my coworker’s kids are disrupting our meetings

A reader writes:

I am working with a group of parents who are organizing a charter school. As the board president, I never bring my son to board meetings, as I need to focus on the agenda. One other board member, who is also a friend, frequently brings her children to board meetings. They are 6 and 7 years old and are frequently loud and disruptive during these meetings.

This parent is on the orientation committee for the school principal, who starts working next week. Today she told me that she will be bringing her kids to the orientation meeting. This will be a long and intensive meeting. Because our site is undergoing refurbishment, we have no choice but to meet in a coffee shop at a private table. How do I tell the parent that it is inappropriate to bring her children to this meeting?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Telling my boss that I’m leaving after I promised that I wouldn’t
  • Employee’s new schedule is hard to work with
  • My manager’s boss wants us to complain about my manager to his face
  • Can I ask my references how strong of a reference they’ll give me?

{ 167 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamey*

    Regarding #5: If someone told me that they wouldn’t give me a glowing reference, I would feel very relieved that they were honest with me so I could make good choices for my references. Perhaps framing it like that in your head would help with not feeling disappointed about not getting good news. aka, “Thank goodness I know this and can act accordingly!”

  2. Lyra Silvertongue*

    It seems especially important for a working group that is centered around the needs of children to be able to provide childcare so that single parents or people who can’t get childcare can participate. I’m sure the mother in question knows that bringing her kids there isn’t ideal, but it’s likely a choice between that and not participating at all.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Yeah, for a normal office job a strict rule about not bringing kids makes sense. But this is a group of parents trying to start a school on a volunteer basis!

      I’m involved in a community group that tries hard to be welcoming to parents of young kids. At one committee meeting the chair’s husband volunteered to watch my kids so I could participate (we were meeting at their house). Other committees meet at a picnic table near a playground so they can keep an eye on their kids during the meeting. Most of the work of this particular group is more casual or limited than starting up a new school, which is a huge undertaking, but the point is that groups that want to welcome parents can find ways to make it work.

      OP says they have to meet in a coffee shop, which sounds like a terrible place to have a meeting where you know kids will be present. Could they meet at someone’s house, where the kids could at least play in a different room and maybe watch a movie for part of the time? A mall food court that has a play space? A lot of libraries have conference-type space that can be reserved. Does anyone on the committee have an older child who could come along to entertain the younger ones? Or could they find funding to pay for child care, on-site or elsewhere?

      1. nnn*

        Or even if they don’t have funding to pay for childcare, could one of the other group members who isn’t on the orientation committee watch the kids, either by being present at the meeting but paying attention to the kids, or by taking them somewhere else (even if it’s just to their own home to hang out with their own kids)? Since everyone involved is a parent of school-aged children, it seems like there should be multiple people in this group who are equipped to watch a couple of school-aged children.

      2. when did Personal Responsibility become everyone elses problem*

        This is business, not free child care. If she won’t hire a sitter or put them in child care then she needs to rethink her volunteering. It’s not everyone elses responsibilities to make sacrifices, she is the one with kids who are being disruptive, this is work, not a playground

        1. Parenthetically*

          Oh please. A group of volunteers starting a school is not an “THIS IS BUSINESS” situation. It’s a situation where everyone involved — presumably mostly parents — needs to be willing to at least make an effort to include key PARENT VOLUNTEERS, or they’re going to get nowhere.

            1. Parenthetically*

              Hey, I’m a teacher too, and I agree that it’s business, but it’s a business that involves parents of children. I was countering the gross, hostile, anti-parent rhetoric the above commenter is spewing all over this thread. It’s not a situation that requires pitting professionalism against family — it’s the opposite.

              1. Chugwaffle*

                Please do not post here under a different user name after I asked you to stop posting earlier. That’s sock puppetry and it’s not cool here (and I can see when you’re doing it). – Alison

              2. Doctor Synonymous*

                The problem is that you could use this argument to allow kids in a totally not-kid-friendly environment. Or one where they could be very distracting (either by themselves, or via distracting their parent away from the task at hand).

                There are -tons- of meetups, discussions, etc. that involve planning stuff for kids or are about them. That does -not- make it okay for kids to be present there. If someone is distracted (like the person referenced in the post) by having kids there, perhaps it’s at least worth discussing.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  Allowing kids in a non-kid-friendly environment is pretty obviously not what I’m referring to, nor what I’m arguing for.

        2. Academic Addie*

          Alternatively, if you can’t or won’t compensate for labor, you’re stuck with what you can get. I organize volunteers for things, and the fact is that if I wasn’t willing to accept long turn-arounds, or people disappearing for a few days when their actual lives get busy, I would have no one. It’s up to the OP to make that call. If they’re a group of parents from one locality, the volunteer pool is probably shallow, and it’s worth weighing the cost of losing a person who is enthusiastic but has childcare needs that aren’t being met by this meeting time/structure.

        3. Johnny Tarr*

          I think Personal Responsibility became other people’s problem in the US after WWII, when middle-class men could expect their wives to stay at home and provide child care. Before and after that, women have historically had to both work and raise children, and it’s pretty much always been difficult.

      3. Kettles*

        They didn’t know the kids would be at the coffee shop. This one parent just keeps violating the basic societal norm that you don’t take children to business meetings.

        1. when did Personal Responsibility become everyone elses problem*

          ah ok, then they need to tell her that if she can’t sort her personal responsibilities out she cannot volunteer.

          1. Afiendishthingy*

            Wow this is a super classist response. I often volunteer to be childcare during organizing meetings for local direct action groups. I don’t want the only people making decisions and fighting for justice, or founding schools, to be people who have the privilege of having a partner or the means to pay for childcare.

            1. when did Personal Responsibility become everyone elses problem*

              Removed. This is not the place for anti-parent screeds. I’m going to ask you to stop commenting on this post now. – Alison

    2. Cobol*

      I agree. We have no way of knowing, but I don’t think of an organization starting a charter school as something with a ton of money. I know boards are important and you need to get a lot of work, but if they’re not paying, it’s not really a coworker. It’s a co-volunteer. In my mind you need to give a lot more leeway.

