contacting friends’ kids with career help, is it weird to seem “normal” at work after a tragedy, and more

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

1. Contacting kids of family friends about career opportunities

This morning, I got an email about a terrific and free leadership program for recent college grads hosted by a highly respected entrepreneur and author. I reached out to a longtime family friend whose son fit the criteria, described the program and the author’s bona fides, and asked for the son’s email to tell him about it directly. (The friend had recently consulted me because the son was deciding whether to move to my area, so I had a reason for thinking he was open to leads from me.)

The family friend gratefully sent the son’s info, including his phone number, so I thought, “It’ll be easier to do a quick chat and then forward him the information,” even though I’ve never spoken to him before.

When he picked up, I didn’t have a practiced pitch or anything. I just mentioned that I had talked to his parent and gotten his phone number from them. I also gave him my full name and my parents’ full names, explaining that we were longtime family friends. I asked if those names rang a bell. He laughed and said no. I forged ahead anyway, and told him there was a free career program that seemed tailored to him based on what he wrote on his LinkedIn profile. Midway through my second sentence, he says, “Bye,” and hangs up on me.

It was a bit of a shock. I could chalk it up to youth or entitlement, but in retrospect, it seems likely he thought I was sales spam, even though I explained who I was. Next time, I’ll ask friends to give their kids a heads-up before I call, so there’s a legit context and my name won’t be completely meaningless. (I could just forward to the family friend instead, but I’d like to err on the side of treating young adults like adults, and talking to them myself. Maybe that’s a bad plan!)

Other than that, is there something else I should say or do in the future when I see possible career leads for friends’ young adult children to whom I’ve never spoken to take what I’m saying out of the realm of robocall? I’m not inclined to tell his parent what happened unless they ask me, because while it could have been a misunderstanding, he was not exactly polite, and I don’t feel terribly motivated to follow up with him. If it matters, he is definitely a person of privilege, so he won’t be hurting for assistance.

Yeah, he almost definitely thought it was a sales call. It sounds like a sales call!

In the future, I’d email, not call. A lot of people, especially younger people, don’t do unscheduled phone calls much anymore, at least outside of work. Plus, with email, you can include the link to more info so they can immediately see if they’re interested. And really, a phone call might feel like overkill for this kind of thing, where you’re a stranger passing on a quick tip that they may or may not be interested in. Email is a much better option.

2. Is it strange to seem “normal” at work after a personal tragedy?

I recently lost a close family member to suicide. I am as okay as a person can be after such a traumatic loss. My boss kindly asks how I’m doing during our one-on-one meetings and I usually tell him that I’m fine or I’m doing good (which I usually am, in the moment!), and we talk a little bit about non-work things. I deeply appreciate that he asks, but I’m wondering if telling him that I’m doing “good” might reflect poorly on me. I went back to work after a week of leave, I’m good at compartmentalizing, and I don’t think my productivity has suffered. I’m acting “normally,” but of course, who can really be “normal,” after something like this? I don’t want to come across as cold or strange for seeming unaffected by a major loss.

How should you behave at work after a tragedy? What level of honesty is professional?

I don’t think you need to worry about it reflecting poorly on you if you say you’re good — if anything, most people are likely to assume it’s a reflexive polite response or that you don’t want to get into it at work. But if you want a slightly more subdued option, “hanging in” and “doing okay, how about you?” are both very useful; they don’t convey “life’s great!” but are still polite ways to complete the exchange.

Talking more broadly about your vibe at work after a tragedy, if you’re acting “normally,” most people will just think you’re holding it together well at work, or work is a useful distraction, or you don’t want to get into it with colleagues. Most people won’t think, “Wow, she’s inappropriately upbeat for someone who’s undergone something terrible — what a cold response.” They’ll understand there’s likely more going on than what they’re seeing.

3. My coworker tries to store her things in my office

My coworker wants to store items in my office and doesn’t ask. Her office is messy and mine is clean, so my office has a lot more space. It helps me work better if my office is not cluttered. Her space does have a lot of office supplies, but it also has a lot of personal items, her own Christmas tree, etc. that aren’t not work-related. Our offices are exactly the same size.

She has put paraphernalia, volunteer gifts, and a gift basket given to us all into my office. I spoke out about the gift basket as I was frustrated, but then I didn’t get any of the items from the basket as a consequence.

She’s now told me that she’ll be storing boxes of files that will eventually be picked up in my office. I emailed her that I would prefer it if she stores them in the boardroom.

Am I being unreasonable? I’d never think to put things in someone else’s workspace just because it’s cleaner. Is it okay for her to just assign my space as storage as her office is full? What’s the etiquette on this?

It’s not uncommon to be expected to give up space in your office if someone else runs out of storage in their own — but not in a situation where the reason the person has run out is because they’re storing a large amount of personal items. In that case, normally it would be reasonable to tell them your office isn’t available.

Sometimes, though, this will depend on political capital; if your coworker has a ton of influence and you don’t and/or she’s very senior to you, logic may not rule this. But if you’re more or less peers on equal footing, it should be fine to say, “I prefer not to have you store items in my office. Going forward, can you keep them in your own space or find another location?”

Of course, this is someone petty enough to punish you by not letting you have items from a gift basket (that she otherwise would have given you, it sounds like), so I’d imagine there will be consequences to this. You might want to say to your boss, “I wanted to mention that I’m asking Jane to stop storing her items in my office just because it’s cleaner. She’s been prickly about it in the past, so I figured I should give you a heads-up.”

Read an update to this letter here.

4. How can employers let job candidates know they’ll accommodate religious needs?

Reading an article about illegal interview questions got me to thinking about religion and how interviewers cannot ask about that. What if a firm -WANTS- to accommodate the employee’s religious needs? What if the firm wants to, for example, give Muslim employees the five breaks they need for prayer, or not schedule Jewish employees on Saturday, because they’re trying to be inclusive? When is it okay to ask?

There’s actually only one illegal interview question, and that’s asking about disabilities. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not actually illegal to ask about kids, marital status, ethnicity, religion, etc. What is illegal is making a decision based on the answers, and so as a result, smart interviewers don’t ask those things — since there’s no point in asking a question that (a) you can’t take into consideration and (b) might make the candidate think you’re going to illegally base your decision on it. So not strictly illegal, but definitely questions interviewers shouldn’t ask.

Anyway. If an employer wants to offer that they’re happy to make religious accommodations, they can do that without inquiring into a candidate’s religious practices. The way to do it is to have your standard materials for communicating with candidates say something like, “If you need accommodations (for a disability, religious beliefs, or other reasons), we are happy to work with you, both during our interview process and after you are hired. Please contact X to request accommodations.” It’s also good to highlight during the process that you work create an inclusive and flexible environment for your staff and cite concrete examples of what that looks like.

Employers also shouldn’t single our certain candidates for those explanations, like only mentioning it to people who “look Jewish” or “are probably Muslim,” since they’ll get it wrong in some cases and miss people who would have appreciated the info in others (and also, that’s gross). It should be something they present to candidates across the board.

5. What should I say in an away message when I don’t know my return date?

I have an upcoming medical procedure and it’s estimated I will be out four weeks, but it could be longer. How do I create an away message that lets people know I don’t when I will be back? Is it okay to say I am on a medical leave and don’t know when I will return?

That wording might be unnecessarily alarming. I’d go with, “I’m currently out on leave and will likely return in late July (although that’s subject to change).” You could also ask your boss or another colleague to update the timeline in the message if it does change.

{ 692 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, there’s been a massive pile-on about letter #1, so I’m going to ask people to hold off on adding to that unless you have something new that hasn’t been said yet. I’ve also removed comments that violate the “be kind” rule below (and will continue to do so if needed).

  2. Vanilla Nice*

    L.W. #1, thank you for trying to reach out to personal contacts. I echo Alison’s suggestion that email is likely to be a better channel for communicating than phone calls. I’m in my 30s, and I had a few bad experiences when I was in my 20s with recruiters calling about “job opportunities” that were really sales pitches (it was especially bad around the time of the Great Recession).

    1. Colin*

      Would it not be better to just pass it on to their parents, and let them pass it on? I would still be suspicious of an email with this kind of offer from a stranger, but a parent saying “a friend thought I should pass this on to you” is completely reasonable.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        This. While the phone call sticks out as being too much, the whole approach seems over the top considering this isn’t even the LW’s program but one they themselves received from someone else via email. I can see (maybe) if this was your own program where you genuinely did have an excellent handle on what it was about you might be this aggressive in recruiting people, but that doesn’t sound like the case. This is absolutely a “forward to your friend and forget about it” situation at best.

        1. OP #1*

          My husband and I are alums of similar programs from this entrepreneur, which is why I was excited to talk about it with him. Hilariously must have worked against me!

          1. Georgina Fredrika*

            I am surprised the answer didn’t mention texting? It’s less intrusive and feels less like something a telemarketer would do. If this happened to me, instead of blowing them off, I might text my parents about it first.

            I honestly don’t know how I would respond to a phone call from someone I never met/don’t remember but I would probably be reluctant to listen to what feels like a pitch for something, for who knows how long, when I have NO idea who they are and whether their interest in helping me is genuine.

            1. Emilia Bedelia*

              Spam texts are honestly an even bigger issue for me than spam emails! I would not expect anyone to use texting to get in touch with me in a business context. I’m confused why OP wanted to chat before emailing anyway – if I were the son, I would have preferred to look at the site and learn about the program anyway before talking with the OP.

            2. TooTiredToThink*

              I have to agree with Amelia Bedelia – spam texts are becoming more and more of a thing and often times they are starting to become vectors for malware. I would not click on any link and block the texter.

            3. a clockwork lemon*

              Texting feels even more inappropriate than a phone call to me. Screening calls is a common thing and a voicemail puts the ball in the receiver’s court to return. A text is a VERY familiar, very casual method of communicating and it tends to create a higher sense of urgency (because why would a stranger be calling or texting me if there wasn’t an emergency?)

              1. Georgina Fredrika*

                lol good to know (@ all replies)! I guess I’ve gotten lucky with the lack of scams via text.

                Personally I find texts, generally, less intrusive because I can figure them out on my own time. And they just take less time to figure out.

                Even if there are a lot of scams out there, this isn’t one of them, and it’s a little easier for the kid in question to follow up with his parents (if he wants to) to see if it’s real or just ignore the “pitch” without having to wait a minute on the phone to say “nooo thanks, byee”

                I guess in this case though I’m imagining OP texting just an intro and saying to call them if they want more info, not a paragraph missive.

                And I’m also just thinking of my own situation, where 99% of people who text me got my number through real channels :)

            4. Observer*

              A text with a link from someone I don’t know? Nope. I’m NOT going to do anything bur delete it and put the number on my black list.

          2. Matilda Jefferies*

            I have absolutely done this. “Oh, here’s something awesome from Cool Person A, that I know Cool Person B would be interested in – I should connect them!” And then jumped straight into connecting, without slowing down to ask if either of them actually wanted to be connected. (For context, I’m in my 40s, and the last time I did this was…last year. It happens.)

            I like Akcipitrokulo’s suggestion that you circle back with the parents, apologize for confusing the kid, and pass the info on to them if they think Kid might be interested.

            It was a kind impulse, and no harm done. You’re taking a bit of heat in the comments here, which I think is just a consequence of writing to an internet advice columnist – lots of people want to weigh in, and it makes the issue seem a lot bigger than it actually is! You made a mistake, but the only consequence was a minute or so of inconvenience to the Kid, and a bit of embarrassment to you. All you need to do next time is keep the contacts within your own 1st degree, and you’re all good.

      2. OP #1*

        In retrospect, sending it to the parent would have been easier! I got caught up in trying to avoid feeding into a potential helicoptering cycle, since they’ve all been cooped up together for months. Classic case of keep it simple, sillyhead.

        1. Username1234*

          You could pass it along to the friends child, but cc the parents. This way the child knows you’re legit, and you’re just simply passing on information.

            1. Caroline Bowman*

              Honestly though, I think the kid was rude. Yes it could have been a sales call, but he could have said ”can I just stop you for a moment. I’ve never heard my parents mention you, can I take your number and call you back please?” or similar. I loathe spam calls, I really do, but I very rarely hang up on someone who is mid-sentence. I stop them and say ”No thank you, goodbye” at the very least with ”please take my number off your list” if they are especially pushy.

              I would let the parents know what happened NOT whining, but just so they know what transpired in case they wonder what happened with the leadership programme.

              1. Night Owl*

                He did say “bye” just before he ended the call, though he didnt have to. She said that she pressed on after being told that he didn’t know who she was. I don’t think being entitled or rude has anything to do with it; if anything, she’s insisting that he is entitled simply for ending a phone call. This is a grown man, not a child. I would’ve done the exact same thing. The fact he actually listened, after telling her that he didn’t know, her, was more courtesy than I would’ve given. I have received lots, and lots of calls from people with all sorts of motives. Putting myself in his shoes: I am not about to have a full-fledged conversation with every person who calls just because they mention someone I know, especially if I don’t know who they are and I can’t place how they know me.

                1. Another freelancer*

                  My thoughts exactly. There are numerous sales pitches that reach out to friends and friends of friends, and saying “I’m a friend of your mom/dad/aunt/uncle/etc.,” is a common tactic.

                  I agree with just sending the email to the parent along with the webinar info. If OP wants, they can include their contact information and tell the parent it’s fine if their child reaches out for more information or to connect as a contact via LinkedIn.

                2. KRM*

                  Yep. I’ve had recruiters aggressively contact me by saying that they’ve been referred by a colleague. I’m going to hang up on you when you tell a blatant lie like that, and I’d for sure hang up on a phone call like this–if I say I don’t know you and you continue to talk, I’m past being polite. I’m out.

                3. spam calls all the time*

                  Yep, this. I think it is really unfair to OP1 to create this situation in the first place and then snarkily say he was being rude. I get a LOT of spam calls and I almost always just hang up, without even a word, about 15 seconds in. Honestly him saying “bye” is more than I would have done.

                4. Jules the 3rd*

                  This. I get 2 – 3 phone calls *every day* from spammers / sales people. I know people who have white listed their phones – if they don’t add your phone # to their contact list, they don’t get your call at all. It slowed down a little in March, but it’s on the rise again.

                  I would totally have assumed the OP was lying about getting the number from my parents if I didn’t recognize OP’s name, and might have been less polite. I’m really tired of the spammers.

                5. blackcat*

                  Yeah, I’ve definitely ended up in similar positions and firmly said “Okay, I’m hanging up now, bye” and hung up while the other person is still talking. It’s brusque but it’s one of those “return the rudeness to sender” thing.

                6. RussianInTexas*

                  This. I don’t know you. You keep talking. “Bye” is generous.
                  Also, no. I do not care to be told about exciting opportunity of a free leadership program, because they are all hockey and cult-y to me. I would not appreciate such “reaching out”.
                  If you are treating a young adult as an adult, don’t do these things.

              2. JerryTerryLarryGary*

                It’s not helicopter parenting support- you don’t know the kid, you know the parent, so you go through the connection you have. If the kid wants to follow up, they should contact you and not go through the parent.

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  My thought was the OP was treating this differently than normal due to “helicopter parenting” and that seemed weird. You know the parents. If the parent had another 2nd degree contact that you would like to pass on information about an opportunity to, you wouldn’t bypass the parents (your contact) and call them directly. You share the info to your contact, let them pass it on, and let that 2nd degree contact reach back to you.

              3. Paulina*

                That suggestion (to take a number and call back presumably after checking with his parents) sounds like a lot of work being expected of him. And many sales calls exploit people’s reticence to hang up when the caller is mid-sentence.

                The OP says she called because it seemed easier. Easier for whom? Email is pretty easy for the person getting it, since it doesn’t expect them to be available at someone else’s call.

              4. DataSci*

                Unsolicited phone calls are extremely rude. Honestly, by picking up a call from an unknown number the young person was giving them more of a chance than most people would, including me. If for some reason I did pick up, as soon as I got the “exciting opportunity” line I’d interrupt too, with “Thank you, goodbye” and hang up. Expecting me to make a phone call BACK? You must be joking. (I’m definitely not a “recent college grad”, but like most people under 40 I much prefer non-phonecall methods of communication.)

                The parents have to share the blame for giving out their kid’s phone number, though!

                1. Yorick*

                  I don’t get the parents here. If I gave out a family member’s number to a friend with a professional opportunity, I think I’d tell them to expect a call.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  Yeah, if it were me, I’d be upset with them, not the person who called.

                  I’ve told family and friends and coworkers I’m friendly with to NOT give my number to ANYONE without asking me first. The reason for this caution was a call from some random dude I had never heard of who wanted to ask me out. He knew my name and a few things about me. I was not only confused but freaked and turned him down.

                  It turned out my coworker had given him my information—it was a matchmaking attempt. I made it very clear she was not to do that again and adopted it as a general caution for the future.

                3. NopeNopeNope*

                  My mom thinks all family is family/friends are friends – I have cousins/grade school classmates who never said two words to me when we were kids and now constantly want to talk AT me about all the shit they hate about their own lives. My mom thinks my computer skills mean I know any electronic device, and that doing hours/days long free troubleshooting for HER friends is a perfectly reasonable promise to make on my behalf. My mom thinks if someone with a business *sounding* name calls she better give out my # “just in case” it’s a job offer/problem with my finances/a legit business opportunity me with all my negative dollars would RIGHTFULLY HATE HER FOREVER FOR if she didnt make sure they could call me whenever and however often they wanted.

                  I eventually changed my number after moving to a new town and told my mom “if you give out my # to ANYONE or even HINT that I EXIST before clearing it with me first, I’m changing my # again and you’re not getting it.” The calls stopped!

                  I’ll be totally surprised if those parents didn’t get a talking to shortly after that call! And honestly – I think if you care about them, people SHOULD be talked to if they do that sort of thing! If they’re gullible enough to hand out your number without checking first, what are they giving out of their own? My mom has actually gotten better about checking with me on some stuff that SHE gets and is wary about, and I’m super glad to know she understands im there to help her protect herself from scammers and conmen. Even if she does occassionally mention how SAD cousin so-and-so is they havent heard from me in decades! (Cousins: next time, dont WAIT decades past when I’ve grown used to living alone and quiet to suddenly decide we were born to be BFFs if only I’d take your late night, weepy, drunken housewife, one-sided phone calls!)

              5. Malarkey01*

                I honestly get 1 legit call a week at most and all other calls are spam (the only reason I have the phone is for work conference calls at this point). If someone was listing names of people I didn’t know I’d think it was phishing attempt and get off quickly. I’m definitely not taking a number and calling back- that’s literally one of the common phone scams where you’re then on the hook for telephone charges.

                Everyone who advocates against phone scams says you should hang up quickly and not engage.

              6. Observer*

                He did say “bye”. Why did he owe the OP anything more than that? Why on earth would you expect someone to spend as much time as you suggest on what sounds like a scam call, and even offer a call back?!

                Scam callers have no standing to expect that kind of time and energy, and the OP almost certainly appeared that way to him. The fact that the OP knows otherwise doesn’t obligate him to know that and act accordingly.

              7. Richard Hershberger*

                Hanging up mid-sentence: Part of the high pressure sales technique is to not let you get a word in edgewise during the pitch. This is so that hanging up mid-sentence is the only way for the recipient to end the conversation. Many people are reluctant to do this because it is rude. The conventions of polite interaction exist for good reasons, but so that a salesman can abuse them to his advantage is not one of them. This abuse absolves us of our obligations to respond politely.

              8. An_original_name*

                No, he was not rude. “I’m a friend of your relative” is a common scam call tactic. And the call definitely sounded like scam. You don’t have to entertain unsolicited phone calls from people you don’t know. If anything, he was unusually patient.

              9. Rainy*

                It’s barely 10am where I am and I’ve had two scam calls this morning already. One telling me that I’m going to be arrested by the SSA, and one telling me the warranty for a make of car I’ve never owned is about to expire.

                If I didn’t hang up on scammers mid-sentence, I’d never get anything done.

              10. Temperance*

                Honestly, I always hang up on sales calls mid-sentence. Once I know that it’s not something that I want to do, or have asked about, or relevant to me, I don’t have any obligation to keep talking.

                The way that I see it, is that someone is getting access that I didn’t give them to my personal cell phone number, and because they’ve already crossed a line, I don’t owe them basic politeness.

              11. RagingADHD*

                Well, if someone called claiming to be an “old family friend,” and I’d never heard of them in my life?

                I’d assume they were lying. I at least know the names of my parents’ old family friends. And I know the names of their kids.

                And I do not think it’s rude to hang up on someone who scrapes acquaintance under false pretenses (or appears to be doing so.) I’m not going to take a number and vet them. Why should I waste my time?

              12. Beth*

                Nah, if OP came off as a spam call (which they acknowledged was a possibility), then there really isn’t an issue of entitlement or rudeness at play here. He didn’t recognize her name, he hadn’t asked for this call, and he hadn’t been expecting to be contacted by her, and OP continued to try and present info on this program after knowing he didn’t know her and apparently without any indication from him that he was particularly interested. I think it was pretty polite of him to say bye before hanging up.

              13. Alice's Rabbit*

                So you’ve never hung up on a telemarketer? Because that’s honestly what this sounded like, to me. I have had a couple friends get involved in these cult-like seminars, and it’s hard enough to politely turn them down. A complete stranger, calling out of the blue? Nope! Not worth my time.

              14. Eukomos*

                Salespeople are not bound by the normal rules of politeness because of how hard they’re pushed to makes sales, so neither can we be when we’re fending off offers we’re not interested in. Telemarketers are trained to get all the way through their pre-written sales pitches without stopping for breath, there’s no chance to have a normal conversation with them about who they are and why they’re calling. “Not interested, bye” and quickly hanging up is a completely appropriate way to get off a telemarketer call.

              15. Just in Cases*

                But I don’t do this with telemarketers. If I think it’s a spam call I think they may take advantage of me and want to get out quickly. A lot of spammers know personal info about you to get you to feel comfortable. Telling me you know my parents is not going to make me feel better, someone could get that straight off of facebook. I also don’t feel comfortable about random links. Unsolicited calls is not how things are done these days and I am immediately suspicious of the other person. Some scams actually record your answers to things to make it seem like you agree to various things. I get the heck out of there.

                I’m actually surprised he picked up the phone. I absolutely never pick up the phone unless I knew who it was and then just listen for a message.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, I was just coming here to say this. I totally understand that you wanted to approach the young man yourself, but CC:ing the parents would probably have worked better here.
            It’s not just young people who dislike unscheduled calls. I’ve pretty much quit answering my phone unless the number is in my contacts. At work I can’t do that, because my org is so big that I don’t have everyone in my contacts, but luckily I get something like one unscheduled phone call a month, so it’s not really an issue. Of course, some of those are trying to sell me stuff, but I just interrupt them to say that this is a work phone and please don’t call again. My colleagues usually contact me on Skype (usually chat) or by email.

            1. IOCTL*

              Subject “Job opportunity” From “Unknown” would have ended up in my spam folder without ever getting opened to see who else’s email addresses they had skimmed.
              Give the necessary info to the parents to pass along.

              1. allathian*

                Good catch, I didn’t even think of that. But then, I’m awful with email filters. I can block individual addresses and my employer’s email filter is pretty good so spam gets through maybe once a year, but I really should learn more about setting conditional filters.

              2. Just in Cases*

                Exactly! This is a thing you learn at work…makes it seem like it’s coming from someone legit. I’ve had to go to “remedial” training for this…lol

            2. Heidi*

              I agree that the norms around calling someone have really shifted. If I go through my phone, the calls I get are either family or spam. There are a couple calls from work, but there are no calls from unknown parties that I’ve found to be welcome or useful. This differs a lot from my childhood, when we pretty much accepted that people would call socially. Now, I think most people expect this type of communication be asynchronous (email, text) so that people can respond when convenient for them.

        2. Observer*

          This is one of those cases where the typical rules don’t apply. If the child knew you, then I would absolutely say that you should send it directly to them. But your relationship is with the parents, so it makes sense to pass it on to them. It’s essentially standard networking in reverse.

          Think about thos scenario:

          Your friend mentions that their cousin just graduated college and meets all the criteria. Then you get the this email about this opportunity. Would you hesitate to shoot an email to your friend saying “you might want to pass this on to your cousin”?

          In this case, it’s their kid not their cousin, but it’s a normal way of passing information along.

            1. Uldi*

              I’d go a step further is stepping back (if that makes sense) by sending the information to the parent (no hyperlinks! most kids are going to assume it’s a phishing attempt) and ask the parents to talk to their son or daughter about it. Give them your contact information to pass on as well, and ask that the son/daughter contact you if they’re interested.

              Bluntly, you cold-called this young man, then name-dropped his parents. I’d have been suspicious too, and I’m in my 40s. There is a ton of personal information floating out there for sale, unfortunately, so using their names might have made him more suspicious rather than less.

              1. Dan*

                My shrink has a habit of sending out “cold” links via text without any context. I had to tell her to knock it off, because nobody with any sense will click them in this day and age. Same’s true here… clicking stuff from people you don’t know is pretty dumb.

        3. MK*

          I think the best thing to do is let the parents know about the opportunity generally and tell them to forward your own contact details to their child. Then the child can look into it and contact you if they are interested.

          1. Dan*

            This is where I’m at. It’s no different than trying to date someone via a similar network. If I (Person A) is interested in dating Person C, with whom we are mutual acquaintances of Person B, I’m getting absolutely nowhere with Person C if I get their contact info from Person B and reach out directly. My *only* chance at getting this to happen is to pass my info to Person B and tell them to let Person C know I’m interested and have Person C get back to me if the interest is mutual.

            If Person B gives Person C’s information to me directly, that’s a sin that will most likely not be forgiven for a very long time, and that’s exactly what happened here.

          2. Ashley*

            I am in my 30’s and still get annoyed when my parents give out my personal contact info for any reason. I would definitely stick to e-mailing the parents and flagging it for them to forward.

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              Yeah, my parents quickly learned to stop giving out my contact information without first getting my permission. Because someone I don’t know contacting me out of the blue is a guaranteed “no.”

        4. MicroManagered*

          I think I understand your impulse to keep the contact between you and the “prospect” rather than going through parents. The “kids” are really adults, plus there’s always the possibility of them dismissing the program *because* it came from the parents. (We frequently see on here, that new or near-grads are inundated with all the things their parents think they should be doing next… )

          I think next time, asking for email and cc’ing parent or asking parent to let kid know you will be reaching out might be best. Another thing might be, when you make contact, to *ask* if they’re interested in learning more about the program before diving into more information about it.

        5. Akcipitrokulo*

          If it’s not too late, it’s worth considerinbg sending to parents now with a note “Oops – I think John thought I was a sales call! Here are details if you think he’d like it.”

          It is a tactic used by dishonest spam callers, so I can see his response as not unreasonable (especially if he’s had them in the past!).

          This will hopefully be a funny story in future :) but I’d let parents know and give them the details.

        6. JerryTerryLarryGary*

          It’s not helicopter parenting support- you don’t know the kid, you know the parent, so you go through the connection you have. If the kid wants to follow up, they should contact you and not go through the parent.

        7. Annony*

          In that case, instead of asking the parents for their son’s contact information, you could tell them to give him your contact information and that you would be happy to talk to him about your field in general as well as this upcoming event he may be interested in. That way if he is actually interested, he can reach out to you.

          1. Paulina*

            Yes. It’s common now to ask for one’s contact information to be passed on to the person you’re trying to get in touch with, rather than to ask for theirs — it respects that the person you’re trying to get in touch with should be allowed to decide for themselves who has their information. This is especially the case for personal contacts, rather than professional ones who’s information is public.

      3. nnn*

        That’s what I was thinking. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to forward the message via the person you know, rather than directly contacting the person you don’t know. (And I say this as someone very sensitive to not being treated as an adult by older adults.)

        Thought experiment: imagine you’re contacting a friend’s sibling whom you’ve never met or a friend’s spouse whom you’ve never met. Or imagine you’re on the receiving end: your sibling’s friend whom you’ve never met or your spouse’s friend whom you never met has information that might be useful to you.

        I think the “not treating young adults like adults” part actually happened when the parent gave out the son’s phone number without clearing it with the son first. I certainly don’t consent to my parents giving out my contact information to people who don’t already have it without running it by me first!

        1. Birch*

          This is what stuck out to me too– something is odd about the parent-kid relationship. Either the parents are giving out his info without his consent, which is disturbing, or they’re soliciting a bunch of contacts that aren’t useful for him and he’s decided that the easiest way to deal with it is just to take them and treat them like junk mail, which for him, apparently they are.

          There’s some difficulty with the idea of “family friends” that I think needs to be cleared up. In my experience this is something that parents and their social networks do, reach out to each other’s adult children expecting to be treated like friends, not realizing how boundary-crossing it comes across to the kids. Parents need to realize that their friends do not automatically have the right to friend-level contact with their children, to whom they are often virtual strangers.

          1. allathian*

            This, definitely this. I also think it’s weird when some parents insist on inviting their own friends to their child’s wedding, taking seats that could go to the couple’s friends. I get it if the parents are paying all or a substantial amount of the costs of the wedding that they might think that they have a free hand with the invitations, but I bet most couples would disagree with that and only put up with it because they want a bigger wedding than they can afford themselves. If the parent’s friend has a personal relationship with the child, such as being a godparent, that’s different.

            1. A*

              Wait, is this seriously a thing? I know back in the day this used to happen, but yikes – had no idea it was still happening. Granted amongst my social groups it would be unheard of to have family pay for a wedding (gotta love how only the obnoxious parts of etiquette seem to live on…) so that might change some things.

              Yikes, my parents friends are nice and all, but that’s a bit much!

              1. Cat*

                I mean, I’m surprised this surprises you. Plenty of people have 100-200 people at their wedding or more. Some of those being close friends of their parents is not that weird or necessarily forced on them.

                1. Emi.*

                  Weddings are family events, not just personal events. If you don’t want your parents’ friends at your wedding, it’s probably a bigger issue than the Iranian yogurt.

                2. Bumblebee*

                  We invited some of my parents’ friends, who lived locally, to our wedding – they’ve been friends for 40 years and watched me grow up, plus it guaranteed my parents would have someone to hang out with. Of course I still send Christmas cards to these people. I think it would be different if my parents had insisted on inviting their entire social circle!

              2. Jennifer Strange*

                Yup, my parents invited a number of their friends to our wedding. To be fair, they were paying for it, but it was very odd to get a wedding gift from my mom’s church choir friends who I’ve never met in my life.

                1. LJay*

                  I didn’t even have a wedding and got a gift from my mom’s coworkers, who I met when I was a child and who haven’t seen me in at least 20 years.

                  It was very sweet of them.

