I feel stuck working for my father, boss disclosed my pregnancy, and more

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

1. I feel stuck working for my father

I’m in my second or third career now, if I ever had one. My father is the president of a small company and has been trying to get me to work with him my entire life. I worked for him in high school, between summers in college, and even as an “internship” right out of college. I had a brief career in IT consulting, after which burnout caused me to hop around for a few years to decompress, doing mostly warehouse and retail. The frustration is that I feel like I’ve never been able to craft a vision for a career. Every attempt to put something together was rebuffed by my parents (I’m 30 now). There wasn’t any support for things of interest, even if they were realistic, because the expectation is that inevitably I would go back to work for my father.

Every time I do go back to work for him, I become the every-man project manager with projects that vastly outweigh what I’m compensated for – things like acting as Safety and Inventory Manager for $16/hour. He’s been trying to get me to do financial analysis as well (I do not have a finance/accounting background). Each time I leave for another opportunity, my father become pseudo-hostile, saying he “can’t understand why I would try to leave.”

I’ve recently started my third stint working for him – whatever sense of independent self-esteem I had has since eroded, and I almost feel resigned to stay here until he retires. I am tired of the nepotism and unrealistic expectations. Am I unreasonable in wanting a separate and fulfilling form of work away from my father?

No. You’re only being unreasonable in continuing to return to work for your dad when you want to separate from him professionally. The way to solve this is to stop working for him! I know that’s easier said than done — family has weird claims on us and you clearly grew up in a family that exerted a lot of pressure on you to do what they want — but it’s the only path out.

You don’t need your parents to approve of your career choices. They can rebuff your preferences as much as they want; you are the only one with the power or the standing to decide how you will spend your work life. But that requires you to believe that, and it sounds like on some level you don’t. What’s keeping you tethered to your father’s company right now is how susceptible you are to your parents’ pressure. Because you’re having trouble resisting it — and especially because your sense of independence feels shaky — therapy could probably really help you start to untie those binds.

Read an update to this letter.

2. My boss disclosed my pregnancy

I am writing to you as a very scared eight-week pregnant woman. Today I had some scary complications relating to my pregnancy, so I decided to fill my boss in before I left for the hospital. On my way to the hospital I got a call from our HR department checking in on me because apparently my boss told her. I didn’t think too much of it since that is HR. I later texted my boss to fill her in on what was going on and asked her to please not tell anyone else. She responded that she already told my coworker what was going on. I’m extremely upset because (1) I am an extremely private person when it comes to medical issues and (2) I really dislike this coworker and I do not want to discuss my pregnancy nor its complications with her.

Was this disclosure of my pregnancy without my permission legal? This isn’t the first time my private medical information has been leaked around the office. I had a miscarriage a few years ago that apparently went around the office despite me only informing my boss about it. I’m an extremely passive, anxious individual. How do I keep this from happening again in the future?

I’m so sorry — that’s the last thing you need to be dealing with at an already stressful time.

Your boss probably didn’t violate the law when she mentioned the situation to your coworker. There are some laws protecting your medical privacy in the workplace; for example, if you share medical information in connection with a request made under the ADA or FMLA, your employer can’t share that other than with people who have a legitimate work-related need to know. But assuming neither of those was in play in this situation, the legal angle isn’t the one you want. Rather, the privacy angle is — because regardless of the law, it’s still entirely reasonable to expect your medical info won’t be shared at work without your permission.

I suggest doing two things. First, talk to your boss and say, “I was upset to learn you had shared my pregnancy with Jane. I want to ask that in the future you keep my medical information confidential; I’m very private about it and would never want it shared in the office.” Second, talk to HR and say that on multiple occasions now, your private medical information has been shared with coworkers. Explain you’ve already spoken with your boss about this, but you’re looking for their assurances that your privacy will be protected as well, and ask them to consider reminding managers to keep employees’ medical info confidential. (They’re likely to want to do that, because in many other cases the ADA or FMLA’s protections would be in play.) You mention that you’re very passive so I realize you might not want to have either of these conversations, but they’re the best way to protect yourself in the future.

Also, it’s important to remember is that you rarely need to share medical specifics with your boss in the first place. It’s generally enough to just say you won’t be in because of illness or a medical emergency — you don’t need to give any details if you don’t want to. And if for some reason you do, you can stress your desire for privacy along with it (“please don’t share this; I want to keep it private”).

Read an update to this letter.

3. Is a good employee harder to manage than a bad employee?

I work at a very young, progressive, healthcare tech company in a kind of call-centery position. It is a very touchy-feely place and the office is extremely casual. The company was a very successful start-up that got bought by a much larger company.

I was having issues with my manager and skipped a level and organized a meeting with her manager. I’m a high performer and I was freaking out because my manager would cry nearly every time she spoke to me. She would ask me for management advice on how to treat my coworkers, and then tell me that by performing so well I was making the rest of the team look bad. I had a super awkward one-on-one where she openly sobbed at me for an hour … because in my quarterly review feedback, I wrote that I needed her to be my boss, not my therapist. My grandboss then explained to me that since my manager was new, I needed to have low expectations and her interview was so good that she’d eventually impress me. Her final comment really surprised me: she said a good employee is always harder to manage than a bad one.

I’ve since been moved to a new team with a new manager who has not yet cried at me, but that statement is still really odd to me. What do you think? I’ve never been in a management role but I would imagine that a low-performing employee would take way more work to manage than someone doing well.

Yeah, that’s a weird and inaccurate statement. All employees take time and effort to manage well, but good ones certainly aren’t harder than bad ones. Low-performing employees generally take quite a bit more time — you need to supervise their work much more closely (and judging how closely to do that can be a whole project unto itself), give more feedback, work to bring their skills up to par, have potentially uncomfortable conversations, and do some really serious evaluations to figure out if they’re going to be able to reach the bar you need or not (and if not, there’s all the work of dealing with next steps from there). Great employees can have their own special needs too — for example, figuring out how to keep them challenged and engaged, making sure their work is recognized in ways that are meaningful to them, etc. — but it’s less work, and it’s far less emotionally draining. And good employees make good managers’ lives easier, not harder.

The only explanation I can think of for why someone might find good employees harder to manage than bad ones is if they struggle with management in general. In that case, they might find it hard to keep a smart, driven employee engaged, or might handle it badly when a strong employee points out errors or weaknesses in systems, or could even feel threatened by them.

But frankly, your grandboss sounds like she was so invested in defending your manager (telling you to have low expectations?!) that her comment might not really reflect what she’d conclude if she thought more deeply about it. Otherwise, though, she’s telling you something pretty damning about her own management abilities.

4. Coworker tries to figure out people’s zodiac signs

Here’s an absolutely low-stakes issue! I recently joined a new team at work and one of the members of that team likes to guess people’s zodiac signs after a couple weeks of interaction. In a team meeting, while trying to guess somebody else’s sign, she said multiple disparaging things about a zodiac sign. Of course, she was saying bad things about my sign.

I’m much more amused than offended, but the more I think about it, the more this strikes me like something that’s actually a potential problem for my company. However, I kept my concerns to myself. I’m trying not to be such a Leo about it.

Yeah, if you were her manager, you should tell her to cut it out — explaining that she’s insulting various people on the team (regardless of whether anyone believes in astrology or not) and that not everyone would appreciate being publicly analyzed in that way. But since you’re not her manager, simply being amused is the best response.

5. I was asked to interview for a lower-level job than the one I applied for

I’ve recently been applying for management positions in my field. After eight years of experience in my job, I believe I’m ready for the next step, and I know I can’t find it at my current organization.

I recently had a second interview at a company I would love to work for, with a manager who I clicked really well with. I was so pleased to receive an email asking to schedule a final interview … for a lower position. I was confused, and emailed the recruiter back to clarify. He confirmed that I was being asked to interview for the lower role, but didn’t say why. I can only surmise that the manager liked me, but someone else was more qualified for the management position than I am, so she figured she could fill the lower role with me.

I know nothing about this lower role — not the responsibilities, not the salary — and I suppose it seems unfair to me that they expect me to do a final interview for this role in this situation. The lower role is the same as the role I have now, and I’m not interested in making a lateral move. I want to be considered for the role I applied for. Is this a common practice? Is this a red flag? What should I do?

It’s not unusual for a hiring manager to decide that she’d rather consider you for a different job. She might think you’re a much stronger fit for that one, or she has stronger candidates for the first one, or she’s on the verge of hiring someone for the first one, or you have some specific skill that would be a plus for the second job. But she and/or the recruiter should be explicit about why they’re moving you on to that track and should give you enough information that you can decide if you’re interested in being considered for it or not, not just assume that you’ll happily show up for an interview for anything they come up with. However, in fairness to this hiring manager, it’s entirely possible that she assumed the recruiter would take care of those things and he dropped the ball (that happens a lot). So I wouldn’t say it’s a red flag.

You can ask if you can still be considered for the original role, but usually when this happens the subtext is “no for job #1 but let’s talk about job #2.” If you’d be willing to at least hear about the other job, don’t be shy about saying, “Could you send the job description and salary so I can get more information about it before we schedule a meeting?”

{ 322 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’ve removed a ton of comments mocking other cultures’ religious beliefs (I’m talking about astrology/Zodiac signs, both of which are a part of, for example, Indian and Chinese culture). Please do not do that here, regardless of your own beliefs about it.

  2. Viette*

    LW1 – at 30 years old you have a lot of time ahead of you. Changing a dynamic like this is challenging and difficult, but you have so much to gain. You can’t live like this for the rest of your life, and I so encourage you to start your hard work on “not living like this” right now.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I like Alison’s advice. You have to find the strength to stay away. Also, consider moving. Is there another state (or even another city) far enough away that commuting is not an option.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. If you live in Chicago see what might be available in Seattle or Portland; if you live in Houston — Chicago is a really great place to work and live. Nothing helps solve enmeshment problems in family like 1000 miles.

        1. Shakti*

          This!! Nothing more enlightening and helpful than moving over 1000 miles from family to free yourself from the dynamics that are hurting you

          1. DJ Abbott*

            The best thing I ever did was move from Southeast Kansas to Chicago as a young adult. Being far enough that family only visited once or twice a year made a big difference!
            Also for both LW1 and LW2, it can take a few tries to get find a good therapist, so don’t get discouraged if the first or second one doesn’t work out. I found my therapist on the third try.

          2. Butterfly Counter*

            Even if your family dynamics aren’t hurting you, the space is often lovely. Both my SO and I grew up in families that had moved far from their families of origin, and we saw the benefits of that move. So we both ended up doing the same, even though we both get along well with our families.

            Sometimes it does suck. The pandemic was hard. But the good overall outweighs the bad for a lot of people. You definitely get more objectivity when everything isn’t all right up in your face and having to be dealt with immediately.

            1. Sorrischian*

              My parents, unlike my extended family, have good boundaries, so I only live 3 hours away from them instead of 10+ for the rest of my relatives, but I’m a huge proponent of moving away from your home town. Even if you eventually decide to move back, that space can be hugely freeing.

        2. Hen in a Windstorm*

          My family used to live in Florida and I moved all the way to Philadelphia at the time. One of the best decisions I ever made. It took me so long to figure out my mom’s passive-aggressiveness was not normal behavior and that her fears didn’t need to be my fears.

      2. NotBatman*

        I fully agree! What worked for me in a similar situation is the old saw “get forgiveness, not permission”. In my case, I left a job that was 30 minutes’ drive from my (kind but clingy) parents, and took a better one that’s a 5-hour drive away — and I told my parents the week I started. At that point they knew persuasion wasn’t an option, so they swallowed their objections and congratulated me. Over the previous 6 months of quiet job hunting, I’d had my siblings allied with me, and they helped me deal with the guilt over my white lie through making a lot of jokes about this being a top-secret mission to help me flee the state. Your dad can support you or he can fail to do so by focusing on himself, and that’s how I encourage you to frame it that way in your own mind.

    2. coffee*

      So much time still to come! And it’s so common now for people to have a change in careers that you have for sure not missed the boat. There are still so many possibilities open to you.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        Also, you can make a “career” out of a variety of different jobs that capitalize on the same skills. Having a career doesn’t necessitate being in a specialized job or field- I have my degree in English, worked retail for 6 years, then switched to office jobs (receptionist/office assistant, dispatcher, billing specialist, now an office administrator). A lot of the skills I learned at each job have been transferable to each other and none required more than on the job training (though I did take some basic Excel classes at a local trade school in the mid-2000’s to brush up on that). If you need to get out of your family business immediately, there are probably jobs out there for you to make that jump to, especially right now with so many job openings. Probably if you play up the right skills on your resume and in interviews, you can land something. And don’t rule anything out- the 7 years I worked in trucking were unexpected and fine; I ended up leaving not because trucking wasn’t working for me, but because of a physical change in the job location.

    3. Jess(ica)*

      I joined the Navy right out of high school. Getting far away from the mess that was my family made it easier to see what I wanted and to recognize the detrimental effect they were having on me. Seconding Allison’s therapy recommendation too. I haven’t spoken to my parents in nearly 8 years and my mental health and sense of self have been far better for it. Also, when I left the Navy, I kept doing the same kind of work for a total of 17 years. I was 30 when I figured out what field I really wanted to go into, went to school for it at 33, and graduated at 37. It is never too late to figure out what you want.

        1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

          I have recently retired and am contemplating a new career. I’m healthy and anticipate a good number of years of working life left. And now, I don’t have to worry about income potential and can look at fun jobs that may or may not pay well.

          It’s never too late.

          1. Avery*

            You’re not alone in that, either. I went to paralegal school with someone for whom working as a paralegal was part of their “retirement” (in quotes because obviously that’s still work, just a different kind than what he’d done in his previous career).

        2. Lyudie*

          I went back to school for a master’s in my early 40s and changed careers. *fistbump* It’s possible!

        3. Clisby*

          I went back to college for a degree in computer science at age 32. I had a degree in journalism and had been working for newspapers since I was 20, and decided on a career change. At 35, I started on the computer programming job where I worked for roughly 27 years (last 17-18 years completely remote). It turned out the journalism training actually was quite useful in my IT job, but I hadn’t expected that.

        4. Hen in a Windstorm*

          I have a dear friend who started film school in LA at that age. She is finally living her dream of being a director.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I always knew that I wanted to teach, but the competition for teaching jobs in Ireland when I graduated in 2004, was pretty fierce and I was subbing for 13 years and didn’t get a long term, permanent, pensionable job until I was close to 37, so sometimes even when you do know what you want, it takes a while to get there.

        Basically just agreeing with you that 30 is young and the LW has time to figure things out.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I have friends who are teachers in Ireland, and I can never get my head around the fact that there’s more teachers than jobs there. It’s such a shortage profession here in the UK, they’re absolutely desperate for people to train (currently a £27k bursary for some STEM teacher training!)

            1. Irish Teacher*

              We’re probably helped by the fact that teachers are one of the largest groups in our parliament. Now that doesn’t stop some of them from making decisions that have me thinking “um, you were literally a teacher yourself five years ago. How can you not be aware of x, y or z,” but at least we regularly have Ministers for Education that have spent time in a classroom. Our current Minister for Education stepped straight from the classroom into her position as Minister for Education. And our tanáiste (deputy prime minister) was also once a teacher.

              People I know who have worked in the UK say ye have longer hours and a lot more paperwork to do than we do here, so those issues probably play a part.

          1. thatoneoverthere*

            I am in the US. The pandemic changed alot and now there are alot of teacher shortages.

            However when I graduated college in 2008, it was incredibly difficult to get a teaching job. Teachers often stayed in the same school for their entire career. I had one friend that couldn’t find a teaching job for almost 5 years and gave up and went into another profession. Others would move across the country for a job. It was nuts. I actually started out as an education major in college and eventually changed for a bunch of reasons but getting a job was a big fear of mine.

            1. Lyudie*

              And as I understand it, even when there are openings, the district often doesn’t have/want to put up the money to hire more teachers. I had a college friend who became a science teacher, and he was prepared to look for a few years before he found a place to land.

              1. Boof*

                Can attest, over a decade and a half, in several states, while there may be an overall teacher shortage usually the readily available jobs are harsh in some way (ie, in underserved areas where you’re probably managing unreasonable demands by admin to make numbers look better instead of actually teach, struggling to teach because the kids you got were passed along without knowing the material, or have unstable home environments; or jobs that are fairly short term positions and don’t pay great; etc etc)

                1. Clisby*

                  Or a lot of the readily available jobs are harder to fill. Apparently, there are way more people applying to be high school history/English teachers than math/chemistry teachers.

                2. Kit*

                  @Clisby: That’s been true for over a decade now; the ratios of applicants to positions are worst in the Humanities, better in the Sciences, and best of all in Languages (because while a Biology teacher can probably sub in for Chemistry to cover a course gap, a German teacher can’t fake French proficiency).

            2. Selina Luna*

              It definitely varied from place to place. Where I got my first teaching job, it was so rural that a person could expect to drive 45 minutes each way to get basic groceries, and 2 hours if they needed medications. Teachers had housing available on the school campus, so they didn’t have to commute every morning, but that wasn’t necessarily better either. For lots of reasons, they were always hiring new teachers. And now there’s such a teacher shortage, I’m seeing names of long-term subs in all kinds of positions that never needed them before.

      2. lifebeforecorona*

        A big yes from someone who sent to school later in life and graduated at age 42 with the degree that I always dreamed about.

      3. Chauncy Gardener*

        Came here to put in my vote for distance, therapy and independence from your family of origin. Since your parents brought you up, it can be so difficult to see any inherent dysfunction, but believe me, it is there.
        You do not have to live like this! It is never too late to do a career change. People are even doing them in retirement now and also reinventing themselves several times over the course of their working life.
        You can do this, OP! We’re all rooting for you!

        1. MigraineMonth*

          My aunt and uncle built a boat, retired, and spent several years sailing around the Caribbean. Then they got bored, retired from retirement, and have rejoined the workforce.

      4. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        I changed careers in my late 30s. It took several years because there was a medical component driving the change, but my new career is something I wanted, rather than what I kind of fell into before.

