when I offered someone a job, her dad got on the phone with questions

A reader writes:

We recently hired a new grad, Jane. As my colleague, Sally, was making the verbal offer over the phone, she asked Jane if she had any questions. Jane replied, “No, but my father does.” Then, Jane’s father took the phone and started asking Sally questions about the offer! The questions ranged from logistics about onboarding, to asking if Jane could arrive late on her first day. Sally was so taken aback that she just answered the questions, but I’m curious how you would recommend handling a situation like this.

Is there any way to respectfully give the parent feedback that they are not helping their child and negatively affecting their professional reputation (before they’ve even started)?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My employee warned me he has a problem with authority
  • Should employers pay if employees need an extra seat on the plane?
  • How do I say no to working with friends and family?

{ 225 comments… read them below }

  1. JonBob*

    #4 – If they don’t take hearing “no” to starting a partnership well, then that’s even more evidence that the partnership would have been fraught with peril.

    1. Antilles*

      Yeah. My general rule is that however someone acts in the proposal phase is an indication of the BEST you can expect from them because it’s before anything has gone wrong.
      If they’re already pushing back before you even start, how is it going to go when you have to send a change order on your invoice? When they ask for a deadline and you have to tell them it’s not realistic? When your funding suddenly gets cut and you’re scrambling?

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        I so agree and this is my general rule for everything. Talking with a contractor about power-washing your driveway? Fixing your disposal? Waxing your legs? The way they act during the negotiation/proposal process is their BEST behavior. It’s only going downhill from there after you make a deal. So if you’re not comfortable with their behavior then, find someone else.

        1. TomatoSoup*

          For some reason, I found the jump from “power-washing your driveway” to “waxing your legs” to be hilarious.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      If someone said to me “Well, we’ll just talk it out like adults” I’d be so tempted to say “actually I probably won’t” and just let them take the warning! Don’t do this, though OP.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Reading that makes me want to say, “are we doing that now?”
        No. The answer is no, you are not talking it out like adults. You are both dancing around the issue, hoping “if he stops talking, I’ll get my way.”
        1) OP doesn’t want to say no, but wants friend to hear no. (Wish it worked like that!)
        2) Friend hears that OP has concerns, states it’s a nonissue and wants OP to let it go. (see above parenthetical.)
        It sucks, but repeat after me, “I can’t make people like it when I say no.”

        1. Rainy*

          This is so, so important. When you give up the idea that you can control how someone feels about something, you communicate more clearly, because instead of being hung up on manipulating them into having the reaction you want, you can focus on actually conveying the message.

    3. Artemesia*

      NOthing works quite so well in these situations as to have a personal policy. ‘Oh, it sounds fun but I never do sales parties.’ ‘I’m sorry but we have a policy to never lend our car.’ ‘I hope your business is a great success but I have a firm policy to not mix business and friendship.’

      You dn’t have to have lots of agonizing conversations this way — it is just what you ALWAYS do.

      1. laser99*

        Strong agree! I’ve had great success with this method. It’s pretty much unassailable if you are willing to fib (like me). Example: “Can I borrow your ring for my party?” “Oh, I never lend out my jewelry.” “It’s just for tonight.” “No, I don’t lend out my jewelry, ever.” “Why not?” “I used to, and my favorite gold bracelet my aunt gave me was lost, and she was FURIOUS. I can’t risk it.”

  2. London Calling*

    Asking if Jane can arrive late on her first day?

    Well, OP can’t say the red flags weren’t there from the start. In many jobs I’ve had I’ve been asked by the EMPLOYER to turn up a bit later so HR and line manager can get themselves organised, but I can’t say I’ve ever asked for that myself unless I had an appointment I couldn’t shift ? (thinking about it I can’t recall ever having done that) Is that the case, OP?

    In any case, daddy getting on the phone to ask questions? I get the feeling Jane is less keen on this job than daddy is that she has it.

    1. SleeplessKJ*

      That’s pretty harsh. I read it as a new grad with no prior real world work experience simply not knowing the professional norms and a “helpful” dad. Dad should have had her write the questions down and ask them herself but this is a learning opportunity, and should be viewed as such.

      1. London Calling*

        Well, let’s hope Jane is lovely and learns those professional norms quickly, because daddy sounds like he’s going to be a pain in the proverbial.

      2. StressedButOkay*

        I agree – new grads are still feeling everything out. It’s part of hiring people where it’s their first job.

        Like, college is nothing like high school and the world of work is nothing like college! Most of them learn this stuff as they enter their first job and not prior.

