update: my aunt and uncle are extreme helicopter parents — and I work with their son

Remember the letter from the person who worked with her cousin, whose helicopter parents were interfering with his work life and she was concerned it would reflect on her? Here’s the update.

Thank you for answering my question and for the support from you and the people who commented. There was at least one comment about how I don’t interact with my cousin or can’t possibly know what is going on with him but that is actually not true. When my parents, my cousin, my aunt, my uncle, and I immigrated here, we lived in the same apartment together for years. My aunt, uncle, and cousin currently live one street over from my parents and me. The six of us were the only ones who immigrated, both mine and my cousin’s maternal relatives and our shared paternal relatives all live back in Wales. The six of us see each other quite often. My aunt, uncle and cousin tell us about the things they do.

On the day my cousin interviewed for his job at the place I worked, I saw my aunt in the lobby and she told me why she was there. My cousin has no mental health issues or learning disabilities, he is not on the spectrum, and he is not developmentally delayed. There is no reason for his parents to run his life they way they do. He has never had a DUI and has a driver’s license and two vehicles. Although (contrary to what the comment said) our families are extremely close, I am not going to try to convince my cousin otherwise because he doesn’t think there is a problem with what his parents do and he is happy to have them help.

I ended up getting another job. I had thought some people might possibly associate me with my cousin and what my aunt and uncle do, but it turned out to be much more than that. I wasn’t aware there was lots of gossip about it and lots of people thought I was his sister and my aunt and uncle were my parents and come in for things related to me as well. (I’m guessing the rare Welsh surname on our desk plates, email addresses, and work ID’s and our Welsh accents, in an area where there are not many immigrants, made it obvious we were related.)

I talked to my direct manager once I became aware of the gossip and he had also heard it and assumed my cousin was my brother too until I told him otherwise. He let me know a different manager had decided not to choose me to work on a project because of it. That was my clue it was time to find something else. My manager was really helpful. He set the record straight with the project manager and was supportive to me in my job search. I didn’t acknowledge the gossip and just kept my head down while I job searched.

I was four months shy of the two-year mark when I left, and my manager said it was more than enough time not to raise red flags on my resume for length of time in a job. I started my new job in April. I work at an independent insurance brokerage now. The job is related to what I went to school for but not so much for my cousin and it is a small office with low turnover, so I’m almost certain I won’t have to deal with working with my cousin. I am enjoying it so far, I like the work, and my boss, peers, and clients have been great.

{ 210 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    A manager decided to not choose you for a project without ever bothering to check what is actually going on?! That’s just incredibly bad management.

    On the other hand, your former manager sounds like a decent sort. It’s probably worthwhile to keep in contact with him.

    Lots of luck. And I hope you cousin (and his parents) winds up getting a clue – from what happened to you, it’s clear this kind of thing is going to hold him back.

        1. Taylor Swift*

          But there were pretty strong reasons to believe they were siblings. That was not some egregious assumption to make. Shitty for the OP, yes, but not some sign of a toxic workplace.

          1. Cobol*

            Observer didn’t say toxic, but bad management, which I think it is. OP’s manager thought they were siblings but knew he/she hadn’t had any interference with OP on the team. So if the other manager had checked in with OP’s manager (which has been SOP anywhere I’ve been) they could have alleviated any concern.

          2. Kathleen Adams*

            Even if they had been siblings, I don’t get why the bad stuff would have reflected back on the OP. She didn’t attend meetings with her parents in the lobby; she didn’t do any of the stuff that the cousin did. So why….????

            Oh, well, problem solved. But the other manager is guilty of bad management because he didn’t have the gumption (;-) ) to ask before leaping to judgment.

            1. H.C.*

              Ditto to the “even if they had been siblings” part; it’s not as if other relative is a conjoined twin!

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              “Watch out for Lllwyllwl. Weird, and the parents will call you.”
              “Okay.” *doesn’t check how many Lllwyllwls work for company, and how many parents they have between them*

            3. Annonymouse*

              Sometimes there’s enough circumstantial evidence to not look further – super uncommon last name, same accent, was possibly seen talking to the aunt when cousin interviewed, close in age.

              I’d assume siblings before cousins.

              And given how extreme the parents are acting it’s something I’d not want to risk inviting onto my team.

              I get that it sucks for OP but I can understand why the manager acted as they did and that I might call it reasonable management for them to not bring such a situation on their team.

              It’s one of those situations where in hindsight we can say “OP should have made a bigger effort to separate themselves from their cousin.” Or “That manager should have dug deeper and not made (a reasonable) assumption about OP.”

              1. WhirlwindMonk*

                I disagree that it’s a reasonable assumption in this case. For a random coworker or just idle talk between managers? Sure, that’s reasonable. But to assume it to the level of not even bothering to speak with the employee’s manager to make sure it’s not some crazy coincidence, and potentially unfairly harm the employee’s professional development? That’s bad management. It would take five whole minute to contact LW’s manager and say “Hey, there’s that one guy who has the crazy parents. Is he related to LW and have you had any problems like that with her? Oh, you haven’t? At all? And she’s a great employee who does good work? Good to know, thanks!” Not doing that is just lazy management.

                1. Observer*

                  Exactly. Especially since parents can be very different with different children as well, for all sorts of reasons.

                  One pair of siblings I know – Sib A is still being somewhat helicoptered even though they are married and well into middle age. The main thing that has slowed this down a bit is that spouse has started pushing back, and it’s getting more forceful. Sib B – no helicoptering at all, and minimal care taking once Sib B reached adulthood. The first time parents tried to do something for Sib B that was an over-step it got shut down HARD (by both Sib B and spouse in agreement) and it’s never happened again. And both sibling have very good relationships with their parents.

          3. PlainJane*

            Assuming they were siblings isn’t necessarily bad management. Not choosing someone for a project based on a relative’s issues *is* bad management. When I choose people for projects, I talk with their managers to see if their workload can accommodate the project and (if I don’t already know them well) whether their managers think they’re well-suited for the role. Even siblings can have vastly different capabilities, work styles, and behaviors.

            1. SilverRadicand*

              True, but in this case the problem is the aunt and uncle, which would be included as part of the deal (because of the sibling assumption). The PM might have just decided that she didn’t want to have to deal with that if the occasion arose. And it might have been a just the straw the tip the scale in favor of a different person for the role. It sounds like the PM did check with the manager and the manager had also thought that the OP was a sibling.

              1. Observer*

                That’s a really stupid assumption to make as a manager, though. It’s quite possible that two siblings are treated differently from each other for all sorts of reasons – even when both siblings have good relationships with their parents.

                1. Alton*

                  Also, if one sibling has a bunch of parental interference and the other has none, that would imply that the second sibling may be making an effort not to let the parents act that way with them. Unless it looked like the aunt and uncle actually we’re interfering in the OP’s behalf, that was an unfair assumption to make without giving the OP a chance.

            2. NW Mossy*

              This is so true. I work with two sisters who couldn’t be more different in their approach, and it took me about 3 years to even twig to the fact that they’re related.

              I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it, but my perception of them changed after I learned about the relationship. I’d initially thought one of them to be a not-that-great employee and the other to be a rock star; after learning of it, it softened me up towards the one I’d secretly thought less of and helped me see her good qualities more clearly.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Great point.
                Shadows can go both ways. “Why aren’t you a rock star like your sib?”

