my daughter refuses to tell interviewers why she left her last job

A reader writes:

My daughter got fired from her first full-time job for chronic tardiness. Due to a combination of youth, inexperience, and (in my opinion) stupidity, she somehow missed the signs that she was in danger of losing her job until they called her in one day and told her to hit the road. According to her, she was not given any explicit warnings that (to her) clearly spelled out “You MUST fix this or you WILL be fired.” That is unfortunate if true; however, the fact that being chronically late to work is something that can potentially get you fired from just about any job should be self-evident to anyone, in my opinion, and I was quite taken aback to learn that she was not aware of this.

All of that is water under under the bridge, of course, and the problem immediately facing her now is how to answer the “Why did you leave your last job?” question at interviews. From what she’s telling me, I’m afraid the way she’s been handling this could be torpedoing her chances of getting hired.

She tells me that when she’s asked that question, she has been calmly and politely declining to talk about why she left her previous job. Am I correct to feel that this is a big mistake? In my opinion, that gives the impression that she is hiding something (which she basically is), and they are going to find out anway if they call her last employer (which I understand is pretty much s.o.p. in most hiring processes). I can’t imagine that NOT leaving a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who is contemplating hiring her.

I told her that I think she should be as transparent as possible about this and address it head on, perhaps by by saying something like, “This is really embarrassing to admit, but I made a dumb rookie mistake at my last job and was late too many times. This led to the loss of my job. I have learned a lot from this mistake and I don’t intend to ever repeat it. I realize how important reliability is to employers, and I promise to make punctuality my highest priority on my next job.”

I’m sure this particular script can be improved upon, but you get the idea. They are probably going to find about this one way or another (if they don’t write her off then and there due to her evasiveness). Refusing to talk about why she left the job seems completely counter-productive.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to wave off advice that comes from dear old Mom (what does that old fuddy-duddy know, right? LOL), and I know she’ll never write to you herself. So … do you think I’m on the right track here? If not, please set me straight. On the other hand, if you do think she should be handling this differently, please advise, because I need some ammunition to convince her that she needs to change her approach.

She keeps getting interviews that don’t go past first base, and of course, the longer this goes on, the longer the gap in her employment history is going to get, which of course will just make matters worse.

P.S. I know finding another job is HER problem, first and foremost, but it’s also my problem, because I need for her to not be living at home for the rest of her life!

You are right and she is wrong. (And that is possibly the first time I have said that about a parent’s advice in the history of writing this column, where I usually end up having to dismantle terrible advice from parents!)

Refusing to answer an interview question is … well, a really big deal! There are times when it makes sense to do it, like if the question is offensive or straying into territory that would be illegal for the interviewer to consider (like asking about a disability or religion or your plans to have children) — but even then, it’s smart to do it pretty delicately. But refusing to answer a very normal, commonplace question about why she left her last job is going to come across really badly. First, the interviewer will assume the worst — not only that got fired, but that she got fired for a really terrible or embarrassing reason, like that she embezzled or that she was holding nude photo shoots in the office. Second, they’re going to think the refusal itself, regardless of the reason, is a sign that she doesn’t understand professional norms and will be difficult to work with.

Lots of people get fired! And they go on to find work again, even when they get asked about the firing in interviews. But they do it by handling the topic with some grace, meaning that they give exactly the sort of answer you suggested. If they instead just openly refuse to answer the question, their chances of getting hired again … are not great.

Maybe you can suggest she do a thought experiment and pretend that she’s interviewing nannies for a hypothetical future kid (or a pet-sitter or something else that she can imagine herself needing to hire in the future, where she’d have real personal investment in hiring the right person and where the stakes would feel high). Ask her to imagine herself asking that person why they left their last job, and them refusing to answer. Ask her, too, to imagine that she has several other strong candidates for them, all of whom are open and forthcoming about their work histories. It’s possible she’ll come back with an answer like “I’d give that person a chance!” but hopefully it’ll still give her some insight into why other people wouldn’t.

The wording you suggested is excellent and I hope you can convince her to use it.

{ 361 comments… read them below }

  1. Kathleen_A*

    “She tells me that when she’s asked that question, she has been calmly and politely declining to talk about why she left her previous job.”

    No no no no no no no. She absolutely has to address it, not only because this is the sort of thing employers always ask, but also because it’s exactly the sort of thing they have a right to know. I like your script a lot, OP.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Good job, OP! I would be thinking she is an axe murderer or something. Without context, I couldn’t begin to determine if the firing mistake was something that someone could overcome or not. And as far as firings go, beinng late too many times is really pretty benign. She definitely needs to fess up and use the script. Good luck!

      1. MtnLaurel*

        It’s also really easily fixable, unlike being fired for poor attitude or rudeness to customers.

      2. Jesca*

        Haha I know my mind would go to “well maybe they started finding dead bodies under a bridge near by and couldn’t prove it was her but …” type of thing because who else doesn’t answer that question!!!

        But I think everything looks like a big deal when you are young too. Maybe it would also help to put it in context for her that lots of people, especially ones new to the work force, get fired for really mundane things all the time. Maybe you have a couple examples of successful people you know who were fired and how they went on to bigger things while still disclosing it. And maybe also point out that she will likely only need to do this one time (which is during this looking for employment round) as she will likely (hopefully) stay a good couple years at the next one. The one after that probably won’t ask why she left the first job (I mean, it is not unlikely).

        1. Jadelyn*

          This is a really great point. She’s probably assuming that disclosing it will be an automatic deal-breaker, that having gotten fired for something like that will permanently brand her as a f***-up at work, etc. It’s hard to put it in perspective when you’re young and new in the workforce, so it might help for her to see that there are plenty of us who’ve been fired for things and gone on to have perfectly successful careers later.

    2. Curious Cat*

      *covers hands over face* Oh nooo I’m just picturing them asking, “What made you leave your last job?” and her sitting there (smiling?) politely saying, “I’d prefer not to answer that question.” I wouldn’t even know how to follow up as an interviewer!

      1. Lynca*

        I imagine the interviewer would just start seeing red flashing lights and the mind’s loudspeaker blaring “abort mission.”

        I’d have a hard time not saying “Thank you, we’re done here.”

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          I’m imagining a robot breaking through the interviewers door waving waffley arms yelling “Danger Will Robinson”

        2. College Career Counselor*

          She wasn’t employed as a scrivener, was she?

          But, yes, as painful as it is, she has to address the issue AND what she’s learned from it. From the employer’s perspective, the “cover-up” is worse than the “crime” here.

      2. Snickerdoodle*

        Right? I’m wondering how she’s not picking up on the expressions of the interviewers when they hear that. They have to look taken aback at least for a second. You are not getting the job if your interviewer looks appalled at anything you say. Or if you say something stupid and they write it down . . . which I’m sure they did.

      3. Samata*

        I would immediately think she was wrapped up in some lawsuit and not allowed to talk about it. And I’d pass.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I know! She makes it so much by declining to talk about it, because now instead of it being a dumb, run-of-the-mill rookie mistake (chronic tardiness), she’s made it sound like she did something so egregious that it would be an automatic deal-breaker if she mentions it. Even when I quit jobs, I have to explain why in interviews!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This, exactly. The truth is SO much more benign than what many interviewers will assume that she’s better addressing it head-on, and OP’s explanation is absolutely perfect.

    4. Catalin*

      Yes! “I’d really rather not discuss it” and, “Oh, I won’t be discussing that, thank you,” are things you reply to:
      Are you pregnant? Are you trying to get pregnant?
      Why aren’t you married?
      You should lose weight.
      You should divorce your spouse.
      Have you considered Amway?
      What kind of underwear do you use?
      Do you want to swing with my husband and me?
      Let me tell you about this exciting MLM I’m involved with!
      Do you dye your hair?
      Do you wax?
      Are you about to quit?
      Why are you leaving?

      1. On Fire*

        For some reason, I was reading these questions as happening during an interview, wondering what kind of weird hiring manager you’d ended up with!

        1. Catalin*

          I’d think them impossible, but I’ve read a great deal on this site, so I’d bet someone out there has encountered these questions in a work interview.

          1. Lynca*

            I got the pregnancy question when I was first applying out for my first, full time job. Needless to say I was fine giving a “That’s not appropriate to discuss in an interview” and knew that I didn’t want the job after that.

          2. Ellen N.*

            I had a job interviewer ask me if I would have to leave work on time every day to go home and cook dinner for my husband. The same interviewer said, “I know it’s illegal to ask this question, but do you have children.”.

            1. Julia*


              I’m in grad school right now in an environment where being married while in school is highly unusual, and sometimes people ask me how I balance grad school with having a husband. And I’m like, well, he’s a grown man so he can cook dinner when I’m busy. (Plus, single people have to eat as well?!)

              1. tangerineRose*

                To be consistent, the same people should be shocked that single guys don’t starve, right? :)

                1. Just Employed Here*

                  Or single gals, if cooking dinner is something you do only if you have a husband.

                  Maybe they assume those single guys go home to mommy’s for dinner every night? ;-)

      2. AKchic*

        Seriously. I answered “I don’t discuss that” one time only, when I was asked “what’s your religion?”. The interviewer shot back “well how am I to know what your moral and ethical views are if I don’t know?” I smiled and said “well, generally moral and ethical employers know that the question is illegal to ask, both by state and federal law, so I’ll do you the favor of pretending I didn’t hear you just try to ask me twice”.
        I was hired. I was desperate for a job. I worked for 8 weeks as an administrative assistant where I was never once allowed in the office other than to be shown the computer I’d eventually be using (if they ever trusted me to use it), feeding their two ostriches and multiple turkeys (yes, in Alaska!) and polishing antiques. I was “let go” because the warehouse boy (16 and would be going back to school in two weeks and would be turning in his notice soon) who went to their church (a bigoted, hateful cesspool that I have been banned from since 1998 and oppose with every fiber of my being) “can do the job we hired you to do just fine”.

        To say I loathe that place is an understatement. I absolutely refuse to give anyone a referral to their “business” since I know where some of the profit will go.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          ‘…generally moral and ethical employers know that the question is illegal to ask, both by state and federal law…’
          Actually, unless your state prohibits it – and it is unlikely it does – this is not an illegal question. And based on what my company’s outside counsel says about ‘illegal’ questions, there is only one: the salary history question in states where it is prohibited by law. Otherwise, there are no illegal questions.

          Discrimination for religion is illegal as it should be (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act). Asking dumb questions like this bring necessary scrutiny to biased hiring practices, and asking them is highly indefensible, but the question itself is not illegal.

          Here’s why: your religion *can* be a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). If you’re applying for a job writing Sunday School classroom materials, your religious views are relevant. If you’re applying to a Civil Service job, your age is a BFOQ, and asking about it is NOT prohibited by law. In fact, the ADEA expressly states that asking about your age is not prohibited by law. But if someone asks, they better show there’s a good reason for it.

          This is a sophisticated concept, which is why I listen to our company’s outside counsel on employment law, and ignore articles telling me about ‘illegal’ questions.

          1. Kate 2*

            I think OP would know if religion was relevant to the job. And asking what someone’s religion is is HOW they discriminate. If you refuse to answer they know you’re not “one of us”. Also lawyers aren’t perfect. Even lawyers in the same field will disagree on things. I suspect this is one of them. I can’t see any way that asking an interviewee their religion ISN’T discrimination. If you say Jewish for example, are equally or better qualified as the Christian candidates and don’t get hired, bam, you have a good case for a lawsuit. Which is why, as well as because of the law, smart employment lawyers tell you not to ask at all.

            1. Lars the Real Girl*

              Asking the question is not illegal, or discriminatory. Making hiring decisions BASED on that information is discriminatory and illegal.

              Most companies err on the side of “don’t ask” so that there’s no perception of discrimination (which obviously works for things like religion, but not so much race or gender.)

            2. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Kate, I said and still agree that the question was irrelevant, biased, discriminatory, and indefensible. My point was and still is that it was not illegal to ask it, as AKchic asserted. See the difference?

              And no, lawyers don’t disagree on this point. I’ve been in staffing 35+ years, and bet I have engaged with outside counsel more than you have on this topic. Those smart attorneys tell us to be very sure there’s a valid, defensible reason for asking specific questions. They do not tell us to ‘not ask at all’ because there can be bona fide reasons for asking.

              Again, this is a sophisticated concept that people tend to oversimplify. Discrimination? Illegal. Asking irrelevant, biased questions? Not illegal, except for specific salary history bans.

        2. Media Monkey*

          presumably you needed a strict moral compass to avoid corrupting the ostriches and turkeys though. they were just looking out for their wellbeing!

    5. ThatGirl*

      Yes. Every single interview I’ve ever had after my first post-college job has asked why I’m looking to leave or did leave my last job. It was hard to answer when I’d just been fired, but I am sure my fumbling of that question early on led to me tanking some interviews, and once I got better at answering it things went much better.

    6. Sally-O*

      Knowing how mother-daughter relationships work, it’s VERY possible that the daughter is telling her mom one thing and doing another. When we take our mom’s advice, we don’t like to admit it. ;-)

      1. Specialk9*

        I’d generally agree, but the “calmly and politely declining” sounds like the daughter thinks her way actually is the uber-professional approach! (Which, oh dear, no.)

        1. OP*

          You may be right, Specialk9. I’m pretty sure she does think she’s handling this in a “professional” manner.

      2. OP*

        I hear you, but I don’t think that’s happening here. She’s a terrible liar and usually doesn’t even try. If she doesn’t want to tell me something, she just acts secretive about it rather than making something up. (Come to think of it, do I see a pattern here? LOL)

    7. designbot*

      Yup. I’ve interviewed someone who did this before to a certain extent. He admitted to being fired but said he had no idea why—it came out of nowhere, he’d gotten good feedback on his work, it was done by HR not his direct managers, they wouldn’t tell him why. I even tried to ask him hey, well, they may not have said in so many words, but what was your read on the situation? Still, nothing. My boss and I literally wound up discussing over dinner on a business trip whether he sexually harassed someone, tanked a project budget, or they just realized they’d hired him on at the wrong level. The latter would’ve been forgivable (and correctable), but the former not. By shutting down any inquiry on it, he forfeited the chance to take control of the narrative.

    8. Emily K*

      This vaguely reminds me of the comedy trope with a genteel rich person whose lawyer or investment advisor is trying to ask them basic questions like what their assets are or how much they want to invest, and the person demurs saying, “Oh, I don’t like to talk about money.” Even though…the whole point of the meeting is to talk about money, and they can’t proceed without doing so!

  2. Chriama*

    Alison, your link about nude photo shoots is broken and leads to a ‘page does not exist’ page.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Me, too! Every sentence, I think my mouth dropped open a little bit more. I can’t believe I missed that the first time.

      1. H.C.*

        I think we’re ripe for a “worst colleague” poll, in addition to the “worst boss” one, for this year’s end.

    1. Anony McAnonface*

      Oh gosh I desperately want an update to this one! I’d forgotten how bonkers this one was.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        I thought there was an update or was that an update to a different but similar letter?

    2. Anon.*

      I missed that one! Thanks for the link.

      I actually know lots of folks who do stuff like this all the time. Bodybuilders, powerlifters, anyone cutting fat and building muscle. They are obsessed with selfies and IG.

  3. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Well…..she has the calm and polite part correct. Not so much on the not answering portion.

    Is she embarrassed? If so it’s perfectly understandable. But! If she admits it was a mistake and she learned, her interviewers will understand. And people like people who own up to their mistakes! While I wouldn’t say this could become an asset, it certainly doesn’t need to hold her back like it is.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Even if she’s not embarrassed, there should at least be a way to explain why that job wasn’t the right fit for her (so she didn’t perform her best) but this one will be. A teenager might not be interesting in scraping and begging and explaining that she’s soooo humbled by her experience and will always defer to authority from now on – at least, snarky teenage Lil Fidget wouldn’t have been – but they can explain that Dishwashing wasn’t the right career for them and they’ve realized they have a passion for Lifeguarding, or whatever.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I rather suspect that she’s hoping that if she doesn’t tell them, they’ll ignore it and move on and she won’t have to deal with it. She sounds clueless enough to think this could work.