        1. Baron*

          One thing that jumped out at me from the letter is that we don’t know what this person is a “new grad” of. A 28-year-old new law school grad is different from an 18-year-old new high school grad getting a job at McDonald’s. I think AAM tends so much toward white-collar jobs that everyone’s brains just jump right to “college grad working an office job”, but I don’t know if that’s in the letter.

          1. StressedButOkay*

            That’s a really good point. I’d hope based on what happened that it’s a person who is 18-21 because…

          2. Phryne*

            True, but I would not imagine a manager at McDontalds being so surprised at a parent getting involved that they feel the need to write to a management blog about it. Not with the numbers of teenagers they employ.

      3. Katrine Fonsmark*

        Eh, I don’t know. When you graduate from college and get a job, you’re an adult! I can’t think of anyone I know who would think that was OK, and as their manager/HR it would definitely negatively impact my perception of them before they’d even begun working.

        1. ShanShan*

          Speaking as someone who has this kind of parent, she might not have thought this was OK, but not had (or felt like she had) any choice in the matter.

          My parent used to bully me into “letting” them do things like this all the time. I knew full well that it was inappropriate and would damage my career. But I was raised to believe that what I thought and wanted didn’t matter, and that standing in the way of making my parent happy (in any way, for any reason) made me a cruel and selfish person. It took about ten years of adulthood and moving away to shake that off.

          Everyone likes to talk about helicopter parents like they’re funny. But the truth is that much more often, it’s a very grim situation.

          1. jane's nemesis*

            I’m sorry, Shanshan. I’m glad you were able to move away and get distance and feel like you can be your own person.

          2. June Bee*

            This was my take, too, having grown up with controlling parents. I’m cheering for Jane! Whether this is truly her situation or not, I hope this job is a good next step for her to have whatever life she’s seeking.

            ShanShan, I’m cheering for you, too.

        2. Ridiculous Penguin*

          Speaking as the mother of a 20-yo who has disabling anxiety… this is something I’ve been working with them on because I know that getting a job will be extremely stressful for them (and I hope that they will one day be independent). When it was time for college application interviews, we actually did several practice sessions, but it’s still the case that I have to help them write emails to professors, counsel them in how to deal with problems, and generally do life-y things that I absolutely knew how to do by the time I was their age (on my own since 16).

          All of this to say that the way to support a kid like that isn’t to take over the conversation or do it for them but to give them the tools and preparation to have those conversations themselves. Part of this as a parent is recognizing your kid’s limitations and not pushing them to do things that they literally cannot handle on their own.

          1. Random Dice*

            Thanks for this reminder that folks can be dealing with invisible disabilities, that don’t mean they can’t do the actual job.

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        This ties in with the discussion earlier today of kids who have never walked two blocks by themselves. I hope that they grow out of this phase and get more confidence, but it is a process. I can totally see giving my kids a list of questions, but I can also see other parents being so used to walking their kids through life that asking the questions themselves were seem obvious.

      5. Manglement Survivor*

        If someone is old enough to obtain a job, but doesn’t realize that they should be old enough to ask their own questions and not put their parent on, that’s just awful! I got my first job when I was 14 and I didn’t have my mother get on the phone to ask the boss questions FFS.

        1. Eddie Crane*

          Way too much judgement towards the employee here. How are they supposed to just “realise” that they should get on the phone and ask the questions if their parent is a nightmare or if this is genuinely new to them?

          Yes it’s wildly out of step with professional norms and inappropriate but this legitimately may not be obvious to some people who could still turn out to be amazing. After all, she got the job.

          Penalising people for having terrible parents seems wildly unfair.

      6. tamarack etc.*

        I agree. The right and kind thing to do would be to bring up with Jane on one of her first meetings that employers don’t deal with the parents of their employees, and that handing over the phone to her dad wasn’t something she should do again in the future.

    2. DataSci*

      If I had an appointment I couldn’t shift, I’d ask to start a day later before asking to arrive late on day one. (I in fact have needed to change my start date at the last minute – my city got almost three feet of snow the weekend before I was supposed to start on Monday, roads weren’t plowed, and above ground public transit wasn’t running.)

      1. tamarack etc.*

        Yeah, that in itself isn’t a red flag – if she asked, with a good justification. After all, starting date is part of the starting negotiations. “I’d be thrilled to start next week! There’s only one thing – I have a long-planned appointment Monday morning at 9. Would it be possible to come in at 11? Or else, maybe my start day could be Tuesday?” If the first day doesn’t have an onboarding schedule that starts with set appointments at 8 or 9 on the dot it shouldn’t be much of an issue. I *would* be suitably apologetic and stress that this is an exceptional thing, if this is a job with set hours.

