my vendor laid off my mom, leaving early every day in an internship, and more

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

1. My vendor laid off my mom

I own a small business that is experiencing significant growth and had been shopping around for accountants experienced in my particular business. My mom started working for an outsourcing payroll/finance/bookkeeping/admin company at the beginning of the year. I’d been talking to her about my company’s accounting, my search for new accountants, and the quotes I had received. Once she learned more about her new firm, she realized the specialty I was looking for was one they offered. She said she could ask them to provide me for a quote for comparison, that I was in no way obligated to hire them, but it might be helpful in my search. She explained she couldn’t vouch for their knowledge, and that I would likely be in a better position to judge their competence in this specialty.

After comparing their quote with others and speaking with them at length, I decided to hire them. I began the lengthy (and expensive) process of syncing systems and getting them up to speed on our business. While my mom could have been assigned to help with specific aspects of our accounting, they assigned my company to a different team. I thought this was a wise and professional decision her company made.

About two months after I hired this company, and six months after they hired my mother, they laid her off, explaining that they had recently lost three clients and had over hired at the beginning of the year. Given the timing of the layoff, that seems entirely plausible. My mother can’t seem to think of anything she did wrong or to get on anyone’s bad side. (I do have to say she is pretty self aware when it comes to these sort of things.) Nevertheless, it leaves me in an awkward position. I think the team they have assigned me to is knowledgeable and has been helpful to our business in this short amount of time. However, the company is small. My mom’s former direct manager is one of the people on the team that supports my company, and this firm is small overall. They have about 20 employees. Should they address this issue with me? Should I address it with them? What is the professional response from me? From my mom?

No, they shouldn’t address it with you, nor you with them.

Your mom did the right thing when she stressed that you didn’t have an obligation to hire them because of her, and they did the right thing when they assigned you to a team that she wasn’t on. Both of those were about preserving appropriate professional boundaries and not letting family blur the lines of your work. You should continue to keep those boundaries in place, which means that you shouldn’t be talking to them about your mom, since her layoff is a private issue between her and her employer.

You certainly don’t have to continue working with them if you feel weird about it, and it’s also okay to decide you do want to continue working with them. But you should make that decision on your own; it would be weird to have a conversation with them about the situation.

2. Does skipping out early every day during an internship look bad?

I’m a rising college senior and currently have a great summer internship. The company offers employees a lot of perks, and one of those is a very flexible schedule. Employees are able to adjust their work hours and days pretty freely, depending on your manager and department. Mostly, though, the interns follow a Monday through Friday schedule, working 8:30-5 every day.

My question regards how interns should or should not be taking advantage of these flex hours. I sit near three other interns. They all have different roles than me — I’m the only intern for the specific work I do (we each do marketing for different brands within the company).

I’ve noticed that they all leave hours early each day — sometimes at 1:30 or 2! And they’re not coming in any earlier to make up for that time. They’re also away from their desks a lot of time, and they’ve told me this is not for meetings or anything like that, but social time with other interns who are their friends.

I know hours are flexible, and they aren’t really breaking rules…but wouldn’t this reflect poorly on their professionalism/motivation? Sure, there are slow days where I could leave a few hours early, but I try to find other things to do so my face is out there and I’m not just disappearing. Is taking such advantage of this flex time hurtful? (I’m not looking to tattle or give these interns a lesson. Just something I was thinking about today, and wanted your opinion).

It’s possible that because they’re in different roles than you are, they’ve actually okayed this with their managers and are doing it with their manager’s explicit blessing. (Who knows, there may not be enough work to keep them busy 40 hours a week, which sometimes happens with internships.) But it’s also possible that they’re slacking off and their managers either don’t notice or have decided not to address it. Sometimes managers don’t bother addressing issues with interns, figuring that they’re only going to be there a few months and so it’s not worth the hassle. That’s a terrible way to manage, but it’s definitely a thing that happens.

But while I can’t know from the outside which of those it is, I can say that at a minimum, it sounds like they’re not especially concerned with the impression they’re making. They’re not likely to leave the internship with glowing references who will be excited to go to bat for them to help them find future jobs.

3. My friend thinks she’s a manager — but she might not be

I’m friends with another woman through a women’s career group we’re both in. About a year ago, she got a job as an office manager for a local company. Recently, she’s been complaining to our group that the people she works with don’t treat her like their manager. She thinks this is because they don’t respect her as a woman; I think it’s because an office manager generally manages the needs of an office, not everyone who works in the office.

I’m worried that this misunderstanding is going to really hurt my friend’s career. She’s mentioned “pulling rank” on other employees to make them do what she says, which I can’t imagine was well received. I’m shocked that her own manager still hasn’t corrected her on this, but her manager might not know it’s happening.

Is it my place to tell her that she’s probably not a real manager? I don’t work with her, so I can’t be completely sure, but I’m almost certain that she’s overstepping her office manager role. She’s really excited about being in management. How would I break the news that she isn’t? I would really appreciate your help addressing this issue, or clearing my conscience by telling me I don’t have to say anything!

Yeah, most often “office manager” is the person who’s the main admin support for the office — the person who manages the office space, supplies, phones, etc., rather than a manager of people. That said, there are some offices that use “office manager” to mean “the person who manages everyone in the office.” Unless you know for sure that she’s not the latter, I wouldn’t just tell her she’s not since you could be wrong. But you could raise the question with her by saying something like, “Were you explicitly told that you are formally managing your coworkers? Normally ‘office manager’ means that you’re managing the admin work for the office, but not managing the people in it. If that’s their understanding of your role, that would explain why you’re running into this.”

4. My friend said she’d interview me … and I haven’t heard anything

I’ve worked for a company for six years, first in a full-time position, and now as a contractor (by choice). I’ve moved around to multiple positions – currently I’m working in a position that I know won’t be my forever job, but has allowed me the flexibility to take care of some personal needs. When a position opened up on a team I’ve been on before, I was excited – it was a little more senior of a role than I’d had before, but it’d been three years since then and I believed my other side jobs set me up perfectly for the position. The hiring manager (and my former boss, someone I consider a mentor and a friend) and I had a great conversation talking about the role – she was excited that I was interested, and we discussed areas I wasn’t a perfect fit for, but could explain better in a cover letter. She told me that I should definitely apply ASAP and that I would get through the first round of applications. Seemed like great news! I applied that night.

Jump to three months later and I have not heard a peep about it. I’ve triple-checked and my application was definitely submitted. They haven’t hired anyone yet, and I hear they went back to the drawing board to find new candidates. At this point, I’m eyeballs deep in another project and don’t think it’d be right to leave my current position – and I’ve heard more about the new job that makes it a little less appealing (it’s a bit of a messy position!). But the bigger thing is that I’m offended! Even if they don’t think I’m a perfect fit for the position, given her enthusiasm and encouragement, I expected to at least get an interview. I consider this person a friend (she came to my wedding, I’ve babysat her kids, and even stayed at her house while petsitting her dog [all while not being her actual employee]) and wish she would have given me a chance. It’s been awkward between us since I applied. What do I say to remedy the relationship?

It’s possible that she’s keeping her word — that you’ll get through the first round of applications — but they haven’t gotten through that first round yet. If they’ve gone back to the drawing board to find new people, that suggests they didn’t have enough strong candidates originally. So it’s quite possible that at some point she’s going to move you forward in their process.

But you don’t need to wait and wonder. It would be perfectly fine to contact her and ask if she can give you an update on where the hiring for that position stands — and you should wait to hear her answer before you draw any conclusions about what happened.

{ 393 comments… read them below }

  1. There All Is Aching*

    #1 Oh my goodness. Please update us if you follow AAM’s script, OP — I’m so curious if you’re right — and cue the “assistant to the regional manager” jokes. :)

    1. Specialk9*

      I think a question OP could ask her is how is she finding
      doing performance evaluations for all the people in the office, and meeting with them regularly for them to report their status updates. Because if she’s not doing at least the former, it’s really unlikely she’s their manager.

      1. Les G*

        Seems pretty passive aggressive when the OP could also just keep her thoughts to herself, but maybe that’s just me.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Well Friwnd is complaining to OP so it does open the door for conversation. I think the friend is not a manager, the people who she is trying to manage know this and aren’t giving her the ‘respect’ she thinks she should get because they are like “who does she think she is anyway?”

        2. OP #3*

          Keeping my thoughts to myself would definitely be easier! But the group we’re both in is specifically for giving career advice other women, so sharing our thoughts is the whole point.

          1. PersonalJeebus*

            It sounds like this woman’s likely misunderstanding is causing awkwardness in your group, awkwardness that isn’t going away over time, so I’m curious why you think it would be easier to stay silent! I get it would be easier in the short term, since such a conversation could get very awkward very fast. But if you can help clear up the misunderstanding and put her on the right path, and she stops with all this misguided complaining, well, doesn’t that sound nice? In the long term, wouldn’t you prefer not to have to listen to her talk this way?

            Also, if she eventually gets an embarrassing correction at work, she could be annoyed at your group for not saying anything. Rightfully, I’d argue, since your role in her life is to be constructive.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        I agree with Les that seems too passive aggressive an approach. This woman is a friend. I think it’s better to be direct. And you can do it nicely – just say you normally hear the title Office Manager to refer to someone not in charge of *people*, but supplies and admin functions, and so it’s confusing to you, and ask her if she’s talked to her boss about this – clarifying her role with her, or with the other employees, or changing her title, etc.

        1. Clare*

          Agreed, no need to be snarky with someone who is supposed to be a friend. Especially since they don’t actually work together so the LW really doesn’t know all the details of her friend’s job and might very well be the one who is mistaken.

        2. Autumnheart*

          Yeah. If this person is a good enough friend, I would simply say two things: “Are these people actually reporting to you, or are you in charge of the administration of the office but not the people in it?” and “I worry that pulling rank on your coworkers like that is going to negatively impact your reputation in the office,” and then let the chips fall where they may. The friend is an adult and has a manager–if she wants to screw up her job and be the office jerk, that’s her prerogative and her boss gets paid to deal with it. Don’t take on the thankless job of telling someone where the bear pooped in the buckwheat.

        3. myswtghst*

          I think this is a good way to frame the conversation, both as a friend and as someone who doesn’t actually work with the office manager (and thus might not have all the details). Suggesting that she talk to her boss to clarify both her role, and how it was communicated to others in the office, is a good way to approach this. And it’s definitely a little gentler to frame it as “I’ve usually seen office manager used to mean XYZ, is it possible people in your office are interpreting your title the same way? If so, it might be good to talk to your boss about how to correct that.”

          1. Sam.*

            I think framing it this way (“In my experience, office manager has meant X” as opposed to a blanket statement that implies she doesn’t understand what office manager means) might give OP’s friend a chance to save some face, if she is, in fact wrong. Might make it a bit less awkward that way.

          2. OP #3*

            This is great! I love the framing that her coworkers might be confused about her job rather than suggesting that she might be confused about her job. And if title confusion is actually what’s happening, it’s great advice in that case too.

        4. zora*

          My thoughts exactly. If she continues to complain about how frustrating this is, I would frame it as a suggestion to help her. “It might help to sit down with your manager and go over expectations and reporting structure to clarify things. That way you will know for sure which employees you are supposed to be managing, or not.”

        5. Micklak*

          This question made me squirm with awkwardness. I would try to be as gentle as possible in broaching the subject.

          On a side note, my current office manager is basically the senior and only admin and doesn’t manage any people but I would still do anything she asked or told me to do because I love her and she makes doing my job possible.

          My mother was also an office manager in the administrative sense, and the truckers that she worked with would do anything that she asked or told them to do because they loved her and she made their jobs easier.

          I’m not saying people have to love the office manager but treating people with respect and friendliness goes a long way toward getting what you want. “Pulling rank” doesn’t feel very respectful.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Agreed completely. Especially the “pulling rank” part. IME “office manager” meant managing the office not the people working in it. If someone who I knew to not be my manager, someone who was in charge of admin, as opposed to being the manager of everyone who works in the office I would be more than a little offended.

            Admin is essential. Office could not function well without competent admns. Seriously they make everyone else’s jobs possible to do in an environment of reasonable sanity most of the time. Office manager is generally an admin position.

            I’m wondering if Friend actually thinks she is the manager of every single person who works in the office… I guess she could be, but according the the way she seems to complain to OP about the lack of respect/obedience she’s getting as a manager, kind of says she’s thinking that she has more authority than she does and everyone else in the office knows the score.

          2. OP #3*

            It makes me squirm with awkwardness too! And it’s extra awkward the longer it goes on, so it’s getting more awkward all the time.

          3. PersonalJeebus*

            That’s true, people often do respond to an office manager’s instructions/requests for all kinds of reasons not related to “actual” authority! In my experience, the office manager can get people to do things not so much because they are beloved/indispensable (though they often are), but because everyone understands that whatever the office manager is asking for is ultimately going to improve the functioning of the workplace and/or is something the office manager needs to do their job. In other words, the other employees technically could push back on the OM’s request, but they comply because they know there’s a good big-picture reason for it.

            Of course, people are more likely to be cooperative in this way if the office manager is also demonstrably clear on the limits of their authority and issues requests as requests and not commands.

            If it turns out OP’s friend has in fact misunderstood her role and doesn’t have true authority to manage people, this could be important insight for her.

        6. LadyCop*

          Well, she’s not really a friend…and definitely not a “good friend” as stated above. It’s a group to share career advice, not a social group.

          Regardless, I don’t see how asking about basic managing tasks is passive aggressive or snarky… It could be if you ask it in that tone, but it’s otherwise a completely legitimate question, especially if she were their manager. She then would likely want/need advice on how to address the issue in a one on one or review.

          The OP doesn’t have to go that route…but it’s not per se passive aggressive.

          1. OP #3*

            I think it could be done without being passive aggressive, more like fact-finding in order to help her get to the bottom of what’s happening.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        Yeah, I’m betting ‘office manager’ means admin management, not personnel management.

  2. Nacho*

    #3: I just applied for an office manager job, and the description was pretty clear that it was more about scheduling meetings and managing office supplies than people. It does pay as much as a manager though.

    1. KMB213*

      I agree that that’s *generally* what office managers do, but there are exceptions.

      I’m an office manager – I manage the logistics of the office, but also manage the administrative staff that’s not assigned to a specific person. (So, I manage the receptionists, the bookkeeper, the runners, the two floating office assistants, some of the interns, etc.) I may speak to my company owner at some point about changing my title to better reflect my position.

      Anyway, I guess my point is that the LW doesn’t really know if managing other people is part of her friend’s responsibilities. That’s why I think Alison’s advice is spot-on. It would be wrong for LW to just assume that her friend is definitely not in charge of managing other people.

      1. myswtghst*

        “LW doesn’t really know if managing other people is part of her friend’s responsibilities. […] It would be wrong for LW to just assume that her friend is definitely not in charge of managing other people.”

        Exactly this. It’s definitely worthwhile for OP#3 to gently mention to their friend that “office manager” doesn’t always equal “people manager” and to suggest she check in with her boss about the issues she’s experiencing, but approaching from the position of “oh you poor sweet summer child, you don’t manage people!” is just going to torpedo the friendship.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Yeah you might want to revisit your title. You are doing way more than an average office manager.

        I think OP’s friend needs to get clear on what her responsibilities and authority are.

        1. LadyCop*

          I don’t agree. Office Manager often can include managing some admin staff. I wouldn’t assume it generally, but it’s not necessarily unusual. For example, in a lot of small departments, there aren’t enough people to have both an Office Manager of the physical office, and a separate manager for the admin staff in the office. Therefore, one person can be responsible for both, and paid accordingly quite commonly.

      3. SavannahMiranda*

        This to me is what office manager always meant. Think Joan Holloway’s character during Season 1 of Mad Men. She was over all the secretarial pool, phone operators, and general day-to-day functions of the office including hiring and firing people. THAT is Office Manager. I think the title has actually become less than it used to be, not more.

        Therefore we’ve had to create titles like Personnel Manager and Manager of Operations to reflect the fact most Office Managers are assumed today to handle vendor relationships, oversee the mail, and run the calendars, with no actual oversight of human beings.

      4. Working Mom Having It All*

        I was going to say something similar. Sometimes Office Managers are also people managers, if they are tasked with supervising the rest of the admin staff.

        I also once, very early on, had an Office Manager esque position (called something else but amounted to the same) wherein I had a couple of more junior admins reporting to me. I was all of 22 and not used to that sort of thing, and one of the admins who reported to me was the worst sort of mansplaining “clearly I outrank you because I am the man in this situation” type. I really did have to pull rank in order to get him to understand that, yes, I was effectively his boss.

        But I’d guess that this is less likely than everyone else’s read of the situation, that the person in question is not actually the boss of anyone at all.

