student workers are using me for therapy, people try to reach my husband through my social media, and more

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

1. Student employees are using me for therapy

I oversee a team of student employees who assist with a variety of office tasks. Recently, several students have taken to talking to me a lot about their school and personal lives, including things like strained relationships with parents, struggling with schoolwork, managing cultural fit in a new city, and dating/relationships. I understand that this can be a difficult time, so I’ve offered a few suggestions or pieces of advice, but these are typically pretty generic (go to social events! keep a calendar!) and there’s a point when I just need people to work and I don’t have time to be a de facto therapist. I’ve tried referring them to appropriate campus services, like our counseling office or tutoring office, but they keep bringing these things to me. Some are extremely personal and put me in the uncomfortable position of knowing a little too much about their personal lives.

I work in an open area with the students so I can’t close a door between us, and I try not to wear headphones at work since I need to be approachable if they have questions about their job duties. But how can I impress upon them that this is not an appropriate time or place to have these conversations and their supervisor is not the appropriate person to talk with?

Since they’re student workers, you are in slightly more of a mentoring position on “adjusting to adult life” issues than you might otherwise be. But you’re right to want to put boundaries on it — because you need your time to work, and also so they learn appropriate manager boundaries and seek help from people qualified to give it (where that’s necessary).

Depending on the topic, you could say, “As your manager, I need to keep our relationship focused on work. But it sounds like you’re having a tough time, and so I want to give you this information about how to connect with the campus counseling office / tutoring office / financial aid office / other resource.” Or this: “I’m glad you trust me enough to confide in me / ask me for advice, but it’s my job to keep our relationship focused on work. But I care about you as a person, so I want to make sure you find a place to talk this out. Do you know about the X office?” Or: “I’m sorry you’re having a tough time! I don’t want to sound unsympathetic, but I need to keep everyone focused on work during their shifts. But while this office isn’t the right place for this conversation, there are places on campus that can help! Do you know about the X office?”

There are also less direct ways to signal boundaries, which some of your student workers will probably pick up on: When a conversation goes in an overly personal direction, express sympathy but then quickly redirect the conversation back to work or excuse yourself for a work-related reason. That won’t work on everyone though, so when it doesn’t, you’d use the language above.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. People try to contact my husband through my social media

My husband is an editor/owner of a well-reputed magazine in our city. He therefore gets a lot of emails from people wanting to submit content. He also has a second business, a bookstore that specializes in rare and therefore pricey books. I am a freelance journalist and am not involved with either venture, except to offer him occasional advice. Many people on social media and in the professional circles we move around in have worked out that the two of us are married.

The result has been that I now receive tons of messages on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn from people I don’t even know. Sometimes they ask me to wangle a discount for a book they are interested in. Others ask me to “put in a good word for them” at my husband’s magazine to get their pieces published. Often when I have directed them to the email addresses designated for this purpose, I am told that they had emailed but they either didn’t get a response or received a rejection email. Or I get to hear that they have already asked for a discount but were denied. I find it extremely tacky to message someone’s spouse to ask them for such favors when they have already been turned down. I cannot change my social media settings to not receive messages because I do get a lot of work from genuine employers through them. How do I deal with such people?

These are people who don’t know you, but think you’re an additional route to get access to your spouse? That’s incredibly rude, and as a default response you should feel to ignore them! You don’t owe responses when people are overstepping like this (and it being on social media gives you plausible deniability anyway, since it’s so easy to miss messages there).

If there’s ever a case where you feel you do need to respond, you can simply say, “You’d need to contact them directly — I’m not involved in his business.” But really, ignoring and deleting is 100% okay.

3. Using an email auto-reply to tell people I’m not on email that day, even though I’m working

I am in communications, so I consider it part of my job to answer all emails quickly, and I’m so organized and good at time management that it usually isn’t a problem, but some days I have four articles due by the end of the day. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I don’t have time to respond to any not-high-priority emails. And if I didn’t respond, it would be so unusual people would wonder if everything was okay, or expect a quick response and be disappointed. Plus I like to set expectations. If I’m not paying close attention or I’ve closed my inbox so I can focus, I want people to know. Plus I don’t want to miss something that’s actually important.

Is it ever okay to have an away message that says something like: “I am in the office today but away from email. If you need immediate attention, please call my extension at [NUM].” It really means “please don’t bother me today unless it’s important and time sensitive.” But sometimes at work, I think we need to put up boundaries like this.

I actually think it would be worse to not check and just not say anything, because people would just be expecting responses and not getting them. I wish everyone would be honest about days they’re not watching email closely. What do you think?

Sure, that’s fine to do.

For what it’s worth, in some cases, it’ll come across as overkill — but that’s not a huge deal. Sometimes when I’ve received those messages, it felt like an overabundance of caution or just more info than I needed (since I’m emailing, I’m assuming you’ll get back to me at your convenience anyway), but I’ve also appreciated them at times (in situations similar to yours, where the person is normally highly responsive and I sent them something that needed attention that day and it was helpful to know that wasn’t going happen unless I tried something else).

I think you are probably going a little overboard on how alarmed most people will be if they don’t hear back from you that day, but if you’ve trained people to expect you to respond immediately, it can make sense to manage their expectations. (But for what it’s worth, there’s something to be said for using this kind of situation to train them not to always expect that. That retraining might not be necessary/desirable in your job, but it’s something to consider.)

4. Company asked for my references but hasn’t contacted them

About five weeks ago, a recruiter for a company reached out to me about interviewing for a role with their company. Since then, I’ve had an initial screener with the recruiter, a phone interview with the hiring manager, and two rounds of in-person interviews with multiple team members at their offices. At the end of the last set of interviews, the HR recruiter told me I should start planning to submit my references. The next day, she reached out formally via email and asked me to send her their contact information; I did by the end of that same day.

It’s now been nearly a week, and I contacted a couple of my references (previous supervisors that I’m still in touch with and on good terms with) and they both said that no one had reached out yet.

I’ve read your piece on candidate time vs. employer time, but I’m still nervous! I’ve never gotten to the references requested stage of the process and not gotten an offer, but this feels odd to me, especially since the recruiter had previously been extremely transparent and upfront with timelines/expectations. I’m planning to follow up once a full week has passed, but I’m wondering if there are normal reasons that a recruiter would ask for references and then simply not contact them.

Oh yes! Some employers routinely ask all candidates for references at a specific stage of their process, but then only contact the references for their top finalists. Or they ask for them now so they have them once they need them, but aren’t planning to use them right away. Or they were planning to contact them when they asked you but something changed since then (their process slowed down, a stronger candidate emerged, etc.). Or some negligent hiring manager somewhere is supposed to be calling references but actually isn’t.

5. I’m missing an hour of pay because of Daylight Savings time

I normally work 12 am to 8 am in a manufacturing plant. Daylight Savings means instead of working an eight-hour shift, I work a nine-hour shift. In the spring, it will mean I work seven hours instead of eight hours. My boss said we will only be paid for eight hours in the fall because it will “even out” in the spring. Is this allowed? What if someone isn’t here in the spring?

Ha, no, that’s not allowed. Your employer has to pay you for all hours worked, and if you’re working nine hours, you need to be paid for nine hours, regardless of the time change. And the law requires you to be paid for your work within your normal pay period, not six months later in the spring. They also need to take that extra hour into account when determining whether you’re eligible for overtime that week; if you normally work 40 hours a week and this will bump you to 41 hours, they’d need to pay that additional hour at time and a half. Here’s some guidance from the Department of Labor that you can show your boss.

{ 298 comments… read them below }

  1. pretty bird*

    OP2 I don’t have any advice to add, but I just want to say – from the description of you and your husband’s jobs, it sounds like have the coolest life imaginable.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I suspect it’s one of those things where, these jobs sound great in theory but the reality is pretty anodyne.

      1. pamplemousse*

        My guess: it sounds like a romcom protagonist’s life on paper, but likely does not come with the centrally located and beautifully decorated apartment and picture-perfect wardrobe you’d have in the movies, and is a lot more hand-to-mouth unless you don’t need to work for a living.

  2. Dan*


    I can’t tell how much of this is coming through FB vs LinkedIn, but if you’re connected to your husband on LinkedIn, consider removing him from your network, because… if he’s connected to you, that’s sort of what LinkedIn is for — figuring out who knows who and seeing what kind of “in” you can get.

    As AAM says, feel free to ignore. TBH, that’s your best bet.

    1. I don't know who I am*

      I’d be tempted to ignore plus block these people, unless you may need to be connected for something in the future.
      It would never occur to me to do something like this.

      1. Tinuviel*

        If someone who already got a rejection was emailing me asking for an in to a company I didn’t work for, I’d say “I’m rejecting your application again. I’m not hiring and you can’t follow directions.”

      2. Dino*

        I’d block the ones looking for a discount on books without a second thought. There might be a few of the writers looking to get pieces published who may be valuable contacts in theory, but if they’re trying to circumvent editorial decisions by contacting the spouse of the decision maker they likely aren’t really worth keeping the line of communication open.

        1. Ex-libris*

          Allison would have no way of formally knowing this, but I’ll add as a former rare books librarian (still a librarian, just thankfully not rare books anymore) that the people who circulate in that circle are, eh, eccentric to say the least. And the ones with the gall to do something like this (in my experience) very rarely have any actual influence or power to worry about alienating. If they had actual influence or power, they probably wouldn’t be begging a stranger for a discount.

          1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

            People really have a blindspot with books and pricing, as though loving books means they don’t ahave to pay for them — this is not just a rare books issue. Over the years I have seen people ask for discounts that would actually open companies up to lawsuits as far as special wholesale discounts given to one customer and not another, if there isn’t a uniform policy being followed regarding type of product and quantity or other bulk buying rules. Especially somewhere like Germany, where book pricing is highly regulated by the government and has been for multiple generations.

            Since none of these folks are using the appropriate channel, feel free to block all of them. No one doing legitimate business or trying to maintain a writing career would resort to this.

          2. Librarianne*

            I currently work with rare books and 100% agree with Ex-libris’ statement. If you harass a bookseller’s spouse, expect to see a significant price *increase*…

        2. LunaLena*

          Those people remind me of the ones who ask the cashier at a department store to use their employee discount for them. Or the ones who ask artists to draw them a portrait for free. I seriously doubt it’s worth keeping in contact with someone whose sense of entitlement is so staggering that they think random strangers should go out of their way to get them what they want. In my experience, those people are the first ones to balk or ghost you if you ask for anything in return.

      3. Allypopx*

        I was coming here to say the same thing. Blocking saves you from “follow up correspondence” and also sends a strong message without any work on the OPs part.

      4. run runaway*

        +1 to blocking. If you ever actually need to contact them for whatever reason in the future, you can unblock. But for now, it’s just spam. Block ’em.

      5. Quill*

        Yeah, do block them! Especially if they aren’t even in your field – I’m betting that you have more repeat offenders than you think, since you state that this is a case of people “figuring out that you’re married.”

        Plus, as a journalist – you’re better off learning to have a healthy block response overall.

    2. Snuck*

      Just ignore the FB messages … if you ever need to connect to them in the future you can always do the whole “Oh wow, I didn’t see that, FB sent it to a different folder” … which FB does… there’s about three different folders messages could go to… so if people are PMing you… you could just not see it…

      Or do as Alison has suggested “Thanks for your message, please note my husbands professional lives and mine don’t really cross, so you will need to contact him via the usual channels. Thanks” and if they push back (“but he hasn’t responded”) then say “I’m sorry, but I reserve this account for my personal and own business use, please leave another message at his usual contacts, I don’t combine this account with his business” and then ignore. You are being MORE than polite and forthcoming up until that point.