                  However, instead of sending it directly they went through my mom to send it to me, so she wasn’t giving out my address to random people, and she could let me know she was sending something from them so I wasn’t like, “Huh, I don’t think I know any Joanns. Who the heck is this from?”

                  It was much more comfortable than getting it cold from them.

                2. Clumsy Ninja*

                  One of my mom’s oldest friends came to our wedding, gave us a gift, and continues to send us Christmas and anniversary cards twenty years later. Plus she send holiday cards and cash to my kids. And every time, I have to explain to the husband “she’s the person who’s done this for years that you think is weird for doing it, and you say you’ve never met her (he has, but once before the wedding and then at the wedding) and that you don’t understand why she sends stuff.” It’s hilarious. But at least I’d always known her name growing up!

              3. Rainy*

                My in-laws doubled our guest list (from 32 to 76), my MIL had a screaming blubbering meltdown over the phone when Mr Rainy held firm about not inviting his mum’s newest BFF–when I say screaming and blubbering, I mean she was literally shouting boo-hoo-hoo type words so loudly I could hear them down the phone, across the room from him. By the way, they were not paying. I paid for our wedding, all except 2 small vendor bills that were outstanding 3w before the wedding, when she finally “wanted to help” but would only cut checks to “legitimate vendors with outstanding balances”. Oh, and the money wasn’t a gift. We’re paying it back at 6%. (I wanted to refuse it, but Mr Rainy wanted to “honour their gesture”.)

                So yeah, it’s seriously a thing. Even when you don’t have family pay for your wedding.

                1. Helena1*

                  That is about double what you would pay for a bank loan around here, so she’s actually making money out of you.

                2. Rainy*

                  @Helena We had the money in the bank to cover it, too. Sigh. The wedding turned out perfectly, it was absolutely everything we wanted it to be, but it was definitely despite his parents. Literally everything was so much harder than it needed to be because he refused to put them on an info diet.

            2. Texan In Exile*

              parents insist on inviting their own friends to their child’s wedding

              Or it could be that we have been friends with the mother since before the bride was born and although we have not seen the bride in person much as she has grown up (but we remember quite well the weekend we spent with our friend when her husband was out of town and the bride, who was three at the time, threw up not once but twice that night, requiring us to change her sheets and her PJs and bathe her twice – and she has not thrown up since), we know all about her life and we care about her because she is the daughter of one of our best friends and we are really excited that she’s getting married and are super honored to be invited to the wedding.

              As in – a wedding can be considered a celebration by all involved and friends of the parents can be very excited about this rite of passage.

              1. Lady Meyneth*

                I’m sorry, but no. A wedding is about the two people getting married, not their parents, no matter how long you know them.

                If their relationship with their parents is close enough that they hear about your life and care about you, as you do them, that’s fine. I had a number of my mom’s friends on my wedding that I saw very little, but I still knew a lot of details of their lives from mom, so I was glad to have them there. Someone I only knew from “they spent a weekend with us when I was 3yo” would be very much not-welcome.

                1. kt*

                  With all due respect, that’s your attitude and perhaps your community’s attitude, but many of us come from less individual-centric communities and backgrounds. In some communities, weddings take place in a broader context. My spouse & I both grew up in the US and are not particularly religious, but we invited our broader ethnic community and our religious community to our wedding broadly (like ‘put it in the newsletter’ broadly) and fed them all lunch because that’s the context we’re in and we value that wider community. I did have a lot of stress around the wedding, as a woman, because the predominant US messaging is that it’s about two individuals and no one else (“it’s your special day!!”), and that was just not my experience at all and it got really annoying to have my community context erased. So, you do you, but don’t expect that everyone’s culture must match yours!

                2. Alice's Rabbit*

                  That is most definitely not the case for many people, and lots of folks would find that attitude selfish and off-putting.
                  A marriage is the union of not just two people, but two families – and sometimes two communities – and the reception is how those families honor the couple and welcome the new merging family unit.

                3. Eukomos*

                  That’s not always, or even usually, the case. The marriage is about the people who got married, but the wedding is often about their family and communities celebrating their commitment to each other. Has been for like, all of recorded history.

              2. Rainy*

                My MIL has made my life a living hell over the friend of hers that we didn’t invite because their friendship is of so recent a date that Mr Rainy barely knows what she looks like.

                I cannot have a single conversation with my MIL without her bringing up “Debbie Smith–Mr Rainy’s BROTHERS invited her to THEIR weddings, but I guess you just didn’t have enough room SOMEHOW”.

                Don’t be some other person’s Debbie Smith, hey?

              3. Beth*

                So send them a congratulatory card. That’s what I’ve done when colleagues got married (none of whom invited me to their weddings, nor would I have expected them to).

                Look, for some people this degree of connection is enough to warrant an invitation, and if the couple getting married is on board and their circumstances allow for it, good for them. But most weddings have limits–budgetary limits, venue space limits, limits on how many people the bride and groom want to host. And most people have more first degree connections (family and family friends they actually see regularly and have a personal relationship, friends of their own, colleagues, etc.) than they can realistically invite. It’s not usually possible to save space for second-degree connections or people you met when you were young, no matter how happy they might be for you. The wedding is for the people the bride and groom want to celebrate with; you can be excited, but it’s weird to expect to be invited if you don’t have a close personal relationship with either of the couple getting married.

            3. Mockingdragon*

              Hah, I was just thinking about my Godmother during this conversation, and realizing that while I know….OF….her….I would recognize her name and voice, but I don’t know anything ABOUT her. I don’t remember what she does for a living, I’m not sure I ever knew how she and my mom met. She’s always been my mother’s friend, and her daughter and I were friends until we drifted apart for having different personalities that didn’t end up meshing. When we would visit, the adults talked to each other and the kids awkwardly played. I may consider inviting her to something so that my mom could have someone to talk to, but I don’t directly have a relationship with her.

              1. Mockingdragon*

                Funny story…when I had my Bat Mitzvah ceremony, my parents picked out the people to honor with the 13 candles on my cake. I was still in the super-docile stage of just not even questioning it, so I let them do whatever they want. And then they never stopped to make sure I *actually knew* who these people were. Most of them I did, but my mom’s cousins (a brother and sister who live together) I introduced as a couple. In front of the whole room.

            4. carruthers*

              Sharing this cos I think it at least matches if not tops parental friend wedding guests (the ones that are unwanted, not the ones where it fits cultural expectations and the couple are fine with it):
              My dad’s mum asked us to invite two of her friends to my mother’s funeral wake, because they live near us and a long way from her, and she wanted to see them while she was near by. The friends had met my mother, briefly, maybe twice ever, but, fine. Weird and a tone-deaf request, but at least they could look after my grandmother for us on the day.

              Less fine was my grandmother calling my sister over from talking to mum’s actual friends *about mum*, so gran could introduce my sister and “show her off” to her friends. Nothing was said, and my sister was polite, but none of us were happy about it.

            5. Alice's Rabbit*

              If they’re paying for it, then they are the hosts, and can invite whomever they please. The couple are the guests of honor in that case, not the hosts.
              Now, a good host would make sure that the party revolves around the guest of honor – including the guest list – but a good GoH also acknowledges that there are other factors involved. Like, if your parents invite the parents of all your childhood friends (not uncommon) but there’s a new family on the street who moved in after you left for college, refusing to invite the new family could cause problems. How would you like to be the only family on the block not invited?
              So yeah, sometimes you end up with a few guests the couple doesn’t know. So long as the hosts are covering the cost and the guests are well behaved, just smile and thank them for coming, and move along.
              Otherwise, pay for the wedding yourself, if you want complete control.

          2. Doc in a Box*

            Yeah, the “family friend” language stuck out to me, too. (I’m mid-30s, so Elder Millennial.) I do use that term occasionally, to describe my parents’ friends whom I know well from my childhood — the people whose kids were around the same age as me, who used to come over to the house for parties, who used to babysit if my parents needed someone. The sort of people I might refer to as Auntie/Uncle.

            I know by name several of my parents’ friends from when I was an older teen/college/adult, too, but a cold call from someone I had never heard of but said they were a “family friend”? Buh-bye.

            1. doreen*

              Same here – if my mother didn’t meet you until she was 50 and I don’t recognize your name , you’re not a family friend. I think there is such a thing as a “family friend” , and but it doesn’t include all of a parent’s friends.

            2. Jennifer*

              Yeah, that’s what was a bit odd to me too. I know all my parents’ friends from when I was a kid and have the same relationships with them that you have described. If the kid doesn’t know the OP, either the OP hasn’t been in contact with the parents in a while or they met the OP after the kid was grown up.

            3. Liane*

              I am in my 50s and the only people I call “family friends” are a few our kids (both in their 20s) have known for years– like the “honorary uncle, ” and they now have their own individual friendships with him.

              I think the call might have sounded less sales-y if you gave some personal detail that might nudge their memory — “Your family came to our barbecues when we all lived in Cityville.”

              1. Sister Michael*

                I had the same thought about specificity helping here. “Hi, I know your mom- surely she’s told you about me. No? Okay, well anyway, I have this amazing opportunity to set you up with the paint-thinner-salesman internship of your dreams…” does absolutely sound like a scam and I would have hung up, too.
                On the other hand, somebody who said, “Hi, I know your mom- surely she’s told you about me. No? Oh, I’m sorry, I assumed she would! Well, we were talking the other night at SpecificProgram at Full Name Church, after we got back from one of the Monday night visits to Nice Place Senior Center and she was telling me you’re going into Academic Field and thinking of moving to My City.”
                At that point, I’d realize that yes, this is a real friend of my mom’s, she’s just being awkward and I wouldn’t hold that against her. I’d probably also call my mom afterwards to make sure it was real, but I’d be more likely to listen all the way through and actually pay attention.

            4. Joielle*

              Same! You’re not a “longtime family friend” if the kid doesn’t know who you are. You might be a friend of the parent, but that’s not the same thing.

              1. MassMatt*

                I agree, and while OP’s intentions are good, they seem awfully invested in getting this kid who says he’s never heard of the OP into this program. Give the info to the parents (who are the ones you have the relationship with) to pass on to the kid, and the (adult) kid can then decide whether to follow up, or not. Then let it go.

                Yes, kids can get inundated with suggestions and bad advice from their parents, but part of growing up is learning to separate the wheat from the chaff in any communication or relationship. If the program is really as “perfect” for this kid as the OP suggests, it won’t require cold calling sales tactics, the kid will jump on it. If not, it’s his loss, not the OP’s.

              2. Alice's Rabbit*

                A good point. I’m bad with names, but even I at least vaguely recognize the name of anyone who might be considered a longtime family friend.
                Just because you know the person’s parents doesn’t make you a family friend. I have plenty of friends who I wouldn’t put in the “family friend” category. Mostly folks from work or activities that my kids don’t participate in. The title “family friend” is usually reserved for close friends who I have known a long time, who know my kids, and whose kids I know, if they have any. Even if they aren’t nearby, so we can’t see each other, we still keep in touch.

            5. AnotherAlison*

              Reminded me of Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite when he pulls up in his creeper van and tells Trisha he’s a friend of her mom and giver he flyers. If the kid would not recognize you as a friend of their parents, then don’t contact them directly. My parents had work friends that knew all about me, but I had not met them. I wouldn’t want to talk to them.

            6. LJay*


              A family friend is someone like my little brother’s childhood best friend’s parents, who my parents have known for like 25 years and who were like at my childhood birthday parties and stuff and watched our house and pets when we were on vacations.

              Or my mom’s high school roommate who we visited a few times a year and went on vacation with when we were kids and who I called Aunt.

              A friend of my parents who I have never met and not even heard of is not a family friend, just a friend of my parents.

              1. Paulina*

                IDK. Maybe it’s because my family moved around quite a bit, but we have quite a few family friends that I might not recognize, while I wouldn’t deny the connection once I realized who they were.

          3. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

            I don’t think so…it’s possible the parents gave out his number and then just forgot to give the kid a heads up. My teens don’t get many random calls about career stuff and probably would have thought it was spam.

          4. Librarian1*

            To me, a family friend is someone that is friends with the whole family to some degree or another and who knows the whole family, not just my parents. Every person I can think of who I would consider a family friend is friends with my parents AND at some point I was friends with their kid(s), even if we aren’t friends anymore. A lot of these people would have babysat me when I was little and invited me to their kids’ b-days and vice versa and all that.
            I could also see someone developing this type of friendship with their parents’ friends as an adult if everyone lives near each other.

            But if it’s someone who is friends with my parents, but I’ve never met, or only met a few times and I barely remember it, they are just my parents’ friends. Which to me is a different level of closeness.

            I know this sounds pedantic, but I do think family friend is doing a lot of work here.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          Agreed – it’s not helicoptering :)

          Personally, and I’m in late 40s, I would prefer to get it through person I knew.

          I’d also be having a word about giving out my phone number without permission tbh…

        3. Alice's Rabbit*

          Yes, this! It was very high-handed of the parent to just give you his phone number. Email address is still a bit much, but to just hand out his phone number without his consent? That’s definitely treating him like a child. Especially without the parents then warning him that you might be calling.
          I would be furious at anyone giving out my private contact info without asking me first. I have one email for work purposes, and that’s fine to hand out to networking prospects. But not my private email, nor my phone number.

      4. WoodswomanWrites*

        This. If it were me, I would find it off-putting if my family gave my email address to someone I don’t know without my permission There’s no guarantee I would even be interested in the opportunity, however well-intended. I would want the choice to determine that for myself, and receiving a note from my family about it would remove awkwardness so I wouldn’t feel compelled to answer the person who wrote me directly.

      5. Caroline Bowman*

        I was going to say maybe email the parent and copy in the kid ”hi Cersei, so nice to catch up earlier, it’s been way too long! Re the leadership programme at my place of work, here are the details to pass along to Joffrey”.

      6. Bree*

        This. I understand wanting to treat young people like adults, but forwarding information to one person so they can forward it to their connection is also something adults do! It’s just more straightforward, and can cut down on the confusion that happened here.

        At the very least, e-mail and cc: the parent, which adds legitimacy and gives the parent a chance to add context since it doesn’t seem like you know the young person well. Which is a similar thing you might do with adult, professional contacts.

        1. AlsoBree!*

          Was coming here to say the same thing! If I had info on a job/program I thought a friend of a friend would be interested in, I would forward the email to my friend with a quick note that I thought their friend might be interested. Taking the roundabout route, of asking for contact info rather than just forwarding seems more family friend-esque and less straightforward/professional.

          Also, if someone had an opportunity for one of my friends/connections, I would always ask that person if it was ok to pass along their email and that way the person would know to be on the look out for the email (phoning is kind of an odd choice just to pass along info imo since their isn’t much discussion needed). It seems like the parents didn’t check first before passing along their son’s phone and email, so imagine getting a call from someone you don’t know about something you’ve never heard of? I probably would of interrupted and said “well ok thanks, not interested, bye”

      7. A*

        I think this is the ideal. My parents (thankfully) would never give out my number without checking with me first – but that’s because they realize how unusual it is to get unsolicited phone calls nowadays that AREN’T sales pitches. Even if they wan’t to do it via phone, it would be especially strange to call without first reaching out via email to schedule a set time.

      8. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah, especially if you’ve never personally spoken to the offspring. If it were a family friend I’d met a few times but was not close to, it’d make more sense them reaching out directly but I kind of think of it this way: we teach 3 year olds not to trust strangers who say “I know your parents. They sent me to you.” even if the stranger knows the parents’ names and details. We ingrain this in our thinking from a very young age that this type of approach is Danger. Unless you have met them before and have reason to believe they’d remember you, even if vaguely, go through the parents. Otherwise it’s very logical for them to assume it’s a scam.

      9. Beth*

        Yes, just ask the parent to forward the info. While I understand OP’s initial thought that they didn’t want to treat this person as a child by routing career messages through their parent, I don’t think it’s a real concern here! When you’re a second-degree connection to someone (aka you know someone who knows them), it’s totally normal to route contact through that connection and ask them to either introduce you or pass on your message. After all, that relationship is why you’re reaching out to them in the first place, and is also their only way of trusting that you aren’t trying to spam call them. It doesn’t make sense to try and cut the middleman out (and remove all those benefits of having that connection!) just because the middleman happens to be their parent.

    2. OP #1*

      Good to know there’s a chance he’s been inundated with calls that I inadvertently sounded similar to …

      1. pancakes*

        I’d have ended the call too, even if I wasn’t being inundated with similar calls. “Highly respected entrepreneur,” “tailored to you,” etc., are sales pitch language and most people want to avoid calls like that.

        1. MassMatt*

          I’m surprised the kid even answered a call from an unknown number, most would let it go to VM. I routinely do; if the caller doesn’t leave a message, or their message is sales for a product I’m not interested in (most of them) then I ignore/delete as spam. If it’s a sales call from someone I don’t have a relationship with I block them and report them for violating the do not call registry. I no longer answer my landline as 99% of the calls are spam (political campaigns and charities are exempt—so 5 or so spams a day, considerably more around election time). Spam and robocalls are driving the trend to ditch landlines.

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Sometimes you have to answer calls from unknown numbers, though. My doctor’s office for example, calls from all sorts of outgoing numbers so I can’t save The Number in my phone. If I know I’ve got an appointment coming up, I’ll answer any call from a local area code.

            Same if you’ve got job applications out, apartment applications or repair requests out, your car is in the shop, etc., etc.

            1. trva*

              Eh, anything important will leave a message.
              Call screening is pretty common, so even if it is a job interview call, they will leave a message and you can get back to them.

              I think this is a generational thing, I have no problem letting every call go to vm. Everything important will leave a message, and I can get back to them right away, if needs be.

            2. Doc in a Box*

              Ha! I have been playing phone tag with my patient’s daughter (who is his primary caregiver and has been at all his visits) and I think it’s because of this! She calls the front desk and leaves a message asking to speak with me. Front desk passes message to me; I call and it goes straight to voicemail, so I leave a message with name and front desk number asking her to call back with a time she’s free to talk, or to send her questions through the patient portal so I can answer them. Three minutes later, front desk sends me another note in the chart that daughter called back. So I call again, goes to voicemail. Rinse and repeat; we’ve been doing this for THREE DAYS.

            3. Just in Cases*

              I mean, I expect anyone legit to leave a message, so that’s what I wait for. I also like to listen to the message so I’m not caught off guard.

          2. Alice's Rabbit*

            If he’s looking to move to a new city, he’s likely job searching. In which case, he has to answer when unknown numbers call, because it could be a hiring manager.
            So he’d be doubly annoyed by what seemed to be a telemarketer when he was hoping for an interview.

      2. jenkins*

        Yeah – I’m really sorry, OP#1, but I would have thought it was a sales call or scam too. Someone ringing up about a totally free, tailor-made opportunity and trying to convince me that they knew people in my circle would have pinged a lot of alarm bells. I wouldn’t have wanted to confirm personal info like my parents’ names, either. I 100% see why you did it that way – just an unfortunate miscommunication – but I can see why he reacted like he did, too. In his shoes I would have thought you were a scammer, and I’m not necessarily polite to people who’ve called my personal number to try and rip me off..! I get calls like this semi-frequently, and similar emails all the freaking time.

      3. string_theory*

        The fact that he picked up a call from an unknown number at all was so unusual that it made me wonder if he was actually waiting on a particular call, perhaps for a job he’d applied for or an appointment he’d tried to set, etc. He may have both parsed you as a spam sales call and had a valid reason to get off the phone quickly. Perhaps also roll in disappointment that you were not the expected call.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP1, Next time have your friend contact their kid with your info first, or better yet forward your email. A lot of us react badly when anyone gives out our phone & email addresa without our knowledge.

    4. anon nonnie non*

      Yes! I cant tell you how many stupid interviews I went on that were sale pitches or 100% sales positions guised as something else. Start your own financial consulting business! Door to Door TV and Internet sales! Put a table up at walmart to sell XYZ! They preyed on young grads and it was awful!

    5. Marcy Marketer*

      Alas, we live in an age where scammers call us on the telephone and pretend to be from the IRS. Scams are pretty sophisticated and gen z and millennials are pretty tuned in to hints that the person calling them may not be legit.

    6. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes, a phone call is way overkill. Phone calls (between people who aren’t dating or close friends or the like) are reserved for conversations where you need immediate back-and-forth and the ability to hear the nuances of tone in someone’s voice. Even besides the fact that this definitely sounded like a weird sales pitch from someone he barely knows, doing this over the phone and put someone in the spot to have something to say about it immediately. If you didn’t even have a chance to look at the website, he couldn’t possibly know if he was interested.

      A lot of older adult family friends also don’t realize that their friends’ kids may feel politely nice toward them in a vague kind of way, but can’t really think of anything to say to them individually because they don’t actually know them. They mostly are “older couple my mom knows “, etc, to them. So even an email it would’ve made more sense coming from the parents, where the kid could feel fine to explore it or ignore the opportunity as they see fit. But a phone call is intrusive in that once you answer it you’re stuck having a conversation immediately instead of at your leisure, and if it’s going on for a while and you’re not even sure it’s legit it makes sense that he would’ve hung up at some point.

      1. Georgina Fredrika*

        ” where the kid could feel fine to explore it or ignore the opportunity as they see fit.”

        I think that’s a good point because it’s very possible that the program isn’t as good a fit as OP#1 thinks. Not related, I think, to why the kid hung up, but I know that every time I was job hunting my parents’ friends had all sorts of… “great” advice for me my parents wanted to pass along.

        So often it was off the mark either because my parents mis-represented my interests/abilities/whatever to the friend . Very possible if the friend has never met the child in question.

        1. Private Privates*

          Very good point. The LW has no idea if the son really wants to be a drummer, or a YouTuber, or a marine biologist, and is sick to the back teeth about his parents shoving corporate-type jobs down his throat.

          1. Private Privates*

            And Alison regularly gets letters from young(er) people bemoaning that their parents keep giving redundant or irrelevant advice that doesn’t apply to their chosen career field.

    7. Alton*

      When I was searching for jobs after graduating, I got a ton of calls from commission-based sales companies that tried to get me to come in for an interview by pretending that I had applied for a position with them. There are definitely a lot of manipulative people who prey on job seekers.

    8. RussianInTexas*

      To me the most amazing thing is the person actually answered a call from an unknown number.

    9. Kate*

      i don’t know if anyone has mentioned, but I have been called now twice by a company I ordered stuff from, and in neither call I could understand the start of “hey I’m, this from that”, I only deduced what they must be from what they told me afterwards. That is, the first sentence often gets lost…

    10. bluephone*

      Word to all of this! LW 1, it was great of you to think of your friend but “unsolicited sales/SPAM/phishing attempt calls disguised as job leads” is age-blind AND a major PITA. I’m on pretty friendly territory with my parents’ friends and I’d probably think you were, at best, trying to sell me on how great Cutco or Primerica is, or at worst, trying to convince me that you’re from the IRS and I need to give you $1000 in gift cards to avoid going to jail.
      Please don’t be turned off by trying to give people a leg up but also, please don’t file this under “I must remember this Weird Quirk about Young People who are So Entitled”
      (and I’m not saying that you’re being like that! I just see a lot of this situation and it always seems to come back to, “tsk! Young People are just too anxious about phone calls!” when really, the issue is that spammers and scammers are literally terrorizing everyone’s phones, unchecked, and with no repercussions).

      1. RagingADHD*

        And the older generations of people in retirement age who are *not* being so vigilant about calls from strangers with “great opportunities” are getting their identities and life savings stolen.

    1. Roeslein*

      This. Add them on LinkedIn (hopefully you have contacts in common, like his parents, showing you are legit) with a message explaining who you are, then once they’ve accepted the contact request (if they do so) send the link. I think this is better than going through their parents as it shows you consider them a professional in t heir own right. Of course you can offer to have a call in case they have questions / they’d like to chat about opportunities in your area. I’m in my early 30s and nobody I know picks up unscheduled phone calls from unknown numbers to their private number (unless they’re expecting to hear back from a recruiter, maybe).

      1. Marny*

        Honestly, I’d assume this was some random marketing person trying to sell me something and I’d delete the message unread. She really is better off just letting his parents relay the message so that the son can take it or leave it.

        1. Doc in a Box*

          Yeah, I probably wouldn’t approve a LinkedIn request from someone I haven’t met in person. I know it’s not Facebook, but honestly, 99% of LinkedIn messages are people I went to school with or met at a conference, and the other 1% are obnoxious recruiters who send unsolicited “GREAT OPPORTUNITY IN SCENIC NEBRASKA” messages.

          1. Just in Cases*

            Also, I don’t like to connect on LinkedIn if I don’t know their reputation. I know a lot of people just add others, but I don’t want to be “professionally” linked with terrible people.

      2. Salty*

        Unfortunately, sales pitches are getting more and more calculated, and tactically spoken/written to make it seem like a) I should know the person; b) we’ve spoken before; and/or c) it’s not just a sales pitch. This is true on LinkedIn as well. Even if someone reached out to me on LinkedIn this way I would just ignore the message.

        Also, to be frank with OP #1, I think that it’s great you’re so considerate of your friends’ kids, but it feels like overstepping to be constantly looking out for these sorts of things for them. If someone you actually know has posted an actual position opening that you know is tailored to their interests, it *might* be appreciated if you pass it along, but things like seminars and leadership programs don’t feel substantive enough, especially when you can’t vouch for them and when the young person in question is a “person of privilege” who may not need much support.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I’d do that only if you know the person is active on LinkedIn, which many people are not (I haven’t been in mine in 4 years). In the future, the best bet would be for the parents to mention it to their kid and offer to put the kid in touch with OP#1 if the kid was interested. After all, that’s how you handle business introductions via email — make sure both parties are interested before handing out information.

  3. Heidi*

    For Letter #1, I think I would have emailed the program info to my friend and let her pass it on to her son. It’s fewer steps and an email from your mom can’t be mistaken for spam. I’d probably include my contact info in case there were questions, but then leave it alone. I get that the LW was enthusiastic and trying to do a nice thing, but to be honest, if a stranger called me like this (doesn’t matter if they know my parents, if I’ve never met them, they’re strangers), I would find it weird and intrusive and my mom would get a reminder not to give out my contact info.

    1. Willis*

      Came here to say the same thing. I think the advice about connecting with someone directly vs through their parents makes sense if you’re actually the one with the professional opportunity to offer them. But if you’re just passing along a link to some program, I would send it to the person you actually know (i.e., their parent) with a “Hi, thought this looked like something Jane might be interested in. Feel free to give her my contact info if she has questions.”

      The OP also seems put off by the kid’s reaction, which I think it a little unwarranted. If you call someone you don’t know, aren’t able to establish a connection with them, mention their LinkedIn and then start to pitch them some program, it’s no surprise when they think it’s a scam.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        +1 to your second paragraph especially. Maybe OP got their feathers ruffled by being hung up on, but what they did sounds exactly like every spammy cold call I’ve ever gotten. His age, relative level of adultness or privilege really have nothing to do with it.

    2. OP #1*

      Good point! I didn’t mention that the parent had recently consulted me because their son was trying to decide if he should move down to my city to quarantine, so I thought there was a good chance my name had been mentioned prior to my call.

      1. Mary Richards*

        Honestly, I would argue that the parent is somewhat at fault, too. Parents should either a) ask their kids’ permission before giving out their contact info or b) let their kids know that they may be contacted by x friend. Unless you immediately hung up with the friend and then called the kid, the parent should’ve said something.

        Either way, though, email. Email is your friend.

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          Yep, I think both OP and the son did the best they could with the information they had and perception they formed. The parents are the ones that really dropped the ball here, by not even giving the kid a heads up that someone from their circle would be calling.

          And OP, it can never be said enough. Email really is your friend. =)

      2. Teyra*

        I don’t want to be rude, and I truly appreciate that you’re trying to help your friend and their son, but… The parent consulted you, the son didn’t. Speaking as a recent-teenager, and with absolutely no offence intended, their son (who doesn’t know you?) probably isn’t the one who suggested calling you in the first place. I’d imagine the parents called more to allay their concerns than anything else. Teenagers have the world at their fingertips. When I planned to move I got dozens of perspectives from people living in the new area simply by asking on forums, or searching online. If my parents spoke to someone they knew (who I didn’t) who lived there to get their opinion, it wouldn’t be that useful to me, because I’d already have plenty of other opinions from people my age, and answering the questions I wanted answered, not the ones my parents were concerned about. And I’d honestly be a bit irritated if my parents went behind my back to ask someone questions ‘on my behalf’, which is very much the sort of thing they’d do.

        The first thing my mum did after I texted her about a job offer I’d been sent that I was utterly *thrilled*about starting (after a long, intensive interview process) was send me a different job to apply for. I don’t think she’s ever congratulated me. So I am definitely biased against unasked-for parental ‘help’. But if the parents are the ones who value your opinion, who you know personally (I’m not sure what your relationship with the son is as a family friend) and contacted you in the first place, I’d argue they’re the ones you should have emailed the information to, because they’re the ones you have a relationship with.

        And that’s assuming that it actually is relevant and useful to the son, which might not even be the case. My brother had to intentionally flunk the MCAT so my parents (who think he just failed) stopped pressuring him into medicine, if they’d had a medical friend I’m sure they’d have tried to ‘help’ him by getting the well-meaning friend to give him work experience, but it wouldn’t have actually been useful or relevant to him. If you’re worried about helicopter parenting, I wonder if your friend’s given you specific reason to be so concerned? If so, this could be the way they’re going about doing it,

      3. Washi*

        I live in a major US coastal city and sometimes get contacted by people whose children are considering moving to my area. What I usually do is say that they are welcome to pass on my contact info and I would be happy to answer any questions from the child.

        I do this because I often get the impression that these kinds of contacts are more about the parents allaying their own anxiety than concrete help for the children. As Teyra says above, there are a lot of other ways of getting information about a city that could potentially be of higher value than a conversation with someone in a potentially unrelated field who happens to live there. That way the person can choose whether it makes sense to reach out, and at that point I might mention a free leadership class. (Tbh a free leadership class is not typically something so exciting that I would call someone about it – it’s not a job lead, nor is it very likely to be a plus on someone’s resume.)

        1. Private Privates*

          Yeah, I subsidise my actual career with freelance tutoring (creative writing and drama) and I have quite a few friends who work in the creative arts field who are unemployed now due to COVID. I posted a message to FB suggesting that anyone interested in a freelance tutoring gig get in touch with this really great company, and got DMs from people saying “please send details to my daughter/niece/friend’s goddaughter.” I texted one girl who my aunt asked me to contact and she never texted back, despite my aunt claiming she was waiting to hear from me. I suspect my aunt was trying to prod her and the girl really didn’t want to hear from a stranger about some random job.