    3. lyonite*

      “Embarrassed” was my read on it too. Not that it’s an excuse, but to me this sounds like someone who’s going through some major re-alignment of what life is going to expect from her, and doesn’t want to have to face admitting it to anyone else. Which, yeah, that sucks, but it’s survivable. Hope she figures that out.

      1. Amber T*

        Exactly, especially if she was someone who got through high school/college/early life just fine as is, then real life comes and bites you on the ass to say hello.

      2. aebhel*

        Yeah, my guess as well. I was pretty mortified the first time I was fired (even though I hated the job). Fortunately (?) for me, I’m blunt by nature so it wouldn’t have occurred to me to try to misdirect about it.

        Loads of people get fired and go on to have successful careers. This isn’t the end of the world, as long as she stops shooting herself in the foot about it.

  4. BRR*

    I almost can’t imagine a situation where I wouldn’t immediately reject a candidate who declined to tell me why they left their last job. I’d probably imagine it was something far more egregious.

    Now for getting someone to listen to their parents, that I do not know how to do. Can you send her a link to here?

    1. Lou*

      I mean, it sounds like LW was hoping that she would get advice from Alison to show her daughter.

    2. Antilles*

      I almost can’t imagine a situation where I wouldn’t immediately reject a candidate who declined to tell me why they left their last job.
      If a candidate refused to tell me why they’re looking for a new job, I’d *instantly* begin figuring out how quickly I could end the interview since your candidacy is now dead and buried and I have plenty of other things I could be doing.

      1. Loren*

        “If you refuse to answer they will assume the worst and you will have no chance of getting that job.” The end.

    3. Lumen*

      Same. My first thought is going to be “You were caught stealing” and my second, third, and fourth thoughts are going to go rapidly downhill from there. And most hiring managers are going to be too busy to ever get around to the “aww, maybe it was a totally normal reason and she’s just embarrassed” thought. They don’t owe applicants the benefit of the doubt on this when their business could be on the line.

      Most good employers – and even plenty of bad ones – are less interested in the mistake you made than seeing that you’ve learned from it.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I’d also assume that even if it was a basically innocuous reason that someone can correct, such as this one, that the candidate would bring drama. That alone would prevent me from moving forward. I mean, rather than just tell me, you’re going to make it a Big Secret Deal?

        1. Lindsay J*

          I wouldn’t assume drama necessarily, but I would assume they were going to be the type of person that would think that she could decline to do things that aren’t explicitly in her job description.

          Like, if she declines to answer the interview question, is she going to decline to provide receipts on her expense reports? Or decline to show up on days where it rains?

      2. Amber T*

        I have an overactive imagination and I would immediately jump to crazy ridiculous shenanigans this candidate got themselves into (like, for example, any of the letters that make the readers here go WTF??), then I would probably placate myself with “it probably wasn’t so bad” with the stealing or the drama with coworkers or something like that. Even so, I wouldn’t think it would be something as innocuous as “I was tardy a lot.”

      3. Specialk9*

        Yeah, I mean, we just had a letter about a subordinate who hid a drug habit and murder.

    4. Oxford Coma*

      I’d probably imagine it was something far more egregious.

      I’d wonder if one of her employees murdered someone. /s

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I totally thought of last week’s resumes, and the one where the reason for leaving a job was that he missed too much work while in jail for attempted murder. Not to worry, though, he’d gotten off on a technicality.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Or she was covering for her lunch stealing secret lover and fired someone else inappropriately.

    5. smoke tree*

      LW, one line of reasoning that might get some traction is if you tell her that the employer is likely to believe that the reason she got fired is much, much worse than it really is. I’d say getting fired for poor punctuality in a first job is actually one of the best reasons she could give, since it should be pretty easy for her to overcome now that she realizes it’s a big deal. If she doesn’t tell them, they will probably assume it was something really awful.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’ve had people refuse to answer that question thrice. The first time the person had been siphoning off funds, then outright stole $2,000 in petty cash, and was caught. The second time, the person was using a nonprofit’s resources (desk, office supplies, computer/scanner, mail account, using work hours for personal stuff) for their private eBay business. The third time, the person had been working two jobs and was fraudulently claiming hours for one job when he was actually at the other site, being paid by the other employer.

      I thought those were egregious until I started reading AAM. This is why you answer the “why did you leave your last job” question.

    7. beanie beans*

      Getting her to listen to her mom will definitely be the challenge! OP, you definitely have some ground to stand on considering you want her to be able to live on her own again. But that will still be difficult convincing her that you’re absolutely right.

      I would think that after countless interviews going nowhere, that eventually she’d make the connection, but it would almost take one of the interviewers calling it out to make her realize how bad it is to respond that way. OP, is there someone else you can trust (besides us) that your daughter knows and trusts who can give her the same message?

    8. LT*

      Or gift her a copy of Alison’s book! However, it would take time to read, and I’m sure OP wants their daughter to be able to move on sooner. Eh, give her the book regardless because it’ll help not just with a job search but with other aspects of working life, too!

  5. mark132*

    This is honestly a question I might try and tap dance around the issue, spin it positively as possible. Give them the reasons you would have left the job not why they fired you. I would look for any loophole to avoid owning up to being fired for tardiness.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I think that would probably get here pretty much where she already is. If they want to know, they require an answer or the potential employer will continue to assume the worst. Assault? Theft? Incompetence? All of those are common and worse than chronic lateness.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, you can’t do that! If they check references, it’s going to come out that she lied and that’s going to be a 100% deal-breaker in a way that the truth probably won’t be.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        And it’s likely to get her put on the “do not hire” list! She can’t recover from a spin/lie, whereas owning up to the issue shows she’s at least capable of self-reflection and recalibration.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes, being incapable of admitting that something isn’t working and self-correcting is going to be worse than chronic tardiness, to most employers.

        2. Lance*

          Yup; be honest, learn from the mistakes and show that she has, and all the better, have the reason she gave be the same thing the interviewing company hears from the former workplace. That will give her the best odds of being able to move further.

    3. Naptime Enthusiast*

      That’s really not a good idea. If the hiring managers dig into your previous experience and find out you lied about being fired, that’s a much bigger deal than the firing itself.

      1. Is pumpkin a vegetable?*

        This, plus any seasoned interviewer is going to see right through that, and will either press further for a more direct response, or will give up completely on that candidate.

    4. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Oh good grief! That kind of thing just has to be owned up to and the applicant promise that they’ve learned their lesson and won’t do it again.

    5. The Winter Rose*

      yeah, because adding dishonesty to tardiness is going to make you a much more desirable candidate. /s

      This is terrible advice. Do not do this.

    6. Bea*

      Only if the place she got canned from only gives employment verification. And then they still ask the “eligible for rehire” question frequently enough.

      Granted it’s highly dependent on if she is looking for a job that leans on references. I have only had one reference check and it was at my own push.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I would just wonder why on Earth you were suddenly tap dancing, and reason back to the question I asked when it started. Then deduce that the only reason to do that is that the reason is even worse than the terrible thing I am imagining.

    8. ANon.*

      Totally disagree on lying about the answer. But I wonder if there’s any room for embellishing the backstory? For example:

      “I was dealing with some personal issues that caused me to be late to work so I was fired for tardiness. However, I’ve since taken action on getting the issues resolved so that this would not happen going forward. I know how valuable timeliness and reliability are, particularly for this job, where [insert relevant specifics].”

      Personal issues could be defined loosely, like transiting from a college schedule where classes start at 11am to a work schedule where work starts at 9am.

      I just know that without concrete examples of how the candidate solved the tardiness issue, I would assume it’s an ongoing issue. After all, I’d assume her previous company gave her at least a warning before firing her – and if that hadn’t motivated her to remedy the issue, why would I assume it’s remedied now?

      Is this wording misleading?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I might actually find “youth and dumbness” a more reassuring answer, as is you’re actually very young there is reason to think you might mature out of past stupid behavior. While the personal reasons might be recurring as soon as the awkward family member gets out of rehab and pops back into your life. (Or whatever story the hiring manager sketches in on hearing that there was personal drama causing one to be late to work.)

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Agreed. Youth and Dumbass is generally a temporary and self correcting circumstance. (It was for me! (for the most part… I still have my moments)). Personal issues can be a whole ‘nother can of worms that may have lasting impacts.

          1. Specialk9*

            The problem with that is we only realize how dumb we were, after we’ve grown. We think we’re totally right till then!

      2. Frank Doyle*

        To me that sounds like making excuses. I think it’s better to own up to it.

        1. KHB*

          Agreed. The excuse-making then becomes its own issue, just like the lying or evasiveness would be. Lateness isn’t the biggest deal in the world, and in plenty of positions it’s not a big deal at all. But showing signs of a “nothing is ever really my fault” attitude, I think, is going to be a much bigger strike against you with many interviewers.

      3. Julianne*

        If there were a reasonable reason for the chronic tardiness, mentioning that as a now-resolved issue might help soften the response, but I don’t think it’s great to cite vague “personal reasons” unless she’s willing to provide slightly more detail. It doesn’t sound like there’s a specific issue at play here (such as transportation issues, some sort of immovable morning commitment, etc.), although maybe the mother just decided not to mention an existing factor. Without a specific underlying reason, I think just using the language the mother came up with – was constantly late, learned my lesson – is the best approach.

        1. puzzld*

          Yeah. “I didn’t have reliable transportation, so I was late too many time but now I have a better car, and I’ve learned just how much attendance matters…” might work… but best to just own it. “I messed up and couldn’t get myself it work on time.”

          If she absolutely positively can’t get herself to talk about this, maybe a summer spent babysitting, walking dogs, mowing lawns could give her something else for her “previous job” depending on what sort of work she’s looking for.

      4. Akcipitrokulo*

        “I’m embarrassed to say I was a bit naive and didn’t realise how important timekeeping was; this experience has taught me that it is, and I won’t be making that mistake again.”

      1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq*

        Entirely too vague. Any interviewer worth their salt will reply “Oh, tell me more. What wasn’t a good fit about the role?” And from that point, you’re either telling the truth or spinning a more and more elaborate lie.

      2. mark132*

        That’s mostly what I meant, be as vague as possible, avoid using the word fired. For a lot of job’s tardiness is the kiss of death. Honestly the whole why did you leave your last job or similar questions, are to some extent a test on how well the candidate can BS.

        1. lulu*

          This. I don’t see it as a rookie mistake. To me it’s akin to saying: I was fired because I was lazy. That might be truthful but no interviewer would pick you if they have a choice of anybody else. And I’m pretty sure the LW’s daughter wasn’t a stellar employee outside of the tardiness, so she can pick something else to elaborate on when pointing out why she was let go.

          1. Specialk9*

            I would appreciate someone owning up to their stuff and outlining what they learned and how they fixed it/will keep it from happening again. I think a lot of us like to see young people succeed, and we’ve been there ourselves. This is not the kiss of death, not remotely. (Unless the OP’s daughter continues what she’s doing.)

        2. Lance*

          To be honest… I still don’t agree. Interviewers might try and dig into vagaries, and while, yes, tardiness would very much be a point against her one way or another… she’s still young, so if she demonstrates she’s learned from it and won’t be repeating it, she can very much still move on. And besides, assuming the interviewing company calls up her previous place of employment (which they most likely will)… they’re very likely to find out the real reason she’s no longer employed there anyway.

        3. Mananana*

          Not every person NEEDS to prevaricate as to why they left a job, so I don’t see that question as a “BS Test” at all.

        4. Ray Gillette*

          Interviewers are people. There’s not some secret code to crack that makes them not recognize that “let go” and “fired” are the same thing.

      3. Genny*

        Definitely too vague. I was fired from my first job after college. It was devastating. Four years later I still don’t talk about it to real-life people beyond my mom. When interviewing for the job I have, I was up front about the reasons though.

        For example: I struggled to adjust to the communication style that worked for that office. I thought I was being helpful by limiting my communication to the boss, but instead, I wasn’t keeping him out of the loop (that office complained a lot about having so many emails, so I stopped cc’ing people because I thought I was clogging their inbox. Turns out, it was just idle complaining, like how you might complain about being tired or traffic congestion). Since it was my first job, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and wasn’t able to ask the right questions to course correct. Having reflected on that, I’m now able to detect those types of disconnects, and I’m much more comfortable asking clarifying questions.

        I haven’t had any issues with that response. It shows I identified the problem and fixed it. I’ve only had to tell two interviewers that story (my current job and the security clearance interview). Both were shocked that I was so forthright about it, and didn’t ask any follow-up questions. Being straightforward is much better than trying to dance around the topic.

        1. lulu*

          But this is very different from being chronically late, which to me translates to being unreliable. The way you explain it make it sounds like a genuine communication mismatch, and you’re clear that you have learned from your mistake. I would have no issue with that as an interviewer.

          1. Genny*

            I don’t know why daughter was chronically late. Could be anything from underestimating her commute times to partying the night before to depression. Any one of those things contains something you could share with your interviewer. The formula is the same. I was always late because of X (in the case of a personal health issue, you can be more vague). I got fired because of it. I’ve learned Y and I’ve done Z to address that issue.

            Example: I got fired for being tardy. I wasn’t managing my time well and going to bed way too late, so I constantly slept pass my alarm. I’ve realized that timeliness is really important, and so I’ve started structuring my personal time to ensure I get at least 6 hours of sleep each night.

          2. mark132*

            yes to me, no matter how you dress it up, it sounds like “I can’t get my ass out of bed”.

            1. Specialk9*

              Yeah but come on, this is not an unusual lesson to have to learn as a teen. It’s so incredibly common that, handled right, most of us would go “oh good you’ve already learned that lesson, you’re not going to have to learn it on my time.”

              1. mark132*

                It’s common among people a lot older than teens as well, it wouldn’t surprise me if teens were more timely on average that 40-50 year old people. (It wouldn’t surprise me if it were the other way as well). Part of where the phrase “Later for her/his own funeral” comes from.

                All things being equal are you going to hire Jack who hasn’t admitted to this problem or Jill who has? I’m not advocating outright lying, but if the question has wiggle room, I would wiggle. The words “I was fired for chronic tardiness” are NOT going to come out of my mouth in the interview, if I can find a reasonable way to sidestep the issue.

                I’ve practiced questions like this before. I have answers for them that are truthy but not likely to cost me the job. Like this question, I’ve never been fired, but when I’m asked why I’m looking for a new job my answer isn’t “My boss is a jerk and I want to punch him” (Which was true once upon a time.) . Rather “I’m looking for new opportunities to grow” (Which was also true as well at the same time).

                This question “why did you leave your last job?”, a simple sidestep is to pause and make a slight restatement of the question. “So you are asking what is motivating me to look for a new job?”. Then launch immediately into all the wonderful things you want to do. If they out right ask if you were fired from your last job. I would probably address it then.

                1. Former Employee*

                  “This question “why did you leave your last job?”, a simple sidestep is to pause and make a slight restatement of the question. “So you are asking what is motivating me to look for a new job?”. Then launch immediately into all the wonderful things you want to do. If they out right ask if you were fired from your last job. I would probably address it then.”

                  I’ve never interviewed anyone and I would wonder what the heck was going on if someone responded to the question in that way. The person being interviewed is out of a job – that is what is motivating them to look for a new one. (I hope you aren’t suggesting that they pretend they are still working for the place that fired them or for some mythical other job.) If I received that response I would say, “No. I am asking why you left your previous job.” If I didn’t get a straight answer at that point, I would suspect that I am dealing with a chronic liar and proceed to let everyone at my company know so they would avoid this candidate.

              2. Lindsay J*

                I don’t know why everyone is assuming the daughter is a teen, though.

