my terrible intern is a VIP’s son and can’t be fired

A reader writes:

One of our company directors has brought his son on as an intern. His son has been assigned to the same department I work in, but he appears to have the reading, writing, and communication skills of a child. He has misspelled his own name and his father’s name on memos. He misspells common words; doesn’t use things like commas, periods, or capital letters; and writes everything in one long run-on sentence. He was unable to file things in alphabetical order without checking with me to confirm the order of the letters.

I’ve tried to help him, but he keeps making bigger and bigger mistakes. Last week he sent a typo-filled, run-on sentence email to another department and that person’s manager came back to us because no one could understand what he had written. When the director found out, he blew up and was angry that anyone would say anything about his son’s writing skills. He said his wife home-schooled his sons and she taught them everything they needed to know and no one should question his son’s ability.

Before the blow-up, I had gone to my manager because fixing the mistakes has been taking up more and more of my time. After the blow-up, my manager told me to leave it alone so we don’t incur the wrath of the director, but trying to fix these mistakes is getting in the way of my own work. Should I talk to my boss again or do something else about it?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  •  Should I bring up my disability in my review?
  • My manager invited one of us to her wedding, but not the rest of us
  • Interviewers who are late
  • Asking people to stop leaping on me as soon as I walk into the office

{ 219 comments… read them below }

  1. Ginger*

    I would just forward the “memo” to the director and ask him for his feedback.

    Maybe leave it out that his son wrote it until he gives a reaction?

    Feeling a bit snarky today *shrug*.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I’m guessing that the director’s OTT reaction was at least partly due to the fact that he knows his son isn’t getting proper education at home and hates having it be so obvious to everyone at his work. Would love an update on how that kid is doing today.

      1. Foof*

        I’d actually wonder if dyslexia or some serious issue is at play if they can’t identify alphabetical order; sad vp isn’t trying to help his son identify the problem and is instead just pretending it doesn’t exist

        1. Clorinda*

          It is so sad. This young man needed to be taught in a public school with a professional special ed department. Mom at the kitchen table can’t fix dyslexia or whatever his problem might be.

          1. UpwardSpiral*

            Just to push back a little on this, at least in the US, lots of public schools are not equipped to help students with dyslexia. I know a mom who got training and materials to support a dyslexic daughter who was getting left behind in a rural school.

            The problem for the letter writer isn’t homeschooling, it is that the intern isn’t able to do his job and is making OP’s work more difficult.

            1. please do not refer to me*

              I can’t speak to every single jurisdiction in the US, and obviously there exist people who feel they can do better at home than their kids are getting in the public school system. But at least in my experience, public school systems are required to provide appropriate resources for kids with learning disabilities. And in the case of kids with fairly common needs like dyslexia, ADHD, autism, etc. that generally doesn’t rise to the level of “the school district simply cannot accommodate my child”. I suppose there are some areas so rural that the public schools simply don’t have the resources to properly address even the most basic IEPs, but that sounds like an edge case for sure. (I grew up in a rural area and, yes, we had Special Ed there. It wasn’t the moon.)

              That said, private schools are generally not required by law to accommodate students with disabilities, and if a family prefers private education, indeed they might find themselves having to choose between homeschooling and the local public school they are not interested in for whatever reason.

              1. ShanShan*

                It would be nice if this were true across the country.

                My school, on the other hand, spent practically nothing on special education and did its best to drive special ed students out into private school or homeschooling.

                It wasn’t an underfunded or rural school. It was one of the wealthiest and best-performing schools in the state. That was why they did it. They didn’t want special ed students driving down their test scores (since their funding depended on them — thanks, NCLB!), so they did their best to make them miserable so they would leave.

                This was, of course, entirely illegal, and a few parents fought it in court, but most didn’t have the wherewithal and just took the path of less resistance.

                This was fifteen years ago, of course, and it might be different now, but I doubt it.

                1. 'Tis Me*

                  I went to a grammar school (UK, these days still partially selective by ability, generally considered comparable to public [paid for] schools). It had a charter for excellence and everything!

                  And a very similar attitude towards any pupils who might hurt their standing in the league tables… Totally illegal, and utterly disgusting.

                  My dad had to write a letter to one of the Heads of 6th Form (teacher with special overseeing responsibility for that year group) telling her that my friends were telling him she was bullying me to get her to back off after I revealed that I’d attempted suicide a few months earlier (I was trying to explain why my attendance was so bad, and was realistic about the impact the insomnia had on it… Although with hindsight it was also the start of my autoimmune condition asseting itself).

                  My sister ended up having to redo her 1st year of sixth form elsewhere (and getting either straight As or A*s and As) because she was very unwell (registered disabled with similar issues to me but ramped up to 11 and kicking in when the poor thing was only 12).

                2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

                  As a former teacher and parent of a former SPED program student, the key words for a parent to say are “I’m concerned you’ll be OUT OF COMPLIANCE with the IEP”. You’re right that most parents do not realize all of the legal protections kids in SPED programs have and some schools take advantage of this. But being out of compliance with an IEP is a BIG deal and just those words alone will often get the school to jump into gear immediately. That phrase will heavily imply to the school that this parent DOES know their rights and will push forward if necessary and most schools don’t want that. Many times (not all of course) that phrase is all that’s necessary.

              2. Canadian Public Servant*

                As the parent of a kid with an alphabet soup of learning differences, I would say that it is far more common that school districts don’t provide what is actually needed to support a child with dyslexia, assuming one can get a diagnosis in a timely manner. We were only informed at age 10 that kiddo had signs of dyslexia, and with the pandemic still haven’t had the complete psychoeducational assessment – though in looking at the lists of signs, those were evident as early as age 4 (e.g. difficulty rhyming, learning the names of letters and the order of the alphabet).

                The public school in my area explicitly refused to use the evidence-based Orton-Gillingham programs that help people with dyslexia actually learn how to read (like Barton and Wilson), specifically because they are resource intensive, multi-year programs that require trained providers. In our household, we are in no way equipped to teach a child – as has become really evident with distance learning! And in this case, it seems likely the parents weren’t either. But homeschooling can be a real option for families to ensure their children receive evidence-based interventions tailored to their learning needs, which they would not receive in a public school classroom.

            2. Elle by the sea*

              I agree. Homeschooling is often a much better way of education people with special needs. Of course, this young man’s mother might not have been equipped to do that.

              I had a professor who misspelt my name, her name and many common words and wrote run-on sentences in emails. She is dyslexic, but one of the most famous experts of her field.

            3. Selena*

              I think that in general homeschooling deserves its bad reputation (parents who want to brainwash rather than educate their child)

              But there are absolutely cases where school isn’t working out for whatever reason (bullying, very low or very high IQ, very special needs, etc). And in some of those cases having a ‘private tutor’ might be a good alternative.

              In this case the parents are doing their children a disservice: the mom by seemingly providing subpar education, the father by bullying others into looking away.

              1. ShanShan*

                I am married to an incredibly brilliant software engineer who was homeschooled.

                In their case, it was because they were the only non-white kid in the school district and it was homeschool or getting repeated ass-kickings from the son of the local Grand Wizard, while the principal did nothing because he was the dad’s KKK subordinate.

                Let’s not romanticize the US public school system, is my point. We can’t compare homeschooling to some mythical ideal public school system. We have to compare it to the one we actually have.

              2. Ana Gram*

                It’s not a great idea to paint any type of schooling with a broad brush. Our local school system was perfectly fine but my parents decided to homeschool for religious reasons. My 3 siblings and I all went to college at 16, though, because that was the general expectation in our homeschool community. I’m certain my education is as good as the one provided by the school system but I don’t represent all homeschooled students any more than my local school system represents all school systems.

              3. aebhel*

                It’s very hit or miss, honestly. I was homeschooled until 8th grade, and ended up pretty well ahead of most of my peers by the time I went back to public school (academically, at least – socially was a whole different ball-game). That was the case for most of the kids in my homeschool co-op.

                In my case, my parents weren’t doing it for religious reasons, and my mom is someone who probably would have been a very good primary school teacher if she’d chosen to take that path.

                In this case, this guy’s parents did him a serious disservice, regardless of whether he has a learning disability.

          2. CocoB*

            There is a difference in a parent denying a possible need (or even simple incompetence) and helping your child become a responsible, functioning adult. Dad is doing his son a disservice!
            Every school has different levels of support. Then there is the peer pressure when it is obvious to kids in class a student needs extra support, time, whatever. It can be hellish for the kid and the parent. Sometimes homeschooling is called for. Had I not homeschooled my son, he would be in a bad place today. That said, I did take advantage of public school testing, professional tutors, and more to deal with dyslexia and dysgraphia. He’ll never be an A student, but he is competent and working in one of the top 10 international accounting firms.

          3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            Oh my God no. Not the homeschool debate. Could we not? Please? Not here too.

          4. NotAnotherManager!*

            This made me laugh. My kids are in one of the most heavily resourced public school systems in the country, and they do a terrible job with special ed. As long as the kid is passing, they consider it a win for FAPE, regardless of whether the kid could be doing better with appropriate resources (and they use grade inflation to meet the passing standard). We removed our older child from a well-regarded public ES (at which our second child has thrived) because they did not come close to meeting our child’s needs (and we’ve spent a ton of money remediating).