  3. Khlovia*

    I really want to be a camera on the wall when the lady in #3 finds out she’s been bossing people around but wasn’t their boss.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I have such fremdschämen on behalf of OP#3’s friend if this turns out to be an “assistant to the regional manager” situation and not a “managing partner” situation.

        1. Mookie*

          It really is the perfect word. I’m getting burned cheeks, temple-sweat, and a fluster-y stomach trying to put myself in and then quickly wrench myself out of this woman’s (no doubt sensible) shoes. It sounds so much like something I’d do that I’m looking up my current CV just to make sure of what formal title I’m going by.

          1. Les G*

            That Tilly the Wedge is angry at PCBH for using a word she didn’t already know, I’m guessing? Which of course makes sense, because PCBH is the only commenter ever to use a big word on AAM.

            1. Myrin*

              That’s what I was guessing, but I’m still marvelling at how irrelevant that is, and, like, certainly irrelevant enough not to leave two angry comments about it and nothing else. (Not to mention against commenting rules!)

              1. Tilly the Widge*

                Myrin, are you angry with me because you’re feeling Lebensmüde? Or could it be Weltschmerz?

                Either way, please don’t give me Backpfeifengesicht. That would cause me Kuddelmuddel.

                Wow I feel so much Erklärungsnot from these Zungenbrecher.

              2. Specialk9*

                Tilly is there a reason you’re being sarcastic to several commenters, about a word (and a word that does sound like it exactly fits)? It’s kind of bizarre, and not really how this board works.

              3. Myrin*

                @Tilly, jokes on you because I’m German and all of these are completely regular words to me (some of which you’re using quite wrongly, actually).

                And I’m not angry, just really confused about what purpose your comments could possibly serve, especially since, again, it’s explicitly spelled out in the site rules that we aren’t to nitpick other commenters’ word choices.

              4. OlympiasEpiriot*


                off-topic, but, now I’m wondering if coining Germanmansplaining could be useful, or would we have to use German capitalisation rules and write GermanMansplaining, or I wonder if German already has a compound noun for that…

          2. Specialk9*

            That everyone knows that word? (Which, no. I studied German, lived in a German speaking country, regularly use “freudenschade” and yet still never heard that word before. And yes, it’s perfect.)

            1. Tilly the Widge*

              Is there a reason I posted the comment? Is that supposed to sound like a real question?

              I’ll be more direct: When I read the comments here, I can never decide which bothers me more – the people using obscure words and phrases in a blatant attempt to impress everyone with how smart they are, those who fall all over themselves to act impressed, or those who find ways to show that they’re already familiar with the word/term (“That’s so perfect!”).

              1. SunshineOH*

                If the commenters annoy you that much, you should probably not read them. I’ll never understand why people expend so much energy spreading negative bullshit. Scroll on and move on.

              2. Thlayli*

                Hmmm. It seems like you can only conceive of one possible reason people would use obscure words – “to impress people with how smart they are”. That’s kind of sad. Lots of people (myself included) enjoy using and learning obscure words just because we love language. Lots of commenters here are librarians or write as a hobby. Some people really don’t use words (or say how much they like a word) just to “prove how smart they are”. They do it because they enjoy it.

                If you don’t love language that’s fine, but don’t rain on people’s parade and accuse them of “trying to prove how smart they are” just because you don’t understand their motivation.

              3. Temperance*

                There’s a very easy solution here. Stop reading the comments if they give you so much angst.

              4. Lara*

                Uh… some people are just smart and have a good vocabulary. And most of us have Google. Which I used to find out the meaning of the word and discover that yes, it was absolutely the perfect one to use.

              5. Observer*

                Oh, and at least ONE person (me) who thinks the word is perfect did NOT know the word before this. I googled it! And, yes, it fits in a way that no current English word does.

                Allow me to clue into one of the assumptions of this commentariat: People here are intelligent enough to either ASK what a word means, or find out the meaning. It’s not all that hard – the fact that you are here says that you have an internet connection.

              6. Falling Diphthong*

                Most of us have google.

                Is it even possible to read the site via a medium that doesn’t have a search engine?

              7. Nancie*

                @ Falling Diphthong

                Sort of, if you squint? I know there are ways to make a set of news-feeds download onto an ebook for reading later. If “later” happens to be where the internet is unavailable or too expensive to connect the e-reading device to, then the search engine would be unavailable.

      1. Khlovia*

        Yup. OP3 seems to be having a fair amount of whatyousaid already. And since OP is closer to the sitch than I am, I have been assuming OP’s assessment is probably correct.

        On the other hand (arguing with myself here), how likely is it than when Friend got promoted, her boss didn’t sit down with her and give her a job description? And on the third hand, if, say,scheduling things like conference room availability is part of her turf as Office Manager, and that’s what people are ignoring and refusing to cooperate with, then she has a genuine beef. So I dunno, and I really want an update from OP3 as soon as there’s one to give.

        1. Observer*

          Good points – except that it’s extremely common for bosses to provide inadequate or even incorrect job descriptions.

          1. OP #3*

            I keep thinking about office manager job descriptions, and I do think they often put language in there around, well, managing things. So I can definitely imagine that lending to the confusion.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          If it’s like my office, she’s lucky if she gets a hello, let alone a sit-down.
          *back from holiday is harder than I expected*

        3. myswtghst*

          Your second paragraph is pretty much everything I was wondering. Even if she isn’t directly managing anyone, she may still need some clarification and support from her boss on how to assert her authority effectively in her new role.

        4. Immersang*

          >>On the other hand (arguing with myself here), how likely is it than when Friend got promoted, her boss didn’t sit down with her and give her a job description?

          You’d think so. Sometimes people also just hear/assume what they want to hear/assume though. I used to have a co-worker who somehow automatically assumed she was allowed to boss our trainee around. She was in no managing position at all (and if all goes well, she will not ever be, because that would be horrible for the people she’d manage) and none of us who were her peers thought of acting like this towards the trainee, just because we were technically senior to him.

          So there’s that. Obviously no idea if this applies at in this particular case, but there are multiple possibilities here.

      2. Les G*

        Dude. What’s your damage? It’s weird that I haven’t seen you say this before when other commenters use SAT words (often superfluously, in my view) all. The. Time.

        1. Tilly the Widge*

          You’re asking me what my damage is because I haven’t posted this comment before? Yet you’re agreeing with me?

          From the way you’ve written your comment, I feel like you’re just happy I said something so you could add that you feel the same way without being the first to post it.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Seriously, can you stop posting rude responses now? It’s derailing, disruptive, and obnoxious. Whatever problem you’re having doesn’t justify your responses here.

            1. WFH Lurker*

              I first misread the nickname as “Tilly the Wedge”, which now seems more appropriate.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My replacement as office manager at a design firm didn’t understand the role that she was hired into, and she was trying to boss the architects around about their hours and time off. We had lunch a few times and I told her that the role was more about managing the office than managing the architects, but she didn’t believe me and really wanted to see herself as a “manager”. She ended up getting fired pretty quickly, and later I was out for drinks with the architects, and they were talking about her. I told them that she had thought she was their manager, and they were like, “Oooohhh, well that explains a lot!”

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Yeah, I was an office manager at a small architectural and engineering firm for awhile and while I knew I had no power/authority over people, my challenge was that my boss (the owner), wanted certain things done at certain times, and I wouldn’t be able to because… I don’t know, no one turns in their time sheets, so I can’t do billing for the month… Such a frustrating position to be in… so much responsibility, but so little power.

          I tried the polite reminders, the “if you don’t get your time in, I can’t pay you” reminders (yes I know it’s illegal to not pay someone, but my hands were tied because I didn’t know how much to pay until I got time sheets), I tried sending them at different times a day, dropping by people’s offices. Nothing worked. So glad I am not in that job anymore.

      4. Parenthetically*

        YES, such fremdschamen. Oof. Poor lady. My skin is tingling just thinking about it.

  4. KayEss*

    #3 – Well, this explains every “the admin bosses me around even though we aren’t in the same chain of command” letter ever submitted…

    1. Triplestep*

      To give the benefit of the doubt to OP#3’s friend, some Office Managers *do* manage the Administrative Staff. If she’s trying to “pull rank” over admins, it might be within her purview.

      1. BadWolf*

        I was thinking the same — she may have managing authority over the admin staff. But I feel like most admin staff would be used to having an office manager boss (unless they recently added the position or it was particularly disfunctional before).

        And I think if your office manager is really top notch — the whole office is naturally inclined to do what they say because then the office runs smoothly. But that’s a earned through experience sort of thing.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Ours is awesome. He doesn’t have any direct reports. But if he wants something, it gets done :)

        2. Seriously?*

          It also depends on what she is “pulling rank” about. If she is putting in a new system for ordering supplies, that would generally fall within her job duties and everyone else has to fall in line or get her boss to step in. If it is about their hours or project assignments, not generally in the office manager’s job description.

      2. Luna*

        Yeah, unless the LW knows more about her friend’s office setup than was included in the letter, the friend might actually be in charge of supervising some staff. I’d suggest the LW find out more before she starts making passive-aggressive comments to her friend about not being a real manager.

        1. Seriously?*

          I was thinking that she could mention what office manager usually means someone who manages the office but not the people and that may be why she is getting so much pushback. Suggest she talk to her boss to clarify her role and get everyone on the same page. The leaves it open to her being right and everyone else being wrong but still suggests talking to her boss about her job duties.

      3. Anonymosity*

        Yeah, but usually, that’s part of the job description. Supervising staff, dealing with timesheets, etc.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        She could conceivably pull rank via being the only person who has access to or understands something. Like “No, Tom, your expense report isn’t going anywhere until you give me receipts.”

        1. KayEss*

          That’s not “pulling rank” so much as “requiring people to follow established processes,” which is totally normal? (Unless it’s not actually established process and she’s just making up requirements as a power trip.) “Pulling rank” conjures really petty imagery for me, like “I was hired six months earlier so I’m senior to you and I say you have to clean the break room instead of me.” I find it weird that she’s apparently self-describing what she’s doing using that term.

          I guess it’s possible that the pettiness is on the other side, and people she is genuinely supposed to manage are giving her the “you’re not the boss of me” routine and she’s unwilling or unable to manage them beyond countering with “I’m your manager, so actually yes I am”… but that suggests a level of office dysfunction that far beyond the scope of questioning whether or not her job title is correct.

      5. KMB213*

        This was my immediate thought. I am an office manager and I manage all of our administrative staff that has not been assigned to a specific person. (So, people manage their own assistants, but I manage the bookkeeper, receptionists, floating assistants, etc.) OP #3 could absolutely be right, but she could be wrong about her friend’s duties, as well.

        And, as others have mentioned, administrative work does often involve “managing up.” The company owner gets on my case if billing is not completed quickly, but I can’t complete it if the professionals don’t submit their time. No, I am not in charge of any of the professionals, but, if I am to do my job properly, I need to request things from them and it’s frustrating when they don’t acknowledge or respect that.

        LW #3 knows more about the situation than the rest of us, so there’s a better chance than not that she’s right, I just wouldn’t be 100% certain if I were her.

      6. OP #3*

        There are some details I don’t know, but I do know that it wouldn’t make any sense for the employees she’s talking about to report to her. They’re in a very technical field in which she has no experience.

  5. Safetykats*

    For OP2 – yes, it looks bad when interns clearly don’t put in their hours, and yes, people notice. Primarily the people tasked to decide whether interns are invited back, or eligible for a permanent position in the future. Unfortunately it is true that it’s often more trouble than its worth to try to instill a work ethic in an intern; it’s easier to just list them as not eligible for rehire and be thankful you dodged that bullet. FYI, that not eligible for rehire will let any future employers who call for a reference know everything they need to know.

    1. Mike C.*

      Why not brand them like cattle while you’re at it?

      You do realize that internships are supposed to be educational opportunities for the intern, right? It’s not “too much trouble”, it’s the whole point.

      1. gaahhhh*

        I get so frustrated by the attitude toward internships that they’re purely about cheaper labour and not a trade-off of cheaper labour and EDUCATION. What you save in cost, you are supposed to make up for in training, which is how we get a stronger, better workforce in the long-run. People who skimp on training interns (yeah, even when interns are irritating and don’t know what seems like obvious basics or grok workplace norms) don’t deserve to HAVE interns.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Whoa! The analogy to branding is really inflammatory. OP#3 asked about norms and expectations re: internships, and Safetykats is articulating a common attitude and practice among employers with interns who are behaving lackadaisically. Whether that approach is good/bad is up for debate, but it’s common, and Safetykats is simply sharing their experience.

        It’s possible for an internship experience to be educational for the intern and be more trouble than it’s worth to the employer to teach those interns very very basic skills… like showing up during standard working hours and actually contributing to work. Although internships are educational, they require a commitment from the host organization and the intern. There are some expectations regarding work conduct that are so baseline that it would be Sisyphean to correct those behaviors (especially when those behaviors primarily detract from the intern’s learning experience).

        As Alison noted, it’s possible that the other interns worked out a different arrangement from OP#3 (I certainly had a summer where work was slow, so we were told to go home early and given all Fridays off). But the interns’ behavior is way outside of the norms of most internship programs, and frankly, most jobs. It’s helpful for OP to know how employers approach behavior that’s this far outside of those expectations.

        1. TL -*

          While I think Mike C’s comment was a little harshly phrased, I actually am on his side – you owe your interns information on even the very basic things like work ethic and face time. Plenty of college classes are set up so succeeding requires little other than showing up for the tests and you should tell your interns, hey your work product matters but so does showing up for your assigned/implied hours every day.

          I’ve seen this played out in internships and it most negatively affects kids from families that haven’t spent a lot of time imparting white-collar professional norms. Not always, and definitely some kids from white collar families also don’t understand office norms or have terrible work ethic, but it does has a disparate impact. Make your expectations clear for interns, even the most basic ones, then enforce consequences for them not being met.

          1. Specialk9*

            Right, but it’s derailing, irrelevant, and inflammatory. OP is an intern, not an intern manager, and doesn’t need to know how *people who didn’t write in* should manage them, during the little time/space in which they’re getting advice. OP needs to know how interns should act, and how managers may interpret how interns act.

            In that context, ‘hey here’s a common attitude of intern managers that may mean that some managers won’t speak up but it could still hurt interns who slack, so really don’t slack’ is hugely and directly applicable to this OP.

            Starting a fight, on purpose, because one has opinions on a related but not relevant topic is not helpful to OP, and not terribly nice to Safetykats.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              For OP, I think the long-term lesson here is that sometimes you have no idea you are burning a bridge until you come back around to it in life and, oops, standing on the other side holding a can of gasoline, covered in soot and an it’s payback time expression, is the person you spent a long ago summer annoying. The other interns’ managers could be planning to describe them solely with an eyeroll emoji if they are ever asked, could say “who? who? don’t remember them” in all sincerity, could say “Oh Shayla, yes, we didn’t have a lot for her to do but she was competent with what we gave her, and cheerful.” Unless OP is overhearing conversations with their managers to give her a clue to the managers’ inner thoughts via tone, all of these and more are possible.

            2. Mike C.*

              It’s neither derailing, irrelevant nor inflammatory. The interns aren’t being taught anything “because it’s too much trouble” then put on a do not hire list that follows that marks them much like a brand. Especially considering that at this stage of life, the intern will have few if any references.

              The things that anger and upset this commentariat are becoming more ridiculous every day. Disagree all you want, but I’ve said nothing that is offensive.

              1. Thlayli*

                To be fair mike, comparing putting someone on a “do not hire” list to “branding them like cattle” is pretty offensive. Humans have actually been branded by other humans at times and I personally was offended by the comparison.

                Assuming these interns are all adults, I don’t really see why they should need to be told not to just go home when they haven’t been assigned any work. Anyone who has an ounce of work ethic will ask if there’s anything else they can do, rather than just decide they can leave. They may not have had jobs, but presumably they have been involved in things like helping their parents put the groceries away, or tidying up the shared common room. Basically, in any group activity, you don’t just leave when you’ve finished your assigned bit of work, you offer to help those who are still working, until everyone has finished. Anyone who’s managed to reach adulthood without that extremely obvious piece of info is probably not worth the effort of teaching.

                1. TL -*

                  If you’re working on a construction site as a welder, you actually do leave when all the welding is done. You don’t offer to help the carpenter or the crane operator because you are not allowed to do either of those things. And if there’s 3 hours where you need the crane operator to do something before you can weld, you get set up, and then you wait 3 hours until you can weld again. And…college kids are dumb and self absorbed still. They’ll mostly grow out of it once they figure things output that involves people bothering to have a conversation with them.

                  Not everyone works by your norms and silently judging and punishing an intern instead of teaching them is a pretty classist and wildly unhelpful thing to do.