      1. Academic Addie*

        Same. I do some volunteer work, and I’m in somewhat of a management capacity. I do try very seriously to recognize the fact that I’m not offering you money, and therefore, my claim on your time is pretty weak.

      2. Kettles*

        I don’t know about other countries but the U.K. equivalent (academies) are funded by the government (for reasons that elude me, but that’s for another forum).

          1. Kettles*

            I see – academies (the U.K. equivalent) often get a great deal of funding from corporate and private sponsors. And often from religious orgs. This may be colouring my responses; in the U.K. they are controversial, sometimes bankrolled by disturbing partisan figures and often the preserve of the elite.

            1. JR*

              The same can be true in the US, but certainly not always, and if this is a parent-driven effort, it’s likely that any such funding would come farther down the line, after the initial start-up efforts. (Though if the school is already opening, they may be that far down the line and it might just not be that kind of charted.)

        1. Coverage Associate*

          Also, the funding may only come once students are attending classes. So there’s no government funding at the start up stage.

      3. Close Bracket*

        > if they’re not paying, it’s not really a coworker. It’s a co-volunteer.

        This isn’t like cleaning up the neighborhood, this is like being an unpaid worker at a start up with no funding. They are founding a business, that makes their meetings business meetings even if they aren’t collecting a paycheck.

        The fact that this is a school is what makes a difference in considering the needs of board members with children. Those children might even attend that school!

    3. pleaset*


      And it’s good AAM said: “But beyond this one meeting, you might think about whether there are ways to make it easier for her to attend your meetings (especially if she’s a single parent or otherwise in a child care bind). “

  3. Don*

    I’m sort of surprised you completely ignored that they’re going to have “a long and intensive meeting” at a private table in a coffee shop. I’m not sure what a “private” table means, but I have to assume that if this was actually in an enclosed room which they’d control then this detail wouldn’t have needed to be mentioned.

    Sounds to me like this person has a better grasp of the message being sent about these meetings than the questioner does. Dealing with a space being renovated is certainly a drag, but it’s not like there’s not meeting space solutions in the world. Many libraries have offerings and there’s always private homes. I’d have a lot more faith that someone was taking the value of my time seriously if they asked us to meet around a dining room table than in the local Coffeebucks.

    1. Autumnheart*

      I can think of a few coffee shops around my town that *do* have enclosed business areas with doors. I spent the day in one, working while my car was being fixed–it was awesome. Maybe they’re meeting somewhere like that. I certainly hope that they aren’t just pushing 6 tables together and letting their kids go bonkers, while ignoring the fact that other patrons exist.

    2. Matilda Jefferies*

      I expect she ignored that part because it wasn’t actually what the letter was about. The OP wasn’t looking for advice on meeting spaces. It’s reasonable to assume that the OP and her colleagues were aware of the potential options of libraries, private homes, etc, and had already concluded that a coffee shop was their best alternative.

      The point of the letter was “how do I manage the issue with the children?” The question and Alison’s answer would have been the same regardless of where the meeting was scheduled to take place – it’s not like they would be any less disruptive in a library or as guests in someone’s home for hours on end.

      1. Don*

        Except that the message you send to your employees and coworkers with your actions and the things you prioritize cannot ever be separated out from what something is “about.”

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Lots of business meetings are done at *Bucks and other coffee shops. They’re made to be able to set up a laptop and do work at, think of all the books written in coffee shops and businesses launched.

      I would be sketched AF if someone asked me to meet at their home unless they had a dedicated detached office kind of set up, that’s so inappropriate and unwise because it brings people into your personal space!

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I’d understand being sketched out about meeting in a home for a normal business meeting, but for a volunteer community project? That seems totally normal to me.

        1. Close Bracket*

          > a volunteer community project?

          It’s a charter school, a business. Not in the same category as neighborhood clean ups and the like.

          If this were the board of a tech startup, there would be no question that this was work, not community volunteering. I wonder what it is about the start up being a school that makes people jump to volunteering.

          1. Afiendishthingy*

            What is it about schools that make people jump to volunteering? Well, they’re not for-profit businesses and they have no money.

          2. pleaset*

            “I wonder what it is about the start up being a school that makes people jump to volunteering.”
            Being a school.

          3. Clisby*

            A charter school is not necessarily a business. In my state, for example, charter schools have to be nonprofits. For-profit charters are not allowed. Meeting to organize a charter school absolutely would be a volunteer community project.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Really normal for volunteer committees. Meeting in coffee shops in these cases is so no one feels like they have to clean.

      3. Fed up*

        “so inappropriate and unwise because it brings people into your personal space!”

        Oh, fer cryin’ out loud. The introversion apologists on this blog are getting to be too much. People having guests in their home is a thing, even if it is their sacrosanct “personal space.” Even for community projects, like this one.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Agreed. Meeting in a coffee shop is perfectly normal. Meeting in someone’s home is perfectly normal too.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          Being put down because people dont want outsiders in ther perdonal space is offensive. If you have such an issue with all the people here that feel that way…well you have choices. Being snarky about others’ comfort levels…in their private spaces is out of line.

          1. Fed Up*

            Read the comment again. Becky Lynch isn’t talking about her personal space. She’s talking about the personal space of the person doing the inviting. If I own a home, it’s up to me to decide whether having guests in my “personal space” is “so inappropriate and unwise.”

          2. Observer*

            The problem here is not that someone doesn’t want people in their personal space. It’s that the very idea is being painted as some sort of outrage that no sane person should entertain. Bringing people into your personal space of a project that people are personally invested in is NOT “inappropriate” by any reasonable standard. That doesn’t mean any person is required to do that, but that’s a VERY different thing.

      4. nonymous*

        I’ve been on three neighborhood volunteer groups. We meet in a mix of people’s homes and local churches. My friends who are intensively into PTA stuff will do committee work at each other’s homes (primarily because then the kids can run around in the backyard/play in the basement).

