my employee wants to work from home without child care for his baby forever

A reader writes:

I’ve been a manager for one year and one of my team members, I’ll call him Larry, is consistently behind, terrible with due dates, and generally unreliable. He does really great work, but it’s almost never on time. My boss (the head of our organization) knows this unreliability has been going on for years, but has said we are not firing him.

Larry had a new baby join the family in February of last year and has been the primary caregiver since then, caring for the baby while trying to work his full-time job. His husband works a more demanding job and he straight-up told me that because his husband gets paid more and has more strict and regular deadlines, Larry takes on the bulk of the childcare duties. The particulars of Larry’s job mean that he really needs dedicated periods of focused work time without distractions in order to accomplish his duties — especially because he’s someone who gets easily distracted and unfocused. Every week in our one-on-one meetings, Larry has a story about how he sat down to try to get this dedicated work time, only to be interrupted by a crying baby or his husband handing the baby over to him because his husband had a very important call.

I understand that the pandemic has forced many people to care for children while trying to work, and we’re an organization that prides ourselves on being family-friendly (plus we’ve been WFH for years). My problem is that Larry told us long before the pandemic that his plan was always to have the baby at home with him full-time and be the baby’s primary caregiver — while working a full-time job.

This just doesn’t add up to me, especially because he’s an employee who has always struggled with deadlines and timeliness. Furthermore, Larry has made it clear that he has no intention of putting his child in daycare now or in the future, no matter what changes with the pandemic. I have gently asked whether he has any family who can help out and he’s said no. I am at a loss because I think this is just an untenable plan. We have other members of our team who are only part-time and still pay for daycare for their young children because they have said it is impossible to get work done with little ones around.

My boss knows what’s going on but says it’s inappropriate for us to tell Larry how to manage his household. While I generally agree, I just can’t see how this situation can go on, especially as the baby gets more and more mobile. What’s more, Larry just told our team last week that he and his husband are expecting (through a surrogate) another baby in September.

Not only am I looking at this with regards to Larry’s situation, but I also think often about the precedent it sets for other employees. One of my other newer team members recently remarked to me that she’s thinking about trying for children with her husband soon, and is so glad to see how well everything’s going for Larry having his baby at home with him — something she now hopes to do as well. *facepalm* What’s the best way to proceed? As a manager, what are appropriate lines to set around childcare, especially given the pandemic—but also the knowledge that the pandemic will not be forever? Is it okay to tell Larry he needs to find childcare, especially when Baby #2 is born?

Yes.

Before the pandemic, it was customary for companies to have policies requiring that anyone working from home with small children have separate child care in place for their kids, and to strictly enforce that. Most companies prohibited working from home while also caring for little kids, because you can’t do both at once — as many, many people have seen this past year when the pandemic forced them into trying to do it.

Employers had no choice but to become flexible on that during Covid. When schools and daycares were closed, most parents working from home had no alternatives to having their kids at home with them. Even now that many schools have opened back up, some people have still chosen to keep their kids at home because of the risks of the pandemic. It’s right for employers to accommodate that, since the alternative is parents needing to drop out of the workforce altogether (something that has affected women in particular in massive numbers this past year).

But once we are no longer in pandemic conditions, it makes sense to return to the child care expectations we had before the pandemic — to recognize the reality that people cannot care for small children while remaining focused on work, and to require separate child care to be in place while those employees are working.

That is true for everyone, but it’s especially true for an employee who you describe as “consistently behind” and “generally unreliable” and who struggles with deadlines and timeliness!

The best thing you can do is to give Larry — and all your employees — advance notice now that while you have of course been flexible during the pandemic, by the end of the year* you will no longer permit employees to be the primary caregiver for kids under age 10 (or age 12, or whatever cutoff your company chooses) while on the clock. Tell people now so that they can make the right plans for themselves, particularly since you’ve heard Larry and others making plans that are predicated upon different assumptions.

Of course, you’ll need your boss on board with this and that might be a sticking point, given his apparent unwillingness to hold Larry to basic performance expectations. (You have a boss problem, by the way!) You should point out to your boss that this isn’t about telling Larry how to manage his household; it’s about telling Larry how to manage his job, which you very much have standing to do, and which millions of other companies do as a matter of policy.

* Planning for the end of the year seems like a reasonable timeline now, but you can always push it back later if we’re not in a place to make that realistic then. But the point is to say something now so people can begin planning.

{ 423 comments… read them below }

  1. Worldwalker*

    If he doesn’t want to send the kid(s) to daycare, maybe a nanny would be a practical solution?

    I have enough problems being interrupted by a *cat*; two small children would make working impossible!

    1. Pop*

      It is not this person’s job to tell Larry how to manage his childcare though! There are lots of solutions, none of which are appropriate for the OP to bring up (except for things that are about his work schedule – if they’re open to having the position be part time, flexible scheduling options, etc).

      1. Wintermute*

        There’s a difference between dictating an employee’s life to them and mentioning, “that could look like x, y, z, w or v, or anything else that works for you, but here are our expectations.” So if Larry says “oh we can’t do that we don’t want to send them to childcare,” it wouldn’t be inappropriate to retort, “Honestly, I’m not saying you have to, you could do in-home childcare or you could find some other solution, but what we expect is that by the end of the year* our employees will be able to devote their full attention to work in order to keep work-from-home as an option for them.”

        1. Hil*

          It’s just details OP doesn’t need to be involved in. Like asking if a relative is available. It’s just not relevant. Larry needs to find childcare and meet his deadlines. Boss doe snot need to be involved with the personal life aspect of things.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Honestly, in theory you don’t even need to tell Larry to find childcare. What Larry’s manager needs to tell Larry is that it is not consistent with the terms of Larry’s employment to be an active caregiver to a child while on the clock past the end of ________ (December or whatever other timeframe they decide to set). What Larry does about this is Larry’s business. It might be to find childcare. It might be to work out his and his husband’s schedules so that they don’t work at the same periods, and can each take the children while the other is working. It might be to quit his job.

            None of that is the manager’s place to get into; all the manager needs to do, or should do, is to say “I wanted to give you plenty of advance notice so you had time to work out your plans: we’re not going to be able to accept employees doing childcare while on the clock anymore after this year is up. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” And then if Larry asks for kinds of help that are within range of the manager’s job (for example, helping to adapt Larry’s work schedule so that it dovetails with when he needs to be on childcare duty), they can do that. But it doesn’t need to go further and it gets a little invasive if it does. Even if you’re just trying to help.

      2. sofar*

        I agree. Plus, nannys are so expensive (and hard to find) that a boss suggesting you get one could come across as tone-deaf.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Depends on where you are. Nanny shares (and au pairs) are common in DC and can be on par with the cost of center care and with shorter waiting lists. But that just goes to show that OP does not need to solve Larry’s childcare situation nor recommend a specific way to address that but rather to require Larry to do his job to spec and on deadline and let Larry and his partner sort out their childcare needs as it makes the most sense for them. OP does not need to be involved in calculations of cost, availability, etc.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. My cousin has 3 kids and decided a nanny was actually better value than nursery places in London. I think they’re no dearer when you have multiple infants.

            1. Maree*

              But where I live it is very common to drop out of the workforce if you have three preschoolers because the cost of childcare well exceeds your nett wage.
              Suggesting a nanny essentially means you are paying a gross wage out of your nett wage and unless someone is very well paid not realistic. The response from Larry may well be to quit (especially if his husband is a high earner), boss needs to factor that in to the equation as he seemingly places high value on keeping him.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        ‘It is not this person’s job to tell Larry how to manage his childcare though!’

        But it is the manager’s job to hold Larry accountable for his performance issues and it sounds like that is what she plans to do. It is also appropriate to tell him ‘If I do not see improvement in A, B, and C, I will put you on a performance improvement plan/terminate your employment. You’ll need to meet project deadlines 100% of the time…’ and so on.

        If Larry doesn’t see the light and obtain even part-time child care, then his manager is within rights to put him on a PIP and terminate him if he fails to meet the performance goals. Larry may decide to ignore his manager’s directions, but then he will simply have to deal with the consequences of his choices.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I agree with that, and never said it was. I have had discussions like the one I outlined above, focusing only on the work performance of my employee and my expectations – even when I know full well their personal life choices were a big part of their poor performance.

          2. Pinto*

            It may not be appropriate to say “hire a nanny”, but it certainly would appropriate to require a work from home employee provide confirmation of childcare arrangements urging working hours.

            1. Coffee Bean*

              Yup. Agreed. And pre pandemic, this type of directive was common in companies that allowed a work from home option.

            2. Amaranth*

              The idea of ‘proof’ bothers me. Barring a job that requires specific hours of availability, does it matter if they do the bulk of their work after the kids are down for a nap or even late at night so long as deadlines are met? In this case, the work isn’t getting done, but to me that means a discussion about deadlines is needed, and then Larry needs to figure out how to fulfill the requirements of his job.

        1. Sharikacat*

          You’re forgetting that the big boss has outright said that Larry isn’t getting fired. Larry clearly knows this and is taking advantage of the opportunity to further his domestic goals while getting paid full-time for the efforts of part-time.

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            It sounds like Larry has to drop a major ball that will cost the company big money before he gets fired. And yes, Larry is gaming the current system.

        2. MassMatt*

          The problem is that the LW/Larry’s manager has been told by the boss that Larry “will not be fired” and regards Larry’s unreliability etc as, if not OK, then at least someone else’s problem. How can LW enforce a PIP? And now, as expected, other employees are looking to take advantage of this “policy” where they can get paid FT while being a FT care giver. Now that the camel’s node has been allowed to push its way into the tent, the rest of the camel is going to follow.

          I don’t see this ending well, unless the boss can be made to understand that something has to be done about Larry. If that doesn’t happen, well, honestly I’d start looking for another job because soon there’s going to be multiple Larry’s and either work won’t get done or the rest of the team is going to have to do their work, resentment will build, and good people are going to leave.

      4. Krizzle*

        It absolutely it his managers place to tell him to arrange his childcare. Why should he be getting paid to work from home with a baby to take care of. Usually most employers have a policy you cannot work from home without childcare in place.

      5. GammaGirl1908*

        They aren’t telling Larry how to manage his childcare. They are simply telling him that there needs to *be* childcare other than him.

        The office doesn’t care how the kids get wrangled; they just care that Larry is not the primary one wrangling them during his work day. He can hire a nanny, or have his partner go part time, or he can go part time, or he can send the kids to daycare, or whatever combination he wants to do, as long as he is not trying to do everything. He can resolve this issue however he wants to. He’s just not entitled to his perfect solution, which is not having a nanny and not sending the kids to childcare and keeping his full-time job.

        Larry thinks he has figured out some magic solution that the rest of the country hasn’t thought of — why not just keep the kids at home, and work at home as much as I can, and not turn my kids over to “be raised by a stranger” (quotes because that is obviously not how it works), and not pay a nanny to come in, and get paid my full salary! This isn’t that hard! Why doesn’t everyone do this?

        He’s about to find out.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          The problem is, the LW can tell Larry anything they want about what he must do, but so long as Larry isn’t getting fired for refusing to do these things and he knows it, he isn’t going to obey. Managing without authority to fire is a problem under the best of circumstances; it’s even harder when the employee has either been told or has figured out that they can do as they please and nothing will happen to them. I would be dusting off my resume… this is not a team that will be worth managing for much longer. There are already other team members learning from Larry’s methods.

      6. Software Engineer*

        Yes. The long and short of it is you need Larry to do his job. However he has to arrange his life for that to happen is up to Larry. Will he find a nanny or the grandparents or a regular daycare or find a part time role or drop out of the workforce to be a SAHD? That’s up to him

        If the LW gets stuck in the ‘providing solutions’ mode then you end up throwing ideas that Larry can reject with no I don’t want that because X, that won’t work because Y, and it makes it into LW’s problem to solve. But it’s not! Larry is an adult with access to the internet to research the breadth of childcare arrangements available. What LW needs to do is determine that they can goons him accountable to do his job and then then do it, and how Larry manages his child(ten) is up to him.

      1. Wintermute*

        I wouldn’t say it up front but if they come back with why daycare just wouldn’t work for them, I would say something like “if that’s not an option for you I am sure there are others, but our expectation remains that whether the child is at a childcare program or being cared for by someone else at home, in order to keep work-from-home as an option employees will need to have someone else caring for their child, we’ve been flexible because of the pandemic but that flexibility will end in january*”

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I agree with you. The idea is not to tell Larry what he should do but to say, “It can be in-home or out-of-home, but you must have childcare that is not you.”

      2. Joan Rivers*

        The problem isn’t what their childcare details are — it’s his job performance. He needs to meet deadlines.

        1. Green Dinosaur*

          Yes! This is it 100%. For the past four years I have worked from home while caring for my child. This was more difficult when he was younger. I had to work 12-18 hour days to get a full 8 hours in with all the breaks that were necessary. I worked “extra hours” to be able to manage providing child care and working from home. He could do the same if it was not affecting his job performance. That is the real issue.

    2. Joan Rivers*

      I’ve been a live-in nanny. You can hire someone to come in and care for the baby/babies. And negotiate that if there’s down time they will do some household chores*.
      * So long as you don’t act like any “housecleaner” is qualified to care for children too.

      They can be in the same room w/you sometimes. S/he could be folding baby’s laundry while baby plays. Once there are two babies it’ll be a lot more clear why this is needed.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Because the nanny would be at his home w/him he can probably “train” her or him and hire a beginner w/good qualities.

    3. Me*

      I agree with the boss that it’s not your place to tell people what to do at home. I’d sit with Larry and tell him he needs to complete Project X and Y by deadline A and B. I don’t care how you manage your child care but the work needs to get done.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This. Trying to tell people how to manage their family situations is problematic. Telling people what’s required of their job and letting them figure out how to make that happen is fine. The big problem is if the boss won’t allow any consequences for Larry’s lack of deadline compliance, how is OP supposed to manage him?

        1. Sharikacat*

          The boss is the bigger problem, in that he isn’t letting the OP do their job properly. OP is stuck mitigating current and future damage through an inability to properly hold Larry accountable.

          1. SeluciaMD*

            Agreed. And the OP needs to be working on that as well. If she can’t get the boss to support her need to really manage Larry and hold him accountable, she needs to consistently put those problems in boss’ lap.

            “Larry has missed two deadlines and we’re now X days behind schedule for Big Client. Should I bring on a temp to help with the workload?”

            Alison has advocated for this approach many times and it’s one I wish I’d thought to use in prior jobs. Let the boss experience the full scope and impact of the Larry problem. The other option is to see if there is a way to quantify the impact of Larry’s inability to meet deadlines. It’s costing $X in overtime or having $X impact on the budget or taking $X out of the profit margin. Those can also be the kinds of things that will make a boss reconsider their stance on a problem employee.

            Good luck OP!

      2. Your Local Password Resetter*

        But childcare is pretty much guaranteed to get in the way of that work. Especially when he’s already unreliable as it is. His plans are untenable, so OP will have to intervene or deal with the inevitable problems this is going to cause.

      3. Artemesia*

        of course it is the boss’s ‘place’ to require child care for any employee working from home. It is literally impossible to pay attention to a full time job and a small child.

        1. Idril Celebrindal*

          To me it feels functionally equivalent to not permitting parents to bring their kids into the office to care for them there. It’s not so much saying, “you must send your kid to daycare” as it is saying, “during the work day, whatever option you choose for childcare, that option cannot be you.”

          1. Vichyssuave*

            This is where I fall too. Pandemic times excluded obviously, if the company wouldn’t let someone bring their child in to work every day because they lacked childcare options, it should also not be permitted for WFH employees.

            1. Green Dinosaur*

              Honestly, what the parents do for childcare is irrelevant. Larry’s job performance is the issue and where the conversation should be. The expectation is for Larry to meet deadlines and he was struggling prior to becoming a parent and caring for his child full-time. He needs to be held accountable for meeting expected deadlines. How he meets those, is up to him. If he is salaried, he can work extra hours to compensate for the time lost due to child interruptions.

              The issue is not the childcare, it is his work ethic and sense of responsibility.

      4. onco fonco*

        As a parent of two children, I really think LW does have standing to tell people what to do in this particular circumstance. Larry is clearly kidding himself that he can do two jobs at once and he absolutely can’t. This is an untenable situation, just as much as if he were trying to work another full-time job for a different employer at the same time, and he has got to get childcare of some sort. OP doesn’t have to care what sort, but she does and should care that he has some.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        It’s not OP’s place to say what to do at home — but it IS their place to say what NOT to do at work. In this case, do not have a responsibility that takes priority over the work we pay you to do.

      6. Librarian1*

        It’s not the boss’s place to tell Larry the specifics of how he should manage his childcare, but it’s perfectly acceptable for the boss/company to require that he HAS childcare.

    4. Mayflower*

      I very much vote for a nanny. When I had my baby I went back to WFH after a couple months and there was a world of difference between separating from the baby for the entire day, and having my baby being cared for in my own home. It doesn’t have to be an expensive situation either – it’s much easier to find someone when the parent is available to take over any time. A lot of people are happy to trade money for flexibility and you don’t need to be as stringent with background verification since you are always there to supervise (if needed). I bet Larry would be much more amenable to this, in contrast to “abandoning” his baby, “missing out on all the important milestones”, etc.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        A lot of community colleges have early childhood education programs; it may be possible to hire someone with some training/still in school to act as a ‘mother’s helper/in home care provider’ or whatever title, giving them experience for when they begin to apply at childcare centers and also offering the care needed. I’ve known people who do that here since our CC has an ECE program.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          I did this as a college student in the summer- I only had a couple classes and I worked part time for a mom who had gotten involved in an advocacy group and couldn’t bring the children in with her. It was good for both of us- I got paid to play with the kids (who still remember me umpteen years later!) and she got child free work time.