      1. Veronica*

        I agree. IMHO way too much. If you want to do one response fine, but when they argue, ignore or block them. They’re taking up *your* time for *their* selfish demands. They don’t respect you, your husband, or the proper channels.

    3. hbc*

      Some people use LinkedIn to reach farther for business contacts and connections than the average person would, but “Hey, this stranger didn’t give me a discount, maybe this other stranger who knows him can pull some strings” is way beyond the norm. Beyond the pale, even.

      Frankly, blocking is the least they deserve.

      1. nutella fitzgerald*

        Seriously. If it were people that LW was connected to on LinkedIn asking for favors, I can see where it would merit a response, but I think strangers doing so is pretty over the top.

    4. Kara*

      Why is letter #2 giving me deja vu? Was there a similar letter awhile back – where the customers/clients would petition the spouse to get the husband?

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yep. IIRC, the LW worked for an amazing company, and the spouse owned a small business. People would pester the spouse to get an “in” at the LW’s company, and the spouse didn’t want to be rude to them, being the owner of a small business. So that one was a bit trickier to negotiate. But this one is pretty slam dunk – ignore them.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I do have an ounce of sympathy in some cases, because I think young people are told “Network!” and when they ask “with whom, and how?” the advisor suddenly turns cagey about how their path to success was “My mom got someone she knew to give me a job.” So they flail about amidst the people who might be connected to someone who can give them a job.

            That and the rise of ask culture’s “How will people know I want stuff if I don’t go right up and tell them all the things I’d like them to give me?”

            1. run runaway*

              Oh, the networking thing is *pernicious*. I got told network network network. But as a new grad, who was I supposed to network with? I’d go to networking events where we’d all mill around looking for someone who could give us a job, but every single person there was a job seeker.

              Now that I’ve got ~10 years into my career, I’ve got a natural network built up, I got people who forward job info to me, all that. But that grew organically. You can’t force it.

              Telling people that networking will solve their problems, without providing them that network, is one of the world’s great lies.

              1. A Simple Narwhal*

                Ugh I’m right there with you. I dragged myself to countless “networking” events as a new grad that resulted in nothing but a wasted evening.

                You’re 100% right about naturally-occurring networking – it only works if you’re connected with someone for reasons other than seeking employment.

              2. banzo_bean*

                Eh, I do think there are some events that as a new grad are worth attending for networking reasons. Those events tend to be less focused on networking and more focused on a shared interest. The trouble is as a new grad it can be tricky to tell the difference.

  3. Xavier89*

    #5 that’s ridiculous of them

    At my company if someone is working overnight on daylights savings they get a post it note on their computer that night asking them not to clock in or out and then the manager just does it manually to ensure they get paid fairly

    1. anomalez*

      Reminds me of the terrible boss who didn’t give an employee who was born on Leap Day the day off for their birthday even though everyone else got their birthdays off. You can’t use calendrical oddities for your monetary benefit!! Jeez.

      1. Gingerblue*

        “Let’s screw with the calendar for monetary benefit” is a sufficiently ancient bad idea that there are jokes in Aristophanes about it. People suck in such startlingly predictable ways.

        …Leap Year Boss is still a strong contender for the pettiest person I’ve ever seen write in here.

        1. Pommette!*

          You’ve really piqued my (and probably lots of other readers’) curiosity!
          What are some of the jokes?

          1. Gingerblue*

            In Aristophanes’ Clouds, the main character is in debt because his son is really into expensive racehorses. The plot involves him becoming Socrates’ student so he can learn how to make facile arguments that will win in court against his creditors, and the whole thing is basically a sendup of ancient academics. But at one point, he says he has a plan to avoid ever having to pay interest on his debts: he’s going to hire a witch to pull the moon down out of the sky. Interest accrued monthly, and with the moon gone the end of the month would never come, so the money would never come due. Clearly an unbeatable plan!

            And then of course there was the Roman calendar, which included features like an entire intercalary month stuffed into the middle of February some years, and where manipulating the calendar was the basis for all sorts of political shenanigans. (Don’t like the guy in office? Just declare the year shorter to get rid of him faster! Don’t want to vote on something? Hey, all the remaining days in the year are now declared religious holidays and the senate can’t meet!)

            1. Pommette!*

              Thank you!
              Your answer had the perfect amount of detail and makes me want to check out some Aristophanes.

        2. run runaway*

          Oooh, if you have time to come back to this, I’d love to know details about the ancient jokes.

        3. Quill*

          Leap Year Day boss is a terrible person, and I say this as someone who, at 16, participated in decorating a classmate’s locker for her “fourth” birthday on Leap Day.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            See, now that’s just silliness with a friend. Leap Year Day boss was an ass to an employee for petty, petty reasons.

        4. LadyCop*

          LeapBoss was definitely strange…which is why I wouldn’t assume they’re messing with this hour over negligible monetary gain versus general ignorance. It’s just like I wouldn’t be shocked if someone working 7 hours in the spring felt entitled to eight hours of pay when it’s not really warranted.
          I’m also guessing that someone has to manually add the hour (some systems I have worked with need this, some don’t) so they might assume they can “skip” the hassle year round.
          My experience with people has long demonstrated a tendency towards ignorance over malice.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah I definitely think the most likely scenario here is that they literally just don’t know how to account for it in their system.

      2. Antilles*

        That one still amazes me just because the update completely doubled down on the “well, she doesn’t have a birthday because there’s no February 29th this year” aspect – as though the employee was legitimately only 8 years old or whatever.

        1. Lance*

          The doubling down was easily the worst part of the whole affair. I’d certainly hope this boss wouldn’t follow suit, because while that situation was very unethical and unfair (and extremely ill thought out), this situation is flat out illegal.

      3. seller of teapots*

        hahahahhaha, I forgot about that terrible manager–and then their follow up response! Oooh boy that was ridiculous.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          I still can’t believe how absurdly rigid and callous that manager was. I stand by my original ruling: that LW was a terrible manager and awful human being.

    2. JKP*

      Where was AAM back when I worked third shift? Back in college, I worked a lot of different third shift jobs to make ends meet: hotel front desk, IT 24 hour computer helpdesk, 24 hour diner waitress. Every single one shorted me on the hour for daylight savings. They always had the same excuse that it would even out. Except that because of this system, everyone fought to work the shifts where you got paid for an extra hour, and no one wanted the shift where you worked an extra hour for free. So as the college student, I was always the lowest in seniority and got stuck working an extra hour for free every year. I wish I’d known it wasn’t legal and could push back.

      1. Massmatt*

        It’s very, very sad that so many employers are even attempting, much less getting away with, such a transparent ruse to avoid paying for employee work. All hourly employees need to be paid for the hours they work, it’s embarrassing that this even needs saying. A 12am to 8am shift is 8 hours, regardless whether clocks roll forward or back.

        AND, it’s about time to get rid of changing clocks back and forth.

        1. Lady Kelvin*

          Except on daylight savings days when 12am to 8am is 9 hours or 7 hours…Arguing its always 8 hours is exactly what the employers are trying to do. (the time change happens at 2 am, if you didn’t know. At 1:59am it changes to either 1:00am or 3:00am depending on the direction).

          But yeah, my state doesn’t do daylight savings, so it actually makes it harder to keep track of what time it is everywhere else since during some part of the year we are X hours different and others we are X+1 hours different. Let’s just be done with it all.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Yes. Back in my undergraduate days, I worked security on my college campus, so more than once worked the night of the time change. And if I worked 9 hours, I got paid for 9 hours.

            I don’t mind the change in the Fall so much – feeling like I’m getting up an hour later and going to bed an hour later is a much easier adjustment than the one in the Spring. Still, I wish we could just stick with one or the other, I don’t much care which.

        2. Zip Silver*

          Florida recently passed a law to be on DST all year round (it works for us, we get more sunlight in the winter because if how far south we are), but sadly the Federal Congress has to approve it and they haven’t.

            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

              Trust me on this one – the FAA and nearly anyone with a mainframe computer has long, long ago worked out how to handle daylight / standard time shifts.

              Note that the change takes place at 2 am on a Sunday morning. This was set up many, many years ago to cause the least possible disruption. In fact, the only people affected by having to work nine hours are those who have to work midnight-8 am (or thereabouts) on Sunday mornings and only one day a year.

              The REAL reason we don’t stay on daylight time year round – those in the western parts of time zones would be going to work in the dark – yes, they come home in the dark, too.. BUT — schoolchildren and school buses would be going to schools in the dark in many parts of the country.

          1. run runaway*

            Huh, it has to be federal? That’s strange to me. Wasn’t there a place in the midwest that didn’t do it even though the rest of the area did? And a state that opts out entirely?

            In New England, all I heard is that they want all the NE states to get in on it if any one does it, which makes sense since the states here are very small and there’s overlap. But Florida is big enough, I’d think?

            1. run runaway*

              Ah, I see. States can opt out of DST, but being on DST all the time is changing the time zone they’re in, technically. And so the federal government regulates that. Even though DST vs ST is already jumping time zones twice a year…

              1. blackcat*

                There’s also this New England initiative to move eastern New England (MA, NH, ME) to Atlantic time and no longer do daylight savings. During December, the sun sets at 3:45, but still rises at 7am. Sunrise at 8 and sunset at 4:45 would mean both commutes would have some daylight instead of the evening commute happening in the pitch black. If you look at the width of the eastern time zone in the northern US, it just doesn’t make sense. How is Portland ME in the same time zone as Indianapolis?! But there are economic concerned with moving to another time zone, particularly one that he US is not presently in. Part of why no one cares that AZ doesn’t do daylight savings is that flipping between mountain and pacific time is no big deal. Neither is Hawaii doing it’s on thing… because it’s Hawaii!

                Anyways, I am anti-daylight savings. At least then no one could pull this type of timecard bullshit…

                1. run runaway*

                  Yeah, that’s the permanent DST in NE that I was thinking of, which is just officially shifting the time zone. And every time I bring it up, someone’s like “but Detroit school kids!” To which my response revolves around is it impossible to change the time school starts in Detroit? But anyway, Detroit and Indy should not be in the same time zone as those of us hanging out in the Atlantic sea. We’re too far apart!

                  But if NE shifts, we’re gonna have problems with the Connecticut->New York commuters, so we’re probably not shifting unless New York does it. And New York won’t shift without DC shifting. And… yeah, let’s just kick the midwest out of this time zone :P

                2. Goldfinch*

                  Yes please to fixing NE. I work 6:30 to 3:30. It is now the time of year at which I say goodbye to the sun.

                3. Veronica*

                  Yes, I thought 4:30 was bad. (in the midwest, and I don’t care about being in the same time zone as NE. ;)

            2. Clisby*

              Both Arizona and Hawaii opt out of DST entirely (although, apparently some Navaho reservations in Arizona still observe it.) So do Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a few other territories.

              1. Donkey Hotey*

                The hair-split is that all those places opted out of DST and stay at “fall back” time year-round.
                These other places are opting out of DST and wanting to stay at “spring forward” time year round.

            3. Atlantian*

              Indiana didn’t do it at all until 2006, except for like 2 tiny areas that were more or less the greater Chicago area. Arizona still does not do it.