    4. Your local password resetter*

      I’d also suggest looking into resources for people who have controlling or emotionally manipulative parents. That stuff can cause deep-rooted self esteem issues, as you’ve experienced. If you can separate your self-image from their opinions and recognize when they’re being unreasonable, that will make it harder for them to tear you down when you try to establish yourself.

      1. Stag Beetle*

        I second this. If you look around online you’ll start to see that there are lots of bubbles of support and discussion out there about this issue.

      2. Lady_Lessa*

        One very good book about how much it takes to break away is “Educated” by Tara Westover. It took her a number of tries before the final break.

        She was fortunate that other sides of the family and strangers helped her.

      3. ferrina*

        Yes, this is great advice! If you’re finding it hard to emotionally break away from your parents expectations, there’s resources out there that can support. Therapy is a great resource, but if you need something less expensive, there’s plenty of great resources on the web. Captain Awkward is a great place to start- she has a lot of excellent material on family dynamics.

    5. Alice*

      OP please look into therapy. You need to stand up for yourself and separate from your parents. You are 30- you don’t have do what your parents say anymore.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        That’s true, but when you’re stuck in a job you don’t want and can’t see a way out, it’s easy to catastrophize about it. I was in a similar position (not working for a parent, but working in a job I didn’t want and couldn’t see a way out of) not long ago, every job I’d applied for had either rejected or ghosted me and I was melting down about how I’d have to stay in the job I hated for 27 more years until I was old enough to retire. My support system helped me see that wasn’t true, and it wasn’t, but in the moment when I felt to trapped, it sure felt true.

        OP, the commenters here are right. You feel like you don’t have any options, but you do. You don’t have to be trapped here.

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          After about three months in my first (and only) full-time job, I had a nervous breakdown and was convinced all my options were gone and I had to stick it out until retirement (and also convinced that I could never retire because I’m a millennial–still a valid concern). I was 25.

      2. Lydia*

        I suspect the belief that 30 is too old to make major career changes is something they’ve been told, probably by the same parents who assume the OP will just take over the business.

        1. Artemesia*

          A father who wants his child to take over the family business but pays $16 an hour is either running an unviable business or an exploitive doink. He wants to run the OP’s life but isn’t willing to even pay them a living wage while holding them in bondage.

          Absolutely look for a job with better pay 1000 miles from there; do not discuss this with anyone in the family and let them know when you have accepted the job and have your tickets to travel.

    6. Laura*

      LW1, I know it’s not what you asked, but you said you are on your second or third career, if you ever had one. I am 35 and just a couple of years into what I’ve finally found as something approximating a “career.” I’ve hopped around lots of different types of jobs, and finally found a path that lets me use all the things I’ve enjoyed and the knowledge I’ve gotten from all those different places. There is so much time left to figure out what you want to do; there is also nothing wrong with bouncing across different career paths, chasing what is interesting and valuable to you. Hang in there.

      1. ferrina*

        Seconded! LW, you don’t need a “vision” for your career. You can just keep doing the next right thing. Honestly, that can be a lot more productive than trying to stick to a career script (since the market can change so quickly).

        I started in Career A (where I got a Masters….giant waste of money for that field); couldn’t find a living wage job so moved to temping, which landed me in Career B. I wasn’t passionate about Career B, but it was interesting in its own way and paid well. I stayed in that for about 10 years, then suddenly had a custom job designed for me which is 50% Career A and 50% Career B. There was no way I could have ever envisioned this role.
        I’m not the only one with a career path like this. My mom spent 10 years in Career J, then pivoted to completely unrelated field with Career K, then in Career K accidentally became an expert in Career L, and now has worked in career L for almost a decade. My brother started in Career X, worked there for quite a while, then got burnt out and moved to semi-related Career Y. Same with my sister. And for all of us, our second career was one that we didn’t even know existed when we started our first career.

      2. Tib*

        OP, you don’t need a vision for your career, but it could be helpful to create one. Or at least a better story for your past choices. You worked warehouse and retail because you were burnt out. That’s a good reason. And you can think about what led to the burnout and what you can do to avoid it in the future. You know the real reason for why your family was paying you so little for such high level work, but the self-marketing version could be that you were helping them out of a tough spot. Helping family is a positive. And you’re glad you were at a stage in life where you could do that. And now they “don’t need” your help anymore and you’re free to rebuild your career in a direction that’s “always fascinated” you. Or now you’re free to explore what interests you. And if you were to expect fair pay and hours for the work you do for them, they probably wouldn’t want that. And maybe they can’t afford it. And you deserve to be fairly compensated and appreciated for your work. So there’s a kernel of truth in saying you don’t need to help them anymore.

      3. Boof*

        as an oncologist in the USA, didn’t even finish training until 36 – undergrad + 2 years research + 6 years med degree combined with a masters + 3 years residency + 3 years fellowship – yes I was working towards a career goal most of that time but there were a few zigs in there that added 4-7 years to the process (depending on how hard you’re gunning and how early). That’s not unusual for many careers. I think the first thing is just to identify a goal; and it’s ok to just want to work for money to live your non-work life too! That’s a goal! Just have to figure out how much money you want then and what jobs seem the most feasible / pleasant way to achieve it.

    7. MCMonkeyBean*

      I also think there is a significant flaw in their logic when they say “I almost feel resigned to stay here until he retires.”

      OP, I don’t know why you would assume the pressure would stop when he retires! If anything I would expect it to ramp up further at that point, presumably pushing you to follow in his footsteps.

      If this is not the life you want to live, you need to make the changes you want ASAP. It will be hard but it is doable, and it’s something that will likely only get harder the longer you wait. But I would urge you to think carefully about what you really want and not just jump on the first life raft you find as that is only likely to result in you boomeranging back again.

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        I have a friend who used to be in a similar situation. She had to step up when her father began “succession planning,” because he fully intended his daughters to carry on his business, including the one who had no interest in his industry. They had absolutely no desire to do so, especially because he had not been running the company in a sustainable way–it all depended on him to run, and he was the only one invested in it.

        It was very difficult to stand up to him, because he was used to getting his way both within the business and his family through sheer force of will inertia, but I was very proud when my friend pushed back against everything she had been raised with and didn’t let him just force her into a lifelong commitment to appease his ego.

        She didn’t try therapy then, but she is in it now to combat some similar pressures. +1 to Alison’s recommendations, LW. These intrinsic pressures can be a lot to unpack.

      2. Gracely*

        This. The pressure will only get worse as your parents age.

        It wasn’t easy, but both me and my sibling had to tell our mother that neither of us were going to take on the (very successful!) business she’s built, for multiple reasons, but mostly, because that business was her dream, built on her talents, not ours. It took her awhile to accept it, but what helped the most was both of us finding our own careers/jobs. Once we did that, it was a lot easier for her to get it.

        Distance helps A LOT. Seriously, LW1, move away, live with roommates if you have to, but get some space from your parents. It makes separating from their expectations so much easier. My younger sibling bore the brunt of my mom’s hopes for taking over her business the entire post-college time he lived in the same town; once he moved 800 miles away for a job, she finally dropped the pressure–even when he eventually came back for other reasons to build his own, completely different business.

    8. Dona Florinda*

      My situation is very different from OP’s, but I second this.

      I had a very succesful job right out of college, then the company shut down and I couldn’t find a new job in my field anywhere. Eventually I took a job in retail and stayed for three years, even though I hated it, because I had bills to pay. When I was 28 (and feeling like I would work retail until I died), a former peer offered me an entry-level job at her company – I would be making even less money than in retail, but it would put me back in the field. Eventually I moved up the ranks and only now, at 32, I’m starting to make a name for myself. I still have a long way to go, but I promise you, it’s so worth it.

    9. Daisy-dog*

      I saw a TikTok from a 25-year-old who said that she expected to have “things figured out” by the time she’s 35 because that’s what happened on shows like Friends & How I Met Your Mother. I definitely said, “Oh sweetie”.

      There’s no deadline. Just do what works and free yourself from your father.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I had everything figured out when I was 30. Of course, I was wrong about all of it, but at the time I knew everything.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          LOL I had my career mapped out for the next ten years when I was in my last year at school. I only managed the first thing, then gaily abandoned the rest.

      1. Salsa Verde*

        That was my thought – this is almost not a question about career at all, it’s a question about family and self-image and independence.

  3. Rd*

    LW2- don’t disclose your medical information to anyone and they can’t spread it around. They don’t need details about any of your medical information. Sure, they’ll eventually figure out that you are pregnant, but details are none of their business if you don’t want them to know.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        Or, “I’m not feeling well and won’t be coming to work today.”

        And later on: “Just letting you know I’m still not feeling well and won’t be in tomorrow either.”

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          My principal wants us to text him when we call out sick, and my text chain with him is just a long string of “This is [full name]. I’m not feeling well so I’m staying home today.” Sometimes when I open the thread I feel pressure to vary it up with explanations, but I resist.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, I can understand why OP2 thought that some context would be helpful to her boss but this is the second time the boss has shared her medical information. So the boss has lost the privilege of helpful medical context.

      1. Ganymede*

        Also, sometimes when you have a personal emergency that is potentially a bit frightening, it can be hard to resist the impulse to tell someone, even if you realise afterwards that perhaps it was a mistake. You just feel the need to have another human know what you’re going through. However, as everyone is saying, it’s better to rein it in if you can.

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I tell my boss details, but I am not that private about medical details and I know my boss and trust her not to go sharing things like that. If my boss ever disclosed a miscarriage, a very personal thing, to my coworkers, I would never trust her again. But she never would, and I would likely end out telling one or two myself anyhow because, again, I am just not that private about stuff. I always assume other people are private though and I do not share anyone else’s information like that.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, please please never tell your boss anything personal again–they are 2 for 2 on spreading it around and they have lost the right to get any details.

    3. straws*

      Yes, this exactly. I don’t know why so many bosses seem to think that medical details are in any way helpful to managing an absent employee. I had an employee who fell ill and required surgery. He let me know when he was ill and when he learned about the surgery, he told me that he needed a procedure & the expected time out. When there was a complication, he updated me with the new timeline. My bosses kept pushing me for more information about what he was ill with and more about the procedure, which I declined to do (the guy is sick enough for surgery! I’m not going to harass him!) Eventually he did share more details in a later conversation when he was back to work and I discovered that those details would have changed… nothing. Absolutely nothing was dependent on knowing exactly what was going on. Don’t feel pressure to share more than you want to, outside of the details that actually impact the job – time out of office and any necessary restrictions during recovery.

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Yes, OP, the only info the boss needs is that you have a medical emergency and cannot be at work, and if it is a hospital/emergency visit, they will provide you with a doctor’s note that will say that you were seen for medical reasons and that you need to be excused from work for that day (or however long they determine necessary). They are never more specific due to HIPAA, and boss cannot say that the information is not enough. If she were to push back, it is time to go to HR because she is not entitled to more information than she needs to be able to figure out and provide a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, and that really is not something she needs more info for here … it is just excusing you from work for a day or so, not something she needs information to accommodate.

      I am particularly astounded that she told people about a miscarriage, as that is a highly personal situation. That she then gave details to a coworker that include that it was an issue related to pregnancy (after a previous miscarriage) was even worse! I would not disclose any unnecessary info to the boss going forward if she cannot see why her disclosure was particularly inappropriate in those circumstances.

      As for the coworker you do not get along with, if she asks questions, tell her that you had a medical emergency and that is all she needs to know and you do not wish to discuss your personal medical matters. I have been asked to handle cases last minute for colleagues in medical or personal emergencies and I never ask or feel entitled to know the details. I assume my boss knows what she needs to know before asking me. It also helps that I work with a team that I like and trust and who I trust will support me when I need it. But I do not ask questions and would be rather shocked if my boss told me anything as detailed as that.

      If your boss pushes for more information going forward, I would just say, “Honestly, miscarriage and pregnancy related emergencies are very personal and I am very private about medical information in general. I was rather surprised that my coworkers found out those details when I only shared them with you, but I acknowledge that I had not advised you that I wished to keep them private. So, instead of putting you in that position again, I am going to just give you the “need to know” information, so there is no confusion going forward.” That sends the message while actually making it hard for her to express offense, because you are framing it as “I don’t want to put you in that position again.”

    5. Frango lover*

      I had a supervisor who had zero tact and a bulldog personality. Once I called in sick and he told me he would not approve it without a doctor’s excuse. I asked when did this become policy and he told me someone else had already called in sick, and he didn’t want to be short staffed. I asked if this meant if I had called in first, the other person would have to get a doctor’s note. He told me yup. So I told him I was getting that doctor’s note, got my leave approved, and had a totally unnecessary visit.

      Two weeks later, he comments that again there are going to be 2 workers off due to calling in sick. I said very politely “Just for my information, who is the person who has to get the doctor’s excuse?”
      He got this oh-shit look on his face and mumbled something about this being a different situation.
      Later I heard him telling the manager that he was worried I was about to file a grievance over this. I got to overhear the reaming he received from the manager, and enjoy the transfer he received to a non-supervisory role a month later. Mind you, this was a federal agency with all sorts of laws regarding employee leave.

      Since then, if a manager asks why I am taking sick leave, I tell them Female Trouble. No further conversation ensues!

    6. Artemesia*

      this. Understandable in your panic that you told the boss why you were rushing out, but never do this again — You have been burned twice. Especially don’t disclose a pregnancy if you don’t want it being babbled about. No one ever keeps this kind of juicy gossip private once they know and that goes for embarrassing maladies too — your bladder infection or ovarian cyst or colon issues. People like to gossip. The only way not to hve this discussed is to be discreet yourself.

      And the boss is a total jerk. Regardless of what medical information he received he had no business discussing it with anyone else. He is 100% in the wrong here, but now you know to protect yourself.

      1. Tally*

        A co-worker told me she was pregnant, and I didn’t share that with anyone, figuring it was her news to share when she chose to. And pregnancy is “juicy gossip”? Good lord…

    7. OP2 Here*

      I have learned a very important lesson in what and how much to discuss with anyone. My boss always asks details about anything medical going on, and it can sometimes make me uncomfortable, but I’ve always obliged. This situation combined with a long list of disrespectful behavior from my boss will forever change how I interact at work. I plan to share no more pregnancy details (gender, symptoms, etc) because I clearly can’t trust him to keep it a secret. Also like to point out that I’ve been adamant that this coworker didn’t know anything about my last pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage, so the fact he felt okay telling this coworker that I was “possibly having a miscarriage” was extremely out of line. And yes, that is exactly what he told the coworker.

      1. Kit*

        stares See, the line is here, with reasonable people. What your boss did is so far over the line that it is, presumably, in another ZIP code if it’s even still in the same country!

        “As you have proven unable to keep from speculating, incorrectly, on private medical information I’ve given you in the past, I will be avoiding giving any of it to you in the future. This way, you won’t be embarrassed to realize that you not only blabbed my personal business, you were talking out of your ass about it!” Okay, so I wouldn’t actually say it, but I’d be awfully tempted. (One reason to refrain: I’m pretty sure this guy wouldn’t feel at all embarrassed to realize he was this far off base, sadly.)

    8. tamarack etc.*

      Well, yeah, but if you experience an emergency with a pregnancy complication it is completely understandable that the OP didn’t keep the coolest head. She should still be able to expect respect for her privacy from her boss.

  4. Waving not Drowning*

    OP3 I feel for you!

    One of my previous managers wanted to be our best friend – with serious boundary crossing questions that I wouldn’t discuss except with my closest friends, replaying domestic disputes with her husband, was incredulous that my husband I had swapped roles – he was self employed, and managed his schedule around school pickup and school holidays – which was insane to her that he wasn’t making $$, and also micromanage – which was not good. Other highlights – she also employed friends/family and gave them favourable assignments and opportunities she denied to the rest of the staff, complain about current team members to her favourites – who were our peers etc etc etc.

    After 18 months of this, it drove me to a breakdown. I went to HR and laid it all out – that she wouldn’t let us do our job, the unprofessional conversations etc. HR told me that she was a new manager, and that she was still learning, and that we needed to give her more time. I jumped ship to another team very quickly!!! By the time that I left, half the team had already resigned, and 50% of those who were left were on some form of medication for anxiety/stress and accessing the EAP for counselling.

    Noone took our complaints seriously (HR didn’t even document it), and she was promoted 6 months afterwards to lead an even bigger team. Where, after a few months, exactly the same issues happened (except the nepotism – she tried, but she couldn’t bring her daughter in law with her). This time, it was on a much larger scale, and there was a more competent HR person, who actually listened to the complaints, and after 8 months in the job, with a mass exodus of staff, she was quietly shunted to the side and supervises less staff than when she was with our original team.

      1. Taylor*

        Op3, I feel needs to just find another job. This type of work dynamic between her boss and grand boss is dysfunctional. And guess who’s going to be the learning curve/punching bag, the OP. Reading the post also makes me wonder if the didn’t bring OP on board to indirectly help fill and knowledge deficits aka help her new boss learn from her. Which is not her job and any help OP does give her new boss, her grand boss will see it as expected from OP.
        It’s an unhealthy dynamic already and I can’t see it functioning if OP has to bare with people learning at her expense versus being supported properly, being me tired properly and being empowered and helped to do her job.

      2. Waving not Drowning*

        It was one of the worst times in my professional life. I normalised crying in the car on the way home from work. She stopped speaking to me after I spoke to HR the first time, which was hilarious – she’d come into our shared workspace, and position herself so she had her back to only me, and would address the room (there were places she could stand to talk to the whole room). At least it meant that any communication was in writing – and she was smart enough not to put in writing the unprofessional behaviour. At that point I’d already started to put feelers out about moving to another Team.