                2. Thlayli*

                  That’s very interesting TL. However it’s got absolutely nothing to do with this letter. I guess you missed the bit where LW said the interns were socialising for hours during the workday, before leaving early? That does not in any way compare to someone who is focused on doing the work ASAP then leaving. Perhaps you and Mike should examine why you are so invested in insisting that this is a case of “evil people being classist and biased against blue collar workers”. The letter gives no indication that anything of the sort is going on. You’re reading things into it that aren’t there.

                  But thanks for telling me I’m classist. I’m sure all my tradesmen relatives will get a good laugh out of that one.

                  It may interest you to know that I have worked in the construction industry and the manufacturing industry for a number of years, with a large number of welders and other tradesmen. Any welder or tradesperson who behaved the way you described wouldn’t have lasted long on any of the sites I’ve worked on. The more common approach is – you do the task you are assigned on the site, then you go back to the foreman and ask what is next. You don’t just decide to go home. If there is a significant amount of time before the next task, you call your head office and ask if they want you to hang around or go to another site in the meantime. You don’t just sit around doing nothing. There are of course people who do behave in the way you’ve described, but they wouldn’t last long in the construction industry in my country I can assure you. I absolutely would put a tradesperson on a “do not hire” list if they behaved the way you’ve described on one of my sites.

                3. TL -*

                  I grew up blue collar, I made the switch to a white collar job, and I’ve heard all of these dismissals before during mine and others’ internships “not worth the effort of teaching” “not motivated” “not great work ethic” “it’s their experience; if this is what they want to get from this, that’s fine” when – at least in my head – I was doing everything I could to make the most of it. I was just behaving along the norms I’d grown up knowing. Literally all it took was one or two sentences from a manager or mentor to make me completely change my behavior – but many times I (& others from similar economic backgrounds) didn’t get it because, like you, they thought we weren’t worth teaching.

                  Which was fantastic and didn’t perpetrate any inequalities at all, especially if they had tradesmen relatives. /s

                  Look, you have a couple conversations with an intern and nothing changes, obviously they’re not motivated and you can stop trying.
                  I don’t know what’s going on with these interns – could be clueless, could be lazy, could be working under completely different expectations/learned norms. Maybe their parents just never taught them any manners.
                  But if you take someone on as an intern and then dismiss them without even trying to teach them because they don’t adhere to your internalized workplace norms – and teaching them norms, no matter how basic, is what you’re supposed to do – you are contributing to a system that disproportionately hurts kids from a blue collar and/or socioeconomically disadvantaged background. And I’m struggling to see how that’s not classist.

                4. Dino*

                  TL, thank you for saying it so eloquently. My family background is full of trades, construction, and military and while I have a good work ethic, I need to know what I should be doing before I can apply it. And sometimes it’s not obvious what you’re supposed to be doing when you don’t have a background of office/white collar work. If you take on interns, you need to be willing to teach them those things and have those hard conversations.

                5. Thlayli*

                  We don’t really do “class” in my country the same way you do in US/UK so it’s not quite the same – but my dad was a tradesman and we didn’t have money to spare so I guess that’s what you probably call “blue collar”. So I also “grew up blue collar and then switched to white collar”. And I never needed anyone to tell me that when you’re at work, you flipping work! It’s called a work ethic. It’s not “societal norms” for “blue collar” people to sit around being lazy until they’re specifically told to do something.

                  Frankly, you insinuating that everyone who grew up with a tradesperson for a father is too lazy or stupid to realise that work is WORK, is far more classist than anything else anyone has written here.

                6. TL -*

                  @Thayli – what I’m saying is that different job environments have different norms and different classes can have invisible but impactful cultural differences that – and a lot of people on this thread, from similar backgrounds, have agree with me here – can greatly impact how one is perceived at work.

                  That, combined with normal youthful mistakes/misperceptions can mean that attitudes like that one you’ve claimed, can absolutely lead to interns – hard working and well-meaning, or well-meaning but clueless interns – being perceived as performing quite badly when a simple conversation would actually give them the opportunity to do much better.

                  If you read that as blue collar being lazy, I don’t know what else to tell you. I have no idea where you’re from; maybe it works entirely differently in your country. But in a USA context, the attitude you’re describing is contributing to a system that makes it very different for people to move out of the class that they were born in even after getting a four year degree and good opportunities.
                  Work is work but what makes a good worker is context dependent and the whole point of having an internship is to have the extra support of someone sitting you down and explaining to you what flexible hours actually mean and what they want you to do if you finish all your tasks for a day.

                7. Thlayli*

                  TL I have worked in many many different jobs – blue collar and white collar. and I have relatives and friend who have worked in many manual and blue collar jobs.

                  I have NEVER heard of ANY job where it is the “norm” to sit around socialising for hours and then leave at lunchtime. That’s really not a thing. I have been to America a few times, sometimes for work sometimes for pleasure, and ive never seen anyone working at a job in America just sitting around either, unless they were on a break or waiting for a customer. I find it extremely hard to believe that American workplace norms are so different that there are all these jobs where you just sit around doing nothing and are considered a good worker.

                  You gave an example of a welder. As I said, if you finish your welding, you ask the foreman what is next. Welders are expensive, and their daily rate in America is more than in my country. I really can’t believe it’s the norm to just have them sitting around for hours doing nothing then going home at lunchtime.

                  It seems to me that your parents didn’t install a work ethic in you, but i assure you that is not because they were “blue collar”. Most “blue collar” people I know have really strong work ethics. You are claiming that most people from “blue collar” backgrounds don’t understand that you go to work to work, and that’s just not true.

                8. TL -*

                  You’re devolving into personal attacks and seem unwilling to consider that others may both view this differently and have valid viewpoints. That’s rather disappointing and I’m afraid at this point, I’m going to have to bow out of the conversation.

                9. Plague of frogs*

                  TL, I’m interested in your take because I saw it exactly the opposite. My family was blue collar, and my first jobs as a teenager were blue collar. I punched a clock and was used to the idea that I would potentially get fired for not working a whole day.

                  So when I started my first white-collar internship, I sure as heck wasn’t working partial days. It took me a while to get used to the idea of the job flexibility that I had.

                  I assumed (perhaps unfairly) that these interns came from wealthy backgrounds and had never had to have any sort of job.

                10. CMFDF*

                  I actually never ask if there’s “anything else I can do,” specifically because I used to to be polite, until I worked at a restaurant where the head server would ALWAYS give you her sidework if you asked that question when you were getting checked out, so I was getting paid 2.83 an hour to do like an extra 90 minutes of work.

                  Now, I work in an office setting, and I’m willing to work as a good team member to go above and beyond, but never in an open-ended question like that. That’s asking for people to take advantage of you.

                11. Michaela Westen*

                  “Anyone who’s managed to reach adulthood without that extremely obvious piece of info is probably not worth the effort of teaching.”
                  So, as a young person I was not worth the effort of teaching. *Thanks!* Employers like you made me consider turning to crime. Or suicide.
                  I grew up with bad parents who did not teach me good things. I didn’t learn work ethic, or cooperation, or most of these things at home. I wanted to work and do well in life. I didn’t know how.
                  Thank God not everyone is as harsh as you, and I was eventually able to learn this as an adult.
                  I agree that if an employer has low pay/no pay first job workers such as interns, it is the employer’s responsibility to make an effort to teach them whatever it is they didn’t learn growing up – even if it’s very basic! IMO the benefit to society alone is worth the effort.

                12. Hiring Mgr*

                  Thank god I was born to wealthy parents and have never had to work in the blue collar world–it sounds awful the way it’s described here.

                13. Thlayli*

                  I’m not an employer and I’ve luckily never had to fire anyone. I have managed many people on many projects. And I absolutely have said many times “I don’t want this person on my team again” when they don’t have a good work ethic. I have never thought it was my job to teach anyone how to have a work ethic – because it’s not.

                  I feel very sorry for people (from all backgrounds) whose parents did not instill a work ethic in them. It’s very nice that some of you found managers/employers who were willing to do the work of your parents and teach you a work ethic. But most employers and project managers have neither the time nor the emotional bandwidth to act as parents to their employees. When someone is not taught basic skills by their parents, that’s really really sad, but
                  1 that’s not a class thing – that’s just bad parenting, and
                  2 it’s not the purpose of an internship to become a parent to interns and teach them basic life skills and basic knowledge (like the fact that work is where you work).

                  It’s really nice when a kind person chooses to go above and beyond to take the time to teach someone things their parents didn’t, but it’s absolutely NOT an expectation that employers of interns have to raise their employees like children.

                  Accusing people of “branding people” or “being classist” or “harsh and driving people into suicide or crime” because they have neither the time nor the desire to act as surrogate parents to their adult interns is just ridiculous and offensive.

                14. Michaela Westen*

                  @Thlayli, do you care enough to mention once or twice the basics of a work ethic? Show up on time, do the work, follow instructions, stay the full day. Mention it a few times to those who don’t know. It’s their responsibility to listen and understand.
                  That shouldn’t be too hard, should it?

              2. myswtghst*

                “The interns aren’t being taught anything ‘because it’s too much trouble’ then put on a do not hire list that follows that marks them much like a brand.”

                We don’t know that this is what is happening in OP#2’s workplace, though. This is entirely speculation, and I’m not seeing how it’s helpful to get outraged on behalf of hypothetical wronged interns when we could be focused on giving insight to the intern who actually wrote in for advice and context.

                I mean, I completely agree that the way many companies use internships (as unpaid learning opportunities where there usually isn’t sufficient guidance or coaching for the interns) needs to change, but I don’t think this letter is the place to fight that fight. I actually think it’s beneficial for OP#2 to know that there are a number of possibilities that could be at play here, and that their best bet is to continue to put in a full day and communicate with their supervisor.

                1. Washi*

                  I feel like we’re sort of arguing at cross-purposes here.
                  Camp A: Interns should be explicitly told expectations, but shouldn’t need repeated coaching for things like staying for a full shift, once they have been told. Relatedly, if an intern is only staying for a few months, and is not following explicit instructions, it’s not worth an extended, time-consuming PIP type process when they are leaving shortly.
                  Camp B: Interns shouldn’t be fired or considered lazy for not understanding work norms that would seem basic to others, because there a variety of reasons for that, and explicit coaching levels the playing field for everyone.

                  I don’t think most of us actually disagree that much!

                2. TL -*

                  @Washi – I think a few of us read the initial comments (PCBH and SafetyKats) as “this behavior indicates an intern isn’t worth teaching” rather than “interns need a lot of specific conversations and norms spelled out, but if they’re not going to improve after several conversations than it’s not worth a full-blown firing procedure.”

                  Because the latter I completely agree with, and the former is tied up in all kinds of nasty assumptions, barring the intern showing up dressed like Hello Kitty or something. And even then, you should say, “We had to let you go because you showed up dressed like Hello Kitty and that’s so far out of work norms we just can’t trust your judgment.”

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @TL, I think y’all are reading in animus in my and Safetykats’ comments that really isn’t fair or accurate.

                4. TL -*

                  @PCBH – then my apologies!
                  The sentiments I’m erroneously reading into them do exist, as SafetyKatz point out, but I’m sorry for assuming they were in y’all’s statements. Thank you for clarifying!

                5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @TL, no worries, and thank you for the apology. :) I think we were both identifying that that attitude exists, but not necessarily advocating for that mindset/attitude toward interns. I apologize if it read as if I were endorsing intern-neglect.

            3. myswtghst*

              Agreed. I did not read Safetykats’s comment as advocating for treating interns that way, just acknowledging that the mindset exists (and it definitely does), so it seems pretty disingenuous of Mike C. to respond as if Safetykats was saying otherwise, especially when using such an inflammatory analogy as branding.

          2. beenThere*

            Our crappy intern (see post below) was given the benefit of how she could fare better. Her supervisor didn’t just cut her loose at the end of the internship… she had an exit interview, as well as discussions throughout the summer, on how to be a better employee. I hope it stuck. The summer she was with us she acted pretty entitled. But I was also probably a little like that (at least) when I was 20.

          3. Lindsay Gee*

            See i disagree here. I think the place to learn those basic skills is during crappy summer jobs during high school. It’s definitely not college/university’s job to teach you those things- also, how could they since courses have little to nothing to do with actual employment. I don’t think it’s the company’s job to teach interns to show up on time, actually do work when at work etc. Maybe things like email etiquette, what business-casual dress code means etc. I think it’s the company’s obligation to bring these bad behaviours up and not just let people think its okay, but I don’t think its their job to teach the most basic norms.
            I find it extremely hard to accept that kids these days can’t/won’t get jobs during high school. I worked all through high school, and was still an overachiever academically, athletically etc.

            1. Mpls*

              +1 – You should be teaching interns professional norms (ie, how to use discretion with business hours)and expectations about how to behave in a business environment, but they come with whatever work ethic they are going to have. You can give them to tools to succeed, but if the don’t listen, you can’t make them. Sometimes interns are going to be flaky and not good. And then they learn their lesson (hopefully) and do better next time.

              1. TL -*

                But what looks like a good work ethic can vary a lot depending on what field you’re in/background you have.

                There are a lot of fields where a good work ethic looks like: come in, get your work done as efficiently as possible, be quiet, don’t make a fuss, clock out at end of day/when you’re done depending on what boss says.

                But if you apply that to an internship, you’ll probably be seen as unmotivated and wasting an opportunity to learn. You might leave early when you’re done with your assigned task because your boss said you had flex hours, because you’ve always worked at jobs where you’re told to clock out after you’ve finished your tasks to save the company money. And then your boss thinks you’re only interested in doing what is necessary and leaving, because you’re not asking about non-task opportunities, because it wouldn’t occur to you to ask (don’t make trouble!) if you could help out somewhere different or observe a coworker do something new or for literature to study in your free time.

                Now, boss can clarify and then maybe Intern still leaves early because they are more interested in their 3 pm nap than their internship, but you should actually clarify your expectations because scenarios like the above actually happen a lot.

                1. PersephoneUnderground*

                  This is what I’ve been thinking reading this whole thread- what “good work ethic” looks like on the outside is class, context, work background, and culture dependent. People may internally have good or bad work ethic when they start, but without some basic coaching you can’t tell from the outside what that is. Not to mention a good work ethic can be learned, especially by young people, so it’s awful when some employers decline to even try to teach when teaching these interns is the intended compensation for an unpaid intern’s work. Even worse if they then withhold the only other form of compensation, the recommendation.

                  Your example is just right- I especially was thinking of the difficulty of learning it’s ok to “interrupt” or “bother” your boss. Lots of contexts teach kids never to bother their elders or superiors, and that if the boss wants something they’ll tell them. I’m from a white collar very “Protestant work ethic” background, but I was really intimidated by my supervisors for a long time and hated interrupting them to ask for more work. But I had been told that was the right thing to do at home, so I did it until I got used to it. If I had come from a culture where I wasn’t told that key thing, I might have appeared lazy by just waiting for the next task and killing time until I got one- maybe by taking long lunches or talking a lot with other interns. (And I still had one internship where as hard as I tried I couldn’t magic tasks up to do out of thin air because the boss was disorganized and was just throwing interns at a problem with no plan and not enough defined work to do. You can only make the coffee and shred papers for a limited amount of time. I went home early a lot at that job.)

            2. Millennial Lawyer*

              But that’s not everyone’s experience – I worked during high school summers in an office setting, but plenty of people who work at camps, as lifeguards, etc. that are not the typical office setting. Some kids go to summer school. And frankly – some kids don’t do anything and just relax. Internships are supposed to be where *everyone* learns more about office norms regardless of prior experience.

              1. TL -*

                Yes, this! I did a lab internship at the same time as one of my college friends and we both didn’t have much to do our first months. She, after talking to her dad, set up a meeting with her boss, explained she didn’t have much to do and asked for a project. I, after talking to my parents, showed up every day on time, worked hard to do everything I could well and tried not to be too much trouble. Eventually, someone gave me a project and I did really well on it. But her reference was much better than mine. If someone had told me it was okay to sit down with the boss and say “I’m interested in X and I really want to have a small project” I absolutely would have – I just thought it would be incredibly out of line for me to do so.

                Same with when they told me more than halfway through the project it was a good idea to take notes – I’d always worked manual labor jobs so it wasn’t practical to take notes and it sounds silly, but it never occurred to me it was A Thing to take notes at work.

                Now, I take notes, I’m super proactive, I let my bosses know when I have extra capacity, I suggest – or something just ask them to sign off on – new projects, and I actively and noticeably seek out learning opportunities and ask for feedback. I’m not really any more motivated now than I was as a college intern; I just have a much better idea of how to express that motivation appropriately.

                1. Myrin*

                  This is an excellent example I shall remember for future discussions in a similar vein – I’ve always had trouble visualising these supposed stark differences between classes/backgrounds, but this is really palpable!

