employee keeps leaving early, coworker’s son’s bathroom etiquette, and more

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

1. Employee keeps leaving early

I’ve been a manager for two months, coming from an individual contributor role and building a new team in my organization. I’ve hired a few people, they are all settling in well, and the team is gelling. I’ve tried to set the expectation that my team can have a flexible schedule as long as work gets done. However, as people are ramping up, they have less on their plate. One employee is taking advantage of the philosophy and leaving very early, to the point where my manager has commented “where is your team?” I’d expect my team to spend some downtime trying to familiarize themselves with systems and I’ve also set that expectation — just not explicitly at the end of the day. I’ve said “when you have downtime…” not “make sure you don’t leave before X:00.” How do I rectify my problem of them leaving so early without talking out of both sides of my mouth when I’ve told them “flex your schedule as long as your work gets done”?

This is a tricky thing about management: It’s important to be very explicit about your expectations and not assume your staff have the same frame of reference that you do — but it can be hard to spot when those assumptions are in play until after you see the results of not spelling something out.

But you’ve spotted it now, and you can address it. Say something like: “I know I told you that you can flex your schedule as long as work gets done. I apologize for being unclear — I didn’t mean you could regularly leave as early as you have been while you’re still learning the job. When you have downtime at the end of the day, I’d like you to work on familiarizing yourself with our systems by doing things like X and Y. Leaving early occasionally is fine, but but most of the time you should be here until the end of our core work hours.”

You should also be more explicit about what is okay. If they can flex their hours but not like this, what kinds of things can they do and how often? Spell it out so you’re all picturing the same thing.

Also, make sure they really do have enough to do and, if they’ve done all they can to familiarize themselves with your system, exactly what you want them doing to fill their time. Some people work faster than others, and maybe this person is really at the limits of what can be done. If it really comes down to “even if you don’t have anything else to do, it looks bad for us if you’re not here at 4:30” or “I need you to stay because sometimes things come in late in the day,” be clear about that. Otherwise you risk seeming like you’re out of touch with how much work there really is.

2. Coworker’s son comes to work and has bad bathroom etiquette

I have a question that I hope will be funny for you and your readers despite the abject horror it has caused me and my colleagues. A C-suite person in our (small, 15-person) office occasionally brings her 12-year-old son to work with her due to childcare issues. My coworkers and I have no problem with this and are all very sympathetic to the plight of working parents. However, there is a major issue: the son regularly pees with the bathroom door wide open (not just one or two inches ajar). We have a single occupancy bathroom on this floor, which is shared by eight colleagues. The other workers are on another floor. Not only does he pee loudly and with the door open, but he frequently misses the toilet, leaves pee on the seat/floor, and doesn’t wash his hands. I know this because, sadly, my desk is right near the bathroom. We put a sign in the bathroom imploring all to wipe the seat if needed, but that doesn’t stop the son. The mother is known to be petty and vindictive, and HR is very hands-off. What to do?

The next time you see him going in the bathroom, say, “Cyril, please shut the door when you use the bathroom here.” Handle it just like you’d handle “Cyril, don’t run in the halls here” or “don’t throw those papers all over the place.” You might need to say it repeatedly until it sticks. Until then, if he’s in there with the door wide open, someone should walk over and close the door.

You can do the same with the mess: “Hey, you left a mess in here. Please come back and clean it up.” Every time. This will require you and your coworkers paying attention when he’s just left the bathroom but it sounds like it’s warranted.

In normal circumstances, you’d ask his mother to handle all of this, but since you describe her as petty and vindictive, you’re probably better off just dealing with it directly. Alternately, it’s reasonable to tell HR they need to intervene (the fact that they’re hands-off doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t, especially if you push hard enough) — but the fastest path here is just to tell Cyril directly what he needs to change. (And if you have any worries the mom will complain, let your manager and/or HR know ahead of time you’re planning to handle it yourselves so they’ve got that context before they hear from her.)

3. Is being asked to accept a job offer quickly a red flag?

I applied to be an assistant director of a nonprofit about a month ago. After my interview, they came back and asked if I wanted to be director as the current director is leaving. This is an agency I always wanted to work for and I was really excited. I had an interview two weeks later and a little over two weeks later they are presenting me with an offer that’s not great and there is a very short time frame to accept.

I had already known (and been excited for the plan) that I’d be hired now as assistant director and then spend the next few months in training with the director. What I didn’t know was that the salary for that position is $7k less than what I make now. The plan would be for me to transition to the director position in January and then make the director salary. When I mentioned to the HR rep that this was a drop in salary, her response was, “So are you saying no?” They also are unwilling to give me anything in writing that I will actually be promoted to director. What’s also giving me pause is that I was told I only had four days to decide or the offer would be rescinded. It’s been a long time since I job hunted and nonprofits by me sometimes have really weird hiring practices. But should I be worried?

Yes, be worried. They’re not putting those things in writing because they don’t want to firmly commit to them. That means there’s no real promise there.

That doesn’t mean they’re deliberately trying to bait and switch you. The thinking with this stuff is often, “Well, we plan to do it, but who knows what might change between now and then and we don’t want to be locked in.” That might feel perfectly reasonable on their end — but on your end, where you’re deciding whether to take a job based on those specific promises, it’s important to know that they’re intentionally not locking themselves in. So the question for you becomes: Are you willing to take a job where that promotion in January isn’t a lock?

Giving you four days to decide isn’t a huge red flag. That’s not uncommon when they have other candidates they need to get back to (and who they otherwise risk losing). One day would worry me unless they gave a clear explanation for it “(we’re so sorry but our second choice candidate has a deadline of their own tomorrow”), but not four days. I’m more concerned about the HR rep’s “so are you saying no?” response to your mention of the salary. That’s either aggressive or weirdly cavalier; without more context, I’m not sure which. That might not matter terribly much (it’s HR, not the person who would be your manager), but I’d pay a ton of attention to everything else you’ve observed about the organization and do a lot of due diligence on them before you accept.

4. What should I do with a work anniversary gift with my deadname on it?

At my current workplace, the five year anniversary gift is a choice between items, but always comes engraved with your full name on it. At the time it was ordered, I knew I was transgender but was closeted, and didn’t get any choice of what to have engraved on it. Eventually I did come out to my office, and am now happily living full-time as a man.

Unfortunately, I still have this five-year gift lying around with my previous name etched into it. I’m not really sure what to do with it. Should I give it back? Should I throw it out? Should I have it re-engraved — is that even possible? If so, who would pay for it?

Ask about having it re-issued with your correct name! Many offices would be happy to do that at their expense.

If not and you’d rather toss it than keep it, that’s fine too. You definitely don’t need to keep it around with the previous name on it.

5. Asking for a reference when my temporary job could become permanent

I am currently doing a graduate internship with a short-term contract which will end in November, and I will graduate shortly after. I am starting to look toward my next steps and I know my current supervisor thinks I’ve been doing great work, but here’s where I am conflicted. She wants to make my current position into a full-time, permanent job. I love what I’m doing and the organization aligns with my values and future career plans, but on the other hand, I am not in love with the city the organization is in — I really have no one here, and I don’t have much of a life outside of work/school. Additionally, there is no guarantee that the creation of the position will be approved by upper management, and she has encouraged me to network and make sure I’m making the best choices for my career, but I still feel awkward asking if she’d be a reference. I don’t want her to think I have one foot out the door just over halfway into my time at the organization, but I am in a competitive field with long interviewing/hiring periods and don’t want to only start looking at the end because I could be unemployed for months. Can I ask her now, and if so, how can I get over my awkwardness?

Yes! It’s very normal to be job searching when you haven’t been officially offered a job yet, and it shouldn’t be shocking or upsetting to her when your manager hears you are. (She might actually be relieved and think it’s smart, since if she’s looking out for your best interests she knows you shouldn’t count on something that isn’t a sure thing yet.) This isn’t about having a foot out the door halfway through your employment; this is about needing work in two months, which is not far away.

Try saying it this way: “I know you’re seeing if there’s a way to offer me a full-time job when my contract ends in November, but meanwhile I’m also applying with other organizations. Would it be okay for me to list you as a reference?”

{ 386 comments… read them below }

  1. Drew*

    OP4, treat it as any other mistake that would have been made in an engraved nameplate. Just because it wasn’t a mistake then (as far as they knew) doesn’t mean it’s not one now. I’m pretty sure they’ll take their cue from you – if you just say, “I’d love to display this award but this isn’t my name anymore. Could we get a new nameplate for it?” I would hope they would be happy to oblige. It’s such a minimal expense and it would make such a difference to you.

    Let us know what happens!

    1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      I mean, it depends on the time span. If you got a clock engraved to ‘Derw’, it be totally normal to ask to get it fixed a month or even six later. If it’s three years later, it would be a little weirder.

      How awesome is this object? The OP doesn’t sound particularly fond of it. No point trying to get something re-done that’s basically unwanted anyway. Nobody’s going to care if it gets tossed. Or a new home found for it if it is a practical object. I would personally be delighted to get a kitchen-aide mixer engraved with ‘Alice Tresmer’ or any other name.

      PS: If the engraving’s on a nameplate, you might be able to pry it off. Otherwise a decorative decal might work? Depends on the object.

      1. JessaB*

        Or if it’s on a nameplate you can go to a trophy shop or a place like Things Remembered (do they still exist?) and have a new plate engraved and just use the glue on the back of it to put it on top of the old one.

      2. Tinuviel*

        I agree on the same principle that if you got married or divorced and changed your name, it would make sense to want your true name on something you just got. But if you’re closer to your 10 year anniversary then maybe just wait on that one. But also I don’t think OP has to do anything with it that OP doesn’t want to. I got a commemorative group work photo and half the people don’t even work here anymore, I mailed it to my mom.

        The other aspect I would consider is that the company gave this to OP as a kind of retention award, a thank you for being here, and it’s a gesture of goodwill in a way. Especially if it’s still OP’s workplace, presumably they still are interested in maintaining your engagement and happiness at work. So you could lean on that with, “This plaque means so much to me and I would really love to have it updated with the name of the person still working here 5 years later!” etc.

      3. OP 4*

        (OP 4 here)

        It’s not a particularly awesome object, it’s technically something useful but not really valuable, if that makes sense. As it is, I haven’t even actually taken it out of the box yet. The engraving is on a nameplate, so I might see if I can pry that off somehow and just toss it if it doesn’t work out.

        It’s been a year and a bit since the gift, and closing in on six months since my social transition at work.

        (Side note to the whole thread, I use he/him pronouns. I am in awe that you are such a considerate and careful crowd that nobody has misgendered me yet, but I figured I’d mention it since sometimes grammar can get a bit unwieldy when you’re trying to avoid pronouns.)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          You could also MacGyver it…print out your name in a nice font, that matches the nameplate or the aesthetic of the gift, then carefully cut it out in the same size as the incorrect engraving tape it over the nameplate. If the edges are squared, it would probably look quite passable. Although I’d normally ask HR first, that might depend on your employer.

          1. ES*

            If it was a gift they should be able to do what they want with it! A reasonable person wouldn’t insist that they keep an old name welded onto a gift, it’s not as though they’re spray painting filing cabinets that belong to the office neon green or something.

        2. Yvette*

          You might be able to get the same size/shape nameplate and have it correctly engraved. Someone asked about Things Remembered, and yes it still exists. The site is self named dot com and has a store finder feature.

        3. BetsyTacy*

          I would casually ask your boss if they would tell you where they ordered (gift from) as you are looking to get the nameplate corrected. This either: a) gives Boss the option of saying, ‘Oh, I can order that for you!’ or gives you the info as to where you could order a new nameplate.

          (Note: I’m going to guess it’s a clock. Best wishes on your journey!)

        4. Bree*

          I think it’d be totally reasonable to ask to get it fixed if the reason you haven’t taken it out of the box is the name on it. A supportive workplace should be happy to do it, esp. since the point of these gifts is to make employees feel valued.

          But if you just don’t really want or like it, maybe just get rid of it. It’s just clutter at that point. IMO, it wouldn’t be reasonable for your company to expect everyone to cherish something like this forever, and if anyone asked you could just say you took it home.

        5. SomebodyElse*

          Honestly if it’s not something that you are particularly attached to and it’s been sitting in a box, I’d be tempted to just pitch it.

          For some reason I’m thinking it’s a clock or something similar. Find one that makes you smile for whatever reason and display that on your desk.

          If it is something you want to display, then I would bring it to things remembered or a trophy shop and get a new nameplate fitted.

        6. Dust Bunny*

          I have no idea where any of my X year gifts are. Maybe in their boxes in one of my office file cabinets? I think you’re fine tossing it, too, if you don’t have a use for it.

        7. Ciela*

          As someone who does engraving for a living, what you’re describing is so super easy to replace. Yes, your boss should order you a new plate, but if they don’t it should not be more than $10 or $15 for you to order a new one. Things Remembered does tend to be expensive, but googling “trophy shop near me” would hopefully get you good results.

        8. TheMageling*

          I was in a similar situation with an award I won prior to coming out at work. The office assistant surprised me one day with an updated version of it, without me prompting. Of course I cried like a baby when I saw it. Anyway, if your workplace has been generally supportive, I bet if you ask they’d be happy to do it and just haven’t thought of it.

        9. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

          I received a ‘thingy’ from a professional organization I’m a member of with the wrong name – a legal name that I’ve never used (not even since birth).

          I contacted them and they were quite happy to replace the whole thing with the correct name – they are giving you the thing to please you and recognize you and they want you to like it (assuming they aren’t total wankers), which includes having the proper name.

          I would go ahead and contact them – I mean, if you hate the thing just toss it, but if it’s mildly cool in a ‘mildly cool desk tchotchke’ sort of way, and you would like it if it had the proper name, I say go ahead and ask for the proper name – even if they just send you a new plate to add. My organization send a whole new thing, but the engraving plate is a bit extra so it was probably easier for them to just replace the whole thing.

        10. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

          I used to manage the ordering of these kinds of gifts for my company and we would replace it in an instant if you sent in a request like this, especially in this situation. We don’t typically replace for divorces, etc. But for a situation like yours? Easy yes.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Agreed – I help order our tenure awards, and we would much rather eat the cost of a replacement than have a trans employee with an award showing their deadname. Please do ask your HR or whoever orders those for you!

        11. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

          If it’s just going to sit in the box even with the right name on it, save everybody, including yourself, the trouble and just get rid of it now.

          If you think you’d like it with the right name on it, it’s probably worth trying to fix. Especially since it sounds like a pretty cheap fix.

        12. Lucette Kensack*

          I was prepared to say to let this go, but it’s only been a year since you got it? And your social transition at work was only six months after you got it? Totally fair game. Just ask whoever handles ordering these things for a new nameplate.

      4. anonagain*

        “If you got a clock engraved to ‘Derw’, it be totally normal to ask to get it fixed a month or even six later. If it’s three years later, it would be a little weirder.”

        Maybe. But since that’s not actually what happened, it shouldn’t be weird for the OP to ask to have it fixed now if that’s what he wants.

        1. boo bot*

          I agree with this. He was there for five years, he should be able to display the five-year anniversary gift, with his own name on it.

          It feels really sad & frustrating to me to expect him to just throw it out rather than ask for a relatively simple, not-too-expensive change. I think it’s one of those knock-ons of discrimination, where you let something go because you’ve only got so much “stop discriminating against me” capital to spend, and you decide that this particular thing isn’t worth it, because you might need that capital later, for something worse.

          OP I think you should ask if you want it. If your office has been okay about you transitioning, they’ll probably be similarly okay about this? (By which I mean, whatever level of okay they’ve been, I’d guess that’s the level of okay they’ll be?) Good luck, happy six-and-a-bit work anniversary!

          1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

            Yeah, even if this were a more complicated award/engraving it should be an easy thing for the company. A lot of our milestone awards cost in the $150-$300 range and are engraved directly into the glass. We’d replace his in a heartbeat despite the cost. His value to us as an employee and human far exceeds the cost of the award+engraving.