      5. Ella Vader*

        I’ve been on a volunteer board where the president clung to power, punished people who disagreed, and resisted any new ideas – and part of how that regime operated was that we met in the president’s and vice-president’s kitchen, where there wasn’t enough room for everyone to take notes and where their kids sometimes interrupted.

        Because of that, I tend to push groups I’m part of to take advantage of free and cheap meeting spaces as soon as they can.

      6. Autumnheart*

        Yeah, I’ve been on a few volunteer committees, and it is 100% normal to have organizational meetings in people’s homes when they have the room. Community spaces are frequently booked up, and this is why homes have entertaining spaces–to host guests. It’s not like they’re having the meeting in their bedroom.

        1. I Took A Mint*

          Agreed, I’m really confused about the aversion to this. As you said, this is the whole reason homes have living rooms/parlors/rooms besides the bedroom. This is why you buy extra dishes and silverware. It is super normal to have guests in one’s house.

      7. iglwif*

        I agree that there’s nothing weird about business meetings in coffee shops, but I also don’t see anything weird about volunteer committee meetings in someone’s home? I go to meetings like that at least once a month, and it’s never seemed sketchy to me.

        I will say … I used to freelance, and there were a couple of clients I would *only* meet with at Sbux because I got a weird vibe from them and didn’t want them in my flat. But they were definitely the exception, not the rule.

        1. Alienor*

          I don’t think it’s weird either. When my daughter was younger, I went to lots of Girl Scout and school booster meetings in troop parents’ or committee members’ homes. I never volunteered to host the meetings (for a whole mix of reasons ranging from a lack of street parking, to not having a nice/roomy enough house, to not especially liking to play host), but I didn’t have a problem going to them at other people’s, and would bring snacks or help clean up to offset the never-hosting thing.

  4. VictorianCowgirl*

    For #2, it’s strange to me that the boss, presumably the principal officer in a small company like that, isn’t making a capital investment or infusion to cover the paycheck as opposed to paying the LW off the books. I side-eye this, and LW it sounds like you are absolutely doing the right thing by leaving.

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Yeah, this sounds more like tax evasion that could bite the OP significantly if she’s honest and claims this income on her taxes. If he wanted to keep paying her as an independent contractor, he could have set it up that way — but he didn’t…

      1. Autumnheart*

        Especially since he’s presumably not paying FICA and Social Security taxes on this pay.

        1. Mr. Tyzik*

          OP likely doesn’t have insurance, FMLA, or Labor protections by not being an employee.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            They have 5 employees in this startup, they don’t have much protections anyways, most kick in around the 10-20-50 marks. Of course some regions are different and that will be different, we have paid FMLA on the state level now so that would be a huge concern to me but many places only go on the Federal protections.

            1. Sarah N*

              You have to pay payroll taxes no matter what, and depending on the state, stuff like workers comp insurance may also be legally required. We have a nanny, so only one single employee, and we still have to provide those things even for just one person

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                Of course. But the comment steered away from taxes and went to labor protections, which don’t come from payroll.

      2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        I found the original post — it’s question #4 and the OP responds under the first comment:

        She was getting paid only the net of what she made as an employee — so not including any of the SS withholding, etc. So if she goes to file as an independent contractor she’ll have to pay that herself — essentially making less than before. Also being employed, but not really employed, was potentially hurting her when applying for jobs and they did a background check; she can’t claim to be employed an amount of time by Company Z if they show her as having been laid off.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      In addition to the excellent points about this being cheaper than a capital investment because he isn’t paying taxes, OP should consider what happens in the very likely result that the company goes all the way under–I imagine that filing for unemployment when you were paid off the books for the last couple of months is… complicated.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Ding ding ding! He has money to pay out of pocket and under the table but doesn’t want to invest capital in his own venture? LOL-NO. Secure capital? First you start with your own if you really believe in your business.

      Please don’t feel indebted to this man, OP. Get yourself a job and be free from this guilt tripping shady nonsense.

      1. henrietta*

        He won’t keep paying you past when it’s convenient for him! He’s demanding loyalty on a one-way street. Do not feel guilty, go.

        1. Sally*

          I agree. And a boss who has your best interests in mind will tell you to find something more stable, not try to make you stay in an unstable situation. I was also one of the people thinking about taxes not being withheld when I read this letter.

    4. SusanIvanova*

      #2 needs to google “failed startups” and learn from all the employees who held on to the bitter end – when the backers start pulling money, it is time to run. It will not turn around and your stock options will not skyrocket. Silicon Valley is littered with them.

    5. Burned Out Supervisor*

      Yeah, being paid off the books puts the employee at a disadvantage. You can’t just assume your employer is withholding the proper amount for taxes, etc.

    1. gmg22*

      This is quite interesting context. Given this note and the children’s ages at the time of the letter, my best assumption about their status at that time would be that she was home-schooling them. But the ideal outcome of being involved as a board member in organizing a charter school, I assume, is that her children would attend it. And at that point, she would HAVE to trust someone else (the charter school teachers) to watch her kids. It’d be so, so interesting to hear more about how all this played out in the end.

      1. Grapey*

        Interesting thought. I wonder what would happen if the kids didn’t get accepted (if it’s one of the charter schools that has a lottery). She’d have to consider contending with *gasp* public schools and *gasp* maybe work to improve public schools for all children instead of stealing funding from them for a special charter school.

        1. Maya Elena*

          I don’t think the impetus to home school and anxiety around others watching your kids necessarily come from the same place. I can (reasonably or not) distrust Dad or Grandma as babysitters (will they break out the TV and ice cream while I’m gone?!), but be comfortable sending my children to a school that adheres to an educational philosophy I identify with, staffed with professionals, with a clear curriculum and appropriate, safe facilities…. Conversely, I can be perfectly fine with Dad, Grandma, or teenager next door watching my rapscallions for a few hours, and still seriously consider homeschooling because of inadequacies of my local public school options (or my children’s own special needs).