        2. Teapot Tía*

          If he’s misspelling *his own name*, there’s definitely something going on.

          1. please do not refer to me*

            Honestly my assumption is that would be a typo or rookie mistake/nervous mistake.

            Also I recently got an email from a high-powered Hollywood producer where he misspelled his own name. It was almost certainly a typo. I’d like to believe it’s because he’s just that stupid or some kind of Dunning Kruger/Peter Principle situation, but honestly, giving some grace to the dude it’s pretty obvious that his finger slipped.

            1. Selena*

              I know someone (who has only done menial jobs) who is constantly misspelling things on purpose because she thinks it’s cute. Her grandchildren are embarrased about her emails.

              If the intern never had formal education something like that could be going on with him too: that he never learned to differentiate between ‘behavior mom likes’ and ‘behavior the teacher likes’

              1. else*

                Hmmm, with an adult making those kinds of mistakes, I’d suspect she actually has a learning disability or very low literacy and is trying to cover it up by pretending it’s deliberate “cuteness”. To save face. It just seems like such a strange thing to actually think of as adorable.

                This poor kid – this sounds like way more than just regular poor homeschooling to me.

            2. DataGirl*

              I have misspelled my name just because I was typing so fast on more than one occasion, but I do catch and fix it.

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                The way my fingers sync up and the awkward reach for a certain letter when I’m typing at speed mean I often strike two letters in my last name in the wrong order and end up with a particular set of transposed letters. I’ve been able to consistently spell my last name for many decades, and have been typing for about as long. It’s just one of those Known Issues I know to go back and fix at the end if I’m trying to type particularly quickly, since we’re now firmly in the computer era rather than the typewriter era, so transposition errors that don’t happen to spell other dictionary words aren’t hard to fix at the end as long as you know where to look for them.

            3. Batty Twerp*

              One professional convention is if you are sending written communication for use externally (different departments count as external here), you check what you’ve written for errors before pressing send.
              If this intern rereads his work and still doesn’t spot that his own name is incorrect, then you have a possible dyslexia case (a piece of yellow perspex might help – it did for the student I was partnered with for student-teaching some years ago. There are probably better/more high tech versions these days).
              Even just encouraging him to slow down and reread his writing might teach him some valuable office skills. He’s an intern – he’s there to learn.

              1. allathian*

                The trouble is, he’s protected from any consequences by his C-suite dad, so he won’t get the opportunity to learn.

                1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

                  But what will happen to him when C-Suite Dad is no longer able to snowplow/lawnmower/bulldoze this young man’s way through life?

                  Homeschooling him may indeed have kept him off the public school system’s radar and thus his learning disabilities were never diagnosed, although I wonder whether his pediatrician was aware of his difficulties. At any rate, his parents – however loving and well-intentioned – did him a terrible disservice and he’s the one who’ll have to suffer for it. As a retired special ed teacher who spent 30+ years working with special-needs adults, this letter really made me sad; this young man almost certainly could have done much, much better had he received the screening and services he needed.

            4. Nic*

              True, there are some typos you make – sometimes multiple times – because that’s the way your fingers fall on the keyboard naturally (e.g. I’m prone to reversing the last two letters of various words), but if that’s the case, then Intern needs to learn to slow down and proof-read/edit his own emails before he presses Send!

              OTOH, if he’s doing this repeatedly and even getting worse, then there’s definitely something wrong that needs to be addressed, whether it’s an anxiety thing or a dyslexia/literacy thing. Either way, it’s a problem.

              1. Arvolin*

                Some people know the mistypings they’re likely to make, and do a global search-replace after writing something.

          2. Nonprofit Lifer*

            I’m dyslexic and when I was a high school I made an error while bubbling it in on the PSAT scantron sheet. I then went on to get a perfect score on the rest of the test, because I wasn’t required to bubble in my answers. Dyslexia is real. It took me a while to figure out what hacks and double-checks I needed to produce professional-quality products in the workforce.

            If this kid is dyslexic and his parents don’t know/aren’t helping he’s doubly screwed because you can’t learn how to compensate for a disability until you acknowledge you have it. For example, typical intern work like filing or data entry would play to his weaknesses, so he should look for professional opportunities that play to his strengths. For example, greeter or reception work (sans filing) often needs good verbal communication.

          3. Lenora Rose*

            If it was the only thing misspelled, we could chalk it up to a classic typo (you should see what my comments look like before I clean them up). Since it’s part of a larger pattern, though, yes, you’re absolutely right.

        3. Junior Assistant Peon*

          I suspect you’re right. I know we’re not supposed to armchair-diagnose people here, but this guy would have to be cartoonishly dumb to not know his ABC’s.

          1. Puggles*

            I thought maybe he doesn’t know how to type and doesn’t bother to review what he is typing.

            1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

              Haha – I was thinking that maybe the son is actually two little kids standing on each other’s shoulders in a trench coat. Vincent Adultman!

        4. rachel in nyc*

          I think we also have to consider the possibility that the son is capable of doing the work but is just really not interested so is just no paying any attention, thus the spelling mistakes in his own name.

          I work at a major university with theoretically really really smart students so you’d think our student workers would be able to file things away. Nope. We had a 2 year period where we weren’t allowed to use student workers for filing things because we’d gone 2 years with student workers who could not file anything correctly (nor were they willing to ask for help.) It’s the alphabet.

          It wasn’t that they didn’t know. It was that they weren’t interested.

          1. Chilipepper Attitude*

            This does not help the OP but since others are going off on the alphabet tangent … I work in a public library and every day I help adults find books that are shelved alphabetically — and then they tell me how amazing I am and that they could never have found the book. In case it matters, I live in a wealthy town where the school system is highly ranked, a very high percent have a 4 year degree, and 98% speak English as a first language. I’m sure the know the alphabet, but they cannot do things in alpha order.

            I’m so sorry for the OP dealing with this. Its an older letter, was there an update?

            1. else*

              Or they’re just really confused by the more arcane aspects of LC or Dewey. I sympathize with that.

              1. Self Employed*

                Most public libraries use Dewey for nonfiction and alphabetical by author for fiction, though. (And probably alphabetical for periodicals if anyone still has hardcopy subscriptions.)

                1. Arvolin*

                  Most public libraries around hear use the Library of Congress system, not Dewey Decimal. I was told once that they have to pay to use Dewey Decimal, and libraries tend to be badly underfunded as it is.

            2. Batty Twerp*

              I believe it’s been covered by several memes on the internet, loosely worded as “Does anyone else have to sing the alphabet song to work out what comes after L?”

          2. Artemesia*

            well see that was your problem — you didn’t screen with the question about ‘interest in filing.’

          3. please do not refer to me*

            I honestly think this is the real answer, having supervised nepotism “must hire” interns and entry level folks. About half were great, worked hard, and went on to legitimately get work based on their own skills regardless of who their uncle was. The other half clearly didn’t want to be there and would make outrageous claims like “I can’t make phone calls because I don’t know how to use a phone.” I would bet money that “can’t file in alphabetical order” is one of those outrageous claims. Or just doing it wrong over and over in hopes that they’ll be given a different task.

            1. allathian*

              Rote learning is a lost skill. I bet that most of today’s 5th graders can’t list the alphabet by rote. It’s like doing simple math problems in your head, which is also fast becoming a lost skill.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                As it happens, the oft mocked “new math” formats currently taught are intended for just that – to do larger math problems faster in your head, (especially but not exclusively where you can round the last digit or so).

          4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            It may also be an attention span/concentration thing, and a “knowing how to chunk the task” thing. I find alphabetizing/filing soothing and it doesn’t bother me to spend all day every day doing it. I even don’t mind shelf-reading to make sure books are in order. A lot of other people just don’t seem to have that kind of focus, and I think they’ve also just never thought about how to systemically sort and pre-stage large filing projects, or know that there are tools and systems beyond picking each individual thing up and immediately putting it in your best guess of where it should ultimately go. Between being a library aide all through high school and taking algorithms classes that spent a lot of time on sorting algorithms in college, I have a bunch of little systems, optimizations, and error-checks that other people just…don’t?

            None of this was taught in any required classes that I took, just a niche “easy” high school elective and then a 300-level majors-only computer science class, so it’s possible a lot of people just haven’t thought much about the alphabet since they aged out of singing the ABC song.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              I was doing temp work for years before my kids were born – and one thing I learned early was that nobody thinks filing is a skill, because you can hand the temp the files and they can generally get them where they need to go, even if they are humming the whole time they do it.

              Then they’d be shocked when I came in that they hired someone for two weeks of filing who finished in three days. (I would likely be humming, if not singing the whole time if nobody else was around, but I wouldn’t be humming the alphabet song. I used to challenge myself how many songs I could get through without repeating one.)

          5. Nic*

            A friend of mine used to work in a local opticians, as their office manager/receptionist/whatever-needed-doing-person! One year, they had a summer intern, and they got him to do a lot of the filing since he just didn’t have the knowledge to be able to do a lot of the more specialist admin tasks. After a couple of weeks or so, they realised that he hadn’t been filing alphabetically. Six months or so later, they were still rediscovering patient files in weird places!