          2. smoke tree*

            I think he’s in the clear to have it redone if that’s what he wants, but if he doesn’t actually want to use the thing, getting rid of it would be fine too. Sounds like a fairly generic office gift to me, so I’m not sure I would bother going to the trouble (unless it was a kitchen appliance).

          3. TheTomatoInUrFruitSalad*

            I play the “how many ‘stop discriminating against me’ capital points do I left” game every day!

            (The answer is none. I never have enough)

      5. Dahlia*

        I would love the idea of a mixer with a name engraved on it. The mixer would then become that name and we’d have adventures.

        1. Kat in VA*

          I’m very fond of giving things silly names – animate and otherwise.

          That’s how I ended up with a car nicknamed, alternately, BB or The Beast, and a chicken called Cheeseburger Marie!

  2. Don't get salty*

    With pre-teenagers, you need to be very methodical in teaching them how to handle themselves. This 12-year-old sounds like he’s had no coaching on how to act outside home. If you’re going to take this on, I’d be prepared to be confronted by mom because this is probably going to interfere in her routine, especially if he goes to her complaining of all these “new rules”.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I worry about this coming back to bite OP, too. If the kid is like their mother, she’ll hear about it in the least positive way and OP is going to have to deal with blowback. Some parents absolutely DO NOT want anyone to ever even imply that something their child is doing is wrong and her vindictiveness could go nuclear.

      If it were me, I would just close the door whenever it happened and not say a word. The risk-to-reward ratio is not on OP’s side here.

      1. valentine*

        I would just close the door whenever it happened
        I wouldn’t do a thing. While Something Must Be Done, this isn’t the minefield for me. You’ve got the vindictive person with exponential Mama Bear potential and the possibility of her or someone else demanding to know why OP2 was even looking and instructing OP2 to henceforth hear/see no evil.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          There is not enough Thorazine and Haldol to deal with the unleashed crazy about a preteen boy and toilet issues.

          I’d punt this to HR. First thing won’t be a thank you, it will be why are you “watching” my child use the bathroom.

          Hell to the no.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            Yea. If anyone else in the world was using the bathroom with the door wide open it would go directly to HR. Just don’t tiptoe through the tulips with HR – be super blunt. A twelve year old boy is exposing himself in the office and we are all very uncomfortable. His mother has retaliated when criticized in other areas, and no one wants to be accused of anything if we handle this wrong. Hopefully ‘exposing himself’ will make them jump into action.

            1. AKchic*

              All of this.

              And let me say – 12 year olds (and 12 year old boys in general) can be… clueless. Willfully so, sometimes. They are focused on other things. Even if they’ve been trained to close doors previously, something about *that* door or bathroom may be different to him and make him not want to (fear, anxiety, whatever).

              It’s something HR needs to handle so mom can handle it. Otherwise, you and the other staff might get branded “perv” rather than “helpful”.

              Also make mention of the urine on the floor/seats. The cleaners are having to deal with it, yes; but so is everyone else. Urine on the floors is a slip hazard, which can cause worker’s comp claims, injuries, and lost job time (as well as lost wages). Not to mention the bodily waste issues if someone’s pantleg soaks any up, or if they sit in it, or if they do slip and fall and have skin-to-urine touch.

              1. Snuck*

                I’d counter with “while 12 years olds can be incredibly clueless, body functions in public they are NOT”… Most kids are well aware of the need to close a toilet door by the time they are six if they are in a shared space, and if they aren’t … a gentle “Hey can you please close the door” should be total request effort.

                If this kid continues… then … I’d like to suggest there’s something unusual going on here – I say this as a parent of an Aspie and a neuro typical pair of boys… both will leave the door wiiiiiide open at home, but both have learnt the benefits of privacy by the age of 6…

                Say something… politely and friendly style… directly to the kid… “Hey, can you close the door please, I don’t want to hear you pee” will do. And if it continues … assume you are dealing with the unusual.

                Another thought is (having spent waaaaay too much time around a wide variety of school yards now)… is that the most difficult parents usually have the most difficult kids… and the more vindictive the parent is, sometimes the more ‘prince like’ the child can be… etc. Or the parent who is harried, over exhausted, and kind of vigilant… is usually the one who is dealing with neuro diversities and developmental challenges in the family… for example.

          2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Absolutely, 100%. I was a program manager at an org that had children/teen programming and this is 100% how the mom would respond.

            The way we handled situations like these (usually, it was a parent telling their child to change their clothes outside the locker room, so we had a naked kid in public spaces) was to wait until the child was fully dressed before speaking to the parent (or, if the child was unaccompanied, the child directly.) That way, the staff couldn’t be accused of “looking at my naked child.”

            We also had a child abuse policy as well as a health code for our facility, so we could invoke that (I’m sorry, but it’s a health code violation and a violation of our child abuse policy to change your child’s clothes outside of the locker room), but I’m not sure how that would work in an office designed for adults only.

            Probably the best way to handle this would be through HR, since this could count as sexual harassment of the employees.

          3. Parenthetically*

            why are you “watching” my child use the bathroom.

            Sure will. And it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t minefield.

            1. MommyMD*

              So right. It’s already a mine field. Accusations could be made. “Mom! Jane came into the bathroom and saw my private parts”.

          4. MommyMD*

            This is exactly what it will be. LW has to take great care here. I would not say word one to someone else’s kid over this.

        2. Yvette*

          +1 I would ignore the open door part and tell HR and or housekeeping that the bathroom needs to be cleaned during the day. In fact I would call them each and every day and each and every time it happened. I would leave any mention of the son out of it all together.

          1. Observer*

            No, HR needs to know that this is happening. It’s gross and disgusting all on its own. I understand why the OP would choose not to deal with it directly, but this NOT some “little thing” that the OP should just pretend is not happening.

            1. Artemesia*

              This. No way I tackle this myself — HR needs to be told that he is making the bathroom unusable by others by peeing all over the toilet seat and not cleaning up and that a kid should not be in the office if he is going to create messes for those who work there. And THEY should deal with it. If they don’t then report the mess every time encountered.

            2. MommyMD*

              They have to know. If it comes out she’s been “watching” knowingly a young boy in a state of undress and didn’t report it, this could get all kinds of ugly. All kinds.

          2. bonkerballs*

            I don’t think this would be helpful at all. For one thing, cleaning the bathroom isn’t HRs job. For another, I think the much more pertinent issue is the naked kid the whole office can see.

        3. Samwise*

          Well, sure, but OP has to listen to Nature Boy peeing and possibly has to see it, too. That’s a real problem right there — I wouldn’t want to be accused by Mama Bear that I’m peeping at her precious baby in the bathroom.

        4. Jamie*

          I wouldn’t do anything either. I certainly wouldn’t deliberately go nearer to a child who is engaged in bathroom stuff or otherwise undressed.

          I’d tell HR and buy some Clorox wipes and a box of gloves for the bathroom so I could clean for myself.

          I’m not usually conflict avoidant, but I wouldn’t touch this one with a 10-foot pole.

          1. MommyMD*

            I’d also clean it myself after informing HR what was happening and how uncomfortable it is. The mess is secondary. No way I’m approaching a half naked kid in a bathroom. Do that and you just may find yourself speaking to the cops.

      2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Re: OP#2: Why are people so afraid of petty/vindictive people like this kid’s mom? (I must admit I’ve done my fair share of being careful around people like that too.) Petty/vindictive people need to be put in their place. Why do we tiptoe around them? I’m thinking bringing the bathroom issue to HR’s attention might be a good way to go, unless they are afraid of her pettiness/vindictiveness as well.

        1. JimmyJab*

          Presumably because the petty/vindictive person is in a position of power and can make your life harder? You can’t put everyone in their place, especially a work superior.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Uh, we tiptoe around them because most people don’t like being the target of a vendetta. I should think that would be self-explanatory, especially when the vindictive person is part of the company PTB.

            1. pope suburban*

              This. And I work with kids, in a capacity that involves being backstage and in dressing rooms for costume changes. We get a lot more training on this than your average person, and I’d still punt this over to my supervisors, because they have even more training, and the standing in the organization to withstand a belligerent parent. I completely agree that vindictive people shouldn’t get their way all the time, but sometimes, that means letting someone with the power to handle the fight do it. Not everything has to be a personal stand on principles- which, after all, don’t pay the bills.

              1. PSB*

                Seconded. I’m a church youth group leader for boys this age. I’ve been background checked and receive annual training on our child safety policies and regularly share living space with the kids on trips but still wouldn’t touch this situation. Straight to the youth pastor to handle that one.

              2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

                Yes, and that is why I mentioned in that same comment that taking it to HR is a good way to go. Didn’t say they should personally tell the person off themselves.

        3. Observer*

          That’s a question that can only be legitimately addressed to the people who actually have the power to push back. When you ask someone who has to work for someone like this such a question, especially in such a tone, you are essentially blaming the victim.

          Now, if you were talking to the boss of yesterday’s bullying victim, I’d be right on board with that.

          1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

            Yes, and that is why I said that going to HR might be the way to go. No victim blaming here.

        4. Parenthetically*

          Because a petty/vindictive person with power over others can jeopardize their livelihoods? And most people prefer employment to unemployment?

          I’d go straight to HR with this and wash my hands of it as soon as possible, because I would not put it past a petty, vindictive Mama Bear who lets her feral child pee all over a shared bathroom to start flinging unsavory accusations at the whistle-blowers.

        5. AKchic*

          In this case; here’s how I can see petty/vindictive mom playing the game:

          HR: We have reports that your son is leaving the bathroom door wide open when using the restroom
          PettyMom: Someone has been watching Junior in the bathroom?!
          HR: No, that’s not what-
          PettyMom: ohmygosh! Which perv is the chester?! Have they been disciplined? Am I here because you’re asking me if I’d like to call the authorities and press charges? Yes, yes I do! How dare some sicko peep on a young, innocent boy while he’s in the bathroom! I thought he was *safe* here with me! This is supposed to be a safe work environment! *cue the tears*

          Now imagine if a coworker were to bring it up to PettyMom themselves. She’d be able to twist it around, openly, loudly, that they were the ones peeping on her darling son, before HR could ever have a chance to squash that kind of rumor.

    2. MommyMD*

      The little pisser is definitely going to tell mom if her underlings say anything to him. He’s obviously been raised to do as he pleases and vindictive Mom/Boss is going to get her panties in a bunch. I think someone higher than her has to do the talking and to HER, not the kid. She’s going to go the “you have no right to discipline my kid” route almost certainly. Her BIG kid is marking his territory door wide open, and I doubt this mom does not know. She thinks it’s ok.

      1. Aquawoman*

        I think this is unnecessarily hostile. Junior high school kids have basically all of the drawbacks of little kids and all of the drawbacks of teens, without the compensating factors of either, none of it their fault. They’re no longer indulged because of youthful cuteness and charm but they have zero experience with the expectations of the older kids/proto-adults they’re expected to turn into at the drop of a hat. TLDR: they’re idiots.

        1. Observer*

          Oh come on!

          Most 12 year old boys are perfectly well aware of the normal expectations around bathroom use – ie that you keep the door closed and that it needs to land in the actual toilet. Also, most kids that age do not WANT to leave the bathroom door open. Which leads me to wonder if that’s what Mom wants and has gotten him used to?

        2. KoiFeeder*

          Honestly, having met the parents of some of my high school friends, my first thought is actually to wonder if this kid is even allowed to have a closed door. Vindictive and petty parents are also the sorts to blow up if they think their kid is up to something. And 12 is still the age where a kid might think being refused privacy is, well, normal adult behavior.

          I still would want to avoid dealing with kid and parent at all, of course.

          1. Artemesia*

            they may very well go to schools that don’t have any privacy doors on stalls and of course boys are used to urinals being in the open.

              1. Observer*

                Because OF course boys are terrible creatures who WILL do things like smoke, vape and do drugs if you give them any level of privacy so we have to protect them from themselves.

                I wish this were just sarcasm – but it’s actually the stated reason for some of these policies although the policy makers don’t actually SAY that they are “terrible creatures” they just imply it with the rest of the statement.

              2. KoiFeeder*

                Outside of Observer’s comment which says everything better than I ever could, sometimes bathrooms just get trashed and never get fixed.

          2. Kat in VA*

            A lot of it depends on the household. Husband and I will talk to each other in the bathroom if the other is peeing. Pooping, however, is a joking GET OUT, I’M POOPING.

            My three daughters will come in and yammer at me while I’m peeing, use the toilet themselves if the need strikes while I’m putting on makeup or whatever – but not with their dad.

            ALL of my kids – boy and girls – know that just because we have an informal open door policy while peeing does *NOT* mean that said informal open door policy applies in public – with strangers – at Mom or Dad’s place of work.

            Yikes.

            HR. Not the mom, not the kid, HR – for all the reasons outlined by others.

            1. Kat in VA*

              Can’t edit, but The Bou does not come in while I or his dad is using the toilet period (or vice versa), in case that was unclear.

        3. MommyMD*

          Nope. Some power dynamic is going on here unless this kid is significantly developmentally delayed and OP didn’t even hint at this. He could also be pi ssed at Mom Boss for having him spend s few hours in boredom and this is how he’s getting back at her. He knows you shut the freakin door. And he doesn’t care who cleans up his bodily function mess. He probably views Mom’s reports as Plebs.

            1. I heart Paul Buchman*

              Kids aren’t exempt from issues of power. Power is the essence of playground dynamics. A 12 year old is perfectly capable of picking an issue they don’t like and making mum pay over it. I can only think of a couple of ideas of why a kid would do this. This is one (vindictiveness), developmental delay (lack of privacy concern is one feature of autism behaviours) is the other. The only other idea I have is that I am in a rural area and I can see an aggressively ‘good ol boy’ type teen doing this in imitation of his male role models. Like any concern for privacy is a sissy behavior and squeamishness. Sexism runs pretty deep in some of these boys and cleaning toilets is ‘womens work’ in their world.

              1. Kat in VA*

                Alternately, he may not have any kind of power dynamic or neuro-atypical issues and may just be a lazy, sloppy pisser who doesn’t clean up or wash his hands because he isn’t made to at home, either.

      2. boop the first*

        Who cares if mom is angry? She is literally asking for a favour to bring her kid to work. If anything, it will backfire in HER face.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Except that according to the OP’s letter, the mom is pretty high up in the company’s organizational structure, so she’s probably not asking to bring her kid to work so much as saying “I’m in charge and this is a thing I want to do so I’m going to do it.” Unless this woman’s C-Suite compatriots are willing to take her on, I don’t know how likely this is to blow up in her face. HR might be able to force a change in her arrangement in bringing in her son, but I don’t know that she’ll experience serious career blowback over it.

      3. Decima Dewey*

        As a public service librarian, I sometimes say I can make a parent appear out of nowhere. All I have to do is tell a child to stop doing something dangerous or annoying.

    3. Budgieman*

      If there is a male in the office, particularly if they are the 20-30 age range, and not a grumpy old man like me (and not the boss either), I’d get them to do a “Hey Buddy…shut the door…nobody needs to see that!”
      12 year old boys are more likely to look up to older males than anyone else, will hopefully respond accordingly, and it won’t go back to Mum because he will be too embarrassed that he broke the “guys code”

      1. WS*

        +1, a male co-worker would be ideal for this. Even a grumpy old man. Also, the mother will have less space to kick back at a man politely teaching her son a manly thing!

        1. Upstater-ish*

          No man in his right mind would do this. 12 year old boy in a bathroom urinating could be devastating for any man. Just the hint from vindictive mom could ruin his life. Have HR deal with mom. Call housekeeping for the mess.

          1. FormerFirstTimer*

            If his mom is really that vindictive, you have an excellent point. I wonder if there would be any way to get mom to come to OP 2’s desk for something else while kid “just happens” to be using a public restroom with the door wide open. Maybe she is just extremely unaware of how her child behaves in public.

            1. Observer*

              I’d be willing to be otherwise. Keep in mind that keeping the bathroom door wide open is NOT normal in most homes either. So she has to know that he’s doing this.

