not to clients. If every executive in the place gets a few of these documents maybe they will deal with the director on this; bonus if the work can go to the director himself. If there is any way to assign the kid to products that will fall in the domain of the director and go to him unedited, go for it.

    2. Manders*

      That’s the best option, I think. Just get him somewhere out of the way where he can learn without being forced to do things he clearly can’t handle, because even if the poor kid is trying his hardest, his dad is sabotaging his education by not letting anyone give him feedback.

      A small, terrible part of me would want your department to suggest that this kid should be his dad’s assistant or liason, so dad’s the one who has to deal with the incomprehensible emails. But it’s possible that dad has some writing issues of his own if he hasn’t noticed that his son can’t reliably spell his own name.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        I agree. It sounds frustrating that OP#1 cannot attend to her own work while babysitting the intern. However, I feel sorry for poor Fergus. His parents have done him a huge disservice.

      2. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

        Actually, I really like the idea of making him Daddy’s problem. It might take that – or even horribly unprofessional documents going out to business partners – for the director to face reality. Of course, he might just end up continuing to blame anyone other than himself, his precious widdle son, and his perfect wife who is a wonderful teacher and how DARE you suggest otherwise.

        1. I'm Not Phyllis*

          Right? I was trying to figure out if there was a way that Fergus could submit items directly to his father, but since he’s so many levels removed that doesn’t seem like an option. Poor guy, though – his parents have done him a real disservice.

        2. Sparrow*

          Yeah, I’m wondering if the dad actually saw the email that kicked off this kerfuffle, or if he just heard that people were criticizing his kid. It seems like it would be harder for him to continue rejecting reality if it was in his face all the time…

      3. Sas*

        Yes to this. Feel bad for the kid. In an ideal world, possibly this one, is there a way that the kid could be doing something for the company and learning spelling at the same time?

        1. Artemesia*

          The real horror here is if the father succeeds in getting the kid hired to the company.

    3. Antilles*

      Yep. Another alternative is the always-popular ‘research projects’.
      If you’re in a heavily regulated industry, have him print off and review the applicable regulations in detail for you. Have him check the websites of some of your major competitors to keep tabs on their products and reviews. Ask him to fish through the websites of potential clients to track down information about some of their big projects to improve future pitches. Have him read through potential new regulation that Municipal/State government is discussing for you so you can evaluate the potential impacts on your company.
      If you sit down and think about it, there’s usually some way to come up with a plausible-sounding ‘internet research’. You obviously won’t be getting much (if any) productivity/value out of him, but right now, he’s actively detrimental so “irrelevant” is an improvement.

      1. Michele*

        That is a good idea. We frequently have bad interns do a lot of literature searches. It is rare that they come up with anything useful, but at least they are out of the way. It also sounds like Fergus could use some experience reading properly written documents to see how it is done.

      2. Bwmn*

        Here to also recommend this.

        I used to work at a legal nonprofit outside the US that had lots of people from the US who wanted to intern/volunteer. The organization ultimately felt the need to offer some kind of volunteer program that wouldn’t be too distracting for the attorneys and so massive legal research projects were assigned. The great volunteers came up with research that ultimately was very helpful to the attorneys, and the mediocre ones…..less so, but typically the research being asked of them was never vital to a case. And at a nonprofit such as ours, having a team of legal researchers was never going to happen anyways.

        Also, giving him a research assignment where he largely determines how the results are structured – you may stumble across some kind of strengths? Instead of having to write independently, if he’s just copy/pasting from websites, filling in spreed sheets, etc. – it might not actually be as flawed. Obviously, that’s a best case scenario – but it would give the intern something to do and also when Mom/Dad ask him about what he’s learning, he might actually be learning about the company’s functioning in a way that could make him and Dad/Director pleased.

    4. Princess Carolyn*

      I have to wonder… is there anything this kid is good/competent at? Anything at all? While the director (and possibly the director’s wife) have done him a great disservice, it’s clear that tasks involving reading, writing, words, and even the alphabet will not be success stories. Can he count? Can he assemble small pieces of furniture or do other hands-on types of tasks? Making copies? Surely he can fetch coffee and take lunch orders, if nothing else.

      1. KJ*

        You’d have to have a good memory or be able to write for lunch orders. But sheesh, this poor kid.

  3. Stellaaaaa*

    OP3: Your manager is an ass so you might as well be a bit gross with him. “I have IBS and I need to be able to go to the bathroom when I feel it’s necessary. Would you like more details?”

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Also note, OP#3, that depending on your state, your boss’s “no bathroom breaks” policy might violate local labor/employment laws, in addition to causing ADA trouble. Regardless, I would consider contacting HR about accommodation before you use Alison’s script with your boss. I just worry that he’s unreasonable and kind of a jerk, in which case I think it would be better for you (legally) to have on-record that you spoke to HR about ADA accommodation.

      1. DuckDuckMøøse*

        As an aside, my agency has always collected “self reported” data on disabilities (not part of the accommodations process; I think it’s just to get a feel for what people have, so they can anticipate where to expand their programs) I have multiple chronic conditions, but for years I had to guess that the best fit was “non-paralytic ortho impairment” for my fibromylagia. This year they have expanded the list, and explicitly named fibro (grouped under autoimmune, with lupus and RA) AND also added a gastrointestinal group, which includes IBS. This is at the federal level, so at least more conditions are being recognized and accepted as ADA issues.
        They still err in only having you pick the most serious one (What? It depends on the day/hour! ;)

        1. Allypopx*

          I might be out of touch with how federal jobs work but that sounds weirdly invasive to me.

          1. Doodle*

            I could be wrong, but I believe the information is anonymous (and the agencies are large enough they’re not easily identifiable).

            1. Liane*

              Generally in the US, forms asking to self-report on protected categories (race, disability, religion) are optional. If part of the application package, those that are filled out are segregated from the rest of that person’s application.

            2. hermit crab*

              Due to our federal contracts, we’re apparently required to “provide all employees with the opportunity to voluntarily self-identify if they have a disability” (quoting the HR email we got about it). I believe the aggregated data are used for some statistics related to us being an Equal Opportunity Employer.

      2. Christine*

        OP3 — I have IBS and am dealing with a hernia now on top of it. I feel for you. I have a boss that has no empathy for others, etc. She blocked me on the way to the bathroom one day, and I had an accident. I told her I was sick and went home to get cleaned up & didn’t return for the last couple of hours; and also went to HR about her. She was called on the carpet on that one.

        Go to HR & do the Disability accommodation paperwork. I would do the paperwork, research the law for your state. Do not count on HR knowing.

        1. TheBeetsMotel*

          Good God.

          While your financial circumstances are none of my business, I would implore you to GTFO if HR does anything less than come down on her like a ton of bricks. That’s horrifying.

      3. Retail HR Guy*

        It’s all states, actually, because OSHA considers it mandatory to provide reasonable bathroom access.

        1. Loznak*

          Restroom Breaks

          Sanitation standards for restroom breaks are generally covered by OSHA, but mostly by interpretation. The OSHA standards for bathroom usage is under 29 CFR 1910.141(c)(l)(i) and states that employers are required to provide their employees with toilet facilities separated for each sex in all places of employment. This standard is interpreted by OSHA to say that “employees will not suffer adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available when employees need them. Individuals vary significantly in the frequency…” and explains that many factors can affect the frequency including the fact that medical studies show women need to urinate more frequently than men. To read more of the interpretation, click here: http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=22932

    2. Brogrammer*

      This might not fly at a bigger company, but it certainly worked for me at a startup: my CEO made a comment about how many bathroom breaks I took. So I looked him in the eye and said, in a completely bland voice, “I have digestive problems so I poop a lot. Since I get work email on my phone, I’ve taken to emailing Least Favorite Client from the toilet.”

      Since my emails to Least Favorite Client were always polite and professional, he couldn’t think of anything to say to that.

  4. Here we go again*

    #1 – In the interest of playing office politics, could someone (not you) approach it as a “Oh, sure your wife did a great job teaching him academic writing, but business writing is different and it seems like he could use some training in this area, since he hasn’t had experience with this yet.”

    #5 – I was laid off after 3 weeks on a job. They told me my first day that it was a possibility. I just wrote one bullet on my duties and in bold letters, made it clear that the position was eliminated due to a major restructure. As long as your previous employer has your back (mine was wonderful), reasonable employers will realize that sometimes this happens and it isn’t your fault.

    1. MuseumChick*

      I think your on to something with #. Maybe approach it as “Hey there is course/training program for business writing. I bet (terrible intern) would get a lot out of that.” That gets him out of the office and hopefully helps him gain some skill.

    2. Emi.*

      If he hasn’t mastered basic English composition, the “business writing training” would have to start there. I doubt anyone wants to take that on, especially if the poor kid doesn’t realize how illiterate he is.

      1. Taylor Swift*

        I don’t think the point is to actually teach him business writing, it’s to get him out of their hair. If there’s an online or external class or something, then nobody in the office needs to spend their time on it.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Exactly. Just get him out of the office and occupied as much as possible but wrapped in the “professional development” so daddy doesn’t blow up again.

    3. Coalea*

      Regarding #1, while I understand the goal of not pissing off the director, I don’t think it does anyone any favors to lie and say that the wife has done well in teaching him academic writing. Based on the examples provided by the OP, it’s not a matter of academic vs business writing, it’s a matter of basic competence in written English.

      1. Annonymouse*

        As a side note:
        Is the directors wife a trophy wife?
        It’s the only way I can think of the children being so neglected in their education.

        Because she was either very much involved with groups and charities and things of that ilk that left her little time for educating her children or she was not married for her intellect and struggled with educating them.

        And judging from her husbands reaction, God help her if she asked for outside help.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I wouldn’t bring it up or report it to your boss without first speaking to your colleague. It would look weirdly aggressive given that you have a preexisting acquaintanceship and since she’s asking you for help. It might be more helpful to tell her what you’ve told us—that you’re happy to try to help on occasion but can’t cover her class with no notice or when you’re teaching (unless that’s not true, in which case draw a boundary).

    Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t report her—it’s highly likely her students will say something. But I can’t think of a scenario in which you would look like you’re in the right for reporting her.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      100% agreed. Except in cases of egregious behavior (harassment, violence, etc.) I’m always in favor of speaking to the party you’re having an issue with first before escalating it.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      100% agreed. I am always in favor of talking to the person that you’re having an issue with first before escalating it.

    3. DuckDuckMøøse*

      I agree. She needs to be given a heads up that this isn’t acceptable, before her students start complaining.
      If she routinely uses the term “babysit” then she needs to rethink her attitude. That AND being habitually late to her classes – that is a level of disrespect that needs to be dealt with.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Agreed. If the OP has turned down the colleague before, the colleague knows that the OP is sometimes teaching or otherwise occupied during the start of her class period. IMO, all that common courtesy requires of the OP is that she promptly decline her colleague’s requests when possible. After the first two or three instances of the OP being otherwise occupied, the colleague has to know that they are likely not going to have anyone covering for them when they’re late. It’s the department head’s job to know if the colleague is doing her job; the OP really doesn’t fit into that unless they’re asked for input.

    5. On Fire*

      When I was in college, if a professor was >15 minutes late, we left. Is that not still a thing, or was it specific to my schools? Based on the two universities that I went to, this instructor would be arriving to find an empty classroom, if she’s contacting OP 5-10 minutes *after class is supposed to start,* asking OP to cover until she can arrive.

      1. SophieChotek*

        and when I was in college, even if we were happy to not have class, w all still would have complained about unannounced late-ness/cancelled class in term reviews. Especially if some students were driving over specifically for one class/fighting for parking, etc. I would be super-annoyed to then have the prof be consistently late or late enough that people assume the class is cancelled.

        1. Mirax*

          Agreed! A canceled class is only a good thing when I’m given enough advance notice that I can use the time productively.

        2. Intrepid*

          And even if we didn’t have class, were happy to not have class, AND could use the time productively, many of my classmates STILL would have complained because they’d figured out that the tuition breakdown was something like $200+/class period, and they would have resented what they saw as lost value.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        They had the same policy at my school. We were allowed to leave after 15 minutes. Once, our favorite criminal justice instructor was only five minutes late, and we hid in an empty classroom to prank him. He had a good sense of humor, luckily!

      3. Mel*

        Yes, my college had the 15 minutes/leave thing, although I was never sure how official it was. We actually used this one time in my jazz band course, which we had to come in slightly early to be set up to go at the top of the hour. When 15 minutes past hit, we very quickly and quietly broke everything down and ran (in case our instructor showed up at 16 minutes past). Since our scheduled classes were used as rehearsals, we were happy for the break. Our instructor was all smiles the next rehearsal and the missed class was never mentioned again.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think it depends on the school, and sometimes even on the department. We definitely didn’t have a university-wide policy when I was in college, but certain colleges had “you can leave” policies for undergrads (I think it was the College of Engineering, College of Chemistry, and College of Arts & Sciences, but there was no similar policy for the College of Environmental Design). But regardless, after 15 minutes, someone would usually notify the department out of concern that something may have happened to the prof. But I also never had habitually late instructors like what OP has described.

    6. Anon16*

      I graduated college less than two years ago, and we had professors arriving late frequently (5-10 minutes usually). I was an English major at a small liberal arts college so maybe that was part of it, but many of the students didn’t care. I doubt the students will say anything.

      Why they need to be babied, however, is silly.

  6. Feathers McGraw*

    #5 Sorry to hear you got laid off from your dream job. I don’t think it’s always the case that two months is too short to accomplish anything but you should never ever write something on your resume that will irritate and confuse the person reading, which “ask me about this” would do.