    5. Anonymous Poster*

      I think it’s reasonable to be ready with in home suggestions if there’s pushback. Nannies and au pairs could be good options, and the point isn’t whether or not it’s tone deaf. The point is that Larry needs to find childcare for his children, because he can’t do his job and childcare at the same time. It isn’t working, and he has performance issues.

    6. Artemesia*

      My daughter is full time WFH and one of the requirements of her job before COVID was having child care — either the kids are in day care or school or you have a nanny. She had a nanny for the first 6 mos for her last child and day care after that. It is entirely unreasonable to expect to provide full time day care to an infant or toddler and work full time from home; it is also tough on kids. For a lousy employee like this, it is even more unreasonable.

      Unless this is a one off of piss poor management, I would be seriously thinking about looking for a job elsewhere as you have a truly terrible boss. Obviously you don’t need to jump in haste but I would certainly have my materials in shape and be scanning the environment for new opportunities. Let Larry and the boss get the work done without you.

    7. Amanda*

      I have worked at home since my daughter was three months old. We had a nanny until about 6 months old and then switched to me watching LO and working. I manage an office of 9 people and co manage about 30 others. I have to have my work phone on at all times to answer calls with customers and vendors. We have slow seasons and hectic seasons. I have made it work. It’s tough but we have taught her that if I’m on the phone she has to be quiet. When I’m off the phone her and I can play, talk, etc. She is now three and thriving. The owner of our company is amazing and lets me take her to meetings and functions. The difference is, I don’t let myself get behind. I work like mad during nap times and after work (when she’s in bed) to catch up. I know some would see as that as counter productive, but it works for us!

  2. Roscoe da Cat*

    I would add that pointing out to your boss that other employees are going to expect the same treatment is a good idea. For whatever reason, he is fine with Larry, but how is he going to defend not letting every parent do the same thing?
    In other words, push the consequences for his inaction onto his lap.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      Not to mention, it’s a morale-killer for other employees to see someone constantly rewarded for bad behavior. The reward being that Larry a) doesn’t get fired, b) doesn’t seem to have consequences for being constantly behind, and c) gets a full salary for a less than full-time work!

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I’m not sure everyone on the team knows that Larry is always behind on deadlines and such, given the comment by the coworker that it seems to be going so well for him.

        1. TootsNYC*

          They might have used those words because what they’re seeing is that Larry isn’t being penalized for missing deadlines and being behind. The company tolerates baby-caused delays for him, and that may be what she expects for herself.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            Yep, Larry is getting everything he wants: full time care giving for the baby, no pressure to perform at work because OP is not allowed to enforce consequences for missing deadlines/poor performance, and no requirement to change anything at all. Who wouldn’t want that situation??

            It might change when more employees start expecting this same kind of treatment (and then receive it, and then work quality and quantity drops off), but it might not if the grand-boss is that conflict averse.

            1. jojo*

              Yup. I foresee a set discrimination suit when a woman has a baby and has the same problems Larry is having. The woman will be held to the fire while Latty skates.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’d be beyond fuming. I’ve worked with a few slackers in the past who should have been brought up on performance improvement plans multiple times, but the boss for whatever reason just told us to ‘cover it’ and would tell us we can’t book leave for times when the slackers are unavailable.

        It came to a head when I got pulled up for performance issues (I’d been off for medical reasons!) and when I asked why I wasn’t being given the leeway of my coworkers didn’t get an answer. I quit that firm.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        If Larry’s not getting canned no matter what, Larry can do whatever he want and nobody’s going to stop him.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Excellent point.

      Their treatment of Larry has set up a no-win. Either everybody gets to do this, with the concomitant reduction in productivity for a huge swath of the workforce, or people will be angry that Larry gets special treatment.

      1. Wintermute*

        And it could even open you up to potential legal liability. Just how much legal liability there could be is always going to be hard to say, but I could see a very cogent legal argument for gender discrimination or sexual orientation discrimination being made if they don’t give the same flexibility to a woman that they give to them.

        Having different childcare standards for a woman taking care of their child in terms of assuming it will make their work performance suffer worse is clearly a gendered expectation, even if that’s not what’s really going on here it sure as hell would look like it if you allow a man to care for a child and work and won’t do the same for a woman.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          I think the big boss nixing any ability to hold Larry accountable is going to come back to bite them in the near future no matter what. If the OP announces right now …right after Larry has announced they are expecting a second child…that the policy is changing, it certainly looks like they are targeting him specifically, since no one else is currently enjoying the same flexibility.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            Although it sounds like this always has been the unofficial policy, it’s just that nobody before Larry tried so hard to exploit its unofficial-ness (and Larry also lucked out by having his baby during the pandemic, when the rules were different out of necessity). It’s not that they’re changing the policy, it is that they’re making very explicit something that was a) implicit before, and b) suspended by the pandemic.

            Not to make this about men versus women, but frankly, most women expect when they have a child that there will be either time off work or a search for childcare or similar. Larry probably hadn’t thought that hard about it until he had his own kid, got away with it during the pandemic and sees no problem with having the situation continue, and thinks that he has figured out a thing that most women just haven’t.

          2. Brad Fitt*

            Hard disagree. Preventing the one person who’s exploiting a flaw in the current system from continuing to do that isn’t targeting, and that would be a strange claim to make when the employer has records of poor performance to point to as the reason for shutting it down.

          3. Amaranth*

            I don’t think it meets any definition of discrimination, however, since its not a case of one person getting the benefit and another being denied. Right now its a productivity issue, but if another employee asks for the same benefit and is denied, or is held to a different standard, then the company might be setting themselves up for legal issues in the future.

    3. serenity*

      This is definitely going to blow up in their face if other employees think this is normal and ok.

      OP’s boss is directly to blame for this and I’m not sure how OP is going to change any part of this dynamic if boss has told her flat-out that Larry will not be fired (if there have been and will be no consequences for Larry’s poor performance in this job from day one – and nothing is going to change – why would he behave any differently?).

    4. Lacey*

      Yes. Sometimes employers are, for whatever reason, willing to do something stupid to accommodate one employee, but not ALL their employees.

    5. KHB*

      Especially since other employees in Larry’s situation are much more likely to be women. (I know I’m generalizing here, but at least the one employee mentioned in the letter who wants to follow Larry’s example is a woman.) You could end up on legally shaky ground very quickly if you start offering this arrangement to some employees but not others.

      1. cansada*

        I wonder if it’s coming from a misplaced fear of being perceived as discriminating against a same-sex couple and has swung all the way into wildly unequal treatment instead.

        1. Observer*

          I was thinking about that. Which is nonsense, of course. But plenty of bosses think stupid things. So.

          The reason I think that this may not be the issue, though, is that Larry’s problems precede the baby, and the boss said he’s not being fired anyway.

          1. Llama Llama*

            Right – this is definitely a boss problem and the baby problem is tangential in that it might cause others to ask for the same thing. But honestly if the boss is that bad I wouldn’t be surprised if they just let anyone who has kids keep them home. What that is really going to do is cause a big morale problem for those who are childless/have older children because they will bear the brunt of picking up the slack.

            1. LCH*

              no one should be picking up the slack. things should fall through so the boss actually has to be a boss.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                True, but given that the LW is the direct manager of this team, it’s going to be bad for LW every time it’s bad for Boss and probably a lot of times it isn’t. I would be looking to get out of there in LW’s shoes. This is not a good boss to work for, and the team is starting to go seriously off the rails in consequence of that.

          2. Amaranth*

            My guess is that the boss either is especially sympathetic to something in Larry’s situation or there is some personal connection.

        2. KHB*

          Maybe so – but does it really matter? One employee’s protected-class status doesn’t absolve the employer’s responsibility to treat other protected classes fairly.

        3. Temperance*

          In most states, it’s actually totally legal to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community. Which isn’t good, but if this boss is lawsuit-avoidant, he’s also really stupid.

            1. Idril Celebrindal*

              How is that going to be affected by the new ruling that religious exemptions basically override everything? Is this ruling going to have any teeth now?

        4. Wintermute*

          the problem is, sexual orientation discrimination cuts both ways, if you offer more flexibility to them and refuse to do the same for a woman in a heterosexual relationship that starts to look a heck of a lot like gendered expectations (women should be adept at balancing baby and work, you can’t expect that of a man!) and that’s blatantly illegal.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        Oof, that’s a point I hadn’t considered. You can’t let Larry flout the rules and then tell a woman your hands are tied.

    6. MechanicalPencil*

      Not just every parent — every employee. I don’t have kids, but if Larry can get away with it, why can’t I?

      1. No Name Today*

        Exactly, if I were Larry’s coworker and chose to work from home (an option available to everyone, OP states) then my understanding would be that I’m not expected to be as productive.
        And if I’m told that I can’t work from home because I keep missing deadlines, I’m going to say that I thought the deadlines were more flexible when you worked from home because (evidence based on my coworker) and be genuinely surprised, not being petty. It’s been A YEAR, that’s not a temporary adjustment, that’s a fact now.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        Yeah this seems less about Larry has a baby and more about Larry’s priorities are not with work at all, and therefore deadlines are made of rubber and not set in stone. If that’s not the case, Larry needs to be set straight. It doesn’t matter how he resolves the issue, that’s not OP’s or OP’s boss’s problem. That’s Larry’s.

      3. Daisy-dog*

        Yes, I have personal things that come up too. Can I get away with not doing my job sometimes?

    7. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Can you approach the boss from a fairness standpoint? How is it fair to let Larry do this and not everybody else? Also, who is picking up the slack that Larry is bound be be generating with his “oh well” approach to deadlines? This will inevitably snowball when other people start doing the same thing as Larry (and I have zero hope for anything ever being on time when baby 2 joins the family).

    8. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      I can state that it was honestly a bleeping morale killer to watch my (male) associates, with the same job title AND responsibilities that I had, waltz in an hour or two late on the first day of school while being praised for being a part of their children’s lives, while I hustled in exactly 2 minutes past my usual time on my children’s first day of school, only to get my butt chewed for not being able to balance child care and work properly. Same day, same year, nobody had any pressing deadlines that day.

      (Yes, this was pre-pandemic. No, I no longer work there.)

      1. Amaranth*

        Those are the same guys who pat themselves on the back for ‘babysitting’ their kids. To my ex’s credit, he’d always look at anyone who used that term like they were the stupidest brain cell on the planet and respond that he was spending time with his kids.

  3. Mommy Shark*

    I cannot imagine. I have a 3.5 year old and a 1 year old and working from home with either of them is so stressful. It sounds like Larry knows he’s “untouchable” and is milking the paycheck. It’s okay to require childcare, just as it would be okay to not allow people to bring their kids into an office every day.

    1. Cat Tree*

      I’m expecting my first in a month, an will be back from leave in October. I really hope the pandemic is under control by then and we can safely work on site. One coworker (not eye if he has kids) casually mentioned that it would be nice if we can still WFH then so I don’t have to worry about childcare.

      I have had childcare arranged since I was 12 weeks pregnant. If I try to do two full time jobs at the same time, I won’t do my best at either of them. I would make it work if truly necessary (like many parents are currently doing) but it’s not ideal.

      Frankly, it’s a little insulting and naive to assume that childcare is a simple matter of making sure the kid doesn’t hurt herself or destroy anything. Kids need interaction and can’t be expected to just occupy themselves in the background day after day. I want my kid to have a caregiver whose job it is to care for her. The occasional sick day is fine, but long-term I just don’t think it would be healthy for my child to be an afterthought for much of the day. This is especially true as she becomes a toddler.

      I’ve known families who made it work pre-pandemic out of necessity. For one family, it could work because the mom worked for a company in a different country so meetings were in the middle of the night when her partner was around to fully care for the baby. Most of her non-meeting work was crammed into evenings and weekends when her partner was home so she could focus. And they managed it, but it was *hard*. And when the baby became a toddler, they moved to part-time daycare for his social development anyway. Even during the pandemic while they are both working from home, they have a retired neighbor come over for part of the day so there an adult fully focused on their son.

      I know I’m getting a bit ranty here. But raising a child isn’t a background project or afterthought. It’s not just a “side gig”. It’s hard to do it well while simultaneously working a full time job, which the pandemic has proven over and over.

      1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        I think its fine to be ranty, only because comments like this, in the long term, can do damage to a parent’s career.

        I had to shut a coworker down pretty firmly on our first WFH all hands meeting last March after we all got sent home indefinitely. Complaining that he was getting up to speed with the WFH and with handling the “homeschooling”. Um, no. Your spouse legit homeschools your kids, you’re just trying to figure out how to get work done in the middle of it. There were two of us in my department who were, no joke, running on 4 hours of sleep due to trying to figure out the WFH and the actual “oh crap now we have to do school from home with ZERO guidance or materials”. The first coworker’s commentary was just SO unhelpful, and it made the two of us look awful by association. He didn’t have his crap together and spoke first, so it was assumed we didn’t either. Spoiler: we did have our crap together.

      2. Casey*

        Completely agree with all of this! I’ve worked from home for the past 3 years (started pre-covid and will continue after covid; it’s just how my employment is set up), and I’m always so surprised when people assume I keep my baby home. Um, no. I pay a lot of money for excellent childcare for her while I work. I can’t do both at the same time.

      3. Marzipan*

        The Marzipan Baby started his settling sessions at nursery* yesterday and I’m already so SO impressed at the amount of thought and effort they put into ensuring he’ll have tons of developmentally-appropriate learning activities to participate in. And a bit relieved, to be honest, because I on my own haven’t been able to give him anything like as many opportunities, and that’s while I’ve been on maternity leave, not while trying to work.

        (*My autocorrect tried to correct ‘nursery’ to ‘bittersweet’ there, and yeah, way to twist the knife, phone.)

      4. J.B.*

        We have a Larry. He doesn’t even have kids. I am completely at BEC stage and avoid him as much as possible. (My boss does intend to handle this situation, but it will be a slow process.)

      5. Mommy Shark*

        I 100000000% agree. Our kids deserve to be stimulated and taken care of, not as a background project. That is the perfect way to describe it.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I’m not sure that Larry is treating his kids as a background project. The problem seems to be that he’s treating his *job* as a background project.

    2. MusicWithRocksIn*

      One of the teachers at my kid’s daycare just came down with Covid, and they shut the entire toddler program down for 14 days. Wow – it is soo much harder to be home with a 2 year old, than it was with a 1 year old back when the world first shut down and I was home with him for three months while working. Today is the first day he’s back at daycare and the relief me and my husband feel is palpable. The older this guys kid gets, the harder it will be for him to get anything done.

      It’s not really fair to the kids either – if the on duty parent is working from home they can’t take them out to the park or the zoo or for a walk. This last year has driven home how hard it is on little kids to be inside all day every day.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        It’s definitely a curve, where it gets harder over time and then starts to get easier again. I’m not sure where the peak is, but probably between 18 months and 3ish? Probably depends on the exact kid, whether there are siblings to play with, etc. After that it does typically get easier again.

        1. Blackcat*

          As someone whose kid turned 2 just before the start of the pandemic, I think you’ve got the timeline right-ish.
          At 3, he plays on his own and can be parked in front of the TV in a way that was impossible a year ago. Fortunately my kid had endless patience waiting for trains at our local train spot, so I used to sit there on a bench with my computer, working while he waited for trains to come and go. The largely abandoned, open air stations saved my sanity.

        2. Mommy Shark*

          I think you’re spot on with that peak. My 3.5 year old could mostly entertain himself with a ton of screen time and some minimal guidance right now, but my 1 year old is a barnacle that needs a lot of attention.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            My memory is fuzzy, so I’m glad I got it about right. My twins are now 7 and obviously much easier. Having them doing remote school while both parents were working full time was not ideal, for sure, but we made it work better than I would have expected when the pandemic first hit.

            It seems like kindergarten is a bit of a cutoff in terms of being able to work a functional workday with a kid at home. Nearly everyone I know with kids under kindergarten has at least partial child care of some sort despite the COVID risks – a part time sitter, center-based care, an au pair, a family member nearby who can help out – or one half of the couple works part time or has been able to cut hours. First grade and above people have largely made it work with remote school and WFH. With kindergarteners it seems to depend on the kid, the teacher, siblings, etc.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              To clarify: I think companies are well within their rights to require child care up to age 10-12, though it’s nice to give flexibility around the occasional sick day or school closure. I’m just talking about what I’ve seen during the pandemic among my social and professional networks. Ages 0-5, working full time is totally incompatible with child care, ages 5-10 it’s not great for anyone but during a pandemic people can make it work (especially if the remote school option is well done and actually occupies the kid reasonably independently), and over about age 10-12 it’s fine.

            2. NotRealAnonForThis*

              I’d agree – when things went completely sideways last spring, I had a fourth and a fifth grader. That seemed a sweet spot when comparing notes amongst friends. Younger grades, needed significantly more hands-on time for remote schooling. Older grades, they were much more quickly “over this”. Mine also tend to buy into things that they have input on, so when we needed to come up with a school schedule, they helped set it (everything was asynchronous for the most part). I also work for a decent company that supported all of its employees, parent, caretaker, or otherwise, and I’m not going to discount that at all!

        3. DireRaven*

          The exact kid statement is absolutely right.

          One mom is patting herself on the back because her sweet, compliant child is perfectly happy coloring, playing (neatly) with play-doh, working puzzles, “reading” storybooks, and maybe a little educational-programming TV time while she works. Her coworker, with a child of the same age is tearing her hair out because her child’s milder hobbies include hang-gliding over shark-infested waters while juggling flaming chainsaws.