        5. Dyslexic Donkey*

          This doesn’t sound like dyslexia. Yes dyslexics have issues with spelling and grammar this isn’t that. If you tell a dyslexic they should start a sentence with a capital they will, it is a simple rule. This is someone who hasn’t been taught the basics.

      2. JRR*

        I think you’re jumping to an unfair conclusion about his homeschooling.

        Yes, it’s possible his difficulty reading is due to poor home education, but it’s also plausible that his parents chose to homeschool him because the traditional school was not able to adequately accommodate a learning disability.

        1. BPT*

          Pretty sure if the parents were that self-aware, the father would not be blowing up about nobody needing to question his son’s ability and that his wife taught their kids “everything they need to know.”

          1. Sasha*

            Oh I don’t know, I can certainly imagine situations where VIP Parent doesn’t want to hear that the scion of his family has SEND, throws his toys out of the pram about “terrible teachers”, and decide that Mom can do better. Then clearly she can’t, but both of them refuse to accept this and insist Junior is Totally Fine.

            VIP remains a jerk, but it could be both, is what I am saying. SEND ^and^ asshole parents.

        2. please do not refer to me*

          Traditional schools in the US generally have at least some accommodations for learning disabilities. While some homeschooling parents are rigorous and make sure their kids get the help they need, it sounds like these people did not. And would probably have been better served sending their kid to public school.

      3. Pennyworth*

        The education boat has sailed for the son, unless his parents recognize the problem and get him intensive tutoring. Whether he has just been poorly taught by his mother or has learning difficulties, he has been poorly served by his parents.

  2. Lecturer*

    I sincerely sympathise. I’m a lecturer and it is crazy trying to mark work because many write atrociously. Exactly what you describe (a few wrote full paragraphs without one full stop in it). It drastically slows me down trying to figure out what they are saying (because they write random sentences when they don’t understand something).
    Nearly every piece I mark I provide feedback about their writing skills. I have no idea what is going to happen when they have to write a covering letter for a job.

    Some general advice in case anyone wants it: Grammarly is ace. If you learn to use it as a tool it can help a lot. The problem is students rush assessments and there is no editing going on.

    1. Smithy*

      In my old job there was a real divide around whether people hired could be taught to write or not. I certainly get teaching a style specific to an employer or team, but it just baffled me the confidence around how writing could be taught.

      I don’t think my coworkers were taking the perspective that someone like the intern in the letter would be easy to coach up – but there’s a wide range of writing that’s not great without being that poor.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Shortly before I left my old position they were going to implement training with all new hires and any current employees that needed it. What was the training? How to send a professional email to clients. A huge amount of our work was via email to very important clients. Some people started sending emails that were just horrible. Think things like text speak, emojis, run-on sentences, stuff like that.

        I think part of the issue is that good business writing isn’t always taught in schools. The only reason why I had any business writing info was because I took a class in college that was not a requirement. I know we didn’t cover that in high school (along with how to create a resume and cover letter. But that’s another letter). I just think schools don’t focus enough on writing and communication.

        1. Drago Cucina*

          In old job we worked with an architect who at first sent horrendous emails. No capitalization or punctuation, texting short hand, etc. My previous boss had been an English teacher. After the first couple of emails she started sending his back marked in red. The architect responded that he was using his phone. Her response was that this was official correspondence on a multi-million dollar project and she needed everything documented correctly.

          While she was a horrible boss in so many ways, this was in fact an important lesson for this professional. When we had confusion about direction and had to pull up the email trail it was obvious we were clear in our expectations. His on the other hand caused cost problems that his firm had to eat.

          1. Selena*

            I think a lot of people did learn proper writing at school. But they do most of their communication in whatsapp and social media which are basically all stream-of-consciousness writing. So they get into that habit and need a reminder of ‘dude, you need to put on your bussiness-voice for this email’

        2. pleaset cheap rolls*

          There are multiple issues:

          1 grammar/spelling/word choice
          2 understanding and clarity.

          I’ve had two interns whose English language skill were poor, but were excellent at fundamental concepts in communications. They were bad at #1 above, but strong in #2. Grammarl, spell check, help from others, etc could work about #1 above. #2 is deeper.

        3. hbc*

          I’m not sure if it was accidental or a department decision, but my ChemE classes had quite a bit of business writing that wouldn’t have been expected based on the course description. As in, you might have a typical problem set where you were solving some flow and reaction equations, but then you had to write up your findings like you were a consultant making a recommendation to the plant operators.

          Though now that I think of it, the bulk of those came from professors or lecturers who’d spent significant time in industry, and were probably trying to spare others the pain of trying to decipher contextless data or run-on sentences.

          1. rachel in nyc*

            It’s like my poli sci professor who made us write 1 page papers. He said- if you work in government, no one reads the 300 page report- all they’ll read in the summary. That’s what you need to be able to write.

            I learned to be brief.

            1. Artemesia*

              I used to teach public policy and a regular assignment was to do a one page brief for a congressman who was an expert in agriculture; you were to brief him on the social issue your team was focused on that semester (and that would be some other policy issue e.g. poverty, education, health care policy etc). The idea was that s/he would have to answer questions in a press conference that included questions about the policy area and you needed to give them what was needed. We then did a simulated press conference where the team responding was given one of the briefing memos and could not stray from the content. They got pretty good pretty quickly at understanding how to pack key content in an organized way into small spaces.

              Professional writing is not an O’Henry story where you surprise at the finish; you want to lay out the main recommendation or idea in the first sentence or two and then unpack the supporting evidence. It is a skill that can be taught. I am not sure being able to write a coherent sentence is a skill that can be taught to adults who missed acquiring it though.

              1. Tara*

                “I am not sure being able to write a coherent sentence is a skill that can be taught to adults who missed acquiring it though.”

                As someone who teaches adult literacy, I assure you it can absolutely be taught (with a few exceptions for those with certain severe learning difficulties). But there is a fair amount of “unlearning” to do first, and the adult in question has to want to learn. It needs professional support, and is unlikely to be taught to someone in a workplace environment by colleagues or managers who also have their own work to do.

        4. LizM*

          Not only is business writing not taught, even where it is taught, writing professional emails often isn’t a part of that. I learned how to write formal memos, but was never really taught how to adapt those memos to a more casual format, like email. I tend to default towards “short memo in the body of an email” when I’m not sure the right tone, but I know a lot of people who default to text speak. Both have drawbacks (I’ve gotten feedback that my emails are too wordy), but it’s hard to hit that sweet spot.

      2. fposte*

        I think writing can absolutely be taught to most people, but it’s unlikely that it can be done in a workplace by people who have other jobs to do.

        1. Lecturer*

          Exactly, we are trying to train them in a degree. They were supposed to learn writing at school. I think that is the most shocking but. All that education, about to graduate, and a good school student could do better than a chunk to them.

        2. UKDancer*

          Definitely. I would also say that most people in a workplace don’t know how to teach basic literacy. Teaching is a skill and a craft and a lot of people aren’t very good at it. I know I’m not. I can train my staff at some functional things but I’m self aware enough to know I’m a terrible teacher and struggle to explain how to do things.

        3. Dasein9*

          We are reaping the whirlwind of defunding Humanities education in high school and college.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Strong disagree, though I do support additional funding for humanities.

            Coherent paragraphs are taught in middle school (or earlier). My son is being graded on them now, 7th grade, and I think he’s been graded on structure for three or four years.

            At grade school level, the defunding that has been going on attacks music, painting, drawing, foreign languages, maybe history. The desired emphasis is on reading, writing, and mathematics (3 Rs). These core curriculum classes have not been defunded or attacked; on the contrary, they’ve been given extra funding, time, attention and testing.

            There’s tons of room to suggest that a recent graduate’s ignorance of music, foreign languages, even history or geography, have been harmed by ‘defunding the Humanities’, but not basic writing.

            Last I checked, IB test attempts and pass rates were steadily increasing (iirc, 1990 – 2018, general upwards trend), and since IB is one of the tests that can get you college credits, it seems that the US is actually churning out more college-ready students.

        4. Smithy*

          Absolutely – my feeling on our team/supervisors being unable to teach writing came from two places. First, the point of all of us having other jobs to do and then second – that few to none of us were trained in being a writing teacher or coach.

          It may be that the staff who were convinced they could “teach writing” had experience doing that – but I’ve also seen a lot of supervisors/senior staff outside of true writing professions where they receive a report to edit and give very vague feedback. Again, folks have other jobs to do, so there’s only so much investment in articulating feedback and time to help someone truly get it right. But I’ve also seen a lot of floundering in describing what is wanted and closer examples of what style they’re looking for.

      3. Lecturer*

        Yes definitely, aim for the middle.

        Microsoft word picks up these kinds of errors. It was annoying when students submitted work and didn’t even bother with the basic check Microsoft word provides. I’m not looking for great writing. Just clear sentences instead of long twisted sentences. I edit their work to provide examples they can model. The issue is they don’t work hard enough in the first 2 years. Then in their final third year (worth 2/3 of marks) they want great grades when they can’t dedicate the time to upskill. They are also surrounded by examples as it is a Psychology degree and there are countless examples of textbooks and journal articles.