      4. Kiki*

        I want to preface this by saying this situation isn’t your fault– the parents should have asked you to send them the info so they could pass it along instead of letting you call their son out of the blue. A lot of parents overestimate how much their children know/care about parents’ friends. There are exceptions to this, obviously, but I know my parents talk about me and my life and choices to a lot of people who I only am vaguely aware of, if even aware at all. It’s totally fair for you to have assumed your name came up, and it’s even possible it did and the son doesn’t remember. It’s also possible the parents were kind of on their own thing when they reached out to you and their kid doesn’t even want or need help. Kid-parent relationships are kind of weird— in my experience, it’s best to stand back and pass whatever information you have through the parents in some written medium and hope it makes its way to the kid (unless you actually have a relationship with the kid).

    3. Kiitemso*

      Yeah, my parents used to do this when I was younger, they either found things randomly or got suggestions from friends. They would forward a lot of job ads and potential study programs to my email when I was still stuck in my “deciding my future” mode. A lot of them I ignored but some I applied to. It’s not really the family friends’ job to pitch it to me, as an adult I had to decide for myself if I wanted to apply and how to do it.

      1. parsley*

        I’m 30 and I still get stuff like this from my mother – until recently I was unemployed and while I appreciate the thought behind them doing research on my behalf, it’s very skewed towards her own interests rather than the type of work that I actually like and want to do.

        1. Charamei*

          My dad once forwarded my details to a lawyer he’d met at a dance competition because, I dunno, he thought I was interested in a law career? (I wasn’t and never have been. I was 27-28 and had a perfectly fine job already.) To his credit he did ask my permission first, but that didn’t make it any less awkward when she moved from half an hour talking to me about law careers into a second half hour of complaining that she hated her own law career and then probing me for information about my parents’ divorce…

    4. Alex*

      This. I bet this kid’s rudeness was less directed at OP than reflective of his irritation at his parent for giving out his phone number to strangers.

      I can totally picture my mom doing this, and the words I’d have for her after! People in my parent’s generation think of a phone number as public information, not personal information. (After all, it used to be listed in a freely available book! You could call the operator and get the number of someone, no boundaries trampled!) But now, a phone number and a phone call is considered by a lot of people an intrusion of privacy.

      In the future, definitely just email the parents if you don’t know the kid yourself, and the parents can pass along the information if they want (and their kids can get annoyed with them if they want).

  4. I can only speak Japanese*

    LW 1, why do you think the son was being “entitled” for declining a strange call from someone he doesn’t know? I’m sure you meant well, but I’d probably hang up on a stranger trying to pitch any sort of opportunity to me as well. How do you know he’s even looking for something right now?

    1. OP #1*

      I guess because I can’t imagine myself hanging up on someone in my parents’ circle without trying to figure out the context first.

      1. I can only speak Japanese*

        Do you think younger people owe you their time or respect? No snark, just not sure why you being part of his parents’ circle makes you think he should listen to what probably sounded like a scam call.

        1. OP #1*

          I heavily regret leaving this out of my original letter to AAM, but I actually was caught off-guard that he appeared not to recognize any names I mentioned because they’d consulted me very recently for info since the son was deciding whether to move down to my area to quarantine. I’ve asked AAM if they can add that into the original letter, so there’s more context for me calling him directly!

          1. Observer*

            It still would have made more sense to send this to the parent – that’s who asked you for information to start with. In any case, since he told you that he did NOT recognize your name, for whatever reason, that’s the key piece of information you need to focus on here. Your conversation with his parent is just not relevant anymore.

            The bottom line is that someone claiming to be a family friend / the child of a friend of his parent called him and started on what sounded like a sales pitch. Why would that fact that you claim to be a connection to his parents require him to listen to the whole pitch? Keep in mind – while you had some reason to believe that he would know who you are, by the time you got to explaining what you were calling about, you had been informed that he actually did NOT know who you are.

            1. OP #1*

              You’re right! It’s jarring to get hung up on. I also keep thinking of when I was just out of school with no job leads; I would’ve probably listened to anyone long enough to figure out if what they were saying was legit. But now that would probably just be bad phone self-care given the proliferation of job recruitment sales calls everyone’s referencing here.

              1. Thankful for AAM*

                I feel from the description that he did hang around for what, to him, felt long enough to determine that the call did not sound legit.

                I talk to friends about my son about his questions all the time and might even tell him who they are and what they suggest but I am 100% sure he would have no reason to remember their names. And I would not give you his contact info; maybe his parents felt pressure to bc you are their friend? Or bc they are, indeed, helicopter parents and violate boundaries with their kid.

                I’m in my 50s and I’m surprised he even answered the phone. I don’t answer unknown calls. As he is in the middle of job searching, he probably answered.

                As so many others said, email or share via the parents and give them your contact info to pass along so the child can contact you if they have questions.

                1. Joielle*

                  I was coming down here to say the same thing – it’s not that he didn’t give enough time, it’s that he heard enough to determine that the call sounded like a sales pitch. If someone I’ve never heard of calls me claiming to be a “longtime family friend” and then launches into a sales-y pitch based on what they read on my Linkedin, that’s really unlikely to be anything legit.

                  Just send an email, you don’t need to insert yourself into this situation, you’re not actually connected to the kid or the program. You were trying to be helpful, but you came on too strong and made things weird. It happens.

              2. Akcipitrokulo*

                I think that you both reacted reasonably in the moment :) he thought you were a scammer, and didn’t give a chance to argue eith ending the call, you were upset as it sounded abrupt (which it was! on purpose!).

                So don’t worry about it – but if still open, it’s a nice gesture to forward to the parents.

              3. Shirley Keeldar*

                Hey, OP, I think you were doing a nice thing by trying to reach out to this young man. I’m sure Alison and other commentators are correct, that he probably reacted as though it were a spam call–but I can understand your being taken aback. I don’t think your enthusiasm and desire to be helpful were a flaw or a mistake.

                Friends of parents often know a lot about their friends’ kids because parents, naturally, talk to their friends about their kids. While kids don’t know much about the friends of their parents. This can lead to a kind of disconnect where family friends feel close to kids, but kids don’t really have the same kind of connection back. I think this might have played in here, and it isn’t anyone’s fault–just a natural consequence of people interacting at different stages in their lives.

              4. Observer*

                Sure it’s jarring to be hung up on. But judging him because you would have handled the situation differently is not really a good way to judge a situation once you get past the initial moment. Not just in this case, but in general.

                And, yes, listening to every person who calls claiming to be a “family friend” is not a terribly good idea in most cases, even – perhaps ESPECIALLY – some one who is frantically searching for a job.

              5. DataSci*

                If you’re approximately the same age as your friends, the parents of a recent college grad, it’s been a long time since you were “just out of school”. Things have changed in a generation, especially with respect to phone calls. And the phrases “great opportunity” or “based on your LinkedIn profile” in a cold call from someone you don’t know? Total scam signals. It sounds like this man *did* listen long enough to figure out whether what you were offering was legit, and decided that it wasn’t.

                1. doreen*

                  It actually looks like the OP’s parents are friends with the recent college grad’s parents and the OP is approximately the son’s age – she refers to him as the “son of a family friend” , not the son of her own friend and later on gave him her name and her parents full names. Which suggests to me that these are not “family friends” at all – after all, if I have a close friend who is practically family, our kids will know each other as well.

          2. I can only speak Japanese*

            Are you sure the son knows his parents are trying to find him a job?

            1. Jane Plough*

              It’s not even clear from the letter that the son is actually looking for a job (maybe he’s already found one and hasn’t told his parents!)

              Lw1- you are definitely overthinking this. The son’s response was fine (and if he thought you were a spammer, good for him for hanging up!). In future just email your mutual contact and ask them to pass it on – as you’d do for a friend-of-a-friend of any age.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                I’m also now thinking of a commenter from earlier this year who said they’d had to set up a LinkedIn profile as a class exercise. Might be son’s class did the same and it doesn’t really reflect him.

          3. The Other Dawn*

            I’d argue it’s highly likely his parents consulted you without even mentioning it to him, which would explain why he had no clue who you were.

            1. Washi*

              Yep. If the whole thing had started with the son saying “Mom, do you have any friends in City X that you can connect me with” then the son would have most likely known the OP’s name or at least not been surprised when she called.

              That’s not to say that the OP was wrong for trying to help when asked by the parents, but just that from the son’s point of view, there may have literally been no context to this call (which is on the parents, really.)

            2. Paulina*

              Or if they did mention it to him, the name attached to it may have been sufficiently unimportant to not be memorable; he may have remembered the category (person my parents have known since whenever) rather than the OP’s specific name.

          4. Indigo*

            Hey OP, it also struck me as very weird that he had never heard of those names. Given the long time family friend connection I can absolutely understand why you called, and would have perhaps done something similar. While many of the comments have very good suggestions, I just wanted to say that your instincts were still reasonable.

            1. MayLou*

              I wouldn’t recognise the names of my mum and stepdad’s friends necessarily, because honestly there are so many of them I tend to zone out a bit (also they all seem to have the same names). I don’t think it was awfully rude to call the son but can see why it might have seemed weird for him. Hopefully it’ll get ironed out and he’ll be glad of the information.

            2. A*

              I do think there is a bit of a generational divide here. This is so far from anything that would be considered reasonable in my social and professional circles, I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around it. Not to say OP did anything *wrong*, all parties here seemed to have good intentions – but I do wonder about the demographic of those saying this is the norm / not unusual.

              In regards to the names, I certainly don’t know all my friends parents names (and would perhaps be concerned about the extent of their social lives if I did). Maybe if my family was from a really rural area and never moved or anything, but their friends live all around the world. It’s not like their old college roommates etc. all settled down in the exact same area.

              1. A*

                “I certainly don’t know all my friends parents names”

                *Parent’s friends names.

                Yeesh, I hate Mondays!

            3. RussianInTexas*

              I am vaguely aware of some of parents’ friends, but my mom still sometimes mentions someone I am suppose to know, and I draw a blank.
              When I was a child, parents friends were not important to me, and now I am an adult, they are still just somewhere on the periphery of my life.

          5. SarahTheEntwife*

            Just because someone is friends with the parents, doesn’t mean they’re someone the son knows well. A family friend could be an honorary aunt or uncle, or could be “that dude with the hat I met once five years ago” even if Hat Dude is really close with the parents.

          6. Archaeopteryx*

            This sounds like almost certainly a case we are the parents suggested he reach out to ask you about your city, whereas he fully intended to just do some research online like everyone remotely else his age would. Even if they did mention your name, that doesn’t mean he would necessarily remember it or have any emotional connection to be able to contextualize who you are after that, because it’s unlikely that he actually intended to reach out to you guys for questions that he could just look up online.

          7. Georgina Fredrika*

            Op 1, I found this letter to be kind of humorous/interesting because it seems to highlight different generational expectations so well! I liked reading all the responses to this.

            This thread reminds me of my own parents, and makes me feel a little guilty because they consulted family friends about the city I was moving to, and I definitely have NO idea the names of those friends! And didn’t want or need the advice because I had my own friends living here, so it was one of those convos where I wasn’t really listening.

            But this is part of the adult task of parenting your parents, which means accepting that this is their way of trying to help out even if it’s like a child excited to show you a leaf they found.

            1. A*

              Please don’t feel guilty! You didn’t do anything wrong, and can’t control others. All you can do is be your own self-advocate!

          8. 2 Cents*

            No offense, OP #1, but with my parents, we frequently have nicknames or other identifiers for people they know that you wouldn’t know, like a person is always referred to as “my boss Joe” never “Joseph Namath,” so it’s likely the kid knows who you are, but combine that with an out-of-the-blue phone call, was stymied to remember your name. Also, you might want to take it down a notch. You seem very invested in this, considering it’s not your program, not your kid, and your free time.

            1. A*

              This is a good point. Also, with my parents they often will just say “a friend of mine’, because it’s nit like we are ever actually discussing that person in detail – they’d only come up in passing in relation to something else. I.E. “oh, you are looking into designing teapots? A friend of mine used to be involved in that!”

              Like I know tons of stories about my dad’s roommate in law school… but wouldn’t be able to tell you his name if my life depended on it. All of the stories were about my dad “and roomie”. In regards to more recent friends, it’s usually just a passing comment of “I’ve been spending a lot of time with a woman I met through work” or something along those lines. And vice versa – it’s not like my parents are intimately familiar with the names of all of my friends. That went out the window in middle school.

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                Oh, good point! I’ve heard lots of stories about some of my mom’s college roommates, but the only 2 I know happened to also marry friends of my dad, so we had lots of reasons for the families to keep in contact. Also, they all got married within a couple years of each other, and have kids around the same age. So even though we ended up all over the country, I know I can still crash on their couches any time. I’m practically their surrogate niece.
                The other roommates, however cool they might have been, I don’t know their names. They may have been mentioned by name at some point, but there was no reason to waste mental real estate on remembering those names.

          9. Anonymity*

            It doesn’t change anything. He doesn’t know you. Calling is way too much. If you have a tip, you pass it on to the parents. There’s rarely a need to cold call someone you don’t know.

          10. Qwerty*

            I get why you may have felt there was more of a relationship with the son than he did. Parents like to talk about their kids to their friends a *lot* more than they tell their kids about their friends. So while you may feel like you know him from all of the conversations with his parents, odds are that he has little to no knowledge of you. Even if he did know about you, his context is probably completely different than how you introduced yourself so the dots didn’t connect. If you say you are “dad’s coworker Jane” and he only knows you as “Jane who makes good lemon cake”, then you can say all you want about your connection to his dad and it won’t click.

        2. Treebeardette*

          What a bizarre response. Of course he doesn’t think the son owes him anything. It’s perfectly normal to expect a long time family friend to tell their son about this opportunity. Most parents would. This isn’t some 16 year old kid. The son is an adult and could have acted better. Maybe it’s just my industry but requiter calls are normal. Of course OP could make it less sales pitchy but I don’t see why you’re being snarky to the op.

          1. Colette*

            I actually think the son acted reasonably – and I would have done the same thing.

            The OP wanted to have a phone call to pitch the opportunity – and the son detected the pitch and hung up. A better approach would have been for the OP to email the son introducing herself, include the relevant information, and offer to chat on the phone if that would be helpful.

            1. KRM*

              Yes! An email saying that you’re a friend of his parents, they know you live in a city he’s considering, you know about this opportunity and wanted to pass it on, and please feel free to email to set up a call if you’re interested. That was he can look at it, and ask his parents about you if he’s suspicious about it.
              I do think his parents could have said “hey we reached out to X about this thing you might be interested in, look out for a communication”

            2. Bostonian*

              “Sorry, not interested” is a lot more polite to someone who YOU KNOW is friends with your parents than “bye”, *click*.

              1. IOCTL*

                The guy didn’t recognize the name, so he doesn’t know that OP was friends with his parents.

                1. Colette*

                  Exactly. He didn’t recognize the OP’s name; at that point, she’s a stranger calling with a possibly fake or scammy opportunity.

              2. Taura*

                He only had her word for that, though. If someone calls me up and goes “hey, I’m a friend of your dad’s, I wanted to tell you about xyz…” my reaction would’ve been maybe you are and maybe you aren’t, but I don’t recognize your name or your voice, and don’t EVER call me again. It doesn’t sound like she gave him any kind of chance to verify her credentials which would at least have prevented a “rude” hanging up.

              3. Annony*

                Considering he had never heard of the OP, he probably thought she was lying. From his point of view, a random person called him, told him that she was a family friend and then started in on a sales pitch. He probably thought it was a scam.

              4. Just A Zebra*

                I’ve had people reach out to me who claimed to be “an old buddy of your dad’s”. Unless I’ve actually met them, they get hung up on in pretty much the same fashion. And I’ve never had my dad say “so-and-so called you, why did you hang up?”

                It’s a marketing technique. OP’s friend’s son doesn’t owe them anything. He listened long enough to hear a pitch and decided not to waste any more time. We have no idea what that phone call may have been interrupting.

              5. jenkins*

                Sure, but in his shoes I would genuinely have thought ‘scammer trying to get a foot in the door by convincing me that they know my parents’.

              6. biobotb*

                But he didn’t KNOW. If you believe any random person who contacts you claiming to know a friend or family member, you are ripe for scamming.

              7. nonegiven*

                The son didn’t know OP was a friend of his parents, only that they claimed to be and then went into their pitch. I wouldn’t have answered the phone, an email would probably be deleted. Only if my parents had sent me enough information that I could do a little independent research that didn’t come out looking scammy.

          2. Anononon*

            Except the kid didn’t know the OP. Family friend generally means friend of the whole family. And, I would posit, recruiter calls aren’t normal or many people, especially if the son is early in his career.

          3. Beth Jacobs*

            This wasn’t even a recruiter call. Recruiters recruit people for jobs. This was a “leadership class” by a “famous entrepreneur”. I honestly wouldn’t be interested in that “opportunity” even if it was legit – I’m not considering starting my own business or managing a large team at this time.

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              Yeah, I wouldn’t be interested, either. It’s not like it’s a conference with great networking opportunities, nor would it be appropriate to put on a resume.
              So while OP might enjoy that kind of seminar and find it motivating, to a young adult considering a new city and career move, it would not appeal. In fact, quite frankly, it would be a waste of time and money. Motivational speeches on most any topic can be found free on the internet.

          4. A*

            I don’t think calling it ‘bizarre’ is fair given how many commenters are aligned with one another. Certainly doesn’t mean they are automatically right, but it certainly isn’t an unusual or outlandish response.

            I feel strongly that the son didn’t do anything explicitly wrong here. Could he have handled it better? Sure. So could OP.

            Given the sheer volume of commenters speaking to how unusual this is nowadays, I think it is worth at least considering that perspective. Refusing to accept social changes (that in this case have already occurred) will do you no favors, especially if putting others in the position of having to defend said changes.

        3. Jemima Bond*

          He said Bye and hung up on her mid sentence, which, given that it wasn’t a spam call and at that stage OP hadn’t really twigged that it might have seemed so, was rude.
          For what it’s worth I’m a bit confused as to why the call apparently sounded like sales spam. I mean leaving aside the fact that I had no idea sales calls for free academic career programs were a thing, because why would I know, what kind of cold sales caller introduces themself by name with credentials that should ring a bell with the guy if he’s already put out feelers in the specific area, gives a detailed connection naming names and asking if he recognises them (as opposed to “uh, I know your parents”).
          It seemed to me like OP did her best to establish her legitimacy and so when he laughed at her and then cut her off mid sentence I can’t blame her for thinking that was rude. Good on her for exploring whether her call came across in an unintended way because my initial reading gave me the impression he was entitled and ill mannered too, until reading about why it might have come across as a sales call. I still think he wasn’t paying full attention though; she gave him things he could easily have checked the truth of eg personal connections which a cold sales caller wouldn’t do.

          1. Quake Johnson*

            I still don’t understand the ‘entitled’ reading. Saying ‘No’ to something you don’t want and didn’t ask for is almost the opposite of entitlement.

            1. Another freelancer*

              Yeah, I don’t get this, either.

              Also, OP mentioned that the son didn’t recognize any of the names she mentioned. It’s possible the son is being careful about not giving away personal information to people they don’t know, and it’s also possible OP had the wrong contact information and called a random number. Neither scenario makes the call recipient rude for ending the call abruptly.

            2. Jemima Bond*

              Perhaps entitled is the wrong word; I suppose I was thinking about the impression I got from reading that he laughed at her when she was trying to do him a favour. But what he thought the call was and the reasonableness of his reaction is information from later; I’m talking about before op knew/realised she might have sounded salesy.
              It seems now he didn’t know she was in good faith but the immediate effect before unpacking where she came across wrongly, is unfortunate.
              To be clear I understand someone cutting off what he thinks is a sales call but at the time, the op didn’t intend it as such and only looking back afterwards did she suspect it might have sounded sales-y (and had it amply confirmed here). So again, at the time it sounded rude, that seems to have been her honest impression. Figuring out later that there is a reason for that is great but it is with the benefit of hindsight and analysis. It seems unkind to criticise the op for her immediate reaction to being laughed and and cut off, before she realised what was going on and that she’d made a mistake.

              1. parsley*

                You’ve never laughed awkwardly when you weren’t sure what to say in an uncomfortable situation? From the letter it doesn’t sound like he was mocking her.

                1. Washi*

                  Yeah I assumed the laugh was “wow, these sales people will really try anything!”

                  I’m always getting fake calls about my supposed car loan or mortgage, seniors regularly get calls purporting to be from or about family members. Just because someone can say their own name and that they know my parents doesn’t mean it’s true!

              2. A*

                I think it seems unkind to criticize the son for his immediate reaction to an unsolicited AND UNSCHEDULED (we have no idea what he was in the middle of, etc.) call. OP clearly had good intentions, I haven’t seen a single comment that says otherwise. However that does not automatically translate to the son having been rude.

                Poor guy literally got a call out of the blue from someone he didn’t know, using a script extremely similar to spam and recruiter calls, and eventually hung up. It was an unfortunate misunderstanding. That doesn’t make him rude. I don’t understand how you can see how criticizing the OP would be unkind, but at the same time your doing the exact same thing to the son.

                Sometimes, all parties can mean well, and there is still a misunderstanding.

          2. I can only speak Japanese*

            Except we don’t know the son’s perspective on this. He got a strange call from someone he doesn’t know who claims to know his parents, telling him about some vague opportunity. For all we know, the son could be low contact with the parents which the parents don’t respect. This might not even be about OP, it might be about the relationship within that family. Maybe his parents routinely try to set him up, who knows?

            I don’t see why the son was rude in cutting OP off though. No one owes their time to random phone calls. If OP wants to complain about someone, it would be the parents who gave out their son’s number without his permission.

          3. Mystery Bookworm*

            Sales calls for free academic career programs aren’t a thing.

            But sales calls (and just straight up cons) that claim to know you through your [school, parents, old colleague] and are couched in claims of free advantageous programs are 100% things.

            1. Thankful for AAM*

              For “free” academic programs that actually have a cost – I could believe there are sales pitches for that.

          4. Bagpuss*

            I disagree. Yes, *we* know it wasn’t a spam call, but *he* didn’t. From his perspective, someone he didn’t know called him out of the blue, ignored him when he said he didn’t know the people they were namedropping, and tried to pitch something to him based on what he had on his linkedin profile.

            It sounds as though there is a lack of communication between him and his parents, and OP#1 got caught in the middle. (I’m also reminded of the letter from last week with family members sending inappropriate job links to the letter writer – maybe there has been a similar issue here! )

            Of course, it’s possible that he is *also* rude, but I don’t think that you can extrapolate that from his shutting down what seemed to be a cold caller . Possibly of OP had started the call with “I’m a friend of your mother’s – she told me you were considering moving to [area] and were interested in [field], and asked me to pass on any opportunities I became aware of, as I work in that field and area. She gave me you number and e-mail address and I wanted to call you before e-mailing” then the outcome might have been different. That’s not a criticism of OP, it seems to me that this is a ‘no a**holes here’ situation.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              You’ve written a good sxript.
              “I’m a friend of your mother’s – she told me you were considering moving to [area] and were interested in [field], and asked me to pass on any opportunities I became aware of, as I work in that field and area. She gave me you number and e-mail address and I wanted to call you before e-mailing”

              1. DataSci*

                “I wanted to call you before e-mailing”

                Why? Why would someone choose a communication method that interrupts whatever someone is doing (even if they don’t answer the phone, the ringing is still an interruption) over an asynchronous method that can be dealt with at a convenient time? If you cold call me you’re starting with two strikes against you.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  This. Also, with an email you can include a link to the program which gives the recipient the opportunity to look at it (and possibly research it) before deciding if it’s worth their time.

                2. Emilia Bedelia*

                  Seconded. In this context, all the important information is in the email. If son wants to look into it, the most helpful thing for OP to do would be to answer any of his questions AFTER he’s had a chance to get familiar with the program. What purpose could talking before emailing possibly serve?

                3. A*

                  Agreed. Only way I can wrap my mind around some of the comments I’m seeing is a generational divide. If what the son did in this situation – witch the information he had available at the time (none) – is truly considered rude, well than I am doomed. I have zero patience for someone calling instead of emailing, especially if both unsolicited AND unscheduled. If I’m going to be up against an unsolicited call, the least I’d expect is for the individual to reach out via email first to setup a time to discuss.

            2. Lynn Whitehat*

              Yup. The last chance to salvage the situation was after OP said who they were, “I’m Barney Gumble, a friend of your parents, Homer and Marge Simpson? I also know Carl Carlson?” “Uh no, not ringing any bells.” This is where people who are legit take a minute to prove it. “Yeah, we’ve spent a lot of time drinking Duff with your dad at Moe’s over the years. He’s always been so proud of you [actual details of the Simpsons’ lives]. Hey, how’s Maggie?” “Oh, Barney! From Moe’s! Ok, I’ve placed you now.” Whereas pushy sales people forge ahead. “Never heard of me? Hm. Anyhow…”

              1. Malarkey01*

                See even that makes me feel uneasy- like I’m the victim of a sophisticated phishing scam. I get really uncomfortable when people I don’t know suddenly ask questions about how so and so is (usually from crap other family members have posted on social media). It feels like an invasion of privacy that a stranger knows things third hand.

          5. EventPlannerGal*

            I disagree for several reasons.

            1. I used to work switchboard and would deal with cold callers dozens of times a day. They usually do try to establish some kind of tenuous connection – they’re “friends of your parents” just like they met you at [conference], were on a training course with you, worked together years ago and want to catch up, whatever. Giving specific names isn’t unusual, they will have dug those up on LinkedIn or Facebook. They often start by introducing themselves by name because that makes them sound more real.

            2. The fact that OP mentioned other names might not really mean much to him in the moment – my parents have tons of friends who I would recognise on sight or vaguely remember their names after thinking about it for a while, but probably wouldn’t mean anything if they were mentioned to me randomly in a different context.

            3. Claiming that whatever they are trying to sell you is free is also a very standard cold call thing.

            The whole thing just sounds very spammy and fake, and also like OP would have been putting him on the spot a bit even if he’d recognised her and stayed on the call (“oh great, now I have politely discuss my career with Mom’s BFF on zero moments notice while doing my laundry/walking to the store/cooking dinner”.) He could have been more polite about it, but OP could also have put more thought into how they were going to contact him. I would just take it as a lesson learned about how a phone call isn’t always appropriate for the context.

          6. Colette*

            The thing is, the son couldn’t check anything for validity while on the phone call. (If it was an email, he could.) I would have hung up, too.

            1. Annony*

              Yes! Email would be the way to go in this context. Speed is not important, content is. By sending an email he can not only call his parents and ask who the heck you are and how you got his contact info, he can also look into the program itself and reach out to ask questions if he is actually interested.

          7. Observer*

            given that it wasn’t a spam call and at that stage OP hadn’t really twigged that it might have seemed so, was rude.

            Wait, so he was rude for not being a mind reader and knowing things that he had no way to know? That’s a really bizarre take.

            what kind of cold sales caller introduces themself by name with credentials that should ring a bell with the guy if he’s already put out feelers in the specific area, gives a detailed connection naming names and asking if he recognises them (as opposed to “uh, I know your parents”).

            A sales caller who happens to be good at blowing smoke. Look, he told he OP that he did NOT recognize their name. Claiming that he really MUST have actually recognized the name is not just rude, it’s just foolish. Spammers come up with supposed personal connections ALL THE TIME. And FREE stuff (with a bazillion catches) are a dime a dozen.

          8. Joielle*

            Have you ever done an information security training? I have to do them periodically for work and this is exactly the kind of call we’re trained to be wary of – someone claims to have a connection to you and wants to offer you something that sounds a bit too good to be true. Eventually they’ll tell you that the seminar is free, but in order to sign up, they just need your credit card information to hold your spot because there’s a cancellation fee if you don’t show up. Or, this is such a great opportunity, could you give them the (nonpublic) email address of your department director so they can send it to them too? You can see where this is going. It’s social engineering.

            Of course, that’s not what the OP was doing, but if you’re at all familiar with infosec best practices, you would find this call very suspicious. I know I would. Just send an email, it’s a better choice all around.

          9. RagingADHD*

            Because free academic career programs are not a thing.

            Author/entrepreneurs do “free” seminars in order to sell books, courses, membership in high-ticket “mentorship” groups, and other upsells. Or they try to recruit attendees into their MLM.

            It’s the business version of the “free dinner” where they pitch you a timeshare.

          10. Eukomos*

            He clearly thought it WAS a spam call, which is why he acted like that. The kind of people who start with pitches like that are, unfortunately, often not only spammers but scammers. I’m kind of wondering if the program the OP was recommending is teaching people who went to its seminars to pitch them like this, because she gave it an awfully hard sell on a pretty tenuous connection. It’s not at all unreasonable to notice that you’re getting a hard sell, feel the possible lie about their connection to you is a red flag, and get the hell off the phone.

          11. Alice's Rabbit*

            It certainly sounded like a spam call to me. Someone this guy doesn’t know claims to be a family friend, rattling off more names he doesn’t recognize as supposed proof. That screams scammer to me.
            Then, they move immediately to what sounds like a sales pitch for a seminar. My telemarketer-radar was screaming at that point. I would have hung up, too.
            While yes, we’re getting the LW’s side of the story, so we know this was a legitimate attempt to be helpful… from the kid’s perspective, this phone call does not sound on the level.

        1. Willis*

          Yeah, especially if OP tried to give some context and none of it connected. How long is the kid supposed to try and figure out the context of what seems to be a scam?

        2. Username1234*

          That’s what I was thinking too. It can be really easy to do some quick internet searches and find someone’s parents names. A convincing scammer could easily pass off that they are a family friend just by some internet info.

      2. Observer*

        What if you weren’t sure that it actually was someone from your parent’s circle? He actually TOLD YOU that he didn’t know who you are and that your name doesn’t ring a bell.

        Also, plenty of people use these kinds of connections for sales type pitches. Why would you expect him to stay on the phone for that, if that’s what he thought it was? Like, “Oh she got her parent’s phone book and tracked down the kids. I’m going to have to have a conversation with Mom about giving my number to salespeople!”

      3. Mark Roth*

        I am nowhere near as young as the OP, but I am not sure I would assume someone I never heard of was actually part of my parents’ circle. Though to be fair, if my parents told me a friend of theirs wanted to get in touch with me, I would have said to have them email me.

      4. MK*

        OP, it’s not that I don’t get where you are coming from, but in all similar situations that I personally have been in, the common aquaintance would make an introduction of some sort first. your case, my parents would have called me to let me know a person from their friend circle was likely to contact me.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Looking at the original letter, it looks from the timeline like OP got the info, reached out to the family friends, got the son’s contact details and called the son all on the same day, so it didn’t allow the parents a lot of time to speak to the son – yes, it would have been better for the parents to have the conversation with the son first, so I don’t disagree with those who said it was on them for not having done so, but if it was the same day then it makes me wonder, had OP given it longer before actually contacting him, it would have given the parents that bit more time to give him the heads up. Maybe they did mean to and would have done so later in the day, but it happened that OP contacted him before they had managed to do so.