                I remember in school teachers saying to other people, “Oh your sib got straight A’s. Think you can match that?” Ugh, on so many levels, ugh.

                1. Bryce*

                  I have a twin brother. After we went to different colleges, got over some of our issues and developed separate identities (I mean, we always had those but they were very similar ones so people missed the nuances) we compared notes and found that we’d both managed to spend the whole time living in each other’s shadow. Some interesting optics going on there.

            3. Tara*

              Sure, but siblings will often not have parents who have different behaviours. I agree on most issues not being something you should judge a sibling for, but if the issue is their parents causing problems I wouldn’t blame someone at all for thinking that will crop up again with the other sibling. I can’t conceive of a situation where siblings are working at the same company and the parents only harass one of their children’s boss.

              1. Observer*

                That really doesn’t fly. It would have taken the manager all of 2 minutes to find out the story. Not being able to conceive of a situation where parents might actually act differently with children, is a limitation, and the kind narrow vision that is going to be a drawback to any manager. It’s just so not realistic, even if the two sibling happen to be working in the same organization. ACTING on that extremely limited point of view to the point of excluding someone from consideration for a project etc. is just bad management.

        2. SignalLost*

          There are five people in the United States (possibly the world; it’s an Ellis Island creation) with my last name. It is a great deal more likely that you are dealing with a blood relative of mine than that you are dealing with my sister-in-law. I can see wishing the PM had talked to the manager to find out what was going on (or that the company had realized what was happening and severed ties with the cousin over his parents’ behaviour) but I can also see that a name that is not Smith is not going to automatically trigger the assumption that there must be some other explanation than siblings. We see it as easy to check because we know there’s more to story. It’s not as easy to check when you don’t know what you don’t know.

          1. Samata*

            But good managers don’t make decisions that affect their employee’s career/job based on heresay.

              1. Kathleen Adams*

                So? He was *a* manager, and he made a decision that affected her job and made a mistake that would have been very, very easy to avoid.

            1. SignalLost*

              OP described a large corporate structure with, probably, a great deal of redundancy in skills. I would agree with you if we were talking about an office of 20 and the PM hired a temp rather than check with OP’s manager. Since that doesn’t seem to be what happened, I don’t. I assume the PM got a list of everyone with the relevant skills and had to go through them and remove people, not that this was a hate vendetta borne of rage at the cousin’s parents, or even complete incompetence on the part of the PM. Other people may have been removed from the list because they had bad breath. It’s how you go through long lists of identical candidates quickly.

              I refused to work with an old company’s top copy editor ever again because she didn’t like my explanation for why we were doing a thing in a book and wound up getting me a call from a historian at the British Museum to argue her point for her. (I do not live in Britain, I still don’t know what was up with that.) That may not make me a nice person, but it does make me a person who wants to spare myself drama. (We were doing the thing because I didn’t want to call World War I that in a story set in 1926. FOR SOME REASON.) It made selecting copy editors for my projects easier in the future.

              1. Samata*

                I agree with what you are saying about the large company; I hadn’t thought about it simply being a large company that was weeding down a large list.

                I don’t think your experience is the same though – you made your decision based on an experience you had that directly tied to that copy editor.

                Which by the way, sounds very childish in the way it played out and I don’t think distancing yourself from drama makes you a bad person.

              2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

                Wait, she wanted you to refer to said war as WWI instead of the Great War even though the story was set before WWII? But. . . but that’s. . .

                1. SignalLost*

                  It was actually a lesser known war that had a similar structure with parts one and two so it was slightly believable that there was room to argue the name, but the story was still set before the more famous one conventionally known by the name, and I don’t have time to argue with the kind of people who have time to write letters to genre publishers. :) It ends in stalking too often.

              3. Specialk9*

                Wait she wanted you to call it “World War I” instead of “the Great War”?! Wow. And the historian agreed?

                1. Specialk9*

                  Actually, the more noteworthy element: ” I don’t have time to argue with the kind of people who have time to write letters to genre publishers. :) It ends in stalking too often.”

                  Seriously? What?

            2. Colette*

              A manager’s job is not to give everyone a 100% fair chance at every job while disregarding everything else they know about the people they’re choosing from – particularly not when it’s someone who doesn’t report to them. The manager was responsible for finding someone who would do a good job at the role – and presumably she did.

              Similarity, if the role has a lot of late in the day meetings but one of the possibilities usually goes home at 4, the manager isn’t obligated to ask if she’ll change her shift before considering someone else.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I mean, that makes no sense in this context. Here the manager did not know about OP. They assumed she was a sibling of her cousin and then assumed that she had the same bizarrely invasive/inappropriate parental relationship. That’s not failing to obtain information or “disregarding everything else”—it’s literally making up information about someone without any basis in objective fact.

                It’s insane to me that people are defending not giving someone work because you (falsely) believe their parents are uncontrollable. Would folks also defend withholding work from someone because of perceptions about their identity? I don’t see how this is different as a management issue. I get that there are legal differences, but frankly, management should not be driven exclusively by what is (il)legal.

                1. Colette*

                  It doesn’t sound like an outlandish leap to think she’s related – and, in fact, she is.

                  And the OP isn’t entitled to a fair chance at that project, or any other. The project leader’s responsibility is to the company, not the OP (who doesn’t even work for her). And if she thinks the OP will bring unnecessary drama – even if she’s wrong – it’s her prerogative to make the decision she believes is right for her project.

                2. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  “And the OP isn’t entitled to a fair chance at that project, or any other”

                  It’s not about what OP is entitled to – you are right, she’s not entitled to a chance at any project.

                  “The project leader’s responsibility is to the company, not the OP”

                  Which is why a project leader should base his/her decisions on true information and not speculation.

                  “And if she thinks the OP will bring unnecessary drama – even if she’s wrong – it’s her prerogative to make the decision she believes is right for her project”

                  It is her prerogative to make any decision she/he wants, but we can call it out as based on incorrect data, which then calls into question the soundness of the decision for the company.

                3. TootsNYC*

                  But presumably the manager DID find someone competent to take on that project. It’s a big company, and though the OP might have been good at it, I’m sure there were plenty of other people who have that same capability.

                  The manager might also serve the company’s interests by making a decision without wasting time. So skipping over our OP’s name and going to one of the other people probably saved some energy and time.

                4. Observer*

                  TootsNYC, wasting time is an issue if you are talking about needing to spend lots of time or other resources. However, clearly the manager DID have the resources to find out easily and could have done so with little problems, had they chosen to spend literally a couple of minutes. That’s silly.

              2. Observer*

                What did they know about her that was relevant? They ASSUMED that they were siblings, and then they ASSUMED that parents ALWAYS treat their children in the same manner, so since they showed up for Llewellyn 1, OF COURSE they will show up for Llewellyn 2. But those were ASSUMPTIONS that had no basis in fact. And it would have taken no more than a few minutes to actually find out whether those assumption were true.

                That’s not just unfair to someone, it’s bad management. It’s bad management to make decisions on work projects based on assumptions that are easily checked.

          2. Cobol*

            It’s less figuring out if they are related and more not checking in with the existing manager on anything.

          3. Chomps*

            But even then, it’s unfair to assume that someone would have the same issues as their sibling. I mean, say the cousin was actually a brother. The brother seems fine with his parents’ over involvement, but that doesn’t mean the OP would be okay with that.