        My writing isn’t great due to cognitive deficits, so I always need to be careful.

      4. Mongrel*

        “In my old job there was a real divide around whether people hired could be taught to write or not.”

        I’ve had similar conversations regarding basic computer skills & IT knowledge (different jobs) and the answer seems to be ‘probably not’.
        If something like that is required as a secondary or assumed skill then ask them or test it at the interview

    2. cat lady*

      I’d suggest that you ask these students to make recurring appointments with your college’s writing center (former WC director here), NOT to have the work proofread/corrected for them (this is likely against their policy, and at the very least an ineffective use of the student’s time), but for them to help the student identify patterns of error and learn to correct them. It will take a lot of ongoing work, but this is going to be a more effective way for the student to learn to write more clearly than seeing an instructor’s red ink.

      1. Lecturer*

        We do. We refer them to the academic skills team but a lot of them ignore the feedback. That is why their writing is appalling, in spite of all the prior education. I don’t edit for proof reading, it is so the student can model my revisions.

        1. cat lady*

          Gotcha– if you’re just here to commiserate or vent, ignore me (and apologies if some of my frustration at the perception that tutors “fix” papers is showing!). Another strategy might be to incentivize looking at the feedback by allowing resubmissions for a higher grade. I know it’s more work for you, but a set up where they can submit the tutor’s feedback and their revised essay implementing that feedback for a higher grade can go a long way.

          1. Lecturer*

            That is not possible. As far as I am aware, all English universities have the same rule: you only submit once. If you fail you can only achieve a pass mark which is only 4o/100. For their dissertation they can submit a draft and I pour all my energy into that. The problem is that is the last assessment before they graduate! So we need the training in the first year. However, this really should not be happening at degree level, it has to be at the school level.

            BTW, I’m in England.

            1. Brit*

              In one of my British uni’s we had formative essays in the first year, submitted with feedback given, but didn’t count towards the module marks, the idea being that influence our graded assignments.

        2. Esmeralda*

          Well, then that’s on them. They can follow the feedback or not. If they don’t, the consequence is a lesser grade.

          I taught writing at the college level for many years. Work that has that many errors? I didn’t accept it — student earned “0” and got a comment that explained why (in general terms, not a go-through of their work: use spell checker, work on these grammar and punctuation and usage issues, work with writing center, etc). AND I would accept a revision for a new grade for this assignment.

          And no, I’m not a terrible meanie. My students described me as tough but fair and also, always willing to help them.

          I’d check with your supervisor to see if you can do this. Some depts will not allow it but I was completely supported by my boss.

          1. Lecturer*

            It is on them and more the pity. I provide them with extensive feedback, a lot of it on my own time. I wish I knew which ones used it and which ones don’t.

        3. Pennyworth*

          My very first college class was taught by a professor who had also been a teacher. For our first two pieces of written work he did one-on-one feedback, explaining his red ink corrections. Spelling, grammar, syntax, footnotes, he covered it all. It was incredibly helpful.

      2. Anonymous Poster*

        I worked in our writing center, and we struggled to get anyone to actually listen to us when we would explain how to use commas or write an essay that was comprehensible. We’d often get yelled at by professors for not doing our job, when they expected we would just… Write the paper for the students. It was often thankless.

        There were a couple students though that would come in after being assigneda paper, and ask us to help tutor them from the start to the end. That was great, because we could course correct early on and help them learn how to structure their essays. I miss those folks.

        I also got caught up in a plagiarism debate when I had a paper that was incomprehensible, then a block of great writing, then incomprehensible. I was scolded for not just helping the student out… Whatever that meant. I wasn’t going to participate in aiding anyone’s plagiarism.

        All the scolding was from done professors in the humanities department, not the director of the writing center. She had our backs and threatened to go to the head of the department with these things if they kept bothering the writing center tutors.

        1. cat lady*

          :( I’ve been there. But the students who come regularly and make strides are the ones to remember! Watching former regular tutees walk across the stage at graduation was always the best.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      +1 for Grammarly! Even just the basic free version is great. It’s especially great if you add in the web extension as it can help on most sites and in your email!

      1. Lecturer*

        I’m in love with Grammarly. My writing needs to improve for publishing purposes. It’s even better if you use it for multiple rounds (when I make revisions I run them through Grammarly again). It has really helped me write concisely. I paid for it because I need it when writing papers to publish.

      2. Stephanie*

        I love Grammarly (I use it most during performance review season)! I’d also recommend, for students in particular, to use options to read aloud text (I mostly use Google Translate weirdly) to make sure you didn’t include extra words or use one word excessively. Word can catch if you misspelled “definitely” but not if you used “defiantly.”

        1. Lecturer*

          Read aloud text is great but without guidance it won’t help the lowest performing category. Unfortunately, this category also contains people who can’t be bothered. Psychology is a research degree. Everything they read is an example. They even have examples of the reports they write! So in some ways you can tell which students are following examples and which are not.

          I know how to write concisely but I’m constantly in manic cycles which then affects my writing. I become ‘blind’ to wordy sentences and Grammarly is ace for that.

          1. Old School HTML*

            There’s a site I like called Hemingway App (not sure if can post a link), and I tend to have long sentences, and it does a great job of catching them.

            However, since a lot of my writing requires we repeat very long descriptive phrases constantly, it mistake a sentence’s complexity level. For example, if my sentence is something like, “TAB to the Enter Client Name edit field and then type the client’s last name,” (the keystroke TAB and the field name as sown on screen (Enter Client Name) would be bolded, for sighted users assisting the visually impaired ones, and our style guide is to always use the full name of a form field prompt as it appears on screen, followed by the type of field (edit, combo box, checkbox, etc.) ).. anyway, HemingwayApp would call it hard to read. However, if I replace that “Enter Client Name edit field” with “red box” (as in “TAB to the red box and then type the client’s last name.”), since I’m basically just adding a complicated-looking modifier with a compound noun, Hemingway can tell me if it’s still confusing, or if it went by pure wordcount.

            (Spoiler – I’m often still confusing! Well, less so in the documentation now, but meta-communicating tends to lead to tangled phrasing from me: I keep trying to run 3 ideas in parallel at once, but Standard Edited American English doesn’t really like that. Plain Language (see plainlanguage dot gov) likes that even less. )

            Noun Strings — I used to love to detangle them, but in this job, I’m just not allowed!

    4. Weekend Please*

      I literally just dealt with this last week. I couldn’t tell whether the student didn’t understand the material or if I just couldn’t understand what they were trying to write. They were outraged to get a C and assured me that their writing skills are extremely good.

      1. Lecturer*

        I provide extensive feedback (need to cut it down, eats up a lot of personal time). It’s up to them to try to model it. Due to the extensive feedback they know not to challenge the mark.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        … if your writing skills are extremely good, that must mean I’m stupid to not understand what you’ve written?

  3. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

    Yup. “Hey, can you proof this for me before I send it? Thanks!”

    1. mf*

      Absolutely. And if he sends it back with none or most of the errors not corrected, kick it back to him. “Sorry, this draft isn’t workable for me. It’s missing all punctuation and capital letters. Please correct and send back to me. Thanks!”

  4. AndersonDarling*

    #3 The manager may have invited the employee to their wedding because they have a connection outside of work. The employee may be the daughter of the groom’s second cousin, the wife of their dentist, or the employee may have volunteered to hem the bridesmaids dresses. There are other possibilities besides that the employee and manager are personally close. The bigger the wedding, the more likely it becomes that there was a random non-work connection.

    1. CatsOnAKeyboard*

      That was my first thought as well. Or that really the coworker was the +1 to someone.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      The update awesome3 provided the link for is disheartening.

      My “try to look on the brightside just so you feel less hurt about something you can’t do anything about” advise before seeing the update would be to assume that the boss and the Elle are just close friends and manage to keep that closeness out of the work place. AndersonDarling’s point about relationship to groom or extended family that get invited to weddings is another good one.

    3. JRR*

      Exactly. Or the employee’s spouse may be a friend of the manager’s fiancé. There are countless possible connections.

      I disagree with Alison that the manager should not invite someone just because she manages them. I get that being a manager comes with special obligations, but being obligated to exclude a friend from your wedding seems like too much.

      If the manager was inviting 9 out of 10 employees, or even 5 out of 10, that would be a problem. But this case wouldn’t raise any eyebrows for me.

      1. hbc*

        If you’re such good friends with one of your employees that it would feel like a terrible obligation to exclude them from your wedding, you shouldn’t be managing them in the first place.

        I mean, if the manager just drew lots or invited the employee of the month, I doubt there would be any hurt feelings about 1 out of 10 invited. The point is that choosing someone in that situation basically says, “This is my favorite employee,” and none of the remaining nine can reasonably believe that they’ll be equally considered for raises, choice assignments, or layoffs once there’s a favorite.

  5. Germaine*

    There is a link to the original bad intern letter under the “You may also like” section. It contains much more information than in the shortened version posted here. The letter writer also commented under the name “OP #1” and that provides additional information/context.