                  I do think, though, that this is on a bit of a different plain, so to speak, than what OP is talking about. It’s astounding to me that anyone could think that not working your agree-to hours every single day and having extended socialising sessions is something that interns can do just like that. It’s just so very basic!

                2. LaSalleUGirl*

                  TL -, I’m working with colleagues to design a support program for student workers in a university setting. We want the program to help demystify workplace norms in ways that will make it easier for them to get internships or research assistant positions later on. Your comment gave me some really good examples to share with my colleagues on the kinds of things to make clear to students upfront. Thank you!

                3. TL -*

                  @LaSalleUGirl that sounds awesome! I grew up in south Texas, very rural, in very small town and eventually made my way to Boston academia and the cultural shock is real.

                  I loved my hometown and my childhood, but the amount of things I didn’t know that really bit me in the butt were astonishing and there were definitely days when I was pretty darn angry over the unfairness of it all. It’s awesome you’re stepping in to help students with that learning curve.

            3. Mike C.*

              The law doesn’t agree with you and you’re going to be excluding a whole lot of folks that don’t live in a perfectly “Leave it to Beaver” world.

              1. Badlands*

                Umm…there’s a law somewhere saying someone has to teach you work ethic? I don’t know how that’s a thing.

            4. Rusty Shackelford*

              I think it’s the company’s obligation to bring these bad behaviours up and not just let people think its okay, but I don’t think its their job to teach the most basic norms.

              But they’re not even doing that. They’re watching these interns pick up some incorrect information about appropriate behavior at work and say “oh well, not my problem.” And that’s not what I would expect from an internship.

            5. Emily K*

              I worked all through high school too, but: my parents let me. I had other friends whose parents didn’t let them work whether they wanted to or not, for various reasons.

              If you expect every intern to have worked before, you’re going to rule out a lot of people because of decisions their parents made on their behalf when they were still a minor that have made them slightly less prepared, not permanently incapable, to integrate into the working world.

              1. PersephoneUnderground*

                Thank you for this! I have a learning disability so my parents never let me have a job during school. Getting good grades *was* my job, and it was hard enough. I got my first job in retail after I graduated high school, the summer before college. And during school in college it was the same- my parents told me school *was* my job, and honestly I couldn’t have managed both a job and my classes if I had tried. I couldn’t even do activities that needed you to show up reliably- the one club I was in long-term was one where it didn’t matter if I missed a meeting, so I went when I could and didn’t feel bad if I was too overwhelmed with school to go that week.

                1. PersephoneUnderground*

                  Oh, and once at work I have had raves from my managers (apparently detail-oriented is a real thing I have and not a meaningless buzzword), so clearly my lack of early jobs didn’t make me unemployable. They were seriously sad when I left my last job. /clarifying humblebrag

          4. Observer*

            You know, I think that it is REALLY condescending to think that only “white collar” professionals understand things like the importance of showing up to work. The reality is that most people in “blue collar” jobs – whether factory, service or skilled trades – know perfectly well that you can’t just not show up and expect to get paid.

            Far more likely to not know about this is a rich kid whose parents have “sheltered” them – and let them get away with never having to take on any obligations nor take responsibility for most things, even their grade. Or the middle class kid with “white collar” parents who have a bit of flexibility and have tried to “shelter” / helicopter their precious snowflake, much like the rich kid.

            1. TL -*

              As a blue collar kid who moved into a white collar profession, when I’ve seen this played out, it’s generally been to the detriment of other blue collar kids who have the same struggles I did in understanding expectations. It’s not about being lazy; it’s about having completely different expectations. And then people say basically what Princess Consuela Banana Hammock says: “I don’t have the time to handhold, they should know Basic Office Norm”. Or “This is their opportunity and it’s what they make of it.”

              In a lot of hourly and/or blue collar jobs, it is completely normal to clock out after your tasks are done for the day, especially if you have discrete tasks; the company doesn’t want to pay you for doing nothing. It’s also not necessarily hugely encouraged (and can be actively discouraged) to be proactive in a way that is generally rewarded in a white-collar world, especially for an internship. It isn’t really about work ethic but that’s the way it’s perceived – Intern doesn’t care or never bothered to learn Office Norms but, hey, they’re in college and at an internship, so let’s just assume they’re a lazy rich kid and give them no feedback whatsoever instead of taking a moment to teach them how to make the most of an opportunity.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                To be fair, I didn’t say that, nor did I advocate for that position.

              2. Observer*

                Sure, there are most definitely some things that are really dependent on industry and / or workplace norms and culture, and exposure to those can go a long way. But there is a difference between the things you are talking about and things like actually showing up or understanding that you can’t expect to get paid if you don’t show up / leave. I’d say that being paid for time spent chitchatting is something that a blue collar type would be LESS likely to understand – it’s just not the way most jobs of that sort operate.

                Not that I think an internship placement should not take the time to give interns a heads up about even those things. And, it’s certainly appropriate and wise to recognize that there are significant enough differences in cultures that it’s part of your responsibility to guide your interns on that.

                1. PersephoneUnderground*

                  Could be the entirely alien environment of flex hours etc. also can give the impression there are no rules and also cause confusion. You see your coworkers taking breaks whenever and leaving early, but don’t know enough to understand they arrived early or have a red-eye flight to a client meeting or work from home part of the day…

            2. Artemesia*

              My own competent hard working child still said ‘Can you believe it that I have to get there by 7:30 and don’t get to leave till 6 or even later?’ in her first full time job. She grew up in a household with parents who worked and was a very responsible person — but you learn the world of work when you are doing it. And I suspect those most likely to not obey work norms are children of the rich and entitled who have never had to lift a finger.

              1. Les G*

                That sounds like an unusually long workday, so maybe that’s another reason why your daughter couldn’t believe it.

                1. Breda*

                  Yeah, that’s a reasonable complaint, frankly. 11- or 12-hour days ARE out of the norm.

              2. Marthooh*

                That doesn’t sound like your kid is complaining about being required to show up at stated times, but about working unusually long hours.

              3. Michaela Westen*

                I hope she’s getting paid overtime, and looking for a job with more reasonable hours!

              4. Observer*

                Well, that is NOT a “norm” I hope most young people learn is acceptable. Yes, there are some fields where that kind of thing is common, but that’s widely seen as a real knock on those fields.

          5. Micklak*

            @TL, I think most people here would agree that internships are an educational experience, but I’ve never thought it was my responsibility to instruct an intern that they are expected to work a standard work day. I would consider that to be remedial.

            I usually have the opposite problem where I have to tell interns to go home and quite working late.

            1. tusky*

              I think the issue is that there isn’t a single standard work day. At my current office job in a large company, no one told me what the normal working hours are; I just sort of guessed and learned through observation. It isn’t uncommon for people (at many levels, not just managers) to pick up and leave at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, because the culture is such that people are expected to manage their own schedules. Growing up, one of my parents was a university professor and the other was a self-employed consultant, so I came away with the sense that “normal” work hours were highly flexible.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I think that does lead to some confusion, because “intern” gets used for both unpaid labor and what used to be called a summer or part-time job, where you are both paid and taught enough to be helpful.

            Expecting unpaid labor, and especially 40 hours a week of it, inclines me to the vapors at management/industries, while hourly workers ducking out any time management isn’t looking is something that should bite them on the ass… unless they okayed it. In college I had an office job on campus, and once I was good at it my boss treated it as “I will pay you for 10 hours/week, and you need to complete these tasks. If you’re done early, you can leave early.” It was an early taste of how much I would later value by-the-project freelancing.

        2. Candy*

          I would think teaching interns very very basic skills… like showing up during standard working hours and actually contributing to work is literally the least an employer could do? I can understand not going to the trouble of explaining all the in depth procedures and intricacies of the company, but ensuring interns do the basic like show up on time and stay their entire shift is hardly Sisyphean

          1. Washi*

            I think companies should give interns the information they need to succeed, which includes correcting misconceptions about what flex time means. But the fact that interns are there to learn goes both ways – interns ought to be taking advantage of the coaching and learning opportunities at their company, not goofing off at every opportunity. You can’t really “ensure” interns show up on time and stay for their shift, all you can do is tell them it’s important and if they disregard explicit basic directions like that, it’s probably not worth it for the company to go through epic hand-holding around that to try to teach them a lesson. In fact, the lesson is most likely to get through if the interns are given a poor reference or fired as a result of their inability to follow directions!

            1. Mike C.*

              We just had a bunch of comments upthread explaining why “interns ought to be taking advantage of their opportunities” doesn’t make any sense.

            2. Emily K*

              I’m not sure why people are framing a little bit of management as “hand-holding.” Hand-holding is when someone is requiring a lot of close supervision and needs to be walked through something step by step and isn’t confident enough to make a decision without being prompted, etc. It relates to the disproportionate amount of time and involvement the employee requires.

              Just because something seems obvious to you doesn’t mean that talking about it is “hand-holding” – it doesn’t inherently require any more or less involvement and supervision than any other correction a manager might give. Giving corrections and asking a few questions to assess the root cause of the errors doesn’t become hand-holding because you feel like for whatever reason they should have known to avoid the error without needing a correction. Corrections and probing about why errors are being made are just basic management functions.

              If the managers did that and the interns were still slacking off, then sure, they shouldn’t need to have the conversation over and over again when they aren’t seeing change. But they should be having a frank conversation at least once where it’s made explicit, “Maybe you knew this or didn’t know this, but in a job like this you need to XYZ. So, now you know, and I expect you’ll XYZ going forward.”

              1. Washi*

                I think we agree! I just said this above – that managers SHOULD correct misconceptions and SHOULD tell people explicitly that they need to stay for their entire shift.

              2. TL -*

                To be fair, I had a team member on my last job who had a masters, a bachelors, an internship, and two years’ experience in lab work – and I still had to have a Very Serious conversation with him about taking notes. I was not happy and it felt like handholding, though I still thought it worth my time to have the conversation.

                But for an intern/brand new worker? The first thing I do is hand them a notepad and suggest they take notes on what I’m teaching them. I explicitly tell them to come back after they’ve finished a task and we’ll discuss what to do next. It’s not handholding; it’s pretty basic intern stuff.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I disagree, and I don’t think this is as class-driven as other commenters suggest.

            I think an employer’s responsibility is to be up front about expectations and to correct errors that are very very basic no more than once. That can be dispatched with a simple, “Our office hours are 8–5:30. We expect you to be here throughout that time. If you find yourself without a project or confused about what to do, please come see me.” If someone’s sliding, you call it out once and explain the Consequences. If they keep doing it, you apply those Consequences. Frankly, I would fire someone who blows off work and fails to come in on time (because it’s really not my job—educationally or otherwise—to “ensure” that the intern does basic things like come on time and stay for their shift), but sometimes intern programs are not set up to allow firing/discipline. The latter is especially true for programs that have not had to deal with terrible intern behavior before.

            Perhaps my feelings of exhaustion about this come from having had the World’s Worst Intern. We provided direction. We coached. We had several uncomfortable and direct CTJ conversations. I would have fired her if I had the authority to do so. Dealing with her was indeed Sisyphean, and it had nothing to do with her class background or lack of awareness of what was expected of her. Sometimes, interns behave badly, and it is 100% about their bad behavior, not the employer’s failure to instruct or train.

            1. TL -*

              I think your approach is completely reasonable, though – you set clear expectations and you gave warnings when they weren’t met.

              I’ve been bitten by expectations that weren’t stated but were “obvious” and that’s where the class background comes into play.

              You’re clearly making your expectations known, even the most basic ones, and having a follow-up conversation if necessary. Terrible interns absolutely exist, and they come from every background but you did your part to help them succeed.

        3. Yorick*

          I think the “educational” aspect of the internship is about learning the basics of the industry or learning technical skills or the practical application of those skills. I don’t think “educational” means learning the most basic aspects of professional norms, like that you need to come to work on time and not leave early without permission.

      3. Jamies*

        Internships are about gaining some work experience and/or getting some experience in a field/industry. While some companies may teach these things it’s not the employer’s responsibility to teach their interns to have a work ethic and that isn’t the point of an internship. Even if it was that doesn’t negate the fact a lot of employers will decide that’s too much hassle and either end the internship early or just not rehire the intern or give them a good recommendation.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah this is how I originally interpreted Safetykats’s original comment. Internships give you exposure to work norms, industry knowledge, and should come with a good amount of coaching. If these interns should not be leaving early, that should obviously be explained to them in serous terms.

          However, most internships are only 8-10 weeks, and it’s not surprising that some companies prefer to just ride out the last few weeks rather than having constant, repetitive confrontations. My organization partners with a nonprofit that places (paid) interns, and we had one infamous, terrible intern, who would run back to her placing organization to make a big stink every time she got negative feedback (such as not getting drunk at work events.) It would have been a huge hassle to fire her, so she got less coaching, boring projects, and a negative review at the end, and in my view, that was a natural consequence of her actions.

          1. Artemesia*

            Why is it a hassle to fire an intern? And the organization should have been given the same negative feedback the intern was given after one round of this.

            1. Washi*

              This is probably not the case with most interns, but because she was not local and placed with us through a partner organization that was providing her housing, we had certain obligations around how long she would be with us, how many hours she would work, etc. I assume there would be ways to terminate her if she did something like steal, but firing her in her last 3-4 weeks wasn’t worth seriously damaging our relationship with our otherwise great partner.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The law actually doesn’t disagree with jamies’s comment! If the internship is unpaid (and that’s not a given), it’s true that if it’s for a for-profit business, it has to be primarily for the intern’s benefit — but that doesn’t mean the law requires employers to teach work ethic. And if the internship is paid, the laws are no different than they are for any other job. It’s pretty reasonable to decide that you’re willing to teach an intern your field but not things like work ethic or integrity. (That said, obviously a good manager will give feedback when things aren’t going well. But the reality is that when people are busy, other things may be higher priorities than giving feedback to someone who’s going to be gone in a few weeks/months.)

            1. Mike C.*

              The whole point of an internship is to provide an educational opportunity.

              Also, companies teach their conventional employees about “ethics” and “integrity” all the time, so I don’t understand why having a short conversation about it such a massive burden but blackballing the kid is not.

              1. Someone else*

                “Educational opportunity” is the whole point of an unpaid internship. Paid internships are just short term paid jobs with a lower-sounding title. There’s no inherent obligation to educate a paid intern. Ethically I think it’s the right thing to do rather than let someone flail and then fail (and I think that about any employee not just interns), but “the point” of an internship is whatever the company makes “the point” of their internships, unless it’s a for-college-credit internship.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Is that really true, though? When I was in school, whether your internship was paid or unpaid was just luck. You still had the same expectations.

                  (Also, when I was in school, your internship was a class that you were enrolled in and had to pay for, so I’d be even more annoyed if someone decided it was too much trouble, not their problem, etc. to teach me something that they considered “workplace norms that I should have already picked up.”)

                2. Emily K*

                  I think what Someone else is referring to is something I’ve encountered quite a bit, where “interns” are just low-ranking employees. It’s a bit confusing as it’s the same word being used for something totally different, but these type of interns are paid, their employment is indefinite rather than term-bound, they aren’t necessarily enrolled in an internship college program, and their manager isn’t filling out any paperwork to ensure the intern gets academic credit.

                  At one previous employer “intern” basically just meant “hourly worker who we expect will leave in 3 months once they have enough experience to land a better job in this field.” Everyone else at the company was salaried, including janitorial and admin staff. Hourly wage jobs were all referred to as internships because even though the jobs did not have end dates on them, in practice high turnover was expected because the jobs were so basic and not very well paid that they were seen by the company and interns alike as “get your foot in the door, learn how the industry works” opportunities and not jobs someone would stay and grow into.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  As a legal matter, Someone else is right that “educational opportunity” is the (theoretical) point of unpaid internships. Do people abuse those programs and fail to properly train or invest in interns and their supervision? Absolutely. But at least there’s regulatory guidance on what an employer owes an unpaid intern.

                  Some paid internships also provide training and educational opportunities, but in my experience, they are often short-term gigs that expose people to the work (and ideally extract a benefit from that work in exchange for pay). Or, for for-profit and larger/more sophisticated programs, they’re highly regimented training programs. But the paid internships aren’t subject to the same factors/tests (which is where the “educational opportunity”/training language comes from) as unpaid internships, and the legal expectations simply aren’t the same.

              2. Jamies*

                Yea absolutely it’s an educational opportunity. Educational opportunity in whatever field the work is in which in this case is marketing. It’s not educational opportunity in things like “show up to work, do work, don’t arrive at 9 and leave at 10:30 am without permission, etc. Some places may expressly teach that stuff but it isn’t any kind of requirement.

