my coworker’s kids are running wild in our office

A reader writes:

I work at a large company that values working moms and dads and offers generous benefits for families (like health benefits, flexible schedules, and time off). My department shares our floor with a department led by a very nice guy who I will call Clive. Clive is friendly, smart, and as highly valued and popular as an employee can be within the company. He’s also a working dad, and on days when his kids are off from school, he brings them to the office–all four of them, and all under the age of 12–and works a full day. He does not supervise them while they’re here, and they run wild (they are kids, after all), turning our floor into their playroom.

Needless to say, everything about this situation drives everybody in my department nuts: the noise (a quiet work environment is necessary for my department), Clive’s lack of supervision of his children, and his seeming cluelessness about how bringing them to the office for a full workday could be disrespectful of his colleagues’ work.

I’ve discussed this with my own supervisor (and her supervisor as well), but I get the impression that nobody knows what to do. My supervisors are failingly polite, and I think they feel it’s an issue for HR to handle. But is it? And if it is, am I in a position to go to HR about it, or should it be my supervisors?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  •  My manager shares too much about my coworkers
  • Should I let a company know why I don’t want to interview with them?
  • Using vacation time on days that my company ends up closing early
  • I’m annoyed that my new employee started a client meeting without me

{ 274 comments… read them below }

  1. INeedANap*

    For the first question about the kids; I see that the OP talked to her boss, and even her grandboss, but has anyone talked to Clive?

    If he’s a friendly, smart, and popular guy, I bet he’d be open to hearing this! He’s probably literally clueless – so used to the sounds of the kids he doesn’t really realize how disruptive they are.

    Something like, “Clive, I’m sure you’re used to the kids running around, but I have to admit – it’s really hard for the rest of us to get work done when they’re here. Is there any way we can work out a better method?”

    Maybe he can reserve the conference room for the day and set them up in there (so much the better if it disrupts Boss and Grandboss – might motivate them to take action). Maybe he can make a point of providing them quiet activities like reading or watching movies with headphones. But if he’s that great of a guy, I bet he’d be more than willing to figure out a way to keep the kids from being so disruptive.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. But what piss poor management that THEY haven’t figured this out. I worked in an environment where, particularly older kids, were often there when those awkward one day school closings occurred and it wasn’t a problem because people had offices. My daughter could file for me, later work on research project data analysis etc etc and no one would necessarily even know she was there. People didn’t bring in toddlers. 4 kids is sort of outrageous anyway, but unsupervised is ridiculous. That management can’t insist that the kids be supervised and occupied suggests they are hopelessly bad managers.

    2. Samiratou*

      The only thing I can think of–LW mentioned Clive was the head of another department, which could make it more complicated. If he’s senior to everyone LW has talked to they might feel like they can’t really say anything, particularly if Clive’s boss doesn’t care.

      Which is why HR might be the only way for LW to go at this point, as escalating hasn’t worked, for whatever reason.

    3. AKchic*

      I don’t understand how anyone with four kids doesn’t understand that four kids running amok around an entire department isn’t a distraction (or possibly multiple safety hazards).
      I have four kids, and no way would I ever allow this. Either you sit quietly in my area, or you don’t come to my office. Mom’s Office is where people work. If you distract people, they don’t work and they don’t make the company money and then Mom doesn’t get paid. Mom doesn’t get paid, you, dear demon spawn, don’t eat. So – pretend to be ninjas, or spies, or secret agents, and above all – play the quiet game!

      1. Jeanne*

        It’s not usually that they don’t understand. It’s that they don’t care. If Clive thinks his time is more valuable than the time of those being disturbed, he could be fine with the kids bothering the peons and not him.

        1. Artemesia*

          People who do outrageous things like this are inherently bullies who feel they can do what they want because other people feel compelled to be nice or accepting of their outrageous behavior. You have to be a self centered jerk to pull this on your colleagues.

          1. AKchic*

            THIS. This could very well be the issue. I can only speculate, obviously; but c’mon – either the guy is so clueless that he doesn’t understand that his conjugal visit trophies are a distraction and terrorizing the village; or he’s completely self-absorbed and is teaching his children to be just as obnoxiously self-absorbed and myopic about who/what the world revolves around.

            This “Dad” gets no points for being an active parent, because he’s not actively parenting. He’s just letting them tag along and then unleashes them to destroy Tokyo while he ducks his head.

            1. MsChanandlerBong*

              Wow. That was a mean comment. I don’t have kids, and I enjoy my child-free life, but I would never stoop to calling someone else’s kids “conjugal visit trophies.”

      2. a Gen X manager*

        Maybe Clive is used to the chaos and doesn’t notice how disruptive it is? I agree that a friendly mention to Clive (because he is described as a great guy) is the best place to start.

    4. Shhisha*

      If he’s that great of a guy, he would have a clue that his kids running around the office would disturb other people. I doubt he’s open to hearing anything about how annoying his little snowflakes are – and how inconsiderate he’s being. Pay for childcare, already.

  2. Ahora*

    This was very telling in the last question: “felt she had not acted professionally as she had embarrassed me by drawing attention to the fact that it was I who was late.”

    It seems like she wanted to be able to tell the client it was her employee who was late. I also would have entered the building and announced I was there. I may not have started the meeting, but I wouldn’t stand around outside waiting for my boss and have the client think I was the late one.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      I’m with you there. I would actually take it a step further and say that it was the boss who potentially embarrassed herself and the employee by not calling ahead and announcing her tardiness which is a fairly innocuous thing anyway in most large cities.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        This was my thought too – OP should have contacted either the client or the employee to let them know she’d be a little late and they’d need to start the meeting late.

      2. Hills to Die on*

        I agree. I think that she not only embarrassed herself, she’s blaming her innocent employee for handling the meeting professionally and therefore is being pretty rude all the way around. Lateness happens, but good grief, just be nice and have some gratitude for your employee who is willing to be proactive and cover for you!

      3. kittymommy*

        Bingo. She should have let the client know via phone she was running late then let her employee know she was running late and to either begin or not. Quite frankly, the only one who embarrassed her was herself.

      4. JulieBulie*

        Agree. The employee didn’t draw attention to anything. OP’s lateness was evident. If OP is embarrassed, it’s because she was late, not because of her employee was on time.

        The employee chose not to keep the client waiting. In some places, this would be considered a good thing.

        1. SS*

          Absolutely. If she had made the meeting wait for you, it signals to the client that their time is not important to you. By starting, it shows consideration for the client, especially if they had allotted a limited time in their schedule to talk with you. Usually meetings are scheduled close together so they might not have had time to move the meeting back if it would end up running later. Your employee was the professional one here.

      5. Ego Chamber*

        “it was the boss who embarrassed herself by not calling ahead and announcing her tardiness”

        Conspiracy theory: Boss called the client and said her employee was running late, but they’d both be there as soon as possible (or some such nonsense) and didn’t bother to mention this to Scapegoat Employee. Scapegoat waits around for Boss outside client’s building for a few minutes, but Boss doesn’t show in time for the meeting, and Scapegoat thinks maybe Boss went in without her.

        Scapegoat goes to reception, says she’s there for the meeting, and is directed to the office/conference room where it’s happening. Client says something understanding like “Traffic, amirite?” and Scapegoat’s like “What? Oh, no, traffic was fine.” *awkward smile* as she realizes Boss is not in the meeting. And then everything kind of snowballs from there.

        If this is anywhere close to what happened, and I was the boss, I’d be embarrassed to.

      6. a Gen X manager*

        THIS!! This boss was THE problem, not the employee! It seems like boss is redirecting intense feelings of embarrassment toward the employee and arguing it was some form of insubordination or lack of professionalism. Boss doesn’t seem to have appropriate perspective of the situation. I feel badly for the employee who is trying to do what is best in a difficult situation (and being newish, having to guess at what the expectation would be).

        1. a Gen X manager*

          I love AAM and Alison’s advice, but I’m surprised that she wasn’t tougher on OP for actually being the problem.

    2. McWhadden*

      And imagine if you did just wait outside and then when it started the client peevishly said “really, because I looked out my window saw you waiting around for at least 15 minutes and didn’t bother to come in an inform us what was happening.”

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      I really think they should have contacted the employee and told them how to handle it. Otherwise you cannot blame them for winging it!

      1. TootsNYC*

        Everybody should have a plan for what to do if they’re late. Especially in the age of cell phones.

        Sure, it’s important to be on time. But traffic jams happen, and good planners lay down their road map well before they need it.

        Be sure you each have one another’s cell phone numbers programmed into your phones; have the phone numbers & emails of the client; pull off the road and stop briefly so you can make those plans–better to add 7 minutes to your 15 minutes of lateness than to have awkward things like this.

    4. Kate*

      Completely agree. 15 minutes is a LONG time if you are just waiting. If I were the client, and both OP and the employee were that late to the meeting, I’d be thinking this company does not value my time. Did the OP notify either the employee or the client she was going to be that late? I would want to enter the building to at least explain that OP was stuck in traffic. And who knows, maybe the client was on a tight schedule and told the employee to get started so they had time to cover all that they needed to cover.

    5. hbc*

      Yeah, this one rubbed me completely the wrong way. If it’s an embarrassment to be late, then the OP embarrassed herself by being late.

      Personally, if we’re talking about a vendor/supplier/whatever showing up to my place late, my irritation from most to least goes: Entire group late and meeting delayed without warning, entire group delayed with warning, partial group shows up on time and we get down to business*, everyone shows up on time. OP seemed to be planning on the worst option, since it seems like neither the employee or the client knew what was going on.

      *I suppose it’s worse if the person who shows up on time takes my attention *and* can’t contribute anything useful, but after 3 months in, I’m sure there’s some value the employee could have contributed.

      1. Been there*

        According to the letter the employee was new to the department, I’m sure they were more effective than someone new to the company.

        The other thing is that normally people don’t arrive at exactly the start time, so if the LW was 15 min late for the meeting, she was probably 25 min+ late to arrive. I’m guessing the employee was sitting there for some time wondering where boss was and doing some quick thinking about how to recover. I get that the manager maybe didn’t want to pull over to call to cause further delay, but that’s what I would have done if I was running that late.

        1. JamieS*

          She’d been there over 4 months which I think is long enough to be able to at least make nice with the client until OP arrives. Also, realistically how many people actually pull off the road to make a phone call? Maybe it’s different in other places but where I live it’s probably literally 1 in a million.

          1. Luna*

            Yeah, if after 4 1/2 months the employee really can’t contribute anything useful to a meeting, that is also the manager’s failure.

      2. The OG Anonsie*

        It reminded me of the time I was taken aside by a furious former manager after a meeting and giving a talking-to about professionalism and embarrassing other employees, throwing people under the bus, etc. because when someone asked for the status of a project once I noted that I had just sent it over to Senior Person Sam for his review and final signoff, which put us right on track for him to have it approved well before the deadline. Apparently I was exposing Sam as, god forbid, having work on his plate that he had not done yet because I had just given it to him. The shock and horror?