            2. Veronica*

              Yes, but he probably does that at home too. Apparently no one ever taught him basic bathroom habits? This indicates so much that is wrong with the parenting. It could be the tip of an iceberg.

          2. MommyMD*

            Agree. Vindictive Boss Mom can make any number of unsavory accusations. Go to her superior and have at least three people present so nothing can be twisted. Or ask if the encounter can be recorded.

          3. Snuck*

            Another idea is to close the bathroom with a bio haz sign, and wait for housekeeping.. and pay for extra cleaning.

            Mum will get grief over THAT.

            If htis is a c-suite floor/bathroom, then a quiet word with whomever is above the mum along the lines of “Hrm, how should I handle this? Little Jimmy is leaving your bathroom in a mess and I’m wondering whether we should get a cleaner in more often?” Might get results.

      2. Mel*

        Yup. We had a very similar situation at my office (except the mom was sweet, but in denial about her child’s behavior) and my boss, a guy, had no qualms about saying “Whoa! Don’t forget to close the door!”

        1. New Job So Much Better*

          I’m reminded of Berta training Jake to aim and clean up after himself (Two and a Half Men)

      3. Construction Safety*

        “Hey bud, ya gotta close the door when other folks are around.”

        Let mom find the pee on the seat on her own.

      4. NoviceManagerGuy*

        I agree, with most 12-year-old boys there’s probably already a man in the office he most looks up to who could solve this subtly and quickly.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      One instance of his mother or a teenage girl walking in on him and he probably wouldn’t do it again. More seriously, would you be able to call that woman and ask her advice? “Jane, I have a kind of a tricky situation and I need your advice. What do I tell your son if he forgets to close the bathroom door? I don’t want to overstep, but that’s the kind of thing that could get him teased a lot in middle school. Unfortunately I sit close enough I hear everything, including handwashing or the lack of it.”

        1. valentine*

          One instance of his mother or a teenage girl walking in on him and he probably wouldn’t do it again.
          Or public doors swing and someone in his household closes the door for him. Or this was his mom’s idea because she’s the insufferable “What are you doing in there?!/You don’t have anything I haven’t seen before/I used to change your diapers” type.

          1. The Boy Out of the Bubble*

            Maybe she doesn’t want him doing what 12-year-old boys tend to start doing and has forbidden him to close the door.

            I mean, god, I hope not, but you never know.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        How has the situation even gotten this far? How have the other boys at school not said anything to him?

        1. Gatomon*

          Every school I’ve been to has either had self-closing swinging doors on the restroom or they have a scheme with partitions so nothing is visible. When he visits friends is what I wonder. Perhaps this behavior is only showing up at this office.

        2. MatKnifeNinja*

          Boys restrooms in middle schools look like crime scenes. My niece has friends who would drink as little as humanly possible so they didn’t have to use them.

          They don’t say anything to the clown smearing poo all over the door, Urinating with the door open doesn’t even pinged the “should I say something”-dar.

        3. Kyrielle*

          School is probably a multi-person restroom, and may even have urinals, in which case urinating where the other boys can see would be normal.

      2. Sara*

        I wouldn’t include anything about hand washing. That sounds more critical of the mother than not closing the door.

    5. Jdc*

      I’m sure mom will say something. Explaining to my 17 year old to wipe the seat is like world war three, and he has been raised to understand this. I promise you. It baffles my mind why he doesn’t comprehend that others don’t wish to sit on his pee. It truly doesn’t matter how many times we talk to him, punish him, beg him, you name it. Baffles my mind and makes me a bit crazy. Kid will complain to mom. Mom will be a pain.

      1. AKchic*

        Lately I’ve had to remind my 17 and 15 year old boys that flushing is still a “thing”. For some reason, the last two weeks it has been an “optional” thing, and they have exercised their option not to.
        It took a while to get the youngest to actually aim for the toilet instead of just the “general toilet area”. Of course, it also took a concerted effort to get him to hold and guide (targeted aiming?) rather than just hands on the hips or try to sneak in electronics and not pay attention at all.

        Living with boys is an adventure. I’d like a refund.

      2. Alexandra Lynch*

        At that age I just rousted him out of wherever he was and told him to clean the toilet/floor around the toilet. Eventually he decided to sit, like his father and elder brother, who share the same anatomical configuration. I don’t care how he does it as long as it all goes where it’s supposed to.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        Another commenter posted a) son has probably has own bathroom, and b) cleaning crew tackles the mess.

        Even if the house cleaning crew gripes about it, mom seems like the type to throw extra cash at the problem.

        I doubt mom is scrubbing down that kids bathroom.

      2. Isabel Kunkle*

        Based on some extremely gross roommates I had in my twenties: there is a class of dude who’s never had to pick up his own mess, and yes, generally Mom does it for him. And then he expects his girlfriend to do it when he’s 23. Or his female roommate, and is Very Surprised when that doesn’t happen.

    6. Clever Name*

      I’m really speechless about this situation, and I am very concerned for the son. I can see a newly potty-trained toddler peeing in a public bathroom with the door open, but not a pre-teen. My son is 12, and while he still needs to be reminded to bathe, he most definitely closes the door when he goes to the bathroom, even at home. The reason I am concerned is that I feel that his lack of basic social understanding reflects on odd parenting, let’s just say. Like is there sexual abuse going on, or on the flip side, is the mother so terrified of the possibility of sexual abuse that she does not allow her near-teenage son an age appropriate amount of personal privacy?

    7. LilySparrow*

      Unless this kid has some kind of issues, he’s not going to complain. He’s going to be embarrassed because it never occurred to him that people can hear him peeing.

      Kids often believe (or sometimes hope) that nobody notices them. This kid just needs a heads-up to be more self aware.

    8. lilsheba*

      I have to wonder what is WRONG with a parent who doesn’t correct that behavior, and teach them how to act properly in public? Good Christ.

    9. charo*

      What is a 12 y.o. doing at the office in the first place? If you have a kid or a dog or whatever at work, it should be made clear that it’s conditional — if they interfere w/work, they can’t be there.

  3. annab53*

    #2 – Do you know if there are any extenuating circumstances that may explain his behavior? If not, definitely let your supervisor and HR know the situation and your plans ahead of time. I can just imagine the whirlwind Cyril’s mom will stir up if she’s the petty/vindictive type and thinks you’re wrongly reprimanding her sweet, undisciplined little boy. It sounds like the poor kid has never been taught etiquette or normal run-of-the-mill manners. If so, the blame is totally on his parents.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I wonder what he does in school bathrooms?Maybe he just always uses a urinal so he doesn’t think about closing a door. Middle schoolers are not known for their tact or compassion so you’d think he’d hear about this behavior from classmates if he left a stall door open in the school bathroom; the fact that people close bathroom doors can’t be new information to him.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Maybe at home he has his own bathroom and has never shut it and nobody has ever complained about that. As you point out, urinals don’t have doors so his use of public bathrooms may not have involved doors.

        If mom is c-suite and petty and vindictive then she may well not clean any of the bathrooms in the house, so if he leaves a similar mess there then perhaps the cleaner doesn’t dare complain, and so the cycle continues.

        My sons’ bathroom accuracy is developing and they leave doors open until and unless I complain. It takes a lot of training. Maybe he isn’t getting any such training – which would be totally on the parents, yes.

        1. Quill*

          There are many situations kindergarten boys have to be escorted into the bathroom and instructed that if they can’t aim, they need to use the stall.

          Kindergarten. This kid is 12.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            My own aren’t Kindergartners. I deal with middle school age children daily and they are still learning all kinds of stuff you’d swear was obvious. 12 is a prime age for needing to be retaught basic manners, hygiene, etc. Cyril might have been great at this when he was six.

            Like handwriting. Beautiful cursive when they’re being painstakingly and explicitly taught it every day. By age 12 it can have degenerated into a doctor’s scrawl. You have to reinforce stuff to get it to stick permanently.

            School bathrooms are gross, aren’t they?

            1. Quill*

              Oh, they’re the worst. The girls’ bathrooms are only reliably better when you’re in elementary school, for fairly obvious reasons…

    2. Tinuviel*

      I don’t think it matters if he has a good reason or not. The result is he is not able to cleanly and respectfully use the bathroom.

      I don’t blame OP if they don’t want to be the one to make a stink about it especially since the mother is Csuite. But I would have such sympathy and also frustration for this boy who isn’t being raised right. In my culture it’s not normal for a 12 year old to need childcare (I myself was watching other children then) and I fear for other ways this overprotectiveness will creep into the office.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        It must also be the last place he wants to be – what 12yo wants to hang out in an office more than once?!

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        It wasn’t normal in American culture either until like five minutes ago. When I was a kid, a twelve-year-old would have been the babysitter rather than the babysittee.

        1. Quill*

          I was 12 in 2004, the time between getting home from school and when a parent got home was supposed to be for homework, in practice Avatar The Last Airbender aired right about then and it wasn’t like anyone could tell if I’d had the TV on. :)

          (I would have snuck onto the internet if it had been worth anything back then, but it wasn’t particularly entertaining for me, and it took approximately one geologic age to load any computer game…

          13 was the magic age of “okay, you babysit now,” but that was for… kids that actually needed babysitting. When I was 11 and 12 it was more of a situation where I was unofficially in charge because my brother, then 8 or 9, didn’t need THAT much watching, but someone slightly older and more responsible had to be on hand anyway. If for no other reason than preventing him from putting a slice of toast that had already been buttered back in the toaster.

        2. A*

          Right?!?! I was a latchkey kid starting at 11 when I entered middle school. I also – gasp – walked home from school alone. I feel like parents would get arrested for that nowadays.

          1. Feline*

            I was a latchkey kid from 10. The world has changed in odd ways since then. I was expected to walk to and from the school bus every day. Now, as I leave for work, I have to navigate through a herd of cars clustered around the school bus stops as parents sit in them with their kids until the bus arrives. These are high school kids. I would have been embarrassed by that age that my parents wouldn’t trust me to walk to the bus stop, but parents I have asked insist that someone might snatch their beloved offspring, so they have to do this.

            Why doesn’t this c-suite parent have childcare? I’d think that someone in the c-suite could afford a childcare arrangement. I was latchkey because my single-parent mother was raising us on a school teacher salary.

          2. Quill*

            My mom went back into the workforce when I was 8, but for the first few years she was substituting at our elementary school, so I wasn’t really home alone a lot until I was in middle school (and I was the oldest, generally my brother and I were not allowed to do things until the brother was old enough to do them…)

            I only ever had 1 problem walking home from school alone, and that was a boy my age who decided it would be a good idea to ambush me to try and pummel me with snowballs as revenge for me showing him up in class.

            I kicked his butt and bought a box of dog treats to bribe the “sounds aggressive but is really just a loud dork” dog and never had any problems again, and it was a mile and a half. Yes, I had to call my mom when I made it home and not go back out again unless it was in our backyard, but that’s even easier these days. I was also supposed to do things like “bring the garbage back in from the curb” and “collect the mail from the mailbox” and “set the hamburger out to thaw so it can get cooked in an hour.”

            Yet I hear of both parents who think 14 year olds can’t be trusted to be home alone while they go to the grocery store (this child has been DYING for you to leave them alone so they can play games, get on social media, or whatever for like three years at this point, parents) and people who think it will be fine to let a 6 year old cross a 6 lane road on the way home.

        3. Else*

          Yeah. I babysat starting at 11, when the mom was in the house doing other things, and had moved on to being left alone with the kids by 12. Not tiny babies until I was about 14 or so, but still, alone, and in the evening. This kid is the age of my nieces, so just a generation and a half away.

      3. Zap R.*

        Yeah, I was a latchkey kid at 10. It is straight-up bizarre that the mother is bringing a 12-year-old into work with her under the pretense of not having childcare. Like, it makes me wonder if the kid starts fires or something.

        1. Quill*

          12 is a weird age – it’s possible that this kid has aged out of a previous childcare arrangement but his parents don’t think he’s responsible enough to be home alone (or home alone for large portions of the day, if these are days that school is out / off early)

          But I feel like the late 90’s / early 2000’s Stranger Danger has only intensified since I was a kid. When I was 12, the danger associated with being home alone was only physical – you could, in the imaginations of parents, be abducted on your way home from school, or more likely set fire to something in the microwave by accident. These days people worry about someone on youtube telling their kid to eat a tide pod, so it’s progressed from the idea of “know where your kid is” to “know what your kid is doing,” which is more likely to make them sneaky and resentful of never having any privacy.

          1. Pescadero*

            “But I feel like the late 90’s / early 2000’s Stranger Danger has only intensified since I was a kid.”

            Kids are less likely to be a victim of a crime in 2019 than in 2010.
            Kids were less likely to be a victim of a crime in 2010 than in 2000.
            Kids were less likely to be a victim of a crime in 2000 than in 1990.
            Kids were less likely to be a victim of a crime in 1990 than in 1980.

            The PARANOIA over stranger danger has intensified – in all contradiction to actual reality.

            1. PSB*

              So as parents have become more cautious with their kids, kids have become safer?

              I’m not seeing the problem. Sounds like the increased caution has been pretty effective.

              1. Well I used to be a farmer and I made a living fine*

                Well, but correlation is not causation. We need more information to be able to say for sure whether what you’re arguing is true.

              2. Pescadero*

                That might be a reasonable argument – if the adult crime trends weren’t an identical mirror of youth crime trends.

                1. PSB*

                  Which might be relevant if we assume that people didn’t also become more conscious of their own safety during the same time period.

                  It’s funny how much push back this comment is getting. People so love this “back in my day…” “helicopter parents” story about how overprotective modern parents are that they immediately dismiss the decrease in crimes against kids as coincidental with no more evidence than my comment has. But everyone suddenly discovers an interest in logic and statistics when an unsupported theory disagrees with an unsupported theory they happen to favor.

              3. Junior Assistant Peon*

                I am seeing a problem. The mom who thinks her son needs toddler-level supervision at 12 is going to be inserting herself into future conflicts with college professors, job interviewers, bosses, etc.

        2. MommyMD*

          I was a latch key kid who came home one day to a male intruder in the house. I was deep in the house when I saw him. My kids weren’t babied but they went to a neighbor’s house after school. Things can happen.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            That’s terrifying! I can remember the feeling when I came home from work to find my apartment broken in to and my first thought was “what if they’re still here?!” I turned and ran, called the cops from my car.

            But I also feel like you can get alarm systems, cameras, etc to prevent that kind of surprise (I mean you can’t stop a break-in but you can be alerted). My coworker has latchkey middle-schoolers and they have a motion detecting video camera by the front door, he gets video confirmation every day when they make it home and can similarly monitor for intruders.

    3. Rexish*

      Agreed. I was also wondering about the extenuating circumstances. In here a neurotypical 12 yo haven’t had childcare in years and would never been taken into the office but I’m also aware that in states the social norm is different and there are laws in some states where 12 yo can be alone only for a few hours. SOrry about off topicness. IN my experience 12 yo value their privacy in intimate situations and they wouldn’t do this in school.

      If LW knows that there is not anything else going on then I’d go with Allisons plan but I would also let somebody know about this plan so that there is an alibi. If the mom is the way I imagine then I can imagine if the kid tells something to her that it might not come off well.

    4. Mel*

      In a lot of ways it really doesn’t matter.

      My office felt with almost this exact situation (but his mom was nice). Months after the need for the kid to be in the office the mom casually mentioned that the kid’s teacher and doctor thought he was autistic, but she thought that was ridiculous so she refused to look into it more.

      Another coworker and I met eyes and I knew we were both thinking, ” That explains so much!” (Open door peeing was not the only thing).

      But at the end of the day, someone still needed to make sure he was closing the bathroom door.

      1. Else*

        And he still needed to learn that it was important to close the door, and that he needed to do it every time! Autism might make that harder for some kids, but it almost certainly wouldn’t make it impossible given the right reinforcement.

        1. Else*

          At least for this kid – if he had the kind of developmental delay that would make this more likely, surely the LW would have mentioned it.