    3. Venus*

      I don’t know if Larry thinks he is untouchable, I wonder if his partner’s pay is sufficiently high that he is willing to take the risk to both get paid and save money on childcare. I’m guessing that he can afford to be bad at his job, knowing that if he loses it then they are still okay financially.

      But whatever the reason, Larry needs to get better at his job. I find it interesting that he’s been bad at his job long before the child arrived, so I’m not sure if this is going to have a good outcome for the LW.

      1. Willis*

        If he’s been there for years and consistently missed due dates and been unreliable, he’s probably internalized that there aren’t consequences for his scattershot approach to work, even if he may not be doing it consciously. I mean, if you’re at the point where you’re frequently telling your manager you haven’t been able to get work done in a 1-on-1, you seem to have somewhat of an expectation that you’re untouchable. And if OP’s boss point blank said they’re not firing Larry, he’s probably right!

        I agree with you though…even if Larry ends up getting childcare, I don’t think his reliability is going to improve if it was bad before.

        1. Amaranth*

          I wonder if OP can just stop giving Larry important work to do. Not every job has that flexibility, but if OP can manage to give him tasks that don’t have hard deadlines, it would probably at least be less frustrating.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      I know someone that will be in a similar situation soon. Someone else (who raised 3 kids) actually suggested that she find a WFH job because they might not be able to afford childcare. Cue my confused face.

    5. ophelia*

      Seriously. My 4-yo is home from school in that equisitely irritating phase between recovering from being sick and being allowed back (the “bouncing off the walls” phase), and I cannot imagine doing this every day ON PURPOSE. (We were lucky enough to be able to work rotating shifts earlier in the pandemic, and even then it sucked).

    6. Mark IV*

      My wife is a stay at home mom, and it’s hard to work with from home with my 1 year old in the house, with a dedicated child care provider that isn’t me. There’s no way id get anything done if I had to watch him and work.

  4. A Poster Has No Name*

    Hate to say it, LW, but you’re going to be stuck with Larry and his unreliability, so plan accordingly.

    Your boss has already said they’re not firing Larry. He’s already resisted the idea of imposing any sort of requirements on him at all. I mean, obviously follow Alison’s advice and try to get something in place like that, then fully expect your boss to not have your back on it and nothing to change.

    Maybe propose hiring someone part time to fill in the gaps left by Larry and any other employees who take this approach? If your boss is so insistent that he not interfere with employees’ households, but the work still needs to get done, that might be the only way to do it.

    1. EPLawyer*

      That’s the problem. LW doesn’t really have a Larry problem. In a functional organization, his constantly missing deadline would already have been dealth with — no matter how good a work product he eventually turns out. But Boss won’t even address that. He doesn’t care that Larry is unfocused and a problem.

      As someone noted above, this is a morale killer. Larry gets to be Larry with no consequences and everyone else has to pick up the slack. Let me put on my broken record — good people with choices will leave rather than continue to put up with Larry and the situation he causes.

      Before you make any announcements about needing childcare going forward, you really need to convince your boss this is a WORK problem that affects more than just you. It affects the whole team. It has the potential to affect the whole company. Not in a good way. If you can’t get your boss on board, any edicts you lay out about needing childcare will just be ignored because they know nothing will happen if they ignore you.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Yes. It’s time to spend the effort to document exactly how Larry’s lateness and his missed deadlines affect the office, the work, his colleagues, etc.

        1. Malarkey01*

          Yes, I’d even approach it with the boss by starting with I need more resources to meet x y and z work product. Here are the things we need to accomplish and here are the priorities and deadlines. Are these the correct priorities. Then transition to needing a new employee or part time or whatever to meet those and when he asks what’s changed you can say Larry isn’t capable of meeting these and additionally I’m concerned other employees are going to need similar accommodations next year.

          Act like the default is the status quo and start working on how to address that. It MIGHT lead to your boss re-examining the issue or it might just lead to other solutions but bottom line the work will get done despite Larry.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I think it’s actually pretty assertive. “Boss, you want X done. Larry is incapable of doing X. So you need to hire an additional person to do what Larry isn’t doing.”

          1. Starbuck*

            Yeah, it’s a good point that the end solution doesn’t have to be firing Larry – it could be hiring more people to pick up the slack, especially if more people are getting similarly relaxed expectations. It’s inefficient, but if they can handle the cost then OK I guess.

        2. No Name Today*

          I think this might be secondary. As an individual contributor, I appreciate my manager speaking up to her boss on my behalf, but as a disinterested commenter here, I think it is a mistake to lead with this.
          OP should not tell boss that allowing Larry to work from home without childcare is not fair to other parents who have child care, to people who have different family responsibilities, or no apparent responsibilities. It could be too much like, “people are jealous of Larry…they don’t like Larry…are creating a hostile environment for Larry.”
          Clouding the issue.
          Put the facts in the boss’ lap.
          Larry did not do X, Y and Z.
          This resulted in A, B and C not getting done because I had to pull Bob and Lucy off of those and onto these.
          I’ve had to cancel/refuse vacation days for my staff because I need them on backup when Larry is assigned to 1, 2, 3 because he consistently misses them.
          I can’t schedule work effectively because Acme, Beta and C++ client will leave if we miss a deadline so I have to cherry pick assignments for Larry.
          I need more people or less work or accountability standards.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            The deadline and staffing complaint is definitely the the leading point; however, if there are already other employees commenting that they plan to do exactly what Larry is for childcare, that’s a management and a liability issue if Larry will be offered grace not available to others. It’s not about “fair” to other employees, it’s about the differential treatment putting the company at risk of a discrimination claim (because clearly not every employee could take Larry’s lax approach to completing their work on time and maintain a functional business).

      2. Observer*

        Let me put on my broken record — good people with choices will leave rather than continue to put up with Larry and the situation he causes.

        This is probably the second most compelling argument you can make. Being unable to retain good staff is a significant cost to a company. The problem is that it’s not always easy to point the a number or a specific outcome. Which is why it’s the second most compelling argument. The most (potentially) compelling is the legal threat, because you can point the the specific threats of a law suit and / or fines.

      3. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        “Before you make any announcements about needing childcare going forward, you really need to convince your boss this is a WORK problem that affects more than just you. It affects the whole team. It has the potential to affect the whole company.”

        I agree. And if LW can’t convince the boss of this, they should start looking hard for a different job, because they will then know for sure that this is a “your boss sucks and is not going to change” situation.

    2. TWW*

      Larry sounds like an ideal candidate for a Peter-Principle-Promotion. Make him a VP (or whatever) reporting directly to the head of the organization. Then he’s LW’s boss’s problem.

      1. Thursdaysgeek*

        I hate this idea – that makes more people in management who are not doing a good job.

        My spouse works at a place like this – a person screws up royally, and gets moved to a position where they can’t do any harm, don’t have to work, still get paid. There seem to be a lot of those positions. If I moved to that company, I could easily get a 50% pay raise, but I have standards, and won’t work for a company that rewards people for bad work.

    3. Observer*

      Hate to say it, LW, but you’re going to be stuck with Larry and his unreliability, so plan accordingly.

      Exactly. This is not a Larry problem. It’s a boss problem.

    4. Artemesia*

      This. Which is why the OP should be looking for other opportunities. Doesn’t have to jump fast, but if this is the boss you have, it can’t be the only grossly unfair and incompetent behavior. See if there isn’t some place better and tell the boss why when you give notice if it comes to that.

  5. MrsFillmore*

    Another great response and guidance from Alison. Would just add that, based on what is described in the letter, it sounds like the manager should also be raising expectations, with clear metrics, *now* for Larry to improve on meeting deadlines and being available for work. Not yet to 100% of what would be expected in non-pandemic conditions, but it sounds like Larry is currently falling far below what is expected, and he needs to hear that now, as well as to start making at least some marginal improvements prior to the end of the year. Again, this can and should be framed without reference to situation with his child, manager can highlight their flexibility for when work gets done (ie outside of 9-5) but that it does need to get done on a reasonable time frame.

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      Seconding this – the boss can raise specific concerns with Larry now without once mentioning childcare. It doesn’t matter what in particular is stopping Larry from performing but he needs to know he’s not hitting his metrics and he needs it spelled out (PIP?) what measurable improvement needs to happen.

      1. we say Ope here*

        Thirding this – focus on the performance issues and leave the childcare out of it – I think it’s time to use the strategies Alison usually suggests when a boss isn’t letting a manager manage a report – push the problems up the chain more, track closely, etc.

    2. I edit everything*

      But those metrics and expectations have no consequences. If he doesn’t hit them, nothing happens, and the manager has no power to impose any consequences.

        1. I edit everything*

          The manager = OP, who must abide by Boss’s declaration that Larry will not be fired.
          Telling OP what their boss should do isn’t much help in this case.

          1. Ashley*

            Right. The LW is basically able to point out to their boss the work related problems arising because of Larry’s behavior and leave it up to them to take a course of action. As noted earlier that could be a lawsuit if Larry can do this WFH with no childcare but a female staff member can’t. (And well kudos? to the employer if they start letting all employees due this, but that is going to get expensive fast.)

        2. Observer*

          The manager does. He has chosen not to.

          The Big Boss has chosen not to. The OP, who is the manager does not have the power to over-ride their boss.

    3. Threeve*

      I get being flexible, I get being understanding, but you can’t just…plan to not do your work.

      “Yup, I’ve been missing deadlines and contributing less, and not only do I have no intention of improving this, I am likely going to become progressively worse. You’re cool with that. (I’m not asking, I’m telling you you’re cool with it). Catch you later! (At my convenience).”

      It’s insane to me that a workplace would be okay with this.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        Right? I can’t imagine just being like “I’m not going to do my work the way that I am supposed to, and you’re going to be okay with that. That’s the way it is.”

        What did Larry do to get that kind of privilege?

        1. Mockingjay*

          Nothing, if you have a conflict-avoidant boss combined with a long retention employee. People can have weird, dated perceptions of others. Boss looks at Larry and sees him as the go-getter he might have been when initially hired. OP sees Larry as the non-performer he’s become.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I mean, they’ve already trained Larry to work like this. They can’t be surprised that he’s planning to run with it.

      3. Willis*

        Yes, my mind is blown that this is a workplace where Larry could get away with saying that and a second employee feels comfortable announcing an intention to do the same. It would be one thing if they planned to trade-off childcare with a spouse so, for example, Larry was getting work done in the early mornings and evenings, but that is clearly not happening. It makes me pretty certain there are lopsided workloads in this firm, with plenty of co-workers resentful of Larry’s lack of productivity.

        1. Brad Fitt*

          To be fair, the second employee said no such thing. She said she’s considering trying to have a kid because things are going so well for Larry. Considering they’re wfh, it’s super unlikely she has any idea about Larry’s performance issues, his lack of contribution to projects, and his lackadaisical attitude to the impacts he’s having on the company—more likely, she just sees a working dad who’s making it work.

          (Two years from now she’ll be like “Ohmigod Larry juggling a baby and work is so hard! How do you do it? What’s the secret?!” and he’ll be like “Oh I just tell LW I can’t do my work and then I take the kids to the park for the day instead!”)

          1. Amaranth*

            I was wondering if that employee was sincere or actually commenting sarcastically on Larry’s lack of production.

    4. TootsNYC*

      And even if the LW can’t fire him, they can constantly remind him of how he’s falling short, and make it really unpleasant to miss a deadline. Coupled with it being really pleasant when he hits one.

      1. Threeve*

        I do think the LW has been too gentle. He may be untouchable when it comes to being fired, but even the most oblivious, privileged teacher’s pet generally doesn’t like hearing that they’re failing.

        Straight up: “based on the quality of your work and the deadlines you miss, you are consistently the poorest performer on the team, and it’s negatively effecting the entire department. How do you think you can fix that?” You don’t have to be a monster, but you don’t have to tiptoe around it either.

        Maybe I’m a jerk, but IMO if you can’t fire someone and need them gone, it is okay to try to get them to quit. Especially when you know for a fact it won’t be financially devastating to them.

        1. Ashley*

          But why would someone quit a job where they are getting paid a full time wage to be at home all day getting barely any work done? Larry obviously doesn’t care about the job and appears to have no intention of changing (why bother, with no consequences!), so why not keep collecting the paycheque?

      2. Malarkey01*

        Honestly though how can she make it unpleasant? If you have someone truly untouchable, already missing deadlines without consequence, that works from home, he hat tools do you have? Make him listen to a lecture every time? Impose additional deadlines and check ins that he also blows through?

        I once had someone I could not fire because of pending litigation she had against our company- she just randomly didn’t come to work, I’d call, she’d make up an excuse, and we’d do it again the next day (she once missed 4 days of work because she misplaced her car keys, I offered to send a cab and she was uncomfortable being with strangers, I offered to drive her and she also made up an excuse and management said it’s fine).

    5. Koalafied*

      The one thing Alison’s reply didn’t specifically address that I’m wondering about is this bit:

      “My problem is that Larry told us long before the pandemic that his plan was always to have the baby at home with him full-time and be the baby’s primary caregiver — while working a full-time job.”

      Does this need to be acknowledged/addressed in some way in the communications, at least with him, if not in general? Even just a line saying, “We understand this is a shift in policy and some people may need time to make alternative arrangements, so we’ve set a date of blahblahblah…” Quite possibly part of the reason the new team member thinks she’ll be able to do the same as Larry is because his arrangement pre-dated the pandemic. Saying, “This was necessary during the crisis time, but now we’re moving back to normal,” seems to be ignoring the fact that it was allowed before the crisis time.

  6. Sled dog mama*

    Ugh, my 43 year old kid (aka husband) had been terrible with WFH boundaries (he’s a SAHP) so my 7 year old seems pretty good at pretending mommy isn’t home but an infant? Yeah, no. And two under two!?
    As Alison frequently says you have standing to address the job issues. If Larry decides that the requirements of his job and his ideas on how to run his household make it more practical for him not to work than hire child care that’s his problem but the work you are paying him to do is your business.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        This is a good point. How much is OP’s boss giving Larry “dad points” for being such a GOOD FATHER, when if a woman were in this situation he might advise her to figure it out. I think OP needs to bring to the boss’s attention that other staff members have mentioned wanting a set up similar to what Larry has and see what their reaction is.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I second this idea. Get a really well documented layout of what sort of problems Larry’s cavalier attitude to deadlines is causing, and bring that to the meeting with the boss. Then ask the boss if Larry would be getting the same protections he is now if he was a she. I think it’s completely fair to point out double standards. In fact make the double standard bright garishly neon, and get boss to explain how he’s planning on proceeding going forward – especially since other people are saying now they plan on copying Larry’s child care plan.

          1. KHB*

            You don’t even need to present it as a hypothetical: There’s a woman mentioned in the letter who’s interested in getting the same deal as Larry has. Ask the boss if he’s willing to give it to her. If he’s not, that’s unfair (and very likely illegal). If he is, then you can ask how to handle the productivity hit that you’re going to take.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Well, I was saying hypothetical in case big boss didn’t know about the other female coworker having announced that she was going to do this. I also got the impression that coworker isn’t pregnant yet, but is in the trying to get pregnant phase. A lot could change between now and delivery.

      2. AnonInCanada*

        Or if the boss would see this differently if (when!) his coworkers are seeing this preferential treatment and ask for similar accommodations. I can just see the discrimination lawsuits flying if the rest of them were denied the accommodations Larry was given.

      3. jbmasta*

        I wonder if the same-sex relationship thing is also a factor in your boss’s unwillingness to address Larry’s work performance shortcomings, reckoning it’s easier to let it slide than for Larry to play the discrimination card. While it’s definitely outside of anyone but Larry to address, his relationship dynamic with his partner doesn’t seem to be that of equals and comes to the detriment of his job performance. Whether your boss grows a spine or you get support from the other people on the team, this needs to be addressed before baby #2 comes along and exacerbates what’s already a bad situation.

  7. PoPoChaCha*

    No, this is unacceptable. It makes sense that a parent with school age children would have this issue because their child would typically be in school. At this point, that may not be an option. However, daycare for children under the age of 4 is readily available and expected to be used for parents with jobs regardless of whether they are working at home or in another location. He needs to get a nanny or to put his child in daycare. Give him a month.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      What if Larry doesn’t do it after the month is up? LW’s boss said they’re not firing Larry.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah — if the boss won’t back you up, you end up totally undermined and Larry learns he’s untouchable and he won’t believe any limits you try to set in the future. (Which could happen with the advice I gave in the post too if the OP doesn’t get buy-in from their boss first, so they have to do that before they can move foward.)

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I get the sentiment, but a) it usually take much much longer than a month to find a spot in a daycare (in some areas you need to be on the waiting list for a year to get a spot!) and b) many parents aren’t comfortable sending kids of any age to a group setting.

      I WFH with an infant last fall and it almost broke me, and that was with fully splitting the childcare with my husband. We had to start daycare in January because there was just absolutely no way we could make it work for longer than a few months, but COVID isn’t as bad in my area and we understanding we’re taking a risk.

    3. Ashley*

      Daycare right now is still hit and miss. I know many daycares that are having COVID outbreaks and scares locally and where family live outside of my area. Alison’s point about planning for the end of the year makes sense as now is still a little pushy for healthy and safety in many situations. The under 2 crowd is going to take even long to get vaccinated unless the pregnant person gets vaccinated.