        Everything I (and the team) did was questioned – interrogated – even thinks like – you used YELLOW to highlight in that column! Why THAT colour!! You should use GREEN!!! She declared that parts of our job were “useless” and directed us to not do them, and wouldn’t listen when we said they were essential for audit purposes, and provided documentation from above. She was in her 40’s, the rest of the team were older (apart from her friends and daughter in law), and it blew – her – mind. She legit couldn’t cope with it, saying that she’d rather die than still be in our “dead end jobs” at THAT age (dead end to her, they were well paying professional jobs). She trash talked our job, she trash talked us individually to the rest of the team – her friend did complain to HR about that, and was also given a similar brush off (I could do a whole post on the HR person!). Manager wouldn’t let us take advantage of our flexible work arrangements (work from home, staggered start times, etc etc) yet, took advantage of them herself – and allowed her DIL to work from home, and to pick and choose her hours, because “she trusted her”. DIL left the team shortly after her MIL did, because the new manager actually held her accountable to her KPI’s.

    1. DrMrsC*

      I have a current director who would buy into this concept. In his case, the people who are most reliable and productive are (shocker) also the ones who think critically, use logic, ask questions, and push back when something doesn’t seem right (we work in a medical office). He much prefers the employees who you can’t really trust to get the job done – or done right – but are effectively blindly obedient.

      1. Artemesia*

        The best boss I ever had who was hugely successful in turning around a failing division of an organization was beloved by me precisely because he was so personally secure that he welcomed negative feedback. People were honest with him in a problem ridden environment because there was no shooting of messengers. He particularly valued me and promoted me several times because in an environment that was intrinsically not open and honest when he arrived, I was the one who was willing to tell him ‘the truth’ as I saw it.

        Bosses who can’t take push back don’t get the intelligence they need about how things are going and in a situation where things are not going well this can be a serious problem.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          Yep. I figure I’m doing my job right as a manager when an employee tells me I screwed up. A) They felt safe to do that, and B) I got valuable information (they’re usually right) and an opportunity to fix the problem.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      I hate the “well, she’s new,” response so much. Because in 95% of the cases, it’s not like the company provides management training, so the new manager isn’t going to learn that they’re doing it wrong unless their boss tells them. The grandboss just wants to cross her fingers and hope new managers learn through some process other than being taught.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, that’s a terrible excuse. If she’s doing a bad job because she’s new, company should absolutely be training the manager to not continue to do the bad job, they shouldn’t let her flounder in her incompetence.

      2. Kes*

        What’s even worse is the “her interview was so good I know she’ll impress you”. Plenty of people are good at interviews and bad at their jobs (or vice versa) – clinging to the interview impression in the face of evidence that manager is not doing a good job does not make me think much of grandboss’s abilities as a manager either.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          “Her interview was good, so I’ve decided not to manage her in any way, even though she’s doing a terrible job. Managing this “good” employee is so draining!”

          1. LW3*

            It didn’t seem relevant to the letter, but that manager went on emergency leave for 2 months after I wrote to grandboss about the crying incident. I’m really shocked she came back and my temporary manager made sure that I moved teams before her return. No idea how she’s doing after returning from leave.

      3. Taylor*

        This says a lot about the work culture already, it’s sink or swim since there is no management training or support. No real investment from the company standpoint and doesn’t seem to be any external learning that the new manager is doing on her own or even trying. The new boss crying in front of employee because she’s too good is unprofessional and very boundary crossing. Lots of red flags for me!

        1. LW3*

          The wildest part is there IS company management training! All new managers have to take this three month long Leadership Course before they start the job. I looked at the curriculum and… it’s mainly Brene Brown books about vulnerability in leadership. There’s this frankly bizarre culture where being overly emotional is highly valued and seen as being “authentic.”
          I love my job here and it’s been the most comfortable work environment I’ve had thus far as someone neurodivergent. My new manager reports to a different grandboss so I’m hoping to stick it out for a while longer until I can learn some more skills and move up.

    3. INeedANap*

      It’s kind of infuriating that after being the reason why tons of people left, she wasn’t summarily fired, and is still managing people. They can afford to lose all the great workers that quit, but can’t afford to lose a terrible manager? Ugh. I am so sorry you went through that!

      1. Artemesia*

        This is pretty much a truth of the universe. Management protects crummy managers even when they lost good workers — workers being a dime a dozen in their view. If you are hiring into a management role as opposed to promoting from within then you really should nt have to be providing a lot of management training. Investigating the person’s management history and success should be part of vetting the candidate before making an offer. Obviously if you have failed to do that and have a manager who is not performing, they should be released during probation or else provided some intensive training.

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Yeah, I have no patience for bosses acting like they are my therapist or like there are no boundaries. My boss and I have a great and even warm relationship. When my car broke down, she offered to come get me, pick up my dog from doggy daycare, and drive me home (and I do not live close to my office). But she would never tell me or expect me to share intimate relationship details or step into a therapy role, and she would never openly judge my lifestyle choices (and husbands and fathers taking on that role should be normalized … why should it have to be the woman to do that role? Does she not understand that many men would like to have a role that allows them to be a more active caretaker to their child, and many women would like to advance in their careers without some of those burdens and the added stereotypes that people have about working moms?). My boss and I are friendly, but she has never overstepped the boundary into being friends. And I know she would do the same for any of my coworkers!

  5. Sue Wilson*

    Alison: OP5 says that they want to be considered for the role they applied for; I think your script implies that they should consider the lower role.

    OP5: I would answer the recruiter with your actual thoughts. “Hi [recruiter name], I am actually interested in [role you applied for], not [lower role]. Is that [role you applied for] still available?”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s unlikely they’re going to be a strong candidate for the first job in this context — typically the subtext here is “no for job 1, but let’s talk about job 2.” But I’ll update my answer to say that more explicitly.

    2. goducks*

      They know the LW is interested in the higher role because that’s the role they applied foe, and the one they interviewed for. It seems the employer is not interested in them for that role. Instead of just rejecting her outright, they want to interview her for this other role.

      Given that, Alison’s advice is solid, she should ask for the relevant info (job description and salary) and decide if it is something she wishes to pursue.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          This was my thought. That OP was close, but needs a little development within their own company, but will be promoted internally after that development.

          1. Artemesia*

            I sure would not assume or count on that. Promises are just words. She may want to look at what the offer entails — maybe it is a lateral move but pays more and there is a track record of promotions at the new company.

            but it is also fine to say ‘I am interested in being an X which is why I applied for the position; I am not interested in making a lateral move at this point, so will withdraw from consideration.’

          2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            It depends on what opportunities become available internally though… presumably the step upwards from the “more junior” role they’re offering her would be the job she applied for in the first place — but don’t they still have a requirement now for the job she applied for? So she’d be banking on that person leaving in a year’s time or whatever is considered a reasonable time to develop into a more senior position…

      1. Princess Peach*

        A similar thing happened to me once too, although the organization did a far better job communicating about it.
        They liked me, thought I interviewed well, and that I’d be a good fit, but someone else with better qualifications all around was the top pick.
        There was a lower opening they haven’t advertised yet, but since I’d already gone through the process, they offered me that job. It would have been a lateral move, which we both knew. The hiring manager explained there would be room for growth in a few years. I politely declined as I was in process with a couple other organizations already, but no harm done.
        I was pleased they liked me, and it boosted my confidence. The person they hired was indeed more qualified, and she’s done an excellent job there.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah, in this case OP could lay their cards on the table and say that they were applying to job #1 because they want to advance and see if the company has thoughts about why job #2 would be a better fit and how long it might take for them to get to the point where they’d be ready for job #1 (provided another opening at that level would be available; not always so at a small company). Obviously OP could just turn them down, but if you are really not interested in job #2 I don’t see any harm in asking. And asking might give you answers that you want and make you realize that job #2 is one that you might want.

      2. OP #5*

        Luckily I did ask for the salary and job description before proceeding – the salary topped out at lower than what I’m currently making, and the job description was basically the same as my current job. The hiring manager had made it clear that they weren’t interested in growing the department beyond hiring for these two roles, so I would have been stuck in the same “only way to move up is for someone to pass away or leave” position as I am in my current role. I ended up turning them down.

        1. Me ... Just Me*

          Sorry to hear this. It could be that they were looking for someone with management experience (if this was a management role) and your previous experience has been as a sole contributor. I obviously know very little about you or your situation, but wanted to suggest that you highlight any leadership (formal or informal) experience that you have – leading projects, peer interviews, mentoring others, etc. Sometimes, acknowledging that even though you haven’t formally had the role, you’ve acted in some capacity as that role, can be hugely beneficial in getting bumped up to that next level.

        2. Hlao-roo*

          Thanks for updating us in the comments! Definitely a disappointing situation. I hope you have better luck going forward in your job search.

        3. tamarack etc.*

          It makes complete sense. I don’t think they did anything wrong – they and you just didn’t align. (Except possibly lowballing on compensation, but that’s a different matter.)

    3. Lost my name again*

      They have been considered for the other role, and a final interview for that position was not extended, unfortunately. The LW can make them say it explicitly I guess (and the recruiter 1000% should have done so to begin with), but it’s unlikely to change the outcome. The task now is to determine if they want to be considered for the other role!

    4. anon for this*

      It’s fine to ask, but I’ll add another bit of perspective. In some industries it’s not uncommon to go back to an IC role briefly to learn what the heck is going on in the org before moving up to manager (this is common at some big tech companies for instance). As a manager you’re in meetings all day (as an engineering manager, for instance, in software) and it’s really useful to, uh, actually know the code a bit, and the issues at the org. So that step to IC and then to management is useful. It’s a risk of course, but in software there are many folks who do not want to be managers so it’s not the same dynamic as in other fields where it is only up or out.

      I don’t want the letter writer to abandon dreams of managing, but I will caution them that launching *into* management at a new company where you don’t know the politics etc, with no other management experience, can be quite rocky. Many companies would be wary of hiring someone with no management experience into a management role — what if they turn out to be like some of the other not-good managers described in these letters? There’s no evidence to weed out such candidates if they’ve never managed. Thinking from both sides, then, I might suggest considering good companies that you think would support you in moving up quickly, rather than going straight into management.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Agreed. The way to deal with this is to talk with the hiring manager about what the plan is – is the candidate being considered for the lower role because that’s where they have pegged their skills, or is the plan to develop them into the manager role over time? What does success look like so the person can be promoted to a manager position? What training and development will be provided so that the person can progress? Does the role report directly to the hiring manager or will the manager role above them be filled (meaning that the progression won’t be possible for probably a couple of years).

        Once the candidate has that information, then they can decide if they would consider moving to the more junior role (that is probably somewhat lateral to the one they hold currently). But they would have to do the interview in order to get the information.

    5. M2*

      This happens. It happened to me years ago and it ended up being fine and I was promoted eventually. If you really want to work for this company and the salary and benefits are good then why not try?

      Also, I’m currently hiring for new positions at a Director level. My organization is known worldwide don’t want to give too much information but many people who get roles here take a “lateral” move. Many people aren’t coming from a similar-level organization. Sometimes you do have to take a lateral move and that’s ok. If you don’t want to take it then do some research and apply for other roles but if this keeps coming up really think about if a lateral move is what will actually get you to the next step.

      Also, someone in a different department but one I collaborate with frequently moved from an AVP to an AD! They wanted to move departments and wanted a better work-life balance they said. I don’t know how it worked salary wise, but they tell people all the time how much happier they are in the work they are doing and their work-life balance.

      Good luck, LW

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yes, I know LW said they’re not interested in a lateral move, but it could be valuable in this case, because this new job absolutely could have the path to advancement that LW is looking for. A year or two in the same job as now, essentially learning the company, could make them very valuable promotion material! It won’t hurt to ask reason/for job description and salary, and to ask about the path to the job you applied for. The worst that happens is you’re not aligned and can say no.

    6. JSPA*

      Why not ask for information?

      Perhaps they can offer more money and a defined path to a higher role (e.g. if they know an equivalent role is coming open in 6 months, and feel the lower role would let the LW learn the company culture and procedures).

      And sometimes, a seemingly lateral move is lateral in name only, but actually involves considerably more freedom / more reports / a wider range of experiences / more visibility.

      ” I’m very happy at my current job, except for the lack of near-term growth potential. Y job, rather than X, seems like a low-lateral move. Unless Y comes with a significant boost in responsibilities, pay, and growth potential, I will respectfully decline to interview, but hope to be considered in the future when you’re again looking for X.”

      That says “probably no, but willing to be convinced” for Y, and “definitely interested in X.”

      It’s not rude of the company to offer the lateral job–for all they know, the letter writer could be trying to escape a bad situation–so there should be no tinge of “WTF” in the communication.

      Also, there’s a chance at the recruiter simply made a mistake, and pasted in the wrong job description (if they’re recruiting for both at once).

    7. Allornone*

      My department recently went through this. We had two top candidates for a position- Scooter and Skeeter. We actually leaned toward Skeeter, but were told by the recruitment firm we hired (idiots) to go with Scooter, as he had more direct experience (Skeeter’s had all been in academia and we’re a non-profit). However, there was a lesser role in another department open that we offered to Skeeter. She turned it down (understandable, the difference in pay was about $10K). Well, Scooter quit before his first day for another organization (which we learned he quit within a week; neither actions were a surprise). We offered the position to Skeeter, who graciously accepted, despite our mishandling of the situation. She is doing great here.

      I guess my point is OP might actually be really good for the first role they interviewed for, but someone (seemed) better. So while Alison is probably right about not quite being the right fit, there is a chance that they were well fit, but someone was better and the company still hoped to have them in some capacity.

    8. Grammar Penguin*

      From an applicant’s perspective, how would one distinguish this situation from a deliberate and deceptive bait-and-switch? I get that this probably isn’t that, but how is an applicant supposed to know?

      We see letters here all the time from people complaining that they applied to one job but were offered another with lower pay and title. Those employers are rightly excoriated by the commentariat. But this situation isn’t like that for some reason. Everyone is giving this employer, hiring manager, and recruiter the benefit of the doubt that this wasn’t a deliberate bait-and-switch but possibly just poor communications at worst. I feel like I’m missing something here.

      So how does an applicant judge if the offer to interview for a different and lower position than they applied for is made in good faith or is a bait-and-switch?

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I honestly think a bait and switch is more likely to happen at the offer stage, with them just offering you a different job instead of scheduling another interview (where you will also have a chance to ask questions and find out more about what you are interviewing for). I do think they should have immediately given OP more info about the job she is being asked to final interview for without her having to ask, but OP does have the opportunity to ask more before taking the interview, and also has the chance to ask more at the interview. That’s unlikely to be an intentional bait and switch.

    9. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      OP says they don’t know anything about the second job. I think Alison is right to not rule that out. OP may want to ask more questions and may find the opportunity to be a good one, even if not what she originally applied for, especially if it comes with more money, and development options with strong room for advancement to the type of position she wants. I would definitely ask more questions about the job, though I think it is concerning that they did not lead in with details about the position. Going into a final interview without any real idea of what the new job is, what it entails, what the odds for growth are, and what salary and benefit options look like compared for the job she applied to seems like it may be a really big waste of everyone’s time.

  6. Sue Wilson*

    #OP1: As someone whose parent was also very, uh, directive, a good tactic in this situation is to make yourself a plan for the alternative you actually want. The plan should have the goal, the steps, the obstacles, and ways you can think of to overcome them, and also people who can help you overcome them or help you with steps.

    For instance, for someone who wants to be a lawyer:
    1. Be a lawyer
    2. Go to law school
    a. look up law schools
    b. take the lsat
    c. write an essay
    d. get recommendations

    For you since you don’t know what you want to do, your first step should probably be to find jobs that allow you to explore a variety of industries.

    The plan isn’t so much to get you out from your parents as it is to reassure you that you understand what outcome you should be looking for at each step, and to let you know which steps might take a little more will for you. You will then have significantly less weak moments when your parents’ expectations start looking good.

    1. spruce*

      Also, you don’t need to share the plan with your parents, or get their approval on it. And as others mentioned above, the plan will have a much higher chance of success if steps 1 or 2 involve “Moving at least 500 miles away”.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yes to this! If you want to talk to someone about your plans (I know I like to talk things out before making a life change), I recommend talking to a friend or to multiple friends. Preferrably friends who do not know your parents/contact your parents without you.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        That’s a good point. I have a pretty good relationship with my dad and I ask him for advice a lot, but it can be frustrating because he does what I assume is fairly typical of a parent which is generally assuming a decision I am making is probably not the best one and he’s always offering alternatives. Sometimes I want alternatives, but sometimes I would like acknowledgment that I have good ideas too!

        Anyway, if I am planning on doing something that I really don’t want to be talked out of I try not to tell him until after I’ve already done it. Like when my husband and I adopted a cat–part of me really wanted to share the process with him because it was exciting but also I was really nervous and that inner child part of me wanted a parent to tell me everything would be okay… but I thought it was more likely he would be like “wait, here are a bunch of things you should research, here are some other shelters you should look at, you should get a male cat instead, blah blah blah.” I was already kind of on the fence because our previous cat had only passed a few months earlier and I hadn’t intended to adopt again so soon but we fell in love with a cat at a cat cafe. I knew it would be pretty easy to talk me out of it and I didn’t want him to so I didn’t tell him.

        All that to say: don’t tell your parents about any potential career change until it’s time to put in your notice.

        1. Princess Peach*

          I learned to do the same thing. If I said, “I’m applying to X job,” I would get all kinds of advice from one parent and dozens of questions I couldn’t answer from the other.
          Now, I tell them, “I just accepted X job!” “I’m starting grad school next month!” “We just adopted a dog, isn’t she cute?”
          That way, we stay connected and they feel involved, but they don’t get a chance to weigh in during the decision-making part.

          1. Gracely*

            Yes! Present everything as a fait accompli. Do not tell them anything until it is set. It’s done and decided; you don’t need their advice/input, just their support.

            It might even help to say the part about just wanting their support explicitly if they keep trying to change your mind.

      3. Lilas*

        Yes, at this age and with this pushy and controlling of parents, you should be giving them very broad strokes of after-the-fact information, if that.

    2. ferrina*

      And it’s okay if this plan changes! (that’s part of why you don’t tell your parents- if you tell them and the plan changes, it becomes ammunition). I know so many people who wanted to be a lawyer. For some of them, the plan worked great! For some of them, they got to Step 2.b and couldn’t go any further. For some of them, they became a lawyer only to discover that they really didn’t want to be a lawyer, but now they needed a new plan to pay off all the law school debt and not be stuck as a lawyer forever. And all of these situations are normal.