    5. Observer*

      Nope. Extenuating circumstances don’t matter. I did think about it, but ultimately it doesn’t change the advice – this is utterly inappropriate, regardless of the reason, and it needs to be stopped if possible, ie without the OP having to deal with significant retaliation from Mom.

    6. OrchidDragon*

      I doubt the blame can be put on his parents. He has probably used plenty of public bathrooms (both single occupant and larger ones with individual stalls) and seen how other adults use them. Grown men and women and my workplace have done the same things! Its disgusting to use a bathroom right after them and know who left the mess. What is their excuse? Probably just lazy and selfish.

      He needs to be taught to be respectful of ALL bathrooms at ALL times and leave it like he would like to find it. A quick glance at the toilet and sink after each use will let him know if it needs cleaning up. Don’t just use and go.

      Growing up, everyone in my family had to clean the bathroom so each had a turn at cleaning up the pee/poop of someone else. I think that made my brother and I more respectful leaving the bathroom clean, LOL.

  4. jm*

    the third letter has me flashing back to one of the most frustrating supervision sessions i’ve ever had. i explained to her calmly and directly why i had a problem with what i was being asked to do, including how unprecedented it was, and her response, no matter what i said, was “so you’re refusing to do this?” she had no interest in listening or dealing with the problem. all she wanted was confirmation i was being insubordinate to take to the director. so glad to be out of that place.

  5. Sami*

    Every single (normally developing) 12 yo boy I know (middle school teacher) would be mortified to go to the bathroom with the door. Especially in front of adult women strangers.

      1. Door Guy*

        Mine as well. I, personally, would have freaked out if anyone knew I was using the bathroom in an office setting and definitely if they could see me!

        My son, however, is on the spectrum with developmental delay as well, and he’ll be 11 in a month and we just got him to stop dropping his pants and underwear to his knees when he needed to pee (including urinals at school/stores).

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          OMG, mine did that, too!!! Like even before he made it to the bathroom sometimes. That was a challenging behavior to unlearn.

    1. Likethecity*

      Agreed. I work with students who have developmental delays and while there are some that I am still working with in regards to cleanliness in the restroom (I just had a wiping the seat and hand washing reminder lesson with one yesterday) I haven’t had to remind anyone to shut the door in a while.

    2. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Agreed.

      But believe me, aiming is still very much an issue. (When camping with Scouts, average age 11-12, we had a boy’s outhouse and a girl’s outhouse so us girls could sit or squat without worrying as much about wet seats or floors).

    3. A*

      This is definitely what makes me think there’s more going on. At 12 kids are already starting to “date” (aww, holding hands in the cafeteria!) and whatnot. Not to mention everyone is incredibly awkward and self conscious.

      1. Observer*

        True. But that really just points a finger at Mom. It doesn’t make it acceptable, or something that the OP needs to accept. (Now, Mom’s behavior is a different issue…)

  6. Libretta*

    Oh man, I am an early-leaver. I always worry about appearances, but nothing will get me job hunting faster than too little to do and being forced to sit in a chair for a full 8 hours. I am happy to work 8 hours if there is work to do, sometimes longer!

    I am a fast worker, I multi-task and prefer to be very busy. I tell them in the interview that I can carry a heavy work load and like to be busy. In my evaluations, when things are very slow, I have said I feel under-utilized and ask for more work. I think bosses have been wary of over-loading me, but I also think I am good at creating systems – so that tasks that will take people two hours will take me 30 minutes (i.e. a work-around to fiddling with a clunky software system).

    Honestly OP#1 – if this person is a solid employee and worth keeping – the flex hours are a huge benefit. My job now is so flexible and I love it – I have young kids and ill parents to care for, so being able to go tend to them is SO valuable. It would take a massive pile of money and benefits to tear me away.

    1. Jax*

      Eh, even with salaried positions there can be expectations that employees generally follow either certain work hours or be in the office at least X hours — nevermind this being both a new team AND OP’s boss commenting.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yes – there aren’t really that many full time salaried jobs where it would be okay to come in at 9am and leave at 1pm every day on on the grounds that you’re much more efficient than your coworkers, even if it’s true. Even without sufficient work, you’d be expected to be in the office more than that.

        In places I’ve worked with flexible schedules, you’re expected to work a full day on average. Some people start earlier, some prefer later hours. Sometimes you need to work longer than normal because of a deadline or you want to finish something, other times you can knock off early or come in late because of life stuff, or you’re feeling cruddy, sometimes you take a long lunch break, other times you grab a quick bite at your desk.

        To work significantly shorter hours than your equivalent coworkers, it would generally take more than being a solidly competent employee – you’d need to be spectacular.

        1. Wintermute*

          If the “getting done in 30min what takes coworkers 2 hours” is a regular thing not a rare example, I think that qualifies.

          1. CheeryO*

            But can it really be quantified like that? What happens if the more efficient person starts making mistakes? Or getting burned out because they’re working too fast? What if they’re missing big-picture stuff because they don’t give themselves time to ruminate on things? I’m all for flexible hours, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people to work their 40 hours per week, even if they’re a super star.

            1. Colette*

              Agreed. The faster person might be sloppier, or not consulting the people they need to consult, or be blowing off other informal parts of the job (e.g. not answering questions, not documenting the work, etc.)

              It’s generally fine to leave early on occasion; I’d be concerned if it were happening regularly, not in the least because when the workload increases, that person won’t want to work normal hours.

              1. Psyche*

                Generally, if you have a ton of time and finished your work, you would be expected to find something else to do. If you are done two hours early, you should probably start a new task. If you are done half an hour early, it may be fine to leave. This does depend on the type of job though.

            2. A*

              Agreed. Especially because if they are only performing their core responsibilities – and only additional work when delegated – I don’t know if that really qualifies as “spectacular”. A large portion of my work accomplishments have been projects/areas of improvement/process changes etc. that I identified and worked on addressing in my ‘down time’. Not because it’s just SO MUCH FUN, but because I always assumed that’s what you were supposed to do. Do I leave early occasionally – yes. But for the most part I find a way to utilize my time in a beneficial manner for my employer, even if I’m done with the delegated task oriented portion of my job description.

          2. Oh No She Di'int*

            This may be true. However, I’m generally against the whole “superstar” notion overall. OP’s job is to build a team, not a bunch of isolated individuals. Part of the problem with letting one person leave early is that people’s productivity is often opaque to their coworkers. Jane won’t necessarily know everything that Fergus has produced. To Jane, it just looks like Fergus is leaving early. You’d be surprised who quickly that devolves into a “Well then why should I . . .” culture. Proceed with caution.

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          If there is consistently nothing for anyone to do that can create frustration. And ‘review the system’ as a filler task can get old once you’ve reviewed the system so many times. I feel like this should be a big sign they need to dig up more real things for these people to do.

          Also- it will create resentment with his coworkers if they also have nothing to do and are just sitting around until 5 while this guy leaves early all the time.

        3. Overeducated*

          You’d also need to be in the kind of job where there aren’t improvements to be made, “wish lists” of special projects and things you could do if you had more time, organizational or tracking backlogs, etc. The more self-directed or high level someone’s work is, the more I’d expect them to find useful ways to be a “superstar” by qualitatively surpassing their coworkers, not just working faster.

          That said, I think a small amount of flexibility is totally reasonable, sometimes when you have 15 minutes to go you don’t have a task that you can move forward meaningfully in that time. I just think if you’re talking about a really significant amount of time…maybe there could be more work.

          1. A*

            This! I’m truly having a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of there being truly no more work that can be done. Especially in a salaried position. Heck, there have been times during ‘slow’ periods at work where I’m watching YouTube videos about equipment I am involved in buying. Do I need to know how XYZ tooling device is built in order to do my job? No, but additional context can’t hurt!

            Has every improvement possible been implemented?
            Has everything been streamlined as much as possible?
            SOPs updated?
            Training guides created for systems / more task oriented positions?
            Researched new possible projects, PR opportunities, etc?

        4. Artemesia*

          And letting this go on will eventually get flexible hours killed for everyone. Time for someone to be managing.

      2. Mel*

        Yeah, I’ve worked in flexible offices, but usually the expectation is that you’ll still work 8 hours a day. I work at one now where it’s slightly less and there can be a LOT of flexibility with hours, but you have to get the flex approved with your boss even if the said he’s always going to approve it. You never know when it’s going to be the one time they can’t let you do it.

        1. Liz*

          This. my company, and especially my dept, is very flexible on what hours you work, and while its never an issue to leave a bit early, or come in a bit later, or take a longer lunch ONCE in a while, there’s no way that it would be tolerated if any of us decided that just because we get our work done quickly, we can leave a couple of hours early! Because it might be slow, but then something comes up that needs to be dealt with ASAP, and if you’re not around, well, that’s a problem.

          my former bosses boss did this all the time; and many times when something needed to be reviewed quickly, she was nowhere to be found.

        2. Door Guy*

          Most places I’ve worked with flexible offices usually meant I was working later it seemed. Or that they were moderately “okay” with coming in late/working from home/leaving early when something unplanned happened without requiring vacation/sick time usage as long as it wasn’t habitual.

        3. pleaset*

          This.

          Or more accurately – 8 hours most days, a few less from time to time, a few more from time to time but overall in that range.

          Consistently short days? No.

          If someone generally has short days and the position wasn’t explicitly designed that way, the position or person needs to be re-evaluated.

          1. Psyche*

            This exactly. I often leave early. But that is because I often work late or on weekends. Overall I am working over 40 hours a week. I had a coworker who just always left early because we have a flexible schedule. She took it to an extreme and was working less than 20 hours a week. She was let go after a month.

        4. Kiwiii*

          I really really think it depends on the office. I’ve been places where it was very “you will be at your desk from 8 to 4:30 except when you’re taking your specifically assigned 30 minute lunch”. WFH was not an option, PTO had to be used for appointments. I’ve had places that were pretty flexible, where it didn’t matter if you got in late or left a little early as long as you stayed late a different day. If your schedule changed more than by about an hour, give your manager a heads up. WFH was a thing in an emergency or combined with a day where you needed to travel and it wasn’t practical to come into the office.

          My current job is Very Flexible, WFH is granted whenever you feel like, no one cares if you’re working 40 full hours as long as you’re staying on top of your projects (literally just an IM like “hey i’ll be working from home tomorrow” to our supervisor). The expectation is to be in the office on days you’ll be in the office from about 10AM to 3PM and if your work’s done within that time it’s fine. Most of us are on about the 8:30 to 4 or whenever we Finish The Thing schedule. Some people leave a little earlier. It’s not a big deal if the expectation is that it’s not a big deal.

          1. Libretta*

            This sounds more like my office. My boss actually made a concerted effort to convert hourly people to salaried because she thinks rigid work hours (for our work) are morale killers.

          2. Filosofickle*

            The best job I ever had was Very Flexible and I often only worked 7 hours a day. That was a half hour lighter than the stated norm, 37.5 hours per week. (My first two jobs were both 37.5, which seems so weird now, I’ve never seen that since.) It wasn’t obvious because I started an hour after everyone else, so I was still there when they left…I just didn’t stay as long as they might have assumed. It did always feel a bit like cheating, but, honestly, I was a star employee and was already spending time on professional development and mentoring / training. There simply wasn’t anything else for me to do! We did have a few crazy months every spring and my hours would go up to 45+ so it evened out somewhat. I always stayed if there was work to do.

            When my boss interviewed me he told me flat out he didn’t care how we managed our time, as long as the work got done and we were responsive. The minute he left the other partner issued new rules about desk time, lunch breaks, and dress codes, so many of us followed him out.

            1. Filosofickle*

              p.s. The WORST job I ever had never, ever had 40 hours of work. I came onsite…maybe 30 hours a week? I did…maybe 10 hours of actual work? At best. Our department was empty most of the time, everyone else doing the same. It was horrible. To fill time I initiated “nice to have” projects, improved things no one cared about, invented archives and guidelines and libraries, made friends in other departments hoping to collaborate. Projects were often scrapped at the last minute so it became futile to work ahead. It was in Silicon Valley. I was paid a ton of money to do virtually nothing. I did it for 9 months to rebuild after a medical emergency, and I’m so grateful for that opportunity, but got the hell out after that. It was ridiculous.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I’ve usually understood “flex hours” to mean like you could shift your schedule earlier or later, or you could work 10 hours Mon-Thursday and take Friday off or something–not that you can just have shorter hours all the time.

        1. Jamie*

          I know there is no such thing as a dream job, but that’s my idea of one. My white whale, my holy grail.

          I am someone who can easily do 10 hour days and every time I hear of places that do this I want to cry that it’s so seemingly unheard of in my area/industry.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            We did away with 4 tens because nobody wants them. Filling the spots when people left was impossible. My partner works them for their job and we love it.

            I do flex for it when I’m being stingy with my PTO at times.

            So there are still places out the but even more increasingly uncommon it seems given shifts in just what is easiest to fill I think.

          2. Liz*

            My company, when I first started and wasn’t able to do it, did something like this, only over 2 weeks. You worked a bit longer each day for 9 days and had one off every 2 weeks. But sadly, it was abused, and rather than address it with those few that were abusing it, they did away with it altogether.

            1. Oh No She Di'int*

              I admit to being on the other side of this exact situation. I tried to implement what we called a “9-day pay period” a couple of years ago. It was abused almost immediately. And yeah, when we had approximately 524 million other priorities happening at the same time, it was easier to scrap the program than to embark upon fixing yet another broken behavior.

          3. bonkerballs*

            I work for a synagogue right now and we close the office early on Fridays for shabbat and I’ve gotten so used to my free Friday afternoons that it’s going to be tough to going back to full Fridays after this.

      4. nonymous*

        Where I work it’s expected that we clock 80 hrs/pay period. That can be through a combination of vacation, sick leave, time worked (office and from home) and banked hours from previous weeks. We also have core hours within which leave has to be approved (if it is 1 hr or less, more of a notification process).

        So someone who normally works 8A – 4:30P can leave at 3P every day one week and work until 6P every day the next week. But leaving at noon on two days (assuming they worked 10hrs for four days) would require approval.

      5. A*

        OP 1: I would recommend considering implementing defined ‘core work hours’. Every position I’ve held with a flex schedule (salaried/exempt) has followed this pattern and it seems to work out well for everyone. At my last employer it was defined as 9:30am-3:30pm. Everyone had to be in the office or online during those hours, but could come and go as they please outside of that so long as the work was getting done and they were there for any meetings that may have been scheduled outside those hours. Keeps things flexible, but defined!

    2. t*

      This early in the team formation, it’s tricky. On the one hand, allowing flexibility now builds goodwill, so when you need your team to really step up and do extra, they are more willing.
      However, starting off with working fewer hours makes the eventual need to do more feel even harder. People are hardwired to see things in relative terms, so going from fewer hours/flexibility to a heavy load becomes almost an imposition.

      Personally, I would err on the side of requiring 40 hours, but give flexibility on how they meet that expectation. And if any team members have extenuating circumstances, being extra flexible now when it costs you less is likely to build the goodwill you’ll need later.

      1. Libretta*

        I do totally agree that it is very early in the work relationship to know everyone’s work habits and it is totally reasonable for OP to re-define guidelines and expectations. I just hate to see “you must stay until X:00” if it doesn’t actually matter. Is it possible that this employee sat idly at his desk for 2 hours before leaving? She needs to figure out if he legitimately has nothing to do.

        1. Mookie*

          This will also curb the habit of rushing through work without pacing oneself if there are modules awaiting them or ‘chores’ easily put off during peak times that still need doing. Flexing happens when every client is accounted for, every i dotted, all available work done or penciled in with a good amount of cushion for the following day(s). It’s meant to be a tool and a benefit, but there are costs associated with it and different employees will qualify for different amounts depending on the general pace of their output. Plus, people need to put in face-time. It’s just the nature of a full-time job that doesn’t involve travel or explicit tele-commuting.