              1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

                A couple of tiny areas in SE Indiana near Cincinnati were the same way. Which meant any time you got an invitation to do something in Indiana during the summer you had to ask “fast time or slow time”? (Fast time meant using the same DST changes as Cincinnati, slow time meant not using DST, or an hour behind Cincinnati.)

                1. Midwest writer*

                  I grew up in northeastern Indiana, where the closest shopping/restaurant town was in Michigan. Doctor’s offices would have notes that reminded patients that all appointments were on Indiana or Michigan time.

            4. Triumphant Fox*

              West Wing episode comes to mind, where one town in Indiana or somewhere didn’t follow DST, so they missed their transport to the next leg of the trip.

              1. Anonnnny*

                Or the car bombers who accidentally blew themselves up an hour early while on the way to their targets because they didn’t realize that Israel’s clocks had changed while Palestine’s stayed the same. Google tells me that somebody in Ireland did the same thing more recently.

          2. LKW*

            I am on record that this is such a bad idea. Do you know how many businesses on the East Coast are going to get slammed with angry retirees who don’t remember or recall that Florida is an hour ahead or behind. They’re cranky enough when they don’t get straws or extra napkins with their meals.

            1. Zip Silver*

              No worries, I can attest that businesses in Florida already get enough calls from angry Yankee retirees who don’t remember things. One more thing isn’t going to break the camel’s back.

          3. Free Meerkats*

            It’s due to the Uniform Time Act of 1966 which established that states could stay on Standard Time year round, or if they observed DST, established the dates for it. It’s been amended to change the dates.

            And the time zones were established by the Interstate Commerce Commission as directed by the Standard Time Act of 1918, which also established DST. It didn’t establish dates, so states changed whenever they felt like it. This act mostly confirmed in Federal law what the railroads had adopted on their own in the 1880s that changed from 50+ railroad times across the US to 5 time zones to avoid accidents that had happened due to individual railroads using their own time.

        3. Mookie*

          I’ve never heard of this is (clearly, it’s a widespread problem) and agree it is kind of mind-blowing for any employer to try it on (why would the employee have to wait until the following calendar year to be paid for an hour they actually worked when the employer can much more readily absorb the one-time difference and/or just fix their payroll software and move on?), but I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

        4. Bilateralrope*

          As someone who normally works a 12 hour shift at near minimum wage, I agree that the clock changes have to go. Both directions cause me problems. When the clocks roll back, that’s a 13 hour shift for me to work. When the clocks roll forwards, that means I’m being paid an hour less that week, which is a problem for my budget.

          1. Zip Silver*

            Kind of off topic, but Allison has a whole lot of resources on AAM for helping with job searches. If a single hour near minimum wage throws your budget off, maybe it’s time to start searching?

            1. J.*

              This is really insensitive. Millions of people work minimum wage or less jobs, without whom the work that we all rely on – serving coffee, caring for the sick and elderly, cleaning buildings, all manner of things including many that you wouldn’t necessarily think of as being minimum wage. The solution is not for every one of those people to find “better” jobs, it’s for employers to compensate workers fairly.

              1. Zip Silver*

                Not to be too much of an unrepentant capitalist, but those folks are paid fairly. Unskilled labor is valued lowly because you can reach anybody to do it, so it results in low wages. People who are skilled/educated command higher salaries because the labor pool is smaller, and you can’t teach just anybody to do it.

                1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Surely you believe hourly workers – yes, even minimum wage workers – deserve to paid for their actual time worked, yes? Your judgments about their budget and employment prospects aside, someone paid hourly is not paid “fairly” if they are shorted an hour’s worth of work.

                2. MissBliss*

                  But our current minimum wage does not keep track with the spirit of the minimum wage, as originally intended. So… they’re not paid fairly.

                3. SarahTheEntwife*

                  Food and janitorial and personal care work is not unskilled and not everyone can learn to do it well or safely. It also needs to be done. Why should you doom a significant portion of your workforce to having less-than-living-wages just because you think “anyone” can be trained to do it?

                4. Free Meerkats*

                  To quote FDR on signing the National Industrial Recovery Act on June 16, 1933:

                  It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By “business” I mean the whole of commerce as well as the whole of industry; by workers I mean all workers, the white collar class as well as the men in overalls; and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level-I mean the wages of decent living.

                5. boop the first*

                  I understand the perspective and yet I have witnessed so many things:

                  – A customer marching up to a self checkout, glance at the screen for two seconds and then wail “But won’t somebody help meeeeeeeeee???”

                  – Customers asking for help with a tool, discovering that the trained employee is a 16 year old girl, then refusing to take her advice even though she knows more about tools than the customer does.

                  – An endless steady stream of new coworkers who come in to their supposedly basic job washing dishes/ serving/ cooking/ cleaning/ cashiering/ whatever, completely muck it up for several months because they just can’t get it, get bored and quit.

                  – Every single yelp review in which the customer is dissatisfied with the service.

                  If these jobs were really chump jobs that literally anyone could do, none of these problems would exist, and we also wouldn’t rely on the staff so hard. Even as a cashier, I had to spend a lot of unpaid extracurricular time studying online product training and taking endless quizzes so that customers can ask me how to use tools, or how to choose the correct bike, or how to replace an automotive part or how to install a light fixture etc. We’re also more likely to be exploited in other ways because of this widely accepted sentiment that we’re worthless, thanks for that.

                  I’m trained by society to agree that some of us are less valued than others and deserve to be homeless I guess, but I still think it’s pretty dehumanizing to remind people about how shitty they are just because there aren’t enough “good jobs” for everyone. We can all see (general) you, by the way. It’s not just white collar people using the internet.

                6. Jadelyn*

                  There is no such thing as “unskilled labor”. Only undervalued skills.

                  That aside, this is not only insultingly wrong, it’s utterly unhelpful as part of this conversation. Why would you even start that?

                7. Kate2*

                  Until we get robots who can do all the jobs people are paid minimum wage for we’d better pay them a libing wage. Unless you think it’s fair for hundreds of thousands of adults working full-time to be on welfare? Especially when the corporations they work for claim they can’t afford it when they make billions of dollars in profits.

            2. Yorick*

              I’m nopt at minimum wage, but losing an hour of pay would make a difference for my budget, too.

        5. J.*

          A 12am to 8am shift is NOT eight hours if you work the same hour twice, which is what happens in the fall.

        6. WellRed*

          I don’t understand what the employer is trying to do (besides ripping off employees). When we roll back the clocks, I go to work “earlier” and leave “earlier” it’s still the same amount of time. What am I missing?

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            If you work overnights, the time change at 2 am is what gets you. Either you add an hour (because at 2, it rolls back to 1 and you do that hour all over again), OR you lose and hour (because at 2 am you skip ahead to 3 am).

            1. Mr. Shark*

              That’s completely ridiculous for employers. Just because the time changes, doesn’t mean you aren’t working an extra hour. And just because you are there for one time change and have to work 9 hours, does not mean that you will be at that job, on that shift, for the time change and only work 7 hours.

      2. Bilateralrope*

        In my country and industry, we typically work 12 hour shifts on a 4 days on, 4 days off rotation. So there is no guarantee that we would work both the clock changes for evening out to be a possibility. Even if you ignore covering for people who are sick and/or on annual leave over the change or people who stop working at that site/for this employer between clock changes.

        Fortunately, my employer has never tried to claim things even out. They have got the pay wrong in both directions in the past. When it’s because the clocks were turned back an hour, the mistake was quickly fixed after affected workers complained (but only those who complained). When the clocks were turned forwards, nobody complained about being paid an extra hour.

      3. Jax*

        Oh God. When I was at a 24/7 diner NO ONE would accidentally come in early to relieve people working an extra hour — they all managed to remember it was time to set their clocks back and get an extra hour of sleep. But NO ONE ever remembered to set their clocks ahead, and came casually rolling in an hour late to relieve the overnight shift.

      4. Ella Vader*

        In my hometown, the big factories had the timechange provisions in their collective agreement. When the A-shift crewgot spring-forward, the A-shift would get the fall-back. But in the spring they got paid for 8 hours, and in the fall they got an hour of overtime. The next year, the B-shift would get it.

    3. X_Raeof HR*


      I think this is my old company!!! I tried explaining how it is NOT fair to employees who do not usually work the same shifts throughout the year. Didn’t matter.

      1. LabTechNoMore*

        I’ve see this attitude so often in so many places I’ve worked. Employers have to pay employees for all hours worked regardless of what little games they try to play with the clock. I’ve had to have the ‘Yes, you do have to pay me!’ conversation with every previous employer. Where HR wouldn’t see common sense (or observe the law), because it was in their best interest to act stubborn and oblivious. This is ridiculous!

  4. Gaia*

    #5, that is one crazy boss you have. “Even out in the spring!?” It better even out in my current paycheck or we’d have issues…

    1. Tinuviel*

      Yeah, how about in the spring you pay me for an extra hour of work, because it will “even out” in the fall.

      1. JN*

        Well that’s what the company is suggesting – that when the next clock change rolls around they will only work 7 hours but still get paid for 8. But as Alison and everyone are pointing out, thats not how it works!

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          Right. I don’t think this is nearly the mustache twirling scam some people are making it out to be. Thoughtless maybe, since it doesn’t take overtime into account (but in my experience a lot of people who are exempt kind of forget to take overtime into account when they plan for weirdnesses like this since it’s not something that affects them), but not evil. They’re probably thinking they’re trying to ensure you *won’t* lose that hour in the spring.

          1. Tinuviel*

            Yeah, I’m saying how about the employer err on the side of overpaying the employee instead of underpaying.

        2. Database Developer Dude*

          While I am with you on this, the mathematician in me is wondering why that doesn’t work, strictly mathematically speaking. If 12 midnight to 8 am is 7 hours in the spring, and 9 hours in the fall, and the worker really gets to leave at 8am local time each time, how is that not evening out? Granted, I’m with you on this issue on a moral and ethical standpoint….I’m just not seeing how the math doesn’t work. Can you help a brother out?

          1. Veronica*

            As I understand it, the issues are:
            1. It’s illegal to not pay for the extra hour worked in fall, it should be in the worker’s next paycheck
            2. What if the worker was no longer there in the spring, or happened to not be there the night the clocks are set ahead? Then they wouldn’t get the shorter shift with 8 hours pay. They would never be paid for the extra hour in the fall.

          2. Fuzzyfuzz*

            Mathematically speaking it does, but human-speaking it doesn’t. People quit their jobs, get fired, get sick, go on vacation, etc.–there are a whole host of reasons why a worker might work one DST and not the next. For the business, it might work out mathematically, but not for the individual worker.

            More importantly, while I don’t think most states have laws that dictate when you have to pay someone (not an HR person, so correct me if I’m wrong), I think federal law mandates that you pay workers promptly. Waiting 6 months for 1 hour of work would violate this. Plus, one extra hour could take a worker into overtime territory, which is calculated weekly in most places. Time doesn’t stop just because the clock moves.

            1. LabTechNoMore*

              Also, the math breaks because of OT. Mathematically speaking, they’re working 1 hr OT every fall (typically 1.5xhourly rate), but not getting paid for it. Federal law has these added 1.5 multipliers on OT (and even states with 2x multipliers) because of how much more taxing work is on human beings beyond 40 hours in a week.

