sending an anonymous note to my wife’s employer, internships and equity, and more

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

1. Can I send an anonymous note to my wife’s job about her awful manager?

My wife’s boss has moved on to a new role, and instead of the boss being replaced, everyone on my wife’s level now reports to the manager who her boss reported to. The reason the boss moved on was because the manager had unrealistic expectations in terms of what needed to be done and when (like sending emails at 4:30 in the morning asking for deliverables at 8 am).

Now this manager is expecting the same things of my wife. Even as I write this at midnight, she has gone back to update some work because at 4 pm, the manager asked my wife to complete a piece of work, she finished it at 7 pm, and logged off and went downstairs. Then when went upstairs at 11 to go to bed, she checked her email and her manager had said it wasn’t what she had asked for and wanted it changed by 9 am (I’ve told my wife to not check her emails but this is a battle I don’t win).

My wife defines herself by who she is at work and is tremendously good at her job (she has received the highest performance ranking for the past seven years straight) and will not rock the boat. She also is dealing with mental health issues and I don’t think this scenario is helping at all. She loves the other people she works with and most other aspects of the job, so isn’t thinking about getting a new role.

She would kill me if I fought her battles, so I can’t do anything in the open but I’ve been thinking about sending an anonymous email to the manager’s superiors explaining what a piece of work she is, and how she’s effectively bullying by setting unrealistic expectations (but I expect this to be fruitless, as I would think they would ignore such baseless, anonymous claims). Is there anything else I could do for my wife in this situation?

Do not under any circumstances send an anonymous note to your wife’s employer. That’s hugely overstepping — your wife is an adult who is entitled to manage her own career, and if she chooses not to speak up about this situation, you cannot overrule her and go around her to speak up about it yourself. What’s more, it could have consequences for her that you don’t foresee, like if her employer suspects someone connected to her sent the note (or even thinks she did it) and she suffers professionally for it. (But otherwise, you’re right that it probably wouldn’t matter; anonymous notes are far more likely to stir up drama than they are to have real impact.) Truly, don’t do this.

What you can do is be a supportive partner! Help her evaluate her options, support her emotionally, and reinforce for her that this isn’t reasonable or sustainable (for either of you, probably). But respect for your wife demands that you keep a firewall between yourself and her employer.

2. Internships and equity

A colleague who works for my organization in another location just called me. She was wondering if she could put me in touch with her daughter who is looking for an unpaid internship. (The daughter would get college credit through her school.)

I have mixed feelings about this and am not sure what to do. I think I am willing to take on an intern and like the idea of mentoring someone who is interested in my field. I also have some appropriate projects in mind that would be good learning experiences for an intern. I am struggling with all the questions of equity that arise around situations like this. By agreeing to this internship, I would be participating in perpetuating systems of privilege and power. The internship would be taking place through family connections, and apparently the intern can afford to work without getting paid. That rubs me the wrong way from an ethical perspective; I want internships to be available to all — especially those without family connections and money and those who come from under-represented backgrounds. (All of us in this scenario are white.) On the other hand, I don’t have the budget to pay an intern and I don’t have the time to set up an organized internship with a fair application process. I could only pull this off as a one-time, ad-hoc deal. I’m not sure what to do — my options are to agree to this, which would help one privileged intern, or not do it, which would help nobody. What are your thoughts?

I vote no. You’re right that unpaid internships — and internships that are only available to those with connections, whether paid or unpaid — perpetuate inequalities. You’d be giving her an advantage that will then help her get jobs over other people who didn’t have the same opportunity, and she’d be getting that advantage because of the sort of connections that are disproportionately tied to race and class. And thus the cycle continues.

Unpaid internships also take a huge amount of time if you’re doing it legally, since unless you’re at a nonprofit, you can’t derive much real benefit from an unpaid intern’s work.

It’s reasonable to tell your colleague that you don’t have the time you’d need to invest to do it legally, or that you don’t feel you could offer it to one person without opening up a broader application process.

3. Am I wrong for rejecting a candidate because of their email address?

I am currently hiring for a new position and have received a high number of resumes. It’s entry level, so I’m aware that we can’t be too picky about finding the perfect candidate for the pay. However, we had one candidate who possessed some of the basic skills we are looking for, but her email address was ridiculous (think I told my director that I wasn’t interested based on that — it shows poor decision-making abilities to me. It isn’t difficult to sign up for a free email address. He laughed but said that while it was my decision, it was also a high hill to die on. So, am I being petty to expect an adult (in her 50’s, based on her school years) to make a professional, standard email account, even for the sole purpose of landing a job?

Noooo, you are not being petty or unreasonable! This person has terrible judgment, and your director is strange if he really thinks “have an email address that doesn’t reference sex when applying for jobs” is a high bar.

4. Charging for hours spent learning or fixing mistakes

For the past 20 years, I’ve been the kind of teacher who happily spends thousands of dollars out of pocket and thousands of unpaid hours working. Thanks to you, and the teacher version of you, I’ve been slowing that down. I actually approached my principal and told him he should hire me over the summer to roll out a new computer program for the school and I was approved for a certain number of hours of paid work!

I have a question about how something would work in the business world. I spent about four hours watching training videos about the new program. I spent about three hours trying to solve a problem (eventually learning it was because I spelled a word wrong on one of the many, many CSV files I uploaded). Do those kinds of situations count as hours that should be charged to an employer? (For context, I am pretty sure that my employer will approve me to work more until the job is finished.) If it was framed as something like, “It should be a 20-hour job” and I spent seven hours not making progress, and the job can’t be finished in 13 hours, what does a regular kind of worker do?

If you were an employee being paid by the hour (and thus not exempt), legally you’d need to be paid for all of that time — those were activities that you were doing for work and which you wouldn’t have been doing otherwise. (If you were exempt, the pay question would be moot since your salary doesn’t change based on the hours you work.) But you’d also be expected to flag for your boss early on that the project was taking a lot longer than you originally estimated, so your boss could weigh in about how to proceed — like whether to proceed anyway, or someone else help troubleshoot, or change your approach, or abandon it entirely.

In practice, people in your shoes will sometimes decide that it’s in their best interest to fudge that a bit, like not logging the full amount of time spent on the training videos or the error-fixing (figuring that ultimately the pay is less important to them than being seen as able to deliver in the original amount of time, or sometimes feeling uncomfortable charging for hours that were a result of their mistake). But legally, it should all be reported — and decent managers know that making some mistakes and tracking them down is a normal part of work, especially when taking on something new.

5. How wary should I be of a job that was re-opened after only nine months?

I work in a fairly niche field that, due to the pandemic, has suddenly become very in demand (moving in-person instruction to online). I’ve been considering new opportunities for some time. My work environment is amazing, my salary is nice (but could be higher), and my benefits are wonderful (for example, six weeks of vacation). However, there really isn’t any room for advancement, which is why I’m considering other options.

I came across a job that I think I would be perfect for. Everything they say they want are areas I am very strong in, except one which I still have experience with but am not a rock star in at the moment.

I looked up the previous person to have this role, and it looks like she only started the job nine months ago. Plus, she has significantly more experience and credentials than I do.

I am worried about a job with such high turnover (it looks like this person originated the position, so I can’t look up previous people who have had the role). Also, given how incredible the previous candidate was, if even she didn’t meet the requirements, I don’t want to set myself up for a work situation with impossible standards.

One person leaving after nine months isn’t high turnover; it takes more than that for a pattern you can draw any conclusions from. Someone might leave after nine months for all sorts of reasons — they got a better offer, decided to move, had a family health crisis, can’t stand the commute, were fired for making meth in the break room, etc. Or, yes, there could be a problem with the work situation. But the mere fact that she’s leaving after nine months doesn’t really tell you anything.

Apply, and if you end up getting interviewed, ask why the previous person is leaving and see what they say. Do your due diligence, as you should with any job. But this in and of itself is not a huge red flag. (It could become redder, though, if you start to see other things that do form a pattern, like if you start getting a vibe about unrealistic expectations.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 659 comments… read them below }

  1. Jordan*

    I’m sure LW1 didn’t mean it this way but the whole idea is kind of patronizing and I would be bummed out if my partner thought it was their place to do that :/ it sounds like they’re kind of aware of it though since they did acknowledge that it would be “fighting her battles.” Just hoping they’ll take this opportunity to reflect on why this seemed like an option in the first place!

    1. MK*

      Frankly I was very disappointed with the clickbaity title today; the OP did not ask if he can send this note and specifically states that he does not intent to do it.

      And if your last sentence is hinting at some gender issue, there have been letters here from women who wanted to contact their husband’s awful employe. The “why this seemed like an option” is because when people see their partner miserable, then tend to want to do anything to help. It’s a bad idea, but it’s a pretty common impulse.

      And, no offense OP, Ithink the more relevant to you problem is not your wife’s awful boss, but that you have a partner who is so defined by her job that she refuses to set healthy boundaries and prioritizes her coworkers over her own best interests.

      1. Nayla*

        Where does he state he doesn’t intend to do it? He says “She would kill me if I fought her battles, so I can’t do anything in the open but I’ve been thinking about sending an anonymous email to the manager’s superiors.” He does ask if there’s anything else he can do but it’s not clear he’s saying he won’t do this.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yep, I went back and re-read his last paragraph. While he thinks the anonymous note will be ignored, and is asking for other options, I read the paragraph to mean that he is still not ruling out the note as one of his options. He’s still considering it.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Also, on a third read, I do not see where the OP mentions their gender, so as a correction to my above comment, it should be “they” not “he”.

      2. Observer*

        Others have noted that the OP hasn’t actually ruled it out, even though they do seem to be aware that it probably won’t help.

        But also, what makes you think that this is about gender in any way? Alison gives this advice to EVERYONE – you just can’t contact your spouse’s employer on their behalf, regardless of gender.

        1. LTL*

          I think MK was referring to Jordan’s last sentence, not Allison’s. Although I don’t think Jordan intended to imply gender issues either.

      3. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

        It reads as unfair to me to say the problem is “a partner who is so defined by her job that she refuses to set healthy boundaries and prioritizes her coworkers over her own best interests.”

        I’m seeing that quite a bit in the comments and confess it is really getting my back up, so for the LW, recognize that kind of statement could comes across to your wife as judgmental and combative, particularly since she sees work as a big piece of her identity. People are allowed to strongly identify with their jobs! And observers deciding for themselves what is in the wife’s “best interests” is also not cool. (I say this while acknowledging the environment described sounds terrible and unsustainable).

        MK, you’re right to point out that being in a relationship with someone who is going through difficulties at work is what’s at issue here. But for the person in the job, is not as simple as saying “this job goes against my best interests so of course I have to quit.”

        I’ve worked in good and bad companies (with good and bad bosses) in terms of the effect on my own mental health, but being really ready to leave is a whole different level than knowing you aren’t in a great situation. I’d suggest instead that the LW use messaging like “you’re better than this kind of treatment,” “is what you’re getting out of this job worth what it’s doing to your mental health” and “even if you aren’t ready to leave yet, what might an exit strategy look like for you?” Those are the things that meant the most to me from my loved ones over the years. I got there in the end.

        In my experience, to feel that someone who DOES know you as more than your job thinks you deserve better treatment and will coach you through re-framing it for yourself all can be a huge help, even if it takes a while to sink in.

    2. Not Australian*

      My partner actually did something similar a couple of decades ago – he accidentally ran into one on my higher-ups from work and mentioned a concern I had discussed with him – and I ripped him a new one. Knowing him it was done in all innocence and a spirit of helpfulness, and clearly thinking he’d stumbled on a great opportunity to solve a problem, but the higher-up rightly said that if I had concerns I should raise them directly with her and I never did.

      In a close relationship you need to be able to trust the other party not to reveal anything said to them in confidence; sometimes you just want to be able to moan about things that can’t be remedied – and them white-knighting, no matter how kindly meant, is only going to make things worse.

    3. Red Wheelbarrow*

      I don’t want to pile on the OP, because it sounds like a deeply frustrating situation. But it doesn’t seem clear to me that they’ve wholly abandoned the (terrible) idea of the anonymous note, though they acknowledge its problems: “She would kill me if I fought her battles, so I can’t do anything *in the open* [emphasis added] but I’ve been thinking about sending an anonymous email to the manager’s superiors…”

      Also, it seems odd to accuse Jordan of sneaking gender into the discussion when they explicitly de-gender all the pronouns in their comment.

      1. MK*

        I did not accuse them is “sneaking gender into the discussion”, I addressed what seemed to me a pretty obvious hint. Redargless of any gender issue or whether Jordan meant it as such, I don’t think “Ponder long and hard about why you even thought of this!” is a warranted response, when there have beens many letters from partners, parents and friends of people in bad work situations who had similar reactions (even a child about their dad, if I remember correctly).

        You may be right that the OP has rejected the anonymous note idea. I still think titling the letter “Can I send an anonymous note to my wife’s job about her awful manager?” when the actual question was “Is there anything else I could do for my wife?” wasn’t a good choice.

        1. Natalie*

          What hint? You’re the only person assuming it’s about gender, when there are all kinds of relationship or personal reasons that could make this seem like an option, and OP might want to reflect on.

        2. Observer*

          Actually, it’s a VERY good response. Sure a lot of people think of doing things like that, and it’s almost always a terrible idea. And it pretty much always comes from a less that useful, helpful and respectful view of the victim. So, that’s almost always a good response – You want to call your Dad’s boss- Why would you think that’s a good idea? You want to call your kid’s boss – why would you think that’s a good idea? etc.

          when the actual question was “Is there anything else I could do for my wife?” wasn’t a good choice.
          Except that that is not actually the whole question. The first thing they mention is writing to the company and it’s clear that they want some confirmation on that.

          1. Amaranth*

            My Dad offered call my boss when I was venting frustration one time. In my 30s. He was honestly surprised that my reaction was total horror.

            LW needs to approach it from how all of this is impacting her, and their family. That’s his business. The rest…not so much.

        3. LTL*

          I read Jordan’s comment as casually encouraging some reflection. I don’t think “ponder long and hard” is a good characterization of it. But I do appreciate your point that OP’s impulse is probably just stemming from his unhappiness at seeing his partner overworked which is natural. Sometimes we know we shouldn’t do things but they start to become tempting when we can’t see other options to improve the situation.

          OP, if this is truly nagging you, and I suspect it is if you wrote in to Alison, it warrants a serious conversation with your wife. I know you said she won’t change anything but if you find the situation untenable, something needs to change so both your needs are met.

        4. Bananers*

          I’m still not understanding why you think that sentence has any allusions to gender. It’s a pretty standard response in the comments every time this issue comes up, regardless of the genders of the people involved (when we know). Personally, I think it’s sound advice — when you want to do something so far outside the norm for professional behavior, it’s absolutely worth consider what’s motivating you, which might be helpful in finding other ways to respond.

        5. EEOC Counselor*

          MK, I’m not seeing anything in that last sentence that hints at gender at all, “pretty obvious” or otherwise. I have worked with a lot of people who have been subjected to gender discrimination. I wonder if this is a bias on your point which you introduced when you responded to Jordan.

    4. Shira*

      “Why this seemed like an option” – I’d bet it has to do with this aside in the letter:

      “(I’ve told my wife to not check her emails [at 11pm] but this is a battle I don’t win)”

      Could be the LW figures if they can’t get their wife to stop doing the work at odd hours, maybe they could get the boss to stop assigning work at odd hours.

      LW – if this is the case, I’d try to focus on talking to your wife about how her work habits affect your home life/relationship. Do not stick your oar in at her job. Even if your wife had a more reasonable boss, she may have started letting work bleed into your home life (especially now if she’s working from home). And even now with am unreasonable boss, setting boundaries may help. Focus on your wife, not her boss. Wishing you both the best.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, that’s a big problem and someone else mentioned it above. I’m very sorry your wife gets her self worth from her job and has trouble setting boundaries, likely to the detriment of your marriage. I hope this is something you two can discuss.

        1. Lizzo*

          I’ll add that such issues are best discussed with a therapist. This situation is not your fault, LW1. The only person who can fix this–and has to want to fix this–is your wife. The awful boss is exacerbating issues that your wife is struggling with (and has probably struggled with for a long time). A therapist would be valuable for your wife to sort through those things, and would be valuable for you to help determine how to be most supportive.

          I’m sorry you are both experiencing these things–I’ve been on both sides of it and it sucks. :-(

          1. Katrinka*

            Especially since they mention the wife has mental health issues, a therapist is a very good idea.

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        This is exactly it. OP, if you express your concern to your wife, and let her know that the unreasonable work hours are hurting YOU by making all her time work-time instead of family-time/couple-time, she might be more willing to push back. You can offer to help her figure out how to word that pushback, or brainstorm some strategies for how to respond to demands from the boss.

      3. Legal Beagle*

        Yes, this is the only viable approach. You don’t have standing to intervene in your wife’s relationship with her boss. You *do* have standing to talk to your wife about how her work habits are impacting your home life. My husband and I are both working from home right now, and our jobs sometimes require after-hours calls or emails, but this sounds extreme. I’d be really upset by the dynamic in the letter and would push strongly for work-life boundaries, unless my husband was literally going to be fired tomorrow if he didn’t jump at his boss’s every email. Especially now, when work and home are bleeding together so much, I think it’s important to keep up that separation as much as you can.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        LW – if this is the case, I’d try to focus on talking to your wife about how her work habits affect your home life/relationship. Do not stick your oar in at her job. Even if your wife had a more reasonable boss, she may have started letting work bleed into your home life (especially now if she’s working from home). And even now with am unreasonable boss, setting boundaries may help. Focus on your wife, not her boss.

        I think this is really the bottom line, and this is where my spouse and I have focused. They have a start/stop time-based job, one that is not client-facing, and no management responsibilities, and the realities of my job were very hard for them to understand and accept in the beginning. When we were able to talk about what my job actually was versus what they wanted it to be and whether or not the hazard pay and what it allowed us to do for our family were a counterbalance to the increased at-home workload they had to take on, it was much more productive to figuring things out for us. (For what it’s worth, I have an amazing and supportive boss, but the job itself it 24/7, which does impact our relationship and our family life.)

        I’ll also say that, in some industries, this level of availability is expected, so “boundary setting” is not going to go over well (but a halfway decent organization is going to both discuss availability expectations during interviewing and pay more for the inconvenience). It is entirely possible that LW1’s wife’s boss is just an unrealistic jerk, but it’s also possible that it’s simply what’s expected and the prior boss was not a good fit. We just don’t know. So LW1’s best bet is to focus on the relationship impact of how their wife is handling their job vis a vis their home life/relationship versus meddling in what they acknowledge is a likely ineffective way in their spouse’s work life.

        I also have a particularly difficult team that I work with where the directors all like to make a big show about being magnanimous and understanding to the staff, but they then complain bitterly to line management when something doesn’t go as they expected because someone took a day off or was sick and they had to work with someone other than Bob (even if Jane is just as good, if not better than Bob, at the task). They put us in the position of being the heavy on high-demand vacation time and other staff management all while sympathizing with the staff over what jerks managers are for having all-hands-on-deck (no leave) days for major events. I know I’ve come out looking awful to the team when the decision was actually made over my head.

      5. Alice's Rabbit*

        Yes, that’s the real issue, here. OP has no say in how the boss does his job, but he does get a vote in how their home life operates, and an expectation that work should stay at work is not unreasonable.
        A possible compromise is one single check of the email, that lasts no more than 30 minutes. Any work that would take longer than that would need to wait until the next day at the office.
        Not only is the wife giving her boss unhealthy expectations for herself, but she’s setting up her coworkers for the same unreasonable demands from the boss.
        I do know what it’s like to define yourself by your job. But let’s be honest; the job doesn’t love her back. Unless her work is literally life and death, it can wait

      6. TardyTardis*

        Also, LW, you might try to encourage your wife to find another job without such exorbitant expectations. The way things are, she’s too exhausted to think outside the box, and it may be deliberate on management’s part. At least encourage her to take a couple of days off to regroup before she burns out.

    5. Generic Name*

      Honestly, I can see my own husband wanting to do this. Not because he’s a boundary-smashing idiot (he isn’t) but because when he sees me unhappy or upset, he jumps into fix it mode and wants to DO something to make me feel better. LW, it’s fair to ask your wife if there’s anything you can do to help her situation. She’s may tell you she just wants a hug or a listening ear. Even if those things feel like you’re doing nothing, they are very helpful (at least they are to me). If her work stuff is negatively affecting your home life or your own mental health, you are well within your rights to ask her to set some boundaries (like is she missing family stuff because of last minute work “crises”?) or limit her time complaining about work.

      1. Quiet Liberal*

        I’m ashamed to say that I can completely relate to the wife in this letter! This was me about ten years ago. My workplace was so toxic and I was so invested in fixing my screwy department, that I bowed to the pressure of the higher ups to always be available. I got texts and emails in the middle of the night and sprang up to complete tasks. I never really slept anyway, always wanting to get ahead of my workload. I was always worrying about disappointing upper management that I forgot what is truly important in life – and it wasn’t them. My husband tried to talk to me about what it was doing to me and to us, but it took me a long time to finally realize how brainwashed I had become. He was patient for the most part, but I know it was hard for him to see me kill myself for those people. Luckily, I got a belly full of it all and found a much better job within my industry with a company that is reasonable about work-life balance. I can see from your wife’s side how awful this is for you, LW#1. Unfortunately, you can’t fix it for her. She needs to figure this out for herself. For both of your sakes, I hope she does.

      2. HarperC*

        I agree about those who care about us sometimes not wanting to “sit on the sidelines” while we are unhappy. And vice versa. There are times when I don’t talk about everything going on at work because I know it can be hard to hear someone you care about is having a rough time and there isn’t anything you can directly do about it. All that being said, I believe based on the letter, that is where we are — LW, I believe your heart is in the right place, but as other have said, there just isn’t much you can do besides finding a way to support your wife and also doing what you can to help her to see that this isn’t an ideal/healthy/normal work situation.

    6. somebody blonde*

      I had an issue with my husband very similar to this. It is really frustrating to watch your spouse cave to ridiculous working conditions when you can tell it’s harming them, they admit that it’s harming them, but they won’t push back. Ultimately, it’s a marriage problem and not a work problem, but it can get hard to see that when the expectations are coming from work.

    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I’m cringing now because I was in a similar position to OP1 (many years ago now) with my (now ex) husband, where I felt that he wasn’t being treated well at work — it wasn’t about ridiculously short deadlines in this case, but other expectations — and I’ve seen subsequently how that could come off as patronising (as well as the gendered implications of a cis woman intervening in this way on behalf of a man!) … I’d been on the receiving end of many stress-related outbursts and ex felt that there was “no point” in bringing up any of this in his workplace, because “nothing would change”, “managers don’t listen”, etc. I thought naively that hearing it from an ‘outside’ voice about the impact on our family life (think of never being able to take vacation, etc) would have an effect on the management… although I was ready to do this as myself, not writing an anonymous note.

      (Rightly, as I see now) he was quite offended by this and told me in no uncertain terms to stay out of it, it was his battle to fight, what right did I have to overrule his thoughts/feelings about this by ‘intervening’ even though he’d actively decided not to — did I think I knew better? That I’d get a different result? And what would his company think of him afterwards? … it took me a long time to admit at the time, but he was right. (Though maybe for the wrong reasons, being extremely stubborn and conflict-averse — not a good combination!)

      I think, and it may be a reach but I do get the impression quite strongly, that OP hasn’t actually discussed this aspect with their wife. Probably the wife has come home with stories of unrealistic deadlines and OP has even witnessed it first-hand since their wife had to “go back to work” at 10pm to make changes to a thing the boss wanted ready for the morning etc… but have they had the conversation about how the wife feels about this, and what that means for both of them?

      I’ve known personally, and worked with, people who were in broadly similar situations (overcommitted and never any peace without checking emails etc) and the motivations were as many as there were people. “Needing to feel needed” on a personal level, fear of being ousted or outdone by some rival, workplace bullying, genuine need to feel they have “finished all the things”, etc.

      It sounds like OP1 doesn’t really have any insight into the “motivation” for their wife doing this. By their own admission OP says their wife defines herself by her job, always out-performs etc.

      Without implying anything I would suggest looking inwardly into your relationship first OP1, in that: why do you feel you should disregard your wife’s wishes about this? And do you need to work on your communication with her? (e.g. have you suggested ways of taking it up with managers, or did you go straight to the anonymous note?)

  2. Sexibunny69*

    **quickly checking to see if sexibunny69 is still available at gmail or yahoo…….**


    1. Elmer W. Litzinger, spy*

      When I worked at an ISP during orientation we were told to create an email address for work and make it professional; the trainer would then look at it and okay it or not. The gal next to me? Completely bewildered that – and this was exactly what she created – meflirtwithu was considered inappropriate.

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        I can’t even imagine the thought process here. In college we could have a couple different email handles- and a lot of people had a school acceptable one (like sexibunny69@school) and then firstnamelastname@school which people transition over to gmail when we graduated because how is “sexibunny69” going to look like you make good choices to an employer.

        I sorta feel oddly like it’s up there with having your career as an exotic dancer on your resume to be an accountant. There is nothing wrong with the job and you learn lots of life skills- but most firms probably not going to want (or need) to know that about you.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          One of my friends in college, her official university email was UPbabi[birth year] at

          Most people’s university email was, say, twarbleworth at

          1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

            Was her name Ursula Patricia Babi? Not to be confused with Undine Pbabi, whose name was so similar they had to include the birthdate? XD

        2. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

          I had a work-acceptable email when I was TEN (in 2004). They published whole guides about how you shouldn’t have emails like “sweetiepie-qtpie[full birthdate]@email” because it might attract the wrong kind of internet predator or reveal important info to identity thieves!

          (Incidentally, my first Gmail account included the term “qt” specifically because one of those guides had included it as a no-no, I was opening the account without my parents’ involvement, and I wanted to be a rebel. Of course I now use my normal email account which is firstname.lastname)

          1. No Longer Looking*

            I have a common first and last name (not quite John Smith but up there) and couldn’t get anything remotely close to it without a string of numbers at the back of it on any of the standard email sites (gmail, yahoo, hotmail, msn, etc), so I went with a rather odd-looking chinese phrase instead (which on the bright side is always easy to find for logins).

            I had to go to to finally get an interviewing account using my name – but I did, and it worked.

          2. Elenna*

            My first email account (created by my parents, I was eight) was also in 2004, and it was I’ve never changed it, although recently I’ve considered moving to Gmail. Seems like too much trouble, though, especially since I’m sure my name is taken on Gmail.

            I do have a non-name-based gmail account (a short phrase that doesn’t involve sex, similar to but that one’s used only for things like AO3 and forum accounts.

      2. Artemesia*

        One of the clues that led me to investigate a promising candidate further was his handle. This was a man in his 60s who had a sexy handle in his email. I found other reasons why we probably didn’t want to hire him but that was the first clue that made me explore very thoroughly. (and no it wasn’t age — we hired a woman 58 and another guy 62)

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think I’ve shared this before… when I worked at a college, I had a student whose email address was firstlast#### with a string of numbers after it. At first it didn’t really tweak me as odd, even though it was a lot of numbers, not just a birthdate or something.

        Then I realized it was 9 numbers. And then I realized it was the student’s social security number. Yes, this person’s email address was FirstLastSSN@email. I was dumbfounded.

      4. Butterfly Counter*

        My cousin’s first email out of college was *fictionalpornstarname6969*@hotmail. And it says a lot about him that I’m not 100% sure he’s ever changed it from that.

    2. What Day Is It?*

      Someone who doesn’t know to have a professional email for a resume is someone that I would never hire. This is a hill I am willing to die on.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Same. And it’s not just sexy email addresses, either. Nerd references aren’t a great idea for professional email addresses, either. I don’t care how much you love Spock or R2-D2, I will question your maturity and professional judgment if you think either of those belong anywhere on your resume. (In case there is any doubt, I am a huge nerd, with both a Batman keychain and a subtle Star Wars wedding band. But those are personal items, and not something I flaunt noticeably, like an email address on a resume.)
        Sports references aren’t any better. You might be able to slip by with an address referencing your alma mater. Not the best idea, but possibly acceptable if done right. Like Bruins98 would be okay. But Bruinsfootballforever or RivalTeamsuxx would cross the line. And stay away from addresses about professional sports teams or specific athletes. It’s cool if you grew up a huge Brett Favre fan, but having that as your email address is too much.

    3. Marple*

      I have a relative who has an email address like He graduated college in 1969 and says that’s where 69 comes from, and doesn’t seem to understand why he needs to choose something else. I just shake my head…

      1. MAC*

        I was born in 1969 and am constantly amazed at how many of my peers use “69” for email addresses or whatever. If they (or your relative) really had such innocent intent, I would think they would AT MINIMUM use the full year 1969. Personally, I think most of them just want to get away with something but still have deniability if they get called on it.

    1. OP #4*

      Angela Powell! She’s got a podcast and a class and books that have taught me to maintain appropriate professionalism and do my job well while also having a life. Mostly the 40 hour workweek class and her most recent book.

        1. BetsCounts*

          many of her topics also appear to be relevant to the parents who are coordinating zoom lessons, etc.

        2. hayling*

          My roommate is a teacher, I think the “How to plan for the first week of school when everything feels uncertain” episode will really resonate with her!

    2. Batgirl*

      I think it’s those teachers abandoning the traditional path of “suck it up and work till you drop”.

      1. OP #4*

        Exactly, and I’m so glad it’s happening. 20 years ago my professors made it seem like if you weren’t willing to give everything to the job at whatever expense to you, you would be a bad teacher. Fifty percent of teachers quit within their first five years. We need to stop thinking of that as a good thing, showing who really cares, and rethink what problems there are in training, job expectations, and salary. I remember reading on AAM about how workplaces should pay expenses to send people on conferences and thinking “wow! Why am I paying for so much?”