                It doesn’t say first job, it says first full-time job, which to me would say she’s a college grad and probably somewhere in her 20’s.

            2. Indie*

              Some people are harder on timekeeping than others. I’ve had bosses who didn’t care if you were a bit late as long as you got the job done/made up the time. If the role demands never-failing punctuality or if the boss is aghast at even a rookie’s ‘I learned from it’ lateness – then maybe that’s not the best culture fit for OP’s daughter?

          3. smoke tree*

            I think there are variations in chronic lateness, though. If she was only typically 5 minutes late or so and no one explained that’s an issue, that’s pretty different from regularly rolling in an hour late. It could also be more of a workplace norms disconnect–maybe the boss and senior staff were regularly out of the office so she figured schedules were flexible. Maybe she was the only one who needed to be there right on time to answer phones and she didn’t pick up on that. The firing does imply it was something more egregious, but it is possible that her manager was awful at communicating expectations.

  6. Naptime Enthusiast*

    Mom, you’re right on this one. It IS embarrassing, but your daughter needs to address it. This is one time her youth will be an advantage. Being unreliable in your first job is a much more forgivable mistake than later on, and if she owns up to it without qualifiers, most hiring managers will take her at her word. If she’s open to coaching, she can practice her answers with you or someone else she trusts to give good feedback before her next interview. This way she can work on sharing her firing without getting defensive.

    1. MsMaryMary*

      I would love to know if OP’s daughter is, say, 18 or 28. I don’t mean this to be a “kids these days” rant. There are plenty of good reasons someone might be starting their first full time job in their late 20s. But it’s going to be harder to say it’s a youthful indiscretion or rookie mistake (even if it is!) if the daughter is mid to late 20s versus late teens/early 20s.

      1. Specialk9*

        I assumed teen to early 20s based on how the OP wrote about her, but you’re right that’s a guess. It could be later 20s!

        “Due to a combination of youth, inexperience, and (in my opinion) stupidity… Rookie mistake”

        1. Airy*

          The one thing I found jarring in this letter was that aside about stupidity. I mean, when the mother talks to her daughter about this, is she saying “You got fired because you’re so stupid/you make stupid mistakes”? If she puts it in those terms it’s not surprising if her daughter doesn’t respond well.

          1. Quoth the Raven*

            Yeah, absolutely. If I am told (or I believe) I did something stupid or that I am stupid, I’m a lot less likely to speak about it openly, let alone with people who are interviewing me and who are, in some way, judging me (whether or not what I did was stupid or not).

          2. AdminForMeow*

            This. While I agree that the idea of refusing to answer is not the right way to go about it, the way OP talks about her kid leaves a lot to be desired. I was surprised the response didn’t mention it at all, because to me the overall vibe seemed to be that she knew the right answer and hahaha how stupid are kids amirite??

            “They told her to hit the road”
            “should be self-evident to anyone, in my opinion”
            “I was quite taken aback to learn she was not aware of this” (How do you think people learn these things? Did you take time to teach her?)
            “what does that fuddy-duddy know, right? LOL”
            “I know she’ll never write to you herself”
            “I need some ammunition to convince her”
            “I need for her not to be living at home for the rest of her life!”

            There are so many things I could cover about this, but I have a hard time getting past the fact that someone’s own mother openly discusses them being stupid. (Youth and inexperience would have covered it, but the stupid had to be added?) I can’t even fathom my mother talking about me like this and whooo boy did I do some dumb things in my youth.

            1. aebhel*

              I disagree. The daughter is presumably an adult, and at some point adults are expected to be responsible for themselves–which it doesn’t sound like the daughter is actually trying to do.

              Mom reads to me as frustrated and a bit snarky, but I can quite easily see both of my own parents (with whom I have a great relationship, for the record) taking this tone if I was acting like the daughter in question here.

          3. Jane Rochester*

            Absolutely. I wouldn’t be surprised if the LW’s manifest contempt for her daughter is directly responsible for how the daughter is handling this situation. How is she supposed to feel comfortable disclosing to strangers that she was fired, when her own mother thinks she’s stupid for it? Even if the LW isn’t saying those words to the daughter directly, she takes so many opportunities to speak demeaningly of the the daughter that I’m sure it comes across in tone/attitude.

            LW, try to find some compassion for where your daughter is coming from. You happen to be right in this particular situation, but if you want her to listen, you seriously need to reexamine the way you speak to/about her.

  7. AnonAcademic*

    It seems the way the OP’s daughter is handling the “why did you leave your last job” question is a smaller issue than the general lack of self awareness that leads to someone getting fired for tardiness, and then thinking they can make that go away by refusing to talk about it. I know for me, I didn’t really get my first taste of failure until I was in the workplace. The idea that you can’t do extra credit to get unfired, or blame the syllabus not being clear to have your “grade” adjusted, or in this case, “drop” the job like a class you un-enrolled from didn’t really compute until I experienced it. Hopefully the OPs daughter learns the lesson in a way that sticks, but my guess is that it might take a series of stumbles before she realizes her mom might actually know a bit about the whole “being gainfully employed” thing.

    1. memyselfandi*

      This is what caught my attention. You did a really nice job summarizing the ways college is not like the workplace (wasn’t there a discussion on AAM about someone who wanted to count college as work experience?) When I think back to my first work experience I cringe. There was a lot wrong with management (it was a high-end restaurant, I was the bookkeeper, the owner kept grabbing cash out of the till whenever he needed it, plus he was an alcoholic….) but I truly did not understand what it was to be an employee. I try to give my interns that experience, but internships were before my day.

      1. Bleeborp*

        I basically did the same thing as the OP’s daughter- I had a big problem with absenteeism in my first office job. I’d only worked retail before where there were shifts and if you didn’t get there on time, someone else was screwed and I hated inconveniencing my coworkers. My office job, on the other hand, nothing terrible happened when I rolled in late but then late turned into calling in frequently and eventually I was asked to quit. Somehow it was like if I only inconvenienced myself (by letting my work pile up) that was fine but my dumb young mind couldn’t fully envision how I was definitely messing with things long term by letting them fall to the wayside. I learned the errors of my way and I’m a good employee now!

        1. Ralkana*

          Yep. I lost my dream job in college – it was part time but easily could’ve transitioned into full time after graduation – because I misunderstood “flexible schedule” to mean “Come in whenever you feel like it”, and I was used to skipping classes and still succeeding. Calling in to say I was late turned into calling off, and that turned into no call, no show. It was a youthful mistake, and one worsened by situational depression, but it’s one I still kick myself for, almost 20 years on.

    2. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      This. On the flip side, group assignments are not like a proper job, no matter what you do.

    3. paul*

      I’m getting a really teenager-y vibe. Inexperienced to the point where they think getting fired for something correctable is a bigger deal than refusing to answer a question about why they moved on.

      1. Specialk9*

        And the aggrieved tone of ‘but you didn’t WARN me before firing me, how was I to know that being chronically late was uncool?!’ It reads teenager to young 20s to me.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Oh, I dunno – a friend of our family got 2 verbal warnings from his boss for violating a fairly important policy and was told a third written or verbal violation could result in his termination. Boss asked him to re-read the employee handbook on said policy, and also the violation and termination process. He was reminded that by signing the acknowledgment of its receipt when he got hired, he had agreed to abide by all company policies and guidelines. He violated a third time, and complained bitterly about getting fired without an official, sit-down meeting with ‘this is your final warning and we really mean it this time’ comments. He’s 58 years old.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I truly do not mean to slander OP in any way, but this stood out to me when OP noted that it’s not their business but it is their business because OP doesn’t want their child to live at home forever. It seems like OP’s daughter might be failing to pick up on the “common sense” lessons that we take for granted or learn through our mistakes (and she’s hopefully learning from this mistake!).

      OP, charge your kid rent. It can be subsidized rent, and you can even sock it away into a savings/trust account for your child when she gets her feet under her. I think the only way she’s going to understand the full consequences of this experience is if she has a little more skin in the game.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Charging rent could work – but you also have to think about what happens if the kid calls your bluff. If I don’t pay my rent, I get evicted, sheriff’s deputies come to my apartment, I land on the street with my life in trash bags, and I am blacklisted from renting again. Mom is probably not be willing to go that far in imposing real-world consequences, but there would need to be some. If you draw a line, the kid crosses it, and nothing happens, the lesson completely backfires and reinforces the belief that she can get away with stuff.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          I was thinking that. If she’s not willing actually go through with real consequences, this thing can backfire quickly.

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        That’s such a personal decision and not what is asked about. I know the LW mentioned it but I don’t think it’s good to focus on that.

    5. Johan*

      The tardiness thing is something I sometimes get frustrated with in this forum, because generally the (perfectly rational) position here is that especially for salaried employees, it shouldn’t be a big deal if the person is a few minutes late if they’re getting their work done. That’s part of the deal of being salaried.

      But even with salaried employees, not adhering to a set schedule, especially in terms of promptness of arriving at work, can be an issue for so many reasons — my own employer even puts it in our handbook. Yet what happens often in the comments section here is that people rail against clock-watching by any employer, and often completely lose even connecting this to salaried employees, which is so so dangerous, because ESPECIALLY if you are not a salaried employee then tardiness can easily get you fired. Depending on the type of job, sometimes tardiness is the No. 1 reason hourly workers are fire (this was the case at a call center I worked at). For some reason it’s not at all self-evident to entry-level employees, it seems.

      1. TheBeetsMotel*

        I think the commentariat of AAM leans heavily toward people who are salaried and in their long-term careers, and not so much toward entry level/retail/food service/other hourly positions. Timekeeping really is a whole different ball game between the two. If OP’s daughter is young, it’s a lot more likely she had an hourly gig, where timeliness matters a lot more.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah, this. It’s true for me, and I rail against clock watching. But it’s exactly what you said – I’m senior and had to spend years of grunt work and punctuality to get to the point where I don’t have to sweat the clock. It’s a good reminder that some people reading here could be better served by the longer view.

      2. LQ*

        Strongly agree on this. Not being here when you say you will is the number 1 reason people are let go here too. Sometimes your job is to be where you need to be when your employer tells you to be there. You then get to make a choice about if you are interested in dealing with that (or spending capital if you have it, are you a rainmaker, are you willing to find out if you are) or find another place of employment that has different requirements. But yeah, a lot of people have to be at their jobs during specific hours. You don’t want to go to the bank or the post office or the dmv or the grocery store or your coffee shop and find out that “Eh, someone’s running late because (insert great reason here) so we aren’t open.”

      3. Liz*

        City employee here. Our handbook states that one minute late is late and everyone punches the clock, even “salaried” exempt employees, and many don’t have control over their hours.

    6. k.k*

      I got that idea as well, since she didn’t realize that her job was at risk from her tardiness. I know some workplaces do tap dance around discipline (we’ve seen that here when bosses don’t want to make people feel bad), but usually there is something you can pick up on. I hope she can take this as a lesson about workplace norms. In school you can track your performance down to percentage with your grade, in the workplace it’s a lot more subtle.

    7. Samuela*

      On the other hand, some people are always conscientious, even in grade school and college. I’ve always been irritated by my classmates who didn’t treat school seriously enough and I could never imagine not showing up or skipping classes just because.

      I’ve had many jobs where tardiness (up to 15 minutes late) wasn’t an issue though. I had one job where as long as you worked 8 hours, it didn’t matter whether you came into work at 7 (like I did) or 10 (like many others did).

  8. Antti*

    Is there any other reasonable and well-respected person in her life who could talk about this with her and not make her immediately think “my mom put you up to this, didn’t she”? I think that might be one possible way to attack this, if she’s shutting down when you go for it, OP.

    1. Kate*

      I’m kind of hoping she just sends this link to her daughter. I was fully expecting this to be an overbearing mom letter, but nope, I am 100% on mom’s side here. OP’s daughter is handling this very badly.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah, I loved how Alison was all, uhhh, actually, for once I gotta side with you, Mom! :D

    2. Non-profiteer*

      I agree this would be a good strategy, because while I agree with the advice given, my first instinct when reading the letter and its tone was “back off, Mom. You are way too involved and overbearing!” Basically I agree with the OP, but not in the way she’s delivering the advice. So maybe find another messenger.

      …and then back the H off.

    3. LilyP*

      I like this idea! Also, “being right” is often not enough to change other people’s minds about things, so try not to make this into a Big Thing or an “I’m the adult and I say so” thing or an “I told you so”. It’ll just make her get defensive and double down on what she sees as the right decision. The more your daughter understands that you respect her as an adult and respect her ideas, the more likely she’ll be to accept occasional advice. And I’m sorry if I’m assuming too much here, but make sure you’re still having positive conversations/interactions with your daughter too. If she feels like every time she mentions work to you she’s going to get a lecture about how she’s doing it all wrong she’s never going to want to talk (or listen) to you.

  9. SandwichGenLady*

    As both an HR person and a hiring manager I have to agree that both the OP and AAM are spot on here. I would absolutely not move forward in the hiring process with someone who declined to tell me why the left their last job. I would imagine the worst, just as AAM suggested (harassment, discrimination, theft, workplace violence, etc.). In contrast, I have hired people who are upfront about their having been fired from a previous job — I think it shows maturity if they are able to reflect back on their past mistakes and take responsibility for where things went wrong.

    1. Interviewer*

      Consider this another data point from a hiring manager: We talk to all of our candidates about why they’ve left jobs. I look for a story that makes sense, doesn’t trash former employers, and hopefully indicates there is some ambition. If someone clams up and refuses to answer a question, that looks straight-up awful. In the absence of any information, I’m left to assume the worst about the candidate – and it might be much worse than the truth.

      OP, you could tell your daughter it’s her only chance to spin the story in her favor. Your straightforward sample language indicates both a reason for leaving, recognition that it’s a problem, and a plan to address it. I’d look at that answer very optimistically, as an interviewer.

      Best advice I can share is to rehearse these interview answers until she can say them with the right tone. It’s nerve-wracking to admit your biggest failure to a total stranger, especially when you need something from them. Emotions can take over unexpectedly. Giving her this language is a huge boost, but advise her to practice it over & over in the mirror until it’s easy to say.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think Daughter is misunderstanding what a standard part of the process this question and her answer would be. This like refusing to answer “Tell me about a time when . . . .”

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      That’s a great point. I’ve definitely hired people who have copped to why they were fired (e.g., folks with substance addiction who are currently clean, folks who struggled at previous positions), especially if I don’t think it’s a deal-breaking character flaw or if I think they’ve rehabilitated. But I have never hired or advanced anyone who refused to answer the question.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I was fired two jobs ago. I got my last job and my current one despite being completely honest about *why* I got fired (there were tasks I didn’t get done because they literally tripled our departmental workload without giving us additional help). The fact that I was able to provide concrete numbers (we went from supporting 150-200 to supporting close to 700) very likely helped me there.

        1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

          I was fired from my first non-retail job. I had a new boyfriend and had stayed out much too late with him the night before, didn’t understand the call out process, and was basically a no call no show for my shift. It was a ridiculous mistake that I have never repeated. I was able to find non-retail employment soon after, even with my mistake (though I wasn’t as young as you’d hope I was :\ )

  10. LSP*

    People get really weird about being fired. My husband was fired from a job for basically a personality conflict with his manager, and even though he already had an otherwise stellar career under his belt, he became convinced that this was going to dog him for the rest of his working life! He’s two jobs past that now, and he *still* worries about it.

    That’s just to say that I understand your daughter, who doesn’t have a solid work history already, is probably feeling really embarrassed and concerned that this one blemish is going to impact all jobs from here to eternity! It makes sense she feels this way, but she’s also wrong about how much weight employers will put on it (provided she owns the mistake and means it when she says she won’t let it happen in future jobs). Employers will know she doesn’t have a lot of experience, and will more than likely be willing to give her a chance to show them she can do better, but you’re right that the only way that’ll happen is if she is an adult here and answers honestly.