          4. Amy G. Golly*

            Yup! My surname’s not as rare as that, but if you do meet someone with it, it’s very likely they live in the same state that I do and are directly related to me. I once worked at a library where my uncle’s ex-wife worked. They had been divorced for 20 years, but she kept her married name – you better believe they asked about our relationship in my interview, and in my first year there, I heard many different versions of how we were related from different coworkers (from daughter to sister to niece), and even had a handful of conversations about how we don’t look much alike. (Not surprising, as we’re not blood relatives!) It came up every time a new person discovered for the first time that we had the same surname.

            Fortunately, my former aunt was well-liked, and I didn’t suffer from the connection. (I might have even benefited from it!)

            In any case: people make associations that you can’t control, and they may not even be aware of them. Yes, it’s the job of a good manager to do their homework and try their best to acknowledge and overcome unconscious bias. But honestly, if my former aunt hadn’t been a lovely, professional person, I definitely would have been better served finding a different place to work!

            1. Old Admin*

              Oh yes.
              I have a close relative with the same surname I don’t get along with (no longer on speaking terms, in fact) based on our very different outlook on business, life, morality etc.
              We have both been asked about each other multiple times, and not always in a good way.

          5. DaphneD*

            I agree! My last name is also pretty uncommon, though not quite on the same scale as yours. For context in our site-wide email directory there is only me with my name but there are more than 40 Smiths. If someone who knows me runs into someone with the same name they are almost certain to assume they are related to me, and even if we may wish it weren’t the case, they are likely to have some assumptions based on this perceived relationship. Besides, humans are pattern seekers, so it is very natural to see the pattern of a family relationship whether it is statistically plausible or not!

      1. DArcy*

        The manager was mistaken about the annoying helicopters being her parents as opposed to her aunt and uncle, but the manager was not mistaken that choosing OP for the project would necessitate dealing with the helicopters. OP herself said that they did “come in for things related to me as well”.

        It’s not fair, but disruptive behavior by helicopter relatives is an absolutely reasonable cause to select someone else for a sensitive project.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I read that as people thinking the aunt and uncle came in for things related to her, not that they actually did.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          In the original post I thought it was clear that the aunt and uncle were never involved in the OP’s work and did not interfere at all with her. It was all focused on her cousin. OP was worried about the association – there was no disruption related to her.

          So the manager was mistaken all around.

        3. Helena*

          Op said: lots of people *thought* I was his sister and my aunt and uncle were my parents and come in for things related to me as well

          They don’t helicopter her but people were assuming they did based on the assumption they were siblings. OP has been quite clear in both her original letter and the update that she is the exact opposite of her cousin in that she has not been helicoptered by anyone (her own parents, or her aunt and uncle)

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        That strikes me as odd because the letter writer had been working at the company for a while. If the aunt and uncle had been the letter writer’s parents and treated the letter writer similarly to the cousin, the issue would’ve come up before the cousin was employed.

    1. Antilles*

      I don’t think I’d call it bad management. OP says they look alike, have the same accent and have the same, rare last name. It’s an incredibly natural assumption to make.
      Besides, *everything* that OP wrote about her cousin makes it seem like IF the manager asked the cousin about it directly, his parents would then be on the phone complaining to that manager (or upper management!) about it. So there’s definitely an element of discretion here – no, I don’t want to deal with your angry parents and I *certainly* don’t want to deal with upper management wondering why the heck someone called them specifically complaining about my project.

        1. Taylor Swift*

          There’s no way you can manage without making some assumptions. No way you could do any kind of work without that, really.

          1. Anna*

            If you’re going to make assumptions, there are probably some areas it’s better to make those assumptions than others. Sure, the OP’s last name is unusual. My last name isn’t as unique as the OP’s, but it’s still not super duper common. It would still be silly for someone to assume my doctor and I are related based on that.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              You’re brushing aside a lot of information here. The OP’s name IS unique in that area. The OP’s accent IS unique in that area. The OP physically resembles her cousin. It makes more sense that they’d be related than that they wouldn’t.

              (Is that a good reason to leave her off a project? I’m not addressing that. I’m just saying it wasn’t out of line for this manager to assume he’d risk having the same issues with OP that others were having with her cousin.)

              1. DArcy*

                Per the OP, the helicopter aunt and uncle were harassing the company “for” her as well as her cousin. That provides a lot more reason to assume they were her parents, not just the name and looks.

                1. Artemesia*

                  That is not how I read it — they were not but people assumed they were or would be. In any case, reputations affect options in the workplace even ridiculous and unfair reputations. She was smart to move on.

                2. Helena*

                  People thought they were interfering even though they actually weren’t. She is very clear that she has nothing to do with it in both her original letter and the follow up.

              2. Anna*

                “Oh my gosh! Are you related to Person? That’s so funny!”

                It literally took me more energy to type that than it would have for anyone to say it. I don’t buy the justification.

            2. fposte*

              This is substantially more than that, though. If your doctor and you were both in the same practice, were both redheads with freckles, and both spoke with an Welsh accent when everybody else was west Canadian, it would be actually pretty reasonable for somebody to conclude you were related based on that.

              1. Anna*

                Related, sure. But siblings? That’s still an assumption I would hope any person would take less than a minute to clarify.

                I can’t get on board with a manager making a shitty assumption that affected MY career, let alone someone else’s. There really isn’t an excuse.

                1. Not in US*

                  With respect though we don’t live in an utopian world. I understand what you and others are saying about how you think a “good” manager should have handled this – but really? To me expecting more is just not realistic. All kinds of things affect my career (or anyone else’s) – many of them aren’t fair and are kind of crappy but it’s also fairly normal and not outside the bounds of normal behaviour – even for overall good people or managers. People are human and we make assumptions and this wasn’t an egregious assumption to make. Maybe I have a different perspective in part because I work in higher ed and we get helicopter parents trying to interfere with their grown adults education…

                2. Sas*

                  Let us know when or if you take on someone that has abusive/ misuse people in their lives to work with. People that would take down your career or life for their child. The problem is too many people who don’t really respect the behavior or mis behavior in these dynamics. What would you do? Most people at an adult level avoid. What are you really going to do about a man that can’t keep abusers in their life under control

        2. Antilles*

          I think it’s a smart calculation of risk. Break it down:
          Potential upside of asking: You get to use this employee on the project. instead of another employee. That’s good, but OP is not irreplaceable.
          Potential downside of asking: OP actually *is* closely related to the helicopter parents, calls those parents and now I have a mess of hassles to deal with. Complaining from the parents. My boss calling me and wondering why this crap is landing on her desk and wasting her time. Who knows what else.
          Yeah, no, if I was the PM from the other group, I’m absolutely sticking with “don’t open Pandora’s Box”.

          1. Cobol*

            He could have just asked OP’s manager if there had been problems with OP. Not even problems, but what’s OP like in your experience.

          2. Kyrielle*

            What Cobol said, and also, there are ways to approach this. If OP’s manager says they haven’t had any issues with the helicopter parents, then a cheerful, “Hey, are you related to (so-and-so)?” Followed by, depending on the OP’s tone of response, a chipper, “Neat! I was curious.” or a neutral “Thank you” or whatever else seems appropriate.

            None of that exposes you to angry helicopter parents, because none of it is visible to the OP or the OP’s cousin in anything but a positive light even if they do, in fact, share the helicopter parents.

