should I refuse to hire coworkers’ kids?

A reader writes:

I’m hiring students to work on my team as paid interns. I’ve decided to not hire any children of any coworkers in the office. My reasons are to avoid any conflict of interests – I don’t want to risk interns asking their parents to interfere if they don’t like an assignment or a piece of feedback. The last thing I want is the child of a coworker coming in with an “entitlement” attitude because they feel they can run to a parent the moment the job gets tough. However, this isn’t sitting well with some coworkers who’d like their kids to get hired.

Is my approach off-base, or should I allow them to go through the interview and hiring process the same as anyone else – where the best candidate for the job wins out?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How to tell my employee to stop cc’ing my boss
  • Requiring my team to be on time when the rest of the organization isn’t
  • Giving notice right before my boss goes on vacation
  • People keep making travel reservations before getting time off approved

{ 113 comments… read them below }

  1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

    For #5, it’s important to make sure you’re handling these vacation requests early enough that people can reasonably wait to book their travel! If you’re going to ask that people not make reservations until you’ve approved their PTO, and then you wait to approve until only a couple weeks before the travel date, then you’re the problem here. Last-minute travel bookings are expensive and may be impossible to secure. If you want people to be reasonable with you, be reasonable with them.

    1. Sparrow*

      I think it’s important to consider turn-around time, as well. If you take a couple of weeks to let them know if the time is approved, it’s not surprising if they jumped on a cheap rate while it was available. If you’re responding quickly and they can get approval well in advance, then it’s reasonable to expect them to ask first.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        Yes, this is important! Let people plan far ahead (approve that PTO!) and have a chance to find low-cost tickets. Do not keep them waiting around guessing if you will approve it or not. If they end up cancelling pre-approved PTO it shouldn’t be a big deal on your side. If they need to cancel a trip because you don’t have enough coverage (poor planning on management’s part unless a very unusual situation), well, that is stuff folks will quit over.

      2. Felix*

        Yes! This is what I came here to say, and I’m so glad it’s the first comment. If someone puts in a request, they should know get an answer by next day. All you have to do is check the calendar and see if there is a conflict. If the process is more complicated than that, management needs to improve their system.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      So much this. My current boss will not let me ask for time off more than 21 days before when I want to be off. Sorry, fo a trip that involves a plane ticket that’s going to put me in the “stupid expensive” price range.

      She’s better than other bosses I’ve had, but definitely not the best I’ve ever had either.

      1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

        Yep. One of my early bosses in my retail days wouldn’t approve any vacation more than 2 weeks out, because he refused to commit to anything before making the schedule. When it came down to a family trip over Christmas that had been almost a full year in the planning versus that job… well, we played Vacation Chicken and I won, meaning that I didn’t have to make good on my threats to quit if he refused to approve the time.

        He was an absolutely terrible boss in a number of ways.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yeah, we’re a professional department, in an office setting, but we’re all highly cross trained and get put with lots of different departments to lend extra hands where they need help. I don’t understand her stance, and most of us don’t either. The majority of us plan like normal people for trips, put in the requests at the same time then just let them sit and wait till 21 days out. So far no one has missed a big trip because of this.

    3. Bagpuss*

      It’s also helpful to have clear guidelines about criteria for time off.

      We have clear rules about staffing levels (so who/how many people in each department can be out at the same time), how much time can be taken off at time (generally 2 weeks, with longer periods needing special permission) and a calendar available to all showing who is in or out on any given day.

      This means that anyone wanting to book time off can check the calendar and see whether there is likely to be any issue with the request

    4. Annie Nymous*

      I’ll add that new (albeit pre-Covid19) research shows that the cheapest plane tickets in the US are available 77 days before the flight.

  2. littlelizard*

    A lot of the language in #3 does not instill any confidence that there’s a real reason why the lateness matters. From “stroll in” to “disturbing” to “crazy train”.

    1. MissMeghan*

      I got that impression too. I can’t say I agree with the mindset that you must be seated and ready to go by 8 sharp (or whatever start time is) in order to be professional. It sets a bad tone for the day to walk in to a scowling boss because you’re there at 8:05.

      1. Massmatt*

        Interesting, I had a jobs for many years that had a definite start times and could not be late, and there are lots of jobs like this. IMO the company receptionist routinely being late sets a really bad tone–who is answering the phone, greeting customers, etc? Stores have to open, patients have to be seen, the train needs to leave, the power plant cannot be unattended, etc. Sure lots of jobs are not time-sensitive but maybe it’s just my background but this would bother me also. They say 50% of success is showing up. Well, they aren’t really, are they?

        1. MissMeghan*

          But that gets to the heart of Alison’s answer. You need to be prompt because patients have appointments or you are fielding calls from the public or whatever, then yes, being exacting about start times makes sense.

          Why is being 5 minutes late the equivalent of not showing up? If they’re putting in their hours and focused when they’re there, does being rigid about start time actually accomplish anything other than stressing out a good employee?

        2. Blueberry*

          There’s a difference between “receptionist in a hospital” and “receptionist in a university”, for instance. I’ve been both, which is why I used these as examples, and one really did require a different standard of punctuality than the other. Applying the same standard across the board Just Because can well be overly rigid.