    1. Bea*

      I understand the fear all too well. I’ve never been fired but was written up once that lit a “get out before they throw you out” fire under my butt. It took months to shake and thankfully I was able to, my calmer more focused self also learned that he couldn’t destroy me anyways but I’m not in the mood to take that chance when faced with the thought.

      I hope the further he gets away from the jerk who fired him, your husband recovers from the experience. My partner was fired for getting injured on the job despite everyone knowing that’s illegal, so never saw an instant firing coming for reporting it. There is still a lot of confusion and conflicting emotions swirling.

    2. Serin*

      Yeah, I was fired once, and I went around for years never discussing it with anybody except in job interviews.

      Then eventually I found myself in a conversation with a co-worker and he said, “Wait, you’ve only been fired once?”

      1. CMart*

        I’ve only been fired once (and it was an “I’m quitting in two weeks”/”not if I fire you first!” situation with a JerkBoss at a Dairy Queen, who then begged me to come back the next season, haha) but it was still a concept that terrified me.

        Until recently, I only ever worked in the restaurant industry where getting fired, even from management positions, is as common as catching a cold. Even if I had been fired from a job chances are no future (restaurant industry) employer would even really care. I just think the cultural stigma and a healthy dose of a personal sense of shame drives some of us to feel more aggrieved about it than others.

        1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

          I’ve been fired three times…all of them before I was 25. The first time was when I was 12 and I was a babysitter. I deserved my firing – I told the little girl I was sitting (age 8) the entire plot line of The Exorcist. She didn’t sleep for a week and her mom was not happy with me – rightly so. I think the fact that I was “fired” so young and that I was able to have jobs after and successfully keep them (not childcare though…I was a really bad sitter!) helped me not be as terrified of it as my peers are. My husband has never been fired and he stresses anytime there’s a personality conflict or big changes to the organization. He starts looking for a new job the moment he feels like things are tense at the office, gets a few interviews, and then the current job settles and his fear goes away…until the next time.

          1. Delta Delta*

            I also got fired from babysitting after I made the kids watch Richard Nixon’s state funeral. In hindsight, this is hilarious.

            1. Bea*

              I watched his funeral as a kid. I remember it vividly because I took an Advil because of a headache. It got stuck in my throat like pills tend to do. I laid on the couch, watched the funeral and got ready to die because I was clearly “choking”, LOL.

          2. Specialk9*

            I was fired as a 13 year old because, while singlehandedly nannying 3 kids ages 6 – 2 (including one with significant special needs) while the mom was in bed after surgery, I let the house get dirty. O_O

            The amount of shame I carried for being fired lasted for years… Until one day, as an adult, it occurred to me what utter unreasonable LOONS they were. I couldn’t do that job *now* as an adult, nanny 3 kids and also be the housekeepeer. But when I was prepubescent?! That’s ridiculous.

            1. CM*

              Specialk9, read the Babysitter’s Club graphic novel “Dawn and the Impossible Three”! It’s surprisingly good and you will be 100% able to relate. (Except the part where Dawn, who is around 12 years old, asserts herself in an incredibly mature way that I would never have been able to do at that age.)

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          I did the opposite at the DQ I worked at. Started in high school, was coming back during breaks in college. Boss was usually pretty chill and I did enjoy working there. But he hired this one teenage girl who wouldn’t get off her phone, she could do no wrong, she spilled cherry syrup everywhere, she was stealing ice cream….absolute pain to work with, you had to redo everything she touched. We all complained to the manager about her, who passed it onto the owner, who sat the girl down and had a talk. Things were decent for a while, then the manager left for basic. New manager was useless. Things got worse, we complained, manager either would dismiss it or tell the owner in such a way that everyone else was at fault. I finally walked into the owner’s office to tell him exactly what was up, and he told me I could deal with it or I was fired. So I handed him my hat, told him I quit, and walked out. He actually called me around normal Christmas break time later that year and asked if I was coming back.

          Sometimes I wish I knew where Teenage EC kept all that angst, lol.

  11. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    The only thing in your daughter’s favour is that it was her very first full-time job so she can plead ignorance. Though after her next job, that excuse is gone.
    If it hasn’t been discussed before in a weekend free for all, “What basic work norm were you never aware of until you actually started working?” is a good question.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Maybe a good topic idea, but “being on time to your school/job/appointment” should not be something one discovers is important only when one has a paying job!

      1. LSP*

        Maybe it shouldn’t be, but I think a misapprehension of a lot of young people before they start working is “When I’m an adult, I can do what I want! My time is my own!” Ha! Not so much!

        I also think a lot of people need to experience their own failures before they adjust their behavior. I watched my brother torpedo every chance he got for his whole life, until one day, he woke up and was 27 staring down the barrel of 30 and realized he had to begin to own his decisions. He’s 33 now and has been working at the same job ever since he was 27, has finally gotten his degree, and is completely self-sufficient.

        Some people just take longer to understand notions that some of us find so simple to understand.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Yeah, consequences don’t feel real for a good long while, I found. Yes, there could be consequences for being late to school, but they were rarely anything that mattered *to me.* Getting in trouble with teachers or even detention or a threat to my record didn’t really phase me at that age, although they did my mother.

          It wasn’t until I entered the working world that I realized *I wanted* money, for my own purposes and because it made my life better to have it. Everything else fell into place from there.

        2. Lumen*

          Agreed. And some people are given very unrealistic expectations before they get their own jobs. Maybe they watch their affluent parents live a relatively self-scheduled life and they think that’s how it is for everyone. Maybe they have friends at startups where no one ‘clocks in’. Or maybe they have worked before, but for bosses who gave them warped ideas of normalcy (which we talk about a lot here).

          It’s one of those ‘common sense isn’t common knowledge’ things. I think it’d be a really interesting discussion topic, especially because I think we’ll see a LOT of “I really should have known better *wince*” answers.

        3. Queen of Cans & Jars*

          Maybe it shouldn’t be, but I think a misapprehension of a lot of young people before they start working is “When I’m an adult, I can do what I want! My time is my own!” Ha! Not so much!

          We were just at a college graduation party and had to laugh when the new grad kept telling people it felt so good to be “free.” Oh honey….

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            I believe the term to use here is “You sweet summer child”

            I am glad though that I was made to get a job at 15 (Part time after school), at least it dashed all of those myths about adulthood being the promised land. Although I do prefer adulthood (even with the responsibilities) over being in school

          2. smoke tree*

            I actually do have significantly more free time now that I’m working full-time than when I was in school, although I did have to work at least part-time throughout my school career. It was honestly a bit of a shock to be able to leave work for the day and just … be free. (Even though I don’t have the kind of job you can always leave at the office.)

          3. Lynn Whitehat*

            I find I have vastly more freedom as an employee than a college student. When I leave for the day, I’m *done*. If I need to travel for personal reasons, with rare exceptions, I can scheduled PTO and do it, without having to “make up” all the work. I also have money. Only the years when I had babies and toddlers placed more restrictions on my life than being a student.

            1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

              I have pretty good autonomy at work and I can’t leave for the day and be ‘done’, personal travel restricted to times when it makes sense for the business, and I get the bonus of work travel, even though I control my travel schedule, I really don’t and go when and where I’m needed.

              Yaaa… the ever popular “It depends” answer!

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It can be, though. Maybe Fergus didn’t have trouble being on time for class because he lived on campus but now has a commute. Or there were no serious consequences for being late in his life to date, so he hasn’t bothered and views it as part of his unchangeable inborn nature.

        Lateness is one of those things where I’ve heard of people abruptly breaking the habit because they were finally in a position where it actually had consequences that hurt. Before that, the consequences were things they didn’t much care about.

      3. Flinty*

        Eh, I can kind of see it. Realistically, if you’re 10 minutes late to class most days, nothing will really happen. And even at a lot of jobs, it doesn’t matter too much when you get in. This doesn’t apply if she was like, hours late all the time, but I could imagine a new grad not picking up on the butt-in-seats culture and disapproving looks/comments, or noticing but just thinking people are a bit annoyed, not that she’s about to get fired.

        Which is why she should explain in an interview! Being clueless but learning from it is much better than them thinking she embezzled or something.

        1. Sled dog mama*

          Man I wish I had gone to college somewhere I could be regularly 10 minutes late to class. I had professors who would call you on walking into their class 30 seconds late and one who locked the doors when class started (lecture hall where you close the doors and you can get out but need a key to get in). Looking back I (and a lot of other college students) probably owe those professors big time for that life lesson in the consequences of not being on time.

          1. Washi*

            Yeah, I was late a few times to class and got called out on it :) But still, I didn’t flunk the class or get expelled. At most I think I would have had my participation grade docked. I would still agree that being late at school doesn’t have the same consequences as being late to work.

        2. Penny Lane*

          But wouldn’t you be embarrassed to saunter into class 10 minutes late on an ongoing basis? Wouldn’t you think – I am paying (or my parents are paying) $X per class, this is my “job,” and so my job is to be in my seat and ready to rock as soon as the class starts? That just seems like normal, common-sense thinking to me.

          1. Calpurrnia*

            I’d have been embarrassed about it enough that if I was running a couple minutes late I’d just skip lecture, and reason that I’d spend the hour working on my problem set instead. This literally never resulted in negative consequences for me in college – in fact I think there were actually courses where I got a better grade by skipping lecture and working on the assignments than I would’ve if I went to class and spent less time doing the actual graded work. This was pretty easy to see as “common sense” in that setting, and I thought I was being pretty responsible with my time management by prioritizing the consequential stuff (assignments) over inconsequential stuff (attendance)!

            Which in the work world translates into “instead of being late, just use PTO”, until you suddenly can’t anymore because you’re out of PTO and start getting in hot water with your boss. It’s just a totally different mindset and mode of operation from college. It’s not at all “common sense” to someone coming from a really different context.

            1. Koala dreams*

              Yes, we didn’t have attendance requirements for lectures, only for seminars. On the other hand, it was a real struggle to get to take sick leave when you had seminars with some teachers, they didn’t seem to have ever considered that students get sick too. (Now it occurs to me to wonder how much sick leave the teachers could take themselves.)
              Luckily I got a job where my boss is very supportive of needing time off for doctor’s appointment and sick leave. It feels very freeing to just tell my boss “I need tomorrow off because Important thing”, and not have a long discussion arguing for why I need the time off and how I’m going to make up the work and so on.

          2. CM*

            Unfortunately, I’ve heard from prof friends that it’s the other way around — some students have the attitude that they are paying for their education, and the professor is there to provide a service to them, so the student is the customer and they are always right. :/

        3. Indoor Cat*

          Yeah, I mean, I had classes in undergrad that I passed even though I only attended 50% of them. Not an exaggeration.

          Obviously, these were not classes with attendance points, or they were ones where missed attendance could be easily counteracted with high scores on tests and papers.

          But, there’s basically no job in the world that has a set schedule where you can skip half and not get fired. College is…odd. And, you know, varies a lot between different majors and different schools.

      4. NaoNao*

        My brother was the beloved youngest only son of divorced parents and was coddled and sort of benignly neglected (like, both parents dating around and not super involved, not “no food” situation) when he got older.

        This created a perfect storm situation where he blew *tons* of good opportunities, and the idea of being on time/keeping a schedule took quite a bit of shock and awe to instill in him. About age 23 or so, when he sobered up after his 3rd DUI.

        He’s since cleaned up his act but it took a minute.

      5. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Right, I’m replying to my own b/c I see all these responses giving me reasons. When we do have this question posed, I will keep myself off of it.

        I am not always the most punctual (I have a lot of situations where my time is not my own and I have to reprioritise on the fly AND I’ve been dealing with the mess that is my city’s transit authority and its rotting signals infrastructure for the last couple of years to get around this place), but, I am fully aware that punctuality is the requirement for pretty much everything, including keeping friends when there’s plans. I make it my policy to always aim to be early due to the likelihood of lateness. I’m trying to get that into my kid’s head. Fortunately, when he goes to his job or volunteering, he seems to do his very best to be there on time, too. (He’s a teen, and not always the best about getting to school on time; but, his jobs? There early. I think he’s a good candidate for working for a while before going to college.)

      6. Indie*

        I always knew it was important but I was way past 30 before I knew *how* to do it. I worked on it constantly. I set my watch ahead, turned up an hour early with my breakfast (which I didn’t get to eat because I wasn’t as early as planned). I can do punctuality easily now, without either of those strategies now, but there were stretches way back when where nothing worked.

    2. Bea*

      That should be a good thread.

      My mom would have fed me to wolves if I was chronically late, so it’s still baffling to me people run like that ever. I have flex time and still run on a schedule and just don’t get physically ill when I hit a traffic jam one day.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        It was a *big* deal if you were late to anything in my family. It was ingrained in all our brains as children that if we were late, that was Not Okay. If you were on time, you were late!

        Then I married into Hub’s family, and you need to tell his mother a time 3 hours prior to when you want her to show up. It makes me twitchy.

        1. Bea*

          My mom is pissed if we’re not there 20 minutes early. She’ll hang out in the car prior to a party or whatever, so she won’t be imposing but she’ll be on the doorstep at 5pm if the invite says 5, you know?

          My partner is always early too. He showed up to our first date 15 minutes early. I was already there. His mind was blown. He stopped apologizing for me “waiting” quickly because he is never late just not nearly as early.

          I always mapped out and took a test drive to an interview spot because I show up early enough to sit in my car and gather my nerves etc.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Yeah, my family’s always roughly 15-5 minutes early, depending on what it is.

            Whereas MIL decides to start leaving at the time that the event starts, but then decides she needs to vacuum or dust or do the dishes or start the laundry….so then she shows up maybe someday. Her mother is the same way – showed up 2 hours late to SIL’s wedding because she forgot, then wandered out about 30 minutes later to go find “better beer” (she came back with Miller Lite, iirc). For our wedding – you got there via riverboat. It left at one time. (For those that let us know a boat wasn’t an option, we did arrange for a car instead.) MIL asked us how we’d get her mother there if she came in late. We laughed and said well, that would be unfortunate, because we can’t arrange alternate transportation for her to show up whenever. Well what if she misses the ceremony? We aren’t going to delay OUR wedding ceremony for a woman we’ve met once, for 5 minutes, drunk at a wedding. She can get there on time, or she’s going to miss it.

            She showed up on time and everyone asked us how we did it.

          2. Indoor Cat*

            Oh man. I was always taught to be early or on time to meetings / work / events out and about (like a concert or a film), but that it’s polite to be about fifteen minutes late to a party at a home, so as to give your host a decent grace period if they’re still tidying up.

            People being on time to parties at my house still weirds me out. I’m not ready! (even if I am ready; I feel like I’m not).

      2. Penny Lane*

        It’s baffling to me too. You’re supposed to meet a friend for lunch at 1 pm – so you’re in the parking lot, parked and ready to walk in, at 12:55 pm. Where else would you be? What is so freaking hard about figuring out when you’re supposed to be someplace, figuring out how long it takes to get there, adding in some cushion of time for the unforeseen heavy traffic or whatever, and leaving at the appointed time? This is not hard.

        1. Specialk9*

          I’m with you on being punctual, but I understand why people are late.

          You just listed 4 steps and said how hard is that? That’s actually your answer.

          Many people literally can’t manage that many steps, far enough in advance (it’s not a coincidence that jails are full of adults with childhood lead poisoning, or developmental delays – try doing this ‘simple’ task with those problems!). Do you really not know people who just *can’t*?

          Some people could but don’t.

          Some people could but haven’t learned yet.

          Some people have serious magical thinking. I find those pretty aggravating, myself.

          1. Dove*

            This. Growing up, my whole *family* was late, chronically. I was late getting in to school (in elementary, I was usually getting into the building by the time the anthem started to play, and had to stand out in the corridor until after morning announcements were done; it didn’t get better as I got older – I can’t remember being on time for high school once). We had to work hard to be on time getting to family events; my mother and I made an art out of slipping into the shul quietly, so as not to interrupt services when we arrived after they’d already started.