    6. Rachael*

      I caught that, too. She obviously wanted her subordinate to share the blame for the late meeting. And what year is it? This sounds like a position in which you can afford a cell phone and notify people when you are late and also give instructions that you want her to follow. The fact that she left her employee hanging and had to guess what to do AND are being criticized is ridiculous.

    7. Samiratou*

      I agree. I think LW was in the wrong on this one. The employee did the right thing by going in on time and explaining the tardiness, and it would have been way more embarrassing for all of them if they’d both gone in 15 minutes late.

      At least, if I were the client I would think nothing of a junior employee explaining my boss got held up in unexpected traffic and starting with the preliminaries, but if both of them waltz in 15 minutes late I’d be pretty irritated and it would definitely color my impression of the company.

      1. JamieS*

        Yeah. Unless the subordinate made a huge production out of OP being late, which I’d assume would’ve been in the letter, OP is definitively in the wrong and overreacting.

    8. The OG Anonsie*

      Same. It sounds like the LW is embarrassed about being late and is blaming the employee for letting it be known but… She was late, meaning the client was going to know something was off schedule no matter what. Going in and making sure the client is met at the scheduled time is an extremely reasonable thing for the employee to have done, and as Alison says, many managers would have wanted her to start the meeting as well.

      The LW is taking this exceptionally personally and interpreting this as the employee dragging her through the dirt, which is both weird and concerning as a reflection of this person’s overall management.

      1. aebhel*

        Yeah, there’s really no way that the client wasn’t going to notice that LW was late, unless she was planning on throwing her subordinate under the bus for it.

    9. Matilda Jefferies*

      Agreed. And I also think if the opposite had happened – the employee had waited for the OP – OP would still have been angry that the employee was making her look bad. She probably could have written the exact same letter to AAM, just by changing that one sentence.

      When I arrived, I discovered my employee was still sitting around in the lobby, instead of starting the meeting without me. I was annoyed that she had waited for me, and felt she had not acted professionally as she had embarrassed me by drawing attention to the fact that it was I who was late.

      OP was embarrassed, for sure, and lots of people cover up embarrassment with anger. But in the absence of clear directions on what to do if she was late, the employee used her *best judgement.* As far as I’m concerned, that’s exactly the kind of employee I want to have! Even if you disagree with the decision itself, you should never, ever fault someone for using their judgement and problem-solving skills. (Health and safety issues aside, of course.)

      1. Lison*

        Added to this for my site you have to sign in to even get into the car park so everyone knows when the various people arrive so should the first person sit in the car park when the people know they have arrived (security will let the person in charge of the meeting know). I think not.

        1. Susan Calvin*

          Exactly; That didn’t even occur to me because I’m usually the one doing the visiting, but occasionally clients and partners will come to us – and if you’re not in the office within 5-10 minutes after our office manager buzzed you into the parking structure, we’d probably send out a search party…

    10. Jeanne*

      What if the client said to the employee “I want to start the meeting now, not late, even if boss isn’t here.” What did you want your employee to do? She kept the client happy. You need clients or your company has problems (for companies that do have clients). Should she start the meeting or make the client unhappy?

    11. Not a Fergus*

      Absolutely agree. The LW is in the wrong here. I’d be relieved my employee took the initiative to start the meeting. I also read it as the LW wanted to say something like, “Sorry WE were late, traffic was bad” which is ridiculous. Be happy you have proactive employees. You only embarrassed yourself by not calling ahead.

    12. JamieS*

      That’s what I thought too even though it doesn’t logically make sense for OP to do. I can kind of understand if a subordinate doesn’t go to the meeting because she was new and waiting on her boss but if the boss showed up late and then told me she was on time but waited for her subordinate before starting the meeting I’d seriously question her decision making skills.

    13. Leenie*

      Yes. There is nothing in my professional background that would make me think my boss would want me to wait outside so the client didn’t know she was the one who was late. That’s just bizarre. I mean, if I knew she’d want a minute in private with me before we sat down with the client, I might wait in the parking lot, so we could prepare. Otherwise, it would never have occured to me to not walk into the lobby on time.

  3. Blue Anne*

    My boss does this sometimes. His four kids range from around 7 to 13. We’ve started shutting them in the conference room with soda and access to the computer with the big wall display so they can watch youtube.

    it is not ideal.

    1. Broadcastlady*

      I work for a company that is small and family owned. This is how we handle it. Sick kid? Out of school? No sitter? Summertime? Stick the kids in the conference room with an Ipad. I think everyone at my place of work has done this at some point or another. We even had an elementary school romance one summer when bosses son and co-workers daughter were both there daily for a few weeks. Obviously, about this anyway, we are super laid back. It helps us all a lot. That said, I can understand how this would be impossible in many jobs and offices.

    2. Jesmlet*

      My boss brought in his 9 year old yesterday and she was here for about 4 hours. I spent that time helping her with her homework, drawing with her, picking through her Halloween candy, and getting a tiny bit of work done. But it’s my boss’ kid and he thanked us at the end of the day for helping out with her. Honestly, I had fun and it was one of the better days of work in a while.

      1. JeanB in NC*

        When I used to be the admin in a university dept, one of the faculty often (like every few weeks) brought in his baby/toddler (she grew!) and would bring her straight to me. I’d carry her around while I was doing my work. I loved it so much!

        1. justcourt*

          It’s good that you liked watching your boss’ child, but I hope it wasn’t expected of you.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I would be incredibly pissed off at my boss if he expected me to babysit his child. I like kids, but an admin job is not a childcare job. It’s bad enough we get relegated to a role that’s incredibly hard to get out of, but handling personal crap too? Uh uh. I’m not Pepper Potts.

          1. JeanB in NC*

            It absolutely wasn’t expected. I volunteered for it because I love kids, and I liked the professor. And I totally get what you’re saying but this really was the only personal thing that I was ever did as an admin. I would actually call him if I hadn’t seen the baby in a few weeks and say, when are you bringing my baby back in? So, completely voluntary.

            1. FormerEmployee*

              That is so sweet! It’s really nice when this sort of thing actually works out for all involved including the child.

  4. McWhadden*

    My co-workers bring in their kids when school or camp (in the summer) is off all of the time. It is still distracting but none of them are as raucous as described here. So it’s not really worth raising to anyone.

    I totally empathize with parents and daycare needs. I can’t imagine how expensive four in daycare is. But there is just no excuse for not watching them like a hawk.

    For the late manager. It’s totally worth talking to the employee about expectations but the tone is unnecessarily harsh. I know my boss would want me to start the meeting rather than make a client wait. That’s just something where rational managers can have totally different takes on it. It’s completely fine that you don’t have that approach! But it’s not intuitive.

    And she didn’t intentionally embarrass you. Or at least I find it very unlikely. No way she knew you didn’t intend to be upfront with way the meeting was late (or did you intend to blame her?) She probably thought you’d come in and say “I was stuck in traffic.”

      1. fposte*

        The problem is that most daycares don’t take kids just for a day, so you’d likely have to be lining up a private babysitter or a relative/friend. And coverage for a school holiday can be pretty competitive, since everybody wants babysitters for that. I think Clive needs to supervise them so that the kids are less of a pain, but it also might make sense to see if Mom or Uncle Bob or somebody can pitch in for the occasional day off so the kids aren’t in Clive’s office quite as much. (I’m wondering how often this is–is this all of spring break, for instance?)

        1. Artemesia*

          Part of your responsibilities as an employed person is to think through emergency day care and have plan B and C and D. Constantly turning 4 kids lose on an office and disrupting everyone’s productivity is a lot worse than ‘working from home’ or taking a day off and losing one person’s productivity.

          Apparently they are going to wait until one of the kids breaks something important or injures someone or themselves.

          1. TootsNYC*

            yeah, especially if these are planned school days off, and not a sudden “there’s a water main break on the same block as the school” closing.

            Plan for those. They’re not a surprise.
            And if you do for some reason have to bring your kids in, you make plans to keep them from being disruptive.

          2. fposte*

            Hey, I’m not saying it’s not his responsibility; additionally, this probably really chaps the hide of other parents in the office who *are* shelling out for care for those days rather than bringing them in. I’m just pointing out that “emergency daycare” often isn’t a thing.

          3. Kyrielle*

            It is! And for any *scheduled* day out, my family has plans. Usually the school-out care provided by their after-school care provider – but then there are a few holidays the school *and* care provider are closed but our companies aren’t – and one of us takes a vacation day. Finding a care provider that will take any child, especially a school-age child, for one day every month or two is pretty darned hard. (It is not a business model that leads to a steady stream of income, and in addition, _everyone_ who uses the same care provider will want the same days.)

            And if the kid is sick, or was sick and is better but in the 24-hour exclusion period, then yeah, forget it; where I am there are no options except for the parents to watch them.

            Which, if the kid is sick *or* the kid cannot quietly entertain themselves reasonably in an office (*and be supervised*), you do at home. Contingency plans do not include turning the office into space for a foot-race, or a screaming tournament, or any of the other horrifyingly creative-but-wild ideas young children can come up with.

            But yeah, “emergency daycare” – at least where I am – is really, really Not A Thing that exists.

            1. Cafe au Lait*

              I’ve always thought it would be smart for businesses to hire a trained babysitter or two for the weird school day breaks. Stick them in a conference room or empty office with a bunch of kid-friendly movies, cater a lunch meal. Provide lots of drawer paper, crayons, etc.

              Parents will be relieved to have care and not miss work. The cost to the business is so tiny compared to the loyalty they receive in return.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                As a parent, I would love this. As a manager, it just screams RISK!

                Many businesses are not set up with an adequate amount of space or appropriate kinds of space to host children, particularly smaller ones. Look at how many people who write in about having to share offices, being in an open floor plan, or not even having a dedicated desk. I would also assume that their insurance policies are also not set up to cover small children in the work place. Our office is not childproof, nor should it have to be. I can definitely see a kid trying to scale the shelves in the file rooms, which are open to the hallways.

            2. Artemesia*

              And please don’t bring sick kids to the office. I have told here before the selfish AA who brought a child in with chicken pox to an office with elderly secretaries and one young pregnant one. Any kid who has something contagious belongs at home. And any kids who is miserable belongs at home.

              1. Kyrielle*

                Agreed, as I noted in my comment. :) Only way you bring the kid to the office is if they are healthy, just don’t have school/care, and are calm, quiet, and easy to supervise. And if you have no duties that day that preclude supervising them!

                Healthy 12-year-old who will spend the day playing on a tablet, reading, and maybe doing their homework if they’re in the mood? And who doesn’t mind that terribly? Sure, as long as your office culture allows.

