coworkers are secretly bringing kids to work, excessive interview assignment, and more

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

1. Coworkers are bringing kids to work but keeping it a secret from our boss

I work in a small, open concept office and I am having issues with my coworker bringing children to work. My coworker “Sansa” has a grandchild the same age as the son of another one of my coworkers, “Arya.” The boys are best friends and they attended the same (all-day) preschool. There were several times over the course of the summer that the boys were present in the office, sometimes for the entire day, between times when their summer camps was not in session and my boss was not in the office.

Arya burned through the small amount of vacation she received when she started working here six months ago, taking care of the boys after my boss found the boys in our conference room and had the office manager talk to Sansa and Arya about how this workplace was not a day care.

This week, the boys started kindergarten (although they are in different classes, since the school has several). Sansa leaves the office at her scheduled departure time of 4 and then goes to pick up her grandchild and Arya’s son from school about five minutes away from our office. She then swings back to the office and drops off Arya’s son. Arya does not leave until 5. Since the boys don’t see each other all day and it’s “better” that they get to spend time together, Sansa stays with the boys in our office until it is time for Arya to leave.

I have asked Sansa if she could take the boys outside or to the park a block away, and she stated it’s only for a hour, it’s hot out, and she can keep them quiet. She spends the entire time standing around in the office shushing them, which, as you might imagine, does not work. I have discussed this with our office manager, but she feels it’s okay because our boss leaves at 3 to go pick up his own child from school and therefore “(Boss) won’t know unless someone tells him.”

What I really want to do is ask my boss if it’s possible to shift my hours to 8 to 4, so I don’t have to put up with these boys running up and down the office shrieking (in happy tones) for the last hour of my work day. I am concerned this request will require me telling my boss the reason I want my hours to shift, and the true answer — “because Sansa brings two happy little boys to the office every day at 4 who do not possess an indoor voice and I want to claw my eardrums out every day” is not very work appropriate.

Wow. It sounds like your boss has already said this isn’t okay to do, and it’s happening again anyway, because of your coworkers’ willingness to intentionally hide it from him, which is pretty messed up. It’s additionally messed up that you’re being implicitly pressured not to speak up, even though there are shrieking kids in your office making it hard for you to work. (Third messed up thing here: There are shrieking kids in your office making it hard for you to work. It’s incredibly rude that Sansa and Arya are allowing this.)

Ideally you’d tell Sansa and Arya that you’re not able to focus while the boys are there, but given that they’re actively doing something they know they’re not supposed to be doing, I’m not sure how well that’ll go over. It might just make them hostile to you without resulting in any other change. And really, while normally you owe coworkers the courtesy of talking to them before escalating something to their boss, they’re not entitled to that when they’re actively trying to deceive your boss.

So I’d talk to your boss and say something like, “I’m finding it’s difficult to focus from 4-5 now that Sansa and Arya have kids in the office during that hour every day, often being pretty loud. Would you be okay with me shifting my hours to 8-4?” That’s a reasonable request, and you shouldn’t have to lie about your reason in order to cover for Sansa and Arya (and in fact, doing so would make you complicit in what they’re doing).

Read updates to this letter here and here.

2. Is this interview assignment excessive?

I’m hoping you can help me with responding to an interviewer. I’ve been selected to move on to the second stage interview process for a really interesting position. It’s an events position and they mentioned in the first interview that we would be asked to complete a project if selected for the second phase. I’ve just gotten the outline of the project for the second phase, and they are requesting that we submit three different proposals for three separate events, including budgets, marketing plans, staffing, logistics, income statements, as well as concept/design/themes. They have given us seven days to complete these assignments, and we must drop off hard copies of each assignment on the deadline date.

Am I wrong to think that this is incredibly excessive? I know that you always say never do work for free, but if this is required for the next step, how can I go back to the hiring manager and tell her that this is excessive to ask of someone already working full-time?

Yes, it’s ridiculously excessive. There’s no reason for asking you to do three of these, and it’s weird that you have to drop off hard copies in person as well. They’re not being reasonable in what they’re asking of you.

To be clear, I am a big fan of using exercises in the hiring process; seeing people in action is one of the best ways to avoid hiring mistakes. But you have to be considerate of candidates’ time. Asking someone to spend an hour or so on an assignment is fine. Asking them to do an already lengthy assignment three separate times is not. (More on this here.)

The problem is that the other candidates are likely to agree to do it, so if you push back, they’re likely to just cut you out of the running. You can certainly say something like, “I’d be glad to do one of these and think that should give you a good sense of my approach, but my commitments to my current job mean that I wouldn’t be able to do three of them.” … but you’d need to be okay with them rejecting you over that, which is unfair and frustrating and also the reality of this.

3. My manager barely responds when I try to chat with her

I have been at my current position for a little over three years, and I love my job. One of my coworkers is out on an extended leave, so some people had to be moved around and I find myself working with my direct supervisor more often than previously. She is around my age and it seems like we would have a lot in common; however, she rarely talks to me. We work in a laboratory setting.

I am an outgoing person and she is a bit quieter in general, but there have been entire days where everything I say (even if it’s work related) gets ignored if it isn’t a direct question. I understand that this might be her personality, but it’s uncomfortable and frustrating to share a small space with someone who has no desire to even acknowledge the fact that I’m speaking. When other people come in, she usually converses with them, so I’m not sure if there is a reason she doesn’t wish to talk to me in particular.

Is there a way I can address this? She is a quiet person and I don’t want to offend her by calling her out on her personality. If she doesn’t feel like conversing, I would rather have her say “I’m sorry, I don’t feel like talking today” or something of the like rather than having her just ignore me, because I find that I am spending less time on my work and more time trying to stay out of her way. Can I broach this respectfully, since this person is my direct supervisor?

It sounds like she might just be a quiet person who doesn’t want to make a lot of conversation while she works. I know that seeing her talk to others who come in makes it feel like it’s something about you, but it’s pretty likely that the difference is that they’re popping in temporarily — so she’s up to talking to them because it’s going to be limited in time and they’re not always around — whereas she’s around you all day and doesn’t want all-day chit chat. It’s also possible that because she’s quiet and you’re outgoing, you might … well, be talking too much for her comfort level, which is why you’re not getting a lot of responses unless you ask a direct question. You say you’d rather she just say, “I’m sorry, I don’t feel like talking today” — but it sounds like she is saying that, just indirectly.

All that said, you could certainly say something to her like, “I’m getting the sense that you prefer not to talk much while we work, which is of course okay with me! But I want to make sure I’m reading that right and I haven’t done anything to put you off?”

4. How often can you reach out with work questions to the person who used to have your job?

How often is it okay to reach out with job-related questions to the person who held your position before you? I’m an analyst, and when I was applying for my current position I connected to the prior analyst via a friend. Since I started the job four months ago, I’ve reached out to the prior analyst twice to ask her quick task-related questions. There’s not a lot of job overlap in my office, so no one else I work with knows the answers.

I think it’s okay to reach out once in a while about this, but I realized today maybe I’m pushing too much? For what it’s worth, my previous job has reached out a couple of times about things I did and I’ve been happy to answer their questions. But I realize not everyone is like me.

I actually wouldn’t reach out at all without first clearing it with your boss. There may be reasons they don’t want you to do that, like that they weren’t happy with her work and don’t want her guiding yours, or that the relationship is strained and this will make it more so, or even that they want to be able to contact her for something else and don’t want you using up her good will on this. If you boss does say it’s okay, I still wouldn’t contact her more than once or twice, unless she’s actively encouraging you to continue doing it. While some people are happy to help out with a question here and there after leaving a job, a lot of people will quickly get annoyed if the contact continues and they’ve being expected to provide free help.

5. My interviewer said he’s setting up other interviews — is that a bad sign?

I just finished an interview for a position I really want. I was the only person the hiring manager had interviewed thus far for the position, and we seemed to get along well. But at the end of the interview, I asked him about next steps. He mentioned that a few good applications just came through, and he’s going to get with HR about setting up those interviews. He said he should know shortly.

Is it a bad sign that he was telling me about other applications are coming through that he’s setting up interviews for? Or is he just being transparent and it has nothing to do with how the interview went?

Most likely, he’s just be transparent about where he is in the hiring process. To him, it’s normal to interview a bunch of people; it’s not a sign about your chances, just a routine note about the steps they still have left.

{ 637 comments… read them below }

  1. Cobol*

    OP #3, I’d caution you even more than Alison did to let it drop. People who don’t like to talk, well they don’t like to talk. If you keep pushing it’s not going to get somebody to suddenly change who they are. It’s just going to make them mad. Since this is your boss’ boss, you’re pushing one of the last people you want to get annoyed with you.

    More importantly, even if this was somebody at your level, or who works the front desk, or who delivers lunch, you asking somebody to do something they (don’t appear from what you say) to want to do. That’s usually not a best policy. I know it can be hard to have somebody not want to interact with you, but that’s their prerogative (more often than not).

    1. Viki*


      If you like idle conversation and can get your work done to speed and quality-great. Some people can’t concentrate when people talk.

      And if you’re giving a running commentary to your supervisor who is not participating unless directly stated-it looks like you’re not picking up the signal they’re putting down.

      Concentrate on your work and if you need background noise, and your lab allows it, Headphones and podcasts.

      1. a1*

        She never said she’s giving running commentary, just that everything she does say is ignored. And while she may talk more than her labmate, it doesn’t mean it’s constant. Frankly, I find the ignoring to be more rude. She should say “I don’t like talking.” or “Can we keep it quiet?” or any number of things to indicate she doesn’t want to talk rather than assuming OP can read her mind.

        1. Washi*

          I would agree with this if it were the supervisor writing in, but all the OP can really do is cut way down on the talking, and maybe use Alison’s script to double check that there isn’t something more going on.

          Also, I think the kind of person who gives running commentary wouldn’t normally describe themselves as giving running commentary. We can’t really know either way from the letter how much OP is talking, just that it is definitely more than what the supervisor wants to respond to.

          1. Annoyed*

            “Outgoing person” says (to me) that OP thinks she’s just friendly but likely talks too much for her supervisor’s taste.

        2. Snark*

          Well, maybe so, but she didn’t write in. All we can do is advise OP, and clearly, talking at her officemate throughout the day isn’t working.

        3. Genny*

          I work in an open office, so I hear a lot of of random comments from people as they work. Unspoken office etiquette seems to be to ignore whatever you hear unless it applies to you. It would never occur to me that people were expecting a response to things like “Ugh, I can’t believe the client forgot to send the files over” or similar things. If LW is expecting those kinds of statements to generate a conversation, then it might be that the boss is politely ignoring them.

          1. Delphine*

            Yes, this is what I was thinking. When I was in the office cubicles, people would chatter, but without the expectation of a response. A newer coworker had a habit of saying something vague like, “Oh no!” or “I can’t believe this person!” To the rest of us, it sounded like she was thinking aloud, so we tuned it out as usual. But apparently that was her conversational style–she’d say something vague and wait for someone else to ask her what’d happened, and when no one did she got worried that she was being ignored maliciously.

            1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              My husband does this sometimes and it drives me nuts. Honestly I would be ignoring her maliciously because this bugs me so much. Either say what it is you want to say or shut the frig up, don’t force people to clamor around you begging to know what it is that is so funny/awful. It is a cry for attention that I refuse to indulge.

              1. Jennifer Thneed*

                Hard agree.

                I read a funny retail story (probably on Not Always Right) about a supermarket customer who was standing at the other end of the shelf from an employee who was maybe stocking shelves? Anyway, this woman sighed loudly three times and then berated the employee for not realizing that this was a request for help. I’m guessing it always works at home? It would drive me nuts to always be having to guess what the issue is – and to be expected to ask what the issue is. TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT ME TO KNOW.

          2. Connie-Lynne*

            I have a coworker who _does_ respond to every random comment that somebody else makes, and it’s annoying as heck. In part, because he often doesn’t have full context, and then his comment often requires that somebody clarify, and then he goes on at length about how he totally understands now and is sorry for interrupting you and I just want to grab him and say “SHUT UP.” The closest I’ve come was one time when two coworkers came in discussing how they liked their breakfast but it wasn’t what they had planned, and he started making suggestions around how they could have better achieved their breakfast plans and I just cut him off and said “YOU DON’T HAVE TO FIX EVERYTHING. LET PEOPLE VENT ABOUT BREAKFAST FOR GODS SAKE.”

            I am in fact a garrulous, outgoing person, and he still bugs the crud out of me.

            I’ve solved my problems with him by actively ignoring him when he tries to jump into conversation around my random comments, and also by cutting down my random comments. It feels super rude to ignore him so clearly, but it’s the only way to avoid these derailing, distracting conversations, and I feel like he’s actually the rude one by starting all of this.

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              I think someone should cut him off with “You don’t have the context for this” and then ignoring him. In fact, I think your whole team should do that. And now I will parachute into your workplace with scripts for everyone. (No, sorry, I don’t have a parachute.)

              Actually, I think someone really should ask him directly why he does that. (Direct question and then silence during the answer.) And then make the point that it’s not actually helpful, can be annoying, and is affecting how his coworkers interact with him.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      I totally agree with this. There’s nothing worse than an Chatty Cathy when you want to just focus!
      Some people get really distracted when others are talking to them. It breaks their train of thought. If you are trying to talk to your boss when they are trying to concentrate then they will not be happy. You may be making them uncomfortable and frustrated when you try to enforce your standard of noise.
      Consider that your definition of not talking much and her definition of not talking much may be radically different.

      1. Fin Shepard*

        I don’t think it is just the lack of talking that is a problem, it’s that the quiet person seems downright unfriendly. This is a simple personality mismatch, nothing more or less. OP should try to find a position working with someone who is less of an isolationist. In the meanwhile, I second the recommendation to listen to podcasts or something, and letting it drop.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Or, adjust your expectations of the isolationist. Don’t expect her to be something she’s not, and don’t take it personally.
          Easier said than done, I know! A related story:
          One of my first office jobs was long-term temp in a govt. office. One of the things I did was distribute memos to a group of about 10 people, putting them on desks.
          One of these people was on a business trip when I started so I didn’t meet him until a week or two later. Meanwhile I was putting memos on his desk and his screen saver said “Go away and stay away”.
          A few months later a colleague was complaining about this person’s unfriendliness and asked me if it bothered me. I said no it didn’t, because my first impression was his screen saver and this is what I expected of him.

        2. AnnaBananna*

          This is the one response on here that I agree with wholeheartedly. They will not be work buddies,supervisor just wants to enjoy her time at work – leave her be. And yes, earbuds with an audiobook may curb the need for habitual rotomouth.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      But what is OP supposed to do when she has work-related comments/concerns that aren’t framed like direct questions?

      I agree that in terms of chit-chat, quietude, etc., it’s worth letting it drop. But I’m getting hung up on the idea that when OP raises work-oriented concerns in a somewhat indirect way, they’re still ignored. That seems like a legitimate concern that may make sense to raise directly with the quiet supervisor. (I’m happy to be contradicted by the many commenters that work/have worked in labs.)

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I’m wondering if she’s getting ignored because of all the other statements? You know, legitimate questions get lost in the noise?
        I’d cut the comments first and then see what happens.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Try stating her name before you ask the relevant question/statement. I always tell my coworkers if you don’t say my name first I am not going to register you are saying anything to me at all. I am fairly good at shutting out background noise/ office chatter when I am focused and sometimes people start talking to me and I have no idea. Something like “Name – I have a quick question for you, should I use X or Y process?” Start with her name, let her know this is quick and business related, say what you need to say then stop when you get an answer. If you can make that your MO she will probably relax a little more around you knowing that she can trust you not to chat all the time.

          1. ZK*

            This. I have a radio earpiece in all day long and I am really good at cutting out all the annoying chatter, so I can focus on my actual work. So much so that if someone is talking to me but doesn’t start off with, “Hey Z” or even just “Z,” I’m probably not going to notice.

          2. boo bot*

            Definitely this! The people I most often share space with when I’m working both (a) talk to themselves constantly and (b) use the same tone of voice talking to me as to themselves.

            Say my name or it doesn’t get heard.

            1. boo bot*

              (Also, “honey” is not my name. I don’t mind it, but it’s not going to trigger the name-recognition response.)

              1. Specialk9*

                I’m sorry, someone actually calls you honey at work? Please tell me you’re one of the Queer Eye guys. “Oh honey no” is the only way I can see that working, at work.

          3. KRM*

            YES! When I am concentrating on something in lab and you have a quick question, I can help you, but you need to say my name to get my attention AND say that you have a quick work question. And if the work question isn’t quick, please just say “I have a question about X protocol for when you’re free”. To that I’ll give you an estimated time remaining on what I’m doing so you know when I’ll be ready to chat. But please don’t ask your long question that needs a detailed answer, or, worse, don’t stand there and stare at me, waiting for me to be done. That’s the worst!!

        2. OfficerAerynSun*

          Yeah. I share an office with my boss who seems to need to tell me about every single thought that goes through her head. I cope and nod along as best I can because a) she’s my boss b) she’s otherwise a good boss c) I do in fact need to hear some of it, just not all of it and not repeated multiple times… If she was a co-worker or more junior I’d probably try to tune her out more.

          1. Specialk9*

            My mother reads every. menu. item. aloud. And that’s perfectly illustrative of how she goes through her day.

            1. Cactus*

              If I go to a restaurant with my mother, this always happens:
              Server: Our specials today are X, Y, and Z.
              Mother: [Looking at me from any point around the table, trying desperately to catch my eye so she can ooo and ahh and say “that sounds like something you’d like!”]
              Me: [Maintaining eye contact with the server, or their notepad.]

              I do not for the life of me know why this became the thing she does with me at restaurants. It cracks me up now but it made me hella anxious when I was younger because however good the special salmon or whatever sounds, I HATE being put on the spot.

        3. debonairess*

          Agreed. I am a class A introvert and no only do I not want to talk to people all day even when not working (incredibly draining, uses up my energy fast) but I find it REALLY hard to get back to focussing on what I was doing once I’m interrupted. If I stopped what I was working on every time someone in my office made a passing remark, I would get nothing done.
          I’m new(ish) to managing and while one person I manage is similar to me, the other is very outgoing. At first both me and outgoing person found it super hard and frustrating so we have set up some basic “ground rules”:
          (1) If I’m wearing headphones please don’t interrupt to ask a Q unless you urgently need an answer in the next five minutes. Otherwise email me and I’ll take my headphones off and can discuss it once I’ve finished the bit I’m working on. Reverse is true if you need to focus – put headphones on and I won’t interrupt.

          (2) If I’m not wearing headphones, make sure you use my first name so I know its going to be a work related Q and is directed at me. I’ll answer if I can but may ask if I can get back to you later that day, it’s nothing personal. Reverse also true – if I ask a Q, feel free to tell me you’ll get back to me later in the day.

          (3) For non-work related general chit chat I don’t have the energy to do it all day, its really nothing personal and I love to chat at the start/ end of the day or when we go to make tea/ coffee.

          The above were broached by me but I’d suggest using Alison’s wording and then seeing if there is anything similar you do to do to ensure both you and supervisor know you will have some uninterrupted not-talking time.
          If she’s anything like me she may well not be answering you because she is trying hard to protect her not-talking time. It might be hard to understand if you’re not an introvert but for many of us, being asked/expected to engage in conversation all the time feels super stressful, like you’re constantly under attack. So the ignoring could be her “defence mechanism”. Having boundaries where she knows that her no-talking time is protected at certain points may make her more open to answering work Qs the rest of the time.

          1. debonairess*

            I think related to the above is I often don’t like being put on the spot to answer a Q immediately.

            Fine if it’s a yes/ no question but often it’s someone asking for a discussion rather than a one word answer, in which case I would rather have them flag it as a topic to discuss but we don’t actually discuss until later that day / week/ whatever.

            Gives me time to gather my thoughts, look up relevant info etc and we usually come to a better answer because of that.

          2. Daniela*

            I wish I could enact this in my office! I work with one extreme extrovert that needs to spend the first 45 minutes of the day chitchatting, another who complains/comments all day long and a third who feeds coworker #2’s need for negativity with his own sighing and muttering. Since these rules wouldn’t be viewed kindly by HR, I had to resort to upgrading my earbuds and creating playlists. The only point I absolutely insist on is that if you aren’t directly making eye contact, you need to use my name in order for me to listen and respond to what you are saying.

        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          This. I’ve had several coworkers who had that habit of talking at people. One sat next to me and talked all day, the other would wander into different areas of the office for a chat and monologue at the people sitting there. Eventually, especially if you are sitting next to the person, you tune them out. You have to. They are not going to change their habit of thinking out loud, and you need to get your work done. My cube neighbor could’ve told me that the building was on fire and I would not have heard it.

      2. Viki*

        I think it depends on how indirect is. And what it’s about. In my lab (safety testing for automobiles) we have x amount of different tests to test the same problem using different machines and sometimes it doesn’t matter which test you run on which machine. Sometimes it does.

        Is it “I was thinking of thinking of doing xyz method instead of abc method of analysis.” Because that isn’t a question but asking for input and if xyz and abc are both valid ways of doing it without a different result than the need to comment or feedback isn’t clear.

        Not knowing what lab it is is hard. In my lab, a tech telling me they want to run test x on machine ! when machine ! And ) and & all run the same function doesn’t need my input. A tech telling me they want to test sample abc and then xyz and then ghf doesn’t need my input if they’re all on the same docket and the order doesn’t change a result.

        A tech who says “I want to test abc on machine & before def, sound good?” when there’s a set order that needs to be followed and it’s wrong and I don’t say something-shame on me as a supervisor and it’s my head to the client.

        1. Yorick*

          This is a good point. If it’s too indirect, then it might sound like OP’s just thinking aloud.

        2. Snark*

          This. I’ve noticed that a lot of people who prefer to process things verbally like to phrase things in that sort of indirect way, as a prelude to a discussion – “I was thinking of doing X, or maybe Y.” And they want you to take that ball and run with it. People who process things internally more tend to be like, “Should I run this protocol X or Y way? Ok, thanks,” and expect the same of others. They don’t want it to be a whole discussion.

          1. Specialk9*

            Oh. Well that’s a pretty important thing to notice. I’m a verbal processor, and I’ll bet it would help to figure out some kind of summary in advance.

      3. Cobol*

        OP should frame every question as a direct question. It’s usually possible (and frankly a good idea IMHO) to do

        1. biobotb*

          Yeah, it seems like a simple solution for work-related issues. And if they want to process ideas before coming up with a specific question, maybe say that?

          “I want to discuss [lab-related issue]. Can I bounce some ideas off you?”

      4. Amey*

        Yes, I agree. And I get that by not responding the boss is essentially saying she doesn’t want to talk but I can see why in a shared space this is really uncomfortable. What is the OP supposed to do? Keep trying different things to work out which types of the things the boss is willing to talk about and which she isn’t?

        I think it would really be kinder if the boss would say something like, ‘I’m sorry, I have to stay extremely focused at work and don’t tend to chat. If you have a work question, I’m happy to answer’ (or set the parameters of when that’s appropriate) ‘but I hope you’ll understand that I’m not able to talk the rest of the time.’

        Obviously, you can’t make her say anything like that! And I understand that she’s senior and busy and maybe just hopes you’ll get the hint. But I think it’s a little unkind to just ignore you when you speak and I get why you’re upset by it. It’s very difficult to know if she’s just trying to give you a hint with no ill will or if she’s really annoyed and you’d better make sure to only speak to her when you have direct work questions. I’d be inclined to use Alison’s script.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          What is the OP supposed to do? Keep trying different things to work out which types of the things the boss is willing to talk about and which she isn’t?

          I think the point is that the boss doesn’t want to talk at all.

          This isn’t a matter of the right topic. It’s that the boss isn’t obligated to fulfill the OPs desire to talk.

          The boss is responding to direct questions so she isn’t cutting the OP.

          1. Mommy MD*

            Right. OP needs to limit her chatter. It’s kind of annoying when you’re busy and someone is idly talking.

            1. TIFF*

              That is the thing. It isn’t on the other party to fulfill the social needs of OP. Unless she refuses to interact with her for work purposes, only then should it be confronted.

                1. Snark*

                  Sure. But all humans are not all things to all other humans. It’s not an imposition for this particular human to decline to fulfill her desire for conversation.

                2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  But uh… we are paid to get things done? not to sit in a chair and provide social interaction to coworkers? If we can do both of these things at the same time, great, but if they conflict with each other and we have to choose one, shouldn’t it be work?

              1. Specialk9*

                Right, but it’s pretty strongly outside social conventions to ignore someone talking to you, without explanation. OP isn’t being selfish by expecting people to act like most people act, by miles. It’s ok to be outside the bell curve too, but acting like OP is being a jerk – which was heavily implied by the last 4 comments – for expecting not to be ignored in a small space is odd.

                In the US especially, silence is largely reserved for one’s intimates. Being trapped in a small space with a silent stranger would be a hell on earth for me, but I’d be fine with someone with whom I’m actually intimate. It’s making my skin crawl just imagining it. Ugh.

            2. Vox de Causa*

              Yes. I think her boss may be trying to maintain a professional distance. The line in the letter about being around the same age and having things in common makes it almost sound as if the OP is trying to make a friend out of her boss, which is not appropriate. Her supervisor should probably speak with her if that is the case, but she may be hoping that only responding to work questions will get her message across.

          2. Queen Esmerelda*

            I used to work with someone who kept a running commentary on what she was doing all day long. “Okay, now I’m going to wash my glass ware and then check on my cell cultures.” It made me crazy, and if the OP is doing something like this, I know why her boss isn’t responding.

            1. Yorick*

              Right, OP might seem to just chatter away, and the things she says may not need a response.

              I sometimes don’t mind hearing people talk in a running commentary like that, but I’m still not going to listen carefully and respond.

            2. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Ugh, the running commentary! I used to work with someone who narrated everything they were doing all day long, and call be by name if I wasn’t engaged with their narrative. Ex. Using the copier: “Madame Mallory, I’m going to put it on two-sided copies, and then I’m going to set it to staple in the upper left corner . . . ” ; “Madame Mallory, I’m going to check that there’s 8.5 x 11 paper in drawer 3 . . . ” ; etc.

          3. Emily K*

            Yes, the first thing I thought when 8 read that LW would prefer if she said, “I don’t feel like talking today,” if Boss is anything like me, there’s no “today” about it. My default is not wanting to talk, and I will occasionally deviate from that, not the other way around.