    3. Samwise*

      NO! Please do NOT assume this has anything to do with how the new employee feels about the job. There are plenty of overbearing, domineering, and even threatening parents who would do this regardless of the employee’s wishes.

      1. Observer*

        Yes. I agree that the situation was not great. But it’s impossible to know what was behind it.

        I said then, and I still believe that it would have been best to refuse to talk to Dad, but it’s not surprising that Sally initially agreed. But also, that Sally needed to have a serious conversation with Jane once work started and lay out some expectations, and then take it from there.

    4. Anonymouse*

      Ask Jane’s Dad if he can arrive on time the first day.

      Tell Jane you can hire her or her Dad but not both.

    5. Fluffy Fish*

      Gentle reminder that not everyone has supportive loving families and some have down right overbearing and abusive ones.

      A littler kindness in regards to what we don’t know about someone’s situation can go a long way.

      And ALL of us did bone-headed unprofessional things when we were first figuring out how to be an adult and navigate the world and work.

      Jane messed up in honestly a pretty mild way. I wouldn’t take that as an indictment of anything other than being a little clueless about something that can easily be addressed.

    6. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      Had my mother tried this, even at the start of my work life, we would have had A Chat – but then, I’d learned my lesson after she muddled so much during my college time that it just ruined my college experience. I got REAL GOOD at setting boundaries with her after that.

    7. Artemesia*

      It would not be amiss to withdraw the offer. But if you really want to hire the person, certainly the first step would be to refuse to discuss the job with Dad.

        1. Fala*

          Jane didn’t have to hand the phone to her dad.

          I’d have considered whether Dad was going to try other ways of being involved.

          1. Violet*

            We don’t know Jane’s home situation and how much choice she had in handing the phone to dad or not

            1. tamarack etc.*

              Even if she has a choice – probably she did – it’s a pretty strong overreaction to retract the offer over the dad’s rudeness, if Jane is relatively new to the workplace. If she came out as the right candidate then it’s pretty irresponsible to engage a huge amount of additional cost out of a sense of an infringement to proper deference. Hopefully this can be just an amusing anecdote in the future, for both the employer and the employee.

    8. Lizard*

      Another perspective is that the father is very authoritarian & it would likely take a lot for Jane to start creating boundaries with him. Poor Jane.

  3. BellyButton*

    A lot of the people who complain about Millennials and Gen Zs are the same people who were helicopter parents and crippled their children. This is a perfect example.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      For real. I had a supervisor make a comment about participation trophies in a meeting and a fellow Millennial chimed in “Who do you think gave us those trophies?” It was EPIC.

      1. Robert in SF*

        Oh how I wish there was a like button here, so I could show my support and appreciation of a comment without having to clutter up the comments section. :)

      2. Verthandi*

        There’s nothing inherently wrong with participation swag. Have these complainers never received a button for joining a trivia team or something similar?

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          Participation swag is GREAT. Aint no one confusing that with any kind of award for winning.

          Effort is to be admired. Not everyone can win or be the best.

          And the fact that these awards are generally given to young children, I just don’t get the complainers. We are trying to teach children there is value in effort and commitment and not just winning, yes?

      3. BellyButton*

        That is awesome! I have said as much to leaders who complaining about “kids today”
        Me- “aren’t your kids the same age?”

      4. Onward*

        I have ALWAYS thought this when people make snide comments about “participation trophies”. Dude, we weren’t giving them to ourselves.

        Also, in defense of participation trophies, in adult life I’ve noticed that a lot of people just don’t participate. In anything. Ever. So maybe just participation (and not winning the whole f-ing thing) is good too.

        1. FD*

          I think like a lot of things it’s one of those cases where there’s a core of a good idea. Kids are generally really good at telling when they’re being patronized and I think there are some participation awards that feel patronizing. I always found it particularly annoying when I was forced to participate in something like a class wide event and got a participation trophy because it felt insulting since I had no choice in the matter.

          But on the flip side it is very useful to reinforce desirable behavior. If for example the kid had to take effort to sign up and participate in an event then reinforcing that in some way can be a good idea, particularly if you don’t the event so that the child is making the effort to participate rather than it being something their parents are making them do.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Nod for a little kid it can be hard to put themselves out there. I mean I guess you could only award excellence for your kindergarteners but ‍♂️

        2. Irish Teacher*

          And honestly, participation trophies are usually given for stuff like sports days. Kids aren’t getting participation trophies for sitting the exam and getting 0% in it. And it’s not like we ever thought winning a race on sports day meant anything anyway. Kids know that sports day is meant to be “just for fun,” a break day before the summer holidays.