    1. A Person*

      I’m not finding that at all. I mean, yes, the original letter is much longer but I’m not finding any responses from OP #1?

  6. Adrienne*

    Re wedding: no one knew I was related to a cousin I worked with. Any chance Mary and Elle have an outside family connection?

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      This was what I was thinking. Either related to each other or to the spouse. Wither way, why would you be bent out of shape because you weren’t invited to your boss’s wedding? Would you really want to be there?

      1. Clisby*

        I know! At least in my experience, weddings are not all that entertaining. Granted, if it’s a family thing I can get to see a bunch of people I like but hardly ever see, so that’s nice, but somebody I work with? I can’t imagine caring.

      2. allathian*

        Nope. I don’t enjoy weddings in general very much, unless I’m a friend of the bride or groom. The most boring ones I’ve attended were those for my husband’s distant relatives where I didn’t know anyone except my husband and in-laws. I can’t imagine enjoying a wedding where the only people I know are my coworkers. That said, it’s not a part of the tradition here to invite coworkers to your wedding, so the relationship would have to be deeper than that, more friend-friends than work-friends, so that scenario is extremely unlikely for me.

        For funerals, the reverse is true. Obviously if you’re in mourning, funerals can be a comfort but they’re definitely not fun events. The most enjoyable funeral I’ve ever been to was that of my dad’s cousin. She was 20 years older than my dad and about 90 when she died. I had no personal memories of her although I’d met her as a child. But I really enjoyed meeting some of my dad’s younger relatives. They seated us so that those who were more distant relatives of the deceased were seated the furthest from the immediate family. I must admit that this was the only funeral reception where I’ve laughed until my sides ached. Later I heard that the immediate family had been comforted by our laughter, and that was nice to know.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          “I heard that the immediate family had been comforted by our laughter” yes that is nice to know. My (thankfully now ex-) SIL reprimanded me for laughing at my mother’s funeral. Guess my father shouldn’t have made that joke.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Stranger things do happen. A friend’s new job was in a new industry and ~50 miles away from the old one. He had reported to “Jack” …now his biggest internal customer is Jack’s wife. She was not involved in the hiring process.

    3. UKDancer*

      I wondered about that. I went to my cousin Ben’s wedding and discovered Carla (who worked in a different part of my company and who I knew very slightly) was also there. Apparently she’d been at uni with the bride. Neither of us expected to see the other and we made awkward small talk before I returned to my assigned duty of looking after Grandpa and she went to sit at her table.

      It isn’t always clear what non work connection people may have.

  7. Lecturer*

    3. I wouldn’t want to go to the wedding anyway. I definitely would not want a manager to invite me!

    1. please do not refer to me*

      That question is a head-scratcher for me, because why would you want to go to the wedding of a random manager you don’t otherwise have a close relationship with? Maybe it’s because I’m in my 40s and have both attended a lot of weddings and planned my own, but honestly, people’s wedding guest list is not a referendum on you as a person.

      1. Lecturer*

        I want them to exclude me! I’ve been to very few weddings in my life (about to add one for a long term friend in September). But if a colleague invited me….. awkward!

  8. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Regarding OP4: yes, there’s a double standard about interviewing and no, there shouldn’t be. But please don’t be so quick to leap to, ‘They’re late and that’s a lack of respect for my time.’

    Most of the people who interview you absolutely do respect your time and your interest. But interviews – especially back-to-back ones – just don’t always go according to plan. Someone gets a call/text that delays them, someone just talked too much during the last interview, someone had to go to the bathroom or get coffee because they hadn’t had a break for a few hours, and so on. Interviewing might not be the most important thing on someone’s schedule, even if the job is on their team: A VP of HR was 20 minutes late to my interview because she was dealing with talk of a labor strike at one of her plants and I didn’t think she was disrespectful of my time at all.

    Should interviewers be on time, and apologize if they’re late? Absolutely. Are they disrespectful? Only if you choose to ignore how most of Corporate America operates. Meetings go long. Things de-rail. It’s not okay to be late, but it’s not something I’d get riled over.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      If they apologize and there’s a good reason they ran over, I’m okay with it. I’m careful not to try and schedule several appointments near that time, knowing that sometimes you do end up talking over the allotted time if it’s going well.

      Lunch hours are a little trickier. Knowing we only have a few minutes to talk when they finally come out and worrying about being late getting back to work, I’d probably err on the side of rescheduling if I had to wait more than 20 minutes. In fact, if I were the interviewer, I’d offer to do that in case they had to leave and I’d make sure I was on time the next go-round.

    2. Drago Cucina*

      This sums up what I wanted to say. There are so many things that happen behind the curtain. Often the interviewers can do nothing but apologize. They cannot explain or elaborate on why they are late.

      As much as possible I would try and leave a space between interviews (my ideal is 30 minutes, but that’s an ideal world). It doesn’t stack the candidates up in the waiting area (another reason to not be more than 10 minutes early) and gives the interviewers time to decompress, go to the restroom, take care of emergencies, etc.

    3. Unkempt Flatware*

      On another hand, I have absolutely been tested by an interviewer and was kept waiting for 45 minutes. I could see into her office the entire time (I didn’t realize it was she who was to interview me) and she was just sitting at her desk. No phone calls, no visitors, no sense of any urgency on her at all. In hindsight, I should have let her know I had been waiting 45 minutes and see what she said. I also wouldn’t have taken the job. She was a terrible boss.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I’m sorry you experienced that, 45 minutes is an extremely long time to keep someone waiting even during an emergency. But I think your former boss is the exception.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      It’s really the boss-employee power dynamic in action. The interviewers are interviewing many people for the position. The applicant is hoping to be the one selected from many. In many fields the applicant should wear an interview suit, but the interviewers can wear their everyday more casual workplace attire.

      And generally the applicant has to travel to the office so they need to give themselves extra time for the commute and to make sure they are on time to make a good first impression. It’s just a bigger deal for them than it is for the interviewers who usually just have to walk to the interview room from the desk. But the interviewer may have things scheduled right up to to interview time including possibly wrapping up another interview.

    5. Eggy Parm*

      100% this. I recently was 20 minutes late to an interview with a candidate and it was because a critical client meeting spilled over time and I couldn’t just up and leave.

      I think what’s most important is that you apologize to the candidate and let them know you understand you value your their time and effort too.

    6. PT*

      I was once late to an interview because I was the first aid responder on an in-building medical emergency that necessitated an 911 call. I had to handle the victim, hand them off to EMS, write up a report, clean up the area and restore it to normal operations…and then go find my poor interviewee who had been sitting in the lobby for half an hour.

  9. bmj*

    my 4-year old can recite the alphabet. maybe she can be his new boss.

    honestly, you can’t do anything, so don’t. if the kid is “perfect”, then don’t do ANYTHING to his work and let the chips fall.

    1. Selina Luna*

      I would take this one step further than not doing anything to the kid’s work. I would ask that all correspondence to or from the kid be CC’d to his father. No commentary, no asking about meaning. Just send all of it along. I don’t think it’ll fix anything, mind. I just think that it’s petty enough to annoy the father.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Unfortunately this is way more likely to incur the Director’s ire than anything else.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      My nine-year old is learning stuff like topic sentences, using examples, etc.

    3. SomebodyElse*

      Ignorance shouldn’t be mocked, if you ask me. It’s sad that a 19 yo is barely literate from the LW’s account.

      1. bmj*

        i’m not mocking ignorance. it’s the entitlement that got him there in the first place. that’s the sad part – the kids who are prepared and who work hard and who don’t get those opportunities because their dad isn’t the director.

    4. Artemesia*

      The only job this intern will qualify for will be a 6 figure sinecure at this company someday — one just hopes it is not in the OP’s department.

  10. Susie Q*

    #1: I feel bad for OP and the intern. OP is stuck cleaning up after an incompetent intern and the intern’s parents are doing him a great disservice. He is clearly not getting the education he needs.

    #3: I am of the opinion that people can invite whoever they want to a wedding. A boss isn’t obligated to invite the whole team and co-workers aren’t obligated to invite everyone either.

    1. IEanon*

      I agree. It’s a major life event, and I think those sort of (hopefully) one-offs trump the usual requirement to include everyone.

      I do think it’s good that OP3 noted that she didn’t feel as though manager and coworker shared a closer relationship. I get feeling hurt, but on the whole, that’s a good thing. It means her manager is not playing favorites in the workplace, which is what’s most important.

    2. Drago Cucina*

      Yeah, inviting one person and no one else is different than inviting everyone else and leaving one person out. It’s a different dynamic.
      It reminds me of the Catholic school where I worked. The school system tried to put in a rule that teachers weren’t to go to student’s homes or have students at their homes. The principals pointed out that it was impossible as many of our children attended schools where we worked and that they couldn’t control the personal relationships we developed outside of work. We’re friends with family A whose children go to the school. We can never socialize at each others’ homes?

  11. Falling Diphthong*

    LW1’s intern reminds me of Psych‘s Sean ensuring he got arrested for a sufficient dollar-amount crime at 18 so he would be forever barred from the law enforcement career his father had been laying out his whole life.