  3. PollyQ*

    #4 — Not disagreeing with Alison, just chiming in. IME, that kind of work in a “regular job” is commonly salaried exempt. Depending on the workplace and specific situation, you might be able to push back the deadline due to the learning process taking longer. You also might have to just work extra uncompensated hours to meet the deadline. *shrug*

    1. OP #4*

      Yeah, the deadline is school starting and I’m the one who pushed the school to do it, so I’m going to do it til it gets done. I am kind of fudging the numbers, honestly, the pay is unexpectedly really good so even leaving out the hours for training videos and my spelling mistake it’s still good compensation.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I feel like training videos, it’s not that awful to swallow that “expense” myself, because I’d expect to come in with some level of expertise. Getting that expertise is on me if I train beforehand, so training myself in the middle of it would seem like “personal development” or something.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I think the key detail her is that the OP seems to be working on this fairly unsupervised. Doing this sort of work as an hourly or salaried non-exempt employee would generally have someone else managing the project who could set priorities, track the time used and make higher level decisions. And, at a well run employer, they’d have a good sense of how much time would be needed for training and debugging. If an employee regularly took much more than that, they’d probably need to be let go.

      Doing this sort of thing as the lead or sole person on the project would fit with an exempt position (where three hours finding a typo often means staying late to compensate), or with a contractor who was charging by the job (and would set the price according to the expected work).

      I would also add that 20 hours to roll out a new software system sounds wildly optimistic, and that spending 15% of the budgeted time for a project finding one mistake would be a warning siren that something was majorly wrong.

      If the OP is new to this sort of work, I’m not surprised that they vastly underestimated the time needed – with experience you learn to factor the time it takes to read/watch documentation, and the debugging/finding mistakes/getting stuck time, and then add some padding for the things you didn’t think of that inevitably go wrong. And you get better and faster at finding errors than when you’re starting. That’s also why doing this alone can be very difficult if you’re new to the type of work – an experienced person can often tell you exactly where to look for a mistake, saving hours of searching.

      1. OP #4*

        That is exactly correct. Teachers don’t normally do stuff like this, and I was being very unlike myself when I proposed that they do it and also pay me to set it up. As of right now I’m the only one who works there with any idea as to what it entails or anything about it. There just is no one else who does things like this so they didn’t know when they gave me the offer. (They told me the hours, that wasn’t my guess.)

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Given that, I’d go back to the employer now and give them an update that this is going to take a lot more time than they budgeted for. They probably looked at it, figured “this doesn’t look that hard” and picked am optimistic estimate for how long it would if everything went right the first time.

          Also, if this is a fairly common software system, try googling error messages and see if StackExchange has any related forums to help you figure out common (or rare) problems.

          1. TechWorker*

            ‘picked an optimistic estimate for how long it would take if everything went right the first time’

            Trying to get junior (and some senior) engineers not to do this is basically the story of my life :)

          2. Chinook*

            Ditto. The advantage of charging for the unexpected time is it gives the principal a more realistic understanding of how long such a job takes. Too many people think this type of work is done without trial and error. They weren’t mistakes – they were hours spent trying more obvious tactics options that ended up not working.

        2. Katrinka*

          Does your school have a budget for professional development hours? That’s where we would draw from to pay a teacher for a project like this (and it’s exactly what it’s intended for, adding on a professional skill that will benefit the school). Our union has a negotiated rate for PD (I can’t remember the rate, but for somer reason I’m thinking it’s 50%. PD hours are done separate from regular work hours and the teacher(s) would submit a timesheet to me each pay period that listed their specific hours and one of the things I had to check was that their start time was after the end of their regular time.

      2. OtterB*

        Tangent. I agree. Also reminds me of one of my favorite sayings: Experience is what enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.

    3. MassMatt*

      I get that you are going above and beyond here, and also that you don’t want to work for free, which is sadly the expectation for teachers all too often. So, good job on both!

      But IME someone suggesting we do X and taking time to do it should know how to do X. Maybe software work is different, but agreeing on an hourly rate and then using it to watch videos on how to do the project seems like something most employers would not do. Fixing an error is part of the process and should be paid, I don’t think you need to break down how much time was spent coding vs: troubleshooting or fixing, or how basic an error was.

    1. Coder von Frankenstein*

      At my previous job, we called in the phone company to fix a problem with the phone lines, which they traced to the next suite over from us. This led to the discovery that our neighboring tenants were in fact an ecstasy lab.

      This was also the job where I, needing a place to stay, accepted a coworker’s offer to be housemates and spent three weeks in what turned out to be a literal crack house.

      My present job is more stable and pays way better, but it does not provide nearly the same quality of stories.

      1. Generic Name*

        This is now making me wonder if the awful chemical odors emanating from the adjacent office suite was actually a clandestine cook operation rather than manufacturing fake teeth like their sign said…..

        1. TardyTardis*

          Probably one of my husband’s students, who then swore, “But I always wore my goggles!”

      2. Quill*

        I’m pretty sure that the janitors at pig lab from hell thought we were disposing of bodies for the mob…

    2. TardyTardis*

      Or chlorine gas in the sink trap (my husband’s predecessor in chemistry did that. He was also a losing football coach. Which one damned him, who knows? But my husband knows his chlorine better and refused to coach. Life was good).

  4. Finland*

    You already mentioned that your wife prizes herself on her role and her accomplishments at work. Given that she’s provided so many details to you, even an anonymous letter could reveal things that point back to her. You could be making things absolutely terrible for your wife and possibly ruin her career (and…her marriage?) by interfering. She is probably just telling you what’s going on to vent, not for advice or for you to step in it (pardon the pun). If she discovers that this is the likely response when she confides in you, it’s highly likely that her stories about work (among other things) are going to stop.

    1. Finland*

      I don’t know why my post had the whole paragraph in italics (I only meant to italicize the word “marriage”), but I forgot to mention that having an anonymous letter criticizing her management skills would not make an unreasonable (or even a reasonable) boss change for the better.

    2. Batgirl*

      It could easily ruin his marriage and cause a significant dent. He would need to use deceit because of how strongly she feels that this should not be tackled in the way he wants it to be. If he uses a lie of omission to manage her life for her, expressly against her wishes… the outcome won’t be good. She’ll find out too, because there’s no way that policies like “I know better than you about your life” and “I’ll lie to you for your own good” are going to remain invisible forever.
      OP, it’s very frustrating and distressing when a partner doesn’t agree with us about something as important as their health and wellbeing, but you don’t get to go around them and infantalise them. Part of helping people is trusting them, and keeping them informed and accepting their voice. Lying about what you want to do won’t magically make it any less patronising.
      You don’t have to give up, or give in; you can maintain that you are unhappy with the situation. You can draw lines where you are most affected at home. You can (and should) stay part of the dialogue; suggest job hunting etc. I would also suggest that you don’t have the greatest view of the current situation and you should keep that in mind during discussions; defer to her greater understanding. There are many factors you can’t see and this might be the best way to manage the tyrant. Of course it’s also possible your impartiality has given you a better preview, but if that’s the case your wife will come to the same conclusion as you after trying alternatives. It’s worth waiting for people to come to their own realisation if it gets them on your page.

    3. EPLawyer*

      It could definitely affect the marriage. LW knows his wife would kill him IF he contacted her boss. But by gum and by golly, he wants to do it anyway — against her wishes. Because apparently boss is not the only person who has problems with boundaries in the Wife’s life.

      LW1 — Your Wife does not want you to do interfere. So don’t. Respect your Wife’s wishes.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I agree 100% that the spouse should not contact the employer. However, I would also argue it sounds like it’s already affecting the marriage and her quality of life. Seeing her in this mode 24/7 is probably much different than when people were reporting into the office regularly.

        I think deep down he knows the note is an overstep (and frankly, I wish more spouses would write in before contacting the employer… but other than supporting her, nudging her in the right direction, maybe seeing if she had some free time and they can do a mini no-phones staycation.

        But also, from the bosses side, I wonder, if the wife doesn’t check her emails before bed and boss wants a deliverable by 7:00 am but wife sees email at 6:30am…does she get written up, fired?, nothing would happen? This is just so odd to me!

    4. Smithy*

      Letters like this just strike me as trying to solve one problem (wife’s boss), when the real issue is how the OP and wife connect with one another. Different couples have different relationships to work and how they support one another around work that can be as involved has running a business together, to spouses having jobs with confidentiality clauses around the majority of their work.

      It’s not that there are normal and abnormal ways for couples to talk or relate to one another about work – but if this isn’t working for the OP, then it’s not an issue for the wife’s boss – but a conversation with the wife. If her work is impacting your relationship, then that’s what needs to be talked about. Because while the OP sees this as an unreasonable problem – it may be that the wife is excited for the professional opportunity to report into this higher level manager even if the workload becomes more intense.

      1. valentine*

        trying to solve one problem (wife’s boss), when the real issue is how the OP and wife connect with one another.
        Yes! The proposed solution is usually extreme and weirdly insulating of someone with agency. In this case, OP1 can leave this to the wife to solve and the wife has options including pushing back and resigning. There’s also the fact that her stated perspective and motives are tailored for OP1.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Yes! On Stack Overflow (where I also contribute) we know this as an “XY Problem” (I won’t post a link as replies with links seem to go in to a black hole, but it’s easily googled).

        Basically you are asking “I want to solve problem X, but I am actually asking about possible solution Y”. The trouble with that is that Y most likely isn’t the right way to solve problem X, so then the answers will be focused on how to accomplish Y rather than the “root cause” how to address problem X.

        To put it in concrete terms here, it could be something like: OP1 feels like their wife is too invested in her identity as a “Job Title” (whatever the job is) and that she is spending too much time working on work-related things out of hours [instead of being available to the OP?]… “Y” here is how to get the workplace/manager to stop making so many demands (where a possible suggested solution is ‘send an anonymous note’). But the real “X” problem leans more towards why does their wife feel inclined to accommodate all these demands. I made a post above so I won’t repeat it, but the possibilities are things like pride in a job well done, fear of being laid off etc, trying to protect others in the workplace from that work that would otherwise fall to them, workplace bullying, etc.

        OP1 needs to get to the root of what the “X” actually is.

    1. valentine*

      And Sexi Bunny is a hippie name, or autocorrected Sox fan first? I’d be curious enough to hear her out.

      Are there still emails that don’t require any real PII, like a mobile?

      1. OP3*

        Good point about the birth year. If that is really legally her name, it is unfortunate but I don’t think our spam filters could handle it! Do you know how many phone calls to clients and vendors would have to be made to ‘please add to your safe sender list’ -all with a straight face?
        Regarding the PII – in not sure if there are any that don’t require it, but you can create multiples for the same service. I have 2 Gmail accounts – one I use for sign-ups for ads and what-not so that my main account isn’t overloaded.

    2. Kristine*

      My mother was born in 1969 and her email address is [first initial][last name] Her last name is Botto. I BEGGED her to come up with a different email address but she wouldn’t listen to me. Her logic is that there’s nothing inappropriate about using her name and birth year. *shrug* I tried.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        It would probably be more acceptable to be firstname.Bottom1969@email etc.
        Or day/month (or month/day) instead of year. There are plenty of other ways to incorporate semi-personal identifying information in an email address.
        Mine is middlename.surname.daymonth@email which has worked professionally enough for me.

        1. Batty Twerp*

          Dang it! Pressed submit too early!
          I didn’t paste the key point about leading zeroes which are vital to using the day/month system. My last sentence also lacks the point since I also didn’t mention my birthday is Sept 6th…

          (Tim for a coffee…)

        2. Can Man*

          So your email address has all the information needed to pick up a prescription in your name? That seems risky to me.

          1. Batty Twerp*

            I’m in the UK – you need the first line of my home address and my *first* name to pick up a prescription here.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Additionally if it’s anything like my pharmacy in the UK you either need to be me or my husband to get my prescriptions. If they don’t recognise you, you ain’t getting my stuff.

              (Controlled substances. They’re pretty strict on opiates)

          2. WellRed*

            You’d also need to know they had a script to pick up, when and at what pharmacy. What an odd comment!

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I imagine the point being made is less “someone will steal your prescriptions” and more “you are giving away personally identifying information that could be used to your disadvantage” but let’s not derail on this.

      2. Pennyworth*

        I’m paranoid about identity theft, so there is no way I’d ever include my birth year in anything. My niece’s old hotmail address had her birth year but not her name, something along the lines of babypanda87. The government organization I work for adds numbers to our work email addresses if there are multiple people with the same name, but that is always the next number in the sequence. Mary.Smith12 is just the twelfth Mary Smith on the payroll.

        1. OP3*

          Gmail does the same – mine is first.last then random assigned number. I wouldn’t use any part of my birthday either.

        2. KaciHall*

          I had someone applying for a job that used the last 4 of their social with their full name as their email. It made me cringe almost as much as the person who used sofa.king.lazee@ as their email.

          Still not sure which is worse for a job search. The SSN is definitely worse overall, though.

          1. Quill*

            Both of these are giving me hives, not unlike the ones that sprout up when my PROGRAMMING PROFESSIONAL father gives the wifi router a more secure password than his amazon account.

            “Stealing” your wifi isn’t even a problem, if someone is using our internet they can’t do it from much farther away than the front porch, at which point we have a totally different problem. Meanwhile, Amazon has your credit card information…

            1. Observer*

              Stealing your wifi is not a problem. Using the wifi password to get into your whole home system IS a problem. Your father is right to give it a highly secure password.

              1. Quill*

                Our whole home system is… just the laptops and smartphones that have to be physically on and have passwords entered into the actual thing to use. We literally don’t have any other wifi-enabled systems (aside from the TV which you could turn on and off with your phone.) If we had security cameras or whatever attached to wifi it would obviously be a different story.

                My guess is he read some advice about it and didn’t think about what context the risk was in, or that there’s plenty of risk with using a variant of his facebook password on sites that contain his financial info.

                1. Observer*

                  Maybe – and maybe not. I mean if you always shut off computers when you walk away from them, then yes, you don’t have to worry about your wifi being stolen. If the computer is on but not logged in? There are some pretty nasty exploits out there. Is it *likely* that someone will do that? Probably not. But totally not out of the realm of possibility.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            This is like using “password” or “1234” for your password to your banking information. I just can’t.

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              Had to reinstall my sister’s OS recently so she could get her files off an old laptop. I gave it back to her with a post-it on the screen that said “The password is ChangeMe, so please do so immediately.”
              She did.

      3. Turquoisecow*

        I have a friend with a relative whose address is spacecowboy69. He was born or maybe graduated in ‘69 and likes that Steve Miller song and space, so doesn’t see anything wrong with the email. Thankfully, I don’t think he’s using it to apply for jobs.

      4. Formerly Ella Vader*

        Besides all the other points, it’s particularly inadvisable for an older worker to be providing a reliable clue to their age in their email address. It combines “slightly out of touch with current business norms” with another piece of evidence that the prospective employer would need to work to ignore in hiring decisions. If they needed to use a number, they should either use one that couldn’t possibly be an age or birth year, or choose something that could suggest a more recent birth.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          I have a friend who uses 1492 all the time. It works, it’s clearly not her birthday, and if anyone asks, she just says “I’m from Ohio.”

    3. memyselfandi*

      The question of appropriate e-mail addresses just came up for me this morning and I wondered when it is appropriate to suggest that someone get a more professional e-mail address. I received an e-mail from a student graduating in December who want to apply to a program I run. Her e-mail wasn’t inappropriate (or maybe I didn’t get the reference) but it didn’t identify her at all. AIM has suggested that e-mail addresses used for job applications be straightforward. I wondered if I should suggest that this person consider getting a different e-mail address.

      1. The New Normal*

        You know, when I had my son, I made it a point to secure an email address for him with his name so he’d have something “professional” to use. He can make all the throwaways he wants, but he is keeping that account for a long time. It’s LastNameFirstNameMiddleInitial at gmail. I work in a high school and I always tell the students to have two emails – the name-based professional one and the goofy one for friends.

      2. boop the first*

        Maybe I should be embarrassed but I still use my “professional” email address I had to make during senior years in high school (because changing email addresses in a time when every website ever requires a sign-in sounds like a nightmare).
        I had to add a number because back then, hotmail didn’t let you have names with “swears” in them, so I could only use my generic first name, and tacked on the year it was when I made it. It’s been long enough that now I wonder if future employers think I’m 20 years younger than I actually am??? Like I was just a particularly gifted baby perhaps. It didn’t occur to me that everyone assumes email numbers are birth years, primarily!

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          HS or college graduation dates are pretty popular email numbers as well, so it doesn’t seem that weird…

      3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        My email address is my initials @ A lot of other users of that ISP have initials, first names, or even nicknames as their addresses there.

        That’s only been a problem when dealing with a system that will reject perfectly valid addresses, like that, because they aren’t on a list of known email hosts.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      And maybe she has a pet rabbit that she dotes on! lol

      I actually wondered, as I was reading LW3’s letter, if 69 stood for the birth year or… 69. So many people have their birth year as part of their email address, for reasons I will never understand. (As someone working in a field that is famous for age discrimination, I wouldn’t do it even under threats.)

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is the way I got my mom to set up a different email account for job searching – I pointed out that including her birth year could exacerbate the age discrimination she was already seeing, and we’d pared out her college grad year as well as culled her experience to most recent on her resume to avoid this, why not go the final mile and have an email that didn’t include a year? (And hers was the entire 19xx, so it was clear it was a year.)

    5. Batgirl*

      I love it when a letter writer says “this isn’t the real name/word used but as an example…” Then everyone does a language analysis of the fake example. Classic.

    6. Donkey Wrangler*

      Came here to say that. A good friend who is the utmost professional has an email that is firstinitial.lastname69 because that is the year he was born in.

  5. Anonymous1*

    LW4 – I know this wasn’t the question, but I wanted to point it out anyways: I have spent many hours agonizing and over-thinking over whether my time was productive when I was drafting a document or trying to fix an error in a spreadsheet or similar tasks. I’ve somewhat realized that some work isn’t just a matter of going through the motions. I.E. To create an instructional guide will never just take the amount of time to type the words and push the buttons. It will also take the time to edit and proofread and fret over formatting. Tasks that require critical thinking are productive and valuable even though the output isn’t as obvious as something production- or widget-oriented. The time you spent identifying the spelling mistake as the root cause probably required you to go through troubleshooting steps and look through FAQs or help documents or Google results, which gave you insights into the software for next time.

    For the actual question as far as what to charge, I’d probably find a middle ground and charge for a part of the time and not all of it but I think it could go both ways. Alison nailed it.

    1. OP #4*

      Thanks, I think that’s what I’m doing. I overthink things all the time and am trying to change, so I’m still learning about what is unnecessary overthinking to what is part of the growth and reflection process.

      1. Other Jen*

        Just to add, as an engineer, that going through reference material and sorting out what small thing is causing a problem is absolutely expected and you should count it mentally at least as productive time spent. It sounds like you’re doing a great job. Nothing can stand against those pedagogical troubleshooting muscles :)

        1. Risha*

          And let’s face it, most of the time the issue was caused by missing one button click or forgetting a single character at the end of a line, anyway. If we all only charged for the time we physically typed the final, correct version, programming would be a very different career. :)

  6. Confused in DC*

    LW2 – I don’t get the concern at all in this specific situation. The LW has two options (1) hire this person as an intern or (2) hire no one. How does doing the former perpetuate inequality? Obviously the best option would be to set up an application process/position that is equally available to everyone. But that’s not possible here per the LW. So the “best answer” is everyone misses out on this learning opportunity?

    (If the concern were just the complexities of unpaid internships, that would make much more sense to me.)

    1. Confused in DC*

      Also, you start to get on super shaky legal ground when you do not hire someone and reference their race (any race) as a factor in that decision. There obviously are very strong policy reasons for eliminating racial bias and disadvantage; but there is no policy the law will accept for just not hiring white people because you don’t want to advantage them further. The only solution is to put in the effort to craft a fair hiring process.

      1. Tea Cake*

        But there is no position to hire for, it’s only being created for the colleague’s child, if at all. It’s not like they had a pool of candidates and decided to eliminate the white people because of their race. I agree with your last sentence, but as that’s something the OP is not in a position to do right now for a role that doesn’t exist, would she still be on shaky legal ground if she turned down the prospective intern?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, she wouldn’t be on shaky legal ground. She’s not turning the intern down because she’s white; she’s turning her down because she believes in running an open and equitable hiring process and doesn’t have time to do that.

      2. Observer*

        Actually, the policy of just not having a program is 100% legally acceptable. It is perfectly acceptable to say “I’m not having a program that is effectively going to be available ONLY to white students.”

        1. Susana*

          It’s not only available to white students – if a college student is getting college credit for an internship, it’s all the same. You don’t get paid to go to class, and don’t (always) get paid for an internship that replaces class, and which gets you college credit.
          Now – creating a one-off “internship” for the daughter of a friend – that’s different. And totally unfair, since no one else can apply for it.

          1. Observer*

            In THIS situation, the internship would *effectively* only be an opportunity available to affluent white kids. It’s both legally and morally acceptable to look at the actual effects of the set up as well as the formal rules.

            If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, google “disparate impact”.

        2. Phoenix Wright*

          “I’m not having a program that is effectively going to be available ONLY to white students.”

          Not only that, but it would also only be available for people who personally know the LW and ask her about it.

          Kudos to you, LW. You sound very compassionate by choosing to be fair and not wanting to give extra benefits to already privileged people.

      3. kt*

        Um… there is no position being hired for!

        The question is, “Do I make up a job as a favor for a friend?” Making up a job as a favor for a friend itself can be unethical: oh, I’ll make up a resume-builder job for the kid of this person at this other company that I want a contract with is a small step to I’ll help this kid get into Harvard or whatever so I can get a leg up on business with kid’s parents. I know the world revolves this way — I want to suck up to rich or connected person A so I’ll do favors for A’s spouse/kid/cousin — but why are we defending that as ‘non-discriminatory’? It *absolutely* perpetuates inequity! Are you doing favors all the time for your trash collector’s kids? for the night janitor at your workplace? The people who pick the strawberries you enjoy? Nope…. remarkable how the kid of the strawberry picker doesn’t have anyone sucking up their parents….

      4. The Grey Lady*

        It’s not even so much about race as it is about “who you know” advantages. How many other parents can just call up a coworker and get their kid an internship without the kid having to do a lick of work to get the position themselves?

        OP is just saying they would like to have a fair hiring process if they were going to do this sort of thing, but they do not have the time or desire to do that, so the point is moot.

        (And really–this is beneficial for the coworker’s daughter as well. This is the same kind of parent that will call up a company and try to get their adult offspring a job, which is a huge NO. This mom could derail her daughter’s career if she doesn’t learn to back off and ler her daughter find her own position).

        1. Susana*

          Totally. I’d never consider an intern whose parents were trying to negotiate the position for them.

    2. valentine*

      The LW has two options (1) hire this person as an intern or (2) hire no one. How does doing the former perpetuate inequality?
      OP1 would be creating a job to (1) give (2) only to (3) a colleague’s child who (4) is privileged enough to work for free.

      everyone misses out on this learning opportunity
      There is no everyone because there’s no internship. It’s the reverse: Only colleagues’ children can benefit, as exceptions. Any unrelated students who ring up will be told nothing’s available.

    3. Tea Cake*

      I suppose it’s about opportunities down the road, people who can afford to take up an unpaid internship will likely find it easier to land a full time job, than someone who couldn’t intern because of financial issues. Helping someone out by offering them an unpaid internship now could very well nudge someone else out of a job they deserve, but didn’t have the financial means to intern for. A cycle of – you need experience to land a job – you don’t have experience so you have to intern – it’s easier for people from a certain socioeconomic class to absorb the costs of an unpaid internship – you end up hiring people with experience, who mostly belong to the same socieconomic class – perpetuating class, wealth, and possibly race inequality (I don’t know enough to comment about racial issues here, please chime in if anyone can add colour in this respect.)

      1. Confused in DC*

        We may have to agree to disagree on the policy argument for not hiring anyone. But the more I think about it the more I think it’s really close to (if not outright) illegal to choose not to hire someone because they are “privileged/white.” I don’t think it matters that there wasn’t a job posting. Imagine the reverse – OP decides not to pursue hiring a disadvantaged/minority candidate in part because of their race. Seems pretty illegal. This may be harsh to OP2, but I think the only way you help inequality here (legally) is to put in the effort to hire in a non-biased way.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Again, she’s not rejecting the person for being white. She’d be saying she doesn’t have the time to run a full recruitment process, so no. The law doesn’t require her to choose between hiring this person or running a hiring process she has no time for; she can simply say no.

          1. Confused in DC*

            You can phrase it that way, but it doesn’t change the fact the OP appears interested in hiring someone (and even has tasks in mind) but does not want to hire this person because they are privileged/white. The law does not look kindly on using race as a factor in hiring. It does not matter that OP is trying to help counter racial bias in the workplace (a laudable goal we should all strive for!), you can’t use race as a factor, period. This may call for a legal opinion from one of your experts to protect your readers from making questionable decisions with the best of intentions.

            1. BigTenProfessor*

              Really? THIS is the hill you want to die on? The EEOC guidelines literally say they discourage hiring based on word-of-mouth referrals and the OP has made a decision that would be defensible on that basis alone. The fact that she has considered issues of race and class in deciding whether to take on an unpaid intern does not mean she has run afoul of the law.

              At this point, you just come off as a concern troll defending the rights of white people, and if you really are concerned about diversity (as you state more than once), you should let this go and stop trying to prove some kind of point.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              You’re simply wrong about the law. There is absolutely nothing illegal about declining to take on an intern for a position the OP doesn’t even have open. There is also nothing illegal about saying “I have one candidate, they’re from a privileged group, they approached me, there’s no open position, and that’s not the kind of hiring process I’d want to run if I were to hire someone.”

              This is becoming derailing, and it’s off-base. Please leave this here.

            3. EPLawyer*

              OP never even THOUGHT about having an intern until this phone call. There is NO INTEREST in hiring someone. It was an idea suggested that OP was pondering. There is no job. If there is no job, there cannot be illegal hiring discirmination. OP can decide that IDEA is a bad one.

            4. Oh No She Di'int*

              OP appears interested in hiring someone (and even has tasks in mind)

              This is where you are just totally wrong. OP is not interested in doing anything. OP was asked to do someone a favor and (appropriately) has misgivings about doing that favor. OP is 100% correct that that is exactly how privilege of any kind get propagated–it does not always come in the guise of “bad” people doing overtly mean things to people based on race. It comes in the guise of back-room agreements that some people have access to and others do not.

        2. JoJo*

          What law do you think is being broken? You may not agree with the LW but you’re basically crying “reverse racism,” which is not an actual thing.

          1. Quill*

            Things everyone white has had to explain to their parents this summer: every instance that you’ve been thinking of as “reverse racism” is either people indulging in the racism of lowered expectations, or being bad at explaining how they’re trying to make a system less unfair.

        3. Tea Cake*

          Maybe someone else will be able to explain it better. I see where the OP is coming from, and my reading is not that the colleague’s child is being turned down because she’s white or privileged. OP has no idea if she is the most qualified candidate for the job or not, because there hasn’t been a hiring process. There isn’t even a role to be filled. If she wanted to hire for this role, if she considered multiple candidates, and then came to the conclusion that colleague’s kid would do the job best, it wouldn’t matter that she was white or privileged. But not opening up the hiring process and hiring someone privileged leads to a slippery slope where entire organisations have the same demographic makeup, because you routinely hire the candidates who can afford unpaid internships. As it stands, the position would be created entirely as a favour to the colleague.
          The issue isn’t that white/privileged people are getting jobs, the issue is the lack of opportunities for minorities to be considered for those jobs.
          I do agree that an unbiased hiring process is the best solution here. Personally I wouldn’t knock OP for not being able to do it and thus deciding not to hire anyone, especially right now.

          1. kt*

            There’s also the point that if you’re just engaging in sort-of-nepotism, hiring family of friends not based on their qualifications at all and not inviting any other applicants, you have no idea if you’re getting a quality candidate because you didn’t look at any other candidates. What if… you’re getting a whiny brat whose parent(s) does everything for them, up to and including getting them jobs they’re not qualified for? What a nightmare internship that would be to deal with!

            1. Anon4This*

              So, I work in an industry that is rife with this sort of thing, and I’ve been strongly encouraged and, in a few cases, required to hire a relation of a business associate. In about a decade of doing this, I’ve only run into two people that I wouldn’t have hired if they had applied through normal channels without interference. The first was the daughter of a client who got an unpaid internship for school credit and was terribly rude to nearly everyone that she encountered, and the second was a candidate who looked amazing on paper (Ivy grad, high GPA, promising-sounding office internships) but ended up having zero people skills or motivation to do anything they weren’t keenly interested in.

              The vast majority have been very motivated, personable, hard-working people who seemed to know that someone called in a favor for them and they owed that person the courtesy of doing a good job. I think this is where the handful of poster here trying to contort the legality declining to hire for a phantom position and citing discrimination in this situation are coming from – they feel these nice, white, privileged kids are getting the short end of the stick for circumstances outside their control. I guess my response to that is that these kids are generally going to land on their feet through connections and family resources, and I’m not that worried about their success. The kids disadvantaged by circumstances beyond their control may not.

              1. EEOC Counselor*

                You can’t know, though, that you would have hired all but those two, because you have no idea what the pool of applicants would have been if there had been a legitimate hiring process. The probability that you would have ended up hiring the children of a business associate most times based on merit is low. Again, thought processes like these are how privilege perpetuates itself even though no one is doing it on purpose.

                1. Anon4This*

                  I meant that all of the interviewed well and had the core skills that we look for in any applicant to the job – it was a counterpoint to the idea that nepotism hires are unqualified and more trouble than they’re worth. In my experience, people like the LW’s friend’s daughter are often qualified for the entry-level roles they are networked into and invested in doing well. There’s the rare dud, but this back-scratching happens because it works out well for all involved more often than not.