            It was embarrassing. It happened no matter how much I tried to get up and out the door on time. I spent years thinking I just wasn’t trying hard enough, that I must be lazy because everyone else was able to do this – so what was wrong with me, that I couldn’t?

            What was wrong, it turns out, is that I have ADHD; it wasn’t diagnosed, much less treated, until I was nearly 3o. My brother was diagnosed when we were in our early teens and got medication for it, and he still struggled. It’s very, very likely that my mother and sister also have ADHD. Which means that I grew up without any internal ability to track time, no ability to recall a to-do list that was longer than two items, no ability to disengage from tasks or push myself to do boring tasks…and a perfect storm that meant that I wasn’t taught the tools needed to make up for these and the primary adult in my life didn’t have those skills either. And the technology necessary to easily make up for the deficits wasn’t there until I was in college and I had a phone that I could use for alarms and timers; getting up on time, even for work, was painfully difficult.

            I’m still working on learning the skills I need to have in order to do all four of those steps listed.

  12. Bea*

    In this kind of termination the key is to own up to the error in judgement. Fml it would be better to lie than to just plead the fifth by refusing to answer. I’ll assume the worst if someone won’t say something about a simple standard question.

  13. MuseumChick*

    Oh to be young. It can be so easy to dismiss the advice of your parents. Do you have any family friends she gets along well with? You could set this all up very casually “Hey why don’t we ask Jane and Bob for some advice on your job hunt? Jane is in industry X and Bob is the hiring manager for their company. I bet they would have some great advice.” The Jane and Bob can tell your daughter she is shooting herself in the foot with the way she is handling this.

    1. animaniactoo*

      It doesn’t work if you lead in. Only if it comes up without seeming interference or manipulation in setting the conversation up.

      Otherwise, it’s a biased conversation, gets nowhere.

      1. Secretary*

        Yes this.
        She’s not going to hear it from the OP if she hasn’t so far. The best thing is for the OP to ask a non-biased third party who her daughter respects to talk to her daughter about interviewing. Plant the seed about Ask A Manager or give her the book. After enough interviews maybe she’ll read it.

        I can tell you as a daughter of a mom who is very smart, it is really really really hard for me to hear advice she gives me for what it is and I just hear the subtext of her nagging me growing up and how she’s using the same tone of voice she uses when she’s telling me to take out the recycling for the third time today and yes mom I’ll GET TO IT you don’t need to say it again you only asked me an hour ago and the truck doesn’t come until tomorrow morning and I have homework to do STAAAAAAAP MY SHOULDERS ARE UP IN MY EARS.

        I love my mom, but I wish she had spent more time doing cool stuff with me and genuinely asking about my day without giving me advice all the time.

  14. Anony McAnonface*

    My last boss had to chastise me. I pushed a boundary I should not have pushed but because there were no serious consequences, I just got a stern warning not to do XYZ again. Thanks to AAM I made myself behave like a grownup who isn’t afraid of being scolded (I am only nominally a grown-up and I have a visceral, stomach-churning fear of being in trouble). I apologized, reiterated my understanding of where I had gone wrong, and committed myself to improvement. My boss was so pleased by my reaction to the incident that I actually wound up being praised as a valuable employee who takes feedback with grace. (thanks AAM!)

    People like to see that you can learn and grow. Since the OP’s kid is pretty young still, she’s got a golden opportunity to demonstrate her keen understanding of learning and growing and improving on your flaws. I would think a hiring manager would like to see such skills in a young candidate.

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I love how this turned out for you! Getting “in trouble” at work was one of my worst fears when I started working, but knowing how to take criticism and feedback is huge.

      1. Justin*

        Yeah, as i wrote below, I got put on a PIP once, and deserved it. And once it happened I learned how to improve. I’m glad it happened at 26 and remember my poor judgment every day.

  15. animaniactoo*

    Mom advice: Bargain it with her. She can either start paying rent (or more rent) even if she has to pay it to you retroactively after she moves out, or she can try it your way for her next 10 interviews and see what happens. (If she’s getting interviews, the likelihood is that she’s a strong enough candidate that *at least* one of those would get further in the process if she’s does it the right way).

    When my son was being stubborn about my input or need for him to be working harder to become self-sustaining, his rent would go up every time he would say he’d look into something (harder) and then slacked off for 2 months on doing it despite occasional check-ins for “hey, how’d that go?”

    I used my leverage as the person who was providing him the space to make it less comfortable for him not to be working harder at it. Eventually his rent got to self-sustaining levels, so he still listens to me about stuff but makes up his own mind and my opinion is that even if I think he’s doing it wrong now, it’s not really my business since if I need him to move out – he can. Without any guilt on my part about how he’s going to survive. He covers all his own clothes, travel fare, and so on. We have a mostly roommate with a dollop of adult parent to adult child relationship at this point.

    N.B.: He’s actually working on moving out on his own with in the next 2 months. I will and won’t miss the little bugger.

    1. Seriously?*

      I’m not sure if that works in this instance. Since the OP isn’t actually on the interviews, she could just be teaching her daughter that she has to lie to Mom about interviews.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I think you can give the rent goes up/daughter moves out ultimatum regardless. You don’t need to tie it to following mom’s advice. Mom can bluntly say that she thinks not answering the firing question is the red flag that is stopping her from getting jobs, and that daughter can choose to follow her advice or not, but one way or the other, daughter’s living situation is changing in 6 months. Of course, this would be difficult if the OP is in a really high COL area, but otherwise, I don’t think it hurts young adults to live with roommates, have multiple p/t jobs, live in a sketchier area, etc. I have a son, though. All I know about young women is that they are stubborn (me!).

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Eh, I think that’s a pretty nuclear option to take.

          Granted, my perspective is that of being the kid who got that treatment — with two months’ notice to move out, and living in an area with not much happening on the job front, I wound up living in a sketchy area of a sketchy city, deeply malnourished while trying to find a second part-time job. The relationship with the family members who tossed me there was irrevocably damaged, and ultimately wound up in estrangement.

          So, you know, if you’re considering giving your kid the hard boot on a certain timeline, at least be prepared for the possibility that they’re going to wind up hurt, not helped by it in the end.

          1. animaniactoo*

            Yeah, that’s why my standard for my son on getting kicked out (prior to finding job) wasn’t achievement of finding a job, but of whether he was looking hard enough. And then keeping the job had different standards for if he lost it (because he tended to be a bonehead and I needed him to be aware there were going to be serious consequences to being a bonehead and ending up exactly where I told him he was likely to end up). It took some work and I drew hard boundaries, but not so hard that I was being unrealistic about what was possible.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Thankfully, I had some good friends who helped keep me from ending up entirely underwater, and things pulled together for me in time.

          2. Indoor Cat*

            I feel you, although I haven’t been there myself.

            My county, in Ohio, is going through a bit of a housing crisis– there are more homeless people or impoverished people here than we have shelters and Section 8 placements for, so we’re working a lot with neighboring counties to try to move people into safe living spaces as soon as possible. And while certainly opioid use and alcoholism are contributing factors, there are plenty of clean and sober homeless / housing challenged people.

            And, I gotta say, it kinda pisses me off when someone has a more-or-less safe home with their family, and then they get kicked out even if they weren’t being violent, stealing, or drinking / using drugs. So now it’s the job of non-profit shelters or the state of Ohio to figure out how to house your adult child or sibling when their only wrongdoing was…not getting a job?

            Poverty is not a crime. Getting trapped due to our economy’s wage stagnation and the failure of our education system is not a character flaw; 40% of people who attempt college in Ohio drop out because they were unprepared by k-12. Then they wind up with debt, default on their loans, and are refused future FAFSA loans if they want to try college again, so they get stuck. Jobs available for those without college degrees around here are, like, WalMart and PizzaHut.

            And this is tied up in healthcare too– there are few sustainable options for someone with chronic physical and mental health issues. Medicaid exists but it’s complicated, not everyone qualifies for all parts, coverage can lapse, and not all inpatient facilities take Medicaid so people with serious mental health issues get put on a 6-month waitlist for the one that does. Can a person really work in those six months? Should they apply for SSI– and then potentially get put on a, I kid you not, 2 year waitlist?

            “But it’s their fault if they don’t work to find a job or get fired, so they need to face the consequences!” It seems like a bizarre, disproportionate, and frankly, cruel punishment to me. There are people who are homeless because of their own poor choices, but there are also too many people in the system now who wouldn’t be if their own families could extend a smidge of empathy and compassion to their own relatives.

            Again, I’m not saying it’s good to put oneself if harm’s way if a family member is violent, drunk, or a thief; in those cases, it might be a person needs to make the difficult choice to protect their safety or the safety of a family’s most vulnerable members over keeping that person homed. But in other cases, I just don’t get it. It seems heartless. My parents let me live at home until I moved out when I was 25 and there was no pressure to do it sooner.

            1. Indie*

              Yeah there’s significant evidence that reward is a better or as good a teacher as ‘consequences’ and the independence or cash of a job is motivation enough.
              If you want to give your kid ‘consequences’ you can refuse to sub their social life or luxuries. Taking away shelter and food is a rough call. My parents always let me know I had a home forever, whenever, whatever.

      2. animaniactoo*

        True, I trust my son not to lie to me even when he’s being a bonehead. Or at least not anymore. That was the result of catching him out in lies and proving to him that I COULD figure out when he was lying and how I responded when I busted him. He decided he’d rather have me trust him, so that’s my vantage point when I think about this stuff. It depends on how honest LW thinks her daughter will be with her.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      Yep, the difference between me and my friends who still live at home is that my parents charged me market rent. I was gone in a month.

      1. krysb*

        I moved out of my parents’ house with no job, no car, and no apartment. It was the better option.

    3. MuseumChick*

      +1. Also, OP, if you haven’t already your daughter should now be responsible for her own laundry, car, and be expected to clean up after herself.

    4. Bea*

      This depends squarely on the parents involved. I had to physically deposit my rent into my mom’s account, she was upset that I paid her at all. Then after 29 years she had an epic breakdown when I moved out. My dad still goes on about how he misses me being there.

      Granted I was self sufficient since 19 and my rent saved a lot of stress a few years after my dad was forced into early retirement. They would have been fine but not nearly as comfortable, my dad confirmed that a couple years ago during a chat prior to leaving the state for new adventures etc. He also still brags about me to anyone who listens.

      So yeah. It truly is a very family specific world to dabble in.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Yes, and no. Some setups are very very common – yours is not the first of your type that I’ve run across.

        Nuances may be specific but often families react in some very general ways because there really are limited numbers of responses to certain kinds of situations.

        I don’t actually need my son to move out – I do need him to be self-sustaining. So everything I did, I did with that message behind it and reinforced it with how I responded to situations.

        Given that OP says it is her business because she needs her daughter not to live in her home for the rest of her life, I’d bet strongly that she’s more towards my side of the fence than yours.

  16. Falling Diphthong*

    I wonder if the youth and inexperience is leading her to assume that either a) all reasons for being fired are The Worst, and so make her look equally terrible if revealed; or b) if she refuses to answer, they will assume that she was fired because her managers are jerks, and she is too dignified to sink their level and tattle.

    When actually, they will assume the answer must be so shocking there is just no way she can frame it in polite company. It’s like the flip side of being good at managing a sex club, but no you can’t mention that in non-sex-club-adjacent industries.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      She probably just thinks its none of their business. I didn’t really “get” the adult working world when I was just starting out.

    2. MsSolo*

      Yeah, I wonder if there’s a vein of “don’t say negative things about your previous employers” that’s twisted around “my previous employers are jerks for firing me without warning” that’s resulting in “not saying anything is the polite way of indicating previous employers were jerks”. I remember as a uni student there was a persistent rumour that people weren’t allowed to say bad things about you in references (this may have been true for schools on ACAS forms, for some convoluted reason?), so if you were a terrible student/employee they would just refuse to give a reference, and that implied how terrible you were. She needs to flip it around and realise she’s not giving herself a reference here, and the implications of that.

  17. Justin*

    I once got put on a PIP at work. I knew the writing was on the wall and desperately tried to find a new job (and also told myself not to do the things that got me written up – hardly illegal, but bad judgment; in fact, I mentioned learning from these mistakes a couple jobs later as part of my application, and got the job).

    Aside from the crazy stuff we see here sometimes, it’s rare not to have a hint it’s coming down the pike.

    I hope the daughter listens. My parents would have been the same way. Parents, they can be wrong, but just because they can be doesn’t mean they always are.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah my friend was told ” you need to think about if you want to be here” – more than once I think – but was still shocked, shocked I tell you, to be fired.

      1. Justin*

        My friend got fired and thinks, to this day, it’s just “political.” But, like, he’s a really churlish and petulant dude when he doesn’t get his way, so….. am not trusting your opinion.

        To paraphrase The Departed, “if he was fired, he probly did something wrong.” (Speaking of my friend, not all humans.)

        1. Specialk9*

          Churlish and petulant friends… The best kind! :D

          (but I’ll bet you love how perfectly those words fit him.)

    2. NaoNao*

      At my top heavy but also RIF lovin’ mega-corp, getting fired is both easy and impossible. Conference calls frequently start with people noting they’ve been “here” for 20+ years, 45 and 50 year anniversaries are not uncommon.
      Getting actually fired instead of politely shown the “retirement” door seems to be well nigh impossible, akin to a gov’t department.
      I think bosses can threaten or hint or even outright say things like “think about if you want to be here” all they want, but the *example* of so many goldbrickers who’ve been here 30+ years says otherwise.
      And the constant unspoken threat of unrelated to performance layoffs gives one a devil may care twinkle like “well….I could do whatever I want and either work here for 30 years doing little or nothing, OR get laid off for no discernible reason. 50/50 shot either way! Who cares!”

      I get that other companies don’t operate this way, but that may explain why people are shocked. After all, we’ve seen incompetent boors promoted, feted, retired on gold parachutes, and generally treated like kings, and well loved, amazingly good people shown the door.

  18. Rincat*

    This sort of sounds like someone who took the advice about not revealing your salary history (in that it is not really any of their business and shouldn’t be considered when assessing the current value for the position) and took it way too far.

    I hope that the daughter will take the time to come up with a better answer for this. I get the embarrassment (I made a lot of dumb work decisions when I was first starting out!) but it’s a temporary discomfort. Being honest about situations like these shows maturity, and that’s what good bosses want.

  19. Curious Cat*

    My guess is that she’s scared to mention it, and embarrassed too! OP, if you have any examples from your own life (a friend or family member who got fired but now has a flourishing career) that you can share with your daughter, I’m sure that would go a long way in reassuring her that mentioning why she left the job is very important and also not The Worst Thing Ever!

    As with many others, I also like your included script.

  20. StressedButOkay*

    Is OP’s daughter under the impression that her former employer can’t or won’t explain the reason for her departure when the hiring manager calls them? In a situation like this, it’s far better for her to be upfront about it now, explain how she’s grown, etc., then for the company to be put off by gaining the information after the fact.

    If they even move to that stage because she’s refusing to answer the question!

  21. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    If the OP is going to show her daughter the comments here’s one more hiring manager’s perspective.

    I would not hire anyone who didn’t answer this question. It leads to speculation on my part (as others have said) but most importantly it would indicate that the candidate has something to hide. Telling me you got fired from the previous job would not be an automatic deal breaker for me, I would want to talk about it further to find out how you are going to correct the problem in the future and what have you already done to correct the problem (If it’s a correctable problem*). I absolutely can’t imagine a situation that I would hire someone who didn’t answer this question.

    That being said, there are right ways and wrong ways to do it. It would be a funny story if it weren’t so tragic… I was interviewing a candidate for a supervisor position. On paper he had most of the skills I was looking for and the experience I wanted. Most of the interview was around how well I thought he’d be able to handle the team.