      2. Tinuviel*

        I agree, I don’t know if OP has enough data to see if they’re truly rockstars who work superfast, or average workers improperly calibrated. This is something new/younger workers struggle with and I did as well. Coming from school or retail or hourly work to salaried work where your time and requirements are structured differently, it can be hard to know “when is work done.”

        I’ve also seen people just do the bare minimum when they should be using their down time to help others, make improvements, tidy up physically and digitally, etc. This also counts as “work” so it’s not just “when you make 30 widgets you can go home”, it’s “make 30 widgets, then help others who are behind, then check your backlog, read the copy of Widgets Today going around, daydream about how to make widgets faster, update your goals spreadsheet, and then if there are no last-minute requests you can go home.”

        Also it’s good to know that even if they are rockstars, having a higher-up comment on your absence is not a good thing. They might want to take measures so higher-ups don’t misunderstand their excellence for laziness.

        1. LQ*

          I think people also sometimes think that stuff that is really a part of being a professional isn’t their job so they don’t have to do it. Sometimes that means building relationships and helping others and understanding enough about the organization (you know, don’t make the CEO sign into a training session he dropped in on and then try to kick him out because he wasn’t on the sign up sheet because you didn’t know he was the CEO). And a lot of that matters more if you want to be promoted or move into a higher level, but you still have to do all of the paperwork and day to day stuff of being an employee. It’s still part of your job.

        2. Smithy*

          I can here to also note a similar worry. Let’s say the OP’s team are truly rockstars who largely start their days earlier on average and then are also leaving earlier. But come 4:30 there are members of senior leadership walking by to ask a question and find a ghost town. That is information that can be critical to share.

          While a specific team lead who has closer eyes to work may be comfortable with a more flexible schedule – if the organization’s leadership still has more of a butts in seats attitude or there are regular moments where another team might “swing by with a question” – then that’s all important information for a team to have and why a leader might adjust expectations for in the office presence.

          The OP can reflect back to the team how their hard work is being laddered up and general trends at the office around flex work/work from home. But it helps as a team to know that. I used to work somewhere where a working schedule of 7am-3pm indicated a super hard working family first employee. Whereas working from 10:30am-9pm was indication of a slacker. Did it add up in regards to work product? Nope – but that was the reality of that office’s management.

          1. Allison*

            Absolutely, there are jobs where being on duty during core work hours is important, even if you’re not heads-down busy the whole time.

      3. Mookie*

        So long as the LW communicates now that flexibility will be… flexible in future, yes, focus not on reigning in normal, still productive use of a flex schedule but on ensuring your team is taking advantage of the opportunity the current schedule offers in terms of down-time training and mastering software/procedure/etc. There’s no substitute for the time-saving benefits of knowing the role and its tools inside and out.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Yes training. This still counts as work. I worked at a fairly new agency once and we weren’t too busy. I used the time to take advantage of the free Microsoft training. Seriously, even taking a class on Excel or Word (or whatever program you use most often) even if you are familiar with it already would be a good idea. You might learn something or at least get to practice those skills you don’t use often. That all counts as “work.”

          If the boss is already asking where is your team, it’s a problem. Manager needs to fix it because boss doesn’t like it. If the team wants to get anywhere, they need to be seen as a good team not a problem team.

      4. Washi*

        I agree with this. It’s a little hard to tell based on the letter – if people are leaving at 4:30 while training ramps up I don’t see a huge problem with that, but yeah, there are people who will get used to working 9 – 3 and then complain about a workload that has them working 9 – 5.

        I think it also depends on how much work experience folks have. When I managed super entry level people, I found it worked best to have pretty firm and specific expectations for the first couple months, then building in that flexibility once they’d gotten a handle on office norms and I was confident about their time management. But I made the exact same mistake as the OP at first! I told my first hire that she didn’t have to be here on the dot of 9 but just to text me if she was running really late. I had meant that it wasn’t a big deal if she got in at 9:15 instead of 9, but when she came in at 10 the next day with no text, I had to clarify what I meant!

      5. Little Bird in the Big Apple*

        Agreed!
        I worked at a place that had flex time and a very relaxed environment but we were still expected to be in the office 40 hours per week. How we distributed that time during the week was pretty much left up to us as long as we got the work done. One of my colleagues came in Monday to Thursday, in at 7am and out at 6pm (1hr lunch), then took Friday off!! But this weird arrangement was agreed upon with his line manager.

        There’s flexibility but there should still be rules around how flexible you can be.

    3. Isabel Kunkle*

      Agreed. I’ve also been in industries that have really dead times and really busy ones, where it was impossible to really work ahead–for instance, a couple jobs back, we turned books in at the end of the month, so that was hectic as fuck, but the start of the month was basically contacting authors to remind them of super-hard-and-fast deadlines and very little else, unless authors actually sent their material in by their first deadlines, which ha ha ha ha ha–so we’d definitely be working fewer hours one week and more another.

      If not for interference from higher-up, I’d honestly say “Hey, this is cool now, but just so you know, we’re likely to work to or past 5 PM in a few weeks, once things ramp up/people get back from the Annual Teapot Show and submit their designs/tax season starts/whatever.” Judge the employee’s performance by how they do then–being able to handle a fluctuating schedule, and taking advantage of slow periods to avoid burnout during busy ones, seems like a valuable skill in a lot of places.

    4. Allison*

      I feel you, ideally I’d like to feel useful and productive during those 8 hours. The employee handbook says 8:30-5, so I aim to get there by 8:30 and stay until 5, unless I need to sneak out at 4:50. I know no one really cares about specific times, 8:45 isn’t considered “late” and people often leave between 4 and 5, it’s not a big deal, but I feel like I need to be there during the working hours. It’s a holdover from my first job that was very strict about working hours, on time meant being early and there was NO packing up or shutting down before 5:30. If I’m bored in the afternoon, I will find something to do until 5, research or prepping for our next busy period, but I do hate when whole weeks are slow and I keep needing to get creative to keep myself occupied.

    5. a clockwork lemon*

      I have a flexible schedule, and during our slow season I often have a lot of downtime–in theory, I can leave early whenever that’s the case. However, sticking around and putzing on my computer for the extra hour or two in the afternoon also means that I’m sometimes the only person around when, say, the executive in charge of our group has a last-minute research project that needs handled, or we get an afternoon call from a client with standard business hours asking for a regulatory clarification.

      A big, unspoken part of what I’m paid for is being physically present in the office to address things when they come up. I could choose not to do that, of course, but it would seriously limit my opportunities going forward, and having the time to noodle around in the afternoon means I’ve been able to implement new processes and develop my own independent projects in a way that I wouldn’t do if I just went home an hour and a half early like some of my colleagues do.

    6. DataGirl*

      In my world, flex-time means you can flex when you come in and leave or even the days you work, but you still need to be doing apx. 40 hours a week. I don’t know OPs industry, but in all the jobs I’ve had even when the primary responsibilities or urgent matters are done, there’s always a huge list of ‘nice to haves’ that can/should be worked on in the down time. So my question to OP would be, how many hours is this guy working? If he’s coming in at 9 and leaving at 2 every day, not working extra nights or weekends, then yeah I’d be concerned. If it’s that he comes in at 6 and leaves at 2, or works outside the office to make up those hours, AND it works with your business’s needs, then I’d let it go.

    7. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      In this case, OP#1 does have tasks for the employees. As OP#1 writes, “I’d expect my team to spend some downtime trying to familiarize themselves with systems.”

      So, when they are done with their explicit tasks for the day, they aren’t done with work, they should be spending time training themselves.

    8. I was never given a name*

      How about giving specific assignments around “learning the system” so your team has clearly defined work to do, rather than an amorphous “build familiarity” objective? You could even assign specific parts of the system to team members or groups of team members, with the expectation that they’ll conduct a group training on their assigned part of the system on a specified date. This gives people accountability for completing a specific task, and gives them a deadline. In addition to creating structure around learning the system, this would also hopefully bridge the gap between the slow ramp-up period for the team and the increasing amount of work that you expect to come down the road.

    9. NextTimeGadget*

      This reply thread has really opened my eyes to how fortunate I am to live in a major tech hub where true flexibility is not really optional if you want to keep good employees for long. I’ve worked for a few places that have core working hours of like 10am-2pm, but outside of that as long as the work gets done (this includes being available for meetings that can always be held virtually), you’re free to come and go as you please. I cannot imagine tolerating a mindset of “butts in seats = productivity.” That feels unimaginably old school, and I feel incredibly privileged right now.

      1. Avasarala*

        FWIW some of the plus sides of having “core working hours” means you know when you can schedule meetings and most people will be in the office, as well as (at least in my country) your working hours are actually tracked and paid for.

  7. MamaSarah*

    I’m sorry but the situation described by LW 4 is not funny and kind of disturbing. Most older kids, tweens want total privacy in the bathroom. As an FYI, many bathroom doors can be modified to be self-closing. I’d ask for a self-closing door that is also posted “keep closed”. Good luck! I want an update!

    1. Sleve McDichael*

      This is a great suggestion for if HR and/or the powers that be are afraid of making the mother mad. I still think the son should have to learn some manners, but it might be the path of least resistance.

      1. Observer*

        That’s not really the OP’s concern or business. Yes, personally and in my head, I’m side eyeing mom pretty hard. But in terms of expectations in the workplace, it’s not my business if you are a good mother or not, or if your kid is a brat or not. What *is* my business is having a clean bathroom and not being subjected to a peep show on a regular basis.

        If an automatic door closer and better housekeeping does the trick, them I’m good.

    2. Orange You Glad*

      Agree on the self-closing door! This is something your facilities people should be able to simply do by either adjusting the springs or adding weights to the door!

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        If it closes on it’s own then the kid still isn’t locking it, and it increases the chance someone will walk in on him. Which, you were seeing it all before, but actually walking into the room would create more awkwardness.

    3. Agnes*

      Eh, I have a 12-year-old in a week and he leaves the door open plenty at home. I don’t think he does it outside of the house, but boys are used to urinals, too. It’s not necessarily a sign of anything but cluelessness.

    4. Jamie*

      I didn’t even think about a self closing door, that’s brilliant! Even my hands off on this topic self would go to HR for that.

  8. Dan*

    #1

    I think you’ve got a couple of things going on here surrounding the term “flexible schedule.” That can mean different things to different people. I have a “flexible schedule” but I also do government work, which requires me to account for all of my time. My company requires that I account for 80 hours in a two week pay period. That’s either work, vacation, holiday time, or unpaid leave. So for me, “Flexible schedule” just means I can put my hours in whenever, wherever, however, but I have to get them in. I typically show up very late in the morning but am the last one out of the office, and I can work from home if I feel like it. Likewise, the people I work with who “leave early” probably got in a 6 am. Nobody’s working like 8-2 every day and calling it a flexible schedule.

    Given what OP describes, I’m getting the sense that “flexible schedule” is used as a euphemism for putting in less than the “standard” 40 hour work week. If that’s the case, that’s a workload and expectations issue during the ramp up period, where that time can and should be legitimately used for training/background/what-not.

    I’m not saying that the OP should always expect 40 hours per week from salaried employees, but she can be clear on expectations and what actually constitutes “work” in the ramp up period.

    1. Rexish*

      I have flexi time as well. But it means that I can come in between 6-9am and leave 2-7pm. My day is counted as 7h 51min and if I’m longer I get + and if less then I get -. There are so many ways to have flexible hours so I would be very clear on the expectations.

      1. Tinuviel*

        This is how flex time works for me as well. I’ve rarely seen workplaces where you could truly leave whenever your work was done, and I wonder if they have issues with workload management as a result (in either direction–people racing through/dropping work to leave early, or people feel unable to leave because there’s no “cut off time” at which the company has agreed you can say “you tried enough for the day, time to go home.”)

        Kind of like unlimited time off. Sometimes it’s helpful to be crazy flexible, sometimes it’s helpful to have a clear model of what expectations are.

        1. londonedit*

          Yes, we have flexible working but we still have to work 37.5 hours a week. There are core hours when everyone is expected to be in the office, but you can agree with your manager to have a regular working pattern of starting later/finishing earlier or vice versa. It isn’t a case of just packing up and going home whenever you want, and certainly in my job there’s never a sense that my ‘work is done’; I have a constant list of projects at various stages of the process. Every day is more ‘OK I’m here until 5, what do I definitely need to push forward today and what can wait until tomorrow if I don’t get time to do it?’ rather than ‘Right well it’s 3pm and I’m all finished, see ya later’.

          1. Mel*

            Yeah. I work a 37.5 too and sometimes if we’re slow they might say, “It’s dead here, go home!” But WE can’t decide that.

            And just because I finish my projects at noon doesn’t mean more aren’t coming in in half an hour, so I’m expected to find something else to do while I wait (it’s probably sharing memes with coworkers).

          2. Liz*

            this is exactly my situation. We work 37.5 hours, and while there are daily tasks that must be done, no exceptions, what goes into them varies depending on the material available (daily industry newsletter). And the rest of it also varies, depending on the quantity of things available, but even when its slow on that front, there is ALWAYS something to be done, esp. now since I just got a promotion, but my old position was eliminated, so the work of 3 now is done by just 2.

            My boss would laugh at me if i ever said “you know what, i know its only 2pm but I;m done with my stuff for the day so I’m just going to go home now”

          3. flex time*

            I’d just caution to be sure you know what’s really going on. Is coworker coming in early to accommodate an earlier departure? What you may see as “Bye!” could really be the end of an 8 hour shift.

          4. Glitsy Gus*

            This is pretty much our situation as well. If you have the occasional, “hey, my schedule is weirdly light today, is it cool if I go pick up my kid now rather than just hanging out until 4?” no one really gets worked up about it, but we’re talking once every couple weeks or so during our off seasons, not multiple times a week just because I finished my to do list. It’s still expected that you’re going to stick around for pretty much 40 hours a week (my department doesn’t bill hours so we don’t need to keep rigid time tracking, but it’s still pretty obvious whether or not you’re around when you should be.).

    2. MK*

      Yes. In my brother-in-law’s workplace flexible means they can work four day weeks, as long as they also wprk 40 hours a week. And still, they can’t do this every single week.

    3. it's me*

      No, that’s my understanding of “flexible schedule” as well. Like, in our office people have varying commutes so some people get here at 7 a.m., some closer to 11; it’s that rather than everyone coming in at 8 and working to 5. They all have to work 8 hours, however. I wasn’t aware people interpreted it to mean being able to leave early.

    4. Nanani*

      I had something similar when I still worked in an office.
      There were core hours where everyone was expected to be present, and most meetings would be scheduled during the core. You could arrive early and leave right at the end of core hours, or arrive right at the start of core hours and stay late, or anything in between, but you had to be around for core hours.

      Leaving at lunch or something like that would require you to take time off and clear it with your group lead.

      Maybe OP should have a system like that. “We expect you to be at your desk from X to Y so that people can reach you/schedule meetings, you can leave as early as Y if you have no other work”

    5. Mockingjay*

      Our flex time means we have to pick a set of hours and stick to it. Also, core hours are mandated, so your flex hours have to encompass those.

      Core hours: 9 – 3
      My Flex hours: 8 – 4:30 (1/2 hour lunch) (These hours suit me, for beating local traffic patterns and going to gym after work).

      Flex time does not mean that I can come in 8 on Monday, 8:30 on Tuesday, 7:30 on Wednesday, etc., with corresponding departure times.

  9. Don't get salty*

    #1, I think it’s very important, as a new manager, for you to teach your new team to build a steady pace for their workload. When things are very new, sometimes work doesn’t come in as fast as you would like; but when things start to pick up, your employees (especially the more productive ones) will need to know how to balance the level of work they regularly take on. The times when things are slow are the best times to teach your employees to pace themselves and to take in all the resources. When the workload starts increase, and your employees get busy, it might be too late to reflect on the resources available to do the job well because they will be drowning in work. So I think your message should change slightly from advertising an extreme flexible schedule to letting them know that they occasionally will have more time than they need to devote to work and that they can leave early on those days after conferring with you.