          3. fhqwhgads*

            We don’t know where OP is, but where I live, working the 9 hours as an hourly employee would entitle me to overtime for that final hour, as Alison mentioned. If the 9th hour alone doesn’t need to be time and a half, it’s still possible for the OP that 9th hour on switchover day would be the 41st hour of the week, and thus also overtime. So, even if we were to ignore the part where this whole scheme is dependent on the person still working there several months later in order to “even out”, and ignore that usually wages must be paid within a certain timeframe from when the work was done (else fees and fines), labor law-wise 9 hours now and 7 hours later does not even out because the 9th hour should not have been paid at the same rate as the “missing” 8th hour from the later date.

          4. Blueberry*

            The employee may not work the same shift in fall and spring. In many jobs, such as nursing care (where I learned this), shifts are assigned week by week or biweekly, in a pattern governed by whatever’s going on in the supervisor’s head with occasional nods to seniority. So MJ who worked the 9 hour shift in November is not at all guaranteed the 7 hour shift in March even if she’s still in the job.

          5. JN*

            The math does work, assuming the same employee works the changeover shifts both seasons. I meant it doesn’t work like that for all the other issues that have been mentioned (overtime, the same employee might not be there in the spring, the need to pay people in the period in which they worked).
            A good test of whether this is a deliberate scam would be, if someone new starts shortly before the spring shift, are they offered the extra hours pay or does the employer suddenly not seem to think it will even out?

      1. hbc*

        I don’t think it’s active scamming so much as the fact that it all evens out for the employer and is a lot easier to just look at start and end time. What they’re failing to see is that it doesn’t even out for individual employees–not a blind spot that reflects well on them, but a couple of steps better than actually trying to screw people over.

        1. MissBliss*

          But it is kind of scamming if, as Alison pointed out, the person would’ve been pushed into overtime with that extra hour. When they get paid for that hour in the spring, they’re still (presumably) being shorted the overtime amount.

    2. Chaordic One*

      Somehow, I bet you don’t get overtime when the time springs forward. By your boss’s logic, you worked for eight hours.

  5. Emma*

    OP3 I saw that all the time in the large organisations I worked for. People would do it if they were in meetings or training. It’s totally fine.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      In addition … it’s fine to let people think you’re actually offline, whether or not you are. The peeps who are going to message you anyway will message you anyway. The peeps who are going to read your out-of-office and follow those instructions will do just that. Your responsiveness actually has little to do with how your colleagues and customers will behave. I say you set your OOO as you would if not responding, and then err on the side of not responding (… with the rare exceptions).

      1. Kelly*

        I like the idea of controlling my responsiveness and not worrying about what others do. If I want to respond less one day, I can. It’s a choice.

    2. Kelly*

      Thank you, Emma! That’s good to hear. I wasn’t sure if it was something that was ever done.

    3. SomebodyElse*

      Agreed. Although I might make the OOO msg a little more simple.

      Thank you for your email. Today is 10/8 and my responses may be delayed. If urgent call 867-5309 otherwise I will respond tomorrow.

    4. LKW*

      Agreed. I do it with “I’ll be in an all day training event/conference/whatever. Responses to emails may be delayed. Please contact me by phone or text with anything urgent 212 555-1212”

    5. A Simple Narwhal*

      I’m someone who’s really responsive to email and work with projects that can require quick turnaround, so on days where I’m out of pocket for extended periods of time I’ve totally set up the automatic response.

      People who contact me with non-urgent requests don’t tend to blink twice at the auto-response, and people who do have urgent requests know they need to take additional steps to get it addressed.

      I think something like “I will have limited email access between 1-4 today, if you need to contact me please call me at x1234. Thanks!” will do the LW just fine.

  6. Mary*

    #3. I use the auto reply “I am in the office but away from my desk most of the day”. This way if it is super urgent they can find you in person, but otherwise they know your just plain busy.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I was thinking the same thing. Treat it as if you’re in meetings all day and won’t be at your desk responding to emails. And in a way you are in meetings all day, just meeting with yourself and your writing, not with other people.

      1. Kelly*

        I’ve thought about scheduling writing as a meeting so that when people look at my calendar, they see I’m busy and then make their own conclusions about whether or not they need to come find me. That might be better than an there-away message. Good suggestion!

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          If you are only worried about fellow employees contacting you, you could send them an email ahead of time warning them that you’re on deadline and won’t be responded to emails so they should call you if they have an emergency. If you have outside folks emailing you who might want a quick response, then this might not be the best solution.

        2. Agent Diane*

          I used to do this, and also use the “limited access to my email” style of message.

          However, if this is internal only, I do think you may want to relax a little on always replying same day. You’ve created a situation where you have no wriggle room. You might want to start a little gentle “getting things done” triaging of emails so you’ve room to spend an extra 10 minutes on a draft because that email about Dana’s birthday surprise can wait till tomorrow.

  7. Xandria*

    #3 I would do it for your in office, but not your outside network.
    The woman I deal with at our housing agency has hers set up that way, and it drives me nuts to get that email bounce back from her, frequently I’m emailing her because it’s an emergency (and she doesn’t answer her phone). And to get a long & worst bounce back without any ‘contact so and so if you need an immediate response’ makes me infuriated.

    1. pleaset*

      “frequently I’m emailing her because it’s an emergency”

      This concept of frequent emergencies sets me on edge. Is this understood as the nature of both your jobs? If so, her going offline while working is not acceptable.

      On the other hand, if the job is not about emergencies/immediate customer response, then something is wrong in your systems or processes such that emergencies are frequent.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        It’s a housing agency. I assume the emergencies in question are housing things, like plumbing problems or trees that have fallen across driveways. And these *are* worthy of immediate response for the people living with the bad toilet or unable to get to work.

      2. Dahlia*

        I once had to call maintenance on our housing agency’s emegency line twice in three days because my kitchen tried to flood itself. Twice in three days. For two different reasons.

        Shit happens.

    2. Kelly*

      Good to know. That does sound frustrating! I agree. Having it for outside work folks wouldn’t be overkill.

    3. pamplemousse*

      I’d agree except that the OP is in communications, and it’s possible they frequently get time-sensitive external emails. I’m a journalist, and when I was a reporter emailing communication folks I usually needed a response within a couple of hours — an out of office email saying “I’m in meetings/on deadline today, here’s who to ask instead” would be more helpful than a non-response.

      It’s possible the OP does a different kind of communications work and this isn’t an issue, though.

  8. Don’t get salty*

    OP2, your story is similar to all the stories about people who show up unannounced at workplaces or send resumes with chocolate in order to stand out. It’s rude and entitled and deserves to be ignored. By responding to the messages, even to say no to them, you’re letting them know that they’ve found their target. I wouldn’t be surprised if you have multiple messages coming from the same person. People are incredibly persistent and resourceful when it comes to getting something they desperately want.

  9. Pam*


    This is what students and student employees do. I highly recommend learning about the resources available on your campus to support and assist students. I also recommend keeping some flyers and brochures for these resources around the office. Sometimes students are afraid to ask for help.

    1. Snuck*

      I’m thinking OP1 has basically given off an aura of being a good listener… and this has been latched on to.

      It might be time for OP1 to reassert the boundaries and push gently back… with referrals to student services on campus, or in the general community (for arm yourself for the usual ones!) and with a gentle “That sounds very difficult, but I haven’t really got a lot of time right now I have some pressing things to get done” and removing yourself.

      And… AND…. including it in orientation, or mentoring or one on one sessions… not “don’t talk to me” but more “Professional behaviours look like:” in the workplace chats… “We expect you to dress in a way similar to others in the office, no denim, dress like the person who you professionally are aspiring to be, and don’t talk weekend chat talk around the public spaces. If you can’t say it in front of your grandma, don’t say it in front of someone else when you are here.” Etc….

      And then… when they bug you with personal stuff, gently rebuff them to an outside service. If they keep it up then at one of the regular one on ones you have with them to mentor them (even if it’s 10mins once w eek… you do have a time right?) say “hey, I know you have a lot on, we need to focus on work when we’re here, so if you need to reduce your hours to give you time to address your other stuff just let me know. The sort of help I can offer is to see if there’s the possibility of moving your hours around, reducing them if that’s possible or giving you some leave… let me know if any of those suit you?” Help them know what professional support looks like.

      1. a1*

        I’m thinking OP1 has basically given off an aura of being a good listener… and this has been latched on to.

        This is what I’m thinking, too. I think they are treating her like a friend or someone else close and just venting. I don’t even know if they need counseling. Regardless, you do need to re-establish boundaries and let them know it’s not the normal manager/employee dynamic.

        1. Quill*

          Friend or mentor, they may be doing this more socially than in an “I need counseling” way, because students are often still very dependent on their parents (financially, especially) and their peer group (for validation) and complaining is socialization during school.

        2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          I think they’re treating her like a pseudo-parent/mentor, and I say this as someone who sort of viewed my student-job boss in that way. I was too quiet a person to vent, but it was my first time on my own, she was a very warm and kind person, and I didn’t have a lot of knowledge of professionalism–or have a professional view of myself.
          (So many student workers had loyalty to her that when the college forced her out for, what is in my uninformed opinion, totally bullshit reasons, the tour guides almost went on strike on admitted students’ day. She, being a professional person, shut that idea down fast.)

      2. Sparrow*

        YES to expectation setting at the beginning. Most of my career has been in higher ed, in roles that sometimes invited discussion of more personal topics, and the most effective way to maintain boundaries is to establish them early.

        This may be one of the first professional relationships the student has had, and they may not know what that relationship should look like in practice. Be very clear in orientation/training about what’s appropriate and what you expect. If any of them don’t follow that direction, you at least have something to refer them back to when reinforcing those boundaries.

        I also found it helpful to have a briefly articulate why the office/resource you’re referring them to is actually going to be way more beneficial to them. In my experience, they’re far more likely to go to the trouble of following up with the suggested office if you’ve made clear what’s in it for them.

      3. Jax*

        Students and even adults well into their 20s actually really might not have a sense of work/life boundaries. There isn’t a hard line between private life and school (at least through high school and arguably undergrad; there may be clearer lines of what is an appropriate or professional topic or boundary the higher one goes). I think it’s probably natural and something students could even use explicit training on (nothing harsh, just a factual sentence or two at orientation or onboarding or something).

      4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Yes, I’ve supervised young people. I tend to listen, but I’ve also interrupted people to say, “That is not appropriate to share with your boss/discuss at work.”

        It’ll vary based on context, though. You might have a blanket “Sex talk is not appropriate at work,” rule, but if a student confides in you they’ve been assaulted, you would need to direct them to the health office, mental health office, or sexual assault resource office. Because you’re a university employee, you may have some low-level mandatory reporter-type responsibilities to the university, so you will have to act.

      5. Bumblebee*

        Also – OP1, please know your status as a mandatory reporter. If your student workers disclose sexual assault, or harassment, or other Title IX-related things, you need to be able to gently say, “Before you tell me anything more, I need you to know that I am a mandatory reporter and I’ll have to share it with the Title IX office. It doesn’t mean you have to do anything, but I do have to share it.”

    2. KHB*

      Sometimes student counselling offices (etc.) have long waiting lists that make them difficult or impossible to use. Not that that’s your problem, but if you’re going to be regularly directing students to them, it’s worth making sure you’re not sending them into a dead end.

      1. Mary Connell*

        Exactly. In many places, referring to a university counseling office means that they’ll be offered an appointment in a month or two.