    1. Sherm*

      Definitely leave out the “ask me about this” line, but if I were a hiring manager, I would be impressed if a candidate got a glowing recommendation after 2 months on the job. Two months is much too short to become proficient at an occupation, but it’s often enough time for others to see whether you’ll be a disaster or a rising star.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think there’s a risk with a glowing recommendation after only two months that it’ll be perceived as guilt from an employer who’s trying their best to help the person find a new job after laying them off. I’m not convinced you can confidently give a glowing recommendation after only knowing someone two months. There are some exceptions, but the first two months of many jobs are spent on training and getting acclimated, not impressing to that extent.

        1. Anon for This*

          Maybe the OP impressed with their potential? When I finally achieved the title Director of Teapot Spouts, but the position only landed a few months, I wanted to keep the job on my resume at least until I landed the next role as Director of Teapot Spouts. It was my dream title, and I wanted to show that another employer had trusted me with that role.

          1. Donuts to Dollars*

            How many is a few? It’s still pretty meaningless if it’s two months. Six? OK, there might be some merit there.

            “Impressing with potential” doesn’t say anything useful or meaningfully. And there’s no way for the hiring manager to sort “we thought she was fantastic but the position got cut so we’re giving her a great reference” from “we feel bad about cutting the position so we’re giving her a great reference”.

          2. MK*

            “impressed with their potential” during a couple of months to me translates as “this person has charm and charisma that has convinced me they can excell, even though I have seen very little of their actual work”. I may be prejudiceda about this, because I consider charisma a highly overrated quality (barring jobs where it actually matters, like sales).

          3. Government Worker*

            My main achievement two months in was that I was way ahead of the learning curve typical of people coming in to the position. I had already learned the role and was working independently to an extent that surprised my manager and colleagues.

            Sure, now that I’m a year in I’ve got lots more accomplishments to put on a resume, but my manager absolutely could have been a positive reference at two months. I’d obviously have included reference who’d worked with me over a longer period, but “really hit the ground running and picked up lots of complicated systems quickly” could be a good data point for a future employer.

            1. MillersSpring*

              Exactly. I’ve worked at jobs for 2 months or 3 months, and by that point, everyone was impressed with my insights, my initial projects, the tactics I executed, and the value I brought to nearly everything I touched.

              My experience across most professional jobs is that I did not sit reading and training for 2 months. Within the first week, your boss and colleagues are starting to give you little projects, and within the first month you’re starting to get the hang of the new place. This is true particularly when you come into a new workplace with highly transferable skills, such as marketing, HR, IT, accounting, finance and law. By two months, you absolutely can be finding your groove.

              I’ve also noted this also as a hiring manager when I’ve had direct reports who definitely were contributing significantly and impressively by the 2-month mark.

        2. Feathers McGraw*

          I think this is really field specific, as I definitely had some genuine achievements from my current job after two months.

          1. misspiggy*

            Yes, me too – in fact, being able to hit the ground running and get relevant stuff done early has always been something I’m rather proud of. Employers in my field would value someone who could show they had delivered stuff early on, and wouldn’t be fazed that a job was cut due to budget issues.

            1. Emi.*

              A two-month recommendation would probably be more valuable if it addresses “being able to hit the ground running and get relevant stuff done early” specifically, instead of just saying “Jane was only with us for two months but we think she’s the bee’s knees.”

              1. Whats In A Name*

                Yes – I think the wording is very important in these instances.

                I definitely land on the side of being able to make significant contributions in a short period of time can and does happen. I just think the reference needs to be very specific as I could see how a hiring manger would question as it’s not always the norm.

          2. Lablizard*

            Same. For the roles I have been in prior to my managerial one, training is about a week because you were hired for specific technical skills and processes tend to be standardized for the most part due to protocols.

  7. Kc89*

    I’m always surprised when people “call and ask to speak with someone on hiring” and actually reach somebody, whenever I answer cold calls like that I default to the person they are trying to reach is in an imaginary “meeting.” If they really had any business speaking with the person they would have their extension.

    1. Chaordic One*

      Back at Dysfunctional Teapots, they’d probably get to talk to me, the HR Admin. I would refer them back to the website and the posted openings listed there, each of which had different application procedures depending on which department had placed the job order.

    2. Michele*

      Policy here is to just transfer the person to someone in a relevant department. Sometimes, it is just the receptionists best guess which is why I get sales calls where I have to tell them that we don’t do anything related to what they are selling. If someone asked for hiring without having a specific name, that would go straight to HR, not the hiring manager, though.

    3. copy run start*

      I’d give people to a manager on the hiring team in our office, but that was the directive. I doubt they got much info though aside from a general timeline of the process.

      I did get a kick out of the ones who wanted “the scoop” out of the receptionist though, or came for help with submitting their application. I’d help, but they never got hired with their extra info. The trick was to write a good cover letter and resume, not chat me up. (If you couldn’t figure out how to submit the application online, it wasn’t the job for you, technical glitches aside.)

    4. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Yes! Or in my current place of work it would be “hiring for which position?” A lot of work places specifically request “no phone calls, please” in their job ads, so by calling in anyway, your friend could be taking herself out of the running by not following the simple instructions laid out. But I agree with the “why didn’t you just send a PDF?” crowd – that’s a pretty common expectation these days.

    5. Jadelyn*

      I don’t have a direct line – it goes to our call center and you have to know my extension to get to me from there – and after a couple of times of call center staff calling me to say “I have an applicant on the line who wants to check the status of their application” and my response being “send them directly to my voicemail please”, they learned and now they don’t even bother asking. Straight into voicemail they go. And if I notice or remember anything about them, it’s that they’ve annoyed me by pestering even though all of our materials and auto-responders and such say “we will reach out to selected candidates” or basically “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

  8. aa*

    #3 – the did this in one of our departments (call center) and there were no excuses even if you were pregnant, etc. The people just endured some scolding for their bathroom needs but don’t think anything of note ever came of it. (I did not work there)

    1. Noobtastic*

      Any time they say “No excuses,” they are asking for trouble.

      And I’m sorry, but used on my own body, and its inability to live up to others’ unreasonable expectations, a “no excuses” policy would result in a lot of calls to the janitorial bio-hazard squad, and me running home to change clothes. And I don’t even have IBS. AT last, not diagnosed. I just have to go to the bathroom A LOT, and even with Depends, sometimes, there is a mess. Get between me and the bathroom, and the mess will be guaranteed.

      And yes, a former boss did find this out the hard way. I told him I was on the way to the bathroom, and he INSISTED that I could hold it, while he gave me some instructions for a project that was not even urgent. Well, I not only did not make it to the toilet. I couldn’t even make it out of the break room, which is where he stopped me. Yep, mess right in the middle of the break room, where people eat, because that was on the way between my cube and the restroom. And that’s where he saw me, so that’s where he stopped me. He did it again with another co-worker, who was able to do the waddle-step to the restroom, but didn’t quite hit the toilet.

      Add in frequent vomiting, and you have a recipe for disaster.

      Bosses really need to learn this, and let people take care of their own physical needs!

      1. Lance*

        Wow. And this is why you don’t try and control when people can and can’t go to the bathroom; it’s not on them to dictate their body’s needs and when they need to go.

        1. JustaTech*

          There’s a boss in my company (not my boss) who like to stand around in the hallway after meetings to talk. Which would be fine except he stands directly in front of the door to the women’s restroom. I just squeeze past, but more junior people have been scared off. It’s *so* annoying.

    2. Michele*

      Call centers sound like nightmares. They might even be worse than fast food on the horrible jobs hierarchy.

      1. Emi.*

        I worked in the university call center over the summer and it was very chill. I had no idea how weird that was until I started reading this blog.

        1. Kore*

          I worked at a university call center for about two years while I was in college and it was very laidback in general. Most people did homework or read while they called, I got a lot of knitting done, and it was a pretty chill atmosphere. It wasn’t always FUN because at the end of the day it’s asking people for money over the phone, but it was a nice work environment.

      2. Tammy*

        Depends on the call center. My current company’s call center is actually pretty great – but then, they hire sane rational people to manage it, who are supported by a sane and rational HR team. Other call center environments apparently do not do those things.

    3. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Yes! Even if you don’t have IBS sometimes … issues … arise that make it impossible to hold it until your scheduled break. Like, if you eat something that doesn’t agree with you, or your body suddenly comes down with an illness, if you’re pregnant and dealing with morning sickness, and the list goes on and on. When I worked for a call centre, they encouraged us to use the facilities on our (very short!) breaks but they didn’t forbid us from using them at other times – you could tell they didn’t love it when we put our phones on a break but they never took it any extra steps. That seems completely unreasonable to me.

    4. Parenthetically*

      Whoa. How do they get away with that?? Pregnancy and disability are specifically protected classes and certain exceptions have to be made, right?

      1. Junior Dev*

        They get away with it because they never get caught. Either the people who work there don’t know their rights, or they do but don’t want to risk losing their jobs, or–as in the recent incidents at Uber–they have gone through the proper channels to report mistreatment and were told nothing would be done.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          Indeed, and like so many areas of US law, labor laws are generally reactive, not proactive.

          1. JustaTech*

            Or, sadly, until after people have died. And since the enforcement agencies are busy dealing with deaths they don’t have time to follow up on “no bathroom breaks”.

    5. Anonymouse*

      Especially working in a call center-where you are talking a lot–you need to stay hydrated so you don’t mess up your throat and voice. I don’t care who you are, I will go to the bathroom when I need to. Drinking lots of water + being prone to UTIs + having bladder incontinence due to Spina Bifida=I will dang well go to the bathroom when I need to. (Or an alternative equation: I am an adult=I will go to the bathroom when I need to.)

      1. JessaB*

        It’s gotten that if I go to work in a call centre, I come already with the doctor’s paperwork about the bathroom thing. I don’t even wait for them to be a pain about it. The first time it’s brought up as an issue, out comes the ADA request, because it’s nearly ALWAYS an issue. Some companies are just annoying that way.

  9. Gaia*

    OP 3 your manager is not normal. I manage a team of people and our department’s work means we need to maintain certain coverage at given times. This means we schedule our breaks and lunches and everyone needs to adhere to those. It does *not* mean that a grown freaking adult cannot decide they need to use the bathroom outside of their break and/or lunch. And you know what? I don’t need to know that much about what goes on behind the stall door to even think of discussing bathroom usage unless it became so much of an issue that it was having a drastic impact on the team (think: when I was a waiter back in the day and one girl would “go to the bathroom” for what amounted to half of her shift because she didn’t want to do her job…) and even then, the moment I was told it was a medical condition I’d back way the hell down and apologize for intruding.

  10. KR*

    OP1…..I wonder if instead of having the intern jump right into writing business emails and things, you can have him read over old press releases, emails, memos – things that you and others write for work. Then you could ask him to write a simple memo for an actual task using the older memos as examples, going over it until he gets it correct. Start from the bottom. Sure you’re not his writing teacher and it’s not your job to fill in the gaps left over from his education, but if you can get through to him that his current level won’t be suitable in the “real world”, he might try to improve on his own in spite of his dad. And you won’t have to go around correcting his work if he’s spending a couple of weeks just practicing his basic skills but he’ll still get the benefit of an internship showing him basic professional norms and skills.

    1. Old Admin*

      To add to that, is it conceivable to put him on an interactive spelling trainer as part of his internship?
      I used phone apps like that to motvate and teach a young relative learning English as a second language. These apps are set up like a game, wth prizes and levels, and helped him improve his spelling quickly.
      There also are teaching apps and program for English grammar. Maybe a somewhat more fomalized online course he may study at work would look “more serious” though.

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          Yeah, I think since they’ve already brought up his writing skills and he’s said that no one should criticize them, any attempt at “writing training” will be transparent and not go over well.

      1. Michele*

        Something like that might work. We have a huge number of optional online courses available where I work. Maybe he could take a few of those.

      2. Temperance*

        I would highly recommend against this, even if it will help the kid. Dad has already made it clear that his wife does all the teaching, and I personally don’t want to be the one incurring his wrath because he’s found out that I hooked his kid up with apps for young children.

      1. Natalie*

        Eh, sounds like the guy is already a ton of work. “Lots of work” might not be a fixable problem in this instance, so the OP just has to pick which kind of work is less annoying.

        1. KR*

          That was my thought. Sure this is a lot of work, but if he spends a week trying to get one press release correct it may occupy him. Some interns can work at a high level and some can’t – he just works at a very low level and can only do basic work and requires more oversight. She can’t get around it but I honestly think he might learn more if she makes him go at it against and again until he gets it right before releasing it. And that’s the point of an internship – to learn.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          If the complaint is that fixing his mistakes is taking up too much time, I don’t think the OP has the time to be the one to teach him all that.

  11. SadPanda*



    Why do you want to report a co-worker and cohort? I mean, you’ve already said you don’t get her texts all the time, so I extrapolate that you don’t “babysit” her classes, so she is not impacting your work – just some time to read the text and ignore it.

    So, what’s the beef? I just don’t even see the question here. Unless you want to mess with her career? And, again, I ask why?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She doesn’t want to mess with her career. She’s asking if she’s complicit in what her coworker is doing if she knows and doesn’t speak up, which is a legitimate worry to have.

      1. Feathers McGraw*

        I wondered if there’s an actual policy on this. Out of pure curiosity, not because I think the LW should make it their problem.

        Though I will say students don’t necessarily think to complain (might be geographical though). I used to teach part-time and once witnessed such appalling behaviour from a lecturer (with some comments that made it very very clear this was not a snapshot of an untypically bad day) that I reported it to my own boss. But that was because it had clearly crossed the line into misconduct and not because they were late. University lecturers are, in my experience of studying and working in universities, often at least five minutes late…

        I also felt my boundary-trampler alarm going off when I read about how the colleague has been making these offers of help towards the LW – I didn’t think it was at all generous, I felt vicariously smothered for some reason. You may find Captain Awkward helpful if you need advice on setting boundaries with this person.

        But it’s okay not to make the lateness your problem!

        1. JMegan*

          I felt that way too, about her offers for help. Based on my one experience of teaching one class at a community college, it seems weird to me that she would be offering to help with curriculum design. Isn’t that almost like the flagship product of teaching, something that you can really point to and say “Hey, I did this!” And also one of the more interesting parts IME, and hence the part that you would be least likely to want help with.