        2. Maya Elena*

          I also admit I struggle to see charter schools as a priori theft, especially if they are just additional education options serving the same population of children? I know it is a very complex issue, and the final verdict on whether charter schools are a net good for a given community depends on the details of that community’s needs, opinions, education environment, and the particulars of charter school implementation. But you’d need to look at all sorts of measures – parent satisfaction with public schools vs. charter schools over years, test scores, other measures (e.g. rates of altercations, children’s mental health), equity metrics, cost effectiveness 0 what is being produced in return for dollars spent, etc. to draw a conclusion.

          1. Kettles*

            In the U.K. They are autonomous schools that receive public funding but in practice typically either serve elite populations or reinforce segregation – for example, they’ve been caught teaching creationism, and telling children that homosexuality is a sin – I.e. they are often effectively indoctrination stations rather than educational institutions.

          2. nonymous*

            I think one of the issues that Grapey is referring to is that charter schools divert money earmarked for education into the pockets of for-profit companies. It creates an environment ripe for corruption and there were some spectacular cases in Ohio and Florida. (google ECOT and Survivors Charter Schools).

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        My knee-jerk assumptions about someone who “doesn’t trust others to watch her kids” are not especially flattering, but there’s a lot we don’t know here. Maybe one of the kids has special needs that make finding an appropriate sitter more complicated. Maybe she’s fine with trained teachers supervising her kids at school but reacted negatively to a suggestion to hire a neighborhood teenager to babysit. Etc.

        1. Grapey*

          If we’re going to go with that assumption, then Mom’s going to be in for a surprise when her charter school won’t accept a special needs kid so they can keep up their performance scores.

          1. Aiguillette*

            That’s a big leap. The church school my children attended became the place for people to send children with dyslexia because the local public system refused to provide any services. Our school didn’t separate out any test scores, while the public system encouraged students with special needs to take testing week off. Our school’s scores were lower, but there was a waiting list because it was more inclusive. There are enough problems in all levels/forms of education to presume ones that don’t exist.

    2. WellRed*

      I also think it makes a difference when the kids are interrupting/distracting. At 6 or 7, they should be able to amuse themselves for a little while. Is she bringing something to keep them occupied?

        1. anothermom*

          That would presumably be easier if they were meeting somewhere other than a coffee shop. If they were in someone’s home, the kids could be left to play board game/watch tv/color in the adjoining room, but you obviously can’t do that in a coffee shop.

      1. wafflesfriendswork*

        I had that thought as well–when I was at that age I would have happily sat in a corner with a book or some crayons for an hour.

      2. Autumnheart*

        I don’t know anyone who could stay engaged and entertained while waiting for someone to drag through a meeting that’s multiple hours long. It’s a heck of a lot to ask of first-graders.

        1. just a random teacher*

          Once I hit second grade or so, I could probably have been left in a corner of a coffeeshop with a pile of books and a reasonable fund to go buy myself snacks and be happy as a clam for hours on end, but different kids vary a lot in this. I was expected from an early age to find something to do by myself pretty regularly at home, and was allowed to walk to the local commercial district and go to restaurants without an adult (as long as I had another kid with me) around that age, too, so I was already regularly practicing figuring out how to spend my time and money without adult intervention as a kid. I work with a volunteer organization that has seen several different people bring their kids to meetings due to lack of childcare, and how well that works depends A LOT on the individual kid.

          I once had a 9 year old show up at an all-day working meeting at my home (around 10 people collaborating to build a complicated schedule for over 200 speakers for a multi-day conference) because both of her parents were on the team making the schedule and they didn’t have another good option for her that day. I don’t remember anything in particular she did that day except for (a) when I loaned her a specific artist tool I happened to have because she was working on a project and forgot hers and (b) when she was excited to be given a jar of pickles when we divided up the leftover meeting food at the end of the day. She was just the kind of kid that could be given a choice of quiet things to do and would then sit and do them all day.

          On the other hand, I had to sit through multiple meetings disrupted by our chairperson’s two kids one year, because they were not capable of finding some way to entertain themselves for two to three hours at either the local library or a pizza place with an arcade without interrupting their mother repeatedly and/or doing something she had to intervene with. (These kids were in elementary and high school and no, the older one did not reliably watch the younger one or refrain from interrupting the meeting himself.) A lot of it depends on the particular kids, and also on the usual family dynamic (which is, of course, built around the personalities and expectations of both the kids and the parents).

        2. Sandman*

          My kids were at a City Council meeting with me last week for over an hour and a half, and my youngest is in first grade. They were fine, by which I mean quiet, still, and non-disruptive. They read, colored, and played Minecraft on my phone, which they can do because they’ve been doing this for years. I also bribed them with donuts. It depends on the kids, but it’s not impossible.

          1. Jean (just Jean)*

            Um, depending on the kid or kids in question, sometimes it really is impossible. Some of us simply are not wired to sit quietly during an adult activity for various reasons (Propensity to sensory overload; ability to identify or predict said overload still a work in progress; ADHD; love of climbing; and/or meeting schedule in direct conflict with mealtime or sleep time…) You can imagine how I learned this. But I also learned not to put myself, my child, and anyone bystanders on the express train to misery. In the words of Dr. Doolittle, “Life is too short.”

      3. EddieSherbert*


        My coworker in the cube next to me had to bring her kid around the same age into the office for half the day today. I literally didn’t even know the kid was there until I stood up to talk to the coworker.

      4. Doctor Synonymous*

        That’s a mighty big assumption to go “oh the kids will just entertain themselves while the adults are talking.”

        What if they don’t? What if this parent has to be drawn away because they start a tiff or get fussy? This meeting sounds pretty important (volunteer or otherwise).

  5. Autumnheart*

    #2 – Employee who promised they wouldn’t leave

    Don’t feel bad about leaving. #1, paying you under the table is going to wreak havoc on your taxes next year, and it’s a very good idea for you to get out of that situation ASAP. I totally get why you chose to stay (money > no money, you need the experience and possibly the reference) but this is not a sustainable situation. And honestly, I side-eye your boss for going directly to the sketchy solution instead of figuring out how to keep things above-board.

    Give your notice, leave with a clear conscience, don’t feel bad. You are not responsible for saving someone’s business for them, especially not at the expense of your own livelihood.