          3. Privacy & Information Management (Canada)*

            I agree. We know that the other manager would have found they were cousins if he had asked, but I’m with you in thinking that it wasn’t unreasonable to assume that they were siblings. That manager didn’t even know that there was a reason to ask. Yes, in a perfect world, we would all question our assumptions and so on – but in most cases, we don’t have the time and the emotional energy to jump through all those mental hoops for every decision. (And as someone with anxiety, who *does* do a lot of that hoop-jumping, let me tell you that it’s exhausting. If I could train my brain to just make some logical decisions and run with them, I would.)

            I feel like this is one of those things where we’re making something bigger than it is, just by shining a light on it. The fact that we’re talking about this other manager’s decision, absent any other context, makes it seem like a Very Big Deal. But in real life, the other manager probably put WAY less thought into it than we are. And that’s not necessarily indicative of bad management, just that this was probably one of a thousand and one decisions he made that day.

            1. SignalLost*

              Your last point is important. I doubt the thought process was “How can I screw over someone today? I know, I’ll leave them off this project!” (Unless, of course, we are talking about the “un-managing” manager.) It was probably more “There are seven people who have the skills I need for this project, how do I get through this list? I don’t like that one, that one’s unavailable, that one doesn’t ever understand my vision for the work, that one microwaves fish, that’s the one with the weird brother … I’ll talk to these two.”

              I would have a different opinion if the PM in question had done something really egregious like get a temp approved to do work OP is capable of because they weren’t willing to check with OP’s manager, but otherwise, I think it may come down to the kind of snap judgement we all have to make at some point. That doesn’t mean it didn’t impact OP; it just means that it wasn’t a deliberately crappy thing to do to someone.

              1. WhirlwindMonk*

                I would argue that someone who considers “that person microwaves fish”, “I don’t like that person”, and “that person has a weird brother” as valid reasons to decide who gets work is a bad manager.

            2. CM*

              There’s a difference between “I assume you’re siblings” and “I assume that since working with that guy means dealing with his difficult and overbearing parents, working with you will also be a huge hassle.” The former is pretty harmless, the second is a big deal and it concretely affected the OP’s work opportunities.

              1. BananaPants*

                OK, but plenty of snap decisions made by managers affect a subordinate’s work opportunities. Why is everyone making this manager out to be some sort of monster who was out to destroy OP’s career?

          4. Anna*

            The manager wouldn’t be asking if the OP were related to the “helicopter parents;” the manager would have been asking if the OP were related to the other person with the last name, which shouldn’t have raised any flags at all.

          5. Chomps*

            I mean, I understand why the manager made that assumption, but it makes me so angry when people are judged based on their relatives. Genetics aren’t destiny!

            1. seejay*

              Except in this case, there’s at least one person in this company that has a major tonne of baggage that comes with their genetics and it’s not a huge leap when making decisions from a managerial point of view to group them together. That’s what a lot of comments are pointing out.

              If one sibling comes with helicopter parents, it’s not a far reach to assume the other one does too, and it’s also not a far reach to assume that two people with very distinct characteristics (accent, last name, physical appearance) are more closely related than just cousins.

              1. Anna*

                Their baggage has nothing to do with their genetics, it has to do with their parent’s socialization. And additionally the fact that the OP *might* have been more closely related than just cousins is not a reasonable justification. Seriously people, are we so lazy that we wouldn’t spend the 30 seconds to find out some more information? “Hm, interesting that person has so many issues. Is he/she/they related to OP by chance? I noticed they share a last name and look a lot alike.” Literally all the energy it would have taken.

              2. Observer*

                It actually IS a far reach – especially in a case like this where the first person has been working there for a while and Helicopters never showed up.

      1. Observer*

        He could just have asked cousin if they are related, without anything else. Like “hey, that’s an unusual last name. Are you related to Other LastName?”

        Even more easily, he could have asked the manager about whether OP’s parents have ever shown up or called. And checked with HR, because even if HR is not aware of the exact relationship, they would know that they don’t seem to be part of the same household.

      2. hbc*

        I’d definitely call it bad management. How hard is it to go to OP’s current manager and ask, “Have her parents been a problem? How is OP as a worker?” I wouldn’t want to work at a company where *I’d* get in trouble because an employee’s parents bulldozed over professional norms, if somehow word of my inquiry got back to them.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          I would, too. It would have been sooooooo easy to find out if his assumptions were true or false, but he couldn’t even take that one tiny little step. I don’t think he’s necessarily a bad person, but he screwed up here.

          1. DArcy*

            No, he didn’t screw up. The OP was being “helicoptered” by her relatives as well; it wasn’t just an assumption because they thought it was *her* parents.

            1. Kathleen Adams*

              We’re just going to have to agree to disagree because to me, he absolutely did screw up. His choices were to (1) collect a little data before making assumptions and assignments or (2) to leap to an assumption before collecting that data. He chose the latter. He screwed up.

              1. tigerlily*

                Why should he go through any effort of collecting that data, though?

                I think several people on this site a making similar assumptions in that this project manager went out of his way not to work with OP, when in reality he could have easily had several options of workers to choose from and simply chose someone who did not have the baggage of being related to people he thought were crazy.

                1. Kathleen Adams*

                  He had a responsibility to be fair – we all have that responsibility. It would have taken so little time or effort to be fair, and he didn’t make that effort.

                2. Subsriba*

                  He had a responsibility to get his project complete, using any combination of people who could get the job done, not make sure OP’s career takes off.

                  Hundreds of decisions are made every day that “materially influence” someone’s job prospects. Guess what, the reverse decisions materially influence someone else’s. Sucks for OP in this case, but she’s smart to recognise that it’s going to be hard to separate her reputation from her cousin’s here. If reading AAM has taught me one thing, it’s how to identify the actions that are actually within your power to control, instead of wishing the world were fair.

                3. Kathleen Adams*

                  That’s good advice for the OP, perhaps, but it was actually well within this manager’s capabilities to….be fair! One five-minute conversation with the OP’s actual manager would have done it. That is absolutely doable, and the other manager just didn’t bother to do it. So he didn’t have to chose between being fair and finding the best person to help with this project. He could *easily* have done both.

                  That’s what gets me. It wouldn’t have taken a lot of detective work or anything. It would have been simple and quick. Why not be fair when it would have been so easy to do?

            2. Vagueries of Language*

              I think I’m reading the update differently than you. I see it that others in the company *thought* the aunt/uncle were coming in for things related to her, not that they actually were.

              1. Anna*

                That’s what I read, too. Not that they were, but because they have the last name and people assumed (correctly) that they were related, but incorrectly that they were siblings, that the parents coming in were coming in about her, too. Not that they did, but that people made giant leaps and assumed that must be the case.

            3. Helena*

              OP was not being helicoptered by anyone. People she worked with thought she was. But she’s clear she has nothing to do with that. People assumed she was his brother, so they also assumed her aunt and uncle were doing the same for her.

          2. Immy*

            From the update it sounds like at the point the OP was passed over for the project her manager also thought the rumours were true as she only found out about it when she corrected them.

            Obviously could have asked the OP or her cousin but at that point there wasn’t a third party who would have been able to set the other manager straight. In fact if OP heard about this only after correcting her manager we don’t know if her manager could have been complicit in the decision.

            Either way definitely for the best OP has left!