          1. D'Arcy*

            I’m not sure there’s actually a difference in that case — a receptionist in a hospital isn’t actually someone with patient care responsibilities, they would be the receptionist for the hospital’s business offices, the same as any other business.

            The people you’re probably thinking of as “receptionists” at the actual patient intake end of the hospital are actually full fledged nurses.

            1. Kella*

              Blueberry said “I’ve been both, which is why I used these as examples” so I don’t think they are confused about which receptionist positions they’re talking about.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Right. We have someone on the front desk signing for deliveries and whatnot. This person is not required to be at their desk at 8:00 sharp. Their being 5 minutes late does not affect anything. We are not a customer-facing operation. I suspect this must be also the case at LW3’s company, otherwise why would the CEO(!) be okay with it.

    2. Nanani*

      That makes the response brilliant in its simplicity.
      If they can’t fill in the blank with anything more than “because I want to” then they will have to chill and adjust to the norm of the rest of the company.
      Assuming some degree of self awareness, anyway.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        The self-awareness is the problem, though. A lot of bosses are going to fill in that blank with “because it’s professional” and consider it done.

    3. Heidi*

      I also got that impression. Sometimes, “My boss wants it that way” is a good enough reason to do something, but it can help with sanity protection to recognize that this is the underlying reason and not anything having to do with work performance.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, it seems highly unlikely from the wording that this is a job that needs butts in seats at a certain time. They gave no reason in their letter other than they personally find the alternative to be unprofessional.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I loved the response. I suspect that the LW does not, in fact, have a solid business reason for the super-strict hours (5 minutes is unacceptable? are they air traffic controllers?) and so would not be able to give their employees the talk about the importance of being on time.

      The language reminded me of a letter that said “My coworker, who starts at 8:00 and has a 40 hr workweek, keeps swanning out at 5:00″.

    6. Annie*

      Wow, I’m surprised at the responses. Having front desk staff arrive ten minutes after opening (meaning the front desk is regularly unattended) is horrendous practice. Front desk is one of those things were punctuality is absolutely essential! Alison’s response to rudely scold the LW is waaaaaaay out of line.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I’m not sure how it’s rudely scoldy to suggest that someone take a pause to determine if their team really needs to be butt-in-seat at work o’clock on the dot, and it does not sound like OP#3 is managing the reception staff, just mentioning them as a particularly egregious example. I would not go for it regularly for a public-facing position like a receptionist or for a position that provides coverage, and Alison clearly carved out a provision for situations where that is the case. If the CEO doesn’t care and the team doesn’t fall into one of the pools of people that are time-based, then, yes, nitpicking at people over 5 or 10 minutes, particularly when it’s out of synch with the rest of the office is going to be a morale killer for high-performers.

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        But the front-desk staff isn’t part of the LW’s team. LW was asking how to talk to THEIR team about start times, given how other parts of the company are handing it. (I agree with you about reception desk, btw, and Alison never said that the receptionist being late was fine.)

      3. doreen*

        Actually, the way the letter refers to “receptionist staff” rather than “the receptionist” sounds to me like there’s more than one person behind the front desk – and as long as they aren’t all late on the same day, it might not be a problem.

      4. Kella*

        Applying Alison’s advice, receptionist work is usually a job where punctuality is important, and so they’d be able to fill in the blank with “We need someone present to open the office” or “we need someone present to greet customers as soon as we open” etc. There’s a real reason they need to be on time.

        Bu OP #3 isn’t in charge of the receptionists, and the members of their team are likely doing very different work from the receptionists. If the only negative thing that happens when you get there late is you start your work 5 minutes later, that’s not a particularly compelling reason to require strict punctuality.

  3. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I once hired a colleague’s son for an internship. I knew and liked the kid, and thought he was worth helping. What a mistake! He turned into someone else once he started his internship, and showed me previously unseen attitude. About 3 weeks into his internship, after several coaching sessions from me and the kid’s boss, I was asked to terminate him for insubordination. I did it without reservation, this kid was a disaster.

    Thankfully, the employee understood why we did it and was just as surprised as I was about the new attitude. He had a few convos with his sone, too. Our working relationship didn’t suffer from it but I swore I’d never again hire a family member of an employee. No matter how much an employee pushed – and they did! – I refused.

    OP, please stick to your guns. It won’t be easy, but it’s not worth the risk.

    1. High Score!*

      I’ve been in offices where the kids of the higher ups are hired as interns. It sucks for everyone else. If you’re a manager, please don’t do this.

    2. Artemesia*

      You were lucky. I loved Alison’s response basically ‘this conversation we are having right now is why not hiring relatives and particularly children of co-workers is against our policy; people can’t help advocating for their kids and that damages morale and effectiveness of the team.’ Is it possible for children to be hired in other divisions of the company? I have known of that where a unit could not hire their own kids for summer jobs but they could work in other divisions. If the business is small that probably is a no go — but in a large company it might work.

      1. redwinemom*

        I agree with Artemesia in referring the parents (and their children) to other departments or divisions are also hiring interns. Seems like it COULD be a win-win-win for everyone.