    1. Mr. Tyzik*

      That’s the elephant in the room, the payment under the table. How long is that sustainable? How has management not noticed that the laid-off OP is still showing up every day?

      Getting paid under the table is not a long-term solution. I agree on the sketchiness of it. It’s generous, but you don’t owe anyone in staying in the (non)position.

    2. whatwhatwhat*

      If there’s any pushback over leaving (thee shouldn’t be. but this boss is already doing shady stuff), I’d say, “Paying me off-the-books is illegal [long pause with eye contact] and I will not be participating in it any longer.”

    3. No Longer Working*

      Especially since she could be collecting unemployment insurance. She was laid off, technically, with her last official paycheck.

  6. PizzaDog*

    LW1 – I would see if your area has an office space or Breather available to rent for your meeting. If it’s long and intensive, it might not be a great idea to have it in such a public place. You’d both be distracted and be distracting for other people in the cafe.

  7. DaffyDuck*

    The letter where the employee took a second job and now has limited availability: why does he need a second job? If you are not providing a full-time job with a living wage do you expect him to starve in debt so he is at your beck and call? Many large American corporations use rotating or non-set schedules with their part-time/low wage workers as it is easier to schedule (making it almost impossible for said workers to cobble together significant income to provide necessities).
    I don’t mean to be snarky, but this is a pet peeve of mine. If you want him available then give him a full-time job with a decent wage; otherwise, realize someone else may notice his great work ethic and hire him.

    1. fposte*

      I didn’t see any indication that that was what was expected, though. The OP just asked “How do I handle a situation like this that is best for my business and leaves both of us happy?” That’s a reasonable question.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        He is available only on Sundays, but can no longer be scheduled for on-calls or be able to attend monthly store meetings during any other day of the week. His work ethic is still superb, but it has been difficult working around his new schedule. I am willing to interview other candidates for his position, but I don’t want to lose him since he is such a valuable employee.

        Nah, I’ve been in retail hell long enough to translate retail manager speak and this is pretty easy: “How do I force this employee to take on-call shifts and participate in mandatory store meetings without him quitting in favor of the other job that pays better/has benefits/schedules him a decent amount of hours/whatever he needed that he wasn’t getting here—we desperately need him because he’s been covering for all the slackers and doing most of the work for years but we can’t/won’t compensate him for the level of work he’s doing because reasons.”

        Odds are, corporate wouldn’t approve of scheduling anyone for more than maybe 20 hours/week and not everyone can/is willing to live like that, especially if half the hours are officially scheduled and the other half are the days one of your coworkers is too hungover to bother coming in.

        The worst part about the whole situation is Superb Employee is probably still working Sundays as a favor because of some misplaced sense of loyalty to the company or his manager but Alison read it like a question from reasonable workplace and gave the advice you’d give someone who’s getting shafted by a schedule conflict.

        1. pleaset*

          All this. It’s obvious. “His work ethic is still superb, but it has been difficult working around his new schedule.”

          Is his new schedule fixed? If so, that’s it. The OP knows when they can have him. Take it or leave it.

    2. KR*

      This – I had a strictly 29 hr a week job that was part time. It paid very well but I could not only work 29 hours a week so I had to have a weekend job. My manager knew my feelings but when coworkers made comments like “Oh I wonder if KR will be here today” and “must be nice to be leaving so early!” when I was leaving early to go work until 10:30 at night at a shitty customer service gig while they got 40 hours a week with benefits at one job… No patience. Either pay me for full time work and give me consistent hours or deal with the fact that you won’t be my top priority

      1. Kettles*

        Yes. I’ve seen shop jobs offering 8 hours a week while demanding ‘complete flexibility’.

    3. Mrs_helm*

      That may be true, but it may also be an ungenerous reading of the situation. It sounds like job 1 has always been PT, whereas, given the scheduling, job 2 may be FT. Perhaps job 1 just doesn’t have workload to hire this position as full time. It’s also possible that employee left because job 2 is just more attractive to him for personal/career reasons.

    4. Annabelle*

      I interpreted this as the employee was working in retail or something similar (the OP referenced “monthly store meetings”) and then took on a full time job that could be in an office or something more along the 9-5 schedule. If that’s the case, I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to say that they can no longer be on-call as it’s a much different schedule and environment.
      The best case is probably what Alison recommended, where they talk through the minimum commitment required and see if this job is still a good fit in the employee’s life.

      1. Psyche*

        I thought that it was a second part time job and that the employee may be a full time student.

    5. doreen*

      Maybe it’s a second part-time job or maybe it’s a full-time job – it doesn’t really matter. This job is not the worker’s priority for whatever reason – and it doesn’t have to be a matter of the first employer mistreating him. I was in a similar situation – I had a “part-time” fast food job, got a part-time job n the back office of a bank and still worked weekends at the fast – food job. The bank job absolutely had priority even though I could work 40 hours a week at the restaurant if I had wanted to. ( no one got benefits back then) . The bank got priority because I preferred that job, which did not involve customer contact. FF could have me weekends or not at all.

    6. designbot*

      That’s what I was wondering about too. Ultimately there may be reasons why this isn’t an option—either LW’s budget has no wiggle room, or maybe the other job is actually more in line with what the employee wants to do anyway, or who knows what—but I feel like LW should at least be considering what it would take to make their business this employee’s priority if they value him so much. A promotion or raise? Full-time hours?

  8. TeapotNinja*

    OP2: The phrasing I’ve used in this situation is something along the lines: “As the primary income earner in the family I would be irresponsible not to take this opportunity”.

    Obviously works as stated only if you have family, and whether or not you are the primary income earner, but something similar should work fine too. Reasonable people have really no way to counter that unless they want to give you a raise or otherwise better employment terms.

    1. Legal Beagle*

      You could say, “For the sake of my own financial security, it would be irresponsible for me not to take this opportunity.” Especially because the job situation is unstable, this really rings true.

  9. AnonResearchManager*

    I have to offer up an opinion contrary to what AAM and others already posted on this one.

    If I were the manager in this situation I would be miffed. After directly asking if the OP were looking to leave the situation, not once but a few times, AND the OP replied Yes each time, I would be upset they ended up leaving anyway.