  10. Dan*

    #3

    First things first about that whole non-profit thing… they will continue with their crappy hiring practices if the labor market lets them get away with it under the guise “non profits are different.” If people stopped accepting jobs with them, then they’d have to change their habits.

    Second, while they were gruff in your salary “negotiation”, what they told you was there is no flexibility with the offer, it appears to be take-it or leave-it.

    Third, yup, they’re giving themselves some flexibility by not committing to the direction position in writing. (And I hate to say this, but unless you are signing an employment *contract*, putting the director offer in writing is non-binding on their end.)

    You asked about “red flags”. I get the sense that people use that phrase to ask about “hidden meanings” or something. Here, there’s nothing hidden, what you need to know is at face value. They’re offering you a position with a $7k paycut from what you currently make, with not even a good-faith promise of the director position. Accept or decline the offer on the merits alone. Do you like the offer as it stands?

  11. Civilian Linetti*

    LW2 – every pre-teen I’ve ever known has insisted on privacy for bathroom functions. It’s really not normal 12 year old behaviour to leave the door open like this, and I can pretty much guarantee that he does not do this at school or his friends’ houses. What I think is going on here is ‘ner ner, mom’s the boss and you can’t say anything to me’. And given that his mother is described as vindictive etc… he’s probably not wrong. If you do pull him up on his behaviour, she will push back. I would still tell him to close the door when he’s in the bathroom, but I would also be communicating with HR that this has been an on-going problem and you’re going to try addressing it directly with Cyril himself in the moment, but you might need back up.

    The mess in the bathroom is less concerning (but still understandably irritating!) because there are plenty of adults who still make a mess in the bathroom and a 12 year old is still learning that there are no such thing as House Elves. I think AAM’s solution to the mess “Cyril, please come back and clean this up,” works for that. It will at least uncover whether it’s subconscious bathroom messiness or it’s a ‘the janitor works for my mom, so they work for me too and I can do what I want and people can just clean up my piss,’ attitude.

    1. Samwise*

      Hard disagree on this not being normal. When he was an early teen, my son would sometimes leave the door ajar at home if he just needed “a quick pee.” I trained him up real quick on that; still happened when he thought no one was home. He’s neurotypical and was otherwise a well-mannered kid. I know my brothers did this, and according to my MIL, so did my husband and his brother. Young teens are not fully civilized… Possibly the boy in this case is not neurotypical or has other issues, or possibly his parents are not training him, or possibly they are training him but it hasn’t stuck yet.

      We get plenty of letters to this blog about poor bathroom behavior in adults, not out of the ordinary that teens also display poor behavior.

      1. pleaset*

        I don’t remember what I did as a kid, but I leave the bathroom door open all the time at home if no one is there, and sometimes even if someone is in our apartment but I know is not coming near the bathroom I’m in.

        Leaving the door open may not be the most common thing, but it’s not “not normal”

          1. Dahlia*

            Yeah… kids have to learn that you can’t always do things the same in public as at home. They aren’t adults.

            1. Observer*

              Please. 12 year olds are perfectly well aware that what you do at home and what you do in public are not the same thing.

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                Eh. 12 is about the age brain development ramps up into high gear, and it can cause some seriously wonky decision making. So, yeah, 12 year olds understand theoretically that what you do in public is different from what you do at home, but they may not be able to consistently apply that knowledge in every situation and context.

                1. Observer*

                  So? That doesn’t mean that 12 year old boys are generally incapable of dealing with the reality that what you can get away with at home doesn’t fly in public. And it certainly does not mean that kids that age can’t be expected to know the basics of bathroom use – including the fact that you CLOSE THE DOOR when others are around!

                  We do no one, least of all adolescents, any favors by pretending that “brain developing” essentially means no more maturity that a per-schooler.

                2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  I didn’t intend to imply that all 12 year olds need preschool level supervision. Just that 12 year olds need a lot of reminders of stuff. So in this case, OP should let HR know so the kid’s mom can be notified.

                3. Avasarala*

                  Bathroom training typically ends in early elementary school. Older children who are not developmentally delayed do not struggle with this stuff–not cleaning up after themselves is due to laziness and poor training, not a neurological inability to clean up after themselves.

                  12 year olds need reminders about not mixing bleach with ammonia. Not about this stuff.

      2. Anon4This*

        I grew up in a home where neither of my parents shut the door when going to the bathroom, so my siblings and I frequently didn’t either. As an adult and parent I still sometimes don’t close the door /close it all the way at home, but my kids are pretty horrified by that so if they are around, I do try to make sure I close the door. That being said, in public? Closed door every time, no exceptions!

      3. Observer*

        “Ajar” and “occasionally” are not the same as “wide open every. time.”

        If it were just the mess, then I’d just think that Mom isn’t training him right. But the full open door? No, not normal.

  12. Addie*

    As far as closing the door while the kid is using the restroom (and I admit I suffer from an excess of caution on this issue because working in childcare it’s imperative to avoid even the appearance of evil) I would be reluctant to do so if the door swings inward and the restroom is a small one. That is closer than I prefer to get to an exposed minor, even momentarily. If he is as petty as OP says his mother is… I’d think it best to consider the doorway an impenetrable barrier while he’s in there.

    1. MommyMD*

      I would not go near that kid with his pants down in any circumstance. It’s inviting trouble. Take it to a level higher than Boss.

      1. Michelle*

        I would not say or approach the kid, either. I would talk to HR, maybe facilities management or housekeeping about getting things cleaned up.

        The housekeeping staff where I work are great. They keep the place looking great and we always get compliments on how clean our facilities are (museum). If there was a 12 yr old making messes, they would have a word with the parent, no matter if their are C-level or not. I imagine it would go something like, hey Ms. C-level, your son is leaving the bathroom door open and urinating on the seat and floor, can you please remind him to clean up before he leave the restroom. If she threw out any vindictiveness or pettiness, they would ring the housekeeping director, and trust me, you don’t want to deal with the housekeeping director. She has no problem telling everyone, including C-level, that yes, there job is to clean and keep the facilities nice, but teaching kids how to properly use the bathroom is not their job and if their 12 yr old could not pee without getting it all over the toilet and floor, then they need to accompany them and clean up behind them.

        I don’t get the door wide open thing. Young people that age normally want privacy in the restroom. My husband is 43, we have been married 20 years, we have seen the worst of each other and he still closes and locks the door when he goes to the restroom, even in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep.

    2. Delphine*

      If he is as petty as OP says his mother is… I’d think it best to consider the doorway an impenetrable barrier while he’s in there.

      These are seriously disturbing motivations to apply to a child. I’m uncomfortable with this entire train of thought that you and some other commenters are engaging in, suggesting that a child is trying to entrap adults.

      1. Addie*

        I’m sorry to have miscommunicated. I don’t think he’s attempting to entrap anyone. But I do think that if a fight starts, it’s better if his mother doesn’t have that ammunition, because you can’t be absolutely sure he will refute it.

  13. MommyMD*

    A flex schedule does not mean you don’t have to put in your 40 hours. It means you can adjust your schedule to accommodate your life. Coming in early, come in later, etc.

    “I’m sorry I did not communicate more clearly about what a flexible schedule means. You can select your own start time in the morning but you do need to put in an average of 40 hours per week here in the office.”

  14. Quandong*

    LW2 I encourage you to go to HR and ask for them to come up with solutions to this problem.

    Treat it as a child safety and protection issue i.e. the child needs a safe environment, and using the bathroom with an open door is not safe for him.

    Of course, it’s also an issue for the non-related adults who are nearby when this child uses the bathroom with the door open, but that’s not what you should raise with HR unless you think it will spur them into action.

    I’d completely separate the mess left by the child from the problem of him using the bathroom with the door open.

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      The hill to die on is the open door, not the urine here there and everywhere.

      Spin it as a child safety issue. Your post is spot on.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          If mom is a vindictive, petty mess, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

          All this charmer has to say is you were watching him urinate, and smiling (whatever).

          Have fun with MaMa Bear. You think she’ll believe you over her kid?

          I worked in a support role in an elementary school. I was finger printed, checked through the sex offender registration list, and for felonies. Sat through I forget how many inservices on child sexual abuse and boundaries.

          I was not allowed at all enter the restrooms by AT ALL. I need two other people besides me if all hell broke loose in the restrooms.

          The biggest issue is this kid exposing himself around unrelated adults. 12 year old boys don’t normally do that. Home, yes. School? Boys are can be silly and gross.

          The urine is secondary to having your reputation dragged through flaming napalm.

  15. Getting There*

    For OP 1, I would say “Lucinda, would you mind cleaning up Cyril’s pee? The rest of us have talked about it and we don’t feel comfortable doing it. And I am sure you wouldn’t expect us to take care of that for you”. This presents Cyril’s messy bathroom habits as a matter of fact and it also puts Lucinda in the position of having to agree to the fact that her coworkers should not be responsible for cleaning up after him. I would also tell her to make sure he closes the door, as this would likely be an easy ask after being asked to clean up her son’s pee. With people like Lucinda I have found they respond better to a more direct, up-front approach. If I were in your position, I wouldn’t care how petty she is and I would give zero f@$&a about asking her to clean up her son’s pee.

    1. fposte*

      I would skip “the rest of us have talked about it,” though, unless your hand is forced. It seems like using group gossip as leverage.

    2. MommyMD*

      WW3 and possible accusations of monitoring her child in an inappropriate manner. I can already see the smoke coming out of Boss’s nostrils.

  16. QCI*

    That kid needs to be told by SOMEBODY that he needs to close the door and lift the seat, otherwise he’ll be peeing on the seat as an adult, and the world doesn’t need more guys like that.

      1. QCI*

        I would hope that’s something he would figure out on his own at some point, but people who pee on seats will do it their entire gross life.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I feel like if Cyril SAT DOWN to pee then the aim issue wouldn’t be an issue, and he’d be more likely to close the door.

      Unisex bathrooms really, really should have a “we all sit” policy. Hovering also risks mess.

      1. QCI*

        I can’t understand how people have issues aiming or lifting the seat, I literally can’t wrap my head around it. I’m a guy, so I speak from experience.

        1. Alexandra Lynch*

          On the aiming thing, despite being female, I may have an answer. My husband, and my sons, were all, ah, extreme “growers”, as it were. This meant that they, much like women, don’t exactly have a lot of aim unless they sort of winkle it out before letting fly. My husband solved this by sitting down. Eldest son cleaned the toilet a lot and then decided about age 13 to just sit down. Youngest son was a little more stubborn, and cleaned the toilet a lot during his teenage years, but about the age of 17 he sat down.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Based on my experience as a volunteer and board member of a charity shop, no one wants anything engraved with someone else’s name.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, if the name is easily removed and the item has value without it, they’d probably be interested. If the name is integral or the item is only valuable because of what it represents (e.g. a 5-year plaque), then no.

  17. Overeducated*

    OP #1: maybe see if you can observe whether not taking breaks is a factor in the leaving early too, and whether you need to be rigid about it or not. Technically everyone in my workplace has to take an unpaid 30 lunch minute break. For a lot of people who commute from further out, that means taking a later train and getting home 1-2 hours later, so they break the rules and work through (still working 8 hours). We’re on temporary manager #3 in a year right now, someone from a related department who does know the rules, so I am curious and a little apprehensive to see whether it is enforced.

  18. Humble Schoolmarm*

    Op 2, please proceed with a lot of caution if you choose to talk to Cyril. This is the age I teach and the combination you describe (behaviour that the chid should know is inappropriate, “petty and vindictive” mom, parent who isn’t addressing issues around office norms, heck, even the fact that he can’t hang around at home) points to this being a pretty epic minefield.

    If you, or someone else in your office, do talk to Cyril, you’re going to need to be exceptionally aware of your tone. Using a stern voice is often read by twelve-year-olds as yelling, even if your voice remains completely level and I guarantee he will be telling his mom within 30 seconds that “OP yelled at me (possible add-on, “for no reason)”. What you want to do is stay somewhere between pleasant but firm or like you’re pleasantly sharing a bit of helpful information. Keep in mind, with some kids, any corrective discussion (whether delivered firmly or kindly) will lead to, ahem, pushback, so while watching your tone will help, there’s still a risk of escalation. Your best bet is to recruit someone he has a bit of a relationship with (probably a youngish man) to talk to him in a “Hey, buddy” kind of way.

    Also, please, please, please do not reach into the bathroom to shut the door. That will turn into “OP came into the bathroom while my pants were down” so fast.

    1. IheartPaulBuchman*

      This is excellent advice. OP, please don’t touch the door or take even one step towards the bathroom while he is inside. I would physically turn away so that I could not be accused of even looking in his direction.
      IMO this is very unusual behaviour for a boy of this age. My sons would rather have died than have a woman see or hear them in the bathroom at 12.

    2. Joielle*

      Agreed. I think it’ll be hard to talk him into closing the door without causing a complete shitstorm with the mom. I feel like embarrassment is the only thing he’s going to respond to. I’m envisioning a guy walking up to the bathroom, not paying much attention, and then suddenly “WHOA, sorry buddy, but you gotta close the door when you’re in there!” Would be weird to stage it, but if it actually did happen accidentally it might be embarrassing enough to make him stop.

      I wonder if he’s a good kid aside from this, or if he seems like a spoiled jerk? If the former, he’s probably just clueless and might respond to a conversation. If the latter… he’s doing it on purpose because he can, and talking to him will just bring on issues with the mom.

    3. Observer*

      Yes. Also, make sure that there is at least one other person who will back you up when you say something. Mom WILL try to get you in trouble, and you want to have a witness (or more.)

    4. MommyMD*

      Yes. I almost feel like some of the advice in this case should be retracted. Too many ways for it to go wrong.

  19. LGC*

    Funny enough, I think LW1 can…be honest? To both their team and their management.

    To the team, the phrasing I’ve used has been, “I understand this seems silly, but I’m asking you to do to this because of appearances.” (I suspect this is what this is mostly about!) Also, if company policy requires them to be on site a minimum number of hours, use that.

    To management, I’d explain that some people flex their schedule if it’s 4 PM and no one is there (if people are working 7-3).

    1. Isabel Kunkle*

      This, or just “things do come up, and sometimes people need to find you.” (If not, the person who complained to the OP is the worst, but if the OP’s not in a position to tell said person to go suck an egg, well, that’s how it goes, sadly.) As an employee, I totally understand those things, whereas the situations other people have described above–“if you have free time, look around for more stuff to do”–where the reward for getting your work done efficiently is more work, would have me job-searching ASAP.

      In re: Cyril, the combination of Awful Mom and Inappropriate Bathroom Habits is just cross-pollinating wildly with the fact that I started watching S2 of Mindhunter this week…;P

      1. Colette*

        Most jobs expect you to fill your time there – which means that if you are done faster than expected (on a regular basis), you need to find something else to do. I’m not sure why you find that outrageous.

        1. Isabel Kunkle*

          It removes any motivation to improve the way I perform the essential tasks of my job, unless I’m ambitious, which a) a lot of people aren’t, and that’s fine and b) presents its own problems, as shown in other letters. Seeing if anyone else needs help, sure, that’s considerate, but there are seasons in some jobs when really nobody has anything extra to do, and other situations where co-workers’ tasks are one-person deals.

          If I’m doing X job in Y time, and Jane is doing it in Y+3 time (and our quality of work is the same), and the company expects us to “fill our time”, my rewards for being faster than Jane are:

          a) taking on more work, which *might* get me a promotion or pay raise, but might not, and some people don’t care a lot about that
          b) maaaybe getting kept on if layoffs come, but maybe not, and maybe the whole company will close down, who knows?

          If someone needs to be present for questions or whatnot, or if the work suffers from speed, that’s different. But there are a lot of places these days that prioritize getting particular tasks done over adhering to a fairly arbitrary schedule in order to Appear Dedicated or Be Part of a Team or whatever, and in the situation above, I’d put in my time at the place in question and then look around for one of those as soon as I can.

          1. Colette*

            I’m completely unfamiliar with jobs that want you to get specific tasks done and don’t care how long you work (other than consulting). Do you have examples?