    I realize it’s more likely to be a combo of poor schooling and the people in charge of it (both parents) invested in pretending Everything is Awesome, but I prefer this rebel-with-a-cause version.

  12. please do not refer to me*

    This is complicated because, on the one hand, interns are by definition not supposed to be handling business-critical tasks like this. Also, they’re there to learn, and the assumption generally is that interns aren’t used to working in an office, might not have the best sense of things like “how formal should I be in an email to another team”. Also, to an extent all employees make mistakes in written communication all the time. At all levels. Some of the emails the CEO of my company has sent company wide would give an English teacher the howling fantods.

    That said, the boss’ defensive behavior around his kid’s lack of skills is unprofessional. If the reaction were to clarify that he shouldn’t be given tasks at a high level of responsibility, or “the thing about interns is that they’re training on the job and will go slower and make more mistakes than full time employees”, that would be one thing. But the “my kid is perfect” act is not great.

    1. twocents*

      LW doesn’t say the intern was given business critical tasks; just that they sent an email so incomprehensible that the manager had to follow-up to figure out what it as supposed to say.

      1. please do not refer to me*

        In that case I don’t think it’s that big a deal? Like I said, a lot of people at all levels of business have poor written communication skills. I work with lawyers (communicating is literally their entire job) and frequently get garbled emails full of sentence fragments, typos, and poor punctuation choices that make the email unclear.

        I guess I’m saying either this is a huge deal and he needs to not be assigned critical tasks, or this is not the end of the world and he’ll probably learn eventually. Or not.

    2. 70C*

      I was just thinking about how it must be a punch in the gut to the Dad to realize that he has to carry the weight of taking care of both of them. Maybe forever. I was friends with a family like theirs and when the Father died unexpectedly in his late 50s, the family went into a tailspin because the wife and grown children couldn’t do ANYTHING.

  13. The Rural Juror*

    My coworker, who has to write project reports, gets so annoyed at me for asking him to correct things. Luckily spellcheck catches most of those mistakes, but he’s incredibly inconsistent with capitalizing letters, using commas, or how he states information. These are bulleted lists of what’s going on on the project, so it’s pretty easy to spot the inconsistencies.

    He just doesn’t seem to get that it’s important to make the reports look professional since they’re going out to our clients. He has a tendency to bristle at ANYTHING that requires 2 more ounces of effort from him, so it’s pretty in-character, unfortunately. I like the guy, and he’s good at what he does, but this habit frustrates me to no end. I try to be diplomatic about how to approach him when something needs editing, but it always seems like he DOES NOT WANT the help. I’ve often wondered if his bristly-ness is some sort of defense mechanism, but I don’t want to be an armchair expert or anything like that. It’s just tough when it’s something that people outside our team see and read and could judge him or our whole team for (or maybe that’s me projecting).

    1. Selina Luna*

      Sincerely: maybe your business could get a business Grammarly account. It’s worth every penny, and it dramatically lessens easy mistakes like this.

    2. Double A*

      I’m a high school English teacher. I’m sure he was like this as a student too; did enough to get by, but resisted editing or proofreading his work. A lot of high school kids view it as busy work or think you’re making them “redo” an assignment that they’re done with and no way are they going to do that. I always hope they’ll see the light at some point in their academic or professional careers…alas it seems many do not.

      1. Exhausted Trope*

        Double A, I hate to have to say this but after teaching writing to 6-12 graders and college Freshmen for 12 years, most will never get it. They don’t accept / understand that writing is a process. They just don’t.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, and teachers are so hard-pressed for time. When I was in college and had a couple academic writing courses, my prof was really committed to teaching that writing is a process. We had one deadline for submitting a draft, then the prof would grade that. Then she’d give us a second deadline to submit the final, corrected version. We also had exercises where we’d proofread each other’s papers, and our proofs were also graded. It taught me both that writing is a process and that feedback is only a comment on my work, not on my worth as a person. Some of the best papers were written by people who had trouble with spelling. This taught me that poor spelling isn’t a moral failing, but that to make a good impression on people who can determine your professional future, you have to do what you can to incorporate any feedback you get.

        My son who’s now in 5th grade has had to submit corrections if he made any errors in dictation tests for as long as he’s been at school.

  14. Still Trying to Adult*

    Re: the intern –

    It’s extremely unfortunate, for all involved. The VIP has foisted his incompetent son on the business, and thus has made his, his wife’s and their son’s problems into problems for the business. So sad.

    Thru my several times working for family-run businesses, I’ve concluded that if a decision is made with more care about the family than anything else, it is no longer a true business. Non-family will never get a fair shake. Ever.

  15. Lilo*

    I’d totally just make up busy work for him to do. Give him a long, unnecessary project that no one’s ever going to need ever.

    1. Grim*

      And when he’s done, have him present his work to the team (include Dad as an invitee), as presentation skills are important too!

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      One the wedding: inviting one out of ten is not that bad. Inviting six or eight our of ten would be terrible.

    3. Artemesia*

      This. Since you are not allowed to manage him stop wasting the effort. Assign him a research project and plan on never using anything he produces.

  16. Hiring Mgr*

    The intern letter is strange . I mean if the son really doesn’t know the alphabet (he needed help knowing the order of letters??) either I’m misreading or perhaps the son has a learning disability or something along those lines?

    Whatever the case, if he can’t get fired, could you maybe give him some mindless tasks around the office or something?

    1. please do not refer to me*

      Being really charitable, I’m assuming the kid has never done filing or alphabetizing before and it’s a general office task that they’ve never had to do before. So they’re constantly going to the nearest person like “OK so I file the stuff for the Santa Monica case *before* the stuff for the Santa Claus case, right? Or is it the other way? Can you explain it to me again?”

      Then again, in almost every workplace I’ve ever been in, I’m the one who is seamlessly good at this stuff while I watch other people who don’t have the excuse of being interns, having a learning disability, this not being in their wheelhouse, etc. flail at even the most basic written communication, filing, presentation building, etc. tasks.

      People forget that administrative skills are skills until someone like this intern comes along.

    2. Jack Straw*

      This was my immediate read as well. As someone with dyslexia, at nearly 45 I still have to recite the alphabet when trying to sort things.

      And as a former HS teacher who has often seen mis- or undiagnosed learning disabilities, the home school piece was another red flag if that’s what’s happening. Mom is unlikely to be a special education teacher or to have those resources to even recognize it.

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        As someone not with dyslexia, who achieved straight As in every English class, who majored in English, and who used to work in circulation at a library, I still sometimes recite the alphabet when sorting too ;-)

        1. allathian*

          I also got straight As in most language classes I ever took and I’m the opposite of dyslexic in the sense that when learning a new language, at least one that uses the Latin alphabet, it’s enough for me to see a word written down once, and I can spell it correctly afterwards forevermore, even if I forget the meaning of the word. This includes diacritics as well, once I understand the way those are used in the language I’m trying to learn.

          That said, I always recite the alphabet when I’m sorting stuff. For us, that includes our library where we sort books by author and general genre (non-fiction and fiction that’s split into science-fiction, horror, and fantasy; crime novels; and everything else) and the movies and music that we still have on physical media.

  17. re: the late interviewer (not op)*

    how would you handle it, then, if an interviewer was 20+ minutes late? if they apologized, that’s one thing, but regardless, what if them being late means you have less time to interview because you have to go back to work or have other commitments? are you just kind of expected to suck it up? I mean, obviously you can’t say “well you being late means I might be late to work” or something like that, but can you say anything? of course people should err on the side of caution and give themselves more time than is needed, but that isn’t always possible for a number of reasons.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I think if you have a hard stop you need to mention that and then see if you can schedule a follow up or just a full reschedule. It’s a bit trickier as a candidate but not totally out of left field.

    2. Recyclops*

      If the interviewer is apologetic (and it seems genuine), I would ask if they would mind rescheduling (since most people have to take off work, schedule sitters, etc. for interviews). I would use a lot of tact here: “I completely understand, these things happen! With that being said however, would there be an ideal time to reschedule? I hate to ask, but unfortunately I have to be back at my office/relieve my sitter at *time*, and would hate for both of us to feel rushed.” Twenty minutes is a pretty significant amount of time to be late and severely cuts down your time to efficiently interview as well. Then again, if you feel the interview is apathetic, the apology isn’t genuine, or open to rescheduling, that gives you an idea about their work culture and possibly not respecting their employees’ time.

  18. Alex Beamish*

    Re: Asking people to stop leaping on me as soon as I walk into the office
    Ugh .. this doesn’t happen to me often (and not at all since I’ve been working remotely), but I do sometimes need time to make myself ready for human interaction. Alison makes some really good suggestions here.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      depending on the culture at your office, you may be able to get away with something like “Unless someone is bleeding or on fire, I am not available until after coffee has been consumed.” And then if they persist, just keep saying “Coffee!” in a bright and friendly tone until they either go away or bring you some.

      1. UKDancer*

        I do this. I usually say “give me 5 minutes for the coffee to kick in.” If you say it in a really matter of fact voice most people are ok with it.

      2. Mental Lentil*

        I saw a wall hanging a few years ago that said “I love you more than coffee, but not always before coffee.”