      3. Old Admin*

        …and these assumptions unconsciously *sneak in* and influence decisions.
        I’m not defending the managers involved, but I do recognize what happened.

    2. OldJules*

      +1 I find it incredibly frustrating when people assume things about me instead of outright asking. Especially when it impacts my career.

    3. Specialk9*

      I think the more relevant question:

      The cousin’s parents are annoying enough to affect staffing decisions across a giant company. Why haven’t they fired him??

  2. Kiki*

    I am disheartened by this update but also happy that OP is enjoying her new job. The fact that people within the company were limiting OP’s opportunities due to her outside-of-work ties with the batty aunt and uncle leads me to believe that they probably weren’t the best company to work for. I wish OP much success in her new role.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I can see the other manager’s POV. I wouldn’t want to work with someone whose parents directly interfered with their job. If that was the deal, I wouldn’t hire them or ask them to join my project team. No thank you.

      It sucks that this was mistakingly extended to the OP, but it sounds like most people (including the OP’s direct manager) believed that that interfering parents were also the parents of the OP.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        Yes, but the OP worked there for awhile before her cousin did without any hovering family members – that only started with her cousin. So it’s still a bit of an unfair conclusion to jump to that her “parents” (aunt & uncle) would suddenly start interfering with her too.

      2. Kiki*

        I get where the PM was coming from, but it’s easy enough to ask OP or OP’s manager if she was related to Cousin in any way and clear up any misunderstanding. OP shouldn’t have to suffer for Aunt & Uncle’s actions (and Cousin’s unwillingness to put a stop to them) just because she happens to be blood related. And the PM should have approached the situation similarly if they were considering OP for the project.

        1. Temperance*

          I wouldn’t even think to ask, though. I would hear the accent, see the uncommon last names, see the weirdo parents hovering, and just feel like it wasn’t worth the trouble.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I feel like cousin is actually less likely than sibling here, so I can understand people not bothering to ask.

          2. Kiki*

            How is that fair to OP, though? I feel like if you (the general you) are about to make a decision that could be harmful/helpful to someone’s career, then it’s part of your job to do the due diligence to make sure you have your facts straight being making the decision. In OP’s case, that means the PM should have done due diligence on the weird relatives.

            I’m super surprised by the number of people in this thread who are comfortable with harming another person’s career because they’d rather proceed with their own assumptions and biases rather than ask a simple, straightforward question.

            1. Immy*

              OP may not have been the clear winner though, if you have multiple equally qualified options then you’d pick the one you thought had less drama. It may not be fair to the OP but the other manager isn’t trying to help the OP but to staff the project with the correct people. The OP may not have been the only one suitable for the role.

            2. tigerlily*

              Do we know anything about this project, though? I think we’re assuming a lot if we’re saying this could be helpful/harmful to someone’s career. Not every project is a make or break situation.

              Furthermore, is it really this project leader’s responsibility to BE fair? He’s not OP’s manager, he’s someone else who needed to get a project done. He chose people associated with less known drama. We don’t know that he went out of his way not to work with OP, just that he associated her with her cousin’s drama and went in another direction with his project.

              1. Colette*

                Exactly. The project leader’s responsibility is to the project and, through it, to the company. The OP’s career is not her responsibility.

            3. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Life isn’t fair. Decisions are always going to be made based on the decision maker’s experiences and assumptions and they won’t necessarily be fair to everyone involved.

              1. Anna*

                Not to put too fine a point on it, but very bad things have happened for just the reasons you gave. It’s not a good enough justification.

              2. Talia*

                And “Life isn’t fair” is never an okay justification for anything. Life *should be* fair, and it’s entirely reasonable to judge people on how their actions affect that fairness. Otherwise the world jumps right to “Screw you, I got mine.”

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I find this baffling, as well, Kiki. I can understand someone drawing an incorrect conclusion. I cannot understand acting on that incorrect conclusion. This isn’t a “life isn’t fair” situation–it’s a “don’t discriminate against employees on the basis of incorrect beliefs” situation.

              It’s entirely possible OP was not well-suited for the role the manager had defined. But the letter suggests that they were passed over because a manager incorrectly believed they were a sibling of a problem employee, which has nothing to do with qualifications.

              1. NotoriousMCG*

                I think we’re all assuming a lot more thought went into this decision than what probably did. This person was picking a junior employee to help on something in a super large company. That’s not a large or hard decision and they probably didn’t think about it nearly as in depth as we are imagining.

            5. Temperance*

              I’m not going to do extra legwork to assign a project. It’s not a crazy assumption that two people with an uncommon last name are related to each other. I find it strange that you would do “due diligence” before assigning a project instead of just looking at who is available and picking the person you would prefer to work with.

              1. BananaPants*

                I’d venture that the majority who are all worked up about this manager not doing “due diligence” have never been in a program management role at a very large company.

                If there were 10 potential junior team members on a list and the manager had to pick 2, they’re going to pick 2 based on a 30 second glance at who’s available; these are not in-depth staffing considerations. If they know or have heard that a specific person is difficult to work with or has other issues, that’s an easy elimination from the list – let the “problem” be someone else’s.

                If it’s an unusual last name, the manager may well have thought he was being offered the helicoptered cousin (and his crazy parents) rather than the OP.

                1. Kiki*

                  I was a project manager at my past company, and whenever I had a list of people to put on a project, I would meet with them all individually to assess which ones would be best for the project. I never would have just picked two at random. That seemed like smart project management to me, that you’d want the people on your project to be the most capable and excited about it. Hence why I’m so confused that the PM at OP’s company didn’t bother to talk with her about the potential family drama.

                2. ProjectManager*

                  Agreed. The project manager is looking for resources from a large pool and is going to have to work from assumptions to some degree. We don’t have enough information to make some of the assumptions that have been made here in the comments: that the project would have been career defining for the OP, that there were only a few candidates in that role (nothing the OP said makes it sound as though she was in a specialized role), etc. The PM will be looking at reducing known risks when staffing his/her team and if a person with that last name in a large company is known for having drama-inducing parents, the PM will move on to the next viable candidate. Any decision carries risk, but you try to make the choice that has less known risk.

      3. Alex*

        That’s why it might have been smart to ask OP how she was related (if at all) to the interfering parents, before jumping to conclusions and limiting the OP’s opportunities based on a false assumption.

        1. Temperance*

          Except, if those were her parents, then you have to deal with them helecoptering into your office.

      4. BananaPants*

        Yup, I’m not going to go out of my way to introduce the risk of “crazy relatives” to my project team. It sucks for OP, but that’s reality.

      5. Yorick*

        We should consider the possibility that rumors don’t mention which WelshName’s manager kept getting calls from parents. Maybe this isn’t a case of the PM assuming they were siblings and not bothering to check. Maybe the PM heard that OP’s parents hassled people on her behalf.

        Also, even if I learned that OP was the guy’s cousin, if the helicopter parents are so extreme, I might worry that they’ll be helicopter uncle/aunt too.

      6. Observer*

        But even if they were siblings, the assumptions that the parents were going to be a problem is just incredibly off base. And, the OP’s manager could have confirmed that, had anyone asked.

  3. DrPeteLoomis*

    This update reminded me of the truly next-level amount of conjecture that was happening in the comments section of the original post. Glad you’re in a better position now, OP, and that you were able to send this update!