      2. Goliath Corp.*

        I don’t think hiring in another division is generally a good idea though. In my experience no matter where an employee’s kid is hired, nepotism (or even the perception of nepotism) always causes morale problems. Internships and entry-level roles are competitive, and if there are any pre-existing diversity issues in the company this may contribute to the problem.

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          I interned for a company related to the one my dad worked at, and it definitely caused…not problems, but there was a barrier between me and the other interns/lowest on the corporate ladder types. Not because there was overt special treatment by my boss (who didn’t know my father or anything except he’d been told I had been hired, which is already not a great start) but because on day 2 or 3 the head of our entire office came to my desk, asked how things were going, and took me out to lunch. Because he was my dad’s buddy, and he wanted to check in.

          I am so grateful for the experience I got, but even if the kid is in a separate division (or even company under the same corporate umbrella) it is REALLY HARD for some kind of nepotism not to slip through.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I worked high level IT for a firm where my sister worked in finance and my dad worked in engineering, and my sister did recommend me for the position initially. However, it was a massive firm, none of us were in the same location and professionally we didn’t interact. Aside from an occasional joke over email we didn’t even converse much – work was work.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Higher-ups’ and clients’ kids get hired all the time in my industry.

      20% of the time, they’re amazing — they’ve grown up knowing about the specific type of work we do, which is not the case for most people.

      10% of the time, it’s a hot mess and you can’t fire them.

      The other 70% of the time, what you get is someone who’s okay, but gets better/more frequent raises and promotions than she deserves because Mommy or Daddy wouldn’t like it if she didn’t.

      I guess never say never…right now I’m managing one of the amazing ones. But far more often I’ve had the other two kinds.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Maybe some industries have a better track record with family members or client progeny, so I’ll admit it makes sense to consider previous histories. And there was that one time I was asked to ‘find a home’ for a board member’s neighbor’s kid – who, to be fair, was a very nice and talented young man who was not privy to this, and was embarrassed by it.

        But in 30+ years in staffing, I’ve heard about far more bad hires than good ones.

    4. More than the Mrs.*

      It’s really not good for the kid either. If they succeed, people will believe it’s only because of their parent’s involvement. It’s a lose lose situation

  4. Suz*

    Regarding #5 we are having a similar issue on my team. But it’s because our new manager won’t approve any time off more than 3 months in advance. Not even for trips where you need to make reservations several months in advance.

    1. Wintermute*

      In that case I really can’t blame them, I can’t imagine booking that late especially if international travel is involved! It’s just not reasonable to ask people to incur those kind of extra expenses that come with not booking well in advance when you can get a good deal.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        It’s not just that, if you are going somewhere that requires a visa, you HAVE TO make the arrangements months in advance.
        It took me a month to get the visa to go to Russia as a tourist approved last year, and you had to have hotel reservations for the visa.

  5. AnotherAlison*

    If the OP for coworker’s kids-as-interns, thinks this is the best policy, I support that decision. She knows her environment and coworkers.

    That said, here, employee’s kids are often hired as interns and full-time employees (and also apply and get turned down). Some work out, some don’t, just like all the other interns and employees. I think it’s feasible here because we’re a large company and you can distance the child and their parent. It’s also a different culture, and the kids who grew up with parents in the business understand that culture, where some people from the outside think it’s crazy.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      (Also – the employees should really think about the worst case scenario for their own kids and impact on their careers. My mother got me a job at her company, and as a straight-A student with full college scholarships, that probably seemed low-risk. I did a great job and my bosses liked me, but my relationship with a coworker took an interesting turn that was embarrassing to my mom.)

    2. High Score!*

      A big downside of this is that often people will not report any issues. You might think they’re happy with the intern but they’re not. A manager might think everyone is comfortable reporting issues but they’re not. I’ve also noticed in situations like this it’s the kids of the managers, CEOs, etc and not the lower on the totem pole employees kids that get these opportunities and then there’s resentment that management never sees.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        We get students from across the employee referral spectrum. Most of our internships in my office are for engineering roles, so the students have to meet a big qualification–being an engineering student, which isn’t that common. Some families seem to be all engineers, but most kids seem to run the other direction, lol, at least at my house. Some of the senior managers’ kids have been hired and others haven’t. I can see what you’re saying, as an EVP’s kid worked here last summer (she was fine), but they seem to weed themselves out for long-term roles when it doesn’t work out.

      2. TardyTardis*

        Nepotism positively galloped at old ExJob; if you had the right last name, it was amazing what accommodations were made for you, and the rest of us just had to suck it up.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      My current company (and a previous company in the same industry) both have a special summer intern program for the children of employees. There are a few rules but my favorite was that before kids were eligible to apply, the parents had to attend a meeting where it was absolutely DRILLED into them that their child would be treated like any other temporary employee, a no contact rule during working hours (as someone else mentioned, kids couldn’t work in the same area as they parent), and strongly hinted that parental interference into disciplinary action or placement of the child would be met with termination of both the child and the parent.

      One of my old coworkers was planning on having her child apply and she noped that idea after the meeting. She didn’t trust her daughter enough. There were enough rumors going around about a couple employees who left shortly after their children joined the program that people believed the company would follow through.