    Don’t get me wrong the OP should leave if this situation isn’t right for them, for all the reasons everyone has mentioned. The problem I see is that the boss was looking to have a direct conversation about it and the OP was less than forthcoming about the fact that the situation is presenting issues for them. If they OP had said something less committal than a definite Yes to the question of whether they’re willing to see the funding situation through, I’d totally agree, they’re free and clear to use AAM’s suggested language. But because they said Yes they are committed and are now backing out, it sounds like they weren’t operating in good faith on this one (unless there were some sort of unforeseeable circumstance like having to move or a personal emergency, etc.).

    1. Artemesia*

      No one should be ‘honest’ with a boss doing something illegal and pressuring them to commit or for that matter to a boss not rewarding them for good work who pressure them to commit. It happens all the time and the consequence of ‘honesty’ is to get fired. The OP has no commitment here except to get themselves out of a terrible and illegal situation; they will be having a good time at tax time. Who cares if the boss feels hurt by it or offended by it?

    2. fposte*

      I think you’re right that the “maintaining him as part of my network” may not be viable, but I also think that this guy is too shady to be relied on anyway.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      This is a case where you really cannot expect people to be forthcoming. (Just like the “explain your supervisor’s faults in front of said supervisor” letter.) “Jae, I’m going to lay you off. So you’ll have no income starting tomorrow. Unless…. what if I paid you under the table? I’d be down with that… but only if you first tell me things are great between us and there’s no way you’ll look elsewhere, you’ll see us through however long the funding crisis lasts.” Most Jaes would try to keep an income, while also recognizing–as the funding crisis extended onward–that they needed a plan B. A plan B that did not involve being immediately laid off from under the table, too, if they were honest with their boss about the existence of Plan B.

      In less dramatic form this happens all the time. “Huh, half the team has quit since I put Fergusina in charge–tell me, Jae, are you looking elsewhere? I’ll immediately lay you off if you say ‘yes’…. Just be honest, you’re totally happy and will stay and take on the work of the missing people, right? Because IT’S FINE.” Sure, Jae said yes, but the manager should have realized they had set up a situation where they punish anyone who answers honestly.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        yes, everything Falling Dipththong said, I totally agree.

        The boss put the LW in an unwinnable situation, with the only real answer being “yes, I’ll stick with you to the very end” even though there’s no way that is the write move for the LW.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You cannot expect someone who is your subordinate to be honest with you when you have money they need to live in your hand dangling in front of them. Of course they’re going to answer the way that means they get to buy food and pay rent!

      You don’t get to just hold someone hostage like that and then get hurt when they find a way to escape without being “honest” with you.

      I’ve had a boss say “I want you here forever! You’re amazing! We love you!” and literally the next week decide that I had committed Acts of Sin Against Them [they’re nutso] and threaten me with termination. No joke, that happened. People change their mind, you can be upset about it all you want but that’s on you and feel free to torch whatever bridges you want.

    5. Psyche*

      I don’t think you can reasonably ask someone to “see the funding situation though” indefinitely. Maybe if the boss asked for a specific timeframe, but he is putting the OP in an untenable (and illegal) situation. He is pressuring a subordinate to accept unacceptable terms of “employment” and demanding a promise to stay. He has lost the right to expect an open and honest answer.

    6. designbot*

      On the other hand Alison’s posted several times about how employers trying to extract promises from employees or having ‘honest conversations’ around this are setting themselves up to be lied to, because the power dynamic puts the employee at a severe disadvantage there. If they say anything in the moment that isn’t what the boss wants to hear, they could hear “okay well then we should make today your last day.” in return. I understand why the employer wouldn’t feel great about being lied to, but they should recognize that this was never going to end any other way.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        “Why won’t my employees be honest with me so I can immediately fire them?” really isn’t a puzzle you should spend too long scratching your head over.

  10. Amy*

    I’ve participated in some of these charter school creation board meetings. They can be very intense, with a focus on state education law, disability law, hiring issues and data.

    You usually leave with your brain swimming with acronyms and statistical terms and need to go fetal in front of Bravo for a few hours.

    It’s really be compared with lighter community and volunteer projects where kids could be welcome. Even as a mom with young children and occasional child care issues, I agree – kids are not a good addition here.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think there are some topics, and some kids, where bringing them can work. (My physical therapist had her kids part of the day during some school breaks, and it was really fine. She’s start my on my exercises, give them money for the vending machine, and then come check on me. The kids were very well behaved and self-occupying.) But digging deep into the bowels of hiring laws is not a good match for telling small kids to keep themselves busy while you figure out the nitty gritty details. Even if it’s a volunteer thing.

  11. anothermom*

    Please take a serious look at the goals of your school and what role equity plays in your design process. Parent engagement is a critical piece of student success in school, and if you can’t accommodate parent volunteers you have no business starting a charter school.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think that’s true, though, and I certainly don’t think they’re obligated to accommodate parent volunteers only in the way the parent volunteer wishes.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        When I volunteered with reading in my older child’s classroom, I did so only on days the younger had daycare. Because coaching reading and keeping an eye on the baby didn’t go together.

        I think there was one mom who brought youngest in a stroller, where he placidly sat while she tutored, and it was fine. My youngest tolerated the stroller only if we moved at a brisk forward pace, and otherwise wanted to be free to climb things.

      2. anothermom*

        Maybe I’m viewing this too much through the lens of my own community, where charter schools are usually pitched as beneficial to low-income families. In that case it is absolutely true that parent engagement is a driver of academic success. This is an organization that is proposing to take public money to serve families and as such should have an equity-based approach to accommodating volunteers.

        1. fposte*

          I’m not disagreeing with the parental engagement part; I’m disagreeing that you shouldn’t open a school if you can’t have kids at your meetings.

          1. Autumnheart*

            That’s ridiculous. That’s like saying that people shouldn’t run businesses if their employees can’t bring their kids to business meetings. It’s not appropriate to bring children everywhere. The world isn’t a daycare.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I get it as an ideal, but I think you can create something worthwhile even if it doesn’t meet the ideal.