          The whole thing feels off to me, and I would definitely give her a wide berth as much as possible.

          1. Yorick*

            It can be nice to have a colleague give you some help with course design – especially if you’re new, you teach many classes, or you have to teach a course that is outside your subfield.

            I have taught several sections of about 10-15 different courses, and I have almost always started by looking over another professor’s curriculum. Sometimes my class was nearly identical to theirs, sometimes I started with it but made many changes, and sometimes I barely used it at all.

        2. Elsajeni*

          I think you’re right that students won’t go out of their way to complain about this — I don’t see them banding together to visit the dean’s office or anything — but part of my job is compiling teaching evaluations, and persistent lateness is definitely something students comment about on those. If it’s something the OP’s boss is concerned about, it’s probably already getting back to her via teaching evals; if she’s okay with lateness, or just doesn’t bother paying attention to the student evals, I tend to think it’s not the OP’s problem.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            That’s very true. In my opinion, the classroom operates on a social contract: as the student, I show up prepared, pay attention, and contribute to discussions. In exchange, the professor should start on time, end on time, and teach me something in the middle. I have a professor this semester who wrote up an actual contract (former lawyer) about everyone’s rights and obligations in the classroom, and truthfully he’s been my favorite.

        3. Marisol*

          When I was in college twenty years ago, we filled out a performance evaluation for professors at the end of the semester. I can’t remember if it was for all professors or just lecturers or what, but it was something all students did on a regular basis. I definitely made a note on one evaluation that the prof was late to class every session. It was probably less than ten minutes, nothing terribly excessive, but you know what? I found it disrespectful. We were there on time, and she was not. We were the ones paying, and she was getting paid. So my first thought in reading the OP’s post was that the students would eventually start complaining! And I’d think in a business context they’d be a lot less forgiving than in the arts or humanities. I guess it would depend on the university culture though, but it seems to me that even if no formal complaints are made, word will get around that the lecturer is a flake and the boss will eventually hear about, even if the OP herself says nothing.

    2. MK*

      Speaking for myself, I would “have a beef”, as you say, with being asked to drop everything at the last-minute to cover up someone’s tardiness, unless we are talking about an occasional emergency. And I get the feeling that the OP is mentioning this person’s offers to help, because she thinks they are trying to cultivate a “we cover for each other” relationship that the OP doesn’t want or need. I agree that going to the boss is overkill as things stand, but a conversation with the co-worker might be a good idea to stop these constant requests; tell her bluntly that you are not able to cover for her at the last minute or unless it’s an emergency or at all really, whatever your boundary is.

      By the way, if I was a student paying for a class, I would still complain if the professor was ten minutes late and then some other professor showed up and kept us busy with random stuff for, I assume, quite some time before the designated teacher came. I mean, it’s still lost class time, even if the OP is there babysitting the students.

    3. Feathers McGraw*

      Because when you see genuine wrongdoing and you do nothing, that makes you complicit, however unwillingly. And sometimes, you do need to speak up. This isn’t one of them but it wasn’t at all unreasonable to ask and I don’t think there’s any need to attack the LW.

    4. Lady Julian*

      As a college-level teacher, I echo the comments that there’s a real concern for the students here. If she’s regularly even 5-10 minutes late over the course of the semester, that adds up to several hours of lost instruction; and it sounds that the coworker may be *more* late than that on occasion. She’s doing the students a terrible disservice and this needs to stop, though I agree that approaching the coworker first is the better way to go.

      Incidentally, most colleges have a policy that if an instructor is more than 15-20 minutes late (it varies by college) the class is officially cancelled for the day. Depending on how long the colleague is babysitting for, the instructor may be missing that cut-off point; in other words, if colleague doesn’t step in, some of her classes may be repeatedly cancelled. And while that is great one time, repeatedly it gets frustrating, especially if you as the student have gone to the effort to show up to class and sit there for nearly half an hour, waiting.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        Yes, this. I had a professor in college who routinely showed up 15-20 minutes late for every single class. One of my classmates added it up over the course of the semester, and his tardiness ended up accumulating to 5 days of lost instruction time. He was a brilliant man and a wealth of information…when he showed up. There was one day when he did actually arrive at class on time, and he went berserk because only two students were in the room.

        If it is a small department, OP#4 might be concerned for the reputation it’s earning on campus. If one of 4 professors (for example) is consistently late, it reflects poorly on the department, and people might not sign up for other courses with them, thinking that it’s a common standard.

      2. Yorick*

        I’m not sure if colleges actually have that policy – the students at every college I’ve gone to or worked at believed the “15 minute rule” was engraved on stone tablets, but I don’t think such a policy existed at any of them.

    5. Not Karen*

      Because it’s wrong of her to not do her job (get to class on time) and get away with it. Good people don’t like it when people get away with doing wrong.

      1. Anne (with an "e")*

        I think it would irk me if I was consistently on time to teach my classes and a collegue was consistently late to their class. I doubt I would say anything to our supervisor. I also doubt that I would say anything to my collegue. However, I think I might resent it over time. Of course, I can understand a very rare emergency, but, this is different. When I was in college in the 1980’s, both undergrad and grad school, my professors were always on time. Have the standards really changed that much over the years? To me, if you are being paid to teach from a certain time until another time, then it is irresponsible and rather dishonest not to deliver instruction during that time.

  12. Knitting Cat Lady*


    Just for understanding’s sake: Both you and coirker teach adults, right?

    So, when she runs late, why does her class need babysitting?

    I can see relaying a message to the class, along the lines of “Lecturer got caught in traffic, she will be here soon!”, but other than that?

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Because likely the other professor is going to be more than the usual X minutes late (10-15, depending on the school culture) where students can leave if the professor shows up. Which means that class was cancelled, and many universities restrict the number of classes that can be canceled per section in a semester.

    2. hbc*

      Possibly “babysitting” means asking the students questions about what they learned last week, or even talking about something relevant to that day’s topics. I’d be pretty ticked off paying for a course where I was sitting around for 20 minutes, but I might not complain if I was getting vaguely relevant material from a different professor as filler.

    3. Allison*

      When I was in college, most students were under the impression that they could get up and leave if the professor doesn’t show up after 15 minutes. I never found out if it was a “real” rule or just something people believed in. Sending someone to the room prevents the students from leaving.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Many students at my school believed this was an actual rule, but it wasn’t.

          1. Emi.*

            Me too! Some kids claimed there was a hierarchy to it–you only had to wait 10 minutes for postdocs, 15 for professors, and 20 for tenured faculty, or something like that. None of them could find it in the student handbook, though.

        1. Edith*

          Yeah, this is one of those things everybody believes about their school that isn’t really true of any school. Like the library having been built without the architect taking the weight of the books into account.

          1. Tinker*

            Heh, I went to an engineering school and there was a joke going around that the student center was built as a senior design project that had mostly gone well except that they had mistakenly put all the exterior door handles in at knee level. My theory is actually that when the doors were made, they put the top of the handle where the bottom of the handle should be (performing the appropriate translation puts the handle in a very sensible location) but the other makes a particularly evocative story to folks who are contending with wonky student projects.

            (There are, actually, certain campus features that were built as student projects. So far as I know, not any of the buildings though.)

          2. Annie Moose*

            A recurring theme at my school was that the science wing had deliberately been built as a sort of Faraday cage, because of how legendarily bad cell phone signals were inside the building.

      2. Pearl*

        There was the same belief at my college. I don’t know if it was an actual rule, but it did happen once. We waited 20 minutes and the professor hadn’t shown up, hadn’t sent an email, and hadn’t sent anyone from the department to say whether they were coming. Everyone left. If the professor did show up later, they never wrote us about it.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          I’ve had that experience. A college classroom really only works on a foundation of mutual respect, and if you don’t respect my time enough to arrive within 15 minutes of the beginning of a 90-minute class, you don’t deserve to have me waiting there for when you do eventually decide to grace us with your presence.

          1. Allison*

            Agreed! I get that stuff happens, traffic gets bad, cars don’t start, but if you keep a classroom full of people waiting for you with no communication as to what’s going on and whether you’re still coming in, you’re a jerk. It might have been forgivable in the 1970’s, but we have cell phones now, use yours to tell people what’s going on.

        2. many bells down*

          I had a professor who did that all the time. I’m pretty sure he had a drinking problem; a classmate of mine once went to his office hours and said he was noticeably intoxicated. This was in Los Angeles, so a lot of people had to battle traffic driving in, find parking, PAY for parking, and then just … go home because that was their only class that day. It’s really disrespectful, especially at a community college where lots of your students are adults with jobs and families.

      3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        I walked out of a class once and passed the professor in the hall. He was like, “Oh, Mr. Notmad, I see you won’t be joining us today,” and I replied, “Oh, Dr. Lateprof, I see you didn’t join us today.”

        I have no patience with that crap. You respect your students’ time or you don’t. It’s one of the few things faculty is expected to be on time for.

    4. neverjaunty*

      It isn’t that the class needs babysitting. It’s that the late professors wants the OP to cover for her so students are less likely to complain.

  13. Joanna*

    Re #2, it’s really not at all hard to check that a document saved in word or pdf format. If I was a recruiter and had a candidate ring me to check what format their cover letter uploaded in, I’d be assuming their computer skills weren’t up to the level needed for an office job.

    1. Liane*

      There’s at least one system–a local hospital uses it–that won’t accept resumes in other formats.

  14. Feathers McGraw*

    #1 Have you talked to the intern about what he would like to do? I suspect he doesn’t want to struggle through tasks he finds really hard. I wonder if you could chat to him about his interests and ambitions as a way in to figuring out what to do.

    I’m picturing anything from a cheesy film montage in which you teach him to read to you secretly helping him escape the country. Neither of these should figure as actual options, mind…

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I was wondering how the intern feels in all of this. Maybe he dreads coming to work every day because he knows of his weaknesses and is afraid to stand up to his father; if something like that is the case, OP might well find an “accomplice” in him in that he’d actually love to do unimportant tasks X and Y or maybe knows he has other strengths where he could do good work.

      No matter what, I deeply sympathise, OP. What a frustrating situation all around!

    2. Sparrow*

      I agree with this. I’m very curious about whether the intern recognizes/is bothered by his deficiencies, because I think his attitude about it is critical in deciding how to move forward. If he’s open to it, I imagine there are some fairly basic things OP could ask him to do that might start him on the right path (for example: even if he’s not incredibly articulate, it sounds like he can at least express himself aloud. In that case, maybe having him use software to dictate emails would be a way for him to begin adjusting the structure of his communications.)

      That said – I know OP says that similar things happened with the director’s older son, but I do wonder if there is still a learning disability at play here.

      1. IANAL (I argue nightly about llamas)*

        Also, it’s 100% possible that both children have the same learning disability, which is why they have the same issues. Not that it excuses any behavior on the part of the parents, but it’s an explanation.

  15. Feathers McGraw*

    #2 There’s a really simple rule of thumb when it comes to stuff like this. Just ask yourself the following question: Is this conversation necessary or is it contrived?

    If it’s contrived it will be obvious, will not reflect well and will not help (and could harm) someone’s candidacy. It’s unlikely she gets to speak to anyone making a decision or that her voice is likely to be particularly memorable. All she’s doing is making a weird first impression and if she’s been hired it’s likely because they forgot about the weirdness or didn’t hear about it.

    The way to get an interview is to write a good application. I think there’s a really unhelpful myth that hiring managers will not ever see an application unless you do something extra – that there’s this mythical black hole it will disappear into in every single job. And the way to make a good impression is to turn up looking professional and be polite and personable.

    As to her strategy of saying it uploaded from a Mac and might be in Pages format, I would wonder why she hadn’t saved it in an appropriate format to start with. She can check the file format she has used and the application system will most likely list the formats you can use.

    And actually if I happened to speak to someone who said an easily surmountable problem happened “for whatever reason” instead of figuring it out, who alluded to having the same problem repeatedly but still not trying to figure it out? That is going to stick in my mind and not in a good way!

    1. Czhorat*

      “”The way to get an interview is to write a good application.””

      Yes, this. Also the easy to get an interview is to have the experience and qualifications expected. If the posting calls for a Teacup Designer certification from the Teapot Institute, then you need to have that. If you do and have relevant experience you’ll likely get an interview. If not, you won’t and no amount of chicanery will create one for you.

      In another comment I called it video game logic, as if the pre-interview screening is a puzzle you need to solve to get to the next pay off the game and, the game being winnable, always has a solution. It isn’t.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      This is why children should not be taught phonetic spelling for a frequently non-phonetic language. (fonetik?)

      1. Observer*

        That’s actually not true. Kids are taught to spell phonetically all the time, and still don’t make these mistakes. And, these are not really “phonetic spelling mistakes.”

        Anyone who reads on a regular basis would have seen these words often enough to know that they are not spelled this way. So, you have to ask about that.

        Beyond that, I’d be surprised if this kid were actually taught phonics. That generally requires learning the alphabet. That generally means you know the order the alphabet goes in, which this kid DOES NOT.

      2. tigerStripes*

        A reading specialist I knew who was very good at what she did would say that kids have to learn phonetics and whole words to deal with English.

  16. Jen*

    #1- how is the intern’s behavior overall? I read this thinking perhaps s/he (and the older sibling) are trying to push the envelope and see how badly they can act until they don’t have to work with dad anymore.

    1. blackcat*

      Oh, I hadn’t thought of this, but it certainly seems possible. Intentionally failing at things is definitely something young people with overbearing parents do sometimes.

      Is there any way you can have a frank conversation with the intern about *his* goals for being there? What does he want to learn? His responses should give you a sense for whether or not he wants to learn at the internship, or if he’s just there because dad is making him. If you know he doesn’t really want to be there, I think it’ll be easier for you to feel okay giving him totally pointless tasks.