            When I was younger I used to make the same mistake Boss is making of thinking my clear lack of response and one-word answers should be saying everything that need to be said, and I’d get so frustrated by people who weren’t picking up the hint. (I distinctly remember a day in college I was trying to read a book on the porch on a nice day, and my roommate’s boyfriend came outside and kept trying to talk to me. When he asked a question I would put a finger on my place in the book, look up and politely answer as briefly as possible, offer no follow-up thoughts, and look back down. Every time he said something else it was like I could feel my blood rising – can’t he see I’m trying to read and I’m not enthusiastic about talking to him? I eventually got up and went to my bedroom and closed the door and was bitter about not being able to enjoy the nice day on the porch. Now that I’m older I’ve gotten over my fear that it’s rude to say, “I’m trying to read and I’d like to be left alone unless you need something from me,” but that’s a hard thing for most of us raised as girls to learn to do, especially the ones of us who are naturally quiet and introverted.)

            1. Birch*

              Eh, I think the distinction is to be aware of what the focus of the situation is. At work, just like with your book example, the default focus is the thing in front of you, not the idle chatter. This makes it the chatterer’s responsibility to figure out whether the shift in focus is appropriate or not. Of course, some people just don’t pay attention to those cues, so then it becomes necessary to say it outright. And hopefully they won’t get upset about it because they were really the ones not accurately reading the situation.

            2. Baby Fishmouth*

              Oh yeah I feel your pain about someone talking to you while you’re reading! My mom is a chatterbox and I was an introverted reader as a kid – but I always felt too awkward to tell her to please not talk to me while I’m reading. I still haven’t quite figured it out because she’d definitely be insulted if I did that.

              At work, I work next to a chatty person – and I have to tune her out most of the time. She’s gotten better, but when she first started she narrated most of her day. It was exhausting and distracting to be pulled from concentration all the time.

              1. AdminX2*

                The answer is to stop being responsible for her feeling insulted. Your request is very reasonable.

              2. Not A Morning Person*

                I am both the narrator of my life and the focused person who doesn’t hear someone speaking to me. I’ve used that narration comment for awhile now, so when someone says “What?” to my narration, I just respond with, “Nothing; I’m just narrating my life.” When someone speaks to me while I’m writing or reading or whatever else I need to focus on (at and outside of work), I typically don’t even hear the first words or sentences. Thank goodness I work and live with people who are accommodating and have their own quirks that we can all laugh about!

              3. Been There, Done That*

                Your mom is one thing–after all, if it weren’t for her, there wouldn’t be a you! :) And with Mom, you have more options–take your book to the park, the library, another room. BUt a coworker–you’re stuck. Chatty Cathies can be so oblivious.

              1. Specialk9*

                Oh my mom is like that! I could spend 6 hours with her, but the second I touch the front door handle she needs! me to do something! this instant!

                In high school I used to sneak out from the basement, not to do anything illicit, but just to get away with that doorknob activation.

          4. President Porpoise*

            Yes – as with many other things, the boss gets to set work expectations to her liking – which means less idle chatter and more direct, work related questions.

          5. Fin Shepard*

            That’s awful. And the OP isn’t obligated to fulfill the bosses desire to be anti-social. Good luck to you OP, hope you find a situation where so much of your energy isn’t tied up in how to parse everything that comes out of your mouth. Co-worker could show a bit more sensitivity and self-awareness. The workplace requires behavioral adjustments from everyone to get along, not just some. But OP wrote in and should just uber-focus on the work until she can find a different situation.

            1. Snark*

              I’m really confused by this post. Yes, it’s absolutely her obligation to not talk at her boss if the boss doesn’t want to be talked at. And how much energy, really, is required to parse what you say? “Refrain from talking to Boss unless it’s a direct, work-related question” is not an onerous imposition.

              1. Baby Fishmouth*

                Yeah, I agree with Snark- there’s certainly environments where introverts thrive (this sounds like it is one) and environments where extroverts thrive – but it’s on the OP to respect the environment she is in. It’s possible that this is not the right environment for her, but it’s up to her to either deal with that or find a new job. It is not the boss’s responsibility to deal with OP’s chatter all day, and I think it’s clear the OP needs to stop talking unless asking a direct question or making an important work-related comment. If she can’t deal with the silence, she can listen to music or podcasts (provided that’s allowed at her workplace).

            2. Engineer Girl*

              This statement is what annoys the non-talkers. It is NOT anti-social to be quiet and like quiet. Yet the talkers many times try to make like it is.
              No one is under obligation to talk to anyone else in a social manner. If someone tries to force someone else to engage them they are the rude one.

              1. bonkerballs*

                But it is anti-social to straight up ignore someone who’s speaking to you. Especially your direct report.

                1. Emily K*

                  Eh, we don’t really have enough information here to say that for sure. I’ve been in situations where someone was in one sense “speaking to me,” but it was in the sense of “speaker is using me as a peanut gallery for their idle chatter/vocalizing their inner monologue,” not in the sense of “speaker needs to convey information to me/get my input.”

                  If Boss doesn’t want to talk and feels like she’s dropping obvious hints that aren’t being picked up on, after 8 solid hours a day multiple days in a row she may have just reached a breaking point where she has run out of spoons to humor the chatter with polite “mhms” and decides she’s only going to respond when she needs to.

                  It’s anti-social if LW is saying, “Do you watch Popular TV show?” and Boss ignores her. If LW is saying, “Ugh, this task is always so messy,” or “I love when Thing happens,” to try to invite the Boss to chitchat, and Boss doesn’t respond, I see that more as Boss’s spoons have run out and she’s no longer going to extend herself unnecessarily. It would obviously be better if she spoke up, but I would bet anything from the description we got that in Boss’s mind, she has already made it clear that she doesn’t like talking, and all these attempts to draw her into conversation are coming across like impositions that she has decided she isn’t expend her energy politely deflecting anymore.

                2. AnotherJill*

                  No it’s not. The only thing it is anti-social to ignore is “My hair is on fire, can you get the extinguisher?”

                  Otherwise, take the social cue and stop chatting.

                3. Perse's Mom*

                  As a non-talker, given the particulars of the letter… this isn’t ignoring anyone, this is the boss tuning out what is – to her – background noise. And yes, even “work related” commentary can be background noise.

                4. Dr. Pepper*

                  And? This is work, not social hour. The OP states that the boss responds to direct questions, meaning she isn’t completely ignoring the OP at all times. The OP, being subordinate, needs to follow the boss’s lead. Ask direct questions, deliberately initiate a discussion of a work related thing when needed, and shut the eff up the rest of the time. I get that for talkers, this is hard, just as hard as it is for us non-talkers to chit chat. But since the boss is the boss, she gets to set the tone.

                5. RainbowGrunge*

                  I agree with Emily K. We don’t know if LW’s attempts at conversation really warrant a response.

                  Say someone says to me, “TPS reports are a real drag,” should I be expected to say something to that? Maybe I’ll murmur “Mhm” or something like that, but I read that “TPS reports are a real drag” as a standalone statement. The speaker is simply venting and not in need of a response from me.

                  There’s a difference though if someone says “Hey, Grunge. I’m having trouble with these TPS reports. They seem to take me a lot longer than they should. Can you review the process with me again?” I’d be a jerk to ignore that.

                6. bonkerballs*

                  @EmilyK, OP is very aware that hints to *something* are being dropped. Otherwise she wouldn’t have written in. But the message that boss is trying to convey is not getting across. If she’s at a breaking point because OP’s not taking her hint then she needs to actually *manage* OP. She’s not doing that. The boss’s actions are actively making OP uncomfortable, worry that her boss doesn’t like her, and are causing her to work less in order to keep out of the boss’ way.

                  Now look, I don’t think the boss needs to change her preference for a quiet work environment. But she does need to directly convey that sentiment to her direct report and actively manage her direct report if she’s acting in a way the boss doesn’t want. A manager cannot simply ignore their direct report. It’s ludicrous the amount of people in this comment section who think that’s perfectly acceptible behavior for a boss.

                7. Emily K*

                  For sure – I’ve said in other comments that the manager should be making her preferences explicit instead of dropping hints, as it was a lesson I myself had to learn years ago. I just don’t think it’s necessarily anti-social if, after weeks of working alongside a chatty person all day every day, the boss has stopped expending her energy on acknowledging idle chatter that doesn’t directly address or impact her.

                  There are different etiquette conventions for people who share close quarters for long hours on a regular basis than there are for the way you interact with someone in a one-off/infrequent/brief interaction. Much like you might let yourself into a friend’s home if you visit there a lot and they have an open door policy with you, but you would knock and wait to be invited in if it was someone you visited infrequently. I had a best friend as a child who I would sit in the same room as an read (different) books together for hours without talking to each other except occasionally one of us reading a short passage aloud to the other that was particularly good, which may or may not have gotten a verbal response from the other person because this was something we did so often we didn’t need to be acknowledged by each other. The room was dead quiet – we knew the other person had heard us without needing confirmation.

                  That’s the big thing for me, is the fact that LW’s situation is an ongoing situation of close quarters all day. The familiarity/duration of the work situation warrants a more familiar level of etiquette, which means things like not saying “I’ll be right back” and “I’m back” every time you leave the room whereas you might say that if you were spending a single afternoon working with someone.

                  It would be smarter and better for Boss to be more explicit about not wanting to talk, but it’s not rude for her to be making the mistake of not doing it.

                8. bonkerballs*

                  I guess I disagree. I think it is inherently rude and anti-social to blatantly ignore someone, especially someone you have power over as a boss does to a subordinate. And I think it’s extremely poor management to not redirect a subordinate’s actions in a way that is direct and clear.

                  I don’t think etiquette has anything to do with it. For one thing, those rules of etiquette you talk about only exist if all parties agree to them. You and your best friend might be fine talking to dead silence and not getting a response. You mutually came to the conclusion that that’s how your relationship works. It didn’t come about because you just ignored your best friend and hoped she would figure it out.

                9. Cornflower Blue*

                  It’s entirely possible the boss was just hoping the report would get the hint and stop talking to her. Like, silently fuming WILL YOU SHUT UP AND GO AWAY ALREADY but biting her tongue to stop herself from saying anything.

                  I’ve got the opposite problem, I’m in a really chatty workplace where my boss has complained that her bosses/my grandbosses have noticed I’ve always at my laptop and working. She actually asked me to get up every fifteen minutes and go talk to a different coworker.

                  As an introvert with social anxiety, this stressed me out enough I cried at my therapist about it and was ready to quit over it*. Let me do my work! That’s what you pay me for! You don’t pay me to mingle because if the job CALLED for socializing constantly, I would’ve never taken it!

                  *Talked to my boss in the end, told her that it’s awkward and not at all something I can do comfortably and she backed down but keeps stressing I’m a poor fit. I agree.

              2. Specialk9*

                I get that you want this to be true, but, like, social behavior is almost always about talking together. Otherwise it’s just two planets in the same space not noticing each other.

                The exception is that there’s a very special kind of sociability in working together quietly… but it’s *awkwardly intimate* and so yes, antisocial with someone not close, due to feeling too intimate.

        2. Augusta Sugarbean*

          I don’t think it’s great to put the burden on the other person, especially the boss, to say “I need to work not chat”. I feel like the default mode for work is working and I would be very uncomfortable sharing a small space with someone who talks all day long.

          (This really feels like it’s going to be shoes-on-in-the-house vs shoes-off-in-the-house kind of discussion. :-)

          1. Les G*

            Why “especially the boss?” I would say that it’s especially incumbent on the boss to express her wishes explicitly. Unlike in the reverse situation (where the less-chatty direct report would feel too awkward to ask the boss to cut it out) the boss does have the standing and authority to say exactly what she wants.

            1. Viki*

              If the boss is like many lab supervisors I know, for better or for worse it’s an unspoken lead by example way.

              Like a silent social cue-“I’m not talking idly about anything, why are they continuing to talk?”

              The boss does have authority but could/appears to be assuming that the social cues/norms of that lab are obvious, and therefore saying something isn’t needed.

              1. Specialk9*

                Even outside the lab, the boss has more power to shape the unspoken rules of a workplace. It’s wise to conform if you can. But also, it’s pragmatic – we can only really control ourselves.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I think Augusta is saying the same thing you are? I read her comment as saying the boss has a unique responsibility, in part because of the power dynamic and different leadership role, to be clear with OP about the supervisor’s communication expectations/norms.

              1. Amey*

                This is what I was trying to say too really. I’m conflicted about the whole thing because I work in a shared office (about 4-5 people at any given time) which can sometimes get too chatty but which is also a friendly environment, and I’ve also worked in deathly quiet offices where you’d constantly worry that you were walking or rustling too loudly. I didn’t actually find that improved my productivity – I felt very uncomfortable just turning around and checking something with someone unless it was a very big deal.

                I prefer something in between but I know that this is hugely personal! And I both enjoy a chat and regularly really need (and don’t always get) complete quiet to win. But I do think as the one with the power in the situation, it would be a kind of the supervisor to make their expectations clear.

              2. Myrin*

                I’m pretty sure Les has the correct read here – Augusta says that one should always assume “the default mode for work is working” and that talking/getting your social needs met is secondary to that and should be explicitly stated if desired; and since the boss is higher-ranking, it especially shouldn’t fall on her to have to explicitly state that she doesn’t want to talk since OP should take her clues from her, not the other way around.

          2. Augusta Sugarbean*

            Sorry, I rewrote my comment a couple of times before posting so I think I combined a couple of thoughts. What I mean is, if I were stuck working closely with my boss, I would feel acutely that I would need to show that I’m businesslike and productive. And if I was going to socialize with someone at work, it wouldn’t be my boss. I think it’s more appropriate to keep a stronger boundary between me and my managers. YMMV of course.

        3. Megan*

          It would be better if boss told her politely but directly that she doesn’t want to chat about LW’s cats or the latest episode of Game of Thrones, but she is not the one writing in for advice. LW is asking about how to interact with her boss’s boss and the good advice here is to read the woman’s cues and drop the idle chatter, not to keep pushing because, ‘hey she didn’t officially say no.’

          1. Someone Else*

            I didn’t get the impression OP is “pushing” although I understand why some people are coming to it that way? I think the situation is probably: OP assumes the way OP is going about talking or not talking is the norm and the default, probably because it is HER default. The boss is going about not talking unless directly asked a question, because that is Boss’s default. I don’t think OP is determined to change boss, but rather, because OP sees what the boss is doing as abnormal, is trying to figure out a way to be sure. Hence the question. I do not think it is incumbent on the boss to explicitly state “no talking”, but if OP is concerned she’s offended, Alison’s approach is the one to take. But the suggestions above that the Boss may just be tuning everything out automatically, unless it’s prefaced with Boss’s name or conspicuously drawing Boss’s attention are probably a good one. It’s also possible Boss is someone passive-aggressively talking to OP as little as possible, but unless better indication otherwise, I’d assume it’s not malice.They just have different expectations about how much talking during the day is normal. Since the Boss is the Boss, generally their mode is going to prevail. But from the letter alone I don’t think the boss is intentionally doing anything to try to make the OP feel iced out. The Boss doesn’t want to talk unless it’s needed for work and I think that’s reasonable. OP basically has the answer already, but it wasn’t sinking in because it was indirect and thus their mind went off to concern about scarier possibilities.

            1. Dr. Pepper*

              I think people are reading the situation as the OP pushing because that’s exactly what it feels like as a non-talker when a talker is like “why don’t you want talk to me? are you mad at me????? what’d I dooo??” Ugh, just stop talking. That’s it, that’s all I want. I’m not mad, but I’m going to be if you don’t give over. I don’t want to have to tell you ten times a day to stop talking, and I *will* ignore your meaningless chatter. If you have a question or need to discuss something with me, deliberately initiate a conversation and we’ll talk.

        4. Falling Diphthong*

          I think it would really be kinder if the boss would say something.
          I’m several layers removed from this interaction, and I can tell that the boss is communicating “Stop talking so much. I do not want to chat.” And finds the OP’s level of casual office chatter irritating, so much so that she’s tuning her out. (And I feel for OP on that, really, because it’s entirely possible her level of chatter is one most would find pleasant and soothing-to-rough-edges, and the boss is just an outlier. There is no one correct level of sound here. But the boss is communicating clearly enough that people hearing it third-hand can tell what she’s indicating.)

          What is the OP supposed to do? Keep trying different things to work out which types of the things the boss is willing to talk about and which she isn’t?

          Definitely not. She needs to follow the upthread advice re headphones and podcasts, and demonstrate an ability to talk to the boss only when her job function requires it. Back way off and establish a less-annoying baseline with the boss.

          1. Specialk9*

            This is good advice. It doesn’t get sucked into the value judgments of other comments, and is clear and direct.

        5. Snark*

          “What is the OP supposed to do? Keep trying different things to work out which types of the things the boss is willing to talk about and which she isn’t?”

          No, definitely not this. She should assume that the boss is not interested in talking about anything but direct, work-related questions, and find someone else to chat with.

        6. Dr. Pepper*

          The OP needs to be quiet, is what the OP needs to do. I know it sounds harsh. It sucks, I get it. If you’re a talker, talking is fun, puts you at ease, and even helps you focus. But the OP is not the boss here, the boss is. Since the boss is quite obviously not a talker, the OP needs to follow that lead. It’s one of those workplace dynamics that isn’t fair but you deal with it.

          I’d say the same if the situation is reversed. I’m emphatically NOT a talker. I’ve worked for extremely chatty bosses, and yeah, it sucked but I just dealt with it. I got good at tuning out the chatter and keying in on certain words/phrases where I actually needed to pay attention. Would I prefer to work with someone like me? Of course! But you don’t get to decide that, and there are no magic words to make a non-talker into a talker and vice versa.

          1. Specialk9*


            As someone in the middle of the spectrum – a sociable introvert who loves to connect but anguishes at small talk – I would add that it is useful to reframe. Work at the framing you see her in, that this is just the way she is and it’s not personal at all. If it helps, you could imagine her as a book or an android or something else that you wouldn’t really socialize with but could get answers from. (I generally don’t like depersonalization, because genocide, but in this case it’s a mental framing exercise to help you navigate an awkward social situation.)

    4. Sarah G*

      One thing that jumped out at me from OP’s letter is,”I find that I am spending less time on my work and more time trying to stay out of her way,” along with, “there have been entire days where everything I say (even if it’s work related) gets ignored if it isn’t a direct question.”
      Both of these comments imply that OP is perceiving some level of hostility (real or imagined) that she finds uncomfortable and distracting. (Boss could respond with a nod or a smile, if she doesn’t want to talk, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.)
      It’s not evident if OP’s “work-related” comments are ones that would typically require a response, or if they’re just passing remarks. If the former, I would recommend OP frame it as a direct question whenever she needs a response.
      However, to clear the air and make Boss more likely to be candid if there IS something amiss, it makes sense for OP to use Alison’s script, and maybe she could add, “Would you please be candid with me if you’d prefer I do something differently in terms of my communication style or otherwise?”
      I think that is what I’d be inclined to do if I were in OP’s situation. It sounds uncomfortable!

      1. MK*

        I really don’t understand what the OP means by saying she “spends time” staying out of her manager’s way, so as not to talk. There is no need to stay away from the manager, just not talk to her unless there is an actual need to do so.

        If the OP finds it hard to refrain from chatting all the time or being in the same space with someone without chatting, they need to adjust, because it is a very normal thing to do.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I really don’t understand what the OP means by saying she “spends time” staying out of her manager’s way, so as not to talk.

          Same here. Which leads me to guess that OP is the outlier on the level of chattiness appropriate in the lab. (And there are absolutely a wide range of possibilities here–it’s about individual preferences and the lab’s culture, not some universal standard.) Perhaps there are lots of small work events that happen that OP instinctively feels call for comment–would have commented with her prior office mates, and I hope vice versa–and she’s spending so much effort policing her tendency to voice them that she can’t concentrate. But that last part would be a sign that her instinctive chattiness had grown to pretty high levels.

        2. Pollygrammer*

          There is no need to stay away from the manager, just not talk to her unless there is an actual need to do so.

          They’re in a small space–if I had to walk behind somebody and said “hey, right behind you” or “mind if I grab this?” and then got the silent treatment, I think I would find that pretty hostile.

          1. KRM*

            That’s funny to me because I don’t find that those statements need a response. If I am in my chair and someone says “right behind you” so I don’t push back and take them out, what response am I supposed to give? If I’m doing something and someone has to grab something off my bench that I’m not actively using, it’s assumed that unless I say “sorry, I need that in 5′” that you should take it. No response is necessary.

            1. Chameleon*

              A quick “okay” lets them know you heard them. Nothing drives me crazier than the silent response–my husband does this all the time and I hate it. I tend to be quiet so there is a 50/50 shot that he didn’t hear me, but if he did and I repeat myself he gets annoyed. Just take one second to give me an “Uh-huh”!

            2. Pollygrammer*

              A quick “sure” or “mmhmm” or “yup”?

              Moving or handing somebody something without acknowledging them at all or responding to their “thank you” is pretty darn chilly, IMHO.

              1. KRM*

                *Shrug*. Seems to work for all of us at my workspace. If you’re loading a 384 well plate you don’t have the brainspace to comprehend what someone has said and then respond to it.

              2. Washi*

                I agree that unsmilingly, silently handing someone something would be pretty chilly, but it’s just not clear that that’s what’s happening in this letter. The OP says “there have been entire days when everything I say (even if it’s work related) gets ignored if it isn’t a direct question.” That could mean that the manager smiles and quietly hands the thing over, it could mean that most of the time they say “uh-huh” and just every once in while have a bad day where they don’t talk very much, it could be that the OP is including “can you hand me that” as a direct question, which the manage does always respond to.

                Again, if it were the manager writing in, I think the advice would be different, it’s just that without any more detail, it’s hard to advise the OP to do anything other than cut down on the non-work related talking.

              3. Emily K*

                I can envision scenarios where it would be a glaring silence not to respond to those kind of things, and scenarios where it would be natural not to respond. The more intently someone is concentrating the less I expect a response – particularly to “coming behind you” or similar, which to me walking behind someone doesn’t require permission even though you may wish to alert them. Taking an object does require permission so I’d generally expect at least a thumbs up or wave even if the person is concentrating heavily, but if I’m just saying, “Pardon me,” to walk past, I don’t need that acknowledged – the fact they stand aside is acknowledgment.

              4. Specialk9*

                It’s not that unusual a tack for people to take with people they hate. Ignore someone except for the things you absolutely can’t get away with ignoring…. It feels hostile because it is.

                The exception is if someone does that to everyone, which OP is trying to gauge by comparing to people dropping by. Then it’s ‘oh they don’t hate me they’re just socially maladroit.’ Then one can relax.

                My abusive ex used to punish me in exactly this way, deliberately. When I did something that he wanted to punish, he’d refuse to talk with me except in the minimum of absolutely required direct interactions, and then he was carefully very polite. For days. He was always thinking of ways to win future fights, and giving the silent treatment that skirted that ONE line of rudeness was his solution.

                1. DuzzleJ*

                  That’s what I thought, when I read the OP. Boss is giving her a deliberate cold-shoulder. OP should keep an eye out for her boss turning to more overt aggression.
                  I’m a naturally quiet person myself, but there’s a difference between working quietly together, and working in cold silence on either side of an office DMZ.

        3. Old Biddy*

          My husband is very chatty, and I’m not. I had to send him multiple articles on how introverts decompress before he started to figure out that me not wanting to talk doesn’t mean I’m mad, it just means I’m decompressing/trying to concentrate on something/just chillin happily in my own thoughts. He’d cycle from stream of consciousness commentary to being completely quiet/staying out of my way. The middle ground of not chatting randomly is hard for him.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m a relatively social person (not overly chatty) who has had to work in an office of very quiet people. I also figure out how I’m going to approach a process or research design by bouncing ideas back and forth with others.

          If that’s not how your workplace or colleagues interact, it can feel like a lot of work to remain quiet and “stay out” of others’ way. It’s normal in many workplaces to have to be quiet for most of the day. But watching someone entertain chit chat or niceties with others while ignoring your work-related comments/questions can feel really harsh and alienating, even if it’s not personal in any way. And managing all of those unspoken norms and feelings can definitely feel like time/attention that’s taken away from productive work.

          1. Ruby Rabbit*

            I think OP should organise a group work lunch or a morning tea (everyone bring a plate) and try to get to know all her co-workers together including her quiet boss. It’ll become clear if it is personal or not. I suspect not personal as there are lots of introverts at work. Having been one myself, I forced myself out of the habit when I became the boss. I sort of see the point from OP’s angle and also wonder how can you manage people if you are not talking to them. There’s a balance between useless chit chat and work-related questions. Somehow the best bosses I admired managed this balance where you feel welcome in the workplace. The quiet boss is not emulating this to OP and maybe others, so it is a problem. It sounds like the quiet boss may need more time in people management.

            1. Viki*

              That only works if the OP has capital to do so. And at least in my lab would be a weird thing for a tech (assuming OP is a tech) to both arrange (wouldn’t have the power) and to get people to come-it’s work, there are tests. I can’t exactly take 3o minutes for tea when I’m on a deadline for a 3500 cycle

      2. Rather Be Sleeping*

        I agree and the OP’s statement about how the manager talks to other people would solidify this for me. I think Allison and other commenters are assuming OP is talking constantly and that might not be the case. The OP sounds frustrated to me and if I were in her shoes I’d feel like the manager were somewhat hostile and treating me differently than the others. I’d want to know why so I could build a better relationship, or at least try to.

        1. gecko*

          Yes. It’s normal to direct a few comments towards someone who’s working in the same room as you; it’s not normal to outright choose things to ignore. So I think some reasons are being invented to justify the not-normal behavior.

          I think the supervisor is being a twit. I just don’t think there’s a lot to say that will offer resolution…that’s the problem with being ignored.

        2. Anon today*

          I don’t think that the manager talking to other people really means anything. Since they do not work in that space the manager needs to stop what she is doing to address why they are there. Also, seeing them could be enough to grab the managers attention in a way that seeing the OP doesn’t because they don’t belong there. If the OP does talk a lot, it is possible that it has become white noise to the manager and she doesn’t notice when it is work related. I have worked with a lot of people in labs who think out loud and I tune them out. If they switch to talking to me, I don’t always notice unless they do something to grab my attention.