                  I am also unusual in that I am actively interviewing when these candidates come through and do see the pool of candidates – when I have someone who must be hired, it’s done as a bonus hire to the role that I already have open. It’s my organization’s half-assed way of not passing over a public-posting applicant for a must-hire. Even when the must-hire is the best candidate, they’re a plus-one to the hire that applied through the job posting. The nature of the work makes it easy to accommodate additional staff.

                  And, bottom line, most of these hires are new to the workforce, so one having head-and-shoulders above credentials is unusual and we’re divining for potential and who will require the least training. It’s much harder to slide a nepotism hire in for an experience-required position.

                  I am not saying it’s right or doesn’t suck, but referral hiring isn’t often the disaster of the unqualified taking jobs from the qualified. I see far worse in terms of job fit from letters about family businesses that put Junior fresh from college in charge of a team with decades of experience.

                2. EEOC Counselor*

                  Anon4This, I understand the point you’re trying to make and get your thought process. My point though, isn’t the disaster of the unqualified getting it over the qualified. It’s the disaster of those who are already privileged getting additional opportunities that aren’t available to others who are less privileged. It doesn’t mean you have bad intentions, but I feel like you’re glossing over that problem.

        4. BigTenProfessor*

          Legally, you are wrong. The person in question is neither a job applicant nor an employee, and has no legal protections as such.

          Morally, you are also wrong, but I don’t know if you are being deliberately obtuse or not. If you are not, there is PLENTY of reading out there on why/how unpaid internships perpetuate inequality.

          1. Confused in DC*

            Do you have any legal cites? Happy to admit I’m wrong if there’s law or interpretation on point.

            1. MsM*

              You seriously think a lawsuit built on not getting hired for a job that doesn’t exist would’ve advanced far enough for there to be citations?

                1. Observer*

                  Confused, in case you missed it, here is the takeaway quote you should be looking at:

                  “It is also illegal for an employer to recruit new employees in a way that discriminates against them because of their race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

                  For example, an employer’s reliance on word-of-mouth recruitment by its mostly Hispanic work force may violate the law if the result is that almost all new hires are Hispanic.”

                  (I added the italics.)

            2. BigTenProfessor*

              I can’t prove a negative, here. There is nothing in EEOC guidelines that covers, “your mom’s friend called someone and asked her to make a job for you.”

              1. Confused in DC*

                It’s not proving a negative. The question to me is would it count as “recruitment” under the Civil Rights Act. I’m not an employment or civil rights attorney so I don’t know for sure.

                1. EPLawyer*

                  OP is NOT recruiting. She never advertised or considered advertising the job. Colleague called out of the blue and suggested that her daughter be OP’s intern. You keep sliding over this basic fact to make it seem like this poor child is missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime because her parents happen to have money.

                2. Mary Connell*

                  I was going to let this slide due to the request above, but every so often AAM gets someone sealioning with white supremacist talking points.

                  (Sealioning is “pursuing people with persistent requests for evidence or repeated questions, while maintaining a pretense of civility and sincerity.” Hopefully I don’t need to define white supremacism.)

                3. Confused in DC*

                  Whoa, whoa, whoa, come on now. I’m not sure how saying “I applaud OP’s intentions but think going about it this way opens them up to legal liability” suddenly makes me a secret mouthpiece for white supremacy. That’s way out of line. Sorry, Alison, I’m letting this issue go since I’m clearly in the (sole?) minority on the legal issue but comments like this seem really unwarranted.

                4. Observer*

                  Considering that you keep on insisting that the OP is on legally shaky ground and have made multiple requests for “proof”, the accusation of sealioning makes a lot of sense.

                  If being called on it makes you drop it, then I have to say that it’s not a bad outcome. If you REALLY didn’t mean it that way, then it’s worthwhile to step back and consider how you are communicating.

            3. Well...*

              Do you? You’ve kept this argument going past two weigh-ins from AMA. I think the language used (not having time to do a full search) to justify not hiring this applicant seems perfectly reasonable.

              In fact recently a postdoc I was interested turned me down for this exact reason. They had funding, but the funding just didn’t come through in time for interested candidates to apply,1 hear back, and make an informed choice against other options (except me, who had an in through my network) so they were going to not offer the job to anyone, wait a year, and do a full search (meaning everyone looking this year likely won’t be in the running). They didn’t say why, but getting the best person for the job rather than the person who had a heads up about funding is probably the reason.

              Now at this point I’m ready to accept that was perfectly legal without going to experts, but you are not. IMO the burden of producing citation evidence is on you.

              1. Confused in DC*

                Fair enough. Here’s some text from the EEOC about recruiting –

                “The process of screening or culling recruits presents another opportunity for discrimination. Race obviously cannot be used as a screening criterion. Nor may employers use a screening criterion that has a significantly disparate racial impact unless it is proven to be job related and consistent with business necessity.“

                Now, at the same time, the EEOC warns that relying on word-of-mouth can result (intentionally or unintentionally) in a racially biased recruitment process. So there’s a tension there. The thing about OP2’s situation that makes it somewhat unique is that the OP doesn’t have time to run a race/privilege-neutral process. So it’s hire this person (which the OP seems like they would do otherwise) or hire no one, really. That’s where the question came up for me.

                1. Carlie*

                  There are no recruits to screen, because there is no position. OP2 is saying not just that they don’t have time to run the process, but don’t have time to create the position at all. There is no position. And if there was a position, it is in the best interest of the company to run a full, open recruitment process to find the best candidate possible. But that doesn’t even matter, because there is no position, and there is no recruitment process, therefore there are no recruits to be screened.

                2. hbc*

                  I get what you’re saying, I think. If the janitor came up and asked if there was a potential internship for his minority, lower-class kid, the OP might actually follow through. So, theoretically, the only reason this kid isn’t getting a job is skin color.

                  Problem is, theory doesn’t match reality. That janitor’s kid wouldn’t be able to work for free, the janitor at the other site probably doesn’t have the info to call up OP and ask this even if they knew each other somehow, and it is massively riskier for someone further down the ladder to be all “Hey, make a job for my kid please.” This isn’t so much denying a job to a white person as refusing to do work to give someone with privilege another boost. The reason it’s “this kid or nobody” came about is exactly why this kid should be turned down/

                3. HB*

                  Carlie said this as well but I wanted to put this another way:

                  Do you know what the best argument to use if you’re ever accused of copyright infringement is?

                  It’s not Fair Use (which is what everyone says), it’s to argue *there was no infringement in the first place*. Fair Use is a *defense* which means that you’re already admitting that the plaintiff had a valid copyright, and you infringed upon it.

                  The best argument is to say that there was no infringement in the first place because that can get dismissed by summary judgement in the pleading phase. No need for a trial.

                  As Carlie also says below: there is no position. That means there *can’t* be any recruitment.

                  You seem to be hung up on the idea that because there could, theoretically be a position that means that all the EEOC guidelines come into play. But they can’t. Because there is no intern position. A pregnant woman can’t sue a company for not hiring her when she mentions that it looks like they need a new receptionist and they say “We’re not hiring right now, and also we would never hire a pregnant woman” BECAUSE THERE IS NO POSITION. They would be assholes, and the next time they open up a position that statement should come back to bite them on the ass, but otherwise they haven’t done anything wrong (except be assholes).

                  This also demonstrates why the situation at hand is terrible, and why the OP is doing the right thing by declining. Because the position *doesn’t* exist, but *could* exist for this one person by virtue of family connections. Imagine if all companies simply never had formal hiring processes. They just waited for their friends to approach them with “Hey, my son or daughter just graduated from Generic Ivy League College and needs a job” and they said “Well actually we’re not hiring but let me see if we can create a position for them.”

                  If you wanted to get really, really nebulous with definitions of recruiting whereby instead of recruiting for open positions you were recruiting for potential, could-be positions, THEN maybe this situation would apply. But 1) That’s not what recruiting means and 2) If it did, then the OP did the right thing by not wanting to do that unless they could create a fair and equitable hiring process.

                4. Observer*

                  There is absolutely nothing in this quote that indicates that the OP actually needs to create a position and process where one does not exist, simply because the first person who asked for a favor was white.

                  The decision to actually create a position or not has nothing to do with the screening process.

                  This quote is not a sign of good faith questioning.

        5. andy*

          It is absolutely legal to not hire someone, because you decided you wont create special position that would not exist had this persons mom was not your friend. You having philosophical reason of rejecting nepotism due to it leading to more inequality does not make it illegal.

        6. Observer*

          You know, I’ve always wondered how people get so invested in the fanastical narrative of white oppression in the US. Thanks for a good example of the process.

      2. Susana*

        There’s no added cost of an unpaid internship of the student is getting college credit. I really wish people would see the difference. Yeah, asking a student to work free summers or after class with no compensation at all – meaning no class credit – is biased in favor of students with money. NOT TRUE when it comes to internships that replace college classes.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Cost to whom? This really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Is it because college class replacements are typically advertised to all eligible students and includes an open application process? That’s not what’s happening here. Do internships that replace college classes magically come with a place to live and living expenses for people whose families cannot afford that for them? Because, if not, those unpaid internships for credit are still only available to people who are able to afford relocation, housing, and living while not being paid. College credit is not payment for work; it’s paying to work for free and you hopefully get some sort of worthwhile experience or network out of it.

          Internships also nearly always cost employers money. I know a lot of people think, “wow, free labor!” but there is a lot of effort that goes into running (real) recruiting processes, training interns, providing feedback, and complying with whatever requirements a school may have, if credit is involved. It’s a hassle, and I can see why OP is not able to do a full process.

          1. Courageous cat*

            What they’re saying (and I don’t necessarily agree with this but I see their point) is that if you have to pay tuition, and you take class credits. For one of those class credits, either you take a class (that doesn’t pay you), or you take an internship (that doesn’t pay you). In the scenario this commenter is referring to, the internship is basically seen a class. Of course, materially it is very different, but because it replaces the time of a college class (and more – which is the part I don’t agree with) AND gives you the same *credits* of a college class, it may be viewed through a lens of being the same thing in many (not all) ways.

            1. Courageous cat*

              Jesus I really failed to proofread this one.
              “the point is that* you have to pay tuition, and you take class credits”
              “the internship is basically seen as* a class”

        2. Mockingdragon*

          There’s always a *time* cost, though. I had time in college to do a couple of internships for credit, because I wasn’t spending my free time working a paying job to get through school. It’s not a one-to-one.

        3. VelociraptorAttack*

          I worked in higher education career services overseeing internships. Not only do students not get paid but then they actually have to pay for the college credits and for a lot of students, that remains a significant hurdle. So no, unpaid internships 100% are biased in favor of students with money and it’s completely unrealistic to say that getting credit negates that in any way.

          And aside from professional experience on the side of the university, I say this as someone who did an unpaid internship in college myself because it was (is) standard for my field of study (political science). Although I got college credit for it, I still had to work full time because I was supporting myself and it wasn’t easy working two full time jobs.

    4. PollyQ*

      There’s Option 3 — lobby to have the position be open to multiple applicants, and ideally be paid.

      1. Analyst Editor*

        The issue with that one is, resources are finite. There might be work and a bit of time to teach one part-time unpaid intern the ropes, and not hire a paid one and pay an HR recruiter to do a whole search for it. So there is definitely a threshold over which either someone privileged gets it, or nobody does.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          This neatly sums up unpaid internships in general: “either someone privileged gets it, or nobody does.”

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m going to ask that we take her at her word that she doesn’t have time to do that, or we’re changing a key component of the question!

      3. Chinook*

        If the position is for course credit, I don’t know if paying is an option. My internship was as a student teacher and required for graduation. I paid for it and my supervising teacher was compensated by the university for the extra work she did. Due to professional norms, if I had been paid, I would have been expected to work unsupervised.

        Other professions work the same way, probably for legal reasons. It sucks but, if you are creating work for an employer rather than doing work, then you shouldn’t be paid. But, at the same time, nothing can replace on the job training to create the instincts and knowledge needed to succeed.

        1. Susana*

          Right, but your student teaching (like my newspaper internships) contributed to the retirements for your degree, right? So not unpaid, really.

          I had one paid internship and felt like I had won the lottery, since I got cash in addition to the course credit I would not have been paid to do otherwise.

        2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          My co-op terms in university had credits attached to them (IIRC) but I was also paid despite the co-op credits being necessary for having “honours co-operative option” on my degree. But again, it’s a different situation than a teaching or clinical practicum; even though both situations involve course credit, you can’t demonstrate the learning outcomes required for an education degree without a practicum, whereas that isn’t the case for my non-pre-professional discipline. I’m not sure if it’s a legal thing so much as it is about having no way of separating your practicum from your degree, and that you wouldn’t otherwise get paid for going to class.

        3. VelociraptorAttack*

          Paying is absolutely an option even if a student gets course credit. Certain fields are legally able to be unpaid but that doesn’t mean that they legally aren’t allowed to pay.

    5. Drag0nfly*

      I agree. “Privilege” is a stupid thing to be concerned about. Equality of opportunity is a goal to shoot for, but you do that by offering equality of opportunity, not cutting out opportunities for people *you* think have “privilege.” Bigotry based on “privilege” is NOT morally superior to the bigotry that cuts out opportunities for a black “inner city” kid because they’re “ghetto.” It’s precisely the same attitude, it’s just focused in a more socially acceptable direction. Do keep in mind that the second version was once socially acceptable, too. Try and get on the right side of history by rejecting BOTH sides of that coin.

      LW2, try for content of character: is this student hardworking? Educable? Would this opportunity be something she would *actually* learn from? If you have a pay-it-forward mentality, then take the young woman on board as you’re able. Now, if she would just sit around looking at her phone all day, and is only there to humor her parents? If you’re a good steward of your own time and resources, you skip her. You will actually have to talk to her a bit go get a sense of where her *character* falls, rather than make snap, superficial judgments based on your own prejudices.

      Down the line you can look for opportunities to offer paid internships. See last week’s post on how to broaden your applicant pool so that there’s *equality of opportunity* across the socio-economic & racial spectrum. If you’re genuinely concerned about equality, paid internships offered to a broad candidate pool is something you can bring up with your company. It’s a change you can roll up your sleeves to enact. You might even take on your coworker’s child to find out what you need to look for in an intern, and work out the bugs. Since the daughter is “privileged” you can’t damage her prospects the way you might for a kid who’s operating without a net. Win, win, win.

      Whatever you do, never make hiring decisions based on whether someone’s parents have more money than you think is “fair,” or because they have the *wrong-to-you* skin color. Go for character. Judge a person by what that person *does.* Why does this STILL have to be spelled out in 2020?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wow, no. Not going out of your way to create a special opportunity for someone whose parent has connections is in no way comparable to bigotry that closes doors to Black kids. It’s not even in the same town.

      2. Well...*

        I think you kind of missed to whole point of why people talk about privilege. If you narrow your definition of discrimination to “I chose person A over person B because of race/gender/etc” then inequalities will still be perpetuated in invisible ways. The people who study/work to address this mechanism needed a word for that phenomenon, and the word is privilege.

        If instead you create a job and make it only available only to person A, and ignore the existence of person B (your suggestion basically) the material effect is that A is given more opportunities than B, and that will be compounding as these advantages build on each other. The injustice persists.

        So yea, if you think the concept of privilege is stupid then I guess you’re fine with the latter, but this is exactly why people are talking about this in 2020.

        1. Confused in DC*

          This does make some sense – I hadn’t thought about all the down the road stuff; another poster said something similar. Assuming OP really, really does not have time for a full process, I can understand the rationale for not wanting to do an unpaid internship. I’ll have to look up some of the studies on how unpaid internships impact different groups.

          Still an open question to me on the legal question, but dropping per fairly clear instructions from Alison . . .

          1. Nikki*

            I think the impact of unpaid internships on different groups is pretty clear. A kid from a privileged family can easily take an unpaid internship because their parents are able to pay all their bills while they work for free. A kid from a poor family doesn’t have that option. Maybe they’re already working on the side to cover the cost of tuition and living expenses. They’re financially unable to work for free the way the privileged kid is because they need to earn money to live and afford school. So the privileged kid ends up with the advantage because they’ve gotten industry experience and made connections and the poor kid has missed out on that because they instead had to focus on working a minimum wage job to earn money.

            1. JonBob*

              Presumably, the daughter is going to get an internship somewhere. By making this unpaid internship, you’re freeing a spot in a potentially paid internship.

              1. Smithy*

                This assumption is no more accurate than making the assumption that the mother in question is doing this because her daughter is depressed or otherwise unmotivated and disinclined to do anything unless her mother identifies something for her to do.

                1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

                  Actually wouldn’t the daughter be getting an internship somewhere? It said that the internship would count for college credit, so it might be a mandatory internship for the curriculum the daughter is in?

                2. Smithy*


                  Lots of universities/colleges offer credit for internships without making them mandatory for a specific course or degree. Universities can offer a range of options to enhance or bolster the overall experience or specific degree track – like study abroad – sometimes mandatory, sometimes not.

                3. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

                  @ Smithy, thanks. I was looking at it more as the last semester of some grad schools, where students are supposed to get an internship (education, school counseling, public health, etc) and that is the only grade they get for the semester. Those are mandatory ones to graduate from the program.

                4. Smithy*

                  @AAL the OP’s daughter may very well have to get an internship for her program, but to my initial comment – it’s still an assumption.

                  And to add – if this is a program where an internship or externship is required to graduate and the student is struggling to identify any placement possibilities, then those are conversations the student can have with the university. Not the for the OP to have with the student’s mother.

              2. Nikki*

                That’s pretty faulty logic. It still means the poor kid has fewer choices than the privileged kid because they have fewer options for internships they can reasonably apply for. And I doubt a privileged kid is going to recognize their privilege and turn down paid internships in favor of unpaid ones in an effort to make sure poor kids have the opportunity.

              3. Quill*

                Not really. Internships vary greatly on how you apply. I got my one paid internship from a job board (and it was the summer after graduation) and I spent the three summers of college sick for two months, being a research fellow, and splitting time between an archaeology dig and undergrad thesis stuff, in that order.

              4. Nikki*

                My point is that if a privileged kid can take an internship regardless of pay but a poor kid needs to be paid a certain amount in order to make it work, that means the poor kid has fewer internships they can apply for. Say there are 10 internships available in a given field, 5 paid and 5 unpaid. The privileged kid can easily apply for all of them because they can make it work whether or not they get paid, so that doubles their chances of landing an internship compared to the poor kid. Hopefully the poor kid would manage to land one of the paid internships, but their odds are worse from the outset simply because they can’t afford to apply for all the spots that a privileged kid can.

                1. JonBob*

                  While I don’t assume that the daughter would intentionally turn down a paid internship to make sure poor kids have the opportunity, an unpaid internship does pull her out of the pool.

                  I can see the argument that unpaid internships will mostly go to those able to afford it, but feels like all these arguments are a little too zero-sum. If we take your numbers and add another unpaid internship and say that 7 privileged kids get the internships (5 + 2) and 3 underprivileged kids get the internships: is the risk of 8 priv/3 under worth the potential benefit of 7 priv/4 under?

                  (Late comment, moderation, blah blah)

              5. Ominous Adversary*

                If the daughter could have gotten a paid internship somewhere, her mom wouldn’t need to be calling on connections to CREATE AN INTERN POSITION where one doesn’t exist.

                Your premise makes no sense.

                1. Nikki*

                  In the situation you describe, the privilege gap is even worse. If the only way to get an internship in the field is to ask your parents to call people they know and request a new position be created just for their son or daughter, how is a poor child, who has no financial ability to work an unpaid internship and whose parent likely don’t have the same connections, supposed to compete with that?

                2. kt*

                  Yeah, mommy calling to get kid a job raises some red flags to me about the dynamics there. Why can’t this kid get a job the normal way?

                3. JonBob*

                  My premise was: “Hey, my daughter want’s an internship. Let’s first see if my job can provide one.” So, if it didn’t materialize, the daughter could pursue other internships.

                  (Sorry for late reply, others got caught in moderation)

            2. Susana*

              This only applies if there is no college credit for the internship. Otherwise, it’s just replacing classes with on the job training. Affects all college students the same. I had unpaid internships for college credit only (could not have done it otherwise; got zero help from parents for college). I also had a part time job for living expenses.

          2. Lexicat*

            There is no legal issue.

            You’re interpreting this as: there’s a position available, should op pick a white person, or a non-white person?

            The actual question is: should I create a position for my white friend’s daughter, or should I just skip the whole thing?

            Op has no current job opening. The question is: should I do something special for my colleague?

            Answer, regardless of circumstances: No.

          3. GigglyPuff*

            And you know, literally Alison’s response talked about down the road consequences.
            “You’d be giving her an advantage that will then help her get jobs over other people who didn’t have the same opportunity, and she’d be getting that advantage because of the sort of connections that are disproportionately tied to race and class.”

          4. HungryLawyer*

            Yeah, you’re doing a really good job dropping the subject given the umpteenth number of comments on this subject you’ve left. *eye roll* Your faux concern is annoying everyone, but it’s quite obvious that’s your intention.

      3. JSPA*

        “Cutting out opportunities for people *you* think have ‘privilege'” would look like, holding an open hiring for an internship, and then culling everyone you thought might be privileged.

        Declining to take someone on as a special favor is exactly that; not doing special favors. It’s anti – nepotism – by – proxy, not anti – person – suspected – of – privilege.

      4. hbc*

        “Why does this STILL have to be spelled out in 2020?”

        Because study after study has shown that color-blind policies are anything but.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          And that the entire idea of “meritocracy” favors those who can afford private schools, living in the “right” public school district, extracurriculars, and working for free. Generally, equality v. equity.

          Plus, of course, the irony that those who benefit from “meritocracy” are also the ones likely to have a mom who can call in a personal favor to have an internship created just for them via connections. That’s not merit, that’s being born to people with a network that benefits you.

      5. The Grey Lady*

        Dude, you’re acting like OP started a hiring process and then eliminated all the white kids for being too “privileged” to deserve it. There is no hiring process! There is no position available! The kid’s mother asked OP to create a position specifically for her daughter, and OP felt like doing that would be a little unfair. That’s it!

        Assuming this internship position were to actually open up in the future, OP just wants everyone to have a fair shot. She’s not saying she will eliminate all the white, rich kids from the pool. She’s saying she doesn’t want to ONLY offer it to the white, rich kids.

    6. MissGirl*

      Just a thought, OP, for down the road. I wasn’t able to take on full-time unpaid internships and, yes, that did disadvantage me. However I was able to do a few hours a week between school and work.

      An internship can be a half day a week. That way you’re not taking advantage of students and you’re providing an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise get.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I was only able to take an unpaid internship because the employer said upfront they didn’t care if they stuck to the school’s rigid schedule. So instead of working 40 hrs/week for 8 weeks, they let me work 32 hours/week for 10 weeks. That might not seem like much difference, but it allowed me to have second job that summer that paid my cost of living. I would leave the internship in the early afternoon to wait tables in the evening. If I had to work full 8-9 hour days, I wouldn’t have been available at 4pm to work at the cafe.

        Sometimes being a little flexible can mean all the difference to a student who otherwise couldn’t afford to take an opportunity. For me, it meant I was still able to afford to eat, but also that I could continue my education. It was required that I finish that internship before I could move on to my senior year of college!

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This subthread blows my whole mind.

      You cannot “reject” someone when there is no open position for them to apply to.

      Even if it’s unpaid, it is still company money in the sense that a workspace and equipment need to be provided and set up, people need to spend their time setting up the infrastructure, organizing the intern’s work etc.

      To assume that one person is entitled to having company time and money allocated specifically for them, for no reason other than their parent is an employee at the company and knows the right people, is in fact the height of privilege.

  7. Waving not Drowning (no longer Drowning not Waving)*

    LW1 – I’m sure my partner could have written your post.

    I would come home in tears over my managers treatment of my team (micromanaging, favouritism, neoptism, gossiping about others at work, indiscreet, unprofessional). I ultimately had a breakdown over it, which gave me the clarity that something needed to change, and I ramped up the job hunt, and left a few months later.

    The best thing my partner did during this time? He listened. He didn’t go into problem solving, he just listened. And he was there. He was my rock when there was chaos around me. He picked up the slack at home. He did the homework supervising. He took the kids to after school activities. He gave me breathing space. He gave me support. He encouraged me to go to my Dr. And when I was off work on stress leave he took me out for lunch, getting me out of the house. He was there.

    If he had gone to my boss/my bosses boss I would have been mortified. It would have damaged our relationship, the trust we have. He’s been in similar workplace situations, and I did the same for him.

    It is so hard to see the people we love be treated so badly. Your wife will come to the same realization that this is not healthy in her own time. In the meantime, as hard as it is, you just need to keep being there.

    1. sexibunny69 (babblemouth)*

      +1 to not doing “problem solving”. It can feel immensely infantilizing, and just one more person micromanaging you.

      1. Alex (UK)*

        Yes! My partner & I have a system, when one of us starts venting, that person will try to catch it in the moment and say “I’m just venting”/”I want your advice on something”, or if that doesn’t happen the other person will (politely) interrupt and ask “is this a vent/rant and you just need someone to listen, or are you asking for help & advice?”.

        In most cases it truly is “just ranting”, but stopping briefly to clarify the purpose of the conversation means that both parties have the same expectations, and annoying, unsolicited and unwanted advice isn’t given.

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          I have this system too, with my husband and friends, and it works wonders. Both my husband and I are natural problem solvers, it’s instinctive to us to try to find a solution even when it’s not our problem. So we need to be kindly but firmly told only our ears are being requested, and our mouths can stay shut! =)

      2. Kiki*

        Yes! It took some time for my partner to understand this because he saw it as offering practical solutions. I needed him to trust that I was making the best decisions possible in these situations and just support me as I worked through it. My partner attempting to problem solve also forced me to discuss in deep detail everything that was going on so he could see why some of his suggestions wouldn’t work. It ended up making us both more frustrated (it seemed like I was making up excuses to dismiss his ideas; I felt like he didn’t believe what I was saying) and using up more of my precious free time with work concerns.
        Ultimately, what helped me was therapy, specifically taking time to focus on untangling my entire identity with my performance at work. Ironically (maybe not to my therapist and other people familiar with these types of issues), after separating my self-worth from my work, my performance at work actually skyrocketed.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This is what my husband did when a previous job nearly killed me (not hyperbole). He wouldn’t tell me to resign, he made a lot of telling me that we could afford for me to resign, that it would be okay, that my mental state and physical would get better….

      That was the clincher that got me to walk out of that horrific job into unemployment. I knew he’d back me up.

      Had he tried any other method I doubt I would have been impressed.

    3. JSPA*

      The only person who can rethink their, “the only way out is through” mindset is the employee.

      The spouse can choose to help (knowing it might constitute enabling) or draw a line (knowing that it might be devastating) or muddle through.

      Instituting 9 hours per night of internet AND computer down – time (for everyone), under the heading of “saving our marriage / 9 hours is a reasonable minimum” might work.

      “I’m sleeping in the other room so that at least one of us gets sleep” is a fully autonomous choice.

      “Would you accept abuse like this in any other setting, and transfer that abuse to your loved ones” is a topic you can raise.

      “You’re excellent; if the manager won’t treat you as excellent, nor allow enough time to job – search, and is using sleep deprivation as a tool, consider that these are ways that cults and abusers manipulate the people under their control. You’re assuming there is a winning answer if you’re good enough and work hard enough. But that’s not necessarily true.”

      1. valentine*

        “I’m sleeping in the other room so that at least one of us gets sleep” is a fully autonomous choice.
        This is punishment. OP1 does not complain of lacking sleep, or even say the wife is working in their bedroom.

        “Would you accept abuse like this in any other setting, and transfer that abuse to your loved ones” is a topic you can raise.
        I see neither abuse nor transfer. The wife has not pushed back. We don’t know what happens if someone doesn’t check their email after hours or replies, “I’m done for the night. Since I start at 7, I can have x% complete by 9. I would need until 10 to complete it.” And OP1 is choosing to be upset about the wife working late and to assign themselves the task of interceding. They have a spouse, not employer, issue and the standing they have is to request she not vent or whatever else, not to tell her to avoid a smaller conflict (saying no or not responding), thus setting up a larger one (not meeting the deadline), or to get the boss to stop making demands so the wife doesn’t have to set boundaries.

        1. kt*

          Just because OP doesn’t say in a short letter to an advice column that this job is costing OP sleep doesn’t mean it’s not happening. If spouse is working until all hours of the night and then getting up at 4 am and etc., it’s quite reasonable to think that sleep is impinged upon. As a person who hates her spouse and all people on the planet when I don’t get enough sleep, I’ve had to make exactly this call a few times in the last few months. “Honey, I know your job is important to you and your computer is stuck near our bedroom, but there will be homicide or divorce if I don’t get enough sleep, so I’m sleeping downstairs.”

          1. Zweisatz*

            Yeah. As long as OP goes into it with the mindset “I understand this situation is tough but this is what I need to be happy and healthy in this situation” and that happens to be sleeping somewhere else, that is not punishment, that’s drawing a boundary.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This is really great advice and I admire your partner and the relationship you two have!

      My husband used to get angry when I was on 24/7 on-call support, and would get a call in the off hours. Without fail, he would tell me “Tell them you don’t take calls after work” man, what are you even talking about? I get *paid* to take calls after work. It’s right there in my job description. I guess he was trying to be supportive, but was being annoying and infuriating instead.

      1. Anon4This*

        Yes, it took us a long time to work this out, too. I am paid almost exactly twice what my spouse is, and that delta includes that I am highly available and respond to needs outside standard working hours. (Their position is hours-bound, paid hourly, and has a blanket OT prohibition, so, while I’m expected to pick up the phone or respond to the email at 8 p.m., they could be reprimanded for doing so.) It is literally part of my job description.