                Sick kid? No. Five-year-old with dubious behavior? No. You’ll be in a meeting for two hours, leaving the kid alone? No.

                Just. No. It’s a *horrible* disservice to your coworkers, and frankly, it’s not very kind to your kid, either.

        2. Samiratou*

          My kids have days off of school all the time, it seems like. Usually 2-3 days a month, plus a week or two at Christmas and spring break.

          But they aren’t a surprise. School calendars are published a year ahead of time, and unless LW lives in a very different type of place than I do, the local school district has day-off care most days, as do YMCAs and such. In my district, off-days involve fun field trips and things and cost $45 or so per day. It can add up for sure, but if Clive is the head of a department, it seems like that would be doable most of the time.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            Not sure where you live, but I’ve never been in a school district that had day-off care. I live in a pretty liberal town and my coworkers’ kids attend school in about 3-4 different districts and none of them have day-off care, either. Parents here either arrange for their own day off care or they bring their kids to work (although all of my coworkers’ kids are quiet and well-behaved. Seriously. Most times I don’t even realize they are here).

            1. The New Wanderer*

              My school district has extended care days for when the school is closed for teacher work days (3-4 per year). However, the kids have to already be enrolled in morning/evening extended care to participate, and there is always a waitlist for the extended care program. There is no school-provided care for regular holiday closures, although I have noticed that some gyms and other programs aimed at kids are starting to hold special all-day camps for some holidays. I really hope that trend continues!

              FWIW I have never worked anywhere that allows kids or other non-work-related visitors – fortunately I have had the option to work from home on school-closure days.

              1. Rachael*

                My school district provides care for when the school is closed (including holiday breaks), but like your district, it is for those who already have before or after school care with the school, too.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            Childcare is a competitive sport where I live, and my kid who has a spot in the school-aged childcare program has day-off care. We were on the waiting list for a year for that spot. My kid who goes to a special needs school is NOT in the SAC program and doesn’t have a spot and can’t use that childcare system. (And also has different days off of school than the public-school kid. And requires more supervision than the other kid.)

            We just rock-paper-scissors for who takes the day off, unless someone has a meeting that they have to attend.

        3. McWhadden*

          I know. That’s why I think it’s fine to bring them to work as long as they behave well.

          Like I said, people in my office do it. It can be a tad annoying but nothing too distracting/horrible.

          1. Hellanon*

            That kinda depends on the kids & the level of supervision they need/get. Some children don’t even make it to annoying, whereas others get there fast. Also, 4 is a difference calcultation to one or two.

          2. KTB*

            That is exactly right. One of my coworkers brings in his 7yo daughter from time to time, and I literally have NO IDEA she is here unless I walk right by her. And even sometimes don’t notice her then, because she is so quiet and well behaved. We call her the office mouse when she’s here, since she’s so small and quiet. And there’s only one of her.

            1. Tabby*

              LOL I was this kid. I literally went to college with my mom for a week when I was 9 or 10 and the professor was like what the actual…. because I would sit there and read quietly, or actually pay attention to the class. I never said anything unless he talked to me directly, but would sit there taking notes and trying to figure out what he was on about. Round about day three he actually started making work for me to do (it was a literature class) because I seemed capable of following the class. I had so much fun, and I remember the guy asked after me the next week when school restarted for me, because apparently I was the first kid ever to be able to keep up with college-level English lit. Mostly because I kept stealing my mom’s schoolbooks to read at home, and Shakespeare was really interesting and challenging, so I was mighty curious about it. What can I say, I was a real reading nerd as a kid. However, most kids aren’t like this, so I’d be pretty annoyed if someone brought their restless, rambunctious children to work and unleashed them on the workplace.

              I’ve also worked at vet offices where the kids could be put in an unused exam room and were allowed to play with the kittens we sometimes got in from a rescue group. These were all kids of employees who helped with the rescue cats by taking them home, so they were VERY used to gently handling small and fragile creatures, and helped the kittens get used to being handled without terrifying the poor things. Again, this was a rare occurrence. Parents really need to be more on it with knowing their child’s personality and whether they can actually handle minimal supervision. Some kids can, many cannot.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      As an aside, I am so thrilled that my kids no longer need day care and can get themselves from Point A to Point B. It was so stressful having both of us working full time. Our only saving grace was 2 sets of grandparents who were very hands on and helpful as well as a fantastic babysitter who was also very affordable.

      1. Mrs. Fenris*

        Isn’t that the truth…and I only worked PT and my husband had relatively flexible hours! Having both parents with full time 5 day a week sounds so hard.

  5. Been there*

    I’m confused about the last one… the manager who is upset that her employee started a meeting without her.

    That seems odd, I would think it’s better to start the meeting (usually the first 10 min or so is the chit chatty how’re you doing part anyway) and then let the manager take over once she got there. I get the feeling that the manager was embarrassed by her lateness and is blaming the employee. Yeesh… how about thinking how embarrassing it was for the employee to be left sitting their twiddling her thumbs with a client.

    The other thing that wasn’t mentioned was did the LW communicate to the employee, by calling or texting and telling them they’d be late and the employee should ask to delay the meeting?

      1. Annonymouse*

        The boss comes across as super arrogant in this instance.

        Expecting the long time client and team member to wait WITHOUT calling ahead or notifying anyone you’d be late is rude. Very rude.

        It seems as though you expected your employee to wait outside the building/in the car park for you so you could enter together and blame the tardiness on them.

        Expecting your employee to wait outside for you might not be reasonable depending on the clients environment/location.

        And seeing your level of “I am the boss and always right/above you and don’t forget it!” Attitude you’re giving out you can bet your employee was at least 10 minutes early to this meeting.

        You’re employee was far more respectful of the client than you were.

        They showed up on time and when the meeting time came around started either at the clients request or because they understood that making your client wait when you can move ahead is unnecessary and rude.

    1. fposte*

      I agree that the OP seems to have been more appalled than is necessary, but it shouldn’t be embarrassing for an employee to get there first and wait for the boss, either. Neither of these things are particularly embarrassing.

      1. Koko*

        Agreed. Embarrassing is showing up 15 minutes late with visible pit stains and a black eye. Lateness happens from time to time with everyone. You apologize and move on.

    2. KR*

      I agree that it is super embarrassing to be the employee sitting there twisdling their thumbs waiting for their manager to show up. I worked for a manager that was pulled in a lot of directions and didn’t feel beholden to be places at specific times and often people expected me to know where he was all the time, so I would show up somewhere on time and the person we were meeting with would be all like, “Where’s Fergus??” while I would he anxiously texting him trying to figure out where he was, and the person we were meeting with would be getting frustrated with me because they scheduled their time more tightly than he did. I just started doing stuff without him and saying, “Oh I’m sure he is on his way! ” And after the first few times I did it my manager stopped acting surprised that I had done stuff without him. People learned to depend on me more than they depended on him, tbh.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      I think it’s professional to start the meeting on time. It’s rude and bad for business to keep a client waiting. OP, you put your feelings over the needs of the business.
      The employee did not embarrass the OP by announcing that the manager was late. It’s obvious in a meeting of a few people that the manager was late! OP – you and you alone are responsible for your embarrassment.
      You also ask “has business etiquette changed?” My experience is that we are all adults and responsible to get to meetings on time. So no, etiquette has not changed. This is not university where you have to wait for the professor to show up. In this case the person highest up the chain is the client, not you. If this meeting was an internal meeting at your office then the employee should wait.

      1. Koko*

        I also think it reflects very well on the manager for the employee to start without her, personally. It shows that she has a competent team working for her who can step up when a need arises, and that she’s empowered her team to do their best work.

        1. Bette*

          But what if the employee is incompetent and can’t answer the client’s questions? I wouldn’t want my report starting a meeting without me–they would be very ill-equipped to handle it. I do still want them at the meeting, though, so they can hear what is discussed.

          1. Liz2*

            As noted, the first few minutes of the meeting are just chit chat, warming up. And if you can’t trust them to say “I’ll note that and we can ask Kathy when she arrives” then again, you need to do more training before you let them get in front of clients at all.

          2. Leenie*

            I’m guessing you mean something like inexperienced and not incompetent. Because if there are people on your team who are incompetent they should probably be on a PIP or in the unemployment line instead of in front of clients. Anyway, I’d call the employee, tell them to let the client know that I should be there by x time, and not to talk about anything other than the big game or everyone’s favorite restaurants until I get there. If they can’t handle that, they really don’t belong in the room.

        2. Luna*

          It sounds like this boss is an extreme micro-manager. She doesn’t trust her employee to spend a few minutes alone with a client after almost 5 months in the job, no one is allowed to start meetings without her, other people should know what she wants them to do in every situation, regardless of whether she has given them any instructions.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        I would also like to point out that you were 15 minutes late to the meeting itself. That meant that you were supposed to show up 10-15 minutes before that. You need time to sign in, set up the room, etc. So the employees actually had to wait 25-30 minutes for you.
        If I have my managers cell I would have shot off a text saying “Where are you, hope you’re OK” and then started the meeting.
        You had an employee’s that took initiative, and that’s a good thing. They preserved a relationship with a long term client and that’s a good thing.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        Maybe it’s just because I live in DC, but it’s a bit more difficult here to get precious about being 15 minutes late. We joke that I can leave my house at 7:15 or I can leave my house at 8:00, but I am still going to get to my desk at 9:15. I charted my commute time for a month as a joke, and it turns out I was right. If it’s not traffic, it’s Metro, or it’s a motorcade, or god knows what else. The universe has decided I arrive at 9:15. And I have two kids to get off to school, so I can’t leave at 6:30 to hedge further.

        Fortunately, most people who live here know what the score is and tends to go with it. OP could have just contacted the employee to say she was delayed and give instructions about whether or not to proceed without her, and this all could have been avoided.

    4. Julius Pepperwood*

      Lots of displacement activity going on. Sounds like the manager (1) didn’t allot enough time for traffic, (2) didn’t call her employee OR the client when she knew she would be late, and (3) expected her employee to inconvenience the clients by making them wait. I suspect she felt culpable about all of these things and instead of taking responsibility, is trying to squash and stretch and morph this into something her employee did wrong. I really hate working with people like this. I do not respect people who can’t say, hey, I screwed up and I apologize, and instead try to pin it on others. I hope this person has figured this out since that letter was originally posted.

      1. Not a Fergus*

        Agreed 100%. The client should be the number one priority, not saving face for being 15 mins late.

    5. MommyMD*

      Manager didn’t plan her drive accordingly, was indeed late, but wanted it to appear that report shared the blame. Respect people’s time and leave earlier. Traffic is common. Plan for it.

    6. a Gen X manager*

      Yes, Been there! I love your compassion for the employee! That must have been really awkward and intimidating given that it was a long term client and wanting to do what was best without knowing what that was for certain.