      1. Ismonie*

        Even if the pregnant person is vaccinated, that is not equivalent to the baby getting vaccinated. They will have some immunity, but children whose gestational parent who is vaccinated during pregnancy (eg, in the US with TDAP) still get the vaccine in early childhood.

      2. Blackcat*

        Yeah. A friend *finally* put her kid back in daycare at the start of the month. It lasted two weeks before a COVID outbreak closed the daycare for another two weeks.

    4. Pinkpeony*

      Daycare is absolutely not readily available everywhere. I got on a waitlist prior to being pregnant that I’m still on, and my kid is almost 4 months. I finally got her in to somewhere two days a week but almost nowhere has full time care available and if they do, it’s 1500+ per month, and a private nanny or nanny share is at least double that.

      1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        The cost of childcare is outrageous (I am in the SF Bay Area and those prices are in line with my community) BUT that is not the issue at hand. Larry needs to work effectively, which is the work concern. Childcare costs what it costs; that is not within the employer’s control but Larry’s work performance is… or should be (referring back to the “boss problem”).

    5. AnonForThisOneTime*

      This isn’t true. A lot of daycares are operating at decreased capacity. And just because they’re open doesn’t mean that a family feels they are safe, especially for a very young child who (1) has an underdeveloped immune system, (2) puts everything in their mouth, and (3) needs a lot of hands-on care by the adult caregivers.

      Nannies can be cost-prohibitive.

      I don’t disagree with the sentiment that he needs to figure it out as the world starts to re-open, but given this has been allowed to continue for a year, issuing an ultimatum at this point is not fair and other employees will see how Larry is being treated.

    6. DiplomaJill*

      Infant care is exceedingly hard to obtain in much of the US. Wait-lists after often longer than the pregnancy.

    1. Temperance*

      Does that matter, though? Being ND isn’t an excuse to miss deadlines and not do your job.

  8. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

    I’m a parent, and a huge advocate for family-friendly policies and going above and beyond to make sure that parents, particularly women, have a healthy work-life balance. This…is not that! It wouldn’t be mean or uncaring or discriminatory to set this policy and enforce it. It’s not possible to do two full-time jobs concurrently, at least not well, and it’s not fair to Larry’s colleagues or, frankly, to Larry’s kid(s)! Not that your job is to think of the children, but you certainly have standing to consider what’s fair to your work team.

    1. we say Ope here*

      the key thing is that Larry wasn’t performing well in the BEFORE TIMES. He’s a known bad fit at baseline. This is exacerbated by kids/COVID, but not caused by them

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        True – but I almost wonder if Larry is milking the Covid craziness for all it’s worth and has become even more late and unreliable as the year has gone on?

        1. J.B.*

          It is entirely possible that Larry is struggling with mental health as many of us have through the pandemic. That doesn’t lessen the impact on his colleagues.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I phrased that badly. I meant I thought that it’s possible that Larry was a bad fit using the upending of normal life to excuse his becoming an even worse fit in his job. I didn’t mean to imply any mental challenges at all.

          2. jbmasta*

            He’s not getting the support he needs from his partner. From a job perspective it might be better for all concerned if he take over childcare duties full time, at least addressing the concerns from a business standpoint. His personal relationships are of course outside the scope of what the business can address.

    2. Natalie*

      Yeah, this isn’t even really a daycare/childcare problem as much as it’s a Larry problem. If he was actually more or less successful at working around a baby, it wouldn’t be coming up so much in his 1-1s.

      It might be worth LW trying to approach their boss with a focus on the performance and deadline issues, since their boss seemed distracted by the idea of requiring daycare. But honestly I wouldn’t hold out a lot of hope.

      1. serenity*

        I agree that there’s not a lot of hope in this situation. If grandboss has been aware of Larry’s poor performance and unreliability for “years” (according to the letter) and has done nothing, this isn’t changing anytime soon.

  9. Anony non*

    I tried to be Larry for a while, although not every day of the week. It was bad. This was long ago–ten years+–and I had a baby, a tiring commute, not a ton of income, and I was depressed, which manifests itself for me as distractibility and flaking on deadlines. I thought losing the commute and not having to pay for childcare would help. It did not.

    I was thankfully able to see the writing on the wall before my boss had to say anything and ended up leaving my job completely. I have regrets.

  10. many bells down*

    I sympathize, to an extent, because the cost of childcare in the US is so ludicrous that it often takes more than one partner’s entire paycheck. But now he’s going to have another infant to care for AND work full time? It’s just not doable. Everything will suffer for it.

    1. I edit everything*

      We used to joke that our son’s college fund would be full in four years if we just kept putting away the amount we spent on daycare, after he started school.

    2. MsSolo*

      There’s something about the way Larry is taking about it that makes me wonder if he thinks it’s normal to work and be primary caregiver (possibly because of the finances). Like maybe they know someone else doing it with a more flexible job, or maybe they don’t have any other parent friends and grew up in SAHP households, and no one has been blunt enough to say that it’s not acceptable to do two jobs at once.

  11. CatCat*

    Oooh, yeah, the boss is going to be a Problem. I mean, unless you get buy-in from the boss to put a childcare policy in place AND authority to fire Larry if he doesn’t meet it, it seems kind of pointless. Given the boss’s and Larry’s track record here, that doesn’t seem likely. The problem is unreliability and the boss doesn’t seem to care about that.

    I would still have the conversation with the boss because maybe he will come around. But if he doesn’t, I’d go into what is the ACTUAL enforceable policy. And how should you respond to other employees who want the same treatment as Larry. Because if being unreliable doesn’t matter for Larry, there needs to be a concrete reason reliability IS necessary for others on the team. (Maybe there is, I don’t know, but you also need a way to message it to the team so they understand how they too can earn this perk if they want it.)

  12. Just Another Zebra*

    It isn’t out of the realm of Before Times Normal to expect parents to have childcare when they are working from home on a permanent basis. You aren’t being paid to parent. You’re being paid to do X tasks for your employer, which is complicated by caring for an infant. In Larry’s case, 2 infants by the end of the year.

  13. Ann Perkins*

    If your boss gives you pushback on requiring that employees have childcare by a certain date, another argument you can use is that you want to set a policy so that all employees are treated equally. If he doesn’t want to let your women employees also work without childcare, he can’t let a man do that either.

    1. vlookup*

      This seems like a good approach that might help the boss understand the slippery slope here. And if the boss wants to make an exception for Larry, well, that seems like a hill worth dying on to me.

      It’s bad enough to hold employees to different standards of performance, but it seems really, really dicey to offer WFH with no childcare requirement as a perk to one male employee and not to women.

  14. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    This was before the pandemic, where I work allowed you to have your infant at work for the first 6 months. There was a few departments where this just didn’t work out. (like the call center) but for the most part this worked very well for everyone. Lots of unofficial “aunties” were always willing to take a fussy baby if a parent needed to be on a call or really get something done. Babies mostly sleep the first few months anyway. We had a “retirement party” for the babies as they aged out. There were very few babies who didn’t adapt well to the office environment. (although they were usually a pill the last few weeks) And only 1 manager who had a problem with this arrangement. Covid but a sudden stop to this, at least for now. So I’d argue that some parents can do both caretaking and work. Granted this was for infants not kids old enough to be mobile or verbal.

      1. Colette*

        And possibly career-limiting for women, including those who don’t have children in the office.

        1. Natalie*

          I’m assuming you’re thinking of the aunties part, which I don’t love. That aside, the point of these policies is to be *less* career limiting for women. Some smaller non profit organizations in my city that can’t afford paid maternity leave offer similar setups for babies under 6 months, to give mothers more choices beyond, taking a long unpaid leave, quitting, or rejoining the workforce very early. Particularly if you’re breastfeeding, being able to nurse a baby is a lot easier/faster than taking multiple breaks for pumping (for most people).

          Since we were all home, I worked without childcare this fall until our daughter was about 6 months old. The needs of my job and team were such that I can work a flexible schedule, which I appreciate isn’t true for everyone. But it worked surprisingly well – I was actually the only one of my peers working full time and meeting my metrics. It’s not going to work for every parent and every baby, but very few things do.

          1. Colette*

            Yes, if women in the office are expected/known for taking care of children instead of working, that’s going to be a problem (especially if it’s not for the first 6 months but ongoing because other people bring in infants that others care for some of the time.)

            It may be intended to give women options, but it’s probably doing as much harm as good.

            1. Natalie*

              I can’t speak to how it’s worked at the small orgs I referred to since I don’t work there, but I doubt “office aunties” is part of their formal policy in any way.

              I think it would only work in organizations where expectations and boundaries are very clear. But that’s true of other “results oriented” policies that people here tend to champion as well.

              1. Colette*

                It doesn’t matter if it’s formal policy – if the expectations affect women more (which they almost certainly would) that’s a problem, even if they’re doing it voluntarily (because it will change the perception of them from competent professionals to childcare worker – not that childcare workers can’t be competent professionals, but that’s not what this company does).

                1. Jack Straw*

                  +1

                  I would want nothing at all whatsoever to do with my coworker’s babies, but would also feel obligated to care for them and coo over them both because I’m a woman and because it seems like career derailment to be “the unkind/uncaring/cold/weird person who doesn’t like babies,” in the office.

            2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

              I agree with you both, Natalie and Collette.

              I’d add, the only I can see this working is if there was on-site daycare (with full-time caretakers), so the parent could visit as needed, take care of their infant, then go back to work. I’m not a woman or a parent, but I can tell that sounds like a pipe dream.

      2. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

        Yep. I also love babies, but not when I’m trying to work. And when my own kids were babies, my kid-free office was a lovely respite!

      3. The Original K.*

        Yeah, I would hate this. I love kids but not babies. Being in an office full of babies sounds unpleasant and distracting, especially if there’s an expectation that I quiet a fussy baby.

        Also, if the whole point is that there was a village to help out when a parent really needed to focus on paid work, that proves that one cannot effectively parent and focus on non-childcare work at the same time.

      4. Anononon*

        Why, though? Babies that young are often pretty chill, compared, to say, a toddler running around. And, as long as there are places where a parent can be with a crying baby and not disturb anyone, I think it sounds great. If babies are normal there, it’s not going to be like in other offices where babies are paraded around to show off. They likely just stay at the parent’s desk and sleep, so it’s relatively easy to avoid them.

        1. goducks*

          babies don’t sleep for 8 hours at a stretch. Even though (most) tiny babies sleep in 1-3 hour bursts, when they’re awake, they are balls of endless need. They’re not like a goldfish you can set in a bowl on your desk and just feed once a day while they merrily exist while you get your work done. They require constant attention.

          1. Mommy Shark*

            wow I just pictured my big chunky baby with goldfish eyes glub glubbing me on my desk hahahaha

          2. Maree*

            But they don’t… Babies need sporadic focused attention and constant light supervision. Babies in child care have 1 carer for 6 infants. No baby is being focused on exclusively 100% of the time. I worked from home with my babies (self employed) and a lot of baby ‘attention’ is being held in a sling/laying on a rug at your feet/being fed, all these needs can be met while working.
            In my experience a baby close to its mother rarely cries in the daytime. Mine saved crying for evenings when they are over tired.
            Women working while caring is the norm in the majority of countries in the world (and through history) if it’s cultural norms in the us that are the barrier let’s say that rather than pretending that it obviously doesn’t work.

        2. Ask me how I know*

          Agree with goducks. I am a parent, and I work with a lot of parents who have occasionally had to bring in babies and small children for whatever reason. “Stay at the parent’s desk and sleep, so it’s relatively easy to avoid them” will happen occasionally but not most of the time, and certainly NOT to be counted on.

          I have had to bring a child in at various ages–a docile, well-behaved one–to a very child-friendly workplace full of parents, and the amount of work it takes to keep her from distracting others means I might as well not even be there. People are patient and kind but they too are interrupted and distracted, and it’s not fair to task colleagues this way on a regular basis.

        3. Colette*

          In the first six months, there are tons of developmental stages, from teething to rolling over to starting to crawl. And there are different babies – some sleep a lot, others cry a lot. There is no way that isn’t disturbing to the parent and to others around them. And if the plan is that other women care for the child when the parent can’t, that’s a huge problem.

        4. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

          I’ve never worked in an office that had a space distant enough or soundproof enough to keep crying baby sounds away from others. (Not saying it’s impossible, but it’s not the norm in my experience.)

          I’d also feel obligated to change my own behavior in order to accommodate the babies’ needs (because I really do love babies and want to support new parents!) — I’d be spending mental energy on watching my volume, and my language, and there’d be a part of my brain that would be in Mom Mode that I just don’t think I’d be able to turn off. Plus even if they weren’t parading the baby around, would I want to play with it and cuddle it and smoosh its little cheeks? Yes, yes I would, and that would be distracting.

        5. Seeking Second Childhood*

          My child was colicky for nearly a year.
          The thought of trying to work in earshot makes me vaguely nauseous. My day care was well worth every penny.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      What you are saying is that in your scenario, other people (but only women) in the office took over childcare duties from time to time. Not only does that sound sexist and unfair to the co-workers, your point is that there were OTHER PEOPLE who could take the baby when work had to some first. For the person who is at home alone with a baby, the point is that they don’t have other people. So I think that your comment really serves to show that what Larry is doing is untenable.

      1. PT*

        If they have a very rare bring-your-nursing-baby-to-work policy, it’s likely they’ve got a self-selected group of employees who work there specifically to advantage of that benefit. It may not be sexist, their workplace might legitimately be female dominated as a result of having this policy.

        1. KHB*

          I’d want to make sure that women could opt out of the “auntie” role without repercussion, though. Not all women love (other people’s) babies.

          1. justabot*

            And not only that, it may emotionally devastating to childless not by choice women when it’s hard enough just to smile through everyone else’s baby showers and sonogram slams, and the occasional drop into the office to show off the new baby – but on a daily basis? That sounds…. awful.

          2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            “Not all women love (other people’s) babies.”

            Tell me about it. My daughter literally cannot stand to be around babies or small children and has chosen to be child free. She would be equal parts enraged and horrified if people started bringing babies to her workplace, much less expecting her to help care for them just because she happens to have two X chromosomes.

      2. Cat Tree*

        This arrangement is so sexist it’s horrifying. I would nope out of a job where “aunties” put their own work behind caring for someone else’s child, while “uncles” never do.

    2. MK*

      Eh, you would argue that parents can do both caretaking and work and the evidence you offer is a situation where parents actually couldn’t do both without supplementary childcare by allegedly willing coworkers?

      1. Anononon*

        I think it’s pretty disingenuous to insinuate that they’re misstating their coworkers’ eagerness to help with the babies. I don’t find it unbelievable at all that some people would be willing to help with a fussy baby, while, perhaps taking their own short break.

        Look at all of the stories that go viral about professors who hold their students’ babies during lectures. People enjoy helping, and it’s not a bad thing.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yep. I know some people who would love to work in an office like this. (And yes, others who would hate it.)

          1. MK*

            So they are basically committed to only hiring women who like babies and are willing to help out with them?

        2. Ask me how I know*

          Nobody can read other people’s minds, but I can tell you for a fact that I am that person: I am a parent, I like babies and kids, and I make all the right noises and help in all the ways I can when a colleague needs help with their kids . . . and I can’t wait for them to leave. It is distracting and exhausting, and you would never, ever know that I feel this way.

          And if I feel this way–me, someone who asks and needs the same from others–you can bet there are plenty of other kind people playacting too. Societal norms make it extremely difficult for someone to not play along.

          Plenty of people are legit eager and willing, of course. But it’s not fair to make others have to do the work of possibly looking anti-child by drawing necessary boundaries for themselves.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Same. Work is already full of gendered expectations and office politics and now I have to worry about not being appropriately into babies enough for a woman? I adore my kids, I enjoy having their friends over, but they are all of an age where they take themselves to the bathroom and can verbalize their needs/wants. I will say all the right things and hold your very adorable baby, but I’d rather not at work, especially when I have a ton of stuff to do.

            An office where babies are allowed is only one step above an office where dogs are allowed, and I would never work anywhere that let people bring their dogs to work.

            1. Joielle*

              Yep. I’m happily childfree and I rarely spend much time around babies. “Not appropriately into babies enough for a woman” describes me to a tee, haha. Which is something my family teases me about (mostly good-naturedly), but is certainly not something that should reflect on someone in a work context. I’d quit!

          2. goducks*

            Yep. I’m a parent. I love my kids, I love my friends’ kids, but I don’t love kids in general, and especially not in the workplace. But, if there’s a kid in the office, I’ll do all the appropriate and expected attention-paying/fawning because there’s a strong expectation that that’s just what people do. And I’ll do it for precisely as long as I need to so that I can check the box that I did it, and then flee for my own workspace. If I worked in a baby office, you’d never, ever, ever know I didn’t love it.

          3. Esmeralda*

            Yep. I’m like you. When coworkers have had to bring in their babies, I greet the baby and then hightail it back to my office, where I close the door and put down the blinds in the door-window.

            I myself had to occasionally bring in my son as an infant or small child (daycare fell thru, boss would not allow WFH and I had no PTO left), and I whisked him in, closed my door, and did my best. Which was not my best WORK. (That child slept thru the night, but he did not nap…)

        3. Colette*

          Some people might love it! How does it affect their career if they’re known for doting over babies instead of working?

          How do the parents check in to make sure they love it? I’m not a baby person, but I’ve been handed babies under the assumption that I want to hold them. (Give me your 1+ kids, we’ll have a great time. But infants aren’t my thing.)

          How are the parents reciprocating by helping their colleagues? Are they taking their share of overtime/undesirable work, or is helping one-way?