      4. Les G*

        Bro, I’d take the aggression down a notch when responding to a commenter who’s just sharing her experience. Think about how you’re making other socialists look when you write your posts, you feel me?

        1. Mike C.*

          You’re going to tone police me and presume my political affiliations at the same time?

          Furthermore, we don’t talk politics here.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Your original comment read as overly heated to me too; there’s a reason lots of people are responding to it that way. I don’t want to debate it and ask that we move on, but that’s the reason you’re getting that reaction.

            1. Mike C.*

              It’s not overly heated, it’s a common metaphor. I’m seriously shocked that people are so upset over it.

              1. TL -*

                Hey, I’m totally on your side – but it struck me as really harsh language and I’m not sure I’ve heard that metaphor before, so I’m not really familiar with its connotation.

              2. Thlayli*

                It’s really really not a common metaphor to refer to “branding people like cattle”. As i said upthread this has actually been done by evil people, and in the not-so-recent past too. It happened to a teenage girl in Britain a few years ago, who was one of the victims of the grooming rings. You accuse people of behaving like the kind of scumbags who brand other humans and then you’re “shocked” by people being upset? It’s one of the most awful insults I’ve seen on this site.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Wow. I don’t want to derail, so I hope Alison will forgive me for this response.

                Mike C., because I respect you and appreciate reading your perspective, I’m asking you seriously to reconsider your use of “brand them like cattle” as a metaphor. It’s truly not a common metaphor when applied to humans. There’s a concise Wikipedia article on human branding linked to my name.

                That phrase is not an appropriate substitute for, nor does it have the same meaning as, “blackballing/blacklisting,” which is what Safetykats described. Although it was briefly used in the UK as a form of criminal punishment (to stigmatize), that is the minority usage/denotation of that phrase. Today, when you’re referring to branding a human like cattle, the most common denotation is that you’re talking about slavery, both contemporary and from the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Millions of people are enslaved and branded throughout the world, today. That’s why people are reacting strongly and with offense.

        2. Kathy*

          Yeah, I get tired every time I see his comments. He may have a point, but after all the attitude…

      5. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Mike C, the way I read SafetyKats’ comment is NOT that teaching interns in general is too much trouble. It’s that teaching interns a *work ethic* can be too much trouble. That’s really a different thing than providing an educational experience generally. I mean, teaching office norms, professional expectations, how the teapot industry works, etc, great! But…. “you do have to generally show up for work and you do have to generally work the hours we’ve hired you for” – that’s a bit different.

        I’d still be in favor of sitting down with the interns and telling them clearly that “flexible schedule” does not mean “does not have to work full-time in a full-time role,” and see if that fixes it. But OP says they are regularly leaving at 1 or 2 pm, and often just socializing when they are there. It’s kind of hard for me to envision this is a case of not understanding how jobs work.

        1. Autumnheart*

          You don’t have to impart a work ethic to an intern as part of an employer’s responsibility, but you do definitely have to explain, in detail, what is and isn’t okay in your company culture, such as leaving early and who gets to take advantage of it–e.g. it’s okay for senior employees to fudge a little, but highly frowned on for interns–what the expectation is when an intern finishes their assignments, etc. If an employer isn’t doing THAT, they are falling down on their responsibility toward their interns. People shouldn’t have to guess what they’re expected to do over the course of a workday.

          1. Thlayli*

            If someone managed to reach adulthood with the idea that “work” means “socialise all day and then leave at lunchtime”, then I really don’t think it’s anybody’s responsibility to have to teach them anything. They are adults. That’s like saying it’s your responsibility to teach them that you don’t moon your coworkers or pee on the floor. It’s blatantly obvious. Work is work, not playtime.

            1. LadyCop*

              I 100% agree with you. Unfortunately, my job crosses paths with so many people who can’t accomplish simple tasks as adults…let alone realize that you’re not supposed to just “scam” a job by doing as little work as possible and assume it’s fine because no one told you otherwise.

              “No one told me” is an excuse frequented by adults as much as kindergartners.

    2. media monkey*

      i would probably correct them the first once or twice/ near the beginning of the internship (without it being a major issue in terms of offering a permanent role) but close to the end i might leave it. if we had already had the conversation and nothing had changed in their behaviour/ attitude/ work ethic then i would recommend we didn’t offer a permanent role. interns who are coming up for university graduation (rather than those we sometimes get who are kids of someone else in the company and are still at secondary school – god, i hate those ones!) should be able to look at an office full of people are working and realise they shouldn’t just slope off to the pub. we only offer paid internships and i would think that anyone in their early 20s should know that if they are being paid and have working hours, they should be there the whole time.

      1. Opting for the Sidelines*


        The OP doesn’t know if management has talked these interns or not about there hours. As media monkey points out, management may have talked to them once, twice or a thousand times, but as a manager, when you know the intern is leaving in two months, you may see this as a lost cause and note the intern as a non-hire.

        Alternately as Alison points out, we have had interns when we are slow and so we do cut them half days and days off. (All of our internships are paid hourly.)

        But specifically for OP, being an intern IS the time to notice office norms and follow them. And if OP currently does not have enough work, a quick conversation with their manager would be good – which will either garner more work or maybe shorter hours.

        1. Mike C.*

          I don’t understand why so many of you assume that interns are sponges. So many problems in the workplace in general (and letters published on this site) can be trivially solved with the phrase “say something directly to their face”.

          You might be convinced that someone should “already know” but they clearly don’t so are you going to pull them aside and say something quickly to fix that, or are you going to punish them for your own inaction? Which of these options makes the most sense?

          1. Thlayli*

            Option 3: don’t waste your time on someone who clearly has no inherent work ethic.

            The best thing you can do for some people is let them learn a lesson in the school of hard knocks.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              Only do that if you’ve already had the conversation. Warn once, then consequences. It’s the right thing to do. Never give consequences without warnings.

            2. Observer*

              I agree with Engineer Girl. If nothing else, if no one explicitly says it to them, they are far more likely to fail to learn the lesson.

              1. LovecraftInDC*

                Particularly considering that an internship is, by definition, a set term. I had a set-term contract where I didn’t get hired on at the end of it, although I did get an extension. I figured it was because they didn’t have room for me (as they said), but looking back on it I’m pretty sure that there were some cultural norms I was not meeting.

          2. Micklak*

            Reading this thread is the first time I’ve encountered the idea that I would have to explain what full time work is. That’s a lesson learned for me.

            If I had an intern that was leaving early every day I would absolutely talk to them about it and I would absolutely be shocked that I needed to talk to them about it.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Part of an intern’s educational process is also about learning how to take instruction through observation. As other’s have noted, you can’t really teach someone a work ethic. But you can describe characteristics of a good work ethic, you can attempt to correct the issue (once), and you can model those qualities. Beyond that, the intern has to be able to observe and integrate that information into how they conduct themselves.

  6. Engineer Girl*

    OP #2 – Just an FYI – flex time means you work a 40 hour week but you can move around your schedule. It does NOT mean you work 30 hours instead of 40.

    Leaving early is a big deal. Your managers should be dealing with it. Maybe they are. You wouldn’t see that. Some people are determined to game the system. They even think they are succeeding until evaluation time comes.

    One good thing for you. The lazy ones are making you look even more hard working and professional. Keep it up!

    1. A. Schuyler*

      It really depends on the type of flexibility. Leaving in the early afternoon really needs to be by agreement with the manager and being inaccessible during the day does sound rather slack, so I don’t think the other interns are right. I just think defining flexibility so rigidly defeats the purpose.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          This is the crux of it for me. I think if it was an occasional ‘leaving an hour early for an appointment and making up time’ thing, then it would probably be OK (assuming they’re asking for the time off in advance). But this is effectively skipping out on work to socialise, and that’s not a good way to start your career. I know that some people have the attitude that internships aren’t a ‘real’ job, but they should be treated as such because of how much impact they can have on getting your start in terms of references, getting into good work habits etc, and right now these interns don’t seem to be conscious of that.

          1. pleaset*

            With interns, especially unpaid interns, leaving early from time to time even without making it up is OK with me (I’ve managed many, most of whom say they learned a lot while with me).

            Leaving early regularly? Yeah, that’s bad.

            And frankly, with my interns the ideal amount of time in the office each week is about 20 or 30 hours – I actually suggest 3 days a week as ideal, 2 or 4 are OK. 1 is not – not enough time to learn. We set this early on.

            And if early we agree it’s short days – come in at 10, and head out at 5, that’s OK especially is they’re doing 3 or 4 days. But the interns have to be active – learning, working, even “socializing” is OK if it’s talking with other interns about education, work and experience. We’ve had college age interns doing long lunches with interns in grad school to learn about grad school. That’s cool.

            “Socializing” a lot about random stuff to avoid working/learning is bad. Doesn’t look good.

      1. Amylou*

        We had an intern who seemed to think “flexible” meant coming into work at least half an hour (if not more) late every single day. He didn’t stay longer to make it up. It wasn’t by agreement. However many times we told him to be at work on time, always always late (it was a very 9-5:30 hours job, but flexible if you had appointments etc. or coming in later after a late evening work event – not: work 30 hours while agreed to 40). It was very annoying because almost every single day I had tasks or small projects to give, but he wasn’t there yet!

        1. beenThere*

          The nice thing about internships, though, is they are usually pretty short term.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            If they show up late every day even after being warned multiple times, the internship should probably be of an extremely short duration!

            1. Amylou*

              It was cut short in the end (though not short enough for me!! – they got an unbelievable amount of chances; and it was a paid internship as well, counted in months, not weeks), but that took some campaigning and a near meltdown from my side.

      2. LQ*

        It depends a bit on the exact nature of the job, but no internship should ever be exempt so a 40 hour weeks means a 40 hour week. (Or in CA and 8 hour day means and hour day.) Flexible doesn’t mean exempt, and it can’t mean able to work less than 40 hours and get paid for 40 hours, that’s time card fraud. You can be both exempt and flexible. But if you aren’t, flexible just needs to be time moved around.

    2. LPUK*

      I have just had this argument with my niece who started calling in sick when she didn’t want to go to college or work placement because she ‘wasn’t learning anything’. I said she was learning how to be dependable and reliable even if she wasn’t feeling it and that would be a far bigger deal for a future employer than she knew at the moment. We’ll see if it sinks in.
      Also, ‘well they haven’t said anything’. Yeah, they don’t always, doesn’t mean your card isn’t marked!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Ouch. A young person you feel you should guide who is absently tying knots in their shoelaces. How will she learn if she isn’t there? Why would any future employer consider “never shows up” to be an okay thing because obviously New Job is going to be super cool 100% of the time and no one ever experiences moments of boredom at it.

      2. Artemesia*

        I have never understood how people haven’t realized that people don’t ‘say something’ when they are displeased. People in general don’t like confrontation or unpleasantness. SO. They don’t remark about the dollar dance at your wedding, but they gossip about it afterwards. They don’t provide proper feedback to interns, they just note them as do not hire. They don’t complain to the restaurant manager, they just don’t come back. They don’t say anything about your inappropriate dress, but they then don’t recommend you for a job you hope to get. etc etc. Most people don’t ‘confront’, but they judge and they act on those judgments.

        1. the gold digger*

          They don’t remark about the dollar dance at your wedding, but they gossip about it afterwards.

          Some people, for decades after the wedding. Decades.

        2. alana*

          I was one of those people, so let me enlighten you! When I was an intern I absolutely thought that if nobody told me X was a problem, it wasn’t a problem. This is partly because I had ironclad confidence that I was Great, but also because I didn’t actually have a lot of experience in situations where doing something wrong didn’t have immediate accompanying consequences. My parents were highly critical people — if I put a foot out of line, I knew it. If I paid my rent late in college, my landlord asked for it and fined me if it didn’t show up. If you’re annoying a teacher or professor, they’ll tell you to stop. The idea that I could be doing something wrong AND NO ONE WOULD TELL ME never crossed my mind.

          My internships were all in newsrooms, which also tend to be pretty casual places that don’t think of themselves as The Workplace. So while I got to do a ton of interesting, substantive work, and learned a ton about being a journalist, there was also no structure for feedback like, “Hey, your writing is great, but maybe show up on time!”

          And yes, it’s horrendously cringey in retrospect! But it took bosses who gave me a negative evaluation years later for me to realize things like, oh, just because you don’t comment when I breeze into the 10 am meeting a little late doesn’t mean it’s OK. I just did not know. I work with interns and new hires now and I spell out E V E R Y T H I N G to them.

          1. tusky*

            I think this is a really good point! In a similar vein, asking for feedback or guidance can feel fraught–it took me awhile in my professional life to learn how to navigate between things that I should figure out for myself and things for which I should seek guidance (and honestly I’m still not entirely sure about this).

        3. myswtghst*

          Oh, how true this is. It’s the corollary to how most advice columns boil down to “yes, it’s uncomfortable, but you need to have a conversation about it” – if it’s uncomfortable, far too many people will avoid having the conversation about it.

        4. Lynn Whitehat*

          Well, in School World, you often don’t have a problem until a faculty member tells you that you have a problem. Which probably isn’t the lesson anyone is trying to instill, but there you go.

    3. Specialk9*

      Exactly. Flex time doesn’t mean working 4 hour days every day! It’s working all the hours you’re being paid for, in a flexible way. So for example, working a few 12 hour shifts and then having off when your week’s hours are done. Or shifting your start/end time to earlier or later to accommodate traffic.

      Here’s advice I got early on in my career:
      “NEVER CHEAT ON THE TIME SHEET, it’s the dumbest way of getting canned there is.”

      I was also taught, in a job in which I worked on multiple projects, to keep a small notebook and write down a summary of what you did each day. It was a way of documenting and having proof if there were to be an objection to my time sheet. (I now use my Sent Mail to keep track of my work status, by week, at a much higher level, but I don’t have a timesheet anymore.)

      Good luck! And yes managers are watching you to decide if they want to hire you. I’m working with an intern now (actually I’m borrowing him because his work assignments are low now) and I am trying so hard to hire him because he’s just amazing. Unfortunately he has another several years of school to go. I’m so bummed about it.

      1. Linda Evangelista*

        This is true! At OldJob we had an interned who worked with us part time while he was in school, for the whole academic year. The summer after his internship ended, we had a weird period of turnover, and because he was so fantastic we hired him back officially (part time while he finished his last year of school, then full time after he graduated).

        Personally, my first internship supervisor effectively launched my career. I owe her everything. And its because I (brag warning) was a stellar intern.

        Impressions are important!

        1. the gold digger*

          My intern last summer was amazing. I love her. She is interning at Accenture this summer and they will probably snap her up when she graduates next year because she is so wonderful.

          She came to work on time every single day. She listened. She asked good questions. She took notes. She never left early or even asked to. She worked hard and had a great attitude and we loved her.

          She had never had a professional job before – she will be a college senior this year, but she had worked retail in high school, so she knew how work works. I would never have expected to have to tell her oh by the way you need to come to work every day on time and stay until the end of the day.

      2. CMFDF*

        I definitely recommend keeping track of what you do all day! I became a better worker when I started logging what I did, and what I need to do each day. Notebooks usually work, lately I’ve been using Trello. When I stop making a concerted effort to do so (my job is kind of weird and all over the place), I become a crappier employee, which makes sense, because I don’t even know what I did all day. It’s like a cycle of not actually accomplishing much, feeling like I did nothing, so not feeling motivated to do anything. If I can look at something that says, “you did 10 small tasks today,” I think, “wow, I did a ton today.” Or, on different days, “you only did 2 things, one was an emergency, and one was large part of this big project,” I think, “I really accomplished something big.” Either way, doing that consistently makes me feel like I am good at my job, and can get even better.

      3. A Username*

        I have worked at a number of jobs where cheating on your timesheet was standard operating procedure because of a defective HR/payroll organization (ex: your boss told you to punch in/out for certain things, your boss edited your timesheet after to add/remove hours). Staff who refused to do so (typically blue collar “union” kids who weren’t used to the general dysfunction and lack of attention to detail of the nonprofit environment) tended to find themselves out of work because they weren’t doing things “our way.”

    4. OtterB*

      Somewhere I have a really old comic where the boss is speaking to a working by the water cooler, saying “Since we instituted the new flexible working hours, we’ve been unable to find yours.”

      Unless this is arranged with the other intern’s supervisor, it’s not good. My job is extraordinarily flexible with working hours, and we still email each other if we’ll be out part of a day for an appointment, or coming in / leaving earlier than our usual.

    5. Antilles*

      Yep. Companies generally have a pretty clear mental definition of flex time. We don’t sit there with a stopwatch and keep you at exactly 8:00 to 5:00 pm, we don’t mind if you leave early on occasion…but as a general rule, we *do* expect that:
      (a) you keep relatively consistent hours on a day to day basis that more or less overlap with the rest of the office;
      (b) you’re working enough hours to get everything done / attend meetings / etc;
      (c) you put in some work every single day unless you’re on PTO/vacation (e.g., if you have a 9 am doctor’s appointment, you come in afterwards); and
      (d) on average, you’re putting in a full 40-hour work week.