      Did OP ever talk to the employee about it? It seems like OP is spinning in embarrassment and anger rather than actually dealing with the situation.

      Oh what I wouldn’t give to hear employee’s or client’s version of this story! And for OP to hear their versions!

  6. Hostess with the Mostess*

    This is so interesting to me, because I remember my brother and I going into work with my father from time to time. He was a CEO at a BioTech company and I remember going with him to work when I was really young (like 8 years old). Sometimes the whole family would go to a work happy hour, but I also remember hanging out in his office for a full workday. I don’t think I or my brother were particularly rambunctious children, and I remember my father talking to us about how it was appropriate to act in his office. His coworkers also seemed to enjoy having us around – they’d pop by his office to interact with us, or comment on our coloring or homework or whatever when they’d bring something to my dad. But after reading all these letters about employees being annoyed by children in the office, I wonder if my dad was wrong to do this! Obviously nothing to do about it now, just something I’m thinking about :)

    1. Been there*

      “His coworkers also seemed to enjoy having us around – they’d pop by his office to interact with us, or comment on our coloring or homework or whatever when they’d bring something to my dad.”

      Not saying they didn’t enjoy you guys being there or that you weren’t good kids, but he was the CEO. Who’s not going to act pleased that his kids were there?

      1. fposte*

        And even when I’m not pleased parents have brought their kids to the office, I’m not going to be mean to the kids–it’s not their fault.

      2. Hostess with the Mostess*

        This is true! I also remember when I was a Girl Scout and my troop leader would tell us to ask our parents’ coworkers to buy cookies, he would tell me I couldn’t ask anyone at his office because he was the CEO and that would put undue pressure on them. Most of his employees had kids as well and I can’t remember any specific instances where we were disruptive or anything, but your point stands – it would have been awkward if they were less than cordial with us in the office.

      3. a Gen X manager*

        Definitely, Been there!

        I think there is a big difference in a one-off and recurring every time there is a holiday / weather day, etc. I LOVE having kids and pets in the office periodically and everyone seems genuinely happy and re-energized by having this break from the grind, but too often and it begins to feel like “too much”.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Depends on the field I guess. My dad was a mathematician and they had whiteboard tables they used to write equations on so visiting was super fun – you could draw on the table! But I also would never have been allowed to run wild

      1. Emma*

        Yeah, I agree that it’s field-dependent. My dad used to occasionally bring my sister and me to work and I don’t think it was a big deal. Of course, he worked at a landscape nursery so we spent most of the day running around outside among the plants. And we were shy so we pretty much ran away from any workers we encountered.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Field-dependent and kid-dependent. We all have offices where I am now, and I can imagine someone bringing and and supervising an older child during the workday. But I can’t imagine bringing in my children. They are 5 and 8, and they still act like young children. Any child who will “run wild” really doesn’t belong in the office, and *definitely* not unsupervised.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          We had a grand time running up and down the halls when we went to work with my dad. Of course, he was a teacher, and it was on evenings/weekends/holidays when the school was empty. (Mom was a nurse. We never went to work with Mom.)

      2. TeacherTurnedNurse*

        My dad was a physics prof and I have memories of these same tables! I still joke that I became a teacher myself because of happy White Board memories.

      3. MsMorlowe*

        My mother worked in a school (in accounts), so during the holidays, she’d unlock a classroom for me, hand me some board markers and let me play teacher to my heart’s content. I thought it was the coolest thing ever to be just like a real teacher.

        When I got a bit older, I would help out with filing and shredding.

    3. HannahS*

      I think it’s relevant that your dad had an office which presumably had a door. I could see that it would be totally fine for Clive–or your dad the CEO–to have four kids working or playing quietly in an office with a closed door. Whole ‘nother story if they’re popping out of his cube to run up and down the halls and every “Daddy! Joey took my scissors!” is audible.

    4. Teapot Librarian*

      I went to work with my dad a bunch when I was little. He’s a professor, so we probably didn’t stay the whole day when that happened–I don’t remember. But I do remember that in addition to entertaining myself with books and helping out by photocopying things (hello copyright infringement) and using the mimeograph machine, I would hang out with the department secretary and color using office markers. (Why didn’t my dad bring my own markers with us, I wonder.) She was always very good-natured about it but I wonder if she was actually annoyed.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        At my first company post-college, we had some people who used to do this, and would always drop off their kids with a secretary or assistant – only ever women, never the male assistants – and ask us to give the kids something to color or do.

        It was pretty condescending and gendered, and felt a lot like foisting the parenting off on lower level female employees, which always really annoyed me. It shouldn’t be up to coworkers to watch or entertain someone else’s kids! One of the managers tried to do this to me and when I said no because I wasn’t anyone’s babysitter, I got told “it takes a village to raise a child” which is one of my top hated phrases because people love to use it as an excuse to loop other people into child rearing.

        Even when the kids were really well behaved, I still resented the coworkers who did this.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Oh, I HATE this kind of thing. I still vividly remember a previous job, where covering the recptionist’s lunch break was part of my job. So I was sitting there one day, and this woman came in with her son (maybe 8 or 10 years old?); she had a meeting with one of the consultants.

          And proceeded to ask me, in this sugary-sweet voice, if she should take her son with her into the meeting, or I wanted a “little helper” while she had her meeting. I managed to not blurt “oh HELL NO,” and instead managed something like “oh, I’m sorry, I’m just covering Receptionist’s break, and will be leaving the desk soon.” She wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t stuck watching her kid. I told my supervisor about it, in case she complained, and Supervisor just started laughing, knowing all about my firm “kids are fine, as long as they don’t belong to me!” philosophy.

          1. all aboard the anon train*

            I REALLY dislike the “my kid can be your helper for the day!” spiel. You don’t get to leave them in my cube or tell me to find things for them to help me with.

            Taking over parenting duties is not part of my job, and I always stay firm on it, even though I’ve definitely gotten in trouble or called some not so nice things for refusing to fawn over and babysit a coworker’s child.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              It’s very simple. If I’m not hired as a babysitter – then I’m NOT a babysitter. Your kid = your problem.

              Now, it’s different when someone brings their new baby in for a visit. I’ll happily hold the little one then. And I’ll talk pleasantly when introduced to a coworker’s child. But I’m not anyone’s backup daycare option, and I like it that way! Or if someone had an infant in and just needed somewhere to put him/her while they run to the bathroom or something like that, I’d probably say ok to that. But yeah, not taking over parenting duty for a day. Nope, didn’t sign up for that!

              1. all aboard the anon train*

                Oh, I go for a walk or pretend I have a meeting when someone brings in a new baby. Partially because I don’t find them cute, but also because so many people get weird when I don’t want to hold their baby or coo over how cute they are.

                I’m no longer in an entry level role, but it still annoys me when people try to abuse assistants, interns, or receptionists as daycare providers, because they’re usually people who feel like they can’t turn down such a request from a higher up. They’re not responsible for finding something for your kids to color, so don’t put that burden on them!

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  The way some people treat assistants and receptionists pisses me off in general. What I want to say to people who do stuff like this is: They’re not your slaves, and they’re not there to stroke your ego. And their job isn’t as easy as you think it is, so stop being a condescending jerk!

                  With babies…when handed to me, they mostly go to sleep. Which I figure is more or less a good thing ;-). I’m good with babies; it’s toddlers I have trouble with.

            2. The OG Anonsie*

              Agreed, although this made a memory surface from when I was a kid where my mom worked in a nonprofit that had an office directly adjacent to hers where volunteers would come in and do little manual tasks like stuffing envelopes or running packets through those machines that punch holes and then run spiral binding through them. My mom signed me up as a volunteer with the org, which they were happy to do, and then sent me over there to help out whenever I had a weird day off from school and she couldn’t get a sitter. As far as I could tell, they seemed to not mind since I actually did get some stuff done and was very mellow, but who knows. Maybe they were just gritting their teeth!

              In the spirit of “there’s always a workplace with an exception,” haha.

          2. Thlayli*

            What kind of a lunatic wants a complete stranger minding their child? I would NEVER leave my kids with some random person who just happened to be sitting behind a receptionists desk. You could have been a sex offender for all she knew.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              I know, right?! As it happens, while I’m sometimes annoyed by children and more often by clueless parents, I’d never deliberately harm a child. But I also didn’t want to be responsible if her kid darted out the door or stapled himself or something.

              1. Thlayli*

                I hear you. I don’t think even I would want to mind a child for a total stranger when I’d never met either of them before, and I absolutely adore kids! This lady was just utterly bizarre.

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            And proceeded to ask me, in this sugary-sweet voice, if she should take her son with her into the meeting, or I wanted a “little helper” while she had her meeting.

            Oh, I love this. I love that she clearly expected you to say “why of course the little darling can stay with me!” and drag out a pad of paper and some markers for him, and that you shut that nonsense right down.

            (I’ve got all kinds of sympathy for people whose childcare arrangements fall through. I love kids and sometimes even enjoy them at work. I do NOT love entitled parents.)

            1. AnonEMoose*

              Thanks! And I agree – I empathize with parents; it’s anything but easy these days (one of the many reasons I’m NOT a parent).

              But I don’t like entitlement, and I don’t like it being assumed that of course I think all children are delightful under all circumstances! If you (generic “you”) want my help with your kid(s), then ASK. And it needs to be a genuine request, not a thinly-disguised demand.

            2. Tabby*

              My sarcastic behind would so be fired: “Sure, if you want me to lock them in a drawer and forget they exist.”

              Or, more likely, “Hell no, I’m not a babysitter, TFOH with that tomfoolery, woman.”

              I don’t watch anyone’s brats. Ever. Don’t even look like you’re considering thinking about asking me. lol

              I remember once at church there was a ‘pass the baby moment’ and you could actually HEAR the screech of brakes when one older lady turned toward me with the baby and I gave her this stare that was completely ominously “DO NOT EVEN TRY IT.” She had to laugh, like, “I forgot you don’t hold small children.” I mean, I’d been known to occasionally play with ones who were at least 3, for a minute or two, but as a rule, I never touched children, and rarely spoke to any who were under ten or so.

        2. Ms. Annie*

          “Sure I have something for little Susie and Bobby to do. Here is a really neat colouring book and a tablet so you can google the Brittish cuss words in it after you colour them.”

          1. AnonEMoose*

            LOL! I like the way you think.

            “Sure – I’ll teach them some new songs! Now, Susie, it starts like this:

            Four and twenty virgins
            Came down from Inverness….

            Bobby, yours goes like this:

            My father makes book on the corner.
            My mother makes secondhand gin…”

            “What? You wanted them to learn something!”

            1. Specialk9*

              Ha ha great ideas.

              It’s like that sign one sees in some stores – “Any unattended child will get a Coke and a puppy.”