    One of the questions I asked him was “What’s your hot button” mostly I wanted to know if some of the squirrelly habits of my team was going to send this guy round the bend or if he was was incompatible with the group. He answered by going into a bit of an over dramatic tirade about punctuality and attendance. Ok I get that I asked about ‘hot button’ but this guy was getting visibly upset telling me about some of the issues with the last team he supervised. I thought… umm ok a bit over the top, but the team is pretty good about attendance and the like.

    My next question was “So why did you leave your last position/why are you looking to leave”… without skipping a beat his answer was “Oh I was fired for too many absences” I just didn’t know where to go from there and was honestly without words.

    I would absolutely consider someone who used the script that the LW wrote.

    *If I were interviewing someone like the LW today who was demoted for her employee murdering someone on a drug fueled binge or fired for something totally out of their control I’d factor that in.

      1. Ralkana*

        No, but see, his people need to be there on time and ready to work so they can cover for him in case he doesn’t feel like coming in that day. :-/

  22. You're Right, But Also*

    So, I back the idea that she needs to be open and talking about this with interviewers, and that it’ll show growth to own up to her mistakes.

    But man, it would be crushing to me if I learned this was how my mother talked about me.

    1. Justin*

      You’re not wrong. Minus the “stupidity” (which i’m sure she meant re: her decisions but can be read as describing her as a person), my dad said a lot of this type of stuff to me when my career was not going well.

      I figured things out, so he probably still thinks it helped. It just gave me pretty permanent anxiety.

      But she’s also not wrong, so it’s the approach rather than the facts, if that makes sense? She’s probably just venting to some extent, though.

      1. anon for this*

        Yeah, I was thinking something similar. All the people saying “oh send this to your daughter!” seem to be forgetting that she calls her daughter stupid in the first couple sentences. And yes, the daughter has made some mistakes! But if she’s not listening to her mom now, what makes anyone think she’s going to read past the point where her mom called her stupid in a public forum?

        1. Justin*

          Yeah. I doubt she actually thinks her daughter is stupid, but thinks her daughter is doing stupid things (this is a fact), and elides the two in her letter, but her daughter isn’t really going to be able to calmly parse that.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      From the letter the LW sounds pretty down to earth. I didn’t see anything wrong with what she wrote.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I don’t either.

        Sometimes, you’re doing an action that is objectively stupid. This tap dance is one of those. Most of us do stupid things now and again, and it’s often best if we categorize them as “stupid” (and I hate feeling stupid, so won’t repeat that action) rather than things completely out of our control that we couldn’t possibly have handled differently. Part of maturing is that you do this less often, and about new and original things rather than the same old things.

        1. Queen of Cans & Jars*

          If she really thought her kid was stupid, then this behavior wouldn’t be worth noting at all.

      2. Myrin*

        I didn’t, either. OP seems refreshingly realistic, which includes acknowledging that sometimes your child does stupid things. I think her writing style could theoretically be read as her being dismissive or condescending but as someone with a similar style, I understood it to be somewhat hyperbolic and tongue-in-cheek at times; I personally find the dry tone of her letter highly entertaining.

      3. LQ*

        I agree, the letter, tone and content is pretty straightforward and I wouldn’t see any issues with it. (I mean from my mom yeah, but only because this direct and clear would mean she was a pod person, but aside from that I’d be thrilled.)

    3. ket*

      What would you rather the mother be saying? If mom is not interested in making excuses for daughter, what else would she say?

    4. Bea*

      This isn’t very harsh though. I come from two parents who have rarely criticized me, I actually think they’re overly proud of my career path but if they said “you are goofing up and made a stupid choice, here’s why I view it that way” I wouldn’t think they’re mean or wrong.

      I’ve cut the crap with my mom on my brothers choices and her friend’s/friend’s kids etc when she tells me stories and is concerned. She feels bad when she sees something and thinks someone handled it poorly, I am sad she doesn’t trust her very good instincts more, I’m lucky my dad’s genes overrode that trait.

      It’s okay to think your kid did something wrong. As long as you don’t call them names and write them off as losers who will never learn, it’s basic life for a mom to say “argh my daughter is handling X poorly, I wish she’d stop but her life is her own!”

    5. Let's Talk About Splett*

      I actually wondered if the daughter told her mom she’s just not answering that question to get her to back off, but in reality she is answering the question. My late mom had (mostly unwanted & unasked for) advice on my jobs, clothes, friends, relationships, schools and I learned to just tell her as little as possible.

      1. Observer*

        Well, if you want someone to back off, it’s not too smart to tell them the thing that is the most likely to get them legitimately annoyed with you.

    6. MsSolo*

      Oh, you’ve touched a nerve with me here, and I absolutely agree with you.

      I hated the idea that my mother talked about me with other people – specifically, that she would tell them things about me that I wouldn’t have told them. I viscerally remember realising that she did this and the way it changed how I related to her: some of it was normal teenage embarrassment (oh my god, she talks to our step dad about buying us bras!), but a lot was realising how we as kids fit into her life as an adult – of course she talked to other adults about us! If your kids suddenly stop eating vegetables, telling your fellow parent-friends and asking them for advice is a normal part of the parenthood support system. But if your adult children don’t eat as much veg as you like, it’s not okay to do the same because it’s not about you any more. As you enter adulthood part of defining your boundaries with your parents is asking them to respect you as they would other adults, and that means not sharing their personal business with people they wouldn’t. A colleague recently read out a text from her teenaged daughter to our open plan office that began “don’t tell anyone but [intimate thing]” and all I could think was no wonder you keep butting heads if you think you have the right to share that information with people who don’t even know her. She’s actively asking you to respect her privacy, but because it’s information you’d be comfortable sharing about yourself, you’re sharing it on her behalf.

      I can 100% see my mum writing in to an advice column to solve a problem on my behalf. Which is why if I were fired, I wouldn’t tell her. I wouldn’t tell her I was struggling with interviews, and I wouldn’t tell her what I was saying when interviewers asked me awkward questions. It gives me the whole body cringe just to think about it. I don’t say this because she’s a bad mother – far from it! She’s kind and loving and generous and supportive, but our relationship hasn’t ever really become an adult one – to her, my sister and I are still her kids and still need her to try and solve our problems for us, so she reaches out to her community for help. But her community aren’t my community, and if I want help I’ll ask for it myself.

      So, much as I think there’s a lot of benefit for the daughter in reading the comments here, I think LW needs to step back and have a think about the relationship she currently has and the relationship she wants with her daughter before admitting she shared something the daughter clearly finds very embarrassing with a large number of complete strangers. If you have an open, sharing relationship, and you think your daughter would have written in herself, maybe it’s all fine. But if you’re worried your daughter is already shy of sharing stuff with you, and she’s a private person, you may find you’ve overstepped in a way that’s going to be harder to recover from.

      1. Inspector Spacetime*

        My mom does the same. I’ve taken to specifically prefacing anything I tell her with, “Please don’t tell anyone else this. No, not [friend]. Not [other friend], either. Not the clerk at the grocery store. No, not even grandma.”

        I really, really hope she listens to me, but as I live across the country there’s no real way to tell.

    7. LilyP*

      Thanks for articulating this. I’d also feel pretty weird/bad if I found out one of my parents was describing me this way to a public forum. (No offense to people above who apparently would be ok with this, just, not everyone has your tolerance for public criticism). LW, I do think you maybe need to take a step back and let this be your daughter’s to solve for a while. If having her at home is a genuinly unfeasible that’s a separate conversation you two can have independent of whether she’s taking all of your job-hunting advice. If “you can keep living at home for free only if you take all my advice” is a path you wanna take, well, that’s a option too, and you know better than I how much that would damage your relationship.

  23. AKchic*

    Oh LW, I hope your daughter reads this letter and the comments section. She is tanking her prospects.

    I’ve had people demure when asked “why did you leave your last job”. It wasn’t a good look (when I was the first line HR person, long, long ago). If I otherwise thought they were a decent enough candidate for round two, I proceded with a deeper background check. You can believe I checked criminal record and if nothing popped up, I’d be wondering why they didn’t answer my reasonable request. I would mention it to the HR manager and the site manager and ask if they wanted to continue. If we had other applicants who were just as qualified and more forthcoming – we’d note why we were passing on the application and file you away. If we were desperate, we’d call you in for a second round and ask again. We would call your former employers, so either way, we’d know, but we’d only know one side, and it probably wouldn’t look good for you.

    All a person can do is be humble. Even if you have to fake it (although we’d prefer it if you weren’t).
    LW, I hope your adult daughter has learned from her mistakes, but I do think that you need to consider the possibility that she may also be hiding some of the truth of what happened from you as well. There could have been more going on and you just don’t know it. Perhaps there is chronic insomnia or another sleep disorder, perhaps depression causing some issues, or something else going on. You can’t know, and ultimately, it’s not up to you to figure out. It’s up to your daughter to get seen by a doctor and get treated for her ailments if such ailments do exist.
    ***Please note that I am not attempting to armchair diagnose. I am merely pointing out that there could be other factors at play that the adult daughter didn’t confide in her mother about***

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Ha on the “other factors at play that the adult daughter didn’t confide in her mother about” comment. . .

      When we were about 22, my best friend from high school got fired from a really good job with an investment firm that she really shouldn’t have even had (no degree, no qualifications). I didn’t get the full story right away, but she eventually told me she was sleeping with her married boss.

      1. AKchic*

        My sister got fired *a lot* from jobs. Her first job was one I got for her and she did pretty well at it, except she didn’t manage her diabetes and my mother never actually held her accountable for herself, so she called in a lot, even when it wasn’t medically necessary.
        Then she found out that if she applied for management positions at fast food jobs, she could get the on-the-job training and work towards management positions.
        She’d apply, they’d see her spotty resume and give her a regular crew position with the half-hearted kiss off of “we’ll review your management goals in 6 months”. Well, when she didn’t make manager in 6 months, she’d walk off the job, full of herself and highly opinionated that the company would sink without her (note that she worked part time and called out half that time).

        She’d tell my mother all sorts of stories. They were mean to her. They were sexually harassing her. They weren’t giving her the mandatory breaks she’d negotiated for (um… she didn’t get any since she wasn’t even scheduled for more than 4 hours?). Generally it was all about how mistreated she was and how they had promised her the moon and management and she should be leading that store by now, blah blah blah.
        Not once did my mother question any of it. That was her baby, y’know, she could never lie to Mommy.
        She still buys into a lot of my sister’s garbage, but now there’s distance and other people to say “um… really?”

        I’ve seen some people try to claim some pretty weird things and it turned out that their addiction issues were the real cause of their termination, or stealing from the company, or just general lack of work or ethics violations.

      2. Specialk9*

        That’s too bad that your friend got fired, instead of the married boss who was sleeping with his (?) subordinate.

  24. BB*

    I mean she would be better off just saying she was “let go due to restructuring” and not getting into too many details, but she does need to respond and say something or she is going to look suspicious.

    I was once fired for tardiness, however in my situation was a bit different as my manager lived across the country and I didn’t find out until I was being fired a coworker in my office was lying and said I wasn’t showing up to work at all. There was proof via emails, etc, I was in fact working but they had just taken that coworkers word for it.

    Fortunately for me I negotiated a pretty sizable severance (threatening a suit of course) and neutral terms of employment so I can say “it wasn’t a good fit” or “was laid off”. You should get your daughter to see what the policy is around references as most companies nowadays will only confirm or deny if the person worked their and dates for legal reasons. No need for her to disclose then, say something simple, learn from the situation and move forward.

    1. BRR*

      She shouldn’t say she was let go due to restructuring. As Alison stated above, if they do a reference check and they find out the LW lied, she is definitely not going to get an offer. I also don’t think most companies avoid references.

      1. BB*

        That is why I mentioned she should find out what her employers reference policy is. A lot of big companies these days will only confirm and deny dates and will not say anything about employee performance, positive or negative due to potential lawsuits. In this situation she can just say she was laid off and be done with it.

        1. Observer*

          It doesn’t matter what the policy is . People frequently talk about stuff like this, especially if someone know someone and someone else is ok with an off the record chat.

          1. BB*

            Yes but if that off record chat is ever brought to light then that sets employer up to be sued. Ive known more people to get away with it than not in my industry since a lot of jobs aren’t super stable and people job hop plenty in it.

              1. BB*

                If they say anything that can be perceived to be untruthful or anything that could be considered retaliation (retaliation doesn’t apply in this case since its not an EEOC issue). For example, it could be true that OP daughter was let go for tardiness but if someone didn’t stick to 100% the facts as documented by HR they could be liable for misrepresenting the situation even if the general information was correct if its found out that the reference was the reason they didnt get the job.

                1. Observer*

                  Not really. Besides the fact that someone would have to be able to find this out, you would have a pretty high bar to have grounds for a law suit. The misrepresentation would have to be pretty egregious. In case like this, given that the daughter really WAS let go for lots of tardiness, it would be pretty close to impossible that an exaggeration, even if it happened, was the reason that she didn’t get the job vs the precise truth.

                2. BB*

                  Yes really. It’s happened before which is why one of my previous companies (huge media company) adopted that policy.

                  She was let go for tardiness but to what extent? Details are important. What my company was sued over was a reference for just poor performance. Not only that but from that company now its impossible to fire someone over poor performance now unless its well documented. It took a department six months to get rid of someone since legal told them they needed a well documented paper trail.

                  Many companies offer you the job on the contingency of your references. If you get to the reference stage, references and backgrounds are checked and you don’t get the job its pretty obvious as to why. Especially if you ask and they say, you had a bad reference. We don’t know what tardiness entails, chronic 10-15 min late (which still IS a problem) or chronically hours late or not showing up at all? A business with flex-time might not care about 10-15 min versus a business with set regulated business hours, context is important.

                3. Observer*

                  So, you experience one law suit, and that means that it’s easy to get sued for a bad reference?

                  That’s not really how it works. Sure, anyone can sue for pretty much anything, but making a case that sticks is a LOT harder. A lot of different things needs to fall together for that to happen.

                  In your company’s case, the problem wasn’t that there was a negative reference, or that some minor details were left out. It sounds like whoever gave the reference actually lied – there IS a difference between general poor performance and tardiness.

                  Beyond that, if someone gives a reference outside of office policy their contact will quite possibly not disclose that information. In many cases it would never even come to that because when it’s someone talking to a friend or acquaintance, it often happens before an offer is made and so there in never even any conversation about what reference did or did not say.

                4. JS*

                  All you need for a case to stick is a good lawyer. I never said it was one time, I just gave ONE example. My old company is a multi-national corporation known world-wide that owns many entities, they don’t make arbitrary policy changes.

                  Well finding out is one thing but in my industry references are typically done once you get the offer (honestly if at all as people job hop in this industry so its hard to get old supervisors sometimes) so it would be easier to find out why if the offer was rescinded. Sure people are less likely to disclose a casual conversation but word travels easier and its better to keep to policy than deal with any fallout later if it came to light.

    2. paul*

      If she’s working at retail or a restaurant or similar, “let go due to restructuring” would be a pretty questionable statement, even disregarding the whole lying in an interview thing

      1. BB*

        Not really, you can restructure the retail team by cutting down on roles or what roles you have in your restaurant for example, instead of dedicated hostess all servers have a host shift now.

    3. fposte*

      “Let go due to restructuring” is a lie, though. She was fired for cause. That’s really not the same thing.

      1. BB*

        I mean, I’m just saying it would be better to lie then to say nothing. Ideally she should be truthful with the well written explanation her mom gave in the letter, but if not say something simple and leave it at that.

    4. Recovering journalist*

      This is a terrible idea. Never lie! I have seen people who have lied in this situation bave offers pulled when the lie comes to light.

      I can’t believe “don’t lie” needs to said. But don’t. Just don’t.

      1. BB*

        I’ve seen more people get away with it to be honest, especially nowadays where a lot of corporate employers wont give references or even check them because of that.