          1. Emily K*

            I will also say, as a person not fond of chit-chat, there are certain people who I’m more willing to indulge in social conversation with because I know they will chat for 2 or 3 minutes and then move along and leave me in peace. There are other people who are flagged in my brain as Do Not Engage – Will Hold You Hostage because they are so hard to stop once they get going. Manager might have flagged LW this way and is avoiding any conversation at all because she thinks if she responds she will be opening a floodgate, especially since this person is in the space with her all day every day.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Yes – this may well be a real contributing factor here.

              There was a coworker at my branch awhile back who many people thought was unfriendly because she rarely smiled and almost never engaged in casual chitchat.

              Only, she did with me – anytime it was just the two of us in the break room, I’d say hi and how are you and she’d actually respond, we’d trade a couple sentences in the time it took us to complete whatever we were there to do and then head back to our own desks. And I really think it’s because she saw me as “safe” to engage with, because I’m very introverted myself and tend to prefer to give people their own space. She knew talking with me would be a few brief comments and then we’d go our separate ways, no hard feelings or obligations to continue performing social interaction, so she was willing to expend that little bit of energy because she could trust it wouldn’t suddenly become more than that.

              Perhaps the manager has labeled OP as “hold the line and don’t give an inch” because they feel like engaging just makes it worse, but they’ll still talk with others who don’t have that same effect.

        3. Dr. Pepper*

          Not really. Talking to someone who shows up in your workspace for a finite amount of time is different than talking to the person you share said workspace with all day every day. For starters, the visitors leave. Second, they presumably stop by for a definite reason and not to set up camp and chat idly. Thirdly, it’s much easier to say you’ve got to get back to work as a way of ending a conversation with someone who works in a different area.

          If the there was another person in the lab besides the OP and the boss was happy to chat with that person but not the OP, then it’s a problem. But just not wanting to talk about whatever throughout the day is perfectly normal. The only thing to read into here is that the boss likes quiet.

      3. Sam.*

        A nod or a smile would imply that she’s listening and wants to encourage OP to continue, and that may not be a message she wants to send. If OP is a social person, I can understand why she finds the lack of reaction really uncomfortable, but I think it’s a clear signal to stop all chatter except direct questions about work. Who knows, if quiet is the norm, the boss might be more open to the occasional conversation.

      4. Lara*

        I think there’s three possibilities;

        Introvert / Extrovert communication mismatch.
        Boss is busy.
        Boss is hostile toward OP.

        1. EPLawyer*

          And it could be 3 because Boss is sending every single she can to OP to please stop talking. OP says it’s chitchat. Some of it is work related chitchat, but still chitchat. OP does not mention the lack of response causes her to not be able to actually do the work, like she can’t do step B until she hears from Boss it is okay to move on. The only effect is that OP is now trying to figure out how to be around Boss.

          The Boss has made it clear, she is not a chitchat kind of person. Stop trying to make it happen. Just concentrate on your work, not the the interpersonal interplay in the office. If the direct questions are being answered, you have what you need to do your job.

        2. NicoleK*

          5th possibility. Boss and OP have very different preferred work styles. Boss prefers to focus on the work while OP focuses on the relationship.

      5. Not All Who Wander*

        Boss has probably reached BEC stage with OP and is silently screaming in her head. The silent days OP is picking up active hostility are the days Boss is at the point she knows if she says anything at all it will be a giant inappropriate rage spew.

        Not that I have been in boss’s shoes (though with a coworker who I had been warned early on was impossible to shut up) and I’m a fairly social person generally.

        OP needs to stop talking for anything other than basic good morning /good night and direct questions. And depending on how long it has been going on, she may need to do it for several weeks for things to calm down.

        Gah! Having soooooo many flashbacks now

        1. Res Admin*

          I agree with this so much! I share an office with an otherwise very nice person “Rose” that talks and talks and talks and talks…sometimes it is work related, sometimes it is just utter nonsense. I don’t want to make our office situation awkward, but how many times can I say “Hey, I really need to concentrate on this right now?” or “I really don’t have time to talk about that–I have to have this done in time for a meeting at 2.” or wear my headphones all day long (which actually isn’t effective–she talks to me anyway). At this point, pretty much every thing she says annoys me–even when I would normally have time to chat.

          1. NicoleK*

            I can relate. I’m a reserved introvert. My cube neighbor is a chatty extrovert with no filter and boundaries. Some days, I just don’t feel like listening to her talk about her insecurities, anxieties, family issues, internalization of issues at work, and etc.

          2. Snark*

            So, I’ve dealt with this type of person. I have a suggestion.

            You’re framing it as “Hey, I need to concentrate on this right now.” The part about “And when you come up to me and start talking at me when I’m working, it’s bothersome and distracting, so I need you to stop doing that forever” is, in your mind, implied but obvious. To Rose, it’s not obvious. She is taking that as “I regrettably have a conflict at this precise point in spacetime that is preventing me from having a 30-minute conversation with you, which I am otherwise delighted and eager for. Try again in five minutes.”

            1. CMart*

              As someone who is That Type of Person:

              Please, do us the kindness of being clear that it’s not just “now” that’s a bad time to chat, but “pretty much ever”.

              Should I get the hint? Probably. But wishful thinking is powerful and there’s a part of me that just can’t possibly believe someone really, truly, actually doesn’t want friendly chit chat here and there throughout the day if it’s not a busy time that requires concentration. So clarity is a kindness to us all.

              1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                As someone who has been far to much socialized as a girl – how do you say that? How do you say “Please don’t talk to me ever unless it is work related and brief? Your talking drains the life force from my soul.” There are plenty of polite ways to shut down a conversation right now, but I don’t know any good ones that will shut down chatting forever, especially if you share a small space with that person and want to maintain some veneer of politeness. I have had several coworkers who I would have been super happy to never have to speak to again outside of work issues, but have never had the words to say ‘Shut up forever’ that wouldn’t have everyone whispering about how shockingly rude I was. All i’ve got are acting like i’m not interested and hoping to hell they will pick up on every unspoken que I can drop down.

                1. CMart*

                  I’ve taken zero offense to the coworker who said to me “hey, I actually just need to keep my head down and focus on my work during the day. I don’t do well popping in and out of conversation. Feel free to IM me if you have a question though!”

                2. Specialk9*

                  You might try “hey, I generally let my coworkers know that I’m a pretty quiet person. I’m just not very chatty, that’s the way I came out. I don’t want anyone to think I’m upset, it’s just the way I am.”

                  It just defuses the bad assumptions off the bat. (And the people trying to win you over to prove to themselves you don’t hate them.)

        2. Rat in the Sugar*

          It’s really not okay for a boss to let herself get to a point where she’s “rage spewing” at a direct report, though. The boss has all the power in this situation; if it’s really bugging her that much she needs to use her words and tell OP to stop, not just silently fume.

          Of course, boss isn’t the one writing in so the only real actionable advice to OP is to talk less and maybe directly ask the boss if she’s talking too much. I think a lot of commenters here are imagining every time that they’ve been annoyed by a coworker talking too much and projecting that onto the boss, but it’s entirely possible that boss is not annoyed at all, much less silently screaming or at the BEC stage. Maybe she just doesn’t want to talk. We can’t tell and frankly it doesn’t matter as it doesn’t change the advice to OP.

      6. Dr. Pepper*

        Talkers often feel like us non-talkers are being hostile when we’re really just being quiet. “Companionable silence” is not in some people’s lexicon, and it can create a viscous cycle that didn’t start with hostility but certainly ends up there. The talker makes a remark, non-talker doesn’t respond because it was inconsequential and doesn’t require a response, the talker feels confused or slighted and talks more, the non-talker is even quieter because “maybe they’ll shut up eventually if I don’t give them any ammo”, the talker gets desperate for a response and talks even more, and so on and so forth until both parties would like to hit the other over the head.

        1. Specialk9*

          Companiable silence is overly intimate when with people who are not companions.

          Check out this article on cultural norms toward silence.

          “In North America as well as in Arabic countries the pauses between words are usually not too long, while in Japan pauses can give a contradictory sense to the spoken words by the meaning of pauses. Enduring silence is perceived as comfortable in Japan, while in Europe and North America it may cause insecureness and embarrassment. Scandinavians, by Western standards, are more tolerant of silent breaks during conversations.”

    5. Essess*

      What jumps out at me is that this is a lab setting. That means tests are being run or other duties that need concentration. When I’m working on things that need to be in a certain order or I need to track the results of what I’ve completed, if someone keeps talking at me it ruins my ability to do my job and each interruption takes several minutes to get back on track and figure out where I left off. I need to remain focused or else I will make mistakes or end up repeating tests because I’m unsure if I did them already or my attention was grabbed before I could see the result I was watching for. I get really angry when this keeps occurring during the day when it’s a test that takes me 20 minutes to set up then I’m grabbed in the middle of the test run and I needed to pay attention to a specific point of the test. The OP says people will come in and she will converse. That type of interaction is easier to handle because it means there is a defined start and stop of the conversation when the people come in and when they leave so the boss can note where she left off and then be able to pick back up after the conversation is over. But if the OP is always in the area and keeps talking at random times, then there is no defined start/stop for the coworker so it keeps interrupting her train of thought without any chance to find a good stopping point. An interruption when I’m intensely focused causes me actual physical pain when I’m ripped from deep concentration. I can’t describe the sensation but it is an actual real feeling of pain like being physically cut and if this happened multiple times a day, I would quickly grow to dread being in the room with the person that does it every day.

      1. Nesprin*

        THIS! Omg THIS! there are so many assays that require concentration and are not conducive to stopping points in the middle. If someone stopped me in the middle of an ELISA or any number of other fiddly assays, without a “something is on fire” or “someone needs an ambulance” there would be all kinds of hostility.
        OP should try: “Hey when you have a minute can I ask you a question?”

      2. Jack Russell Terrier*

        Yes – my father was a theoretical physicist and when he working at home mum would just barge in talking about something not important. My father could never get her to understand that sometimes he would not be able to replicate his train of thought.

        He always worked with the door to his study open, so if I wanted something, I’d hover by the door so he know I was there – but not be intrusive. If he needed a moment to finish up, he’d hold up a finger briefly and I’d just wait until he gave me his attention.

        1. Lily*

          Absolutely this. My husband and I are both PhD students—he’s exclusively Englis lit theory and I’m a novelist who also does theory. Nothing will piss either of us off than the other barging in and yammering when we are working, especially if it’s not an emergency. For me, especially, if I’m editing a fiddly sentence or section, an abrupt interruption can cause me to lose a precarious train of thought for good, and nothing steams me more. We are so careful about interrupting each other and don’t do so unless we NEED to, and even then, we do the lurk in the corner until welcomed to speak thing.

      3. Dr. Pepper*

        I know exactly what you mean. If I’m concentrating, especially on a fiddly assay that needs to be done precisely, it’s outright painful to be interrupted. There’s a reason for the grumpy scientist trope. In my mind I’m screaming “what the effing hell do you want and why can’t you see I’m in the middle of something?!?!” The best is when you’re so deep in concentration that you don’t hear them so they poke you in the arm or something. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Damn right I’m going to appear hostile.

    6. Utoh!*

      Wow, I have just realized that I completely block out conversations going on around me unless I hear my name. I’m an introvert, and do the type of work for which I need complete concentration so all the other goings on around me tend to be ignored unless I am alerted.

      1. straws*

        This is exactly how my husband is. His natural instinct is to get sucked into whatever he’s doing (even if it’s just browsing Facebook) to the point where he’s fully focused and engaged. Sometimes a “hey husband!” isn’t even enough on its own to break him out. It took me awhile to get used to having everything I said ignored unless I made an effort, but I know it’s not personal and he’s fully attentive once I can engage him. If the boss is like this as well, that may explain why directed questions and new people in the office are being addressed, while other comments from the “standard” person in the office is not.

    7. MassMatt*

      I think the OP needs to consider whether she can be happy at this job. Some people would LOVE the chance for a day spent in quiet, but I suspect most people would find it stressful and unpleasant in the long run. Humans are social animals and it sounds as though there isn’t any social interaction in this lab.

      Ignoring you altogether except for direct work questions seems rude/extreme, but if she is the boss there doesn’t seem to be much you can do about it except either adapt or move on.

    8. Folklorist*


      She complains at length every day about the amount of spam that she has in her inbox, at least 3x a day. No amount of giving her tips to lessen the spam, or to tell her that everyone gets spam, or putting on noise-cancelling headphones, or anything else will get her to stop listing every spam message that she gets in her inbox and speculating about what it might mean about what secret advertisers think of her. Everyone just ignores her when she talks now.

      I feel bad about it sometimes, but telling her that you’re busy and don’t want to talk, or straight up walking out of the room while she’s talking doesn’t get her to stop. I know it’s rude, but there’s a point where it’s literally the only thing I can do. I’m not saying that this is you, OP, but when you share a space with someone, the conversational level that you can tolerate with that person is quite different than if they’re just visiting!

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        I shared an office with someone like that, except she liked to talk about her personal life. I heard all the details about her marital problems and subsequent divorce, whether I wanted to know (I didn’t) or not. I avoided asking her questions, even work related, because that would set her off again. She’d follow me down the hall talking if I got up to, say, make copies or get a cup of coffee. I’d love to say I just told her that I needed to work, or to shut up, but when you work in a small space with someone day after day and you would need to tell them to stop talking at least once every half hour….. It was easier to tune her out.

    9. Yorick*

      Some people think the boss may be annoyed or in BEC mode with OP’s talking. That may not even be it. Sometimes people around me talk to themselves or make some comments about random stuff, and they don’t seem to be talking to me. It doesn’t necessarily bother me when they do this. But still I’m not listening carefully to them unless they make it clear they’re talking to me, and I’m not going to answer unless I have some response to what they’ve said.

      If it were me, I might not realize that I need to tell OP I don’t want to talk. Maybe she’s not bothering me and I don’t want to tell her to be quiet, and I don’t realize she’s upset that I seem to be ignoring her.

    10. willow*

      You’re in a lab setting. Don’t you need to concentrate on (1) not mixing samples up? (2) maintaining custody of the samples? (3) not spilling acid or solvent or stain on yourself? (4) keeping track of what step of the procedure you are on?

      Maybe by her silence she is modeling that you need to focus more on your work, by not chatting. Maybe you could internalize the chat and not talk out loud? When I worked in the lab, my mind was busy all the time, even if I was “just” shaking out a sample.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I’m floored by the idea that the office manager thinks it’s an ok arrangement because your boss isn’t present to be upset that Arya and Sansa are directly contradicting his directive, and being flat-out insubordinate.

    I disagree with Alison on the approach. I don’t think you owe Sansa/Arya a conversation, in large part because it sounds like you’ve brought this up with them, before, only to have your concerns waved off.

    I’m also not sure that it makes sense to mention the boys to your boss if you don’t have to. Normally I’m a fan of being direct, but given the office-wide collusion to hide this arrangement from him, I worry that you’ll get the blowback of whatever discipline might rain down on them if you tell him you want to shift your hours because of the boys. So I would ask to move your shift, first, and if you’re pushed to explain why, then it may make sense to disclose the boys’ presence.

    1. Observer*

      I agree with your last paragraph. The office manager (!) has made it clear that she doesn’t think it’s a problem “unless someone tells” the boss. The office manager is not likely to take it well if the OP “tattles”, especially if she faces discipline over the matter.

      1. Snark*

        It’s not on OP to manage that, though. She knows she’s being insubordinate, she knows she’s not supposed to let the kids in – she ate crackers in that bed, now she can lie in it. Yes, she might be pissed at OP, but she’s not exactly arguing from a position of strength.

        1. AKchic*

          The problem with that is this: The office manager has effectively warned off OP from “tattling”. If the boss “finds out”, it is a safe assumption that the boss will have found out from OP, and the office manager can try to make OP’s work life more miserable than it already is (outside of that last hour of her shift).

          Not giving proper work directions, write-ups, poor reviews, the (not so)mysterious “you’re not fitting in with the office culture” dismissal (depending on state)…
          I think Boss is going to have to “forget” something at the office and stop by some day to “catch” these people in the act and write all three of them up (Sansa, Arya and the office manager). OP can pretend to be written up for show, but Boss will need to keep the employee files away from office manager to ensure that that particular bugbear isn’t known. If, of course, they want to be duplicitous at all.
          Personally, with that kind of insubordination and subterfuge, I’d want to fire all three of them.

          1. Laurelma__01!*

            Years ago when I worked in banking, the manager wasn’t coming in half the time and expecting us to lie or give her the heads up if the district manager was trying to reach her, etc. I would just say she wasn’t available and left it at that. They were 10 miles away, why she thought she could get by with it, I do not know. He caught on to it, had all of stop by his office after hours & took statements. We found out after she was fired that she was tearing up our referrals and rewriting them in her name.

            Usually if someone is dishonest enough to get around the boss like the coworker with kids, after being told it wasn’t acceptable are dishonest about other things.

            Suggestion …. OP can you call your boss on speaker phone so that he can hear the kids? Come up with some reason or another?

        2. Observer*

          It’s totally not on the OP to “manage” the consequences to the OM. It is, however, in the OP’s best interests to consider the possibility that the OM, Sansa, Arya, or other staff could make their life pretty uncomfortable, and weigh it against what they know about the boss and the office. They can decide how much of a risk they are taking and whether it’s an acceptable level.

          Based on the very limited information we have, I would say that the risk of problems is real. But, only the OP has the full picture and knows what’s likely to happen.

    2. Myrin*

      I’m not sure I’m understanding all the talk about backlash/blowback. I mean, I understand that it’s likely to happen with people that unreasonable, but what’s stopping OP from then going back to boss and say “Remember that thing we talked about? Turns out Bernice wasn’t too happy about that and is now hiding smelly cheese in all my drawers.”? Obviously not comfortable in the discovering-smelly-cheese-moment, but I feel very strongly that people being as ridiculous as they’re being here shouldn’t just be able to get away with it.
      (And FWIW, there might be other coworkers who feel the same as OP and are also afraid to speak up but who would be very relieved with having the kids out of the office.)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think they should get away with it, but if OP is the only person in the group who finds it unreasonable, it could result in OP being frozen out or otherwise retaliated against. That could have significant impacts on OP’s ability to do their job. I’m not saying any of this is ok, but given that the OM also finds it unobjectionable, I worry that the three will ostracize OP.

        1. Constanze*

          It would be really unreasonable on their part, and that is certainly a possibility. However, I do think this is a little far fetched based on what we know and it shouldn’t stop OP letting his/her boss know about it.
          Certainly the colleagues won’t be too happy, but we should also consider the fact that after being called out for insubordination, starting ostracising another team member… wouldn’t be the smartest move.

          1. Observer*

            Actually, this is totally not far fetched, unfortunately.

            You say that this would not be a reasonable way to react, and that’s true. But, we know that at least some of the players here are not too reasonable. What makes you think that their response to being “tattled” on is going to be reasonable. There is a really significant chance that the OM will not react by saying “Hey, I did a stupid thing and had better watch my step.” But instead will think “OP is a jerk who got me into trouble.” And, a disgruntled OM can make someone’s life very difficult. By the same token, Arya and Sansa are likely to place blame on the OP, regardless of how unreasonable it is. If they were reasonable, they would realize that there is a problem here.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yeah, this is my read. Anyone who is willing to go to the lengths these three are pursuing to be insubordinate is not rational or reasonable. And those are exactly the kind of people who can freeze you out and make your life miserable at work by engaging in activity just below the level of attracting management’s attention.

          2. Lynn Whitehat*

            Did you guys ever go to middle school? There are a ton of ways to ostracize someone and make their life hard without being too obvious about it. Especially if the people in charge are as checked-out as this boss seems to be.

            1. Snark*

              I don’t think he’s checked out, I think he’s just physically absent in this time period because he’s got his own kids to pick up.

              1. bonkerballs*

                Agreed. He already dealt with the issue once and thought it was handled. Now people are actively keeping something from him when he’s out of the office. I don’t think that counts as checked out.

            2. CMart*

              I was going to say–was no one ever present for a “excuse me teacher, weren’t we supposed to have a quiz today?” moment? OP 1 is poised to be That Kid.

              Someone can be entirely in the right, but if you’re ruining a “good thing” for essentially everyone else it’s very easy for life to get very unpleasant in subtle but impactful ways.

          3. MassMatt*

            The coworkers have shown themselves to be unreasonable by bringing noisy kids to the office daily, and deliberately circumventing their boss’s directive in doing so.

            When someone shows you who they are, believe them.

            There is likely to be retaliation from them for telling the boss. And it sounds like the boss is not really aware of what is happening in the office at all. I wonder what other rules etc are they flouting because “boss will never know unless you tell her”?

            Ethics are how you act when no one is watching; IMO the coworkers’ ethics stink.

        2. Myrin*

          I get that, but I stand by my points: 1. unless I missed something in the letter, there’s no indication that anyone but Arya, Sansa, and OM is okay with this arrangement (and we explicitly know that the boss isn’t/wouldn’t be) – for all we know, everyone else thinks it’s a giant pain, too; and 2. I agree with Constanze that obvious retaliation “wouldn’t be the smartest move” in this case; if boss is in any way capable, he’ll make quick work of an ostracization going on.

          1. Flash Bristow*

            Is there some way to get boss to pop back into the office unexpectedly between 4 and 5, to witness this for themself? That way, it isn’t apparent that they’ve been tipped off.

            Is there a script op could use? If they’re really worried about retaliation, would it be going above their station to suggest to the boss – once boss has heard in a matter of fact way why OP is asking for a shift time change – that they could say something like “just one concern I have, Sansa and Arya know I find it hard to work with the kids around, and I’m worried how things will go down. Is there any chance for you to pop in one evening so it isn’t clear that I’ve accidentally tipped you off?”

            (I appreciate it wasn’t all that accidental but suggesting that might smooth the path to expressing concerns about being ostracised.)

            Or is it absolutely none of OP’s business how boss handles this, and it would be rude to mention any concerns?

            I’m quite a straightforward, cards on the table, person but I realise it isn’t always the best approach!

            1. Antilles*

              Is there some way to get boss to pop back into the office unexpectedly between 4 and 5, to witness this for themself? That way, it isn’t apparent that they’ve been tipped off.
              Given that the boss is picking up his kids at that time, I think it’s pretty unlikely that OP could casually arrange to have him come back without actually telling him the reason. If she gives a small item like a meeting, he’d either decide it wasn’t worth coming back for OR just decide to not leave the office at all (in which case, Sansa and Arya knowing they’re doing the wrong thing, would likely observe that and take the kids to the park or whatever for that day).
              If the *boss* was told about it and wanted to verify the behavior for himself, he probably could do that. But I just don’t see a way that OP could schedule something so the boss comes back unexpectedly.

            2. Constanze*

              It depends on the relation OP has with the boss, I reckon. It might be a little heavy-handed to go so far as to suggest dropping in, especially since this would certainly be one the first steps anyone reasonable would take.
              However, asking for discretion seems okay.

            3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              If the OP has a good relationship with the boss, this seems like the way to go, to me. They don’t have to necessarily offer the strategy, but asking the boss not to name names is a pretty reasonable request.

            4. Sevenrider*

              I was thinking maybe think of a reason to call the boss, maybe when one of the boys is running around shrieking. Hold the phone out and in the direction of the shrieking child so the boss hears it. He would/should wonder why children are in the office.

            5. ExceptionToTheRule*

              If I was the OP’s manager, I’d “forget” something that I needed to come back in & get after I picked up my kids. Then 2-3 weeks/months later, when it starts up again, do the same thing and at that point, I’m probably firing people.

          2. SignalLost*

            I don’t disagree with you, but I think we have a large clue that the boss may not be capable – I’m not sure why he would deputize the office manager to speak to Arya and Sansa rather than doing so himself, because this level of distraction rises above the chain of command, if that was the reason he had OM do the talking. Obviously, OP knows the boss better than we do, so I may be concerned about nothing, but she’ll have to evaluate the likelihood of retaliation and how she’ll handle it for herself. I hope it doesn’t stop her from speaking up, though; this sounds intolerable.

            1. Myrin*

              I definitely see that point, but I don’t know that the situation as described – boss finds two boys in conference room, has office manager talk to Sansa and Arya – is terribly conclusive. It could be! But I can also easily imagine a situation where boss thinks this is something that happened once and wants to nip it in the bud but doesn’t view it as such high priority that he has to step in himself and lets office manager deal with it instead.
              I’m counting on OP to gauge what kind of person her boss is.

              1. Someone Else*

                It does make the situation a bit messier/more confusing right now though given that Office Manager delivered the original message putting the kibosh on these kids…and now is the one spewing the “he won’t know if no one tells him”. That’s enough WTF to make me not expect “reasonable” from any of the three coworkers involved in this.

        3. EPLawyer*

          The Office Manager knows darn well this is not acceptable. OP says the Boss found out the first time and had the Office Manager talk to Arya and Sansa and tell them they can’t bring the kids. So the OM is being insubordinate too. There might not be any retaliation, because the boss might well fire all 3 of them. S & A for doing what they were told not to do. OM for helping them do it anyway.

          I get it daycare is hard. But they have been told in no uncertain terms the office is not a daycare. The Boss needs to know that people are ignoring DIRECT instructions. This is not tattling. This is informing the Boss of something he needs to be aware of. What if while running around the office one of the kids gets hurt? Then the Boss finds out this could have been avoided if everyone just followed the rules? Your job and keeping your job comes above their desire to not have to find alternatives for the kids.

          1. Yorick*

            Daycare is hard, and I sometimes have some sympathy for the parents in these stories. But here, Sansa is off work! There’s no need to bring the kids back to the office when she could watch them literally anywhere else!

            I just cannot imagine why anyone would think it’s acceptable to have the kids in the office in this situation.

            1. h'okay*

              If only there were these free open outside places specifically designed for children to play, particularly in the summer. If only society had invented such a place.

              I’m also really curious about the situation since it is Arya’s grandchild and the LW mentioned that she burned through her vacation taking care of “the boys.” Now it’s entirely possible that she is the custodial parent of her grandchild, but it seems very strange to me that she would be spending her leave taking care of her co-worker’s child. Were they taking turns or something? It sounds like Arya wants to take care of the children with her time, not work. She’s sort of pretending like her job doesn’t really count as a responsibility? Maybe she should be working in a daycare or as a private babysitter if this is how seriously she takes her office position.

          2. MatKnifeNinja*

            OP is hosed either way. If the Boss finds out that…

            1) This has been going on a long time
            2) Everyone knows that this isn’t acceptable
            3) Everyone is then complicit.