    3. BethDH*

      I’ve also noticed that schools are increasingly encouraging all faculty & staff to be sort of first-line counseling/listeners. So many students with problems never say something to anyone at all. And we don’t want them to keep these kinds of things totally to themselves, so then it’s a hard line to draw.
      Students often have a thing where a problem is big to them and really affects their health, but they don’t think they can/should “bother” the “real” counseling staff about it. In my experience, they just won’t go, even if they stop talking to you about it.
      So what can you do?
      I don’t have a perfect answer, but I’ve found a few techniques:
      – actually walk them over to the relevant office to set up a meeting. This is especially helpful when it is a big deal but something they’re ashamed of (sexual harassment or partner violence, depression, failing grades …)
      -set up a formal or informal mentor ship with a returning student employee. This is helpful for student-to-student training in workplace norms and saves you some time on basic questions, but it also gives your newer students another approachable relationship. Now, you don’t want your advanced students spending all their time counseling other students either, but a certain amount seems okay and their suggestions may be more relevant or actionable for the other students (like they might not say “go to more social events” but instead say “hey, you should go to x this weekend.”)
      -if you can, try to get to know some individual counselors in the relevant departments, so you can say “go see Maria in tutoring, she’s really good” and not send them to a faceless office. It really does make a difference.

      1. Tuckerman*

        I’ve noticed the same thing. It’s a tricky balance and I don’t always get it right. I definitely agree that it’s helpful to know individuals in departments and to maintain boundaries. However, it a student needs to vent/troubleshoot something a couple times a semester (not daily), I think it can be valuable to assist in the moment and then refer.

        It’s also important to remember that staff are “responsible employees” and are required to report some things to the Title IX coordinator and that students might not know this. There are people on campus (e.g., at a violence resource center) who may NOT be required to report, and students should know they have an option to speak to these people before they disclose sensitive details.

        1. BethDH*

          Oh, that’s a really good point! I know it and I still forget sometimes, and it’s very relevant for this OP.

      2. AES*

        “I’ve also noticed that schools are increasingly encouraging all faculty & staff to be sort of first-line counseling/listeners.” Yes, this 100%. And I also want to reiterate the “walk them over” technique: it’s not necessary for every situation but if you have a student in something that feels like a crisis to them they’re often too overwhelmed to walk out of your office, find their way to the counseling center, and make the appointment. If you do it with them, it can help a ton. I’d also recommend that the OP find out if their university has an online reporting system–mine has a way you can flag the Dean of Students’ office that something is up with one of your students and they can reach out with the right resources (again, rather than waiting for the student to seek help on their own).
        And I love that informal mentoring suggestion! Probably depends on how many student workers you have, but if there’s a decent number that could work wonders.

      3. AimeeS*

        Yes – handing students a one-pager of resources is all well and good, but they most likely already have one and haven’t used it. What’s really successful is a warm hand-off: “It sounds like you could use some tutoring – Maria is really good. Let me call over and see if she’s available right now.”/”She is available right now! Let’s walk over together. “/”Hi Maria, this is (student). Student was just telling me how (describe issue), and I thought you’d be able to help. I’ll let you take it from here.”
        Yes, this is more work, but it’s going to be so much more successful at getting students to those resources than effectively telling them “this is a you problem, not a me problem” and giving them a list of possible resources. It is so much more effective that you should do it most/all of the time, not just when there’s some kind of threat of violence (suicidal ideation, domestic violence, etc.) involved that escalates the issue.

        1. Tinuviel*

          Honestly I love that script because it has a clear recommendation of a human they could talk to whom they recommend. I’d feel fobbed off if someone said “go to the x office” but “Maria is really good” would feel so much warmer and I’d be more likely to go.

          1. nonymous*

            Honestly this technique works wonders with adults too! I use this technique to help people build up confidence. It’s really helpful for pushing back people who would happily delegate all their work to you just because.

    4. Sara without an H*

      I agree, and I would just like to add — be very alert to anything that sounds like self-harm/suicidal ideation. You might want to talk with your counseling service about how to respond if a student ever answers “yes” to the question “Have you ever thought of hurting yourself?”

      1. Dino*

        As far as I’ve been trained, unless you’re working in the counseling office you shouldn’t be asking that question anyway. If you get the sense that they could use counseling services, just refer them to that office without trying to get to the bottom of it yourself.

  10. Cats and dogs*

    #1: Consider bringing this up at their orientation to prevent it from happening in the first place along with an information sheet on the various services offered at the school. At certain schools you may have an obligation to report your knowledge (eg assault) so you may need to find this out and if so tell them you are required to report things so it is better if they seek out student services.

    1. Pommette!*

      This is great advice!

      I used to work as a teaching assistant with first-year students, and learned (the hard way) to start each semester off by giving students a sense of what to expect from the relationship + information about resources they could access. It ensures that the ones who will never ask you for help directly also know what resources are there; it helps protect the students who would over-share or get overly friendly from feeling embarrassed or rebuked when you draw appropriate boundaries; and it ultimately encourages mentorship relationships, because people know that they can approach you with (in my case academic, in yours professional) questions, and how/when to do it.

  11. cncx*

    Re OP3, my coworker does this and is reasonably successful, however when i do this people just call off the hook and when i pick up it turns out it should have been an email that i could have addressed tomorrow or even next week. i think it depends on how respectful people are in terms of being judicious about phone use and universal definitions of “time sensitive” my case, setting an OOO to say call has backfired horribly.

    1. Cats and dogs*

      #3 I’ve done this without leaving a phone number for the reasons you note. It eased my mind and worked well because nothing was going to be urgent. It sounds like you may get urgent requests. Perhaps change the wording to something like: “If this is a same-day need please call otherwise I will respond tomorrow.” Another way could be to provide your mobile to text you which you can see the nature
      Of the request easier than a call.

      1. Kelly*

        I love the way you worded that. I think it will make people stop and evaluate if they really need a response today.

    2. Kelly*

      That’s good to know. I’m not much of a phone person, so I certainly don’t want to encourage more phone calls. I’m so fast at email because I like avoiding as many phone calls as possible.

  12. LGC*

    LW5 – I worked overnight at Target in 2006 for the holidays. Even they didn’t pull this stunt on me. (Admittedly, if they did I would have probably gone along with it because I didn’t know better back then, but the fact is they were decent enough to actually pay me for nine hours that night.)

    1. Rainbow Roses*

      Target is a major company and probably have a team of lawyers to make sure Target is following the law. There’s no way they would dare short everyone an hour. It would cost them a lot more if word gets out.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        No. Mega corps pull stunts all the time. Don’t get lulled into false security that they’re above breaking laws. They get sued for it all the time

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Oh? This explains why they’re closing yet more of their flagship stores. Bless their hearts. Good. More nails in the coffins of my enemies.

      2. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        Target makes their employees sit through long videos about why unions are terrible and are very clear they will fire you for even whispering the word “union”, law or not. They are interested in doing the bare minimum they can get away with.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I think we all should just sit around and watch Superstore as a group one day…

          [Like for a holiday that Alison takes off, kind of like in school when you had a substitute and got to watch movies in class…]

          I’m joking of course but yeah, the “jokes” within it are truly real AF. The reminder about their union busting just sent me into internal hysterics since it’s the truth.

  13. Jam*

    #1 is tricky because students truly don’t know better, and university is an environment where boundaries like this can seem especially unclear. Plus, they are vulnerable, and if something really bad were happening you don’t want them to feel that they have no one to turn to.

    I think being direct and treating it as “learning professional boundaries” is the way to go. When I worked with students I liked to say something about X being something that a lot of people learn at this point in their life; the student isn’t “in trouble” and doesn’t need to be embarrassed but now is the time to start learning this norm.

    And pointing them to other resources is good but it’s good to do it in a way that shows you’re listening. “That sounds like something you could take to Student Counselling Office. Have you considered that? It’s free, here’s the info. Talking to a professional can really be helpful. How is the filing coming along? I need to get back to work now.” It might not be your job to do triage on last night’s blind date, but if a student is disclosing a potentially abusive situation because they trust you, that’s not something to shove off your desk too quickly.

    (And trust me, they get the counselling service information in orientation. They just lose it, or they don’t realize it’s appropriate for their situation, or they need some kind of encouragement or validation to make the appointment.)

    1. Hope*

      If a student is disclosing an abusive(particularly if it’s sexual abuse/harassment) situation that happened on campus, almost anyone supervising them on campus has a Title IX obligation to report it to the Title IX officer at the school–it’s not just a faculty obligation, despite what some people think.

      If you think they’re about to tell you something you have to report, you *can* stop them and inform them that you’re a mandated reporter, and suggest they would be better served by seeing a counselor who actually does have the privilege of not reporting.

      And god knows the students get all the information about the myriad of services in orientation, but they get *so much* information in those orientations that there’s no way they retain it all or necessarily recognize it applies to them, so as Jam says, the reminder that free counseling/etc. exists is always worth giving.

  14. Paperdill*

    OP3: When I was an inexperienced student, at the very beginning of the semester I went to email my coordinator and received an out of office reply with a message for one particular student group (not mine). Because I was in such a panic, I called up the student centre to tell them my issue and try and get my problem addressed. By then end of the day I got a very cranky call from the coordinator, irate that I had told the student centre she wasn’t replying to emails when barely a few hours had elapsed and I wasn’t her only student etc. I had never seen an out of office reply used solely to send a message to people emailing her. I thought “out of office” meant “out of office” which was why I tried to get help by other means. So, OP, at least your reply is a bit more concise!

  15. Paperdill*

    OP5: In my line of work, that is “just what happens” – legal and all. We all just try to get the same shift in 6 months when it goes the other way and we’ll get paid one more hour than we worked.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      How exactly is that legal ?

      The only way I can see it being legal is for salaried workers. But if you’re paid based on hours worked, why is DST an exception ?

    2. paperpusher*

      I’m not in the U.S. so I’m not speaking to legalities here, but that’s how it works at my partner’s workplace. They work 12 hour shifts in a union environment and while I’m not saying that because they do it it must be legal, it’s a pretty major employer who contracts directly with the government so I don’t think blatant labour violations could be codified for years without challenge. The idea is that no one wants their pay docked when they’re the beneficiaries of daylight savings, so to keep payroll balanced they don’t adjust pay either way.

      1. Person of Interest*

        The legal issue in the US at the core of this problem is that you have to be paid for that extra hour of work *within the same pay period* – not 6 months later. (As Alison explained).

        1. paperpusher*

          I understand that legal issues are completely different – that’s why I said I wasn’t weighing in on the question of it being legal in the U.S.

        1. Union rep*

          But just to be clear, the law always applies! In cases where a labor contract conflicts with the law, the law always wins.

          1. Friendstastegood*

            Again this depends on location. The entite worker’s rights section of Swedish law openly states that it can be negotiated away in employee contracts.

    3. Hamburke*

      In the US, FSLA requires that non-exempt workers have to be paid for all hours worked, not hours scheduled. And overtime is paid for hours worked over 40 hours in one week – regardless if it’s approved overtime. (Management can discipline the worker but can’t refuse to pay). This is federal law and can be stricter at the state or local level (ex: CA is anything over 8 hours in one day is overtime) but can’t be less than this. If you are in the US and non-exempt, this applies to you and can report this to your state Dept of Labor.

    4. Observer*

      Unless your line of work is exempt, it is NOT legal and anyone who tells you otherwise is either ignorant or lying.

      1. Paperdill*

        Oooooor, I’m not in the US and it is legal?
        The US-centric viewpoint of some people is very concerning.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          This site has a mostly American readership, is run by an American, and generally takes a U.S. point of view because much of what I write about here is culturally specific. I’m very glad to hear the perspectives of people in other countries and think it contributes a ton to the conversation — but for all these reasons, people will assume American laws are in play unless someone specifies otherwise.