              1. valentine*

                It’s not even that OP1 wants to ban kids. These kids need a place where they can be loud and in motion. If they were quiet and still, maybe Mom would agree to a mother’s helper sitting with them at the other end of the coffee shop (so they don’t overhear confidential info). I doubt she’d let a babysitter take them to a park or similar space nearby and, either way, she’s going to be distracted and checking on them, instead of focusing on the meeting. I can’t think of a way to accommodate her insistence on being their sole caregiver. I would’ve headed her off by saying she needs childcare if she’s to volunteer.

        2. Aiguillette*

          I’ve been a volunteer at public schools that said just that. When I was on the PTO board I was not allowed to bring my children to board meetings. During school wide meetings we provided childcare. It’s one reason that traditionally women waited until their children were older to volunteer.

      3. when did Personal Responsibility become everyone elses problem*

        I’m with you. Don’t be an entitled parent please, this is work not recreation

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Can you tone down the anti-parent rhetoric here, please? I’d like this site to support working parents, not lecture them. And this kind of attitude disproportionately hurts women.

          1. Afiendishthingy*

            And low-Income women and women of color, at that. I’m happily childfree but this commenter’s attitude is bugging me.

    2. Shay*

      Perhaps parent volunteers can better focus when not having to multi-task in an important meeting. Let’s create a professional environment that will attract professionals – the new hire deserves a comprehensive orientation and onboarding.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Oh my god I forgot there was going to be a new hire at the meeting. If I was being hired for a role at a supposed future charter school and the onboarding meeting was in a public space with a woman who brought her loud and distracting children … holy crap.

        I’m not saying I would nope right out the door, but I probably wouldn’t withdraw from any other positions I was being considered for (just in case).

      2. Ann O.*

        Once the meeting is at a coffee house, I would say the “professional environment” ship has sailed.

        1. Kettles*

          Plenty of professional meetings take place in coffee houses. They’re a lifesaver for small companies without board rooms.

    3. Doctor Synonymous*

      There’s a limit though. What if I’m a parent of 12 and can’t find a sitter? What’s that? You can’t accommodate me? I guess you have no business starting a charter school then.

      ^ The above hypothetical illustrates the absurdity of the leap from “maybe kids shouldn’t attend an hours-long intense meeting” with “wow okay ms hates-children, why are we even doing this if you don’t accommodate all parents’ needs??”

  12. Stephanie*

    Regarding the kids at meetings: I’ve been involved in PTA since my oldest child was in kindergarten (she’s now 20), and when when my kids were in elementary school, the PTA offered free childcare during meetings. They would pay 2 or 3 middle school aged students to babysit on site–usually in the art room, or another appropriate room. They also had one adult overseeing the whole thing (it was usually a para who worked in the district–they were paid for their time). It was a line-item in the budget, it was a small expense for the PTA, and it made it much easier for parents to attend the meetings. Maybe something similar could be put in place to help with the issue for LW#1.

    1. Paperdill*

      What a wonderful way to manage things! I only have 1 out of 3 in school, si I wanted to “do my duty” and be active in the P&C (Australian PTA), but I just can’t get to evening meetings because I don’t have anyone available to care for my kids at the time.
      I would love to enact this kind of system….but I’d need to actually be in in the P&C to get it happening (vicious cycle).

    2. Doctor Synonymous*

      Sounds like an excellent way to accommodate the parents’ needs (who can’t afford a sitter or have other arrangements) without disrupting the meetings themselves.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      That’s awesome and a great idea, but presumably PTA meetings happen less frequently than meetings as part of the process of starting a new school. It may not be financially feasible to pay for something like that for every meeting they have.

  13. Rusty Shackelford*

    My knee-jerk reaction was “hoo boy, no, you don’t ever bring your kids to a board meeting,” so I appreciate that Alison reminded me why it’s not so black and white. I might have been influenced by a woman on a board with me who would bring the kids she was *babysitting* to meetings. (No, these were not emergency meetings.)

  14. iglwif*

    LW#1: This seems like an ideal situation to provide paid employment for your friendly local teenage babysitter. Depending on how long the meeting is, the mum could pack some snacks and send the kids with the teenager to the nearest playground, or leave the kids at home with the babysitter, and everyone would likely have a much better time than if the kids were at the meeting. And the maximum cost would be X hours at around minimum wage, which you could cover as a goodwill gesture / a way of encouraging parent engagement, if you wanted to.

    1. Kettles*

      Yes. The parent in question should definitely pay a reputable local babysitter. The parent, not LW. It’s absurd to expect a volunteer group to comp costs like this.

        1. Close Bracket*

          > She chose to have kids

          Personal Responsibility becomes everybody’s problem bc children are an essential part of society. That’s why my property taxes support local schools even though I have no kids of my own. We need to step away from this “choice” terminology.

          1. Doctor Synonymous*

            Nonsense. Unless you’re going to open your doors to my 12 children because I have to go get a haircut? After all, *society* is responsible. Open up!

  15. Shay*

    1. How to make a bad first impression on your new hire …. not treat his/her orientation professionally and likely create a distracted environment that is hijacked by children.

    How about, “When can we reschedule that the kids are occupied? We really need to focus on our agenda and make this a productive session. Having the kids present will distract from our objective and not provide Ms. Smith (new hire) with our focused attention.” Rinse – Repeat.

  16. Close Bracket*

    You know, many corporations and non-profits have boards. None of those board members are paid. I wonder why it is (I don’t wonder at all) that when the corporation is a charter school, the board becomes a community volunteer project rather than, you know, a board.

    1. WellRed*

      I think lots of corporate boards offer some sort of compensation. Not to mention connections.

    2. Pommette!*

      In my city, at least, it’s common for non-profit boards to be exclusively made up of wealthy, well-connected people, often (from what I have seen) with outsized egos. Some boards are struggling to become more representative of the populations they serve; some don’t even bother trying. Reasons for exclusion are varied (old boys’ networking; people not being able to afford unpaid work; etc.), but the way board membership is represented to potential members (as a service activity that is an extension of one’s professional status and role as a well-established community leader) definitely contributes to the problem. People who have great contributions to make but aren’t 60 year old lawyers and doctors don’t really imagine themselves in those roles. I wonder if having some of these boards become community volunteer projects would actually help them become more inclusive.