            And the two lug nuts will throw OP under the bus too. Well, OP didn’t mind that Bert and Ernie where here. She knew and said nothing.

            If it’s gonna scorched Earth when found out, at least you strike the match.

            Ask if you can move up your hours, and the chips are going to fall anyway. I wonder what things the other two are doing that isn’t quite right. Dodgey people aren’t only dodgey in one tiny part of their lives. My cousin is exhibit A. Nothing ever horrific, just a lot of WTH?

        4. boop the first*

          These issues always bring out the long arguments about the “what-ifs?” which is just another way of saying “Forget it, OP, the best solution is usually to Never Try.”

          How about, what if Boss allows the shift change and then everyone is happy?
          What if they take the boys somewhere else since sansa (?) isn’t working during this time anyway?
          What if the majority backs OP up, instead?
          What if a boy is injured in the office tomorrow, then what?
          What if a comet makes a collision course with earth before OP even has this conversation and the office is pulverized?

          1. Snark*

            “How about, what if Boss allows the shift change and then everyone is happy?”

            And this is one of those deals where, yeah, sure, everyone but OP might be okay with two disruptive children running around the office, but that doesn’t mean it actually is a workable or advisable long-term thing. What if the kid runs into a plate-glass window and breaks it and gets cut? Or tips over the printer? If nothing else, having children you don’t know about in your place of business is a liability.

            1. SusieCruisie*

              Why not see if Arya can have a change in shift so she too is finished with work at the same time as Sensa, they can pick up their kids together and go home – problem avoided. Has that been suggested?

                1. SusieCruisie*

                  But perhaps it’s something OP could suggest to Arya, and Sensa, since conflict avoidance seems to be something they are looking for.

              1. Beth Anne*

                I was going to suggest this as well. I’m not sure what job titles all these people have that make up what hours different people work but it seems the easiest thing will be for the people that need to pick up kids leave work at 4pm.

                Another option is for Sensa to leave at 4pm to pick up the boys. Then Arya leaves at 4:30pm when Sensa arrives back at the office. I feel like there’s a lot of ways to fix this problem. But I don’t think it’s a good idea that these boys are running around the office and they are all hiding it from the boss.

        5. Snark*

          And then she can go back to the boss and go, “Ever since the issue with the boys in the office without your permission, they’ve been very hard to work with, and I feel like I’m being retaliated against. What should we do?” The office manager would not be out on particularly thick ice if she did that. I don’t think this is a conflict that merits avoiding.

      2. Sam.*

        A thing that jumped out at me in the letter is that Boss didn’t directly deal with the initial issue – he had the office manager tell Sansa and Anya they needed to stop bringing the boys in. It’s possible that was an unusual situation, but I wonder if that’s indicative of how much OP can rely on him for help if she starts dealing with blow-back.

        1. The Big Stinko*

          Yup. I also think if means OP narcing will probably get back to the office manager, which would certainly lead to retaliation. This seems like a pretty unhealthy office dynamic – or at least one that is heavily skewed towards parents and therefore, not a good fit for OP.

          1. Observer*

            “Narcing”? Really? The OP has a genuine problem and it’s well within reasonable workplace behavior to bring it to the boss.

            I will say that this language does, however, indicate how much of a problem the OP is likely to have. Not because they are wrong or doing anything inappropriate. But because of this really unjustifiable level or negativity against saying anything to the boss.

        2. EPLawyer*

          That seems normal. Chain of command. The Boss doesn’t tell his employees every single directive directly. People often pass on messages. The Boss SHOULDN”T have to tell someone directly “Your kids cannot be here.” The Office Manager stating the policy should be clear enough.

          Now finding out they are flouting this directive may cause the boss to be directly involved — in firing.

          1. I'm Not Phyllis*

            Agreed. If my boss notices something “off” with someone on my staff he normally asks that I speak with them, and then assumes that I’ll do it and whatever it was will stop. He also probably assumes that if there’s any further issue, I’ll come back to him and speak to him further about it and if he needs to step in he will. I don’t think this is all that unusual.

        3. Lisa B*

          But if Sansa and Arya report to the office manager, doesn’t it make sense that the boss would tell the OM to have the conversation with them? I guess the letter doesn’t make it clear, but that’s how it came out to me. If Boss noticed an issue with two employees, it makes sense Boss would pull their manager and say “deal with this.” If Boss goes around their manager, it’s undermining their manager and taking OM out of their natural role.

    3. Lexi Kate*

      I agree PCBH, I really think that if OP pushes this she is going to be ostracized by the office. There is either a reason no one else has complained to the boss, or they don’t like it but they understand and feel for the mother. Then there is also the possibility that the boss knows about the hour and doesn’t mind. Op shouldn’t have to but needs to pick up a pair of noise cancelling headphones and move on, this isnt what OP wants to be know for around the office.

      1. Friday afternoon fever*

        Agree she should not expect her coworkers to be thrilled if she mentions this to the boss; disagree the solution is to buy noise-canceling headphones and move on. This is distracting her from doing her work at work and it’s happening daily. That is such a reasonable thing to mention to your boss. If the boss changed their mind about the coworker bringing in kids every day and now allows this, that’s simple enough to say. It sounds like OP1 does have compassion for working mothers … but her two coworkers are being inconsiderate to others

        1. Lexi Kate*

          Its completely reasonable and honestly it should be expected to get to work in an office without shrieking and shushing. But in this situation where you are dealing with a grandma, a mom, and an office manager who feel like this is not an issue that OP cannot win in this situation, and there will be retaliation. If it was just a mom it would be ok but with the grandma and the office manager the OP needs to let someone else take this up.

          The noise cancelling headphones are an open office staple that was the best $300 I ever spent, and I would repurchase at lunch if mine die. They are great for the loud eater next to you, I have to call my boyfriend/babysitter/parents co-worker, cackling how do you have time to watch you tube while working co-worker, they will change your life in an open office.

          1. President Porpoise*

            I absolutely would not spend $300 to avoid listening to people at the office who have been explicitly banned. Why the hell would I put up my own money for that?

            If there’s retaliation, fine. Report the retaliation. Don’t put your head down and hope the problem goes away. Stand up for yourself!

            1. Lexi Kate*

              The point was that there is a time to stand up for yourself and for me this wouldn’t be it. This wouldn’t be something that I would want my name near. Maybe you are in a position that you don’t want to move up from, and from that perspective I can see pushing the issue and watching my spending. I’m not there, I have plans for more moves and $300 is a great spend to have issues like that and others like it disappear, and not be associated with them. Its less than a new purse, about 30 lunches, or part of a car payment. It just depends on what you want to be known for, and this isn’t mine.

              1. AnonEMoose*

                Wow…yeah…the ONLY part of the “less than a purse…” that’s true for me is the “about 30 lunches.” Which is about a month and a half worth of lunch, given 5 work days/week. I’m glad you’re in a position where $300 isn’t that big a thing to you.

                I totally get not wanting to be the one to speak up about this. But please don’t be dismissive of those who aren’t in a position to throw money at a problem like this, for whatever reason. I’m sure you didn’t mean it to, but your comment does come across that way.

                1. Lily*

                  Yes! Yikes. Less than a new purse? My last purse cost £22. The one before that was £3 secondhand. I’ve never in my life been able to spend £300 on a purse, I can’t afford a car, I don’t get to eat lunch out very often, and I don’t even have £300 in my bank account (more like £30). We have wildly different incomes, clearly; please keep that in mind. I don’t have a single acquaintance who can spend £300 on a purse—or a pair of headphones.

              2. Rosemary7391*

                For some people it’s more like 10 new purses, an entire month of food or several months on the bus! Not everyone is in the same financial situation. Perhaps if Sansa and Arya chipped in that would be more reasonable since they’re causing the disturbance!

                I’m actually not sure I’d be comfortable wearing noise cancelling headphones with kids around anyway. I hope they’re not running around behind OP but if they were I’d be worried they were gonna knock me or something. I’m a bit funny about that though, I like to be aware of my environment.

                I wouldn’t mind the boss knowing I care about getting my work done enough to attempt to resolve distractions myself and bring them to him if I can’t. This sounds like a pretty major disturbance. I can’t imagine Sansa and Arya getting much credibility trashing OP to other people over this either. It may get uncomfortable with them but I think that’s as far as it could go.

              3. President Porpoise*

                You do you, but personally, I find that aligning myself with insubordinate rule breakers to be much more career limiting. They’re not the ones handing out references.

                I’m confident enough of my relative position, my standing in my bosses’ eyes and my personal judgement to stand up for myself and my right to comfortable working conditions when needed. If it’s a big enough deal that I would feel the desire to change my work schedule to avoid the distraction, it’s a big enough deal for me to want existing rules enforced. OP has taken the reasonable route and talked to the OM and the child bringing coworker – at this point she’s totally clear, in my mind, to take it further up the chain without personal harm, and she’d be justified in bringing up coworker retaliation/coolness with her boss at a later date. Assuming Arya, Sansa, and OM don’t get fired for this, of course.

            2. Observer*

              “Report the retaliation”? That’s an incredibly impractical suggestion in many cases. There are so many ways people can make someone’s life miserable without it being ostensible retaliation, that it’s not even funny. And given how absentee the boss is, it may very well be difficult for the OP to do anything if they do wind up being blamed for this.

              SHOULD this happen? Of course not. Should the OP even have to spend one dollar to fix the problem? Definitely not. But, as a practical matter, a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones may be their best bet. And, it doesn’t have to be a $200 pair, either.

        2. Kathleen_A*

          And they are also almost forcing the OP to be complicit in something that has been explicitly forbidden by the supervisor! If it’s a choice between pissing off the supervisor and pissing off these two insubordinate coworkers, I know which side I’d pick.

          1. Engineer Woman*

            Not necessarily. If Office Manager is more senior to OP, and OP has raised issue with OP and told “it’s fine” (in a way that isn’t the best), I think it’s understandable that OP might not feel this warrants escalation to the big boss.

            I’m saying this in that the OP isn’t being complicit, but just might not choose to pick this as her battle. Now, of course, the fact that OP is unproductive for this 50min to an hour is worth escalating, in my opinion.

            1. bonkerballs*

              Except OM didn’t just say “it’s fine” she said “it’s fine as long as no one tells the boss.” Which makes it very clear to OP that it’s not fine, and now she’s complicit in keeping it from the boss.

      2. Stellaaaaa*

        There is no reason to worry about staying on good terms with powerless people who clearly don’t give a crap about you.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Eh, I don’t know what your workplace is like, but I work with a lot of people who are relatively powerless (or have less power than I do) in the workplace who can make my job extraordinarily difficult and my morale low by a retaliation campaign.

          1. cryptid*

            They’re already doing that, though. It’s disruptive enough op can’t work. What’s there to lose?

            1. Mad Baggins*

              This. I’m really surprised so many people think that children running and screaming around an office isn’t something to report. Yes the parents might retaliate, but isn’t that a risk with every letter? Why are we so cautious about this one?

              1. I'm Not Phyllis*

                Yes. Sorry, but I’m here to work and if I can’t do that because your kids are running around shrieking, that’s an issue that needs to stop somehow. Personally in this case I would ask for accommodation and if the boss asks why, I’d tell them. No reason for OP to lie to the boss, and if I were her boss I would want to know why the accommodation is being requested.

                The other option is to tell them ahead of time that it’s impossible for you to work in all of that noise. Let them know that if they can’t keep the kids quiet, you will be approaching your boss to ask for an accommodation. They may get angry with that too, but hey – at least you gave them some warning.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        To be clear, I don’t think OP should ignore this or get noise-canceling headphones. I definitely think OP should raise the issue with their boss. My recommendation is only to lead with the request to shift OP’s working schedule and to only disclose the boys’ presence if OP cannot get the accommodation she seeks.

        I do like the approach Flash Bristow has described, above, though, as another way for OP to be able to disclose the problem while addressing the risk of retaliation.

        1. Triplestep*

          I agree with this approach. Only mention the boys if the initial request to shift hours is met with any resistance.

          I might go so far as to say to the boys’ mother and grandmother: “Look, I’m going to ask to shift my hours on account of the boys being here from 4 to 5. I won’t mention the reason, but if I’m asked, I am going to have to be honest. Just letting you know.” I might also add “Would you like to ask to have YOUR hours changed so that you both end at 4pm? In that case, I don’t need to change my hours, and my conversation with Boss won’t need to happen at all.”

        2. CM*

          I think the OP would sound high-maintenance for asking to shift her work schedule for no stated reason.

          Arya and Sansa are violating a clearly stated rule and they know it. It would be reasonable for the OP to say, “I can’t focus because these kids are here every day, can I change my hours?”

          1. Bryeny*

            Disagree that asking to change a work schedule without a reason will make OP seem high-maintenance. A reasonable boss might well ask for a reason, but it would not be reasonable to assume a bad, high-maintenance reason for the request.

            I agree with Princess Consuela’s approach to the request: “My recommendation is only to lead with the request to shift OP’s working schedule and to only disclose the boys’ presence if OP cannot get the accommodation she seeks.”

            If OP wants to preserve the relationship with her coworkers, she could talk to them again before trying to change her hours. “Sansa, Arya, I’ve been trying to work while the boys are here but I just can’t concentrate, and I really need to be able to work for that last hour of my day. Arya, I think we can solve this if one of us is willing to change her hours. Would you be able to shift your schedule so you can leave at 4 and keep the kids out of the office?”

            If the answer is no, OP can say “ok, I’ll ask to change my hours so I leave at 4. But I have to warn you that if Boss asks why I want to change, I can’t lie, and that might not lead to a great outcome for you.”

            That conversation would go a long way toward keeping Sansa and Arya’s good will, and the level of effort is pretty low.

      4. Kella*

        The reason no one else has complained could be the exact same reason OP hasn’t complained: fear of retaliation, fear of the office manager, not wanting to rock the boat, etc. The fact that everyone is nervous about being socially punished for coming forward with this problem doesn’t mean it’s better to keep the problem a secret.

        A lot of folks have pointed out that we can’t expect the three employees who are disobeying their boss to react in a reasonable way to being outed. But I don’t understand why that’s a reason to avoid reporting them. If they are unreasonable people, bringing their children to work against their boss’s orders is not the only thing they’ll do to impact the ability of others to work. What if the kids get hurt because they’re not being watched properly and the company is liable? What if the kids break an important piece of equipment and the parents lie and blame another employee for the damage?

        Even more importantly, if the office manager is likely to retaliate against the OP for reporting this, then she is likely to retaliate against other employees for reporting things she doesn’t want reported and that’s an instant recipe for corruption. I also don’t understand why we’re assuming that boss won’t deal with the issue effectively. The fact that he hasn’t yet is not evidence that he’s a bad boss, but that the employees are effectively hiding it from him through deceit and social pressure.

        Yes, OP should understand that she might suffer some kind of short-term retaliation and that even if the boss is a good one, he may not catch all the retaliation. But if she’s working with three people who are fine with having a negative impact on the ability of others to work, either through disobeying their boss’s orders, or through spiteful retaliation against the OP, then regardless of whether she tells the boss or not, she’s working in a toxic work environment that will likely hurt her and others in the long run. If her options for avoiding that toxicity are: leave the job, or find out if the boss is up for fixing the source of the toxicity and if not then leave, it makes sense to me if she likes her job why she would choose to try to salvage that before giving up.

    4. Lynca*

      Depending on how reasonable the boss is I would actually be upfront about the concern for retaliation from the Office Manager and co-workers. And honestly if it was me, I’d pop back in unannounced at 4:30 so there wasn’t any suspicion about how they were caught.

    5. MCL*

      I’m also surprised that the caretaker with the kid who works till 5 won’t change her own hours. I’m sure they’d all want to go home with the kids rather than hanging out at the office for an hour. I’m also sure that the caretaker who works till 5 isn’t getting much done either. Maybe OP can suggest this solution? These don’t seem like reasonable people though.

      1. SignalLost*

        There’s often a good reason for having a non-standard schedule though. I suspect that either Arya’s role needs coverage till five, and perhaps she and Sansa share a title to give 8-5 coverage, or something is in play at home that means mornings start a little later – she may share a car with a night shift partner, or traffic may be exceptionally terrible in the morning, or Sanaa’s daughter takes her son to school but Arya is a single parent and can’t drop him off early. That’s all the most rampant speculation, but I bet there’s a good reason that Arya’s schedule can’t change, simply because I think it’s clear from behavior that Arya would rather be off when Sansa is so the boys can play.

      2. bonkerballs*

        Shifting her schedule down an hour doesn’t necessarily alleviate the problem. School starts at a specific time and I would imagine she would have already tried this solution if it was possible.

    6. Guacamole Bob*

      One thing I haven’t seen mentioned here so far is that the boys only started kindergarten earlier in the same week that OP wrote the letter. So Arya and Sansa might be planning for this to be the permanent arrangement all school year, but it’s also possible that it will turn out to be temporary and Sansa will start taking the boys somewhere more suitable (or set them up with tablets so at least they’re quiet and not bothering OP, or Arya will shift her own hours, etc.). I’d wait until at least the middle of week two, or until I hear Arya or Sansa say something that makes it clear that they plan to continue this indefinitely, before talking with the boss, given the potential blowback.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        I would find this way too passive. By saying nothing, LW is giving tacit acceptance to something which–temporary or not–is completely unacceptable. I would start with Arya and Sansa, or the office manager, and a simple “I really can’t get my work done when the boys are in the office.” Then, if they say “it’s only for a couple more days” then I might be willing to let it slide, but it really doesn’t sound like that’s the case.

        1. Stormfeather*

          I think I’m similar in that I’d give them one more chance to deal with it themselves – less because they deserve it, and more to avoid the more severe blowback from “tattling” (in their eyes). I’d tell them that no, she can’t keep them quiet, I can’t get work done in this last hour, and they really need to be elsewhere.

          And don’t accept the “but it’s too hot out” BS when there are so many places to visit that have this magical thing called air conditioning.

          1. Umiel*

            It’s been my experience that giving them one more chance to do the right thing usually results in worse outcomes when you still wind up have to file a complaint. They know they are doing wrong, and the OP has already given them a chance to correct it.
            The fear of retaliation used to bother me, because it is a very real thing. I’m old enough now that I don’t actually care if it makes people angry when I expect them to follow the rules. I’m not the OP, though, and retaliation is a valid concern. I would recommend the OP go ahead and tell the boss what’s going on, and make the concern of retaliation part of the conversation. If one of my staff came to me with a situation like this, I would tell them to keep it to themselves that we had spoken, but then I would find an excuse to pop back in after 4:00 PM unexpectedly so I could catch the rule-breakers in the act. Hopefully, the OP has a boss who would either think of this on his own, or be receptive to having it suggested as a solution.

      2. Observer*

        The OP has already spoken to them about it. If the plan were for it to be temporary, that would have been the perfect time to bring it up. But they haven’t, which indicates that they don’t plan on changing anything.

        The OP doesn’t have a lot of good options here. But sitting around waiting for something that’s not going to happen is not even a “not good” option. It’s just a waste of time.

      3. DArcy*

        Even if it’s only a temporary arrangement, it’s dishonest and unprofessional behavior which the boss absolutely SHOULD be informed of. Even if you have to resort to an anonymous tip.

    7. Colette*

      And if she keeps quiet, she may hurt her credibility with the boss when this inevitably is discovered. Personally, I’d pick staying on the good side of the person who gives me the paycheck.

      1. Lisa B*

        Yes- if I was the boss and found out that this was still going on when I’d specifically directed it to stop, I’d be furious with everyone who kept it from me. That’s not a good sign of trust or respect.

        1. Observer*

          Any reasonable boss would NOT be “furious” with anyone but the OM. It would be one thing if the Boss asked someone about it and they lied or equivocated. But not telling the boss is NOT “keeping it from him”. Keep in mind that it is NOT the job of coworkers to police the behavior of other staff.

          The exception is where it’s interfering with work getting done or there are clear legal or ethical issues going on. If the OP could honestly say “I figured out how to keep it from interfering” no boss should be on their case about it.

          Now, the OM is a different story. It IS *absolutely* her job to enforce the rules of the boss. Her take that it’s ok because “the boss won’t know” is utterly unacceptable. Firing level, in my opinion.

          1. bonkerballs*

            This absolutely is keeping something from the boss, and were I OPs boss and found out about this situation, it would seriously color my opinion of people like the OP who knew about it and didn’t report it, especially after the OM specifically said “no one tell the boss.”

            1. Observer*

              Workplaces where people are expected to report on their coworkers tend to be fairly toxic, ime.

              1. bonkerballs*

                This hasn’t been my experience at all. In fact, I find it much more toxic, as OP may be finding out, to work somewhere people blatantly flout policy and common sense.

                I watched a man I worked with physically push another coworker who then slapped him in the face. I immediately reported it my boss, both were fired, and our workplace was better for it. A client at another workplace made an offhand remark about one of our case managers borrowing money from him which was super inappropriate in any case, but especially due to the client population we served. I reported that to my boss, he was also fired, and our workplace was better for it. If I kept either of those instances from my bosses and they found out, I firmly believe I should have been fired along with them. And the idea that it was my bosses and I contributing to a toxic work environment and not the people who I reported is ridiculous.

                1. Observer*

                  I do think that this workplace is toxic. But it’s not because OP and other co-workers are not being hall monitors. It’s because there are people who are willing to blatantly flout the rules, someone in a position of authority who is willing to abuse their authority to enable it, and a boss who is out of the office for a couple of hours each day and apparently doesn’t recognize the problem with their office manager.

                  The cases you mention are totally different. And I completely agree that in such cases everyone who knows about this stuff has an obligation to report.

              2. DArcy*

                Workplaces where people are expected to report on their co-workers for *petty* rule violations which do not harm productivity are toxic. Workplaces where people refuse to report unprofessional, unsafe, unethical, and illegal behavior are in fact even more toxic.

                1. Observer*

                  While the behavior in question is undoubtedly problematic, and the OP would be perfectly justified in bringing it to the boss, it does NOT rise to the level of “unsafe, unethical, and illegal”. And unless this is a fairly public facing position lack of professionalism is also something that’s not on co-workers to police.

                  In short, if the OP feels that the benefits outweigh the risks (and only they can judge the specifics of their situation), they are completely justified, as they are bringing a problem that affects them to their boss. On the other hand, in this situation, I see zero obligation on them to report. And any boss who thinks that it’s ok to be out of the office for hours at a time for non-work reasons and expects that to be made up for by staff monitoring their coworkers, deserves the problems they wind up with.

          2. Mad Baggins*

            “The exception is where it’s interfering with work getting done or there are clear legal or ethical issues going on.”
            But isn’t that the case here? It’s interfering with OP’s work to the point that she wants to switch her hours because she’s getting nothing done. There are clear ethical issues because the office manager is openly flouting the rules and pressuring OP not to tell boss with “it’s OK as long as no one tells the boss”. And it could even be legal because of liability if one of the children gets hurt or breaks something.

            I don’t see this letter as so different from the one where the OP had to leave their cubicle because of their coworker’s panic attacks and they were threatened with a PIP. In both cases, the coworkers are not dealing with their issues or causing problems, and it’s affecting the OP’s ability to get work done. If OP’s performance suffers and they never speak up, that will affect their credibility and integrity with the boss.

            1. Observer*

              In that case, yes pretty much everyone recommended that the OP tell their boss. The issue there was not that the OP had an obligation to inform their boss of what a coworker was doing, but that the OP had an overwhelming right to defend themselves from the consequences of their co-worker’s behavior.

              While that case is more extreme, I think it’s good for all of the people who are using ugly language like “tattling” or “narcing” to think about it. Would you expect that OP to face losing their job to avoid “tattling”? Why would this be different?

              On the other hand, if the OP can make this work, I see no *obligation* to to talk to the boss. What Sansa and Arya are doing is almost certainly not illegal and is not inherently ethically problematic.

    8. President Porpoise*

      Yep – there may be insurance implications. Just because boss isn’t there doesn’t mean all is dandy.

    9. Utoh!*

      The office is not a day-care, no matter for how short a period of time, Office Manager is completely in the wrong here. Regardless of whether or not something could happen with the kids in the office (what if there were a fire, or some other kind of issue)? Offices are no place for children, unless there are specific accommodations (onsite childcare) which is well thought-out and allows the kids to be kids and the workers to work. You should talk to the Office Manager again, barring that, speak to the Boss who clearly agrees with you that the kids should not be there. Isn’t this situation the definition of insubordination?

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, I agree with Alison but wanted to add that many employers have internal policies about how many people they have to interview for a position (e.g., my employer requires five interviews if the pool is greater than a certain number). Basically, there’s a number of reasons for setting up interviews that are unrelated to the strength of your application or chances.

    1. Mason jars are not drinking glasses*

      Since moving away from working in small businesses we have always had a minimum of people to interview. Our Admin retired last year and the HR let us know we had to interview a minimum of 7 people based on the amount of applicants they received. On the other side we have had to relist positions because we did not have the minimum of 3 applicants for other more specialized roles.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      I think the interviewer here is being kind by being transparent. The whole job hunting process is terribly opaque to the candidates. I always end every interview myself by telling the candidate the next steps and giving them a timeline (that I stick to!).

      1. OP #5*

        Thanks. Yeah I was hoping for a timeline when I asked my question. Now I’m unsure when to follow up.

        1. Kat in VA*

          I literally just got a response to my “touching base” email (that I was told to send, in the form of “Touch base on Friday or Monday”) that I’d sent Friday afternoon.

          It basically said, “Thanks for checking in – we’re still in the interview process, but I’ll let you know when we’re moving forward ASAP.”

          So, while it’s not what I wanted to hear, I touched base, got a response, and went from there.

          I’d say let a week go by, then send a quick pulse check email and go from there.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          Wait a week and send a touching base email. It’s perfectly OK to ask for a timeline in that e-mail.

  4. Lilo*

    I’m currently in the position of #4 and i WISH my employer viewed it like Alison RE: using up good will. It is their belief that they can contact me at any time within business hours for any reason if my replacement has a questions. At my final going away lunch, they asked about providing my personal email for contacting me (something I was anticipating) and instead of saying yes or no, I just laughed as if they were joking.

    But honestly, this was a very toxic work environment and I would’ve loved to have given them the middle finger on my way out, but know it’s never a good idea to burn a bridge for any reason. That said, I think if the previous coworker left on good terms and it wasn’t a toxic work environment, a simple email with your question(s) would be appropriate, but don’t push it any further if you don’t get a response.