  16. Llamalawyer*

    Op #3- use it sparingly. It could turn into a “boy who cried wolf” scenario. I have a colleague that is notoriously difficult to get to respond to an email. She’s brilliant but super disorganized and unreliable. Sometimes I email her and get an out of the office response, but I see her at a meeting a short time later. When asked about it, she says, oh, I wanted to get some stuff done. This isn’t an isolated occasion, it is frequent, so I don’t take her out of offices seriously. (I often need responses from her to finalize certain time sensitive matters). I would be more sympathetic if she really was that busy but her billable hours say otherwise.

    1. Angelinha*

      But OP3 isn’t lying and saying “I’m out of the office!” (like it sounds like your coworker is doing?) She’s using the auto reply feature to say “I’m here, but not checking email”

    2. Kelly*

      I definitely wouldn’t want to overuse it. This is actually only the second time I’ve considered doing it, because I was just buried in deadlines. And I didn’t end up doing it because I was afraid it was overkill. But if I’m that busy again, I would like close email and either let people assume I’m in a meeting, or put up some kind of message so they know they need to get a hold of me some other way for same-day needs.

  17. QCI*

    @1- I’m more inclined to to say OP 1 should cut them more slack. Schools are terrible at teaching people how to “Adult” and the student resource centers may be too informal or even indifferent/unapproachable for some people.

    They’re coming to you because they trust you, or at least feel like they’re being heard. Set boundaries where you have to (at the end of the day you’re not their parents), but also try to figure out if they’re looking for counseling or just talking to be heard.

    1. Jax*

      Yes but making sure an employee is “just being heard” on life issues wide and far is not something a job supervisor is there for. Does that help put in perspective why it is inappropriate for OP to be hearing TMI from many of these students? Also, it’s one thing to cut some slack; it’s another entirely to do it when the other person has no idea at all that you are cutting them slack — they need to know what the professional norms/lines are and that they are beyond them.

      1. Allypopx*

        Agreed. OP should be helping teach professional skills and boundaries, not protecting the students’ feelings.

  18. Atlantis*

    OP 1 – I agree with Alison’s response wholeheartedly. It’s totally fair that you want to keep things more professional in your workplace, but it’s also understandable why students are coming to you. I appreciate that you are directing them to campus resources, and you should keep doing that, but also feel free to contact those resources yourself and see if there’s additional places you can direct students. I’m in a similar situation as a graduate teaching assistant, as sometimes my students feel more comfortable talking to me about their struggles with school as I am also a fellow student. Fortunately for me, my university has a huge wealth of resources, including a special team of people that once you make a referral about a student can reach out to the student directly and get them resources specifically useful for them – whether it affects their housing, financial aid, mental health, etc. For me, it’s great knowing I can direct my students to all of that to get help, yet keep my focus on teaching my class.

    OP 2 – I would also feel free to block as many people as you want who contact you this way. By contacting you they are trying to circumvent your husband’s business policies (especially those who already received rejections) and it’s exceptionally rude. Ignore, block and delete.

  19. Washi*

    OP3: is there someone in the office you could run this by? Not to ask permission, but to corroborate your sense of how this will be received? I worked in one office where this would be seen as overkill, since there were already strong norms in place that people have 1 business day to respond to your email, and if it’s more urgent than that, to call.

    I’ve also worked somewhere that the majority of my coworkers had no email management systems beyond responding to whatever they saw and had time for whenever they opened their email, and ignoring the rest. Responses were expected within 3-4 hours and anything longer than that would prompt phone calls and follow up emails, so an OOO like you describe would have been key!

    1. Kelly*

      Good insights. People definitely expect emails to be returned same day and sometimes within an hour. But if you don’t respond within an hour, people assume you’re in a meeting. It’s possible if I’m really busy, I should just let them assume that, which could be better than sending an in-office away message.

      1. Quill*

        If you use a chat or schedule things visibly in outlook, just block that time off? People who get antsy about it will check, see that you’re offline, and go “oh, meetings.”

          1. Anne of Green Gables*

            Yes, if the people are mostly internal who have access to see your calendar, this is a good solution. I have a few times a semester that are particularly busy for my specific role and I will block off work time for those projects on my calendar . But almost everyone who would need a response from me is an employee and is able to see my calendar; I think it might not work as well if the people you need to “warn” are from outside your organization.

  20. Gabriel Conroy*

    OP #1 (students’ confiding in boss): In addition to the excellent comments above, I’d also add that depending on the school (if it’s public, etc.), the boss might be required to report certain types of conversations to someone else on campus. That’s not a reason to listen or not to listen to students….but it’s an added complication that needs to be remembered (if it applies to the OP’s situation).

    1. Tuckerman*

      Yup, and just to clarify, Title IX is for private schools as well, if they receive federal assistance.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Which pretty much all of them do, since many students attend with federal aid.

      2. Gabriel Conroy*

        Thanks. I wasn’t sure what applied to which schools. The institution I was familiar with was public.

    1. AwesomePossum*

      This is harsh. There are some things OP1 can’t help with, beyond sympathy and generic ‘try keeping a budget!’-style advice. If the students were just asking for that, it would be one thing, although even that at a certain point in the workday can be too much. OP’s not a helpline.

      But anyway it sounds like the ‘therapy sessions’ are going beyond what OP1 can help with. I like to give advice to friends, sure, but I don’t feel up to wading in on my adult employees’ family problems or romantic issues or financial stressors. That level of depth should be reserved for people who are trained/paid to respond helpfully, or relationships without a massive power imbalance.

      OP1’s doing the right thing.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      This is not a helpful comment because you clearly didn’t read and comprehend the whole question.

      Recently, several students have taken to talking to me a lot …
      and there’s a point when I just need people to work and I don’t have time to be a de facto therapist.

    3. WIllow Sunstar*

      You cannot always help people who are trying to use you as therapy. In a previous job, I had a co-worker who seemed to have some sort of mental issues. I tried once to recommend going to a counselor or therapist to get help, but he had literally forgotten the next day. He was in his 20’s but very forgetful.

    4. un-pleased*

      As a professor who teaches three classes a semester, I will tell you that one simply can’t. It would be malpractice for me to try to give some students the care they need if they are having serious mental health issues, etc., myself. Additionally, we frankly have to preserve some of our emotional resources for ourselves to do our work whether we are faculty or staff. And the burden of this falls disproportionately on women and people of color, which impacts our job performance and security (for faculty, spending a lot of time on this kind of thing would be a major barrier to doing enough research or teaching well enough to attain tenure depending on our contracts).

      I’ll just note that for me, as a person who reads as approachable, I can end up dealing with a lot of students who have some serious problems in a week, let alone over a semester or academic year. I cannot do my job if I am mired in trying to handle all these myself. It’s not a reasonable suggestion.

      1. PoorWayfaringStranger*

        As a teacher with four preps and six sections, I can tell you that the OP has professional responsibility beyond simply being a manager since they’re working with students. In that position, the writer’s a mentor, whether they want to be or not and needs to help support the students accordingly.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Yes, but helping the students accordingly may mean directing them to counseling services and setting limits on what the OP can and cannot do for them. I’ve been advising students for many, many years, and one of the things that’s helped me is a keen sense of where to draw the line around what I can do to help. Often, my *best* help is a referral (and a walk-over) to the appropriate office.

          This doesn’t mean I am not sympathetic and don’t want to get involved, but I know I am not the appropriate resource for the student beyond a certain point.

          1. un-pleased*

            Exactly. I am in no position to be a sustained support to someone having a mental health crisis or other ongoing issue in the way they need, beyond being willing to flex requirements and point them in the right direction for assistance by trained professionals. I’ve been the point person in emergency situations, which has given me a good sense of what I am and am not qualified to do. I cannot be the mentor some of them need (which can involve giving critiques and correctives) if I do not maintain boundaries.

        2. hbc*

          These students are adults. Yes, they’re young adults figuring things out for the first time, but a manager/mentor/administrator is not required or equipped to directly handle these problems. Some sympathy and a guide to more appropriate resources is a good level of support for personal issues.

        3. Lance*

          To a degree, yes. But they’re also allowed (and perhaps even encouraged, as their manager; future managers are very unlikely to be doing this) to set reasonable boundaries. Yes, they should help, but they shouldn’t be expected to help with everything the students may come to them for.

        4. AES*

          Even mentors get to set professional boundaries. No one’s saying that OP isn’t helping or doesn’t want to help, just that she needs to be realistic about how much help she can provide, and what the appropriate contexts for that are.

        5. Allypopx*

          As a mentor to *adult* students the OP is not required to be their friend or confidant and should be establishing real professional boundaries to teach the norms these students will encounter in the real world. That is how mentoring adults works. You teach them to adult better.

        6. bluephone*

          One of the worst things one can do–in terms of creating a situation where actual physical harm can occur (to say nothing of mental harm)–is to try to be a therapist when they’re not. Even licensed therapists know better than to be their own counselor.

      2. Close Bracket*

        OP did use the term “therapist,” but I would be extremely surprised if the students who confide in them are literally expecting her to pull out CBT exercises or engage in psychodynamic conversations. It’s a bit of a stretch to say helping someone out is malpractice if one is not a therapist (Can non-medical professionals even engage in malpractice?). OP could help in a mentoring or sympathetic listener sense — as long as they can still get their work done, that is.

    5. Pommette!*

      I’ve been on both sides of this type of conversation, and honestly: equipping student employees to understand what is expected of them in what may be their first professional role, and informing them about the specialized resources available to them, *does* help them. A lot.

      The OP can have kind, respectful, human-to-human conversations with his/her students: commiserating about the difficulty of moving to a new city, sympathizing with difficult times, discussing weekend plans, whatever. He/she can create a space where they can succeed and grow professionally. But he/she can’t (because time is finite, because doing so requires specialized talent, training and experience) fix their various crises.

    6. AnonAndFrustrated*

      I have had this pressure to “just help them” re: family members & I definitely push back on that when appropriate. It’s one thing to listen empathetically, but if you are not a trained/licensed counselor or therapist, you have no obligation to do anything for someone else’s personal problems or woes. Refer them to said licensed counselor (or whatever over type of professional or center) so they can get the actual help they need.

    7. Em*

      Even if OP1 were a licensed counselor, it would be unethical for them to provide counseling sessions to their direct reports. It doesn’t seem like they are a counselor, and it’s not reasonable to expect that someone without formal training take on that kind of mental load. Therapy affects the people giving it, and it’s unfair to ask someone to take on the weight of countless people’s problems.

      It would be one thing if it was always “my blind date was silly,” but what if it’s “my parents are abusive” kind of stuff? That’s professional grade stuff.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It seems like they are helping out to an extent. Including pointing out the available resources on campus!

      I do generally agree with your comment but I also don’t think the OP is truly in “manager only always” mode. There’s a lot of stuff she simply cannot help with and has to still get everyone to do the work that needs to be done as well.

      As a mentor you have to help them learn personal and professional boundaries in the end.

  21. Chaordic One*

    OP2, you were doing these people a service when you provided them with information on how to contact your husband and his business. That they don’t get a response is kind of sucky, but that’s on your husband and his business, not you. Go ahead and feel free to ignore them and block them.