              1. AnonEMoose*

                A local to me bookstore has a sign featuring a picture of David Bowie from “Labyrinth.” The sign says “Unattended children will be given to the Goblin King.”

              2. DivineMissL*

                I laughed out loud in a mall store where the sign on the stockroom door said, “Unattended children will be boiled in oil and lightly salted.” !!

        3. K.*

          I HATE “it takes a village” at work. My family and my friends who are like family are my village. I am not part of my colleagues’ village. I am not helping to raise my coworkers’ children, because we are not that close. And that’s as it should be!

          And I like kids, as a rule (not a fan of babies, but I like kids) – my coworkers do occasionally bring their kids in, and I genuinely like talking to them. I will go out of my way to say hi to them if they’re here. (We have offices here, so if the kids are behaving you won’t always know they’re here!) But watch them all day? Nah. Not what I’m paid to do, and I’m not part of your village.

        4. blackcat*

          As a child, my dad sometimes did this with me and his secretary. I have no idea how she felt about it, but she generally put me to work. I have lots of memories of taking stuff from her desk over to the filing room and doing a bunch of filing. I was probably 7 or so the first time this happened. I remember doing things like taking the box of pens from the supply room and walking around to all of the desks/offices and delivering new pens. I also checked the paper supplies of printers/copiers and added more paper when needed.

          I was a very mellow child who took particular joy in organizing things. And I was very good at following directions, so I only needed to be shown basic tasks once. I doubt these tasks exist in the same way now–a big office in the mid 90s had a lot more paper than offices today (at least, I hope this is generally the case).

          Notably, I have no memory of my older, less mellow brother being in the office with me at those times.

          1. Bibliovore*

            I used to feel sorry for my three brothers. They need got to go to my dad’s office to work. I was about ten. My dad and I would have breakfast in a coffee shop. I would sort billing, stuff envelopes, do some filing. After reading this thread, I realized what a nightmare it would have been having three boys 7 to 11 running around the office.

          2. Hostess with the Mostess*

            Come to think of it I remember going to my mom’s work and them tasking me with testing every pen in the office to see which ones didn’t work!

          3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

            You made me remember a co-worker’s 7 yr old kid who came to our workplace now and then. We’d fight (light heartedly) over who got to have her for the day. She was smart and loved organizing and filing. She was an advanced reader and was happy to spend one whole morning filing the backlog of invoices numerical and alphabetical. It was a tedious chore that no one wanted but she did it to perfection and was happy. (We kept asked her).

        5. Lauren R*

          “It takes a village to raise a child!”
          “Oh, I’m so glad to hear you feel that way! I guess that means you have plenty of people who would love to pitch in and watch your child at home for the day right? How wonderful! See you later, boss!”

          Now that I think about it, it’s actually pretty rare that I’ve heard anyone say “it takes a village” who was offering help rather than requesting it. The phrase seems to imply a mutual benefit (everyone in a “village” chips in to help one another so anything given comes back to them in the end) but the way it’s typically used seems to mean “looks like my kid’s your problem too, sucker!” haha

      2. Turkletina*

        I went to work with my dad a lot, too. He was a bookkeeper in a warehouse (he had a desk in an office, so it wasn’t like I was running around the warehouse, except to get to the bathroom). He’d give me a stack of carbon-copy invoice forms and I kept myself entertained for *hours*. Even though I was a weird, quiet kid, I still think I probably annoyed the other guy who worked in the office.

    5. AnonEMoose*

      I can remember going to work with my dad on very rare occasions. It would probably never be allowed today, because Dad worked as a mechanic, fixing farm machinery. It worked out, though, because I was the kind of child who was contented for long periods of time as long as I had a book. So Dad would put me up on the seat or in the cab of a tractor or something; I knew not to touch anything, and could be trusted not to.

      I’d have books to read and a snack, and I knew how to climb down and get Dad if I had to go to the bathroom or something. The guy who owned the place would usually get me a bottle of soda out of the machine, or Dad would if I behaved myself. Sometimes if what Dad was doing wasn’t especially complicated or dangerous, he’d let me watch and hand him stuff, and he’d explain what he was doing as he went along. I knew what a socket wrench was and how to check the size of the socket before I was 10.

      It probably wouldn’t have worked as well if I’d been one of those kids who has trouble sitting still for long periods. And it didn’t happen often; I don’t think it was even once a year.

      So I don’t have a big issue with kids in the office on rare occasions, as long as they’re not disruptive and no one expects me to watch them. It sounds like Clive’s kids are violating all of the above. They’re disruptive, they’re there somewhat often, and Clive seems to expect that his coworkers will keep at least something of an eye on them. Or he’s not thinking they need supervision, which is kind of the same as expecting everyone else to watch them.

      1. Clewgarnet*

        My father was an aviation engineer, so I think we had fairly similar experiences! I was allowed to play in the cockpit if I was supervised, and on one memorable occasion I was allowed to climb up the nose landing gear of a 747, but I’d generally curl up in a seat on the plane (first class, of course) with a stack of books, and I was perfectly happy.

        My sister found it far harder and more boring to sit quietly, so she didn’t come with us very often. If she did, she spent most of her time playing air hostess. (Which stood her in good stead, because she’s been working as cabin crew for the past 15 years.)

        1. AnonEMoose*

          It does sound pretty similar – just tractors and combines instead of aircraft! I joke that the smell of WD-40 is one of the smells of my childhood.

          Some of the stuff I picked up from Dad on those occasions is still useful to me. I still tell people that everything I know about troubleshooting I learned from Dad. It doesn’t matter if it’s a car, a tractor, or a computer – the process of figuring out the issue and how to fix it is largely the same. Start with the most obvious and the simplest solution, and if that doesn’t work, keep digging.

    6. nnn*

      Back in the 80s, I would occasionally go into the office with my father, and he would let me bring a computer game and install it on his computer to play while I was there! (I don’t know if there were no IT controls back in the day, or if my father just had the sysadmin privileges to circumvent them.) So I would just sit there quietly playing Carmen Sandiego or something while my father went to meetings. For some time, I thought his job was literally to play computer games.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        My parents owned a Hallmark shop when we were kids. We walked up there after school if we didn’t want to take the bus (Stranger Things times, when you could walk and ride bikes all around with no adults, :)
        ). I would use the bowmaker and ribbon in the back to make bows, type on the typewriter, or read until the shop closed at 5:00 and it was time to go home. My sister liked to help out by wrapping gifts, which I sucked at, so I would straighten cards, etc. or do other small tasks for their employees. I also surreptitiously popped a lot of bubble wrap, LOL, and I loved to explore the stockroom. I was a weird kid.

        But mostly we were told to stay out of the way and not bother anyone. If we did, we weren’t allowed to come in after school; we had to take the bus home. My parents were pretty strict about that. The problem with Clive’s kid’s isn’t the kids. It’s Clive. He needs to take responsibility for his children when they’re in his office.

    7. MCM*

      It’s a big difference depending the the child and the parent. At one job I had one co-worker whose son ran up down the hallway (we worked in cubes) with his truck squealing at the top of his lungs & would jump in chairs & spin around. She didn’t watch him. The other the child would say in parents office, in the corner reading.

      They told both parents to, not bring kids the kids back, because of the squealing kid. The squealer’s mother was a new hire, the other had been with the company for awhile and lost the privilege because of the loud child. They did the blanket policy because they didn’t feel comfortable telling the mother that her child was too loud for the office.
      I think they should say something to the parent about the noise level & running around. See if a situation could be worked out, if not could he work from home if school was out for the day. You also have to ask, if this was a female employee or lower ranking one bringing children in, would something be said?

      I’m not much into kids, and this would drive me up the wall. I’ve also ran into faculty wanting to leave their kids in my office while they were teaching. Not my job, and I will refuse to do it. That one HR has backed up.

      1. Language Student*

        Huh, that sounds like my sister and I, the one time we went to my Dad’s office. He had a major deadline and Mum was busy so he brought us in – I sat reading (probably on the floor somewhere) and my sister spent a lot of time running around, because she was about 5 or 6, we were in an office filled with boring, nondescript rows of computers and she was an energetic kid. (Dad never took us to work again.)

        Expecting coworkers to take care of your kids for you is ridiculous, unless you work at a nursery and you’ve paid them. Glad HR is backing you up there!

      2. JessaB*

        There are few things I genuinely say I HATE in offices, but punishing everyone rather than taking care of one problem employee is right if not at the very, very top, at number two on the list. It smacks of rotten cowardly management.

    8. Tuesday Next*

      You were doing homework and colouring in. Not racing up and down the halls and causing havoc. I’m pretty sure nobody minded.

    9. Margaret*

      I think it’s both field and kid dependent.

      I would go to work with my mom during the summers – but (1) she worked at a church, so have random people, including kids, in the office wasn’t unheard of, and (2) I was totally content to either help her out (e.g., making decorations or craft samples for VBS, make copies) or read a book. But if I had tried to run around, my mom would have noticed and shut it down.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        When I was growing up my mom was a church music director. Sometimes we’d be at the church with her at weird times (don’t remember the circumstances, this was in the 1970s), and we’d basically park in the nursery or kindergarten Sunday-school classrooms because there were TOYS there! I can also remember sitting in a pew reading a book while my mom practiced on the organ.

        1. little fish*

          My grandfather was a church organist/choir director, and my father had fond memories of sitting in a pew, practicing how to wiggle his ears and flip his eyelids inside out to disgust his sister, and listening out for when his dad snuck in “Yes, We have no bananas” on the foot pedals, in the middle of the church song. I wonder if the ipad will make the skill of eyelid-flipping die out. I’d be sort of okay with that cultural loss.

    10. anon24*

      I ended up at work with my dad a few times as a kid (the longest was “bring your daughter to work day” when I stayed for half a day, the rest of the time was only for an hour or so). He worked in a cubicle in a non-customer facing part of bank. I was never there without permission from his boss, and I always knew to sit quietly and occupy myself in his cubicle. I was always very quiet, and never talked to anyone unless they talked to me first. I knew that me being loud or disruptive would get my dad in trouble and maybe make him lose his job, so I always tried to be as good as possible.

    11. DeskBird*

      My mom used to bring me to work with her – but it was a four person office with lots of extra space and I was the quite, introvert kid who was happy just reading – although I probably did hog mom’s computer. When I was a little older I was allowed to wonder the hip downtown area her office was in and go to the movies on my own. I even wrote a radio commercial for her once that made it on air. It made me want to go into advertising. Which it turns out I am not suited for at all.

    12. EddieSherbert*

      I had a professor in college whose 2 kids went to the daycare I worked (so I taught her kids and she taught me, haha). Both her and her husband were professors and occasionally taught evening classes so I’d typically babysit them on campus during class (like once a month?).