    4. Cedrus Libani*

      I also think there’s a huge difference between the child of a peer-level person (especially in a big company where you may not even know the parent) and the child of a higher-up. I’ve been on both sides of the former, and would do it again, assuming the kid was qualified. I would not touch the latter with a ten-foot pole.

    5. Traffic_Spiral*

      Meh, I find most low-level interns to be more hindrance than help if you’re actually bothering to teach them anything worthwhile, so it might as well be the coworker’s kid – the coworker won’t mind taking the trouble to teach them. Plus, they’re all gone in a few months anyways so it’s hardly a commitment.

  6. Fikly*

    If people book non-refundable things before requesting the time, and it is not possible for them to get the time, tell them they cannot have it, and hopefully once they are out the money the first time, they will learn. Their poor planning is not your emergency.

    Although yes, it is prudent if this is a large pattern to look if there is a broader reason this is happening, but likely it is happening because people keep saying “but I already booked it” and then their request gets granted, so they are getting positive reinforcement for bad behavior.

    1. RussianInTexas*

      It’s only works if the manager allows vacation approval months (multiple in advance), and I mean, multiple.
      Because for the airline tickets the difference could be literally in hundreds of dollars for 3 months out vs 6 months out.
      And yes, non-refundable could also be a difference of hundreds of dollars.

      1. yala*

        Seriously, tho. Disney trips HAVE to be booked at LEAST 6 months in advance if you want any dining reservations.

        And the folks who are booking non-refundable flights are often the ones who can least afford to just lose that money

        1. RussianInTexas*

          Flights to Moscow would literally jump extra $300 per ticket from April 30th to May 1st.

      2. Fikly*

        Given the multiple people who have posted here about having problems because PTO must be booked a year in advance, there’s decent odds this isn’t the case.

        I agree, if this issue is happening because of a bad policy, the policy needs to be changed, but otherwise, people are doing it because they are facing no consequences.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      At least in my Dept my boss goes counter to the office policy and won’t accept any time off requests over 21 days in advance (office policy is eight months).

      Sorry, if I want to see my family (who are all on the other side of the country) I can’t afford the prices of tickets if I wait for her approval to book travel. In this case the problem is her, it’s been raised a few times (that I am aware of), and despite this she refuses to change to “her reinterpretation” of the policy to put it in line with the rest of the office.

      1. MissMeghan*

        21 days is insane. Everything gets so much more expensive that close to booking! What if you’re in a wedding? Just cross your fingers and hope you get the time off while the invites go out? Ugh.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          So what I do is book within office norms and then put in my request again within office norms. My last request sat for about a week before being approved five and a half months out from my travel. Most of the rest of us do the same, ignoring her reminders that our department goes with “21 days out” so we can always be mindful of “mission critical business needs” (that rationale is why I personally suspect she hasn’t been slapped down over it, we’re the ‘jump in to salvage anything office brigade’).

          She’s interviewing actively, most of us are rooting for her to get something new soon so we can have a person who is willing to go with the office policy.

    3. Artemesia*

      Couple that with requiring permission no more than 3 mos out and anyone who is any and has options will give you the finger and leave. Being ugly to people because you have the power — never a good look.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        It’s not clear to me that OP is being ugly because they have the power. It could also be: lots of people want that week off, I have to balance requests. Or, I need to be sure there’s enough coverage. Or, I know that Suzy is starting maternity leave that week, which is info I cannot share with her coworkers but I have to plan around it. I can think of lots of other perfectly legit reasons why OP needs to approve vacation time.

        1. Artemesia*

          Did you miss the part about coupling that rule with short time frame? Permission is reasonable only if it can be granted far enough out that the employee can purchase the tickets to visit grandma in Brittany or for their kid’s graduation in Florida or whatever. Nothing wrong about requiring permission is reasonable. And if you approve Joe’s big trip a year ahead and June is going to have maternity leave then — well you don’t dump it on Joe — you figure something out.

  7. Governmint Condition*

    This happens quite a bit in civil service. And nobody seems to care. It’s a bad look.

    I also once worked for a utility company where nepotism is the way of life. I was hired as an outsider, which was apparently rare. Almost everybody asked me who I was related to, and couldn’t believe my answer was nobody.

    1. Artemesia*

      I always recognize the last names of people at the DMV — always seem to be mopey schlubby people with names the same as local politicians. I figure it is the employer of last resort in their family for their relatives who can’t get jobs. On the other hand, our DMV is super efficient and even more so with old people whom they go out of their way to make sure are not waiting in long lines.

  8. Not Australian*

    My boss hired her seventeen year old son to cover for me while I had surgery. He and a friend smoked dope in my (windowless) office and spent all their time looking up confidential medical records of their friends. I got back to find chaos, and a month’s worth of work not done. I decided if he was good enough to do my job temporarily he might as well do it permanently, so I reported my boss to the next level of management and walked out.

    1. Yvette*

      Really? Are you new here? You are just going to leave it at that? Here, on a board that thrives on updates? :)

  9. Boomerang Girl*

    Regarding hiring children of employees…

    The place you’re working, is it a town with limited hiring options? If so, it seems unfair to limited employment options for the kids.

    Would the kids have a natural affinity for the industry or company, having grown up with it?