          However, I do think still it might have been better to send the info via the parents for them to pass on so that the son would be less likely to think it was spam, and also that the parents shouldn’t really have given out the contact details without speaking to him.

      5. Catherine*

        One of the rules of “stranger danger” my parents drummed into me was not to believe someone saying “it’s ok, I know your parents!” if I didn’t recognize them!

        1. ThePear8*

          This absolutely! I am a young person and the vast majority of times I get calls from strangers I’m not expecting it’s a scam or telemarketer and I usually hang up. If you called claiming to be a family friend I’d never heard of, it would’ve screamed scam to me and I would definitely have hung up! The only exception I can think is if one of my parents was actually with me and I could verify with them (“Hey mom do we know a Jane Doe?”)
          Alison is absolutely right to email. I regularly check my email and get emails about these sorts of events all the time, and if it interests me I’m free to decide on my own if it’s something I want to look into more.

        2. Alice's Rabbit*

          So true! This was drummed into the generation who are now young adults. By our parents. By our teachers. By the TV shows we watched. By annual school assemblies with police. Stranger Danger!
          Just because we’re adults now doesn’t mean that decades of training can disappear overnight.

      6. Kate 2*

        OP with Facebook and other social media now scammers can ALSO claim to be Jane Smith, a friend of your parents, using real people’s names. It’s been all over the news. Like those Mexico scams where they call grandparents, tell them the grandkid has been kidnapped, they use real names, some even use social media to call when the family members really ARE visiting Mexico.

        TL;DR Op Just because you use the patents names it doesn’t mean your legit. Scammers do that too, that’s why you were hung up on, calling out of the blue about a “great business opportunity!”

        1. ThePear8*

          Exactly! Once my dad called up my great-grandpa, and got hung up on cause great-grandpa had been recently warned about scammers pretending to be relatives, not to mention it had been a long time since my dad had talked to him. So even when my dad called him up and said “Hey, it’s me, Al, your grandson!” and even recounted specific memories he had with him, my great-grandpa didn’t trust him. (of course he later cleared it up and apologized, but bottom line is, you never know who’s really calling!)

      7. EventPlannerGal*

        There are a lot of reasons why he might not have believed you were part of his parents circle. For example, my parents have plenty of friends who I only know by their first names or by nicknames – if someone called and told me that they knew Margaret Smith and Charles Jones, I probably wouldn’t figure out on the spot that they were talking about Uncle Charlie and Mum’s friend Peggy.

      8. bananab*

        If someone I didn’t know called me unexpectedly and cited my mom, my snap response would be that they probably just googled it. If they then rattled off more names that didn’t ring a bell, it’d basically confirm that for me as bad research. I also generally assume any unsolicited call is someone that wants something from me. IMO this was kind of a doomed approach in general.

      9. JSPA*

        OP, when I was young, friends of my parents would sometimes clip and send newspaper and magazine articles or job listings or events that mentioned anything related to biology, animals, DNA, science, literature, languages, gardening, birds, medicine or (most mystifying) summer camps, with a note saying how I should read it, as it would be a great path / great opportunity / great starter job for me. My parents would ask if I wanted them (or even read me the first line) before throwing them out. The answer never happened to be, “yes.” I was fully literate, after all, and quite competent to skim sources. The few that fit, I’d already found; the others didn’t fit.

        I didn’t mind it, because it gave my parents a chance to connect with their friends, and it gave me a topic to giggle about with my parents. The few times that the parental friend tried to sell me direct, I was not appreciative. (There was more than one time when I basically said, “look, if i want to talk to Dan, I’ll walk down the hall and talk to him; I don’t need to pay big bucks to hear him simplify his work for the general public, with a side of rubbery chicken and wilted salad.”)

        We already know, from this very site, that even parents are often way off base and uncomprehending about what their kids do, want to do, and are qualified to do. It follows that what parents’ friends know about kids is already filtered through that layer of basic incomprehension. It’s a game of telephone, at best. The idea that some other third party with no first hand knowledge of a person is going to get it right under those circumstances is just…really unlikely.

        If you knew that Chen Ho was specifically interested in, say, medical applications of CRISPER, and you or your spouse, a specialist in the field of drug development, had been asked to find young participants for a young talent development meeting on application of CRISPER to rare diseases, that’d be different. You’d ask Chen Ho if they’d like the invitation. “Listening to someone famous and reputable is a can’t-miss” really isn’t at all similar. You got something in your inbox that only failed to be spam in that you value it. Howevger, if you pass it along to someone who doesn’t value it, you’re changing it back into spam.

        “My enthusiasm about helping you is high” is almost never an excuse to intrude on someone’s life and tell them what they should do. Neither is, “I know your parents and you should remember me,” or “I am highly invested in your success, despite us not having an actual, direct, current relationship.” Intent aside (because the recipient can’t know your intent, and should not have to guess it) that’s not generally going to land well. The cold-call is mostly a problem because there’s no polite way to do the old-fashioned “stuff it in the recycling” response that this sort of, “I have an enthusiasm I want to transplant to you” would normally get.

        1. ThePear8*

          Well put. I also have this problem with my grandparents, I know they mean well but texting me an ad about literally any tech seminar doesn’t mean I’m interested. I’ve already seen all those same ads from my school and have already decided if it’s something I care about going to or not.
          There was once I went to a show with my grandparents, and they had a friend who was also attending whose son-in-law or whatever happened to be a professor in my department. They INSISTED I had to meet him during intermission. My grandparents barely knew the guy, let alone introduce him to me. Just because I am a computer science major doesn’t mean I want to talk to literally any computer science professor. They may have different focus areas than what I’m interested in, teach courses that I am unlikely to ever take, and/or maybe I just plain find them hard to talk to. If I want to connect with a professor, I’ll take their class, send them an email, go to their office hours, go to an event/club they’re at or involved in, or something. Not find them for five minutes to say “Hi I’m Jane and my grandparents know your in-laws”.

      10. Beth*

        But if you got a cold call from someone who told you “I got your contact info from your [mom/dad/aunt/uncle/college/etc.]” but you didn’t recognize their name and hadn’t been told to expect a call, and then when you said you weren’t familiar with them they launched into what sounded like a marketing pitch, would you really assume they were someone in your parents’ circle? Or would you assume that it was a spam call that was trying to play on a supposed connection (which may not even be real) to get you to hear them out?

      11. Just in Cases*

        I’d be suspicious though that they even KNEW my parents. Almost all spam I get is claiming to be someone I know or should know. It’s even worse than regular cold calling because I think there is something suspicious about it because they are “putting me at ease.”.

        At work we get emails from our CEO (not really) and asking to do things and are told to immediately delete because they are scams.

    2. Mazzy*

      Not to mention it’s for a leadership class. Most people that young are only going to care about paid jobs

      1. Lynca*


        A free leadership class isn’t going to help someone trying to make a decision about moving to a location for job prospects. Also if you’re not in their line of work (and it didn’t sound like the OP is in the same field) it could be that this class isn’t as applicable as they think. The description sounds more like a seminar to sell books than something that would be professional development to me.

        It honestly feels like the same situation when parents give terrible work advice.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I think this is a really, really important point. Why was a phone call even necessary? An email with the info is more than enough and certainly presents less pressure. It’s a CLASS. If you were calling to talk about a job, that’s one thing. But calling and spending so much time just to say, “Hey, Mortimer Gates is doing a leadership seminar, are you interested?” strikes me as overkill.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes, what’s more useful is if you had some influence with a business that’s hiring, knew that your friends kid had the requisite skills and can vouch for him, and wanted to reach out to see if he was interested. just letting him know that something exists that you’re not involved in, especially when it isn’t even an open position, is Nice but again perhaps overkill.

      3. NoviceManagerGuy*

        That’s where I am – even though OP is who she said she was, she was still pitching something that is probably a waste of the call recipient’s time. It was still a spam call, just closer to an MLM pitch from an acquaintance than a robocall scam.

        1. ThePear8*

          Right, at least as an email I can read over the information and decide whether or not I’m interested or want to move it to my spam folder. It’s harder to explain to someone over the phone or in person that you’re not interested.

      4. CTT*

        This is part of why I’m having a strong reaction to this – I graduated during the Recession and so many family friends had great opportunities to tell me about!!…. that were unpaid internships. I think they were so wrapped up in the thought of being helpful they didn’t think through what the actual offer was

  5. Chinook*

    Op #4 I want to echo AAM’s advice about not jumping to conclusions whn it comes to names or physical features. I worked in an office (in Canada) where they never asked for anyone’s language preferences and instead based it on province and/or name. I quickly pointed out that this was a horrible idea and gave many examples from my own life about how wrong they would have been and how offended the other person would rightly have been. I personally was infuriated at being considered as “English only” based on my name and birth province as it didn’t take into consideration my skills, education, or my mother’s first language (which can affect job prospects in parts of Canada if they think you can’t handle French without asking).

    I still get irate when those assumptions are made about myself or coworkers and have been known to flat out say AAM’s wording because it is important to recognize that humans are complex creatures. It also allows for someone to speak up about the “other accommodations” which can be overlooked.

    Lastly, please ensure that all religions are accomodated, as practicing Christians/Catholics can get push back when they ask for Christmas and Easter off because it is seen as a popular holiday. I know everyone wants Christmas and New Year’s day off, but some of us are going to a religious services those day that are considered days of obligation and don’t have control over the timings of those services.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      This. And please don’t think you know about someone’s religion.

      Mine religion is tiny. At my last job, I asked for 2 days off for religious observance. They said my holidays weren’t on the secret approved list of holidays people could get off. My holiday overlapped with another faith’s holiday. It wasn’t a coverage issue. If I said I was observing the other holiday, I could have the day off, no problem. But mine weren’t “real” or something. I was just about to bring in more books than I could carry on the subway in one day about customs how our holidays are observed, how old they are, etc. I never actually said the word “discrimination,” but I think management finally got it into their head.

    2. SusanIvanova*

      My company just gave us “personal days” that didn’t count against PTO – it could be a holiday, or your birthday, or anything of personal significance. After all, non-religious people should get the same perks as everyone else. I used mine for Easter Monday – it’s not really a big thing in the US, but if you’re in a church choir and had over a week of rehearsals and services, you need it!

      1. Jay*

        My current company has two floating holidays and two volunteer days. Last year I served as the lay cantor for High Holiday services and thus was able to use my volunteer days. The combination meant that for the first time in a 30-year career I did not have to give up four days of vacation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This should not be so rare.

        In my first “real” job, we got comp time for taking call on hospital holidays (I’m a doc). We never did much on Labor Day or Memorial Day or July 4th, so I volunteered to work every hospital holiday except Thanksgiving and used the comp days to cover the Jewish holidays. That worked for a few years until my boss told me I was no longer allowed to do it. When I explained the reason and pointed out that he didn’t have to use vacation days for Christmas or Easter, he told me they couldn’t allow “Jewish entitlement” and everyone had to work a holiday. Why I didn’t quit on the spot I don’t know, but I didn’t. I just went to my partners privately and offered to cover their holidays.

        1. Sara without an H*

          “Jewish entitlement”???!!! Jay, you are a much, much better person than I am. I probably would have thrown the nearest object at his head.

        2. Database Developer Dude*

          I’m not even Jewish and I want to throw something at this guy. Why did you not immediately file a formal, written complaint? You do have the grounds right here.

          1. Jay*

            This was the mid 1990s, and he was pretty much untouchable in the organization. I’d already tried to get action on another physician who made anti-Semitic comments and got nothing except a reputation as a troublemaker. I look back now and shake my head at myself (to say the least) for staying as long as I did; I was the primary wage-earner and the trailing spouse of an academic, so no geographic flexibility, it was a small community, I loved some parts of the job (especially teaching) and by that time I suffered from a fair amount of Stockholm syndrome. It was not good, and I’m glad it’s over.

        3. kittymommy*

          “Jewish entitlement”???? What the effing hell!!! I agree with Sara, you are a much better person than I am. I would have seriously considered decking him.

        4. Curmudgeon in California*

          “Jewish entitlement”???? WTeverlovingF??

          Offering to cover other people’s holidays so you can get your own off is not “entitlement”. That boss needed to be smacked by HR, hard.

          I’m pagan. I’ve covered holidays on-call for Catholics and Jews. It’s called consideration. I’ll trade Yule for Christmas anytime. That kind of give-and-take between the various religions means everyone wins.

        5. Alice's Rabbit*

          Okay, I am very Christian, and I want to exercise some holy vengeance on your boss. That is not okay!
          Personally, I am thrilled to switch shifts with my Jewish coworkers to ensure we all get our respective religious obligations met. Same with my coworkers of any other religion, too. I’m happy to pick up a Saturday shift, and be able to go to church on Sunday with my family (once proper church meetings resume, of course) while letting my coworkers keep shabbat.

    3. T2*

      There are 6 days a year that I know at least 6 months in advance. One of which I know 2-3 years in advance.

      I won’t be working any of those days. Simple as that. I am flexible about covering for people for their holidays. But I will not miss mine.

      Over the years I don’t even ask for them. I simply say on day X, I won’t be working.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I recall one employer getting a bit angry when I wanted October 31st off, because he said that the holiday was just for kids (Halloween).

      Had to explain I’m pagan, and what Samhain means. That was fun, but he did listen in the end and was a lot better when I asked for time off for winter solstice.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        I found getting October 31 was fine, but after being up all night, November 1st was a better use of the PTO.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Took me long time to drive to Glastonbury Tor but I found if I headed home before 2am I could still bash out a day’s work after. Would not have worked if I wasn’t such a morning person though, then I’d likely have tried to get both days off.

          1. Donkey Hotey*

            Nope. Maybe 20 years ago. These days, sleep is a much higher priority. You’re a more able morning person than I.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Argggh. Even if it was “just for kids”, if you had been the designated trick-or-treat escort for a bunch of your relatives it would have been reasonable.

        I seldom take the eight pagan holidays off anymore, because I don’t do anything but celebrate quietly at home.

  6. Zombeyonce*

    #5 If you really have no idea when you might come back and don’t even want to put a month in there, I’d leave any mention of a date out completely but be sure to include a contact for people that need to get in touch with someone that has access to your files/contacts/projects. Something like, “I’m currently out on medical leave and not checking voicemail or email. For questions, contact Jim Bob at”

    1. Rexish*

      This. When this happens in my work place we just say “I’m out of office. During my absence, please contact Jim Bob at” or some other variation. You can mention medical leave but it’s not a must and I perosanlyl don’t want to provide additional info. Lack of date indicates that it might be longer time and that return day is unsure.

    2. Consultant #4*

      Yeah when I had something happen to me, I initially put OOO “indefinitely” but HR freaked about that and so I just changed it ton”out of the office.”

      1. EnfysNest*

        I think a lot of people misinterpret the word “indefinitely”, unfortunately. For some reason, I’ve see a lot of people incorrectly react to it as if it was synonymous with “permanently” instead of just “for an uncertain time period”.

        A few days ago, a friend of mine posted on FB about a local event location closing indefinitely due to the pandemic and there were numerous comments along the lines of “I hope it’s not indefinite – hopefully they’ll be able to reopen again some day!”

        It’s definitely one of my grammar pet peeves to see people interpret this word directly opposite to its actual reading, but it’s common enough that I guess I understand why your HR asked you to change it. It’s still frustrating, though, since your wording was accurate.

          1. sb51*

            Well, it’s also that, for “indefinite” closings of things like restaurants, often they mean to come back but don’t survive the closing. Or don’t really survive — they reopen briefly and then close permanently. So when I see “closed indefinitely”, while it means they *intend* to come back, I consider it a nice surprise if they actually do.

            1. Starbuck*

              Same, the uncertainly implied by “indefinite” makes me think both ‘they don’t know WHEN they might reopen/be back’ but also an added ‘they don’t know IF they might be back.’ Because if the ‘when’ is uncertain, it could be never.

      1. buffty*

        That was my thought, “out of office for an extended period”, followed by contact info for who will be handling work in their absence.

    3. IamOP5*

      Thanks, this was my question. I tried to look for other advice online and each one said I should definitely put a return date. I have a rough estimate, but may vary by a week or two and I wasn’t sure how to convey that without adding why I was gone. I don’t really want to tell anyone my business. What about something like “I am currently on an extended leave and anticipate returning in August. I will not have access to email while out of the office and I will respond to emails after my return. If you are in need of more immediate assistance, please contact XXXXX.”

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        I don’t think you need to put a return date. Or you could put the latest possible date – nobody’s going to be mad if you come back early.

        If you want to skip the return date, just “I am currently out of the office without access to email. During my absence, please contact X at email.”

    4. RC Rascal*

      The word “expect” is your friend in these kinds of situations. It’s professional and after all, expectations can change.

      “I am currently out of the office on leave and expect to return in late July. If you need assistance while I am away please contact Fergus at extension 21.”

  7. Quake Johnson*

    Oh my gosh #1, your call sounded just like a pyramid scheme! He probably thought you were Cutco/Vector or something.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Really, any phone call with someone offering me something where I’ve never heard of the thing or any of the names associated sounds like a scam. No wonder the guy hung up.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        I’m surprised he answered at all. If I don’t recognize a phone number on my cell or I’m not expecting a work-related call, I let it go to voice mail. If it’s important enough, they will leave a message. If it’s not important enough to leave a message, they shouldn’t have called. I only usually get phone calls from close relatives anyway, so they’re all in my contact list. Unknown numbers are telemarketers 99% of the time.

        1. Malarkey01*

          Unless he’s job hunting or waiting for similar news/appointments. Nothing is worse when job hunting than having to answer every call because it may be news on a job only to hear a political robocall or scam call from “the IRS”.

    2. OP #1*

      Hahaha, that’s hilarious. I didn’t realize pyramid scheme pitches started with context about getting contact info from the person’s parents! Good thing I’ve managed to escape without finding that out firsthand.

      1. Observer*

        What rock have you been living under?

        Seriously speaking, it’s far from uncommon for shady sales types to pretend to be connected to someone the target knows / is close to. And Cutco, for one, specializes in getting people to call their families and friends of their family.

        1. OP #1*

          Ugh! So uncool. There’s enough room under my rock for anyone looking to avoid MLM calls.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I’ll come join you under that rock! I’ll bring the tea. Don’t worry, it’s legit tea, not something from ItWorks or Herbalife or Plexus. :)

          2. Susie Q*

            I would like to say OP that you are doing an excellent job with all the feedback from the commenters. Some of them can be brutal.

            I think your heart is in the right place. I just think that you went about it in the wrong way!!

        2. Mary Richards*

          For the record, I didn’t know that. Then again, most of my experience with MLMs comes from social media and pop culture, so I guess I never got to the phone call part. I was going to say that my first thought was a scammer, not an MLM!

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            It wasn’t something I had particularly picked up on (although I was aware of the “your grandson’s in trouble” type calls) – having said that, I’m British, so I don’t know if it’s just that that tactic isn’t as common over here? I would have been more likely to think scammer than MLM as well.

            If it is a common tactic I can see why he hung up – I might have handled it myself by getting out of the call (not necessarily hanging up) and giving myself time to verify with my family that they really did know someone of that name.

            1. Mary Richards*

              All MLMs may be scams, but not all scams are MLMs!

              I was thinking more along the lines of the “I need you to go buy gift cards and send them to me” scams.

          2. Just in Cases*

            About 15 years ago people would come up to you directly. I once got solicited IN A CHRISTIAN BOOKSTORE. They see what you are looking at, if you have a college or team shirt…strike up a convo…make you feel like it’s a regular convo and then start talking about this great whatever…
            I immediately recognized my mistake one time when we were talking about my alma mater and said I majored in econ and then heard “oh, our business uses economics!”. I thought…oh no oh no.

        3. Myrin*

          Can everyone maybe lay off OP #1 a little? She is gracious enough to interact with commenters and has reacted positively to explanations and even accusations, despite all but maybe five of them saying basically the same thing.
          She miscalculated and didn’t handle a situation she encountered for the first time perfectly right at the moment and might even seem a little too invested/enthusiastic, but it sounds like she’s taking all advice to heart and will behave accordingly should such a situation ever come up again in the future – I don’t think she needs to be talked to like she’s stupid or doesn’t know how to interact with others.

          1. I can only speak Japanese*

            It’s not that she miscalculated, it’s that she tries to blame it on the son being “entitled” or having priviledge.

            I do agree though that the “living under a rock” comment was a bit harsh.

            1. Jemima Bond*

              The way I’m reading it is that she thought he was rude/entitled was her initial impression before she reflected (and asked on here) that it may have been justified if the person she called thought it was a sales call. I thought her realisation and question here were born of a desire to explore whether he was in fact not rude but it went wrong owing to her own mistake. If she was blaming him she wouldn’t have raised the fact that she looked back and realised she sounded wrong, it would have had to be pointed out to her. She’s literally looking for her own mistake!

            2. Akcipitrokulo*

              Nah, initial reaction was understandable… just like his was! I think OP is kind of awesome for realising what happened and being gracious enough to change their mind.

            3. Myrin*

              In addition to what Jemima says (OP says in the letter “I could chalk it up to youth or entitlement, but in retrospect…“, suggesting that the first part was her initial reaction and she has, now that she’s had time to think about it, come to another possible interpretation), I think that’s putting way too much emphasis on one single word OP might not even have thought about too much and which also doesn’t really make sense in that context anyway (what could the son potentially feel entitled to here?). And the “privilege” part belongs in another context entirely, unless you want to read that as setting the entire tone for the letter or similar.

              But quite apart from that, I’m really surprised by the strong reactions this letter is getting and how there’s so much to argue about given that the whole situation is – pardon me, OP – pretty unremarkable; OP mishandled an incredibly low-stakes phone call and is now asking an expert how to behave should the same situation ever come up again. Yet from the comments, you’d think OP did something incredibly scandalous that she’ll never be able to recover from or something.

              1. Observer*

                “what rock” was snarky, but a reaction to several comments that seem to express shock that this is really and truly a thing. But, also, probably something I should have left unsaid.

                The thing for me is that even after reflection, the OP thought he was rude and had behaved inappropriately, and doubled down on that in several responses. Those are the comments that are getting the most pushback.

                I don’t think that the OP is a terrible person or even a real boundary pusher. But if there is something they take away from it, I hope that it’s actually 2 things. Firstly, “This is not how I would have handled it” is very rarely a good metric for judging how other people handle stuff, especially when you have so little context for understanding the what and why. Secondly, things have changed enormously even in the last 10 years or so, so you do need to be really careful about making snap judgements based on how things were when you were in that stage.

              2. A*

                ” Yet from the comments, you’d think OP did something incredibly scandalous that she’ll never be able to recover from or something.”

                I don’t get this read from the thread at all. It’s worth noting this is also an interpretation, and not one everyone automatically shares.

                1. Myrin*

                  It was a hyperbolic expression to illustrate why I felt many of the comments were disproportionate to the actual offence committed.
                  Jemima Bond showed the trend more clearly via a (simplified) example conversation below: “this has gone wrong, what mistake could I have made?” – “it sounds like you did x, try y” – “thank you I didn’t realise it was x, I will definitely try y!” should proceed to “yeah you should have realised it was x, I can’t believe you didn’t realise, let’s all beat you up for inadvertently doing x […]” – something Alison agreed with.

          2. Indigo*

            Agreed, and thank you for saying so. Lay off, these comments are really hard to deal with as an OP

            1. Oy Vay*

              ?? They might be for some, but I’m not sure I understand the point of making a blanket statement like this. In addition to blanket statements being inherently inaccurate, I for one was grateful for the push back I received from commenters when I wrote in to AAM. It was hard to read in the immediate, but 1) that comes with the territory, do not write in if you aren’t willing to hear people’s opinions (or skip the comment section), and 2) it helped me re-frame the situation and see if from another perspective. Had there not been the high volume of dissenting (to my own as OP) opinions I wouldn’t have taken it as seriously as I did – and not surprisingly – the commenters were ultimately right.

              Please don’t tell other commenters what to do. You can express your opinion that you think people are being overly X or Y, and that Z would be more helpful etc. but telling others to just “lay off”? Nah. We aren’t breaking site rules, and have every right to comment. As far as I’m concerned, that is a direction that should only come from Alison. Suggestions are one things, telling others what to do is another.

          3. RecentAAMfan*

            Agree! OP#1 getting unnecessarily dumped on!
            You read the situation wrong OP, but you tried your best and certainly had good motives.

            1. Oooh*

              The vast majority of comments have clearly stated that OP had good intentions. I don’t see this ‘dumping on’, unless you are going by sheer volume of comments – but we all have the right to respond here.

            2. Starbuck*

              I think a lot of it is just people’s incredulity at the idea of a random unsolicited phone call being a totally OK thing to do, and people who have gotten those types of calls and don’t like them are venting a bit. Yeah it’s over the top, but hopefully it at least illustrates to OP that there are lots of people out there who are going to have this strong negative reaction to their preferred tactic for sharing opportunities. I agree the point has been made by now.

          4. Osmosis Jones*

            I agree- OP was ultimately trying to do something nice for her friend’s son. And while it is valid that the son might have interpreted her call as spam, I can definitely understand why OP was taken aback.

          5. A*

            Upthread there are comments about how “rude” the son was. I think it’s more than fair for people to express their dissenting opinions. I also think it’s worth mentioning that some of OP’s initial responses (also upthread) came across defensively, so yes people are going to attempt to explain their perspective.

            I don’t see anyone ‘piling on’ unnecessarily or in an overly harsh manner (aside from a few portions of comments here and there, but no more so than usual). Especially given that the sons reaction was presented as being outlandish/bizarre/rude.

            So long as I’m not violating any site rules, my opinion and comments count just as much as the next, and I plan to continue to participate in this site.

      2. Quake Johnson*

        Thing is, he didn’t actually receive any context from you. You offered up names he had never heard before, so I can see why you still seemed scammy to him.

      3. Mystery Bookworm*

        Pyramind scheme pitches are often designed to start with a personal “in” so name-dropping parents would be normal.

        I’m honestly a little surprised your letter comes down so hard on the kid. Seems to me the parents are at fault — asking for a favor and then not doing any of the necessary legwork.

      4. Greige*

        Can I just say that, while I’d have hung up, too, I love your attitude toward the feedback you’re getting here. When you’re not intending to spam anyone, it makes sense that you aren’t thinking about how similar to spam your information sounds.

        1. Washi*

          Yes, OP sounds like a lovely person from the comments! I agree that sometimes we can get caught up in our own perspectives. This reminds me of like, playing charades and how you can think your clues and gestures are so obvious, but no one is getting what you’re acting out.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Oh, excellent analogy! OP was legitimately trying to help, so of course, it never occurred to them that they might sound like a scammer.

      5. Eukomos*

        Are you completely sure this doesn’t have some elements of pyramid scheme to it? You were selling it to him awfully hard and use some phrases in your letter that recall this kind of scheme. Is there any chance the seminar you went to encouraged you to sell their other seminars to friends and family with pitches like this?

  8. Zombeyonce*

    #3 Am I the only person who has just moved these things back into the original person’s office when they’ve done this after I’ve asked them not to? Is that passive-aggressive?

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I think that is totally reasonable. People who feel entitled and help themselves to their coworker’s space are obnoxious. I’ve seen this done when there is a shared desk area or even cubicle walls (hanging their coat over the wall, etc.) which is awful enough, but someone else’s office??

      By helping herself to LW#3’s office, that coworker is saying that she is more important than LW#3. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for LW#3 to object to it, whether it’s moving the stuff back to the original person’s office or saying something, or asking their manager where else they can store it. Unfortunately, the intrusive coworker is vindictive, so LW#3 needs to be careful about that. I think addressing the vindictiveness is in order as well if it happens again.

      I know that some people feel that someone’s desk or space at work isn’t actually “their” desk, office, etc., but it’s respectful to treat it as such in order to “build those relationships.” It’s disrespectful for coworkers to help themselves to other peoples’ space. The coworker is disrespecting LW#3.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I can see the co-irkers mindset “well it’s not OP’s office, so I am free to move my stuff in.” But what co-irker is missing there is it’s not OP’s because it is the COMPANY’s office. They get to decide what goes in there if they need more room, not co-irker.

        Not sure I would put in the effort to move the stuff back, unless it’s easily movable things. But yeah, they would go right back in there. Or I would start working in co-irker’s office and say when she complains “Oh I thought we were changing offices since you put your stuff in mine.”

        1. iambrian*

          By the same logic, co-workers office is not the co-workers space, but the companies. So get your personal stuff out of there.

      2. boop the first*

        Honestly in some of the places I’ve worked at with abandoned personal item issues, hoarding coworker would be lucky to have stuff simply returned to their workspace. If coworker was vindictive on top of that, her stuff is going straight to the bins! I would consider her leavings abandoned.

      3. Coworker Storage Space*

        Hi Mina, The Company Prom Queen,
        I completely agree. It’s actually not about the stuff, itself it’s about the disrespect and lack of asking. She does act like she is more important than me and this is just one of the ways she shows it. I am very aware that my office belongs to my employer but she’s not my employer and I’m pretty sure if I just put stuff in her office, even office stuff, without asking, she’d get offended too.

        1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          That would be so funny if you did that- and when she gets offended you could ‘innocently’ say “but I thought we were doing the putting-things-in-each-others’-offices thing…” Then again, it might start World War III, so probably not the best idea. But it would be funny! LOL! :)

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Totally something to keep in mind for your final weeks, if you ever move on to a different workplace.

    2. Night Owl*

      This seems like a ploy to have a good excuse to be in the OP’s office when she’s not there. The last time someone “conveniently placed” things in my cubicle, I caught them snooping around (actively opening and closing cabinets and drawers).

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Good call – OP, I’m hoping your drawers lock and that you have a key. I’d start locking everything.

      2. Coworker Storage Space*

        Night Owl,
        Good point! I do have a locked drawer. I’ll make sure and lock it.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If it was small maybe I would. But I’m likely to make it crystal clear. “I found these in my office.”
      But for anything heavier than a half box of paper, no, I would make HER move them back out immediately.
      And OP3, if this is a current letter, feel free to add that you do not want anyone extra in your office for any reason! Especially not someone exercising, which is what it could be if they’re moving quickly while lugging in boxes of files!

    4. T2*

      You are not alone. My workspace is mine. Everyone and and I mean everyone should keep their crap out of it.

      I am one of those who keeps a mostly clean desk, but I prize first order retrievability. Which means that I optimize my space (every horizontal work surface, every drawer) to get my tools and equipment with a minimum amount of searching.