        4. MK*

          I don’t understand what you mean by disingenuous, but I didn’t mean to insinuate, I am saying it outright: I do not believe that most people would be willing to have impromptu childcaring be part of their otherwise unrelated job duties. This workplace is taking advantage of the societal pressure put on all people, and especially women, to not refuse help when a baby is concerned. What exactly is a person to do if a parent holding a baby has to answer an important phone call from a client? Tell them to figure it out themselves? Once a company allows babies on the premises on a permanent basis, it becomes impossible for workers to opt out of helping, unless they are willing to flout all societal expectations and cast themselves as the office monster. Sure, people are sometimes glad to help; the operative word is sometimes and usually on their own terms, not whenever a coworker has a fussy baby and a pressing obligation.

          Also, things don’t go viral because it is a common and expected happening. If a coworker has a childcare emergency and has no other option but to bring the baby with them one day, I also would like to hold and coo at it for a while. Expecting me to do it on an everyday basis is exploitative of the organization: they are basically offering a benefit to new parents, I assume instead of parental leave or a salary that would allow childcare, by forcing extra duties on their employees. Even assuming a particular set of employees wants this, possibly with the expectation of reciprocation, as a general practice it is problematic. Do they inform job candidates of the set up?

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, if my coworker asks me to care for their infant during their hour-long meeting, and it costs me a 1/2 hour of productivity … what happens then? Do I work late to cover it? Does my coworker do it? Do I just accomplish less that year? (If it’s one day, it’s not a big issue, but if it’s every day for 6 months, that’s going to add up.)

        5. anonanna*

          Yep, agreed! My office has a similar policy (though it stops around 3 months) and it plays into their overall employee atmosphere philosophy. (We’re also dog-friendly).

        6. Roci*

          I would be very surprised to find a business that would rather have its workers rotate childcare duties instead of working.

          That has gotta be a hit on productivity, not to mention liability of having babies in an unsecured office space, and untrained people caring for them!

          Why not just set up a designated, child-proof space for trained workers to focus only on caring for the babies, allowing the parent to focus on work. You know, like a day care.

    3. goducks*

      I’ve heard of such set-ups, but having parented babies while working I cannot see how this worked well for anyone. I don’t know who these mythical babies are that sleep for the first few months, but even my “good” sleeper would sleep for a couple of hours at a time if in the swing, but the rest of the time needed a TON of attention. My bad sleeper? Well all she did was cry for the first year. Any my experiences are similar to many, many parents. I would have been a mess trying to work and care for a baby, and my babies would have made my workplace hell.
      And as a person who works, I’d really resent someone else’s crying baby while I was trying to work. And I’d especially resent being asked to handle that baby so their parent could work.

      1. MK*

        My niece of five months has not allowed a single 10-minute video call with my sister to pass without redirecting the attention to herself in some way. She doesn’t cry, but her status as the center of the universe must not be challenged.

        1. Anononon*

          Ugh, and right after I posted that, I realized the awful connotations it has. I meant sterile as in cold and stark, like a lab, NOT anything to do with fertility. I’m sorry for using such a poorly chosen word.

        2. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

          I adore my own children, and I am a really good parent, if I do say so myself. I am a fantastic aunt. I babysat and nannied my way through middle school, high school, and college.

          I do not want babies in my workplace on a daily basis. It’s distracting, it imposes on others who didn’t sign up for that, and I don’t like the implication that parenting is so effortless that it can be squeezed in around the margins of a full day’s work in a professional context.

          Not quite sure how my position could be described as “cold.” (Paraphrasing to avoid using the term you used, with apologies for putting words in your mouth.)

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yes, but in very different working scenarios. It’s one thing if you’re doing farm work at home. It’s another if you’re doing office work for someone else and the people around you might feel pressured to help out or be seen as “not team players”.

        Also: It’s still not available to a lot of workers. It wouldn’t really work where I am and it would definitely not have worked at my previous job at a vet’s office.

      2. EBStarr*

        I mean… That’s not true. For thousands of years, humans may have raised babies where the mother was generally in charge and then had a village around to help when she needed to rest, take care of another child, or do some housework. The mother was not also trying to perform a full-time job that expected her to be present and focused for a specific, contiguous ~8 hours of every day.

        1. Name Required*

          No, I don’t think that’s completely true either. People did the work together and the raising of children together, and often did the raising of children while they did the work. They wore a baby while they foraged for food or built a fire. Even small children helped with tasks. Not this either/or thinking of “we’re doing work” OR “we’re doing childcare”.

          I also think that expecting people to be present and singularly focused for 8 hours a day is terrible and maladaptive. We’re “optimizing” ourselves out of existance by attempting to silo the human experience in a way that is making us lonely, stressed, and sick.

          Obviously, we’re not throwing a baby in a carrier while we’re welding on the factory line, but I think this could work in a lot of offices if we had a different culture in America about both work and children.

          1. EBStarr*

            IMO, if we had a better culture around work and children in the US, this wouldn’t even need to be a discussion, because people would get humane amounts of leave. Personally, I was on full-time paid leave till my kid was 5 months old and she was then full-time with my husband on paid leave till she was ~7 months. There was no question of trying to balance caring for a needy three-month-old with an office job because we are lucky enough to have jobs that do in fact understand humans need to have lives and reproduce. As iBarley points out below, this discussion is very American precisely because going back to work with such a young baby is part of our culture of not respecting human needs outside of work.

            And while everyone’s different, personally I’d rather have my kid with someone whose job it is to give her the attention, social and intellectual development, and energy she needs full-time than try to balance my job while giving at most a small percentage of attention to my kid. I’d feel so guilty that she wasn’t being read to or talked to that I’d be miserable — and I’m sure I wouldn’t be doing a good job at my job either. It requires a lot of concentration to code. (And certainly I don’t do it 8 hours a day. But I do it in a way that would not be compatible with taking care of a baby of any age.)

          2. Colette*

            Working in an office is a different environment than farming. Can you plant a garden while an infant plays on a blanket in front of you or sits in a backpack looking at the birds and trees? Sure. Is a beige maze of cubicles as appropriate for a baby? No.

            Can someone working on a farm plan their day so the baby can have their attention during their more alert periods? Sure. Can an happy, babbling baby go to a sales meeting with a potential customer? No.

            But also, our expectations have changed. Can a 5 year old and a 3 year old go out and explore? Again, on a farm, maybe they can, within certain parameters! But generally, we require more supervision of young children than in the past – and it certainly wouldn’t be OK to set two young kids loose in an office tower.

            1. MK*

              I have zero experience withe farming, but I am pretty sure you cannot plan it around a baby, it is hard work and nature doesn’t care about your schedule. And I am not sure how safe it is for a baby to sit unattended while you plant, and you would need to leave it unattended to do the job. Children I previous centuries were not given the attention we consider normal for babies today.

              1. Colette*

                I’m thinking of more small-scale, hand-planted farming than we do today – but yes, you can choose when you work most of the time; the exception would be specific time-sensitive work like harvest and planting.

                1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                  At which points people within a community would trade duties.
                  Monday – harvest day at Colette’s; all the men come to help harvest, all the women and children come to help 1) cook food for all the people 2) watch the babies so food can be cooked for all the people
                  Tuesday – harvest day at Clever’s; everyone who was at Colette’s yesterday comes to help at Clever’s.
                  etc, etc, etc.

              2. Metadata minion*

                If you’re talking plants, there usually isn’t *that* much urgency on an hour-by-hour basis unless there’s some sort of weather emergency. If a cow has gotten loose, it needs to be taken care of RIGHT NOW, but the potatoes don’t really care if you dig them up at 2pm or 3pm.

                1. Colette*

                  And if the cows aren’t loose, they can pretty much entertain themselves until milking or feeding or calving. It’s not that they aren’t work – they are – but most of the time it’s predictable, plannable work.

              3. Amy*

                If I couldn’t plant with my babies laying in a bassinet / playing in the dirt nearby, I wouldn’t have such a nice garden.

          3. Esmeralda*

            I would not want to be working the many more hours needed to accomplish my work if I were caring for an infant or small child — the days would be very long. And no doubt I’d be working on the weekends too. Those 40 hours or so have to be done somewhere. I personally would not have wanted to care for baby an hour or so, trundle off to the office, care for baby, hope like hell baby is sleeping or one of my (childless?) colleagues is available to care for baby while I work for a couple of hours, then care for baby, then hope for sleep/colleague — it would have taken from 6 am to 9 or 10 pm to get a day’s paid work done. If I didn’t get those 8 hours done, then I was going to be making them up some other day. I would always be on.

            And which of my colleagues is going to be caring for my baby while I’m working. Am I going to be caring for a colleague’s baby while they’re trying to work — and if so, how am I getting my own work done. When do any of us have time for an actual break?

            It’s a lovely idea, but the devil is in the details. The main details being: child care is a full time job. A fulltime job is a full time job. Unless you have someone/s dedicated to doing childcare/most of the childcare in the workplace, this just will not work.

          4. MK*

            I think you are ignoring now much less attention was paid to children and their needs in the past. The grim reality is that people weren’t raising children while they did work, they did the work because they had no choice and the children were left to raise themselves in the vicinity.

      3. MK*

        No, it isn’t. Do you imagine that a medieval peasant working in the fields with a baby strapped on her took a fussy baby in the shade or handed them to a coworker when it started to cry? She kept working and let it cry itself to sleep. For the majority of human history the majority of children were left to raise themselves while their parents worked all day; sure, they were in the same space, but the needs of children were mostly ignored.

        1. Jill*

          This is such a huge part of it!! Everyone’s talking about childcare as passive but it takes intentional teaching even at those early stages! I work in early childhood education (0-3) and anyone “watching” a child without some form of curriculum or structured play-learning is completely kidding themselves, something we didn’t know thousands of years ago.

          1. Jackalope*

            I’m…. not really sure what you mean here. I normally would use the phrase “watching a child” (in the babysitting sense, not the literal “staring at them” sense) to mean that I’m hanging around them and making sure they don’t die. Obviously I’m going to do some stuff with them if it’s an option, but I remember for example that when I was living w/ my niblings while they were fairly young, I took care of them a lot in an informal way, and didn’t have anything planned like a curriculum or structured play learning, and I still considered that watching them. And honestly, as far as I’m concerned, it worked; many years later they are still alive, and we are closer because we spent time together. Not kidding myself; they really are still alive, and we really are close. I’m not trying to be snarky, but I really don’t know what else you mean.

            And honestly, stay at home parents that I know generally spend time with their kids but also do other stuff in a way that’s not necessarily going to happen for you if you are in early childhood education. They’re making sure their kids don’t die, and they’re cooking dinner, and doing housework, and running errands, and….. Most of the stay at home parents that I know spend time with their kids and try to do things like taking them to fun places (children’s museums, zoos, parks, etc.), and they all teach their kids things as issues come up (like helping them practice using zippers when they’re putting on a coat, or practice brushing their teeth before bed). But they aren’t spending all of their time focusing on teaching, and most of them are not using a curriculum. Which is not to say that a curriculum is a bad, or that early childhood education isn’t real work or a real specialization. It’s just that that’s not the only way that kids learn.

            And honestly, I’m pretty certain that peasant children in the Middle Ages also got some instruction from adults on how to human. Just because we have more specifics on technique and how to work with young children doesn’t mean no one ever did it before the last 50 years.

            1. Jill*

              What I meant was thanks to years of research with an increasingly educated population it’s been proven that hanging around a baby, keeping a baby alive, and learning how to human during 0-3 isn’t enough if you want to set a child’s physical brain up for maximum success. The brain creates most of the synapses it will have during 0-2 and if those connections aren’t actively encouraged they immediately start pruning off until 6, none of it means less intelligence but it can contribute to things like how easy it is for you to learn a new language or how adaptive you can be to new experiences.

              What you’re describing a SAHP does is structured learning (you hanging out with your niblings, not so much) but the difference in having a curriculum to base off of is benchmarks and tracking, and the reassurance that struggling or excelling at that age is normal. That doesn’t mean can a 4mo old do 2+2 or say words, it’s are they starting to mimic your noises, pointing at specific objects they want, object permanence etc. and luckily now that we have better science and research, we know better ways to educate children in the way their brains think, not ours.

              This is all obviously saying, do what you have to do to be a present parent in your child’s life but to say passing a baby around the office to will get the same kind of intentioned care as from an educated caregiver doesn’t make sense, and we should be empowering all parents to be able to provide better infant care.

        2. Name Required*

          This just isn’t true, and is leaning on white, European history as representative of the entirety of human history.

          1. MK*

            Fair enough, I am not familiar with non-European history, or childcaring in other cultures. But it is very much true that children were not the focus and priority of the family in many cultures. And in my slight knowledge of non-European cultures they are still not that in many parts of the world today.

    4. iBarley*

      I don’t know how else to say this but this seems so incredibly ……. American, lol. Like in Canada, parental leave is 12-18 months, so I mean if you were bringing in your kid the first 6 months back at work, that kid would be a year old at least. I like it in theory where people need to nurse, care for an infant, etc., but it just demonstrates how incredibly vicious and inhumane it is for parents to be back at work so quickly.

    5. Ask me how I know*

      OMG, I hate that “babies mostly sleep the first few months anyway” cliché. Even if you are lucky and get an easy baby like I did, “sleep” doesn’t mean “parent can concentrate and get a project done in that time.”

      Yeah, my baby slept. IF she was being pushed in her carriage on a bumpy street, or if I drove her around in the car, or did any number of things that keep you from doing work, even if you have the baby in a sling wrap.

      Breastfeeding was hard work: she didn’t feed all that well, so I had to nurse her for 20 minutes, then pump an additional 20 minutes to keep my milk supply up, then sterilize all the pumping stuff. Most of her in-home napping time, I spent pumping and storing milk and cleaning up . . . by which time it was time to nurse again. (Maybe not Larry’s issue, but feeding babies in any form involves mess and spitting up and cleaning and changing onesies, etc.)

      And even if your baby does have a pretty good nap schedule: you can’t guarantee how much time you’re gonna get. Baby is napping, you’ve finally cleaned up the spit-up and the changing table that got peed on. Great, she’s been down for 20 minutes, what the heck was I doing earlier? Do I try to finish that project that needs two hours of concentration? I have started that seven times, I will have to start over yet again if this nap only lasts an hour. Do I have anything I can get done in less time? Not sure, I have to start something and get into it before I know for sure. Nah, this one is too involved, how about this one . . . oops, there she goes.

      TL; DR: “New babies sleep all the time” = Maybe no, maybe yes. And even if yes, maybe HAHAHAHAHAHA

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I was colicky and basically screamed nonstop for the first year. I’m not the only reason my mom stopped working outside of the home but I’m the primary one.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        My first was a non-sleeping model. Did not sleep through the night until he was well past two. Decided naps were for chumps at 11 months (even his daycare provider used to borderline apologize to us for his not taking a nap or for letting him sleep on the floor if he happened to fall asleep by chance – dude, we know, just give him a blanket and let him sleep). Even as a teenager, he is still up late and then wakes up at the crack of dawn. He wasn’t necessarily screaming, he just NEVER slept.

        1. J*

          My first didn’t sleep either. He also screamed and screamed and screamed. If I had worked at a place like this I would have felt tremendous pressure to “just” bring him in because “new babies sleep most of the time.” It would not have gone well.

      3. Esmeralda*

        If I was lucky and my son was sleeping, I was TAKING A NAP. Because taking care of an infant is exhausting.

      4. onco fonco*

        Yeah, considering how often I failed to finish a cup of coffee/make a meal/have an entire shower with shampoo and everything during my babies’ first few months, the idea that I could productively work around a tiny baby is…well.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      Are candidates told this before being hired? Because, to be honest, I’d self-select out of a company like this. And if I wasn’t told before being hired, I’d be looking for a job very quickly. Yes, babies do sleep a lot, but some can be fussy and may not sleep during working hours. This would absolutely not be the place for me.

      1. Double A*

        Of course people are told this before being hired. It’s a selling point for certain people, like offices where you are allowed to bring your dog to work (of course a few crummy places don’t mention this, but honestly the baby thing is SO much less common that I would be shocked if this weren’t shared upfront by almost every company that does this).

        This podcast profiles a company with this policy. Give it a listen: https://longestshortesttime.com/episode-143-its-a-real-mother-part-3-the-cliff/

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Well, I’m asking because the commenter doesn’t say one way or the other. We’ve seen so many examples here of companies that don’t share things before they hire someone.

    7. Double A*

      I’ve heard of a few companies where this is the explicit policy, and I think it’s great. Of course it wouldn’t work for everyone or every office, and this is the kind of setup you build into your company plan and people work for you specifically because they like (or don’t object to) this setup.

      Just because modern work is set up as if everyone has a stay-at-home wife doesn’t mean that every office should be, and I for one think it’s great that some companies have a different model. It’s not a negative that other people help with babies if the blending of childcare and work and normal in your workplace. The segregation of childcare from “work” is actually a pretty weird setup in the scope of human history.

      The negative comments here are really eye-rolly. If you don’t like it, guess what? You will almost certainly not encounter this setup because it’s so uncommon. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for the companies that implement it.

      1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        As long as the policy of “Okay to bring babies up to age XX months to work” is fully disclosed during the recruitment process, it seems fine for private companies to offer this benefit. You might be excited by it if you are ready to start a family, or you might self-select out if you don’t want to work with any babies in the office. No offense to babies (I’ve had a couple of my own) but I view it as analogous to allowing dogs in the office. I would self-select out of that office environment ASAP because while I like dogs (and have one), I am allergic to most of them and find barking annoying. But if the owner of a private business wants dogs in their office, so be it.