  7. This Daydreamer*

    OP3 I’m a shelter manager and it would be interesting to see what would happen if I started bossing the case managers around. Considering the laid back environment here, they’d probably take it as a joke and play along for a while as long as I didn’t push it too hard.

    I’m sure it would go over like a lead balloon in the admin/outreach office. We’re much more relaxed in the actual shelter. It makes up for when it gets tough.

  8. doreen*

    For #3- there’s a third type of office manager. He or she doesn’t doesn’t manage everyone in the office , but does supervise other support staff. For example, the office manager at my doctor’s office obviously doesn’t supervise the doctors or the physician’s assistant or the medical assistants – but she does supervise the clerks and receptionists.

    1. teclatrans*

      Yes, when I worked as a legal secretary a couple of decades ago, office managers were the boss of all the admin and clerical staff, as well as being responsible for site issues, etc. When perusing job boards these days, I have noticed that some office manager positions (especially in tech) are actually receptionist+secretarial+supplies+etc. All rolled into one — basically, ‘general admin,’ or, as people are saying, “manage the administrative *functions.*”

      If OP3’s friend doesn’t have hiring/firing power and doesn’t have direct reports, and if she thinks she is “manager of everybody in the office,” I feel pretty confident saying she is a confused admin.

    2. Jamies*

      I think being the manager of the support staff and OP’s idea of an office manager go hand in hand because someone who manages support is the one ultimately responsible for the things support staff is expected to do. Although even if she did manage the support staff I get the impression OP’s friend is trying to boss around people who aren’t support and are quite possibly above her in hierarchy. I’m curious about the fact it doesn’t strike her as strange she feels disrespected by her “reports” but has zero power to do anything. I’d think that’d be a pretty massive clue something’s up but I guess not for her.

      1. Luna*

        It depends though- even if she isn’t technically the manager of other support staff, many times the “head admin” will be told by the boss to make sure everyone does X and Y, or make sure a new policy gets implemented. So the person can be in charge of certain policies/initiatives and making sure others follow them, while not actually formally managing the staff. It can be a fine line to walk to get people to do things a certain way (which often is part of an admin’s job) when you don’t have any real authority over them.

        1. Someone else*

          That’s true but even if OP1’s friend has authority over certain processes, which apply to everyone in the office, the way the letter describes the sitch is that OP1’s friend does seem to think she is actually their manager, rather than in charge of various things, not people. Even if she does have some authority, it very much sounds like these people are probably not her direct reports, so if her mindset is they are, that would be problematic anyway, albeit in a slightly different way.

    3. Engineer Woman*

      Yep. Our office manager manages the receptionist, the facilities staff and the cleaning crew. So she is a manager – just not the manager of the entire office.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I agree. I think OP could raise it with her friend as a question “Have you talked to your manager about this? I know in lots of offices, an office manager’s role doesn’t include supervising or managing other staff, or only invilves managing more junior support or admin staff – maybe you could clarify with them how much management they want your role to include, and if necessary back you up if there are people who you do manage who haven’t understood your role”
      That way, you raise the possibility that there is a misunderstanding over exactly what her roe is, and encourage her to clarify it it the people who can actually tell her!

      I have to say, I’m most familiar with the term being used for someone who is in a senior support/ admin role and who is the line manager for other support staff. If we had a separate office manager (which we don’t) they would be responsible for managing the reception staff and office juniors, but not support staff in other departments as they are managed directly by the departments they work for.

    5. McWhadden*

      Right, I’m aware of the other kinds but that’s the only sort of office manager we’ve had in my places of work.

    6. Kittymommy*

      Yep, I’ve definitely worked in offices like this (& there’s a department in my current organization that does this). It depends entirely on the office.

    7. OP #3*

      Based on the job titles involved, this would be the equivalent of the office manager supervising the doctors. Which is one reason that I’m almost sure she’s mistaken.

  9. jamlady*

    I’ve been in #3’s place and I said something along the lines of “oh that sounds irritating. You should talk to your boss about how to handle it” – it fixed itself, because her boss said “well Sherry, the reason they’re not listening to your direction is because that’s not actually your job”. Shockingly, it didn’t go over well, but at least I didn’t have to be the one to tell her.

    1. Mookie*

      Yeah, I’d put the LW’s friend out of her misery like you did with Sherry. Encourage her to re-visit with her boss what her duties precisely entail. It’s less tears for everybody.

    2. OP #3*

      Smart! If her boss is not providing clarity because she’s not aware of the situation, my friend coming to her with the question would at least fix any lack of awareness on the boss’s part.

  10. Bea*

    LOL the misconception that happens when people plop “manager” into a title.

    This is why when searching for an actual manager for departments is so painful. So many “Account Managers” sending in resumes for Operation Manager positions and such.

    I was an Office Manager who was the boss of people and certified herder off the bigboss. So the wishy washy ways it’s used gives me hives thinking about it. It truly depends on your industry and size. I’ve never been seen as a receptionist or such. It varies so much.

    1. SS Express*

      The word “manager” doesn’t only mean “boss of people/departments” though. Sometimes it refers to managing a project, an account, a program, a database, workflow, or a million other things (including managing the general administrative functioning of an office without actually being in charge of any of the staff there). If people doing that sort of work didn’t have “manager” plopped into their titles, their titles wouldn’t accurately reflect their actual jobs.

      1. Lance*

        As things are now, sure… but there must be some sort of better word/phrase that could potentially be adopted to cut this confusion altogether.

        1. Jamies*

          Taking manager out of everything except manager of people seems like overkill. Sure there are some outliers but in the world as a whole is there really that much confusion? I’d say most people know what their job role is and are aware of what the job they apply for entails.

        2. SavannahMiranda*

          Let’s see…

          Senior Executive Assistant
          Senior Administrative Lead (a bit redundant yes)
          Senior Professional Assistant

          Admittedly that’s a lot of ‘senior.’ And one can be senior even if they don’t have a junior report to them, because they are senior to the other administrative staff, even though they do not manage the other staff.

          It’s all a bit beside the point though, as Office Manager today is almost universally understood to mean Senior Administrative Lead and not Head of Support Personnel, which is what it used to mean as recently as 20-25 years ago.

        3. Ell the Bell*

          Federal government used the term “supervisory” if the position manages people. So you can be a Supervisory Project Manager or just a Project Manager and the meaning is clear.

      2. KarenK*

        Yep on this. My title is “Program Manager,” i.e., I manage two programs, but none of the actual humans involved, at least formally, as they are all doctors. I do have informal “bossing around” responsibilities, however, but that’s a function of the role.

      3. Bea*

        Oh I dig it. I can see the use of manager in these titles but my frustration is those who have one and are throwing their resume at me like they don’t get they’re out of step with a job listing.

        I think that they also fluff positions up in many cases because a lower sounding title is more appealing. All these office assistance positions are now suddenly managers because they manage the supplies and it’s creating confusion when they want to move to another position where the title is something different.

        Really you can’t assume much by job title anymore I’m coming to terms with the but very slowly. You have to know someone’s job description and duties.

        1. SavannahMiranda*

          “I think that they also fluff positions up in many cases because a lower sounding title is more appealing. All these office assistance positions are now suddenly managers because they manage the supplies and it’s creating confusion ”


          I’ve been in the workforce 20+ years now and have seen the evolution of the Office Manager title away from a position like Joan Holloway’s during early seasons of Mad Men where she was lead queen with the power to hire and fire, towards a role more like Pam Beesley’s during early seasons of The Office where she was the overworked receptionist with no inherent authority.

          Because as Pam Beesley said, “I don’t think it’s many little girls’ dream to be a receptionist.”

          And it does lead to the necessity to inflate the titles of people who do what Office Managers had always done, and re-title them the equivalent of Senior Personnel Manager.

        1. media monkey*

          it is here but we manage media accounts for clients – we’re not phone spammers!

    2. Aurion*

      I don’t think it’s really a big deal though. When it comes to job hunt and resumes, the applicant is supposed to discuss accomplishments and duties anyway. So the Office Manager who’s in charge of ordering supplies and keeping the office well-stocked would have a different resume and talking points than the Office Manager who hired, fired, and managed the entire administrative team of 20.

      In verbal conversation, yeah it’s a bit trickier since people have assumptions of what an office manager is, but a light one-sentence explanation would take care of that.

  11. Sue Wilson*

    #3: I mean, the advice you would give if she were a manager applies here right? Tell her to ask her boss for some guidance. Either her boss will let her know what’s up or he’ll tell her how managing in this office culture works. Either way, you don’t have to say anything based upon your assumptions of title.

  12. Maddie*

    Don’t pressure ex-boss/friend about the job. If it doesn’t work out, accept it and move on. She may have felt put on the spot.

  13. Engineer Girl*

    OP #4 – taking offense without first finding the details is never a good path. It sets you up to look emotional and unreasonable.
    There are so many different scenarios that could happen, several that have nothing to do with rejecting you. Maybe the position was delayed, maybe HR is dragging their feet, maybe the hiring managers boss wants to select someone else (and your former boss is fighting for you). You just don’t know.
    Always seek clarification first!

    1. EPLawyer*

      Definitely don’t approach this as “but we are friends.” She is a manager first and owes a loyalty to her company to hire the best person, not a loyalty to you as her friend. Maybe she has been told not to talk about the process. Approach this the same way you would if you were an external candidate who did not know anyone at the company. You applied. You put it out of your mind until you hear something further.

  14. Vauxhall Prefect*

    OP #3: How does your friend seem normally? I’d think that if she normally comes across as fairly reasonable and observant that it would be hard to believe that she’s wrong about managing people (whether that’s other admin staff or the wider office). I’m sure it’s happened, but I think it would be difficult to go through interviewing for a role and then seeing what your day to day workflow was and still believe you managed people when you don’t. I think I’d feel like a friend had a pretty low opinion of me if they jumped to thinking I was just wrong about my role.

    Personally I’d slightly tweak Alison’s script and say something like “Maybe you should have a word to your manager about your title. At a lot of places I’ve worked Office Manager is an admin role and you might get better respect with a title change.” It isn’t very different, but I think phrasing things that way might make it a little easier for her to fairly gracefully stop talking about it if she’s wrong about the role. And if you’re wrong there won’t be any hint that you were doubting her.

    1. Birch*

      I see this backfiring though, if she really is in an admin role, it sounds like you think that role deserves less respect. (Not that you do–it just could come across this way.)

      1. AMT*

        Maybe instead of “You might get better respect with a title change,” the LW could just say, “Your subordinates might be confused by your title and think that you’re an admin and not their actual manager”?

    2. OP #3*

      I think this is her first office job, and I get the impression that there are some basics of office culture that she’s not picking up on yet. Although I could be wrong!

  15. Crystal*

    #2 – just make sure you’re getting face time and that people know you’re there. Sounds like you know this by sating “but I try to find other things to do so my face is out there and I’m not just disappearing” but yes, that is the way to do it! Have you asked your manager if there’s a project you can work on when you have down/extra time? Try to milk this internship for all the experiences it can give you!

  16. YetAnotherSteve*

    OP1 – you might want to have a conversation with the vendor along the lines of “I hear you have had to make a number of redundancies recently and I’m concerned about your ability to deliver the service in future.” Firing a number of staff without warning, especially for small businesses, is generally a red flag for their financial stability and significantly increases your risk of being left hanging if they go bankrupt. Don’t avoid having this conversation just because it was a family member who was laid off.

    1. Mookie*

      I agree with Alison in her third paragraph that the company and the LW came to a mutual decision, a meeting of the minds or what-have-you, that precipitated removing the personal connection between them — the LW’s mom — fully and inexorably for the sake of doing business together with as little baggage and potential conflict as possible. The LW says that if they weren’t mother and daughter, her mother would have been assigned to provide service to the LW’s business. All of this shows good faith, intelligence, and conscientiousness by all parties.

      Lay-offs are public information, sure, but the LW is coming at that issue from a private vantage point, and I think it’d be disingenuous for her to pretend to be concerned about something that isn’t affecting how this company services her business. Her mom was laid off because she and her new team were working for a client that bailed out. LW says the company is meeting her expectations; has anything changed since her mom left? It doesn’t sound like it.

      If the LW doesn’t like hiring specialized outside services from companies that lay people off she could have done her due diligence into their financial status when they were hammering out a deal. She didn’t. She also knew it was “small,” in terms of staff, before she signed on with them. Pretending that these things are problematic in the aftermath of her mother’s non-voluntary departure is not going to look reasonable, it’s going to look like a pretense for a conversation that has absolutely no purpose, as far as I can see, but to satisfy an itch she tacitly agreed not to scratch during business hours. If she wants to dissolve the relationship, of course she can do it and maybe she should. But there’s no reason to burn the bridge while doing so by bringing up her mother, directly or indirectly.

    2. pleaset*

      Good points.

      I just want to add that we should try to distinguish being fired and being laid off: the former is about the performance of the person is the job and the latter is about broader circumstance in the business. In the latter case, for example, the person might even get a glowing recommendation for other jobs, whereas in the former that is less likely.

    3. Natalie*

      I don’t think this is that uncommon or as big of a red flag in client based fields. I have an oddly high number of friends in advertising and they get laid off all the time in similar circumstances, when a number of clients leave or a big client drastically scales down their work.

    4. imanaccountant*

      +1 to this. Accountant are notoriously bad business people. If they have lost three clients and laid off staff at a firm that small I would be genuinely worried about their ability to serve your growing business.

      It’s especially odd to me since your mom essentially hand delivered your account to them that they would fire her first. It just doesn’t follow any logic I’ve seen in small firms. It’s completely normal for firms to lose the client if the person who brought in the account leaves or for clients to drop firms if they have excessive staff turnover/layoffs.

      I know it’s going to really stink to have to interview/hire/integrate with another business but you may want to look into that.

      1. Antilles*

        It just doesn’t follow any logic I’ve seen in small firms. It’s completely normal for firms to lose the client if the person who brought in the account leaves or for clients to drop firms if they have excessive staff turnover/layoffs.
        It’s true that it’s completely normal for firms to lose clients when people leave, but a smart firm recognizes that ahead of time and takes that into account.
        The logic could very easily be this:
        1.) We recognize that we are 100% going to lose OP’s account due to the personal relationship.
        2.) The other accounts OPMom was involved with have worked with other people in the company too, so we have a decent chance of keeping them – we’ll lose a couple of them, but some of them will stay anyways. So we’re expecting to lose $X to $Y in revenue from these other accounts.
        3.) …But even with the lost accounts, we still have no other fiscal choice than to bite the bullet and just do our absolute best to try to reduce the client base loss as much as possible.

        1. imanaccountant*

          I agree – OP could have a very small account with low billable potential. OP should feel okay keeping the firm or firing them. It’s 100% their choice and that’s the point I’m trying to make.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Presumably they laid off the most recently hired people, which is pretty normal in a situation where they found they have over-hired.

    5. Dram*

      I thought the LW’s question was really about now knowing how small the firm is (small was mentioned more than once) — and knowing some behind-the-scenes info about just how many clients they’ve lost and how bad off they are if they’re laying off staff and the first to go was one who actually brought in a new client.

      The LW has this info, and it’s already been pricey moving over and syncing with this group. Please don’t let some sense of obligation to remain professional just because the mother was involed keep the LE from weighing the risks of remaining a client, which do sound very high. (Frankly, I know Alison says to also not factor in the mother’s layoff because that is personal v professional, but honestly, it’s such a small business, it truly seems alarming they’re doing so poorly that they would cut someone who landed then a client.)

      1. Dram*

        I just realized: Mother and her team might have been cut precisely because her team wasn’t working for the LW, a paying client.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          That’s how I took it – that if they hadn’t been professional and had assigned her mother to support OP, she’d still have a job as OP is still using their services. So I can see why it niggles. OP might feel that instead of laying her off, they could have reassigned her mother to another team (namely the one that supports her).

          It obviously stings, but I have to agree that not allowing the mother to provide services to an immediate family member was the right thing to do. It’s a shame about the timing of losing the other clients and having to make lay-offs, but sadly that’s life and that’s business.

          OP, I hope your mother finds another job soon.

      2. KayEss*

        I admit to not having a great grasp on how this works, but it seems like “recommended to one family member” is a really low bar for business development success. That seems like more of a lucky connection than a sign of sales skills special enough to privilege a recent hire over more experienced staff when it comes to layoffs.

    6. Artemesia*

      No one will be fooled that this is anything but ‘wah, why did you fire my Mommy.’ Leave this alone. Use them, don’t use them, but don’t talk about Mom’s job or hint at it.