      1. Temperance*

        I probably wouldn’t have this conversation, if only because it can turn out really badly if the intern has wacky and unrealistic expectations, because LW has been warned that she can’t provide any sort of negative feedback or instruction to this kid. His mother has failed to educate him in a meaningful way, and his father has sort of given her free reign to do so. His writing skills seem to be on the first grade level (or lower).

        I personally think that this is sad, and CPS worthy, but I absolutely understand why LW wouldn’t want to get involved in that.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Agree. OP says she’s a junior employee. It shouldn’t be her job to find a way through this minefield.

          1. PollyQ*

            Yes, given all we’ve been told, I think OP’s best course is to do what’s necessary to protect herself, unfortunately. Hopefully, the intern can get some help for himself at some point, but I think OP would be endangering herself by jumping in and trying to rescue him.

    2. Old Admin*

      I agree. If the intern shows any indication of wanting to fail and get out, let him do that.
      But if he’s overwhelmed, frustrated, in any way wants to learn something, then you boss (not you!) could enlist his help – you guys give him training in spelling/grammar/other middle school stuff, and he doesn’t tell Daddy.

      No, I don’t think that will happen.

  17. CoffeeLover*

    #2 Agreed with everything Alison and commenters said about this being a bad reason to contact employers. This is gimmicky and shouldn’t be used to get ahead.

    Honestly though, it’s possible this does actually work for your friend. She could just be an extremely smooth talker. While the average Joe may not even get through to the hiring manager (blocked by reception or HR), I have met people who are just that good at talking. These are the same people that charm their way out of traffic tickets and get bumped up to first class on flights. And yes, they can literally talk their way into a job (for better or for worse).

    I guess I just wouldn’t say that this would NEVER work. It may work for a select few people with the right skills to make it work, but it definitely shouldn’t be a recommended practice. And even for those that can make it work, I’m sure they’ve turned off some employers with the same technique.

    1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      I can also see this working in certain types of offices – smaller, disorganized offices mainly…

      It definitely would have worked at my old office. Their hiring process was a disaster and they were very small (less than 15 people). They were extremely disorganized in their hiring process, so anybody who called (it would have been fairly tricky, but not impossible to track down a number that would reach the right person in the office) and sounded reasonable on the phone would probably invited in for an interview on the spot. The person in charge of hiring at that office would view it as making her life easier – she had no process for reviewing resumes and it would be something she could grasp on to (someone with the resourcefulness to track down her number and someone who sounds “presentable” – in her mind- on the phone).

      Personally – I wouldn’t want to work in the type of office (there were SO many other issues at the office I referred to above) that would view this type of behavior as a positive. Just saying, it is out there.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, that’s the thing about job search gimmicks — on the small number of occasions they might work, they screen FOR disorganized places that don’t operate on merit, and they screen out everyone else.

      2. Chickaletta*

        Worked at one job I had for everything you stated, Sunshine. I got a job by calling the office after sending in my resume, then called again the following week when I hadn’t heard back. The owner, who did the hiring, appreciated that I kept him on task and made his life easier and I got the job. He was a little scatterbrained, but the office ran well because he hired people who could work independently and had good organization skills.

        He actually ended up being great to work for, he was probably the best manager I had. He trained me and then left me to my work, and since I don’t need oversight (and I hate being micromanaged) we worked really well together. That was a fun job.

        I know this tactic doesn’t work often, though, based on everything I’ve read here. Plus, it didn’t work again for me. I’ve long since then stopped calling after sending in my resume – the risk is just too great.

    2. zora*

      I had a similar thought, but I’m wondering what kinds of jobs she is applying for/getting interviews for?

      Maybe some very simple, non-computer-centric jobs? I don’t know, receptionist, cleaning staff, home care aide? Because in any modern office, I would think the lack of computer skills she is demonstrating would immediately disqualify her. But maybe it is technically working for her, but just because of who she is and the specific jobs she is applying for. but that doesn’t mean this should be extrapolated to try this for any other job application at all…..

  18. stk*

    I hate to be Ms ‘Is That Legal?’ but number 3… in the UK at least, access to bathrooms is a legal issue. Businesses are legally obliged to provide suitable and sufficient welfare facilities for staff, and while obviously there may be times when you need to get someone to cover you if you need to go, forcibly preventing someone from using the bathroom if needed is extremely not okay. Is there no similar requirement in the US?

    1. Elfie*

      I hate to write a disclaimer, but my husband is UK-based and disabled (problems walking being one facet). He had to go off sick for a number of months(!) because his (large, multi-national) employer refused to provide him with access to bathroom facilities that were close enough for him to use without being in pain during a refurbishment. As in, although they could have relocated him nearer a bathroom, they refused. So although it’s definitely not okay (and not normal!), just because it’s expected or required doesn’t mean everyone actually does it.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        If he was paid for his time off, then that’s not really a disclaimer. The employer (weirdly) decided they’d rather have him take the time off than to accommodate him during the renovation. Regardless, they didn’t block his access to a bathroom and in fact agreed it was his basic right (hence the time off).

      2. stk*

        Like CoffeeLover said, that’s not actually a legal breach… but it definitely is weird. I wonder why on earth they’d rather pay for him to be on sick leave that rearrange things even slightly.

        Your point that legal requirement doesn’t mean everyone actually does it is definitely true!

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      The OP has stated they are now restricted to what’s “mandated”- which means her boss believes he’s staying just inside the letter of the law.

      1. stk*

        It does sound like Boss at least believes he’s within the law. If he is, though, I’m concerned! Toilet breaks aren’t always something you can plan. (I thiiiiiink I’m right in believing that in the UK you aren’t legally allowed to say you can only go at break times for exactly this reason.) And if ‘break time only’ is allowed, having that in conjunction with a policy of not letting employees take their break just sounds legally incredibly problematic, at best.

        1. Sports Referee*

          Alison mentioned accommodation under ADA in the US and I think in the vast, vast majority of jobs allowing you to go to the bathroom isn’t going to be a huge undue burden. I happen to have one of the jobs (part-time) which I think couldn’t accommodate: sports referee.

          However, it sounds like OP’s boss isn’t even trying to stay within the boundaries of the law if the employees can’t take their mandated breaks. And it’s super bad for employee morale (and pocketbooks) to require your employees to go to a doctor to get a doctor’s note that says: “Your employee happens to be a human being. As such, I am requiring her to eat food, drink liquids, go to the bathroom and as often as once per second breathe oxygen to continue to sustain her human life. Please accommodate her performance of these medically necessary tasks in her workday as often as necessary. In addition I can provide you with a more comprehensive list of bodily functions that she must perform if requested.”

    3. MegaMoose, Esq*

      The policy restricting bathroom use to official breaks would probably not be per se illegal in the US, but not allowing exceptions for people who legitimately need it (like the OP) could very likely violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. The first step in establishing an ADA claim is asking your employer for accommodations, which is why Allison recommended the OP do that if their manager keeps being a ding-bat.

    4. Backroads*

      My understanding it this matter falls under OSHA in the US, which generally, yes, requires employees to provide the opportunity to go to the bathroom in a reasonable fashion.

  19. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#3…..nothing constructive to add really…just a story….

    My husband has IBS and used to work in retail sales requiring floor coverage. However, if the restroom called, there wasn’t always time to get someone from another department to cover. He just had to go. He told his manager point blank that he had IBS and there were good days and bad days. Managers response was “you still need to cover the floor” My husband’s response was sure….”I will cover it….with shit….when I shit my pants. And then you can come clean it up.” The manager had no retort to that and my husband continued using the restroom as needed. Needless to say, that was the beginning of the end with that job (not that he cared though…many other issues were present at that place.)

    Best of luck….I have witnessed how awful and annoying IBS can be. I hope the ADA accommodation approach is successful for you.

  20. Al who is that Al*

    #1 – Whats the Intern like ? Is he a nice person held back by the “Home Schooling” and his Dad ? If so, I’d take up the other peoples suggestions and get him to do things that rely on his intellect and personality rather than things that reflect on his lack of skills. If he is himself an issue, then simply don’t cover for him. If his Dad is indeed like that, you haven’t got much chance even if you did all the interns work for him anyway.
    I do feel sorry for the guy, he hasn’t got a chance.

  21. Imaginary Number*

    OP #1: It doesn’t sound like it actually matters whether the intern is productive, only that he’s busy. What’s the possibility of giving him very detailed requirements for his written communication? For example: “before you send out an email, you have to paste it into Word and go through the spell and grammar checker” I know those things aren’t perfect, but it sounds like they’d be better than what he’s doing without it, and it would at least slow the number of communications you’d have to go back and fix.

    Are all of his problems reading/writing related? For example, can he communicate okay verbally? There might be something going on beyond just education, so maybe there are other ways he could remain busy that don’t necessarily involve writing to anyone.

  22. Bolt*

    #5: I’d imagine it would be more damaging to not include 2 months of work experience and lose a reference. If your work history is impeccable it would make sense to not waste space on a position that won’t help.

    But if you need all the experience possible, it could cause a worse impression to add 2 months of unemployment and raise questions about the prior position you held.

    1. Recruit-o-Rama*

      Frankly, as long as the rest of the candidate’s job history is solid, ONE short stint does not a job hopper make. Making it clear that the short stay was a result of a RIF would be plenty for me to pass her on to the next level of screening as long as the rest of the experience and skills appear to be up to par. Two months of unemployment are not a big deal.

      1. Recruit-o-Rama*

        Meant to continue…two months of unemployment are not a big deal either. Neither scenario is “damaging” as long as the rest of the resume is solid.

  23. AdAgencyChick*

    Oh, OP1, I feel for you so much. We get quite a bit of this in my industry, although it’s usually a client’s kid you have to worry about, not a higher-up’s kid. (Agency brass do try to place their children, but we’re mostly owned by big conglomerates who have anti-nepotism rules that, although they don’t prevent the offspring being hired, will generally not allow them to be in the same department that Mom or Dad runs.)

    Alison is completely right. Solving this problem is WAY above your pay grade. I’m a mid- to senior-level manager, and even I would take this one to my boss.

    I would also treat the intern, if you aren’t already, as though he is a newspaper reporter in terms of what you say about your workplace to and around him. Anything you say may go from your lips to god’s ears. :/

    1. LKW*

      When I was in college I spent a summer working for my dad’s company. I took on all the shit jobs with no complaints. It was a print shop – so I spent a week stapling thousands of booklets. Spent weeks at the shipping station. Spent a couple of weeks hand folding laminated folders that couldn’t go through the folding machine. I cleaned and arranged the office supplies. I literally washed the desks (everyone in the office smoked, it was really gross).

      Of course, I got special treatment, boss man bought my lunch every day, but no one could say that I didn’t do what was needed or just did what I could to earn my paycheck.

      1. phil*

        I was the fourth generation at my family company and worked there-a construction contracting business-from the time I could read. Our company was the opposite of #1-I worked harder than anybody in the shop, got all the dirty jobs and there were plenty of them. At least I didn’t have to hang paper like my father when he was young.
        But they burned me out and I went in a completely different direction.

      2. tigerStripes*

        I worked for a parent when I was in college. I took on a lot of tasks that no one else wanted to do to prove that I wasn’t just there out of nepotism. I felt like more was expected of me than was expected from a lot of the other workers.

  24. regular but anon for this.*

    OP #3 I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. I have Ulcerative Colitis so I experience similar issues from time to time. I’m actually on the verge of asking for an accommodation as well. According to my agency, my position is eligible for teleworking, but our director is pretty against teleworking because “it’s not fair that not everyone is eligible”. (Think: those that work on the teapot production line are not listed as eligible, those who perform maintenance on the teapot factory are not eligible, etc.). Since our government agency says I AM eligible, I am considering asking for accommodations to be allowed to telework when I’m having…issues. Being able to have those issues in private would be nice. I’m going to ask for it as an informal accommodation first, since it’s something I’m already eligible for to begin with.
    I’m sorry you have to deal with this. And you’re right, stress absolutely makes this stuff flare up, so I can only imagine how awful this has been. I side with those that say seek ADA accommodation, your doc should back you up.

  25. Original Bad Intern LW*

    LW1: I wrote the email to Alison over the summer to ask for help with my terrible intern. His skill level was admittedly higher, even though he wasn’t a great writer by any means.

    I was able to “loan” my intern to another department. He ended up testing our new fancy phones for them. He hated it, but it gave me a break from managing him. Could you do something similar, like loaning him out for copying or binding projects – basic admin stuff that a monkey could do? Maybe organizing supply closets or refilling them? It’s clear that you can’t really do anything to fix his writing skills … but maybe installing Grammarly or a similar program on his computer is a possibility?

    I’ve also had good luck with finding decent training videos on You Tube for Word, Excel, etc. My firm has a bank of tech training videos, but I find that they assume that you already have some skills. You Tube videos seem to be geared towards the completely computer illiterate, which I think could work better for you.

    I got through it, and you will too, LW1. You can ask me anything.

    1. MuseumChick*

      I think we should get a running list of “busy projects” to give terrible inters.

      1) Organize the supply closet
      2) “Research” competitors (include comprehensive list with descriptions of their newest products/events/whatever)
      3) “Learn this company” study ALL of our literature and our website to learn what we are all about.
      4) Inventory the now organized supply closet
      5) Watch training videos on (insert skill)

      1. Original Bad Intern LW*

        HAND DELIVERY. I mean, he’ll probably screw it up, but it’s busy work. I like your list.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Lol, yes!

          The terrible interns dad sounds way to unreasonable for this to work but I wonder if there would be away to present the interns terrible work to him without him knowing. Like, if there is a project going to Big Boss have terrible intern do a part of it and when it’s delivered and Big Boss asks who was responsible for the unprofessional work, “Oh, that was (son’s name).” Stated very calmly.

            1. MuseumChick*

              It would work with someone somewhat reasonable but it sounds like this boss has a total blind spot for his kids/wife. More than likely he would find a way to blame everyone except his son.