    1. Forget T-Bone Steak, Let's Eat T-Rex Steak*

      Yeah, I come down on the side of don’t contact your predecessor unless absolutely necessary and not at all after two or three months. I had a job once that they had trouble keeping filled after I left. Every four or five months for several years, I would get emails from the latest hire asking me how to run the office, who the supplier for X was, what is the password to the database, etc. One of the bosses there was literally telling every new hire to email me for training and questions. I let it go on for far too long, but did finally cut them off and said they needed to refer to the manual I created when I left or figure it out themselves. And then I set my email to filter their domain directly to the trash folder.

      1. Woodswoman*

        They reached out to you for years? That is completely insane that a manager would tell their employees to reach out to you as an ex-employee for that long.

        1. Ana*

          Years?! I had a needy successor for a research project manager position I had been in for 2 years. Granted, the job was a lot- from basic admin and secretarial tasks over budget setting, grant managament, controlling, reporting to grant authority, partenr liasion,looking after the junior staff, HR management, trainings and seminars, event organisation, website and outreach and PR management. So I prepared her and myself as best as I could- the whole A-Z: hand-over for three whole days spanning over two weeks where I walked her through every task, logical filing and archiving system with clear labels, lists of people to ask about finances, travel, IT and website mainteneance, correspondence and external contacts filed in the email programme with text templates for upcoming similar tasks, took her around campus introducing her to key people in etc etc. She hardly ever took any notes, I only pointed out once to her that she might want to write things down. In the end I drafted a hand-over protocol that she, the boss and I signed in triplicate (toxic workplace, neglectful and overwhelmed boss made me very cautios about any potential BS ata later date) After she started I let her contact me 3-4 times over 3 weeks, it hurt my stomach every time to be dragged back mentally into this crap place, when she contaced me saying she couldn’t work the coffee machine (a basic drip thing that almost every office has) and flooded the floor and no-one could help her I wrote her an email, CCing boss, asking to not be contcated about such things and only if there are issues with the finances or grant management, I wa sso done!

    2. Iden Versio*

      Very much agree. I left my last position, and my successor (and her boss!) would text and email me about all sorts of questions related to my old job. Simple questions that could be answered if they asked my successor’s counterpart in another department. Thankfully the questions stopped, because I was about to have a serious conversation with them about not contacting me, at all. This was also a toxic workplace with a bad understanding of what healthy boundaries looked like.

    3. LuJessMin*

      At my previous job, when the lead accounting clerk left in a huff, for some reason TPTB gave me her job (in addition to mine). I had no experience in accounting, so I reached out to the clerk and she helped me out. The supervisor was furious with me, but I told her if she was going to toss me in the deep end without a life preserver, I would find my own. She never mentioned it again.

      1. Bea*

        She probably left in a huff because the job or boss or both sucked.

        I bounced on a job only once and they had only one opportunity to contact me. As soon as they did, I blocked their number.

        If they’re throwing accounting duties at non accounting folks, that’s a giant red flag. You had no right contacting her.

    4. LW4*

      Whoa! I’m so glad I wrote this letter because I had NO idea most people looked upon reaching out this way.

      The previous analyst is generally regarded as god here and left on good terms. Coworkers have unsolicitedly suggested it’s fine to reach out to him — meaning, when I’ve had a question they’ve said, “We don’t know, just reach out to Mary!” But now that I’m hitting the 4-month mark, I’m really going to curb that and be more resourceful on my own.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        I do not doubt at all that your coworkers are encouraging you to reach out to Mary. It’s easiest for your coworkers if you contact Mary – then the issue gets resolved with no effort on their part, plus they can trust that it is resolved correctly because they know Mary is an expert in whatever the issue is.

        Mary, on the other hand, has a new job. She’s full-time somewhere else and has new job duties, a full schedule, new coworkers who rely on her. Every time you reach out to her, you are interrupting her actual job to ask her to work for free for the job she left months ago. (Not your intent, I know! But that’s what is actually happening. Ideally, she’d tell you directly that she does not have time or interest in continuing to provide training or consulting for her prior job, but that is hard for lots of people to say because they fear burning a bridge/feel guilty/are conflict-avoidant, who knows.)

      2. Le Sigh*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t listen to your co-workers on this. I’m sure they think it’s fine and a lot easier for them. But that’s awfully presumptuous of them. What matters is what Mary thinks.

      3. AnotherJill*

        Mary doesn’t work there anymore, and there are tons of reasons to not engage her. Processes change, competitors change, no one really wants to do free work, reliance on external sources means workers aren’t self-reliant, etc.

      4. Bea*

        God bless her.

        I’m the Mary in all my jobs and only two of my previous employers have my blessing to ask me for help no matter what. Well one, my old boss sold the place. An old coworker asked a couple questions a year or more later but he’s my friend and it was a simple task with outdated software. But mostly I’m only okay because he’s a friend.

        She’s like I was before I drew boundaries.

  5. Erik*

    OP #2 – these assignments are very typical in software development, data science and many other tech jobs. Depending on the assignment they can take anywhere from 1 hour to 2 days (!). Personally I’m sick and tired of them. At one point during my recent job search, I ended up juggling 4 assignments at the same time, which wasn’t fun. I ended up dumping a couple because I had more important things to do than spend all of my free time doing free work.

    This is a good story about this issue:

    I’ve turned down many companies because of some combination of the following:
    1) Trying to get work for free. The assignment is clearly an attempt to get free work out of people looking for a job, which is illegal and unethical.
    2) The assignment is excessively long. If it can’t be genuinely done in an hour, it’s too long. I have other personal and professional obligations (aka. my job!) that are a lot more important.
    3) Issues with intellectual property – who owns it? Some assignments were crossing into that gray area, related to item #1 above.
    4) No process of feedback after the assignment is completed. I’ve only received feedback for 1 assignment out of who knows how many I’ve worked on over the past couple of years.

    1. Academic*

      Interesting article. My partner is a computer programmer and for one interview, he was told he’d be observed virtually programming in the Alpaca computer language. He spent a few hours reviewing Alpaca, an uncommon but not esoteric language, made sure his screen sharing was set, confirmed his audio worked. Then the day of, his interviewer showed up and said, Here’s what I want you to program and troubleshoot- but in Teapot. Teapot IS an esoteric language, one unlike anything else partner had on his resume. He did his best but complained afterwards to the recruiter. The recruiter checked with the interviewer, and reported back that the interviewer had purposely “switched it up” just to see how partner would react. This was supposed to give the interviewer a sense of how “agile” candidates are. (Oh, and the interviewer admitted he didn’t know enough Teapot to judge partner’s skills, either.)

      Partner told the recruiter to f that noise, but the experience shook him bad. Interviewing is bad enough without intentional mindgames.

      1. Qwerty*

        This is terrible interviewing! Glassdoor has a place where candidates can leave feedback about the interview process, please suggest your partner say something there to warn other candidates.

        Most places I’ve interviewed with/for have the candidates choose what language they are most comfortable in for live coding exercises and would never pick a language that wasn’t on the candidate’s resume. The point of “switching it up” should be to slightly alter the output (ex: change ‘print numbers in a list’ to ‘sum the numbers in a list’ ) to demonstrate real world requirements changing, not to completely change the language!

        1. Anon today*

          Yeah, I don’t see how forcing someone to program in a language they never claimed to know is helpful.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            I pick up computer languages fast – I’ve lost track of how many – but not *that* fast. But I’ve done a few “learn conversational $language on tape!” – I could remember enough of one of those to fluster anyone who expected me to code like that.

    2. Ladysplainer*

      Ok so you say “no thank you” and risk a lot of wrath. Last time I was out of work, being berated by family and protecting myself against crazy accusations WAS a full-time job.
      My beef with that article is that the writer does not realize: the tech industry (which I work in) does not want to hire women.
      I recently had a coworker ask me to take down my FB profile pic (me and one of my kids) and reviews of kids’ books on Amazon because it “smacks of (I) care more about (my) kids than (my) career.” Duh!

    3. Not Today Satan*

      The lack of feedback bugs me too. Thankfully I’ve never had assignments as thorough as yours, but I have prepared presentations and taken extensive tests at interviews only to never hear back at all, let alone with feedback. Did I fail the test? I guess we’ll never know

    4. Envytee*

      OP here for #2. They also said they were asking all persons interviewed (8 people) to do the assignment, would evaluate the assignments, and then determine second interviews. As interesting as the position is, I’m a little taken back by their approach to this, and it’s raised a few red flags for me. Just trying to figure out how to politely decline participating now – anyone have any suggestions?

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Wow… you haven’t even gotten to the 2nd round yet?!

        I would simply say “I appreciate the interest, but due to other obligations, I don’t have time to complete those assignments and will have to remove myself from consideration.”

        1. Lora*

          Yeah, this is good. It’s also a lot nicer than what I would say.

          I mean, my consulting fee for short term projects is $200/hour, minimum 4 hours + travel expenses. CurrentJob hired me after a few months of consulting. I understand wanting to take candidates for a test drive: use them as consultants for a few months and see how that goes, then make an offer.

          It’s not like tech is woefully cash-strapped.

        1. Envytee*

          Went with:
          I want to thank you very much for considering me for the position of X and for inviting me to submit the assignments for further consideration. However, I would like to withdraw my application for this position.

          I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to interview me and thank you for further consideration.

          1. esra*

            That is probably for the best. If they’re this ridiculous at the beginning of the relationship, it’s basically all downhill.

          2. Washi*

            Interesting! I think I would have included a line about not having the time to commit to completing three event proposals because I would want them to know their process is turning candidates off.

            Would that be too close to burning a bridge? (Your language certainly feels safer.)

            1. Envytee*

              Exactly – didn’t want to burn a bridge. I really wanted to give them a piece of my mind about how ridiculous that is (and a lot of work for free…no guarantee to present…etc) but I figured it would both fall on deaf ears (since the other candidates are likely doing it) and have me come across as an entitled b***h (because I would deem myself above doing what other candidates are likely happily doing). So simple and to the point!

              1. Artemesia*

                If you don’t indicate that you don’t have time to respond to three extensive assignments, then the assumption will be you aren’t competent to do them. i.e. you saw them and knew you couldn’t do them well so quit. I would if at all interested probably indicate that I would be happy to complete one example, but that I didn’t have time with the pressure of work and other commitments to undertake all three. If that were not acceptable then withdraw.

              2. John B Public*

                I still would have indicated how long those proposals would have taken to do right.

                I also think you’re likely not the only person to withdraw. I hope other candidates indicated the extreme length as a major factor in deciding to end their candidacy.

          3. Erik*

            +MAX_INT for this. I’ve done the same thing. Better to leave it nicely than saying “FU”, which is what I would really like to say…however it’s a small world out there.

      2. Le Sigh*

        That also sounds like a lot of work for whoever has to evaluate 24 proposals! Why do that to candidates or yourself?

    5. Renee*

      I feel your pain! I am a data scientist, and every single interview I go on has these long drawn out assignments that don’t take an hour or two, but HOURS of your time, and what is even sadder is these “assignments” are not given at the end stage, but towards the very beginning. So a lot of times you may spend 8 plus hours on an assignment and still not get the position because you are still competing with over 100 other applicants. If an assessment takes longer than two hours to complete it is TOO LONG! I mean when you work 50 hours a week, taking time to do all these super long assignments is just added stress on stress.

  6. Quiet Pls*

    #1: You don’t owe them anything, out them to the boss now and ask for your hours to be adjusted so that you don’t have to put up with their children and their lack of awareness that work is not the place for their kids to be. Its only going to get worse if you enable them and the sooner that they realise they need to make other, formal, arrangements the better!

    1. Quiet Pls*

      As for the idea they are bringing “two happy boys” to the office that doesn’t matter btw – this isn’t a reflection on you, its sensible rules based on the fact that its an office, not a daycare or a home. “My coworkers are bringing their children back to the office which is creating a distraction and noise that isn’t suitable for the working environment. I have nothing against the children themselves, I just want to be able to do my job without this unnecessary disturbance”. The boss already spoke to them about the office not being a daycare and you don’t have to edge around the issue to not offend him. If it offends your coworkers they are the ones who need to check their attitude.

      1. RaccoonLady*

        It is honestly ridiculous that she can’t think of anywhere else to take the boys. Yes, it’s hot outside but there are other indoor places besides your office! Even just walking around a store (don’t have to buy anything) for an hour is probably better for not only OP and her coworkers but also the two little boys! If Sansa is done with work than she can go somewhere until Arya is done.

        1. Observer*

          Eh, not necessarily so simple. I’m thinking of where I work. There would really be nowhere to take a kid. The one local supermarket would be very, very unwelcoming. And there really is nothing else.

          1. JamieS*

            Since there’s a park a block away I doubt the problem is that there’s no other place to take children nearby. However even if there’s no place near work to take them then Sansa can take the boys somewhere that has more options or take them to her house or take them to the park like was suggested and have some water bottles to keep cool. Whatever the obstacle it’s on Sansa (or her grandson’s parents) and Arya to come up with a workable solution not on OP to cater to them.

            1. Observer*

              Of course it’s on Arya and Sansa to figure out a better solution. But the idea that it’s an easy thing to solve is just not necessarily reality based.

              It’s far better for the OP to not even go there. That’s not their problem, and bringing it up just derails the conversation. It’s already happened – the OP suggested a local park and was shot down. At this point, all the OP should be say is “This is really disruptive and I can’t work this way.” Response to “But childcare” is “I hear, but I still can’t work. It’s not my place to find solutions.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

              1. JamieS*

                Nobody in this sub-thread suggested OP go there just that it’s ridiculous this is happening in the first place. How easy or hard it is is irrelevant.

          2. Nita*

            Same here. The area around my office is kind of a desert when it comes to places to be outside. And I get that the park is not a good option when temps are closing in on 100. Only, it seems obvious the kids are being disruptive, since Sansa has to stand around shushing them the whole time. And the last part of the day is often the quietest and most productive! There have got to be other options around that are not outdoors. Worst case, Sansa could probably take them to a cafe and get them something to drink and a pair of coloring books. Maybe OP can talk to her, point out they’re having trouble concentrating, and suggest whatever options are out there…

            Also, I suppose the kids start school soon, which might mean longer schedules on most days, but also a lot more random days through the year when the kids are off. It’s really hard to find care for those days, and at least in my school district, the average working parent’s vacation won’t go very far in plugging the holes. There are some 20-30 days off sprinkled through the year, not to mention half-days and snow days, and not to mention summer (camp often doesn’t run from the very last to the very first day of school). So, OP’s problem is here to stay and will probably need a longer-term solution. Maybe telecommuting for those who are watching kids, so the rest of the office doesn’t suffer… but that’s something the parents should be taking up with the boss.

        2. Steve*

          It’s not for an hour a day. The coworker leaves at 4 drives 5 minutes away, drives 5 minutes back, and spends some amount of time waiting on them. People are probably not working up until the latest minute, so it is not 5 either. It is probably more like 30 minutes a day. And the kids are not shrieking, they are playing and being told to shush. People here want all kinds of understanding if it is some problem they have. Parents with kids trying to do the best they can should be encouraged.

          If i found out some one squealed on the parents I would think much less of them. The letter writer sounds hard to get along with to me.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The OP says, “She spends the entire time standing around in the office shushing them, which, as you might imagine, does not work.” We should take her at her word.

            The OP is pretty clear that the kids are disruptive. She’s not asking about turning them in; she’s asking about how to ask to shift her hours to avoid the distraction. If you’re going to conclude anyone is hard to get along with because they think the boss should be told, that person is me, not the OP (because I’m the one who said she should tell him).

          2. Lissa*

            Yeah, but people here don’t tend to *expect* understanding in such a way that goes against a direct rule. I can’t think of a time when Alison said “oh yeah, keep doing this thing your boss told you not to, just secretly.” Lots of people are just trying to do the best they can, and I don’t see why that makes it OK to do something disruptive that one’s been specifically told not to do? Is this just when it involves children or would it be OK any time a rule is inconvenient?

            There have been loads of letters with workplaces that have FAR more unreasonable rules than this one, and still I don’t see people being encouraged to deliberately flout them or “not tattle”.

            1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

              I really hate how this is framed as “tattling” or “squealing.” Asking for a distraction free workplace is not an unreasonable request.

                1. GreyjoyGardens*

                  Agreed! This isn’t the Mafia, or a gang, or junior high school. This is a workplace. There is no code of loyalty or silence, especially for stuff like this.

              1. Essess*

                This! The boss said it was not allowed. They keep doing it but hiding it from the boss. If I was the boss and found out that this was continuing, I would be looking to replace anyone who hid this from me because I obviously can’t trust them. And if I found out that work productivity was being impacted by this action that I’d already disallowed and the people impacted still didn’t bother to tell me, I’d be even angrier.

                1. MatKnifeNinja*

                  I had a similar situation where boss said don’t do (X) anymore. It wasn’t the crime of the century, amd everyone did the wink wink nudge nudge.

                  When he found out, all 5 were fired. The 3 low level screw ups and the 2 that said nothing.

                  This was a job were folks were making a decent wage.

                  No one isn’t replaceable when the boss is furious.

              2. Michaela Westen*

                It’s because that’s how OP’s colleagues would see it. I think we’ve all seen that behavior in the workplace. Some people never leave middle school.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Wait, why is being so distracted that you can’t work in your workplace “squealing”? And why is it ok to use the workplace as an unauthorized childcare location, in direct contravention of an instruction not to bring them to the workplace? It’s one thing to be accommodating/understanding and another to be unable to work because your coworker prefers to use the office as the boys’ playground instead of another, equally suitable location.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              Yeah – being understanding is when your coworker’s summer program shuts down with no notice, and their kid is quietly amusing themselves in a corner as the parent scrambles for a replacement. Being expected to put up with daily playdates in an open office plan as you’re trying to finish your day’s work is not a reasonable expectation.

              And honestly, the parents in this situation aren’t doing the best they can. They could take the kids to the nearby park where they could run and shriek to their heart’s content, and have deliberately chosen not to, telling the OP she has to suck it up.

              1. Rebecca*

                +1 we’ve had kids in the office from time to time, like if the child has a doctor’s appointment first thing in the AM, or in an emergency daycare situation, that type of thing. What the OP describes is not OK.

                1. PB*

                  Yep. I’ve had coworkers bring their kids in for whole days, and it was no problem. The kids were quiet and well behaved. If you didn’t look into her office, you’d never know they were there. On the other hand, I’ve had other coworkers bring their kids in for an hour, and it’s a huge problem, because the kids are loud and unsupervised.

                  There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to lost up to an hour of productivity every day, especially for something the boss has said he’s not okay with.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                And honestly, the parents in this situation aren’t doing the best they can. They could take the kids to the nearby park where they could run.

                This. I hate the “squealing” nonsense, but that aside–people’s willingness to be inconvenienced is directly proportional to how hard the other person is trying not to inconvenience them. It sounds like these kids need some running around time after school to balance themselves out–totally normal and age appropriate–and Sansa and Arya should be making that happen. Since one of them is free, and there is a nearby park.

                1. Trout 'Waver*

                  [i]people’s willingness to be inconvenienced is directly proportional to how hard the other person is trying not to inconvenience them.[/i]
                  Totally agree with this point. I haven’t heard it put so succinctly before.

                  I think people generally react differently if bringing the kids to work were the option of last resort and not the default one.

              3. CM*

                Yes, at first I was thinking this was a temporary after-camp solution for a week or two until school starts and maybe the OP should just deal with it, but then I read closer and saw that kindergarten had just started. So this is Sansa and Arya’s solution for the entire school year. Not acceptable. And the boss has already explicitly told them that they are not to care for the kids in the office, so they’re blatantly breaking that rule even if the kids were very quiet and calm.

                I have had my share of childcare struggles while working full time. It’s not easy. But the solution is not to make it your coworkers’ problem.

              4. Ophelia*

                Exactly. I *have* two little kids, and I completely understand that sometimes there are unforeseen circumstances that mean I’m left at loose ends with one or both kids, but this isn’t a loose end, this is a failure to plan.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  Failure to plan, failure to step up, failure to manage their children’s lives, failure to take responsibility…

          4. MJLurver*

            Even more reason that the boys don’t need to be brought back to the office if it’s only 30 minutes or so before a parent is free to care for them.

            I totally respect working parents and genuinely am in awe at how they juggle everything life (with kids and working a job outside the home) entails, but work is work is work and unless they’ve gotten the go-ahead from the boss to bring their kids into the office, the onus is on the parents to figure out their kids’ schedules and how they’ll be cared for while the parents are still “on the clock.”

            I don’t think the other employees should have to deal with small, (probably) tired and hungry boys running around. I know at my office a child present usually means no work gets done by almost everyone the child is hanging around. It’s just the way it is. It’s not the boys’ fault, they’re little kids.

            1. Juli G.*

              The thing is, someone IS free to care for them – Sansa. She just feels entitled to do it on her terms.

              Taking kids out – if Sansa finished work at 4, went to a conference room, and cranked up a loud Zumba tape to work out to, it would also be a total disruption and inappropriate use of the workplace in her work hours. And sure, I’m sympathetic because gyms are expensive and Sansa in a small, fifth floor apartment but it’s still disruptive.

              1. h'okay*

                It’s funny that you mention a gym. Going to a gym with a daycare center for members for an hour every day actually would be an elegant solution.

          5. sheworkshardforthemoney*

            We had a co-worker whose kids were dropped off for 30 minutes before the end of her day. It was sold as “only” 30 minutes but she was essentially checked out for the last part of the day controlling unruly kids. It was disruptive to other people who were working up until the last minute or later of their day. It turned out to be the thin edge of the wedge, someone else wanted their kids to be dropped off and the manager realized that the office was turning into a defacto daycare.

          6. Mad Baggins*

            Yeah, why should OP be upset that her workplace has become an unlicensed daycare center? /s

            Parents with kids are “trying to do the best they can”, but OP is also trying to do her *job*.

          7. Foreign Octopus*

            It could be for ten minutes a day and it wouldn’t matter.

            Unless the workplace has a dedicated childcare facility, it is not a place for children. This isn’t even the fact that both coworkers are working and have no one to watch their children. Sansa finishes at 4. She could take the children home with her and Arya pick them up on the way or another solution that doesn’t involve making everyone else struggle through poor working condition.

            The OP sounds as though she’s trying to find the best solution to a problem.

          8. Mommy MD*

            I’d fire these two if they brought the kids one more time after being told not to. What happens if a kid gets hurt on company property? It’s not a day care facility. The later employee could pay the earlier employee to watch her kid for an hour a day off the property.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              That is the big thing with unsupervised/poorly supervised kids in workplaces – they are injury lawsuits waiting to happen. Especially kindergarten-aged kids! They run, they throw things, they climb on things, they play with office equipment. Somebody is going to bump his head or get a staple in his eye and then what?

              1. Zombeyonce*

                And even if the kids themselves don’t get hurt, they could easily cause an accident to harm another employee. Would workers comp even cover that? If not, the workplace would be on the hook since it allowed them in (even if the boss didn’t know right now, others like the office manager do).

          9. Perfectly Particular*

            Strange to think that people wouldn’t work until the last minute… with the boss gone since 3, those last couple of hours are probably quiet and people, like the OP, may need that time to get actual work done.

            My mouth dropped when I read this post. I work in a VERY understanding office where work/life balance is highly valued & prioritized at every level, and something like this just would not fly on a daily basis. Sometimes coworkers bring their kids in for lunch, or so we can meet the new baby or whatever, and the sound of kids voices is so out of place in the office that it is hard to concentrate even when they are just having polite conversation with adults.

            I would take this directly to the boss as “hey, I’m not sure what’s your arrangement is with Sansa & Arya, but I think the boys are louder in the afternoon than you would have thought – do we have any options?”

            1. Constanze*

              I like the idea of starting with “I don’t know what your arrangement is with Arya and Sansa…”, but I am not a fan of the end, it seems disingenuous to me. It seems bizarelly circumspect.
              No one would assume that the boss would be okay with having two children in the office everyday but just below a certain number of decibels.

              The OP should really tell the boss, and it is possible to be so directly, but also asking for discretion.

          10. Marlene*

            Kids absolutely can be shrieking while playing. One does not exclude the other. And the co-worker apparently cannot handle those kids. Coloring books, ipads, a stern talking to are all appropriate for kindergarteners. She is allowing them to get away with that awful noise. And I’m a parent and an educator. There’s no need for that kind of shrieking anywhere indoors.

          11. blackcat*

            I’ve taken care of many kids that age. They’re almost always louder *when playing* than when whining. Unlike toddlers, whose meltdowns are generally much louder than their happy noises, young school aged kids often forget the idea of “indoor” voice when they are playing.

            It doesn’t matter that they are happy. They’re loud and distracting.

            BUT this attitude that you’re describing is why the OP needs to tread lightly. Some coworkers will absolutely judge her for telling the boss.

            1. I'm actually a squid*

              I swear, some kid’s legs are directly connected to their windpipes. The faster those little legs move, the louder (and sometimes higher) they squeal. And when you put two kids together it seems almost automatic, no matter how quiet and contained those children are individually.

          12. Health Insurance Nerd*

            Unless your workplace is a daycare, preschool, etc… Kids. Do. Not. Belong. There.


            1. dawbs*

              Hell, my workplace IS child care (summer day camp for 2 more weeks) and my kid is either THERE (as a camper, officially checked in) or not there.

              (Nobody cares if, while doing the last 5 min of clean up, i sign them out [bbecause until all campers are signed out my coworker can’t leave] and park them at my desk with a tablet and a firm “don’t move. Be quiet. Don’t touch stuff. ” but even here we know you can parent or work, but one or both suffer if you do them atthe same time)

          13. Anon today*

            There are lots of work places where people do in fact work until the last minute or even a little later. If they weren’t expected to get work done, then why not just let the parents go home and avoid the problem altogether?

          14. k8*

            “People are probably not working up until the latest minute, so it is not 5 either.”

            I have no idea what industry OP is in, but in every office I’ve worked in it’s very common– and sometimes even expected– for people to keep working anywhere from 25-45 minutes past “closing time” on a regular day (and even later when there are deadlines), so I wouldn’t consider this a reasonable assumption (although, judging from the rest of the assumptions you’re making, I guess you wouldn’t have an issue with that).

          15. Le Sigh*

            “And the kids are not shrieking, they are playing and being told to shush.”