      2. Becca*

        Yeah, I think as long as it’s known upfront, it seems generally fine to have this policy. Of course, I’d prefer 6 months paid maternity leave to bringing the baby to work for the first six months.

    8. Cat Tree*

      Some babies mostly sleep, others don’t. But as I said upthread, raising a child is not a side gig that can just be put on the back burner fit most of the day. Of course parents don’t have to spend every second paying devoted adoring attention to their child, but it’s bad *for the child* to just put them in a corner and only spend the minimum amount of time on them to make sure their physical needs are met.

      Why not just allow more generous paid parental leave instead?

      1. Natalie*

        Lots of the companies in the US can’t afford to offer more paid parental leave if they offer any. In countries where long leaves are required, they are partially or fully government subsidized, they’re not a direct cost of the employer.

        The only places I’ve ever heard of with these policies restrict them to babies under 6 months.

        1. Cat Tree*

          Companies can afford what they choose to afford. It’s a matter of prioritization in the budget. Saying that they can’t afford paid leave is no different than saying they can’t afford to pay market rate salaries to force workers to basically donate their time and labor. If they want to retain employees and allow them to be productive, they’ll find a way to pay for that. It’s extremely short-sighted to hand-wring about paying for benefits when it causes higher turnover and reduced productivity (from having disruptive babies in the office). Those thus are very expensive, but they’ve decided they can afford that instead.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            It is 100% valid to say a company might not be able to afford it. Some companies can barely pay rent. Some have trouble making payroll and have layoffs. Some fold.
            Desirable to have? Yes.
            Possible for all? No.

            1. Cat Tree*

              Companies can make whatever decisions they want, but they don’t get to whine and complain at the consequences. If you want to attract and retain talent, you provide competitive benefits. If you only want to attract desperate people with no other options and you’re fine with high turnover, then you don’t provide good benefits. Smart companies understand that good employees with lower turnover is how they make more money. Short-sighted companies think they’re saving money up front, but lose tons of money both from having higher turnover and from have less productive employees that do stick around. This is how our capitalist system works, and sometimes it actually doesn’t benefit the company.

              For companies that can barely afford rent, I encourage all employees to aggressively job search, because that company will most likely fail.

      2. Colette*

        Yeah, bringing babies to the office shouldn’t be the solution. Parental leave is the solution.

    9. Enough*

      What you describe is not caretaking while working. This is caretaking by the village (coworkers).

    10. RussianInTexas*

      Oh god no. This would be awful. I imagine there is a pressure to be this “unofficial aunty” to help your coworker.
      No thank you.

    11. Black Horse Dancing*

      This would be hell on earth for me. Many people don’t like kids at all. I’d far rather work in a pet friend;y office than this. And others are expected to cuddle the babies? Nope. Nope. Nope.

    12. LizM*

      I have worked in an office with this policy, and it’s not as awful as it sounds.

      Granted, I’d rather have 6 months of parental leave so I don’t have to bring a very young baby back to the office, but it really wasn’t that disruptive. You’d be surprised how much you can get done wearing a baby, especially if your job is flexible enough that you can get up and walk around from time to time. It really gets more challenging once the baby becomes mobile and is awake for longer stretches.

      1. LizM*

        Also, it’s not like the place was crawling with babies. You’d have to have a pretty big office to have more than 1 or 2 babies at any given time. In my current office (30ish people), no one has had a baby in over 2 years.

        I mean, it’s not for everyone or every company, for sure, just sharing that when you describe it, it makes it sound like there is a baby in every office, and at least in my experience, that wasn’t the case.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I mean, it’s not the baby somewhere in some other room that sounds awful to me, personally, it’s the “aunties”, and the societal pressure that happens when “everyone” in the office wants to help with the child, and you do not.

    13. Sc@rlettNZ*

      That sounds absolutely horrendous. I’d start looking for another job immediately if anywhere I worked implemented such a policy.

      Just out of interest, were potential employees advised of this before they accepted a job there? That’s the sort of thing which would make me self select out.

  15. Beth*

    This seems way more like a boss problem than a Larry problem to me. Larry isn’t great here, but ultimately he’s acting within the limits of what his employer is willing to allow–which is frankly understandable, even if it’s not the most professional behavior. The real problem is that your boss won’t let you manage him! There are ways to handle an unreliable, underperforming employee–your boss just won’t let you use them. You aren’t allowed to fire him and it sounds like he knows it; writing him up for being distracted with childcare is also a non-starter when your boss’s take on it is that you ‘can’t tell him how to manage his household’. It seems pretty obvious to me that your boss sees no problem with the status quo.

    That doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. You have an employee who isn’t reliably doing their job, and others who are seeing the lack of consequences for him and (reasonably) assuming the same standard applies to them as well. But unless you can make your boss see that and either take action or at least allow you to actively manage, doing anything about it is going to be a serious uphill battle.

  16. Chickaletta*

    Seems to me like you can also handle this by making the primary issue his constant missed deadlines and unreliability. Perhaps a PIP or something where he needs to make X number of deadlines in the next six months or whatever. This does two things – it will address the issue that you have- which is really his missed deadlines, not his baby, and it will also help him realize for himself that his situation isn’t working. Right now, Larry thinks it works ~because everyone is letting it work~! Larry needs an “ah ha” moment to figure out that the way he’s doing things is not good. You can help nudge him that way but putting the onus on him.

    1. Carlie*

      Exactly my thoughts. This isn’t a childcare issue, it’s a Larry performance issue. Keep it as a Larry performance issue. If he’s always been behind and late and scrambling, I’m surprised he’s made it this long without some kind of mentoring/warning/PIP.

      1. jbmasta*

        More than a Larry performance issue, it’s a boss refusing to be a boss problem. Whether it’s general lack of reasonable authority or concern over perceived discrimination, their inability to address an underperforming employee just exacerbates the existing issues.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Except Larry probably knows he won’t be fired. Not satisfying the terms of the PIP has to have consequences. Usually termination. Since that isn’t an option there isn’t a lot of incentive for him to improve. He KNOWS he misses deadlines, he doesn’t care. Having it laid out won;t change that because it will still be working — for him. He will still have a full paycheck for not working full time.

    3. BRR*

      This is good advice. I think we can often take a step back to address what the real issue is, Larry’s performance. I needed to read the letter again and it says the unreliability has been going on for years, aka before the kid. The kid probably didn’t help but the real issue is reliability.

      Although the boss has said they’re not firing Larry so I’m not sure what the LW can do here (I’m assuming Larry knows this or has figured it out). The most realistic solution might end up going to your boss to say you need A, B, and C done and working on the solution from that angle. Maybe people’s duties change. Maybe you will need to push for a new hire.

    4. funkydonut*

      Yeah, I came to suggest this. Why hasn’t he BEEN on a PIP? Make it about his work performance and not about his childcare issues.

  17. Trek*

    In my office we allowed people to WFH because of COVID however we made it clear that if productivity or accuracy became an issue they would be required to return to the office and use social distancing measures. We had a few return due to performance issues. One employee was forced to return and she had a whole host of problems after returning that didn’t impact her while she was at home, shocking I know. She’s gone now.
    If I were you I’d work with your boss to make that requirement for those with performance issues so they can be monitored. Otherwise the only option is to start documenting ever missed deadline. If needed give him not more work but work that has more visibility so that when deadlines are missed it impacts others and your boss can’t ignore that.
    Check with HR, just because your boss isn’t willing to terminate HR may be able to provide other options i.e. a transfer to a different job or force the issue on terminating for performance especially now that others want to follow Larry’s example. The tone of voice with HR should be ‘This is untenable and I cannot manage part time employees with full time work. Please help me resolve these issues and be fair to all employees. ‘

    1. Colette*

      This is also terrible. People have responsibilities and issues during COVID that they don’t have otherwise (such as a lack of childcare); expecting them to perform the same as before is unreasonable, and drives women out of the workforce.

      1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

        Right…the consequence for struggling with remote work/sudden change in family responsibilities, during a pandemic, should not be exposure to a potentially deadly pathogen!

        1. Natalie*

          This is just not factually accurate, daycares have been very low risk. The main transmission risk is between staff, and that’s effectively mitigated with masking and distancing.

          1. desdemona*

            I think they meant re: making struggling employees return to the office. During a pandemic!

          2. Ismonie*

            Not my kid’s old daycare. They were on “outbreak status” with the dept of health before COVID. I don’t know how many days we would have been quarantining and waiting for negative test results had we kept her there. Also, a lot of daycares have now closed. So getting a spot, and the daycare remaining open and solvent after you do is not guaranteed in many parts of the country.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        I agree. Plus, everyone was dealing with the stress of a global pandemic. That could also affect your productivity & accuracy. Then having the additional stress of going into the office during lockdown?

        Did the employer consider providing EAP, etc ?

    2. Trek*

      No one is sacrificing safety. We live in a low risk area, with few people on site, all travel stopped, enforcement of masks is absolute and we sanitize constantly. We also are a business that supports front line workers and without us performing our essential work the front line workers would suffer as well as multiple small business. As much as we would like the world to shut down for COVID many people had to work for everyone’s benefit, our company included and our clients’ companies.
      The point was that if being at home caused work performance to suffer then coming back to the office was the alternative. It was entirely based on the employee’s actions. Most of the 100 employees remained home with no issues.

      1. Colette*

        First of all, leaving home to go to work is not as safe as staying home. I believe that it’s as safe as you can make it, but that’s not the same as being 100% safe.

        And it’s possible that some people struggled because they weren’t good performers before the pandemic, but it’s also possible that they are now caring for children who can’t go to school/daycare or with other logistical issues for which they are being punished by being forced back to the office. And that’s the sign of a crappy place to work. If I were someone who had been able to work from home and saw my coworker forced to go in to the office because they didn’t work as effectively with school closed, I’d be job hunting.

    3. Yorick*

      This seems like the solution – make Larry work at the office since WFH isn’t working for him. This may help him meet deadlines better and should get rid of the “we can’t tell him how to manage his household” issue too.

  18. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    How to pitch this so that new employee doesn’t feel like OP’s firm pulled a bait and switch?

    1. Myrin*

      I don’t think something can be called a “bait and switch” when it’s just something the other employee inferred through (incorrect) observation and not something that was explicitly advertised to her as a benefit pre-employment.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, and given the age of the baby, it sounds like Larry has only been doing this during the pandemic (when many companies have permitted it), not before that — so it’s an odd inference for her to make, unless Larry has told her he expects to be allowed to do it long-term (which he probably has).

  19. BRR*

    If your company doesn’t have a WFH policy, or if it doesn’t mention childcare, I would push to establish one. But upon rereading your letter, I’m worried your boss sucks. If this behavior fits into the larger picture, my answer is your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.

    Maybe instead of saying putting the child in daycare, you approach your boss with a more blanket statement of having childcare. This might come off as not managing his household as much. But if your boss doesn’t budge on having appropriate childcare, I’d try and make Larry’s performance your boss’ problem as much as you can.

  20. Goody*

    I would love to know why the boss is adamant that firing Larry is off the table. There’s something fishy there.

    And yes, absolutely, there needs to be a full company-wide announcement regarding expectations with WFH. Maybe not specifically in regard to child care, because wording it that way could be seen as discriminatory, but certainly something to emphasize that employees working from home have the same performance expectations as those in the office.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      It’s incredibly normal for companies that allow WFH to have childcare policies, so this wouldn’t be discriminatory.

    2. BRR*

      Yeah the more I’m immersed in this letter the more I wish it was about Larry’s performance. The childcare is an issue but the real issue is performance and I wish we knew more about the boss’ stance. Although I’m not sure it’s fishy, I think the boss could just suck.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I would love to know why the boss is adamant that firing Larry is off the table. There’s something fishy there.

      Yeah, this is the crux of the problem. Is Larry a friend/relative? Is he afraid of being accused of discrimination? Is Larry blackmailing him? Does he refuse to fire *anybody?*

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

        This is where my mind went as well. There’s “back story” of some sort between boss and Larry which OP (presumably) isn’t aware of.

    4. Bernadette*

      It sucks but it’s not necessarily fishy. Sometimes people just don’t believe in firing employees. Sometimes there’s a disagreement about the extent of the performance issues: OP sees the missed deadlines and impact on the rest of the team; boss sees the decent work product and thinks the problems are coachable or not a big deal.

      Once I had a boss who prevented me from dealing with a performance issue because of the optics of potentially losing one of the few POC on a mostly white team (horrible idea, do not recommend, made that specific POC employee’s experience much worse). People often make bad choices about this stuff.

  21. Jen*

    We had an employee like this. He suggested that HR needed to pay for his childcare since they want him to be without a child while at work (????). We ended up letting him go.

    I am all for companies being flexible and accommodating but they are also not here to pay you for doing no/terrible work.

  22. LSP*

    Had I not had access to daycare throughout the pandemic, I would have had to quit my job, even though I was working from home, because my toddler would have made it impossible for me to work during the day. That’s no exaggeration. I would have had to drop my career because my husband makes more money. It’s hard enough on days when my 7 year old is home doing school virtually, just making sure he’s going to his classes and gets his lunch on time. Either Larry has no concept of the effect his set up is having on his professional reputation, or he doesn’t care. And he seems utterly unaware that when you add a second kid, your work as a parent doesn’t double — it TRIPLES!

    1. sofar*

      I know a couple who have decided they’re going to keep her kids home until 2022 at least (because COVID is still a threat). And just … not tell their employers. Their kids are 4 and 1. So I literally don’t know how they are pulling that off. Also, the wife’s job is saying they’re going back to the office three days a week after Labor Day, so they’re in a panic about how the husband is going to shoulder 100% of the childcare those other two days while working.

      And I feel like such a jerk for saying, “Ummm… daycare?” But they’ve deemed daycare too risky. I don’t envy their bosses.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t envy their bosses.

        Actually, they’ve made it a lot easier for their bosses discipline them. Because if there are performance issues the bosses will be able to address them without having to worry about being seen as unfeeling about child care issues.

      2. meyer lemon*

        To be honest, I feel for these people who are stuck between trying to keep their kids from getting sick and trying not to lose their jobs. I realize it is just the status quo that people are expected to just somehow figure out childcare around the periphery of their jobs, but I think it’s very damaging to live in a society that pretends that an essential part of life (caring for family members) is basically just an inconvenience to our employers.

        1. MA Dad*

          This ^ .
          My performance (and mental health) has been pretty bad since this pandemic began and my wife and I are also homeschooling our K and Pre-K kids. If my boss made me go back to work before all of us are vaccinated(thankfully not the case), I would fight it. Larry is trying to do what he can for his family so give him a break, at least until the pandemic is over. Then you can work on PIPs or some other kind of accountability process. Part of me feels for the coworkers because they shouldn’t need to do any extra work but they can say no too. They are already doing their role.

          I’m hoping Larry starts a revolution. Life is too short to put your job on the same pedestal as family/community

    2. Observer*

      Either Larry has no concept of the effect his set up is having on his professional reputation, or he doesn’t care

      Nah, he just doesn’t care. Keep in mind that the performance problems started BEFORE he had the kid and has been open about not intending to to anything about it, regardless of pandemic.

    3. onco fonco*

      Yeah, there is no way to perform adequately in a FT job while watching two children under the age of two. Unless the children are like no children I’ve ever heard of, it’s not a thing that can be done. This is why parents have desperately needed slack during the pandemic when they had no choice but to try and do two jobs at once, but when choice is available? Yeah. Larry cannot do that.

      (I made the choice to sacrifice my career and have been sporadically freelancing for most of a decade. I’ll be back at entry level when I eventually find my way back into an office. We tried another arrangement for a while and it was so insanely stressful that we gave up. We moved across the country chasing cheaper living costs in order to manage on one salary. If a Larry-style deal had been available to me, you bet I would have taken it!)

  23. Less Bread More Taxes*

    One thing that strikes me about Larry is how casual he is when discussing his inability to work. Any other parent would be embarrassed about their lack of childcare and consequentially their quality of work. I agree with some of the other commenters that this his lackadaisical attitude is probably a result of him knowing he won’t be fired.

    Any other parent would be going to the manager, explaining the situation, and asking for extensions and help while getting their childcare together. Larry hasn’t done that. The icing on the cake is that it’s highly unlikely either of his two kids were sprung upon him, and so he’s had time to plan for childcare. He knows he doesn’t need childcare because he’s untouchable.

    This is one of those cases where I think OP mostly has a boss problem more than anything.

    1. Same here*

      Nah, I had a coworker with much older kids (but the same pre-Covid lackluster performance) who very matter of factly informed us all they would be homeschooling and therefore less available during the day. (We already scarcely heard from them.) That was definitely a boss issue, too though.

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        Yeah I really shouldn’t have written “any other parent” – I’ve dealt with my share of coworkers who just decide to stop working at full capacity without acknowledging the hardship on anyone else. I guess I just want to believe other parents are better!

        I can’t imagine just informing my boss that I’m now taking up a different full time job (which homeschooling is, paid or not!) and expecting nothing to happen to me.

        1. Ismonie*

          I mean, if not for the pandemic, I would agree with you. Some people really don’t have a choice, even now. All of the parents of older kids I know are having a heckuva time finding after school care and summer camps that used to be common.

    2. irene adler*

      Yeah, I was surprised at Larry’s casualness regarding his work situation as well. That would be something most any other employee would want remedy for-fast.

      Maybe he knows where all the ‘skeletons’ are.