              Though….they could assign him to write memos that go to Big Boss. Maybe enough terrible ones would get the point across.

            2. Lora*

              I already know the director’s reply: “But you were supposed to be supervising him!”

              I don’t even know how to deal with such people. I mean, Director must know how bad this is – isn’t he embarrassed to have like, Intern #1 from Harvard, Intern #2 from MIT, Intern #3 from Stanford, and then…his kid? He must know that blowing up about it at least doesn’t reflect well on him. It would be one thing if Director said, “yeah…sorry about this, but Junior needs some work experience in order to get a job, and he has almost no education. I’m hoping to get him into some remedial education classes, but in the meantime could you set him up with some make-work stuff?” But instead he blew up. I would be immediately questioning his judgment in other areas: if this is what he thinks is sufficient to function in life, how is he doing hiring? How is he setting up projects with the correct staff and resources to get the job done? How is he doing feedback, discipline, training of employees? Those skills aren’t limited to the office.

              1. MuseumChick*

                I think it’s a perfect example of why family members should not work together. It sounds like Big Boss takes any negative feedback about his kid as a direct attack on his wife and her ability to educate their children. Parents will tolerate, even embrace aspects in their children that they never would in anyone else.

                1. Lora*

                  Well, yeah…cause she sucks at this. I mean, I am sure she is a lovely person in other aspects, but there is a very particular skill set to teaching K-12, and I don’t have it, and neither do most people who haven’t gone to university for education specifically. There’s a lot to learn about child psychology, pedagogy, how to test for and recognize special educational needs or gifted students and design a curriculum. It’s not trivial. At least, it isn’t trivial if you want to teach WELL. And that’s not considering all the maintaining discipline and organization and social worker type whatnot that goes into teaching multiple children.

                  Ugh, sorry, I just hate it when people reckon teaching is for dummies. It’s a really really REALLY hard job and not everyone can do it.

                2. Parenthetically*

                  In my experience as a private school teacher who has seen a LOT of homeschool families come and go over the years, in my observation, there is a particular type of homeschool parent who absolutely cannot see so much as room for improvement in their teaching methodology, and who thus cannot abide another soul having input into their child’s education.

                  The homeschool families that are great are the ones that are agnostic about homeschooling generally, but who for various reasons think it’s the right choice for their family at the moment. The ones who think their way is God’s Only Way to Live For Everyone are the total nightmares who last a semester, tops, before transforming into spittle-flecked rage-monsters and pulling little Josiah, Jemima, Jocheved, Joshua, and Jacob out of school.

                3. sstabeler*

                  with homeschooling, it can be done well. It can also be done various degrees of badly. Typically, I suspect it depends primarily on how seriously you take actually properly educating the kid.

                4. blackcat*

                  “There’s a lot to learn about child psychology, pedagogy, how to test for and recognize special educational needs or gifted students and design a curriculum.”

                  I learned all this getting my secondary teacher license, and I still consider myself unqualified to teach basic reading and writing to young children. Basic math? Yeah, I can do that because I’ve had to do a lot of remedial work in math with students. Basic reading and writing? Nope. I have no idea how to teach someone what a verb is. I can probably teach students how to identify a comma splice or a run-on sentence.

                  People who claim teaching requires no specific skills and no training drive me batty.

              2. starsaphire*

                Unfortunately, that’s *why* he’s blowing up about it. When people are stubbornly wrong about something, and a part of them realizes it, but they don’t *want* to be wrong about it… you get that knee-jerk anger reaction when anything forces them face-to-face with the truth.

                If he was sighing and saying, “Yeah, I know, but…” then there’d be room to work with it. If he’s violently rejecting reality every time it comes up, he’s just gonna keep doing it.

                And yeah, I’d be questioning his judgment in other areas too.

                1. DevAssist*

                  I don’t know if this is going to appear correctly in the thread, but I just wanted to say Lora, Parenthetically, sstabeler, and blackcat are making excellent comments! I work for an independent study school and while homeschooling can be a good option for some, I think most parents who think they are qualified to educate their children aren’t. I know that sounds harsh, but there’s a lot that goes into educating! No school system is perfect, but homeschooling can be a particularly difficult field to navigate.

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        Is there anything around that needs to be measured? Or weighed? Have the intern measure it.

        I spent a good chunk of one of my college internships measuring- granted, I was a research intern performing ASTM testing so it was kind of in the job description, but I guarantee you, if anyone, not just my supervisor, needed anything measured, I was on it. And now, I’m very good at calipers!

      3. GiantPanda*

        Select pictures for the next conference room redecoration (in 3 years).
        Update essential documentation like the office birthday and cake preference lists.
        Research watering and nutritional requirements for all office flowerpots.

        Maybe even something useful:
        Research new suppliers for things like rec room coffee, copying paper, desk calendars.
        Collect flyers from all lunch takeout options in the neighborhood. Provide recommendations.

      4. LKW*

        1. Check all of the links on your website. Note all of the broken or outdated links and send to whichever team manages the site (get their ok first).
        2. Do you have a records retention policy? Have him go through the files and look for one or two specific record types that can be destroyed if they’ve met their retention period. Do not have him destroy them until someone else confirms they can be destroyed.
        3. Shred the records that are green-lit for destruction.
        4. Do you believe you have the technology you need to do your work? Have him research software packages that may be special for your office. I’m thinking collaborative tools like SmartSheet or web based file shares. Have him put together a list of features and if the software package has it or does not have it. Kind of a pre-RFI / RFP step.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          The link checking thing is actually useful and seems hard to mess up, assuming the guy can copy and paste.

        2. hedonia*

          How will he do any of these things? The OP indicated that he DIDN’T KNOW THE ALPHABET! I’m honestly stumped as to what she could have him do, besides possibly manual labor.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Do we know that he can’t read, or just that he doesn’t know the order of the alphabet? I ran into that with one of my library shelvers once, and realized that since his native language uses a different alphabet, there was no particular reason why he would have had the exact order memorized even though he spoke and read very good English.

          2. LKW*

            We know his spelling and grammar are awful but I assumed that he had basic reading skills and could understand date order. That may be a stretch but I did consider that this person had critical thinking skills of a middle-schooler.

    2. NW Mossy*

      I’m loaning my intern as well! I legitimately don’t have enough to keep this intern busy, and my peers who are in a similar “I could use a bit here or there but don’t have enough work to have my own” boat are getting some benefit from it too. It’s alleviating the strain on my junior-level employee who’s doing the day-to-day support as well, so it’s a good solution. Plus, who knows? Maybe another department has work for the intern to do that they’re better at and enjoy more.

      On the upside, having an intern seems to have cured my junior employee of the notion that having an intern would be the solution to all her problems.

    3. Artemesia*

      Never underestimate the complexity of a task. I learned that advanced graduate students could not necessarily xerox without close supervision when one of mine prepared reading material for a class and cut an inch off the right column. I insisted it be redone and she whined to the director of the institute that she couldn’t believe she was being asked to redo work ‘she had already done’. He set her straight but we both were amazed that we had to closely supervise xeroxing. On other occasions grad students assembled handouts out of order (going double sided to single sided copying or vice versa and not making appropriate adjustments) So even jobs monkeys can do can’t necessarily be done by illiterate incompetents or even literate incompetents.

    4. plain_jane*

      How about “watch training videos to help us ID which ones we might want to roll out across the organization”?

  26. brightstar*

    I don’t understand managers who decide to police employees bathroom use. I’ve had it happen to me, with an employer who told me my going to the restroom on the clock was “stealing his time”. He admitted he would stand just outside the door while I was in the restroom, LISTENING, to make sure that I wasn’t just goofing off or something like that.

    1. Temperance*

      Oh what the HELL. That’s so weird and gross. I did work at a place in high school and college where managers would pop into the restroom to make sure we weren’t trying to goof off while working, and at the time I thought it was weird, but as an adult, I find it horrifying.

    2. Michele*

      That is creepy as hell. Plus, I have known people who can’t go if they think someone will hear them, and he is wasting his time by lurking outside the bathroom door. There is so much wrong with that situation. Ugh.

      1. brightstar*

        This was part of his campaign to get me to quit after I reported sexual harassment. There was a lot of wrong going on in that place. I eventually walked out when he said my hours were being cut from full time to less than 10 hours a week. I also went to the EEOC.

      1. JB*

        Yes, I’d be tempted to set up a bathroom rotation where each of, say, 10 employees takes turns spending 10 minutes in the bathroom, all day long, and see how long he could keep up the lurking.

    3. Princess Carolyn*

      I’d have to guess that managers who try to police bathroom use are total control freaks in most other aspects of the job as well. I would feel so uncomfortable talking to an employee about her bathroom habits (regardless of what the problem might be) that it’s a little shocking to me how many managers seem to bring it up!

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      oh my FREAKING GOD. I would fantasize about using my phone to play sounds of explosive diarrhea every time.

    5. blanche devereaux*

      that cannot be legal, can it? that’s so weird and gross and over the top. I read things like this and am so grateful for having such a laid back boss who doesn’t ask questions other than, “going to the doctor isn’t code for job interview is it?” which is funny and also validating.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        I can’t think of any law against standing outside a bathroom and listening, but it’s certainly weird and gross and over the top. Most privacy laws focus on recordings or entering a private area and observing or harassing people.

    6. Chickaletta*

      I’d be tempted to bring a whoopie cushion with me, sing songs while pouring a water bottle into the toilet from shoulder height, that kind of thing.

  27. Delta Delta*

    #2 – This issue will solve itself at the end of the semester when the students have to do course evaluations. Inevitably, multiple students will say something like, “Professor Warblesworth was great, but she was regularly 10 minutes late, and because our class is in the middle of the day it’s not like we could stay late because we had other classes afterward.” The administration will read this and probably talk to her about it.

    It also seems like Professor Warblesworth could fix the problem herself by a) emailing students on days when she may be a touch late to say, “don’t leave! I’m running behind!” thereby not bothering colleagues, and b) by not being late. I’m a lawyer and also an adjunct professor at a college. I do my best to schedule myself so I can be on time, but sometimes emergencies happen that cause me to be a few minutes late. Maybe something like that is happening with this instructor?

  28. Emi.*

    For #5, can you leave the position off your resume but still list that manager as a reference?

    1. Michele*

      Does anyone hold it against a candidate if they were laid off, though? That seems like the type of thing that you can’t do anything about, especially if there is a LIFO policy.

      1. Morning Glory*

        Once explained it’s not something that’s normally held against a candidate – but I think the OP is concerned about how it will look before she is able to explain. For someone skimming through a pile of resumes, it will look like she was fired or quit after only two months.

        1. MillersSpring*

          If the rest of the resume looks great, I would not assume the OP was fired or quit. The OP could add a bullet, e.g. “Laid off due to corporate restructuring after two months in role.”

          1. Morning Glory*

            Well sure, that’s similar to one of the options Alison gave, which was to write ‘position eliminated’ next to the dates. Seeing as bullet points are normally for accomplishments, I like Alison’s suggestion better.

    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      I’m not sure that manager would have anything useful to say about you, though, after only a month or two.

    3. GingerHR*

      I did wonder if the commenter was not from the US, as they clarified laid off with redundant. If they aren’t, then it may be more difficult to leave it off – there is usually an expectation that a CV in the UK will include all roles, and applications will usually ask for an explanation of any gaps. It’s also common as part of the ‘admin’ in an interview to ask about any gaps – certainly what someone had been doing since the prior role, and leaving a role off would probably raise eyebrows.

      1. UKBased*

        Hello Ginger,
        Yes, I am UK based and my role is one that you would not spend a significant time training. I was hired to perform a job that I knew how to do.

  29. AnonForThis*

    In regards to #1:

    I am a homeschooling survivor. My family moved into an educational wasteland when I was in early elementary (literally, the state education agency took over for the city). I essentially repeated the prior grade I had been in before we moved. My mom (an educator herself, lucky me) decided that my boredom wasn’t a good sign and pulled me and my brother (also bored) out to homeschool.

    During our time homeschooling, we saw a wide variety of fellow homeschooling families who either knew how to educate or…didn’t. Sadly, we’ve seen families like this intern who have somehow managed to “grow up” and know…very little. Regulations for education vary from state to state for homeschooling, so it falls into a weird legislative hole. My mom especially would focus on the core basics (math, science, literature, writing, etc.) and then allow us to pursue our individual interests. Unsurprisingly, this also meant that we learned how to teach ourselves things, or my mom learned how to teach herself enough to help guide us through. My brother took an anatomy class. I took extra language classes. She ensured we had a balance of social and educational opportunities, taking us to volunteer places and so forth. I think I was one of the few 10 year olds hanging with senior citizens on a regular basis, but it worked.

    My brother and I both went on to earn scholarships and degrees from universities; I graduated with honors (I might hold that over his head…). He went the engineering route and now works for a well-known company in a brand new division. I went the humanities direction and also work for a well-known company in a specialized division.

    tl;dr: Homeschooling is what you make it. Whatever effort you put into it is what you’ll get out of it, both as the educator and as the student.

    1. FN2187*

      Yes, this. I am also a homeschooling survivor. I spent my elementary and middle years being educated home, then went to private school for 9th and 10th grade, and finally spent my last two years of high school at a public school where I was in an incredibly rigorous program (International Baccalaureate). My local elementary school was a disaster, which is why my mom chose homeschooling. I turned out just fine. She made sure that we had social opportunities and a local private school even had a homeschool program where students could attend school for one or two days a week to receive instruction in subjects like art, PE, computer, etc. That being said, I would never homeschool my children. I hated it. It was boring and I hated being at home all the time. I loved public school. It was the best. They had so many things to do and so many options!

      I met lots of super weird kids who were homeschooled — for example, their version of economics was going to the mall (yes, the mall). While I support a parent’s choice to educate their children as they see fit, I strongly believe there should be more oversight so students, like the intern in #1, do not fall through the cracks.