      2. Rosalind Montague*

        Agree so much here. I had to have a real heart-to-heart with my spouse when I changed career paths within my industry two years ago. Before, any work-from-home was self-managed. Now, I have periods where I am “on call” and expected to meet others’ often tight timelines. My spouse was used to me being able to say, “I won’t bring X project home tonight, because of family responsibilities.” He was very NOT used to me saying, “I could not plan for, but will be working late / on a weekend because of something out of my control.”

        We had to have a very big talk about how in so many ways this new job is better for me and my mental health, and part of what comes with this job is less flexibility and extra hours on occasion. I also had to be careful not to blame others (like my boss, who is amazing) because he was projecting his resentment onto them.

  8. BigTenProfessor*

    #3 — just make sure this isn’t one of those things that could be misread. My first thought on this was ANUSTART.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        “I always wanted to invent an anal bum cover. Failing to do so is my greatest regret!” – SNL

    1. WS*

      There’s a handy craft site which is unfortunately run by a woman named Lisa Sporn. And she used her own name as the domain name.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        There’s a town here in the UK called Penistone, I am sure they have had such issues, I am sure I have also heard of our other town Scunthorpe falling foul of filters!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Both those places caused major issues in our email profanity filter when I worked for the railway. Fun times :)

          1. Carlie*

            The comedian Adam Hills has a bit where he talks about profane UK town names (some made up by him, I think?) and half of the humor is his interaction with his sign language interpreter as they try to figure out how to sign them…

        2. SaeniaKite*

          There’s actually a Wikipedia page about the ‘scunthorpe problem’ referencing words that get rejected by indiscriminate filters despite being perfectly innocuous. I am actually from Scunthorpe and it got a bit ridiculous when we couldn’t search our own town name or access the local news site at school. Then again we couldn’t even Google Picasso so…

          1. Metadata minion*

            A teacher friend of mine has problems with Thai students whose names have the cluster “porn” in them — a moderately common morpheme in Thai — not being able to set up emails with their actual name because the profanity filter is too heavy-handed.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      One firm I worked at made your username from your first initial and the first 3 letters of your surname. Then they decided to make your email address with it. It was a tiny IT firm and was quite shocked when an Untermayer, C started.

      (They dropped that policy after)

      1. Andy*

        Okay, so I’m from Australia, where one of the slang terms we have for the toilet is “dunny.” One of the duties my team performs is to create user accounts, where possible following the convention [surname][first initial]. Leave it to the English-as-a-second-language guy from overseas to create the account for a Y. Dunn…
        She still has that account too!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Now I’m tempted to ask if you can create their address as ‘Dunny-On-The-Wold’…

        2. Wintermute*

          Dunny, or more commonly the full version “donniker”/”dunniken” was used the same way in carny slang, so “Don E. Kerr” became a sort of general-purpose alias when needed. Circus and carnival slang is a rather interesting topic to me.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        There’s a classic Dilbert with the pointy-haired boss ranting that emails are all standard first initial + last name and we make no exceptions. Last panel he’s thinking to himself “That Brenda Utts is a real troublemaker.”
        Glad to hear your management made the change.

      3. Wintermute*

        There’s a rather legendary exchange, often attributed to Accor Hotels, between a Bill Tchikavitch and a AJ Erkel about how Bill’s “First two letters of the first name, first three letters of the last name” email address cannot be changed, the punchline of which is “‘trust me, if we could, I would’ sent by ajerk”

    3. No Tribble At All*

      Or poor Megan Finger, whose college assigned emails [lastname][first 2 letters of first name]

      1. ThatGirl*

        This is entirely off-topic, but I went to college with a woman named A____ Skafish and was always highly amused that her email was askafish

        1. Metadata minion*


          A while back there was a student at the college I work at whose first-initial-last-name email came out to minbari@institution, and I always wanted to ask if he was a Babylon 5 fan and did it intentionally. (Students aren’t limited to default emails and can choose their own)

      2. KRM*

        A friend of mine was told that she needed a more ‘professional’ email in a career counseling session, like her first intial and last name. And she said “That’s what I have. It’s“.

  9. Brain the Brian*

    LW5: A single quick departure is *especially* not a red flag right now, when the whole world is whacky.

    1. Certaintroublemaker*

      My immediate thought as well. If the predecessor originated this online instruction position at this institution, she probably got headhunted to do the same somewhere else.

      And don’t worry too much about the credentials either. It sounds like the job description is a great fit. Someone trailblazing a program/position probably does have a different skill set than someone filling in an established role. If the job description is accurate, you’re fine. Go for it—the worst that could happen is that it turns out not to be a good fit on either your side or theirs. And you won’t know until you try.

    2. Carpe Librarium*

      I agree.
      Also, LW5 mentions that there’s been a boom in their niche. Are they sure the other person is actually leaving, or perhaps the department is expanding by adding another person to support increased workload.
      LW5 apply for the role since it interests you and you can always ask why the position is open; it’s a very common question from potential candidates.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        That was my first thought: perhaps it has been such a success that they’re expanding the department from 1 person to 2(+).

        Not a red flag at all, but definitely worth a question.

      2. Shhhh*

        This was my first thought as well – I can easily see a second position being added given the circumstances.

        1. Annony*

          Or she may have been hired to originate the position but they never intended to keep her there because she is overqualified. Do we know that she left the company or could she have been promoted?

      3. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, that was my thought as well — the overqualified new hire from 9 months ago is being promoted to supervise a new person at the original level.

      4. Letter Writer 5.*

        Letter Writer 5 here:

        The job appears to have at least two direct assistant managers, so I don’t think it’s an expansion of one role into two, but I could be wrong.

        I am worried two-fold I suppose, #1 was about the quick turnover, but #2 was the much higher credentials of the person currently in the position (nearly 2 decades more experience and higher leveled experience+ many high impact publications and 2 more degrees than I have (2 MA’s and a PHD to my one MA). At the moment, it looks like the person is still in their position, so I don’t know if they are being promoted or just leaving.

        So if that is what they get in an applicant, despite “only” asking for 5 years (and I have 10), I am worried about a work environment where they say they want someone of my experience, but actually want someone like the current person. Also, I really do have an amazing supportive workplace where the quantitative benefits are amazing (vacation days, sick days, health benefits) as well as the other benefits (working from home sometimes (prepandemic- one reason my department fairly seamlessly transitioned during the pandemic in my opinion). I also love my coworkers who are almost all dedicated and passionate and amazing. I am afraid of leaving a place I really love working for a toxic one (of which I’ve read quite a few on AAM, so I’ve felt lucky for my current workplace).

        Another potential strike against me is I haven’t had a title change in nearly 10 years (but no one at my level has had a title change despite us all being here for a while, it’s just not how the department functions (hence the lack of room for advancement). So although I’ve accumulated duties that would in other places have a manager/senior in the title, I still have my “entry level” title. I have curated my resume to reflect the large amount of responsibility I have despite this, and even spelled this out in my cover letter so it doesn’t look like I’m trying to jump directly from entry level to senior level.

        1. kt*

          It sounds like you’re talking yourself out of it based on pretty thin evidence. If you’re interested, apply! You can always turn it down :)

          1. Brain the Brian*

            Yes, apply if you want it! If you’re not what they’re for — well, you’ve got a good thing going now. And if you *are* what they’re looking for, make sure you’re interviewing *them* throughout the process so that you can make a fully informed decision. Make the point that you think you are ready for a significant title bump, and that you probably would have received title bumps along the way at other organizations but your current company Just Doesn’t Do It That Way.

            And, as a final note, especially in a field that’s so new, formal credentials are likely to matter a lot less than they do elsewhere. Where I work, we are moving a lot of our client work online, and we don’t really care if someone we hire to help us with that process has credentials as we do with other positions — we just need to see examples of their work, because the credentials specific to such a new field just don’t exist. (I think of my mom, who graduated from college in the ’70s with a degree in “math,” but has gone on to be an fabulously successful software engineer writing the code that makes airplanes fly. “Computer engineering” just plain old didn’t exist as a degree program back then, but boy oh boy, is she good at what she does!)

        2. Courageous cat*

          IMO I think this is a loooot to read into it if you’ve only just applied. You don’t even know if they’re interested in you yet. I would literally throw all this to the side and vow to pick back up this train of thought IF you have an interview and IF it goes well.

    3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      I want to add that single events are different than patterns. Single events are signs that it might be worth looking for a pattern, or keeping eyes open even wider. But they rarely enable us to draw conclusions by themselves.

      1. Letter Writer 5.*

        Besides the point- Cheap Ass Rolls might be the most hysterical Ask A Manager story ever.

  10. Urban Prof*

    For OP#2 – I just thought I’d mention that a growing number of colleges and universities will pay students (usually minimum wage) while they serve in an unpaid internship. Many higher ed institutions strongly encourage students to get some kind of exposure to a career of interest before they graduate, and these programs help less-privileged students to do just that.

    Perhaps you could inquire at the career centers of local colleges and/or universities. And while a desirable urban location can work in your favor, don’t worry if you’re not in such a place. You never know, maybe a student with relatives in your area is looking for an opportunity like this, and would treasure a summer internship with your company.

    1. Forrest*

      Here in the UK, we also love working with employers to offer Live Briefs/ Live Projects/ virtual internships to students. You could talk to your local universities and colleges and see whether the projects you’re thinking a out could be packaged up and offered to students for credit/experience without directly employing anyone.

      The caveat is that it has to be non-business critical work, because obviously some student projects go off the rails and don’t get completed! But if you’ve got some data sitting around that needs analysing, you’d like a little more market research done, you need those assets spruced up or put into a more manageable framework—we love this kind of stuff!

      Also, of course, we’re pushing this stuff twice as hard as before because so many actual placement opportunities are shut.

    2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “a growing number of colleges and universities will pay students (usually minimum wage) while they serve in an unpaid internship”

      In what places/country?

      1. No Name Yet*

        I went to a small all-women’s liberal arts college in New England (US), and they started a program like this over 20 years ago.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Correct. I have worked at a similar institutions which had (some/limited) funds to support students in unpaid internships. The key is that it generally is a nonprofit organization, and there may be other restrictions (internship duties, location, etc.), depending on the donor’s wishes.

      2. Aria*

        Both my undergrad and grad universities do that in the US, focusing on areas that are normally unpaid (fashion, media, politics, etc . . )

      3. Forrest*

        I’ve run programmes like this in the UK in the past with specific pots of government funding and with university money. Santander bank works with universities to provide similar schemes at the moment, and there are a few smaller charities and funds which partner with universities to offer similar schemes on a EDI basis.

    3. Reba*

      Yes, I’ve supervised a short-term intern on this basis!

      In a more common situation, where a student gets college credits toward the degree for the internship… I understand why it’s set up that way but I really don’t like it! In our case it means that the students are actually paying (the college) to work for free!

      We are permitted to have unpaid interns (non profit) but my organization is in the midst of a review of the internship program right now, with an eye toward creating more paid positions, for exactly the reasons of equity raised by the OP.

    4. Rock Prof*

      My university (small, regional public school in the US) had that type of program for a while but ran out of funding a couple years ago. I think this is the type of program, at least at public schools, that can be highly tied to the dominant politics of a state.

  11. allecto's sister*

    LW2 – While this isn’t directly related to your equity question, I’d be cautious of taking on an intern if your org doesn’t have a formal internship programme. My experience with interns is that supervising them is a lot of work! Giving them a meaningful experience is very different from having a colleague’s kid help with filing and I have personally struggled to keep them busy with interesting tasks when my team has hosted them. So as well as creating an opportunity for someone with family connections who can afford to work unpaid, you are potentially signing up for a bunch of extra work yourself.

    1. Scarlet2*

      Yeah, I’ve had a bunch of interns over the years and they’ve always significantly increased my workload.

    2. Jemima Bond*

      Very true. This isn’t the same situation really but two week ago I had a brand new staff member join us, for me to manage. He is part of a department-wide traineeship and will make a fine otter farmer one day and a programme of training, mentoring etc is laid out. However right now, immediately, before he is trained to access various systems or in basic techniques and requirements, it is taking up a LOT of my time just finding things for him to do, people to brief him, stuff to read, and then also discussing it with him , answering questions, checking understanding.
      I think if you havent got time right now to set up a formalised internship programme you probably haven’t got time for an intern who would need similar attention and cannot just be given some work to do straightaway. Plus if you do this as a one-off favour for a friend, then there’s the risk of ructions in your friendship if it all goes wrong or if it just turns out to be too much for you.
      No criticism in this by the way I’m sure you are more than capable* in your work; just another consideration of the impact of this or any internship.

      *that autocorrected to Alabama and I have no idea what that would mean!

    3. Sara without an H*

      True. I’ve hosted occasional interns and, while they were all polite and capable, they all required a significant time investment from me and my staff. A good internship really isn’t something you can set up on the fly.

      LW#2, I recommend you politely tell your friend that you just can’t manage it right now. Then add the idea “Organize diverse and inclusive internship program” to your list of things to do when you have more bandwidth.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      This. My team had an intern this summer, and it feel to me to keep him busy for a couple of weeks. He was pretty good for an intern, but he was an intern. LOT more work to review his work and provide feedback, especially because of the type of work it was we didn’t have easy templates. Would have taken me about 1/5 the time to just do the work myself.

    5. Quill*

      I’m sure that if my internship had been shorter (I was in for 4 months) it would have been significantly harder on my boss, who spent the majority of the first month training me to do routine data gathering work. Of course, where I worked there were a variety of fairly mundane things to do (File chemical information for new purchases, supervise a machine that scrubbed things a specific # of times, turn on and off spraying devices, time product drying times…) so I actually could, post-training, reduce the tasks in someone else’s workday.

      But if you need to spend 1 month training a Llama nail artist and a good 3 weeks of that is “llama polish preparation and workplace safety” and you think you can get an intern for the purposes of swatching 1000 polish colors for future reference, you gotta spend the 3+ weeks training, probably another 3+ on call to fix problems… with a summer break internship that lasts about 10 weeks you may not get much out of the internship over all.

    6. Koala dreams*

      That’s a good point. As the internship is for credits, it will have to be approved from the school, there’s paperwork, and then you’ll find that an intern will need more time than expected (things always need more time the first time you do them). They’ll need to learn office norms, company culture, work specific things. Finding a suitable project for the intern is only the first, small step.

  12. Dan*


    I’m a data analyst and computer programmer who does government contracting work. While PollyQ is correct that often times this work is done by salaried employees and the minutiae sort of doesn’t matter, in the government contracting world, it’s a bit different. I’m required to “account” for all work that I perform and charge it to projects accordingly. If I account for less than 80 hours of project work every two weeks, the difference is coming out of my personal leave balance. If I’m out of personal leave, the difference comes out of my paycheck.

    If it takes me 4 hours or whatever to chase a bug out of a program and I wasn’t planning for it, it takes me 4 hours to chase that bug out and I legally have every right to charge that time. We are told that we shouldn’t work for free for two reasons. 1) It’s illegal. 2) It’s a disservice for costing out contracts and submitting bids. If it’s truly taking 60 hours to complete a task and we only report 40 hours, it throws off accurate labor cost estimates. Some debugging and error correcting does come with the territory, so performing that work for free looks good in the short term but has long term implications.

    That said… I use my judgement. If I’m truly an inefficient/unproductive worker, that has long term career implications. If a task that “should” have taken me 40 hours took me 45 because of a stupid bug of my own making, I might just eat the time, depending on how good of an image I want to present. But if a task that “should” have taken me 40 hours took me 60 because the bugs were really buried in the code, I’m charging every bit of it, even if somebody else could have done it in 45 hours. (My boss can chase things out faster because he wrote the original code. I am not my boss and can’t do things as fast. Comes with the territory.)

    1. OP #4*

      Thanks, that’s exactly what I was wondering about! I didn’t know how the business world handled this.

    2. Summersun*

      Agree with Dan. I work more in a UX capacity, but I spend a lot of time re-doing the same thing over and over due to scope creep and/or engineering design changes. I am specifically required to account for “original” work versus “rework” via our project management software. Accounting for troubleshooting and revisions is absolutely reasonable and needs to be an intrinsic part of every dev process, though of course your personal judgement of how your learning curve affects that accounting may vary.

    3. Hazel*

      And with code, you have to read through it and become familiar with it before you can fix any errors. That takes time.

      In addition to that, sometimes you just need to learn more about the thing you’re doing. I used to have a business partner who would say “yes” to everything (can you guys write a help applet? absolutely!) We did not have a clue about how to do that. This was back in the day when it actually wasn’t very difficult, so that worked out OK, but in a case like that, if I needed several hours of just getting up to speed (on something I said I could do), I wouldn’t charge for that time.

      However, I’m now contracting at a company, and during the interviews, I was clear with them about what I did not know and said that I would be glad to learn. And after starting the job, when I found myself saying (a lot) “I’ll find out” or “I’ll need to look into that,” I double checked with my manager to be sure he knew that I was still learning everything. He was already aware, and he was fine with it. So my watching videos to learn new things in order to do the job is definitely time I charge for. I hope that’s helpful.

  13. Brob*

    So privileged white people don’t deserve internships and opportunities? I understand that the system is skewed against minorities. But how will denying this kid an internship make one bit of difference? It’s not like he’s taking the internship from a person of color. There isn’t a big internship program there where OP could pick and choose. It’s a situation where if this kid doesn’t get it, then there just won’t be any interns at that company. So its better to have no intern at all than a white one? I’m all for leveling the playing field, but this is taking it too far.

    1. sexibunny69 (babblemouth)*

      Here’s how it makes an impact: this person will now have on their CV an experience that an underprivileged person would not, making them more eligible for another internship or job, that one being paid. It perpetuates a system in which some people get a leg up and others have to spend years getting in their industry of choice.

      1. Grey Coder*

        Exactly, and not only will this person have an internship on their CV that an underprivileged person would not, it will be an internship that someone without the family connection could not possibly ever have had. Because there is no internship program, and the opportunity is being created exclusively for that person.

        And not only is the internship on their CV, they have the opportunity to learn skills and make connections which will help them in the future. This is how privilege perpetuates itself without the need for explicit discrimination.

      2. lazy intellectual*

        I consider myself a generally privileged person with formal education but am a nonwhite female. It took me 5 years to get a job in my niche, white male-dominated field (that I studied in) where it is difficult to land even an entry-level job without having some sort of connection or interning below minimum wage (or no wage at all).

        I’m having a lot of trouble understanding why people can’t understand how unpaid internships are exclusionary, even if they have a formal hiring process (which isn’t the case in OP2’s situation.)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          It took a lot of effort and struggles for me to get to jobs that white male well off people had got into straight from university. Granted I’m disabled, but it still remains I could never have worked for free.

          (Also make internships as accessible to the disabled as you can plz as a sidenote)

          1. Quill*

            Was just having this conversation with a friend who had to bail on his doctorate recently:

            Me: at least your resume comes up as Guy Dudename, they’ll probably be a little quicker to hire you.
            Him: Unless someone recognizes my last name as being latino, I’m not sure it’s going to be much better to be Guy Nombre-De-Hombre.

            Me: … at least you have the Master’s degree. Those of us with a lowly BS are basically lab tissue at this point.

    2. Jemima Bond*

      It’s precisely because there’s no Internship programme in place. This isn’t a selection process, it is a favour being asked, enabled by the privilege of family connections. I’ll try to post a link but if you google “cartoon about privilege” the top result is from boredpanda and it explains this very well – hallway down there’s two frames that are almost exactly this “I know someone, I can get you an internship” situation.

        1. Ron McDon*

          I’ve never seen that before, that is so good. Really thought provoking.

          Thanks for posting the link!

    3. lazy intellectual*

      Equality is not equity. Denying a privileged person an internship that *does not exist* does not, in any way, have the same negative impact systemic discrimination has on marginalized groups. This is the third comment I’ve already seen like this and it’s driving me up the all. It’s like people saying “All Lives Matter”.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      No. They don’t get to go for jobs that have been specifically created for them and denied to anybody else. I can’t see why that would be a good entry to the workplace anyway because in the ‘real world’ when they apply for jobs they’ll be going up against people of all colours/creeds/genders/abilities etc*

      (*in a company with non discriminatory hiring)

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        I’d like to agree with you, but unfortunately all too often even in the “real world” this is also precisely the way it works. These sorts of inside favors can continue all throughout a persons career.

    5. andy*

      This sounds a lot like “equality feels like oppression” case.

      The idea that since mom knows op, therefore op should create unpaid internship position else op is discriminating against the student by not going out of her way to accommodate is absurd. I mean, in a lot of ways I benefited from personal connections in the past and still manage not to see that as entitlement world is owing to me.

      In all seriousness, how in the world do people manage to see this particular situation as denying opportunities to that student?

    6. EPLawyer*

      No one will have an internship because there is NO internship to be had.

      Colleague calling OP out of the blue and asking that an internship be created just for her kid is the very definition of privilege.

      1. Brob*

        So I own a business, and my friend calls asking if I’d hire her kid. I hadn’t considered hiring anyone, but after thinking about it, I decide, sure, I could use some help. But I’m not allowed to hire him/her because that will be unfair to minorities?

        1. EPLawyer*

          You can do it. Nobody says you can’t. but yes, it is. because the job is gotten based on who you know, not skills.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          No, but if you’re going to create a job you should open it to other applicants as well. If he turns out to be the best for the role then of course nobody is saying you can’t hire them.

        3. sexibunny69 (babblemouth)*

          The point we are making is that while you *can* do that, you should know that it’s decisions like this that end up reinforcing inequalities and generational privilege (or lack thereof). What you choose to do knowing this is entirely up to you.

        4. Oh No She Di'int*

          “Hey friend, I’m not really hiring anyone right now, but I’ll give it some thought. If I do decide to create a position, I’ll advertise it around. I’d be more than happy for your kid to submit an application in that process. If they turn out to be the best for the job (based on skills and not simply on the fact that you and I happen to be in the same social circle) then I’d be glad to hire them.”

          That’s what someone says who’s interested in making a fairer world.

        5. Courageous cat*

          What even is with this rephrasing? You’re literally rehashing this post exactly only changing internship -> job so what’s the point of re-asking?

      2. AndersonDarling*

        I’m wondering if the friend even expects there to be an internship, or if they want the OP to let their kid sit around the office playing games and goof off on social media for three months and call it an internship.
        I watched the CEO “intern” a friend’s daughter and it was all shopping trips, pedicures, and talking about designer clothes. The intern’s project was handed off to other staff to complete and the intern was coached on how to present it to their professor.

    7. hbc*

      Yes, it’s better to have no intern there than a white one who is only in the position because her mother has connections.

    8. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “So privileged white people don’t deserve internships and opportunities?”

      “Deserve”? Right, they don’t deserve internships. At least those not accessible to less privileged people.

    9. Jennifer*

      Lol! Did you seriously just ask this. Privileged white people ALREADY get the majority of internships and opportunities. The mom will probably just call someone else. This is about evening the playing field so everyone gets the same opportunity. What exactly are you talking about?

    10. LilPinkSock*

      The friend’s kid isn’t missing out on an internship, because there *is* no internship. Nothing is being taken away from anyone in this situation.

    11. Batgirl*

      It’s more that you don’t deserve internships and opportunities simply because you’re a privileged white person. Why should OP teach someone that they are owed help just because they have the right mother?

    12. fhgwhgads*

      There is no internship. The request from the colleague is “create one out of thin air for my kid”. Since it’s unpaid and for-credit, it needs to be primarily educational for the intern. So the request is “please do a whole bunch of work so my specific kid can have this experience”.
      The company’s intention was always to have no intern at all. So, regardless of the race of the kid in question, yes it likely is better to have no intern at all, since that was their plan in the first place.

    13. Oh No She Di'int*

      Person: Will you please build me a special school where none currently exists, in which I’ll have access to great teachers and excellent resources designed around me and open only to me? And where not only can no one else get in, but no one else can even hope to find out that it exists?

      Employer: No, I will not continue that sort of privileged practice.

      Person: Reverse racism! You’re against me because I’m white! Build me my special school!

      That’s the argument you’re making.

    14. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It’s not because the kid is white. It’s because the kid has an in that no one else has through their mom’s connection with OP.

    15. kt*

      Choosing not to do a bunch of extra work and create a position out of thin air for someone who’s mom is trying to get them a job they can’t even bother proposing themselves is not “denying someone an internship”.

      Now that I know this is how the game is played, I’m gonna go to Google and tell them they need to make a job for me because my second cousin once removed works there and then sue them in the court of public opinion for not making up a job for me, charging them with discrimination ’cause I’m white!

    16. Seacalliope*

      “So privileged white people don’t deserve internships and opportunities?”

      They do not deserve new positions to be made for them, just because mommy has friebnds, so they can build even more privelege for themselves and get even further ahead.

    17. Observer*

      So privileged white people don’t deserve internships and opportunities?

      Are you SERIOUSLY suggesting that this young person will have no opportunities if this is not done for her?

      I’m all for leveling the playing field, but this is taking it too far.

      Why is this “too far”? Why should the OP actually go to some effort to create an opportunity for someone who already has a good many opportunities, that will then give them an even greater advantage over someone whose opportunities are far more limited?

  14. sexibunny69 (babblemouth)*

    Now changing my user name to sexibunny69.

    LW1: trust me, I get the impulse. It’s difficult to sit on the sidelines and watch your partner overwork themselves into the ground for an awful boss. But she needs to work through this herself, and you need to support her. But supporting her is not fighting her work battles for her. She knows the situation best. She might know for instance, that if she sticks it out for 3 more months, she’ll have an opportunity to transfer to another department. Or that if she pisses off her boos she’ll find herself jobless is an industry that isn’t hiring much right now. Or a million other things.

    If this is causing problems for your relationship and your family, by all means talk to her about this. But this is the only level where you should get involved.

    1. Myrin*

      This is a very reasonable, kind, and succinct response, complete with OP’s wife pissing off her “boos” – the new boss seems to loom like a ghost in OP’s home and she should address that with her wife if it affects her wife’s wellbeing and their relationship dynamic (which it sounds like is the case but on the other hand, it almost seems like OP is more stressed about this than her wife is? Hard to tell without hearing the wife’s side of the story, of course).

      OP asks what to do for her wife and the answer really is “be there for her, stand behind her, encourage her to make the decisions which she deems best for herself”.

      1. Onomatopoetic*

        Very well put. I do get the impulse too. I had to watch my partner rack up an absolutely illegal amount of overtime for a long time, at least a couple of years. It definitely took a toll on our relationship, especially as everything else fell on me (and probably contributed to my burn out some time later).

        Did I entertain the thought of tipping off the authorities? Definitely. But no. It would just have ruined our relationship, and probably gotten her into trouble too. Did I try to make her see reason? Absolutely. I did my best to tell her that it’s not sustainable, but in the end, it was her work to do or not.

        It was a small firm growing fast, no ill will, just bad management. They did fix it later and it’s better now. But the point is: it also gave her something, some kicks, that you only can get by giving a lot. You have to understand that too, and trust her. Support her, talk about what’s a normal work place, with normal expectations. Put up reasonable borders on how much it can affect you. But do not go against her in this.

  15. Calanthea*

    LW2 – If you think that you could be in a slightly different position in a year, maybe take on this intern as like, a proof of concept. You’ll be able to see if having an intern does indeed bring benefits to you/your org, and then use that infor to make the case to have an actual hiring process next year.
    If you can demonstrate that it’s a valid learning opportunity for the student/intern, maybe there are grants or bursaries available to them, so it wouldn’t necessarily be unpaid.
    I think, if you really are torn about this (rather than just no wanting to help out your colleagues kid!), there are ways to use this opportunity to help someone and build on it to help an even wider group of people.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      Or TPTB will say, we don’t need a budget for an intern since ____ did it unpaid last year, I heard _____’s kid wants an internship.

      And the cycle continues.

    2. Random Commenter*

      Just a reminder that, as Alison mentioned, a properly done internship is meant to bring benefits to the intern, not the employer.

      1. Smithy*

        This to the n’th degree.

        The benefit to the employer is in the more macro-sense that it helps the larger industry cultivate and growth the pool of talent when hiring for future roles. Internships created in this fashion are also often problematic because they don’t necessarily have the institutional oversight from the company to ensure it’s being done legally. Therefore an intern can end up assigned primarily the work of a should-be entry level staffer or assign projects that maybe only take a small portion of the interns hours per week (because hey – it’s easier, and then I can get back to my real job) and at the end of the day still gets the references, connections and networks.

        Not in the US – so not sure if it was legal or not – I took an internship/volunteer role with a consulting business to nonprofits. I was finishing up grad school and it gave me some immediate professional experience and reference. Ended up getting hired a month after graduation and later heard that the business owner was considered highly predatory and untrustworthy in the local nonprofit space. And it was also a key reason why I was brought in for an interview.

        A massively problematic piece of about unpaid internships is that even when they’re illegal, the primary harm is to people who can’t even access the system. And not to the person experiencing the labor law abuse.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        … then why should anyone hire interns if there’s no benefit to the employer?

        1. Observer*

          Because they want to do good? Because they want to insure a pipeline?

          Outside of the non-profit sector, it is ILLEGAL to allow people to work for you for free. As a society we make exceptions for unpaid interns with the idea that the intern will gain valuable experience from this unpaid labor. But since this is very, very open to abuse, the law says that the preponderance of the benefit has to go to the intern not the employer.

        2. kt*

          My company’s IT department has had a lot of conversations about internships as part of our commitment to our community and efforts to develop the local talent pool. We’re in the Midwest of the US and we need to develop local IT talent, because relatively few people are going to move here from SF or NY. We want local IT talent who won’t be afraid of snow, for instance. So the benefit of an internship short-term is to the intern — we don’t hire interns because they do a lot of great work right off the bat — but the benefit long-term is intended to be to the company, because we’re a big company headquartered here in the Midwest for the long haul, in an area with a shortage of qualified applicants.