    3. Becca*

      FWIW my husband has tried to be pretty matter-of-fact about childcare responsibilities during the pandemic. Daycares here were shut down to non-essential workers for months, it’s not like we had a “solve childcare” option. Even now they are at reduced capacity and several went out of business. By trying to communicate directly, it made it easier for both of us to prioritize what our bosses needed done while also trying to normalize the idea that fathers also have childcare responsibilities.

  24. MK*

    I have a different perspective: In my org, it would be inappropriate for a manager to interfere with the childcare arrangements of workers, and there is no rule about it (we worked from home 60% pre-covid, it’s 90% now). But missing deadlines is not tolerated, unless there is a specific temporary cause. I know of no one who does without childcare, be it a nursery, a nanny or a grandparent, because not having it would result in missed deadlines and consequences.

    OP, your boss doesn’t want to impose a childcare rule, ok, but he also won’t allow consequences for poor performance. What is his idea? That the great quality of Larry’s work makes it ok for him to miss deadlines? Or is he expecting you to magically ensure that Larry will be on time without being able to discipline him? I am not optimistic about the situation, because, reading between the lines of Larry’s response, it sounds to me that he is only willing to have this job on his terms, a.k.a. no childcare and missed deadlines, while your boss apparently wants to keep him no matter what.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      What I really want to know is who is picking up the slack from all of Larry’s ignored deadlines? Sounds like it’s not the coworkers.

      Can Larry maybe be reassigned to report directly to the boss since boss won’t let the manager manage? Maybe if boss has to experience the “fun” of managing Larry his tune will change?

      1. MK*

        Well, sometimes no one picks the slack and the work is perpetually late, which might or might not cause issues. Or it is spread out over so many people it isn’t noticeable. I work in the court system of my country, and I have had colleagues who continually miss deadlines. The people directly affected by this were the citizens involved in the cases and they rarely complained, and only after an unconscionable delay. I think it is because, although people in position usually keep to the deadlines, there is a perception about government bureaucracy that makes people accept it.

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

        Can Larry maybe be reassigned to report directly to the boss since boss won’t let the manager manage?

        But then he’d be a peer of the OP and it would seem like his lack of performance was rewarded with a de facto ‘promotion’!

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          True – I was just spitballing. I think at least some of the problem here is that big boss never has to feel the pain of dealing with Larry and his work issues.

    2. Doris Thatcher*

      To me, late work isn’t great work. I’ve worked with Larrys before. And in some cases, their legendary “great work” is also not up to standard. Find yourself in the temporary spot of managing them and sometimes you find out (not saying that’s the case here).

      Besides, I’m sure many people could probably up the quality of their work if they get twice as long to do it, depending on the task.

  25. TWW*

    This is 100% a boss problem. Larry needs to be on a PIP–start meeting deadlines or you’re out–but as long as the boss has designated Larry un-fireable, a PIP would be without teeth.

    I gather Larry knows he’s invincible and is taking advantage.

  26. iBarley*

    I agree with other comments that I think you may need to address this as a “boss” issue rather than a Larry issue, since not being able to manage your employee effectively is really the core of the issue.

    Wanted to add as well that I’m surprised a company that was WFH pre-pandemic doesn’t have anything in their policies about this! My work had a WFH policy pre-pandemic too and it was outlined very clearly that you must not have other duties while at home which could interfere with work – eg. Caring for small children, pets, or other family members. I liked that it was spelled out that it wasn’t just about childcare, but really anything that required regular attention (we actually had more issues with people WFH while caring for their new puppies and being totally absentee than parents anyways). I know you probably don’t have authority to make these changes (or a boss who would support them anyways!) but it really seems like a big gap in your WFH policy not to spell this out.

  27. Fabulous*

    As someone with a full time job who tried to wrangle a 14-16 month old while daycares were closed last year, eeesh. Larry is Bonkers with a capital B if he thinks that’s tenable. I could tell that my guy really suffered at home (as opposed to daycare) because I couldn’t give him the attention or educational stimulation that he needed during the day because I had other work responsibilities and deadlines. I can see it working better if the baby’s still a potato, but the only time I could really focus on work while simultaneously caring for my guy was during his naptimes.

  28. Observer*

    Alison, do you really think that the OP is going to be able to make this happen? I don’t know what the boss is thinking, but I don’t think he’s going to back the OP on the very reasonable suggestion you are providing.

    I think that the OP has a bigger problem on their hands, because the person is a problem employee, regardless of parenthood status. Yet, Big Boss says he can’t be fired. Which means that anyone looking at what’s going on is either going to assume they can get away with the same nonsense – which already seems to be happening – or you are going to get a LOT of resentment and probably lose your best staff over this.

    OP, is there some way you can sideline Larry or shift work around so that he only does stuff that’s not so tied to deadlines?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t know! Some bosses are firing-averse but would be willing to have a reasonable policy in place like this one, particularly when they realize that if they don’t other people are going to start doing what Larry’s doing. It depends on whether the boss is, like, a 7 on the wimpiness scale or a 10. But it’s likely going to be easier to convince the boss to implement this policy than to fire Larry. (Either way, I think the OP needs to think about whether they want to stay there long-term, because a manager can’t do their job when they’re not ever permitted to fire low performers, and it’s not going to be good for her career long-term.)

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yeah – I think this is more a boss problem with Larry as the easily identified manifestation of said boss problem.

      2. Mental Lentil*

        because a manager can’t do their job when they’re not ever permitted to fire low performers

        Exactly. I left a position because I wasn’t even allow to discipline the low-performers on my team. No PIP, no warnings, nothing. It made it impossible for me to do my job.

    2. twocents*

      I don’t know that shifting Larry’s time sensitive work to the other employees is really going to resolve the potential resentment problem. If 70% of my tasks are time sensitive, and 30% isn’t, and that 30% gets taken from me to let someone who can’t pull their weight stay employed, that makes a stressful situation for me where I can’t let anything slide ever, because everything I’m responsible for is now time sensitive. Meanwhile, the flake looks great because he never misses deadlines, nevermind that he doesn’t have deadlines to miss.

      1. Observer*

        Obviously getting Larry to perform to an acceptable level is a better plan. But if the OP can’t do that, perhaps they can mitigate the fall out.

      2. Doris Thatcher*

        ^this happens too often and is punishing the performing employees.

        As it is, the Larrys of the workforce are likely not getting approached still to do any emergency/crisis tasks that go to coworkers because they’re perpetually in a state of catching up on stuff related to the last deadline and therefore “too busy”.

      3. EmmaPoet*

        Exactly. Patty Productive who is on top of things ends up feeling punished for doing well, while Larry Lackadaisical has no actual consequences for taking his sweet time.

  29. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    It’s great to be flexible, but that means allowing Larry to work during naptimes and after his husband gets home, not deprioritizing work altogether.

  30. Bree*

    Am I reading the letter wrong, or does the LW say this was Larry’s set-up/plan even before the pandemic? If so, things are a bit more complicated because it’s harder to frame it as “we were flexible because of COVID, but now things have to go back to normal.” Still needs to be done, but I think it becomes more an issue of changing the organization’s policy or making it clear in general.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Larry had a performance problem for years before the pandemic. The baby arrived in February — on the teeth of the gale as it were. So initial paternity leave may have segued into WFH-with-infant out of pandemic necessity.
      Hopefully OP can get their own manager to address the issue!

  31. Momma Bear*

    I agree that there’s a boss problem, and one thing OP could do is reiterate what Larry doesn’t accomplish and how things don’t get done and if the boss is unwilling to take action, then is the boss approving how OP handles it/things not getting done? Kind of like the letter the other day re: too many people tasking a team with last-minute work. Larry is way too comfortable with his behavior. We all want things. We can’t always have them.

    I also think there needs to be a firm, company-wide regulation about WFH with kids. The other coworker may not be seeing the struggles with Larry and his work and I think OP needs to set expectations now. Finding childcare for a newborn is not always easy. I have only had one job that allowed employees to be caregivers and it was only feasible due to the nature of the work. Every other WFH option has been firm that there needs to be someone other than the employee taking care of the child during the work day. They didn’t tell me how (nanny, daycare, grandma…) just that it can’t be the employee on a regular basis. We have been given notice that since schools and daycares are reopening, current WFH options will be revisited this summer, so prepare accordingly. No one should expect pandemic rules to stay forever.

  32. Coffee Owlccountant*

    Agreed that this seems to be at least as much (if not more) of a Boss Problem than a Larry Problem. You might try a conversation with Boss to say, as directly as your personal office politics dictate, that Boss is tying your hands and what is Boss’s solution to the Larry Problem? Especially helpful would be recent data about what Larry’s unreliability has cost the company quantified in dollars, if possible. If Boss will not let you manage him out even before the baby when Larry was also demonstrating unreliability and missed due dates, what is Boss’s solution to the unreliability and missed due dates? Hire another employee to actually do all of Larry’s work while Larry takes a paycheck for being a SAHP?

    I really hope Boss’s solution is not “well, the team needs to pick up his slack, we’re a family here!” because if it is, you’re in trouble.

  33. Tasha*

    I have a colleague (definitely NOT a Larry, though) who’s been working a split shift since Covid, and I think he plans to continue it after we’re cleared for returning to the office. He works about 5-8 am, then logs back on about 7 pm. Does he sit in front of his monitor for 7 1/2 hours? Don’t know, don’t care, he gets his stuff done.

    1. Momma Bear*

      A number of families do interesting schedule stuff, even pre-pandemic. One works nights and gets the kids up for school and the other gets them off the bus and puts them to bed. It’s hard, but I can see that working. However, they are also not actively working with the kid running around. I get emails from one of my coworkers at 10PM. I’m sure they are logging in after the kid is in bed. But as you say – it doesn’t matter bc the work gets done.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This is the schedule that my family has. Spouse’s job likes them coming in earlier – and is totally fine with flexible start and stop times so long as they are available during the core hours of 9a-2p. So spouse works 6-3:30 (with 30 min unpaid lunch, and every other Friday off). I work 4-8 (it’s a part time swing shift – but it’s the rare unicorn where I get benefits, good PTO allowances, and retirement contribution matching – it really is a unicorn) at night – and get home in time to give good night kisses. We trade off kiddo responsibilities, but it has meant that we we blessed and didn’t have to go into total freak out over childcare when the world closed up last year.

        (Spouse is also fortunate in that they get to work from home, I have been in the office the whole time – the joys of being an essential worker.)

  34. BlueAnon*

    I just had this argument with a mom in a baby board (I’m due later this year – baby boards are crazy town). She intends to work and be childcare too and I told her to check her work policies, because my job specifically states you cannot. She tried to claim it was illegal of them to say that. She stopped responding when I asked if she would do the same if she worked in an office, bring the baby in with her every day. I love the freedom of WFH (permanent, pre-pandemic) but I think some people get too comfortable and lose the “work” part.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I love the freedom of WFH (permanent, pre-pandemic) but I think some people get too comfortable and lose the “work” part.

      That’s why I’ve always referred to my employment as one of “remote work,” “work from where I am,” or “work from anywhere.”

  35. Alex*

    I’ve got a Larry in my department.

    Pre-pandemic, he stayed home with his kids 2 days a week, starting from when his youngest was a newborn. He constantly misses deadlines, turns in bad work, etc. He’s obviously not working on those days (but to be fair, he barely worked the other days). If there’s a snow day or his kids need to be picked up or are sick or whatever, he ducks out to take care of it. He leaves an hour early to go pick them up on days when he doesn’t WFM. He claims he comes in early to make up the work, but he definitely doesn’t.

    But, you know, he got promoted, so…

  36. Elliot*

    Completely agree with Allison’s response – and your boss sounds awful! I just did want to ask (although this may be a “not your problem” type thing since having kids seems to be a choice Larry and his spouse made…) – is he being compensated fairly and at a living wage that would allow their family to include daycare?
    I know that it’s not a company’s problem and that families need to figure it out themselves, but I know that in my area, daycare for two infants costs half an entry level salary, at least. If this is the hesitation of several of your employees, it may be worth partnering with a local daycare for a discount, finding resources for these parents, or making sure you’re paying fair wages.

  37. IT Relationship Manager*

    It does really seem that Larry doesn’t understand he’s in a problem. He doesn’t see his missed deadlines as something that is problematic for his group. While it’s understandable why he might be behind due to a new baby, it’s not something that is sustainable. It’s really showing that he is comfortable being behind if the plans to make his home work twice as much with another new baby and not address his work situation.

    It needs to be addressed now before other employees make decisions based on this example. But I would present options like having people have 100% parental leave when the baby is first born then let people do part time to ease into it as more childcare options open back up. Continue to be flexible with working from home, but you need to be clear with expectations that they need to be working and completing the tasks they are assigned. I think everyone has learned that you really can’t be a parent/teacher/employee all at once and expect to excel at it all. You have to manage your time better between those roles.

  38. Lawyer But Not That Kind of Lawyer*

    It’s not fair to the other employees who work part time and pay for day care so that they can get their work done. I am going to guess that these are more likely to be women. If this is the case, then this difference in treatment is likely to open the employer up to legal risk. As the employer you are allowed to dictate the numbers of hours a week you need an employee to be available, the time period they need to be available, and the results you expect to be produced. An employee can’t dictate that they are going to work less and expect full time pay. Transparency is really important also. I had a female employee that just had a baby and asked for reduced hours, I accommodated and she received a reduced salary due to her reduced hours. I had another employee who was not very reliable, showing up late leaving early, it was always one thing or another. When I sat down with him to explain the number of hours I needed him to be there, he mentioned that this other employee works 9 to 3 and I never said anything to her. That’s when I took the moment to inform him that as I mentioned previously to the team at the beginning she was working reduced hours, and I was also more than happy to do provide him that same opportunity. I had the forms and we could get that done, it also meant a reduced benefits and pay. That’s when he balked. He wanted the same reduced hours but not the reduced pay.

    1. Elbe*

      I completely agree here. This is really unfair to employees who are doing what they’re supposed to and getting work handed in on time.

      If the work doesn’t require all team members to be available during the same times, the LW could have a flexible time policy for everyone – you need to work 40 hours a week, but when you work is up to you. Larry could work evenings or weekends when his husband is home. But it’s very unfair to say that employee X has to work enough hours to meet deadlines and employee Y doesn’t.

      “He wanted the same reduced hours but not the reduced pay.”
      Wow. It really makes you wonder what people are thinking, doesn’t it?

  39. Mockingjay*

    I also think often about the precedent it sets for other employees.

    This is precisely why you need a company-wide policy for ALL work-from-home employees. Lay out standard conditions – workspace, equipment, hours, childcare (employee cannot look after child while on the clock), etc. – and as Alison suggests, let them know that this will kick in post-pandemic at [date]. It’s not unfriendly to establish ground rules – these are what allow companies to be family friendly and still function well.

    Then, you can focus on Larry’s performance issues. Because the baby is only exacerbating the existing, real problem.

  40. Parenthesis Dude*

    Larry’s plan is perfectly tenable. He’s going to continue to be unreliable and turn in work late because he knows that he won’t be fired. If the letter writer can’t fire him, then why should he change his behavior? And in fact, given that the letter writer’s manager has stated that “it’s inappropriate for us to tell Larry how to manage his household”, I would think that you don’t have the ability to tell him he needs to find childcare. If you do that, then Larry complains to your boss, and you get in trouble.

    The one question I have is why your boss doesn’t mind. It could be that Larry does such excellent work, when he gets work done, that your boss thinks he’s worth keeping. If he gets some things done, that no one else can do, then that’s a reason why your boss won’t let you fire or discipline him. Like, if he’s late on every ad hoc, but builds a process that makes your company millions of dollars, then your boss isn’t let you fire him. If so, you need to restructure what assignments you give him so that they have no due dates, and otherwise work around his schedule.

    Allison thinks you have a boss problem, and that very well may be the case. But it’s also possible that you simply don’t know how to use Larry to his best advantage. In that case, you need to reconsider how you use him or try to get him reassigned.

  41. awesome3*

    “One of my other newer team members recently remarked to me that she’s thinking about trying for children with her husband soon, and is so glad to see how well everything’s going for Larry having his baby at home with him — something she now hopes to do as well”

    Honestly it was kind of genius for this person to say this, because it means that you have to take some action on the Larry situation, or they will be able to benefit from working from home and providing childcare, potentially a win-win. Although like Alison said, pandemic rules are different

    1. Delta Delta*

      Alternatively, that’s not her plan at all but is irritated with Larry’s inconsistency and this is her clever idea of how to get the employer to actually do something to fix the problem.

  42. OP*

    OP/LW here. Thanks everyone for this feedback and input. It’s incredibly helpful, especially just to step outside my own workplace and see other peoples’ perspectives. I will say that I have a very good working relationship with my boss and he welcomes feedback/questions/constructive criticism, so I think raising the need for a WFH policy more formally, setting a deadline for Larry to get childcare and/or setting up a PIP would all be things he’s open to. Ultimately, I think what’s happening here is that we’ve never had a full-time employee with a young kid before, not to mention during a pandemic. (We’re a small company and have only been operating for 5 years.) Plus my boss is a nice midwestern guy who’s afraid of confrontation (frankly, so am I), and he has a soft spot for Larry. All of that has combined to let us give him a pass on his performance way too long. Thank you all for your feedback. I have a lot to think about in terms of my next steps.

    1. Boof*

      Glad your boss is receptive – I think your biggest first step is to work out what consequences larry will have if he doesn’t improve. You won’t make any progress if boss will sabotage any attempts at consequences. larry has a sweet gig right now he can work when convenient and just say sorry when other priorities make him drop the ball, but gets paid the same etc etc… shame at missing deadlines doesn’t seem to have motivated him so far don’t see why it’s going to get any better with TWO little ones!!!