      For many of us, our first plan doesn’t work. Nor our second. Sometimes not our fourth or fifth (I think I’m on about my 7th plan at this point?). But each time we revise the plan, we know more about ourself and our options.

      1. Artemesia*

        My brother retired after being CEO of several Fortune 500 companies, rich and successful. I remember back when he was about to get his BA and was applying to both law and business school. He called my parents to tell them he had been accepted at Stanford law school — their first words were ‘Have you heard from Harvard?’

        He did eventually get a Harvard business degree. But for the first words after a noteworthy success to be essentially ‘not good enough for us, what about Harvard?’ was pretty discouraging.

    3. STAT!*

      “… since you don’t know what you want to do”. I’d say Sue Wilson’s idea of looking at jobs in a variety of industries is very good advice. LW, please don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t know what you want to do. When you spend a lifetime trying to please your parents, you might discover a frightening emptiness inside when you ask yourself this question. (Ask me how I know!) It can take time. Exposure to a variety of industries will give you the experience to know what you can and can’t tolerate. Other commenters have suggested therapy, which also sounds like a good idea to me. Just avoid the trap of looking for your “passion”. You might not have a “passion”, other than to make an honest living! That’s okay too!

      1. STAT!*

        Ugh LW1, now I realise I should have responded to your statement that you felt you haven’t been able to craft a vision for your future. Too much about me & NOT having any vision! Anyway, good luck with the process ahead. I think there is lots of good advice here, and well-wishers.

  7. coffee*

    LW4: I find this especially funny because one of the “traits of Leos” is that we have tender egos, so surely this is one of the worst signs to trash talk?! It’s like house cats – if something undignified happens, and they do that little check to see if anyone saw it, then just pretend they totally meant for that to happen. If it did happen! Which it didn’t!

    (For the avoidance of doubt, I think it’s equal worse for anyone, regardless of their signs. No-one wants to be trash talked.)

    1. Hamster Manager*

      I’d set her back by lightly chiming in like “oh interesting, I’M a Leo!” right after she says something particularly heinous, and then just smile benignly at her awkwardness and enjoy the backpedalling.

    2. AngelicGamer*

      Like how, if you’re a Gemini without a physical twin, you must be two faced due to having two personalities. /eyeroll

  8. Sue Wilson*

    OP3: I think Alison’s advice is extremely solid, so I will just say that while I don’t want to say “change your whole personality”, I think some of your terror is because you have limited the actions you yourself can take by being passive. Fear can really intensify when you don’t see yourself as being in control, which is a significant part of passivity. When you view your life as something you are in control of because you can take action in it, it’s much easier to deal with fear imo.

    1. Asenath*

      This is a great point. And it can also help when floundering to reframe the periods spent working at something one took to keep the roof over one’s head (or at least, a rented room paid for) as “Hey, I survived on my own, fed and housed myself, took the time to get over (previous job I was unsuited for/whatever) and that’s great! Now I can decide what I want to do next!”

      But really, the best way to show your parents you are not going to work for them/not take their advice on potential jobs is simply to do it – work for someone else, sign up for training that fits your plans. It can be hard at first, but gets a lot easier with practice.

    2. Artemesia*

      Really good point and the way to start is to make decisive plan even tiny ones each day. Just looking for a job in another city — starting the steps of exploring options which you keep to yourself, will bump you out of that passive slough. Once you are doing something, even identifying processes for identifying jobs, you are now active.

      And a new job doesnt have to be a career — it only has to get you more money than $16 and hour — some distance, and a chance to get going somewhere else. You can sort out career options as you move along. My kid started her first job living in a share house with 4 roommates which made it affordable in a high cost area.

  9. SAS*

    LW4: LOL!! I would love to spend as long as possible in the job before being “found out” to just totally upend whatever notions they had when they discovered.

    I’m a much-maligned sign though so maybe pettiness is also a Cancer trait lol? I’ve always identified more with my Chinese Zodiac sign (which incidentally is about as opposite to the astrological sign as possible!)

    1. Roland*

      OP3, my manager has been a manager for less than a year and they’ve certainly never asked me for management advice or cried at me in our one on ones. Bonkers! “Good” and “bad” employees are not things that should come up in your management conversations, that’s so inappropriate. It’s normal to ask for feedback about other team members, and even ideas for growth for coworkers you’re senior to, but your manager sounds way way over that line.

    2. Avril Ludgateaux*

      My western Zodiac sign and my Chinese Zodiac sign are pretty aligned and neither of them describes me at all. I have a sign known for being bold, charismatic, attention-seeking, and powerful, none of which I would use to describe myself lol. Maybe I was more typical of my sign when I was younger (as in, as a child, not a young adult) but I mellowed out completely in adulthood.

      Although, one time, for kicks, I asked my mom for the exact time I was born, and I looked up my full star chart (with sun, moon, rising, and all those additional qualifiers) and the reading was so horribly on point at that stage of my life that I almost (almost!) started to believe in astrology.

      I realized I was hyperfocusing on the details that were accurate (which were also quite broad) and ignoring the ones that weren’t, and it occured to me that probably every star chart more or less said the same things but in different order. (It was such a long document, too, it went on for pages and pages, and repeated and contradicted itself a lot.)

      It was eerie how relatable it as at that time in my life, though. And, interestingly, it was the only time in my life that an astrological personality assessment wasn’t just a completely reductive one-note take based on my sun sign. I wish I had saved it because I would love to look at it now, at a completely different place in life, and see if I still find it as “accurate” as I did back then.

      ANYWAY… astrology can be fun if you understand it is entertainment, and ONLY entertainment. It’s a great way to illustrate confirmation bias and related phenomena, but it should never, ever be used in any meaningful context — certainly not in the workplace!

    3. ferrina*

      We have someone at my work who loves to guess everyone’s astrological sign, birth order, etc. It’s a hobby with her, and most of us find it vaguely amusing. She doesn’t take herself to seriously, and if she does trash talk, it’s generally a joke. It’s not to my taste, but so far as beliefs go, it’s nice that she doesn’t expect others to take it seriously at all.

      fwiw, she’s been completely wrong about every single guess she had about me :D

    4. nm*

      I always just tell people I don’t know what my zodiac is, and people who are really into horoscopes are very shocked. In reality I know it but I just hate the way it sounds to say “I’m a cancer”–i know it really means a crab but it sounds to me as if I’m some kind of tumor!

    5. Bagpuss*

      I am trying to remember which book I read where there is a bit about one of the characters having a friend who was a junior journalist on the local paper and had to rite the horoscopes, so used to write one specifically *for* his friend, tailored to what he knew about his habits and plans, until he got sacked for predicting too many horrible things .
      I think it was Douglas Adams but can’t remember which book, but it might have been a non-discworld Terry Pratchett.

      1. Hot Potato*

        That was one of the Dirk Gently novels–I don’t remember the part about him being sacked, but I definitely remember the quip about newspaper readership dropping by 1/12th!

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Removed a wildly off-topic thread here about people’s own star/Chinese zodiac signs … and am going to have to go through this whole comment section to remove comments making fun of other cultures’ religious beliefs (Indian and Chinese, to name two), which is not cool here, y’all. Please stop.

    7. tamarack etc.*

      I like to joke that while astrology is obviously nonsense I am nonetheless a stereotypical Sagittarius. (I’m a STEM researcher, so you would guess correctly what I’m thinking.)

      Zodiac joking at work is fine with me. But I’d not like it if it goes along with maligning certain signs / types – after all in the end someone is bound to be born under that sign, so it amounts to maligning groups of people. It’s not cool.

      1. tamarack etc.*

        Hum, I should say that the way the comment boxes showed up, I could not see Alison’s admonition until my comment appeared a the end of the comment thread. I’d probably not have commented had I seen that this ended up derailing.

        FWIW, I’m referring to back-of-TV-magazine western pop-culture horoscope stuff, and I’m certainly not thinking of anything of the level of a religion. Religious traditions live on a different philosophical plane and it’s inappropriate at work to debate respective values of other people’s religious articles of faith, deities, or ceremonial objects.

  10. AnonRN*

    LW1, I left one career and went back to school at 33 (financed by scary loans which I busted my butt to pay off) and now have been in another career for almost a decade. You have a lot of time in front of you! A variety of thoughts:

    There are lots of jobs that pay $16/hour that are probably less aggravating than your current job!
    Leaving DadCorp for more cash dollars seems like a decision it would be hard for your family to fault (though I’m sure they’d try). But if they want you to stay, they need to pay you more, at minimum. Otherwise there’s no material reason not to leave…working out the familial reasons is where therapy come in.

    I, personally, wouldn’t say there’s anything wrong with having “a series of jobs” instead of “a career,” although “career” implies an arc of advancement/opportunities that “job” maybe doesn’t imply.

    When you stop working for your Dad, no matter what job you get, don’t discuss it extensively with your parents (see Captain Awkward’s “information diet” concept). Every job is going to have annoyances, but every time you tell your parents about the vacation day that got denied, or the inventory records that were wrong, or the office fish-microwaver, you’re gonna have to hear about how that wouldn’t have happened at DadCorp.

    Don’t discount your IT and warehouse skills–some large employers need these skills and also can offer the whole overhead of tuition benefits, union membership, etc. (I work for a large state hospital, which might not make you think “warehouse” but all those patient care supplies have to come from somewhere! We have state benefits, multiple unions, etc…) So getting “just a job” might enable you to explore more training or leadership options if you want those.

    Lastly, consider moving away from your parents. You can’t easily work for your Dad if you’re not there (I assume). I live in an admittedly low/medium COL area and employers are hiring. If you’re feeling trapped, an efficiency apartment in a new place might be better than the reliability of your hometown. Good luck feeling un-stuck!

    1. linger*

      Seconding, with the addition that the longer you work for Dad, the more “stuck” you actually become in terms of (i) having references independent of family; and (ii) developing transferrable skills with verifiable evidence. So if you don’t want to be there, don’t stay there.

    2. BethDH*

      I want to triple highlight you calling out the way people think of a “career” as different from “a series of jobs.”
      I see this a lot where increasingly the career isn’t “being” a specific job identity but involves a lot more shifting among roles and industries. It’s like a whole series of Venn diagrams. And that can be hard personally because so many questions about what you do are phrased as being about who you are, so you feel like you’re behind if you don’t have a two word career description.

    3. Totally Minnie*

      I fully agree on the Just a Job idea.

      I just made what I suppose can be called a career change. Essentially, I left my old career and haven’t figured out what the next one will be yet. And keeping my mentality at “I’m starting a new job, not a new career,” has been really helpful. I knew I had to leave the old career because it was unhealthy for me, but I had no idea what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life, so the first few months of my job search were really unfocused. I ended up meeting with a career counselor at my university (which was free, even though it had been 15 years since I graduated), and she’s the one who told me I didn’t have to have a career plan right now. I just needed a job I wouldn’t hate that would cover my bills while I figured out the next step, and she helped me brainstorm ideas. “A job I won’t hate” felt like a much more manageable goal than “a new career plan,” and I think OP might find it a helpful framing.

    4. tamarack etc.*

      I’ve had several big changes in what area I earned my living, and specifically one that went from one recognizable career (in a technical job in a corporate environment) to grad school to a different career (researcher in an academic research institute). This happened in my 40s. Sometimes I refer to the various “strands” as different careers, sometimes to the whole thing as my career. It’s a context thing.

  11. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (managing good and bad employees) – I think what she means by that is when you have a bad employee, it’s generally fairly easy to articulate what’s ‘bad’ about them and name it concretely, processes to follow (PIPs, reprimands etc if warranted or just an unofficial conversation initially), expectations for how they will need to improve, etc. All of this is time consuming but easily identifiable and “mane-able” so there’s typically an obvious path to follow.

    Good employees who are great at their job and don’t really give you any management issues… often they just want to get on with the job and be given a lot of autonomy, and that’s often harder to “manage” closely (although it doesn’t really need managing!) – very often they know more about their specific part than the boss does so the boss can feel a bit like they don’t have control, etc. It’s often more difficult to motivate good people as the motivation has to be more than “improve in x or your job will be at risk”…

    I don’t really agree with those sentiments but I can understand them.

    I’m quite critical of the grand boss here though. I almost wondered if she knows she screwed up in hiring this manager (is she a friend / personal connection of hers?) and won’t admit it to the OP of course. Then she turns to flattery (good / bad employees with the implication that OP is good and that’s why the manager is having trouble managing her…) instead of actual solutions.

    I noted that OP is out of that team now – probably at the manager and grandboss’ joint decision so that she (op) wouldn’t be causing ‘difficulty’ in managing her! If it’s true that the rest of the team are chronic underperformed and OP was the only good one… 1) why is that (bad judgement of grandboss again? Was this manager inserted as an additional layer between grandboss and that team?) and 2) Good luck with that, I think the manager’s life is about to get a lot more difficult…

    1. RosaRacket*

      I was told by a previous manager basically the same. Bad employees are easier because it’s clear where to go; what feedback to provide, what actions to take, what feedback to give. I was more challenging because I’d reached the end of the path of progression with what was currently available at my company and we both were looking for ways to have me stay but give me the “next thing” I needed to stay. I waited a long time because I really enjoyed everything else about working there but I eventually left because there just was no next thing after a few years.

      1. Malarkey01*

        I agree with this. I think managing a really good employee is like teaching a gifted child. They are easy on the execution side of things, but it can take a lot of effort to make sure they are engaged, motivated, and getting the resources and work they need to stay high performing and fully take advantage of their skills. From a time, effort, creativity standpoint I’ve spent a lot of time on high performers while poorer performers have a general path of coaching and communication but generally toning outside the box if that makes sense.

        It’s a great problem to have and not something that anyone should be sobbing about (I mean no one should ever sob at an employee).

        1. English Rose*

          Yes to all of the comments nested here. It can be more challenging to manage an excellent employee and I like the gifted child analogy.
          That said, of course managers have to be able to manage all levels of employee, but perhaps what grandboss was saying is that you arguably have to get more creative with high performers.
          No sobbing though!!

        2. Smithy*

          I agree with all of this and I think this is often compounded for new managers very often not having much in the way of management training or genuine development beyond their one on ones. Therefore, they’re trying to learn how to be a manager in addition to any other individual responsibilities of the job – and feeling challenged or anxious around how best to support a high performer I think is really normal.

          I do not think the extent of the OP’s old manager’s responses were normal, but that level of anxiety with “what do I do, I’ve only figured out how to approve PTO requests last week????” is something I certainly can relate to in my first management position.

          Sadly, I think the way that a lot of new managers are trained these days is with “trial and error” of some of their early direct reports. And for people like the OP who are on the error side, it’s unfair and genuinely – getting placed with a more experienced manager sooner is a blessing.

        3. ferrina*

          My mind went to this analogy too. But one thing I noticed when I worked in education was that teachers gravitated towards the students that mirrored them. Teacher A was a diligent student who was smart but not the smartest in class. She teaches in a way to support that audience. Teacher B was highly gifted and wanted the curriculum to be harder. She teaches to that group. Teacher C was creative and energetic- she teaches in a way to engage that group.

          If that holds true for managers, this says a lot about the Grandboss.

      2. Ex-prof*

        LW 3– While I’m sure you’re a great employee, the comment that you needed her to be your manager, not your therapist, seems unnecessarily snarky. There were other ways to say it, such as “I need more direction on ___.”

        Given the wrong kind of day, I might cry if you said that, too.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      My theory is that one form of bad management is to just throw your hands in the air and not manage any bad employees: If Fergus is going to spend every shift napping, what can one do? The good employees need to step up and make sure everything gets done.

      This type of manager spends a lot more time dealing with good employees than bad, having successfully made Fergus everyone else’s problem.

    3. Sara without an H*

      I don’t think I’d agree with Problematic Grand Boss here. Yes, making sure a really good employee gets adequate appreciation/stimulation/chances for development can be challenging but, in my experience, they don’t eat nearly as much managerial time and energy as bad employees. Admittedly, I spent most of my career in state universities where the documentation requirements for firing people were steep and time-consuming. But keeping good employees happy and productive consumed much, much less of my time.

  12. Lilas*

    OP1 you’re 30; it sounds like you’ve spent a lot of your adulthood taking way, way too much heed of your parents’ opinions and desires. The way you branch out is just to do it and realize that their opinions are their own, but they don’t have to have any effect on what you do.

    You don’t need their input to craft a career vision. Just try different things, find out what you like that doesn’t burn you out, and discover who you want to be. You can keep them informed if you still want to, but if they’re not supportive it’s up to you how much you want to Information Diet them. It doesn’t sound like you’ve had a chance to stand on your own two feet and just make your own way without asking for or needing their consensus. You stopped needing their permission a decade ago.

    Best of luck with your job search! I leave you with the wisdom of Da Share Zone:
    “Just walk out / you can leave / if it sucks / hit da bricks!”

  13. Super Fun*

    OP4: I’m growing impatient with the astrology crowd. They act like it’s not a belief system, and they don’t seem to realize that generalizing people isn’t cool, especially when those people might be of religions that aren’t compatible with the notion of non-God entities exerting control over life and the universe. It’s enough.

    1. Well...*

      I think they gained a lot of ground because the rational logic/atheism crowd’s brand got associated with sexism, white supremacy, etc, and earned that reputation with their (entirely not rational or logical) behavior.

      The thing is that two opposing movements don’t guarantee one is safe. Just because the anti-woo crowd can be sexist doesn’t mean woo is particularly good for women, like at all.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Wait, what?. I have never heard or observed that. What behavior?

        In my world, it’s definitely more the religious and superstitious that get associated with sexism. Atheism and logic/rationality goes quite well with feminism, and most people I know are both.

        1. scandi*

          Elevator-gate happened right when I started looking in to atheism, as well as various high-profile atheist YouTubers who slowly slipped towards men’s rights activism and white nationalism. This was maybe 10 or so years ago. I’m still an atheist, but I do not want to be associated with any of the “online atheist” group. Plenty of people with little ability to self-reflect simply refer to their inherent biases as logic/rationality instead of questioning what they believe. It’s extremely common to refer to “science” to justify things like women being inherently inferior, or men being unable to not sexually harass any woman they see, or white people being superior, or whichever bigoted belief the speaker has.