        3. Smithy*

          The employer benefit is macro – that the talent pool of an industry is cultivated to reflect education, skills and backgrounds that are desired. As kt said – it may be about keeping skills sets in a region, but it can also be about bringing new skill sets into an industry. That can be on a more technical side (i.e. exposing students to IT careers in niche sectors) or an industry finding a need to cultivate a larger talent pool able to communicate their work to buyers/the public/government/etc.

        4. Starbuck*

          Some businesses donate to charity and sponsor sports teams, you know…. besides, benefits aren’t solely $$$

        5. Random Commenter*

          The benefit comes down the road when they graduate. They now have a new grad to hire who already knows their systems.
          Also, there can be tax incentives for taking on interns.

  16. jenkins*

    LW#1 – if your wife would kill you for doing something, doing it secretly behind her back doesn’t make it any better! She has really good reasons for not wanting you to fight her battles, so DON’T. It’s just not something you can do for a spouse.

  17. Nia*

    LW1: Your wife is an adult and capable of making her own choices. Allow her to do so. You seem to be questioning her judgment, but based on your letter, perhaps it’s yours that need further examination.

    LW2: Not that you should be strong-armed into granting internships, but it’s pretty gross to make a statement like “she obviously doesn’t need money” when lots of people do unpaid internships because that’s how you get experience and build relationships. So you can get jobs. To make money. Smacks of classism to me.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      People who do unpaid internships by definition don’t need the money. That’s why they can afford to do unpaid internships.

      Now what will happen is a lot of people saying how they suffered to do unpaid internships, put up with subpar accomodations, had to subsist on ramen etc. to be able to do an unpaid internship.

      None of these are good or fun things, and are often done by those with less privilege. But the fact is that if you were able to do an unpaid internship, no matter the circumstances you had to swing to do so, you’re still ahead of a sizable cohort who literally cannot afford to spend time not working for pay.

      And when the CVs are compared and someone has valuable work experience in their field vs. a candidate who had to spend their summers earning at an unrelated but paying job, who do you think will get hired?

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Not sure why pointing out there are people who literally can’t do unpaid work is an issue?

          I mean, I can’t.

          1. Rayray*

            Exactly. I worked part time and went to school full time. I couldn’t give up my job because I needed the money. Adding an unpaid internship on top of working and attending school would have completely burnt me out. Sure, I could have done fewer classes but it was better economically to attend full time because of the poll grants I received.

            When I found paid internships in my field, all the kids who’d had the opportunity to do unpaid internships got those ones too because they had more experience. It’s a terrible cycle.

            1. Koala dreams*

              Oh, grants that are discriminatory against underprivileged students are another pet peeve of mine. My old university had too many of these! They gave quite the picture of privilege and discrimination during history up to the present. To favour classes over internships seem quite nice in comparison, but I understand it’s a real problem for students.

        2. LDN Layabout*

          I don’t see an issue with my tone, but if there is, Alison is welcome to remove my comments.

          Internships tend to be, or at least the ones I’ve seen/had, are M-F 9-5 situations. That means evening/weekend only work. That will severely curtail someone’s ability to earn money.

          Unless you live somewhere where people can support themselves/their families easily on the back of entry level part time work. It’s certainly not the case in the UK.

          1. MsM*

            And even if you can squeeze in a second job without going over 40 hours a week, assuming the internship is any good, you’re still learning new skillsets, navigating office politics, trying to network…all the stuff that makes starting any new job tiring, particularly when you’re just starting out. Not to mention that the networking part gets severely hampered if you have to dash to your next assignment the second you’re off the clock.

          2. Koala dreams*

            Certainly an internship can be part-time! And the hours would depend heavily on the type of work, as well as the negotiations between employer and intern. A parent friendly workplace would take child care into account, for example.

            The thing that confuses me is that if it’s a full-time internship for full-time students (who get credit), then people who need to work full time couldn’t participate no matter if the internship is paid or unpaid. If you only want to give internships to less privileged people, then why target students in the first place?

            1. MsM*

              Good question! All the more reason to wait and think through exactly what kinds of applicants a formal program should target, no?

            2. LDN Layabout*

              Speaking in terms of internships typically designed to provide work experience/opportunities for students in university breaks, what a paid internship can do is ensure a student who otherwise has to work during the summers can earn money while also getting experience in their field.

              E.g. I had a friend at university who had to work during the summers, partly to support themselves in the summer and also for money during term where they could only work 2-3 days a week.

              A paid internship in the summer allowed her to earn what she would have done working in retail/food service, while also building her experience in the area she wanted to pursue post university.

              1. Colette*

                Yeah, I worked paid co-op jobs every second semester through university – I got work experience and was paid for it. (I did have to write a report every semester, and pay for the co-op class, but it still was a huge benefit.)

              2. Koala dreams*

                To be honest, it didn’t occur to me that the internship was during breaks, the fact that it’s August and that the internship is for credits made me assume it’s during the fall or the winter semester. I can see that a paid internship during breaks, which also gives you credit, is an extraordinarily good opportunity. It’s not common where I am. Do the students then graduate a semester early after a few such internships? Because that would be such a great opportunity! (And not something to offer to a friend as a small favour without much consideration, of course.)

                However, students still need to get their credits to graduate, and they aren’t paid for going to class. It’s very paternalistic to assume that less privileged students would prefer to take classes over an unpaid internship. If you worry about the interns losing their break time, you can simply align the working time for the internship with the semester, and set the breaks during the internship to be identical with the school breaks. If you only allow paid internships, you aren’t making sure that the less privileged students have a better chance, instead you reprieve them of the choice to take a class or take an internship, making the class the only alternative to get the degree. The privileged students can still afford to take the unpaid internship for no credits, but the less privileged students will have to find a paid internship or pay for class. How is that fair?

                You can of course decide you only want to offer internships to people with low or no education, and not offer internships for students. In several cities there are internship programmes for high school dropouts, usually age limited, where the students study part-time (either vocational training or high school subjects) and do part-time internships. I would definitely be in favour of more internships to underprivileged people in general.

                1. Colette*

                  I don’t follow your logic. If the internship is paid, anyone can work it during breaks or the school year instead of paid work. So someone who is underprivileged can give up the job they would otherwise have and work the internship for pay instead.

                  If it’s unpaid, they have to juggle school, a paying job, and an unpaid internship. You can get a loan for school; not for unpaid internships.

                  In my case, the coop jobs I had meant that the program was year-round, and that I graduated a semester later than I would have otherwise.

                2. Koala dreams*

                  To: Colette

                  You studied year around and it took you longer than for students who took breaks? That’s a surprise. Did they require more credits to graduate for co-op students?

                  My point is that you need credits to graduate, and usually you get credits by taking classes. If the school offers “internship classes”, then you can get credits by doing an internship too. If you take away unpaid internships, there would be less internships overall, so some students who wanted an internship would have to take classes instead. Those students graduate with the degree, while the students that got the paid internships can boast of both the degree and the work experience from the internship. (As well as having extra money!) If you can’t take time off work to study (in class or in an internship), then you won’t get the degree. I know that many people can’t afford to study in the first place, but paid internships to students wouldn’t solve that problem. After all, most schools require the vast majority of credits to be from classes.

                  You are right that for the student, a paid internship with credits is the best (no class and no extra work needed!), but I’m too cynic to think that many of those paid internships would go to underprivileged students. Students with rich families could have their families pay for their internships, or get extra consideration because of connections, while underprivileged students would need to fight that much harder for the opportunity, and be tempted to choose to take the familiar route of only classes instead of looking for internships… I hope you are right and I’m wrong!

                3. Formerly Ella Vader*

                  To KoalaDreams

                  I attended a similar undergraduate program to Colette’s. I spent 14 semesters registered – 8 of them doing full-time classes and 6 of them doing full time paid co-op work experience, for which I had to submit a report and which was graded C/NC. So yes, I guess that works out to more required credits than a typical honours degree that would be completed in 8 semesters on campus.

                4. Koala dreams*

                  To: Formerly
                  Wow, that’s quite unfair! It makes no sense at all to require more credits for co-op students. If anything, it should be the other way around. I’ve always had a positive view on co-op schools before, I guess I’ll have to change my mind now. I hope you are happy with your studies despite the extra time required.

          3. fhgwhgads*

            Internships for course credit that I’ve seen were usually not full time. They’re replacing a course (or two) and have comparable hours. So it wasn’t really about being able to afford working unpaid. The time was replacing time that would’ve otherwise been spent in class or doing class assignments. The one I can think of that was M-F 9-5 was worth a full semester’s credits.

            1. Koala dreams*

              I’ve seen both. Vocational schools often have part-time internships with one or two school days a week, while universities (college) could have either. If it’s during the semester, its common to offer a flexible schedule so the intern can fit in other classes

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            If it’s any comfort, I don’t see anything wrong with your tone either.

            (as someone who got seriously burned on another forum for asking someone to “please gently explain” because I felt that their tone was far too aggressive, I feel your pain!)

      1. Koala dreams*

        On the contrary, many people take out loans to be able to study. Some people choose to study because they can’t find a paying job without an education, some because they want a better job. The idea is that you pay back the loans and interest with your future income. (A bit like a payday loan, but less looked down on.)

        You might say that students are, on average, privileged compared to people who didn’t study. However, the solution to that is to hire people (or interns) without degrees, not to offer paid internships to students.

        At my workplace we’ve had interns in the past who have come to us after being unemployed. It doesn’t make sense to say that living on unemployment is to be privileged compared to people with jobs. Your two examples, having an unpaid internship or a paid job, both look good on the resume. Being unemployed and not having any work experience is much worse.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think your premise here is off. Not everyone is able to afford to work for free, because any work time they can spare needs to go toward earning money. They’re not choosing between being unemployed or having an unpaid internship; they’re choosing between earning money (often at low-wage, menial jobs that won’t help their resumes but which are necessary for them/their families to eat/pay rent/afford medical care) or doing unpaid internships.

          1. Koala dreams*

            I don’t live in your world where jobs, even menial low-paid jobs, are plentiful enough for everybody to get a job if they wanted. It sounds a lot better than my world, though. Where I live, unemployment is a real problem. It’s wrong to day that the people who live on unemployment do that because they choose not to work menial jobs.

            The students are certainly not choosing between working a job or doing an internship, because they need the credits and without the internship they would need to make it up with classes.

            1. MsM*

              I think you’re missing the point, or perhaps things do work differently in your part of the world. Not every program requires internships for credit (and, in fact, a student who doesn’t need to worry about whether their degree is going to immediately grant them access to a living wage is more likely to be doing one of those programs). So yes, you frequently do have to choose between boosting your resume or maintaining a positive bank account balance. And if you try to do both simultaneously, that’s not terribly fair to the people who just need the one job, is it?

              1. Koala dreams*

                I just feel that people who can’t afford to take time off work to study don’t compete with student internships in the first place. It feels weird to put those groups against each other, and ignore the other types of interns. *Shrug*

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Of course I’m not saying that people who live on unemployment are simply choosing not to work menial jobs – what an odd reading of what I wrote! I’m saying that many people are in a position where if the choice is a paid menial job that won’t help their resume or an unpaid internship that might, they need to pick the former.

              It’s … really common for people to need to work for money. Or if they’re unemployed, to be actively searching for paying work (and unable to commit to an unpaid internship because they’re hoping to find paying work ASAP), or to need to spend any non-money-earning time caring for family, etc. Or not even to be competitive for unpaid internships in the first place, because they haven’t had access to the types of experiences and/or connections that would make them so. I’m not sure where you live that there’s an abundance of educational internship opportunites being offered to people who aren’t able to get low-wage jobs, but it’s not happening here.

              1. Koala dreams*

                Employees can quit their job when they get a new job, and an intern could of course quit the internship when they get a new job. That’s part of deal. I’ve seen internships from two weeks to three months, but not yet seen an intern quit early, but it could happen of course. If you can’t accept people quitting, you have no business having employees in the first place, let alone interns. Usually time off for interviews is negotiated in the beginning of the internship, for example 5 hours a week off for job search and interviews in a full-time internship. After all, it’s good for the employer if the intern finds a job, since it will make their internship more attractive to future candidates, and employers often take on more interns than they can hire themselves. (I thought you already knew these things? Didn’t you write a series of posts about internships before?)

                You presume a paid internship would go to an underprivileged person who can’t afford to take time off work for their studies, while an unpaid internship would go to a privileged person that don’t need to work for a living. I disagree with this premise. I doubt we are going to come to an agreement, since the gulf between our positions is just too big.

                In my experience, most internships are offered to students (internships offered to unemployed people are less common). In the few cases where they aren’t, they usually require a class alongside the internship, for example as in the programme for high school dropouts I told about above. I can’t quite imagine the situation where paid internships are offered mostly to people who can’t afford to study. That’s the stumbling stone that makes me unable to follow your argument.

                1. kt*

                  Your answers here are so convoluted! “I can’t quite imagine the situation where paid internships are offered mostly to people who can’t afford to study.” WTH? Where did you get this creative interpretation?

                  All this… twisting of words makes me wonder what the motive is here. Since arguments on the internet that poor people don’t need money because they’ll just eat air and be homeless while working unpaid internships to become rich or whatever don’t actually change the position of anyone in the real world, regardless of income, it seems that maybe there is an organized effort here to normalize nepotism and graft? Help people think it’s okay to engage only in kleptocratic capitalism? Defend the idea that hiring based on family connections rather than qualifications is normal and in fact more ethical than requiring, oh, skills? I feel like we’re being set up for something. I am sad that we’ve gone from an ideal of helping the deserving succeed to reserving favors for the well-connected. You make me sad, Koala Dreams.

                2. Koala dreams*

                  To kt: I wish you would take my comments seriously, as I take the comments I respond to seriously. My English is not the best and I didn’t win any debate classes at school, but I’ve seen interns come and go at my workplace. I want to share my experience and my opinions from that perspective. Don’t be sad, it’s a good thing that people have different opinions and are free to express them.

                3. Granger*

                  Intentional trolling (because none of these assertions are realistic or reasonable, or reflect what AAM is *consistently* all about!)?

                4. kt*

                  To Koala Dreams: I guess we have very different experiences of reality. When I’ve dealt with unpaid internships for course credit, students don’t quit unless it’s under the most extraordinary of circumstances, because then they don’t get course credit, which they’re paying the college or university for. So it’s just a very different situation than an internship someone gets on their own. Moreover, internships for course credit are generally arranged for by the college or university, not by someone’s mom in her capacity as a mom. The organizations with which students intern do need to satisfy various qualifications and the internship needs to meet certain criteria. I have worked from the college/university side extensively with master’s students in the US who do internships in their industry. If they are international students, there are additional bookkeeping tasks require to ensure they’re legitimate internships that satisfy student visa requirements. The situation described in the original letter is so different that it simply confounds me that people would conflate them.

                  When students take internships over the summer, for pay or unpaid but not for course credit, they are usually between semesters or terms of study. Again, it’s rare for a student to quit such an internship for a full-time position because they are generally full-time students in the spring and fall surrounding the summer, and engaging in full-time employment in the coming fall generally involves dropping out of school or delaying graduation. Many students cannot engage in unpaid internships because many such internships are 9-5 and the student needs to earn enough money to pay for housing over the summer. These students aim for paid internships, or get a real job over the summer. Students who can afford not to spent the time doing paid or unpaid internships, or do research with people like me — I was explicitly in the position of creating research opportunities and summer education opportunities for students who did not or could not get summer internships. I was paid by the master’s program to create resume- and skill-building opportunities for students in this situation, and I enjoyed it.

                  Perhaps it’s the English language issue, but sentences like “You presume a paid internship would go to an underprivileged person who can’t afford to take time off work for their studies, while an unpaid internship would go to a privileged person that don’t need to work for a living” and “I can’t quite imagine the situation where paid internships are offered mostly to people who can’t afford to study” are simply a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what is being said in this discussion. I can’t tell if it’s inadvertent or willful, but it certainly makes it hard to have a sensible conversation!

                5. Koala dreams*

                  To kt:
                  My comments about quitting internships was about non-student internships. They aren’t common, but as it happens the company I work at has had several interns like that during the years. Most were unemployed prior to starting as interns, so it was a given that they would continue to look for work and go to interviews during their time as interns. If you want to offer internships for underprivileged people, I suggest to focus on non-student candidates (I’m sure there are better examples than unemployed people out there, that’s just my experience) and not limit the internship to students.

                  It’s great that your university arrange the internships! I imagine the experience is much better for the students that way. The university I went to expected students to apply for their own internships. Then the university and the employer would sign all the paperwork. If they didn’t find a suitable internship, they needed to take classes to make up the credits, which sometimes added an extra semester if all suitable classes were full. (Depending on the degree of course, some degrees have stricter requirements for graduating than others.) I agree that it’s hard to discuss when we come from such different starting points. The rest, well, let’s agree to disagree! Thanks for sharing your experience with student internships.

                6. Beehoppy*

                  Maybe this will help clarify. Assume there are two students. They are both enrolled at the same college where they attend classes September-May. Let’s say there are 10 summer internship opportunities available that both students would qualify for academically. Research shows 60% of internships are unpaid, so let’s say 6 of them are unpaid and 4 paid.

                  Student A comes from a wealthier family who pay for her schooling, so she has her summer free to take any sort of internship, paid or unpaid. She can apply for all 10 internships.

                  Student B’s family cannot afford to help her pay for school, so she will have to earn money during the summer to do so. If she is not able to get a paid internship, she will have to work a different job, unrelated to her degree, to earn money over the summer. So she is only able to apply for 4 of the 10 internships. Yes, she could take out a loan instead of working, but the student loan situation in America is terrible and will saddle her with massive debt going forward, which will also impact her career-limiting the jobs she can take to only those with a large enough salary to help pay down her debt, perhaps requiring her to have a much longer commute to afford housing, etc..

                  Student A has a much better chance of getting an internship, which will then make her a more attractive candidate to future employers.

                7. Koala dreams*

                  To: Beehoppy
                  Thank you for the explanation! It’s very clear. I don’t get why the internship needs to be in summer, but it isn’t important for the argument, I believe. (My beliefs about this argument is getting more and more confused, though.) I understand a lot better now, but I have one question left. How is the poor student going to afford to get all the credits for the degree? The privileged student got an internship every year and was able to graduate a semester early (or have a lower course load their last semester) while the poor student had to work and need to pay for their last semester of classes, since they didn’t get an internship. We have already established that they can’t work and study at the same time, and student loans are bad. From a financial point of view the problem just moved from earlier in the education, to later in the education.

                8. biobotb*

                  “I can’t quite imagine the situation where paid internships are offered mostly to people who can’t afford to study.”

                  No one’s made that argument. You are making that up, and then arguing with it. That’s the stumbling block, not AAM’s premise.

            3. Keymaster of Gozer*

              I can’t afford to work unpaid. I’m unemployed at the moment and have been for a while. It’s got nothing to do with refusing to do certain jobs (for instance I can’t do retail or anything involving manual labour) and Alison didn’t say that.

              Simply getting to a job can cost money, and if the work isn’t paid that’s money that isn’t there. If one has to use all currently available resources (money or time or effort) just to survive their regular day to day (which can be studying, many need to do paying work to pay for that!) then that leaves nothing left over to work at a job. It’s a horrible catch 22 for many people.

              Not everyone can afford to do unpaid work. It’s a fact.

            4. biobotb*

              Alison never said anyone can just get a job because they want one! Where are you getting that? Where did she say that people who are unemployed are just choosing not to work??

              But to your second point, yes, many students do have to choose between working a job and doing an internship, because they need to support themselves and their only internship options are unpaid.

              1. Koala dreams*

                This part:
                “They’re not choosing between being unemployed or having an unpaid internship; they’re choosing between earning money (often at low-wage, menial jobs that won’t help their resumes but which are necessary for them/their families to eat/pay rent/afford medical care) or doing unpaid internships”

                I disagree with the idea that less privileged students can’t be unemployed. If you are lucky enough to choose between paid work and an internship, good for you, but many people don’t have that option. And some of them are students. When you frame the issue as paid work Vs internship, you are ignoring the least privileged students. (Given that we limit the discussion to students, who are generally privileged compared to non-students).

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I didn’t say that less privileged students can’t be unemployed (??). I’m going to ask you to move on now because this is taking up a lot of airspace here and not making a lot of sense (and frankly there may just be a cultural chasm here that we’re not going to be able to bridge; I believe you’re in Sweden, so we’re referencing very different contexts).

      2. Carlie*

        And don’t forget the ones who “play” at being poor – they do it legitimately without help from their family, and scrape by to do so, but always know they have a huge safety net to use if needed. Not having that safety net is a huge source of long-term mental and physical stress that has been documented to exist and that simply cannot be simulated by someone who has one.

    2. What the What*

      Maybe it’s just geography, but anyone who has ever approached me for an unpaid internship has been a minority. Usually a new immigrant. There’s a lot of discrimination in my industry and region against immigrant candidates. Just getting basic entry level work experience can be a huge hurdle for someone with an accent, even when their English is fine.

      I don’t believe in unpaid internships and I think they’re exploitative (plus mostly illegal), and I know this stance frustrates the people asking, because if they could just get industry experience, things would go easier for them. It’s a hard decision. Not sure there’s a “right” answer. I often wonder if I should try to find a minimum wage role to toss them into, but the timing never seems right.

      1. Starbuck*

        The right answer is to pay them? I’m not sure why it’s a difficult question. If you want to avoid frustrating them, I guess you could just respond that you don’t have any positions available, since it’s true, if you can’t afford to pay any interns.

    3. LTL*

      “You seem to be questioning her judgment, but based on your letter, perhaps it’s yours that need further examination.”

      This is… uncalled for.

      1. Boringbunni48*

        I think it’s fine to reject someone on the basis of them having an inappropriate email address, but personally I think you could write to them to say why. This woman has probably applied for loads of jobs from the same address and doesn’t know why she’s being rejected. Go on, do her a favour as it will help her in the long run.

  18. CoffeeLover*

    #2 Honestly, I don’t know if I agree with the answer for number 2. The option you’re choosing between isn’t “hire this one person” or “hire someone after a fair and equal evaluation process”. Your option is “help 1 person” or “help no one”. While I wholeheartedly support promoting equal access (especially as a someone who moved to Canada as a refugee and was frustrated by this myself), I also don’t think it makes sense to take that moral stand in this case.

    But before I say, hire her… You say you don’t have the budget or time to hire an intern. Now that you’ve identified the opportunity – is this something you can put on your to-do/radar for next year? Can you campaign to set this thing up right? Is this really a yes/no decision you need to make now? If you really dig into it and see that no, you’ll never be able to make this into a paid internship with a fair interview process, then I say hire her. Or really I say interview her and evaluate whether she deserve the internship in her own right.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      If you really dig into it and see that no, you’ll never be able to make this into a paid internship with a fair interview process, then I say hire her.

      So the lesson here is that if you can’t actively effect change, you should just actively support an unfair system? Gross

      1. Coffeelover*

        It’s idealistic to think there aren’t situations where it makes more sense to hire your friend’s kid (if that kid is qualified) instead of having a full-on search and application process. Of course, we should strive for a better world, but a big part of that is just being aware of the privilege and questioning if there’s anything we can do about it. Sometimes the answer is no, not this time.

        I don’t think it’s fair or productive to say that we’re supporting systemic inequality when we hire a friend’s kid once if we do so while being aware of the privilege and having considered the alternatives and our ability to make this a fair process. You might say this becomes part of the pattern (if we all take this action then the cumulative effect is an unfair system), but at the end of the day you still need to make decisions based on specific circumstances. And in this circumstance, OP can either help someone or help no one (assuming what I said about finding the time and budget to make it a proper internship isn’t possible).

        1. LDN Layabout*

          What else is it then, if not supporting systemic inequality?

          Acknowledging that it’s not optimal does not then change the action or the outcome.

          And yes, we all make decisions every day that aren’t ideal in the system we operate in but saying they don’t feed into systemic inequality because we thought about it real hard is nonsense.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You’re missing that helping this one person is giving her an advantage that will then help her get jobs over other people who didn’t have the same opportunity, and she will be getting that advantage because of her parent’s connections. That perpetuates the problems that the OP is concerned with not contributing to. It’s actively giving her a leg up over people without those connections (and who does and doesn’t have those connections is tied up in race and class). That’s the whole point. That’s why the parent would like her to have the internship, and why the daughter is willing to work for free to do it.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Also, it kinda harms that daughter to do so because she’ll have no experience in going up against others for a job. Something like being rejected for a role, or going through a full hiring process is a normal part of work life and one I think you get a few letters about!

            1. MsM*

              And no experience in figuring out for herself what she actually wants to do and how to pursue that, instead of just going along with what Mom is able to offer. And I say this as a kid whose first job was also courtesy of Mom’s connections.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                That’s an excellent point too. Maybe she doesn’t even want to work in this field!

            2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

              As long as she can keep getting help, she’ll be fine. There are plenty of people in powerful places like that……

        3. hbc*

          This is pretty much a zero-sum game here, though. Giving a sandwich to one hungry homeless guy makes one guy’s life a little better and doesn’t hurt the others, even if the guy down the street might be a little more hungry or deserving or whatever.

          Sure, there might be situations where it makes sense to hire your friend’s kid. I got a summer job because my neighbor’s employee was suddenly going to be out for a month and he saved time and money not looking for someone. (All kinds of privilege played a part there, trust me, but it was at least in his self-interest to take me.) That’s miles different than doing *extra* work to give someone with privilege a leg up.

          1. Beehoppy*

            But now the one guy who had the sandwich has more energy to look for a job. Obviously this massively oversimplifying, but the point is choosing to help one person can have a butterfly effect throughout their life. So in this case, hiring the friend’s child COULD hurt someone else down the line when they both go to apply for the same job and she has an internship in her resume that the other person with no family connections doesn’t.

        4. sexibunny69 (babblemouth)*

          I regularly hire interns, and I see my position as one of the key pivots that can make or unmake a more inclusive and diverse world. In my job, I have an incredible amount of power to give a leg up to some people just entering the workplace. Who I select or don’t select for interviews and then for jobs makes an outsize difference.
          There have been global conversations on gender, racial and social inequalities in the past years. So many people have asked “what can I do” and THIS is one of the key answers: equitable hiring practices, especially early in a career, have an outsize power because they are the first domino to fall in a long series.
          I’m nowhere near done with improving my commitment to an inclusive workplace, but the first boxes on the checklist are: 1) make sure that the internships are paid; 2) don’t give preference to people just because they have friends or relatives in the company; 3) don’t expect 21 years old to have several internships under their belt already because that means they were probably unpaid.
          (and yes, all the interns are paid a living wage in my company, and I take enormous pride in that.)

          1. OP #2*

            This is a much more well-articulated version of the uneasiness I have been feeling about this request– thank you for laying it out so clearly. I also appreciate all the comments that note how much time it takes to supervise interns (it will increase my workload, not take projects off my plate. This sounds obvious, but I think I needed you folks to tell it to me again) and that there is no rush. I can easily re-visit the idea of offering an internship when I have more time to do it equitably and well. I think I got pulled into a trap of wanting to be nice– my colleague is nice; her daughter seems nice, and is apparently interested in my field. But that’s not really a good enough reason to do this just now. And the potential intern / daughter of my colleague will be just fine without this particular opportunity.

            1. Rosalind Montague*

              I think it’s so great that this question prompted such reflection and an opportunity to plan for the future. You’re an awesome employer!

        5. Starbuck*

          “I don’t think it’s fair or productive to say that we’re supporting systemic inequality when we hire a friend’s kid once if we do so while being aware of the privilege and having considered the alternatives and our ability to make this a fair process. ”

          You may not think it’s fair, but it’s true. Practicing blatant nepotism is absolutely supporting systemic inequality. “Awareness” is pretty worthless if it doesn’t lead to action. Your positive feelings towards equity and justice are worthless if you don’t put them into practice, and are not a moral license to make the wrong choice! Big yikes.

    2. Harper the Other One*

      Aside from my concerns about the fairness of this situation- if you don’t have the time to hire an intern, I don’t think you have the time to supervise one. Think about how much extra time it takes to do things when you’re training a new staff member; an internship typically takes even more supervision because they have less experience, possibly less knowledge of professional norms, and they will need a lot of guidance about standards for your organization. This is a project OP shouldn’t jump into because a colleague asked about an opportunity for their child; it requires real preparation and planning.

      1. Sunglass*


        I have a paid intern every summer (except this summer, thanks COVID) and while it’s often very rewarding and I’ve had some truly smart, driven, competent interns… it takes a huge amount of my time. I’m getting a lot more of my regular work done this summer now that I don’t have an intern to manage.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I’ve never taken on an intern, but have managed a fair few people on graduate training schemes and the workload is huge. I imagine interns are on the same scale: you can’t plop them at a desk, give them a login and tell them to ‘get on with it’!

          Additionally there’s the stress. You want these people to learn, to succeed, to gain experience but you have to put in your own time and effort, usually while doing your regular job.

        2. Mockingjay*

          I’d love to see a system in which ALL students are provided a paid internship in the course of their studies. Until we have that, bless those companies which can offer paid internships and reach out to disadvantaged communities.

          In addition to the problem of privilege, if OP brought on the student anyway, how meaningful would an unplanned internship be for the student? As others have noted, internships take a great deal of time and staffing to plan, recruit, and execute.

          ExToxicJob company, which was small and struggling, got the ‘brilliant’ idea to bring in unpaid interns to do grunt work because it couldn’t afford an admin. They contacted the local community college to recruit students. Thankfully our local school is a good one and saw right through ExToxicJob company. They turned us down flat because the company did not put forth a plan to provide a useful learning experience of benefit to the students themselves.

      2. Anxious cat servant*

        This. My last job was for a non-profit and I was essentially doing two peoples’ worth of work. When I asked for help my boss’s solution was for me to recruit volunteers. That … never worked. Training alone took too much time and even after great training I had volunteers who had to be supervised while making copies or else they’d break the copier, volunteers who seemed eager but would take on tasks only to not do them and not tell me they weren’t doing them, volunteers who would chat the ENTIRE time they were in and nothing I said would staunch the flow for more than a minute…

        Point being unless you know the candidate in a work situation you don’t know that they won’t take more time than they give. At which point not having any intern is the best option for the company and OP.