      1. Emi.*

        I was homeschooled too! There were definitely parts that I didn’t like, but overall I liked it, and there were things I didn’t appreciate at the time that I can see in retrospect were really good for me, including socially! I never picked up any girl-math-anxiety until college (bad REU), and it never crossed my mind I shouldn’t raise my hand if I knew the answer–apparently in some circles, this is considered nerdy and therefore bad? I was in a homeschool co-op for enrichment-type classes, and everyone in that group was learning a lot (even the ones who used Saxon, UGH).

        What’s with the “survivor” moniker? That sounds like such a put-down to me, but you guys don’t seem to mean it that way. Do you?

        1. AMD*

          I have such mixed feelings about my homeschool experience that it does feel like an ordeal that I’m lucky to have escaped from – though I have definitely heard people use the phrase “public high school survivor” or “(Local Town) High survivor” or whatever, so I think it’s also just a common way to refer to one’s school experience?

          1. Emi.*

            Huh, I’ve only heard people say that to mean that their school was terrible, and they were lucky to escape alive. But I haven’t heard a large sample say it at all.

      2. Temperance*

        Did you also know the kids whose parents claimed that learning to bake was “science” or “chemistry”? Sure, in kindergarten, maybe.

        1. Parenthetically*

          I think there are really smart ways in homeschooling to use ordinary tasks as a springboard to get kids interested in science. So, let’s bake one loaf of banana bread with baking soda and one with baking powder and then let’s discuss acid-base reactions and do a few more experiments to observe and record in our, say, third grade science journal. But on its own, no, baking banana bread does not qualify as chemistry class.

          1. blackcat*

            Food Science is an event in some Science Olympiad competitions. There’s a lot of chemistry you can do.

            1. yasmara*

              My husband is a Food Scientist! It’s a real thing. He has a master’s & a PhD. He did a post-doctorate working on Frosted Flakes (yes, really). He’s worked on a number of other name-brand products, but now he works on enzymes so it’s a lot more difficult for me to explain. My go-to is, “companies use enzymes in processes to make things like lactose-free milk.”

              1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                But….that IS basically the whole degree. You do some coursework, but the degree is conferred on the basis of the research that’s written up in the thesis, and usually a defense of it before a committee.

                1. fposte*

                  I’m in humanities, so that’s not the model I’m familiar with. You guys could sacrifice a goat before the provost for all I know.

        2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Temperance, go read the Food Lab or Cook’s Science if you don’t think there’s an incredible amount of practical and theoretical chemistry and basic science practice that can be taught by cooking – and a lot of cooks approach their work in an extremely rigorous scientific fashion. It’s all thermodynamics and chemistry, and almost every other scientist I know happens to also be a good cook. You can’t bake without understanding the chemistry of gluten formation and the effects water, fat, salt, and sugar have on it. And if you’ve ever screwed up a pie crust and tried to figure out what went wrong with it, you tested hypotheses.

          So a committed parent could absolutely use baking and cooking as an entry point for very effectively teaching science. I’m generally against homeschooling, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            There are also a crap ton of articles and videos online about how to do this; I used to be friends with someone who homeschooled and used/posted a lot of them. Results, however, may vary.

          2. plain_jane*

            “You can’t bake without understanding the chemistry of gluten formation and the effects water, fat, salt, and sugar have on it.”

            I grew up baking – I saw several of my mother’s friends in October, and a bunch of them mentioned they still used tips I gave them as a pre-teen. I certainly didn’t understand gluten formation, or the effects that different ingredients had. I knew how to measure things out, follow basic instructions, and I learned what the dough should look/feel like. (I grew up with the mentality that sugar, butter, and eggs would good in almost any way they are combined, and add extra vanilla if you are in doubt.)

            It could be an entry point, but it’s certainly not a given that a good baker understands these things beyond a ‘follow the rules, trial and error” point. Certainly not the reasons why it worked or didn’t.

          3. zora*

            “So a committed parent could absolutely use baking and cooking as an entry point for very effectively teaching science. I’m generally against homeschooling, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

            That’s not what Temperance is referring to, though. She’s not talking about parents who *use* baking to teach science, she’s talking about “we bake some banana bread. Ok, cool, that was your science lesson. Check.”

            There is a way to use almost anything to teach a lesson, but that is actually harder than using a textbook lesson and there are many homeschooling parents who absolutely do not have the level of understanding of science themselves to pull that off.

            1. Witty Nickname*

              Exactly this. I sent my 3rd grader’s teacher a picture of him measuring out flour for cupcakes, with a quip about having a lesson in fractions (which they are learning in class right now), last weekend. She was thrilled, and says she tells her students that baking is a good way to practice fractions. We also threw in some science as we talked about what each of the ingredients does and why we combine them in the proportions and order we do. My son came up with the idea for the cupcakes, I created the recipe, and we ended up with delicious results.

              And as a supplement to his actual math curriculum, it was great (it wasn’t really a supplement to his science curriculum, because that’s not what they are studying, but he loves science in general, so it was a nice mini-lesson for him).

            2. Lablizard*

              Shoot, I have dual PhDs in genetics and computer science (glutton for punishment, I guess?) and can’t teach either for crap. Not even undergrads, as I learned as a TA. I would never be able to hand K-12. You need knowledge and pedagogic skills, a combination that is not particularly common if you want to teach any topic

        3. Emi.*

          We had a book called The Epicurean Laboratory, which presented a series of scientific topics (supersaturation, acid-base reactions, …) with recipes to go with them. It originally belonged to my Poh-poh, who was a chemistry professor.

        4. tigerStripes*

          Baking can be great to show kids how to use math and fractions – just follow a cookie recipie and half or double the ingredients.

      3. Jessesgirl72*

        Since so many functionally illiterate people graduate from public high schools, I don’t know why homeschoolers need more oversight. On average (statistics show) that home school students do better in college than public school students, so this isn’t really a huge problem.

        1. Emi.*

          As a statistician (ish), I have to point out that those statistics could be skewed by different college attendance rates, but I do agree with your general point.

        2. FN2187*

          This is anecdotal, so I am not saying statistics are wrong, but I knew many, many children who did not receive a comprehensive education while being homeschooled. Honestly, I was one of them. Once I got into 6th grade, I started doing video school — it was like the early 2000s version of online school. I didn’t like math, and the videos were boring, so I skipped half of my 6th grade year. My mom had zero idea.

          My SIL, who is incredibly intelligent, was homeschooled all the way through. She is the most uneducated person I know. She is the one who went to the mall to learn economics, etc. It’s truly heartbreaking.

          I don’t think the government needs to swoop in and sit in on lessons, but I definitely think parents need to submit lesson plans and demonstrate that students meet some kind of basic benchmark. I believe my state requires that now. It did not when I was homeschooled.

          1. Emi.*

            My state requires homeschoolers to demonstrate (biannual portfolio review) that they’re receiving regular and thorough instruction in all the subjects normally taught in public schools. My mother would meet with the homeschool person from the county and show her lesson plans, books, some of our written work, etc.. The county person was always very impressed, but my county’s public schools routinely graduated people who were functionally illiterate, so we didn’t set much store by her assessments. :P

            1. sstabeler*

              to be fair, the point is to ensure the homeschooled kid is being educated as well as they would be at public school. if the public school routinely graduates illiterates, then the homeschooler is no worse off- which is what the inspectors are assessing.

              1. Emi.*

                That’s true! Homeschoolers in my state successfully fought being held to arbitrarily higher standards than other -schoolers when they first wrote the regulations. :)

          2. Observer*

            But the question is why more so than public schools? Seriously, kids can *graduate* school in some locales without learning how to read. And many kids just go through the system and them drop out at 16 or 18.

        3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Because in my experience as a college-level educator at a state institution, the overwhelming majority of my home schooled college students had substantial gaps – not just things they didn’t know, but relationships between areas of knowledge they were ignorant of, and their understanding of many topics was superficial and rote. They generally seemed uncomfortable with conflicting viewpoints and ambiguity, and had difficulty operating under conditions where there were no answers – for example, in observational laboratory exercises where outcomes and conclusions were not knowable. And they didn’t really know how to debate or defend a point when challenged; they got flustered easily.

          Not that public school students didn’t have their own issues and failings, but it was very obvious that my home-schooled students had been patiently hand-held through their entire education.

          1. Emi.*

            How did you know which students were homeschooled? I don’t think I told any of my professors.

            1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

              They generally told me or it came up in conversation. Usually it came up in the context of “so, I’ve never had a teacher before, can you explain XYZ” or “My mom didn’t do quizzes, can you explain what will be included in them” or suchlike.

              I’m sure I had some who didn’t mention it and I never knew, of course.

                1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                  How so? Would only a certain type of home-schooled kid announce themselves?

                2. Emi.*

                  If they’re bringing it up in the context of “I don’t know this thing that everyone else knows,” yeah. The ones who already know the thing don’t bring it up, because they don’t need to ask.

            2. Lablizard*

              I had the same experience as a TA. I had the students fill out an info form that had their home state, city, and school mascot because I used the information to make mnemonics to remember their names (I suck at names and faces). Obviously the home schooled kids didn’t have a mascot, so they left it blank or used a family member or pet, so I knew who was home schooled. I saw the same things as irritable scientist to a greater degree in homeschool kids. To be fair, I TAed in genetics, which requires some knowledge of evolution and which is not exactly a top 10 favorite homeschooling topic, so most of these kids were really behind the curve through no fault of their own. I actually admired them for taking a class that was guaranteed to challenge most of them, so I set up special office hours for those who never learned evolution.

          2. Witty Nickname*

            One of the best experiences I had in college was in my Intro to Sociology class my freshman or sophomore year. My professor made us write opinion papers from both sides of controversial topics – as a former homeschooled kid who grew up in a very conservative religious environment, this was a challenge I’d never been given and really opened me up to being willing and able to look at things from multiple viewpoints. (She also made us have a debate about the death penalty, and didn’t assign pro or con sides until the day of the debate, so we had to be able to research and formulate arguments to support both sides. I come from a long line of debaters who will argue anything just in the quest to be right, so that was fun for me. What isn’t fun for me is that my 3rd grader seems to have inherited that trait too. Heh).

            I wouldn’t say I had been hand-held through my entire education (I was pretty much the opposite – a very independent, self-motivated learner), but I had grown up with a viewpoint that was presented as right, and it hadn’t occurred to me to question that until that class. Being able to look at any topic from multiple viewpoints is a very good skill to have – I use it all the time as part of my program & project management work – so I am very glad I took that class.

    2. Annie Moose*

      That seems to be how it goes. I know a fair number of homeschooled people, and some of them (most of them) ended up with a perfectly good education, because they and their parents were motivated to make it work. And some of them put in zero effort and learned nothing.

      I have one cousin who was homeschooled her senior year of high school for kind of similar reasons, her family moved and the school was just awful. But she was motivated and wanted to do well, and she went on to college with no problems whatsoever.

      I have another cousin who was also “homeschooled” her senior year of high school, but the reason was basically that she didn’t feel like going to school anymore and didn’t want to go to college, so she pretty much stayed home and did nothing for several months, as an alternative to dropping out. And while she’s not stupid, I also know she didn’t learn a blessed thing that entire year.

      1. Emi.*

        some of them (most of them) ended up with a perfectly good education, because they and their parents were motivated to make it work. And some of them put in zero effort and learned nothing

        This sounds like every educational system to me, tbh.

      2. Temperance*

        I grew up evangelical, and knew a lot of families who homeschooled just so their kids wouldn’t get exposed to non-biblical science. Part of me wishes that I kept in touch/could remember all their names so I could facebook stalk to see what they’re doing now. I remember having a conversation with a boy in church when we were 13 or 14, and he believed that people rode dinosaurs as a method of transportation. Sad. He could at least read and write, though.

        1. FN2187*

          Oh, yes, I grew up evangelical as well and this sentiment was the exact reason many of my peers were homeschooled. When I went to public school I was treated like the whore of Babylon by my church friends. I’m glad I don’t talk to them anymore.

          I want to say roughly a third of my peers turned out more or less normal, a third became even more religious, and the rest went off the deep end and ended up getting into drugs, alcohol, etc. One of my friends who was homeschooled all the way through 12th grade went to a local university and dropped out by Thanksgiving because they went out drinking quite literally every night of the week. It was really sad.

          1. Temperance*

            My mother was far too cheap and lazy to send me to the weird Christian school that was 1/2 hour away, and definitely too lazy to homeschool. I’m grateful that I at least had school as an escape.

            I lost contact with the very religious friends and acquaintances once I went to college and stopped going to church, but I think that your breakdown is correct. A lot of my peers became atheists, and the ones who didn’t sort of walled themselves off from “the world”. They only spend time with other church people and make sure that their kids are barred from free access to information.

          2. Annie Moose*

            It is sad. If someone has to isolate themselves from all other viewpoints and information to preserve themselves, that’s not a good sign. I’ve seen similar things happen with a few people I know too–they’re so deeply sheltered (and I say that as someone who was raised in a somewhat sheltered environment, albeit with public school) that they don’t know how to handle anything new, and they don’t know how to moderate it. (e.g. abusing drugs and alcohol, like you mentioned)

            By trying to “protect” their children, these sorts of parents often end up hurting them in the long run because they don’t prepare them for the real world. :/

            1. Parenthetically*

              There’s a whole movement within evangelicalism that is all about sheltering. At its best it’s just an intentional approach to time a kid’s exposure to ideas in accordance with that kid’s development and maturity which is fine, even if a little naive at times; at its worst it’s an ugly, demeaning, control-freak system that equates ignorance with innocence, and it’s terrifying. If you ever just feel too optimistic about humanity and want to spend a couple of hours feeling grieved, stunned, and appalled, look up stuff about Christian Patriarchy and sheltering.