        2. Timothy (TRiG)*

          It was definitely a thing with the “New Atheist” and online “Skeptic” communities in the mid-oughts. Lots of sexism and racism. Also, while they crowed about not being homophobic unlike those icky icky Christians, I’m not at all sure I’d actually trust them on that front. That community still exists, now with a lot of added transphobia (on the basis of “science!”, of course).

          Luckily, at that time in my life I was hanging out mostly on FreeThoughtBlogs, which was the birthplace of Atheism Plus. I read a lot of Greta Christina, who pushed back hard on a lot of what was happening. These days, my main connection with the online skeptic crowd is Rebecca Watson, who has a long history of calling out sexism in the movement.

          1. bamcheeks*

            while they crowed about not being homophobic unlike those icky icky Christians

            Don’t forget the Islamophobia! One of the reasons it took off so was that it was a way for people to be reallyreally Islamophobic and argue that it wasn’t ~~racism~~ because they hated Christians too.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            Ah, I see, organized atheism, so to say. I am much more familiar with the atheism, or maybe agnosticism is more accurate, that is mostly a quiet, private lack of faith in the supernatural. Maybe more common in Europe, as someone mentioned below? Atheist communities seem very strange to me.

            I guess there is a type of personality that likes to find ways to feel superior to others for no real reason, and atheism can fill that need as well as any type of faith. Those people would also be drawn to various types of -isms. They wouldn’t be the quiet type of atheist, they would have a need to talk about it.

            1. UKDancer*

              I think you’re right. I mean I’m atheist because I don’t believe in a deity. I’d not consider myself part of a movement of atheism. I’ve also never read Dawkins or stuff about atheism because I’m not very interested and don’t consider it a critical part of my identity.

              To be honest as a lapsed Methodist I’m more interested in the cultural context around why people did certain things in the bible than loudly challenging religion. So I discussed with my Methodist preacher godmother why Samaritans were shunned, what role women played in the different Roman era societies etc and what she’d learnt from her bible studies because it was fascinating how culture informed belief. I never had rows with her or challenged the fact she had faith and I didn’t because that would be rude and disrespectful.

            2. Modesty Poncho*

              I think especially at the time, there was a way in which atheists needed a community to push back against the ways they were discriminated against. Not that it doesn’t happen now, but that when the community was in its early stages it wasn’t as clear that Dawkins, Hitchens, et al were leading to bad places.

              I think in places where atheism isn’t so overtly ridiculed and distrusted, there’s less of a need to have a group of people to reaffirm “We’re not evil puppy-burning heathens, we’re just people together”

          1. Emmy Noether*

            No? I have vaguely heard of him, but he doesn’t write about any of my interests, so I haven’t read anything by him.

            1. metadata minion*

              Yeah, you’re not missing much. I mean, you’re messing a giant pot of weird sexism, which is why the current thread is baffling you, but just be glad he hasn’t infected the atheists you know.

            2. Well...*

              I put a ton of references to things he said but it got moderated out. If you’re interested, it’s a quick Google away. Even if you’ve only vaguely heard of him, he was one of the most recognizable skeptics and had a huge impact on how people interacted with the ideas the organized atheist movement pushed. Those effects have, frankly, turned a lot of women/POC off to atheism and sadly put a schism between atheist and social justice movements. I think it partially lead to more acceptance of woo-y-ness in social justice and particularly LGBTQ spaces.

        3. amoeba*

          I feel like that’s also different in different countries?

          In Europe, atheism is much more common, anyway, and especially in DACH/France/etc. a lot of the “esoteric” world is actually really connected to right-wing ideals. Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy, homeopathy… quite a disgusting world once you start getting into it. Showed during COVID as well, with anti-vaxxers actually mostly from a) right-wing parties but also b)esoteric/”alternative medicine” etc circles. And these people marching together.

          On the other hand, there was never a real “atheism” movement that I noticed because, well, it’s somehow just… normal? Would say religous people are definitely in the minority here, even among those who are nominally Christian. I think I know, like, one person who regularly attends church?

          I imagine it’s a different story in the US because, well, different cultural heritage?

          1. bamcheeks*

            It definitely had different flavours in the US and Europe, but as a British person who was living in Germany on and off in the 00s there were also similarities. The active atheism movement in the US (and including British figures like Dawkins) was very focussed on US-style evangelical Christianity and particularly Creationism. That wasn’t such a big thing in Europe and non-Anglo atheism, but I definitely noticed a German-speaking atheist movement which leaned very heavily into Islamophobia and then transitioned quite comfortably into the AfD and so on.

          2. UKDancer*

            Yes, I think so. I mean I just kind of lapsed. I never took a decision “I’m an atheist” I just never really believed any of the religious things I went to growing up, any more than I believed the Greek and Norse myths I liked reading as a child. I went to church as a child and I was quite surprised to discover that some of the people actually believed in what was going on. I just thought it was like the dentist or school, a thing you had to go through and when I got old enough to choose, I stopped going.

            I think a lot of middle class, white English people had a similar experience. I’d say less inclined to consider themselves part of a militant atheist movement and more just kind of gently lapsed.

            I like quite a bit about Methodism (the faith I grew up in) in terms of the doing good to others, demonstrating against apartheid, helping those in need with a food collection etc, I just thought it was a shame about the religious bits.

            1. londonedit*

              I agree. My primary school was C of E so we sang the songs from Come and Praise in Assembly and the vicar would come in to play his guitar once a month and we’d go across to the church for a school Easter/Christmas/Harvest service and our parents would come along. At some point when I was about 8, I asked my mum whether I had to believe in God, and she said no (my family are all agnostic/nominally C of E but not at all practicing). So that was it. I went along with the school stuff until I went to secondary (I recently found out there’s legally meant to be some sort of C of E worship in secondary schools, but many don’t bother and mine never did) and I enjoy a Christmas carol service for the nostalgia, but I don’t believe any of it. I think a lot of people in the UK are the same (didn’t the latest census reveal that a majority of people now consider themselves non-religious?) So there’s no real need to declare oneself atheist here, it’s just ‘nope, don’t believe in any of it’ and that’s sort of the majority view now.

              1. Pippa K*

                A YouGov survey a couple of years ago found that even among self-identifying Christians in Britain, only 56% say they believe in God.

        4. Falling Diphthong*

          I think this thread summarizes handily how people start with their gut (“Gnomes are stealing my vegetables!” “My race is naturally skilled at the things that matter to me!”) and then cast about for some evidence to support that, which could be very faint statistical correlations in studies of 8 people, or ancient Vedic wisdom, or proof that aliens built the pyramids.

      2. Anon for this*

        Astrology is important in India. Please don’t say that it is part of “white supremacy” or belittle our beliefs. No one is making you share them.

        1. Nononono Cat*

          They never said that astrology is only present in white supremacy; they said that there’s a noticeable overlap between people embracing astrology (in toxic ways) and more problematic bigot perspectives. I come from a culture that has common spiritual beliefs that are harmless or even beneficial on their own, but frequently misappropriated and abused by white people looking to justify their own bigotry, so I’m no stranger to it.

          Also, if you’re the same “Anon for this” who got all judgmental about LW #1, you really need to step back from commenting and check yourself.

      3. Lilas*

        Yes, it’s a really annoying meme that people who are skeptical of a critical of astrology are sexist. If anything I find that incredibly insulting to women. Sure, you can critique these things in a sexist way, but you can do anything that way.

        1. Well...*

          I think the problem is that visible representatives of mainstream skeptic movements ARE vocally sexist. There’s nothing inherent about the ideology that says skepticism should go hand-in-hand with sexism (I agree, that point of view would be insulting to women) but the sad history of the movement is that sexism took a strong root there, which has turned people off/excluded them.

    2. TechWorker*

      I’d never thought of it this way, and you’re right. I think there is some distinction between zodiac signs and organised religion though in that I’m not aware of any government/group with power that takes them particularly seriously. I don’t think people get persecuted for their Zodiac sign or privileged by governments because they believe in Zodiac signs, which is what makes it seem comparably low stakes.

      1. Super Fun*

        My sense is that people got into it during covid when they wanted a source of meaning but didn’t want a capital-R religion. The problem arises when they won’t stop saying things like “you’re such a capricorn” or “spoken like a true aries” when you’ve asked them to stop. I don’t like having my personality boiled down to my birthday, and my religion uses a different calendar.

  14. philmar*

    LW3: I think the idea that a bad employee is easier to manage than a good one comes from the fact that often, a bad employee’s problems are straightforward with obvious solutions. I.e. they are always late, so reprimand them for lateness. They do sloppy work — explain what they’ve done wrong and how to improve. They have an attitude — tell them to knock it off. And if these problems continue, there is a path to follow via PIP/disciplinary actions that can eventually result in dismissal. In practice this can be annoying and difficult, but the steps are already laid out.

    Whereas for a good employee, how much autonomy do you give them? How can you challenge them and support them? How do you balance giving them work versus over-relying on them? How do you groom them for more responsibility? These things have to be tailored to individuals.

    1. One HR Opinion*

      And one thing that has made this doubly challenging for me is supervising a high performing introvert who is happy where she’s at (i.e. doesn’t want/need to be mentored for the next level). I sometimes wonder if I’m a good manager because we don’t have the same type of relationship as the extrovert who needed a lot of my attention.

  15. Ellis Bell*

    Taking your parents advice a bit too seriously is really common in your twenties; so is choosing a career that isn’t the one. If you feel you’ve done your decompressing then it’s a perfect time to get back out there! When I was early thirties and doing a career change I tried agency work so I could get more of a back seat view of how different companies operated and to reset my ideas.

  16. Boof*

    LW1 I totally get it, one’s first instinct tends to be to listen to their parents and want their approval! By what you describe though 1) your parents/dad will not approve of anything except you working for them/dad 2) working for dad is not what you want to do and maybe dad is exploiting you some?? I mean I totally see what’s in it for dad, cheap trusted labor by what you describe, but have they even bothered to tried to make it advantageous for you? (is there some benefit you’re not describing, like are they giving you a lot of support in other ways, like room and board, or promising you ownership of the company, or inheritance…?)
    If you don’t work for your dad, try to think what you do want to do, and do it, and DON’T ASK YOUR PARENTS ABOUT IT. Update them when you want to, sure, but expect them to be disapproving and be ready to focus on whether you’re enjoying it, not them. Ideally you can have a trusted /supportive friend or mentor who is not your parents to field job and career type questions with. And yes, therapy may be helpful, may even be able to help be the objective voice sorting out career thoughts your parents can’t be.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Yes, don’t ask them (for permission or even advice at this point), update them on what you’ve already decided. If they don’t respond well to updates, maybe it’s time for an “information diet” (which I read about on captain awkward, not sure if she coined the term)

      1. Samwise*

        Don’t even update them on your decision.

        Update them when it’s a done deal — decide to find an ok job that pays more that $16/hour, find job, get start date two weeks out, give DadCorp two weeks notice.

        If you’re living at home, you might prioritize moving out first, but that depends on what you know about you and your parents. Personally I’d line up the job first because that makes it possible to move.

        If you can find a job in another state, so much the better…

        1. Lilas*

          The “Wait until it’s a fait accompli” method is better in general.

          “We’re planning to name our baby Daniel when he’s born” will garner opinions and stories about Daniels that people have disliked, “Have you considered David”, etc.

          “Here’s our new baby, his name is Daniel!” = everyone cooing over Daniel.

          Same with, thinking of moving to a particular city or neighborhood, considering grad school or a certain career… except with your closest friends, it’s helpful to wait until you’ve already done the thing before telling people about it.

  17. Green great dragon*

    Managing a good employee, it can be harder to see how best to add value. You want to help them develop to your level and beyond, maybe trying to support them in things you find hard yourself. With poorer employees, there’s more support needed, but you know exactly what they need to learn and can show them.

    Obviously I’d much prefer good employees and I agree they take far less time to manage. But I can see how it can feel harder to be a good manager to a good employee, especially for someone new to management who may feel they aren’t meaningfully ‘better’ than the person they’re managing.

    1. Allonge*

      I totally agree – there are questions you never ask yourself as a manager about a ‘bad’ employee that seem unanswerable for a good one.

      But this is likely also one of the situations of “two things can be true at the same time” – in context, grandboss was just saying random stuff to OP without any intention of actually resolving the issue – even if the statement by itself can have some truth.

  18. Greasy monkey*

    OP-1: Working for parents ,or any family, doesn’t seem to end well because the dynamics are off. Instead of a normal employer / employee relationship, you have the family relationship. The usual boundaries go right out the window and to them, there’s nothing wrong with calling whenever or piling on more responsibilities because your the son/ daughter/ nephew/ niece/ whatever and not an employee. I would suggest doing what YOU want to do. If your dad doesn’t approve, that’s his problem. It’s your life and you can’t live it for him nor can he live his through you vicariously.

  19. Sunny*

    I would assume it’s hard to manage a good employee if you know that there are problems in your management style and/or the company as a whole, and by dint of their very existence, you feel like the good employee is judging you and seeing all your flaws. Aka, if you’re an insecure manager, good employees make you feel bad about yourself.

  20. Persephone*

    LW1 – something you need to understand is that before you’re an employee, before you’re your father’s child, you are a person. You are independent being. You have agency. You have autonomy. You are the only person with the right to make decisions about your life.

    Your parents don’t see you like that. To your parents, you are their child *before* you are an independent person. And that’s why they think they can have a say in your life. That’s why they’ve been trying to dictate your life for the past 30 years.

    And right now, you are allowing it.

    That’s not your fault! They raised you to obey them. They raised you to consider yourself their child first (and therefore their opinion about your life matters more than your own) before you thought of yourself as a person.

    The very first thing you need to do is get a different job. Seperate your professional life from your personal. You need to be actively finding work elsewhere—even if that means you go back to warehouses/retail for a year (or more). You don’t need to find a job you love to justify leaving. Tell your parents that working for your father is having a negative impact on your relationship with him—even if they don’t see it—and you don’t want your relationship with them to be affected like this. You’d rather work in warehouses than lose them. You are prioritising your relationship with them by leaving. They probably won’t be happy about it, but believing you are putting them first should make it easier to swallow.

    (You aren’t putting them first, you’re putting *you* first. But they don’t need to know that.)

    The second is to get a therapist.

    You need help dealing with your life and your family’s role in it. Professional help. Needing professional help doesn’t mean you failed. You wouldn’t need help at all if your parents were better at being parents.

    Honestly, the majority of people would benefit from seeing a therapist. But the stigma, expense, and misconceptions of what therapists are for stop them.

    You can get a referral from your GP (and if your GP is the same person as your parents’, then get a different GP too). You’ll probably need to shop around for a therapist (in 8 years, I’ve seen 10+ mental health professionals and the 2 I have now are better *for me* than the rest put together. This takes time). The wait times are pretty bad right now though, so take what you can get. Make sure you read up on what makes a bad therapist so you know if you absolutely must find a different one.

    In the meantime, put your family on an information diet. Don’t tell them you’re looking for a new job until after you’ve accepted an offer. Don’t tell them you’re looking for a therapist at all. They don’t need to know everything.

    Find something for just yourself. Something you do on your own that no one else needs to know about. A craft, activity, sport, etc. Choose to learn about something. Whatever you want.

    You deserve better than what you’ve been give. You are allowed to ask for more.

  21. Aymee*

    Lw1 : I suspect what hasn’t been acknowledged is that your parents claim they need you in the business and if you don’t help out by working for them then any struggles or failures they experience will be your fault.
    But this is abusive. It’s emotionally manipulative and they are harming you with these messages and pressure to take on what is far beyond your abilities or any reasonable expectations for a son.
    Parents are supposed to nurture children into independence. Instead they are actively keeping you tethered through their emotional manipulation. They are the ones wronging you and you have every right to leave. You don’t need them to understand, agree or support you. They never will because they are more interested in using you for their own benefit than in genuinely wanting what is best for you. Do you still live with them? You have got to get away.

    1. Malarkey01*

      Maybe, there’s nothing in the letter that says that, but it could also be the case that the business is a reliable safety net that LW keeps bouncing back to. This is their third stint on top of high school, college, and internships. It’s definitely an unhealthy situation for LW and I agree they need to stop the pattern of going back to parents business.

      I’d be really interested to hear this letter from the other side.

    2. And I'm the alchemist of the hinterlands*

      This is literally the situation my husband was in. It took moving across the country for him to escape it. He is employed at a good company now and is so much happier.

  22. Emmy Noether*


    Shortly after my PhD, my father offered me a job to come work for him, with a view of grooming me to take over one day. I just laughed and said I didn’t think that would be a good idea.

    Knowing my father, and knowing me, that was the absolutely right choice. I would have been very, very unhappy, or worse. Not that I’ve been happy in everything in my life, but it’s better than what it would have been if I had taken the offer. Freedom matters to me a lot, and I wouldn’t have had it.

    It takes a specific constellation of personalities, both parent and child, to make that type of thing work. You need a parent that is willing to step back and give up control, and you need a child with absolute self-confidence and drive. That’s not my father and me, and LW, that’s not you and your father either. Go do your own thing. It doesn’t even matter if it’s not a great career, just get out from under the thumb of your parents, you’ll be so much happier.

  23. Anon for this*

    I think OP1 needs to stop blaming his father for everything and look in the mirror. He had a a white collar job in IT consulting and left it to do retail and warehouse jobs. Did his father make him do this?

    1. Harper the Other One*

      His father may not have “made him” do it, but the combination of a stressful IT position and the constant erosion of confidence that dysfunctional parenting relationships can cause very well could have. Plus, if Dad’s work is only offering $16 an hour, those retail and warehouse jobs are probably equivalent. I think Alison’s advice to speak to a therapist is spot on because it is very hard to recognize just how that kind of relationship is affecting your life.