    Personally, I would let them be part of the normal interview process and treat them like anyone else.

    1. AL (the other one)*

      The problem can be that additional pressure is applied to hire them and normal processes get set aside.
      I work for a global company and my colleague felt they were under massive pressure to hire a graduate just because they were related to someone very senior in a different country. We’d have had to sponsor a working visa for this person which would have been impossible to get approved as the role was a junior one…

  10. Wintermute*

    I feel like hiring relations of co-workers really depends on context. An intern is really low-stakes, they’re not around forever, they may not be there a few weeks, if they turn out not to work out, you can just move them away from anyplace they could do any damage and wait it out in an absolute worst-case scenario.

    For actual long-term employment though? All the ‘no’ for all the reasons stated. I just feel like internships, especially unpaid ones, are a place where the stakes are so very low that there’s a certain level of “why not?”

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I agree with this.

      Interns and seasonal help are actually decent ways to “test drive” a situation to see if it’s sustainable.

      But I’m probably the worst to weigh in on this because I wouldn’t be where I am if someone hadn’t given me a “favor” to hire their little sister’s friend who was looking for a job out of high school. It’s a nice theory that we all get places on our own and earn it the “hard way” and no networking or personal relationships can get us anywhere because of the “risks” involved.

      But all my situations were such that bosses often hired people who knew people and would fire them all the same if they didn’t work out. No relationships were harmed in the way. If someone wanted to “fight” for their loved one/friend when the decision to terminate them happened, they could also find the nearest exit as well and it’s two birds with one stone.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Totally agree. I realize people have had bad experiences, but I am thankful for the opportunity I had to work for a summer at the company where my dad worked. It paid for my first year of university. The company had a program to hire employees’ children for summer positions, it was well run and managed, and a lot of people got off to a good start in their careers as a result.

      Sure, there were some kids who didn’t work out, but the majority of kids took it really seriously. And honestly, for the ones that didn’t work out, most people felt it was a good lesson to them about the fact that you can fail even family connections, that attitude doesn’t pay off, etc. etc., and nobody really held it against their parents (I think most people realized that parents can only provide just so much guidance, and after that, the kid has to fly on their own.)

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      I agree. the kid’s around for a few weeks and handling the most low-stakes tasks, so it’s hardly a risk.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      People get weird about their kids, and internships are usually where a lot of feedback and guidance are required. If there were other options, I’d prefer not to have Guacamole Bob demanding to know why I told his special snowflake that he couldn’t wear his flip-flops in the business-casual office.

  11. I Love Llamas*

    I worked in a profession where a common path to get your first break was because your dad, uncle, etc. worked there (and yes, it was extremely male-dominated). It was very, very common for the college kids to get their first internship or even first job either at the same company or a competitor. Awkward. I have seen it work out fine and other times, not so good. Always the family member was senior enough to lobby and force the issue. Ugh….

    1. Bopper*

      I agree…networking/relative is how you got that summer job…after that it was up to you.

    2. Richard*

      I bet those men at the top talked a big talk about having to work hard to earn everything they’ve ever gotten and there are no handouts and then suffer no cognitive dissonance when turning around and saying “hire my kid and don’t give him a tough time.”

  12. MCMonkeyBean*

    I’m worried about a similar but very different notice timing issue at the moment–there’s a possibility I may soon be in a situation where I will need to give notice and work out my notice period while we are all working remotely. I’m not sure what the best logistics for that would be. I’m thinking I would ping my manager on skype and ask if she has time for a call, and then have a scanned resignation letter ready that I can offer to email to her at the end of the phone call? It’s definitely doable but it will be very weird and awkward. I guess giving notice is always fairly weird and awkward though…

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I also realized today that if I start working from home tomorrow (which is what an email I got this morning is suggesting) and then end up giving notice while we are all self-quarantined… there is the possibility I may never come back to this desk! I have never subscribed to the “don’t keep more at your desk than you can fit in a box” rule so I’ve been trying to discretely make trips of stuff down to my car so I don’t leave anything important behind. I am choosing a few things to leave so my desk still looks like it’s mine to not so obviously signal “I’m hoping to never return!”

      I was thinking my boss wouldn’t notice but literally the first thing she said when she came to my desk to make sure I have remote access was “where did your pictures go?”

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Oh, I took the frames home so that I could change them out for new pictures.

      2. Lyudie*

        Can you come back at an off hour or weekend when no one is around? Obviously if you are in a place that is locked down that won’t work, but some folks were talking about doing that as we were supposed to be moving within our building.

  13. Just Another Manic Millie*

    So far, I haven’t seen any replies concerning people making reservations before their vacation time is approved that take into consideration the possibility that people are lying about having said reservations.

    At one of my former jobs, I was told that no more than one person in my department could be out of the office at a time, and vacation priority was subject to seniority. Eventually, I had the most seniority in my department, except for the supervisor. One day I asked for a particular week off, and Fergus rushed over, screaming that he had to take that week off, because his wife had the week off, and it was the only week that she could get for vacation, and they had already paid a non-refundable deposit on their vacation. Even though I said that I had seniority, the supervisor announced that there was a change in vacation policy. No longer would seniority matter. Instead, married employees would have priority over single employees, because married employees had to go on vacation when their spouses were able to, but single employees could go anytime. I was the only single person in that department, so I promptly went to the bottom of the pile. So I arranged to take off the week before (or maybe after – I can’t remember) Fergus would be out.