        2. Witty Nickname*

          You’ll probably find they turned out exactly as the people you went to public school with. Some have embraced what they were taught growing up and are teaching their kids the same things, some have rejected it and found their own path, and there are a few who still believe people rode dinosaurs. :)

          I’ve disconnected from most of the homeschoolers I grew up with because I was the one that went in a completely opposite direction with my beliefs. I am still facebook friends with a couple (the one who came out and his sister – they were part of the strictest, most conservative family of all my friends, so it’s nice to see how his family has accepted him for who he is), but I have very little in common with most of them anymore and found myself only wanting to argue with them rather than actually interact with them. And I unfriended one because her spelling and grammar were so bad I couldn’t understand what she was talking about most of the time, her critical thinking skills were non-existent, and she was determined to continue believing things that were demonstrably wrong (even by the standards of those who reject any science or history that doesn’t fit into their worldview).

      3. Michele*

        My husband teaches at an online high school, and he gets a lot of homeschooled kids. He says they fall into three camps. One is the evangelicals whose parents are afraid of the secular world. The kids are very hard to teach because everything has to be related to the bible for them, and the don’t accept criticism from anyone outside of their church. It is also rare for them to have had previous teachers who understood the subject matter. The second group consists of kids who have had to drop out of school due to pregnancy, going to jail, or some sort of family emergency. Often, those kids need a lot of help, but they try really hard. His favorites are the ex-pats. Their parents are working overseas but might not have access to a decent educational system. Those kids are always bright, inquisitive, and hard working. They also write the best essays because they are about different experiences than most kids have.

    3. AMD*

      Another homeschool survivor here – K-12, never went to a more traditional school. It was our only option at first locally, and my mom stuck with it. I really appreciate her sacrifice – but she was terrible at it! I learned nothing in high school except how to disguise my playing Age of Mythology and writing fanfiction behind other windows to look like I was doing schoolwork.

      Doing well now, but I do wish that non-dysfunctional homeschoolers were a little less defensive. I had/have homeschool or former HS friends who declare it is the best and only way to educate, and can’t talk about education options without immediately busting out full homeschool apologetics, point by point. Even if we homeschool, we need to be willing to admit it has its downsides, including the existence of dysfunctional or abusive homeschooling homes that don’t properly educate the children. When so many homeschoolers are so immediately, aggressively defensive about it, and talk about it only in absolutes, it leaves us with no way to distinguish between the crazy and non-crazy people… Does that make sense?

      1. Emi.*

        As a homeschooler, I agree, and I want to add that insisting that Homeschooling Is The Best is really, really hard on families who want or need to switch to a different system.

        I’ve definitely been more defensive about homeschooling at other times in my life, and it was partly because of the negativity and ignorance I encountered from non-homeschoolers–“So, you have no social skills, right?” “Like, you’ve never left the house in twelve years?” “Oh, you’re so normal, I don’t think of you as a homeschooler.” I gotta admit, it still gets my hackles up a bit when a case like this becomes a cue for people to start swapping Bad Homeschoolers I Have Known stories. I try not to just start circling the wagons, but there is room for improvement on both sides.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          In fairness…it’s not an unfair stereotype that homeschooled kids cab be socially awkward and standoffish. They tend to have such limited and curated exposure to the general population that they lack a certain toolset.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            Not all, of course! But enough that the stereotype has some grounding in reality.

          2. Emi.*

            I think that’s true but usually overstated, for a couple reasons. Groups of thirty people born in the same year are another kind of limited and curated, for one thing. As homeschooling becomes more mainstream, it’s becoming less common for homeschoolers to have limited exposure to the general population, as well. Some children are also homeschooled *because* they’re socially awkward or anxious and don’t do well in classroom settings, not the other way around. Finally, like with all stereotypes, there’s a certain amount of confirmation bias floating around. (I used to be friends with a girl who thought of homeschoolers as strange and awkward, because that was true of all the homeschoolers she knew … and then admitted she didn’t think of me as a homeschooler, because I was “so normal.” I wish this were a joke, but it’s not.) So yeah, it’s grounded in reality, but I don’t think it’s close enough to universal for it to be fair to assume that the random homeschooler you just met has no social skills. That’s what’s aggravating.

            1. FN2187*

              I agree, Emi. Sure, some homeschooled kids can be socially awkward and standoffish, but I see that in my students at the private school where I currently work, too. I saw it in public school, and in charter schools.

            2. Vin Packer*

              Based on your other comments, it sounds like you had a pretty unique experience as a homeschooler, too, though. Are most homeschooled kids taught by parents who are teachers and whose grandparents are chemistry professors?

              1. Emi.*

                That’s a good point! My siblings and I definitely lucked out academically, and I do mention this as a caveat when I talk to people who are considering homeschooling.

                I don’t think our *social* experience was unique, thought.

            3. Lablizard*

              My only issue with homeschooling and, frankly, most American schooling is the lack of a universal standard of achievement. However, I was educated in Turkey and we had the ÖSYM national test, so my experience probably biases me towards “there should be a universal body of knowledge high school kids should have upon graduation”. I was kind of shocked by the varying skill sets of kids entering university, despite what my dad (an American) told me about education in the US

    4. Princess Carolyn*

      “Homeschooling is what you make it” is absolutely true, and the exact reason that it makes me nervous. It’s great to have it as an option for families who aren’t being well served by the public or private education in their areas. It’s unfortunate that so many families use it as a method to coddle their children, or to avoid people and ideas that the family might find objectionable, or worse, to hide ongoing abuse. That said, I’ve never come across a homeschooled person whose parents seem to have objectively failed to teach them basic reading and writing like this. Just… wow.

      1. Lora*

        Yeah…I know someone (used to be friends with her, now we are ex-friends) who pulled her kids out of public school because the school kept calling Social Services to report her hitting and threatening to kill her older son, throw him out of the house, etc. Fortunately the kid went to live with his dad after several months and is much happier now, but it was really sad to see how little power Social Services has when a parent is determined to hurt their kid.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, and as someone said above, without any education training, how would she know if her son’s difficulty were due to a learning disability? I shuddered at the implication–I went through public school with one, and nobody recognized it until I was almost out of high school. Nobody. Meanwhile, I struggled and am still struggling. If they didn’t recognize it, how is someone who has never taken an education class supposed to know? If Fergus does have an LD, he will have a much harder time finding resources as an adult than he would have if the condition were properly identified and supported in school. He may not even know he has one. I didn’t, until about five years ago.

        1. Observer*

          Parents tend to be much better at this that people realize.

          The parent I know who is the least good at this actually has a masters in education.

          In my experience, parents are far more likely than the school system to deal with these issues. And, time and again, it’s the parents who push the school / system to diagnose and deal with the issue. It’s not for nothing that in most school systems parents have the right to insist on testing and diagnosis despite what the school says.

    5. Artemesia*

      Yeah we know a homeschooling family that embraced ‘unschooling’ and letting their children ‘follow their own interests’ which turned out in that chaotic household to be playing video games and later smoking dope. They ended up virtually illiterate and in particularly in competent in mathematics. One couldn’t hack CC; the other flunked out of college and neither has made much of a life.

      I am always amazed when it works well even with smart competent parents; the power dynamic of a parent controlling every aspect of your life is tricky. I am sure my kids would have rebelled against their mother managing their learning as well as other aspects of their lives. I can see friction in some cases and over dependence in others. It takes a lot of talent to make it work well. I am a pretty good teacher and would still not feel comfortable tackling it with my own kids.

      1. Witty Nickname*

        At one point my mom was my teacher, 4-H leader, Sunday School teacher, and church youth group leader. My mom enjoys that kind of closeness. I do not. When I was 13 or 14, she went back to work part time, and I loved the days she worked. (And part of the reason she did all those things is because they needed leaders, and she was already driving us there anyway. Once I got my license, and she was working more, she stopped being as involved in 4-H, and we ended up moving to a different church with a much more active youth group and existing youth leader).

        My oldest kid is my mini-me. I know that homeschooling would be a disaster for us. I am grateful every day for the teachers who know how to teach him and have the patience to do so.

    6. Dzhymm, BfD*

      Two anecdotes regarding homeschooling:

      One of my employees was homeschooled and later graduated from college. She is very bright, capable, and conscientious. She’s also been accepted into grad school and I will be VERY sorry to lose her :(

      A friend of mine is part of a homeschooling cooperative. A whole bunch of homeschooling parents pooled their resources to rent a building to conduct lessons and activities. It’s worked out extremely well for all involved (as in, when I was touring the facility once I had one of those “Where-was-this-when-I-was-a-kid” moments)

      1. hedonia*

        At that point, arguably, it’s no longer homeschooling. It’s starting a small, co-op, private school, right? I find it surprising that it’s still considering homeschooling!

        1. Parenthetically*

          This may not be the case with the group Dzhymm is referring to, but in my experience homeschool co-ops still have as their default setting that instruction happens at home or with parents, even if half the lessons are with the co-op and taught by other parents.

          1. Dzhymm, BfD*

            That was pretty much it. It was a way for parents to pool their resources and offer group instruction as appropriate, but it was in no way like “going to school”. There was a large common area and smaller side rooms (e.g. I walked into one room where four kids were being given a Latin lesson). Classes like this were ad-hoc and scheduled as needed, rather than being on a rigid instruction schedule.

            The two things that this co-op provided were (a) pooled resources as I mentioned above, and (b) socialization for the students, which is one of the major concerns about homeschooling.

    7. Mrs. Fenris*

      I’ve known lots of homeschool families. A few of them did a great job. Most of them did a mediocre job. The biggest problem I’ve seen is the parent passing along their same ignorant areas or cognitive biases, because they don’t even know they have them. I have a relative who homeschooled her kids and thinks she did a bang-up job. None of them are very knowledgeable people. They post junk-science memes to each other on Facebook all the time and congratulate themselves for how smart they are.

  30. Robin Sparkles*

    #3 – Your boss’s request is unreasonable for ANYONE, medical condition or not (although I obviously understand that it’s worse in your situation).

    I bring a water bottle to work every day simply to stay hydrated, and typically use the restroom 6-8 times in a 9 hour day. I think I would be in physical pain trying to minimize that to 3 times a day!

    1. Squeeble*

      I was gonna say! I don’t have a medical condition like OP’s, but I certainly appreciate being able to visit the restroom more than 3 times a day.

  31. AndersonDarling*

    #1 Congratulations OP! You are gaining a big lesson on office politics! It stinks, and I think everyone hates that office politics exist (except for the grand folks on the top of the ladder), but at least this issue just has to do with ignoring/monitoring poor performance and not anything illegal or unethical.
    On the plus side, a ruse like this can bring your department closer as everyone plays their part in the play. The internship will eventually end and everyone can go for a drink and vent about how silly the whole situation was.
    Just remember that this has nothing to do with you personally, and it sounds like you have been doing a great job. Play along, and focus on the last day of the internship.

  32. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I once temped, while waiting for my bar exam results, for a major bank. Not in a physical bank, but doing data organization and entry for mortgage paperwork.

    Every minute of your day had to be scheduled with a certain numeric code. So a break outside of usual breaks was called an “unscheduled activity” in the timekeeping software.

    A week in, I got my period and, you know, the same hormone that starts that process can also push…everything else…out. I was then asked why I had a few “unscheduled activities” in my software- 1 or 2 was usually ok, but I had to go suddenly 3-4 times.

    I basically apologized, since I usually didn’t use the bathroom that much, but said that my period could not be scheduled to breaks. Luckily, the direct manager was female too.

    1. Michele*

      That is my first thought with those scheduled, monitored breaks. My period looks like a crime scene sometimes, and it will not wait for a scheduled break (one of my worst fears is that I will be stuck on a plane tarmac or somewhere else where a bathroom is not available for hours during my heaviest flow.)

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        That’s mine, too. When I took the bar exam, I realized I was basically going to start my period, day of, and I just could not have that and still have enough time on the exam to pass. So I got a full supply of birth control…just to take it for a week, so I could put off my period until a few days after!

      2. Parenthetically*

        I have… been there. Stuck in seat on looooooong descent, praying to all the ancient goddesses.

        1. Cassandra*

          Yes. Especially awful on a completely full international flight, because it takes so. {censored}. long. to get everybody off the plane!

          1. Parenthetically*

            A-380 coming back to LA from across the pacific. Totally full flight. The stuff of nightmares.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Twice, both trips back from the UK, Aunt Flow decided that was the day. First time, I had nothing and could find nothing; I got stuck in Atlanta overnight and had to ask at the front desk of the hotel where they put us up. Thank GOD they had supplies, because the insanely overpriced convenience store across the street (the only one within miles) had nothing either. (Pro tip: front desks are good for all kinds of things.)

          Second time, I was at least prepared, if uncomfortable.

          1. Laura*

            Goodness, airlines all have them! Just ask the cabin crew! Of course front desks stock them too!

      3. Tau*

        And that can intersect with medical issues too. In completely unrelated news, fibroids are the devil. :(

  33. OP#1*

    Hi everyone. Thank you for all three responses to my letter and to Alison as well for applying.

    Unfortunately I have no say in assigning work to or directing the intern. If he is assigned to me I must show him what I am doing and have him work with me. He doesn’t think there is anything wrong with his writing, reading or communication skills and neither does his father. His father has seen his son’s writing with his own eyes and he thinks it is fine. They seem to get along and the son seems happy about being an intern here and getting to work with his dad.

    Also, people are calling him a kid but he is 19 years old. He lives on his own, although I am sure his parents pay for everything, and he travels often and has a brand new car. He doesn’t seem to emotionally dependant on his parents. He told me they helped him find a place once he graduated from home schooling. No end date has been set for the end of the internship but my boss said it could be at least a year and we are only two months in.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Oh, OP I am so sorry. You are really stuck. Aside from this, how is Big Boss? Does he tend to be totally unreasonable like this?

    2. Temperance*

      OP, I’m so sorry to hear that. I think we were all assuming that he’s a high school student due to his poor writing skills and the fact that his dad got him an internship. I’m guessing that college is off the table for him?