      Until one semester I had to take her evening class; that got a little awkward because the kids would come to class with her and have to occupy themselves – She planned well (books, coloring stuff, and iPad/headphones) and everything, but good luck explaining to a 2 year old that he can’t walk over and loudly show his babysitter what he’s doing every 5 minutes (for 3 hours)…

    13. Blue*

      It also sounds like you were parked inside your dad’s office. If a kid is tucked out of the way, has a parent monitoring them, and is just quietly reading/doing homework/playing with an ipad, it may not be a big deal (it certainly isn’t at my office, because most of the time we don’t even know they’re in there). It sounds like OP’s coworker isn’t corralling his kids at all.

    14. Clever Name*

      I had a similar experience going to my mom’s office when I was in grade school, and then walking over to my dad’s office when I was in high school (school and dad’s office were both downtown). And I now very very occasionally bring my 10 year old to my office. It was a good experience for me to see where my parents worked and to just see how grown ups act in an office, and I think it’s good for my son. That said, he’s here for maybe 2 or 3 hours max, and we all have offices with doors. I normally let him play video games on his DS. He gets to visit the candy dish, and I have him say hi to the 1 or 2 coworkers who like kids (without prompting, they’ve both told me they like talking to him).

    15. Oranges*

      I think it really depends upon how disruptive the kids are.

      Like office temperature, everyone’s gonna have a different threshold. 4 energetic kids once every week is like working in a freezer. One normal kid once a month is pretty okay (for me) but not for everyone. And a quiet kid once in a while is usually okay for everyone.

      Bringing your kids to work and expecting your co-workers to look after them… heck no. I will volunteer because I love kids. But that’s me.

    16. yb*

      I used to visit my mom at work when I was young as well. Usually on days when there was some sort of unexpected gap in the regular schedule (like a doctor’s appointment or something). She was in the Army, but most of the time, I just fiddled around with her typewriter, played with the copier, or read a book.

  7. all aboard the anon train*

    #2: What do you do if your manager gets very defensive about feedback? My manager loves to gossip and tells me the performance issues of my coworkers, but if I told him that I was uncomfortable hearing it or that he shouldn’t be discussing it with me, he’d get very defensive and annoyed by my comment because he’d take it, and rightly so, as a critique of him.

    It also makes me wonder what he may be saying about me to other coworkers. His boss and his boss’s boss are pretty conflict avoidant and won’t let us air any negative complaints, so it’s not like I could talk to them about it either.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      Perhaps an embarrassed response? “Oh my goodness, I feel so uncomfortable hearing that!” It might get the point across without your manager feeling as though they are being chastised.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I’ve tried and he still gets defensive that he’s doing something that makes me uncomfortable or feel awkward, and then he tries to justify it. Basically, there’s no way I can think of to say anything where he doesn’t get offended.

        1. Tuesday Next*

          He sounds like a twit. He’s clearly embarrassing you and he’s still trying to justify his behaviour?

    2. TootsNYC*

      Make it be about you, as if you’re asking him a favor. Stress that it makes things really awkward for you, and would he please…

  8. Jubilance*

    One my company’s benefits is a contract for backup daycare – you enroll and then get 10 free visits throughout the year, for when school/daycare is closed. It is glorious. I know not every company can afford to provide this as a benefit, but maybe the EAP can share some info on backup daycare centers?

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I’m in the US and I’ve never heard of it!

          Closest I’ve seen to this is a deal with a local daycare where employees get discounted daycare (usually 5%).

    1. TootsNYC*

      I’ve worked at a few companies that sign up for such a daycare.
      Of course, they’re never big enough to accommodate every client kid on scheduled school closings. So they’re not as powerful for that. But they’re great for the days when your nanny is sick, or the daycare you normally use is closed for the caregiver’s own holiday.

      In fact, my kid was one of the regulars at one of those; they liked having a small core of kids who were always there (and some days they were the ONLY ones there), bcs it made things more familiar for the drop-ins.

      When I run a company, we’re going to arrange big group babysitting/activity/childcare for scheduled out-of-school days.

    2. Kyrielle*

      I covet that and have never heard of anywhere doing it. (And my present employer has what I consider pretty stellar benefits, but, not that stellar!)

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      We have this, but neither my husband nor I have felt comfortable leaving our kids, particularly when they were smaller, with people we’d never met. We vetted their daycare providers and babysitters, and we know the parents who volunteer-lead their activities.

      Backup care is one of those things I thought was a great benefit and then found that when I had kids, I didn’t comfortable using it. I tried asking around for references, thinking I was just an overprotective first-time mom, and I couldn’t find anyone I knew who’d use them and could vouch for them. I also have a child who is on the spectrum, and I do tend to be particular about caregivers for his needs.

    4. yb*

      My former employer had that. It was great. As long as my kid was <5. Once she started school, she had aged out of the daycare option provided by the plan.

  9. Tuesday Next*

    Nobody who has children is under any illusion that his unsupervised kids are sitting quietly somewhere out of earshot. Clive is aware of how his kids are behaving and this makes him at least a little bit of a jerk.

    If Clive is bringing his kids in all day, every day, that they are not at school, he obviously has no other childcare arrangements in place. This isn’t a “sorry, but daycare closed unexpectedly today” situation. I’m guessing he’ll dig his heels in if requested to stop bringing his kids in. Paid childcare for 4 kids is really expensive.

    It’s a bit difficult though when everyone has just grimaced and said nothing all this time, to say “hey dude, there’s a huge problem with your kids”.

    You could address this in the moment, by saying to Clive “please could you keep little Frodo with you as he is disrupting our meeting”, “I need you to supervise Bilbo, she’s climbing onto the photocopier”, “Smaug has set fire to the reception desk”, etc. The more people who say this the better.

    If he doesn’t respond and your managers are as spineless as they appear, then do take it to HR. Point out that besides the impact on productivity, they’re in danger of hurting themselves or others, or damaging company property, if their behaviour is out of control.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      Liability. We had a similar problem at my last job, with two kids who came in every holiday (and sick day) and wreaked havoc. When I pointed out to the COO that it was a liability issue for the company, it mercifully came to a halt.

      1. Goya*


        Liability is my go to for EVERYTHING that my manager doesn’t want to deal with. She’s overly soft-hearted and doesn’t think anyone would ever be taking advantage. I always try to reason with her and find a solution first because we all like the flexibility our job offers, but sometimes it’s like bashing my head against a brick wall (she just can’t fathom that some people aren’t honest and well meaning). The minute I bring up the “who will be responsible if/when XYZ happens”, there’s generally an announcement made later that week ;)

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Nobody who has children is under any illusion that his unsupervised kids are sitting quietly somewhere out of earshot. Clive is aware of how his kids are behaving and this makes him at least a little bit of a jerk.

      You’d think so, but having spent time in stores and restaurants and the like, I just can’t shake this suspicion that there are people who think *their* child’s loud noises are charming and not annoying at all.

      1. Tuesday Next*

        I don’t think they really do. They’re either hoping nobody will say anything or they’ve lapsed into a fugue state caused by sleep deprivation. The latter happens to me frequently.

      2. Daisy Steiner*

        Honestly, it’s amazing how much I’ve got used to now I’m a parent. Kid noises that used to drive me crazy in cafes and such now barely register. I’m not saying it’s ok for him to tune them out, but I can see how it happens when you get so used to it.

        1. Tuesday Next*

          I’m better at tuning out other people’s kids but I’m (usually) hyper sensitive to mine being noisy and irritating other people. Sometimes I’m in a sleep deprived fugue state…

      3. The OG Anonsie*

        It’s a tune-out, I think. You get used to having to do it, so you don’t notice when you are. You’re just acclimated to focusing on something else with the usual distractions happening in the background.

        1. little fish*

          My former boss had two kids and a dog at home, and she could sit at her computer, drafting complex documents, while the facilities team bashed her lateral file cabinet back into operation RIGHT next to her desk. Like, if they’d swung the mallet a few inches wrong, I would have lost my boss. But, when she brought in her kids, she kept them in her office, quietly reading/playing with quiet toys. And, one time, one of her kids used our scrap paper to write us a newspaper about our office. The boss “published” it on the copier for them, and the kid delivered a copy to each of our 6 mail cubbies. It was pretty great. It included articles about the weather inside the office, crime in our office (a circus wanted to steal our candy), and a crossword that was unsolvable, unless you mis-spelled words the same way as the author.

          1. FormerEmployee*

            I am impressed. It sounds as if this woman was one of the very few who managed to do it all – successful at her job and at raising kids. (Perhaps her house looked like it was struck by a tornado.)

    3. SarahKay*

      This reminds me of something I read by a bloke who was now the father of a four year old. He was recounting how he used to be the ‘grumpy childless person complaining about kids running around and being noisy.’ He then went on to say how, now he has a child, he’s realised ‘it’s just them having fun – perhaps playing hide and seek on the train and really, not actually being very noisy, just excited’.

      I thought when I read it, and still think now “I bet absolutely *no-one* in the same train carriage as his ‘oh-so-cute-and-excited-kid’ (/sarcasm) who is running around and hiding behind seats and jumping out would agree with his assessment. I bet they’re just quietly cursing the parent who isn’t getting this kid to sit down and shut up.”

      I do wonder if Clive falls into the same genuinely clueless category. In which case Tuesday Next’s advice to let him know each and every time one of the kids is being disruptive might gradually get the message through to him that no-one else cares how cute his kids are, or how much fun they’re having.

      Finally: “Smaug has set fire to the reception desk” is awesome! :)

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        I love it. “Now I understand it’s just kids being kids!” No, now you deeply love the children in question, and that puts everything in a new light.

      2. AKchic*

        I tell people all the time: Just because YOU are proud of your fornication trophies doesn’t mean everyone else is. You can be enamored with proof that you’ve gotten at least one round of action all you want. Others just want you to keep your demon spawn from screaming it’s head off in public and not hit/trip people who are trying to go about their own day. You are at liberty to think the sun shines out of your loin launched sweetums all you want, but the rest of us aren’t sleep-deprived or suffering from a DNA-induced Stockholm syndrome.

        And yes, I have four of my own. They do not smell like roses, either. As most of them are teen boys – they smell pretty rank.

        1. GingerMalone*

          Ok this language is pretty harsh. And also-there’s a decent amount of people out there who have kids they didn’t create through “fornication” and “loin launching”

          1. bearing*

            Yeah, I’m afraid I draw the line at calling someone else’s children “demon spawn.”
            They are human beings. This is dehumanizing language. Let’s stop it.