    7. Bea*

      It’s a red flag to me that they lost 3 big accounts…most of the time you stick with the same accounting firm unless you explode and do more in-house or the firm is dropping balls.

      When I change vendors it’s because their costs shot up drastically compared tob others or they burnt me.

  17. beenThere*

    We had an intern for one summer that often called off, requested vacation days she didn’t have, and left early whenever she could get away with it. She also complained that her internship wasn’t as interesting as her friends’. I suspect her friends were blowing smoke, but that’s neither here nor there. Fast forward to this intern hiring season and no, we did not invite her back.
    It all matters, especially when you’re an intern!!!

    1. pleaset*

      “She also complained that her internship wasn’t as interesting as her friends’.”

      This is worth digging a little deeper into. If you do reviews toward the end of each internship or even afterwards, for example, you should be getting feedback from the interns on their experience. Internships should be primarily about the interns benefiting. That intern sounds sketchy and is just one data point, so perhaps it’s fine to ignore. But if a decent number say the internship is not interesting – and by that they mean they aren’t learning new things – that’s bad. Either stop having interns or change how you work with them.

      1. LQ*

        I mean…yeah, but chances that an internship will ever be more interesting than hanging out with my friends. I’m not a huge friends person but my jobs have never been more interesting than my friends. And I like my job.

        That’s a really really really low bar. That’s why friends are friends and work is what you get paid for. I mean, it’s a job. Even an internship is a work. (I’m not saying it shouldn’t be beneficial to the interns because that’s what it is about, but it’s still work, it’s never going to be as interesting as someone’s friends, unless you’ve got really the worst friends.)

        1. OhNo*

          I think beenThere meant that she was saying the internship wasn’t as interesting as the internships her friends had.

      2. Temperance*

        Eh, I disagree. One of my past interns was a nightmare to work with, and he threw a temper tantrum because I didn’t give him “really interesting writing assignments”. He couldn’t handle basic work, and thought he should be doing cooler stuff than I get to do.

        Part of an internship is education. I totally get that. But that doesn’t mean that it should always be fun or entertaining.

        1. media monkey*

          agreed. we once had an intern (who was pretty average and didn’t seem especially engaged/ interested to learn) who complained about us to her university course supervisor because we didn’t let her to go client meetings (?) or do the most interesting work (which people who were entry level + 1.5=2 years experience weren’t doing – she was basically doing entry level work). she was with us for 6 weeks over the summer – this is not a 1 year position or anything.

        2. pleaset*

          I would dig deeper on what interesting means in this case. If she meant, not fun or entertaining, then yeah, who cares. If it means the stuff is boring AND easy, that’s bad. An internship should be pushing interns to learn.

          And in response to media monkey – frankly I think an intern who is working for free should sometimes have more “interesting” work than the most entry level employees. That’s part of the point – for them to learn things.

          1. Chinookwind*

            But you have to show competency in the boring things (which are often routine and/or low risk if done incorrectly) before you can be trusted with the interesting ones. When working with engineering students, we would explicitly point this out when they were assigned to update a spreadsheet from various forms. Yes, we could have had a computer do it, but we needed to verify that they were capable of following instructions and paying attention to details before we trust them with vital data.

          2. Temperance*

            If they are capable, yes. But for some interns, basic work is all that they can handle, even in the name of education. It’s more of a service to the intern to show them how to handle things like this now, before they lose a job over it later.

            If you aren’t smart or capable enough to string a sentence together coherently, I can’t give you bigger assignments. It’s not doing that intern any favors to give them cool work that they aren’t capable of handling well just to shut them up.

  18. Birch*

    OP 2 , I think the life lesson here is that sometimes you observe things happening in the workplace that may seem off to you, but that have nothing to do with you, so you really just have to keep your eyes on your own paper. This also highlights the issues that come up with trying to figure out the status quo of a workplace–you have no way of knowing if it’s just very laid-back and the manager is OK with these interns going home early if they have nothing to do, or if this behaviour is going to really hurt them in the future. So all you can do is focus on your own work, your own goals, and your own manager’s expectations of you.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      I was just going to comment to this effect.

      I think if you’re impacted directly by the interns leaving early, it’s something with which you concern yourself. Otherwise, you should keep doing what your doing and not worry about their futures.

    2. myswtghst*

      This is such a great point, and I think it’s great that OP#2 wrote in to confirm their suspicions here. While observing culture as a whole is really important, it’s also important to focus on what you can do to be successful, which usually starts with understanding what your boss expects of you so you can deliver on that.

  19. Nonsensical*

    #4 – in the kindest manner, please don’t rely on your friend’s word or expect a job to originate from this. While your friend might be able to get you past the first round, that doesn’t mean they will have final say in the decision. There are quite a few cogs in the machine typically – HR, hiring managers, the team itself and the candidates you’re up against. Feel free to reach out to your friend but make sure you’re talking to your friend about non job related activities to make sure the friendship doesn’t become strained over this. Remember her advice wasn’t a guaranteed job offer and while it is great to keep in the loop, she is not the process. So she may not be able to carry out her promise, or other candidates might appear. Either way, please do continue job searching and don’t rely on this one potential offer until you actually have a job offer in hand.

  20. Naptime Enthusiast*

    OP2 – do you work with these interns at all? If so, you may have some standing here to say something, or at least talk to their manager. They may not have enough work and that’s why they’re leaving early, so if you have tasks they can help with I’m sure the manager would be happy to have more for them to do. If their manager is fine with the setup than that’s the end of it unfortunately.

    During my first internship, there was a group of interns that were Not Happy with their experience. Some of their concerns were valid, others were not. The group would take long lunches where they went to the movies, left early even though we were required to work 40 hours per week, and they worked on a self-assigned “intern project” that basically laid out to management everything that the company should do for interns in the future. It was very similar to the petition interns a few years ago! I liked them as people, but kept my distance from them in the office. None of them were back the next summer, I’m fairly certain they were not invited back but I do not know for sure.

  21. MLB*

    #5 – just because she’s your friend and was enthusiastic about you applying for the job, doesn’t mean you’re owed an interview. If she’s not the only one making the decisions about the job, maybe others weren’t as enthused to meet with you. But if they decided you weren’t the right fit to bring in, she does owe you an explanation. And if she’s avoiding you because of this, that’s pretty crappy on her part. I would do as Alison suggested and reach out, especially knowing that they haven’t hired anyone yet.

  22. Allison*

    #2 it probably does look bad, even if their manager does allow it, there are people who don’t know the full story (that they’re allowed, why they need to leave early, how much work they’re doing while they’re in the office), and they’re probably side-eyeing those interns. There isn’t much you can do about it though, bringing it up with their manager could make you look like a tattle-tale unless they’re leaving you with extra work, and asking for the same schedule when you don’t need it may not look good either. Stay in your lane, worry about yourself, be awesome.

  23. Lara*

    I’m honestly very confused by these interns. Did they never have a summer / part time job as a teen? Turning up is basic, entry level stuff. I’m torn between “no one should have to be told not leave 4 hours early” and the idea that they should be told and educated out of it.

    1. BadWolf*

      In my job, we’re all salaried exempt and while we don’t take our flex time as extreme as this example, certainly people come in early at times, have a dentist appt, sometimes in the summer we have extra time off as a reward for a big project.

      But our interns are all hourly, of course. Sometimes when management sends out early release/time off, they add a caveat for interns to check with their manager about how to handle their time (since they do have to fill out a time sheet). But they don’t always do this — so I could see an intern taking example from all the full time employees and then taking it too far before a manager reins them in.

      1. Washi*

        I knew a lot of wealthy kids in college who had never had a summer, or any other type of job. So yeah, I could see interns noting that other people leave many hours early, not realizing that they are taking sick time or making it up by staying late/working from home, and then thinking that flex time means they can leave whenever their work is done. If they are genuinely clueless, a quick correction from their manager would probably be enough. (I would be mortified!)

        1. Lara*

          But surely you’d spot that the same people weren’t doing it everyday? Unless OP’s office is very unusual I doubt the regular staff all leave at 1pm.

      2. Lara*

        We have similar arrangements so long as you aren’t client facing but no-one (except the sales team who go to visit clients) are out of the office every day for regular stretches. I’m leaning towards thinking that they (mistakenly) think they’re getting away with skipping out early, a la college etc.

    2. CM*

      Honestly, I could see myself doing something like this when I was in college. Obviously with jobs paid by the hour, I knew I had to show up for my full shift. But in an office job where you see the employees coming and going as they please, I can imagine how interns would think they’re allowed to do the same. They probably don’t understand that there are different expectations of interns, or that the employees are most likely making up that time in other ways such as staying late or working from home.

    3. McWhadden*

      They see regular employees doing it and think it’s the norm. It’s not that crazy.

      1. Lara*

        “I’ve noticed that they all leave hours early each day — sometimes at 1:30 or 2! And they’re not coming in any earlier to make up for that time. They’re also away from their desks a lot of time, and they’ve told me this is not for meetings or anything like that, but social time with other interns who are their friends.”

        I mean… do all the regular employees leave at 2pm and socialise instead of working? That’s possible I guess but raises a whole other issue of whether OP wants to work for that company.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Eh, I think they have a double-edged sword of observing that’s doing them no favors. They observe older people leaving early and coming in late, and don’t register the coming in early and leaving late (since they aren’t there to observe it) or work from home that brought them up to about 40 hrs/week. And they are taking their cues about work norms from those other intern friends in other departments, not realizing that those interns don’t have a clue, either, and maybe are not the best source of advice on how to get ahead at Teapot Inc even if they have been there a whole month.

          1. McWhadden*

            Frankly, in a lot of places employees just don’t work a full 40 hour week in the summer. And make it up at more busy times of year.

          2. alana*

            Yep. If you’re going to have a flex time policy for interns, you have to spell out exactly and literally what they can or cannot do. I work with our interns, and part of my welcome email, which is also my day 1 spiel, which is repeated as necessary if they still don’t get it, as (paraphrased) “This is a casual office, and you’ll see people doing all kinds of things. Not all of those things are things that interns can do. Here is what I expect of YOU.”

            1. myswtghst*

              Yep. I train entry level employees, and we make a point of going over certain things multiple times (in their orientation, on day 1, putting it front and center on the training website, etc…) because sometimes you have to be really explicit about expectations.

        2. McWhadden*

          In the summer? Yes, lots and lots of employees have 1:00 or 2:00 pm summer hours. And they didn’t suggest they leave that early every day. If they do it once a week it’s very likely regular employees are.

          1. Myrin*

            I mean, true, OP said the other interns only “sometimes” leave at 1:30 or 2, so, yes, not every day, but they still “all leave hours early each day” – I don’t think the situation becomes much better if they only leave two hours early every day as opposed to four.

          2. Perse's Mom*

            Lara was quoting from the letter – “…they all leave hours early each day.”

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Kids having summer and part-time jobs varies widely. Some don’t because their parents didn’t want them to do anything but school. Some don’t because they didn’t want to do anything but school but now at 20 keep being told “You should do an internship, that’s step 43b on the mystical rites by which you become a 22 year old with a ‘good’ job.” Some did but it was really obviously customer facing shift work, like lifeguard or camp counselor or ice cream stand worker–if that’s your background, plus college where you often have a lot of flexibility and just need to complete X and hand it in by 3 on Friday, then your first office job, observing people using flex time and maybe even being told “we’re flexible, no big deal if you occasionally cut out a little early” (by which your boss meant ‘an hour early once every couple of weeks’) young people can infer that they just have to finish their assigned work and can then leave.

      Someone upthread, Thayli?, observed that this last disproportionately happens to people who don’t come from white collar families, and so don’t have a family member explaining the seemingly obvious to them. It wasn’t obvious before their aunt said “So show up before 9, and if your boss says you can leave early that means half an hour early, once in a while” and they said “Yeah yeah I know” but they actually didn’t until then, when a more experienced person explained the unwritten expectations to them.

      1. Thlayli*

        Wasn’t me. In my experience rich kids are actually the least aware of work norms when they graduate because they’ve never had to work during college. People who’ve had to work since their teenage years are well aware that you don’t just slope off home when you’ve nothing to do.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Ah. Yes, I can see it coming from both directions. And I’ve always thought that most managers interviewing two 19 year olds would prefer “I have experience babysitting–being responsible, showing up on time, dealing with crises as they occur” to “I have experience being the strategic visionary for my mom’s office one summer.” But I think it is possible to work concession type jobs–where whether or not you are doing the work is highly visible every moment–and then fall on your face in a more flexible job. Like people who move into management and then discover “Wow, managing me was actually a tiny part of my old manager’s job, and they had all this other stuff that I didn’t even register as happening but takes lots of time.”

        2. KitKat*

          Agreed. In my somewhat limited experience of working with very entry-level folks, I’ve observed that our employees from working-class and wealthier backgrounds tend struggle with different aspects of white collar work. Our employees from lower-income backgrounds tended to be very punctual, rarely called out, and didn’t take it personally when the external people we worked with were rude, but they sometimes struggled with the language to use when advocating for themselves, or managing up (like that meme that “per my last email” = “b*tch can you read??”) Our employees from wealthy backgrounds often found it easier to “sound professional” but didn’t always get things like interns being expected to work regular hours while senior folks get flexibility, and tended to be more sensitive to negative feedback and interpret it as being mean or overly critical.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            This is really interesting. A science-of-raising-kids note I found relevant in varied contexts is that authoritarian parenting styles tend to go with communities where questioning authority as an adult gets you fired, not praised for your gumption. It’s a valid way of passing on actual community norms about when you push back and when you nod and roll with something. Which would go with your hires not taking external rudeness personally, and not taking feedback from their boss as meanness that must be argued against.

          2. TL -*

            To add to that, flexi-time can be extremely confusing if you’re used to punctuality and timeliness being really important.

            “We don’t really track hours. Work what you need to get the job done” is not helpful if you don’t understand what flexitime is.

            “I need you here between 9-10 and staying until 4-5; let me know if you have an appointment that you’d need to leave early/be in late for” is much clearer but some people use the first statement to mean the second.

          1. McWhadden*

            Although having grown up in a lower economic end household I did notice a stronger work ethic among people from my background when I first started working in a professional office setting,

            But white collar kids did tend to know norms that had never been explained to me.

        3. AdAgencyChick*

          Varies widely. I went to school with a lot of people from rich families. There were ones who had no idea of how the work world works because they were handed everything on a platter, and also ones whose parents were wealthy but super frugal. One guy I went to school with comes from a family of millionaires, but he picked strawberries every summer in high school and took internships every summer in college because his parents always behaved as though they had much less money than they did.

      2. Lara*

        I mean… I’m still genuinely confused as to why anyone would think that flex time = leave 4 hours early every day. I can’t fathom the idea that they’re making a mistake or are just clueless.

        And I was very surprised by Thayli’s comment – the majority of blue collar jobs, even salaried ones, are very, very focused on ‘turn up at X, leave at X, take breaks at X.’ If anything I would expect a kid from a blue collar family to be more of a stickler. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take Thayli at their word but I am surprised.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          There are fully grown adults who believe that if they just ran their own business, then they could wander in at 10, do some businessy things, and take off at noon for a long lunch followed by golf while their minions handle the details of day-to-day operations.

          I think the lackadaisical interns are taking their cues from the other interns–it might even be unusual for this office, and they just happened to get a particularly “ta, going to the beach” one early combined with naive ones arriving through the middle of June who figured Olivia had been here since May, she clearly understood how to do things, oh cool we can leave at 1. Combined with a manager who failed to do anything about Olivia. (So I guess my question is whether it’s office culture that you get stuck with some interns, try to give them a few things, they’ll be gone in August so just don’t give them access to the ingredients to make a blow torch?)

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I mean… I’m still genuinely confused as to why anyone would think that flex time = leave 4 hours early every day. I can’t fathom the idea that they’re making a mistake or are just clueless.

          And *all* of them. It’s weird enough that it makes me think there had to be some misinformation. As someone else said, maybe a lot of the full-time staff take off early during the summer, because they make up for it during the busy season. Maybe they’ve noticed other people leaving early but weren’t around to see them arriving early. I really want to sit down with these youngsters and say “You know our official workday is 8 to 5:30, and I notice you’ve been leaving at 1:30 or 2:00 every day,” and just see what comes out.

        3. Thlayli*

          Just FYI – it was TL who said blue collar kids think you can socialise for hours and then go home early. I said the opposite!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I think a more nuanced take on TL’s point is that kids from a blue collar background might assume “Obviously someone will step in and tell me anything I’m doing wrong and should do differently.”

            1. TL -*

              Yup. This was absolutely my assumption in my first internship and I just could not understand why I felt like my manager was constantly disappointed in me. I felt like I was doing everything right.