    3. Green great dragon*

      Well, one of the main ways in which an internship helps people is by giving them an advantage *over other people* in subsequent job applications – does that make the issue clearer?

    4. Batgirl*

      No the choice is 1) “help one person to skip the queue/cronyism” or 2) “redirect said person to fairer merit-based queuing systems”

      1. emmelemm*

        Thank you! I think “skipping the queue” is a good way to look at it that might help people understand this a little better.

    5. CoffeeLover*

      You guys make some valid points, but in the end I still don’t agree and I think it’s because we have different views when it comes to our moral obligation towards society and the greater implications/systemic impact of our actions vs. our moral obligation towards those you can directly/immediately help.

      I think the example hbc provides above illustrates what I mean. Do you give the sandwich to the homeless man? Or do you eat the sandwich yourself because you’re not sure he’s the most deserving of the sandwich and there are homeless people who didn’t get the chance to ask you for the sandwich that will go hungry? I say give him the sandwich – greater implications be damned – because it doesn’t make sense to punish the homeless man that asked you for a sandwich by eating it yourself. Simply put, it makes sense to help someone when you can. It also makes sense to simultaneously fight to provide food/housing/equal opportunity for all homeless people. These actions aren’t exclusive.

      In our case, this means giving the privileged girl the job while simultaneously lobbying your company for paid internships targeted towards underprivileged demographics, lobbying your government for educational/social/economic reform, speaking out against inequality, etc.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The analogy doesn’t work. A single sandwich isn’t going to give the person an unfair advantage over less fortunate people in long-term, substantive ways. Nor is there reams of data showing that handing out occasional sandwiches disadvantages already marginalized groups.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It would be equal to open the job opportunity to all.

        Since opening it to all isn’t an option it is actually far fairest to not create the job at all.

        The simple fact is, the job doesn’t exist, the OP doesn’t think they have the resources to create it and open it properly. Therefore nobody is being harmed by a non existent job continuing to not exist.

        1. Quill*

          Coffee Lover has not noticed, I think that the sandwich is currently hypothetical.

          Also, LW can very easily prioritize “not training someone when Covid has played havoc with our other processes” and “not bringing any MORE people onsite as potential disease vectors” before they even think about the work involved in creating an internship.

      3. MsM*

        There. Is. No. Sandwich. OP can see how it might be possible to create a sandwich, but that hasn’t actually happened yet.

        Nor is there a homeless person asking, for that matter. Instead, we have OP’s coworker going, “Hey, my daughter’s looking for something to eat. Could you whip something up for her?” There’s no “punishment” in saying no, because there should be no expectation on the coworker or the daughter’s part that OP’s going to go out of their way to make that happen.

      4. Risha*

        Aside from all of the many other ways your analogy doesn’t work, in this case you’re not handing the sandwich to a homeless guy – you’re handing it to your wealthy friend’s kid who was never in danger of going hungry for longer than five minutes, instead of walking a block down the street to hand it to a homeless guy who might not get a meal that day otherwise.

      5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Except there is no sandwich. The LW might be able to scrape up a few heels of bread, some limp lettuce and a couple slices of off-brand bologna and MAKE a sandwich for this student homeless person, but there is currently no sandwich to be handed out. The question here is, do I half-ass a dodgy sandwich for the person in front of me out of whatever I can find in the cupboard, or do I not do that and instead put better quality sandwich fixings on the grocery list for next year week and pick up extra for the food pantry at that point if my budget allows?

      6. kt*

        The homeless person can eat a sandwich by him or herself. The intern needs a supervisor and that’s a ton of work. Besides Alison’s excellent points above, I think a better analogy is this: do you let the homeless person move into your house and engage in job coaching, supervising of shared kitchen, laundry, and home maintenance duties, or do you give money to an organization that has people with the bandwidth and qualifications to do that?

        All these weird “but you’re denying someone an opportunity!!” notes ignore the fact that internships are work on the part of the supervisor! It’s just so absurd that people in this comments section think that they can just ask a rando to do a ton of work over several months for them for free based on a family connection and then that person is a moral failure if they don’t just jump.

      7. Batgirl*

        Less privileged people don’t ask for sandwiches. If they do they are seen as mooching for handouts. However the minute a well fed person asks for a sandwich (or something much greater like a job opportunity) no one views that as entitled, but as gumption or as speaking up. I honestly cannot believe you are comparing a privileged person asking for favours with a homeless person asking for food.

      8. hbc*

        …You didn’t understand my example at all. Giving a sandwich to a homeless person doesn’t advantage him against others. The others remain hungry whether or not you give that dude a sandwich.

        You *would* be giving an advantage to that intern. The janitor’s kid who can’t afford to work for free will be competing for jobs against the privileged kid who has this awesome work experience on her resume.

      9. biobotb*

        But there’s no sandwich here. To keep the analogy going, OP is basically being asked to spend their time and resources buying sandwich ingredients and making a sandwich to give to one specific person when they had no plans or budget for either. If they’re going to go to all that trouble, it would then make sense to make sure the sandwiches are being equitably allocated (an open hiring process) rather than just given to one person who doesn’t actually need the sandwich, but just doesn’t want to go to the trouble of making their own (applying to other internships and pitting themselves against other qualified applicants).

  19. Mannheim Steamroller*

    LW #3…

    A resume once went through my office with an email address of pelvicthrust@….

    1. UKDancer*

      But would hiring them really drive you insa-a-a-a-ne?

      I think you should have interviewed them just to see what they were like with that email especially if they turned up for the interview dressed as a RHPS character (joking)

    2. Granger*

      WOW, I think you win with that entry @mannheim!

      I also use caution with “princess” in email addresses because they have proven to be unsurprisingly accurate!

  20. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW1: I know my husband can sympathise with you. I had a job that was slowly killing me (mentally and in the end physically) due to unbelievable amounts of stress and evil management. Of course he wanted me to leave. But I had no other job and was terrified that a gap in my employment would spell career death.

    I’ve been unemployed over a year now, healing my mental wounds (although Covid has not helped, since it’s killed people I love) and we’re ok. I did walk out of that firm in the end with no other job lined up.

    How did my husband help me take that rather drastic step? He gave me much assurance that we could survive on his income for a while, that the world doesn’t collapse if you’re out of work (he was unemployed for 18 months once) and your career can be fine…but my mental collapse would probably not be a small issue and it was that he couldn’t deal with.

    I had his full support to walk out. So I did. There was no way that company was going to change or my job, I see that now.

    Support her. Let her know you’d support her decisions! And let her know quitting to save one’s mental (or physical) health is not a bad decision. Then leave it to her.

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      Here to agree wholeheartedly with what you’ve just said, Keymaster! My husband did similar when I was in a similar position – evil leaning management and high stress/high stakes, with an added side of a no-rhyme-nor-reason travel schedule (the schedule was likely retribution for refusing to take a promotion offered in HQ city. I have zero inclination to pick up my entire family and move several states away, to a significantly more expensive COL area, away from every bit of “village” we have for support…for a promotion that I didn’t even want to begin with! Since I didn’t take it and wouldn’t move, they just sent me there roughly every three weeks.)

      I was somewhat lucky in that I was able to find an alternate position and have that all lined up prior to me walking out on my own. Being in the US, and with our only manner of obtaining subsidized health insurance being through my job, that made up and quitting a little tricky.

      So OP#1 – yes, definitely support and listen to your wife! Do NOT send an “anonymous” note. That is not what needs to happen!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        You’re wise as is your husband :) Sometimes the best way to help someone in a bad situation is just to show them there IS a way out, then let them make the decisions.

        Hope you’re doing much much better now.

        1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

          Thank you :)

          Lets just say that there was a moment during a particularly critical and contentious meeting where those who knew me were a little concerned at my shift in attitude mid-way through (from “you can’t do that, its against code” to “F.I.N.E. As long as someone else signs off on that section of the bid, IDGAF anymore. I just will not close that section myself and will not put my name on it.”).

          Midway through, I’d seen a push-notification come through on my phone for a new email. From an excellent company I’d been interviewing with. From the VP of HR. Subject Line: Offer of Employment for NotQuiteAnonForThis.

          I hope you guys are doing well…even with ((all of this out here in the world going on)). As well as you can be. That healing is happening!

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Thank you :) spent some time in a mental hospital this year but I’m in a better place and starting to look for work again. I’m hopeful and optimistic and owe a lot of it to the support of others.

    2. hbc*

      I took a long time to walk out on my toxic environment, but yeah, it had to do with that supportive spouse. He wouldn’t have dreamed of interfering directly, just reminded me that I could walk any time and that his honest opinion was that I should quit asap.

      If he had done or said anything without my permission, I would have held on so much longer just to show that I wasn’t being controlled by him and that I could fight my own battles.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I had a similar situation. I was at the point where I cried in the car on the way to and from work and conversations about how terrible my workplace was would lead to me actually irrationally screaming. Finally my spouse told me that I had to get out of there or it was going to kill me or ruin our marriage or both. Life and family were more important to me than the toxic job, so we made a plan for me to get out and we’re a million times better for it.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Especially during these difficult times it’s more important than ever to prioritise your mental health and relationships. Easier to replace a job than a marriage.

          (It took me over a decade to learn that one!)

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Have you thought about how much pressure your husband must be feeling right now?!

  21. LGC*

    Hm. I’m wondering whether there’s that much daylight between 2 and 3. Like, I think the email should be a factor, but…trust me, I’ve seen some whoppers of e-mails. Especially since this is an “entry-level” position and the candidate appears to be middle-aged, I wouldn’t be that surprised she’d think her email address doesn’t matter. (I’ve seen some whoppers of email addresses from people myself at work.)

    It sounds like the candidate is marginal anyway, so it’s not a big loss for LW3. But unless it’s something truly obscene, and she’s qualified, I’d call her back.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      I’m not sure what this has to do with #2, unless you think people in less historically advantaged groups have inappropriate email addresses?

      I’m not sure how anyone with pretty much any background in her 50s in 2020 could *not* realize sexibunny69 is not an appropriate email address for work, unless she’s amazingly obtuse. Which is not a trait you want to hire for.

  22. MistOrMister*

    Re the pwrson leaving the position in #5, I would also consider that they might be getting a promotion. If the position was creared for them and they have strong credentials, it might be that the position ended up not quite being what they wanted, or maybe it wasn’t utilizing their skill set to the fullest so they’re being given something else. Or perhaps the company realized there was too much work for one person, so they’re bumping the first person up and bringing in someone else. I agree with Alison that you can’t consider 1 person leaving after 9 months to be lots of high turnover. There are any number of reasons they could be leaving even if the job is the best thing ever.

    1. akiwiinlondon*

      I was thinking this also, although more in if they originated the role while still with-in the company I wouldn’t think 9 months would then be high turn-over if they had been with the company previously. They may have even had an agreement to help setup the role with the knowledge they would move on afterwards due to a range of reasons.

      OP doesn’t mention so it seems perhaps they weren’t promoted into the role or out of the role – but either scenario I wouldn’t then be concerned about them having a short stint in a specific role if they stayed within the company – that suggests more of a personal fit to the role than any overall company culture issues.

  23. lazy intellectual*

    OP 2 – In addition to concerns about equity and unpaid internships, you definitely want a full on internship program set up before taking on interns. There are logistics involved beyond just having them assist you with work, even if they are unpaid and working on their laptops. You might want to give them a company e-mail, you might have to provide certain supplies and resources.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      +1 – there are a lot of unexpected issues that can crop up with an internship and you want to be prepared.

    2. SweetestCin*

      It certainly seems like something that “legal needs to weigh in on to make sure we’re doing this “unpaid thing” right” as well!!!

  24. Harper the Other One*

    I’m really surprised by the number of people who don’t see the issue with creating an internship specifically for the colleague’s child. Creating an internship and encouraging the colleague’s child to apply? Maybe. But it seems so clear to me how much actions like that reinforce the status quo and provide advantages to people with family connections over those with talent and drive but without connections to an industry.

    Plus, nobody should be creating an internship on a whim. Managing an intern is difficult! My husband’s field even requires would-be intern supervisors to take a course first. Partly that’s because of some issues regarding privacy law but a substantial element of the course is simply about how to manage an intern, what sorts of tasks they can do, and how to handle performance issues.

    OP2, if you think an intern would be helpful, I’d encourage you to go through a process to create one – ideally funded through either your company, the university, or some form of grant – and set it up so it includes a clear application process. This will take some time, but it’s going to ensure you get the best possible intern candidate and that you are prepared for the workload involved. You may even be able to do it in time for the spring or summer semester if your colleague’s child wants to apply.

  25. Koala dreams*

    #1 The question to ask what you can do to help is a question that your wife can answer, not other people. You can think through different suggestions (listening to her venting, look into resources for workplace bullying for her, something else). If she agrees, great. If not, you’ll have to let it go.

    Some people like their jobs and also like to complain about their jobs. Part of the description in the letter makes me think that this is the case for your wife. You need to decide for yourself if you have the emotional bandwidth to listen to her complaints and support her, even if nothing changes. How long could you do that? Maybe the answer is that you can’t listen to anymore venting, and she’ll have to find another outlet for that. Maybe the answer is that you could listen to five minutes a day of venting, but not more. Maybe the answer is that you have a phone-and-email-free date night once a week, where you don’t mention anything to do with work.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        That’s a reasonable solution. Let’s them verify that it’s not an actual emergency, without interrupting the entire evening.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I really don’t know what makes you think the wife likes to complain about her job. The instances the husband cites are clearly cases where the job is taking over her life completely, because of a new situation at work, it’s not something that’s been going on for ages. If she’d been working like this for several years, yes, she might be someone who loves to vent, just like a there’s a friend of mine who has always had far too much work on his plate. At first you sympathise, then when you see that they are doing nothing to make it easier on themselves and in fact are taking on even more work, you just accept that that’s the way they are.

      1. Koala dreams*

        The comments about her loving her job makes me think of that. I’ve known several people like that, who never share the good stuff about their jobs, only the bad, and then gets offended when people ask what they plan on doing about the problems. It’s very tiring to listen to. If it doesn’t apply to you, just disregard.

  26. RecentAAMfan*

    #1. Re unintended consequences: imagine if batshit crazy boss decided Random Other Employee Fergus probably wrote the letter and fired him for it!

  27. Jennifer*

    #1 The only time you should ever contact a spouse’s employer would be if they are physically unable to do it themselves. For example, a crime has been committed against them and they’re too traumatized to handle it. Or they are so ill they can’t call in sick for themselves. I’ve had to do that once for my husband.

    It’s strange to me that your first instinct is – let me fix this for her – instead of – I should talk to her about what’s going on from work and see what support she needs from me. I had a friend with a similar problem. She and her husband talked about it and they managed to figure out a budget where they could afford for her to go part-time while she looked for another job. She’s since found a much less stressful job and is much happier. Sit down and talk like adults. Calling the teacher is something you do for a child.

    1. Marthooh*

      OP #2’s first instinct was to talk about the problem and ask their wife to not check work email at night. Sending an anonymous note is a wit’s-end idea and they know it’s a bad one. They are asking what else they can do.

      1. blaise zamboni*

        Mmm. OP’s first instinct was to “tell” their wife not to check email at night, and classified it as a “battle [they] don’t win.” I’m not sure if OP has tried open, kind communication with their wife about her feelings, the impact on their relationship, and what they can both do to address it. There are lots of stories above about people whose partners heard their workplace grievances and immediately jumped into problem-solving mode. That’s super common and rarely helpful.

        OP, your wife is your partner. Your goals are aligned. If you’re approaching her as a combatant, she’s likely to just be defensive. Try to listen without giving advice and I bet she’ll actually seek your input on her own time. If your relationship is impacted, approach the problem together and see where you can connect and where you compromise. You clearly love and admire your wife, and I know it’s so hard to watch your loved one in a situation that you believe you would handle differently. But telling her how to handle her problems won’t get her any closer to change, and directly interfering in her work life could destroy your relationship with her entirely, not to mention it would screw her over at work.

  28. SassyAccountant*

    For Letter #2: I really wish when I was going to college that there were paid internships that I could have applied for fairly and equally. Unfortunately, when I went to college all that were available were unpaid internships over the summer and while numerous of my well off friends could and did take advantage of that, I could not. I had to go home over the summer and work 2-3 jobs just so I could return in the fall. I think it’s awesome you are thinking of this and want to help people by leveling the playing field as it were.

    For Letter #3: I am so glad Alison has said this! I have so many times nixed people because of their email addresses and I have always been vetoed and I swear to you that these people never work out. I’m telling you it’s a red flag. The more absurd and/or inappropriate the email address the more you should be concerned. I had a guy apply with “whosyourdaddy” and I was like “no, no no no no.” He didn’t work out.

    1. WellRed*

      I hope some of the commenters implying white oppression read your comment. You say, succinctly, why it’s a problem.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Agreed, it’s very clearly put several times by excellent comments as to why creating a post for one person alone who is privileged is a bad idea. And the original letter writer knows this!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          It’s like how ‘metoo’ was met with a wave of ‘notallmen’ in response. Kind of like a young sibling who assumes their sister/brother’s birthday party means that nobody cares about *them* because the attention is on someone else.

          1. lazy intellectual*

            I already mentioned this above, but the “but white people deserve internships, too” comments are similar to the “All Lives Matter” responses to Black Lives Matter. It just completely ignores the disadvantages experienced by minorities.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              With an added bonus of the ‘if you don’t tell us what you want, nicely and in a way we understand, then you can’t expect inequality to be solved’ argument which has plagued many a person.

              I’m not interested in being the ‘nice’ minority who sits down with people each and every time to explain why their privilege is problematic. Not got the spoons for it anymore and google is readily available.

    2. Ashley*

      The paid vs unpaid internships is a major issue. I got lucky that one internship I was required for Grad school let me spread it out over months so I interned (volunteered) one day a week but could still work my other job. It isn’t a perfect solution, but the more places that can at least give scheduling the better.

  29. Veronica*

    #4 – I work in engineering consulting. We build extra time into our project budgets for this type of thing. You spending hours learning that a comma or specific format is needed is important because now you can make sure it’s included in the training materials and the next batch of teachers can avoid the same mistake. If it’s a mistake made because you were learning or editing, I would consider it part of the “project.” If it’s a mistake that is made because you did not follow the clearly laid out quality procedures developed by the company/school, then that’s a different issue that doesn’t get charged to the project.

  30. Batgirl*

    Can I just say how refreshing Op2’s attitude towards the favour system is? I was a working class kid trying to make it in a system rife with cronyism and extended, informal, unpaid “work experience”. Of course I was always ten steps behind. I think I had to work free for something like a year (my paying job was at night) in order to get anything like a similar network. When I did make it, I then had to babysit all the young friends of my bosses’ social network! Because there was no screening the vast majority were utterly hopeless, but at least no one’s friend was offended. Occasionally you’d get someone great, but it would be well understood that the placement itself was not prestigious, you were just someone’s kid and the opportunity had not been earned. They knew they could have got one that was.
    Of course people will try just about anything for their kids; it’s for companies to withstand that impulse and impose fair play.
    The only reason any of us participated was because that lazy, accidental system was the best they could be bothered coming up with. It was the only way in. Oh and for all the people who are so concerned about the impact on white people of not giving them lazy, ill-thought out opportunities- I’m white and though it would have been far better without these “opportunities” to work for nothing it made it possible for someone who looks like me to get in. The non white kids didn’t even get a look in.

    1. lazy intellectual*

      I also find it refreshing that an employer realizes this inequity, as well. What’s doubly annoying is that a lot of commonly-accepted career advice validates and perpetuates this system, and gaslights less privileged people into thinking that they aren’t working the system properly. When I had trouble getting a job in this field, I kept being told that it was my fault for “not hustling” and “not networking enough”, that it’s all about “who you know” and that I shouldn’t expect a job for “just completing a degree”. Why am I not calling up employers to ask them for opportunities? Did I not know about the “hidden job market?”

      While networking is important and valuable, let’s please not pretend that I can become someone’s family friend or niece overnight. Just going out for a few coffees isn’t going to get me the solid connections that people *actually related to* crucial people have. Also, you should hire the best candidate for the job, not just your friends.

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        There was an article written about a woman, let’s call her Jane, who paid off her student loans in two years and how, if she can do it, you can do it!

        Jane received a condo as a gift from her mother. Jane lived at home with her mother for two years and rented out the condo. Jane was appointed as a director of a non-profit where her mother happened to work.

        See kids! All you need to do is be born well-off and connected and you too can do it! Bootstraps and Gumption!

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I remember a position I applied for where a ‘friendly’ type pointed out that the accommodations for my disabilities cost employers money so I’m an expensive hire for a firm…therefore I should understand when they went with hires who didn’t require such expensive help. They expected me to be grateful for that advice.

        Err. No.

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        Thank you for pointing out one of the biggest problems with the “network network network” school of career advice and why it’s so harmful.

    1. Rosalind Montague*

      My spouse refuses to give up his hotmail account. That said, our last name is Smith and he actually has his first and last name as his email which he would never ever ever be able to get again and only has because he’s had it since 1996. (He even has a person with his exact name in his workplace…and he doesn’t have a particularly common first name.)

  31. Hiring Mgr*

    Equity issues aside, if you weren’t even planning on having an intern, and are not prepared to bring one on, you may want to just pass for that reason alone since it could ver likely take up way more of your time and energy than you might be thinking..

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Second, third, etc this. My workplace had an internship program last year. We had not had one ever before and had no idea we were going to have one that year. It was dropped in our collective lap by a VP who had a, shall I say, tenuous connection with reality, on a two-day notice. All of a sudden, several of us received copies of an email saying “we will be hiring 15 interns, you will be interviewing 25 candidates (list of names) on (day after tomorrow’s date), they start on (date two weeks in the future), we will send you their resumes tomorrow” and that was it. The interns started with no room for them to sit, and no work for them to do. No one was prepared. I felt bad for our infrastructure guys who had to work through the weekend setting up the interns’ workstations on last minute’s notice. As for the seating, we crammed maybe seven of them in a small conference room that sat 4-5, and the other eight in another small conference room that could hold maybe six people for a meeting. They had to work (? using this term loosely, as there was no work for them) there for 8 hours every day. They had little desktop computers set up for them that you could (barely) fit 7-8 of on a conference table for six. I felt bad for everyone involved. It was a massive waste of everyone’s time and company money. One of the interns did get a job somewhere else halfway through the internship (I’m hoping that having the internship on their resume helped somehow), so at least something useful came out of the whole ordeal. But all around, we were completely unprepared and it was an embarrassing experience for everyone.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        PS. One of the interns was a son of one of our HR managers. I was frankly relieved that he wasn’t on my team. He was a nice guy, but it would’ve created a weird power differential where I would not have known how to work with him.

  32. Creamsiclecati*

    The email address question reminds me of a friend who started a side business doing photography a few years ago. The email address he created for his business was singleshot@whatever, because “I’ll get the single best shots of your event, I’ll give you the single shot you’re dying for” etc. But his promotional emails kept going into people’s spam folders because “single shot” in an email address looks like “singles hot” and kept getting caught in filters. So it’s possible that the owner of the email address in question didn’t realize it was coming up inappropriate. But also super important to screen email addresses you create for possible misunderstandings (also things like social media usernames and hashtags with multiple words) because words strung together with no spaces can be open to multiple interpretations.

  33. cncx*

    OP2, i love you

    i was a (white) working class kid and by a series of coincidences i got a relatively prestigious unpaid internship i would have never gotten had i had to apply because i simply managed to be in the right place that one time and actually have a distant relative get me in. exact same situation as yours, but they were a non profit so it was fine legally (it was also in europe- i lived with the relative so housing costs, which again, not everyone could have done).

    That internship is what got me my second internship and my first job. I also learned a lot about blue collar v white collar at that internship. it was over twenty years ago, i feel about about gaming the system and being the one who got in but again- it laid the foundation for helping me understand white collar jobs. Thank you for thinking of someone who would need that like i did. Thank you for thinking to do the right thing. There’s no way, had my relative not been living in that city, that i could have financially been able to do an unpaid internship. Internships need to be paid otherwise they only benefit those who come from money.

  34. WFH with Cat*

    OP #2 – If I understand correctly, your org does not currently have an intern program? If that’s the case, I would tell your colleague that there isn’t an intern program at the moment. You can add that you’ll be happy to reach out if one is established, if that’s something you’re willing to do.

    If she pushes back against that and wants you to personally arrange something for her daughter, you can tell her there are a lot of elements required for an internship, in part because they need to be made equitable and open to all, and that you can’t really set up something just for one person.

  35. Person from the Resume*

    hire me over the summer to roll out a new computer program for the school and I was approved

    This really depends on your agreement/contract.

    Normally I’d say a contractor or freelancer should not be expected to be paid learn how to do the job unless somehow it is unique to a company. Ie installing a computer system I would not expect to pay the person to learn how to, I’d just hire someone with the skill and knowledge already. I understand that he’s hiring you as a known quantity based on his experience with you in another role rather than your proven track record asa software installer, but as a contractor/freelancer which sounds kind of like what you are I’d say “no”. That is a cost(in time) to you that has allowed you to get this job and could be applied to other jobs later if you want to pursue it.

    The troubleshooting is different. If you’re being paid hourly then that’s just the cost of doing business for the school. If you are being paid a fixed price, then that’s a cost of doing business for you.

    Let’s say you bid for a fixed price Contract worth 20 hours of your time because that what you think it will take but run into trouble or just estimated wrong. You eat those cost because you agreed to do the entire job for that cost. OTOH if it takes you less time you earn more money per hour than expected so you come out ahead.

    But in the end it really, really depends on your agreement/contract. If your working hourly then you’re owed for every hour of work (not training) even troubleshooting, even if you’re troubleshooting something that was a dumb mistake by you. But I understand if you told the boss it could be done in 20 hours and it took 26 and he didn’t budget for more why you are tempted to fudge the numbers. But I think this is illegal if you’re employed as an hourly employee.

    IDK because teachers are almost always salaried. This agreement may be a contract outside of normal employment and then what matters is what is written in the contract.

    Your lesson learned in doing IT work is that half the time you’re 90% done. Just … when you’re troubleshooting problems you’re done when it is fixed and if you knew the source of the problem you’d have fixed it by now. It’s really hard to estimate the length of IT projects especially by a newbie. Because if you experience this problem again, you’ll know where to look first and save hours of troubleshooting.

  36. HB*

    I want to ditto the other people here who have said that the best thing you can do for her is to be supportive and to listen. My gut feeling is that if you let her talk it out, it will be both immediately beneficial in terms of relieving some of her stress, but also may lead to a change in her long term planning/thinking. And the key is to let *her* talk. My guess is she’s feeling a certain level of defensiveness because she knows what she’s doing is unsustainable, but she wants to make it work. If you approach her with “This is terrible and unsustainable” you’re not giving her new information. She KNOWS it’s bad. But she has to reach a place where she feels comfortable expressing it – both to herself, and to you, and then to her employers. And the more you listen (without interjecting possible solutions, unless asked, without commentary on the situation, unless asked) the more she’ll talk. If she won’t really talk about the bad stuff, I’d ask her to talk about the things at work you know she likes. If she thinks about the things that are good at her job, it may make the bad stuff stand out by comparison.

    The hardest thing is going to be watching her do things that you know are unhealthy, but I feel like you really need to resist *anything* that signals your distaste because it may trigger more defensiveness. Be *insanely* supportive. Bring her tea if she’s up doing emails at 11 AM. This is a decision she needs to make on her own and to do that she needs the mental and emotional space to think of what it’s doing to *her* rather than you.

    Also I really hope you send us an update one day with either “The manager left!” or “She has a new job that isn’t literal hell!”

    Good luck to you both.

    Also, and I don’t know if this is a good idea or a terrible one, but I’d be tempted to scour through the AMA archives for the posts about terrible bosses – particularly the ones with good updates and send them to her with “Hey, it could be worse!” and hope that seeing other people going through terrible experiences will trigger her “No one should put up with this!” instinct.

    1. sexibunny69 (babblemouth)*

      “My guess is she’s feeling a certain level of defensiveness because she knows what she’s doing is unsustainable, but she wants to make it work. If you approach her with “This is terrible and unsustainable” you’re not giving her new information. She KNOWS it’s bad. But she has to reach a place where she feels comfortable expressing it – both to herself, and to you, and then to her employers. ”

      Exactly. From the information LW 1 shared, it sounds like the spouse has plenty of people already micromanaging her, dissing her work and her judgement and demanding unreasonable things from her. She should be able to trust that her spouse will not be one more of them.

    2. Observer*

      Also I really hope you send us an update one day with either “The manager left!” or “She has a new job that isn’t literal hell!”

      Oh yes!

  37. Delta Delta*

    #1 – This feels like the time for OP to talk to his wife. It’s great she’s very committed to her job. It’s less great the job is wreaking this kind of havoc on their marriage. Maybe Wife does not have space for both Job and Spouse. Only they can determine that. But OP contacting the job isn’t going to be what solves the problem.

    #2 – I thought about this a little differently than Allison and also differently than most of the commenters. I tend to agree that “I’m giving you an internship because your mommy called me” is gross for lots of reasons. I also see that OP is saying she doesn’t have the time to create an internship program right now. I could see, however, how using *this* intern might be a great trial balloon for figuring out future interns and an internship program that could be developed over time. Maybe it doesn’t work out. Maybe it works splendidly and OP can take on lots of great interns through a more open process in the future. Just a thought.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      If OP wants to and can set up an internship programme at her job, the best way to do it isn’t to make a nepotism hire. It’s to connect with institutions that deal with the target audience and work with them to set something up.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      I don’t love blaming the wife for the job problem. It’s likely she has good reason to be afraid of pushing back, especially in this economy with high unemployment, and pushing back won’t do anything if the boss won’t agree to her boundaries.