  10. Grace*

    People in my office bring kids in from time to time and it drives me nuts. I don’t care as much if they have an office and keep their kids supervised but some of the people who do it just sit in cubes with the rest of us. One woman does it every summer for a solid week between school ending and camp starting. She always presents it as “Gee, there’s a gap between school ending and camp starting so I hope you guys don’t mind!” (as if this is some kind of surprise to her every single year). The worst part is she lets her kid run around mostly unsupervised and she even taught her kid how to use a Nerf gun, which was lying around someone’s desk. She never clears this with anyone ahead of time, just shows up with her kid and is encouraged by other parents who think it’s soooo cute. On one occasion I moved to get some quiet time and then she made a whole production of bringing in a box of croissants to “apologize” to me. I refused to accept her apology croissants because she clearly knew what she did was wrong but went ahead and did it anyway. Long story short, she should have just worked from home seeing as my company would’ve allowed it but nope, she would rather inconvenience others instead.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      If she was allowed to work from home, she should have. I don’t know many companies that would allow that for a whole week.

      1. Grace*

        This woman is ridiculous but knows how to kiss ass so she gets away with everything. Case in point: she shows up every day at around 10:30am then leaves at 11 to go see one of her kids at a nearby daycare for TWO HOURS, then comes back and leisurely eats her lunch. Then she leaves work at around 5:30 or so. I once asked about this and noted that it’s unfair to the rest of us who are supposed to work a full 8 hours and was chastised for “comparing myself to others” and told that woman has “special arrangements that were promised to her a long time ago.”

        I’ve been looking for a new job ever since!

  11. SJW*

    #4 — super normal. We almost always close early on the day before major holidays, but if you want the whole day off, it costs you a full day of PTO. The way we see it is that the people who come to work on what ends up being a short day had to set an alarm, dress for work, and deal with traffic. Employees who take PTO here are fully aware that we close early on the day before big holidays, and they choose to start that day in their jammies. Fair trade, imo!

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same, but you would not believe how many people will fight and argue over an hour or two of PTO (and my company has a generous leave policy, we’re not talking about only getting 10 days of PTO per year) for early closings. I feel so bad for my HR director on those days.

  12. Longtime Lurker*

    I was in that position at an old job — my boss was late to a meeting with a client. I arrived a few minutes before the meeting and was shown into the conference room. Around the start time, the people came in from the client company. I said, “[my boss] is running a bit behind, can we wait a few minutes?” and they said okay. But after ten minutes of chit chat, the most senior member of the group started to get antsy. “I’ve got another meeting at 2,” he said. “We really need to get this started.”
    I had texted my boss but not heard back — I assume she was in the subway, this was in NYC — so, feeling awkward as hell, I started the meeting. She was so pissed when she showed up, and yelled at me back at the office saying I tried to make her look bad. But I really did not know what else to do. Cancel the meeting and leave? Make them kill more time? I still don’t know what would be expected of someone like me in that situation, unless the boss specified that we would meet together outside the client office and go in at the same time.

    1. Been there*

      With a boss with any sense, what you did was perfect. I would have thanked you for keeping things moving and apologized for putting you in that situation.

      With a nut job boss… I don’t think you could have done anything ‘right’. If you had done any of those things you suggested it still would have been ‘wrong’.

    2. Kate*

      Your old boss was a jerk and you handled it perfectly. I’ve been late to meetings and had my employees start without me; the appropriate reaction is to be apologetic to the client for being late and to the employee for putting them in that position.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*


        If you’d been my employee, I’d have thanked you. You accommodated the client’s needs when the boss couldn’t.

    3. The OG Anonsie*

      What’s expected is for you to perform some sort of time-altering magic so the boss could both be late and still be handling everything herself. What’s reasonable is what you actually did.

  13. nnn*

    If you haven’t tried this already, you could also talk to the kids about the noise. Something like “I need you to be very, very quiet. We have lot of work to do here and we need to concentrate” or “You need to go back to your father’s office. We have a lot of work to do here and you’re in the way.” (With a non-mean tone and delivery.)

    They may or may not listen, but children can understand this, and do sometimes perceive strange adults as authority figures. They also might not know that they’re making it difficult to work if no one has told them – children spend most of their time in environments where everyone is either working or playing at the same time, so they may be unaccustomed to the idea that they have free time but others have to be working.

    1. Specialk9*

      I recently had the revelation that I *am* the person to correct a strange child, in very certain circumstances. I forgot that to many kids, adults have authority just by being big, so for that dangerous or bullying behavior at the playground, I am the one who should speak up.

      Being an adult is weird.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Well, that’s what “it takes a village” means. If they’re going to leave their kids with you, they have to accept that it gives you authority over them.

    2. blackcat*

      I’d be careful with this. Lots of parents do not want other people correcting their children’s behavior, even if it is done in a friendly way.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        I used to say that I could do a magic trick. I could make a kid’s parent appear out of nowhere by admonishing a child not to do something in the library branch that could hurt them.

      2. Five after Midnight*

        “Lots of parents do not want other people correcting their children’s behavior”

        Well, then they should do a better job parenting! As in actually giving a shit about what their kids do when out their earshot (and within it). I am tired of dealing with undisciplined brats who do whatever they want no matter the impact on other people around them. When did we completely abandon the social norms so that the parents are no longer held accountable for their children’s behavior while the “village” is chastised for enforcing standards? And don’t tell me that “kids are just being kids” – there is a huge difference between “just being a kid” and rudeness and a complete disregard for anyone and anything around you. I don’t object to the former, but I will stop the latter anytime I see it. (/rant)

  14. Sarianna*

    LW4, this can actually work to your advantage. My company does the early-release before certain holidays when the office will be closed. It’s not a guarantee, and if you have something major going on, you may need to stay, but it is very regular and expected. As an upcoming example, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is such a day (office is closed Thurs/Fri)–so planning a flight in the late afternoon rather than at night is an option, for example. No sense burning vacation time on that side when I could take Monday off instead and have a less hectic flight back!

    1. Samata*

      I got burned by this once. For 12 years we got an announcement to leave at 2:00 on December 23rd. So I booked a ticket from an airport 45 minutes away for 5:30 p.m. in the 13th year.

      That morning my VP decided we were already getting a long weekend due to how the holiday fell and we were the only department that had to stay until 5:00. We had no work, no phones ringing and I was out a plane ticket. From then on I just burned the half day and left at lunch.

  15. Christmas Carol*

    I always liked the Miss Manners approach to unruly kids. Grasp the child’s wrist firmly in your hands, squeeze very tightly while twisting, look him or her directly in the eye and state, “If you keep this up, SOMEBODY is going to end up hurt.” The trick it to make sure the child reads between the lines and understands exactly who the somebody is.

    1. Aurion*

      I would not do this, because squeezing a child tightly will likely hurt them, and you do not want to be the one to physically hurt someone else’s child.

      Just do not lay hands on other people’s children.

      1. Kate 2*

        They’re joking. Miss Manners is known for being very, very proper, even to the point of ridiculousness, and the whole mobster routine was meant to be a comedic contrast.

        1. fposte*

          No, it’s actually a Miss Manners thing; it’s just remembered as being somewhat more aggressive than it was. The actual quote: “Grab an offending child by the arm and say, with a firm voice and hypocritical smile, ‘I think you’d better stop that–you might get hurt.’ It helps if you have a tight grip on the arm when saying this.”

    2. EddieSherbert*

      Assuming this is a joke as I can’t imagine Miss Manners telling someone to give a child a “snake bite”! ;)

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        I read it in the voice I already read Miss Manners with in my head and cracked up. I’m now imagining her eloquently describing the process of giving a wedgie.

    3. Teal Green*

      Harming or threatening a child with harm is not the appropriate response here, no matter how unreasonable the parent is being.

      1. Specialk9*

        I would get you arrested for hurting my child, and maybe fired.

        Seriously, I’m the most considerate person you could work with so I’m no Clive, but I’m also a ferocious mama bear. Touch my baby at your own peril.

        1. fposte*

          I’d presume somebody who felt that ferociously probably isn’t leaving their kids to run riot over an office, though.

    4. Katniss*

      That is not what Miss Manners recommends. What she actually recommends can be found with a quick Google search. And is still not a good idea as you shouldn’t be touching other people’s children.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, this was not Miss Manners’ recommendation; this has echoes of it but it has gone through a pretty savage filter. However, I think that it’s okay to touch other people’s children when they’re running around the office, and I absolutely would feel free to physically redirect them, take them by the hand, pick them up, etc.; I just wouldn’t try to hurt them.

        1. Us, Too*

          I don’t know if I agree here. It is certainly OK to physically touch another person if their safety is at risk and doing so is the most expedient way to prevent harm. It is generally not OK to touch someone without their implicit or explicit invitation otherwise. I mean, I wouldn’t lose my temper over it if someone did it to my kid, but at the same time I wouldn’t touch another parent’s child because they were annoying me. I’d use my words just like if an adult was talking too loud or whatever. :)

          1. fposte*

            If the words worked and the child went back to the parent on their own, sure. But I’d have no qualms about any of the touches I described if words didn’t quickly solve the problem.

    5. Thlayli*

      If this is a joke then it’s not very funny. If you are actually serious then what you are advocating is physical assault of a child, and not even a child you are responsible for. Which is both illegal and very very wrong.

    6. Kate 2*

      I’m surprised nobody got the joke, I thought it was really obvious. And seriously, nobody would *actually* advocate for hurting a child and threatening them. Maybe no one else on here reads Miss Manners?

      1. fposte*

        I read Miss Manners; the original was not as intense as conveyed here (she said nothing about twisting the arm, for instance).

  16. Ms. Annie*

    I had a very unique “bring the kids to the office” setup.

    I was the IT person that ran the month end reports. The system was offline to all other users during the time I was running the reports. Usually, it took from about 4:30 pm until 730am here next day to complete. But, daycare closed at 6:00 pm and did not open the next day until 7 am.

    The deal was that I could start month end at 4:30 and work until the first stopping point at about 5:30. I’d step out long enough to pick up the kid and get some food, then come back and get to the end of the night which was about 8pm. The next day, he and I would come in about 5:30 am and work until I got the system up for all users about 7:30. Then I stepped out to take him to school.

    But, he had snacks and movies. Most everyone but the janitors were gone by the time I got back with him. In the morning, it was just the early shift when he was there, and it was only for an hour or so. He had his book or movie and his breakfast and just sat on the other side of my desk. People would sometimes swing by and talk to him, but other than that, you wouldn’t know he was there.

    I shudder to think about having to have them there the whole day. I don’t think there are enough videos int he world for that.

  17. OP #2*

    Oh, #2 was mine! Now being several years out of those jobs, it is abundantly clear what was the problem…..toxic, toxic, toxic workplaces. Blaming/finger-pointing, dysfunctional responses to problems, harassment, etc. The over-sharing seemed to be a symptom of a much bigger underlying problem.

    1. Jeanne*

      Thanks. That sounds about right. Bad bosses are never just one thing like the oversharing. They have lots of bad management.