          And honestly, we want kids to exercise for health reasons. I can see how giving trophies to the kids who win the races could give the impression that sports are only for those who are particularly talented about them and there is no point in exercising unless you are “sporty” and I can see a positive to promoting sports as something to do for fun and for health reasons rather than “to see if you are likely to win,” which is likely to turn at least half the class off the idea of sports and exercise.

          That said, I do agree that kids know who won anyway and the trophies aren’t going to mean anything to them if everybody gets them. Which is another thing that makes this whole “young adults today don’t strive for success because they got participation trophies” silly. Believe me, kids don’t think that coming 15th in the race is just as good as coming first because both got a trophy. Kids tend to care about who came first even when teachers tell them it doesn’t matter; it’s just a game.

          I think participation trophies are fairly meaningless and I am pretty sure they are meaningless to the kids who get them. Kids know that if everybody gets a trophy, it’s the same as nobody getting a trophy. It certainly isn’t making the kid who comes 15th in the race think “I got a trophy. I’m a brilliant athlete.” I also don’t think it’s likely to build their confidence or even really encourage participation (though I haven’t seen any studies, so am only speculating)

          1. Palliser7*

            I love being Gen X :) Whenever someone brings up wearing matching hoodies or whatever at a work event, I explain that I’m not a joiner and my inner surly teen is so, so happy.

            1. I have RBF*

              I’m boomer/genX crossover. I have an inner surly teen that I have to keep a tight leash on. No, I’m not a joiner either, unless I created the group… ;)

    2. tinybutfierce*

      Once upon a time, I went to college with a girl whose mother and grandmother would regularly travel from New Jersey to North Carolina to DO HER LAUNDRY. A friend who once had the misfortune of briefly rooming with her said that mom & grandma were present one weekend when “they” were cleaning the apartment, and when she handed the roommate a broom, her mom literally took it from her daughter’s hand and wouldn’t let her clean.

      Every now and then, I think of that girl and wonder how on earth she’s doing, because I sincerely can’t imagine she’s able to be a functional independent adult.

      1. SadieMae*

        I got some backlash from a mom acquaintance for assigning my kids all their own laundry tasks when they turned 12. Like, I taught them how to do laundry (and wrote out a “cheat sheet” for the laundry room wall that said things like “make sure to clean out the lint trap every time”) and then they were on their own. If they didn’t get around to it and then had no clean underwear, well, that was a good way to learn to stay on top of it. If they carelessly tossed a sweater in with the whites and shrunk the sweater and turned all their whites pink, well, they’d learn to be more careful.

        You’d have thought I’d admitted putting them to work in the coal mines. She was really shocked! And when I asked a group of mom friends, while they were not shocked, they also did not make their kids do laundry (even teenagers!!).

        I also know quite a few parents who don’t make their teenagers mow the lawn. That baffles me – I was *thrilled* to hand that task over when I felt my kids were old enough to do it safely – just like my dad handed it over to me when I was that age. One of the perks that makes up for all the stuff teenagers put you through is that you can make them mow the dang lawn.

        1. turquoisecow*

          I knew a bunch of people who were completely flummoxed by the dorm washing machines in college. Not teaching your kids to clean and do laundry means you failed as a parent, in my opinion. You should be preparing them for the world.

          1. Bast*

            I was completely flummoxed by some of the fancy machines with all the bells and whistles that are in laundromats the first time I used them. My parents had old, old machines from the 70s that had very few options and were top loading. There were 2 knobs on the whole thing. Imagine my surprise when being confronted with a machine with double knobs, super dry and super super dry, extra special wash, hold wash etc and having to insert coins. It wasn’t so much that I had never done laundry, just that I has never seen that type of machine.

            To this day my parents still use a rotary phone as well. I grew up with old tech that my parents refused to give up.

          2. One Potato Two Potato Three Potato Four*

            I went to college (a million years ago) out of state and the first weekend there of my freshman year was Labor Day weekend. Kids that lived fairly closely went home for the long weekend while we out-of-staters stayed. I never washed my own clothes at home and I asked one of the other kids how to work the washing machine and dryer. Yes, I was unprepared. My Mom was a stay at home Mom and did all the housework.