      If presented a situation where new stuff suddenly appears, I would immediately return my workspace to its former condition by removing the items that don’t belong.

      I once had someone try this with me. I simply stacked their crap in front of their door.

      This is a hill to die on. I don’t care what your position relative to mine. I need my workspace to do my job. Put stuff in my space and it is going to end up in the hallway, the confrence room, the kitchen or elsewhere.

    5. snowglobe*

      While I don’t think the co-worker should be moving things into someone else’s office without their consent, I kind of see the co-worker’s point. Why is she expected to keep office supplies in her office, when the LW only has their personal things? And the basket was also for the whole office, so why couldn’t LW keep it, instead of expecting that also to go into Co-worker’s office (yes, it was petty not to offer LW anything, no argument there.) I guess I can see from the co-worker’s point of view that if there isn’t enough space to store common items used by everyone, then everyone with an office should give up some space, rather than expecting everything to go into one person’s space.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I think common items should be in a common area (as LW suggested).

        Admittedly, I cannot get past the fact that coworker’s office is occupied, among other things, by her personal Christmas tree. In (almost) July, no less.

        1. Colette*

          Well, if you have an artificial tree for work, you probably store it at work (probably in a box). So it would be there in July as well as every other month.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            An artificial tree for work that belongs to one person and sits in their personal space all year, is a bit… extra. Especially if that means the person has no room for work-related files in their space.

            1. Colette*

              I mean, I wouldn’t do it, but if you’re someone who likes decorating, a small tree doesn’t take up much room when it’s in a box. I could fit one into my office area, which is tiny, without it being in the way. From the sounds of things the coworker does a lot of ordering (she has office supplies, volunteer gifts, and is getting gift baskets) and it’s entirely possible that she legitimately doesn’t have space to store the stuff in her office.

              1. Coworker Storage Space*

                It’s not in a box it’s out. And it is her personal tree for home, not the office decorations. There are also office decorations in neatly stored boxes in both of our offices. I do have office stuff stored in my space too. Just neatly packed away.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Oh it’s out? like a literal tree, just standing in her office? I’m super curious, how big is the tree?

                  I haven’t done Christmas trees at home for the last five years (because cats) but we used to have a large artificial one that came out of it box in December and went back in the box in January. It took quite a bit of space when it was out of the box and assembled, what with the branches sticking out.

                2. Alice's Rabbit*

                  I found a great trick to keep my cats from toppling my Christmas tree. I put a hook in the ceiling (into an attic cross beam) and tie the top of the tree to the hook with fish line.
                  Plastic ornaments may not be as elegant, but they are hard to break.

          2. Coworker Storage Space*

            No this is not for the company, it is a personal tree. This is something that she should have taken home but didn’t. It takes up a lot of her office space. This is just one of her many personal items that she gets Amazon delivered to her office.

          3. Coworker Storage Space*

            Hi I Wrote this in the Bathroom,
            It’s not a full tree it’s about 4 feet tall. Fully decorated and she keeps saying she has to take it home. I understand some people need a bit of clutter to feel creative and do work and that’s okay. I just don’t want that to be an excuse for moving items into my office without asking. If she would just treat me like an equal and say “Hey, I’m doing this file project can I store a couple of boxes in your office?” I’d actually say yes.

            1. Paulina*

              People often want their stuff around them in their office. You’re no different, it’s just that your “stuff” is empty space. That’s your chosen décor. I suppose a big square on the floor labeled “this space intentionally left blank” wouldn’t go down well?

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                No, that is silly. They are definitely different. And I say this as someone who loves to fill her workspace with personal items. But I would never let the space my my personal items take up interfere with actual necessary storage, and I would definitely not just go store things in someone else’s space because my space is full of my own personal items. That is not reasonable.

              2. Coworker Storage Space*

                Hahaha! Yes, I do think it’s okay for people to have stuff in their office. Just don’t use it as an excuse to use mine for items you don’t want.

      2. Myrin*

        I might be misunderstanding – I’m not a native speaker, so maybe there’s a connotation to “office supplies” I’m not aware of? – but I simply read “office supplies” as coworker’s own office supplies like pens or paperclips she uses; she can have “a lot” of those without housing the items meant for the whole office, and I’d assume OP has her own office supplies as well, just fewer of them.

        1. Colette*

          The way it’s phrased, I think it’s collective office supplies. I suspect the coworker does a lot of order/receiving stuff for the office (since she gets gift baskets and volunteer gifts.) But it’s not entirely clear.

        2. Coworker Storage Space*

          She is in charge of collective office supplies. I store things in my office that are collective office things too, but part of her role is to house our office supplies.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Ugh. I’m assuming there’s nowhere to have community storage space? Even a closet would do.

            I would be really annoyed at having to store general office stuff in my personal office. People coming in and out to retrieve it would be disruptive.

            1. Coworker Storage Space*

              Yes, the supplies in her space are annoying, and if this was the issue I would be okay with moving some stuff to my office. But she likes to have the control over those supplies. She’s never asked me to move say the pens or envelopes into my office that can be put into my drawer or shelves, just large annoying items, knowing that I will do something about it. I house some common tech supplies and other office supplies too. I’m just saying her office is crowded.
              I just want to be asked not told. It’s not really about the supplies, it’s about who is more important. She likes being more important.

              1. valentine*

                knowing that I will do something about it
                The something shouldn’t be more than asking her to remove them or putting them in the hallway with a sign that reads “Misplaced.”

                When she says, “Blah, blah, Christmas tree,” resist the urge to tell her what to do with it, otherwise you’ll be locked into having to provide an alternative she approves of. And if you need to keep sweet, it can be, “Oh, my goodness! If you had only asked, we could’ve solved this in a second.”

                1. Coworker Storage Space*

                  Hi valentine,
                  I do end up sending things out, putting things in the mail or sorting out files because they are in my space and they annoy me more. So that’s a good point.

      3. Too much stuff*

        I am the person in my organization that ends up (intermittently) storing all the common materials in my office. So I see both sides. I know that my office is actually not “mine”, but the organizations. And I would never put something in someone’s office without asking/mentioning it to them. However, we lack easily accessible temporary storage space, and the rest of our work area is PUBLIC. There is no “common” space that is not also public or a common WORK area. No lounge, no kitchen, … So I do get irked that lots of extra stuff ends up with me and not in other’s offices. And I get irritated when others fail to share the burden of a common challenge and base it on their preferences when everyone else has the same preferences. I, too, would like to keep a clean, tidy, minimal office space, but that’s not an option – the stuff has to go SOMEWHERE. So I can’t say what the exact situation is in LW#3’s case, but it might be more than just that her colleague is in the wrong. And also, what’s wrong with having personal possessions in one’s office? If LW#3 had lots of possessions, but also some extra space, and her colleague didn’t, would that change the scenario? I have an enormous plant. It’s not a Christmas tree, but same dif. Why does that have anything to do with it? The colleague is not asking to fill up LW#3’s office. What if there was no colleague in the organization who would allow stuff in their personal office? What would happen then? What if the colleague didn’t have a lot of personal stuff, and her office still filled up and more space was needed. What then? It seems to me we should be addressing the issue of not enough storage space, rather than condemning the person (the colleague) who is trying to address the challenge of having her office being filled with stuff that is not hers.

        1. Colette*

          I think this depends a lot on the details. If the coworker’s job is such that she deals with a lot of stuff for the office (e.g. she orders the office supplies, and volunteer gifts, and whatever else is needed) and she has an usual amount of personal stuff in the office (or never throws away a piece of paper so there are stacks everywhere) and then uses other people’s space instead of sorting out her own office, the OP has a point. If most of the stuff in the coworker’s office is office stuff but she needs more space, she has a point. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

          1. Snow globe*

            I don’t think the amount of personal stuff that the co-worker has should matter. What matters is that if LW and co-worker are at the same level, similar jobs, then they should both take the burden of storing common items in their offices, if there is no other location. If co-worker is housing, say, 2 cubic feet of stuff, then other people should be willing to take an equivalent amount of stuff, regardless of whether co-worker has a Christmas tree in her office. Just because she would have more room if she would remove her personal items, doesn’t make it ok for her co-workers to refuse to store some things in their offices also.

            1. Colette*

              If the coworker’s job is to handle stuff coming in to the office but she can’t do it because she has too much personal stuff at her desk, then it’s a problem.

          2. Snow globe*

            One question I have, how did this big gift basket, meant for the whole office, end up in co-worker’s office to begin with? I’m guessing someone just placed it in her office, so she moved it elsewhere. How did that basket become her responsibility?

              1. The Rural Juror*

                That happens a lot to me. I’m the main contact for a lot of our vendors, so holiday gifts are usually brought to me, though not necessarily addressed to me personally. We have a kitchenette area, so I usually accept them then take them out there to the common space and set them out for everyone. The get picked over pretty quickly!

                I can see how it might become overwhelming if we didn’t have a common space where I could put them. However, that wouldn’t give me carte blanche to put them in someone else’s office! Geez!

                1. Mama Bear*

                  I took all food baskets to a kitchen, too. It was not just for me – it was for the company.

              2. Coworker Storage Space*

                She orders a lot of stuff, both personal and for the office and leaves it in her office. She only recently got rid of her Christmas gifts and has everything from boxes, to shoes, to diapers delivered at work and it stays in her office.

            1. Coworker Storage Space*

              The gift basket was hand-delivered by a client who said (in front of all of us) that it was supposed to be shared by us all. She was in my coworkers office when she called us in and had already settled in in a nice spot already. There was room.

            2. Coworker Storage Space*

              The client came in and chatted to my coworker. Leaving it in a space in her office. My coworker starts putting it in my office without asking. I fully admit that I overreacted and told her no. The only reason I care about her personal items in her office is because she says that this is why she keeps putting stuff in my office. Some people work better with a little clutter, and that’s okay. I just want her to treat me as an equal and ask instead of just putting stuff or “telling” me. It’s less about the stuff and more about respect for me.

          3. Coworker Storage Space*

            Yes, she orders the office supplies and she has personal stuff. She isn’t complaining about us moving the general office supplies to our offices, which would be fine with me. She just expects to use my space as her “run-off” office.

        2. Coworker Storage Space*

          I agree that coworkers should share the burden. The issue is not that I should never store collective items in my office. The issue is “telling” me rather than “asking me” as this is her project. Also the personal stuff matters because she always says there’s never “room” in her office so she has to put it in other places and she won’t put it in the common area despite us having stuff there because it’s not safe enough. This wouldn’t be an issue if she asks instead of just dumping it or telling me.

      4. Coworker Storage Space*

        Hi Snowglobe,
        The office supplies thing was something that happened before I started the role and she has an admin role and keeps the office supplies. If this was the issue, I’d be on board with moving the supplies around if we had a discussion. I just want her to ask me not tell me when she puts stuff in my office. This is more a matter of respect than stuff for me.

        I also have office files, binders, software (I’m the tech person so I have computer stuff) in my office space not just my personal items. I just like to keep things neatly put away and get rid of old unused stuff, so there’s always more “room” in my office than hers.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Not at all. Passive aggressive would be moving the things back to her office without saying anything to her first.

      As for the OP, it sounds like she’s been dancing around the issue. Tell her that no, she can’t use her office as a storage facility and keep pushing back.

    7. The other Louis*

      I’m surprised that Alison didn’t recommend the “have a conversation in which you’re curious” strategy. Maybe it would help to know why the coworker is doing it? I can imagine a lot of different scenarios (coworker is a space imperialist with no boundaries, coworker really does have very little space [the Christmas tree is one of those six-inch ones], the gift basket was a surprise gift for someone other than LW, the coworker hates LW and is engaged in passive-aggressive bs). If I’m reading the letter correctly, LW has jumped to conclusions about motives? Maybe asking would help?

      1. Coworker Storage Space*

        Hi! I’ve written to Alison before, but I think the issue here is pushing boundaries. Physical space is not the only boundary she pushes. But because my office “has space” and hers does not, I feel much guiltier about saying “no” to her. She also got the boss involved on the gift basket incident. There’s a power dynamic and she’s not a supervisor but my coworker. I often have to work hard to shift that dynamic. This is just one manifestation that’s frustrating me.

        1. The other Louis*

          She got the boss involved? Ewwwwwww…..

          I’m wondering what would happen if you asked her, “I’m curious why you’re putting that in my office?” in as friendly a tone as possible. That’s a strategy I learned from reading this blog, and it’s really helpful. Sometimes the person starts to explain, and can hear themselves saying something stupid. Sometimes they get really defensive, but they stop doing it. Sometimes, they get defensive, and don’t stop. Sometimes they have a really different reason/motive from what I thought they had, and we’ve got options. It seems to me it’s often been ineffective, but never harmful.

          Also, I *really* want to know how your coworker narrates this to herself. But I’m the sort of person who kicks over rocks.

          1. Coworker Storage Space*

            The other Louis,

            Oh, I like that! That’s brilliant. It’s a great strategy. Thank you for sharing.

            I don’t know what the narrative in her head would be. I wouldn’t put something in my boss’s, coworker’s office or even a subordinate’s office without asking them if it’s okay. I did tell her I would prefer if she didn’t put the boxes of files in my space and maybe store it on the shelf in the boardroom where there are currently similar files.

            But this thing keeps repeating itself so I’ve come to you good people for help.

    8. Richard Hershberger*

      Yes, it is passive-aggressive, but I think that passive-aggressive gets a bad rap. There are circumstances where it is appropriate and effective. Case in point: I live in a town house with a fenced back yard. My immediate neighbor’s unit is similar, but some owner along the line put in an upper level back deck that looms over my back yard. No biggie. I am not thrilled by this, but I knew it was there when I bought the house. So fast forward about three neighbors later, and the new guy sits on his deck and throws empty beer cans and cigarette butts into my yard. What are my options? The anti-passive-aggressive crowd would tell me that should knock on his door and have a conversation, the gist of which is that he ought not throw his empties into other peoples’ yards. But of course he knew that already, and this isn’t a conversation I would enjoy, and there are many ways it could go badly. So instead, I simply went through my yard every day and tossed the empties and the butts back over the fence. Very passive-aggressive. But he stopped doing it once the resulting mess became him problem.

      1. Coworker Storage Space*

        Hi Richard,
        I was thinking of moving the boxes back after, but these are heavy boxes full of files. She didn’t ask me, she just told me these large boxes were going to be in my office and in the past was the same. I ended up emailing her and the incident is resolved for now. But this keeps happening so I reached out to Alison to see what I could do. I think her advice is spot on.

    9. Mama Bear*

      I have items that are for the company that need to be put *somewhere*. We lost our empty office when we had some new hires so I asked a coworker if I could use their office for some of the items and I took some of the items to my office. I would never blanket impose items, especially personal ones, on a coworker! I think that OP needs to return the items and regain the space (not getting gift bag loot after storing it is so petty) and/or talk to the manager about storage somewhere else in the building for the department. It is not OP3’s job to warehouse any personal items for anyone else. If the coworker (or the manager) objects to a central storage room, then the coworker needs to haul those things home.

    10. Coworker Storage Space*

      I was going to do that! Ugh, I often feel that I’m the bad guy but my coworker just keeps pushing the boundaries.
      I ended up sending her an email instead.

      1. Coworker Storage Space*

        Hi Mama Bear,
        Luckily she doesn’t store her personal items in my office. She uses her personal items in her office as the reason WHY she must store stuff in my office. I am okay with someone’s office being full or messy. Some people need it for creativity. I just want her to ask and get permission before putting stuff in my office. She is not my boss or supervisor but she acts this way, putting the stuff in my office is just one of the ways she pushes those boundaries.

    11. Coworker Storage Space*

      I have told her not to, so we’ll see. If it still ends up in my office I’ll move it. The boxes are big with files. I just wish that she asked me and we had a chat instead of just saying, “Oh, you’re gonna have boxes in your office.” Asking instead of telling is all I’m asking her for.

    12. Curmudgeon in California*

      So, I’m not always very nice, and I would be very tempted to either shove the junk back in Messy’s office, dump it out in the hallway, or turn it in to the company lost-and-found as “abandoned” in your space. (Don’t do this to start with, it’s very passive-aggressive bordering on aggressive.)

      While you should try to solve it diplomatically, if that doesn’t work, you may have to either put up with being treated like a doormat, or go to (office) war.

  9. I coulda been a lawyer*

    I’m sorry OP1; my children are older than the young man you called, but I would’ve hung up on you as well. I then would’ve asked my family member why in the world they gave my contact info to anyone and had a discussion about boundaries.
    If your friend had asked you to look for opportunities for their child, you could’ve send it to your friend, but you have no standing to offer what is basically career counseling to an adult you don’t know who hasn’t asked for your help.

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Thirding! My parents used to foward me ads for unrelated positions form shady job portals, like admin or HR. (They still don’t have the faintest idea what my job is.) I would react the same way your friends’ son did.

    2. Littorally*

      Yeah, for real! Giving out someone else’s contact information without their consent, even if it’s a family member or someone you’re close to, is a huge no-no.

  10. xtine*

    LW #2 – I’m so sorry for your loss. I agree 100% with Alison’s response.

    I’ve been there. Five years ago my brother died. I went back to work the next day and probably appeared mostly fine to my coworkers. That might seem cold to some people but there was literally nothing else for me to do. If I didn’t go to work, I’d have been alone in my apartment just doing nothing. The normalcy of work was a welcome distraction from that and that’s pretty much what I told my coworkers. They were great and I don’t think anyone ever judged me for it.

    1. I can only speak Japanese*

      I’m sorry for your loss. And I think a lot of people would have the same thought process you had – work is a distraction, some people prefer to be busy/around others, and it’s not cold or unfeeling, it’s how many humans process things.

    2. WS*

      +1, a coworker suddenly lost a member of her family to suicide and of course we gave her time off…but she only wanted one day plus a later day for the funeral because she said otherwise she’d drive herself crazy with nothing to do. We certainly didn’t judge her!

    3. Not Australian*

      This happened to me, too, as I’ve related here before. When my father died (exactly 20 years ago, as it happens) I got a phone call at 6 a.m. on a Monday informing me about it but telling me I wasn’t wanted/needed at home – make of that what you will – and therefore I went to work. I’d told my boss that my father was ill and not expected to live much longer, and I now told him that he’d died, but I never mentioned anything to my other office-mates as they were the gossipy kind and I considered it a private matter.

      So, mid-morning, one of my colleagues attacks me for being ‘miserable’ and I apologise and tell her that my father’s just died. She immediately accuses me of telling lies because obviously I shouldn’t be at work in the circumstances. Explaining that it had been expected for a long time and was an end to a lifetime of pain cut no ice; from that moment on I was the nasty person who lied about a family death – and, since I was part-time and didn’t even need time off for the funeral, that reputation stayed with me until a few months later when I walked out and never looked back.

      There are some people who just want you to ‘perform grief’ to their personal specifications. Don’t let them get to you. Your relationship with the deceased is *your* business and you get to process it in your own way; the requirements of your work colleagues in this regard – and their opinion of your reactions – are actually supremely irrelevant and can safely be ignored. They’ll think what they want to think anyway, so don’t let it colour how you respond to something that is after all nothing to do with them.

      1. allathian*

        I’m so sorry this happened to you and happy that you no longer work there. Worries about this happening to the OP may be why they wrote in… But most workplaces aren’t like that.
        A coworker of mine lost her father after a long illness about two years ago. She took a week’s bereavement leave, partly to help her mother get her father’s papers in order and organize the funeral, etc. She’s in the same department but not on the same team as I am and we have the same manager, who organized a collection for a care package for her. Participating was totally voluntary and people contributed small amounts, less than $5. That was much appreciated, especially a white candle that she could light in the evening and think about her father. She sent us a photo of it by email thanking the whole department. The following week she returned to work and while she was a bit more subdued than usual for a few months, she said that she was happy to have her work to focus on again.

      2. Batty Twerp*

        Woah! Part-time or not, your boss should have shut down that BS immediately! But given that your coworker attacked you just for being miserable, it sounds like a BS environment to work in and I’m glad you decided to just walk out.
        My emotions are not performance art. Which is probably just as well – I would have been fired multiple times had not learnt to play the game.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Lucky them for not being painfully aware that many part-time jobs don’t include PTO or bereavement pay.
        Rent still has to be paid!
        (I like to think I would have handed them the obit in person and watched them squirm, as a service to their future co-workers….but that is probably more work than I’d have been calm enough to do.)

      4. xtine*

        How awful! I’m so sorry that happened.

        And I agree with being expected to “perform grief” in the right way! It reminds me of a friend whose husband died when they were both relatively young (mid-40’s for her, mid-60’s for him). That sounds really tragic on the surface but he’d been terminally ill for close to a decade, including dementia. She wasn’t *happy* he died but it was the lifting of a great burden and it was difficult for her to have to play the “grieving widow” for everyone else during his funeral.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          It’s even worse when it’s your family expecting you to perform your grief to their specifications. When my granny died, my dad couldn’t understand why I really didn’t want to sit around for the funeral luncheon with the family members who were supposed to be taking care of her in her final days, but didn’t.
          Instead, my friends took me out to lunch after the funeral, we shared fun grandparent stories, and I was able to mourn in my own way.

    4. dragocucina*

      This. I had the year from hell where my mother died in March, then that Christmas Eve my stepfather was killed by a drunk driver (in front of my brother’s house), and the next March my sister died.

      The only way to get through it was to go through it. Sitting at home across the US from family wasn’t going to be helpful. I took a few days off in late March to visit family after my mother’s death. A day off for my sister to privately mourn. Then that May we had a joint celebration of life. I tip my hat to my sister-in-law, because she had to deal with her father’s death that same year.

      My only word to work colleagues is while I’m looking okay on the outside, it is still nice to acknowledge that I’ve gone through a traumatic event. A one time card or comment is enough, but don’t ignore it.

      1. Reba*

        I think your last paragraph is great advice. Don’t pretend nothing happened, but don’t make work all about the thing that happened either.

        So sorry for your losses.

        1. dragocucina*

          Thanks. It was a lot of blows in one year. No sympathy card nor a comment was rather rough. The next time someone passed a card for someone’s cousin I really had to bite my tongue. It wasn’t about me at that time, but not externally grieving doesn’t mean there is no grief.

    5. MyCorona*

      I also did that when my brother passed from suicide – there was nothing I could do sitting at home so in order to distract myself (which was welcome) I went to work the next day. I informed my team via email that if I seemed a little off, here’s why, but please do not bring it up – I just want to work as normally as possible and they respected that.

    6. Gaia*

      I’m the same. Any time I’ve dealt with loss, I’ve focused on work. It gives me structure and a sense of stability and control in a world that is suddenly very out of my control. I’ve had some colleagues that seem to get this and others that really don’t. Those that don’t get it seem to think that if my grief doesn’t look like theirs it isn’t real.

    7. Keymaster of Gozer*

      My sincerest sympathies too. I lost a friend to suicide about 20 years ago, went into work the next day and just….kept going. I felt like a vulcan.

    8. Unsolicited Fortune Cookie*

      As in so many other situations – consider communicating this to your boss. They might think they are doing you a favor by having you take time off, reducing your work load, etc, whereas all you really need is the distraction and normalcy of work. Let them know!

    9. Curmudgeon in California*

      My father died a year and a half ago. I took time off to see him before/while he died, and them several months later for the memorial service.

      Other than talking a little about it with fellow coworkers going through similar things, I was pretty normal at the office. My family/culture is more of a “celebrate in public, grieve in private” sort of thing. I hate crying “in public”, even if the “public” is just an open office. So I put the emotional stuff out of my mind and focus on work. If asked how I’m doing, the answer will be “OK” or “As well as can be expected.” Because my grief is private. If I don’t dwell on it, I can compartmentalize, and having a no-drama workplace is soothing.

  11. I can only speak Japanese*

    Sounds like the parents and you were trying to make decisions for the son. I can see this playing out with my mother, where she tells others I want to move back home (which is kind of true if I find a good job there and not anywhere else) and then everyone in her circle deciding that I must be desperate for any job in the area to be closer to mummy.

  12. Iron Chef Boyardee*


    What do you think of this:

    “If you’re religious – and whether you are or not, and to what extent you may or may not be, is none of our business – but if you ARE religious, I just want you to know that we have a policy of accommodating our employees’ religious needs.”

    Of course, if and when the candidate becomes your employee, the religious aspect does become your business – but only to the extent of knowing what accommodation to provide.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      That sounds a little too much – honestly, that sort of wording would actually worry me.

      I think the best option is a boilerplate language that is very matter of fact. It’s the same with family leave policies – an employer wouldn’t say “If you plan on having kids – I don’t know if you are or onot, and it’s not really any of our business, but if you DO decide to, we offer paid parental leave”. Instead, you’d simply say, for example, that you offer X weeks of paid parental leave for all new parents, including adoptive ones, and you’d tell all employees, including all the men and women who look to be over child bearing age.

      1. Willis*

        This! State that the policy is to accommodate any religious needs around scheduling, time off, or other needs and who to contact about those accommodations, like in AAM’s script. Don’t add a bunch of weird, uncomfortable wording about if you’re religious, or if you’re not religious, or if you’re semi-religious, etc. Just tell everyone the same info on the policy like you would anything else.

        1. Mama Bear*

          Agreed. The blanket statement to all approach is better. Not only do those who need that info get it, but everyone else knows the policy, too, and isn’t wondering why a coworker might be on leave.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, I agree. I much prefer AAM’s script. Don’t focus only on religion, unless the org is very specific about providing accommodations for religious needs but not for other needs (parental leave, bereavement leave, elder care, time off for caring for a sick child, disability accommodations). Only the last one is a legal requirement in the US, unless I’ve missed something.

      3. another scientist*

        I came here to say this exact thing. If your org is big enough, it’s good practice to have candidates talk to an HR rep, separately from the job interview. The HR person lays out policies, including leave options in a one-fits-all-candidates pitch and answers questions. Also, the candidate can ask questions more freely if it’s clear that the hiring manager doesn’t know what they asked about.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, the information should be offered as just blanket facts that show that the organization cares about accommodating all of its employees. Not limited only to what might be relevant for a specific candidate.

        I’m not religious and I don’t plan on having kids, but I still want to work for a company that offers good maternity leave and access to a prayer room. Even if I don’t need those things for myself.

    2. Observer*

      Too wordy. I’d keep it shorter – Something like “we have no opinion on staff’s religious observance. Our only policy in that regard is to accommodate religious needs as much as we can.”

      1. HannahS*

        I honestly would even be concerned about someone who goes out of their way to tell me they have no opinion on religious observance. Why are they telling me that? Every one I know who has gone out of their way to tell me, a religious Jew, that they “don’t care about religion” was telling me pretty clearly that they didn’t care about me and my weird customs. Do they also have “no opinion” on antisemitism and Islamophobia? Boilerplate language is reassuring because it makes it sound like accommodation is boring and procedural. Which is should be.

        1. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs*

          Yeah, “no opinion” is weird and raises a pink flag for me. I’m not interested in my employer’s opinion of my religion or practice; what I want to know is will they accommodate me graciously, or grudgingly?

    3. PhysicsTeacher*

      As a non-religious person, highlighting religion so specifically would worry me.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, me too. Although to be fair, I work for the government in a country where we have a state church, so for most Christian holidays, the office is closed and everybody has the day off. Because I have a Christian cultural background but I’m not a believer, I feel like I live in a pretty secular place, although I’m trying to keep in mind that religious non-Christians probably don’t feel that way.

      2. Koala dreams*

        Yes, I would feel weird about that too, as an atheist. I would wonder if they prefered religious employees over non-religious employees.

      3. Teyra*

        Yup, especially as an atheist and a gay woman. I’d wonder if it was a coded ‘hey, we’ll let you discriminate against the gays if you say it’s for religious reasons’, and even though that’s (presumably) not the case, I’d imagine it would attract people hoping to do that, which would also be off-putting to me. If I saw an organisation use that phrasing, I wouldn’t apply to it.

        Why does it need singling out when there are plenty of other reasons someone would need accommodations? The last job I applied for was very clear about being open to accommodations of any sort, and supporting all forms of diversity (religion was listed, along with race, gender, sexuality, and many others), which I’d imagine would be more than enough for anyone in a minority religion.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          I really like the suggestion someone made about giving people a set number of non-PTO “holidays” in addition to your holidays. They can be used for religious observance, protesting, Pride parades, community festivals, volunteering, whatever. I would find a statement that “We want to support your life in community. In addition to X days of PTO, we offer Y days to use for volunteering, religious observance, community events, etc. Please find our list of Z paid company holidays here: link.”

      4. Amethystmoon*

        Me also. There is still discrimination against non-believers, even though it’s not technically legal. I would probably say something like, “I was raised xyz and went to xyz church school as a kid.” But even in the 21st century I’m not going to come right out and say I don’t believe in it. Yes there are laws, but not everyone abides by them. As long as they can give another reason besides your religion (example: You’re not qualified enough), they can choose to not hire you. I won’t give them that reason to not hire me.

      5. A*

        Yup, I would skip this immediately. Reads to me as “oh, you’re a humanist atheist? Enjpy working Christmas!”.

        The only way I’d even consider a posting with this in it is if it also clarified that any and all accommodations are equally offered to non-religious individuals. Growing up in a non-religious household, a lot of religious holidays are what we consider family holidays. I’m not going to be alone on one of those, and miss being able to travel to see my family (which in my area of the country is the vast majority of professionals with a Bachelors or above as most are recruited to the area vs having grown up there) just because I’m expected to be the coverage.

        Also would make me wonder if the organization has religious ties etc.

      6. Temperance*

        Yep. To me, that’s a red flag that I, as a person with no religion to speak of, would constantly be stuck with worse shifts/fewer days off because religious folks are prioritized. I think the “5 breaks a day” for Muslim employees to pray would also sort of show that the org doesn’t really know the faith requirements, and would just give extra benefits that aren’t necessary to fulfill someone’s religious obligations. (Not all 5 of the prayers are during a regular workday.)

    4. Night Owl*

      I’d start worrying whether this organization was affiliated with a specific religion.

      1. JM in England*

        The closest I’ve come to working at a faith based employer is when I interviewed many years ago for a science technician job at a Catholic school.

        1. Night Owl*

          All the times I’ve encountered religion at work, people go out of their way to try to convince me how respectful they are of other religions.

    5. Wednesday*

      The employer is legally required to accommodate religious needs, so specifically emphasizing it during the application process would sound suspicious to me. I would wonder if have had discrimination problems in the past or they have one specific religion that they prefer to accommodate.

      I do think that OP can talk about the employer being flexible and accommodating in general. Just don’t make it specifically about religion.