      Also, just a side note – nothing wrong with leaving white collar for retail/warehousing. Not everyone is suited for office work and if that’s the case for OP, or if OP need a job that’s a combo of desk work and more active, hands-on work, those options are out there and deserve exploring.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      The LW mentioned being burnt out as one reason for leaving IT. Some people are just not good at fast paced, rapidly changing things at work. (Guessing the cause of burn out)

      1. SwingingAxeWolfie*

        Yeah, and this will be feeding the beast that says “only a career my parents have stamped and approved will work out”.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, I can imagine if their parents were telling them not to go into that field then when they left there was some devil on their shoulder whispering “they told you so!” which only makes it harder to ignore their pressure. I think Alison’s suggestion of therapy is really important to consider because it can be so hard to untangle these feelings on your own OP!

      2. Qwerty*

        That’s a harsh judgement. IT Consulting burns a lot of people out by understaffing projects and over promising to customers resulting in people working long harsh hours. There’s multiple of those companies in my town and I know plenty of people who thrive in fast-paced environments that considered leaving the industry after working at one.

    3. Lirael*

      That’s harsh. With parents with this overbearing and who think what they are doing is reasonable, it sounds like OP genuinely doesn’t realise that what they are doing is a) wrong and b) not OK.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      No, but he doesn’t blame his father for that. If you read the letter he says he left due to burn out. The letter is not about blame, it is about whether it is reasonable to push back on the pressure to go back to work for his dad.

    5. Knock It Off*

      Removed. You cannot name-call other commenters here. You are welcome to repost this without the name-calling. – Alison

    6. Boof*

      I think you underestimate how constant negging from a trusted source can undermine someone’s ability to sort out what they want vs what the other person wants. LW1 has given it a good try; found they don’t like the results. But it is time to find other sources of guidance / cut parents out of decisionmaking for at least a while, see what happens.

      1. Spaceball One*

        Right. This letter reads to me like someone who has only known one type of family relationship, and it is an in-your-face, in-your-business, high-pressure, “you won’t be good at anything else/so you might as well just work for me” type. People who grow up this way often can’t even see how unhealthily entangled they are because they have been raised to think this is just how it is. Fortunately this OP is at least looking at the big picture and thinking, “hang on, this can’t be right.” OP needs help to find more accurate ways to frame what’s happening and to come up with ways out.

        “Anon for this,” you have no idea.

        1. Boof*

          I think it can happen even if the relationship isn’t toxic; for example I think my parents were/are pretty great, but they are different people from me, and even with a healthy relationship I ended up trying too hard to do some things that weren’t a good fit for me. I figured it out eventually but it took a long time to figure out that I should start with my own instincts first, and then ask my parents for advice on things I was really unsure of, and then think about how that advice sat with me once I got it. They were right about some things and wrong about others and at the end of the day it’s my life and my personality and priorities aren’t quite the same as theirs were. IDK I just don’t think there’s enough here to say for sure if LW1’s family is toxic (LW1 should consider researching what would be market-appropriate compensation at the family business for what they are doing, since they are already there, and ask for it; that will tell a lot about what’s really going on) but it doesn’t matter too much right now, toxic or misguided sounds like LW1 would benefit from some space (mentally at least) to figure out what THEY want, not what dad wants.

    7. Well...*

      Heyyyyo, maybe his retail and warehouse jobs were a lot better than the white collar job he left. They seem to have come along with their own problems (particularly LW1 feels limited/trapped in terms of career advancement), but at least LW1 wasn’t getting burned out! Lots of people spend their whole lives in retail and warehouse jobs, and they don’t need to look in the mirror and…idk, yell at their reflection? to continue their lives.

      LW1 has had an atypical career path, and is looking for a way forward (with a healthy dose of needing to disrupt difficult family dynamics). Telling them to look in the mirror helps how exactly?

    8. MigraineMonth*

      I got so burned out at a high-paying, high-stress job that I quit with nothing lined up (a month before the pandemic!) and applied to be an escape room guide or a dog daycare worker. Burnout makes you do lots of things that look weird, but are actually protective.

  24. spruce*

    LW1, you may need to build a “f***-off fund” – there are some very good blogs that have guidelines on how to do so, if you google it.

    This fund will give you freedom and independence, so that if whatever choices in your career lead your parents to be seriously displeased, you can still walk away.

  25. lifebeforecorona*

    LW2 Congratulations on your baby! When I was pregnant I was also shy and a people pleaser. I realized that I didn’t want my daughter to be like me in that way so I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I modeled positive assertive behaviour and taught her the same. I despise the term mama bear but your job will be advocating for your child and yourself. It is really scary and you can start with small steps. Refuse to discuss any part of your pregnancy and/or health with anyone that you don’t feel comfortable sharing with and this includes family and friends. Your baby is more important than the hurt feelings of others. Many people believe that pregnant women are fair game for any and all comments and advice but you are not. You have someone who is going to depend on you for many years to come. It’s going to be hard but you can do it. Taking care of yourself is also taking care of your baby.

  26. Melissa*

    op 1:

    You wrote: Every attempt to put something together was rebuffed by my parents

    But you’re 30! My parents have certainly “rebuffed” a lot of my ideas too, but as an adult, it doesn’t affect my decisions! (Of course, it can be emotionally fraught, as Alison recognized, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make your own decisions.) I love her idea of getting some more support for yourself— whether that means therapy or just confiding in a group of your peers who can help you think through your choices.

    1. Lilas*

      Exactly, you could say your parents have disliked or disapproved of your attempts to branch out, but it’s you who’s letting that have any effect over what actually happens.

      It’s not normal or healthy for someone’s parents to have such an influence over their decisions at your age, and they shouldn’t selfishly want to have such control of you, they should want you to be confident and happily independent. You don’t even have to argue with them if they don’t like your decisions, because you have no need to convince them of your point of you. You need to take hold of the wheel of your own life.

  27. Anon for This*

    Personally I agree that it is harder to manage good employees than bad ones. Many of the reasons have already been stated – easier to identify what’s bad, prepare a plan of action. But one I haven’t seen raised yet is the issue I often run into – good employees in terms of high quality work, outstanding work production, ingenuity, etc. often don’t want to be managed and will push back when assigned something they don’t want to do, or skip levels when they don’t like what the manager says. The challenges are harder to address because they continue to produce, and are recognized for it, so they don’t think they need management.

    1. Dino*

      I was honestly thinking along similar lines, but from an employee perspective.

      I’m a good employee. I’m skilled and have options besides just my current employer. I also know my rights and have a labor background. I have definitely pushed back on unreasonable demands from my workplace, am more likely to speak up for the good of the group, and am more candid with various management players because I’m not worried about them firing me. If they did I’d have a new position soon enough. I know the I can be a pain in the ass to managers who want to rule by force or became the boss so “nobody could question them”.

      1. Taylor*

        I can relate to this. I have found it can become an issue with “cultural fit” when certain teams, departments, or higher ups see this as someone trying to tell them what to do or makes them feel inadequate because they have a title or a higher title than you. Those who want to rule unilaterally, be force, or don’t like questions, only want “yes” people minions and not an actual collaborative and high function team,dept etc. It’s like they only want new grads who have no work experience and who don’t know any better. But! Seasoned professionals who have lots of time in and out of our industries, we know better and we don’t have any problems landing on our feet with other offers.

      2. Grammar Penguin*

        So, the corrected version of the statement would be “Good employees are more difficult to manage than bad employees *at badly managed companies.*”

    2. steliafidelis*

      I think this can depend heavily on the management style! I don’t hesitate to ask questions about decisions that affect me/my team/my workload, and with a good manager with a secure management style, these questions are fine and normal. But I’ve also had managers who hear those questions as insubordination? or something? and find me difficult because of it.

      1. Taylor*

        You’ve hot the nail on the head! Secure management style all the way. Unfortunately, we are dealing with insecure people in management positions and positions of power. Some so insecure they micro manage or so inept they take a total hands off approach, don’t actually coach or manage (cause no one taught them) and then make it seem like everyone else is the problem.

        And so they take any questions are insubordination because (I find) these types of work personalities feel they should have full authority based on their assigned work title. How dare they a question? Asking questions are skeewdly viewed as a sign of disrespect to them and their authority. Atleast that’s what I’ve been told directly by some of the more vocal ones.

        I, for one, don’t consider you (or anyone) “difficult” for doing all the things we are doing. It’s a “them” problem.

        1. steliafidelis*

          Oh for sure! It honestly baffles me sometimes because to me I’m asking questions to fully understand and flag potential problems so we know how we can address them or prevent them altogether. It’s a collaborative process.

          But when it’s clear to me that I’m working with a manager who’s going to act like I’m threatening their authority, I can be difficult to manage! Because I’m not going to compromise the quality of my work to spare the feelings of the manager and I will address and flag problems. So now they have to *do* something. Or be annoyed by me. And because the quality of my work and history of collaboration speaks for itself, I can afford to be “difficult.” Because it’s clear to reasonable people that I’m not the problem.

          (I’ve also been on the other side of this and managed people that other managers thought were *impossible* and I found them to be a dream. No, they’re not impossible, they just need you to actually address problems/involve them/just explain your reasoning)

    3. Dinwar*

      ARE they good employees, though?

      If they’re pushing back sufficiently that the work isn’t getting done, they’re a threat to the team and the company. Everyone has to do things they don’t like, it’s part of being in a company. And if you’re going over your boss’s head you’re subverting the communications structure. Sometimes that’s necessary, sure, but if you’re doing it enough to cause your manager problems (assuming your manager is good), you’re creating friction within the group, undermining your boss, and in general causing problems.

      Major Burns from M*A*S*H is not a model of a good employee, in other words. Nor is Dr. House. Or Dr. Cox from Scrubs. It’s weird how these always seem to come up in terms of medical shows.

      I think there’s a distinction between a good employee and one that produces high-quality work. I’d much rather have a good-enough employee that was a team player than a rock star employee that expects rock star treatment. The ideal, of course, is both–an employee that produces high-quality work and is willing to do what’s necessary for the team to get the job done.

      1. Snell*

        Yeah, the feeling in my gut resembles your sentiments here. Without extenuating circumstances, pushing back against assigned work, going over their manager’s head, those don’t sound like “good” qualities of a “good” employee. Quality and quantity of work produced is not the singular measure of a “good” employee. If an employee produced lots of high quality work, but also pounded on work surfaces and shouted at colleagues when the printer jammed, I don’t think I could call that a “good” employee.

        In the LW’s case, though, I suspect grandboss was just trying to smooth things over with LW without having to actually address the issue in any substantial way.

        1. Snell*

          You know, “Your boss is a terrible manager because you’re a good employee! Take it as a compliment!”

          Not much sense to it even at a cursory examination, which is why I think grandboss was placating LW with nothing of substance behind it.

    4. Qwerty*

      I think a missing section in your statement is that it can be harder to manage **problems with** high performers over low performers. I dislike the use of good/bad, because often its is easy to conflate work output with quality of employee.

      High performers are not always accustomed to negative feedback or being actively managed, so when it happens there can be a natural response to bristle. They may have even gotten praised in the past for what the manager is trying to corret them on now. Even worse, lots of managers let things slide until it becomes a bigger issue because the high performer is otherwise a good employee, so the problem festers or there become a pattern of high performer getting their way when they are dissatisfied.

      Low performers you often have easy facts that are not disputable, like metrics or showing up to work to prove they aren’t hitting the mark. Skipping a level isn’t an option for them. But with high performers, they have those stats in their favor to show how great they are. Low performers can only improve. But high performers can slip in performance, and managers are usually unwilling to make the trade off of reduced performance for a better team player.

      I think trying to manage a high performer also exposes issues in the management structure. Like defining someone as a good employee when they are hard to work with. Or higher ups not supporting the manager because they don’t want to lose the high performer. Or that sometimes high performers are allowed to just kinda do whatever they want because they can save the day when things get rough. So then the manager is dealing with issues from above and below at the same time.

      (Nothing indicates OP3 has any of these issues, just replying to this thread)

      1. Grammar Penguin*

        So from this it seems like high-performers aren’t necessarily more challenging to manage but are more likely to expose management’s flaws since the sort of problems associated with them are more likely to be management issues?

        1. Qwerty*

          No, that sounds a lot like giving high performers a free pass and blaming management. I say this as a high performing IC who is close friends with high performers – we can be a handful! I have turned down management roles with high performers that I work really well with because they had problems with authority and react poorly to be doing told to do anything they disagree with. Like, I’ve literally seen people have a temper tantrum or start shouting over a minor inconveneince. Part of the reason high performers don’t get managed is that most of them are really good at self-managing 95% of the time and are generally right about things, so being wrong or overruled can be a new and turbulent experience.

          It’s just a different set of challenges. Most managers are more likely to be familiar with the challenges of lower performers – it’s what all the books are all about and what they are likely to have more experience in. I knew one manager who did well with the difficult high performers, however was terrible at managing low performers – it’s a different set of scripts and actions and being prepared for the different response types.

          I think I’d also say society biases really come into play too. High performing straight white men are more likely to balk if the manager is woman, minority, etc. so it is extra draining/challenging for the manager.

    5. Marvel*

      I am ABSOLUTELY the good employee who is difficult to manage and for exactly those reasons.

      For me it’s because I used to be a total doormat who would sacrifice my own health and sanity for my work literally constantly. Then I learned to have boundaries, because the alternative became untenable. Now it’s like I’ve become some kind of unholy terror who only wants to say no to things. I expect that, like similar processes I’ve gone through, I’ll eventually settle somewhere in the middle with a healthy balance of boundaries and compromise… but it hasn’t happened quite yet.

    6. Happy*

      Nah, good employees are also generally good at accepting feedback and being team players. That’s part of what makes them good employees.

  28. Tomato Soup*

    OP1/OP2 your boss/dad isn’t likely to change, even if they ought to. Focus on doing what’s best for yourself and sharing as little info as you can manage.

  29. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

    Managing a “good” vs “bad” employee – it’s really interesting. I just inherited a high performer with a bit of overconfidence and some lack of listening skills. Totally coachable, but figuring out the best way to get it through to them without saying “you are killing me smalls” and making the case upwards that they are worth the long-term coaching.

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      But is that *harder* than managing a poor performer with a bad attitude who refuses to see they are the problem in all their failures? “Totally coachable” doesn’t sound like it.

  30. grumpy old lady*

    For OP1: hope you are reading the above comments and I agree you are being way too deferential to your parents! I don’t know if it’s a gender, cultural or whatever ingrained behavior, but it’s bad for you. Please get yourself in therapy to learn how to separate.

    Your parents are always going to see and treat you as the obedient child and you hypnotize you into bowing to their wishes. Look yourself in the mirror each morning and say I am an adult, I am worthy and I will become independent.

    And move! Far, far away! Do you have friends from college in other cities? Can you network with them? Grab any life preserver you can to find a job somewhere else and MOVE AWAY FROM YOUR PARENTS!

    Can you give us an update in 6 months? We’re all cheering for your success.

  31. danmei kid*

    LW#1, I know people say things like “you should get therapy” all the time when it’s barely appropriate, but there’s a deep connection between a sense of aimlessness in adulthood and growing up with overbearing, overly critical, or overly controlling parents that a professional could help you examine & figure out. Feeling stuck and unable to settle anywhere is a very frustrating feeling (I’ve been there!) and I hope that this thread and the advice therein, helps you find a way forward.

  32. Roz*

    LW4 – I am often in the room when someone decides to guess signs while the entire time saying negative things about my sign. It used to bother me, mostly because my mom was really into zodiac and Chinese signs (I’m also a tiger), and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I could start to laugh at these harmful judgements about Scorpios. I now take joy in watching people’s surprised faces when I say I’m a Scorpio, since I’m so easy to get along with and I’m a caring thoughtful person. Apparently, my exterior persona DOES NOT align with the assumptions people have about Scorpios.

    And yet… I really feel like I am the epitome of a Scorpio (they just don’t know in what ways…. muahahaha)

    Scorpio-Tiger Power-up sequence… ENGAGE!

  33. AnonPi*

    Of course there is the other option when it comes to managing bad employees – don’t. Seriously, our office has been thru several managers since I’ve been here, and each have been made aware of our trouble employees issues. Each manager has made a few half hearted attempts to get them to improve, and then decide they just don’t want to have to deal and nothing is done. This has been going on for years.

    So the rest of the good employees instead have to compensate, making us upset about it, and if we complain we’re chastised – we’re so competent it shouldn’t matter if we have to take on bad employees work, we’re just too much of a high achievers it’s not fair to compare, etc etc.

    1. Taylor*

      Yes and I’ve seen this dynamic play out over and over again. It’s no fun picnic.
      “But your given to most difficulty tasks because your so good at your job”. (This is because people who don’t know how to manage also don’t know how to train so you have to figure out by yourself..oh but they want all your notes on the process so at the end of the year thru can spew it back at you and count it as helping you development.

      “Please train Fergus to be just like you”. (Since they didn’t bother to train anyone and are too busy to train any new employees, they will say it will look good that you helped coach your coworker and who knows it might lead to a promotion as it shows you are going above and beyond for the team.)

      “If we promote you, who will do your job? It’s not easy to replace you”. Bad management will almost take advantage of a good employee situation. And for those teams, it pays to keep their good people right where they need them vs actual long term pathways to that employees growth and promotion.

      I advocate anyone who resonates with any of this, and doesn’t have positive and professional management support, to find a better opportunity and move on. 8 times outta 10, once you train Fergus or deal with that difficult project, they will promote Fergus over you and keep giving you more projects since “you so good at what you do…it will be easy for ya to do this too”.

  34. St. Paul Ite*


    I’d find out from HR exactly what level of information you are expected to give a manager. Armed with this information I’d have a discussion with your boss about the most recent situation and how it was handled. Then state something to the effect of “I do not want my personal information shared with coworkers, managers and other employees without my permission.” If need be you can quote what you learned from HR about the info you are required to provide. You could even write a note to your boss, get a copy to HR, that your personal information including health information, reasons for absence etc. is not to be shared with anyone without your permission. Then document when and what was disclosed and with whom. That is the information you take with you to HR to discuss any further issues with your boss’s loose lips.