    2. Christmas Carol*

      At first reading I mentally confabulated “Pet Peeve” and “leaping” to arrive at the image of a Labrador Retriever in a three piece suit planting his front paws on your shoulders with a wagging tail and the TPS reports in his slobbery mouth.

    3. Pascall*

      Part of my job is to answer the phone and assist job applicants to our district, but even though I come in at 8am, I don’t even answer the phone until 8:30-ish once all my daily morning tasks have been done and I’ve had enough time to check through my emails. It’s hard to just jump into assisting someone the second you walk in the door!

      1. Neptune*

        What happens if someone calls needing assistance between 8 and 8.30? /not the point

        1. Simply the best*

          Presumably the same thing that would happen if they called before anyone was there. Leave a voicemail.

    4. Mockingjay*

      I usually say something like: “Hey, good morning, let me get booted up and settled, then I’ll look into it.”

      Coincidently, the time it takes for my computer to “boot up” is the same length of time to consume a breakfast sandwich and finish my go-cup of coffee…

    5. Princess Scrivener*

      Yep. *THIS* is the reason I’ve made a 30-year career habit of being the first person in the office every morning.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        Me too.

        I lean a little hard on the “done with breakfast eating and office shoes should be on” status at office start time for myself. I am part of the “early arriver” gang in part because of my transportation situation, but I hate feeling like I’m racing into a movie while the trailers are rolling. I don’t mind too terribly much when my colleagues arrive with no time to spare and THEN need to ditz around with coffee and chatter and whatever, but at least my computer’s loaded up and I’m ready to go.

        However, I reserve every bit of my PRE-office time to answer or not answer work related questions at my own discretion. And if we’re 20 minutes in and I’ve got a big issue, and I can’t find you because you’re waiting for the second pot of coffee to brew … yeah, I’m going to interrupt your pre-coffee daze.

  19. JamieG*

    For the last letter writer, while this can vary based on one’s own proclivities and office and area norms, I have more than once told someone I had to use the restroom (when that wasn’t actually true) and would stop by and talk to them afterwards, just to afford myself a few minutes of ramp-up before being drawn into conversation.

  20. thee epidemiologist*

    RE: the intern – do we know for sure that he doesn’t have an intellectual disability or learning disability? It’s not my intention to armchair-diagnose him, but I wonder if this would be part of the reason the VIP is sensitive about criticism of his son’s work. Any experts in this area who could weigh in?

    Of course, it could also just be that he actually just wasn’t taught the reading and writing skills he needed.

    1. automaticdoor*

      He probably does, but that doesn’t really solve the problem of what the OP should do there, I think.

    2. please do not refer to me*

      I would assume that by the age most people go into the workforce full time, they’ve spent at least a little time figuring out what type of work they would be suited to. I have a few friends who have dyslexia. None of them work in fields where written communication or clerical skills like spelling and proofreading are integral to the work.

  21. Rocket Woman*

    Re: Weddings.

    I took a project management class this semester that utilized an overall good but slightly dated textbook. In the textbook it stated one of the responsibilities of a manger was to “attend the weddings of their employees.” I really couldn’t take much seriously out of that book after that – there is no way I would ever want my boss at my wedding. Watching me exchange vows, break it down on the dancefloor, drink, seeing my entire family? Wayyy too personal for me.

    That being said, I believe people can and should do whatever they want for weddings. Also, the coworker may be an extended connection, or even just happened to be a plus one. I wouldn’t put too much weight in it.

      1. UKDancer*

        I would not want my boss at my wedding. I also don’t want to go to weddings of my staff. I’ve been to one colleagues wedding in my life and she was a friend as well as a colleague so it was a pleasure to attend.

        1. Rocket Woman*

          The thought of my boss at my wedding is just… so weird. I don’t manage anyone but imagine I would feel the same way.

          A lot of my friends are people I know through work, so I would of course invite them to mine/attend theirs, should that situation ever arise.

    1. NotSoAnon*

      I wouldn’t invite my staff/team members to my wedding. It just seems like crossing a personal boundary.

      But I do have coworkers who I used to manage that got promoted out of the department who I’ve become friends with outside of work. I might invite them. But I’d probably double check with HR to make sure that the company was okay with that and it wasn’t going to come across weird. I mean for me it’s a moot point because I ended up eloping cause a big wedding seemed like to much of a hassle.

      My boss, heck no. We are very friendly/cordial with each other but I would never. And I don’t think he’s come even if invited.

  22. ATX*

    There are so many things at play when people get invited to things that other coworkers at the same level do not. I was always one of those people with my former boss, being invited to things that other managers were invited to but not other direct reports. I had previously all worked with them at the analyst level, left the organization, came back with the same boss and a lot of the analysts I worked with had been promoted.

    Since I was friends with them from before, I was invited to things.

  23. Jay*

    To letter writer #1:
    I have to ask, is the Directors son actually disabled in some way?
    Because this takes on a whole new context if that is the case, and they assume that you know this.
    If the kid was only ever supposed to be given a desk out of the way, a flash drive full of Sesame Street episodes, blank paper, a box of crayons, and a couple of big books full of cool dinosaur pictures, and an occasional pat on the head for not wetting his pants too often, then dads reaction makes more sense. That exact scenario happened at a place I worked at briefly about 20 years ago, although, in those days the Sesame Street episodes were on DVD. Everyone knew about it and loved the kid.
    He assumes that you are bullying his severely disabled son.
    If this turns out to be the case, rather than abominable parenting, getting things out in the open is the way to go. If only to know exactly what your duties actually are.
    It might turn out that you have actually been repurposed as his sons new nanny.

    1. JRR*

      Even if the case is not quite so extreme, it does seem like the director and manager may have different understandings of what an intern is supposed to do. I’ve heard of interns complaining that all they get to do is fetch coffee and stuff envelopes, but for this particular intern those might be appropriate tasks.

    2. aebhel*

      I mean, that’s distinctly possible, but then the director should have *said that* when it became clear that the LW was treating him as… a normal intern producing subpar work. That’s not the sort of thing that anyone should be assuming that a manager knows without ever having been told.

    3. pancakes*

      “Everyone knew about it” is one key difference between the situation at your old workplace and the situation described in the letter. There’s no good reason for the director to have withheld the fact his son is severely disabled, if that’s what’s going on. It would be very strange to expect everyone to gradually catch on and readjust their expectations accordingly.

      1. allathian*

        Well, the OP is describing something that actually happened. The kid wasn’t capable of actually doing any work, at least not at that particular workplace. I’m not saying the intern in the original letter is in the same boat, though.

        Lots of even quite severely disabled people are capable of working. At college our university cafeteria often employed otherwise difficult to employ people, mostly people with cognitive disabilities, who’d do much of the cooking and cleaning under close supervision. Some were non-verbal, but that didn’t stop them from greeting customers with a sunny grin.

        1. pancakes*

          That’s one of the reasons why it’s ableist to say severely disabled people should be parked in a corner with Sesame Street videos to keep them busy, and given the occasional pat on the head.

  24. Jackie*

    The hearing impaired employee should absolutely mention it to their boss. I am also hearing impaired (currently learning sign language, I grew up in a “learn to adapt” home) so I have a tendency to stare at people a lot. I read lips. It can be off-putting if the subject of this does not know what I am doing or why. I just tell people outright. In meetings when you get the “noise bomb” of multiple people talking at one time, I do find asking people to avoid overlapping conversations is helpful. I have never met any resistance to it. In fact, it often helps get things back on track, as side conversations that flair up are brought back to the main group. As for being more involved in the more camaraderie aspect of office life, I found that actually removing my hearing aids helps. At happy hours or team building or whatever, I either remove or shut off my hearing aids and communicate with 1 or 2 people at a time. Then I move around to other individuals throughout the duration of the event. Again, I am very adept at lip reading though so this is an option for me. I hope this helps!

  25. Payroll Lady*

    To OP#4 – I sympathize. I have had days that I haven’t even gotten out of my car and people are lining up. Since I am the HR dept as well as Payroll, I have gotten to the point of saying: Is someone bleeding or lose a body part? Potential for an employee injury? NO?? great, please let me put my stuff down and hook up my computer BEFORE you come upstairs to ask whatever you want to ask. (I have to ask about the bleeding/ body part, have had that happen unfortunately)

    1. PeanutButter*

      My go-to line was, “Unless it involves fire, flood, or blood, give me a few minutes to settle in.”

  26. New Mom*

    Bad Intern’s Boss
    – Since you are put in a bad situation where the VIP will lash out at you for trying to manage the intern, I think the safest (but annoying option) is to just give the intern busy work until they leave.

    Excluded from the wedding OP
    – This is exactly why I didn’t invite anyone from work to my wedding. I had a few coworkers I was very close to at the time but I was worried about it hurting someone’s feeling and it impacting our working relationship.

  27. CommanderBanana*

    “He said his wife home-schooled his sons and she taught them everything they needed to know and no one should question his son’s ability.”

    Screaming with laughter.*

    *I was also homeschooled, it did not go well.

  28. Charlotte Lucas*

    I mispell my own name all the time! But I catch it before it goes anywhere. My problem is actually that I type too fast.