  18. Blue Sky Jessica*

    I find “bringing kids to work” stories so fascinating, because I’ve never been in an office-only work environment where it would be feasible. It’s funny to imagine Dan the forklift operator tooling around with little Dan Jr. on his lap.

    1. carwashteen*

      As a teen I worked at a carwash and the manager’s wife would fill in if we were short staffed, so she’d bring their two daughters in. They’d run around and play, but since they’d been doing it since they were babies they knew the rules, ie. if you run into the parking lot watch for cars first, don’t mess with the equipment, stay out of the employees way. We loved when they were there and they got to know a lot about the business and would help out in age appropriate ways.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      My parents ran a small business when I was growing up that included a lot of industrial-grade (and dangerous) equipment. I was fine at work with them and would color, read, or watch TV in the “office” area away from the finger-crushing/cutting hazards. My sister went to daycare because she kept trying to stick her hands inside of running machines, and she kept scaring the crap out of my mom. Once we got big enough to learn to use them safely (10-ish), they put us to work.

      The folks down in our copy room are super-impressed that I know how to use an industrial paper cutting machine, though.

    3. Jeanne*

      Yup. Chemistry labs and a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant do not lend themselves to bringing in kids. It was forbidden and I never had to deal with any kids running around.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        A part-time library worker brought in infant to the branch for a couple of days because her daycare fell through. (She was later told by Grandboss she couldn’t do it again).

        At first the kid was excited. By the end of the day, the expression on his face was “Okay, I think we’ve gotten all we can out of this. When do we go home?”

        And when mom brought him again the next day, the expression was definitely “We’re doing this AGAIN today?”

    4. Mrs. Fenris*

      My dad was a dairy farmer. When your parent is a farmer, their work, and their work space, is completely blurred with your physical home as well as the whole family’s life. But I did get taken “to the barn” with Dad for various reasons. If it was just for a few minutes I usually had to sit in the office (an old, filthy, and sort of fascinating space that I really wish I had pictures of now, but it didn’t really grab me then), but if it was going to be a bit longer I could go over to the baby calf barn and that was wonderful…baby calves are the most adorable baby animals in the whole world. The milking parlor was noisy and busy; you definitely didn’t want to be in the way while those guys were milking 250 cows in batches of 20. Best of all was if there was lots of time to kill and somebody else’s kids were there, because we could go up in the old hay loft and play hide and seek, and probably expose ourselves to all kinds of hantavirus as a bonus!

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I credit my farm upbringing for the pretty good immune system I have now. I spent a fair amount of my childhood in the barn, digging in the garden, and handling all kinds of animals. I have my share of allergies, so certain times of the year I’m very grateful for Claritin, but it’s fairly rare for me to be ill for more than a day or two with other stuff.

        We had pigs – and I submit that baby pigs are just as adorable as calves are. Of course, they’re not quite as much fun when you’re trying to pitch out the pen, and you have 10 or so of them all crowding around you. Because they’re chewing on your boot tops, trying to see if your pant legs are edible, and making it a real challenge to avoid skewering one of them with the pitchfork. I have no object to kebabs, but that’s not how you want to go about it!

  19. GreyjoyGardens*

    With Clive, the “nice, well-liked” guy with the pack of unruly kids, I wonder if he’s being Darth Nice to get away with not having child care arrangements? I’m reminded of the letter some time back with the LW sick of covering for their flaky co-worker (who was always late, didn’t do her work, etc.) , but LW didn’t want to get Flakey in trouble because Flakey was such a sweetheart.

    I don’t think it’s always a deliberate strategy, but I’ve seen Darth Nice type people get away with a lot because no-one wanted to get such a dear, sweet, lovely person in trouble or make them unhappy.

    So even if Clive is Dumbledore and St. Francis and Brienne of Tarth all rolled into one, a higher-up needs to speak to him about his unsupervised children. If one of those kids has, or causes, an accident and gets injured, or gets someone injured, there could be some hardcore liability for the company, and *that* ought to give the higher-ups some pause and make them tell Clive to find childcare ASAP.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      Part of my job involves working with little kids. My experience is that some (not all, not a lot. SOME) working parents struggle with how to manage their kids during “school” hours on the days that my org is closed. We’re talking about parents who’ve had their kids in daycare from the age of six weeks so Mom could go back to work. Then school, then camp during the summer. There is a significant amount of working parents who almost never see their kids between the hours of 8 and 6. Some still manage to do the hard work of parenting and being wonderful presences in their children’s lives. Clive sounds like he enjoys his set schedule of having other people deal with his kids until he gets home from work. Otherwise he would take the day off and actually spend time with them.

      So I’d agree that Clive is feigning cluelessness and deliberately overplaying the niceness, with a dash of flat-out not wanting to deal with his kids. Doesn’t mean he’s a bad dad. Just that he’s not interested in occasionally adjusting his daily schedule around the “inconvenience” of his own freaking children.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          I am speaking about the specifics of my own job dealing with these families. I’m not going to lie about the honest reality of my life to appease comment pedants. I don’t feel that it’s fair to give men equal credit for emotional and at-hone labor that still mostly falls on women. It’s still mostly women who have to take leave from work and then make the tough decision to go back to work when they’re still healing from major physical trauma. I’ll include men in my commentary of my own truthful observations (which count as valid data) when I see men actually start performing those actions with my own eyes.

        2. nonegiven*

          Even if dad is a stay at home parent, it’s the mom that has to recover from childbirth and go back to work.

  20. BlueWolf*

    My mom would often take me and/or my sister to work after school if she had to work late. But she had an office that we could sit in and do homework or other quiet activities. Occasionally we would play in the mail room or other parts of the office, but that was usually after hours when most or all people were gone. As we got older she would sometimes have us do filing or other menial tasks to keep us busy, or we would just play on a computer. I recall that she mostly kept us in line and I don’t think it was ever for a whole day. If we were sick then she would work from home or we would be home alone when we were old enough.

  21. Sam Carter*

    It’s rare for any of my co-workers to bring their kids in, but it does happen occasionally. They mostly watch movies or do homework quietly, but if they start becoming loud and disruptive, it helps to give them a simple (and often unnecessary) task. It’s more effective to ask for their help rather than suggesting they do something. I’ve asked kids to move empty boxes from one end the hallway to the other so the janitor would find them to recycle. This wasn’t required for recycling, but it helped the kid burn energy. Maybe you need a box of rubber bands organized in bundles of 10?

  22. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: You mention that your company offers a good amount of time off. So why is Clive bringing his kids into the office and acting powerless to control them when he could easily take the day off and stay home with them? He knows he can bring them all into the office and everyone will be scared to say anything about it. He knows that he can shut himself away to do his work while other people will feel forced to control his kids for him, at least if they want to get their own work done.

    I don’t care how popular and outwardly nice he is. He knows what he’s doing. He’d rather work than stay home with four energetic kids.

  23. Niccola M.*

    Do any of your coworkers have teenage children? Responsible teenagers who like kids, babysit or volunteer with them, and most importantly, are also off school the same days as Clive’s kids and are willing to exchange their free day for the ready folding?

    “Hey, Clive, my son Jacob charges $X an hour and he’s got the same break schedule as your bunch. Should he come in with me on Monday?”

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I hope Jacob charges a lot, because trying to keep 4 rambunctious kids cooped up in a conference room all day (to keep them from disturbing everyone even just by being in the halls) sounds horrible.

  24. Quickbeam*

    Just thinking how glad I am that I don’t work with Clive. Not only is it completely disruptive, it is a screaming liability issue as well.

    1. stitchinthyme*

      Sometimes there are things you just can’t allow for without leaving a couple of hours early. But she should have at least called, or discussed beforehand her expectations of her employee in case something like this should happen. If I’d been the employee, I would probably have apologized to the client and tried to call my boss and see what was up.

  25. nononsense*

    #1, my response was always, “Nah, don’t know anything about kids. And if they injure themselves they’ll just have to bleed. I faint at the sight of blood so I’ll be flat out on the floor.”

  26. Anon Applicant*

    I just turned down an interview with Uber even though if I got a job there I’d make half again my current salary and get good benefits as opposed to the no benefits I get now. I told them I wasn’t interested because I didn’t think the company was a good culture fit for me.

    I’m really on the fence about not having said more. I want them to know in their hearts that they are losing candidates because apparently until very recently it was totally fine to be a raging misogynist and/or serial sexual harasser at Uber, and because the way they treat their drivers is pretty gross, and because the way they deal with local regulations is also pretty gross. But coming out and saying that has a much higher probability of hurting me than of convincing Uber to change anything. So I just said the vague thing about culture and hoped that they can connect the dots that when a female candidate says they don’t want to work there because of culture, the subtext is “I don’t want to work there because I think I will be discriminated against and/or harassed and have no recourse unless I write a post on Medium that goes viral.”

    1. Starbuck*

      With how much all that stuff has been in the news lately (I don’t live in Silicon Valley or even California but I can recall hearing/reading many Uber related stories on the news the past few years) I am sure they know people are getting turned off because of that stuff… I’d hope so, anyway.

  27. Steph*

    My parents have owned and managed their own company all my life and I have very, very fond memories of visiting during school holidays. We’d get given an office and would play computer games (MS DOS style!) and, when older, would get put to work filing or putting labels on cans or some such.
    I never never realised we would have been a bit of nuisance (though mum did keep us reined in appropriately, I think) – I always thought I was being an awesome help by being there!
    Mum and Dad’s poor employees! They wouldn’t have even be able talk to one boss about the other for fear of saying the wrong thing about the other spouse!

  28. OP #3*

    I was OP#3. Alison’s advice was excellent; I occasionally still work with the people from that company (fellow vendors), so it’s good that I didn’t burn the bridge. That said, most of the people at that company who I still encounter would probably share my sentiment. Things haven’t improved over there unfortunately.

  29. stitchinthyme*

    So glad no one in my office is like Clive…occasionally my coworkers do bring their kids in, but it’s not very often, and I usually only see them around lunchtime, when everyone gathers in the kitchen to eat; they don’t disrupt anything or make much noise. Of course, I’m one of the few women I know who runs the other way when I see small children. All my other female coworkers will be fawning and cooing when someone brings in a baby, while I’m just hoping no one tries to make me hold it. (Most people who know me are well aware that I’m not a kid person, so they don’t try to inflict them on me.)

  30. Rachel*

    Nothing about this guy’s poor work/life management or parenting skills would make him “valued and popular” as a colleague in my book. Something tells me he sucks at being a dad too.

    I’d be asking the boss to sort it out, fast. And looking for a new job if he didn’t. It’s a workplace, not a child minding service. If you can’t make arrangements for your kids when you’re at work, don’t go to work. It’s that simple. Most people can manage to find a child minder when they need to. What makes this guy so special that it’s worth disrupting the whole department’s productivity just because he can’t balance basic life responsibilities?

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