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed – Larry can probably reasonably be expected to fuss when his incredibly convenient life situation goes away. Keep the focus on work outputs and product, and away from his personal life/family setup.

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Ok, this is more reassuring! It sounded like your boss was not giving you any support. But you do need to talk to him about needing the authority to actually manage Larry and others. Also, make sure he knows about the other employee thinking she can do the same thing, and point out that if Larry is allowed to do this, you guys will have to make the same allowances for others, which would be a huge problem.

      Also, frame it not as a “how Larry manages his household” problem and more of a “how Larry manages his workload” problem, because that is the issue. These WFH policies about childcare are not about trying to control how employees raise their kids. They exist to ensure that employees are able to do their jobs effectively and to ensure that they are doing their jobs. If Larry thinks staying at home with his kids is better, he can resign and stay at home full time. But he does not get to collect a paycheck for work he is not completing/is performing inadequately.

  43. Elbe*

    “Larry told us long before the pandemic that his plan was always to have the baby at home with him full-time and be the baby’s primary caregiver — while working a full-time job.”

    So Larry straight-up told you that he’s going to be doing other work during hours that the LW’s company pays him for his time? What?! Would he also expect to bring his children to the office or to do a (paying) second job while on the clock?

    It sounds like either Larry is intentionally trying to get away with being paid while not working for the LW. Or, both Larry and the LW’s boss don’t fully grasp that childcare is a JOB, even if one isn’t getting a paycheck for it. Just because he’s not getting a paycheck doesn’t mean that Larry isn’t working two jobs while employed by the LW’s company.

  44. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I have two children at home with me* and I do hit and stay ahead of all my deadlines.

    I’d be beyond furious and interviewing out if an employer tried to dictate that I make other arraignments because another coworker wasn’t fulfilling the requirements of their position. Collective punishment still doesn’t work.

    LW1, you’re managing Larry, not the kids. I’d go with the PIP. The kids aren’t the problem–his lack of productivity is.

    *One does spend the morning at Preschool and I use my lunch break to bring the child home for the afternoon.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        If a PIP won’t work, neither will ultimata nor additional requirements. Larry is de facto insulated from managing, so LW’s task is working around him–the kids still aren’t the problem.

      2. Cinderella Sparklepants*

        There are a LOT of recommendations here for what to do with Larry, but it seems to me that this is overwhelmingly a boss problem. I hope you are able to document Larry’s mistakes and issues, not to be able to fire Larry, but to make it exceptionally clear to your boss that the situation is untenable and needs to change, especially in light of the second employee (and Larry’s second baby!) who wants to do the same thing. This can’t be allowed to snowball, and I sincerely hope your boss will see that.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      It is a normal policy for most employers that allow teleworking. I’ve worked in multiple settings where I worked from home, and this has been the policy in every one of them (with exceptions for COVID). Also, if you are furious, you should be furious at Larry, not the company. He simply drew attention to a problem many employers are concerned about when they allow working from home. The policy is not a punishment but a choice to adopt a general rule to avoid a reasonably foreseeable problem of employees not really working when they are “at work.”

  45. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    If your boss won’t let you fire him, can you manage him out by reducing his hours and responsibilities based on his performance? (assuming he’s not salary)
    You aren’t firing him, just adjusting his responsibilities to his output.

  46. learnedthehardway*

    OP, I would tell your employee that having childcare is NOT negotiable. It’s a necessity for him to do his job, and no, he can’t be a full time parent and a full time employee.

    I started my own consulting business when my children were small, and I always had daycare / caregivers for them, because it is impossible to do a job that is at all client-facing with small children in the picture. I needed dedicated time to work. And my kids needed a dedicated caregiver.

    The only way to get work done with a small child and no other caregiver is to turn on the TV or put them in front of a computer screen with a game that they can do independently. That will give you a couple of hours (AT MOST) of work time, but it’s not good for the kid and it’s not a reliable solution (kids need supervision and engagement from parents / caregivers). Believe me, there were days when I resorted to this – eg. when caregivers were sick or my kids were ill, and I had meetings I couldn’t get out of. It is not an ideal solution, although it gave me some work time.

    Without screens or other caregivers, though, I found it impossible to focus on my work for a sustained period of time, because there were constant interruptions, needs for snacks, diaper changes, cuddles, refereeing, making sure that the older one didn’t drop cans on the younger, etc. etc. (Yes, I caught the oldest with a collection of soup cans, on his way to drop them on the baby “to see what would happen”. He was dismayed to learn about ethical restrictions on scientific inquiry.)

    If this is a 2 parent household with both parents working, childcare is a necessity – for the kids, for the family (as regards work/life balance) and for the company.

    1. Ask me how I know*

      >> Yes, I caught the oldest with a collection of soup cans, on his way to drop them on the baby “to see what would happen”.

      Some years ago I stopped by a friend’s house to drop something off and was chatting with her at her front door when she noticed her small son had gone suspiciously quiet in the next room, where his baby sister was on the floor on her play mat.

      Friend: “Weatherbee, what are you doing in there?”

      Weatherbee [cheerfully]: “I’m giving the baby a choking hazard. : ) “

  47. RagingADHD*

    All of this is moot if the part about getting the boss on board doesn’t happen. The boss already said firing Larry or imposing requirements are not going to happen. The boss wasn’t willing to fire Larry for poor performance, even before the baby was a factor.

    Strategies for actually getting the boss on board would be more helpful than strategies for setting a policy that LW apparently doesn’t have the authority to set.

  48. Veryanon*

    The baby/child care issue is actually kind of a red herring. The bigger issue is that you have an employee who’s not performing satisfactorily and hasn’t been for *years.* Why hasn’t this been addressed? Larry doesn’t know what he doesn’t know; if no one has ever told him that he’s not doing a good job, he probably thinks everything is fine. Meanwhile you as the manager are incredibly frustrated.
    Typically in these cases, I coach the manager to have a frank conversation about what’s not getting done, lay out the performance expectations, and ask the employee what they need to meet those expectations. Put some of the onus on the employee to meet you halfway in terms of working out a solution, instead of assuming that he will need X or Y, so that they have some engagement in the end result. If Larry says “It’s difficult for me to meet deadlines because I’m caring for my young child,” then you can ask Larry “are there child care options we can discuss that would help you focus on your work during the day?” But Larry needs to help own the solution here.

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

    OP, I’m curious: am I right in assuming that you’ve been “inserted” as a manager at a new level in between Larry and the big boss, and that Larry (and the rest of your team) used to report directly to BB? I wonder if there is a bit of a clash of cultures here (not national culture or things like that, but just “preferred work style” etc) where deadlines are seen as more ‘movable’, the company is like ‘family’ and so on. Whether that’s the case or not it seems clear that OP has the management position without really being given the authority (is this true more generally?)

    1. OP*

      Yes you are totally right. That is exactly what happened. I inherited this employee just as the pandemic was starting, but he was originally managed by my boss.

      1. LCH*

        interesting. so do you even need deadlines? or could you just not set them for awhile as a test to see how that goes? how would the boss react?

  50. Teapot Automation*

    I’ve worked remotely full time for 10 years, and I have > 2 children. For anyone at my company, remote or full in office the expectation has always been explicitly stated that during work time you are not to be responsible for child care. Corporate has been ridiculously understanding during Covid (still internationally all remote). But this clause will come back into play eventually. I’ve always viewed the ‘no child care during work hours’ as akin to ‘no second jobs/competing jobs’ clauses. Also, other people’s perceptions of ‘Oh, how nice that you are remote! That way you don’t have to pay for child care!’ Nope. My cubicle just happens to be in my house.

  51. Marzipan*

    I get that Big Boss has told the LW that Larry won’t be fired, but I would be tempted to ask why. The answer might give some sense of where to go next with the problem.

  52. Boof*

    Larry’s probably not going to change if your boss won’t let you enforce any consequences. Why should he?
    Start with your boss, stress that you need your employees to meet a basic level of performance and if they can’t, what does that mean for all the other employees? Are they going to be allowed the same level of slack?
    I think the broadcast that in general employees are expected to be able to work full time regardless of caregiving needs after *** date makes sense as well if it seems like it’s becoming a more widespread issue; that being said I don’t know if you have to enforce “childcare checks” or anything just make it clear “I have no alternative childcare” isn’t an excuse for low performance at a certain point. If someone’s performing fine and magically is actually taking care of small children too on the side well whatevs. (how to handle emergency childcare needs will have to be an ongoing thing I guess kids may have daycare normally but I think it’s a good idea for the culture to stay focused on KEEPING SICK PEOPLE AT HOME which may mean parents can’t push the “my kid’s not THAT sick they can totally go to daycare!” as much and my need more days off to care for under the weather kids)

  53. Elle by the sea*

    To be honest, I wish I could have my child at home and work while being at home with my child – if I had a child. I really see childcare as a necessity only when both parents are forced to go to work, especially as long as the child is younger than 3 years old (ideally until they are 6). If you live in a country where you can only take parental leave for a few months at maximum, I would consider this option as a lifesaver. I found the situation of parents with young children in the US horrible. The situation here in the UK is not that great, either. I’m really sympathetic to working parents who want to do what Larry is planning to do.

    1. Elle by the sea*

      Having said that, if Larry is unable to focus on his work while taking care of his children, that’s not an option and he has to be told clearly about either fixing his performance issues or having to arrange for childcare.

    2. Cat Tree*

      The research doesn’t agree with you. Kids who go to daycare thrive just as well as kids with a stay-at-home parent. Also, not every family is the standard two-parent model.

      (It’s also a bit trivializing to to describe every situation that parents “have to” work without considering that they might “want to” work. And I’m not even touching the inherent sexism in this system which disparately affects women as a group more negatively and reinforces the already unbalanced system.)

      1. Elle by the sea*

        Of course, but I’m heavily influenced by my personal experience and I know that many people would love to opt out of having non-family members take care of their children. I’m pro-homeschooling, too. But I didn’t claim that children who don’t have a stay-at-home parent don’t thrive as well as those who do. I wasn’t implying that this applies to two-parent models. I know a lot of single parents who prefer to work from home full time and have their children with them. I didn’t say that this should be the only option: I would prefer a world where childcare outside the family is not the only option.

        I honestly don’t understand where your comment on “inherent sexism” is coming from. That’s something I would call reading something into my comments that isn’t there. Yes, I’m fully aware that in many families taking care of children is the sole responsibility of women, unfairly. But I’m not talking about women being forced to stay at home. I’m talking about women and men who would love to stay at home for a few years. For example, my partner would love to be a stay-at-home father, working part time or working from home. I’m not forcing anything on anyone. I’m merely pointing out that it should be an option.

        1. Ask me how I know*

          I think it might be a question of wording. I don’t want to put words in Cat Tree’s mouth (or yours), but the sentence “I really see childcare as a necessity only when both parents are forced to go to work, especially as long as the child is younger than 3 years old (ideally until they are 6)” is an argument used by a lot of sexist systems to prevent women from getting jobs and establishing financial independence. Dad’s job can support the family, therefore Mom not only doesn’t need to but definitely should not get a job. Conveniently, she is prevented from establishing connections and developing skills that would make it easier for her to leave Dad if she wanted.

          It doesn’t sound like you meant it that way, and I think we all agree that we want everyone to have choices. People (myself included) get sensitive about wording that, consciously or not, supports unhealthy power imbalances.

          1. Elle by the sea*

            Yeah, but there is no question that childcare developed as a necessity. And I wasn’t talking about women, but any parent. I didn’t mean giving up work but either having the opportunity to work from home or a generous parental leave option. I think it’s a greater burden on women (or men or non-binary people or any gender) that they don’t have a choice. It really discourages me from having children.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Additionally some people want to return to work after having a kid, not just a case of ‘being forced to’. My sibling is one, could easily have afforded to take a few years off but went back to work as soon as possible. The flack they got from our relatives for ‘why have a child if you’re just going to put them in daycare/not breastfeed/not be with them all day?’ was unreal.

  54. LQ*

    I want to push back a little on the idea that Larry does excellent work BUT. Timeliness is a part of your work product. If you are consistently late with your work unless you have work where the time dimension doesn’t matter, it matters that you get it done in a timely way. Things like this where you shave off a part of the job to make the employee (or boss or whatever) seem great make it harder to talk about things realistically. It could be that timeliness is low on your organizational priority list or it’s ok that it’s not and this takes away but not much. But I think it’s good to make sure that you’re taking it into account as a part of the work as a whole.

  55. Inge*

    As someone who was a “Larry”…. the best thing you can do is put your foot down hard. There is a really good chance he is actually not having fun juggling both… but his husband will expect it as long as you allow it. In some ways… I was never so relieved to be fired from a job.

  56. LCH*

    i don’t know if you have annual reviews (who knows based on your boss’s behavior), but i hope you’re consistently noting Larry’s unreliability in every single review regardless of whether you get to fire him. because if you do eventually get to reprimand him in some way, it shouldn’t be a shock.

  57. qihochop*

    I respectfully disagree, maybe. If the job can accommodate flex time & Larry is able to meet deadlines by working off-hours then that might be a work-able solution. Of course many jobs require set hours for a variety of reasons.

  58. MCMonkeybean*

    I once had a manager who worked from home and was taking care of her kid. Everyon once in a while she would be like “hey I have to run out for an hour to take my kid to X,” but she was generally still pretty available and she got a lot of work done and was very good at her job. I assume she manager her time in a way that she got a lot of things done at night after the kid went to sleep.

    I think it is a wonderful thing if a company can accommodate this setup for a great employee. But I think it is very reasonable for a company to say they can’t make it work if the employee is just not getting stuff done. Larry has outright told you that he is not prioritizing your deadlines. I don’t think he has earned this level of flexibility. Definitely as long as the pandemic is complicating childcare situations you will need to work with this, but when things settle down I think it’s fair to requre that your employees be free to focus on work and not caretaking if they can’t prove that they can handle both.

    1. Ellie*

      Yes, it seems harsh to have a blanket rule that all people are required to have childcare when working from home… some children really aren’t an issue to look after, sometimes its an older child for just a few hours when they get home from school. It seems a shame to penalize other employees who might be making it work just fine, in order to avoid managing the issue of Larry’s missed deadlines. Why not just deal with the performance issue as it is?

    2. Anonymous Hippo*

      I agree, I’ve never been one to care for company wide policy being created from one person’s performance failures. I’ve always thought it was a cop-out.

  59. Shadin*

    Op could also just avoid the child care discussion entirely and focus on deadlines not being met. The excuses for not meeting deadlines don’t have to be accepted no matter what they are. Then if someone else could magically take care of kids and not have it affect their work they’re not being punished by Larry setting a bad precedent.

  60. Overeducated*

    My employer had a very strict “no telework without childcare” rule pre-pandemic, and I expect they’ll put it back in place eventually, but I hope there will be more flexibility for *exceptional* circumstances than usual after this. For example, in the Before Times we were supposed to take a vacation day instead of teleworking if schools and work were closed for snow (and good luck lining up “backup care” if the roads are impassible, not to mention that “backup care” is only a thing for people with local available members and people rich enough to pay for short-notice nanny services). Plus, kids don’t have vaccines right now, and a lot of day cares have quarantine and exclusion policies for COVID AND non-COVID symptoms that can keep kids home a week or two at a time, which will probably stick around for a while after we go back to “normal.” Americans don’t get enough vacation or sick leave to take all that time off, flexing schedules and allowing teleworkers to

    I agree with all the above posts on how the OP should handle things, I’m just saying that maybe the slow return to post-pandemic “normal” can incorporate some lessons learned on treating people as humans instead of going back to the way it was before.

  61. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    LW, is there anyone above your boss that you can talk to? I think he is your biggest issue here. And it sounds like only someone with greater power in the organization can override this. Honestly, if you are not allowed to make decisions about disciplinary action, up to termination, you are not really a manager.

    And if you cannot get around him, you will have to accept Larry’s poor performance and make the same allowances to any other employees who choose to do this. At that point, you would need to let deadlines slip and not try to make up the difference, and when your boss complains, tell him that he refuses to give you the tools and authority to manage the situation, so this is the result. If he would like to give you free reign to make requirements about childcare and also to take disciplinary action up to termination, then you will be happy to try to turn it around. But until you can do those things, you are only a manager in title, not in reality, so he can manager it, or he can give you the tools you need to manager it.

    Good luck, and please update!

  62. SaintPaulGal*

    I actually strongly disagree with AAM’s advice here, on principle. I do not believe it’s appropriate for a company to try to dictate environmental factors to an employee who works from home. This falls under the kind of meddling that feels like absolutely none of the organization’s business.

    Instead, I believe the conversation needs to be about expectations for work product. If he is performing below what is needed from him, *that* is what’s relevant. It doesn’t matter if he’s not getting work done because of his baby or because he’s lazy or because he takes a smoke break every 10 minutes or because he’s just not very skilled at this. The expectations should be made clear to him, and then the “how” falls to him. Yes, he probably does need childcare, but it’s not his boss’s place to dictate that specific solution, as long as a working solution is found.

    And that’s the crux of it for me. To have a blanket rule that prohibits any under-12 kids around (or whatever specifications they would choose) is a sweeping generalization that is likely to penalize others for this one guy’s bad behavior. *He* clearly can’t handle his job tasks while simultaneously being a full time parent to an infant. But not every parent is the same, and not every child is the same. If the work output is satisfactory, it’s intrusive micro-managing to dictate that there can’t be kids around. And if the work output is unsatisfactory, then you address that on its own merits.

    1. Roald*

      Are you unaware that literally every established company has this policy? Every where I’ve ever worked required this for telecommuting employees.

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