            Yeah, they’re playing, I agree. And with active 5 yos, this usually involves some level of shrieking. It might be joyful and they’re just burning off energy, but it’s also very distracting when you’re trying to wrap up the last of your work and leave for they. The kids are just being kids, but that’s part of why this isn’t an appropriate solution. The OP works in an office, not a McDonald’s PlayPlace.

            1. CMart*

              Any time I’ve lived on a cul de sac with young families I’ve had to play the game of “Children Have Fun OR Children Being Murdered?” as the screams/shrieks waft in from outside.

              Thus far it’s always been “fun” as far as I can tell.

            2. Zombeyonce*

              Steve’s logic doesn’t quite make sense for the noise, too. If they’re being told to shush, that means they’re making too much noise in the first place. You can’t have it both ways.

          16. Fed Employee*

            I think less of people who don’t follow clear rules and guidelines. And where I work, we do work our full TDY and late afternoon meetings and phone calls occur nearly every day. I don’t work in a playground; it should not sound like I do.

          17. bonkerballs*

            OP literally says they’re shrieking as evidenced by this sentence “so I don’t have to put up with these boys running up and down the office shrieking (in happy tones) for the last hour of my work day” so unless you work there, I’m not sure how you know the situation better than she does.

            Also, I don’t know about most people, but when my schedule says I work until 5, I work until 5.

          18. AKchic*

            The LW stated the kids are there starting at 4pm until the other parent clocks out at 5. That is an hour.

            They are there in direct violation of what the Boss ordered. That they *not* be there. Regardless of how long they are there, they are *not* to be there, yet here they are, two kindergarten-aged boys, fresh from school, hyped up, excited to see each other, energetic and wanting to go burn energy, cooped up in an office together. Being continuously shushed.
            Disrupting a coworker, the LW, who only wants to focus on her work. That she’s being paid to do. Not get implicitly threatened not to report the insubordination of the parent/grandparent by bringing in their crotch trophies after being told they couldn’t and the insubordination of the Office Manager who is allowing it to happen behind the back of their Boss.

            I feel for the LW. I’m a parent and I don’t want my kids in an office. I don’t want my coworkers’ kids in my office. A once-in-a-blue-moon event I can tolerate. Emergencies. The “I’m just stopping in to grab a forgotten piece of paper, I’m gone in a second” kind of thing. But not a daily occurrence that shows no sign of stopping. Not when I’m being (not so) subtly pressured/threatened to keep quiet.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              While I agree with the rest of your comment, can we please stop using phrases like “crotch trophies”?

              1. Sandman*

                Agreed. I appreciated your comment as well, AKchic, but am not a fan of using degrading terms to refer to any human being.

          19. Genny*

            Having worked at fast food restaurant for several years, the shushing is at times more annoying than the kids. Whether the kids are behaving badly or acting age-appropriately (i.e. they’re just being high-energy kids who’ve been sitting at school all day), deal with the behavior. In the first instance, that would be some sort of discipline, in the second it would be giving them an appropriate place to burn energy. Constantly shushing accomplishes nothing other than adding more noise to the milieu. An office is not an appropriate location, and LW shouldn’t feel bad for asking her boss to adjust her shift.

          20. Observer*

            BEST case, you are looking at 45 minutes – although why you assume that people are not actually working till the end of the day is an interesting question. If you were just talking about Arya and Sansa, then sure, but there is no reason to think that the OP actually shuts up shop before the end of the day.

            And, the OP explicitly says they are shrieking. Why do you think you know better than the OP what’s happening.

            Parents trying to do the best they can should be encouraged. People trying to do their jobs properly should be encouraged, too!

            I also don’t really think that Arya and Sansa are actually trying to do their best. From what the OP says, they just don’t think it’s an issue that the kids are being this disruptive, so they aren’t going past some excuse making.

            I will say, though, that your attitude is one of many exhibits in the comment section that I would point to, in response to anyone who doesn’t understand why some of us sound a note of caution. Having to deal with the fall out of dealing with people with this kind of unfair attitude can be difficult.

            1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

              In my experience, this attitude comes from parents who have behaved similarly, and similarly expected others to accommodate their children or their childcare needs in sometimes unreasonable, imposing and/or entitled ways.

      2. Augusta Sugarbean*

        I read it was happy boys = boisterous not that the LW had to be nice and say that the kids were good kids.

        1. Ladysplainer*

          Right. I’ve had “happy boys” in my home. Think belching contests and silly string in the air vents.

          1. Jean (just Jean)*

            Your comment would be FANTASTIC on a t-shirt or greeting card!
            (You left out tussling, jumping on the furniture, and making jokes about passing gas. And pooping. All the pooping.)
            Paging Zazzle, CafePress, and Etsy…
            Thanks for cheering up my evening. I also love your commenting name.

    2. beth*

      The only point on this that I’m hesitant on is that it sounds like the office manager is A) actively keeping this from the boss, and B) aware that OP1 isn’t thrilled with the arrangement (since OP1 already talked to them about it). If OP1 goes this route, it may be obvious to their coworkers that they were the one who outed the whole situation–and that could lead to backlash, especially since these don’t seem like very mature or professional coworkers.

      It might be worth thinking about whether there’s a way to bring it to the boss’s attention without necessarily being seen as the office tattle-tale. Even just putting some time between OP1’s discussion with the office manager and the boss finding out could help prevent the two things from being linked in people’s minds.

      1. DArcy*

        I think it’s important that when you report this to the boss, emphasize that the office manager is explicitly “in” on this and that you are worried about retaliation.

        I don’t think being indirect works for this extreme of a situation. Being direct and highlighting your concerns is a much more solid approach.

        1. Gen*

          Having worked with admins who snuck around behind bosses backs before I’d be tempted to phrase it like “I know [office manager] said it was fine for the kids to be in the office since it doesn’t overlap your hours but it’s not working out for me, could I change my hours so I don’t have to be in the office while the kids are there, please?”

          1. Foreign Octopus*

            Oof, I see where you’re coming from but I’d be reluctant for OP to use this script as I think it adds a bit more drama to the situation than necessary. By all means they should say it if pressed for more detail about what’s happening but I don’t think they should do this straight out of the gate.

            1. AKchic*

              Actually, I think this works. The only drama it adds is to the OM and the women who keep bringing their kids in against the Boss’s wishes and direct orders.
              LW can play it off as not knowing that Boss hadn’t changed their mind about the ruling if LW wishes, or they can flat out say “yeah, it was implied that I was not to ‘tattle’ to you, but honestly, I am not productive during my last hour of the day because of this, so something has to change. This is the least hassle in my view.”

        2. Drew*

          Agreed – you need to let the boss know that you fear reprisals given that you’ve already expressed concerns. If your boss is smart, he’ll find a reason to “swing by the office” one day after 4 to see for himself what’s going on.

          And if I were the boss and I had already told people “This isn’t a daycare; don’t bring kids” and then I learned they were doing it anyway after I left for the day, I would be thinking hard about firing those people. That’s insubordinate.

      2. Sandman*

        Yeah, it’s worth considering how dys/functional this office is in deciding how to deal with it. This dynamic reminds me of the one at my worst job, and the politics of that dysfunction didn’t end well for me. In a functional workplace being straightforward is the way to go; in a dysfunctional one it could cost your job.

    3. Ginger ale for all*

      I don’t quite get why the person who picks them up doesn’t take the boys to their home and have the second person pick up their child there. Presumably there would be toys they could share, a kitchen to get an afternoon snack in, etc.

      1. MK*

        I am guessing their homes are not convieniently situated for such an arrangement, so they prefer to inconvienience everyone else working there.

        I am usually sympathetic to the difficulty of making childcare arrangements, but Sansa and Arya are being jerks here; if their kids are best friends and want to spend time together, they need to arrange playdates. If Sansa has agreed to watch Arya’s kid for the hour between school closes and Arya leaving work, she needs to find an appropriate location to do it.

        As for “tattling”, if I was the boss and found out about this (and they probably will if it goes on for much longer), I would be very displeased with the rest of the office for not speaking up about this. Granted, employees might not be obligated to enforce all workplace rules, but I wouldn’t blame the boss for thinking that everyone in the office was complicit in hiding from him something he had expressly forbidden.

        1. Constanze*

          You are completly right, MK. We are (rightfully) worried about retaliation for the OP, but this arrangement is bound to be found out sooner or later, and there will be consequences for everyone who kept their mouth shut then.

        2. Roja*

          That was my thought as well. Never mind blowback from other employees; if I were the boss and knew that everyone in the office had been hiding something like this from I would be pretty angry.

        3. A tester, not a developer*

          I suspect the playdate thing is complicated by the fact that one of the boys is Sansa’s grandchild, not her son. It sounds like mom and dad work (and don’t bring their kid back to the office every day – wonder why?), so grandma is the facilitator for her grandson to hang out with Arya’s son.

      2. michelenyc*

        That was my thought too! If they are going to public school I would imagine that Arya and Sansa may live in the same neighborhood or at least a 5 minute drive from one another.

        1. I'm actually a squid*

          Good point! I guess it could be a private school and thus potentially a longer drive but, at the same time, the private schools I’ve had experience with all have good after-school programs because many of the teachers have their own kids enrolled there and need someplace for them to go for that hour-or-so after school.

          Maybe Sansa (the grandmother) lives farther away and grandson lives closer thus determining his school? And neither Arya or Sancha’s kid (parent of grandson) is thrilled at giving Sansa a key to their house for that hour?

          No matter what the reasons (and I like thinking of them), the office should be the last on the list. Go to a fast-food place and order a coffee! Slather on sunscreen, bring water, and go to the park! Deal with the longer drive to Sansa’s house to pick up the kid! Join a gym with a childcare program! There has to be another option out there besides this.

    4. A Non E. Mouse*

      +1 for formal arrangements.

      I have three kids, and the youngest still requires before and after school care.

      *So I pay for it*.

      That is the appropriate thing to do – not drag the kids into work to disrupt everyone else.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        And after-school care is a lot more fun for the kids, too! I can imagine most kindergarten-aged kids would be bored out of their skulls in an office, unless they are quiet sorts with books, writing/drawing material, or tablets available. After-school care is *designed* to keep kids entertained and safe.

  7. Naomi*

    OP #5: it’s really, really not a reflection on you. You’re the first person he interviewed–even if he likes you, it would be irresponsible of him to stop at interviewing one person when there are other promising candidates. He wants to hire the best person for the job, and even if that turns out to be you, he can’t know that unless he talks to other candidates too. Even in the best-case scenario where you’re his top choice, he has to have other people lined up in case you turn down the offer.

    Most likely he’s telling you this to give context to the timeline: i.e., “Don’t expect to hear from us immediately, because we can’t decide who makes it to the next round until we’ve finished interviewing other candidates.”

    1. OP#5*

      Naomi – Thanks that makes sense. From my side I’m like – but i’m the only one you already set up an interview with and you like me! Why look elsewhere if you really like me! But it makes sense from his perspective to make sure he hires the BEST person and to interview others even if he liked me.

      Unfortunately his answer also let me to wonder how long I have to wait to ask for status.

      1. Constanze*

        Well, when you buy a house, you never buy the first one you see. You at least try and see one or two other houses to be sure.

        That is pretty much the reasonable way to handle things, and you wouldn’t want to work with someone who handles hiring so recklessly quickly.

        1. OP #5*

          Totally makes sense. I’ve just never been in a situation where they didn’t set up interviews with other candidates at the same time before. Since the job had been posted a few weeks prior and I was the only one – I kind of thought that they would see if it worked out with me or not and if it didn’t then maybe repost the job (to bump up the date to get more applicants). But yeah I get it now.

  8. dragon_heart*

    OP #4 I can relate to this. Actually there is a whole debate about this in the world of software development, and the dreaded take home coding exam. The consensus of most developers is anything over 3-4 hours is a No. I don’t care if the employer says it should take 1-2 hours, if for me its more than 4 hours then I will not do it.

    The worst part of this is even if you do it, you get ghosted if they decided they don’t want to hire you. Not even a generic we will not be moving forward with your application.

    Funny story… I applied online to a company for a remote position. I got a very lengthy take home coding exam with a laundry list of requirements. I never did the exam and just left it at that, but I kept applying to other positions at different websites. One of the sites allows employers to post ads anonymously. Around 6 months later I get the same exam in my inbox. I wonder if they know why they still haven’t hired anyone.

    1. Rosemary7391*

      Is there much correlation between workplace culture and stupidly long take homes in the interview process? I’ll be unemployed soon so I may have the time to do them, but if it strongly signals “crazy hours here” then I may not want to…

    2. Bilateralrope*

      They might not have ever been planning to hire anyone. Just keep sending out job ads, setting a different assignment each time. Getting lots of work done for free.

        1. LQ*

          Hm now that I think about it…Maybe it’s good hiring. I mean as a potential employee I want to know up front if a company expects me to do 20 hours worth of work in an hour. That’s a great piece of information. Maybe there is someone who can and they are really trying to screen down to just that one person. (If so I hope they pay out the ears for that person.) And if they give it up front I can just discard them out of hand without even having to do an interview or take time off work.

        2. dragon_heart*

          Yup it was the same exam word for word. It would take at least 8 hours and no, its unpaid and no guarantee of a job or of a reply.

          I even experienced taking around 4 hours to complete a coding exam with unit tests only for the employer to tell me they will not be moving forward with my application but declined to give any feedback on my code because of “lack of time”. Not even a sentence or two of constructive criticism.
          The exam was all string manipulation. Pretty easy at first glance, but then you aren’t allowed to use any existing string libraries. You need to implement your own for every single one you need.

  9. Gaia*

    As I’ll be leaving my job in a few weeks (not my choice – I’m not happy about it) and am literally the only one that knows how to do huge portions of my job including the one single task they’ve actually decided to hand off to someone else, I’ve offered to be an ongoing point of contact for this person. But I set a limit – no more than one email per week (compile questions) for no more than 6 weeks. I really don’t want to do this but I feel bad for the person assigned this task. He does not have enough time to learn it and he is not involved in my situation but he will suffer the consequences if he can’t get answers on how to handle this work.

    1. Artemesia*

      You are a better person than I am. If I am being let go, my interest in the success of the business and of my replacement’s competence would be below zero. Why not let the business suffer the consequences of their own decision making rather than working for free?

      1. Flash Bristow*


        After I was made redundant, my old job realised they needed some help with my tasks after all.

        So I told them my contracting rate.

        They paid me for a few weeks and it was much higher than salary would worked out at. If you’re asked to help out after leaving – whether it’s your choice to leave or not – make sure they value you for it and pay for the work. It’s nothing personal – it’s business.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        I was one of 5 people kept on for 2 months as a “transition team” – when they hadn’t even begun hiring the replacements. So I documented everything – two years later, when things are still wobbly, I can smugly say that it’s entirely their fault.

    2. Nom Nom*

      If they are letting you go then you owe them nothing. If you don’t have another job to go to and have the time you may want to consider charging them for help (I have done this and charged pretty much double my hourly rate but they were stuck and disorganised – and that was on a job I resigned from but they hadn’t got organised even after 4 weeks notice I just put my holiday off for a couple of months and had extra spending money). If they are letting you go, you may be able to negotiate a later leaving date for proper training if that suits you. I’d ask anyway and if they say no, then don’t lift a finger once you are gone as they are just using you for free.

    3. Nico m*

      That’s kind of you but it may do more harm than good. If you are helpful, problems will be Nooby’s fault for Not Getting The Answer out of Gaia.

    4. Mason jars are not drinking glasses*

      Be Careful of what you offer. I was laid off from my position last year and immediately picked up by a competitor. ( I let my Linked in account know that I was in the layoff and a friend of a friend saw it and I had a job monday after my last day) I was going to help the person taking over my job since the company did not allow for transition time, however my new company (competitor) would not allow for contact. On the plus side I was able to swoop in and pick up the accounts that my old company had pissed off by not being able to provide the same reporting since they didn’t know what or how to do it. Their loss my extra bonus.

    5. Temperance*

      If you’re getting laid off, don’t help them. It doesn’t matter if some guy gets your task.

  10. dragonzflame*

    I sort of feel like, after 4 months, you’re fast reaching the point where your predecessor won’t remember everything, anyway. I remember leaving a job where I’d been there longest, and for a few months after I left I’d keep getting calls like ‘who should we ask for this?’ or ‘do you remember this password?’

    Trouble was, I was thoroughly checked out by then, and it’s amazing how quickly that knowledge disappears when you no longer need it..!

    1. Mason jars are not drinking glasses*

      I think at 4 months you are risking looking like were unqualified/incompetent, the first few weeks would be fine to send an email but at 4 months in you need to re-evaluate if this is the right position for you.

      1. Yorick*

        I don’t think that’s fair. There are often things that you do rarely, or things they didn’t assign you right away, that you wouldn’t have encountered 4 months in.

        1. bonkerballs*

          Agreed. In my last position, the only time I contacted my predecessor was when I was specifically told to by my boss. I would be doing something for the first time and had a question and my boss wouldn’t know the answer and so told me to just reach out to my predecessor and ask her. I don’t think it’s usually a person’s first choice.

      2. LJay*

        It depends on what it is.

        If it’s “Hey, we just got the annual renewal message for the XYZ web app account, and realized that it’s still set up under your name and password. I checked, and it’s not in the documentation you left. Could you please forward that info to us?” that’s one thing and doesn’t signify incompetence.

        If it’s “Could you walk me through how to do ABC again?” that’s another.

        1. Mason jars are not drinking glasses*

          yes if its something that has never came up or or there is no documentation about that could be quickly resolved or help you know where to go then if they are with the company than a quick email would not signify incompetence.

    2. Ama*

      Yeah, I did once get contacted by a previous coworker (although it was a slightly different situation because I transferred divisions within the same overall employer) over a year after I’d left because a situation that only occurred once every few years had popped up again and none of the current employees had been around the last time it happened. Unfortunately I barely remembered the situation myself at that point — I gave her some ideas on where the files from the previous situation might have been stored when I cleaned out my desk but that was the best I could do.

    3. k.k*

      I scrub my brain of previous jobs pretty quickly once I leave. I’m about 4 months out of my previous job and if they contacted me for help, there’s a lot I wouldn’t remember.

      Plus, a lot can change in a short time. For all I know, that file had been moved or that process tweaked. So if your boss doesn’t know that’s another reason not to reach out. You don’t want to be working with outdated info.

  11. Observer*

    #1 – Something jumped out at me. You say that the OM thinks it’s ok because the Boss won’t know about it. Which makes me wonder if you framed it as “something Boss would not like” or “Something that’s keeping me from getting work done”? If you did not explicitly make that point, you should. Be very clear with her that you don’t care about what “Boss would like” and the your concern here is your ability to do your work.

    To be honest, that’s the only legitimate basis for you to object, anyway. “Only” is not dismissive – this is a major issue, as Allison says it’s totally messed up – and you most definitely should deal with it. It’s just that it may be helpful to you if everyone is clear about that you are not trying to play hall monitor, just trying to get your work done.

    1. Constanze*

      I disagree that this is OP’s only>/i> legitimate basis to object. S/he has a lot of grounds here ! Of course, not being able to work is the big big big issue.
      But even if s/he was just midly bothered by it, ot even not bothered at all, this is really messed up and s/he would completely be entitled to report it.
      I would be worried about consequences for myself from the boss when he finds out and the whole office lied to him, for one thing.
      Besides, this is just not okay. This is not a playground and children should not be there : they are noisy, take a lot of room, transmits a lot of germs, and people should be able to go to work without being regularly subjected to them. This is also not an environment for children, and the boss would probably be worried about what might happen to them in a workplace not designed to welcome them.

  12. Observer*

    #2 – Unfortunately, I think Allison is correct that you might have to be willing to pass on the job. However, if you are not desperate for the job, this might be a good thing. You really have to wonder how they treat employees when they are asking for something so excessive.

  13. Julia*

    Ugh, I applied for a job as a game localizer (somewhat of a translator) and was asked to write a 1.000 word fanfiction from the point of view of one of their characters before they were even willing to talk to me. I was willing to do it until I got a second email telling me I was rejected for not meeting their “must haves”, which were to be a native speaker of my native language. I guess I dodged a bullet there?

    1. Myrin*

      until I got a second email telling me I was rejected for not meeting their “must haves”, which were to be a native speaker of my native language

      They also must not be meeting a general “must have”, which is the ability to read (as I’m sure you mentioned your language status in your application). :|

      1. Julia*

        They didn’t allow for a cover letter, just a CV, and my last name is Japanese, so they probably just assumed that I was too stupid to read their requirements, instead of scrolling down to the part of my CV that says I’m German. I wish I could put that part on the top, but there’s a format everyone uses for CVs, so I can’t.

        I did write back explaining that I thought I met their criteria, but considering they were trying to sell me a different job for lower pay, I think this may have just been a ploy to attract candidates with a job that’s not available anymore. And this was a really big company that you all probably know!

        1. Myrin*

          Just musing, since these people sound like unreasonable messes you don’t want to work for anyway and any hiring manager worth their salt should be at least actually reading the application in full JFC, but would it be feasible to write the Japanese equivalent of “Yamamoto Julia (geb. Müller)” to sneak the nationality in there?

          1. Julia*

            Ha, they actually just got rid of the “geb.” in German passports because the Japanese authorities would mercilessly put that on every document, so my full name would have been Yamamoto geb. ExtremelyLongAndComplicatedGermanName Julia officially, plus geppu (which “geb” would be written as in Japanese) means “burp”, so all German women married to Japanese guys protested the “geb”.

            1. Myrin*

              So I take it Japanese doesn’t have an equivalent expression for “geborene(r)” one could use? I find that stuff endlessly fascinating, just like English also uses the French “né(e)”. There is so much curious socio-cultural info you get from simply observing which words exist in one language versus another!

              1. Julia*

                There’s a word for “old name”, but it’s not something you’d write prominently on a job application, it’s more like an official document thing.

        2. anon in japan*

          I think I know exactly the company you’re talking about — they have a crazy application process! Clearly counting on having employees who love the brand/games enough not to care …

          1. Julia*

            That seems to be par for the course for gaming companies here. In a way, I get it, but then again, surely hiring someone who’s not a game otaku (or who plays different games and who could bring some new perspective) would be a good step?

        3. Bilateralrope*

          Could you file a discrimination complaint over it ?
          Even if it’s just one you send to them asking them to explain their actual reason, because you’ve got them turning you down for an obviously false reason in writing.

          1. Julia*

            Thank you for trying to help me. <3
            Unfortunately, I don't think that would do much good, and I'd rather focus my efforts elsewhere.

    2. Mad Baggins*

      To be fair, that company receives thouuuuusands of applications every year and I think that fanfic functions as a basic writing test screening. That’s silly that they assumed you weren’t a native speaker, but that company can afford to be picky :/

      1. Julia*

        They probably can afford to be picky, but I also don’t think they receive thousands of applications for Japanese-to-German game localizers who are already in Japan at once. More like maybe dozens, if anything.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          That’s probably true, but I think they only hire a few people per year (I’ve heard 1 person, I’m assuming that’s for English). Could still be dozens of applications for only a few jobs. I think their method definitely eliminates quality candidates though.

          1. Julia*

            Well, considering my sempai who works there (we’re from the same university and she applied some years prior with less experience than I have now) was asked whether her husband would allow her to work, I may have dodged a bullet anyway.

  14. Not Australian*

    Apart from anything else, surely there’s a massive insurance liability issue with the kids being in the building unofficially? If one of them was to be seriously injured on the premises, the employer would rightly reject any claim on the basis that the children were there without their direct knowledge or permission – and that in turn makes it an unsafe environment for the boys. Why would any parent take that risk?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Most premises insurance policies will cover people on site, even if they’re there without the knowledge/permission of the policy holder (unless those people are committing a crime). Premises insurance’s primary purpose is to cover third parties, as employees are covered by other insurance schemes. Although bringing the kids to work is a bad idea, I’m not as worried about insurance unless the children experience a uniquely insane injury.

      1. Daisy*

        Some third party insurance specifies that visitors under the age of [x] aren’t covered – it’s 9 years old in my workplace.

    2. RG*

      Speaking of parents: while I’d be grateful that Grandma is picking up a kid (especially if I have other children), I would not be okay with learning that she was doing this.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        If the parents talk to their son about how his day went, which they likely do, they already know. Maybe the parents aren’t in the picture at all and grandma is the primary caregiver or the parents are tolerating it because it’s the better of bad options (eg. the alternatives are quitting their job or hiring a nanny, neither of which is affordable for that family).

        1. Ama*

          I’d also suspect if they do know he’s going back to the office she’s probably giving a much rosier picture of the situation to his caregivers “oh it’s fine, they play in my office and no one even knows they are there!”

    3. Ellen N.*

      I agree with you about the liability risk. There is also a risk that employees might be injured by the children (tripping people if they run in the office, spilling slippery food/drink, leaving toys on the floor, etc.). If there were a workers’ compensation claim caused by children in the office the boss would be pretty upset.

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Unauthorized kids in the office is all fun and games until a kid gets hurt, and the boss finds a toy or a kiddie snack jammed into the copier the next morning.

      1. Rosemary7391*

        Quite – and the boss isn’t going to know there are kids around, so might well do things that he wouldn’t if that was known. Silly things like leaving scissors on your desk or stashing cleaning fluid under the sink. And if they’re running around even things like desk corners could be nasty…

    5. pleaset*

      “surely there’s a massive insurance liability issue with the kids being in the building unofficially? ”

      Not sure. Maybe.

  15. RG*

    OP #2 I’m somewhat surprised you don’t work in the tech industry with an assignment like that.

    1. Persimmons*

      This is pinging my “field where applicants’ work gets stolen” radar so hard. I guess we can tack ‘events planning’ onto the list with marketing/design/writing/coding.

      1. Antilles*

        That was my thought too. I can’t think of any explanation outside of “stealing applicants’ work” for needing needing *three* separate projects. Like, even if they wanted to see how you work, one project would be more than sufficient for that.

        1. Sunflower*

          I’d also be really curious how valuable this work even is to steal. It’s really really hard to put together these plans and budgets when you have no idea what internal resources the company has or what their policies are. I wouldn’t be surprised if they receive these plans and find them useless.

          1. Washi*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t have thought that they wanted to steal work for exactly that reason – there’s no way as a candidate that you could know all the moving pieces and variables for an event like this. I just assumed that they got tunnel vision thinking about what they considered to be a good skills test and forgot/didn’t care about being respectful of candidates’ time.

            1. LJay*

              This. I assume they asked for 3 in order to see how the candidates dealt with tailoring the event to the different budget constraints. Not anything nefarious. But clearly they were being really inconsiderate about how much unpaid work they were asking of these candidates.