    And I don’t think we can decide this kid’s dyslexic based on the letter. I used to teach writing, & this could as easily be a combination of the kid not paying attention & mom… Just not being a very good teacher. If he was never taught how to write a coherent sentence, how can we expect him to do so now?

    (Ask me how many times students named Brian turned in papers by “Brain.”)

  29. Ms. K*

    #1 Not only is the director doing his sun a disservice NOW, but if the intern can’t even spell his or his father’s babes correctly, they did him a dustcover homeschooling too. (I’m not knocking all homeschooling, but some people should leave it to the professionals and intern’s mother is clearly in that category).

    1. Frank Doyle*

      Or maybe the “misspelling” is actually a typo/autocorrect failure — they are very common, as can be seen in your response, which contains two (sun, babes)! (I’m not sure if “dustcover” is a third, or just a term with which I’m not familiar.)

      1. Autumnheart*

        I’m thinking that was supposed to be “disservice”. XD Definitely a good example of autocorrect going off the rails, though.

  30. SentientAmoeba*

    Apparently unpopular opinion, but even if someone has dyslexia or other condition that makes it harder for them with spelling and grammar, they need to learn how to work around it. I know a couple people, one in particular who have terrible spelling and grammar skills and are very ” this is how I am, deal with it”. They are also working well below their education and intelligence level because it’s hard to take someone seriously when they keep asking you to “bare with me’ while being “chofered” so they’re not “lait” to an event. These are pretyt much what any written communication with them is like. I did a resume for them once and when I opened word, it was a sea of red underline. Same attitude, ” If an employer wants me, they will look past them”

    1. SMH*

      How do they ever get hired? Because as a hiring manager no I am not going to look past it.

  31. Trek*

    OP1 This is where an older respected friend, uncle, grandparent, or possible college mentor needs to pull this young man aside and take him to lunch. Sit down with him and ask him his plans for the future. Then explain to him that his lack of writing skills, grammar, communication etc. will hold him back in almost every job. How does he plan to take care of himself or a family? He may not hear from everyone but at one point you stop trying to convince the dad his son wasn’t educated and start convincing the son. The goal would be to go back to his college and find out what they recommend to help this man improve.
    Side note: How did he pass college? Did his mom do his assignments for him.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      I thought the young man had a learning or intellectual disability at first. But then, mom’s poor homeschooling could also be the culprit. Poor guy.

  32. Cant remember my old name*

    I’m in the middle of wedding planning so I’m definitely sensitive to this topic. It’s stressful. But at $75+ a plate, I am not inviting 9 more people to the wedding for optics-sake. It’s expensive and it’s personal. Granted I am not a manager!

    1. adk*

      It’s actually 18 more people because you need to invite spouses and significant others. You can’t expect to invite someone to an event celebrating your relationship while not recognizing theirs. That said, I didn’t invite any coworkers to our wedding, and my husband had a whole table of his. Though I’d met nearly every single one of them, including spouses and girlfriends. Husband’s boss was invited and didn’t come.

      1. WritingIsHard*

        Ha! I just left a comment touching on this before I saw this reply, but my partner was once invited to a wedding and I was just…not. Not even as a plus one! Still a little bitter tbh. But that’s the only time I’ve taken a non-invitation a little personally. Weddings are complicated and I try not to begrudge a couple for choosing to invite some people and not others.

        1. allathian*

          That happened to me too, when my FIL married his current wife. She unwillingly invited my SO but not me. She didn’t have any religious or moral principles that prevented her from inviting me, by that time she had been living with my FIL for nearly more than years, 5 of those part-time while he was still married to my MIL who filed for divorce the minute she found out he was keeping a second household in another town and had been doing so for 5 years. He was a traveling salesman so he was often away for long stretches of time. My FIL’s wife just didn’t want to acknowledge that he had a life before her, although he insisted on inviting his kids. My FIL’s wife also has several kids from a previous marriage, they and their spouses/SOs were all invited.

          The lack of invitation rankled a bit at the time, although when my husband got home after the wedding he told me I hadn’t missed out on anything. He said he skipped out of the reception as soon as he could and he was home very early. The wedding was at noon and he was home by 3 pm, with a 30-minute drive.

          When my husband and I got married, we invited my FIL and his wife to our small wedding, but she declined to attend. It was just my husband and me, our parents, my sister and SIL, and my MIL’s current husband, although they married a year after us. Apparently my FIL’s wife can’t stand my MIL, although everyone thinks that’s stupid, after all, she got him… If anyone would be justified in carrying a grudge, it would be my MIL, but she’s moved on and is happily married.

          The only time I’ve been disappointed when I didn’t get an invitation was when my best friend was invited to one of our friends’ wedding but I wasn’t. I realized then and now that everyone has to draw the line somewhere when they’re planning the guest list, but in college we always hung out together, and it hurt to realize that she didn’t consider me her friend, just the friend of a friend. Then it dawned on me that we’d never hung out just the two of us, but rather as members of a group with my bestie at the center.

          I guess it’s just as well that getting invited to a coworker’s wedding doesn’t happen very often here. Maybe in some small startups it might be more common, but not with bigger employers.

  33. EarthBound*

    In high school and college I would work at the small town paper in the summer. One year we got a new managing editor and he asked me to type up a column his wife had wrote our by hand for the opinion page. The grammar, spelling, etc. were all atrocious. I honestly could not parse most of it. I took it to the copy editor for advice. He started reading it and just died laughing. In the end I typed it up as written and put it in to the queue to be edited. *Someone* killed it after that point, although I don’t know who it was.

  34. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP3: Other people’s weddings are crashingly boring to attend. Be thankful you don’t have to waste a lovely weekend and you get to save money because you don’t have to buy a gift for the boss.

  35. Mike Hayes*

    OP2: Consider going to Human resources and requesting accommodation. Participating in conference calls can be a significant challenge with a hearing disability, but you can get some help.

    One thing that I’ve done is request closed captioning for all phone meetings (Teams or Zoom). These are automatically generated, so aren’t perfect, but can be really helpful when you’re struggling for understanding.

  36. His Grace*

    OP 1:
    If the director doesn’t want his son’s terrible writing skills questioned, perhaps he should not have brought him in as an intern. Part of being an adult is the ability to communicate effectively and take constructive criticism well. While you didn’t specify if the son does the second thing well, it’s obvious from what you’ve told us that he doesn’t do the first well at all.

    This may not necessarily be the son’s fault. He may have undiagnosed dyslexia or ADHD. Because he was home schooled, the mother didn’t pick up on it (or refused to acknowledge it). I would ask him about it. And if possible, get him the help that he needs and deserves. Because if he doesn’t get it addressed, it will severely impact his future job prospects.

  37. 653-CXK*

    Letter #5: Any type of cornering or surprise Teams meetings/conference calls raises an alarm bell for me. That alarm bell volume goes higher when I’ve just come in and someone pleads “it’ll only take a minute!” It’s usually a sign that someone is really desperate and figures you’ll ride in and rescue them. (Most of the time, “it’ll only take a minute” is true, but sometimes it’s a ruse. Someone tried the “it’ll only take a minute” jive at ExJob to me and it ended up being a four day project they had no idea how to do, with a deep dive into records I’ve never seen before. That person got a lecture from my boss and their boss not to pull a stunt like that again.)

    Keeping boundaries and not giving in to desperation is key. The higher up the chain, the less pull you have in demurring (e.g. if Boss, Grandboss or Great Grandboss gets you as soon as you come in, consider it serious). Otherwise, “Would you mind if I settle in first? I’ll come get you in ten minutes” is sufficient. If they push, be polite and say, “I understand, and I will give it my full attention once I’ve settled in.” Repeat as necessary.

  38. Retired (but not really)*

    An easy way to help the intern with the filing is to provide a flip file sorter. It is (or used to be) available through an office supply store. The one I had was about 18 inches long and 3-4 inches wide. Each letter of the alphabet had a card stock flap with A being the shortest and each letter after that being about 3/8 inch longer. The sorted papers could then be easily transferred to the appropriate spots in the actual files.

  39. WritingIsHard*

    #3 I just have a general rule where I don’t take wedding invitations (or a lack thereof) personally, because I’m not the one paying to host the event. I think that’s an especially good attitude when it comes to colleagues or acquaintances, where the relationship is friendly but not inherently close. That said, I’m still a little bitter about the time my partner (who I’ve been with for 6 years and own a home with) got invited to a wedding and I didn’t. Not even as a plus one!

  40. Safely Retired*

    For variety, an alternate interpretation of #3:
    I’m hurt because I wasn’t aware that Mary and Elle had a closer relationship than anyone else in our department…
    I’m wondering how much of that statement should be taken literally, that the writer’s problem is that there was something they didn’t know about. One interpretation could be that the writer is the office busybody who pries into everyone’s affairs and believes they are privileged to all such information.

  41. Nic*

    #1: Probably an impossible dream, but I’d be so tempted to see if I could move the problem intern sideways through the department(s) until he’s the person in charge of all emails to the company directors. Let’s see if Dad is so keen to defend his son’s writing skills when he’s the one who has to read it, and when his direct peers in the company are having to read it too.

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