  25. Emmie*

    OP is right, and has communicated this to her daughter. You can communicate good advice to someone, but they must receive it. Sharing this message with her daughter 2-3 times is more than enough. It’s good advice. If she discusses her response, ask her “how’s that working for you?” The next step is to let the daughter sit in the consequences of her decision. Make it her problem. I do not know how old her daughter is. If she is old enough (i.e. college grad or whatever you decide), it’s probably time to put some obligations on the daughter. When is your deadline to move out? Should she be paying rent, and her other bills? (Paying rent to your parents – especially post-college is completely okay.) How can you prepare yourself for this transition and relationship change? Sometimes kids and parents need some time apart, so kids can learn the realities of adulting and their kids can let go of some bitterness that comes with entitlement or unrealistic expectations.) Good luck, OP. In some situations, this is a good opportunity to revisit how you can prepare her for moving out, and for sitting in the realities of what that will look like for her.

    1. Justin*

      My dad told me I had to pay rent after a few months of sitting around after college. I… up and moved to Asia to teach (and am still a teacher). The motivation worked.

      (Though risk of backfiring is possible)

      (sorry for commenting all over the thread, folks – slow day at the office)

      1. Emmie*

        I had to pay rent too during college (under market rate), pay all of my own bills, buy all of my own food, and provide overnight care from e you get siblings while my mom midnights. Obviously, OP doesn’t have to go to this extreme with her daughter, but it’s a necessary step. Empty nests, and kids moving out are scary things for parents. Glad to hear about your motivations, and to see you commenting throughout the thread!

        1. AnotherAlison*

          When my husband was 1 yr out of high school, he came home from work one day and his mom, brother (high school age), and sister’s family had moved out of the rental house they were all sharing. The message he was told was that the lease was up in a couple weeks, everyone else had a place to go, good luck. He ended up getting his money back on the fall semester he had just enrolled in, and finding a second job and an apartment.

          We are now supporting our kid while he is in college because we’re a lot better off than my husband’s family was, and he’s a hard-working kid who has earned our support, but you can imagine he won’t have much time back at the homestead after he graduates.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Ha, no. I wouldn’t move out of our home and leave my kid to fend for himself. But, when he’s done with school and should be in the workforce, it’s time to move out. Since my husband was on his own at a young age, he has a fairly low tolerance to support another adult man into his mid-20s. We’re paying for his school & living expenses now, and our personal circumstances are such that working after school should not be an issue. For one, my husband has a business, so if nothing else, he could work for him full-time until he gets a job in a different field, if that’s what he chooses. I know other people have different circumstances, and wouldn’t apply the same rules to every circumstance for our kids, either.

    2. AKchic*

      I 100% agree with this.

      My teens are super invested in this idea that they need to work during high school. “To help out” is always the excuse. Um… sorry kids, but my job is to work and support the house, your job is to educate yourselves so you can get a decent job and support yourselves as adults.
      So, since they seem so keen to “help out” I told them that if they are working, they will be paying rent for every month they work while still in school, and they will get rent credits for good grades. One has already moved out rather than pay me rent (he’s 18 and not in school). One (adult, graduated) decided my rent was cheaper than anywhere else. The near-16 year old wants to work this summer, but he needs his tonsils removed so that may not be an option at this stage.

  26. MsMaryMary*

    “You are right and she is wrong“ is basically what every person who writes into an advice columnist wants to hear! If OP doesn’t show this post to her daughter I hope it helps her feel better. ;-)

  27. DCer*

    Ask her to imagine the next man/woman she goes on a date with. And she asks them, “Why did your previous relationship end.” And they said, “I’m not going to tell you.”

    You would be alarmed that they beat them or cheated on them or did something awful. Even if the answer was, “I find they way they sneezed so horrible I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with anymore just thinking about it.” You’re still going to think they chopped their ex up into little tiny pieces and hid their body in seven states. Because that’s how people think.

  28. MLB*

    I think the bigger issue is that she doesn’t seem to take responsibility for being fired based on the letter. She wants to blame her manager.

    I do think you’re right, but nagging your daughter about it will only push her to rebel against you. Since she’s living in your house and I’m assuming she’s an adult, you need to let her know how things are going to be. Give her a time frame to find a new job because you will start charging her rent (or some similar scenario). If adult children can’t afford their own place, there’s no reason they should be loafing off of their parents and not have any responsibilities. And unless she asks for advice, don’t keep telling her how to handle her interviews.

    My mom was a one and done kind of mother. She provided unsolicited advice to me, and if I chose not to follow it, there was no complaining from me since she warned me. Most kids will think about your advice later and at some point realize you were right. I became an independent adult who started supporting myself at 22.

  29. Former Usher*

    “Refusing to answer an interview question is … well, a really big deal! There are times when it makes sense to do it, like ” when they ask for confidential information on a project for your current employer. I refused to answer, and the interviewer claimed she knew plenty of people she could call and get that information. Disappointed that I didn’t get an offer because I would have loved to turned them down.

  30. E*

    An easy explanation would be that “I made rookie mistakes at that job but I’ve learned from them and am a better employee for it now”. Mention that she struggled with punctuality at her last job but that she has since been working hard to improve.

  31. Granny K*

    Mom has great advice. However I predict because it came from Mom that she will have to come to this knowledge on her own. As for living at home forever, your daughter doesn’t HAVE to get a job because she already has a home that she doesn’t pay for. What’s her incentive to get a job?

  32. NW Mossy*

    I just got done hiring someone for my team, and I got the advice to do two things: be very clear with myself on what I absolutely require someone in the job to do (both skills and behaviors), and rule out anyone who doesn’t meet that bar for any reason. For me, the ability and willingness to talk candidly about one’s own errors in judgment is a must-have behavior, so I’d rule out the OP’s daughter for actively demonstrating she can’t/won’t do that. I don’t grade on a curve, and no amount of nice-to-have behavior or skills can overcome the absence of something this critical.

    The fact that she’s not getting traction on her interviews says that even a below-average hiring process is weeding her out of the running, which means it’s basically guaranteed that the kinds of high-standards, well-managed places most of us want to work aren’t going to be interested in her either. She’s essentially self-selecting for jobs that don’t have great management, so if she does get hired under her current approach, it’s likely to be a Pyrrhic victory. I hope she’s able to recognize that she’s doing herself more harm than good here, and that changing tack leads her into a good role.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      This is a great point and if it were possible to nominate posts to be lit up like the 4th of July to be noticed, I would nominate this one.

      To add on to it, it’s not even just the management of a place that would hire someone who didn’t answer a basic question, can you imagine your coworkers at such a place? It’s essentially not vetting employees at even a basic level. I shudder to think of the dysfunction and chaos in an environment like that.

    2. Far more anon than usual*

      So true, and explains a lot of how people who don’t have well-developed soft skills like being able to reflect on their performance sometimes end up in a revolving door of bad jobs with bad management.

  33. Far more anon than usual*

    Particularly if she needs references from the last job, OP’s daughter might feel better if she has a chat with her referees about what they would say if they were called for a reference. Obviously they won’t be able to give an all-around good reference because she got fired for tardiness, but it might help her craft an honest interview script if she knows that they can say positive things about everything else she did on the job.

    It’s pretty crappy to be in a position where you need a new job but don’t have strong references, but the best she can do is to not contradict whatever they might tell a potential new employer.

  34. with tough love from the daughter of an overbearing mother*

    You called your daughter stupid in this letter and said that you’re looking for “ammunition” to prove that you’re right and she’s wrong. I think it’s very clear why your daughter doesn’t listen to you.

    You aren’t on the right track. Your facts are correct, but your delivery is 100% wrong. Sometimes you can’t micromanage your kids into compliance. Public shaming (via this letter) certainly wouldn’t do it for me. If you want your kid to be independent (i.e. move out), then you need to let them be independent. That means letting them independently solve their own problems. Why would you be “taken aback” (as if you had no hand or responsibility in making sure your own kid values timeliness) that she doesn’t know information you consider common sense when you won’t even let her find her next job on her own?

    If you wanted her to move it out, it would be simple: tell her she needs to move out by xx date or start charging her rent. You wouldn’t have contacted AAM, because the advice you need isn’t job-related. But you’re not solving your problem, you’re micromanaging hers and enabling her to not suffer the consequences of her actions. She knows what your thoughts are, you already told her. She gets to choose if she follows them or anyone else’s advice because she is a separate human.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      A little unfair to the OP I think. We all walk into conversations with baggage, but based on your username you might be coming from a place that doesn’t remotely resemble the OPs.

    2. INTJ*

      If she lives rent free with her parents because she doesn’t have a job, she doesn’t get a lot of choice. You’re only an adult if you can support yourself and not mooch off of your parents for perpetuity. She can’t demand respect and then act like a brat and not be willing to try her mother’s suggestions.

      My mom would have just pack my stuff and leave it at the door. As she put it, “I can’t control what you do, but I can control whether you’re in my house or not.”

    3. Observer*

      Public shaming? Really? Unless someone Doxes here, no one will know who she is. And unlike some of the other letters we’ve seen here, there is nothing here that is sooo outrageous and unique that someone would recognize either of them. And mom says that her daughter doesn’t read this blog either.

    4. Bea*

      I think you’re bringing in your own baggage from having a complicated relationship with your mother and it’s tainting your response.

      The actions are stupid not her daughter and the use of the word ammunition is debatable. The letter is tame and seeking validation that her advice on a work issue is correct, it’s really not that bad at all.

    5. Nicole*

      I have an absolutely abysmal relationship with my mom, and I’ll have to agree with other commenters that you’re off base here.

    6. Anonymous*

      I agree with this comment; reading this letter really raised my hackles. Since other people don’t see it that way I guess this letter isn’t *definitive* evidence that the LW is overstepping boundaries and being harsh and judgmental and overbearing… but I still see this as a red flag at least.

      LW, please don’t call your daughter stupid or make it your life’s mission to ensure she makes only the best decisions. Even though you are right on the issue at hand, your daughter needs the freedom to make her own decisions. You can give her advice (such as this column), but it shouldn’t be *ammunition* because you shouldn’t be fighting with her about her choices in the first place – this is *her* life.

      (LW’s daughter, if you read this, my advice is for you to separate the immediate issue at hand and the role it might be playing in your relationship with your mom. Alison’s advice really is good, and I hope you are able to fairly consider it, even though that can be hard to do with something that might have already taken on a symbolic meaning in what feels like an ongoing power struggle. If you don’t want to keep fighting about this, you can say “thanks, I’ll think about it”, and then think about it in the privacy of your own head. (LW, if your daughter says “thanks, I’ll think about it”, let her think about it without your input.)

      Apologies if I’m too far off topic or off base about the underlying dynamics here – this just felt extremely familiar and I thought, on the off chance that this really is similar to my own relationship with my mom, my perspective may be useful.

      1. Lindsay J*

        It’s not only her life though, if her mother needs to continue subsidizing it by allowing her to live rent free in her home.

        Expecting your adult child to be able to take care of themselves, and being frustrated with them when they are making decisions that actively prevent that from happening is understandable.

        And there’s a difference between trying to get someone to only make the best decisions, and trying to get them to stop shooting themselves in the foot. If mom was insisting the daughter go to sleep at 9PM every day, only eat well balanced meals totaling 1300 calories each day, only have an hour of screen time a day, etc, that would be overbearing and insane.

        Like, if the daughter was complaining that she wasn’t able to find a job, but was showing up to all her interviews in a bathing suit, would the mother be out of line to tell her, “You need to stop wearing a bathing suit to your interviews and wear an actual suit?” Would collecting articles online about appropriate interview wear and sending it to her be out of line if she continued to insist on wearing the bathing suit?

        If your parents aren’t allowed to tell you when you are doing something stupid, who is?

        I guess you could argue that the mother could just give the daughter an ultimatum and tell her that she needs to move out of the house, job or no job, in 6 months. And then whatever the daughter does after that is her life, and it’s not affecting the mom’s life anymore. But that seems harsher to me than trying to get her to listen to solid job-hunting advice to stop continuing to make the same misstep.

    7. Mananana*

      This is ….. harsh. Truly. From your username we can assume you felt your Mom was overbearing, and that seems to be coloring your response. I didn’t see that she called her daughter stupid, rather her daughter’s actions which led to her being fired.

      And how can an anonymous letter to an advice column be considered a “public shaming”? LW didn’t post this on social media, nor did she provide identifying information. Your post is unnecessarily adversarial.

  35. MicroManagered*

    Tell her to imagine interviewing a potential roommate she met online and that person refusing to discuss why they moved out of their last apartment.

    1. Former Employee*

      Or why that person’s previous roommate moved out of the apartment they shared.

      Remember “Single White Female”?

  36. Elbe*

    I find it baffling that she’s refusing to listen to (good) advice after being so clueless about basic employee responsibilities.

    She didn’t even know that you need to show up on time for your job, but somehow she’s still assuming that she knows everything about interviewing. It sounds like she has some pretty major things to learn about what employers expect, and it sounds like in order to learn she needs to let go of the ego that got her into this situation in the first place.

    I hope that she has a change of heart about listening to the OP because the OP seems to have a lot of wisdom and that script was great.

    1. Observer*

      This is not a totally untypical young adult type of reaction. And it’s fed by a lot of stereotypes, many of which are just not accurate.

      Even here, so often the automatic response to parental advice is an automatic “Parent said? MUST be bad advice.” Of course, given how often the letters are coming from people who are having significant problems, it’s to be expected that a lot of times the advice really WILL be bad. It’s not really an accurate assumption, though, but it DOES encourage this kind of attitude in young people.

  37. Observer*

    OP, is your daughter generally this clueless, or is this an outlier. Or maybe somewhere in between – savvy in social settings, but not getting it yet about job stuff?

    It might be worth thinking about the pattern you are (or are not) seeing, where it’s coming from and if that gives you some clues about what to do about the more general problem. In terms of the EIQ (Employment IQ) are there perhaps workshops of classes in your area that provide training and assistance in the soft skills side of job hunting and maintaining a job? Any competent interview counselor will not only make it clear to her that she can’t keep on refusing to answer the question of why she left her last job, but will give her some good strategies for actually answering the question – as well as other common questions.

  38. Leela*

    There’s an unspoken rule in hiring, at least where I’ve worked: don’t let the interviewers answer questions about you on your behalf, because they won’t be kind. While it’s true that a candidate who was fired for being chronically late is not as attractive as one who wasn’t fired and had a good record of punctuality, that fired-for-lateness candidate is much more attractive than the things I’d use to fill in the blanks (they stole from the company? they were extremely inappropriate with a client or coworker and caused a bunch of drama/legal issues? they set a fire?) if someone wouldn’t answer the question in an interview.

    Your script is solid, I hope your daughter uses it!

  39. Gazebo Slayer*

    I’ve always been under the impression that being fired from your last job (or any other job the hiring manager knows about) for any reason is usually a dealbreaker; there are usually so many candidates who *weren’t* fired that there’s no reason to hire someone who was. So I’ve said vague stuff about how I didn’t do very well but that I’ve learned to be more careful. But mostly I’ve dreaded this question and hoped it never gets asked.

    This is part of why I mostly stick to temp agencies – because I know I have almost no chance at anything.

    1. Nicole*

      This is a self-fulfilling prophecy that will keep you perpetually in lousy jobs. Ex-cons can find jobs, people coming from another country with no experience can find jobs, young people with no work history can find jobs. There’s no reason that you can’t find a decent job—it won’t be easy for sure, but it can be done.

      FWIW, I have a family member who is a former junkie with an arrest record and has been fired more than once for poor conduct (including assaulting a customer), and she’s still been able to find legitimate work.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I have a family member who’s an ex-con who’s able to find good work, but he has highly marketable skills (and aptitudes) and is a natural schmoozer with an extensive network.

        No marketable skills beyond the very basic + years of short temp stints + some real screwups and firings = my situation. American society is not very forgiving of failure.