    Managers do not need to disclose personal information to your coworkers in order to get your work covered if you are out. All they need to do is say “Jane is out today and I need you to complete the XYZ report. “ If they get push back on their request or if they are asked questions why Jane is out, the correct response is “The reason Jane is out is not your concern, please complete the XYZ report.” If you are going to be out for several days the only information your boss needs to provide your coworkers is that you will be out of the office for several days and therefore these are the tasks that need to be completed and this is how they’d like to divide the work.

    Even if you ended up being out on a medical leave due to complications of an illness there is no reason for your boss to share that you’re out on medical leave. Jane will be out of the office for approximately xxx weeks. During that time we will all need to pitch in to cover her work. For today let’s have zzz cover 123 and I’ll schedule a meeting for later today so we can all discuss how to cover her work going forward.

    Coworkers will be curious, but in my experience most are less likely to want to know the reason for being out but rather how the absence of a coworker will affect them and for how long they may be asked to take on additional work.

  35. duinath*

    i hope you get therapy and start to view yourself as worth standing up for, lw1. you are.

    if you need a band-aid in the meantime, i could mention that if someone overworked me, underpaid me, and shit-talked all my dreams that didn’t benefit them, i would never work for them ever again, out of sheer spite. maybe lean into that until you get something better?

    i get that you love your parents, but whatever you’re convinced you owe them you’ve paid back by now. if that strikes you as wrong, try to work out what you think would pay them back. do you owe them your whole life???

    (…no. you don’t.)

  36. Onward*

    OP1 – The good news is you’re 30. When I entered my thirties I also entered a decades of giving waaaay fewer you-know-what’s than in my twenties. There’s a freedom in your thirties. You figure out that none of these doors are locked.

    You don’t need your parents to approve of anything about you: your career, your life choices, any of it. It sucks when they don’t (I know – my mother doesn’t approve of anything I do even if it’s what she wants me to do) and it’s probably much easier to have supportive parents. That’s not what you have, though. You have very controlling parents who want to bend you to their will. Don’t let them do that. Don’t listen to their nonsense. Go out there and live your life on your OWN terms. Anything less will lead to misery, frustration, and resentment.

    As another upswing, regardless of whether your parents come around and accept your choices, you’ll end up having a better relationship with them once you set boundaries with them. It won’t necessarily make THEM change, but it will separate them from areas of your life where they have no business being, and confine them only to the spaces you’re comfortable with.

  37. Phony Genius*

    On #4, I am going to disagree with Alison’s advice for this reason: it’s not a good look to be amused when your coworkers are being insulted. You don’t have to act like their manager and tell them to stop, but if you are amused, don’t show it. Any body language that indicates “I’m ignoring you” may be enough to quiet them if they realize they’re not getting attention from it.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      There is a huge difference between being amused and looking amused.

      I think you are reading something into both LW’s letter and Alison’s response that isn’t there.

      (Also, a lot of this depends on the level of insult and how LW’s coworkers perceive the insult.)

      1. Phony Genius*

        OK, you’re right about that. But I’ll add that if you feel amused when a co-worker is insulted, even if you don’t show it, you should think about what that says about you.

        (And yes, the level of insult is a factor as is the response of those who it is directed to.)

        1. Totally Minnie*

          I feel like there’s a difference between “Libras have these qualities I don’t like,” and “Carol is for sure a Libra because she has X quality I don’t like that’s associated with Libras.”

          OP’s coworker is being silly and judgmental, sure. But she’s insulting hypothetical people right now and not deliberately insulting her coworkers. And yes, she has said rude things about signs her coworkers belong to and that’s not great. But it feels like, in her mind, it’s okay to say those things “because of course there aren’t any Libras in the room, I would know,” which is just extraordinarily silly.

          OP would be justified in responding with a jokey “how do you know there aren’t six Libras in the room right now?” type of response, but since they’re a coworker and not a manager, they can’t really go much farther than that.

  38. JustMe*

    LW 3 – I’m wondering if grandboss actually said you should have “lower expectations” or if they said something more like “give your manager a little grace” or “cut your manager some slack.”

    Once upon a time, I managed a call center, and it was surprisingly hard. It attracts all sorts of people, and so as a manager you often do have multiple employees with vastly different levels of interpersonal and technical skills. I had one employee who was regularly going into the bathroom and peeing on the walls, one employee who was sexually harassing another employee, one employee who would have J Cole blasting in the background of all of her calls, and several extremely smart, talented workers who were breezing through their work.

    To be honest, sometimes being a good employee is recognizing that your managers are people who are just doing their best and that your coworkers/colleagues may not be helping. In my roles after being that manager, I’ve had more collegial interactions with my managers where I treat them more like colleagues who need my support rather than bosses. Conversations can go from “You need to tell me what to do and give me feedback” to “You seem like you’ve got a lot on your plate. I’m not too overwhelmed with my work, and I want to build my own professional skillset–are there other things that I can do to support you? Could we even talk about making some of those things part of my job description?”

  39. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    LW1: There’s a question you ought to ask your dad about his business: what’s his succession plan?

    I assume some of his pressure comes from an unstated expectation that you will take it over one day. You don’t say explicitly, but it sounds like he at least owns the majority of the shares, if not 100%.

    If something were to happen to your dad, right now, what happens to the business? Who runs it day to day, who ends up owning it, what are the tax implications? Is your dad a key part of sales or client relationships?

    This can be an uncomfortable conversation – money and illness/disability/death at the same time – but having this out in the open might help get him off your back, or at least give you some insight as to why he’s pushing you into responsibilities you have no training for.

  40. Also Changed Careers in My 30s*

    LW#1 – As others have said, 30 is not too old to start a new career path! I left academia about a year ago at age 33, with little idea of what kind of work I could do with my experience. But, just like so many people you’ve seen in the Friday good news, I learned from Alison’s posts how to sell my work experiences on a resume (accomplishments, not job duties!) and managed to land a remote job that had nothing to do with my academic field.

    I’m now in a position that plays to my strengths (i.e., crisis management, which most people find unpleasantly stressful but my ADHD brain finds refreshingly not boring). I’m much, much happier than I was doing previous work, and there are exciting avenues for professional development available.

    I won’t pretend I know what your relationship with your dad is like. All I’ll say is that what you do with your career (and your life) is *your* decision. If you can’t get support for making your own decisions from your parents, all you can do is get support somewhere else–either a therapist, or friends, or ideally both. Good luck!

  41. NeedRain47*

    LW#1, what you said about supporting your interest resonated with me. In my 20s my mother was very big on telling me what she thought I should do and not at all keen on supporting anything I wanted to do. (this ended after I set some hard boundaries and stuck to them.) Anyway, this could refer to both emotional and monetary support… It is really, really, really hard to nearly impossible to separate yourself from someone’s expectations of you when you’re taking their money or living under their roof. Even moving half an hour away can get you some breathing room and perspective. Set your own goals even if it’s small things like spending an hour reading about educational programs you might be interested in. Get some mental distance even if you can’t get physical distance. And don’t worry about age, I got a master’s degree in my late 40s so it’s never too late.

  42. Michelle Smith*

    LW1: Would it help at all if you stopped considering relying on your parents as an option? Like as a mental exercise, what would happen if your parents and the business vanished tomorrow? What would you do to provide for yourself? And consider going to do that instead.

    It’s also important to get some distance from your parents. Talk to them less and set some boundaries around career discussions (e.g. refusing to discuss it with them and ending conversations if they refuse to allow you to change the subject).

    Finally, I do just want to say that this whole career stuff is completely overrated. Some people are very passionate about what they do, but many, many people work for a paycheck so that they can afford to live and that’s it. They have passions outside of work that fulfill them instead. Some people have a balance. You should not allow yourself to feel like you should have everything figured out by 30 or that you have a career you’re passionate about. It’s okay to just work. It’s okay to work many different jobs, trying to find something you like or moving on when the thing you liked isn’t working for you anymore. Just try things, and please stop telling your parents about them. If they can’t be supportive, they don’t get to know.

  43. Qwerty*

    Zodiacs can be fun in the right environment (not like how OP4’s coworker is doing it though!). My sibling is scary good at guessing someone’s zodiac sign, especially for people that she’s never met, based on the traits you mention when talking about them. To be clear – I don’t know their zodiacs, but I’ll usually follow up to check if she’s right. So far she’s only been wrong about premies – by guessing the zodiac sign for when their due date was.

    My theory is its all just personality types, I just find it funny how on the nose she is.

    1. Avery*

      I was a preemie and I always say the zodiac sign for when I was supposed to be born is way more accurate than my actual one! Good to know I’m not the only one who thinks that way! ;)
      (For what it’s worth: supposed to be Virgo, am Leo, am quiet anxious person who is very good at organizing documents and still learning how to stand up for myself.)

  44. melbelle*

    OP1, I really feel for you. I didn’t get out from under my dad’s thumb until I was 27– and it would have taken much longer if he was my boss/we were working together.

    For me, building a life where I wasn’t beholden to my dad’s opinions meant not talking to him for 5 years. It was the scariest, best thing I’ve ever done for myself. And, now that we’ve reconnected, I have the good parts of our relationship (the understanding, the jokes, the comraderie) without as many of the unhealthy parts.

    I think that, in general, the idea of a ‘career’ is overrated… if your series of jobs allows you to live independently (financially and otherwise), allows you to dedicate time and energy to people you care about, and isn’t totally evil/soul-sucking? That’s pretty good, actually.

    Resetting my expectations for myself was even harder than cutting off contact with my dad, to be honest. I wish you the best of luck, and know that you’re not alone. And that a better life is possible!

  45. Wendy*

    I am getting the sense that my current manager is like the grand boss in letter number 3

    I had a rocky start at my current job, but then I chose to make improvements and be the best employee I can be

    But for some reason my current manager is acting like the letter writer’s grand boss

    So, I just go to work and do the best job I can do

    Luckily I do not have to interact with my current manager that much

  46. Daisy-dog*

    #5 – I just completed a pretty long job search. One reason it took so long is that I was applying for next level jobs and the managers weren’t interested in hiring someone who needed to be trained up/have a long adjustment period. They wanted someone effective asap. I heard from so many recruiters for roles that were equal to or below my role at that time. I did eventually find someone willing to let me move up, but it was tough. It’s almost as if they just don’t understand why people job search.

    1. OP #5*

      Right?! I want desperately to be in management. The only way to get into management is to have management experience. But how do I get management experience if you won’t let me be in management?! Ugh.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        So frustrating! Networking was my key to my role which is definitely outside of my comfort zone. I also had pay a bunch of my own money to attend those networking events :/

      2. Grammar Penguin*

        I suppose the expectation is that you would advance into management from an individual contributor position at one employer, then later apply to management positions elsewhere. If your current employer can’t promote you into a manager role, you may have to accept a lateral change to an employer that can promote you once you’ve proven yourself. But you’ll want to be explicit with interviewers and recruiters about your goals, ask some pointed questions about career development paths, and turn down any position that doesn’t show a likelihood of advancement within, say, 2 years.

  47. Bess*

    OP1: I would recommend finding ANY other job you think you can do and might mildly enjoy for the time being, and spend some reflection time in that job. Many career paths are trial and error and you need to start exploring. It’d be different if you were getting a nepotism salary but $16/hour is just not very much in many places right now. I worry your family doesn’t want you to be financially independent/empowered and underpaying you is a way to keep some control over you.

    Take a break from your family and you’ll hopefully get a much more accurate sense of what you want, and can make decisions from there. And honestly, if “all” you ever do is a series of jobs, that’s just fine, too!

    1. Grammar Penguin*

      Unless the business can hire a non-relative to do the same level of work for such low pay, LW1 is kind of getting a nepotism salary in reverse. Rather than being paid way above market because their dad owns the place, they’re getting paid way below market because their dad owns the place.

      Would they expect a complete stranger to do this level of work for the low pay?

  48. Parenthesis Guy*

    #1: I recommend trying to find a good therapist. What I worry about is that you have a challenging family dynamic and had burnout while being in IT consulting. You may need help trying to find ways to build a more healthy dynamic with your father and also ensure that you don’t burnout again if you do find a new position.

  49. Em*

    On someone needing to go to the emergency room, any thoughts as to what to say to convey the urgency of leaving right that second while still not inviting questions or providing details?

    As a manager, when someone reports to me that they’re ill and needs to leave work, I usually find myself asking the employee to do less than 5 minutes of handover work – emailing the report they’re working on to Jane or leaving the new teapots on Jack’s desk, etc – on their way out the door. That is what managers have always done for me and many people often include that they’ve already passed urgent work off to coworkers when they say they need to leave. (And, yes, this work is truly urgent, not usually life/death, but absolutely necessary it gets done in a timely fashion.)

    Of course if I would never ask that if it’s clear that they’re seriously ill (someone else reporting that they’re throwing up or had passed out, or they look ready to fall over). How can an employee convey ‘I absolutely must leave right this second’? If someone says they have to go to the emergency room, my knee-jerk instinct as a human is to ask for vague details in a ‘OMG, do you need an ambulance?’ way and as a manager ‘is this a worker’s comp issue I need to make sure we document to cover you?’.

    The ‘urgent medical appointment ‘ language would work as far as leaving right away, but ‘appointment’ leaves room for the manager (who now doesn’t know it’s an emergency!) to wonder why the employee didn’t give them a heads up to even the possiblity of a short-notice appointment in advance? It could easily affect a manager’s view of an employee’s reliability, which isn’t fair to the employee.

    Any ideas?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      As a manager, if one of my team members says to me “I have an emergency and have to leave Right Now,” I say “Okay, is there something you need from me, call an ambulance, work related injury, any handoffs or meetings I need to take care of for you? Ok, go, best wishes, keep me posted as you can, and we’ll figure out anything else that comes up.”

      That is, assuming this isn’t a situation where someone is having three emergencies a week for six months. If it becomes a regular occurrence, that’s a little different, but assuming a true one-off scenario…

    2. Hlao-roo*

      The two phrases I would use are:

      “I have an urgent medical situation” (avoids both “appointment” and “emergency room”)


      “I have to go to the emergency room” with maybe a few details of “don’t need an ambulance, but do need to go now” and/or “I will text/call/email by [time] about whether or not I’ll be in tomorrow”

      From the manager side, if someone says “I need to go to the emergency room,” I think there’s usually time to ask “do you need an ambulance?” and, if the answer is no, “is this a worker’s comp issue I need to make sure we document to cover you?” and then letting the employee leave without any further fuss.

      Typing all of this out, it occurs to me that the employee could also say “I’m not feeling well and am taking sick time for the rest of the day” the same as if they were going to go home, and instead just go to the emergency room. If it’s usual to have a ~5min handover, just explain “a little too sick for that, see you tomorrow.”

      1. Grammar Penguin*

        “is this a worker’s comp issue I need to make sure we document to cover you?”

        This is unfair, I think. Unless I work in HR, how would I even know the answer to this? Why would I be expected to answer this when I’m in pain and on my way to the hospital? You’re my manager. Making a decision like that (“is this a workers’ comp issue”) seems very much your job and not mine, especially if I’ve just told you I’m unable to do my own job because *I’m in pain and on my way to the hospital*.

        If you’re unsure if you need to document, do it anyway. Better to waste the effort if it turns out to be unnecessary than to drop the ball on an employee’s health coverage.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I just copied Em’s wording for that bit, but on reflection it would be better to ask something along the lines of “are you going to the emergency room because you were injured at work?” (or whatever the appropriate question is where the worker would immediately know the answer and a “yes” = boss starts preparing a worker’s comp claim). Or, as you suggest, for the manager to do whatever investigation they may need to do on their own after the worker has left for the hospital.

    3. NeedRain47*

      If someone is going to the emergency room, they are clearly having an urgent health crisis so BELIEVE THEM. Just say “okay” or maybe “do you need someone to drive you”. The work is not more important than their health at that point, and you can’t and shouldn’t try to judge by looking at them.

      It’s not often feasible to notify managers of a short-notice appointment…. If I make an appointment three months away, but ask the doctor to keep me on the cancellation list and call if there’s a sudden opening, should I notify my manager every day for three months? That seems like a waste of everyone’s time for something that’s kind of unlikely.

  50. El l*

    Yeah, Grandboss knew she absolutely had to support her employee (your former boss) – and in that desire she just ended up talking pure nonsense. Here, there was even the extra spice of perhaps feeling guilty because she knew that she’d messed up in hiring her.

    FWIW I’ve seen managers make all kinds of weird rationalizations when doing that support duty.

  51. Parenthesis Guy*

    #3 – I get what the boss is saying. A good employee doesn’t take more work to manage than a bad one, but it does require more imagination. A bad employee won’t force you to stretch the way that a good employee does. It requires you to think in ways that you wouldn’t ordinarily.

    If you’re working as a member of the call center team, then your manager probably has a lot of reports, and spends minimal time with each of them. If a bad employee does too poorly, they would just get fired. Presumably, that means they’re meeting some minimal standard and the boss can just largely ignore them. You don’t need to worry about their development because they’re not going any higher. That’s not the case for a good employee if you want to be a good manager and properly develop your reports. That good employee needs to grow, so you need to figure out how to best encourage their growth.

  52. urguncle*

    I dealt with parents who just never really saw anything I did as good enough. Lucky for me, they don’t have a business to rope me into, but it was the kind of work I did, where I lived, etc that was different and therefore not good enough. I really had to stop letting their values influence my own and I’ve been doing it for the last 5 years and never been happier.
    Meanwhile, I see my sibling taking the same path as my parents: the same undergrad and graduate schools, the same job title, the same hobbies, the same vacation spots. It seems miserable that they don’t branch out and try something for themself.

  53. A Pound of Obscure*

    #3 — Sounds to me that by saying it’s “hard,” the grandboss simply doesn’t *want* to manage that employee. Clearly, they’ve already created an idealized persona for her, which they’re trying to project onto you (“you’ll come to see how good she is…” yadda yadda). They don’t want to believe that their impression from her interview hasn’t matched up to her actual behavior or performance, so they’re playing the “if I ignore it, it’ll go away” game, which is not management.