            Sometimes the rewards of doing more than someone else could are accomplishments for your resume, pride in your work, and opportunities to do more interesting work.

            1. Isabel Kunkle*

              It’s definitely a reason to move into freelancing/consulting, for sure. But honestly, most of the jobs I’ve had (editorial/publishing), while they did require availability around core hours, framed it as needing people to be present in case of questions/meetings/projects that did come up. If you finished up your actual work and there’s nothing scheduled, either “hey, I’m ducking out, but I’ll be available by phone/text/etc” or physically being around but amusing yourself with, say, blogs were generally fine. There was no requirement, spoken or not, that you’d go find stuff to do.

              The people who did seek out extra work certainly got more in the way of raises and promotions, but not everyone was interested in those–I’m good at what I do, I’m glad to get it done well, and I’m glad to help out co-workers, but if I remain in the same position with just cost-of-living increases for the rest of my life, I’m honestly fine with that. Likewise, a number of people get pride/satisfaction or interest from non-work sources, and it’s fine if Jane does The Best Work in the Department or gets the Teapot Account–I’m more into my garden/novel/kids/etc.

              1. Colette*

                People can get satisfaction from doing their job well and also get satisfaction from non-work things?

                I mean, if you want to do the minimum, that’s your choice – but there are costs to that, including your professional reputation, which will affect your future opportunities. If you got laid off tomorrow or someone came in and raised the bar for the work expected, would you be able to keep up?

                I know that if I’m in a position to recommend people for a job, I will recommend the people who work hard and do more than the minimum. Not necessarily the people who do tons of overtime, because that shouldn’t be a requirement, but those who look for ways to make things better.

                1. Isabel Kunkle*

                  Sure! But some people don’t, and that’s okay too. And I think “satisfaction from doing their job well,” which I think I get, is not necessarily tied to “doing it better than co-workers and/or taking on extra tasks”. There’s plenty of satisfaction from doing what you’re assigned/asked to do, and doing it well.

                  Honestly, not being a “self-starter” is a thing for a lot of folks. Doesn’t mean we’re not happy to take on stuff when asked and it’s necessary, but I’ve looked for other jobs as a result of layoffs and/or because my job requirements changed without appropriate compensation, and it’s generally worked out: there are places where “diligent with assigned tasks and helpful when needed or asked, but not looking to move up or particularly proactive” can often be just what’s needed.

                2. Colette*

                  Sure, I’m not saying you have to move up – but if you’re consistently leaving early because you’re done your basic tasks, that’s a problem in most offices.

                3. Isabel Kunkle*

                  A number, sure. (I don’t think it should be in as many as is the case, obviously, but that’s a whole philosophical issue that’s not strictly relevant.) But there are enough, as I mentioned, where some combination of leaving a particular physical location early/being available but messing around online or hanging out in the break room* is okay or expected if responsibilities are done that I know an “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean” management style is not something I’d have to put up with for my entire working life, so I wouldn’t do so any longer than the situation demanded.

                  You’d asked why I’d find the expectation of “filling time” a deal-breaker, I explained.

                  *I also find a lot more offices are more okay with extended coffee machine/watercooler chat than with leaving early/reading/etc., and that drives me up the wall–oh, so I’m “not getting paid to check email” but I *am* getting paid to listen to Fergus’s Saga of Drywall Installation? Greaaaat.

            2. Hope*

              And sometimes those things aren’t rewards. Sometimes you know you’re not going to get to do more interesting work, you don’t need accomplishments for your resume, or you aren’t going to get a promotion because there’s no path for it (or you like the work you do well enough and don’t want to move into a different position or do work that others think is more interesting). Sometimes all the reward people want for doing their job more efficiently is a little more time for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that.

              1. Colette*

                Sometimes it’s not your choice to leave a job – you get fired, or laid off, or the company closes, or you have to move – and neglecting your professional reputation can leave you with worse options than you’d otherwise have.

        2. Oh No She Di'int*

          I’m with you Colette. However, being a manager, I can say that some contributors bring this expectation to their jobs and others don’t. That tends to be the difference between people who contribute at an extraordinary level and those who do not. Both are important. Either is a valid approach to work for the individual. However, it can surprise no one when the one who voluntarily puts in extra effort (also known as being a “self-starter”) tends to get rewarded more with raises and promotions.

      2. LGC*

        To be fair: I kind of agree that LW1’s boss is being a little nitpicky, especially if they’re salaried. (Less so if the employees are hourly!)

        LW1 is…definitely not in a position to tell their manager to suck an egg, though, and if availability isn’t a direct concern I wouldn’t mention it. However, I’m making a ton of assumptions here, but I got the feeling that LW1 just offered flex scheduling and their manager isn’t fully in the loop. (Aside from the job being professional and the team being on salary, and the employee mentioned in the letter working significantly less than standard hours.)

        LW1 can explain the situation, though – like, Fergus comes in early and Tangerina works later – and see how their boss reacts. And they can also explain to their team the limits of flexible schedules at their company. To repeat my replies below: It’s not throwing management under the bus to acknowledge that a decision may be unpopular with employees, and I don’t think it’s talking out of both sides of your mouth to say that, hey, flex scheduling doesn’t mean you can work 25 hours a week on a job that expects full time availability. (Not that you or Colette said this.)

        (I probably should have written all of this out up top but I’m not great at writing essays on my phone.)

        1. Isabel Kunkle*

          That makes sense to me, yeah. If availability isn’t a concern, and if the work’s getting done (and the person shows proficiency with the training material, in this case–like, there are only so many times you can review a system), I’d just go with “Hey, company policy is that we have to put in an average of 40 hours each week,” or similar, and maybe with the Well What Can You Do?/It’s Above My Paygrade shrug.

          But yeah, I’d also say (if this was the case) “Hey, Boss, Fergus leaves early because they come in early,” or “Hey, Fergus seems to have gotten through the training and the existing work now, and I don’t want to give them an assignment that might last into Teapot Season, when they’ll be getting really busy. I’ll talk with them and make sure they know that light time now is going to balance out getting slammed come October, okay?” or whatever, and see how that goes.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      “We offer a flexible schedule as long as everyone is in the office between 8 and 5, Monday through Friday.”

      Don’t do this.

      1. LGC*

        That’s why I gave scripts for both sides. The way I actually read it is that LW1’s team is expected to work 40 hours and they’re logging more like 35 or less per week. So working 7-3 is not a problem per se, but consistently working 8-3 might be.

    3. LQ*

      When you are a boss you are part of organizational management. You should not go around saying essentially “management sucks” when you are that too. The boss needs to own this and not blame their boss. ESPECIALLY if no one is there at 4 pm and there is work to be done. That’s not an “appearances” thing, that’s a boss not doing their job thing.

      1. LGC*

        It’s a delicate balance. You’re right in that you can’t say “management sucks,” but…what I was trying to say is, “I know you think management sucks.” It’s a subtle but important difference.

        1. Me*

          In a healthy organization a good employee wouldn’t think “management sucks”. It’s really not a good tactic to manage by the I’m your pal route.

    4. Me*

      Except it’s not silly so I don’t think that should be stated at all. It diminishes the request.

      The op states that it’s not just appearances, but rather the employee should be spending time training and learning.

      It’s really important to just state expectations as they are. There’s no need to soften an completely valid and normal request.

    5. Jennifer*

      I just think they need to be specific. I don’t understand what leaving early “occasionally” means. Once a week? Twice a month? Once every other month? It’s really frustrating when you think you are following the rules but that means something totally different to your boss. Say you can come in between 6 am and 10 am and work at least 8 hours. You can leave early on Fridays if your work is done.

  20. Blarg*

    #4: This isn’t the same, but similar. I won an award from a community group. There was a ceremony with nominees, and I did not expect to be the winner. Had to give a speech.

    My name was misspelled on the engraved plaque. My boss, knowing this was a ‘thing’ for me (my name is “ethnic,” so apparently ok to butcher), literally took a sharpie marker out at the ceremony and corrected it. Really lightened the mood and made the whole thing seem silly.

    I tossed it when we got back to the office. I realized the honor wasn’t the weird crystal thing that would just gather dust. It was the recognition of my work. Which I did, and do, appreciate.

    So throw it out. You know how long you’ve been with your employer. Your ten year gift will be coming soon enough. I’m glad that you’re living as your true self and that your colleagues have welcomed you as you are.

  21. MissDisplaced*

    Op#1. Yes, be more clear. Unfortunately this is the problem with flex time, and one person can spoil it for everyone else. So, clarify what does flex mean? Is it working whenever hours you want as long as it’s 40 hours per week, whatever 8 hours you want, or no leaving before 4pm? But if you are offering flex time, make sure it really does, you know, flex!

    Obviously the level of flex will be dictated by the business and whether or not you have customers and such up until 5pm.

    But I have to say that one if the best jobs I worked was the ‘work whenever you liked, wherever you like, as long as it adds up to 40 hours each week.’ Wish I could find that again!

  22. KatieKaBoom*

    OP#2- this is concerning to me as a potential sexual (abuse) issue. If he is exposing himself to pee and someone doesn’t realize what’s going on and maybe walks by and looks at him, now he can say “the weirdo dude in accounting was looking at my penis” and it’s a whole new can of worms. If it was an adult man doing it, it could be considered sexual harassment or indecent exposure and an arrestable offense.

    1. 8DaysAWeek*

      This is what I was going to say too.
      I am a Cub Scout/Boy Scout leader and if something like this happened in scouts it could be disastrous. In the scouting world, it could be remediated by telling the child this is not appropriate because our bodies are private and we are in a public place. As leaders we go through extensive training to protect the scouts from abuse and we are very conservative and go to great lengths to make sure the kids are protected from abuse.
      I would be afraid this could become a legal issue for the same reasons KatieKaBoom stated.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Depending on the rest of the context and the kid’s behavior, it could be a sexual aggressiveness thing too. I don’t think we have enough detail in the letter to assess that, but considering the norms of most people over the age of 5 in public (or public-ish) spaces, it seems odd that he wouldn’t naturally close the door.

      The act of an adult closing of the door after he has entered (but hopefully before peeing happens) would probably be extremely diagnostic. If he gets mad, I’d be concerned. If he gets embarrassed, maybe the habit can be broken. I’m not exactly recommending it, but I’d probably do it because I’m That Person sometimes.

      11-12 year olds who are out in the world are used to being told what to do by adults in their ordinary spaces (like school, at other people’s houses, and mom’s office that they’re at a lot). I would deadpan an instruction about the door and move on. I might even hand the kid a tub of bathroom wipes if the toilet was too gross and he and I both knew he was the one who did it.

    3. Jamie*

      If it were an adult doing it I’d never give the benefit of the doubt that it was just a bad habit he needs to unlearn. I would consider it sexual, aggressive, or some combination of the two and be addressing it with tptb the first time.

    4. Carlie*

      That was my thought too. I’d go to HR with exactly that concern, and have HR tell the mom that if her son doesn’t stop it immediately, he isn’t allowed on the premises any more due to the liability.

  23. K*

    I would be hesitant to take that job with the tight deadline and lower salary myself. Eleven years ago I took a significant drop (40% pay cut) to get out of a horrible situation. My husband and I discussed it and we could afford to do it with his salary just to save my me mentally. It took me almost 10 years to get back where I was salary wise. Neither of us expected it to take quite that long. I’ve been able to slowly move up the ladder, but it’s not necessarily easy to make up that pay cut.

    And if they’re not going to put the promotion in writing, they may not actually be planning on honoring it. It could be a tactic to get you to agree to the lower salary. I may be more pessimistic due to that happening to me though. I also had that issue with my current employer. I was promised a promotion when I came back from maternity leave – I didn’t get it until 5 years later and long after that manager that promised me the promotion was gone. I had nothing in writing so there was little I could do beyond looking for a different job. I’ve considered leaving several times, but I like the work, the people (sometimes lol) and the flexibility (ability to work thru lunch and leave early to hit the gym and get my kid from school), long teleworking availability if I need to be home for extended periods of time, no set core hours, etc). I’ve consciously traded the higher pay for those perks that make my time away from work more manageable though. Not everyone can afford to do that though.

  24. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    LW1, how early is early?

    If it’s a matter of >15 minutes, let it go. My car was recently totaled and my wife and I have decided to make do with one for now. So, I take the bus home from work.

    The schedule is something like 3:47, 4:17, 4:47, 5:17, etc. Work is clocked in 15 Minute chunks, and the bus stop is three blocks away.

    If I were to leave exactly at the 15 minute mark, I then miss the bus because I cannot Apparate, and wait 22-25 minutes for the next. That adds up to about TWO HOURS of extra non-free time per week.

    So, I leave at e.g. 3:40 after arriving at 7:15, and make the bus without waiting. If I were nitpicked over five minutes, I would honestly have a serious problem because their five minutes’ more makes my end be 22-25 more!

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      The circumstances detailed in the letter lead me to believe that OP is not nickel and diming her employees over 10 or 15 minutes. Her recommendation is that the employee use the extra time to review systems. Typically that is not something easily done in a few minutes.

    2. Breast Solidarity*

      Also depends on the role. Most people would be pretty pissed off if they hurried to make it to the post office, for instance, to send something time-sensitive and they had closed “a few minutes early” because they didn’t want to “nickel and dime” their employees.

      In my role, we deal with vulnerable populations and we absolutely need coverage every single minute. That is mission critical, and it is one thing if people make arrangements so there is coverage, or they are late once in a blue moon because of circumstances, but people can’t get pissy about being held to the hours they were hired for!

      1. Breast Solidarity*

        Also have to add, in my experience the ones who cry “nickel and dime” over time are the ones who ALWAYS are late to work and early to leave and leave their colleagues holding the bag for work left undone.

    3. [insert witty username here]*

      This very much depends on other context, as well as individual office culture. If the employee in question is a high performer, then I completely agree with you.

      However – I’ve worked with people who definitely took advantage of flexibility and the 5/10/15/20 minutes consistently throughout the week added up – when they were already weak performers and was another example in a pattern of slacking off. I have a lot less patience for people who aren’t going the extra mile in their work also slacking off on hours.

      That said – butts in seats does not automatically equal quality productivity, but again – my point is just that the bigger picture should be considered.

      1. Joielle*

        I can see your point about the optics, but if someone’s already a poor performer and you harp on them about leaving 5-10 minutes early, they’re just going to latch on to that as evidence that you’re an unreasonable boss. If there are performance problems, address those, but you can’t fix someone’s bad attitude by making them sit at their desk another 10 minutes.

        That’s not to say that if you have a bad attitude you should be able to leave early – more that if someone has a bad attitude, they should probably just be fired rather than trying to nitpick that person’s time, since that’s not the real problem anyways.

        1. [insert witty username here]*

          Duly noted – and I agree. Yes, the other performance issues need to be addressed before the leaving early. In my specific cases, I wasn’t the supervisor and it wasn’t my place to address any of this stuff. I’m just speaking from a co-worker’s perspective that it starts to get demoralizing when you see someone who is a low performer get away with all kinds of stuff AND still get the same flexibility you do (which is more a management problem than a flexibility problem).

    4. Joielle*

      Yeah, I also catch a bus with a weird afternoon schedule, and sometimes a half hour or more between buses depending on what time you leave. I feel like it evens out, though, because I usually leave 5 minutes before the 8-hour mark to catch the bus I prefer, but sometimes I end up staying 20-30 minutes later until the next bus, so on average, whatever.

      Not that 5 minutes (or even 30 minutes) one way or the other is an issue here. We’re all supposed to work 8 hours plus 30 minutes unpaid lunch, but flexing time within a pay period is fine, and nobody really has a set start or end time. You’d have to be doing a LOT less, consistently, for anyone to notice or care.