  38. Ali G*

    OP1 I was your wife once. I was flying high at m job, had a great boss and racking up accomplishments. a lot of my self worth was also tied to my job. Then I got a new boss and everything tanked. I was miserable, my husband was miserable.
    Your role here is not to try to fix this for her. Your role is to support her in the decisions she makes. Would you be willing and able to support the two of you if she decided to leave without a job lined up? Or start on her own? What would that look like? Because here’s the thing: she might not want to leave, but she probably will have to. Someone can only take this treatment for so long (see: her previous boss; me). She thinks she can do it, and maybe she can. But most can’t, and eventually she will hit her breaking point. It’s your job to be there for her when she does and help her see a life without this job.

  39. Luna*

    I recall our BWL (economics) class in 9th grade to tell all of us students that having a decent, professional email address was important. Even if we already had a ‘main’ one, it was a good idea to have one that was just for work/job applications, and to have it be nothing but your first and last name.
    You can keep using DTFmudbiker as your main address, but for a job, it’s just better to have something simple, easily identifiable, and not ‘funny’.

    1. Clisby*

      My daughter got the same advice from a high school guidance counselor who was leading a session on tips for applying to college. She said something like “I don’t care how cute or funny you think your email address is. If it’s anything more than your name and maybe a couple of numbers, get a new one for college applications.”

  40. Alex*

    I’m curious about number 4. Sometimes the line between learning and fixing up stuff on the job is a bit blurred. Where is the line where you must be paid for your time?

    Back when I was a non-exempt worker, my boss asked me to learn a certain skill. There was a class that I could take at a community college that was just about 15-20 minutes away from our office. My employer said that they would pay for the class (there is a standard tuition benefit for classes available to everyone) but that I would have to attend the class and do the homework on my own time. This was really inconvenient because the class was in the middle of the day, which meant that my employer would require met to return to the office afterwards and sit at my desk for an extra two hours twice a week to make up the time. At the time they were very “butt in seat” about work even though it was not really necessary for the job.

    I declined the “opportunity” because I said that that schedule wouldn’t work for me, and they were OK with that. Should they have been paying me for my time taking the class that they wanted me to take? I felt it was unfair but they said they didn’t pay for class time, specifically because they were requesting that I develop this skill not because of my own interest, but didn’t think it was illegal.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      It all depends, I think, whether there’s any benefit in the training for you beyond being able to do your present job better.
      I signed up to do a master’s, on a special scheme that acknowledged my professional experience (I was excused from about 95% of the classes because I proved that I didn’t need to do those classes). I only had about four classes a week for a year instead of full-time study for five years. I wanted to do this course and started the application process back in 2008, because I could see that my employer was on pretty shaky ground, and I knew that without an official piece of paper certifying my skills, I would have a hard time getting another job or freelancing. In the end the boss sold the company, and the new boss wanted to keep me on, so I asked whether I could do this course and whether they would consider paying for it. They did pay for it, because it was something that would benefit the company, but then I had to do the classes in my own time, and make up time when the classes fell during my working hours. I felt like it was a good compromise.
      I then worked a few more years with this new boss before falling out with him because he preferred to believe a liar than me, then I was able to set up as a freelancer without any problem thanks to the diploma.

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      I do think this is pretty much the norm for tuition reimbursement – the company pays for the course, but you put in your own time. It only makes sense if it’s truly a benefit to the employee, that is, developing skills that can be used outside that specific job.
      Since they were ok with you declining, I think this was fair. Had they pressured you to take the class on your own time because they urgently needed that skill, that would have definitely not been okay.

  41. Jennifer*

    Re: Internship

    Good for you for pushing back on this. To all the people crying about this, THIS is how you end up with all-white C-suites. It starts even before internships. Certain people get opportunities that others would never have access to because of either money or connections or a combination of both. Sometimes people who are undeserving rise through the ranks more quickly than their less privileged counterparts. It’s not just a white male problem either. White women can benefit from white supremacy even though they also deal with sexism. There seems to be a bigger pushback sometimes when it’s suggested that women can contribute to unfairness in the workplace and I don’t quite understand why.

    Nip it in the bud before it starts. I’m sure this mother is probably just going to call some other company until she gets what she wants but at least this company won’t be part of the problem.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      What really annoys me is the attitude of how doing these favours is bound up in the notion of being nice or being helpful.

      The framing that it’s a /nice/ thing for the LW to do and it doesn’t hurt anyone. Except further down the like it likely will hurt people.

  42. Missouri Girl in Louisiana*

    LW #2- I did an unpaid internship at a state agency (Texas) when I was in graduate school. I did get it through the school. However, I was treated as a junior employee and got to do a lot of things (this was a part of the environmental agency for the state). If you think you have a good opportunity for a student, talk to a local university and make it a formal relationship.

    Having said that, on the flip side, I’ve tried to work with universities for opportunities for students and it was met with crickets (one of the times I was a staff/director employee at the same university and couldn’t get a professor to even respond to me).

    Actually, in my profession, I was lucky to be able to start this conversation with a professor at a university in another state and I’m hoping we can move forward. Many times, the student is responsible for finding their own opportunities and have to ask around (which is so wrong). So, do not necessarily think of this as “privilege” (I think this is now being over-used and it’s a bit exhausting). I start a new job next week and will be in the wonderful position of being able to hire interns and I will be working with the local universities -we have two large ones in the city-and I’m pretty excited about that.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      If you don’t think of being able to do unpaid internships as “privilege,” I don’t think you read or understood any of the discussion above as to why a lot of people can’t do them.

      1. Missouri Girl in Louisiana*

        No, I certainly do understand the conversation. Everybody should have the same opportunities through the university.. Having said that, many, many times (I worked in the academic areas) the student has a choice to have an unpaid internship with credit but they have to find their own opportunities. I also know that many people cannot do an unpaid internship and that they have to miss the opportunity. I also know that it is difficult to find paid internships, too. The blame is squarely on academia. I know I have personally tried to get interns in a paid position and crickets, crickets, crickets. That’s why I was excited that I’ve been able to identify an ally in academia to start a real conversation. It goes to a much bigger picture-and it has to do with funding sources and opportunities to be fair to all.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          If some people can do unpaid internships and others can’t, the ones who do have the resources have more privilege. Privilege doesn’t make you a bad person, which I think is why a lot of people get defensive about it; it just means you have advantages other people don’t.

  43. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP5: there’s another possibility, which is that the company has decided to hire a second person in the same role because there’s more work than the person hired can cope with. Either way, it’s worth pursuing the offer and asking what’s up at an interview if you get that far.

  44. Brett*

    Since the LW is asking about how this would be handled in the private sector…

    20 hours is extremely low to role out a new program. Because of the training, the issues that can arise, and the likelihood of having to interact with other IT groups, it is virtually impossible to role out even a very simple program in 20 hours.

    The absolutely bare minimum estimate would be one person for 40 hours, and one person for 80 hours or two people for 40 hours would be far more reasonable (assuming an extremely basic program and access to live support).

  45. Student*

    OP #2 – Interns take up an incredible amount of your time. In my field, they can easily take up about 30% of your bandwidth for the period they’re working with you.

    In addition to all the privilege issues at hand here, your colleague is also asking you to take on a significant amount of extra work to benefit her family member. Is there any personal benefit to you for doing this?

    As a personal career move, I do not take on interns (paid or unpaid, through a merit program or from a privileged background) any more unless: (1) my boss is enthusiastic about interns, (2) my boss very directly acknowledges and accepts that my work is going to slow down while I am directing some of my attention at the intern (3) training interns is acknowledged as valuable on annual performance assessments.

    I used to mentor interns whenever the opportunity presented itself because it seemed like the right thing to do, to help people get into the field. Then, I realized in my field that “minding summer interns” had become a pink-collar cookie-baking situation. Women were expected to “take care” of the interns, men got the credit for them in their careers (men accept the interns to their projects and then “delegate” them to women on the team), while I lost valuable project time and had to deal with bad feedback from angry project managers with unrealistic expectations of the interns.

  46. Not trying to be rude, just good at it*

    In a previous life when I was an urban educator I was asked (gun to my head and arm twisted behind my back) to spend part of my summer vacation getting certified to teach cisco networking. The two hours daily commute was a drag, the boxed lunches were awful and the expectation to do “working lunches” … ugh. The content was challenging, tedious and at the same time boring. Going home and spending another 3 hours studying the material to be able to pass the tests was horrible. The pay was nice, but not nearly enough. I was able to use this opportunity to subcontract myself after school to fix network systems. Priceless.

  47. voyager1*

    LW2: I imagine it was tough for your colleague to ask about internship. The current Covid-19 job market isn’t exactly booming. Honestly if you can hire this person I would probably do it. So many are looking for work, can’t blame a parent for trying for their daughter.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      You can’t blame a parent for trying for their child which is why it’s on the company side to abolish opportunities based on nepotism.

      1. Jennifer*

        I actually can blame snowplow parents for doing the dirty work for their kids instead of expecting them to learn how to do it themselves.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          I don’t know, I like to err on the side of people will always want them/their loved ones to get ahead, it’s up to institutions to manage it.

          The practice of using personal connections to help establish your children in the working world has been around for centuries. It’s not going to evaporate into the ether quickly, especially when we live in a world where the system harshly punishes people for not having a job.

          As long as the consequences of not having a certain income remain as stark as they are, people are going to push as a way of protecting their loved ones.

          1. Jennifer*

            I realize that people are going to do it. I just don’t have to agree with it.

            For all of those centuries you’re referring to, people that looked like me were shut out of those opportunities so I just don’t view the practice the same way that you do.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              I think it’s natural for people to want people they care about to succeed, so there need to be checks and balances involved and those will only come from institutions etc.

              But as someone who came over as a child immigrant, perhaps I’m biased. My parents worked very hard for me to have better opportunities in life and there were times when that was unfair. But I don’t blame them for that, I blame the system they were operating under.

          2. Batgirl*

            I don’t really understand how these parents aren’t afraid of giving off the impression their kids are pampered babies who can’t speak for themselves. The type of privilege were parents give insider information about ‘who to impress’ or ‘how it works’ and networking directions to kids at home is, I agree, unavoidable. Of course parents won’t withold helpful information. What I can’t understand is that such an embarrassing version of spoon feeding became so well accepted by those people that they don’t qualm to try it.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              I’d say a parent contacting a professional contact before contact is made between the people concerned is ‘how it works’.

              I would be much more shocked if the person I don’t know contacted me before the person who’s the common link between us.

              1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

                I agree, especially if the person I don’t know is contacting me using contact information that they received from the person I do know. I think it is a sign of respect for the other person to request their information to pass on rather than just pass it on. They work for the same company, so it makes sense to me that the mother would ask her colleague. If the mother just gave their daughter my contact info, especially work contact info (arguing on the basis that the information for most of us “commoners” is not found by doing a simple google search), I would see it as an overstep of a boundary and be much less likely to entertain the idea.

                1. lazy intellectual*

                  But this is exactly what makes these types of opportunities inaccessible not well-connected people.

                  I mean, I don’t think the mother nor their kid would be bad people for taking advantage of the opportunity if it was presented to them. But OP2 has the right idea about leveling the playing field. Plus, other people have pointed out that hiring an intern without preparation is a bad idea for a lot of reasons.

                2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

                  @lazy intellectual,
                  I completely agree, it is privilege, and also OP2 doesn’t sound well set up to have an intern. I just don’t think that the parent is necessarily being a snow plow parent in this situation. This is just normal networking amongst the privileged. This is just parent to child so it seems off -putting, but there is nothing really different from this than other situations where a person knows someone on the inside who pulls some strings or requests a favor for a person on the outside.

                3. Observer*

                  @LazyIntellectual The two things are not mutually exclusive. In other words, Mom is not necessarily being a snow plow here. BECAUSE this is not a situation where if the kid just put some effort in or took appropriate initiative they could potentially had access it’s inequitable.

              2. kt*

                I sort of agree, so I’m wondering why the parent didn’t ask permission to connect OP and daughter and then let daughter do the pitch.

                If you think it through, it’s because if you got an email from your co-worker’s kid saying, “Hey, create a job for me!” you’d be surprised and probably would feel it was off-putting, unless a significant amount of well-reasoned thought went into it (like, “Hey, can I get a summer job with you? I come with qualifications x, y, and z, and I’m really looking to move into M and N in the next two years. To do that I need experience with A and doing some research on the company, I found that a position with your group would be a great way to get my foot in the door.”). But if your colleague calls herself, then the thought process is, “I don’t want to piss her off because I need her cooperation on the HIKJ project, and she also stamps the reports that I write that need to certified for TUV… if I say no, will she make trouble for me?”

                So if the colleague just asked permission to connect kid and OP and then let kid take the lead on the conversation, I wouldn’t see it as such an overstep.

                1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

                  I got that was what they were doing from the sentence of “She was wondering if she could put me in touch with her daughter who is looking for an unpaid internship.”

                  I took that as she wanted to give her daughter OP’s contact information and was explaining to OP why the daughter would be contacting OP. I think this helps because then OP can just say, like she hopefully did, “sorry, I’m not set up to support an intern at the moment,” which would be beneficial to everyone. I also just think it’s good practice to be clear why you are asking someone if you can give their contact info to someone else. It would have been awkward if OP thought it was because she wanted to talk to someone in the field, and daughter knew it was because she wanted to ask for an internship.

        2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          I don’t know how I feel about the statement of parent’s doing the dirty work. I have connected friends and family to people that I know that are hiring. I ask my contact if they are ok with me giving their contact info to another person first. This could be the mother asking the coworker if they can provide their contact information to their daughter. They both work for the same company, therefore, the mother would likely have the contact info from the company directory. That does not mean she has the right to give it to her daughter, so it is polite to ask first. And since there is an exact reason why the mother is giving the contact info to the daughter, that should be expressed as well. Therefore, it allows you, as the owner of your contact information to make a determination if you want your contact info shared or not.

  48. Lady Blerd*

    Lw3: I disagree with Allison here because I see so many of my higher ups who clearly have the same email address as when they first got one 20 years ago. I just laugh and roll my eyes. That said it seems that the message is getting out there to get a professional address so I’m seeing those crazy addresses less and less.

    1. MsM*

      I mean, I remember getting the “make sure you have a professional email address” advice as a middle/high schooler at the height of the AOL era, so I’m not sure what these folks’ excuse is.

      1. Quill*

        My mom (14 years into teaching) didn’t have a personal email address until she quit from her previous district last spring. Cue me explaining to her that it should just be components of her legal name, no ANYTHING else. Especially not birth year.

    2. Observer*

      So? If your higher ups hang on to something that is wildly inappropriate it doesn’t make it appropriate. It DOES reflect poorly on them.

  49. TiredMama*

    For LW5, did you confirm that they were not promoted or taking a new role within the company? (Sorry if I missed that.)

    1. Letter Writer 5.*

      I only looked up the person on Linkedin, so I don’t know many details (I applied but haven’t heard back yet).

      It appears they are still in the same role so I don’t know if they have been promoted or are just leaving. If I get an interview I’ll certainly ask.

  50. Anon For Now*

    LW2 — Thank you for even considering how equitable it would be to create an internship for someone based on a phone call. So many people wouldn’t. As a person who couldn’t afford to do unpaid internships and who had no inside connections when I was in school a hundred years ago, I particularly appreciate it.

    LW5 — Even if the person who was in the position left (voluntarily or not), I would also keep in mind that creating a new position is really challenging, and that often an employers perspective and wishes change once they get someone on board. After 9 months of the position, they should have a better sense of what they want that position to accomplish and more systems in place. So if the reason was poor fit, for example, the reasons for the poor fit should have been ironed out. Or it could be that the person worked out so amazingly that they have promoted that person, are hiring a second person, or creating a new department. You never know.

  51. blackcat*

    That email address is nearly *identical* (complete with hotmail) to one a student used to email me when I was a high school teacher. The student in question was 15, and we had a long chat about internet presence and the importance of projecting an appropriate image.
    The fact that someone would make it to adulthood and still use something like that…. the mind boggles.

  52. Esmeralda*

    Re Internship and Equity

    It’s too bad that commenters who don’t understand how privilege is working in this situation are getting thwacked — if someone doesn’t get it, then it’s way more helpful to explain it, than to name-call and scoff because they don’t get it. There’s a difference between calling out and putting down.

    And yeah, I do understand how privilege is working in this situation, but that’s because I’ve had an opportunity to think about such situations, to educate myself about privilege, and to F up in situations like this and learn from them.

    We don’t help people learn when we make them feel stupid or immoral. None of us, especially those of us who are privileged, popped out into the world knowing all of this.

    1. Jennifer*

      I agree that you shouldn’t go out of your way to make people feel stupid, but there is a difference between someone expressing an opinion out of ignorance and someone just being biased or a straight up racist. In the latter situation, they are well aware of the fact that their comments could be offensive and they don’t care.

      Also, there is a ton of information out there about white privilege. Instead of expecting people to educate you, why not take the time to do some reading on your own? I don’t mind having an open dialogue with someone, but I just don’t have the energy to explain the history of systemic racism to people. It’s very disturbing and hurtful to me honestly that so many white people in America don’t know very basic things about this topic when there’s so much information available. Anyone that’s in charge of hiring people should know this kind of stuff. If you popped into the world privileged, you have even more access to educate yourself.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      ‘I’d understand if you would explain it to me in a way I approve of’ is unfortunately one of the first things the privileged tend to say to the oppressed.

      I haven’t seen any name calling here. Alison is pretty hot at stamping down on that! It’s been heated but not personal.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Also, I’d like to offer Alison a cup of her favourite hot beverage for moderating this. That’s what I call a backbone of steel.

      2. Jennifer*

        Same here. This is an ugly issue that affects many, many people. We shouldn’t have to sugarcoat it to make it more palatable for privileged people.

    3. MsM*

      Yeah, but when people do take the time to explain it, even if the tone is perhaps a bit firmer or more dismissive than ideal, and the original commenter still insists they don’t see any problem or asks “but what about X?” when X is clearly not relevant to the situation at hand…that doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence they’re actually interested in learning, y’know?

      1. kt*

        Agree, and moreover I feel like there’s actually a concerted campaign here under a number of user names to defend the practice of nepotism/trading on connections in a way that’s pretty unusual for AAM.

        Usually, commenters are very conscious of the work needed to manage interns well and give them a valuable experience (one of the hallmarks of an internship), quite aware of the difficulty of managing people with family connections in the company, cognizant of the dangers of both “gumption” and someone being signed up for a job by a parent rather than by applying themselves, and wary of companies that describe themselves of doing things “like a family”. But today there’s an enormous raft of commenters with new usernames who ignore all of these things. I feel like this got posted somewhere else and there are a lot of folks who haven’t thought much about management coming, but who have thought a lot about how preferential hiring benefits them. Would love to see the distribution of new vs frequent IP addresses for this post as compared with others.

        1. Jaybeetee*

          Yeah, it’s always a bit of a thing when a bunch of new usernames pop out of the woodwork suddenly vehemently arguing against the usual tone of a page. It’s happened a couple times here that I know of, and I’ve seen it several times on Slate.

          I attribute the comments on this page in part to cultural differences in workplace norms (there seems to be one person here who lives in a place where the set-up is quite different), plus perhaps a guilty conscience. Not so much, “No, I’m in favour of nepotism and it should continue!” But more like, “Someone helped me get a job or an internship when I was young, and I don’t want to feel bad about it. Stop saying it’s bad.”

          I admittedly speak as someone who, in absolute terms, would be considered privileged. No one was in a position to “hook me up”, but when I was young and it was a recession and I was scrambling for whatever work I could find, I did probably use the privileges I did have to their fullest extent.

          I don’t know if people should feel guilty for walking through doors that have been opened for them, even if those doors weren’t open to others. Most people need work, and only the most heroic among us might turn down an opportunity (when we need one) because perhaps we had an unfair advantage. The answer is to learn and do better going forward.

    4. Tea Cake*

      But we have explained it. We’ve explained it over and over. Alison covers it in her response (and multiple times after) and plenty of commenters did too. If people refuse to consider and understand what we’ve been saying, surely there’s a limit to how much effort we’re expected to put in to make them understand.
      Maybe I digress. But I’m tired of spoonfeeding. I’m tired of explaining why something is racist or classist or a microaggression. With the current climate around racial issues, I don’t think there’s any reason for people to not be able to educate themselves, if they really want to. And if they do want to, they should stop claiming they’re “all for diversity!” while also going “what about white oppression!”
      It’s not on us to ensure their feelings aren’t hurt while we explain to them how we’ve been systematically oppressed for literal centuries.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        There’s a limit to how many times I’m willing to explain why I suffer from other people refusing to level the playing field. Or why small actions can have big consequences (pebble causing avalanche).

        Hit that limit. I’m tired. If people won’t get it then it’s not my job to be a teacher.

    5. lazy intellectual*

      People are explaining very thoroughly and a lot of those commenters are doubling down. I don’t blame people for getting impatient.

    6. biobotb*

      But people *have* been explaining, over and over again. There may be some scoffing, but there are many, many more explanations, if the people who don’t understand privilege are interested in learning (though it seems like they’re not, since they keep overlooking the many, many explanations offered…).

  53. Quill*

    LW1, you need to hang around here more. The answers to “Can I send an anonymous note” and “can I address something with my partner’s employer” are both always NO.

  54. DevilMayCare*

    Regarding #2 (the unpaid internship), I have to disagree with Allison. It isn’t “striking at inequity” to decry using connections to obtain a job or internship, it’s tilting at windmills. Would the OP have said to a friend who advised her of a job opening that *she* was deeply interested “No, thanks. I’m afraid I can’t apply to it now, because it was brought to my attention via my connections, and I have a friend who works therefore, so it would be participating in a cycle of inequity?” I highly doubt it. “Connections” are always going to be valuable and useful, even as we improve equity in society. They are not a bad thing per se.

    This feels like virtue signaling to me. I honestly don’t see the point of denying an interested young person an opportunity to intern at a non-profit (that is in the business of doing good things), so that she might well join the non-profit world and continue to help make the world a better place.

    So instead of one young person being helped (assuming that there isn’t the time or budget to create an entire internship program) and the value of the program perhaps being proven so that it can be opened up in the future, NO young people are being helped, but the OP can say she feels good about not endorsing “inequity”?

    I’m sorry, but I see no logic in this. If you don’t want to, or don’t have the time, then simply recognize that. But if the genuine reason the OP won’t do it is because “she doesn’t want to embrace inequity”, then that seems quite misdirected here.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        They’ve compared applying to a job where you’d go through the same process as every other candidate to someone asking for a position to be set up specifically for their child, so I would guess that’s a no.

        1. DevilMayCare*

          LDN, in the spirit of assuming bona fides, I will assume that you are disagreeing with my position (not lacking understanding of it, or not having read it, as you mistakenly assumed of mine). I am linking being *told* of a job by a connection (i.e. benefiting from knowing somebody, similar to how the internship would have come into being because of a connection, which is a tangible advantage that people who do NOT have those connections don’t have) to having to turn down said opportunity because you “benefited” (however slightly) from having a connection.

          In the real world, connections matter. They always will, and it isn’t a matter of equity. It’s a matter of simple human nature. Would you lend me your car? No. Would you lend your best friend your car? probably. Is it “equitable” that your friend benefits from knowing you and I do not? You can carry this to the nth power, and reach of point of abject silliness.

          We disagree on where that point is. I think it is reached in the case mentioned here. You believe otherwise.

          Reasonable people can disagree, and one doesn’t have to assume a lack of reading or a lack of bona fides just because of that disagreement.

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            “In the real world,” the connections that a hypothetical intern who doesn’t already know people could make in an internship would help that person.

            “In the real world,” we are looking at the results of centuries of deliberate oppression and discrimination, on various axes. Conversely, “in the real world,” everyone knew that the president of the US is always a white man, so why should Obama even try?

            White supremacy, sexism, and class bias are real and entrenched things. So are influenza, measles, and COVID-19. None of these is a law of nature that we should accept rather than trying to change. (Laws of nature are things you’ll find in science class; they’re why perpetual motion machines can;t work.)

      2. DevilMayCare*

        I did, Colette. And I disagree. The *outcome* here is NOT that anything systemic will be changed, but that a person trying to break into non-profits will be denied an opportunity [that will be given to nobody else. Real change, I can get behind. Symbolic change that helps nobody and harms *anybody* is not that.

        In economics there is a concept called a “Pareto Optimality”, which is a way at looking at actions and understanding how they benefit both individuals and society. This action helps NEITHER any individual or society.

        Had the OP decided to allow the intern AND create an open-access internship program that would have been a fine choice, but the course described in the letter accomplished absolutely nothing other than making the OP “feel” like something was accomplished and not allowing an individual the opportunity to enter the world of nonprofits.

        1. Colette*

          Not every individual decision with change systemic problems – but cumulatively making decisions for equality will.

          And, while the coworker’s daughter (who might not even be interested) will miss out on this non-existent opportunity to enter the world of nonprofits, so will every other person who won’t get a chance to apply (because, again, the job doesn’t exist.)

        2. MsM*

          The nonprofit world has been having multiple intensive discussions on the systemic inequity created by internship programs – both formal and informal – that shut out individuals who don’t have a direct “in” and/or the financial security to accept less than a minimum wage. Anyone genuinely interested in breaking into the field would do well to familiarize themselves with those conversations if they’re having trouble understanding or accepting a rejection on those grounds.

      3. Anontoday*

        It is highly likely that they have, and that they still disagree. Not everyone comes to the same conclusions.

          1. Anontoday*

            The idea that people can form different opinions on a topic even if they read the same material.

            “If you had done the reading, you’d agree with me” is an assumption. It’s not an argument.

              1. Anontoday*

                You’re splitting hairs a bit. You did not say this explicitly, no. But your response to someone disagreeing with your point of view was, “Did you read?” The implication is that they can’t have the opinion they do had they looked at the same evidence you did. It’s lazy.

                1. MsM*

                  Saying “I see no logic in this” is equally if not more dismissive, though. You may disagree with the arguments, but that doesn’t mean they lack logic.

    1. Metadata minion*

      This isn’t the friend’s daughter letting her know about a job/internship opening in the LW’s department; this is the friend *asking for an internship to be created specifically for her daughter*. If I learn about a job through personal connections, I might have some advantage in being able to ask more questions about the position, maybe even find out about it before it’s officially posted, but I still have to compete with other candidates.

      1. DevilMayCare*

        Exactly. A friend asking for a favor that benefits both the intern and (presumably) the mentor, and could be used to justify the creation of a formal internship program in the future. A request that, if granted, results in benefit to both parties (and possibly others into the future) and harm to none. And a request that if denied, benefits *nobody* and doesn’t do anything whatsoever to change “inequity”.

        Like I said I’m fully onboard with “Yeah, I just don’t have the bandwidth for this.”, but “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to say no in the name of social justice.” seems misguided here.

        1. Colette*

          I’m not sure where this “formal internship program in the future” idea is coming from – several people have mentioned in on this thread but I don’t think the OP mentioned it. But not getting access to opportunities because they don’t know someone who will create an internship for them is harming people.

          And in this case, we don’t even know if the potential intern is interested – she’s certainly not contacting people herself. (If she were doing so, it would be a slightly more fair process.)

        2. biobotb*

          Avoiding compounding privilege (which is what would happen if the OP created an internship for a privileged coworker’s child just because a coworker asked them to) *is* changing inequity. It’s not just about expanding opportunities for disadvantaged people, but about NOT handing unearned opportunities to already-advantaged people.

          And your analogy isn’t at all comparable, because no internship exists right now. If you think that jobs should be created just because someone asks for one, that would be more analogous. I doubt you think they should, though. No more should an internship be created just because someone asked.

  55. Hiring Mgr*

    The email address issue seems kind of minor to me.. Yes, it’s silly probably shows at least a little lack of awareness, but if the person had the required skills and you’re struggling to find good candidates I’d at least want to have an initial conversation with them

    1. Observer*

      Well, for almost any job a reasonable set of boundaries and a decent amount of awareness and judgement are actual job requirements. An email address of this sort indicates a lack in all three areas.

  56. Boop*

    LW5: If an employee leaves a job after 9 months, they’re regarded with suspicion. If a job “opens up” after 9 months, it’s not cause for concern. Such is the way of the world.

    Anyway, I took a job like this once. A very small employer told me the previous employee wasn’t a “good fit” and didn’t like to travel (a requirement for the job) and offered me the employee’s number. I spoke to her, and she said the same thing. The employer said all the right things in the interview, but something still felt “off.” I took the job anyway. Only after starting the job did I discover that the boss was a “missing stair” and the workplace was a morass of pay equity issues and sexual harassment. I, too, was gone within the year. Looking back, I assume that my predecessor, like me, probably took a severance tied to a non-disparagement agreement. How does one do “due diligence” for a small employer who uses NDAs?

    Since you don’t need a new job right now and are in an in-demand field, you can afford to be picky. There are many innocent explanations for why your predecessor might have left early, but also a ton of bad ones. Clearly there is something that feels “off” to you, and I think it’s worth listening to that feeling because a bad job can really do a number on you, not just career-wise/financially, but also emotionally. I suppose there’s no harm in talking to them, but just…don’t rationalize away that gut feeling if it persists.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      I remember at the height of #metoo there were some states discussing laws making NDAs unenforceable in cases of sexual harassment, and I hope that ends up becoming law nationwide.

  57. UnhappyaboutLW2*

    The response for LW2 doesn’t make sense to me.

    Yes, it’s true that some people can’t afford to take unpaid internships.
    Does that mean we should deny everyone the opportunity, just because some people can’t have it?

    If the pursuit of equality is really what we’re after, then we should try level the playing field by bringing everyone UP to the same level, not pushing people who happen to have opportunities DOWN.
    And besides that, we don’t know the whole story. For all we know, the prospective intern has saved up a lot of money and has made personal sacrifices to be able to take their internship.