        I really appreciate the honesty of the interviewer who told me that I was not a competitive candidate for any permanent job.

        1. Calpurrnia*

          I think that’s usually when people decide to work on adding some marketable skills – by taking a course, learning online, volunteering, or whatever else is feasible in their situation. You can overcome crappy situations and there are employers who will look past that kind of stuff (probably a minority, but they absolutely exist), but you need to bring marketable skills so they have a reason to look past it.

          Regardless, though, I’m sorry that you’re going through this. It’s definitely true that our “live-to-work, defined-by-your-job” society is neither forgiving nor tolerant, and that really sucks. :(

        2. Observer*

          The interviewer may have been honest, but it doesn’t mean he was right. Also, there is no really good reason that you CANNOT gain new skills. Not in a minute, but with time and work. That would help, too.

    2. FD*

      That’s not really true. It certainly means it will take longer, as a rule, but people who get fired do get jobs, even good jobs. Hiring managers generally want to know a) what went wrong, b) that you have taken the appropriate lessons from it, and c) what you’re doing to show that you’ve taken responsibility for that and are fixing it.*

      * Assuming you were fired for something you actually did wrong, and not because you refused to donate a kidney or something.

    3. Specialk9*

      You’re creating a self fulfilling prophecy here. Many of the people you know were fired at some point. I was; I’m reasonably successful now.

      The main things for long-term success, I believe:
      -Be punctual
      -Work hard and try to improve yourself and your skills
      -Be kind and at least mildly sociable
      -Help others, when you have free time from your work
      -Let managers know what you did, in a humble-ish way
      -Follow up on action items – do what you said

    4. ThatGirl*

      Not true. I was fired from a job 10 years ago and managed to find a much better one within 6 months, and there was a recession. And when I was looking for my current job, nobody even asked about the fired-from job.

  40. Nicole*

    OP, I assume your daughter is over 18? Do you have a rental agreement with her? If not, you should create one that stipulates a requirement for her to have a job & pay rent; otherwise you can kick her out anytime. I know as her mom that’s much easier said than done, but maybe that will be the push she needs to realize she’s a grown up and needs to act like it.

  41. Cedrus Libani*

    I tried to do the same thing…once. It didn’t go well.

    I was barely 22, working at a startup, which I loved. But the startup had about two months left to live, and I knew it, so I was interviewing with a competitor. I should’ve been ready for that question, but I was 22. So I stared like a deer in the headlights, then sputtered something to the effect that I was looking at other opportunities, because, um, opportunity! Of course, the interviewer didn’t buy it. So I spent the rest of the interview trying (and failing quite spectacularly) to convince the guy I wasn’t about to get fired for pooping in the office plants, without actually saying words that meant things, because I’d signed a whole bunch of NDAs and the problems weren’t public knowledge.

    (No, I didn’t get that job, and two months later I was unemployed.)

  42. RB*

    I would also counsel your daughter to seek out jobs where extreme punctuality is not required. There are workplaces where a few minutes is not a big deal. Fast food and retail may not be those places so she may have to apply to a greater variety of industries.

  43. Anon For Always*

    Where could she have gotten the idea that you should try to hide shameful information from others? Certainly not from the parent who called her stupid in front of an entire website full of strangers!

      1. Anonym*

        She attributed the action to her daughter’s youth, inexperience and stupidity. The phrasing is quite clear.

        1. Scubacat*

          The OP described the actions of her daughter as actions of youthful stupidity. (Or doing something from a position of ignorance about workplace norms and general inexperience).

          The OP didn’t call her daughter stupid.

          Or….the actions were being called stupid. But the person was not being called stupid.

      2. LilyP*

        Respectfully, that reading doesn’t make sense to me.
        “Due to a combination of youth, inexperience, and (in my opinion) stupidity, she…”
        Was she also saying the actions themselves were young and inexperienced? It seems pretty clear to me that she’s saying her daughter’s lack of action was due to her daughter’s youth, inexperience and stupidity. Not to pile on but it is a pretty strong word to choose and I think people are justified in being put off by it.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah, we all do stupid things. 9 times out of 10, when people do stupid things, a major reason for that is stupidity. And that’s true even for smart people.

          Maybe you’re the exception to this, but I don’t know anyone who has NEVER done something where others could easily say “What were you THINKING?!”

    1. animaniactoo*

      All of whom have no idea who she or OP is or anything else about them except this one snapshot of a boneheaded decision.

      Pretty sure for shaming to work, you gotta know exactly who is being shamed. Name, location, those kinds of identifiable details that will tell the people she knows and whose opinion she cares about that it’s her.

      Anonymity to express frustration is a beautiful thing.

  44. Accountant*

    I worked for a nonprofit and was fired. As happens at this organization, the manager kept a spreadsheet secretly until a critical mass had been reached and then warned me one more mistake and I would be gone. In this case, I had asked her about something and she would get back to me, and she never did. I followed up and she wouldn’t chose between A, B & C just whatever I thought was best. I was the third person in and out of the job in 3 years. I don’t know how to explain it without sounding like I’m trashing my old boss. They haven’t filled the position yet so I’ve been saying the position was eliminated, but IDK.

    1. laylaaaaah*

      Maybe mention that it wasn’t the right environment for you to stay on long-term/that their priorities didn’t line up with yours, and give a nod to the high turnover rate? I was lucky with my old job in that my old boss/company had built a reputation in our local industry for high turnover, so when I went to other places and said I was looking for something with less of a focus on the intense sales aspect of the old role, they kinda got what I meant.

  45. Christine D*

    When I was in a former job we interviewed a young woman for a lower level position. When asked why she left her former job she was extremely apologetic and truthful, and stated that she made a horrible decision and got a DUI one weekend. Her current job fired her the next week when they found out. She was upfront about how horrible a decision to drink and drive was, how she had learned from her mistake, how she would never repeat it, and how she would not take any opportunity for another chance for granted.

    I was aghast when my boss hired her, but damn if she wasn’t one of the hardest workers I ever encountered. She stayed at our company for 6 years before moving on to a better role somewhere else. She was on time, stayed on the straight and narrow, was easy to get along with, and a whiz at her job. There are a million things I could bash my former boss about (she was legit scary and crazy at times), but hiring that girl was one of the best decisions she made. It won’t always hurt to be honest, but it will always hurt to refuse to be honest.

  46. Sapphire*

    This comment is for the OPs daughter if she feels so moved to read the comments here:

    I was fired from my first job. It sucks a lot, and I took it very hard because I wanted to do a good job and I cared a lot about the people I was supporting, so I felt incredibly ashamed that I was let go. I ended up asking in an open thread on this very website if being fired meant my career was over. The response was a resounding no, as long as I could explain the circumstances of my termination briefly and in a way that showed I had learned and wouldn’t repeat that mistake again.

    Your life is not over, and you will find another job. But it’s important that you own up to the reason when asked why you left your last job, and show that you’ve learned what to do in the workplace. I think you’ll find people will be more willing to give you a chance.

    Best of luck to you!

  47. Van Wilder*

    Ouch. “Stupidity” rubbed me the wrong way but I guess people use that word casually.

    You are right but your daughter is probably more likely to dig her heels in because you’re pushing so hard. I’d show her Alison’s response and encourage her to try it on one of her upcoming interviews and see how it goes. Then back off a little.

    Good luck!

  48. Grey*

    What she says: I’d rather not say.

    What they hear: If I tell you, there’s no way in hell that you’ll hire me.

  49. boop the first*

    Using the script would only work if she believes it. Someone who is that careless with other people’s time and trust on a regular basis may have a different perspective entirely.

    1. Observer*

      You’re making a lot of assumptions about the daughter. They are unkind and unhelpful.

  50. Anna*

    Not telling reminds me of what often happens in the best kinds of horror movies. When the director will cut away from a frightening scene, leaving us to only imagine the worst possible scenario. I feel like that is what these employers are doing.

  51. KayEss*

    Hey LW, you’re right. But, from the job-searching daughter of an anxious mom… be judicious in your approach to advising her.

    I’ve been self-sufficient and out of my mom’s house for years, so the dynamic is a bit different, but she still gets deeply emotionally involved in my job search because she’s my mom and wants me to be happy and safe and fulfilled. However, that means that any time I express frustration over how my search is (not) going, I get back a wave of anxiety from her, resulting in a frantic surge of (well-meant and reasonably sound, but inapplicable) advice. I’ve had to quite sharply tell her that if she wants to know how my search is going, I need to be able to honestly express my own negative emotions without having to then absorb hers as well. Otherwise I’m going to stop updating her at all.

    There has been a lot of good advice in the comments about how to talk to your daughter about her approach to the “why did you leave your last job” question. My suggestion is: don’t have that conversation when your daughter is emotional, during preparation for or in the aftermath of an interview. Don’t do it when she’s venting about her job search–that’s when she’ll be at her most defensive and resistant. Find a neutral time, and you may be more successful at the advice taking root.

  52. jo*

    Good advice from Alison! I would like to add, OP, that if there is any possibility of your daughter finding a job where precise, to-the-minute punctuality is NOT actually a top priority for the employer, she should try to get one! Jobs like that do exist, even at entry level.

    I speak from personal experience as a chronically tardy person: it’s a very, very hard habit to break. In fact, I have never successfully broken it. I know this is hard for a lot of people to understand if they aren’t the same way. But there is hope! I have done well in jobs where being a few minutes late was not a big deal, or where other aspects of my performance outweighed my lateness, and I now do even better in jobs where my start time isn’t so important as long as I get my work done. I spent my twenties getting good experience in the former types of job so that I could build qualifications for the latter type of job, so that now my expertise and skill weigh more than having my butt in a chair during certain precise hours.

    I can’t be sure from your letter, but it sounds like your daughter *could* be like me–that is, incapable of keeping any promises to always be on time. If she is like me, she shouldn’t promise that, because she won’t be able to follow through. But either way, she should absolutely use your language about having learned important lessons–including the one about about paying attention when her bosses are trying to tell her their expectations. I think the lesson learned here is as much about communication and taking your boss seriously as it is about punctuality.

    1. Brandy*

      True. I used to race to the computer to clock in having to be there at 8, Id be at the last minute. But when I started here many years ago (and mind you Ive gotten older, grown up) we had a flex start time up to 9 am. So I tricked myself of having to be here well beforehand at 8, 7:30 start time and Im good. Plus I just started getting more punctual but this helped sooo much. Still a office job but its nice with the flexibility.

  53. Koala dreams*

    As a person who spent most of my 20s trying to become independent, I have some advice I’d like to share. You’re right about the interview dynamics, but you need to let your daughter make her own mistakes. After all, experience is the best teacher. Try to find other conversations topics, and let her think over your advice on her own.

    Also, you need to separate the interview topic from the moving out topic in your mind. Moving out is not a natural consequence from getting a job, and young people move out from their parents at wildly different situations. Just to name a few, people move out to attend high school, when they get their first job, when they move to college, after graduation or when they get married. The moving out conversation will be much more succesful if you can focus on your and your daughter’s timelines for her moving out, and not get stuck in debating job search strategies.

  54. Moonbeam Malone*

    I’m going to gently push back on some of your language choices and approach. It could totally be that this is an issue of having a hard time taking advice from Mom, but attributing your kid’s actions to “stupidity” and coaching her to say her mistake was “dumb” raises some red flags for me as someone with Certified Mommy Issues (tm.) Honestly, even if you have a 100% great relationship she might be more receptive if you remove judgment from the advice and prioritize the fact she needs to be up-front about her firing. First thing: if you haven’t already, you can let her know that fwiw refusing to answer that question makes it sound like she was let go for something wayyyy worse than tardiness. They’re going to assume she stole from them or assaulted someone or was a raging bigot or otherwise just the worst. Even though timeliness is important, in the grand scheme of things being fired for this is not going to be a huge black mark which prevents her from further employment. People get fired. It is ok!

    As for coaching on how to frame the tardiness issue: even though she should acknowledge she made a mistake, I don’t know how open she’s going to be to hearing that from you. At least right now. BUT. There may be another tack to take here. She can acknowledge she didn’t realize how important punctuality was to her employer, and that she’s trying to be better aware of company policy and norms. Without blaming her manager, she might even say that she wishes she’d had the opportunity to correct the problem. This could lead into asking them about their management style and their feedback process with employees, focusing on her desire to learn and grow.

    1. OP*

      Thanks for your comment. I think you’ve got an incorrect impression of my daughter’s and my relationship in some respects, but that’s okay, because there’ s only so much anyone can glean from my letter. I would like to clear up one thing: I have never told HER I thought she was “stupid” or “dumb.” In fact, I didn’t criticize much at all when she told me about the firing. I expressed sympathy and surprise and a hope that she had learned something from this (which I think she has), but there were no lectures or anything like that. We don’t roll that way. :-)

      I really do like your suggestions in your last paragraph. In my letter to Alison, I was trying to provide one example of a possible script. I knew there must be other ways to approach it but couldn’t think what they were. What you said about acknowledging that she didn’t realize how important punctuality was to her employer and wishes she’d had the opportunity to correct problem (etc.) is excellent. In fact, your entire second paragraph is great. imp/

      1. Moonbeam Malone*

        That is very good to hear! I was definitely carrying my own baggage into my comment, I realize. Glad if I managed to say something helpful. Best of luck to you and to your daughter! Getting fired stinks whatever the reason and I hope she’s able to find something that’s a better fit for her.

  55. OP*

    Thank you, Alison, for answering my question, and thank you, commenters, for your helpful (and sometimes highly amusing responses)! I plan to send her this link, with a note like “Please read this, I think you’ll find it very interesting,” and then follow up later to see if she did and if so, what she thought. If she resists reading it, I’ll sum up the contents for her myself, but I hope I won’t have to. I think reading it for herself would probably have more impact, since she’s already pooh-poohed my advice on this issue. (She’s out of town this week, so I won’t get a chance to talk to her for a while, but that’s probably just as well.)

    If reading what Alison and the commentariat here have had to say doesn’t convince her to change the way she’s handling this, there won’t be much more I can do, except take a step back and hope for the best.

    P.S. Alison, your comment that this is the first time you can recall saying a parent’s advice was correct (paraphrasing) in the history of this column totally made my day. I’ve been reading this column long enough and spent enough poking around in the archives to be familiar with some of the bad parental advice that has been discussed her, and I’m delighted (and relieved) to not be one of THOSE parents. :-D

  56. AB*

    I am going to go on a different tangent than to putting it simply down to inexperienced youth. It may be a case of first serious job and not understanding office expectations but has the OP’s daughter ever had problems like this before? What was she like at school and in social interactions with others? As a parent of 3 teenagers, and two who are on the autism spectrum, understanding social cues is something that people on the spectrum generally struggle with and quite often are oblivious to social norms (and they don’t see they have a problem with that). Turning up late, inappropriately dressed, not understanding facial expression or the seriousness of the questions being asked are all examples where a person with autism may struggle. If the OP’s daughter genuinely did not pick up on the cues that she was going to be fired, and is genuinely not reading the interviewers facial or body reactions when declining to answer questions, and does not see that her response (or lack thereof) as inappropriate, then she may have an issue bigger than just youthful inexperience particularly if she is steadfast in not recognising that her behaviour is jeopardising her chances of being employed. She may require training in reading body language and social cues, how to behave in employment (ie punctuality, dress code etc), how to answer interview questions, even personal hygiene can be an issue for some people on the spectrum (I’m not implying this is the case here). I would suggest the OP’s daughter contacting her former employer to see if she can find out what it was that she got wrong. What she understands as the reason for termination may only be part of the truth but she hasn’t picked up on the real reason.

  57. Polymer Phil*

    It’s common advice to give some mushy non-answer to the question about why you’re leaving, especially if the truth is that you hate your boss or company. I wonder if the OP’s daughter is misapplying it here, when what she really needs to do is to explain that her firing wasn’t for something atrocious, and that she learned her lesson.

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