              (Of course, now I look back and I see what they were expecting of me, but I was actually pretty decent at the project I ended up getting and I really enjoyed it. It would have been a lot better on both ends if they’d made those expectations clear.)

          2. Thlayli*

            Although I’m being a bit facetious there – what TL actually said was that blue collar kids don’t understand the “norm” that you don’t just sit around all day socialising and then go home ant lunch. Because according to TL in some American blue collar jobs that is what they do.

              1. Thlayli*

                Dude you literally said above that welders just go home when they finish the first task they are assigned. (They don’t). Then you said if there was no work for them for a while they just sit around doing nothing. (They should only do that if it’s a very short time or they have already checked with their head office that there’s nowhere else for them to go to work).

                I’m quoting you entirely accurately. It’s not my fault you’re talking absolute rubbish.

                1. tusky*

                  Thlayli, what TL literally said is, “if you’re working on a construction site as a welder, you actually do leave when all the welding is done”–that could be many separate tasks–and “if there’s 3 hours where you need the crane operator to do something before you can weld, you get set up, and then you wait 3 hours until you can weld again” (forced downtime is a component of many kinds of work, and it may not necessarily mean ‘doing nothing’). The key point being that in certain workplaces, tasks may not be interchangeable, and active working time may be strictly directed by the flow of tasks. So, no, you’re not quoting TL entirely accurately.

        4. TL -*

          My guess – and it’s my hey be aware that your expectations might not be obvious especially in a blue/white collar split – is that it’s a mix of “I’ve done my tasks so I’m done” mentality and college aged cluelessness, with a dash of treating the workplace like a classroom. Neither of which are crimes; both of which can most likely be fixed with a 5-10 minute conversation.

          I actually knew an intern (not mine) who fell somewhat into this trap – she was doing everything she was told to do and doing it to the best of her ability – but clearly was confused as all get-out about the flexible hours. So she was told the hours were flexible, to come in when she needed to get work done, and to leave when she was done for the day – she did all of these, very well, and clearly was in the “don’t cause a fuss” mindset – and then her mentor was incredibly disappointed with her for not making more of her internship. If mentor had said “I need you here 9-5 most days, but I am okay with you leaving early once a week or taking a Friday off to do touristy stuff” she would have been in 9-5. If mentor had said, “This is my project, I want you to read X, Y, Z papers, shadow everyone you can, and then we’ll brainstorm a project for you in two weeks, when you have free time, ask around for someone to learn from” she would’ve done that as well.

          But instead, she left when she had nothing to do – because she had been told to do so – and the mentor got annoyed with her for her “bad work ethic” but never sat down and discussed expectations with Intern and instead decided the Intern was lazy and wasting an incredible work opportunity. Intern was disappointed by how little she had to do and by how she was clearly waiting for things to do (and asking, yes, but for tasks, not a project, and she needed to ask for a project) and nothing ever happened. Intern clearly felt it was not her job to tell her mentor how to manage her interns, nor did she feel comfortable saying she wanted a project.

          1. Thlayli*

            Again, very interesting, but not at all relevant to the letter. The intern you describe here was not socialising for hours every day and then leaving at lunchtime.

          2. Thlayli*

            And also – this is not an example of “blue collar” v “white collar” expectations. The manager in the case you describe had literally told her to leave when her work was done, then got upset when she did just that. That’s not her “failing to understand norms” – that’s just plain bad management. No matter what an employees background – if you tell them to leave when their work is done, that’s probably what they’re going to do.

            1. TL -*

              The manager’s expectations were completely in line with what she had been taught to do in any internship situation/advancement opportunity she found herself in. She was from an upper middle class white collar background. I’ve seen a lot of interns from a similar background treated similarly and they do pretty well.

              The intern’s behavior was completely in line with what she had been taught to do in work situations. She was in a blue collar background. I think there’s a lot of cultural context here you’re missing.

              1. Observer*

                I have to say that I totally disagree with your take on the manager – they had certain things in their head that is NOT reasonable to expect someone to know, regardless of white vs blue collar background, or any other dichotomy, for that matter.

                “I expect interns to ask for PROJECTS, but I’m not going to tell them that and if they don’t use the magic word, I’m going to take as bad work ethic” is pretty much what happened here. Because, the intern actually went beyond the explicit instructions she had been given and DID ask for work. But she didn’t use the magic word – so pfht!

                In this case it is absolutely NOT a white vs blue collar thing. I know a LOT of offices where the newbie, even if not an intern, would be looked at oddly (or worse), if they started asking for new projects early on. Sure, it’s not universal. But it’s common enough, and often REASONABLE enough, that it’s fundamentally necessary to make this kind of thing clear.

        5. bonkerballs*

          I mean, I can see a potential for confusion when it comes to flex time. Throughout my work history, I’ve come across two different (though similar) definitions of flex time. In most places I’ve worked flex time meant you have a usual schedule, but on occasion you might flex your time to work late on Monday and leave early on Friday. But it’s fairly accurately tracked and you’re still working your 40 hours weekly. In a few places I’ve worked, flex time was much more abstract. It was much more of a “I’m done with my work so I’m taking a half day, but I’m not going to make sure I make that up because surely at some point down the line I’m going to end up working late one night.” One was more making sure you did your 40 hours, but with flexibility on when those 40 hours took place, and the other was a nebulous assumption that it all worked out in the wash. And in that second one, I actually did work with someone who had a summer where she left early basically every day because half her clients just happened to all be out of the country at the same time. So potentially, I could see an intern feeling like they get their work done super quickly and then thinking they can leave.

          All that being said, this seems like too many people and too much consistency to be true confusion at the norms.

    5. Allison*

      Well yes, but it’s a good idea to spell out the office hours to new people, and explain that they’re expected to be in the office until X:00 every day, and sometimes they’ll need to stay later, so if they need to leave early they need to talk to the manager. However, people like to see what they can get away with, and if they’re sneaking off early every day with no consequence, they’ll start to figure it’s okay, or at the very least not a huge deal.

    6. Tuxedo Cat*

      I think it’s sometimes a matter of what you can get away with. I don’t think it necessarily has anything to do with age or generation or anything, just that some people think if they can do something and not get reprimanded, they will. They might not realize the long-term consequences, either.

    7. Bea*

      Not all of us worked as teens. My parents were strictly “school is your job, you’ll work 40 years after you graduate! Be a kid.”
      But I also went straight to work after high school, no college options. I also had parents that raised me to be punctual and always show-up to do my best.

      So these people are stunted but who knows why. Working as a teen can be great but it doesn’t necessarily make a slacker any more reliable.

      1. Leslie knope*

        Yeah, my parents didn’t allow me to work. And they’re immigrants with a middle class background. I think it’s weird to expect all kids to work when their parents should be providing for them at that age.

    8. sleepwakehopeandthen*

      Most of the work I did as a teen was babysitting (so much babysitting). And since the main reason you have to be punctual is a safety reason, it doesn’t always extrapolate out to other jobs. The task-based jobs that I did (petsitting, mostly) didn’t really care when I showed up, as long as I got the work done at a reasonable hour, and didn’t care how long I spent there as long as I got the work done.

  24. Not Today Satan*

    I would totally fire the vendor in #1. They got LW’s business specifically because her mom had her ear. It’s totally fair for that to work both ways.

    1. Thlayli*

      As Alison said, if LW wants to fire them she can, but if they truly are the best company for the job and are reasonably priced, she may prefer to keep them. And she shouldn’t feel guilty about that.

    2. McWhadden*

      But the LW also notes it was an expensive process to sync up their systems. That’s money down the drain and money she might have to respend on a new vendor.

    3. Beatrice*

      It depends. The best business decision would have been to hire them because they were the best vendor available for the job, not because her mother worked there. If she made the decision for that reason. then the best business decision now is to keep them, assuming that the value they bring hasn’t changed. I’m the kind of person who would never hire a service provider *just* because they employed a family member (in fact, the family member complication would give me pause and make me examine my motivations a little more closely…it would tip the scales a bit the other way if all other things were equal). I’d be unlikely to change my decision based on something like this. Now, if the layoffs resulted in a decline in service level or made me concerned that the company might not be solvent long-term, I’d pull my business for those reasons. I really hate mixing business with family/friendships.

    4. Bea*

      I would fire them too but mostly because they seem like dickholes who overhired intentionally, I don’t like that practice. Then you let go people who brought in business? Nah.

      But I’m faster to switch vendors than many. I talk with my money and dont hang in there when we have conflicting business practices.

  25. BPT*

    It could also be them misreading the culture. When I had interns at a lobbying firm in DC, especially in the summer, our Directors would not be in the office that much. Either on vacation, out of the office at meetings, taking off a little early, working from home, etc. The summer months were usually a little slower.

    I did have an intern who saw the emails we’d get from Directors that they’d be working from home that day, and then thought that he could do the same. One Friday morning I got an email from him saying he’d be “working from home that day,” and I had to clarify for him that perks allowed to Directors (who were above me) did not apply to interns, especially since they were paid hourly.

    Even my staff assistant got into the habit sometimes of leaving before the work I needed from her was done that day (hours were 9-6, she’d leave right at 6 and say she’d finish a memo in the morning that we really needed to get to a client that day). I had to pull her aside and say “I definitely don’t want you staying later than you have to, but when we have work we need to get to a client, you do need to stay later to make sure it’s done.”

    Summer jobs interns might have could have been in retail or something where the whole culture is that everyone clocks in and clocks out. When you get into a new culture, i.e. one where upper management have more flexibility than other workers, it can take some getting used to that not everyone is treated the same, and sometimes interns/junior employees have to adhere to stricter rules.

  26. CoveredInBees*

    OP2, just keep doing what you’re doing. I had an internship where fellow interns would literally hide out in semi-dark conference rooms to avoid doing work. I busted my butt and even found work to do. About halfway through the summer, I stopped getting so much scut work* and got to work on more interesting stuff. Since the slacker interns were always hiding out, they didn’t even know about this until the last week or two of the internship, so they didn’t even have time to complain much about how “unfair” it was.

    In addition to experience, internships are a great way to get job references and connections but they are not automatic. In the past I had to give references consisting of, “Yes, he was an intern here between this and this dates.” because the intern was terrible. Also, make sure you get contact info from anyone you might want as a reference so you can check in with them before giving their contact info in job applications. An unexpected reference check might get ignored or not well-thought out, especially in a company with a lot of interns.

    1. Intern Supervisor number 1*

      Truly, OP2. It kills me when student workers and slacker interns don’t realize that it is not only on-the-job experience that I am providing, it is that I am an amazing job reference. We have someone right now who is “good-enough” She does the work accurately. She takes direction well. She works independently and completes her work in a timely manner. She cannot get to work on time. We changed her hours to a half hour later. Still. Ten to fifteen minutes late.We sat down and talked about how important dependability was and as the front desk person, we needed to depend on her to be at the reception desk if the other teapot makers were fielding inquiries or in meetings. I spoke about how important this was and if she used any of us as a job reference (as we expect do not expect people to stay in this entry level position) and were asked “is this person dependable” the answer would have to be no.

      1. Thlayli*

        There was a big conversation about this on one of the open threads a while ago. There was some great explanations about why some people are always late. For a lot of people it boils down to not being good at estimating how long it will take to get somewhere, and eg if they only took 15 mins once, in their head it takes 15 mins forever, no matter how many times it takes half an hour in reality. It’s like a kind if specialised over-optimism. And there was some guidance on how to cope with it.

        It’s absolutely not your job to teach your intern how to tell time, or to teach her how to be on time. However if you are feeling generous you could advise her to search on this site for that conversation (or to read up on this phenomenon in general so she can figure out what is going wrong).

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          This! Thank you, as an always late person a little understanding can be a real gift.

      2. PersephoneUnderground*

        Sigh- for the record, someone can be dependable (as in, they will get their work done well and on time) and otherwise an awesome employee even if they are always a bit late. The problem is that they aren’t a fit for a position where starting at a certain time is important, like a receptionist (some people will try but be chronically late anyway). People are varied and have different strengths and weaknesses, so please don’t ruin someone’s reference by equating being on time in the morning to being a dependable employee overall – it’s really very possible to be always late but an otherwise awesome employee, as long as your job (in this situation whatever job she would be getting your recommendation for) has somewhat flexible hours.

        Please don’t measure someone’s entire work ethic by their ability to show up on time – that won’t matter in tons of later jobs anyway. Sorry, this hits a nerve for me since I am an incredibly hard worker who lost several entry-level jobs when I was younger over being unable to show up on time no matter what I tried. The shame is real, and it hurt when people assumed a “if you can’t get this right, you can’t possibly handle more advanced work” approach, because the more advanced work is way easier for me than showing up on time will ever be. Obviously I wasn’t right for receptionist work so I don’t blame them for firing me, but it’s hard to find an entry-level position with flexible hours so it felt like this catch-22 where I would never have a chance at a job I might be good at until I mastered this one thing I truly am terrible at (and is linked to my ADHD, which I could never tell an employer anyway). I’m not meaning to be argumentative in tone, in case this reads that way, just bring in another perspective that may or may not apply exactly to your case. Sorry for the wall-of-text, I apparently had *lots of thoughts* about this :p

        TL;DR Dependable != Timely

  27. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#3: Some managers are people-managers with direct reports, and other managers do not have direct reports but instead manage a functional area or process, etc. It’s possible that your friend is talking about problems exercising authority over other employees when that authority relates to the function(s) for which she is responsible. I disagree with any statement that basically says an office manager is primarily administrative support. This title is variable. I have seen office managers who had multiple direct reports and had management and policy-making authority when it came to all facility matters/decisions. Given that you know this person through a career group, I think you should be able to discuss the nature of her management authority in response to her complaints to the group. Seems like the perfect venue to do so.

    1. OP #3*

      I really like the idea of framing questions (both questions to her and questions she should ask her boss) around the need for clarity around what she does have authority over. It assumes that she does have authority over something, which seems both tactful and probably true.

  28. Grouchy 2 cents*

    What I’ve seen happen with office managers is that they’re given big projects (moving the company. managing office renovations, planning events) but not given the authority they need to actually complete the project successfully. Actual examples include them setting a date for a move (approved by senior management) which was countermanded by objections from one worker from one department…with less than a week to go. Renovations held up because despite architect and senior management approved plans someone decided to redo the floor plans and add offices in so their team got space to reflect their “status”. Deposits lost because after senior management approved an event a slightly less senior manager tanked it because it would happen during their vacation.

    Why yes in all cases office manager was female and everyone else was a man. Much mansplaining about why they couldn’t get their stuff together but blamed her for it was had. No understanding of how utterly toxic a workplace this kind of bs creates occurred.

    She may not be a traditional “manager” but she could still be frustrated by people not following eminently reasonable “orders”, even if it’s only a notice about labeling your crap in the fridge!

    1. Bea*

      And these places tend to burn through their office managers. My bosses have always been men and rely on me to keep things on track and between the lines. When they say “we need to move offices, set things rolling.” I schedule things and the date is set, nobody gets to suddenly override it.

      I’m sorry anyone gets stuck with these pig boys and hope their businesses fail miserably. I walk away when I don’t get proper respect.

    2. OP #3*

      Having responsibility without authority is dreadful. I’ve been there! This is good to keep in mind.

  29. Else*

    It’s often really hard for highschoolers to get hired now to get that early work experience, though – many of the places that we worked at (I’m 40) will no longer hire people under 18, especially if they haven’t yet exited high school. Even if they will, given the option, there is often an adult who can work a normal schedule or close at night who is willing to work for minimum wage. More often then in the 90’s, for sure. Cultural, economic, and legal norms have all shifted VERY quickly.

    1. Else*

      Eh, this was supposed to be a response to an early comment about college students not coming in with any work experience.

  30. Duffman*

    On number 3, I sort of wonder if she is an actual manager and the reason she’s having trouble with people thinking she’s a manager is because of the “office manager” title.

  31. Katie*

    #4 here with an update:

    4 months after I applied, I heard they had hired a candidate for the position. My former boss and I ended up getting lunch to talk about it, and it was a good convo – basically, they decided they needed someone with more managerial experience. We then talked about my future career in general (both inside and potentially outside the company), and I left feeling like she cared about me. I’m still not that pleased with how she handed the application itself – while I definitely don’t think she owed me the job because of our friendship, I wish I’d had one update along the way (for those that mentioned it, my friend was the hiring manager, so I know she had plenty of insight on the hiring process!). Regardless, I know she’s human and sometimes these things can be awkward – so no hard feelings.

  32. Noah*

    There’s also a third option with #3: the office manager isn’t in charge of everyone, but she may have a staff under her — like facilities people. So she may be managing SOME people, although that’s not what the “manager” in her title refers to.

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