    Left a bad taste in my mouth to read this letter to be honest.

    1. Colette*

      Wouldn’t bringing everyone UP to the same level mean giving them all an equal opportunity at an internship (instead of giving it to someone who happened to have her mother ask)?

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      If OP’s workplace had an internship program, I would agree with you that the correct response from the OP would have been pointing the applicant’s mother to the proper channels through which her daughter can apply. (And even then, depending on the position the mother holds, the workplace would have to exercise a lot of caution to make sure that, if they choose this applicant over the rest, it would be because she’s the best fit, and not because her mother is in a position of power over the people interviewing the candidates.) But it doesn’t. There is no opportunity to be denied or granted.

    3. lazy intellectual*

      Again, there is no internship to begin with in OP2’s case, but let’s pretend there is.

      IF there is an internship program, then no – the kid doesn’t deserve the internship to be handed to them just for being related to the OP’s coworker.

      The kid deserves a chance at the internship. They can apply via an open application process and compete with other potential candidates. If they turn out to be the best candidate, then yes – they deserve the internship!

      No one is saying the coworker’s kid doesn’t “deserve opportunities”. However, they need to complete for those opportunities just like everyone else.

    4. Belgian*

      Nobody is being pushed down in this situation because not creating this internship is the status quo, but if an internship were to be created for this one person without giving others the opportunity to apply for it, she would be pushed up ahead of others. That is inequality.

    5. biobotb*

      So if I called you up and asked you to create a job for me, you’d do it? Because otherwise you’re denying me an opportunity.

  58. Observer*

    #1 – Your problem is not the manager.

    There are three problems here:

    1. The employer. Either they know that this manager is a piece of work or they have created an environment where people cannot / will not give feedback even when they leave the organization over issues even when they leave. There is no way to change that.

    2. Your wife. To be clear – the bad behavior is TOTALLY on the manager and the company. I am NOT at all blaming your wife for this. But she needs to recognize that what her boss is doing is definitely NOT normal, it IS abusive and, depending on her role, it may even be illegal. What exactly she should do about it is not something I can say from here, but step one is recognizing that something needs to change.

    3- You. Obviously I could be wrong here, because sometimes people come off in these letters differently than they really are. But, what you say in your letter comes off as patronizing and disrespectful. Have you discussed WHY she still checks emails, rather that you TELLING her to stop doing so? Have you actually had any discussion about what strategies are viable and why, and if there really is no way to manage this, what other options are open?

    Why do you think that doing something your wife is adamantly opposed to is a reasonable way to help her? It would have been bad enough if you had thought that you’ve had enough of this abuse and its impact on you, so you want to try this. This is worse though. You are doing the bad thing and you are cloaking it a veneer of concern for your wife – the apparent reason being that she is too stupid and / or broken to know what is good for her. Now, I realize that you may not actually think that, but how else does this make sense? Either way, that’s how it reads and either way you need to NOT do this.

  59. Observer*

    #3- I don’t think you should expect a “professional” email address, whatever that means. But what you are describing goes waaaay beyond unprofessional. And I would be concerned about her sense of basic boundaries. It’s like the people we’ve read about who insist on bringing the “entire” selves into the office or think that it’s reasonable to subject people to the ins and outs of their personal relationships. (Look for the letter about the person who wanted everyone in her office to refer to her SO as her master, for a truly bizarre example of that.)

    This is really, really not a high bar to set.

  60. Jennifer*

    More people than I realized got opportunities because of who their parents know, based on these comments. That’s really sobering.

    1. Kiki*

      It is really sobering to realize, but I personally was a little relieved to find this out when I was feeling like a failure for not having prestigious internships under my belt in college. I am from a small town in the rural midwest but went to a university where students come from a lot of privilege (like, private jet and island type of money). My freshman year, I felt like a failure because so many of my peers already had internships at prestigious agencies and stuff. But then I found out that their parents had gotten them the jobs. A lot of them didn’t even really care about what they were doing at their internships at all. I wasn’t a slouch, my parents just aren’t well-connected or especially wealthy!

      So while learning that angered me and has led me to push for the dismantling of the unpaid internship system and work to prevent nepotism within internships and entry-level jobs, I personally found it a relief to realize the system was broken and I hadn’t already failed as a 19 year old, if that makes sense.

      1. Jennifer*

        Yes, I used to feel like a failure too when I compared myself to others. Now I realize the numerous advantages some of them had behind the scenes. Some get so angry when that’s pointed out to them. No need to get angry, just share the wealth.

        I say that while realizing I also have some privilege over others. While I’m a minority, I think you have parents that give a crap about you, you have some privilege since so many people don’t.

        1. Kiki*

          I have a ton of privileges too, don’t get me wrong! I have parents who care very deeply for me and who both had incredibly stable jobs that allowed me to focus on my studies so I could get a scholarship to my ritzy alma mater. The actual curricula at my ritzy alma mater was very good and serves me well, but one of the best things my time there taught me is how much our society runs on privilege when it claims to be a meritocracy.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            how much our society runs on privilege when it claims to be a meritocracy
            yep :(

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Even with my older son, who is absolutely objectively great at what he does, got a paid internship on his own, graduated college with a near-perfect GPA and in 2.5 years instead of 4, has had a good career and built all his professional connections on his own etc… There was still one time when I pulled the few strings available to me to help him get ahead. He was looking for his first job out of college in our geographical area, and not getting any calls back. Our job market in his field is basically banks and large insurance companies, and he’s not a great fit for those. I sent his resume to someone who graduated from the same school I did (all those years ago), and she put it in at several major tech companies on the West coast. He got an interview with one of them, and that gave him enough leverage to get an offer from a tech startup that ended up being his first job. I guess it should make me feel better that I have no weight and no connections in the field where my other son is now looking for work, so he’s on his own. I admit I have mixed feelings. I feel bad for using my connections to get my son somewhere he might not have gotten to otherwise. But I am not sure if I wouldn’t have done the same if I had to do it all over again.

      On a positive note, this makes me feel proud of my workplace for having had (at least for a year or two – not sure we do it anymore) a system in place where we interviewed and hired people from tech bootcamps – older people, people from all walks of life and all kinds of diverse backgrounds, who’d decided to change careers and went back to school to make that happen. We’ve hired some of my favorite teammates through that channel. It goes without saying that none of them had any family connections whatsoever. No past workplace of mine had done this before. I’m glad someone in the management of my current one had this idea and went on to implement it.

      Also worth noting, I found my first US job in my field as a new immigrant through HIAS. They used to place people, mainly into blue-collar roles, but there was an entry-level position in my field that came up when I was looking and they sent me in for an interview. Hope they still do it – I know they still work with new immigrants.

    3. OyHiOh*

      I have a parent who, because of the kind of work they do, spends quite a lot of time in people’s homes, spanning a range of income bands but tending to favor white middle class and upward. As a result, when I started looking for jobs as a young person, I would introduce myself and people would respond with “oh, are you so and sos daughter?”

      I hated it. Left town at first opportunity and have never lived there since. I’ve never had any sense of satisfaction or accomplishment in getting advantages through who my parents know. I’ve struggled perhaps more than I “needed” to, and parent regularly says “well, if you’d come back here, we could help you with job/hobbies/etc.” Perhaps it is tilting at windmills to refuse family connections, or maybe it is resetting expectations and standards within my fairly broad network.

      1. Jennifer*

        I honestly wouldn’t have a problem with someone using their connections to get a job when they’ve been struggling and nothing has been working. I just wish they’d be more honest about it. So many people claim to be self-made when they have family money or had mom or dad make some calls to get them their first job, or even get them into a great college.

        1. Kiki*

          I think that’s part of why this system is so insidious, though. Most people won’t fault individuals for seizing an opportunity for themself or their families. People are going to do what they have to in order to survive and build the careers they want or help their kids. This issue has to be tackled systemically so a parent calling to get their kid in the door won’t actually work. So all labor is compensated fairly.

          1. Jennifer*

            You’re right. If I was struggling to find work and about to be evicted and my mom or dad could get me a job by making a few calls, I’d be really tempted to call them. But it’s not fair to the many, many other people who don’t have those connections.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              What we really need is a system where no one who is willing to work will ever be unable to meet their basic needs. Our system unfortunately pits people against each other for even the opportunity to… not be homeless.

            2. AJ*

              So it’s more important to you to be ‘fair,’ and thus homeless, than have a roof over your head and food in your belly? You don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.

        2. lazy intellectual*

          I don’t really fault people for taking those opportunities. I mean, I would have too if someone offered me my dream job out of college. It just shouldn’t be the default system for hiring. Not just from a social justice perspective, but even from an efficiency perspective. Everytime you don’t go through an open application process, you lose out on the chance to hire a better candidate.

          And so many people who benefit from fortunate connections pull out the ladder from underneath them. They forget that they were lucky, and pass on shitty career advice about “hustling” and “networking”. They vote for policies that harm poor and marginalized people because people who want/need social services are now “entitled”.

    4. Quill*

      Thinking about it probably the reason I failed to find any paying jobs or internships the last years of high school or first few years of college were that the people my parents knew were only able to get me volunteer work…

      Which was, not going to lie, GREAT for my resume in terms of entering college.

  61. Boop*

    LW3: I’ll be flamed for this, but in my opinion, the email address is one of those things that can straddle the line of arbitrary vs. good reasons to ding a candidate. Hear me out.

    So, in high school, I was told that to apply to colleges I should make a “boring” email account or use the school account because using “sexibunny69” would come across as unprofessional. In college, career services said the same thing. But…what if you didn’t go to a high school that expected you to go to college and told you this? What if you were never forced to go to career services? How would you know this, especially if you’re an older candidate? You mention that this candidate appears to be in her 50s and is applying for an entry-level job, so it’s safe to assume she hasn’t been flying high in her career up to this point. It’s entirely possible that she just doesn’t know.

    The inevitable rejoinder to this is, “Well, information about professional email addresses is out there for free online, like this blog” but that argument presupposes a lot and assumes that this candidate is aware of her blind spots. You don’t know what you don’t know. You can’t access things you don’t know exist.

    Maybe the position you’re hiring for really requires a candidate who knows all the professional norms right away, and you can’t afford to hire someone with blind spots. Okay. But you mention the candidate was fine in every other way besides the sexibunny69 email address (and being “too old” for that…so in a way, her age played a role in your decision, but that’s another issue).

    Yes, a lame resume format or a cringey email address can be a sign of bad judgment when someone really should know better, but sometimes these kinds of criteria can just be a trap for the unwary or people who are not a “good fit culturally” or don’t have the “right background” (and we know what these phrases can be code for).

    1. Jennifer*

      I could see at least doing a brief phone interview with her to see if she was a strong candidate if their weren’t many great applicants. But if there were a lot of other people that applied with better resumes, this is the kind of thing that can get you eliminated from the pack pretty quickly, fair or not.

      1. Boop*

        For sure. Also “sexibunny69” is really at the outer limits, even though I’m not clutching my pearls at the provocativeness of it. But there are other email addresses that are unprofessional yet anodyne (think like, “mskeke75”) that would also get dinged instantly. I just wanted to problematize the assumption that anyone with an unprofessional email address must have “terrible judgment” and be a bad candidate.

    2. Observer*

      Sorry. I hate to say this but if the only way someone understands that they should not use “sexibunny69” as their email address is being “forced” to go to career services, than I’m questioning their judgement. Now, in a kid just out of HS who doesn’t know anyone in a white collar job and never had an office type job, I understand lack of judgement + lack of experience.

      But an adult in their 20s should have developed some understanding of reasonable behavior – especially if they have been in the workplace. If I’m hiring for a job that requires a bit of judgement and understanding of basic appropriate behavior, then this is a red flag. And I don’t really care WHY they don’t have this. I do NOT want someone who is going to think it’s ok to discuss how hot they / their dates are, or who exhibit other similar inappropriate behavior.

      This is different than not being aware of conventions like sending a follow up acknowledgement / thank notes for example.

      1. Boop*

        1) You’re not sorry, nor do you “hate to say this.” Just say what you want to say without the snark.

        2) I think it’s a big leap and unfair to say that having a PG-13 email address means that a 50-something year-old woman (per the letter) seeking an entry-level job is a pervert who would share her sexual exploits with the whole office.

        3) I’m not advocating hiring or even interviewing sexibunny69. The whole point of my comment is just that what seems like basic judgment to one person may not actually be that basic, and so hiring managers should consider tamping down some kneejerk reactions to jobseekers’ failures to conform to convention. From cringeworthy email addresses to the failure to send a thank-you note to using heavy beige resume paper, there’s a wide range of things that earn an instant “no” from hiring people based mostly on custom and pet peeves, and a lot of those customs are really only taught in certain settings. It’s just something that hiring people who are concerned about equity might want to consider.

        1. Observer*

          1 – I wasn’t being snarky. I DO hate to have to point out that it is perfectly reasonable to expect adults to actually have adult judgement.

          2 – I never said that someone with that kind of email is a pervert. That’s totally your imagination. But people who don’t know what’s appropriate to share tend to be that way across the board.

          3 – There is a significant difference between this and inconsequentials like using the “wrong” color resume paper, or even not sending a thank you email. Even a cringeworthy email address is something I would consider, depending on the position and what makes it cringey. But as I said, this absolutely is an indicator of what a person thinks is appropriate to share.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah, I feel like seeing something as obviously inappropriate for work as an email address like “sexibunny69” as an equity issue is kind of condescending… like saying “only well-off white people know that applying for a job with an email address referencing sex and a sexual act isn’t a good idea.” Adults should as Observer put it, have adult judgment, and implying that people of color or people from less wealthy backgrounds are that crass is actually kind of gross.

        2. OP3*

          I do get that some people did not have the opportunity to have career services or high school life classes. However, I am also one of those people. I went to an inner-city high school with low standards and did not go to college. I started my current job as a temp and worked my way up. I do, however, realize that I have been fortunate enough to have managers in previous jobs coach me in becoming better. I also realize that there are trends in jib seeking etiquette that change frequently. Send a thank you note, don’t send one. Print your resume on resume paper, attach a picture of yourself (honestly, never understood this one). My pet peeves are my problem, not anyone else’s. Non-cringy email addresses just seem standard to me.

  62. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    LW5: I took a job where there was quick turnover of the job, less than a year, which was a red flag to me. I asked about it in the interview. I was assured that, oh no, the person moved on to something more in line with his career path, because he was young and recently out of school when he took the job. The person prior to him had been in the job for 8 years.

    This turned out to be not true. He was 30. He left because his boss, the woman interviewing me, was a nightmare. The predecessor who had been in the role 8 years had reported to someone else, and left before Nightmare Boss took over. She lied.

    If the turnover is for a red flag reason the hiring manager WILL lie to you in the interview. Be careful.

    1. Boop*

      Yep! A lot of jerks are really good at repressing their jerkiness for the time required to get you into the job and will feel no compunction about misleading you about why the other person left because they see the other person as the problem!

  63. Late night worker*

    LW1, I sympathize with your wife. This sounds like it might be a one-off boss situation, but this kind of expectation (well, not the 4:30am-9am turnaround, but definitely the 7pm-9am turnaround) is pretty common in my industry. It’s fair to want to help your wife retain perspective that these expectations are not normal, or to remind her she has other options (and your support) if she wants to change jobs. It’s really hard though, from the outside, to judge how much it’s actually possible to push back within the job without incurring real consequences. I hope that you are not putting unhelpful pressure on her to “relax,” because having been on the other end of that pressure, it doesn’t make things any easier to feel like you’re constantly stuck between disappointing a boss and disappointing a loved one.

    All I could think reading the situation you described was “man, if she’d had her phone on her between 7-11pm, she probably could have knocked out the updates when she got the email instead of being surprised by them when she was ready for bed.” I’ve been the person walking away from my phone at 7pm to make my family happy, and then losing sleep at midnight because of it, and it’s an awful feeling from every direction. I hope you aren’t encouraging her to ignore her boss’s emails if that’s not actually something she can afford to do and keep her job.

    (Incidentally this is also a pretty historically bad time to be job-hunting, so if her priority is “be amazing at the job I have, even if that involves doing some unreasonable things,” that actually seems like a reasonable perspective to me.)

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, pressuring her is unkind. If she is likely to be fired if she doesn’t comply with their unreasonable expectations, LW1 is just going to have to put up with it, considering what an awful time to lose a job this is. Sure, it puts a strain on him, but it puts a much worse strain on her.

  64. Poor people take unpaid internships too*

    For OP #2, just because someone can afford to work an unpaid internship, doesn’t mean they are financial well off or privileged.

    I took an unpaid internship in college the only reason I was able to afford to do it, was because I went to a super cheap community college that was close to home, so I didn’t have to pay room and board. And because my family was poor enough that I qualified for the Pell Grant. So my expenses were low enough that I could get away with an unpaid internship. (not to mention before school I worked a physical manual labor job to help with expenses while in college. So I had some savings.)

    For all you know, if you are capable of providing this internship, you could be helping a young person break out of poverty.

    1. Courageous cat*

      Why would you assume the absolute least likely set of circumstances is just as equal of a possibility here?

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        There’s a very small set of people who like to create almost fanfiction scenarios about a letter, then argue the fictional point. See the ‘my coworker was in quarantine but saw her out delivering prescriptions’ letter for an example (apologies I can’t recall the exact title).

        Not sure if it’s a take on devil’s advocate?

  65. Jaybeetee*

    The conversation on privilege and favours is interesting and enlightening.

    Some people are framing this as the daughter being “punished” or “denied” or “rejected”, and that’s very important framing in this conversation on a macro level, in that we’re talking about an “extra” here. A treat, a bonus, a perk.

    People who are used to getting “extras” perceive it as punishment when the extras are taken away. The larger reality is about a level playing field. Being told “you’re now the same as everyone else, no more extras” comes off as punitive, when it’s actually about correcting an older injustice.

    *That person never should have had access to the extras in the first place. Those extras were always coming at someone else’s expense.*

    If you were accidentally double-paid at your job, while a colleague wasn’t being paid at all, then payroll corrects the error and you’re back at your regular base pay and your colleague now also receives their correct salary – that’s not actually something being taken away from you. You’re not being punished. The error is being corrected and you shouldn’t have been given so much in the first place.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      People who are used to getting “extras” perceive it as punishment when the extras are taken away. The larger reality is about a level playing field. Being told “you’re now the same as everyone else, no more extras” comes off as punitive, when it’s actually about correcting an older injustice.

      I think a contributing part of this reaction is that in many cases, their only experience (and thus their only understanding) of having something they want taken away is as a punishment. They don’t have the perspective to recognize that having an inequality corrected is not actually about them.

    2. Koala dreams*

      You have a point. I see education as less of a privilege and more as a right. In my opinion, the solution to unequal opportunities is not to take away educational opportunities but to add more of them. If someone suggested a living wage for students I would be in favour, but until then I think it’s more important that there are as much education available as possible, even if it’s unfair to less privileged people who can’t afford to study.

      Not that it changes the advice for the letter writer 2, of course. The internship offer to the daughter of a co-worker isn’t a good idea for many other reasons. I just think that it would be even worse to offer a paid internship as a favour instead, and hope that the letter writer, if they have the chance to offer internships in the future, would re-consider their opinion on paid and unpaid internships. There are many other factors that make internships unequal beyond the paid/unpaid issue.

  66. Susana*

    Unpaid intern and privilege – I agree it’s terribly unfair to create one-time internship for a friend’s daughter. BUT, in competitive, established internship programs, it’s not really unpaid if you are getting college credit.

    All my internships in college were unpaid, because I got college credit for them. Instead of going to class and writing papers and taking exams, I was doing work at the internship. I’m white but hardly privileged – put myself through school, so finances were extremely tight. But no difference between paying tuition for a class vs paying tuition for on the job training (the latter got me my first job, by the way – not my classes).

    What has changed since I was in school are places that expect GRADUATES to work for free in exchange for.. what? The possibility of a paid job? That’s outrageous and should be against the law (maybe it is, in some places)

    1. jack*

      yeah, sorry, but college credit doesn’t put food on the table. i could have gotten college credit for my internship and research positions, but I had to pay for college credits and needed to have money for rent and food.

    2. Colette*

      You can get a student loan for tuition; you can’t do that for an internship as far as I know. I agree that work experience should be a mandatory part of getting a degree – but if that’s the case, there has to be a way for people to survive while doing it.

      1. Observer*

        If it’s part of your college work, you actually may be able to get grants / loans in the same way you get those for the living expenses of being in college.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          I’ve been reading through this thread so confused that this hasn’t been mentioned yet. Like, a part-time internship for 3 credit hours plus a couple of courses gets you to 9 credit hours, which is *usually* the magic number for full-time student aid eligibility in the US (and most parts of Canada). So much discussion seems to assume that everyone’s doing a full-time unpaid internship for part-time credit.

    3. Koala dreams*

      Unpaid internships for non-students are definitely a thing where I live, and have been for a long time. I’m quite fond of them as they offer an alternative to studies for people who learn better on the job or don’t have the time for traditional studies. They can often be more flexible compared to taking a class (but sometimes aren’t). Its important that applicants are interested in the field. Sometimes people are pressured into these internships because of the fear of resume gaps, and I don’t agree with that at all. In that case, volunteer work or classes related to your interests and career plans would be much better.

      To require both a degree and an internship – well, it’s not much worse than requiring a degree and relevant work experience, and that’s common. Sometimes I wonder how companies get any applicants at all, in between the high requirements for entry level jobs and the age discrimination.

  67. Granger*

    #1 My spouse’s boss received a management book anonymously (not one of AAM’s unfortunately) and I was fascinated (and gobsmacked) to hear the stories about how the boss handled it. The boss brazenly (in front of staff) brought the book with her to meet with her manager and then again later in the week to a meeting with HR. She thought HER BOSS might have sent it to her ANONYMOUSLY (I feel like there is a lot to unpack just with that assumption!).

    It was interesting because after the initial shock of receiving the book, the boss seemed to be more focused on finding out WHY the book was sent instead of from whom!

    The boss and others ended up believing it was an employee who had left recently, but a few years later a staff member found out (and told my spouse) that a current employee admitted that her husband had suggested the anonymous book and they had purchased and sent it to the boss together (naturally this belated confession happened while out for drinks).

    Humans are endlessly fascinating (and kind of horrifying).

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It says a lot about a person on the receiving end that they get caught in the wrong details of the “gifting” of advice books.

      This is also junior-high level shenanigans because I literally did this kind of crap in junior high to a teacher who wronged me. Don’t be junior high me. Like ever. I’m still ashamed of junior high me, jfc.

  68. league**

    About OP 4, the teacher doing the computer work: teaching is one of those “basically always exempt” jobs, per the FLSA. But since she’s doing a different type of work over the summer, does she become non-exempt, Alison?

  69. gbca*

    #5 – my job was re-posted after 9 months because I got a fantastic internal opportunity that my boss wholeheartedly supported me in. Sounds like you might have more insight that this person left the org, but I would caution against making too many assumptions about when a job is re-posted.

  70. employment lawyah*

    2. Internships and equity
    I vote yes. If you want to build equity, you should do so by “expanding” and not “contracting.” You like her, you’d otherwise say yes, and you have no reason to say no other than your perception (which may or may not be accurate, as we all know) that she may be too privileged.

    See if it can be done, and if it works well you can look into purposefully expanding internships for others who are not in your network.

    3. Am I wrong for rejecting a candidate because of their email address?
    Nope, I do it too.

    4. Charging for hours spent learning or fixing mistakes
    As AAM said, common practice is to fudge this. Especially if you’re new, because otherwise you probably won’t get any work–and frankly, it’s easier to “not bill for learning TIME” than it is to bill a lower newbie-only rate and raise it later.

    It’s a bit different if you’re salaried, which almost all teachers are. Salaried employees don’t really exactly work ‘extra hours,” because the job is the job is the job: You get it done. Long hours are part of the package to a large degree, at least for teachers–along with things like substantially protected employment, publicly funded benefits and retirement, and incredible amounts of vacation.

    If this is a carve-out, though, I’d bill but would fudge a bit for learning.

    5. How wary should I be of a job that was re-opened after only nine months?
    Not at all, based only on what you describe.

    Most obviously, this job is in such high demand that it’s quite possible they got poached for more money; got promoted; or got so successful that they now need an assistant. All of those things are good, not bad!

    1. Observer*

      You like her, you’d otherwise say yes, and you have no reason to say no other than your perception (which may or may not be accurate, as we all know) that she may be too privileged.

      So if there is an internship, you pick the person who you “like” the most, not the person who would do the best job and / or gain the most? You don’t even give anyone else a chance? That’s not “expanding”, that’s giving someone something that NO ONE ELSE has any chance of getting access to simply because of who their parent knows.

      1. employment lawyah*

        Sure. Nothing is wrong with hiring in a network, or hiring a friend. It can cause issues do do that repeatedly and exclusively but frankly this is the ideal situation to hire someone you know.

        Here, the option IS NOT “give this person an internship” or “give some equally deserving person an internship.” It’s “this person” or “no person.” So they may as well do this with low effort, and see how it works, and–if it works, which it may not!–then they can look into deliberately expanding next year.

        Moreover, people don’t need to do every single thing the same way at all times. Maybe they will take on this intern (a friend) and the commit to a real search for a fully-out-of-network intern next year. Who’s to say that isn’t a better outcome than a putatively-open thing which may not have the same reach?

        And no: When you take on an intern, you do not need to help “the person who will gain the most”. You are 100% allowed to select people who you find pleasant to work with. Otherwise you probably won’t keep doing internships at all, which is bad for everyone.

        Of course, if you LIKE doing charity and are willing to take on someone who you like less, in order to help them more…. sure! But that is not at ALL an internship requirement.

        1. Observer*

          None of which addresses the fundamental claim that people should “lift everyone up”. That’s NOT happening in your scenario. The only person who is being lifted up – who even has a chance of being lifted up – is the kid with lots of options already.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      OP didn’t say that they “liked” the daughter, or the coworker. (Hard to tell how well they even know either of those people.) They said they “like the idea of mentoring someone who is interested in my field”, which is a different thing altogether. They also said they would not “otherwise say yes”, because “I don’t have the budget to pay an intern and I don’t have the time to set up an organized internship with a fair application process.”

      Also, everything that Observer said about giving a job to someone you happen to like, instead of going through the fair application process that OP says should be set up.

      1. Rosalind Montague*

        For context–the OP did say they liked the colleague and that the daughter seemed nice in an additional comment. Their concerns remained 1) not prepared to take on an intern and 2) if they were to, they wished to do so in a more equitable manner with a process.

        I just keep reflecting on how many times when someone has asked me a favor, I agonize if I feel like I can’t or don’t want to say yes. When, usually, if I say “I’m so sorry, I just don’t have the capacity to do that,” or “I’m sorry, that won’t work for me,” rarely is the person upset.

  71. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

    #2: So let’s say I’m a college student who emails my resume to a bunch of companies without formal internship programs asking if they’d be interested in taking me on as an intern. Now, one of them creates a position for me, but the reality is that if they’d gone through a formal competitive intern recruitment process I probably wouldn’t have been short-listed – right skills and coursework, but “wrong” major. Did my internship employer commit a non-equity-seeking faux pas?

    Does this change if I lack race and class privilege? I ask because I’m a WOC and that’s basically how I got started in my first career. This scenario doesn’t involve nepotism in the same way that the OP’s does, but the ad-hoc vs. formal position thing is pretty much the same. I struggle with this one because the “back door” is often times how we get great candidates who don’t fit a specific mold, and we’re not that great at running “front door” selection processes where we evaluate candidates holistically. I don’t want to make a case for practices that support nepotism, but…

    1. MsM*

      I do think it would be a different situation if the daughter had reached out herself to explain why she wanted to work with OP and either made a compelling case that she’d be a good fit for what OP has in mind or suggested some ideas of her own that OP found intriguing. That demonstrates enough initiative and maturity to at least be worth an informational interview or keeping someone on the list for future opportunities, as opposed to “I need this credit; Mom, help!”

      1. lazy intellectual*

        Agree. Again, I don’t think any fault lies with the individuals who receive these opportunities. I would never expect anyone to turn down an opportunity that was given to them. It’s awesome that this method and outcome worked for you and the employer. However, this shouldn’t be a norm. Employers shouldn’t passively wait for candidates to come up to them – that’s a shitty hiring process! If their open application process is yielding bad employees, then the process needs to change, but open applications themselves are not the issue. ‘Back door’ hires aren’t necessarily better than ‘front door’ hires.

        Your employer wasn’t smart – they just lucked out.

    2. Koala dreams*

      I seem to be in the minority on this issue, but for what it’s worth, I think the unfairness with the situation in the letter is giving a favour to family of a co-worker, not the other things. In your case, this problem didn’t exist. You were hired because of things you did, not because of your family or friends.

      Could your employer have done a better job on fair hiring? Probably. They were lucky to get your application. If they hadn’t, if they had got an application from an employee’s daughter, then they might have done a nepotism hire instead. The danger of ad-hoc is that you let luck decide, and luck is unfair, not in every single case, but on a society level. Privileged people are luckier, on average.

  72. CW*

    OP3 – You are not being unreasonable at all. Any candidate with a professional mind should not even think about using an email address that is extremely indecent. I am a professional male in my early 30s, and my personal email address is simply my middle name, first name, and last name as one word, in that order. Numbers would be fine too, such as

    But Not professional at all. That person should know she is not in high school or even college anymore.

  73. Anony-Mouse*

    OP3 I wonder if it was simply sent from the wrong email. She was logged into her professional and personal emails (Gmail lets you login to multiple accounts at once) and didn’t check which one she was sending it from.
    BUT, this still shows an inattention to detail and so on that basis I still would reject the candidate.

  74. unlurking*

    OP1, definitely do not write the anonymous note, they will definitely figure out it was you or *worse* think your wife wrote it herself, because who else would send a letter with that content?

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