    2. Sunflower*

      It could be an events role at a start up. I work in events and have interviewed at a few start-ups for events roles. It’s usually the first events job they’ve hired for and they are generally pretty clueless about events. I did one assignment- they asked me to pull together a list of 10 conferences the company should sponsor- I spent about 15 minutes on it and I’m sure they looked over the list and checked out any conferences they found interesting. They asked me to complete another assignment which was discussed during my interview. The interview was painfully awkward and was the first one I ever strongly considered ending early.

  16. Mommy MD*

    I’d just tell Boss straight up the kids are in the office every day after he leaves. They’ve already been warned and are digging their own graves. I wouldn’t warn them and I wouldn’t feel guilty.

    1. Oilpress*

      Same. They’re probably going to assume the OP tattled anyway.

      Working with unreasonable people sucks.

  17. Rollergirl*

    OP#1 Sansa is off work. There is no reason for her to be bringing both boys to the office for a play date. If Arya needs to be at work until 5 and this is their after school arrangement, then Sansa needs to bring both boys to her home until Arya is off work. Your office is not the place to facilitate the boys’ friendship.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      Yes, THIS. It’s one thing if you are off at 5 and you stick around 15 minutes because your friend leaves at 5:15, but coming back when you’re off the clock makes this more egregious than if you had to bring the kid in because you were working. (Which sounds like it would also be disruptive, but I’d have more sympathy.)

    2. Pollygrammer*

      Home, or a park, or a library–there are a lot of options that don’t involve bringing them to the office. They’re just picking the laziest, most inconsiderate choice.

  18. Mommy MD*

    Your manager clearly does not like chatter. The onus is not on her to tell you this. If you ask a direct question, she answers. She ignores extraneous conversation. Just concentrate on your own tasks, remember you are at work, not in a social setting, and keep the chatter to a minimum. Try not to take it personally.

    1. Justin PBG*

      I’d find this stifling, but that’s the culture where they are, and if she finds it really hard, which is fair enough, it might not be the right fit for her. Or maybe she can chatter with someone else on staff who is receptive.

  19. Mommy MD*

    OP 5: no good business is going to hire the first person they interview and drop considering other candidates. It would be crazy if they did. It’s not personal. It’s standard procedure.

    1. OP#5*

      Is this particular situation standard though? I’ve always been in the situation where they collect resumes and reach out to interview the top X number of candidates over the course of a week or whatever. Not look over resumes for 1.5 weeks and then reach out to only interview one person a few days later. Then have a few more new ones they came across they want to check out. Of course, it’s not personal. I’ve never taken interviews personal.

      A few posters above you though explained it really well (thanks posters!) to me though and I totally understand that they might have rules about interviewing X number of people and wanting to have more people to compare against.

      1. Birch*

        Some places have a kind of “rolling” application process. It makes sense logistically, since setting up interviews can be challenging, and they may want to fill the position as soon as possible, so they’re sort of continuously fishing until they get what they need. It would waste a lot of time to collect all the applications, review them, interview the top candidates, and then realize that none of them will fit and have to start all over.

        1. OP#5*

          This particular company has a set policy that (normally) get’s followed. I’ve worked in a different department before (and my husband is currently there). Normally they wait until they get at least X applications that are qualified that they are interested in, then they are all contacted at the same time and interviewed in the same time frame. Since I was the only one they had contacted (up to that point) and since he seemed to really like me – I was all set so that through me off.

          But — there are set questions they are supposed to interview from and he said he wasn’t going to follow that, so it sounds like i shouldn’t go off of what I know to be normal for this company.

        2. Qwerty*

          This is the process I’ve always seen. Even when the first candidate is stellar (and eventually received an offer), we’ve always interviewed a few more people just to be sure that the first person was the best one for the position. Additionally, if the interviewer had already picked out some other candidates to interview, then it means he did so before your interview started, so it doesn’t reflect at all at how well the interview went.

          I generally try to be transparent about where we are in scheduling interviews to give the candidates an idea of how long they’ll have to wait to hear back. Its nice to be able to say “we’ll let you know by X”, but if they don’t even have the dates of the other interviews, they can’t give a definitive date and don’t want you worried about how long the process is taking. It’s the downside of being the first interviewee.

          1. OP #5*

            This all makes sense. Thanks. And yes, I was hoping to get a date with my question so I knew how long until I could ask for a follow up. Now I’m not sure when to ask (for the record it’s been a little over a week now. I’m thinking of asking at the two week mark…)

      2. Nom Nom*

        Depending on the industry, the job market and the urgency they need to fill the job it can take over 3 months and then some. Doesn’t mean it’s right, just means always keep your eye on the next opportunity and don’t wait round.

        1. OP#5*

          Yeah, this is very good advice and I should keep this in mind. Usually I purposely try to stop thinking about a job once I’ve applied – but I really want this one!

  20. Pipsqueak*

    Op 3: I had a similar situation but only for part of a day when working on a stand with someone. In my case I couldn’t work out if they were ignoring me because of something else I said (I had questioned a descision she had made a few weeks earlier) or of she was just in a bad mood and didn’t feel like making small talk, but either way it was extremly awkward sitting right next to each other in silence for several hours becuase she was definitely deliberatly ignoring me (although not exactly the same scenario as we were waiting for customers to walk up, and so not working on other things while we waited.)
    I think you could definitely say something to see why your supervisor is quiet for your own peace of mind because one check in won’t be that annoying if she is genuinly just busy. It could even be as short as “busy day?” If she says yes, then she is probably being quiet because of workload. You could also test it with a helpful interaction e.g “I’m making a cup of tea/coffee, do you want one or do you not want to be disturbed?” If she answers one way or the other, you get some idea but if she completly ignores a polite question like this, then maybe move up to asking if something is wrong, because otherwise she may just be in the zone.

  21. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#1: “When you say the boss won’t know unless someone tells him, you’re putting me in a position.”

    Boss is going to find out. He will! Someone will tell anyway, or maybe he’ll come back unexpectedly to the office some late afternoon. Now LW#1 is in a position where they kept this information from the boss. This is unfair, and LW#1 should say so.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The boss coming back unexpectedly was my first thought. Or needing to stay late some day.

      I was trying to think of a way for LW #1 to make that happen, but then I realized that they would appear complicit and could be penalized somehow. This is just a terrible situation all around.

      Are there other people in the office or is it just you, Sansa, Arya, and the office manager?

      1. Pollygrammer*

        I can see them telling him it was “just this once” and expecting LW to go along with the lie.

      2. Nervous Nellie*

        Seconded. If the boss pops by, it will be clear that the whole office colluded to permit the boys to hang out and disrupt. It won’t be evident who was coerced to collude and who wasn’t, but actually agrees with the plan. The bottom line – the whole office would be in hot water. I agree that a gentle and direct chat with the boss is needed. I like the intro, “I don’t know what arrangement you have with Arya and Sansa” because that delicately suggests that it might all have been permitted in the first place.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      Or maybe caught on camera when the boss has reason to check the camera for another reason. Modern security cameras only record when they detect motion. When you get to the end of a recorded segment, the playback often jumps to the next segment.

      Or maybe you get in a new employee who doesn’t think the kids are a problem, so doesn’t mention it to the office manager. So the new employee doesn’t know that the boss isn’t aware. So he mentions them to someone when the boss is nearby.

      When the boss finds out, he is going to be annoyed with anyone who knew that the children were allowed and said nothing. The longer it went on, the more annoyed he will be.

    3. BeenThere*

      I like this line of thinking. LW1 might tell the offenders or the OM, “Someone needs to be up front with boss about this, because there is every chance he will find out, and then it won’t go well for anyone.”

    4. Jady*

      If OP is worried about being ostracized by outting the others, she could just explain that (assuming Boss is a reasonable person).

      Tell the boss what’s going on, and that you’re very worried about the backlash and don’t want them to suspect you.

      It’d be extremely easy for Boss to just ‘accidentally’ forget his laptop one day and walk in the door at 4:30.

  22. Susan K*

    #3 – I am a quiet person, and I try to be polite and respond when people are making small talk with me, but I have found that there are certain people who make it difficult. They sort of seem to be just thinking aloud, or even talking to themselves, and I just don’t even know how to respond. Even saying, “Oh,” or “Uh-huh,” doesn’t really seem right sometimes. It’s really awkward, so I just wait for them to stop talking and then try to change the subject to something work-related. Is it possible that you’re having this type of one-sided conversation that doesn’t leave much of an opening for the other person? If so, that may be why it seems as though she’s “ignoring” you. But ultimately, it appears she is giving signals that she doesn’t like to chat during the workday (maybe because it legitimately distracts her from her work), so it is probably best for you to take the hint and stop trying to chat so much.

  23. Lisa Koivu*

    OP#5 – My daughter just spent a month working on getting her first “professional” job – she got it! It took 6 weeks. At EVERY point in the process, the hiring manager said something similar to yours. We worried too, but it’s a process, or even in some cases, it’s a thing they say, and you should not worry.

  24. Ladysplainer*

    OP1: so much entitlement in Arya and Sansa!
    The whole “the boys don’t see each other all day” reminds me of George and Harold in the Captain Underpants movie worrying that their friendship would be OVER if they were moved to separate classes.
    My kids (elementary school) have good friends in different classes. So… we moms (and a super cool stay at home dad!) text each other and meet up at a park. We live in a tropical climate so we bring water and sunscreen. This is been going on for years and nobody has died of heat stroke. During our not-to-be-trifled with rainstorms, we have our own homes, Mall playgrounds, budget movie theaters…
    It’s also a really funny little F-U at one of their school’s administrators, who’s constantly insulting me and other people in certain demographic brackets for not having friends. It must make her really uncomfortable to witness this happening.

  25. gecko*

    OP 3, this does sound super frustrating. And it’s pretty rude to outright ignore you, unless she’s made some prior “I’m focusing” signal like putting on headphones.

    That said, there’s not much you can do. You now know that your supervisor will preferentially be rude to you over offering simple feedback, so that’s valuable to keep in mind.

    And, I think you now know that your supervisor doesn’t want to chat. So I’d stop trying. Not passive-aggressively—just get put your casual-remarks energy some other way, for instance by messaging a work friend.

    1. grace*

      Yep, this. I worked with someone who outright ignored me, and it was horrible — there was no reason for it that he conveyed, but I’d go an entire day without talking to anyone, because it was a small office, and leave absolutely cranky and upset by it.

      The onus IS on her to tell you how she prefers to be communicated with, but since she’s clearly not doing that, the above is really good advice. And if possible, maybe look into getting a new office or place to work, where you can have that chatter and that way she can be left to focus/ignore everything she wants, too.

  26. Birch*

    LW 3, stop talking to her. Clearly she just wants to do work and not chat, which is totally understandable given that you’re at work! There are few things more annoying at work than someone who insists on chatting at you, throwing the spaghetti at 15 different topics while you are giving all the signals that you aren’t into it. Please do her the favor and take the hint, because otherwise you are forcing her to ask you to stop, which could possibly hurt your feelings and make her feel bad for hurting your feelings. You don’t need to spend any time “staying out of her way,” you just need to focus on your own work. Also, just because you’re around the same age doesn’t mean you have anything in common. And there’s a possibility she may just not like you. Which is OK! Not everybody will want to be your friend. Move on and focus on work.

    LW4 This is way too long for them to be asking you to do work for free. Cut the cord.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      I don’t think we can assume that LW 3 is talking nonstop or insisting on conversation. She even says “I am spending less time on my work and more time trying to stay out of her way.”

      Anybody with the slightest inclination to politeness, no matter how shy/quiet/introverted they are, and even if they have taken an inexplicable dislike to someone, can manage a “good morning.” Or a “yes, I noticed that too” or a “hmm, yeah” when someone is bringing up something work related.

      This is LW’s direct supervisor. She doesn’t need to be chatty, but she absolutely shouldn’t be this unfriendly and discouraging. If you leave a subordinate wondering if you hate them, you’re doing a really bad job.

      1. Birch*

        What does staying out of her way mean though? I can’t think of a situation where that would make sense. Is the supervisor mutely throwing herself around the room grunting and OP has to physically dodge? I think the older comments touched on it–OP’s work related needs may be buried by nonrelevant stuff so much that the supervisor is tuning them out. Work related doesn’t necessarily mean relevant or needing a response. Sure, it’s polite to exchange bits of conversation, but it’s also polite to not interrupt people who are working. OP can easily just ask the supervisor if she prefers to keep the chatting to a minimum, and go make some work friends who do like chatting over coffee breaks.

        1. McWhadden*

          A supervisor doesn’t get the luxury of “tuning out” it’s literally her job to pay attention to the work stuff. It’s also her job to communicate issues she has.
          This is absolutely a problem with the supervisor.

          1. Birch*

            I don’t think we really have enough information here to make a final judgment, but I’d hope people gave the supervisor at least as much benefit of the doubt as OP. Nobody is perfect, and it sounds like they might both be young.

            1. Shortbread*

              My previous comment was removed for being unkind, but I have no clue why. Anyway, many of you are totally passing final judgments on OP and seriously projecting your own preferences on the boss. You say yourself that we don’t have enough information, so stop assuming OP is some obnoxious chatty Cathy who can’t keep quiet. It’s gross and unfair.

              You all being extremely unkind here.

            2. 12345*

              but I’d hope people gave the supervisor at least as much benefit of the doubt as OP

              So, none? I’m not even being snarky here, just blunt. Read the whole first comment section. OP is wrong wrong wrong, and manager is not.

          2. Anon today*

            I don’t think anyone is saying that the supervisor is handling this well. But the supervisor didn’t write in so we can’t say “Be direct and tell your employee if you need them to chat less with you.” The employee wrote in so the advice is geared towards how she can adjust to work better with the supervisor.

            1. McWhadden*

              In fact, a lot of people are suggesting the supervisor doesn’t have the responsibility to communicate with her employee.

              And, usually, when a supervisor is behaving in such a horrible way there is some reassurance to the LW that they aren’t crazy. This is unacceptable. (And it is very unacceptable.)

              1. McWhadden*

                And by communicate I don’t mean chat all day. But express her issues or desires and not give the silent treatment, which is unprofessional especially for someone who holds all the power in a situation.

        2. Pollygrammer*

          “Staying out of her way” could genuinely mean staying out of her space–LW says it’s a small lab. That could mean not wanting to use the same equipment at the same time, not doing something that would require her to ask the supervisor to move or hand her something, etc.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        Anybody with the slightest inclination to politeness, no matter how shy/quiet/introverted they are, and even if they have taken an inexplicable dislike to someone, can manage a “good morning.” Or a “yes, I noticed that too” or a “hmm, yeah” when someone is bringing up something work related.

        It’s clearly vital work conversation if an acceptable response is a vague “hmm, yeah.”

      3. D'Arcy*

        There is absolutely no indication that LW’s supervisor is being “unfriendly and discouraging”. Moreover, as the person in charge, she is rightfully entitled to set the communications style for her team, and her actions make it crystal clear that she expects no extraneous chatter.

    2. McWhadden*

      If you don’t actually say you aren’t into it then you aren’t giving all of the signals.

      1. Birch*

        I would encourage you to rethink this, not only for this situation but also many others where it is not safe or possible to specifically ask someone to stop bothering you.

        1. McWhadden*

          And it’s highly unlikely that in a situation where there is danger that the silent treatment is more safe than saying it out loud. The former is much more likely to insult people and cause disharmony.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes, agreed. The boss is handling this poorly; she should explain what she wants. But she’s not the one writing in, so we can only advise the OP.

        2. Rat in the Sugar*

          This is the boss, though. She holds all the power in this situation and it is very safe and possible for her to simply tell OP that she doesn’t want to talk.

          Not that the boss wrote in, so all this speculation about how much OP is talking and how theoretically annoyed/uncomfortable the boss may be is moot. OP should try to talk less and/or ask the boss directly, boss’s possible (and to us, unknowable) feelings don’t come into play here.

        3. Macedon*

          No. This is an adult setting between an employee and her supervisor. The latter has a duty to be explicit and transparent in her instructions, whether they relate to an assignment or to the work environment.

  27. TIFF*

    #5: Sometimes this is a lie. They want to keep the option to reject you on the table without the awkwardness of you knowing/thinking you were the only candidate. That way there is always the fallback ‘there were more qualified candidates’.

    I’ve had this happen to me… told they were interviewing more candidates and got the job to later find out I was the only interview. I’ve seen my bosses do it even though they know at the interview we are hiring the candidate.

      1. Chameleon*

        But even if this is the case, there is nothing you can do about it, so why spend time worrying? Allison always says that once you have the interview and the thank-you follow-up, it’s best to just forget you even applied until you get offered the job (or a second interview) and I think that is true even if you are the only candidate!

        1. OP #5*

          I usually do, but I want this particular job really really bad!

          (Ex. I have a few other jobs I’ve interviewed with as well recently – and I’d like those fine but I’ve been able to put those ones out of my mind)

  28. Persimmons*

    LW #4, is the person who used to hold your job still with the company in a new role, or have they left entirely? Alison’s answer makes sense for the latter, but IMO if they’re still around you have a lot more leeway.

    1. KarenK*

      The person I replaced in my current job just moved to another position. She didn’t even move departments!

      So, I contacted her a few times early on. Definitely more than if she had actually left to work somewhere else. These petered out after about three months. By that time, I had put my own stamp on the position and was doing things my own way.

  29. MicroManagered*

    OP1 I’m not sure I agree that you would be “required to explain her reasons.” A simple request to change your schedule is enough. Unless the boss is unusually nosy or it creates some kind of business hardship, I doubt he will even ask why. If he does, you can be honest about your reasons at that time, and it’s not your fault that they are breaking the rules.

    If it comes down to sharing your reasons for the request, you can always mention to your boss that you’re concerned about them being upset with you about telling him, and perhaps he can “forget his phone” or otherwise have some reason to drop in the office when the kids are there.

    1. BlueWolf*

      I agree it may be a good idea to mention to the boss the fear of retaliation. Also, I imagine eventually they are going to get caught. Like you said, the boss may work late one day or come back for something later in the day and catch them.

  30. Bookworm*

    #3: Unless it’s directly related/I’m asked directly, I prefer not to chit chat at work. Sometimes it’s fine, sometimes there’s downtime and it’s great. But not everyone works the same way. Agree with Alison’s approach.

    #5: That sounds quite standard. Depending on where you live/the org, it may be required by the organization and/or local/state/etc. laws to interview a pool of candidates. Or maybe the interviewer really liked you, but is obligated to interview the boss’s daughter’s best friend or something like that. There’s also the possibility they’re bringing in applicants for consideration for more than one position, which is something I’ve been asked about once or twice when it becomes clearer during the course of the interview that maybe I might be a good/better fit for another position.

    1. OP#5*

      Yeah, honestly it had never occured to me that they might be required to interview a pool of candidates but it makes total sense. (Maybe it never occured to me because in the past, they’ve set up all the interviews at once – I’ve never been the ONLY person they’d contacted for the interview at the time they set it up.)

      This is just one position though. It’s a new department where my boss would would be my only other coworker! They said if the department does well though they will eventually expand and hire more people.

  31. Indie*

    Having the two boys in the office benefits no one. They are put in an environment where they are hemmed indoors and constantly shushed for the sake of the boys’ friendship? When a park would be so much better for that goal?

    Your co-workers are terrible at problem solving and are so short sighted they have no idea how close they are to being busted. When they are, you’ll be implicated. So I would speak up to the boss, and yeah I would also mention the office managers tattletale hint so he knows to cover you for retaliation.

  32. AdAgencyChick*

    I couldn’t help noticing in #1 that the boss sent the office manager to tell the coworkers that “the workplace is not a day care,” rather than talking to the employees himself, telling them to stop (and possibly helping them make arrangements for their OWN schedules to allow them to pick up kids and still work the appropriate number of hours).

    I do think that if the boss is indeed being a wimp as I think he might be, a modified schedule for OP is a fairly easy solution that doesn’t require him to STOP being a wimp, so he’ll probably be open to it.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Why is it the boss’s job to help them modify their schedule? Unless THEY asked to modify, the Boss does not have an obligation to accomodate someone else’s desire for their kids to play together. Which is what is going on. Sansa is off at 4. She picks both boys up. She CHOOSES to go back to the office with them, rather than go literally anywhere else. They HAVE other options. They CHOOSE not to use them. Not the Boss’ job to make those other arrangements.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I don’t mean “modify for the kids to play together” — but given that OP says the boss himself is availing himself of a flexible schedule (leaving at 3 PM) to pick up a kid, it seems like he might be open to allowing the coworkers to come in earlier and leave earlier so they can pick up their kids on time and NOT return to the office.

        Not necessarily the solution, but if it is a solution, the boss would be the one who has to figure out how that would work.

    2. Bea*

      As an office manager I had to enforce the bosses rules as well. That’s the job…

      The office manager is there to manage the team and is failing miserably.

      I say this as one who would only enforce “no kids” if I’m instructed to do so or told it’s a distraction. I’ve let parents bring kids in but they’re always sat in the parents office with homework not running around.

  33. John Rohan*

    “I’m finding it’s difficult to focus from 4-5 now that Sansa and Arya have kids in the office during that hour every day, often being pretty loud. Would you be okay with me shifting my hours to 8-4?”

    That sounds reasonable. But remember, the OP has to work with these people every day. After she brings that to her boss, Arya and Sansa might see the OP as a “snitch” and they might refuse to trust her again, which makes working together difficult. I’m not saying going to the boss is the wrong thing to do, but the LW should be aware of the potential consequences. Depending on how closely they need to work together, I would probably just ask to change my shift time without giving the specific reason why.

    1. Ladyphoenix*

      I would also talk to the boss about it. “Boss, the office manager said something troubling to me when I told her about the ossue. She said as long as everyone keeps quiet, this won’t be an issue. These kids are still distuping my work and now I am worried they will retaliate by sharing my issues with you.”

      1. John Rohan*

        Yeah, that would really instill a feeling of trust amongst co-workers. I’m sure they would have no problems confiding with her after that.

        1. Ladyphoenix*

          They shouldnt trust these people to begin with. They are insubordinate and rude. Why should Op1 bother to cover their behinds when it is obvious they won’t give OP the same courtesy?

          You seem to wanna pick an argument with me, what is up with that?

        2. bonkerballs*

          I mean, it’s not like they’re really going out of their way to instill a feeling of trust in OP by wanting her to be complicit in a transgression like this.

    2. Essess*

      Why should the OP be worried if they felt like they “couldn’t trust her again”??? They’ve already proven that THEY cannot be trusted by deliberately doing this behind the boss’s back. You do not owe loyalty to the people performing a deception. Your loyalty should be to your job, not to people breaking the rules.

    3. Bea*


      This is 3 against 1.

      It’s not okay but the LW risks a lot. Including these women icing her out or them being replaced, then the possibility of having the hell of the replacing process to go through.

      It’s a rock and a hard place. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

      In a perfect world we all live in harmony. In the actual world there’s a lot of cans of worms around each corner to open.

      1. Grapey*

        Seems like the people that want to make harmony are the ones that deal with these cans of worms. What cans of worms did the child-minders need to take into consideration before they ruined LW’s harmony of working at her job in silence?

    4. smoke tree*

      To me, the question comes down to whether it’s a bigger risk to annoy her coworkers by disclosing to the boss, or risking the boss finding out and assuming the LW was involved in concealing it. I think that depends a lot on how much she can rely on the boss’s support and discretion. I think it would be reasonable to give the boss a heads up about the situation and ask if the boss can avoid disclosing where she got the information.

      1. Observer*

        I think this is a very accurate way of framing the problem.

        The OP has every right to bring the problem to the boss, given how disruptive this is. But the OP needs to decide what is more likely to have the worst negative consequences.

  34. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, maybe I’m naive but I would try speaking with Sansa/Arya/ the Officer Manager one more time. State clearly that the boys are still distracting you and effecting your ability to work. If they use the “We can keep them quiet.” line again you can point out that is what they said last time and it hasn’t been the case, because the boys are kids and it’s understandable that they make noise and run and all that. But it’s effecting your job so going forward you are asking they not be in the office.

    If that get’s you nowhere, I would go to your boss using Alison script.

  35. jack*

    hi OP #3, I wanted to say something because I disagree a bit with people in this thread. While I do think the best way forward for you is to cut the talking and stick to work, I don’t think you’re wrong to expect your supervisor to respond to you throughout the day. I’m an introvert and usually prefer not to talk, but I can’t imagine completely ignoring someone the whole day (esp if I’m getting this right and you’re in a lab with her for 8 hours!). There should be a happy medium between constant chatter and dead, uncomfortable silence.

    1. McWhadden*

      Yes, I’m also an introvert and I hate when people hide behind that as an excuse to be rude. Not responding to someone at all is just unacceptable. I also get annoyed with co-workers who are constantly in my office trying to chat. But I say “hey, Susie, I am actually in the middle of something and can’t chat right now.” We’re all adults and we have to use our words.
      And sometimes I enjoy the break to chat.

      1. grace*

        Yeah, this isn’t just preferring silence — this is outright being rude. The supervisor really just needs to use her words and tell OP what she prefers; unfortunately, since she won’t, I think that means that OP will have to use *her* words and ask about it.

        1. Snark*

          Does she, though? She’s got a pretty clear course of action laid out for her: stick to work-related, direct questions. She doesn’t really need more input and information than that.

          1. grace*

            Except that OP states that even work-related questions [“but there have been entire days where everything I say (even if it’s work related) gets ignored if it isn’t a direct question”] are being ignored. So…. yeah, I think she does. If nothing else, it’ll give her an answer, rather than just wondering abouti t.

            I think the boss is being passive aggressive – seriously, you respond to other people but not the person you share a room with and whom you supervise? – but since the OP wrote in, and since the supervisor clearly isn’t going to change and be an adult, then the OP needs to do it.

    2. CM*

      I agree! I think the comments are being a little harsh on OP#3 and assuming she is an incessant chatterer. From the letter, it seems like the supervisor is the one whose behavior is extreme, since she’s not even acknowledging when OP#3 talks. The advice remains the same either way — just stick to direct questions, accept that the supervisor is sending a clear “don’t talk to me message” and try not to take it personally, MAYBE try to clear the air by saying, “I get that you don’t want to chat and I’ll try my best to cut down on that, but just want to make sure that I’m reading this situation right and check if there’s anything I’ve done to upset you.” But it doesn’t mean that OP#3 is wrong/rude/overly chatty and the supervisor is right.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        I think people are really projecting their own experiences and past frustrations. Reminds me of the discussion in last Friday’s open thread–speculation can be useful, but not if it doesn’t change the advice for OP. In this case, speculating on how annoyed boss might be or how much OP is actually talking doesn’t change anything at all.