  22. What’s with Today, today?*

    #2 I’m. It sure you can do anything other than say you can’t help or ignore the messages. I’m in media and Easy to find/contact and my husband is a defense attorney(we live in a smaller town). People contact me on social media and call me at work to get his number or to ask me to have him call them. If it’s a social media message, I ignore it, if it’s a call I give them his number.

    1. Auntie Social*

      My husband’s a lawyer too. “Can’t you talk to him about my case on the way home, and then he won’t bill me?” Want to bet?

    2. sofar*

      I feel your pain. Also in media. My contact info is everywhere.

      My husband owns a small business, and I get contacted from potential applicants or third-party vendors who want to provide him services. People just assume that, because my husband owns a business that I’m more “involved” than I am. I’m, in fact, not involved at all. I have my own career. But there’s definitely an assumption that, as his wife, I “help” with his “family business.”

      I ignore the complete strangers on social media. If it’s someone I know, or someone who asks me at a social event, I firmly say I have NO involvement in my husband’s businesses. One person followed up at a party by asking, “Well what’s the best way to get in touch with your husband about working with him?” and I said, “Definitely NOT by asking me.”

  23. WIllow Sunstar*

    #3 depends greatly on one’s job. In most of my recent jobs, literally everything I’ve gotten to do came through e-mail, so not responding wasn’t really a choice. However, there were days where we had multiple meetings or training sessions, so I did put an auto-response on them. I had one job where we worked with fresh food and you literally had to respond within an hour or two of receiving the e-mail. There was a chance that if it didn’t get done, the food might go bad sitting on the loading dock. One did have to have a sense of urgency there. If I hadn’t done my work in a timely manner, I would have cost the company money, so I made sure to do things in a timely manner. Also, in my current job, we have a 24-hour deadline on responding to e-mails, even if that response is “I am currently focusing on an urgent project, but will give you an answer as soon as I am done.”

    1. Kelly*

      I love the 24-hour deadline for responding to emails. We don’t have an actual deadline for that but it is generally expected. Food certainly won’t get spoiled if I don’t respond, but there are some things that come through that do need attention, so I almost never turn email off. But if something is really important, people tend to call or show up at your desk. It’s possible I should just count on them to do this on deadline-heavy days.

  24. Antilles*

    #4: Don’t read anything into it.
    There’s a sizable number of companies out there who view reference checks as fairly useless, so they only ask for references as a “we’re supposed to ask” kind of thing – basically just another box to tick off the list but with no intention of ever actually checking said references.

    1. LW #4*

      Thanks! My story had a happy ending — it turned out to be a combination of employer time vs candidate time AND that one of my references had been contacted and the email had made it into spam somehow. Luckily, they made me an offer contingent on the reference coming back positively once he was made aware of what had happened, and everything worked out in the end!

  25. AdAgencyChick*

    #2: ignore, ignore, ignore. Nothing good can come of engaging. At best, they’ll accept your answer and you’ll have no further contact (unlikely, and same net effect as ignoring). At worst, your reply gets screenshotted and posted all over social media as “the horrible meanies at [magazine],” no matter that you don’t work for the magazine.

    1. CNM*

      This is true, so probably better to ignore my thought, which was:

      If they literally tell you they already asked your husband for a husband for a discount and he declined, tell them “Congratulations! Then you are on the secret discount* list you were trying to find!

      *it’s a 50* mark-up! For thinking rules don’t apply to you!”

      Because COME ON.

  26. sunshyne84*

    #2 Block them *shrugs*

    #3 I’d just say “I have hard deadlines for several projects today and anticipate returning to emails tomorrow.”

  27. Emi.*

    OP1, I think it’s exactly because you’re in a “mentoring position on “adjusting to adult life” issues” that you have to draw this boundary. As their supervisor, part of your role is to mentor them in the realm of adjusting to adult work boundaries. Reframing it that way — because of your role, you’re helping them by *not* acting as a pseudotherapist — might help you feel less mean about it.

  28. anon9*

    For #1, depending on the student’s ages, I would amend the script as, “I’m glad you trust me enough to confide in me and seek my advice but it’s becoming difficult to do this emotional labor in addition to my job. While I want to help, there is nothing I can do say that wouldn’t be better said by a qualified professional. These student resources are low-cost/free and would be invaluable in giving you a space that is dedicated to your emotional and mental health. This doesn’t mean that I am not here for you; it means that you have more options beyond me that might help more.”

    This is the advice I wish I’d gotten in college. Those resources are invaluable and will probably equip those students with the frameworks they can use going forward (or if those frameworks don’t work, they can trial and error before they enter the professional world).

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      This will only help if those resources actually are available, so before adopting this script the OP should make sure she isn’t just sending students down a dead end. Even if a university nominally offers such services, in reality they’re often basically inaccessible and unlikely to be pursued by a student who isn’t sure if their problems are legitimate enough to warrant counselling.

  29. Rusty Shackelford*

    #5 reminds me of the time I was working hourly, at a grocery store, and the manager forgot to roll his clock back. So all the employees showed up at 6 am, as scheduled, and he didn’t show up until 7 am. This was before cell phones, and I assume that’s why the assistant manager (who was waiting with us in the parking lot) didn’t call him. Infuriatingly, the assistant manager changed the time clock (again, stone age, no auto-adjusting clocks) to 7 am before we all clocked in, thereby insuring we didn’t get paid for the hour we spent waiting in the parking lot. If he’d left it alone, we all would have clocked in at 6 am, even though it was actually 7 am.

    Yes, this was decades ago. I’m still bitter.

  30. Caffeinated High School Teacher*

    OP #1, I get you on this. You need to set a boundary, especially on the personal issues. When students bring me baggage, I personally walk them to the counselor. My go to line is, “I care about you and I want to make sure someone who has the expertise to help you work through this does so. Let’s go together.”

  31. CupcakeCounter*

    #2 Here are your auto-responses
    “I spoke to my husband regarding your request for a discount and he has now added a 10% nuisance charge to any book you would like to purchase from Rare Books Inc. Have a nice day.”
    “Husband will be happy to publish your article. The fee for an advertisement equivalent to the space your content would take up is $250. When we receive your payment, we will print.”

    Don’t actually do this but it would be fun!

    1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      “I’d be happy to put in a good word to my husband regarding your article. Please note that I charge $250 per word for a “good word,” $200 per word for just ok words, and $300 per word for great words. Please respond letting me know what quality of words you want and how many. Payment due in advance. Past success is not a guarantee of future results.”

  32. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – you owe them nothing. They’re being rude by contacting you. Ignore and block them. If they’ve gone through the proper channels and not gotten a response, there’s probably a reason for that and it’s not your job to worry about it.

  33. Senor Montoya*

    OP 1. Alison’s prompts are good, but
    1. Don’t feel you need to be up on all the possible resources.
    2. Refer students to their advisor: often advisors are trained to be able to refer students appropriately. Faculty advisors less so, but this is still an important resource. [And note that even professional advisors do not provide counseling — they refer students]
    3. If you are genuinely worried about a student, or something seems off, do not hesitate to contact an appropriate office — don’t worry about getting the right one, whichever one you try will know which one’s right. Contacts are: counseling center, student health, campus police, womens center, LGBTQ center, ombudsman (excellent resource if you have one on campus). Many colleges and universities now have a case management system for assessing and responding to student situations. Ask around — often there is an online referral/reporting system.

  34. You can't fire me; I don't work in this van*

    Another reason the “it will all even out in the spring” argument is BS is not every employee working in November will still be there in April and vice versa.

    So you can work the extra hour and never have the chance to get paid for it, or the company could pay you for the extra hour and they could let you go or you could leave before they “get it back”.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s really just to effectively outlaw avoiding paying overtime. Otherwise an employer could just roll over an hour or two or twelve every time there’s OT and dodge paying time and a half. With a set hours and pay period it makes it crystal clear the regulations involved.

  35. Holy Moley Artichokey*

    OP1, good on you for enforcing boundaries like this! Back in the day, I was a student who turned to faculty members for advice like this, and it got very weird…like some of them started using *me* for support aabout *their* personal problems, and I sort of turned into a surrogate girlfriend minus the sex and romance. It was gross. I didn’t realize how inappropriate this was until I started reading AAM years later.

    So yeah, give your student workers a talk about professional boundaries as a part of orientation,if you can. There’s a good chance they won’t learn it amywhere else!

  36. Oxford Comma*

    OP4: I have been asked for references (both for academic and traditional “real world” positions):

    *To provide written ones with the application
    *Immediately after the application
    *Before the phone interview
    *After the phone/before the interview
    *After the interview
    *Not at all

    So don’t panic.

    1. LW #4*

      Yep, I’d been in all of those situations as well. This one just struck me as strange because the recruiter made a point to let me know that asking for my references would be a next step, and then not talking to them once she’d gotten them seemed strange! Luckily, it turned out that she had (as Alison guessed) been tied up with a couple of other things that delayed her reaching out and when she did, the email she sent to one of my references wound up in a spam filter. Everything worked out, though, and I got an offer last week :)

  37. Buttons*

    All interns go through a one-day orientation before starting their internship. During the orientation, we cover information about the company, email etiquette, general business etiquette, clothing, business meal etiquette, appropriate topics of discussion and boundaries. It sets them up for success and prevents the kind of thing OP describes.
    Even if HR doesn’t do a formal orientation if you are managing them and know that certain things always come up, put together your own 1-hour orientation. It really does make them feel welcome and helps them adjust to the business world.

  38. KoiFeeder*

    OP2- It sucks to have to ask this question, but how much do you really value your facebook? I had to delete mine for a similar reason (dad, not husband, though), because people would not leave off and it made the platform unusable. It’s been years since I’ve used facebook, so maybe there’s better ways to handle this now, but it’s not your job to deal with people who are pretty insistently circumventing social and spoken boundaries for their own convenience.

  39. Em*

    Op1: You need a simple 1 page fact sheet about the assistance offered through campus services, from therapy to health checkups. Anything that you’ve thought of when talking to these students. You may think of other local services to put on there – homeless shelters, suicide hotlines, etc.

    When you have this, you can cut them off at the pass and hand it to them. “I get a lot of students who may need extra resources, so I made this sheet that lists of places you can seek help.” Or something like that. Followed by the rest of the script about how you’re not really the right person to be a sounding board for this stuff.

    I’m sure your school has campus wellness flyers, just wanted to mention suicide hotlines and homeless shelters just in case. A lot of students don’t know what resources are even out there for them.

    1. Em*

      I’m sorry, meant to mention – name, email, website, and phone number is all you really need on this sheet. I’m thinking just a very basic “it sounds like you’re having a tough time, here’s some resources for that” kinda stuff.

    2. un-pleased*

      This is a great suggestion. Our syllabuses at my state school legally have to have a link to some (but not all) of that information. I created a more in-depth thing one semester when students had questions in a general sense about how to find things out. I changed campuses and should get that together again.

  40. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #5 Is engaging to me. It’s an extra hour and I’m pretty sure the midnight to 8am shift is a small crew, most are. Just follow the law and pay everyone right. That’s the nonsensical abuse of employees that leads to turnover and then managers whining that they cannot find people to stay on. The very little they save isn’t work burning good employees and chasing them away.

    A decade ago I had to roll clocks manually as well. Everyone knew they’d clock in when they got there and I would adjust it when I got in if they arrived before me. Nobody had to worry about their time being anything but correct because I’m not a lowlife cheapskate scoundrel when it comes to the humans involved in the company. I save money everywhere else, it’s literally not hard at all.