        2. WS*

          Yes, my parents did the same thing with me and my brothers when we started high school, along with slowly increasing other responsibilities. It was a real shock to get to university and find out that half the other students didn’t know how to operate a washing machine, and I’m Gen X, so this isn’t recent!

          1. Jam on Toast*

            Sent my oldest off to university two years ago. He lived in residence, in a suite with 4 other young men. He sent me a series of increasingly disbelieving texts as the term progressed, because his roommates kept pestering him for help navigating the impenetrable mysteries of ‘THE LAUNDRY’. From how often you had to do it, to how to prepare and sort the clothes, to the fact that yes, you did have to trek back downstairs and switch it over to the dryer and no, it wasn’t unfair that if you didn’t go back for days on end, people would just leave it out in a wet heap getting mouldy, his eyes were well and truly opened to the fact that our insistence on his completing regular chores had in fact been useful. How parents think they’re helping their kids in the long term when they fail to teach basic life skills is a mystery to me.

        3. tamarack etc.*

          A friend’s son had to teach most of his dorm floor how to do laundry as a college freshman, and was pretty bemused by the experience.

        4. Another lab tech*

          I started doing my own laundry at age 11. My 5-yo child sorts the laundry and I help them put it away. My 8-yo does their own laundry—all of it (I don’t make them fold their clothes though—the clothing gets messed up every day when picking out clothes so they just get stuffed in the drawers).

          1. londonedit*

            My four-year-old nephew has always absolutely loved helping with the washing machine – almost as soon as he could stand, he wanted to press the buttons, and now he knows exactly which setting to put it on, where the little pod of liquid goes, and which button to press to start the machine. Of course by the time he’s 13 he might have absolutely zero interest in helping with the washing, but at least he knows the basics and he won’t be the one coming back from his first term at uni with weeks’ worth of filthy washing for his mum to do!

            1. Neurodivergent in Germany*

              My daughter is three and a half and she loves the washing machine.
              She will load and unload and press the button.
              If she were able to measure out the liquid detergent (and stay on task long enough), she could pretty much do it by herself.

              1. Random Dice*

                There’s truly excellent and plastic-free sheets of laundry detergent “paper”.

                You put one strip in for light loads and 2 for heavier loads. It comes in a small cardboard sleeve. Fragrance free or fresh linen scent.

                Tru Earth is the brand and it’s great!

        5. I have RBF*

          When I hit junior high and didn’t like the way my mom did my laundry, her solution was to say “Well, then, you can do your own laundry.” I was thrilled! It wasn’t hard, things got folded the way I wanted, I could make my own choices on what temperature to use for what, and I didn’t find my little sister’s stuff mingled with mine any more. My mom got less stuff to do, which suited her fine too. All I had to do was let her know when the detergent was getting low. I started helping with the cooking around the same time – it meant I got more say in what we had for dinner.

    3. FD*

      I wonder sometimes if it comes down to parents trying not to make mistakes their parents made and going in the absolute opposite direction. My dad is often commented on how strange it is that a generation who were mostly latchkey kids produced many helicopter parents. My theory is that some of those latchkey kids felt like they didn’t get enough support or involvement from their parents and went very far in the other direction.

      It is sad though because in my experience there are only two ultimate outcomes. The child forces their independence which nearly always involves rebelling against their parent and straining the relationship or the child doesn’t learn how to become independent at all and struggles to handle adult life.

      1. BellyButton*

        I think it is. I have spoken to a lot of my fellow GenXers about this for years. We were left on our own to fend for ourselves a lot, many of us had little direction or supervision. Many of us struggled way more than necessary.

    4. TomatoSoup*

      They’re also the same grandparents who freak out and scream at their children because an 11 year old grandchild walks two blocks home from school.

      Also, even when I was little I didn’t confuse participation trophies with having won anything.

  4. Heidi*

    Oh, Jane’s dad, why didn’t you just write down the questions for Jane to ask herself? Now people are going to think she’s not self-sufficient.

    1. rayray*

      Yeah, I don’t think it’s totally out of line for parents to provide some guidance for adult children, but there’s a difference between giving advice and answering questions vs doing what Jane’s father did.

      1. London Calling*

        Trying to recall my first day in new job straight out of university. I’m not sure my mother even asked what I’d be doing. Granted that’s the other end of the spectrum from Jane’s father, but all she was concerned about was that I was working. I’m not sure she ever knew how I earned my living.

        Although TBF she begged me to get out of that job because I was so miserable (and find another one pronto).