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      I’m rereading it and I just see a lot of discussion about laundry and chips & dip and a lot more productive comments.

      1. Cobol*

        There’s one thread talking about autism and one at end where one person was making some super extreme conjectures, but was getting shot down by everybody else.

  4. Cassandra*

    I’m glad you’re okay, OP. None of this was your fault, obviously, and I hope your stress levels have gone down now that this muddle is in the rearview mirror.

    1. Specialk9*

      Excellent point! OP, this really isn’t on you, you handled this really well. Good on you for becoming a self sufficient adult, and for handling the challenges of immigrating to a new country with grace.

  5. Noah*

    On balance, it’s probably not worth it, but OP could probably sue her former employer for discrimination based on familial status and possibly nation of origin.

    1. Software Engineer*

      Except that being closely related (or believed to be) to someone acting wildly against norms is not a protected class.

      If OP were _not_ related, shared a national origin, and the assumptions were based on some idea that it was “their culture” then there might be a case. But here? I can’t see how.

      (VERY bad management, yes, and dysfunctional to assume and not find out as well. But that’s not illegal or even civilly actionable as far as I know. Just really annoying.)

      1. Ypsiguy*

        Right. There is such a thing as “Discrimination based on familial status,” but not picking somebody for a project because their cousin is a terrible employee isn’t it.

        Familial status discrimination is discrimination based on an employee’s familial responsibilities, such as child care, elder care, etc.

      2. JessaB*

        I held my tongue on the first post but the very very first thing that came to my mind was are they Maori or some other family bound culture? And I realised from the language of the post they were not. On the other hand most Maori who come to the US/Canada/Britain (I am presuming this took place in one of those countries and I’m leaning toward US,) they would KNOW better. They’d have gotten the whoa culture is waaaaaay different here. We don’t do the family show up and give references things.

        I also realised that if they were a specifically family bound culture OP would have said so because that, right there, is A: a full explanation and B: something that can be explained to the family, that it’s not done that way here.

        And yeh, probably would not do it, but that kind of discrimination against culture probably would not be actionable in the US like it specifically is in New Zealand because of the past discrimination history.

        1. Ellen Ripley*

          I once worked at a place where nearly all of one department and a few people in others were Samoan (Samoan-American?) and all related to one another. I don’t remember any dysfunction related to that, but man that family was hardcore. For a while I thought one lady was just really friendly with her coworkers from that group, but then I found out that she was a relative too, just had her dad’s last name and was related to them via her mom. If the supervisors had been less assiduous about fairness, it would have been a frustrating place to work for those of us who weren’t in that family.

      3. Silent_Minority*

        But if OP were not related, and people merely assumed they were related because they were the same national origin and had the same last name, and discriminated against them because of this, then isn’t that illegal discrimination on the basis of national origin or ethnicity? OP doesn’t say if their last name is a common Welsh last name, but there’s certain nationalities where a huge proportion of the population have the same last name.

        If a company’s project managers overwhelmingly decided to select against black-haired brown-eyed light-skinned “Lee”s for their projects, regardless of whether it was because they mistakenly thought they were part of the same dysfunctional family, that company is effectively discriminating against Asian-Americans.

        1. YaH*

          No. Because the company isn’t saying “Welsh people have major boundary issues and instill no sense of ability to function in the real world”. It’s saying, “hey you have the exact same last name, it’s clear you know each other and you know the crazy lady in the lobby waiting for her Precious Baby Boy to finish his interview, and you have more than a passing resemblance to each other, so I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’re related and I don’t want none of that crazy touching my project.”

        2. Helena*

          OP says in both her original letter and the update that she and her cousin have a rare Welsh surname.

    2. fposte*

      In the U.S., it’s not federally illegal to discriminate against people based on familial status. However, my impression was that the OP isn’t in the U.S.

    3. Temperance*

      That’s not how it works. Employment law is complicated, so non-lawyers shouldn’t make suggestions based on their understanding.

      There’s no “familial status” protection in the workplace; that’s part of the Fair Housing Act. There’s also no indication that she’s discriminated against for being Welsh, but for her relationship or perceived relationship to helicopter parents.

  6. MassMatt*

    It’s terrible that you suffered job/career wise due to something that has nothing to do with you and is out of your control. I remember the comment section to your original letter and IMO the amount of speculation about your cousin (“maybe he’s on the autism spectrum!”) and second-guessing your letter (how could you know anything about your cousin’s family) was pretty extreme.

    I’m glad you still got something out of the experience, but maybe this is a good time for readers to rethink before posting comments that second-guess the letter writer’s experience, or project your own experience onto theirs.

    1. paul*

      The hell of it is, from OP’s perspective, most of that stuff would be irrelevant anyway! Makes it even more aggravating

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, even if the cousin did need medical help that does nothing to solve OP’s problem. Why should she have to push the cousin to a doc so she can get better assignments at work? nooooo. We cannot manipulate outcomes to that degree.

        I thought your letter was pretty clear, OP, that your families hung out together a lot, as in a REAL lot. I have seen this in my own life. Three family members escaped Horrible Dictator. They stuck together like glue for decades afterward. They lived within blocks of each other, they were constantly at each other’s houses. It totally made sense, they had a shared background and they were looking out for each other here. Families do this even if they have been in the country for centuries. It’s not that unusual to been in a family that does almost daily or daily check-ins with each other.

    2. FD*

      The speculation did bother me on the original comment too.

      Look. I have a sister who’s quite autistic. She also has some learning disabilities and couldn’t hear much of anything until she got specialized hearing aids at 18 months.

      She just got her first job out in the marketplace (i.e. not through a school placement program). Here’s what we did.

      1. I had a connection with a manager at a hotel and asked if he was interested in housekeeping applications. He said he was, so I did the email introduction. From that point on, my sister had to do all email communications with him directly.
      2. I did help her navigate some of the emails, not by dictating them, but helping her know what kinds of questions she should ask (i.e. when asked to interview, where should I go at the site)?
      3. We have been practicing her interview skills for some time, but we did another practice interview the day before with some of the most likely questions they’d ask.
      4. On the day of, my mom gave her a ride (my sister isn’t able to drive), but waited in the parked car outside in the lot, where she wouldn’t be seen.
      5. After she got an offer, we practiced logistics together. We figured out the bus route she would take, and what time she had to leave. I drove her to the bus stop where she’d get off and we walked to her workplace so she’d be confident of the route.
      6. I gave her a ‘cheat sheet’ of things that might happen at the job (e.g. a customer stops you and asks a question), things she should do (e.g. make a copy of your calendar every week) and things she shouldn’t do (e.g. use her cell phone while working, even if other people were).
      7. We took her out to dinner as a family to celebrate her accomplishment–because all the stuff we did was just support, and she had to do all the hard stuff herself.

      Acting like this behavior is OK if someone has a disabilities really hurts people with disabilities. In my experience, it encourages parents to engage in behavior that ends up sabotaging their children, rather than helping them achieve their full potential.

      1. Myrin*

        The support and love your family shows for your sister is really heartwarming, FD. Thanks for sharing this!

        1. FD*

          Thanks, my sibs and I are mostly pretty close! Truthfully, most of it is stuff that I’d have done if it was my own job (i.e. practicing the route by car, doing a couple of practice interviews with a friend, etc.).