    6. Harper the Other One*

      I think simpler is better: when describing the company, mention that company X prides itself on providing supporting their employees, including providing disability/child and elder care/religious related accommodations and flexibility for other personal needs. [I’m assuming here that a company good about providing religious accommodations for things like midday prayers/services is also pretty good about other needs.] That way it’s about a positive thing about your culture; it doesn’t single out a group; and the focus is not on the individual employee, which may make them wonder why you felt the need to specify to them specifically that you’re very welcoming to other faiths.

      1. Reba*

        Yes, it’s about putting it in the context of an inclusive work environment.

        Because in job search mode, people are always trying to read between the lines, highlighting or over-emphasizing any one of those aspects of inclusivity is going to read as some coded message to someone, and likely make the applicant feel like they are being read as something, or assumed to be something.

      2. Temperance*

        I like this wording, and I would have no worry if I saw that wording on a job posting. I think focusing solely on religion sends a message, intended or not, that those needs are prioritized.

    7. Emilia Bedelia*

      This sounds like it will raise questions for anyone for whom this is not a concern.

      I think a good solution would be having a small handout given to every candidate that describes the accommodations policy and some of the benefits – for example, info on parental leave, any holiday/religious information, the standard vacation/leave times and policies on things like health insurance coverage for partners/dependents, etc. These are all questions that people might want to ask but not feel comfortable disclosing at the interview. If it’s written out and given to every candidate, it will be much easier to demonstrate that there is no discrimination. And if a company is not comfortable putting their policies in writing…. that’s probably a good sign that their policies need work anyway.

      1. Teyra*

        Why can’t it just be on the website, though? Unless they don’t have a website. I just don’t understand the need. When I applied for my last job, they had:
        1. Information on the website about diversity, inclusion and accommodations all being important to them. They had an equality policy, and a list of support networks they had – LGBT, black, neurodiversity, women, religious, and I think some others – in the organisation.
        2. The online form I was sent to choose my interview day/time had a box to note any accommodations needed for the interview, along with another affirmation that they were very willing to accommodate.
        3. I think during the interview they briefly mentioned they were pro-diversity and equality, and that if I needed any accommodations they’d be happy to sort it out. They definitely worded that better, though.

        I think that was great. It made me (a gay woman) feel included, and I was happy to apply for an inclusive organisation, and am now proud to work for them. I don’t see the need for written handouts or specific ‘Religious people are welcome here too!’ mentions.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          Anything that talks about general inclusion is such a breath of fresh air, depending on the context (some cities I imagine all jobs have something like this – mine is a very mixed bag). Sometimes it’s clearly legal boilerplate, which is less endearing, but when I see jobs have put actual thought into it, I’m more inclined to think I will have to fight less battles.

      2. Temperance*

        I definitely don’t recommend ever handing out policy copies like this to job candidates; it’s great lawsuit evidence, should accusations arise.

  13. PhysicsTeacher*

    LW #1, if I received a phone call like this I would be immediately reminded of the scammers who target older people by calling and posing as their grandchild who needs money urgently for something. There’s just something about somebody directly calling me and saying they know my family and then launching into an unsolicited pitch for something that feels scammy. This is a case where it’d be better for the parents to forward this information, if only because it won’t feel like a sales call.

    As a side note, I would be upset with my parent if they gave out my phone number to someone without running it by me first.

    1. Night Owl*

      Lots of timeshare salespeople begin their call with what sounds like small talk and they take a lot of prodding before they finally admit that. Those calls last hours, if you let them, and they are specifically instructed to never hang up first. I speak from experience.

    1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      I feel like this is a little unfair. OP#1 checked themselves in the letter, they thought the kid was being rude and realized that it could have been their approach and asked how they could better forward information the next time. I think OP#1 was set up to fail. When I first started out looking for jobs and my parents consulted their friends, which they did, they set me up for success when that person called. My parents would say something like “Dad talked to Hank Smith, who he used to play baseball with in college. He is a senior teapot analyst at Earl Grey and has some leads on how you can break into the teapot industry. Here is his contact information. He said he would give you a call.”

      OP was trying to help, acting on bad information. The problem here is the parents. OP#1 mentioned in the comments that the parents asked them for job leads in the area because Kid supposedly wanted a job in that area. OP#1 found a good lead and wanted Kid to know about it. Thus, based on how my parents interacted with me, my thoughts would be, ‘oh, Friends have told Kid that I work in this location and I can help.’ That apparently was not the case. Therefore, I’d just like to throw out a word of advice to anyone who tries to connect two people, please let the other person know that you recommended that they connect and tell them who the other person is! It helps everyone in the situation!

  14. Notkatrina*

    It strikes me that this is the partly the parents’ fault. They passed on contact information without asking permission.

    1. Not Australian*

      Yes, this. They’re the ones who put the OP in an awkward position, and it’s very possible that the son would have objections if he knew what was going on.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, I came here to say this. I would not have been happy about it either. Although to be fair, I got my start in my current career by working on a project for my father’s then-employer. They were considering allowing someone at the org to do it in addition to their other duties, and apparently had my dad in mind. He immediately thought of me, checked with me that I was interested in the opportunity and gave my contact details to the project manager with my permission. He told them that I was looking for my first gigs in that field and asked them to at least give me a chance. The project manager called me and essentially interviewed me by phone. I got a paid trial, they were happy with my performance and I was hired for the project that lasted about two years, even though it wasn’t full-time. This is the only job I’ve ever had where I didn’t meet the hiring manager in person. It was also my first gig WFH full time in the early 2000s when that was far less common than today. But I got enough experience to get my current job, which isn’t entry-level.

    3. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      Yes! I said something similar above. If this had been my parents, I would have known that they contacted OP#1 and what connection they had to my parents. Then they would have left it up to me to do what I wanted with that information (like tell the Friend, “Thank you, but actually my parents are mistaken, I don’t want to be a teapot painter, I want to be a teapot analyst”). They wanted me to be more engaged in my own job search, so they may have given the Friend my contact info to further talk to me (in reality it was more “here’s Friend X’s contact info, they would love to talk to you if you want to call them”) but again, I always had the heads up of who was who.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I raged at my sister once for doing this. My parents won’t even tell you my last name without my permission!

      (Might sounds paranoid, but I’ve got at least one stalker and abusive ex in my past to ever be cool with my details going anywhere)

  15. LizArd*

    OP1 there’s an easy way to clear this up! Just contact the mom again and explain what happened. Ask her to apologize to the son on your behalf for the misunderstanding, and then to tell hom about the opportunity if he’s interested.

    1. Dan*

      My only quibble is with the word “opportunity.” Unless there’s $ attached to the “opportunity”, I’m totally not interested.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        It can be if it means learning directly from an industry powerhouse… But I would still want to get the info from the person I know directly.

    2. No Name*

      I actually think OP1 has nothing to apologise for. The parents asked for a favour and OP1 kindly obliged. The person who needs to apologise in this is the son. Personally, I wouldn’t invest any further effort for him unless he gets back to you and apologises that he mistook you for a sales call (if that was the case). If the parents ask, just say he laughed and hung up on you mid sentence so you assumed he wasn’t interested. You did a nice thing but you owe him nothing and have no obligation to grovel and hand him opportunities on a silver platter.

      1. LizArd*

        If I got a call out of the blue from someone claiming to know my parents, a person I had never heard of before, it would not be rude to decline to speak with them. I would have no reason whatsoever to trust them to be who they say they are. You would be a great target for scammers with that attitude.

        1. No Name*

          I got a job like this once. I mentioned to a school friend that I was looking for work in a particular city interstate and she mentioned it to someone she knew in that city, who happened to be employing close to where I was living and they rang me up. I didn’t know they were going to call me but even if I wasn’t interested, I would not embarrass a friend by hanging up on their contact mid-sentence. Politely hearing someone out does not mean handing over your bank account details and other personal info.

          OP1 knew the parents, knew he was moving to a particular location, knew what he was looking for and knew his contact info. Even if I hung up genuinely believing it a sales pitch, I would have texted my parents saying I had a weird call from a Penelope Warblesworth claiming she knew them. Did they tell her to call me? And then I would have called back and apologised because I don’t embarrass my parents by being rude to their colleagues either.

          1. Doc in a Box*

            The difference there, though, is you let your friend know you were looking, and the person who called you was interested in hiring. The OP’s situation is two steps removed (they know the parent, not the person looking for a job*, and they are not the person doing the hiring; they only got a recruitment email that someone ELSE is hosting a leadership retreat).

            I’d 100% assume this person was a telemarketer with that kind of spiel. I have zero qualms about saying “Not interested, bye” to sales pitches.

            * For that matter, we don’t even know the son is looking for a job. Lots of reasons a person might move to an area that doesn’t have to do with their own employment status! The fact that he picked up an unknown number at all suggests he may have been waiting for a call he actually wanted, like an apartment property manager, or somesuch.

        2. londonedit*

          LizArd – exactly. I’m immediately suspicious of phone calls from numbers I don’t recognise, but sometimes I have to answer them (if I’m waiting for a call about something, for example). If I do answer, my tone is likely to sound suspicious and defensive. If the person at the other end then starts telling me they know my parents and they have a ‘fantastic opportunity’ for me, and I’ve got no idea what they’re talking about, my ‘scam’ senses are likely to go off and I’m likely to say ‘No thanks, bye’ and hang up. And that would probably seem rude if the caller did turn out to be genuine, but I think we’ve all had enough experience of being caught out by sales calls that the default setting for many people is just a curt ‘No thanks’ before hanging up. OK, the son in this case just said ‘Bye’, but if he thought it was a sales call or a scam then I can totally understand why he’d do that. You don’t want to give a cold caller any sort of way into a conversation.

          1. Heidi*

            Yes. The younger generation has probably been fully conditioned to the idea that no legit party will contact you by phone.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              I’m 50, and over the last ten years I have gotten so many spam calls that I also believe that no legit party will contact me by phone, except for my credit card’s fraud checkers, who always start with, ‘we’re with X card fraud team, saw a charge that’s suspicious because [place / time / size]. Is it legit?’

              I would have taken OP’s call as spam. I don’t *think* I count as ‘the younger generation’ anymore…

              1. Myrin*

                I’m so blown away by this – telemarketers and spam calls basically aren’t a thing where I live (so basically my whole behaviour around phone calls is different from the majority of commenters here) but I’ve heard about them plenty on AAM. However, I did NOT know that that their frequency is that high – I just saw that it was also you who said you get two to three of those a day? That’s insane!

                1. A*

                  You’re right – it is insane. Sadly, it’s also fairly common :( So what might seem like ‘piling on’ OP, seems to me to be genuine efforts of trying to explain how times have changed. Which has shown to be pretty crucial to this situation.

                2. PhysicsTeacher*

                  I turned on the iPhone setting so that unfamiliar numbers won’t ring; they’ll just show up in my missed calls (and everybody has a chance to leave a voicemail). I also have an additional app that marks calls as things like “likely spam” or “possible spoofing” based on the number calling me.

                  I get at least one junk call every weekday. Often two or three. The gifted teacher across the hallway from me has a game he plays with his students — when anybody gets a scam call, they compete to see how long they can keep the scammer on the phone. The class that wins in a week gets donuts.

                3. spam calls all the time*

                  Honestly, I get at least one spam call a day, and sometimes I’ll get up to five spam calls in the span of one business day. It’s truly out of control. I’m 28 and would have reacted the exact same way as the son. 99% of legit and important information is sent to me via email.

                4. nonegiven*

                  It helped a lot that I stopped answering unknown callers. That reduced the frequency a lot.

              2. Heidi*

                I’m not young, either, but I do remember a time when phone numbers were published and people would just call you as part of normal business. For instance, you could buy stuff over the phone. You could schedule job interviews over the phone. Your boss could tell you what shifts you’re scheduled for by phone. A newly graduated adult may have never made this transition, so as far as they know, phoning is only for predatory sales calls.

            2. SarahTheEntwife*

              I’d amend that to “no legitimate party will make *initial* contact by phone”. I’m used to medical offices and prospective jobs and things like that calling me after I’ve interacted with them in some way, but unless I’ve elicited it, I assume that someone claiming to be from a utility or a bank or an “exciting opportunity” is a scam.

        3. Amethystmoon*

          I would not speak with them either but I wouldn’t have picked up, not recognizing the phone number. In this day and age, it’s very easy to screen calls, especially if your only phone is a cell phone.

          1. Malarkey01*

            Unless he is job hunting or trying to schedule an appointment/service. When job hunting you do usually answer every call since you don’t want to play phone tag with someone scheduling an interview/offer.

          2. A*

            Given that the son is/was considering a relocation I think it’s safe to assume they are also job hunting in which case it’s less likely to screen unknown numbers.

      2. allathian*

        The parents may have asked for a favor. But if they did it without the son’s knowledge or consent, the son doesn’t owe the OP anything, not even an apology. If anything, the parents owe their son an apology for crossing his boundaries. It may be that the son isn’t even actively considering moving closer to his parents but that the mom really, really wants him there and has misrepresented the situation to the OP. We don’t really know.
        These days, phone calls just feel so incredibly personal. I have grown very intolerant of strangers invading my personal space. There are other ways to get in touch with people you don’t know that well. LinkedIn is the obvious choice for professional contacts if you and the person you’re trying to contact are both using it.

      3. hbc*

        OP intended to do a nice thing, and I give full credit for that, but it was probably not all that nice for the recipient. “Leadership programs” are often scammy, and Industry Leaders who host them are often doing little more than talking at a group who are ready to drink in any words of wisdom this guru has to offer. Even if that’s not what this was, the call from a stranger about an Opportunity for a free program (or was it a scholarship?) to learn from some dude he’d never heard of wasn’t the highlight of his day.

        Often, the difference between a flavor and an overreach is whether you’re the giver or the receiver.

      4. Koala dreams*

        The person who should apologize is the parent. It was rude to give out their son’s number without checking with the son first, and it was rude to ask for a favour when they didn’t even know if the son wanted the favor in the first place. Yes, it would be nice of the letter writer to apologize to the son, it’s the polite thing to do even though they couldn’t know they did the wrong thing when they did it.

        1. Essess*

          Exactly! You are not supposed to give out people’s phone numbers without their permission.

        2. A*

          Agreed. I don’t think OP needs to apologize, and I 100% definitely don’t think the son needs to.

          For that matter, I don’t think the parents do either because this really isn’t that big of a deal – but if there are still hurt feelings, then yes that would be the best course of action.

      5. The Other Dawn*

        The parent may (or may not) have asked for the initial favor of providing geographic location information, because their son was deciding whether to move to OP’s area, but OP was the one that reached out to the parent with the information about the leadership program. OP says so in the letter.

        The OP should have just emailed the son with a CC to the parent, or asked the parent to pass on the information, if anything. And the parent should have asked the son before handing out his contact information, especially his phone number.

      6. Observer*

        unless he gets back to you and apologises that he mistook you for a sales call (if that was the case).

        Why does he owe the OP an apology?

        The OP’s call sounds like a classic sales call. Absent any other information it was perfectly legitimate for him to come to that conclusion. It’s not rude to not be telepathic nor a diviner.

    3. Observer*

      I don’t think that the OP owes the son an apology. I totally understand why he hung up and think it’s legitimate. But what the OP did was not something that requires an apology. If the OP is inclined to make the effort, I would suggest explaining what happened to the parent and asking them to just send over the information.

      1. LizArd*

        The OP wouldn’t have written in if she didn’t regret the fact that this happened. “Sorry for the misunderstanding” to me just means “it’s unfortunate that this happened,” not “I’m a monster and I beg you to forgive me.” You’ve never said “sorry for your loss” or “sorry youre feeling sick today”?

  16. Allonge*

    LW1 – there is a non-negligible chance that this young man is Very Over his parents’ interfering with his life.

    You made assumptions based on a reasonable parent-child relationship, but there are plenty of young adults for whom ‘I discussed this with your mother, who gave me this number’ is a big, red, screeching alarm bell to disconnect immediately.

    Send him an email (or not), but let go afterwards. I understand you were trying to help, but you have done enough and any further pushing will not make it better.

    1. Treebeardette*

      It’s a big leap to think that his parents are interfering. There’s nothing in the letter that indicates that. Especially since the son didn’t hang up when op made the connections. Op wouldn’t know that anyways. He cares about his friend and wanted to help his friend’s son. I don’t think we need to make up a story on why the son hung up. It simply sounded like a spam call.

      1. Dan*

        Hm? There’s plenty of us, me included, where the phrase, especially from a cold caller, “your mother/father said you’d be interested in X” would go over like a lead balloon. No inventive story required!

      2. Essess*

        I read several interfering points just from the letter. The parents are contacting people that the son doesn’t know for advice for their son and are giving out his phone number to people that he doesn’t know without his consent.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          +1 . I got unhappy when my mom put my email on a cc with three of her friends that I know fairly well; I would be furious if she gave out my phone number.

      3. Annony*

        I disagree. There is every indication that his parents are interfering. They are reaching out to people to get job advice for their son without telling him. If he were involved or wanted it, he probably would have known who the OP was or at least been happy to get the call rather than caught completely unaware.

        1. Colette*

          We don’t know that. The son could have agreed to them reaching out to their contacts without knowing the name of every contact they have.

        2. justabot*

          But the parents didn’t ask for a favor or for any networking help. Asking about the area where the LW lives isn’t the same as seeking job advice. The LW was the one who found the son’s LinkedIn profile and contacted the parents about a seminar and wanted to contact the son directly. The mother may have just obligingly passed on her son’s contact info, being polite to her friend who was raving about a great opportunity, and not thinking much of it. I personally don’t think it sounds like the parents are interfering in their son’s life.

    2. Dan*

      Yup. My mother understands absolutely NOTHING about my career, and never has. If this “opportunity” was discussed with my mother, and she didn’t give me a head’s up, that’s a big pass on the info. And because my mother understands absolutely NOTHING about my career, notice from her isn’t going to do any good anyway. The only thing that will work is contact info passed to her with the note, “please contact X via Y if interested.”

  17. Treebeardette*

    Op1- if I see opportunities I’ll text them or print out copies and pass on to the parents. I understand your reaction though. I know all my parents long time friends. Even though I haven’t met some of them, my parents would mention their name enough.
    I think you’re right that it sounded like a Spam call. I’ve heard my fair share from scholarships scams to student loans scams.
    I don’t think your wrong for what you did. I probably would have answered. But, most people wouldn’t.

    1. allathian*

      My memory for names and faces is so bad that I probably wouldn’t remember them if I hadn’t met them before. Or perhaps even if I had. I struggle to remember the names and faces of the people I’m currently doing a course for a certificate with and the last time I met them was in March, just before COVID lockdown.

  18. Night Owl*

    OP#1, as you’ve read already, the best course was probably to just tell his parents and let them pass the information on. I personally would not cold call anyone, even distant family, and I can’t help but sense that you seem invested in making this referral. Do you get a credit when you recruit students for this course?

    1. Night Owl*

      One of my parents was recently the victim of an over enthusiastic “friend of the family” that went asking all over town for personal information. Unfortunately, another close family friend fell for this and it resulted in weeks of very strange, near harassing, behavior. I was told that this nearly cost the friendship.

    2. Jemima Bond*

      Alison I feel like the response to OP 1 is coming across as a bit mean. Yes it’s been explained as to how her call may have come across as sales-y and good suggestions have been offered for future ref but the truth is, it wasn’t a sales call and OP was in good faith and believing she had provided reasonable credentials. The feel of several comments is that she is stupid for not knowing how this would come across – someone even asked what rock she’d been living under! And others have attacked her for thinking the person she called “owed her his time”. I think it was good of her to seek answers as to how her communication may have failed, or come across in an unintended way, and having received (and graciously accepted from what I see) answers and advice, having a go at her for not realising this before is just going to put people off seeking advice here. I don’t think a conversation starting “this has gone wrong, what mistake could I have made?” – “it sounds like you did x, try y” – “thank you I didn’t realise it was x, I will definitely try y!” should proceed to “yeah you should have realised it was x, I can’t believe you didn’t realise, let’s all beat you up for inadvertently doing x, what rock have you been under?”
      I’m surprised how unkind some of these comments are.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          I agree with you about some of the comments. Not all of us are up to date on the latest ways to communicate information to third parties especially since it seems to be evolving constantly. A condescending comment doesn’t offer much help.

      1. Myrin*

        Ah, I just made a similar comment above, but yours is much more eloquent and covers everything I thought of but couldn’t quite articulate – so as it stands, I co-sign everything you write here!

      2. No Name*

        I agree with this. A lot of the comments reek of entitlement that OP has to do favours at the young man’s convenience. That is not how it works.

        1. allathian*

          True. But the young man hasn’t as far as we know asked for any favors, and may in fact think his parents should stay out of his career. We don’t know. We’ve had enough letters about interfering family members here to know that it’s all too possible that the idea of the son looking to move closer to his parents is all in his mom’s head and the son isn’t considering that.

          At the very least, the parents were out of line if they gave out the son’s phone number without checking with him first. If they had asked for his permission and got it, the son would presumably be expecting a call from someone who said they got his number from his parents.

          The only way to be sure would be to ask the parents if they actually asked the son’s permission before giving out his number…

        2. I can only speak Japanese*

          What? Where are you getting that impression? Most people are annoyed because OP called someone who responded in a really normal way to a cold call from a stranger “entitled” and tried to blame it on his age.

          No one is expecting anything from her, least of all the son, who did NOT ask her for any favors. The comments who say she probably came across as making a spam call are not telling her to go out of her way to help the son, they are telling her why he reacted the way he did.

          I am so sick with people calling reasonable reactions people have “entitlement” simply because those people are young.

          1. No Name*

            My response had nothing to do with millennials. There are a lot of posts telling her all the ways she “should” offer him an opportunity. My point is she can choose the most convenient method for her if she chooses to do anything at all. The son’s issues with his parents are not her problem. If he chooses to be rude, she doesn’t have to give him the benefit of the doubt or make up excuses for him. If he is looking for work later in her field, it is completely reasonable to quietly recommend he doesn’t get the job. My experience of networking is it is often less about the people you know directly but who they know that you don’t. Being polite can pay off in unexpected ways.

            1. I can only speak Japanese*

              I didn’t say anything about millenials. And the son wasn’t rude. He received a call from an unknown person making a sales pitch, said “no, bye” and hung up.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              I’m sorry but that seems like such an overreaction to what sounds like a misunderstanding. Unintentional as it was, the OP cold-called this guy in a way that lots of people here agree sounds exactly like a telemarketing scam, to “offer an opportunity” that isn’t even theirs to offer (OP doesn’t run the program and presumably has no control over admissions) and that he may not even be interested in. Yes, he could have been politer about it but it is BIZARRE to me to say it would be “reasonable” for OP to actively try to prevent him from getting jobs over this.

              1. No Name*

                While I would not go around trying to ruin his reputation in the industry or prevent him from being hired elsewhere, the truth is if his resume crossed my desk or I was asked my opinion, he was very rude in my one interaction with him. That is for him to explain, not me to make up excuses for him. Why on earth would I pick him when there are stacks of similar candidates out there who haven’t left a bad impression.

                1. EventPlannerGal*

                  Okay, well, I don’t think we are going to agree on this. I don’t think that what he did was “very rude”, I don’t think it’s “making up excuses” when there is an immediate and extremely obvious explanation for what happened, and I don’t think it is reasonable to hold this against the guy or write advice column fanfic where the OP is somehow in a position to hire him and gets to have their justified revenge. It sounds like a misunderstanding, the OP has gotten a lot of good advice on how to avoid this in future and it is unlikely the situation will arise again.

                2. doreen*

                  Because it’s ridiculous to take offense at being treated like a telemarketer when in fact you sounded like a telemarketer. I can understand thinking he was rude if you didn’t realize you sounded like telemarketer – but by now you’ve seen the comments so that explanation no longer works. And if you told me he was rude in your one interaction with him, and he gave me the explanation in the OP , it’s you that I would have a poor impression of, not him.

                3. Annony*

                  I think that is going a bit far. The OP doesn’t know him and in her one interaction with him accidentally came across as a scammer. If asked about him, she should just say that she doesn’t know him.

                4. Observer*

                  Really? No one is “making up” anything. The simple fact is that he received what sounded like a cold call from someone who is trying to sell him something. What is rude about that? Why is it rude to hang up on a telemarketer?

                5. Teyra*

                  Wow. Are you a hiring manager? I hope not. In a situation like this, which we all know was basically just a misunderstanding, you would be misrepresenting the situation and lying by omission to just say ‘he was rude’ without adding, ‘he, a teenager, justifiably mistook my call for a cold-calling salesperson, and was rude’. It’s not an excuse, it’s providing context.

                  I’d imagine you could get in trouble if you recommended that someone shouldn’t be hired because he was rude, and then your employer found out that the reason for the ‘rudeness’ was a misunderstanding, and you’d been fully aware of that and simply chosen not to include that detail.

              2. I can only speak Japanese*

                This. If anyone here is entitled, it’s the people who think they should get to talk to anyone they cold call about anything they want without giving any consideration to that person’s schedule or wants. Ruining his career over this? That’s not just entitled, that’s petty AF.

            3. EPLawyer*

              because he didn’t take what sounded like a sales pitch, he should not get a job in the future? Seriously? This wasn’t even a pitch for a job — it was a pitch for a “leadership” opportunity with some entrepreneur. The OP wasn’t offering a job, the OP was offering an opportunity to hear some guy talk.

              this doesn’t say anything about the son’s judgment, other than he didn’t want to hear what sounded like a sales pitch. It does say something about OP’s judgment that she got all excited about this “opportunity” because she loved the program that OF COURSE everyone else wants to hear about it — even when they have indicated they don’t know who the caller is. OP got a little carried away and upon reflection realized it. She specifically wrote in about whether or not she got carried away. Which is why everyone is giving her more low key ways to send along information in the future.

              1. justabot*

                Actually, I think it shows the son has very good judgment – to quickly shut down a conversation and not engage any further with someone he didn’t know, who claimed to know his family, and who was pitching a free “opportunity” to him about something he had never inquired about – if he showed poor judgment, it was in not saying bye until the second sentence. His red flag alarm was immediately raised and he acted on it.

            4. Observer*

              Good heavens. If someone “quietly recommend” not hiring someone over this, I would be SERIOUSLY questioning their judgement and ability to get along with people!

              Talk about gross over-reaction.

              Hanging up on scammers and cold callers is a perfectly legitimate response. And not knowing the name of someone who is an “old family friend” of one’s parents is also perfectly normal. Thinking that a call from a stranger is a scam or sales call is actually a very reasonable reaction.

              Which is to say that while the OP was clearly trying to do something helpful, the son’s reaction was perfectly reasonable. Trying to blacklist him and wreck his career is incredibly strange and vengeful reaction.

            5. A*

              “If he is looking for work later in her field, it is completely reasonable to quietly recommend he doesn’t get the job.”

              What the what now??

              All this poor guy did was answer an unsolicited and unscheduled phone call, and seemingly misinterpreted it. Now he is deserving of a bad reference? I…. am officially speechless. Which is highly unusual for me!

            6. spam calls all the time*

              I find this unreasonable. The OP cold called this young man. She referenced his parents and he still had no idea who she was. She then launches into what sounds a LOT like a sales pitch. He assumes it is spam, says “bye” and hangs up. His reaction is what I believe the vast majority of people do when they think a phone call is spam. The OP created this entire situation that as far as I can tell he didn’t ask for. So now, this young man who as far as he knows cut short a spam call, should be penalized in his career? That is so unfair to him!

            7. Kiwi with laser beams*

              What? No. I was very against people piling on LW1 because they should have noticed that she was humbly replying to feedback and taking on board what people were saying, but intervening to stop him from being hired over a mistake like that? That’s really unfair, for reasons that the others have explained well.

        3. hbc*

          Replies like yours are actually a big chunk of the reason that the OP’s actions are getting such a strong, negative reaction. I can see how OP slid into this, but your maligning the son is way over the top.

          For a lot of people, this is not a favor, it’s an imposition or inconvenience. This guy probably felt like he had to answer a call from an unknown number because it might be from a hiring manager or recruiter, and then (from his POV) it’s a stranger recommending a scammy-sounding “opportunity” to listen to a guy he doesn’t know. The guy who showed up at my house at 8:30pm saying he was treating bugs at my neighbors’ houses the next day probably thought he was offering me a great opportunity to get reduced price pest control, but I couldn’t tell the difference between scam and deal at that point, and I didn’t want it anyway.

          If you actually want to do favors for people, it helps to know what people actually want. And if you don’t know what they actually want, that’s a good sign to not invest too much time or emotion in the process of “helping” them.

      3. Mystery Bookworm*

        I am a little surprised at how strong the reaction is, and I wonder what it is about this particular issue.

        I wonder if e-mail vs. phone debate (and cold calls in particular) evokes a strong reaction. Then coupled with the family element.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          I will say, personally, having entered the workforce during the height of millennial-bashing, I can have a knee-jerk defensive response to suggestions that young people are all entitled. (To be clear, I don’t think that’s what OP #1 was saying, but there is some language overlap there.) I know a lot of other people are tired of that narrative as well, and maybe OP has (however inadvertantely) tapped into that emotional thread.

          1. just a millennial*

            Couldn’t have said it better myself. As a late 20s millennial who started in her career fresh out of college, I definitely get very defensive when workplace problems are blamed on generations or ages. I personally loved working as soon as I started, I have always respected professional norms, and I think I do a pretty good job. So a few years ago when millennial-bashing was all the rage, it hurt. This letter definitely kind of triggered me because the OP has some veiled language at the end of the letter (person of privilege, not polite, etc).

            Also, one of my pet peeves is when someone tries to do something for me completely unsolicited, and if I don’t react in the exact way they imagined, I end up being maligned. Drives me batty.

        2. IOCTL*

          For me the only difference between email and phone would have been that email would have been less annoying, since I wouldn’t have to do anything extra like picking up the phone instead of taking the one second to click the Spam button for the unannounced job opportunity from an unknown person.
          I get several of them, alongside the opportunities for enlargements or business prospects with Nigerian princes.

        3. Myrin*

          Yeah, I said something similar above – I never in my life would’ve thought that this would be the most popular question in this batch of letters because it seems incredibly mundane to me. Then again, that happens at least once a month here, so maybe my interests just lie differently from those of the general readership.

          1. Reba*

            Though mundane, I think it is easy to have a strong opinion about this one! It touches on spam/sales calls (universally hated) and generational differences in approach (often a hot issue) AND it’s parenting-adjacent (WHEW).

          2. Tau*

            In addition to what Reba said, I think letters often get a strong response when the commentariat thinks the OP is misreading the situation, especially when OP seems to think they’re in the right but the commenters think they’re in the wrong. Some sort of corrective impulse rearing its head?