    I had a good time on my vacation, and so when Fergus and I were back at the office, I asked him how his vacation was. To my shock, he said that he didn’t go on vacation. He said when he had told our supervisor that his wife had the week off that I originally wanted, it was a lie, and they had never put down a non-refundable deposit or any kind of deposit on anything. He said that when he got home and told his wife that they would be going on vacation that particular week, she told him that she couldn’t get that week off from her job. He was too embarrassed to tell our supervisor the truth, because he had made such a fuss screaming that he needed that week off because of blah blah, so he stayed at home and did nothing (while his wife went to work) during his vacation week.

    I asked him why he lied, and he didn’t say anything. I figured out that he was so hell-bent on keeping me from going on vacation when I wanted to that he was willing to risk staying at home doing nothing just to keep me from getting what I wanted. I was furious, because this was not a one-time thing. Our department’s vacation policy was changed, and the only way I would be able to have any kind of priority in getting a particular week off would be if someone in my department quit, and a single person was hired as a replacement. A married newbie would have priority over me just for being married.

    I’m wondering how many employees that tell LW #5 that they’ve already made their vacation plans are lying, having found out that other employees lied in the past, and that’s one way to get what you want. My supervisor never asked Fergus for proof that the reservations had been made already, and he did not ask to call Mrs. Fergus to verify anything. I bet that LW #5 never asked for proof either.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      If I told my boss I had vacation plans and they asked me for proof I would… I don’t even know what I would do, I would be so surprised and confused and just utterly baffled.

      Either you have firm requirements that would keep them from being able to go on vacation, in which case it doesn’t matter whether they already bought stuff or not. Or you don’t have firm requirements and you should just let them go on their vacation.

      Your employer had a crappy policy and that sucks. And I’m sorry your coworker lied just to ruin your plans. But that has absolutely nothing to do with whether an employee can or should show receipts for their flights and hotel reservations.

      1. Just Another Manic Millie*

        “If I told my boss I had vacation plans and they asked me for proof I would… I don’t even know what I would do”

        A friend and I once booked a cruise, and then she was sent a jury duty summons for a day that we were supposed to be on the cruise. To prove that she had vacation plans, she mailed them a copy of the cruise’s itinerary that showed that she was supposed to be away during the time they wanted her to report for jury duty. Her jury duty was postponed.

        That’s what you might do, MCMonkeyBean, if you had vacation plans to go on a cruise. If you had booked flights, you could show them the email the airline sent you with your flight numbers and dates.

        Since Fergus insisted that he and his wife had already made reservations with a non-refundable deposit, they could have provided a reservation number, or Fergus could have called the hotel (and had our supervisor listen in on the call) to prove to our supervisor that he and his wife had a reservation. As I said, our supervisor never asked to call Mrs. Fergus and ask her about it. I guess it’s because he thought married people are incapable of lying.

        “Your employer had a crappy policy and that sucks.”

        It wasn’t his policy that was crappy – it was that he had a policy in place for many years that allowed me to think that after being there for so many years, I finally had seniority over everyone in the department (except for the supervisor), and then he changed it to that I was on the bottom of the pile all over again, and I would continue to be below married newbies. It was his decision to switch policies that was crappy.

        “But that has absolutely nothing to do with whether an employee can or should show receipts for their flights and hotel reservations.”

        It’s one way of finding out if they’re telling the truth. Lots of people tell lies in order to get out of going to work. I remember reading about some guy who, every time he started at a new job, he would write down on a piece of paper “maternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, paternal grandfather” and every time he felt like taking some time off, he would tell TPTB that one of his grandparents had just died (and he would cross off that grandparent on his piece of paper, so that he would remember not to have the same grandparent die twice). It always worked, because nobody ever asked for proof. I guess it’s because people are incapable of lying about someone dying.

        Except that sometimes they ARE capable of lying about someone dying. I know a young woman whose uncle got her a job at his company. She didn’t have to go for an interview or submit a resume or anything. TPTB never even met her. She was just told when to report for work. One day, when her uncle was away on a business trip, she decided that she wanted to take the rest of the day off and another day or two and still get paid for it, so she pretended to have received a call on her cell phone that her grandmother had died, and she ran out the door. It turned out that people knew that she had only one grandmother, and they quickly figured out that it was her uncle’s mother. So people started calling her uncle on his cell phone to tell him that they were sorry, and he ratted his niece out and said that his mother hadn’t died. She got fired.

        If people can lie about relatives dying, they can certainly lie about having made vacation plans that cannot be changed.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          My point was not that I wouldn’t know *how* to prove it to them, obviously I would have the documentation available. My point was that requiring that proof would be beyond absurd. If my boss decided they trusted me so little that they need me to prove something that ultimately doesn’t even have an impact on my job I would absolutely start job hunting immediately.