          But IMO, the bigger thing is with any situation, it’s better to help someone figure out what to do/how to approach something and then have them do it rather than do it for them. A lot of times, people (whether they have disabilities or not) will surprise you by rising to the challenge. (That doesn’t mean adaptations shouldn’t be made when appropriate, but that usually the best adaptations give people the tools/support to achieve their goals.)

      2. CMDRBNA*

        FD, I think this is so awesome – and this is totally appropriate support to give someone getting their first job, regardless of if they’re on the spectrum! I have several family members who are not neurotypical and it’s not that they necessarily need more support, it’s that they need a different type of support. I hope your sister likes her job!

        1. FD*

          She really does so far! She prefers to have a checklist of tasks to do, and likes a job that’s physically active instead of sitting or standing in one place. Hotel housekeeping jobs fit those criteria really well.

      3. JessaB*

        Exactly. And I bet if your family didn’t have the resources to do this you would have hooked your sister up through Voc Rehab or another agency that is designed to provide work help. They know how to deal with problems at the company without being helicopters AND they have all kinds of nice regulations to fall back on. There are ways to help disabled people and your family DOES. IT. RIGHT.

        1. FD*

          Yep, Voc Rehab had been working on her case too. Though TBH they were a little testy that my sister went with this job instead of another they had found (she actually had two offers to pick from). But that was her choice, so they can just deal with it.

          I would say that from our experience in this area, one place where parents may be well served to get more actively involved is in advocating for their children in ‘the system’. This is especially necessary if the parents are legal guardians. Before she got her job, my dad had to drive up to the Social Security Administration several times when there was a screw up on their end, which occurred several times over the course of two years. He knew how to lay out all the supporting documentation, and had gotten advice from a lawyer about it, which I think really helped get things cleared up.

      4. Specialk9*

        Ok that just warmed my heart, I’m all misty-eyed. What a beautiful way to support without taking over, and helping someone have the dignity of independence.

      5. Indoor Cat*

        This is good. Very, very good.

        I have physical disabilities rather than cognitive ones, and, listen, one way or another you need to learn how to solve problems that come up, do chores, etc. without your parents. Learning, “Okay, I need help doing [laundry, because I cannot physically lift the basket], so in a roommate situation I can handle that by [offering to trade doing all the dishes for roommate doing all the laundry / figuring out how to pay for a laundry service],” was probably the most useful day-in-day-out thing I learned in college. How do I negotiate for the help I need, and how do I make sure I’m offering something fair in return?

        It’s a stressful learning curve! But when you grow up in a situation where it’s just assumed that you automatically *can’t* do anything, so all your responsibilities are done for you, it goes from stressful to impossible.

  7. Jeanne*

    You did the best thing you could do. Your cousin’s family sounds like a trainwreck to me and you are better off being separate from him. Good luck.

  8. caligirl*

    OP, thank you so much for the update and I’m glad that you found a new position and were able to leave the old place staying drama free!

  9. Katie Fay*

    I think you made a good decision to separate yourself from this family dysfunction spilling into your professional life. I’m sad for your cousin, though, because he doesn’t seem to be aware of how truly dysfunctional his family dynamic is … his parents’ control will affect his personal relationships too. But, this isn’t your problem to solve (perhaps he will someday observe how you operate independently of parents). Good luck in your new job.

    1. Sydney Bristow*

      I agree. Totally not your problem to solve, but if you ever have a desire to do so, getting passed over for a project based on the people perceived to be your parents interfering in your work is a pretty good example to show how it is holding your cousin back. Only if you ever want to talk to him about it.

      Good luck with the new job!

  10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Ugh, OP I’m so sorry you went through this. I’m glad you landed on your feet. I have no idea to adequately categorize the maelstrom of emotions that I have towards the gossip, the way you were treated, or your cousin’s happiness in being an adult who is happy with such an invasive/stifling parental relationship (but that’s ok, because how I feel doesn’t really matter to the fact that you’ve moved on and are now doing well).

    1. SignalLost*

      I’m honestly pretty upset that OP had to change jobs for these relatives. (I am not saying you’re not, I was struck by how well you summed up the maelstrom of emotions.) I wish that were different, and I hope, OP, that you’re able to have exactly the professional life you want to, going forward, free from your relatives’ active or passive interference.

      Also, I am kind of annoyed that OldJob didn’t do more to recognize the difference between the OP and the cousin. If the cousin’s parents are the problem, the cousin should be facing consequences. I think that’s what gets me about this – OP paid the price for their relatives’ acting poorly in a professional situation. This is separate from what I said above about the PM, because I think that was an individual snap judgement rather than malice, but man I wish the update had been the cousin got put on a PIP for the parents’ behaviour, enforced boundaries with them, got successfully off the PIP, and everyone in OP’s family was living happier, better lives with stronger boundaries, doing the jobs they wanted.

  11. FD*

    Ugh, I’m sorry to see you had to change jobs over this, but I am glad that you were able to find something you liked.

    Also, even if he did have a disability, this would still be a bad way to handle his workplace–something that would even actively harm his chances! I have a sister that I helped raise and who has a couple of major disabilities (among other things, she’s quite autistic and also has hearing aids), and all this is way beyond anything we’d ever try and do in the name of ‘helping’ her.

  12. Free Meerkats*

    Thanks for the update.

    I remember that post, mainly because the first time I read it, I parsed “Fergus Burtlebott” as Fergus Turtlebutt. And I did it again on the reread. I think I’ve discovered my next WoW character’s name.

  13. fposte*

    Oh, I was afraid that they’d actually think you were siblings. Well, I’m sorry that happened, but I’m glad you like your new job.

  14. NotThatGardner*

    i am curious, OP, if you ever spoke to your own parents about this? maybe they could offer perspective or advice from a different angle, being more directly related (siblings who i imagine grew up together, etc)? i’m so sorry you had to change jobs to avoid this situation getting worse – but so glad you found a good one.

  15. AnotherAlison*

    I work closely with one particular coworker in my department, and we have the same last name. It’s one of the top-5 most common last names in the US. He is about 13 years older than me, so we’re not likely to be married, brother-sister, or father-daughter. We have had numerous people ask if we’re related, so we preempt them and now say “no relation” when we introduce ourselves to clients, etc.

    All that to say that in my experience, people are kind of dumb about making assumptions based on surname, and the OP’s situation doesn’t surprise me.

    1. paul*

      Ditto. A younger colleague and I have the same (moderately but not particularly common) surname. We’re different genders, and we’ve been mistaken for spouses, siblings, cousins, you name it.

      AFAIK, we’re no relation at all.

    2. Temperance*

      That’s so strange. I have a coworker with the same last name, and I’ve never been asked if she’s a relative. It’s a very common name, but not Top 5 common.

      1. Paul*

        This is the first time it’s happened to me, so I have no frame of reference for if it’s a common reaction. It probably doesn’t help that we’re both white, with brown (well, brown and gray for me) hair and eyes.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I don’t know what’s up with it. I tend to think it’s my industry. I don’t know exactly why I think that, but being that it’s a 10%-women kind of industry, people may think I’m here because of my supposed familial connection (not necessarily nepotism, just personal influence).

        On the other hand, my whole family (sons, husband) went through the airport on vacation recently and the TSA agent said to my husband, “I know you are brothers [referring to our son], but are you twins?”