      That said, I don’t want to dismiss your larger point (if I am interpreting it correctly) that education-related activities are often seen as de-professionalized and de-skilled.

  17. StillWorkingOnACleverName*

    For the love of God, don’t work under the table. You’re giving up the protections you’d have as an employee and also missing out on your future Social Security earnings. It’s a bad idea all around.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      Right—and if you are working under the table and are planning to get out, you can report the labor violation to the labor board if you have any proof of the employment relationship (especially stuff like printed emails or texts giving you a schedule or saying manager-type things, negotiating employment terms and compensation, etc).

      You can get credit for that work/money retroactively and the employer is forced to pay the taxes they should have been paying for you. You’re not in trouble as long as you pay taxes on the money.

  18. Sandman*

    The anti-child/anti-parent stuff on this site is really exhausting me. I glean so much good information from most of these conversations, but am questioning if I should stay away because I’m finding this topic so difficult. Full disclosure: my kids have come with me to every kind of meeting over the last several years. I’ve spent the years when they’ve been little launching a successful non-profit. They are very rarely disruptive or this would never work, but every meeting isn’t scheduled around me and sometimes my options are to bring them or completely bow out of life until they’re much older. Is that really what we want as a society – for every person who has children to be kept solely to childrearing tasks unless they have the wealth and/or social support to outsource that regularly? I hear a strong undertone of “know your place” in this kind of conversation and reject that wholeheartedly. We all need for there to be a next generation to continue to care for us and society when we get old ourselves.

    I have felt very little gender discrimination in my professional life, but mom discrimination is another story.

    1. WellRed*

      I think your viewpoint is all the more reason to keep coming here. We all learn frim each other. I don’t have kids but I try to understand the need for flexibility in some of these things. At work, I never question a parent needing time off, etc. I am only ever truly bothered if the parent has tuned out some truly out of bounds behavior when bringing kids to an adult workspace.

      1. valentine*

        What would you do if your kids were loud and you wouldn’t allow anyone else to care for them?

        1. Rhymes with Mitochondria*

          Well, you start allowing someone else to care for them. You find someone you trust and just do it. If you have history or trauma that makes that difficult, you deal with that history and trauma and find a way to let go and trust.
          I am a parent, and I really, really don’t get the “I don’t allow anyone else to care for my kids, ever” thing. Your kids are going to have to live without you someday. It’s good for kids to have a variety of caretakers. It’s good for them to be with other kids. That can be a day care or another family’s home. You’re not a superparent for never having left them with a babysitter or let them visit someone else’s home.
          I think bringing your kids to everything – especially places where they are a distraction to others trying to work – because you don’t allow anyone else to care for them is not okay.

          1. I heart Paul Buchman*

            Hang on, I really disagree with your tone here. This is a legitimate decision to make for your own family but it isn’t fair to judge others who make a different choice. There are plenty of reasons a woman would have a 100% care role. Off the top of my head:
            * no family close by/capable (due to death/disability/medical problems/immigration)
            * cost of paid sitter out of reach
            * child has disability/complex behavioural needs that makes finding a sitter difficult/impossible
            * escape/vulnerable because of violence from the other parent (mistakes can be made around court-orders prohibiting contact, particularly with very young children)
            * history of trauma (which you mention above) it’s not so easy to ‘let go and trust’.

            Also, I think that people (and its more often than not women) who are raising their children without the supports that you take for granted are “superparents”.

    2. ZucchiniBikini*

      Seconding everything you’ve said, Sandman. I was also in this position a few years back and I did bring kids with me to various kinds of meetings on occasion, both work and volunteer. (My two eldest are now teenagers, so it no long arises, as they can babysit the youngest if I have meetings outside of school hours).

      Like you, I haven’t experienced much gender-based discrimination at work in the generic sense, but parent discrimination? Hoo boy, yeah. And it is quite upsetting to see it here so often, and not always challenged either. I am reading AAM less than I used to and avoiding the parent topic questions now because of it. (Shouldn’t have read this one either!)

    3. Doctor Synonymous*

      Neither extreme is acceptable.

      Thankfully, neither extreme is being advocated.

      No-one who is saying “maybe the kids shouldn’t be there” is suggesting “wow go back to the kitchen mommy, you don’t belong here.”

      No-one who is saying “the kids aren’t disruptive, and we want to accommodate a parent so they can participate” is suggesting “hey free daycare for everyone forever.”

      Let’s not strawman either side’s argument here with hyperbole, then proceed to try and tear down that hyperbolic-set-up.

    4. Kettles*

      Parental discrimination is a real thing. For example, women who have children not being considered for promotion.

      Not being allowed to take your kids to business meetings is not discrimination. This isn’t about ‘knowing your place’, it’s about respecting other human beings, and their time. It’s about not putting yourself ahead of everyone else.

  19. Joalexander103*

    The people with kids shouldn’t feel like this is a personal attack. You are not a victim. If your kid isn’t well behaved do not take them to important meetings. Are these kids serving a purpose, or are they there because the mother can’t/wont find another place for them to be for the duration of the meeting?
    Please stop the martyr syndrome arguments and think about it logically. If your kids are quiet and well behaved and what you are talking about isn’t confidential in any way then you’re fine. The OP is talking about rowdy kids that are disruptive. I understand the need to be professional, even if you are forced to meet at a coffee shop. You want to be taken seriously, but that’s hard if your “important” meetings are not ran like important meetings, but day cares instead.
    Answering the question; just be direct. Tell them that you would like a more formal setting. The kids were disruptive in the past and you would like to request that they sit this one out.

  20. Kettles*

    Also LW2 – consider that maybe there is no financial crisis. Maybe this is just a scumbag looking for a way to save money. Doing what he’s doing isn’t a favour to you – he’s scamming you out of taxes and future benefits.

Comments are closed.