          I think you have let your workplace mess up your sense of what is normal. Your job should not require the same level of documentation as *jury duty.*

        2. doreen*

          The problem wasn’t that your boss didn’t ask Fergus for proof, the problem was that the boss changed the policy based on Fergus claiming to have made plans without asking for the time off before you did. Your boss would have been wrong even if Fergus had provided proof.

        3. MsSolo*

          Honestly, the problem is the workplace, not the failure to require proof, and it sounds like it’s warped your idea of acceptable norms somewhat that you now feel like this is a common enough issue that documentation ought to be required. It’s simply not. Toxic workplaces change the people that work there, and make them behave toxically, so your data pool of people who lie about why they want time off isn’t representative of the way people behave at healthy workplaces.

    2. Massmatt*

      OMG, this is maddening. Is this even legal?

      I know people often ask this and sadly the answer is usually that lots of awful practices are legal, at least in the US, but this seems discriminatory based on marital status.

      1. teapot billing specialist*

        thats what i was thinking–its totally illegal in the US, from what i’m gathering. Luckily its a former work place for Just Another Manic Millie.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        There’s no federal law against treating married people and unmarried people differently. Some states have that law, but they’re written to protect the married people, and not the unmarried ones.

    3. MyStars*

      This. I had a colleague who maximized her PTO by taking the Friday before and Tuesday after EVERY 3-day weekend. And the Friday after Thanksgiving. Because she “always” does. And if I pushed back because I wanted the time, or didn’t want to hold down the fort alone on high-demand days, which after-a-holiday usually is in my industry, she would pull the nonrefundable tickets card. I’m sure she had purchased the tickets; that’s not the point. We were constantly manipulated into giving her the choicest vacation slots. She still does it, but she’s in a different department now and no longer my problem.

  14. La Triviata*

    My current job, and the one before, would hire the children of employees and sometimes their friends as summer interns … it worked out well in one instance I remember, but the rest were bad to horrendous. The current place, one summer they hired young – 14 and 15 year olds – who did very little work, and that badly, while making the most of office lunches, playing music loudly and not taking the work they did do seriously. The previous place, they once hired – as permanent staff – the daughter of friends of the CEO. She didn’t know how to type, didn’t want to learn, didn’t want the job at all. One day, she just didn’t turn up and we never saw her again. Another – from the same place – hired permanently but felt the job, which involved a lot of data entry, amused himself by doing the entry with alternating upper and lower case letters. This left the data records unusable and they had to hire someone – not related to anyone on staff – to redo the information.

  15. Curmudgeon in California*

    RE #5: I guess I’m pretty horrified at the vacation shenanigans that happen at a lot of workplaces.

    At most of my jobs, the only times we needed to coordinate on vacation plans with other employees were around major “family” holidays, and then primarily to firm up the on-call schedule. Lots of places have a group calendar where you reserve your vacation after you get whatever flights/dates you can get for the travel. Even a weekend camping has to be reserved months out these days, at least where I live, it’s so crowded. If it’s a major weekend, you ask the others if they have plans, and generally things like weddings and graduations have precedent over random camping trips. After you’ve consulted with your peers, you inform your manager with enough time (eg months) so they don’t get blindsided. A group vacation calendar helps with this. That way people can get flights and reservations while they are cheap and not full up.

    Yes, I had one hyper controlling boss who pitch a fit, over IRC chat no less, when my wife made reservations over Thanksgiving and I informed her that I wasn’t going to be in town from Thursday until Sunday evening. This was at a weird company that didn’t have that Friday as a holiday too. I wasn’t on-call, but somehow I was “insubordinate” for not begging her permission, like a kindergartner going to the bathroom. It was a holiday weekend, I had the vacation time owed me if Friday wasn’t a holiday, but she seemed to be offended like I’d just spit in her face. I found a new job and left a month later.

    If a boss or company won’t treat me like an adult, trusting me to coordinate with my teammates, why would I want to stay if I had any other option?

    Just to note, I work in a job that has definite on-call responsibilities. During the winter break, we sometimes trade it back and forth if we need a day to travel, then manage our on-call from the remote location.

  16. Anon for this*

    I volunteered at the organization one of my parents worked at. (Parent was a division leader who basically was the next level down from the CEO – I worked for another division)
    It was interesting. I was a kick-ass volunteer – I worked hard, fast, and I was respectful to the clients (people with intellectual disabilities), and I could touch-type and was fast with the computer.
    I know I was a kick-ass volunteer because they told me sometimes, but mostly because they told my parent, who would tell me.
    I was never invited to the annual Christmas party – people asked my parent if I’d like to come.
    When they wanted to hire me, they asked my parent if I would be interested. (The indirectness here might have been because they would have to create a position for me, as all present positions required a degree in working-with-disabled-people and I didn’t have such a degree – and it wouldn’t have been worth going through the hassle of creating a position to offer to me if I wasn’t interested anyway.)

    I didn’t actually mind all of this – I felt rather ambivalent about it. But it was definitely interesting.

    1. Anon for this*

      I was 18-21 when this was going on, by the way.

      And I didn’t mind because I had medical issues that made me tired and it was one less thing to deal with. They knew enough about my medical issues (from my parent talking about their sick child, or taking off work to attend appointments with me) that this might also have influenced that they went to my parent and not to me.