        My husband is 41 and pretty bald and blond with a blond beard, and our son is 19 with super thick red hair and a red beard. I stick with my original statement that people are dumb about last names.

  16. Kate*

    Ugh, what a frustrating update. I re-read your original letter, OP, and had an inkling the red hair and freckles would make people think you were siblings. I’ve gotten that with redheaded colleagues too even though we’re not at all related and don’t share a last name. But even if you were siblings, it really sucks that another manager would pass you over for a project instead of focusing on the work you’ve been doing. It sounds like you made the right call by jumping ship, and I hope you find much success in your new position!

    1. Typhon Worker Bee*

      I used to work in a customer-facing job where two of my colleagues used wheelchairs, and more than one client assumed they were siblings based solely on the wheelchairs. People aren’t always rational…

  17. Student*

    OP – how sure are you that your Aunt and Uncle weren’t meddling in your professional relationships?

    It’s so easy for them to go on a bend with somebody about their dear son, then casually ask after you too. I could see them being primarily motivated by their own son, but also bringing up you.

    Projecting from my family dynamics, I could see them doing unpleasant or awkward things like trying to compare the two of you – my parents and aunts/uncles did that with me and my cousins. They always wanted to know which cousin was doing better, who was making more, etc., because they felt like it was a great way to rank themselves against their own siblings. Hopefully your family dynamic is better/healthier than mine – I’m sure my aunts/uncles would’ve even tried to shit-talk me so their dear kiddo would look better in comparison.

    1. Language Student*

      Presumably the manager would have mentioned that, though? I mean, the manager admitted that others thought they were siblings, it seems relevant to bring up other instances if there were any.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      It seems that aunt and uncle are not very subtle. Their interventions are pretty public. Additionally, OP, does not indicate a pattern of having the aunt and uncle intervene on her behalf. My guess is that the aunt and uncle know where the lines are OR OP”s parents drew a hard, dark line with the aunt and uncle, as in “MY KID. Butt out!”

      I had an overbearing aunt. Both of my parents were diligent about not letting her overstep with little, younger me.
      Once I got older and I could speak and judge for myself my parents let me set my own boundaries with her. By then age had mellowed her out quite a bit. She tried to give me loans and whatnot. I just said, “No, thanks. I am good here.”

  18. Minister of Snark*

    Wow, it sucks that their behavior actually impacted your assignments to projects, but I’m glad you’re out of that office. Also, do you think your uncle/aunt would adjust their behavior if they knew the negative impact they’re having on their son’s career?

    1. Observer*

      People who are that far over the line are unlikely to take advice from the “young shnook” who’s wet behind the ears and doesn’t understand how the world REALLY works, especially as regards to their special snowflake.

  19. jo*

    OP, does your cousin know about the actual incidences of how his parents’ interference has harmed him professionally? If not, he needs to know so he can at least make poor choices while knowing the facts. You said there’s no convincing him that their involvement is a bad thing, because he likes having their help. Okay, understood. Gentle persuasion and arguments are off the table.

    But do you have some cold hard facts that you could deliver in a very dry way?
    “You couldn’t have known this, but my manager at OldJob told me clearly that I was passed over for a project because they thought I was your parents’ kid.”
    “I know for a fact that you were turned down for XJob after the receptionist told the hiring manager that your mom was in the waiting room.”
    “There’s no question that you didn’t get picked for that conference because of how your mom tried to intervene on the vacation accrual issue. I heard it from OldBoss.”

    If you can’t back up your assertions in a way that shows they are true and not mere gossip, don’t bother, but all of this is information your cousin should have! Even if he ultimately ignores it.

    1. Helena*

      OP is clear in her letter that he cousin is happy with what his parents are doing and how doesn’t think there is any problem with it, so she isn’t going to address it. Just like with the original letter, OP did not write in for advice about what to say to her cousin/aunt/uncle. She knows the situation best and has been clear that there is no point in speaking up. I don’t think we should question that.

      1. jo*

        You know what, you’re right–it’s not on the OP to correct her cousin. His employer should have told him by now what needs to change.

  20. The Rat-Catcher*

    OP: congratulations on the new job!
    Also, I’m really surprised at the number of comments that seem to imply that what happened to you was okay. This was a combination of faulty assumptions and bad calls on the part of the manager that led to OP being passed over through no fault of her own.
    I can understand not questioning the assumption or delving into the subject deeper when it’s just passing knowledge, but when it’s time to make decisions that might affect people’s careers, it’s probably worth more than a few seconds of consideration.

  21. Granny K*

    I’m glad the OP has found her way to a new opportunity that suits her. However, I’m also sitting here thinking ‘so what if she WERE the sister? What difference does it make if she has exhibited nothing but good work, good judgement and professionalism?’

    Workplaces are so weird sometimes.

      1. Typhon Worker Bee*

        “Can you ever see whales from the plane when you’re coming in to land at Vancouver airport?” – my Mum
        “Wales? Only if the pilot’s really lost” – my Dad

    1. jo*

      I mean, I had no idea where the Philippines was before I met my Filipino wife, so I’m not judging you for not knowing … it’s just …

      … do you also not know what Google is?

  22. Susana*

    Here’s what I don’t understand – why was the manager (or were the managers) tolerating any of this? Parents come, you tell them they don’t work there and you cannot discuss personnel issues with anyone but the employee. You bring employee to your office and say, I don’t know if you know your parents are doing this, but it s unacceptable and must stop. They will not be allowed in. I will hang up if they call. If necessary, I will call security. And while I do not want to punish you for the actions of another, if your performance suffers either from them showing up or not – or if I learn that you are encouraging this – you will be terminated. We do not employ babies here.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, this got me, too.
      None of the people in this job want to put their foot down with the cousin. Instead they go to all these extreme measures to tap dance around the issue. It probably cost them 5x as much energy to avoid the problem as it would have to actually deal with a problem.

      I wondered how many other workday and business decisions they make in the same manner.
      This is not hard and it is not time consuming. “Employee, here is what is expected. [blah, blah, blah] Any further incidents of this nature will result in [whatever].” Done. Over. If the parents intervene again, then a plan is in place to deal with that.

      OP, you made a good decision to move on. The fact that they cannot see a difference between you and your cousin is concerning. Do they do this with people of protected classes also? Do they fail to look to see an individual worker with her own unique set of work skills? Ugh. Nope. Just move on. I am very glad to hear you are happy in your new setting.

    2. Paul*

      Yep. I don’t know that it’s something OP could have pushed back on, but it floors me a company put up with that

    3. jo*

      Right?! I commented earlier asking the OP if s/he might consider letting the cousin know, whether he’s happy with his parents’ behavior or not, there is actual evidence that their behavior is harming him professionally.

      But it’s really not OP’s job–it’s the cousin’s employer’s job to tell him outright that there is a problem and it needs to stop.

      The employer is babying the cousin, too, by not talking to him frankly about this.

  23. Orginal comment*

    I’m curious about the comment LW mentions to her first letter. I looked through the comments and didn’t see any kind of comment like what she is describing.

  24. Kate*

    I wonder if your relatives are aware (doubt it) that you had to change jobs because of their behaviour.
    But it’s good that it turned out great for you: seems like you enjoy your new job :)

  25. Ruth*

    Good update – the OP is happy in the new job and those who had wrongly taken it out on her in the old job are stuck with the cousin and lost a great employee in the process. Everyone got what they deserve.

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