  54. Sunshine*

    OP2: If your crappy coworker tries to discuss the pregnancy with you, a cheerful “oh, I’d rather not talk about medical stuff at work!” or something similar should put it to bed.

    This sucks and I really feel for you! It should have been common sense for your manager not to share that kind of thing without checking with you first. One of the first things my manager asked me when I disclosed was “how do you want to tell the team?” Obviously you know now that your boss cannot be trusted, but I don’t fault you for expecting her to keep it private.

    And I 100% understand the impulse to tell her what was going on. I really wish it was more normalized to tell people early, because so much stuff happens in the first trimester that makes more sense in context – frequent appointments, sickness/nausea, lack of energy, etc. If I had really severe morning sickness I would have wanted to tell my manager so she knew I didn’t have something contagious.

  55. Ex-prof*

    LW1 — Have I got a book recommendation for you!

    _Do It! Let’s Get Off Our Buts_ by Peter McWilliams.

    An oldie but goody. Doing the exercises in that book 20 years ago changed my life, and got me where I am today. I am 95% certain it will do the same for you.

  56. win*

    LW1: You would do better going to therapy than asking an advice column. This is about much more than a work situation. I hope you seek help!

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Much of the letters Alison gets are about more than a work situation — it’s frequently easier to ask someone you know, or feel like you know, for advice first. It’s not like Alison’s advice is worthless to the LW (also it’s free, unlike therapy), either.

      As someone who is in therapy, sometimes things have to happen that *make you realize* that “oh, I could see a therapist for this.”

  57. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Lw1, You don’t say what kind of business your family runs. But I see an overlap with the 3 things you do mention. Warehouses have IT systems. Retailers have IT systems. A warehouse for a retailer would need a manager who knows IT systems well enough to communicate effectively with their IT team.
    That’s just one thought.

  58. Nela*

    #1 if you read this, I’ve got two words for you: information diet.

    The first step towards emancipating yourself from controlling parents is to stop sharing your desires, plans and decisions with them. Stop considering them your supporters and confidants. They don’t deserve this role in your life because they’re acting against your best interest. Find other trusted adults (mentors, relatives, successful friends) to fill that role.

    First start therapy. Then find a job, any job, and remove yourself from their aura for a while. You need to clear your head and develop trust in your own judgment.

    I grew up with controlling parents and I had to take a low contact break from them for a couple of years, until they finally started treating me like an adult. I still keep them on an information diet, but our relationship is much better than ever because they’ve learned I’ll do my own thing, whether they like it or not.

    Taking a break from your parents doesn’t have to be final. It’s just necessary to reset everyone’s expectations and forge a new kind of relationship that’s based on mutual respect.

    I’ve never seen anyone gradually redefine their relationship with controlling parents, they’re dead set on keeping the status quo and will push back at every chance. Every friend of mine who tried the gentle, gradual approach to setting boundaries just got sucked back in (including one of my close friends who had the same situation as you – a family business she was supposed to take over). Feel free to try, but… I don’t believe that would work.

    P.S. There’s a lot of good advice on the Captain Awkward blog under the category “boundaries”. Go read that, it might help you start changing your own perspective.

  59. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

    People get really weird about zodiac stuff. I once had a manager very into astrology who thought I was lying about my birthday because my personality doesn’t match my zodiac sign (my sign is Leo but I’m a stereotypical Virgo).

  60. I Fought the Law*

    I can empathize with LW 1, as my father was much the same way. He didn’t own a business, but spent his entire career being very successful at a state government agency, and couldn’t see or think beyond that. Whatever else I wanted to do, there was always a tacit implication that he disapproved, or at best, “didn’t care,” but only in the sense that I would probably be sorry later. When I did end up unhappy with my first career, there was a massive “I told you so.” Whenever I had to look for a new job, he would redirect me back to state or federal government work, which I was mostly unqualified for, and always in cities that I had already lived in and absolutely hated. Even after I invested in a second advanced degree and started my second career, whenever I went through a stressful period, the same pattern would repeat itself. I finally had to put my foot down and ask my mother to tell him never, ever to send me another job posting again.

    It is a really hard thing with a parent like that not to constantly seek their approval when it comes to every single career decision. It feels counterintuitive, and you know that they’re being disrespectful of your boundaries and even willingly contributing to your unhappiness, burnout, and low self-worth. My dad passed away a few years ago, and I really miss him, but one thing I don’t miss is the attempts to control my career choices. At the same time, because he was so overbearing about it, I feel lost now when I have to make big career decisions. I would recommend therapy if you have access to it to try and break out of this pattern with your father and his business. Physical distance also helped me, unfortunately. It’s a really difficult situation, and I definitely feel for you.

  61. Adds*

    LW 1: At 38, my husband left the IT field after nearly 20 years (also burnout) to work for himself in a completely unrelated field. It was kind of a scary thing at our house because the devil you know is comfortable, sort of, and the unknown of something new is very much not. But it’s been almost 6 years now, and he’s much happier and is successful in what he does. So, at 30 you have time to sort things out and make changes and do a new thing or two!

    Do you have a friend or group of friends who would be a good support/encouragement system? Having someone to encourage you (but also be very real with you when necessary) is important in getting out from under that kind of demoralization of burnout and feeling stuck.

  62. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    OP 1, I really feel for you. Alison’s advice is good here, but with your confidence eroded, it probably feels overly simple, and you are probably thinking, “but it is not that easy.” However, simple is not the same as easy. Many of the simplest things in life are among the hardest to actually experience and get through. And while working on your confidence and getting yourself to the point to separate from your parents and find you own path may sound simple, it is really hard work. I agree with Alison that therapy is in order.

    I also think you should get back to retail and warehouse and other such types of work rather than go back to working with your dad. Take some time to reconsider some of the ideas your parents have not been supportive about, and ask yourself what you think without mentioning it to them or considering it. And if you want to pursue one, get yourself set up and even started on it, too far in to just back out, before you mention anything to them. I think putting them on an info diet about your working life is a big first step and will be easier if you are not working for your dad. And if you live at home, I would look into alternate housing, maybe something with roommates, in order to get some distance.

    It will be hard, but it is worth the work in the end to rebuild your confidence (and you will find that harder to do if you don’t distance yourself from those helping to tear it down). And despite the fact that you can expect your relationship with your parents to deteriorate at first, if they are actually good parents and generally healthy people, your relationship will become stronger in the long run if you create some distance and enforce some boundaries. And if not, well, your relationship with you will be stronger and that is the most important thing.

    1. El l*

      I go further – I think OP should leave town. Period.

      Go back into retail if that’s what’s been best so far, but bottom line put as much space as they can from the parents. That’s what it’s going to take to get back their own confidence and self-respect.

  63. Girasol*

    “…She’s insulting various people on the team …and that not everyone would appreciate being publicly analyzed in that way.” So true! Can we tell that to all the HR people who insist on having employees analyzed in front of peers with any of the four-square type pseudo-science personality tools like Myers Briggs? It’s no more insulting to hear someone say “You’re a Libra, I knew you’d say that!” than “You’re an INTJ, I can read you like a book!”

  64. Purple Jello*

    LW #1: I see two issues. 1) What do YOU want to do for work, either for long term, or just for right now? Has you Dad explained his plan for you in his company, and is it something you’d be interested in? If no, then there’s your answer: get another job elsewhere. If you are interested but CANNOT work for your father, then there’s the same answer. If it’s a career plan you could work with under certain parameters – will your Dad agree to them ?

    2) You’re 30. It can be hard, but you need to separate emotionally from your parents. First you have to not care what they think about stuff. You DON’T need to take their opinions into consideration. At some point in the future, it might be great to get their opinions and use them as a resource – that you can either listen to or disregard. I’m assuming your Dad has some good ideas if he’s running a successful business. But before you get to that point, you need to internalize that they no longer have authority over you. You can emphasize this by separating both physically and emotionally from them. Some parents have trouble letting go. You probably have to deliberately make the break. It hurts on both sides, and if they cannot respect your decisions, you’ll need to minimize contact, at least for a while.

  65. Sara without an H*

    OP#3…in addition to assuring you that your Grand Boss is wrong, I’d like to assure you that this is NOT a healthy, well-functioning work place. You said that this is a small firm that’s been acquired by a larger company. Your Boss (“Lacrimosa”) and Grand Boss are probably experiencing culture shock that comes with the inevitable changes brought on by the acquisition.

    You could, of course, keep your head down and see how it all shakes out. Or you could start, discreetly, looking for other jobs. Might there be opportunities for transfer within the larger company? But I can’t see your present position as a good one for long-term career growth.

  66. Dancing Otter*

    OP #1:
    It’s possible your father is grooming you to take over the company, or thinks he is. That does not, emphasize NOT, mean that this is good for you in either the short or long term.

    Someone I know was badly burned by this scenario. He left a senior position at a better company to work for peanuts at the family firm. Any time he asked for more money – just market for what he was actually doing, not what he gave up – “oh, the business isn’t doing well enough to afford that.” But “you can’t abandon us; we’d fail without you!”
    He couldn’t understand it, because he could see the volume and revenue. Eventually, he discovered they were lying to him, but “this will all be yours someday.”
    Well, someday came. They decided to retire. They expected him to either buy them out at a highly inflated price – there are CPAs who specialize in business valuations, but the seller has to open their books, which they refused to do – or put it a family trust and pay them all the profits forever.
    By that time, he was no longer marketable for his former career. He never really recovered, and neither did the relationship.

    Don’t be like him.

  67. Shannon*

    OP5 — this exact scenario happened with my husband last year. He applied for a Senior jobtitle job and was told that his experience at his current company did not match what they wanted in a Senior at theirs. The job involves coding language and technology that is new to him. He interviewed for a Junior jobtitle job, got it, and is happily learning the new skills. He expects to move up in a few years.
    All this is to say that in job title it may not look like a step up, but maybe it is?

  68. Emily (she/hers)*

    LW 4: I generally agree with Alison’s advice. I’d just add one thing. This interesting, um, hobby of your new coworker’s may indicate that she has a tendency to put people in categories and then use those categories to make assumptions about what they would think or do in a given situation. Depending on what you do, you may just want to look out for that.

    1. GreenDoor*

      Absolutely came to say the same thing. I was friends with someone who operated this way, both in her personal life (wouldn’t date people of certain signs, for example) and at work (if someone screwed up or was having a bad day it would be “Oh, well you know how those Leo’s are…). If you do see patterns of her discriminating, bullying, etc. based on signs, do report that. That kind of nonsense I’d definitely want to know about as a manager.

  69. Elsa*

    I think it would only be harder to manage a good employee if a manager is weak and has a fragile ego.

    Sure, when I was a brand new manager I found some of the powerhouse employees a little intimidating. But I grew out of it quickly, and until then I handled it mostly by staying out of their way and letting them do their jobs, not by sobbing to them in meetings.

    Now I would say that managing a good employee is the easiest thing ever:
    1. Keep them happy
    2. Show a lot of appreciation

    1. Elsa*

      oops submitted the comment before I finished:
      3. Give them opportunities to grow/mentor others/share their insights about how the organization could improve

      I’d much rather be doing that stuff all day than answering questions that someone could have googled, or reminding certain employees about all the the same stuff I had to remind them about last month.

  70. Critical Rolls*

    OP1, here’s what someone told me when I was feeling desperately stuck in a situation that was making me unhappy: You can unstick yourself. It sounds almost insultingly reductive, but it was true. I needed to be reminded that I had agency, so much more than I was giving myself credit for. I had choices, and the power to make them. That didn’t mean it wasn’t going to be hard! It didn’t mean that therapy wasn’t critical, or that there was no backlash to standing up for myself. But in that moment I felt like Dorothy being told I only needed to click my heels together. I hope you get that moment too.

  71. raida*

    1. I feel stuck working for my father

    I suggest finding support groups and counselling for overbearing/toxic parents.
    From there, learn the tools you need to deal with how they make you feel and how to build yourself up to the point where you can just… leave.

    Or just say “Well this role covrs A, B, C and market salary for that would be $XXX. So, is the plan that my salary is going to increase to this, or that I drop tasks B, C?”

  72. Fikly*

    LW1: I read this a long time ago, and it is both true and incredibly powerful: Your parents do not have the power to declare you an adult or not. You are an adult no matter what they say.

    If they disagree, you can say I’m sorry you feel that way, if you choose, but it doesn’t change the reality. You’re an adult.

  73. raida*

    4. Coworker tries to figure out people’s zodiac signs
    I would be a TOTAL LEO about it – so confident in myself that I’d know any comments by this other star sign are simply the silliness of not-a-Leo just not understanding that Leos are awesome.

    Also, laugh out loud at their negative assertions – because I’m a rude bossy Leo, gosh I can’t help but speak my mind.

    1. One HR Opinion*

      What I love about this is that I’m a redhead and believe me, there are times when I use the stereotypes about redheads and tempers to my advantage. :)

  74. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

    “She would ask me for management advice on how to treat my coworkers, and then tell me that by performing so well I was making the rest of the team look bad.” What the frack?! Your doing well makes your colleagues look bad?? And now she’s asking you – her report – to tell her how to be a manager? Has your company just gone through Alice’s looking glass and emerged in a mirror world in which everything is the opposite of what it normally is?

    LW, something is seriously “off” with your manager; I’m not trying to diagnose her, but I don’t think this is something you can change. Her sobbing through your meetings (!) would be troubling enough, although she could be going through trauma of her own, but telling you that your doing well makes others look bad is beyond the pale. This is serious enough for you to start documenting these meetings and polishing up your resume. It really is!

  75. Rosacolleti*

    #4 there is no mystery as to birth signs etc at our work – we celebrate birthdays so, everyone knows the month.

  76. urbanchic*

    OP #2 – First, I hope that you and your pregnancy are doing well and have recovered from the scary situation. I have worked through infertility treatments, miscarriages, and now three pregnancies and it is incredibly stressful and isolating. Second, I would encourage you like many other commentators, to no longer share anything with your boss except what is absolutely necessary. especially related to pregnancy. Not just because she is sharing your private medical information (which is legal in many circumstances), but also because I have seen women discriminated against due to disclosing pregnancies or family planning in early stages. It’s hard to keep everything private when going through so much personally, but hopefully it’s something you feel you’re able to consider.

  77. ProcessMeister*

    To LW 1, I feel like I have been in a similar situation. Growing up, my interests took a very distant second place to having to help out in my parent’s home business. After finishing school (with average grades) I did some small courses and worked in the family business part time. I was “paid” a tiny fraction of minimum wage on the basis that the rest of my pay was covered by room and board. My mindset was that if I’m paid peanuts, I’ll be a monkey. I had no proper work skills, no goals and no direction.
    All this changed in my mid 20’s when a relative offered me an opportunity to live at their place interstate. The arrangement was I’d pay a reduced rent but that I’d have to get a paying job.
    That first month away was stressful watching my few savings disappear and I ended up taking the first menial job that would have me. On the plus side, I was now earning 10x what I was getting previously. On the downside, that employer was toxic in many ways. I ended up leaving for another job, which turned out to be worse and was even unemployed for a few months. Still, it was all experience that helped me get my foot in the door of my current employer. I’ve been with them now for several years and have seen my career grow from the lowest entry-level up to working directly with the owner.
    I’m not saying all this to tell you that “I became successful using this one weird trick!” or some other meaningless bullcarp. I don’t know all your situation so can’t offer any specific advice. All I can say is that what helped me is having someone believe in me and being willing to take that first step. I hope you find the same chance.

  78. Supervisorintraining*

    LW #5 – Without knowing the specifics, the most likely thing that happened is that you aced your previous interview… as an individual contributor. They like what they heard about your performance, but all your answers were focused on how you did work and not how you would manage.

    It’s a common issue with folks trying to get into the first management job. In my own experience, those questions are looking for answers from a manager’s viewpoint. As Allison has mentioned before, the greatest shift to management is changing from doing your work and accomplishing your work through others.

    For example, a question about your greatest achievement is looking for you to respond how you got a team together, set out a plan and executed. You’d then be able to talk through how on this project you managed (difficult personalities) and still were able to ensure a quality product.

    You likely answered closer to “I saw this (detailed technical issue) and using my skills, knowledge and (relevant tools) fixed this problem , which helps the company succeed/save money.”

    That is a great answer for an individual, but misses the mark for a manager. (Hence why they sent you an offer/invite for individual role).

  79. GythaOgden*

    Late to the party on this one, but I sympathise with OP1. As neurodivergent I struggled to hold anything down in my 20s and ended up at the bottom of the pile in my 30s just to get a stable wage while my personal life was like a never-ending drop tower (up, up, up, hurtle downwards, throw up, cycle back upwards and shoot down almost immediately). During my wilderness years, I tried to get jobs with people I knew/organisations I know in a voluntary capacity, but because they know me and my educational background, they dump the hard stuff on my plate (oh hey, we think you’re bright and you have a degree, so please do this thing that involves intricate knowledge of Church of England legal practice rather than take up the job that you actually applied for which involves paper pushing for the parish office…). It meant that I stopped trying those personal avenues and sought out places where I was able to get in and show people I could do the paper-pushing in return for a payslip and function as an independent adult.

    That said, as a volunteer for some things like this while I wasn’t working, it was a good source of experience when I was struggling to hold down paid work. I’ve done some stuff for really barebones charities that allowed me to pick and choose when I worked and for whom but got on some interesting projects. I’m looking much more seriously at moving on/up from paper-pushing now because I had the opportunity back then to cut my teeth on, say, analysing why my mother’s place of business was getting inquiries about a service they didn’t offer and feeding back my own perspective as a potential consumer back in 2005. (Not just as a member of a focus group, more collating information from focus groups into one place and looking for trends as I went through.)

    So…yeah, $16/hour is pretty crap but I wonder if you can leverage at least some of that into a portfolio. ‘I’ve tried this, this and this and I know where my strengths are and where I wouldn’t be quite so useful’ is pretty useful when you’re at a crossroads and don’t have an immediate ‘field’ to go into.

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