  17. Emily*

    I experienced a slightly different flavor of awkwardness for hiring co-workers kids as interns. Our little department was full of great people, but the manager left and things went quickly down the tubes. Our grandboss hired a disaster of a replacement for our manager and didn’t want to hear our objections. So we all separately started looking for new jobs. A coworker, Bill, that we all worked with in a separate department was really sweet and would spend his extra time in our department – we had a great relationship with Bill. He had a teenage daughter who he thought would like to intern with us because it was an interesting department and he thought we were all great. Well, nobody felt comfortable explaining the situation to him, and this poor kid started interning in our department just as everyone started giving their notice. I think Bill felt blindsided by it all, but nobody felt like they could give Bill advance warning. It was just sad how it turned out.

  18. Lorac*

    As a kid who was hired into a company under a parent, DON’T DO IT.

    I went in with every intention of being professional and not expecting special treatment, but people just didn’t handle it well. If I messed something up, people were reluctant to give feedback to me, and instead looped in my dad. This caused a lot of problems since my dad felt like he had to show that he was going to be strict and not favor me, so he immediately believed them and didn’t investigate their claims. It later turned out I wasn’t the one at fault, but my dad already made a big show of disciplining me.

    Not to mention there were kids of other employees who ran in a pack and slacked off. No matter how hard I tried to prove otherwise, people always lumped me in with that gang. I’d always do my work, try my best, but it was never enough to outweigh the stigma of being a child of an employee.

    Eventually I gave up and got another job elsewhere. It’s just never worth it.

    1. Dasein9*

      Yes. I was coming in to make this point: it’s not fair to the intern. Part of the point of an internship is to gain real-world experience at a distance from our previously established support system. This is where people new to a field, especially young people new to the workplace, network and broaden their support systems. Bringing an intern into a company where they already have close family relationships would deny the intern the chance to learn and grow independently of family influence.

      1. Lorac*

        Yup, I would agree my experience actually hindered my growth as a person. I spent my whole time eating lunch alone in my car because I was too embarrassed to be eating lunch in the same room as my dad when everyone else knew we were related. I was ostracized by the other non-nepotism hires and was trying to avoid being lumped in with the nepotism hires.

        In the end I left with only 2 people I knew who would give me positive references. One I ended up befriending because we had a lot in common outside of work, the other was a guy who was in a similar boat, but got in because of his older brother, not a parent.

  19. Grace*

    #5 In my department we have the Spring break and Christmas Vacation wars where we all would love to take both weeks off every year. We need to have 3 people either working from home or in the office to support the other 7 of us being out. Last year because 2 of the people in our small group kept making non refundable reservations before they were approved to go and they were not going to have remote access, we moved to each person is only guaranteed one of the prime vacations. We draw the names of the other 2 available to be off, everyone liked that idea better than a rotation.

  20. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I totally had to tell the owners, who were also the managers, that I was leaving them for a new job while they were on their annual Big Family Vacation on a East Coast US beach. One of them had to come back early to start interviewing.

    They were unhappy but such is life and the way of running a business. Did I feel bad about it? Hell, no.

  21. Maya Elena*

    I think for #1, there’s nothing wrong with hiring kids — especially
    But I also don’t see an obligation to do it. If you don’t want to, no reason to feel pressured, but also no need to feel like ethics demand that you entirely recuse yourself from giving someone’s resume a look because they’re an employee’s child.

    I think that a perfect meritocracy for all internships, jobs, and other desired spots in society — with no give for referrals, relationships, opinion, or discretion — is not actually as nice a world as people imagine.

    1. Impy*

      Yes, well connected people who come from socially advantaged social classes often disagree with meritocracy.

      Those of us who have to make our own way in life tend to prefer it.

  22. RandomPerson*

    I think there’s reasons to not hire coworkers’ kids for the kids’ sake too imo. Obviously there’s stuff about becoming independent. But there can be weirdness when you mix business and family… I did some dumb stuff when I first tried interning, and my dad knew the people involved, and it was… awkward.

  23. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

    #1: I would also never want to work at the same place my parent worked! (So no going into family business for me.)

  24. Impy*

    And tbf, the flip side to coworkers being upset that you won’t hire their children, are coworkers who would be upset if you engaged in nepotism, thereby reducing their opportunities and potentially the quality of the team’s work. Hiring someone because she happens to be Jane’ s kid sends a pretty strong message that you consider ‘randomly related’ to be as strong a qualification as ‘years of hard work, Study and dedication’, which is pretty insulting to your regular employees.

  25. Amethystmoon*

    For #3, what my organization does is simply expects people to put in their 8 hours if they’re hourly. If you come in five minutes late, don’t leave at 5:00. Wait til 5:05. At least it’s fair and people don’t get their jobs threatened. I’m usually early because I live close. But when WFH, I just click the time stamp button on the time I’m supposed to start, since I don’t have any commute to speak of.

  26. Nana*

    Working at a Jewish non-profit, we had all national holidays, plus closing at 3 every Friday, plus Jewish holidays and holy days (but no comp time if such days fell on a weekend). I distributed the calendar every six months…and immediately submitted my vacation request. Half-day vacation request for Wednesday when the office would be closed on Thursday and Friday — glorious.

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