          3. A*

            You also mentioned in another comment that you don’t receive spam calls often, let alone as often as many of the commenters are reporting. So I think it’s pretty clear that people’s perspectives will be influenced by the amount of exposure they have to that.

            1. Myrin*

              For whatever it’s worth, I’ve actually literally never gotten a spam call as they simply aren’t a thing here (I did get young teenagers calling me every hour of the day for a month a few years ago, though, because me and my sister share our first names with a pair of sisters who were internet teenage idols at the time – fun times!) and my view is most certainly influenced by that. However, I also never said that I think the son reacted poorly or anything like that – I can, even without having experienced this myself, abstract what the son must have thought and I very much think he reacted appropriately. None of that changes that #1 still by far isn’t the most interesting letter of the batch to me.

        4. EventPlannerGal*

          Oh really? I think it makes perfect sense to get a ton of responses here. It’s minor and general enough that literally anyone can have an opinion on it, and the response is basically just who do you find more sympathetic: Generous Professional Just Trying To Help And Being Rudely Rebuffed By Rude Entitled Rich Kid, or Put-upon Young Adult Fielding Weird Career Advice From Clueless Old People. Choose your fighter!

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            Mmm. I see what you mean about being general – we all have some experience that touches on this, so it’s easy for everyone to have an opinion.

          2. Teyra*

            I wonder if we’re seeing a generation gap in the comments, too. I’d imagine the younger readers are more likely to identify with the young adult with interfering parents interpretation (I know I sure as hell do), while the (comparatively) older readers, especially parents, identify with the helpful adult trying to assist ungrateful teen interpretation. And then everyone’s own experiences in those respective situations is making it hard for people to look at this objectively. We’re all reading into it too much, just in different ways.

      4. Osmosis Jones*

        I concur. It is especially unfortunate since OP has been awesome in interacting with commenters. I’m concerned this type of piling on may discourage potential letter writers in the future from writing in or being active in the comments.

        1. Susie Q*

          I agree. More controversial posters barely get this kind of response. People are being brutal to OP. Who did a good thing, just did it the wrong way.

      5. violet04*

        Agree. From a cultural perspective, I’m Indian and it wouldn’t be unheard of for an Auntie or Uncle (how we refer to my parent’s friends) to contact me.

        My parents would have told me that their friend would be contacting me about this opportunity. In this case, I don’t know if the kid’s parents told them about the situation. My parents would be horrified if I had hung up on their friend.

  19. Feeling Lost*

    LW#2: My stock response to “How are you” is “Coping”.

    If it is less than a month, then you will be too busy with all the admin, and it may not have really hit you yet. Going to work preserves your routine, and provides other things to think about. 2 years on and I know that it continues to affect my mental health, and I know that the pain will never go away, although I can put up a good front to strangers.

    I strongly recommend finding a Suicide Bereavement support group in your area.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’m fond of “As well as can be expected.” It implies quite a lot of things, without ever coming out and stating any of them. So if you meet someone who expects you to be overwhelmed with grief and barely coping, this lets them believe that. And if you meet someone who thinks you should be over everything already, it lets that person believe that, too.

    2. Threeve*

      Mine is “hanging in there, thanks.” It’s not putting a falsely positive spin on things, but it’s also conclusive and doesn’t encourage any further inquiry. And if someone unfamiliar with the situation hears it, they may just interpret it as “oh, Threeve is tired or having an annoying morning” and not want to dig into the situation.

  20. Night Owl*

    LW2, I can identify with this because I lost one of my grandparents to suicide, though it was complicated by a medical condition. I told my boss at the time that I was attending a grandparent’s funeral, but I really did not want to make a big deal about it. It was also a case of watching someone decline over a long period of time, and being relieved that they were finally able to pass, even though they took their life into their own hands, so to speak. Unfortunately, my boss sent an email to the entire department telling everyone to give me condolences. It made things very awkward because I got reminded about it all day, every day, for weeks by people I didn’t know well and did NOT want to talk to.

    1. IOCTL*

      That’s the reason I told no one when my grandfather passed away. I don’t want your condolences, just leave me be.
      I think I’d have taken a vacation day if I had intended to go to the funeral, instead of requesting a special day off (which would be paid for and which wouldn’t count against our other days off).

    2. Michelle P*

      One thing my office does that I detest is send out a condolence email and gives your address “if you would like to send them a card”. Sounds nice, but when I came home after traveling out of state for my father’s funeral to 25 cards from people in the company* that I barely know, haven’t spoken to in years, probably won’t see again for years, it’s…I don’t know, just weird. I know who they are, but I don’t know them.

      * We have six locations to our company, with four specializing in non-profit education, one radio station and one corporate office. Some of the people I have never met, so getting a condolence card from them was strange.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Mine just passes around the card physically and has everyone sign it. Even if you don’t know the person and haven’t met them or briefly met them, they really, really try to get you to sign it.

        1. Michelle P*

          I would consider that “normal”. It’s usually the people at your location and even if you don’t know them, you know they work there. I got a very nice card from a man and his wife, had no idea who either of them were and had to look them up in the online directory. I know they were being kind, but I didn’t even know what location he/she worked at.

  21. BonzaSonza*

    OP 2 – My boss lost his mother to illness last week.

    The timing was terrible when viewed purely from a work perspective. I’m the only person presently performing a business critical function, and I’m already covering two vacant roles. It’s the end of financial year here and June 30 deadlines are immutable.

    I took over his role in addition to my own while he took 10 days off work and have been working ridiculous hours to get it all done. But I’ve been glad to do it, because no matter how stressful my last two weeks have been I can guarantee that his have been worse.

    He came back to work yesterday, and has been completely ‘normal’. He told me just after his mum passed that work would be a welcome distraction from his loss and and all the executor duties that go along with it. I am treating him as normal right now, because if he’s using work as a distraction and to keep busy the last thing I’m going to do is keep reminding him all over again.

    I don’t think anyone who is worth your time will think anything less of you.

    Your grief is no-one else’s business. You don’t have to act in a way that will make other people satisfied that you’re grieving sufficiently for their liking.

    I’m sorry for your loss

  22. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW4, it’s great that you want to be sensitive to people’s religious observance.

    But if I heard you making a really big deal about days off for religious festivals in particular, I’d wonder whether your religiously non- (or less) observant employees are always obliged to provide cover, if they never get priority for flexible working or leave requests, etc.

    So that’s why I prefer Alison’s framing, because it declares that the employer is open to accommodating all kinds of people and their needs, and that the employer’s ideas of what those needs might be is neither exhaustive nor fixed.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      ugh that phrasing is awful

      religiously non or less observant

      was intended to mean

      “people who do not have obligations relating to religious observance”

  23. Luna*

    LW2: I think it’s fine. Each person deals with grief differently. Some people need longer than a week to deal with things like this because they are too deep in a slump or incapable of not breaking down in tears. Others don’t take any leave and go back to work because work is something that lets them focus on other matters, and literally work through their grief.
    Both is okay to do.
    It may seem odd to some people because they have an idea how someone ‘should’ act, but that is just their opinion. Nothing wrong with doing things differently. And as long as that works for you, it’s fine.

  24. EventPlannerGal*

    OP #1 – I’m sorry this didn’t go as intended as it sounds like you were trying to do something kind, and you’ve gotten a lot of advice on how to move forward. This is just intended as an FYI, but I think it would be good to bear in mind: when you say things like “a free leadership program from a respected entrepreneur”, that is exactly the type of language you hear from scammers. I am sure that the program you attended was legitimate, but there are many of these things that are really nothing more than attempts to get people in a room to deliver sales pitches to or similar. It sounds like you’re very enthusiastic about these programs, which is great, but if you plan to pass the opportunity on to anyone else I think it would help to frame in in less, well, scammy-sounding language (eg more specific details, leave out buzzwords like “leadership” and “entrepreneur”). If you’re doing it by email, I would just send a link to the program’s website and let people make up their own minds.

  25. Koala dreams*

    #1 The parent dropped the ball here. Super weird to give out your adult child’s phone number without giving a heads up that they should expect a call soon! You also made a mistake when you thought it would be easier to call before e-mailing. Usually it’s better to e-mail and then arrange for a phone call, not the other way around. It’s different with your friend because you already know each other. What’s done is done, but I think it would have been better to finish the call as soon as you realized the person you were talking to didn’t expect your call.

    I don’t think the parent discussing their child’s future is the same as the child being interested, though. Often parents have wildly different ideas for their children’s future than the children themselves. Just read the other post about family and friends who have no idea what kind of jobs someone is looking for! I’m sure that both you and the parent mean well, it’s just hard to know.

    1. nonegiven*

      The one on Twitter cracked me up, the guy had a Phd, his mom kept trying to get him to apply to work in a hospital, as a doctor. You need to believe in yourself, more!

  26. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I’m going to be kind to OP1 because I think this was a misunderstanding. Putting myself in her shoes, she was recently approached by Friend who said that Son was considering a move to OP’s area, and wanted to establish a connection for Son. OP would have reasonably thought that Friend might have told Son about OP living in the area (or frankly, the existence of OP at all). So when OP was being considerate in trying to pass along some information, it was with this backdrop of believing it would be welcome. It appears, though, that likely Friend never even told Son about their friendship, so when Son got a call out of the blue, it was odd (is it weird to anyone else that the OP-Friend generation are family friends but Son has never heard of OP?). Son hanging up on OP was rude, but honestly, it’s what people do with telemarketing and other spam calls.

    I agree with the others that OP would have been well-advised to forward the email to Friend and say that it made her think of Son, and because of her connection to the organization, would be happy to talk to Son about it. But that isn’t what happened, so I think OP could contact Friend, tell Friend about the call (although leave out the words privilege and entitled because what does that even mean in this context), and if it’s a misunderstanding, try connecting with Son again.

    1. dedicated1776*

      I also thought it was weird that the son didn’t recognize the LW’s name. Even my friends’ kids who I’ve never met would have presumably heard about me in natural conversation, like, “We’re having Thanksgiving with Joe and Jane this year.”

      1. sara*

        My parents are rather notorious for trying to connect me with family friends/distant relatives I’ve never heard of before the second I mention a job type/location even remotely related to where they live/what they do. It’s their way of feeling involved and finding a way to boss me around when I’m trying to do something independently haha! I feel for OP1, because I have definitely been in the shoes of the son before, and, through no fault of the connection, have felt very annoyed at how much work I ended up having to put in to talk to someone I don’t know and already have a feeling won’t be of any real help to me in my endeavor. For that reason, I’d probably have been just as offput by a cold call, and the name might truly not ring a bell for me (due to my parents doing this ALL the time, and with people who even they could barely explain the connection).

      2. A*

        No clue if this is the norm or not, but I definitely do not know (or remember) the names of my parents friends. They are both extremely social, and tend to gain several close friends each year. Sure there are a few constants from my childhood that I know, but aside from that – nope.

      3. Adultiest Adult*

        The “family friend” thing is interesting. My mother has a truly dizzying amount of friends, and yes, keeps up with their children and grandchildren at this point. She is regularly invited to weddings of people I’ve barely heard of, who are children of friends she has made since I was an adult. I might recognize some of their names, but only if I think about it, and wouldn’t recognize most of them. Someone made the point above that the people they consider “family friends” are the ones who have been present since childhood, or present in a variety of contexts. Those people I remember, even if I haven’t seen them in awhile. I also would be exceedingly annoyed to get an unsolicited personal phone call–put me in the category of people for whom a phone number is sacred and not to be given out lightly.

    2. Mary Richards*

      That was weird to me, too. I can’t imagine a scenario where someone my parents spoke to in the last 10-ish years wouldn’t even ring a bell.

      But I’m still assigning some blame to the parents, especially if OP was so unfamiliar to the kid!

  27. MAB*

    LW1, it’s interesting how you’ve framed this as HIM being entitled when you are the one who felt entitled to an unscheduled phone call with someone you barely know in any sense of the word. He behaved completely normally based on current societal norms. You didn’t. Email him and move on.

    1. EPLawyer*

      THIS. OP called out of the blue, didn’t inquire if this is a good time or not, just launched into a pitch after saying the parents gave the information. The son said he had never heard of this person. Instead of seeing the stop sign, OP barged ahead with what frankly sounded like an MLM call (even if OP didn’t realize it sounded like that) so son did the only thing he could do to end an unwanted phone call – he said bye and hung up.

      Thankfully OP reflected and realized this ight not have been the best approach and asked for advice. Which was given.

    2. Observer*

      I think that that’s a bit unfair. The OP was not trying to sell them anything – they were trying to do him a favor. Now, I do agree that they didn’t handle it all that well – passing the information to the parents would have been the best way to go. But they weren’t trying to get the son to give them his time.

    3. Ducksgoquack*

      Being “entitled” is not how I would put it. OP was simply excited about this job opportunity and thought it would be useful to pass on the info to this contact. I get that a lot of people prefer phone calls to be scheduled but that’s not something people stick to religiously.

  28. Cassie Nova*

    There is no “normal” for returning to work after a close family member or friend dies.

    You can constantly break down at your desk and when talking to co-workers. It happens but it’s pretty rare. This is the expected response and people typically do what they can to avoid this.

    What people tend to do instead is spend their days before returning to work crafting the personality they want to project, and often this is the hyper-stoic version of them that has everything together. And of course, it’s obvious to all that this isn’t their real self but for office politeness’ sake most will go along with it, though a few will continue to prod – “Come on – you can tell me.” The variation on this is the person pretending to be okay – but also being intentionally bad at it in order to show the cracks beneath. Please don’t do this! It’s bad melodrama.

    And then the rarest is the person who has real control over their emotions and is comfortable enough to give their co-workers a taste of their actual emotions, their not being okay, but can then pull back and acknowledge that they’ll improve over time, things will never be normal but they’re here to work – and that’s what they do. I urge people to aim for this – it’s the most respectful to you and your co-workers. Don’t break down, don’t pretend to be totally fine – just be real.

  29. Thankful for AAM*

    For OP#4, echoing what Alison said.
    I am not religious at all but I would be very excited to work for a company that is as accomodating as yours. I would want to know that info as part of my hiring decision; I would consider the climate of your company a perk. Assuming, as someone else said, you don’t schedule in a way that overly burdens any group of people.

    We had something happenening at my workplace that looked like religious discrimination and it has left me with less than respectful feelings toward the people involved.

  30. Not So NewReader*

    OP 2. It almost seems to be a part of grief to feel very conspicuous to others and wonder how we should present and how we do present.
    It’s okay to exhale here, OP. Just let yourself have a little bit of air. We are supposed to have many aspects to our lives, it’s almost a necessity. When one aspect such as work is not going well, perhaps home life is great. Or if home life is tanking somehow, perhaps work/volunteer group/other thing is going remarkably well. The part that is going well, offers us a mini-break from the part that is not going well.

    It’s okay to act normal at work. It’s part of your re-knitting, reweaving your thoughts, your mind and your heart. Yes, I am talking about incubation time. Incubation time is the time away from Thing, where we are not directly thinking about Thing and we are focused on something else. Even in that incubation period we are still thinking and processing. Right, it can feel like we are not thinking and processing, but in some ways we actually are. I really believe that when we think about “how we should present at work after a tragedy” is yet another way we process grief.

    This heightened awareness of how you appear to others will fade and eventually pass. I’d suggest getting some extra rest, because at least for me, this type of worry causes me to tire quicker… which leads to more worry …. and causes me to tire more… To break this awful cycle, deliberately put rest or quiet time into your day. Quiet time can be time spent reading cook books or watching cartoons, or whatever you think of to do. I used to knit or crochet and I enjoyed that.

    I don’t believe grief ever goes away entirely. There is no such thing as “getting over it”. I think that grief changes form. And that change in form can be some sort of relief on its own. This is some of the hardest stuff in life. Go easy on you.

    1. Asperger Hare*

      That’s such a kind answer, kudos.

      (I crocheted a blanket, myself. It was essential for me to turn that time into something pleasant and enjoyable, or at least busy.)

  31. White Peonies*

    #3 Is Jane storing her personal work files in your office to be picked up or are they the teams work files. Why aren’t gift baskets for the office put in a common area? Its really odd that a gift basket for the office is being held in someones office like its theirs. Either way if Jane is already using some of her space for office supplies for the office, then you should give up some space in your office as well for office things (not Jane’s personal work things).

    1. hbc*

      Yeah, I think it was unfortunate that OP took a stand on the gift basket, which was at least something that as much belonged in her office as the coworker’s. I would draw a hard line at anything that is clearly the coworker’s stuff, but the communal stuff should be a discussion. And I’d rather get some credit for a gift basket that will live in my office for a day, which will let me push back on file boxes that will be picked up sometime or semi-permanent storage.

      1. Coworker Storage Space*

        Good point hbc,
        I was at the end of my rope, but it was bad timing on my part.

    2. Coworker Storage Space*

      Hi White Peonies,
      There is a common area, I don’t know why the gift basket shouldn’t be stored there. And if she asked I would probably just say yes.
      I have office stuff in my office. I have the tech stuff as that’s my role and she has the office supplies because she has more of an admin role. I just want her to ask before she puts stuff in my office and she just keeps pushing those boundaries.

  32. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – this reminds me of the time I had a HS friend help me out with my finances and ask for names/numbers of others that may need her help as well. I reached out to a few friends, and gave her their numbers when they said it was cool. One of those friends then asked me not to give out her number without asking. Except I did ask, and she forgot. So it is possible that the parent mentioned you to their son and they forgot. But I agree with what others are saying, and it’s probably just best to forward the info to the parents and let them handle it.
    #2 – I’m sorry for your loss. I lost my mom in 2009 after being at my job for less than 6 months. I took my 3 days of bereavement, and came back to work. I needed the distraction. Everyone grieves differently and I think you’re doing what’s best for you and wouldn’t be concerned with how you’re coming off to your co-workers/manager. If they’re reasonable people, they’ll get it.
    #3 – It sounds like you’re dancing around the issue, and only speaking up when you’ve hit your breaking point. Tell them no. Close the door when you leave, and if she finds a way to put stuff in there when you’re not around, take it back to her office and give them back (although I would only recommend this is they’re a peer).

    1. Coworker Storage Space*

      Hi ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss,
      Thank you for the advice. I should be telling her no right away and she is a peer, she just doesn’t treat me like one.

  33. SarahTheEntwife*

    LW 2 – in a similar situation, I got a lot of mileage out of “as well as can be expected”. Depending on tone, it can signal “I’m not really ok, but I’m here and I’m going to do my best” or “I am in work mode now and definitely don’t want to talk about it”.

  34. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#4, The best way to let candidates know that you accommodate religious observation is to do so with your current employees. On the interview, give the candidates a chance to meet with their future peers and I guarantee they’ll learn about it. If you’re already in the habit of accommodating people’s religion, it’ll be loud and clear to candidates during that portion of the interview.

    1. Colette*

      Unless the candidate asks specifically, I doubt it would come up organically. My employer accommodates a variety of needs including religious, but it’s not something I would mention when talking with a candidate unless they asked.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        For candidates who care deeply about such things, they will definitely find a way to ask. Usually to their potential peers rather than the hiring manager. I think it’s really important when interviewing to give candidates a chance to talk to the team without the manager present.

    2. BluntBunny*

      I think another way could be allowing religious dress in the dress code for example allowing hijabs and turbans. Allowing your employees to wear them and feeling comfortable enough to wear them in the office.

    3. Jay*

      If I’m the first non-Christian the company ever hired, no one will be able to speak to my concerns (and yes, I’ve been in that position in small groups). Or maybe the applicant could be a follower of a religion that doesn’t have a lot of adherents in the US. I think this is a both/and – Allison’s phrasing is spot-on for the interview, and the employees can speak to how the culture plays out in real time.

  35. blink14*

    Op #2 – I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I had a similar experience a few years back and the situation was very traumatic for me. I told my boss and a few close coworkers what had happened, in case I seemed off, and while I held it together most of the time at work, I did experience a couple of snapping points with a particularly frustrating coworker. I felt it best to tell her what had happened, to explain my behavior. I think most people genuinely care how someone is doing after a situation like that, so I would stick to Alison’s suggestions when someone asks how you are doing – it sounds like you really are doing ok, but it’s possible a coworker or your boss could pick up on a small demeanor change, and that may be part of why they are asking how you are doing. Something like “Everything’s great!” often can feel like a cover up, while something like “I’m doing ok, thanks for asking” sort of acknowledges that an event happened, and feels more truthful. This time will pass, and hopefully you can move on to better things!

  36. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP1 I don’t even know why you are going to so much trouble for a kid you barely know. I would have sent the info to their parent and said for them to call if they’re interested. It’s up to them to make a move to show their interest before you put any more energy into getting them this opportunity.

  37. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP2 Everybody grieves in different ways and it’s none of anyone’s business how you go about it.

  38. Anonymous at a University*

    OP 2, believe me, it’s fine. I lost my mother last year and just said “Okay” when anyone asked me specifically how I was doing. The only person who questioned me was someone else who had lost a parent around the same time and did want to do her grief processing in public, and the second time she recommended grief therapy to me- with a particular local therapist who I had tried in the past for a different issue and who was terrible- I pushed back and said, “That won’t benefit me.” She said, “Oh, okay,” and that was it. I think many people will just assume that you have your own ways of coping and that, as for me, work is taking your mind off it.

  39. Laura H.*

    OP1, I would work on general phone skills as well/ having a good form message so that if the person lets you go to voicemail (that’s what I do with unknown #s), they can surmise it’s not spam and call you back if they want. Email is also good but again, I’d try to have it as not spammy sounding as possible.

    You can control your presentation more than you can control another’s reception. Good luck, and don’t let this experience sour you on recommending things. I’m sure you’re not the only one who has inadvertently swung more sales pitch than intended.

    1. Mary Richards*

      This is not entirely directed at you, Laura, but having made it this far down the page, I just have to say that we, as a group, have read WAY too much into this particular letter!

      Tl;dr version of the whole story: OP, presumably a boomer or gen x who grew up making phone calls for everything, called a gen z, who has grown up with his cell phone being a haven for junk calls and maybe grandma every so often. He wasn’t going to fall for “it,” whatever “it” was, and since his parents didn’t say “hey, expect a phone call from OP,” he made the (logical) assumption that it was a junk call and hung up.

      I really think that’s it. Small mistakes leading to an equally small error that I’m going to guess is not a big deal in the scope of OP’s life or career.

      1. emails only please ;)*

        I agree completely! People are blowing this way out of proportion. OP made a phone call that took a few minutes out of their life, it’s not like they spent 10 days writing an intense, emotional email trying to get their friend’s son to participate in this program. Phone calls can often be quicker and more efficient, I do actually understand the impulse to call (and I’m a millennial who would often rather spoon my eye out than make a phone call..).
        OP, now you have a better sense of what transpired and why, and hopefully if you’ve got some ideas for people in the future, you’ll just pop it in a quick email with your contact info and let them reach out if they’re interested. And I, for one, think it’s nice that you are trying to help people out during a time of transition. It didn’t read that way to your friend’s son (understandably, given the generational context), nor apparently to many people on this site, but even if/when it’s misguided I do appreciate when people in my life are thinking of me!

      2. Laura H.*

        I agree and I apologize if I sounded pushy, that wasn’t the intent. Thanks for pointing that out.

        Guess I need to work on my wording too. :)

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree that each party acted fine here given the information they each had.

        But OP did write in asking what they could do differently in the future. So while they didn’t necessarily do anything wrong it is helpful to point out why it was received poorly and what approaches might have been better, though it has turned into a bit of a pile on.

        I think a lot of the comments piling on though are less about the OP’s specific case and more a debate on the general idea of whether or not we owe someone our time just because they want to talk to us. I am firmly in the camp of “no” and that discontinuing a conversation you never agreed to or wanted to participate in–whether with a stranger on the street or on the phone–is not rude.

  40. Michelle P*

    For Op#3- if the office supplies (and files) are for the entire office, I think it would be kind for everyone to allow her a little storage room. I’m in charge of office supplies and luckily, we have a room just for office supplies (copier, postage machine, etc.). The only thing not stored in there is printer ink cartridges. I have to keep the ink cartridges for all 10 of the printers in my cubicle, because I have make sure we always have a spare. (Some folks “forgot” to tell me they took the last black ink cartridge for their printer until they used that one and needed another) Since most of them are color printers, that’s multiple cartridge for each printer. I currently have 27 ink cartridges in my cubicle, as well as imaging drums. They are all not small either.

    I think you could speak up about the personal items, such as the Christmas tree, if they are truly personal and not work-related. If the Christmas tree is the office tree, it there not a closet it could be put in? The gift basket could (and should) have been moved to the break room or common area.

    Perhaps the office could order here some shelving to store things on and free up some space in her office.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yikes you’ve got toner stored in the cube!! We just have a locked cabinet that I keep the key to. There’s no room in the supply room for a locked cabinet to stop wasting your personal space?

    2. Coworker Storage Space*

      Hi Michelle P,
      Thank you for your advice! I see your point about being kind and I agree. I do have all of our tech supplies in my office. And I am understanding that we should share the burden a little. My issue is that she doesn’t ask and uses her personal items as the reason why things go into my office. I have so much room and she has none.

      She acts like my boss and telling me that things will be stored in my office and just giving me tasks to do that are hers normally despite the fact that we’re co-workers. The reason I asked Alison is I feel bad for having to speak out all the time.

  41. Jay*

    W/ #3, I’m surprised nobody has yet suggested the coworker might have hoarding tendencies, especially since she’s bringing *personal stuff* to store in your office. I’m picturing her own personal spaces overflowing to the point that she needs more space, and she’s using yours.

    In any case, I mention this because it suggests you may need to get your boss involved –– less in a “hey, I think my coworker is hoarding” and more in a “my coworker is storing her personal items in my office and has not stopped when I asked her” way; describe the behavior and name its impact on your work.

    But I’m skeptical that this will be something resolved through a conversation, or through granting a little more space (and maybe a little more, and . . . ) in your office.

    1. Colette*

      It doesn’t sound like the coworker is storing personal items in the OP’s office – they are business items.

      And there’s no indication that the coworker is hoarding – in fact, it’s possible that most of the stuff in her office is business stuff and that she truly doesn’t have room for the stuff she is storing in the OP’s office.

      1. Jay*

        She’s storing a Christmas tree, which is definitely a personal item; and a gift basket, which is kind of a personal item (depends on whether it was received at work/whether tradition in the office is to leave baskets out or take them home to family).

        I don’t say this is *definitely* what’s happening but I think it’s worth throwing out there for OP to make a more informed decision. If she is, it could change how / when OP approaches the boss.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          I’m surprised Alison didn’t bring up possible spreading of COVID-19. I’m guessing the messy coworker storing her items in the OP’s office could easily spread germs.

          1. Coworker Storage Space*

            Hi Jennifer Juniper,
            I didn’t even think of this! But to be fair to my coworker, it will be files for a project she’s working on, not the Christmas tree, that she wants to store in my office. She just tells me or stores random items in my office because “her office is too crowded”.

        2. Red M&M's*

          Only if the Christmas tree is for her personal office, if it is for the team or used for the team christmas then no its a team storage item.

        3. Colette*

          She’s storing a Christmas tree – in her own office. She’s allowed to have some personal stuff, as long as it’s not interfering with her job. And I assume the gift basket was sent to her in her role ordering stuff (since she has the office supplies and volunteer gifts). The stuff she’s storing at the OP’s desk is business stuff. (Maybe she has too much personal stuff at her desk, or there’s a better place to store the stuff she’s putting in the OP’s office – or maybe everyone else on the team is storing business stuff except the OP. We don’t know.)

          1. Coworker Storage Space*

            Hi Collette. You are right. She’s not putting personal stuff in the office. I also have a bunch of office stuff in my office. I just have less personal stuff so there’s more room.

            The question is not about the stuff but does your coworker have the right to just put stuff in your office from their projects without asking.

            The gift basket was a treat for the entire staff and I would have put it in the break room. The Christmas tree is not for the team and it’s okay that its there, but then don’t say I have to put this in your space as I have no space.

            1. Coworker Storage Space*

              Sorry just to clarify. She’s not putting personal items in *MY* office. The office is a bit ambiguous.

        4. Coworker Storage Space*


          Re: But I’m skeptical that this will be something resolved through a conversation, or through granting a little more space (and maybe a little more, and . . . ) in your office.

          Very insightful of you. I agree. I’ve learned that if I say yes to one thing it will lead to a “bigger” thing…

    2. boop the first*

      Yeah, some people think it’s an excuse to snoop, but I have a hoarding family member and this is a very specific thing that they do when they think they can get away with it. The sneaking it in when OP is away (well, also the xmas tree and general mess) is a huge flag to this. Most people would ask or at least announce it first. Sneaking is for hiding shame.

    3. Coworker Storage Space*

      I didn’t think of the hoarding tendency. I just thought that she needs the place to be a bit cluttered to work. It isn’t her personal items that she’s storing in my office, but she is saying her office cannot house the stuff that she doesn’t want in her office. She does store a ton of personal items in her office including Amazon packages that are personal. Most of the stuff in my office is office stuff. My boss and co-worker come into my space to take communal stuff too.
      Also, it’s a weird way of giving me her “tasks” too. The volunteer gifts ended up getting sent out by me because they were in my office.
      It’s just that I would like to be treated like a coworker and not a subordinate. The things that she’s putting in my office are random and can go into common areas or other areas and not my office.

      1. valentine*

        The volunteer gifts ended up getting sent out by me because they were in my office.
        This is your major issue because, if she were moved to an infinite warehouse in another state or country, she would fill it up with personal purchases and still find a way to foist her work onto you. You might want to proceed as though the foisting is her primary goal and the clutter, the delivery mechanism.

        “My office, my project,” isn’t a thing. “My project, my office,” however, is. If your manager forces you to play this game and suggesting splitting the communal office supplies among everyone with space isn’t an option, you can argue for accepting only communal supplies that fit in your current storage areas. Insist you don’t want her running back and forth for her project stuff. If this backfires, your manager isn’t someone you want to work with. If you haven’t already, maybe advocate for a proper supplies closet.

        And I don’t think your saying no to the gift basket was petty.

        1. Coworker Storage Space*

          Hi valentine,
          Again, great advice. Thank you. Re: the gift basket… they made me feel small and petty by the consequences though.

    4. Ethel*

      Came here for this. The co-worker is a hoarder. Cut off any storage in your own office and ignore the passive-aggressive drama. She’ll get over it, bc deep down, she knows her hoarding is weird. Be a friend to the hoarder, not the hoard.