  25. Anonysand*

    OP1- I’ll echo everyone else here and agree that you need to be more clear about how you define “flexible.” Most people will assume that a flexible schedule includes a silent “within reason” at the end but your employee may not have that same assumption. For my office, a flexible schedule means this sort of stuff:

    1. An occasional long lunch or taking off 30 minutes early for an appointment is fine and you don’t need to sweat it.
    2. Giving your boss a heads up that you need to come in two hours early/work through lunch so you can take off at 2 on Friday.
    3. If we’re working late on a big project, deadline, or event, it’s fine to take the equivalent amount of hours off on another day the following week to make up for it.
    4. It’s totally fine to work from home on occasion, whether you’ve got the plumber coming or a sudden cough that you don’t want to share with your coworkers.
    5. That flexibility also a two-way street, and it extends to making sure you answer urgent messages or calls when you’re not in the office or during regular work hours. I’m very happy that I can leave at 3 PM one day, but that also means I need to take care of the crisis in my email inbox at 8 PM as well.

    Aside from those sorts of situations (and that’s not an exhaustive list by any means), we’re generally expected to be in the office during our core work hours. It’s not counted down to the minute and no one is monitoring us, but we all adhere by the same schedule on days where there isn’t a situation like the one above. I’d suggest using some concrete examples of what works for your office and the types of acceptable flexibility you’re fine with, that way there’s no more vague assumptions or guessing. Good luck!

  26. san junipero*

    I had to rush to the comments section for this one. OP 3, if they won’t put it in writing, DON’T DO IT. I got completely screwed by the exact same thing once, and now I make a point of never accepting a job based on future possibilities — at least not unless they’re formally and explicitly committed to in writing.

    1. Jamie*

      So much this. Anything an employer promised me, but wouldn’t put in writing, never happened. Not even once.

    2. Samwise*

      Yes, indeed. Counter offer with the salary you think is fair and a request to put the promotion offer in writing. If you don’t want the job without those things, you have nothing to lose. Unless it’s a spectacularly fabulous job, or the benefits are tremendously better than what you have now, or it has some other benefit (cuts your RT commute from three hours to 45 minutes, can WFH, or some such) I would not take the pay cut.

      I’ve taken a pay cut when it was for a higher level title (and responsibility) at a place known for developing and promoting their staff. If it’s not — and the place you’re talking about does not sound like it is — I’d advise against it, without other substantial plusses.

      1. san junipero*

        It’s not even the pay cut that bothers me, it’s the promotion. I once started a job with the promise of a promotion, but one not committed in writing. I was supposed to have this promotion as soon I had a particular credential and a spot opened up. This was public knowledge — virtually everyone in my department knew about it. I had multiple conversations about it with my direct boss and another supervisor.

        Nine months later, when a spot opened up, my grandboss (who was hired after me) didn’t want me to have it. I thought my boss and the other supervisor would stick up for me, but not only did they fail to do so, they claimed they’d never said anything about a promotion! When I pushed back, they admitted there had been a conversation, but insisted that no offers or promises were ever made and that I shouldn’t have assumed anything would actually happen.

        I will say, though: one of the best moments of my life was getting to come back in a few weeks later and tell them I was quitting to do the new job (the one I wanted) for another organization. I ended up hating that job for other reasons, but I still relish that memory.

  27. Eillah*

    Why is it that poorly behaved children so often seem to have defensive parents? Go to HR, someone needs to teach this kid since his mother apparently doesn’t feel the need.

  28. Jellyfish*

    OP #1 – My current job is the first salaried position I’ve ever had, and the first where I’m not responsible for daily time-specific tasks or coverage. When I started, my boss explained that I’m expected to work 37.5 – 40 hours per week on average. She said I could do 8 – 4, 9 – 5, or even make a case for 10 – 6, but I should be generally consistent and let her know about major deviations. If I end up staying late for something specific, I can leave early on a quiet Friday or save that time to avoid using PTO for an appointment, etc.

    I was grateful for the explanation and the clear boundaries. Without that, I probably would have tended toward more hours than necessary and been nervous & a little resentful about it. Your employee might be inexperienced and not sure how to interpret “flexible.” I think a clear explanation of expectations could be helpful to both of you.

  29. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #1 – When OldJob went to flexible scheduling, one of the things they implemented with it was core hours. In other words, you must be at work or taking PTO between 10:00AM and 3:00PM. Outside of that, flex away. Things like meetings would be scheduled as much as possible during those core hours, with specific notice given to folks if we had to meet outside core hours so that people could work their scheduling appropriately. It might help if you gave your employees — all of them, not just this one — a similar core hour expectation, or a similar version where you set a minimum number of hours per week you expect them to be there. Individual situations can be handled individually, of course, but it’s helpful for a lot of people if you set the general expectation and let them know at what point they need to be talking individual situations with you rather than assuming.

    1. CM*

      Holy crap. Thank you for explaining how flexible schedules are supposed to work. At my last job, they said we had a flexible schedule, and it ended up being 50 people coming up with their own definition of what that meant and then getting mad at each other. Up until this day, I did not know that there were supposed to be a core set of hours jammed in the middle, but that makes SO MUCH SENSE.

  30. Workfromhome*

    #3 “they came back and asked if I wanted to be director as the current director is leaving.” Response yes I’d love to be the director. Lets arrange my start date in the director position at the director salary and I’ll give my notice accordingly.
    They are either offering you the director job or they aren’t. It sounds like they are not. The current director could well change their mind and stay on indefinitely leaving you stuck in the assist job , working for someone you cant wait to have leave at a low salary. Or they could leave but not give you the job bring in an outside hire that you don’t work well with and once again you are in the assistant director job, unhappy at a low salary.
    The timeline is fine 4 days is plenty. You just have to reframe it from “do I want to accept this low paying job that might possibly lead to being a director” to “do I want to accept an assistant director position at a pay cut” because that is what you are getting into.

    YMMV but if it were me if the salary were an issue I’d ask to negotiate the salary (the starting salary to leave your current job and the director salary is irrelevant. If they can’t meet the salary need then don’t take the job. Taking a 7K cut and then having one 0f the scenarios above play out would make for a very miserable work life. There are plenty of for profit companies that pull this kind of crap so I don’t think it s non profit thing .

    1. Joielle*

      This! Either they’re going to hire you as the director or not, and if they’re not, then you can only consider the actual offer on the table.

  31. Ali G*

    #5 I was the manager in this exact situation! If your boss is a good manager, she will completely understand and be happy to be your reference. I hired an intern that I really wanted to make full-time because she was awesome and had a very specific skillset I needed (and I lack). I understood completely until she had a written offer of full time work she needed to keep her options open, and I was a reference listed on a couple of applications she put out. Luckily she really wanted to work with us and she and I were able to show my bosses she was truly needed and it worked out.
    Just stick to the line about needing to make sure you have full time work in 2 months and it should be a totally reasonable request.
    Good luck!

  32. yala*

    #2 seems like a STRAIGHT TO HR thing to me.
    -he is exposing himself to the entire office. That makes everyone uncomfortable, but it also kind of puts y’all at risk? Kid with his shorts down around a bunch of adults? That’s asking for potential legal trouble.

    -he is creating an unsafe workspace. Pee everywhere (and even the whole “not washing his hands) thing is just contamination.

    HR should be dealing with that.

    1. AnonyMouse*

      Agreed! If the boss is petty/vindictive, she’s going to be petty/vindictive either way. Honestly, I think trying to resolve it yourself has more risk so I’d report it up.

    2. Jamie*

      The not washing hands thing is gross, true…but a significant percentage of adults don’t either and that’s not something we can police in our co-workers.

      Everything we touch in public was likely touched by someone who didn’t wash their hands after.

      1. LawBee*

        There is a Very Famous Person I knew when we were kids, who NEVER washed up after going to the bathroom. The reasoning was “I didn’t pee on my hands, they’re fine”. Every time I see that person on tv. . . I wonder.

  33. Trek*

    OP 2 What would happen if while JR is in the bathroom peeing you went and found his mother and said ‘Your son is in the bathroom peeing all over and he has the door open.’ Say it with a smile like ‘Boys are so much fun to deal with, wink wink, I feel your pain.’ Even if she’s with others say it so that they can watch her run down the hall to deal with it or not deal with it.
    If she reacts with anger or won’t do anything then you can follow up with HR and/or managers to say you need regular janitorial service when JR is here because of this issue. Hopefully they will follow up with coworker or tell her she cannot bring him if he is going to destroy the office. I mean if he was regularly playing on the elevators or the copiers and making a mess I would think it would be grounds to either have her correct or the child stops coming to work with her.

      1. Delta Delta*

        If kid is a fountain at home too she probably doesn’t notice. And if there are brothers forget about it. Mom probably lives in a world of wet bathroom floors.

  34. Buttons*

    If the kid’s mother was described as a nice person or even a reasonable person I wouldn’t be concerned about correcting the kid. But if there is even the slightest chance that she is going to turn into crazy momma and unleash on anyone who dares tell her child what to do, then no. I would probably send the mom a Slack message or IM and say “hey, your son is in the bathroom peeing with the door wide open! LOL” and make it into a funny “OMG kids!” kind of moment, but if the OP is worried even that wouldn’t be met well, I would just call HR and facilities every single time it happens.

  35. Buttons*

    Flex hours have to be defined. Most companies define it as business hours are between 10-3, any time away during that time must be used as PTO. Flex means I can start anytime 10 or early, and I can leave 3 or later, after having worked my 8 hours or leaving a less than 8 hours because I worked longer the day before. It also means I must be flexible to start earlier or later than what my norm is, to make sure I am not inconveniencing other people, or missing important meetings.
    It is good to remember that for a lot of people this is a new concept and freedom they may never have had before, so it needs to be spelled out.

  36. Manana*

    It would take more than petty vindictiveness to argue for your underage child’s right to come into a professional office space, take his pants down in full view of 15 adults, and piss on the floor. There is very little room for her to do anything other than help rectify this problem.

    1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

      Oh there’s plenty of room for a vindictive superior to retaliate, believe me.

      In my experience, vindictive people are at their worst precisely when they know they’re wrong.

  37. Kristine*

    Why is a 12-year-old coming with mom to work due to “childcare issues” in the first place? So much FAIL here on the part of mom, who apparently has enfeebled her son.
    Bring it to HR, and notify HR each time the bathroom is a mess. Don’t speak to the kid or the mom. Push HR to tell her not to bring a child with her who is old enough to babysit himself, if he cannot conduct himself properly in the restroom.
    I fear for this kid’s future.

    1. Jennifer*

      I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Kids mature at different levels. Plus we don’t know if there are other reasons she may not want him left alone, like if they don’t live in a safe area. That wouldn’t bother me. Pee on the floor would.

    2. Jamie*

      My state law (Illinois) is 14 before it’s legal to leave your kid alone. Only two other states have laws, Maryland 8 and Oregon 10.

      Idk if there are other laws applying to local jurisdictions.

      But that aside, not every 12 year old should be home alone even if it would be no issue for most. Some kids have greater needs for supervision. In this case the mom needs to step up her supervision of him at her work, but it’s an unfair characterization that just because of his age he should be home alone.

      1. Quill*

        14 seems weirdly high to me for this sort of things. It feels like there should be more years of gradual steps between “trusted to be home alone / cook dinner / do chores involving mildly dangerous things like lawnmowers” and “ready to learn to drive.”

        Sometimes I wonder if some of the actual ages set by laws are more about tweens existing in public than actual safety concerns. 8 and ten seem more safety concern motivated. 14 sounds like an excuse to prevent middle schoolers from riding their bikes to the local park and lying around on the play equipment.

        1. Jamie*

          When I just looked it up I was surprised it was that high. When I was growing up I was doing occasional babysitting at 13 and certainly allowed home after school before high school.

          8 and 10 are reasonable to me, as well. I agree it’s a security issue that young.

  38. Jennifer*

    Re: Bathroom etiquette

    I understand that she has childcare issues but I also think that being able to bring your kid into work is a perk that MANY working parents don’t have. I think that someone should address this to the child’s mother directly, ideally making it clear that if things don’t change, they may not be able to accommodate her in the future. I don’t think the OP or any of the other coworkers should have to parent a child that isn’t theirs, which is essentially what they would be doing if they have to call him to clean up his mess everyday. Plus people who are vindictive seem to get really upset when other people discipline their kids.

  39. boop the first*

    #2: I don’t think the coworker’s petty vindictiveness should come into play here since she has the most to lose. If she puts up a fuss, she’s liable to lose the privilege of bringing in her son and will have to fork up for outside childcare. It would not be in her best interest to be nasty right now. And if she is? Welp, problem solved either way.

  40. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#1: You’re a new manager, and they’re a new team. Be candid with them about the need to establish a reputation for themselves within the company and be explicit about what it will take to do that.

    But you also don’t want them just sitting there, watching cat videos on YouTube. Can you look into accelerating the training process? You don’t say what’s included in the program, but if your new team seems to be reaching proficiency faster than expected, maybe you can speed the process up and start turning them loose on some real work. Take a hard look at why they don’t have enough to do and see if you can solve that.

    You may also want to take some time and clarify in your own mind what your expectations are for individual team members. I’ve run into issues with this myself, where my direct report wasn’t quite performing the way I wanted — but then, I wasn’t clear in my own mind what I wanted from her, and therefore hadn’t made my expectations clear to her.

    It sounds like you’ve hired some talented people, so start making some plans for how you want to bring them forward.

  41. Don*

    OP 2 – If I acted like this at my mom’s workplace like this when I was his age, she would have taken her hairbrush out of her purse and used it on me until I couldn’t sit down for a week! I suspect this kid’s mom won’t be much help if someone complains to her, though – you’ll probably need to go to either HR or Mom’s boss.

  42. LawBee*

    #4 – do you actually CARE about this 5-year anniversary gift? Like, does it mean something to you emotionally, and if you didn’t have it around, you would legitimately feel the loss?
    If yes, ask them to re-engrave it.
    If not, chuck it. There’s no need to have your deadname staring you in the face if you’re not emotionally connected to the actual object. Be free.

  43. Delta Delta*

    #2 – a breezy “dude, shut that door if you’re gonna whiz” (or similar) to the kid should do it. Ideally, have a witness on hand when you do it. Then when he complains to Mom (if he even does) you can say that you asked him to shut the door while he uses the bathroom. If said plainly there’s really not a lot of room for argument because what’s she going to do, say he should pee with the door open?

    1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

      If the top executive in question is vindictive, she’s may not *say* or argue anything. Of course she’ll know rationally that you’re right to ask her son to close the door when he pees.

      But note the references to “Mama Bear”. Many people get real tetchy where their kids are concerned. Including if you say anything that might reflect on their parenting…ESPECIALLY if it’s true.

      Do I need to spell out the ways in which a superior who personally hates you can cause you all sorts of pain? Even after you leave that particular company?

      I’m not saying you can’t call the kid out on this. I’m saying even with a witness there’s a risk, especially when the kid’s parent is both your superior and known to be vindictive.

  44. Everyone Has One (Opinion)*

    Alison,
    You don’t even have to post this – I am just reaching out to you concerning the 12 y.o. with the bathroom issue. I work in High School/Middle School theatre, and we have been besieged by issues with boundaries/child molestation charges/mandatory reporting. It is a mine field. I see many other commenters have the same thoughts. I know you very rarely edit your own responses but I really think the advice to close the door is alarming enough to warrant it in this case.
    Love love love your column. Sorry I’m writing in with any negative feedback. But it really is a nightmare.
    I’ll have a big glass of STFU now

  45. LT*

    To Q#5, when I was leaving my summer internship the last summer of college, I asked my manager if she would give me a letter of recommendation before I left. She laughed a little and said “What, don’t you want to work here after you graduate?” & I said “Well, if that’s a job offer…” Point being, until you actually have a job offer in hand, it shouldn’t be an awkward thing to ask your boss.

  46. Adora Belle Dearheart*

    OP1 – I’m curious about what is meant by “Familiarise yourself with the systems.” I’ve been told this in the past but without a procedures manual to read or practice exercises to work through I just poke at the software without retaining anything. I can understand why if given the opportunity to flex I might disappear from the office after all my defined tasks were done. Is this an area you could make it clearer what your expectations are?

Comments are closed.