    3. Alianora*

      Yeah, I’m not a very talkative person but I still respond when someone says something to me.

      I don’t think the LW is doing anything wrong either. Why are people assuming that she’s chattering incessantly? A little bit of non-work-related talk at the office is normal. If that’s not the manager’s preference, fine, but ignoring someone for the whole day is straight-up rude.

      1. Les G*

        This. We usually take OP at their word and assume goodwill…but I guess that doesn’t apply if the OP shows signs of being–gasp!–an EXTROVERT (*cue haunted house sound effects*)

        1. jack*

          Yeah, lots of people coming down on LW for…trying to talk about work with her supervisor? I mean, I would be pretty concerned that something was wrong if someone I worked with and spent a significant amount of time around just straight-up didn’t speak to me all day.

    4. Les G*

      Apologies if this is a double post, but: This! I’m flummoxed by the level of hostility toward OP here. If the boss does, indeed, prefer no chatter while working, that’s her prerogative. But outright ignoring OP =/= politely communicating this preference. The boss needs to use her big girl words for this one (and since she’s the boss, the fact that she hasn’t is, to my mind, inexcusably rude).

      1. jack*

        Also, ‘preferring not to talk while working’ and ‘completely ignoring the other person in the room for an entire day’ are two different things.

    5. AngelicGamer the Visually Impaired Peep*

      You’ve basically said all I’ve been thinking after reading the letter and a majority of the comments. Also, I’m an introvert but I was taught to use my words. Including “I”m sorry, but I need to focus. Could we chat about x at such and such time?” then following through on it. OP, I would sit down with your boss and make sure that there’s not a problem. If she’s confused and is “no, why?”, then you go into how you feel she is because she’s ignoring you all day. Your boss might not see there’s a problem with how she’s acting if it’s worked for her in other situations until now.

      1. Fin Shepard*

        Introvert doesn’t mean shy. I’m introverted but not shy. I recharge by myself and need a great deal of alone time. But I am interested in people and interact well as long as it’s not too many at once.

    6. Izzy*

      Agreed! A lot of people seem to be framing this as an introvert/extrovert thing, but if your level of introversion is such that you literally cannot bring yourself to speak to a person you’re sharing a room with for 8 hours a day and ignore her direct questions then you are the person with the unusual preference and you should communicate that. In words, not by just refusing to talk – that seems quite childish to me.

  36. Brent*

    OP1, please don’t hide your tattling on your co-workers in a pretend request to change your work hours. It will be all to transparent that you’re just asking about the schedule change so you can tell your boss what’s been going on.

    What you really want to do is to report these two, so just do it directly. It’s more respectful and will make you look less conniving.

    1. Dankar*

      It’s not tattling to request a quiet, workable space in which OP can do her job. That’s what they’re all there for. To work!

      It’s also not conniving/manipulative/dishonest/whatever to say that she’d like to switch her hours because the kids make it difficult to focus. It’s the truth. She has no way of knowing whether the boss okay-ed it (though we can all guess that he has not), and she doesn’t care one way or the other about the kids being there. I’m sure OP couldn’t care less about the daycare her coworkers are running, as long as she can leave before it starts.

      The only people who should be more respectful are her coworkers.

    2. MuseumChick*

      Tattling? No. Tattling is “Boss!!! Jane took 5 pens home with her. There is work property!” What the OP wants is a reasonable request. Her co-workers are creating a disruptive environment and the Office Manager has basically gas lighted the OP.

    3. Yorick*

      Well, it’s not really a pretend request, because changing hours is what OP actually wants to do.

      For all we know, the boss has okayed this since he/she isn’t there (I mean, I don’t think that for a second, but it’s possible). Given the possibility that Boss knows about it, I think I might not want to come at it like I’m telling Boss something that he/she doesn’t already know.

    4. WellRed*

      It’s not tattling and the letter writer is not conniving. Sure, she should be direct, but let’s not make her the one in the wrong here. The two coworkers and the office manager were not only told NOT to do this, and then made it sound like they wanted to keep it under wraps, it sounds like this was never cool in the first place because they used to have the kids in occassionally when the boss was out. They know its’ wrong, it’s always been wrong and I think they should all be fired.

    5. Myrin*

      If you read the letter’s last paragraph again, you can clearly see that OP actually absolutely doesn’t want to report any of this (FWIW, as someone who’s very direct and isn’t afraid of conflict, it actually pained me to read that with how strongly avoidant it came across to me); it’s pretty clear that she already buys into this “tattling” nonsense, so I really don’t think commenters here actually need to encourage that.

    6. John Rohan*

      I agree with you. But my work background is mostly military, so it may be a cultural issue, or even a man vs. woman perspective. As I noted in my comment above, it’s not necessarily wrong, but you could really destroy workplace trust by “tattling” in this manner.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        Haven’t the office manager and other two coworkers already destroyed workplace trust by saying things “Well, since boss isn’t here it’s okay for us to break the rules”? If I heard my coworkers say something like I would really be wondering what else they think it’s okay to do when the boss isn’t around to catch them.

        Trust should not rely on people allowing you to break the rules and circumvent authority, while also inconveniencing themselves in the process. I don’t think that has anything to do with the military, culture, or gender.

        1. McWhadden*

          I completely agree with this and others saying similar things.
          But, realistically, we do have to acknowledge that the LW could face negative consequences at work among co-workers for speaking up. It’s not OK. But we can’t just pretend it might not happen.

          1. Observer*

            Oh, the OP could absolutely face blowback. But, in no way is it about “breaking trust” – there is none!

      2. WellRed*

        I would argue the coworkers, by going behind the boss’s back, and also making it clear that what the boss doesn’t know… are the ones who are damaging workplace trust.

      3. Grapey*

        Sounds like a crappy culture to respect the trust of troublemakers and rule breakers over someone there to do the job correctly.

    7. Brent*

      I’m referring to it as a pretend request because yes, she really would like to change her hours, but the whole point of the meeting isn’t that. It’s to force a situation to happen so she can tell the boss what’s really going on. It’s all based on a pretense that any decent manager will see through. “Oh, they didn’t want to change their hours as much as they want to tell me something negative about their co-workers.”

      It’s like a teenager asking their parents “Can I stay out late tonight since Jane’s been sneaking out of her bedroom late for a week?” The request is real but it’s a clumsy way to try to hide the real purpose – giving the people in charge information about someone to get them in trouble.

      No one’s going to be fooled. It will make her look bad. Make the complaint directly like an adult.

      1. Myrin*

        Again, I get what you’re saying, but I just don’t think that’s the case here – OP seems to want to go out of her way to not have to bring this up and “rock the boat” if she doesn’t absolutely have to.

        1. Brent*

          She seems like she wants to do avoid bringing it up, but Alison’s advice was to bring it up in a sneaky way, which might cause her to do just that.

          I’m saying go with your original instinct, OP1, and don’t.

    8. Observer*

      So, firstly, what the OP is doing is NOT “tattling.”

      Secondly, it’s pretty disturbing of you to tell the OP what they “really” want to do, when they say what they actually want to do.

      If you really want people to be respectful, it seems to me that being respectful yourself is a good starting point.

  37. Nita*

    #3 – this is not super likely, but is it possible the boss has some kind of mild hearing impairment? Maybe she really doesn’t register OP’s conversation unless OP walks up to her and gets her attention to ask a direct question. And of course the people walking into the lab to chat will be obvious to her, so she’ll chat with them every time.

    1. Snark*

      But from OP’s perspective, this doesn’t change anything. She’s been given plenty of signals that direct, work-related questions are fine, and chat is ignored. Whatever the reasons, she’s got everything she needs to move forward.

      1. Nita*

        That’s true! It may change how OP perceives the situation, though. It seems like she feels it’s awkward and directed at her personally, when there’s a good chance it’s not – whether because the boss doesn’t hear her, or because the boss has a different working style and prefers to cut the chatter when she’s concentrating.

      2. bonkerballs*

        She’s been given signals that direct, work-related questions are being tolerated, not that they’re fine. If someone ignored me constantly, even in response to work related talk (which OP says happens), to me that would say “this person does not want to speak to me at all and I should do everything I can to avoid asking them questions, even if I need to.” Which is how I interpret OP saying they spend much of their time trying to stay out of their manager’s way. This is an extremely poor manager.

        1. a1*

          Agree. It’s affecting her work productivity. Boss is being rude and a poor manager, so it’s on OP to bring this up, unfortunately. (And hope she’s not ignored again.)

    2. BlueWolf*

      Sometimes if I am focusing on work or something, I honestly don’t even hear my coworker talking to me. Not a hearing impairment, my brain just tunes it out. Sometimes he is just thinking out loud, or it’s just a statement (rather than a direct question), so it doesn’t register in my brain as something that needs acknowledgement. Unless he says my name, I don’t realize he’s talking to me. This could be a similar situation.

  38. Girl from the North Country*

    OP #3 – I wouldn’t take it personally. As someone who’s often pretty quiet myself, it’s usually not because I dislike the other person, it’s because I’m kind of shy and anxious, and sometimes don’t know what to say in response to someone else’s comments (can’t think of anything witty to say, or try too hard to think of something to say that won’t make me sound stupid, and then too much time has passed for me to respond and so I don’t say anything at all, or the comment doesn’t really leave room for a response beyond “…yeah”).

    Or sometimes I do respond but it’s so quiet that nobody hears it. And even if I wasn’t in the mood for chit-chat, I’d probably never outright say that (again, the shyness/anxiety thing). Also if your work requires a lot of concentration, it might be difficult to process what another person is saying – you “hear” them talking but your brain doesn’t translate it to “needs a response.” Just my two cents!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh, I wish I’d seen that — I usually don’t answer questions here that have already been answered there (hence the note at the top of open threads asking people not to submit to both).

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      1) No.
      2) It is a recurring theme, though I think the last example is far before last week–whether the assignment is a way to get free work product for which they don’t want to pay a consultant, and how much effort is reasonable for such an assignment. Here I’m less worried about the first (though it’s conceivable, and good point made nearby about dropping off physical copies in person with no paper trail) but the second–I don’t do event planning, but this does not sound remotely close to a 1-2 hour task. I can see someone coming up with this because they want a lot of information and the assignments being for past events.

  39. Jam Today*

    I have nothing to add about #1 other than our economic model does not make it easy to have a family and also keep your head above water.

      1. Jam Today*

        Someone has to take care of 5 year old children. In the absence of daycare, school, or summer camp, that means babysitters or parents. Babysitters (as well as camp and daycare) are hella expensive, and parents are working. It seems relevant that childcare is an issue, and its a bummer.

        1. Myrin*

          While all of that may be true (I’m not in the US, so I only know of basically all of you guys’ issues secondhand), it doesn’t really seem to pertain to this situation since Sansa has the time and ability to look after the two children in question. Which would be a really good solution to any childcare problems if she didn’t actually do that in the office.

        2. Baby Fishmouth*

          Sansa actually is not working during that time. It sounds like she finishes at 4:00, picks up the kids, and then waits around the office until Arya is finished. It’s definitely hard for parents, and I have sympathy, but there’s a very easy solution here, and Sansa and Arya are just disobeying direct orders and disrespecting their coworkers by having noisy children around.

        3. Dankar*

          I agree, but the coworker bringing the kids to work is not actually working while they’re there. Her day finished an hour earlier.

          In this case, childcare is available. It’s just taking place in an inappropriate setting.

        4. Indie*

          But there is a person free to babysit! Most parents would feel blessed and not push this problem onto co-workers because they have out of work options!

        5. The Original K.*

          Sansa is off work during this hour. She IS the childcare; she’s choosing to provide it at her office, which is inappropriate. She could (and should!) just as easily take the boys to a park, the movies, or her home during that time.

          I agree with the analogy upthread that likens this to Sansa getting off work at 4, popping in a workout video in the conference room, and getting her workout on instead of going for a run or joining a gym or working out at home. She’s using the company space for her personal needs, unnecessarily.

    1. I'm actually a squid*

      Very true but it seems like the logical following to that in relation to today’s letter is not “allow the kids in an area that’s been forbidden to them and allow them to disrupt your work” but rather “Sansa and Arya should be seriously grateful they works in a place that gives them such flexibility to care for kids and sure as heck shouldn’t jeopardize that like they are.”

  40. Ladyphoenix*

    Ask your boss about an earliar shift. If I he boss asks for an explanation, just be honest:
    “Arya is bringing her kids in for an hour, and they have been distracting me. I rbought it up to the amanger, and she did not see this as a problem. I want to work during a time they won’t be in.”

    You can also mention, “My manager said something along the lines that this won’t be an issue if no one tells. I am worried that I will be targetted for telling you. Can you do something that could help the both of us?”

      1. Ladyphoenix*

        I wasn’t being sarcastic.

        If the manager wants to cause a stink, then you just let the boss know and they can deal with it.

        Transparency is probably gonna be the best way to keep the OP sane.

  41. Lyda Rose*

    I’d be deeply suspicious of the company described in letter #2. You’re essentially doing the advance planning for events that they can then take and use for free.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Not just that, but they’ll have 8 options to choose from for each event! Why even hire anyone if you can just keep getting people to “interview” and do all the planning work for free?

  42. LSP*

    OP #1 – I have a boy about the age of the kids you;re describing, who will be starting kindergarten in a couple weeks and I wouldn’t DREAM of having him spend hours at a time in my office. I have occasionally brought him in with me in the morning (before most people in my office are here) on days when my aunt wants to take him for the day because she lives closer to my office than my home. He’s never been here for more than 15-20 minutes, and as it’s a rare occasion, my coworkers enjoy the distraction and dote on him. If anyone was ever on a call, or extremely busy with work, you can bet I would wait outside with him, or give him some paper to color on quietly to wait for my aunt.

  43. Kat A.*

    #2. They want hard copies dropped off in person instead of emailed or certified postal mail because they want to use the work of the applicants FOR FREE! And they don’t want a trail. I know because I was asked to do the same thing for the same kind of job.

    If you do the project, be sure to also send it via email no matter what they say. Blind copy (BCC) yourself to several different email addresses.

  44. Linzertart*

    LW1: Do you have a good relationship with Boss? If so, maybe it would be better to have a conversation on the DL with them that basically says “I’m having trouble getting work done so I want to bring this to your attention, but it’s been made clear to me that others don’t want this to be known to you.” Then ask if Boss will drop in after they usually leave one day to “catch” the kids in the office so you aren’t the tattle.

  45. Hiring Mgr*

    #1, i suppose it’s beside the point, but why does the grandma want to bring them to the office vs anywhere else? It doesn’t seem particuarly convenient, and who wants to come back to work after they’ve already left for the day anyway? Plus as others have said, there are potential hazards like what if they kids get injured, there may be some co workers who couldn’t have kids that might get upset, etc..

    #3, I can see why this is awkward…And even though the boss might not want to chit chat, it seems odd to me to just ignore someone rather than say “sorry, when im working I really need to concentrate so i can’t talk”, or whatever.. especiallly it’s just the two of you.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      #1, because it’s close by and air-conditioned and free. I assume her home is not close by, the park is not air-conditioned, and other indoor venues nearby are not free.

      I don’t agree with her solutions, but I think that’s her reasoning.

  46. Lucille2*

    #3 – Is it possible your boss is just super focused and she’s not hearing you? I tend to be this way myself. If I’m super focused in a task, I tend to shut out everything around me. People will say something to me and I won’t even realized they’re talking to me and completely ignore them. Is it possible your supervisor is just so focused she doesn’t realize you’re trying to engage in a conversation? Or maybe she just isn’t very talkative.

  47. T*

    LW#1 – I would not fear backlash on this, ask for a new schedule and mention the reason being children are brought into work daily which distracts you. Sansa obviously disregards everyone else in the office by forcing them to be around her kids every day. It’s wrong and needs to stop. I worked at a very relaxed office and when one woman starting doing this, the Vice President in our office quickly put a stop to it. Her kid was in middle school and would run around screaming or just generally misbehave. Once in a while (like once or twice a year) is fine but this is overstepping the boundaries and pretty thoughtless on Sanaa’s part.

  48. Bea*

    #4…did you have any training by the former person? Did they give you their contact?

    I’ve had bosses just tell me to contact the former and then others give me their info. It can be so murky.

    I’ve been bombarded by old coworkers with after I leave questions and when I left on good terms, I’m happy to help.

    When I left the Hellhole, it enraged me and made me want to snapback at them for having the balls to bother me.

    So unless you know the person or they told you to ask them questions. Leave them alone, they are gone for a reason. Maybe it was like when I moved. Then I left for logistics and I’ll do anything for the company, they’re still my friends. Or it’s like when I got chased out. Ef. Those. People.

  49. Shortbread*

    Wow guys. I am disturbed by some of these responses. The meanness in this comments section is kind of over-the-top. The fan fiction switch has been turned on and you all are making some incredible assumptions about the OP and the boss.

      1. President Porpoise*

        Alison put some instructions for this in Friday’s thread – if you believe somethings getting too off topic/overreaching, post a comment with the issue and the URL of the problematic comment in it, which will make it go to moderation and she can remove if necessary.

        I’m with you on the fan fic. It’s annoying and rarely helpful.

  50. Annoyed*

    Children do not belong in the work place. Children do not belong in the work place. Children do not belong in the work place. Children do not belong in the work place!!!

  51. Annoyed*

    OP3: She’s not a Chatty Cathy. Accept that it’s not personal and don’t expect her to tell you she doesn’t feel like talking “today.”

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I suspect that goes to the heart of it–that she’s never going to say that she isn’t feeling chatty “today” because that’s how she is every day.

      Though I can’t rule out personal. I think Alison is probably right to offer a script where OP tries to figure out if the boss is annoyed–it’s possible there is One Thing that could be fixed, and yeah the boss should have brought it up but in this version of reality that didn’t happen. But more likely that they are just not temperamentally suited to share a space and both feel relaxed and optimally chatted with.

  52. Izzy*

    OP #1 – I like Alison’s script, but I would speak to the office manager one more time before going to the boss and make it really clear that the issue is not “I’m worried the boss will find out”, it’s “this is having a real, negative impact on me and my work and I need you to find a solution”.

    That said, I do question whether they will actually be able to keep this a secret if they continue with it long-term – it seems to me like there’s a lot of ways the presence of two active young boys in an office environment could be found out. (What if they make a mess/spill something that’s still noticeable the next day? What if you have a visitor who mentions it to the boss? What if the boss does come back to the office for some random reason while they’re there? Etc etc.) It might not happen, of course, but if it does then your boss is going to (pretty accurately) think that the entire office has been involved in covering something up from him that he explicitly said he didn’t want to happen.

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      With two active young boys, I would be worried that the boss would find out because little Liam accidentally stapled his finger with the electric stapler, or little Noah hit his head on the corner of a desk, and Boss is staring at some kind of personal injury claim.

  53. Candy*

    Personally, I think the number of times you can you reach out with work questions to the person who used to have your job is zero (0). ESPECIALLY if this person never told you that you could reach out, never gave you their contact info and you had to obtain that info via a friend. I think a good rule of thumb is: if the person who used to have your job is now a paid consultant and you or your company is paying them for consulting on your work — then by all means, contact them as much as you’d like. If they’re not, then figure out ways to do your job and let them move on. If your company is so poorly organized that you can’t do your work after four months without bothering the person who used to have your job, that’s on your company and not the former coworker to fix.

  54. Master Bean Counter*

    I might be old and grumpy but here’s my take on #1.

    As a coworker I would ask them one last time if they plan on figuring out a better solution. I have work to do and I’m not going to accommodate two rambunctious kids any where near me. Heck I left early at my old job because my office mate would bring her teen age daughters in and they would lounge on the floor in front of the filing cabinet I needed. The third time I had to ask the kid to move I just left for the day.

    As a boss I would assume that the office manager handled this problem when I asked her the first time. I would be absolutely livid to find out she was hiding this situation from me. I’d be understanding but perturbed that other employees didn’t tell me this BS was still happening. As for the office manager, if I kept her, she would be in charge of nothing. But chances are she’d be fired for being devious. Sansa and Arya would be given a chance to make other arrangements for child care, but they would be told in no uncertain terms that continued disruption of the office will be allowed.

  55. Loves Libraries*

    I seem to Rey’s similar letter several months ago about a single mother bringing her daughter for an hour after school every day and no one was getting anything done. The parent had previously been in an office and now was in a cube. Boss was apparently in an office and was oblivious. Did we ever have an update???

  56. Loves Libraries*

    I seem to remember a similar letter several months ago about a single mother bringing her daughter for an hour after school every day and no one was getting anything done. The parent had previously been in an office and now was in a cube. Boss was apparently in an office and was oblivious. Did we ever have an update???

  57. Justin*

    During my recent job search I had to do assignments for two job openings. One took me many hours, I wasn’t happy about it but I was unemployed and I thought I had a pretty good shot at the job. When I sent it to the hiring manager, he immediately called and goes “Is that it? This is the best you could do?” Needless to say I didn’t get the job, and I’m pretty happy that I didn’t in retrospect. It was still pretty insulting and I was angry for a few days afterward. The other one only took me a couple hours and it landed me the job I have today. And I wasn’t even sure I’d get an offer. So that was great!

  58. buttercup*

    RE #2 (interview assignment): DON’T DO THE ASSIGNMENTS. I’m 99.99% sure it is not a real assignment – they are trying to get free work out of people (they want you to mail it so that there is no trail). A lot of marketing, event planning, and fundraising jobs are susceptible to this (though not limited to those areas.)

    Don’t feel bad about dropping out of the running because I’m pretty sure there is not running to begin with. They have no intention of hiring anyone. You will regret it when you put in all that time and effort only to never get a call back but they will have benefitted from your free labor. No reasonable company would assign a trial assignment this extensive and to mail it by post – this is not normal.

  59. Sammi*

    To the one with the kids – how about if they change her schedule to leave at 4:00 – then no kids!

  60. Andrea Stevens*

    OP#2, I do suspect the company is attempting to get ideas and work for free. I fell into this trap four years ago with an airline that I had long been a fan of and was going after what I thought was a plum Communications position. After a Skype interview and then an in-person interview, I was told I was “in the top 6 candidates” and given an assignment. The assignment was to create a full employee benefits rollout, complete with a new name and tag line for the new benefits plan, multiple release emails to employees, briefs for management, press releases, and a look and feel for a website. I worked for five days on that rollout package. The company strung me along for months and I’m sure if I could look at their employees’ benefit material, I would recognize my own work there! Never again.

  61. ejodee*

    It saddens me to see so many commenters piling on to make sure OP4 is told how unwelcome chatter can be = that OP4 must be a chatterer. And even more saddening that Alison’s comment, in its brevity, appears to endorse this presumption.

    The irony is that OP4’s question is concise and she (or he!) communicates well. A contrast to many other letters that appear in this blog, not to mention the replies.

  62. Courageous cat*

    Hmm, with regards to last LW, I personally think Alison takes a very strong “it doesn’t mean anything” approach to stuff like this, and I don’t always agree. Yes, a lot of the time it’s not something you can read into, but sometimes it can be. And personally, if I was reasonably wowed by a candidate I was interviewing, I wouldn’t say something like what that interviewer said to you. Just like I wouldn’t say, while planning a second date, “I have a few other interesting matches that just came through this morning that I’d like to try dating first”.

    It doesn’t mean a LOT, but I would feel like it’s significant enough to want to move on faster from the idea of getting the job.

  63. The Doctor*


    Taking Alison’s advice (“I’m finding it’s difficult to focus from 4-5 now that Sansa and Arya have kids in the office during that hour every day, often being pretty loud. Would you be okay with me shifting my hours to 8-4?”) also makes it clear that you know that Boss knows that this is going on.

  64. The Doctor*

    The interview assignment is clearly another classic case of “Client Z has a project for us and we can’t afford to pay someone, so let’s do some more fake interviews.”

  65. YoungTen*

    This is a classic Extrovert/Introvert dynamic that drives everyone nuts. What Allison said about her willingness to talk to more passerby convos is correct. She can expect the time-frame that these convos can last. The boundary is much clearer than with an offices mate who’s with her all day. As an introvert myself, I can tell you that boundaries are SUPER IMPORTANT to us. While you may enjoy chit chat through out the day, she may loathe it. And since shes your director, You should follow her lead.

  66. Statler von Waldorf*

    To OP#1 – Your situation (or at least a similar one) is how I ended up in management in the first place! There were people in the office doing things behind the manager’s back, and I was the only one willing to tell the manager what was going on in his business. The situation ended up with the two guilty people getting arrested, the three who knew and kept their mouths shut all got fired, and I ended up getting promoted to office manager for being the only one willing to tell the boss the truth.

    Yes, retaliation can be a thing, and I’m not going to claim that it is a risk free move. However, in my case it was probably the best single career move I ever made. It completely changed my world for the better.

  67. AnonForThisOne*

    OP#1, I am just passive-aggressive enough to make sure I was on the phone with someone (be it an internal resource, or trusted client or customer) that I knew would say something about the shrieking in the background the next time they talked to Boss.

    Problem solved, and you did not have to say a word ;)

  68. Writer Letter One*

    Hi everyone, I’m the OP of number 1.

    First, I want to thank everyone for all their helpful advice and suggestions.

    I actually completely forgot about the cameras we have in the office – part of the requirements we have for a large account in the business. My boss decided to take a look at the camera footage from last week, and discovered what was going on.

    Bright and early Monday morning, Boss called Sansa, Arya and Office Manager into his office. And then all of us into a meeting. Arya’s hours have been adjusted – she now leaves at 4. My boss decided this would be the best approach and of course Office Manager and Sansa agreed. Arya actually complained – in our staff meeting! – that she wasn’t sure she would be able to make it to work on time and he said, “Well, either you accept this schedule, or I will have your resignation right now.”

    He then reiterated – verbally and in writing – we are not to bring anyone of any age into the office at all, period. Anyone not in compliance with this directive will be terminated.

    No big deal for me, as I don’t plan to bring anyone in to meet these people, ever.

    1. e271828*

      YAY! I’m glad this resolved without you having to step in! Good boss. And I wonder whether boss will be checking the camera footage more often nowadays.

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