  42. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*


    1) I re-read your retelling of the call several times and it’s mindblowing how much it sounds like a sales call (which I absolutely believe you was by accident). Unlike you, I do answer calls from unknown numbers, so I can block them when I pick up and hear “I want to talk to you about a great!!! opportunity” I do say, sorry, not interested, bye, and then block. So odds are that he does the same, and so you might not be able to contact him at that number again. (Though I’m assuming you don’t want to.) An email or a text would’ve been better. I’m actually leaning towards a text having been better. Oh well, too late.

    2) My sons are in your friends’ son’s age range, and while my youngest has stayed in the area, the oldest has now moved away twice for work. Each time he does, I get approached by relatives and former family friends (the friendships kind of folded soon after my marriage did, but we still have each other’s contact info) saying that they, or their children that my son maybe briefly played in the same room with when they were all in middle school, live in the area he’d moved to, and offering their contact information and help (that he never asked for). I always tell them (in a puzzled tone, that thankfully does not carry over messaging) that I’d pass their messages on to him, and that I’ll ask him if he’d like me to give them his contact info. He even said yes a couple of times and I sent his number over. As far as I know, no interactions, or help (whatever that means) ever came out of it. I don’t know why so many parents do it, but my understanding of the situation is that adult children rarely need help from their parents’ friends, kids, relatives etc unless they have specifically asked for it. So my 2 cents is that, when parents ask for help on their adult children’s behalf, it’s perfectly ok to gently blow them off, if you will. Next time someone does, tell them that Kiddo is welcome to contact you anytime for career advice, and leave it at that. If Kiddo wants career advice, Kiddo will reach out.

    1. Georgina Fredrika*

      2) is definitely a thing among parents! My guess is that this is a habit learned before the internet was a thing – which I can’t really fault my parents for!

      Nowadays I’m still in contact with people I went to *middle school* with in another state… I’m in contact with people I met at a week-long writing program in 2011… etc – thanks to the internet. I can also access forums very quickly, videos, etc. I also make a lot of my friends (in this new city) through internet groups.

      So I have 100 people to ask or listen to, but I think if you grew up in the 60s -70s you would be more heavily reliant on the friend-of-a-friend network, not only for tips but also for meeting new people in a big new city, and it’s something that worked well for them growing up.

  43. RussianInTexas*

    LW1, he actually answered a phone with unknown number? To me this is the weirdest part of the story.
    I am propbably twice the age of the person, and I will never answer a number I don’t know. And I will totally hang up mid-sentence if it’s a sales pitch.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      If he’s a recent grad looking for a job he may have thought (or hoped) it was a call in response to a job application.

      1. Paulina*

        Which would add to why he might hang up on the OP quickly, to be able to answer the call he’s actually hoping for.

  44. Jennifer Juniper*

    LW5, if your away message states that you’re on medical leave and don’t know you’ll be coming back, a lot of people (including me) would think you have a terminal illness!

  45. Bella*

    no need to be so harsh – I could be wrong but I think there’s usually an ethos here of not assuming the absolute worst possible of the OP submitting, which you’re doing. It’s overly-familiar, maybe, and misguided, possibly, but they clearly thought they were just passing along something useful about a program they’re not even affiliated with/going to profit from.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        The comment you were replying to was probably deleted. Alison said in an earlier thread she was going to clean up some of the responses.

  46. radiant peach*

    LW #4: Just FYI, Muslim employees would only need 2-3 breaks per day for prayer unless you’re scheduling them for 18-hour shifts

    1. Teyra*

      It also depends on the Muslim. Most Muslims I know don’t pray the full five times except during Ramadan, and honestly not even then always. Which absolutely doesn’t mean that there aren’t Muslims out there who do! But not everyone follows all the same rules, in the same way, the same amount (the same with all religions, really). So implying that a Muslim employee ‘needs’ a certain about of prayer breaks could put a Muslim employee who doesn’t in a weird position. It’s better to offer accommodation in general, than assume what someone would need based off their religion (or, worse, their appearance/name).

      Not to say that Radiant was implying that, I was just clarifying because I think it’s a common misconception.

  47. Alisu*

    LW #4

    While being accommodating is a positive thing in itself, choosing certain group who gets the accommodation can easily lead to unequal situation. I’m no religious myself, to a point I see religions sort of as a hobby. It’s important to the followers, absolutely, but is still their choise on how to devote their time. And being raised into a religion is not that different than being raised to follow football, for example.

    That said, getting always certain weekday free for a reason dictated by religion should not differ of reasons like, have always a certain weekday free for the D&D night or knitting club or football or, pretty much everything. If you are ready to accommodate every lifestyle choice, that’s good. But limiting it to certain areas of life, such as religion, leaves those who don’t dabble with it in any form in unequal standing. Maybe you already take this into accord, but I’ve seen it more often that people who want to give religious accommodations leave non religious people out.

    In same vein, specific groups getting extra breaks due habitual choice tend to irritate those who don’t get equal benefits. Smokers are often berated example of that but I could see it being applied to other groups. It’s not that they shouldn’t get the breaks, mind, just that others should get the same. Timing of course could be arranged based on who cares of their exact timing.

    1. CP*

      The whole point of the law that an employer has to try to accommodate religious needs is the opposite of this, that religion is not just like a hobby and needs special accommodation. If someone needs 2-3 breaks a day to pray, for them, that is not optional.
      Of course it is a choice to be religious, but it’s a choice that our society has chosen to recognize as a choice that creates needs that are more important to accommodate than knitting or football.
      I absolutely agree that accommodations for religious needs should not inconvenience those are not religious or have different religions.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Wow, no, this comment is very bad. So, so bad.

      I am not religious and would even go so far as to say I’m pretty anti-religion. But even I think calling someone’s religion a “hobby” is really, really terrible.

      Yes, a good employer should try to be flexible with all of its employees if it can. But no, the needs of a Jewish employee to get home before sunset on a Friday are not remotely comparable to someone’s need to get to their D&D game on time. Wow, wow, wow.

      This is like people who complain about how “unfair” it is to people without kids when someone gets maternity leave and then needs multiple breaks in a day for pumping.

    3. Bella*

      As everyone else has said, religion isn’t the same as knitting. Not in how we all treat it, and also not in how the law treats it.

      “specific groups getting extra breaks due habitual choice tend to irritate those who don’t get equal benefits”

      But – I can’t think of ANYTHING this applies to except smoking. Smoking is kinda unique in that you’re allowed time to chat outside with your co-workers, whenever you feel like it, so it fosters annoyance in a way that prayer or using the toilet a lot or breastfeeding typically doesn’t.

      And I still don’t get personally bothered by smoking but I’ve always been at jobs where I can leave and get coffee (with people, too) and get my mental break that way.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      So, I suppose you could come up with a religious practice that requires a weekly gaming session “To release the holy creativity on a regular basis.” or something. But religions are not hobbies. Really.

      Our society privileges religion in general (Christianity in specific, but that’s not the point here.) This makes it a legal requirement, IIRC, to accommodate employees who are observant.

      Yes, this leaves atheists and agnostic with “fewer” perks. But the alternative is workplaces stomping all over religious expression except for maybe a “favored” religion.

  48. The Grey Lady*

    Question #4 made me think of it, but does anyone remember on Bones when Cam kept insisting that Arastoo couldn’t work on a particular case because it involved pork and therefore violated his religion? He said it was okay because it was for science, but she still wouldn’t relent until he snapped at her.

    It reminds me of how some bosses end up actually being OVERLY helpful when they mean well, and therefore end up pressuring their employees. I totally agree with Alison to let all applicants across the board know that religious observances are allowed and supported by the company–but definitely don’t get into the habit of trying to determine what religion someone is and what observances they may or may not want to personally follow. Trust others to manage their own religion, and just let them know that you will support them with whatever they choose to do (or not do, as the case may be).

  49. Database Developer Dude*

    LW#4 here. I was wondering about when it’s okay to ask, but from the point of view of the person being asked: the prospective employee. I’m wanting to make sure I don’t overreact if I’m asked the question.

    1. The Grey Lady*

      So, you’re wanting to know when it’s okay–from the employee’s perspective–to let that employee know about how the company supports religious employees?

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        That’s what I’m saying. I don’t want to immediately jump to a “you can’t ask me that” stance and create a confrontation if there doesn’t need to be one……

        1. The Grey Lady*

          Well, you don’t need to ask them at all. It can be a statement of how the company supports religious people. Then, the ball is in the employee’s court if they want to tell you what religion they are or if they will need any accommodations. But I really don’t think you need to ask them anything, because even if it’s not illegal, it is going to be strange and uncomfortable for them.

    2. Observer*

      Allison’s approach is your best bet. Have boilerplate text that you offer to everyone about the things you try to accommodate. If you do see something that is “in your face”, you don’t have to ignore it, but be careful of assumptions. Yes, a man wearing a turban (in the US) is likely to be Sikh, a woman wearing hijab is likely to be Muslim, and a man wearing a Kipah is likely to be Jewish, etc. But the fact that these markers are not there does NOT mean that they don’t have religious needs. So, simple boilerplate that says that you do try to accommodate religious needs, and this is who you talk to / this is how you access it.

    3. Teyra*

      If I were you I’d mention something in the interview (while discussing the organisation in general) about how you’re happy to make accommodations, and are very inclusive and supportive of diversity. Mention other diversity-relevant things like support networks, too. And include a ‘please let us know if you have any accommodations needed for the interview’ statement on the interview-offering email (or however you do it). That way, even if they have accommodations that aren’t interview-specific, they’ll know you’re generally inclusive and happy to accommodate. You probably shouldn’t specify religious on its own, as people with other accommodation needs (disability, family, etc.) might worry that they won’t count.

      Try and have specific accommodations in mind already. Can you promise religious holidays off? Can you promise dress-code adjustments? Can you promise dietary needs being filled during events/meals? Can you provide a private prayer/meditation area? That way, if someone asks about something specific, you can immediately let them know precisely whether it’s doable or not. ‘We can provide a prayer room’ is good, ‘we have a quiet room already in use, and here’s how it works’, is better.

      But also don’t bring it up yourself, or make assumptions. A woman in a hijab won’t necessarily need a space to pray. A woman without a hijab might. A Jewish man won’t always want to not work on Fridays. If they need the accommodations, then as long as they know you provide religious accommodations, they’ll know to ask for them.

      …Does that help? I’m not completely sure what you’re asking so apologies if that was completely useless.

  50. wondering aloud*

    Alison I haven’t had a chance to read though all the OP#1 questions (i’m on a quick work break), please delete if you feel I am re-interating something.

    While I agree with Alison’s advice about friend’s kid (FK) not being used to communicating by phone, FK thinking this was a sales call etc… I also want to point out that such calls are part of life. This is something FK is going to have to learn to deal with, recieving a call, listening to what the person says, not blowing them off. if uninterested politely turning them down…. One of these calls, for example OP’s call, could be a great lead. The business world is made of different people and different scenarios. Reality is there are going to be people in the business world who communicate in different but effective ways.

    1. Colette*

      I agree that those calls are part of life, but not taking them is a totally valid option (especially since it seemed scammy, even though that wasn’t the OP’s intention).

      1. wondering aloud*

        Agree but I think if OP had said FK, I’m John Smith you’re dad’s friend. I have something to talk to you about.
        My company is offering a free leadership program…. it may have lead to different results. In 2-3 sentences OP was to the point. Yes rereading this it still sounds scammy but I think FK would realize it’s dad’s friend maybe there is something more to the conversation. Again I don’t know how to phrase things so it doesn’t sound like a sales pitch, but I also think FK needs to understand not everyone is giving a sales pitch.

        1. Tinker*

          So, I actually want to point something out because it seems like you might not know it and this is actually important information to know:

          If FK does not recognize the name “John Smith”, the absolute last thing he should conclude from your suggested dialogue is “it’s dad’s friend maybe there is something more to the conversation”. Rather, what he should conclude more like is “he’s claiming to be dad’s friend but I don’t know him and he’s trying to pass over the fact that I don’t know him, I should definitely not trust anything he says, should definitely not give him any personal information, should probably hang up immediately and without saying anything further, and might maybe ask dad — and NOT by text! — if he in fact knows a John Smith.”

          There’s a really common set of scams that rely on exactly the leap of logic you’re suggesting here — that someone who says the words “I’m John Smith, and I know thus-and-such relative of yours” is in fact named John Smith and in fact knows that relative, and is not at all a worker in a phone bank who possibly has access to thus-and-such relative’s compromised Facebook account. For instance.

    2. PhysicsTeacher*

      Ehhhhh, learning to recognize something that sounds scammy or sales-y IS part of being skilled at communicating by phone. You hang up because those calls are designed to extract something from you (money, other people’s information). It’s like how recognizing phishing emails is part of being skilled at communicating by email.

      Legit calls are mostly going to be somehow solicited or expected. If it’s a call for business, it’ll probably come to your work phone during work hours. Those are times when you’re prepared for them or expecting them. I don’t think anything in this question suggests that the friend’s son doesn’t react appropriately to appropriate calls.

      I’m inclined to put like 75% of the blame on the parent, here. This call was not in the realm of appropriate calls because the parent gave out the son’s contact information without checking with him first. Your work phone and work email are probably listed somewhere, and that’s why you can expect unsolicited contact through them. Your personal phone is private, and people who contact you on it unsolicited are largely people who have obtained your number in ways you wouldn’t approve. I can totally see how the misunderstanding happened on LW#1’s part (well, my friend gave me her kid’s information so I bet she ran this by her son and he was interested in talking) but for the kid this is truly not much different than if a telemarketer calls me while I’m eating dinner.

      1. wondering aloud*

        I kind of see where you are going with this. I do think FK’s parent definitely should have given a heads up. I think there would have been a lot less confusion.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      I disagree. FK had no reason to believe OP was who they claimed to be. The nature of the call is a fact of life and if FK’d been correct about it being a scam, the appropriate response IS to blow it off. The language used is so so so so so so commonly used by malicious actors. OP isn’t one, but FK had no way of knowing that and was perfectly within reason to respond accordingly. Better to dismiss something sincere that seemed like a scam than to give benefit of the doubt to something that is a scam.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Saying good bye and hanging up *is* dealing with it. That is a normal way to handle what sounds like a scam or sales call.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I don’t disagree that these calls *are* part of life, but engaging the caller is the last thing I would recommend as a way to “learning to deal with them”. First of all, how many people would carry a conversation with a sales rep who’d cold-called them? The one person out of a hundred on that day who does, will never be able to get off the phone with that sales rep. I mean, even OP said they themselves never answer a call from an unknown number.

      And this is, like someone else on this thread said, before we even get into the calls that are really nasty scams, phishing, identity theft etc.

      I agree with everyone saying that it’s the parents’ fault in that they: 1) gave OP their son’s number without asking the son; 2) apparently did not tell the son about it; 3) did not tell OP that they had kept the son in the dark about OP and that OP was going to contact son. I bet OP thought the son had already received a heads-up from his parents.

    6. Annie Moose*

      I’m actually not sure I agree that taking sales calls is a part of life. I’m almost 30, and the number of times I’ve received an unsolicited phonecall that was worth my time to answer is… zero. (and bluntly, the number of times I’ve received a sales-style phonecall that wasn’t some kind of scam or at least misleading is also zero)

    7. Tinker*

      See, this is odd. From my perspective FK clearly has learned how to deal with calls like this one in a completely standard and expected way, and it’s OP who needs to learn something of the ways of the world. I — age 39 — handle calls pretty much exactly like this, and it’s not for lack of having been taught a previous era’s standard phone etiquette, it’s because OP’s call would be maybe the second one following the pattern of “claim a connection that I don’t recognize and seems derived from general principles or public information, then launch into a pitch that seems likewise calculated for broad appeal” that I’ve received in the past fifteen or so years that wasn’t someone who was trying to commit fraud or compromise my personal information, and the first one was because I misheard them when they said they were calling from a place that I did recognize.

    8. wondering aloud*

      hi everyone…. it seems i wasn’t explaining my comment properly. I am probably digging myself in deeper when I attempt to further explain :-S . I guess I was just trying to get across the point that 1) the phone is a way some businesses communicate; 2) everyone is going to receive a call from someone they don’t know that might not be a sales call – I keep thinking of the oddball scenario what if FK’s father was out with OP socially, there is an accident and OP called in a panic trying to explain something to someone he never met; FK thinking its a sales call hangs up. I admit my oddball scenario is probably waaaaaaay off base.

      I do agree with 1) that FK’s dad should have given FK a heads up; 2) OP did take an approach of more a sales call (and yes I probably would of handled it the same way as FK). I think both could of handled things different for the better, but I also think both acted in a way they were both comfortable with – unfortunately they both clashed.

      The whole point I was trying to get across was that not ever call from an unknown number. FK needs to realize he probably lost out on a great opportunity because of his actions. OP needs to understand that a cold call is probably not a great way to communicate this type of information with so many sales/ scams out there.

      Again I’m not trying to twist my words; I do agree with a lot of what everyone said.

      1. Tinker*

        Your oddball scenario is a scenario that there are signs up at the bank about. Those signs definitely do not read “make sure to answer the phone to unknown callers and converse with the person on the other end because it might be a friend of your relative calling in a panic because something has happened to your relative, and you will want to listen to and believe that person”.

        1. Tinker*

          For anyone who doesn’t understand what I mean here, I think googling “aarp grandparent scams coronavirus” should turn up an article that goes to explain exactly why I am so shocked by this.

          Paragraph two: “The scams often begin when an older person is contacted by a criminal who poses as a panicked grandchild in need of thousands of dollars quickly for an emergency such as a hospital bill or bail money, says the FBI’s Greg Takacs, an assistant special agent in charge in the bureau’s Newark, New Jersey office.”

      2. Observer*

        FK acted in a totally reasonable manner. To treat each call from someone who is claiming to be a friend of his parent’s as though it’s actually because it MIGHT in some extremely far fetched scenario be possible, is NOT a healthy way to handle the myriad of unsolicited calls that come in to people’s phones. Unless you’re in the Serengeti, when you hear hooves, think horses not zebras. You are asking the guy to think zebras.

        Your scenario is unlikely enough to start with. Given what the OP describes, it’s even more outre. It’s like expecting him to think Amazonian Parrots.

    9. Wondering aloud*

      For some reason my post didn’t go through.

      I stand corrected on my opinion.

      One of the great results of being an aam fan is hearing opinions on areas you didn’t think about

  51. repetitioncanbeunkind*

    Yes, it’s unkind when it’s happened over 100 times. The letter writer gets it. They’ve been great in responding to the comments, explaining themselves and also seeming to understand why many people would’ve been put off by the situation. Leave them alone. It’s pile-on responses like this that make me not want to write into this blog with my own questions.

    1. repetitioncanbeunkind*

      Huh, the comment I wrote this in response/reply to is gone? Well…it’s unkind to point out to people they may be perceived as creepy or over-reaching if you do it 100+ times…

      1. LizArd*

        You don’t think it’s useful information for the OP to see that 90% of people would have reacted the exact same way as the kid?

        1. Susie Q*

          No because people are piling on. It’s getting ridiculous. People are clearly bored and just need something to do.

        2. Teyra*

          I think it was useful at first, but at this point it’s needless. And it’s not 90%, there’s been like two people arguing in her favour, the rest’s been pretty much a circle jerk.

  52. Joielle*

    Yeah, something does seem off about the program and the way OP is presenting it. The language is SO sales-y, it’s just not how people talk to each other in regular conversations.

  53. Jennifer Strange*

    OP 1: In the future it may be easier to tell your family friend (or whoever is contacting you on the behalf of someone else) that they can pass your contact info along to their family member in case they are interested in reaching out. That way the ball is in the job-seekers court and they can choose whether or not to use you as a resource rather than having it unknowingly foisted upon them by their parents (which may have been what happened here). That’s usually what I do when a friend asks if I would mind helping their friend.

  54. Coworker Storage Space*

    Hi Alison,
    I’m the one who wrote in the coworker stores stuff question. I’m on the west coast, so work is just starting for me.
    Thank you for the great advice as always Alison. The power dynamic is weird in my situation. My role was “senior” until our new boss came and then “promoted” her so that our role is now the same level. She has also worked here longer than either me or our boss so she’s got a lot more social capital than I do.
    I emailed her and asked her not to do this and she agreed, but she keeps pushing her boundaries and if I retaliate, I am the “bad” one. Also, it’s not only storage; she tries to pass off tasks that belong to her to me as well.

    1. wondering aloud*

      I’m curious are your offices the same size? Based on what you are saying and I’m guessing…. your coworker thinks of you in a lesser role, coworker is doing anything she can to get a bigger office even if it means storing stuff in your area, pass assignments off to you – basically doing anything to make herself “look” like the more important person.

      1. Coworker Storage Space*

        Hi wondering aloud,
        Yes, our office is the exact same size. And what you are saying is right on the nose.

    2. juliebulie*

      Any chance your office could suddenly become too full of (whatever you want to fill it with) for your coworker to consider it a good storage space?

      In all seriousness, she needs to work something out with some or all of your other coworkers to negotiate space for things which would otherwise be kept in a common area. Like a file drawer in one office, a bookshelf in another office, etc. But she might not have enough ambition to carry out such a plan.

      But, yikes, if she’s handing off her work to you as well, I’d consider that much more serious.

      1. Coworker Storage Space*

        Hi juliebulie,
        Haha, let’s fill it with those plastic ball pit balls!
        If the office supplies were important to her, the supplies would have been redistributed. I’m just saying that her office is legitimately crowded. For me, it’s more about respect than the stuff.

        1. juliebulie*

          Excellent… I was thinking about balloons, but pit balls are much sturdier! (Also harder to get rid of!)

    3. Reading this from the Outside*

      Something to ask yourself is your workload the same or is her workload bigger than yours? If its larger or more complicated than you may need to check with your boss to see if she was told to pass on work to you when she is busy. It sounds like you need to talk to your boss on what your role is for the storage and workload. You sound like the bad one because the way it looks you kind of are. I don’t mean this badly but from the outside it sounds like your co-worker who has been there longer with more contacts, has a lot more responsibility on her (Storing of the Office supplies, Storing file boxes, keeping the gift boxes in line, potentially the team Christmas decor), and from the outside it seems like her workload is larger since she is delegating help. You complained about storing the team gift basket it comes off badly (petty). In my view from this (and likely other co-workers) Your her co-worker and you store nothing for the team, and need no help with workload it looks like she is taking the brunt of the work. This may not be true but this is why your coming off as the bad guy.

      Please don’t take this as a ding against you, I just wanted to give you some perspective on how you could be coming across in my perspective. Maybe there is something you can do to improve your outward view to other workers so you won’t be seen as the bad guy.

      1. Rainy*

        “Your her co-worker and you store nothing for the team”

        Except OP said that their office already has storage of tech stuff (see below), so OP already has an office full of random crap, and coworker is just trying to pass off part of their random crap on OP.

      2. Coworker Storage Space*

        Hi Reading this from the outside,
        Thank you. I welcome seeing things from a different perspective.
        We have different but equal roles in the company with an equal workload. My work is more technical so the supplies, software and “tech” stuff get stored in my office. In my opinion, this is all an underlying power play, but I could be wrong. And yes, it was petty about the gift basket.
        She has worked there much longer than I, so her social capital is higher than mine. If this stuff was clear cut I wouldn’t be coming to Alison or this awesome community, for advice.

      3. Coworker Storage Space*

        Hi Reading this from the outside,
        Thank you. I welcome seeing things from a different perspective.
        We have different but equal roles in the company with an equal workload. My work is more technical so the supplies, software and “tech” stuff get stored in my office. In my opinion, this is all an underlying power play, but I could be wrong. And yes, it was petty about the gift basket.
        She has worked there much longer than I, so her social capital is higher than mine. If this stuff was clear cut I wouldn’t be coming to Alison or this awesome community, for advice.

    4. Loves Libraries*

      Any chance you can frame it as needing an uncluttered space to be productive?
      Check with your boss on what she wants for the supplies.

      1. Coworker Storage Space*

        I think that I could say that. As far as my coworker and the office supplies, she hasn’t complained about having this stuff, she just says that this is why she needs to use my space and I have so much room.

        My actions echo the fact that I prefer an uncluttered space as I spent off-hours cleaning up old clutter… t-shirts, paper, weird buttons and other crap from my office. I now have space for signage, stands, books, camera equipment etc to fit nicely into my drawers etc. I even took the time to move an old filing cabinet.

  55. Dancing Otter*

    #3, I’m unclear on the office supplies in her office. Is that just where the office stores communal supplies, or is she hoarding supplies?
    If the former, perhaps you could help find a better place for the common supplies. If the latter, WTF?
    Personally, I consider anything in my office mine to use or to dispose of appropriately. But I’ve always worked in offices with supply closets, adequate file cabinets, and so forth. If she put any personal possessions in my office, I would thank her for the unexpected gift and describe what I planned to do with them. (Bonus points for taking them home or regifting them.) “Oh, it isn’t a gift? Then why is it in my office?”

    1. Coworker Storage Space*

      Hi Dancing Otter,
      Great question. She houses the communal office supplies. My office has all the tech stuff (software, old CDs, files, banners, stands, cameras etc.) I mentioned this because I understand why she feels her space is “crowded”. It is legitimately crowded. But she uses this as the reason why items just go in my office.
      I just don’t want to be told, “Oh, your office is going to have boxes in it.” Will it be two? Twenty? I’d rather her just say, “Hey, I’ll be moving around a whole bunch of files, may I store 2-3 boxes in your office?”
      I love the idea of what to do with personal items. I’ll do this next time :)

  56. cheeky*

    I would be so annoyed if a coworker was using my space to store their stuff. I wouldn’t allow it, I’d stick it back in her office.

    1. Coworker Storage Space*

      Thanks, cheeky,
      I agree, but her office is legit crowded. I just want her to ask me not tell me.

      1. Saberise*

        It’s legit crowded because she has a lot of personal crap in it. There is no reason that you should have your space taken over by more stuff because she can’t take her crap home. It would be one thing if she was asking you to put stuff in your office for a bit because her office was too small but she is choosing to have all her stuff there. And from the sounds of it she’s also choosing to have all those office supplies there too because of a power trip. Allowing her to infringe on your space is just enabling her. I say that all as someone with way to much stuff in her file cabinets at work but also as someone that would never expect someone to bare the burden of that choice.

        1. Coworker Storage Space*

          Hi Saberise,

          Thank you. You guys make me feel sane for writing advice like this!

  57. Astral Debris*

    Regarding #4, I think it’s fantastic that the OP wants to make sure they’re accommodating religious practice! Given the current political climate in the US, though, if an interviewer made a point of saying “If you need accommodations for religious beliefs, we are happy to work with you,” my knee-jerk reaction would be to assume that this was a coded way to indicate that this company has some hard-right Christian conservative leanings, a la Masterpiece Cakeshop. Which sucks, because I fully support what the OP is trying to do here! But these are the times we live in.

    How can an interviewee dig into this a little bit more to suss out if they’re interviewing for an open-minded company or a bigoted one?

  58. Just Saying*

    Maybe this is late. But shouldn’t have the parents gave their kid the letter LW’s info and tell their kid to reach out to that person?

    1. Generic Name*

      I came to suggest exactly this. A friend of the family’s daughter is moving to my area. We definitely know who each other is, as we were kids together and were at various family gatherings, but she’s over 10 years younger than me, so we didn’t interact a ton. My mom kept mentioning her moving to my city several times and how it would be great if I could help her. I was not going to pass info to my mom to pass to her mom to pass to her; too confusing and helicopter-y. So I finally told my mom to give her mom my contact info, and if she needed/wanted my help she could contact me and I’d be more than happy to respond. She did end up emailing me, and I gave her what advice I could, and it worked really well.

  59. RagingADHD*

    #5, you could also say “I’ll return after (date).” And update it if you need to.

    The most important part of an away message is the alternate contact info.

  60. Coworker Storage Space*

    Condolences for your loss. I believe that everyone processes grief differently. We’ve all recently had losses (a mother, father-in-law and aunt) in my office and everyone reacted to it differently. Do not be worried about how it looks to others in the office. If working is what serves you best during this time, then do it. Most people will be compassionate and onboard with whatever works best for you.

  61. Will's Mom*

    RE: OP2 asking about “normal: after a personal tragedy. I admit I have not read the comments as this hit me in the heart. I have been in your shoes, OP2. 5 years ago my son committed suicide. He drove off to a rural area and took his own life in his car. My husband is retired and the sheriff came to our door to tell him. My husband then called me at work in complete denial. He said that there had been a terrible mistake and that it must have been someone else by the same name that they found. After making a few phone calls, fervently hoping that my DH was right, I found out the truth. While I sat at my desk in my office trying to make some sense of my tilted world, I received a typical phone call. I took care of the call in a very calm and professional manner. It wasn’t until I went to my boss to tell her what happened that it really hit me that it was real. This happened on a Friday, and I returned to work the following Wednesday, with a huge hole in my heart, but I HAD to go to work or I would have gone crazy. It was my coping mechanism. It wasn’t until a year later that I even thought about how my poor husband coped, so lots of guilt about that.
    My advice to you is to not worry about what your coworkers think. Right now you need to be in survival mode. Gather loved ones together, circle the wagons and love each other through this. I strongly recommend that you go to a grief counselor. Sadly, I have friends who have lost their adult children to suicide and they referred me to a hospice house that had grief counselors there at no cost. It was the best thing I could have done. Also you can contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. You can connect online with others who have gone through what you are going through. There is also an International Survivors of Suicide Loss day that meets annually, and on their website, you can find a list of support groups by location. There is also an annual walk they do called Out of Darkness. There is also an online group called the Suicide Loss Survivors Alliance.
    My heart is breaking for you. Lots of love and prayers.

  62. Bob*

    LW1: Get the family friend to talk to him and explain that its real and you didn’t mean to sounds like a sales call. If they are interested send along a website if it exists or your e-mail. Then do nothing further.

    LW2: If your okay to do so you can say fine but you are feeling the effects. But that you expect to get through this. Then expect some sympathy and maybe even an offer for extra time off if you need it. Accept graciously and take it if you feel you need to.

    LW3: She has run out of space so thinks yours is fair game. Operate on this viewpoint.
    She may even have hoarding tendencies, but even if not the fact you have space does not give her any claim to it.

      1. Bob*

        Your welcome.
        I expect she will say well i am out of space so to do my job i need your space. Be ready to push back with you *created* the space because you cannot work boxed in, it would reduce your productivity. Explain that this is why you have cultivated the open space, you find it helps out you get into flow or whatever the more specific explanation. Don’t overplay this but be firm about it.

        And if she escalates calmly remind your boss that the reason she is lacking space is her own unnecessary packing of her office. She can fix that but reducing your ability to concentrate because she doesn’t want to have space will indirectly hurt the company since you will become more stressed and less effective at your job.

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