      I hate to say this, because it seems ridiculous, but I might start looking for a new job. I couldn’t work with someone like that.

      1. Natalie*

        Oof, yeah. To be blunt, this organization is almost certainly a shitshow in other ways if this is how the director is. OP, you’re two years in – that’s a completely respectable time to look for another position. And it’s wise to get out of dysfunctional organizations before they warp your ideas of what work should be.

    3. Annie Moose*


      I’m so sorry, that sounds awful. At this point, maybe all you can do is come up with coping strategies! Terrible Intern bingo, maybe? Misspelling his own father’s name can be the free square.

    4. Manders*

      Ugh, that’s awful. Honestly, I would be brushing up my resume if there was a chance that this situation could continue for an entire year.

      How’s your own boss? Do you think your boss or grandboss could go to bat for you, or is pleasing the director worth this much of a hit to their own department’s productivity?

      1. Helen*

        OP mentioned in her letter that her boss told her to leave it alone, so it’s unlikely she will get any support there.

    5. Lora*

      Oh nooooo. I would kick this one back up to your boss. Either your boss assigns him make-work or his method of “assisting” you is being a paperweight.

      I am sneaky and I would be encouraging Junior to look for college applications and research universities on company time. It would make dad happy, keep him busy and hey! in some states, the state universities have to accept anyone with a high school diploma, although they put them in remedial classes for a couple of years. “Junior had to cut his internship short to attend college” is something dad would be happy about. Even if it’s community college. Dad can pay for him to flunk out, but he’s out of your hair.

      1. Temperance*

        Ooooh I really disagree with this advice. LW shouldn’t stick her neck out like this without a backup plan to leave the org, stat.

        This wouldn’t make dad happy, because his wife did a shit job of “educating” this kid, and dad has made it very clear that the subject is closed. He sounds like he has an explosive temper, and anyone who questions him or his wife will become a target. LW is new to the workforce, and needs a good reference from this org. Pissing off Big Boss is not the way to get it.

        1. Helen*

          +1. OP mentioned that she isn’t allowed to assign him work or direct him to do things. She can only show him whatever she is working on. If she tried to this it would get her in trouble with the intern’s dad and her boss.

    6. Myrin*

      Oh shit OP, that sounds extremely frustrating and annoying. I literally cannot comprehend situations like these; of course there are different views on what constitutes “good” writing – some people prefer a more flowery language, others like reading just the hard facts, for example – but these are mistakes. There is no way writing “I sends dis emale from mai fone” can be described as even passable. There are rules, ruuules. (I’m sorry but I’m really passionate about this subject. Stuff like this drives me bonkers.)

      Unfortunately, seeing how you are a fresh and junior employee without much power, I feel like the only thing you can reasonably do here is to bring it up with your own manager again and again and again. The managers and others who are directly below the director need to bring it up with him/try to change stuff. If there really isn’t a single person who wants to/can stand up to that guy they might have success going as a group.

      Although, of course, your director sounds pretty bananas and like the type of person who’d rather watch his entire company walk away out of frustration than actually face reality.

      1. Temperance*

        Honestly, if the guy is rich enough, he doesn’t have to face reality. He can give his sons jobs at the org, or get them jobs with friends, and anyone who challenges them will get fired or threatened.

        I think it’s disgusting to handicap your children by refusing them access to a proper education and by spoiling them with material goods, FWIW, but sadly, sometimes people with no skills and lots of money get to run the show.

        1. zora*

          “but sadly, sometimes people with no skills and lots of money get to run the show.”

          ….. if only I could think of some timely, public examples of this…….

    7. Bwmn*

      This really helps – but honestly, I think the best way to approach this is to go to your boss and say “here is the reality, here is how it impacts my day to day tasks, how do you want me to play this”.

      I think it’s very clear that he doesn’t see a problem with his writing/grammar and his father also doesn’t. So I would not bother myself with trying to teach or coach his grammar, because professionally that seems like an unnecessary minefield. If anything, it may be an opportunity to just support your boss by giving this kid a “happy” experience. Aside from the AAM scary letters of people actually being asked to baby sit coworkers children, unfortunately a number of us have had assorted professional “baby sitting” jobs in our professional career and this is exactly how I’d approach this.

      1. JMegan*

        but honestly, I think the best way to approach this is to go to your boss and say “here is the reality, here is how it impacts my day to day tasks, how do you want me to play this”

        Yeah, I think so too. That, plus searching for a new job. I’m sorry, OP – it’s a sucky situation, and it’s too bad that it has ended up on your desk to deal with!

    8. Artemesia*

      Looks like your only realistic option then is to have him do work that is not used and you just proceed as usual to do it all.

    9. Rosemary*

      I sadly have to concur with the ‘it’s time for a new job’ advice :( Even if you were ok with babysitting for a year, what will having this ball-and-chain attached to you mean for your career prospects? Are you really going to be assigned important projects -the kind that further your own skillset and resume- with so much of your time sucked up by this intern?

    10. Candi*

      “has a brand new car”


      I would really like to know how he passed the written portion of the test. Accomodation? Poor kid.

      He is going to be in such, such trouble when his parents die. I feel for him and his brother.

  34. E.R*

    #3 please try to find a new job if you can. I’ve worked for a boss like yours, and any company that allows this type of behaviour has a toxic culture, I think. It’s not normal, its super controlling, its not in the best interests of their sales people or their customers. it also doesn’t improve, in my experience.

  35. MuseumChick*

    OP, could you give him some kind of non urgent memo to draft?

    You: Please write a memo about X, Y, and Z
    Him: Here you go!
    You: *Read it over* “Ok, this is a good start, spend today proof-reading it.”
    Him: “Here, it’s done.”
    You: *Read it over.* “I’m still finding some spelling/grammar issues. Keep working on it.”

    Just keep going around the merry-go-round.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Maybe assign him to read The Elements of Style by William Strunk, or Grammatically Correct: The Essential Guide to Spelling, Style, Usage, Grammar, and Punctuation?

      You can frame them as “Great references as you go forward in your career. I still go back to them from time to time. So, spend the next couple days reading through them and taking notes. Let me know if you have any questions.” If dad confronts you LIE “Oh, this is how a mentor a long time ago help me. There are so many rules with business writing that best thing for anyone coming into this field is to study it. I still go back to these books from time to time .”

  36. I'm Not Phyllis*

    OP 3 your boss is being unreasonable. I agree with Alison – you may need to take this to HR and you SHOULD. There’s no reason that you need to feel in physical discomfort and embarrassed because your boss wants to dictate when peoples’ bodily functions will happen.

    When I was a receptionist, we had a woman who needed to use the accessible washroom, but when she went someone was almost always in there. Sucky, right? But I was the one who had to send a company-wide email out telling people that they were not allowed to use the accessible washroom unless they had explicit permission from HR and that they were supposed to contact HR and me if they needed accommodation. I felt awful that I had to send it and I learned more about my co-workers’ bodies than I ever wanted to know. All that to say, bathroom breaks are those things that people just need, whether they look like they need them or not … and they shouldn’t be made to beg for the right to go to the washroom, or to use the washroom they need to use.

    1. Temperance*

      Oh that’s so awkward. I went through a period of time while I was recovering from an illness where I used the accessible restroom because it made life easier on me to have the extra space and bar to pull up on, etc. I would have been so embarrassed to have to justify myself, but you were probably just as embarrassed to have to ask, I’m sure.

  37. Sabine the Very Mean*

    Off Topic but true: AAM, I wonder if you find your readers as funny as I do. There’s a certain amount of wit and cleverness on this site that doesn’t exist in many other places. Somebody above said something about Toaster Strudel and it was hilarious.

    1. Emilia Bedelia*

      I don’t want to be the Debbie Downer here because I totally agree with you, but “my father, the inventor of toaster strudel” is a line from the movie Mean Girls. Just for your future pop culture reference knowledge!

    2. Mephyle*

      I started reading AAM before I was acquainted with Game of Thrones. At some point I read it, and now a lot of letters have a deeper meaning for me.

    3. Mrs. Fenris*

      I agree! I have a long-standing fondness for chatty online forums and have been part of various discussions for over 20 years. This is one of the absolute most articulate and useful ones I have ever seen.

    4. Candi*

      The humor-and-boundaries environment here is fantastic. The only other place on the net I’ve been to that comes close is TV Tropes (and that tends to be a little wilder). :P

  38. Malibu Stacey*

    For #2 I feel like stories like this are like those stories about your friend’s cousin who started dating her spouse in 8th grade and they have been married for 20 years or the neighbors who got engaged on their second date and married on their 3rd and have been married 40 years – one-off anecdotal stories don’t mean it’s generally a good idea to stop searching for your spouse at 13 or get married the third time you met someone.

  39. Allison*

    #2 Oh dear . . .

    First, this approach makes your friend look like someone who’s terrible at computers and has no desire to fix that. It wouldn’t be so bad if she mentioned trying to find a workaround or solution to the issue, instead it sounds like “oop, this silly thing doesn’t work!”

    Second, anyone who works in hiring has seen it all before, they know when a candidate is making up an excuse to connect with a decision maker. In my experience, people who pull tricks like that don’t react well when their attempt to stand out doesn’t result in them being moved along in the process. I would hate to be on that call, with a candidate who pretty obviously expects me to drop everything, read their resume, and tell them they’d be a great fit and book them for an interview ASAP.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Yes, it comes off as technologically clueless and bizarre.

  40. Camellia*

    I’m surprised by the poor education of these children. My first husband was an educator that held different positions in public schools, charter schools, and Christian schools prior to his retirement. During that time, any child educated either in a Christian school or in a home school was required to take and pass academic tests at certain steps along the way. The requirements were actually more rigid that those of public schools; in other words, during that time a person could graduate from a public high school with poor reading skills, but not from a Christian or a home school.

    Have times changed so much that this is no longer required? Or perhaps it was a state requirement only and not all states did that?

    1. Artemesia*

      There has been tremendous political pressure in one party to make sure there is no regulation of home schooling. Most places don’t require the kids to have learned anything nor monitor their achievements.

      1. Emi.*

        I mean, plenty of places don’t require public school students to learn, either. They’re just required to be taught.

    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Not all states perform adequate oversight of homeschool arrangements and charter schools.

    3. Candi*

      My state has all the good stuff for home schooling: Check-ins twice a year, yearly exams, even (allegedly) random dropins…

      …and about 15 years ago they ran afoul of several workers who were not only punch-clock and check-box minded, but also very minimum work for maximum pay.

      Negative and mediocre humans are so often the weak spot.

  41. Rachel*

    The first letter never specifies the gender of the manager (the director is male: “One of the directors at my work who is three levels of management above my manager has brought his son on as an intern”). However, the answer assumes that the manager is male: (“You just need to identify for your boss the problems it’s causing for you (workload, or whatever else) and let him tell you how he wants to handle it.”).

    I realize that this is a small thing, and a friend has pointed out that the letter itself may have been edited for publication and may have specified a gender. Still, speaking as a female manager, I’ve learned to really notice and be turned off by assumptions like this one.

      1. fposte*

        I think Rachel is talking about the OP’s manager, who isn’t the parent.

        Rachel, I suspect this is just mental bleedthrough from the director on Alison’s part. Her regular convention is actually to default to the female when gender is unspecified, in fact.

    1. Um...*

      It says the intern is “his son”. His. Also Alison defaults to female when the gender of any people mentioned in the letter is unknown.

      1. Rachel*

        The intern is the director’s son. The director is male. The gender of the letter writer’s direct manager is never referred to.

    2. Not A Morning Person*

      Maybe because you are not a regular reader you are not aware of Alison’s usual practice? Alison typically has information her readers do not. And very often when the gender isn’t known, Alison uses she/her pronouns to encourage the prevention of assumptions that you mention being “turned off” by.

  42. BethRA*

    I wonder what would happen with #1 Intern if you just let him make mistakes? Seems that most people at the company know the story, so they’re not going to blame you, and meanwhile Director Dad may get exposed to the full extent of his son’s shortcomings.

    At the very least, OP wouldn’t have to waste time babysitting.

  43. Sarah*

    #4 – I work in academia, and honestly I think in most departments trying to “tattle” to your department chair about a colleague would not be taken well. It’s your colleague’s business to run her class well or poorly, and students will have the opportunity to relay feedback on course evals (or really, could go to the department chair at any time). I do think it’s appropriate to say something along the lines of — “Hey, honestly it makes me feel uncomfortable that you’re asking me to cover for your class so often…I am often in the middle of my own work, and unable to help out during your normal class times. If you need to pre-schedule a guest lecture once a semester or so, I am happy to talk about scheduling that, but I really can’t help out with day-of requests.” That is, I think it is perfectly normal/usual for academics to realize they have a conflict with one or two dates during the semester and ask a colleague to cover for them (usually because they have a conference or research trip, not because they want a “day off”), but those will likely be scheduled well in advance. It’s perfectly reasonable to say you can’t do these last-minute things with no warning, multiple times in a semester. But, you guys are professionals — I think it’s better to settle it between the two of you rather than getting the chair involved.

    You could also suggest that your colleague simply schedule class to start 10 minutes later — I have a colleague who is doing something similar this semester because he got scheduled back-to-back classes on opposite sides of campus (for some reason! Don’t know who thought that would work!), so he just ends the first class 5 minutes early and starts the second class 5 minutes late. As long as this is pre-arranged with the students, I think it’s perfectly reasonable. It’s the lack of warning that doesn’t work well.

  44. Casandra S Thompson*

    What do you think about coworkers who sign in for work and then go to the bathroom? I always leave home early enough so that I go to the bathroom before I sign in. It really annoys me that my breaks are usually late because the person giving me a break has to go to the bathroom first even though their shift just started or they just came back from their own break or lunch. I think they only do this because there is lack of supervision. I know most can’t control when they need to go, I just don’t understand the need to go when your shift just started.

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