  41. Lisa Babs*

    OP #4 –
    I’m in the middle of hiring myself and we did ask references from the top three but are only calling the top candidate’s references right now. But if that doesn’t pan out for any reason (which happens) I’ll go right in calling the next person’s references.

    But on the other hand, my boss has been sick the past few days with a cold/flu. So If they were calling the references it would have been pushed back.

    So it’s one of those things from the outside that you just won’t know. Plus, panicking won’t do you any good right now.

    Plus a week is no time in “hiring land”

    1. LW #4*

      Wow, that is definitely illuminating — I don’t know if it’s the industry I’ve been working in or what, but I’ve never not gotten an offer when my references were requested, especially if they weren’t asked for in the initial form application. Luckily for me, the pattern held true and I got my offer last week. Thanks for the insight!

  42. Octopus*

    LW 2, also consider pinning a tweet and putting a note in your Facebook profile and LinkedIn profile summary that you are not connected to your husband’s businesses and will delete any attempts to contact him via you. That is, if you have the space to do without detracting from what you need to communicate about your career and if you think doing so won’t cause more people to make the connection between you two than already know.

  43. drpuma*

    OP1, You do seem to generally want to help these students, and I commend you for that. In addition to the suggestions here, I wonder if it would be practical for you to schedule monthly or once/twice-a-semester mentoring conversations outside of the office? Take a walk together or buy them a cup of coffee and discuss their working experience, career plans and how that plays in with their general/academic well-being. Having planned sessions with a clear purpose can give you a redirect or out depending on what they come to you with in the meantime, and it still allows you to support their professional development. You mention there are a bunch of students, so I realize this may be time prohibitive.

  44. Donkey Hotey*

    OP#5 – You have my sympathy. I was in a similar boat (literally). When I was in the Navy, we worked a rotating shift: two 12-hour days, 24 hours off, two 12-hour nights, then 96 hours off.
    In my four years working that schedule, it just so happened that I was on-shift for four “fall-backs” for 13-hour shifts and was off-shift for four “spring forwards” losing an hour either off my 24 or my 96.

    1. Free Meerkats*

      Or watchstanding while transiting between 3rd Fleet (eastern Pacific) and 7th Fleet (western Pacific Ocean/eastern Indian) and back. In a carrier battle group, we transited at 20-25 knots, so a time zone every day or two. Westbound, the midwatch always go screwed, eastbound, they go the benefit.

  45. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    OP #1, assuming you work on a college campus and these employees are students there, you also have to be on the lookout for Title IX issues. If a conversation ever veers into issues of sexual harassment, stalking, or relationship violence – whether the student recognizes them as such or not – you are legally bound to report the conversation to your Title IX officer. I wonder if having some sort of big picture conversation about your role and responsibilities, either at the start of a student’s employment or now, might help prevent these personal conversations from ever happening in the first place.

  46. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I haven’t actually seen this correction before, so I’m thankful for it. It’s one of those little things, like the whole “ATM machine” and “PIN number” nonsense.

  47. Tupac Coachella*

    OP #1- Student affairs professional here. With the disclaimer that I’m not saying you have to allow this to continue (I’ll get to that in a second), I think that’s relevant to how you approach this that unwillingness to talk about student workers’ lives and problems is very out of step with the current culture of higher ed. Every campus I’ve interacted with over the past few years (lots of campuses of various institutional types and cultures) has been aware of and influenced by the idea that significant relationships are a critical success and retention tool, and literally anyone on campus could be the person that a student connects with. I’ve heard stories of graduates describing the custodian as the person that kept them from dropping out by caring enough to ask how they’ve been. It’s a growing expectation on college campuses that faculty and staff be willing to form more personal relationships with students, and that muddies up the boundaries sometimes. It sounds like that specific cultural feature higher ed may be what’s bumping up against you here: it’s not that your student workers are necessarily unprofessional overall, it’s that they’re in an environment where they’re taught directly that literally everyone there is in a supportive role, and you want to change that dynamic. No significant learning happens without a significant relationship (credit to James Comer, I didn’t come up with that-check out his work, good stuff), and that’s been a strong focus at many institutions.

    My suggestion based on the limited amount of information in your letter is twofold: decide intentionally what you’re willing to talk with them about, and then set clear boundaries, out loud. You may want to have a talk within your department leadership about what relationship building expectations are for your roles. In some departments, it would be expected that you lean into these conversations as a retention tool-student work frequently isn’t about getting the filing done, it’s all about retention. Your boss might expect you to contribute to that by serving as a significant adult in a coaching or mentoring role. If you’re not willing to do that, this might not be the field for you. I say that with no snark-not everyone wants support and development of that type to be part of their role, and there is an increasing expectation that everything that students encounter in the college environment should be a learning experience of some sort. And there’s also the possibility that the expectation may exist without the actual support that you need to provide that kind of experience, which would be a separate issue of its own.

    Once you’ve defined what your support role should look like, it sounds like it’s still likely to fall outside of what’s happening now. If so, it would be appropriate, even within a learning and retention culture, to tell student workers, “Everyone here at College wants you to be successful, but we all serve different roles in that success. As your supervisor, a big part of my role is to help you learn about the working world. I’ve noticed that we’ve formed some habits around personal disclosure that may not serve you well when you’re out in the professional workforce. Let’s talk about what’s appropriate in the workplace, and where you can get help on campus for the things that aren’t appropriate to bring to coworkers or supervisors.”

    Take what you want and leave what you don’t; campus cultures can vary widely, but we all know higher ed is its own universe. I know not everyone will agree with me, but as a longtime student affairs professional, I strongly feel that teaching should not be restricted to the classroom on a college campus. We’re all teachers, and this situation is a big opportunity for teaching. OP just needs to decide what lesson they want to focus on. Once you decide what educational experience you’re providing by hiring these students, you can clarify and communicate what you do and don’t do much more clearly.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      This is great advice. I think as well that if one of the problems is being interrupted, that the OP might try having some sort of supervisory hour every two weeks or so–an office hour, as it were, for the student workers. This might help (although if the students workers are all on different shifts, maybe not).

    2. BethDH*

      This is so true. I think it’s easy for us to see this as “students aren’t behaving like adults” or “we shouldn’t have to parent them” or something like that, but really, it’s part of recognizing that our students are coming from a wider variety of backgrounds than they used to.
      That’s a good thing! We want students whose parents maybe didn’t go to college, and who may be away from home for the first time, or who are otherwise experiencing a wider and sometimes scary world for the first time through our institutions. The corollary to that is that they don’t come in knowing the norms, and they often need additional help feeling like they belong.
      To connect it to frequent conversations on AAM, we might think of this as one of the academic variations on questions about job interviews and how you should judge people who may not know the insider info on how to be an Office Professional. 1) be clear & explicit about expectations 2) provide help & support as far as you can while retaining reasonable boundaries 3) recognize that your employees, students or otherwise, are complete humans who have personal lives that may inconvenience things.
      I’m not saying OP has to drop work expectations, but rather, that you can see this as part of a continuum with our changing ideas of how good managers support their non-student employees as well.

    3. Gloucesterina*

      I would also add that the question of “decide what educational experience you’re providing by hiring these students” may not be decidable by OP alone – depending on their institutional microculture, OP may need to pull in their supervisor and/or peers in gathering information about how to approach these student interactions.

  48. Lucette Kensack*

    … that’s not relevant to the letter and not helpful to the LW. Your pet peeves are yours; they shouldn’t be inflicted on others.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s not helpful to point out that it’s not helpful either.

      Everyone challenges things when they’re not spelled correctly or a word is misused or if there’s a history attached to a problematic word. So just stop policing people policing others if it’s a thing you don’t like.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        No, not everyone challenges things that aren’t spelled correctly. That’s not normal social behavior — and it’s explicitly barred in the commenting policy here (“Don’t nitpick people’s spelling, grammar, or word choices.”).

  49. I coulda been a lawyer*

    I once did occasional work for an international private security company, nothing great, nothing horrible, except this: policy was that if you were willing to work that extra hour in fall, or take the short shift in spring and risk making less money, you were paid double time for one hour on the overnight shift. So in fall you got 10 hours of pay for working 9, and in spring you got 8 hours of pay for working 7, whether or not you also received overtime that pay period. I rarely worked those shifts bc no one ever took them off!

  50. 1LFTW*

    I honestly had no idea, but now that I think about it, “saving” makes much more sense than “savings” in this context. Thank you!

  51. QueenoftheCats*

    On FB, there should be a way to disable the friend request and messaging option. Go to Privacy&security and scroll through the options. IDK about LinkedIn

  52. Hold That Thought*

    LW#2 – My spouse would be very interested in knowing who is pulling this crap so they know how best to deal with them in the future; i.e., not. Don’t respond, just log it.

  53. Annie*

    Can I piggy back on OP1? I’m having problems with setting boundaries with student workers too. While, I do not oversee the students, I am a professional working in the same office. Since, I’m not a supervisor and look considerably younger than I am, they treat me like a peer. Asking me for advice, personal questions and most recently what high school life was like for me (which was almost two decades ago…). Often, they look over my shoulder to see what I’m doing, place their personal items on my desk and interrupt me even when I wear headphones. I had to even stop one student from writing on my coworkers white board today. Truly, I understand that this may be their first job in a professional setting and I want to help the students learn office norms, but I’m at the point where I want to snap at them: “Leave me alone!” Advice please?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Don’t shy away from being direct with them!

      Say “Hey, don’t put that there. We don’t touch each other’s stuff here. That’s a really personal kind of question, we don’t ask questions like that at work.”

      It may seem mean but if you’re doing it in a reasonably kind voice, aka not snapping at them, it’s just teaching them that they’re doing things wrong instead of waiting until your patience ends abruptly!

      I have had to instruct people old enough to know better to get away from my computer/files because they’re confidential. Along with just “That’s Jane’s lunch, did she ask you to bring it to her or…?” if you were to see someone say pick up an apple from a colleagues desk.

      Just kindly and firmly correct them. They won’t learn if they are not corrected.

    2. Gloucesterina*

      I would consider asking your supervisor for guidance. This does not mean they need to tell you how to fix these student behaviors. For instance, would your supervisor be open to setting up a meeting with the student workers’ supervisor(s) and facilitate a collaborative problem-solving session about ways to educate the student workers as to professional norms that will serve them beyond this particular job?

      1. Gloucesterina*

        I mean to say, “I would _also_ consider asking your supervisor for guidance” in addition to the direct communication in the moment as suggested by TM, BL above!

  54. Higher ed*

    I would look at what the college expects for student workers supervisors. Where I work we are all required to have suicide and mental health training (not too much heavy lifting, but some working knowledge) to work with students and mentoring and supporting student workers is honestly more of the job expectation than whatever they are actually doing. You may want to see what that expectation is at your institution. At my college, the number one job of everyone in campus (And it is a large university)- regardless of your job- is to support and develop students to increase retention so some level of mentoring (even some form of handholding) and support may just have to be part of the job.

  55. Luna*

    OP#2 – Wow, the lengths entitled people will go for… ‘I already got a rejection for a discount, but I’m gonna ask you because *that* will change the answer’. Nope. Ignore any and all messages in that way. Maybe even go so far as to say that this is *your personal* social media account, and it will not be used for your husband, nor for any ‘work’ related issues regarding your or his job. Any further messages about these will lead to the person being blocked. (I believe you can do this on multiple social media sites? I don’t own them. But I’m sure Facebook has something like a setting where you can only get PMed by people on your friend list…)

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