        1. Becky*

          Although TBF she begged me to get out of that job because I was so miserable (and find another one pronto).

          That, I think, is reasonable–it would be unreasonable if she called your job/called your boss about you being miserable but to encourage you to find something else when she clearly saw you suffering is not an overstep (though it can become it if you have asked her to stop and she does not).

          I had a conversation like that once with a friend–we were college roommates and she was 2 semesters away from graduating but her chosen major ended up not being a good fit and she was absolutely miserable. I encouraged her to switch majors–even if it prolonged her graduation date. She did switch majors and did end up graduating later but was much happier in the program and in the career afterwards than she would have been if she had stayed in her original major.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        Right? I can absolutely see being a little overwhelmed by Your First Job Offer!!! and having a parent say “okay, be sure to ask about X and Y and how A and B will work”. But I would expect the person to write down those things, and then THEY ask me during the offer process! Not what happened here.
        Also, “Can Jane be late on her first day” is just…I have nothing. Nothing at all. Even if it weren’t unusual for a parent to ask questions, this one is Not Good.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Oh absolutely! When my adult kids have come to me unsure about job stuff and wanting advice, my go-to has been to help them brainstorm questions and scripts for advocating for themselves.
      I’ve only once talked to my child’s employer, and that was when she asked me to call and them them know she was in the hospital if she was asleep when the work day started so she didn’t have to be woken up.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      Pretty sure Dad would have sat there watching Jane answer the questions, get frustrated he can’t talk, and grabbed the phone and started saying them himself.

  5. INeedANap*

    I feel really bad for people like Jane. Parents who think that is acceptable professional behavior have serious control issues, and this will make her life harder unless she sets firm boundaries, which is a nightmare to do with a parent like this. This is the kind of thing my mother would try to do, and stopping her involves a lot of screaming and insults over the course of months.

    Or maybe Jane sees nothing wrong with this, in which case her parents have not prepared her to be an independent and resilient adult.

    I know this was published a long time ago, and I hope Jane is a more self-reliant adult today.

    1. INeedANap*

      (To clarify, “screaming and insults” refers solely to my mother. I don’t speak to anyone that way.)

    2. daffodil*

      I teach college students and have sometimes had to help them re-negotiate relationships with their parents around this kind of thing. Ideally the college experience helps them transition into managing things for themselves! I see this kind of behavior from first year students or incoming students (and their parents) more than seniors or grads.

    3. Observer*

      I know this was published a long time ago, and I hope Jane is a more self-reliant adult today.


    4. El l*

      Yeah, I have a feeling her dad is a micromanaging boss. He’d hate to be treated that way – but he’s used to treating others that way.

      Jane has probably by this point just accepted that this is the way things are. And in the mean time, she’ll have no practice in advocating for herself.

      BTW, best response would probably be, “Sir, we’re negotiating a job offer and its terms with Jane. Not you. You could’ve talked questions with her beforehand, don’t care – but please give her back the phone. Let her speak for herself.”

    5. Aggretsuko*

      Trust me, if Jane tries to assert boundaries, her dad will mow them over with a bulldozer. She’ll have to scream and cry and act like a crazy person and still not get anywhere. Cutting him off entirely may be where that has to go.

      Frankly, it’s easier to give in to the demands of the crazy than fight, fight, fight, fight, constantly fight to be yourself, to have your boundaries, to get someone like this to back off.

      (Ask me how I know! Nah…don’t, actually, I’m sure you can guess.)

    6. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I feel bad, too. Reading between the lines I’m going to speculate that Jane was late for school one day or for something important and Dad wants to make sure that she will be ok…because of course, if it happened once, it will happen again!
      And she is probably feeling like, “will I ever live this down?”

  6. K*

    Thank you for your matter of fact response to people needing more room on planes. I’m sure this will end up being debated, but I hard agree that it should not be controversial. I like letter writers approach to distributing a broad policy as well! As someone who travels for business and does need an extra seat, it took me a few trips to ask so I paid for a few tickets on my own, and utilized Southwest’s customer of size policy for another few. I’m not one who is ashamed of my size, and I don’t believe in tip toeing around it (after all, everyone who looks at me is aware that I am fat!) but I felt like a burden asking for accommodation. Once I asked, it was approved immediately and treated as no big deal and I’ve never had to ask again. I will say, it’s a pain to book because I have to call our travel agency instead of being able to do it online like everyone else, but that is beside the point. All except for one instance the travel agent immediately knew what I needed and how to take care of it.

    All this to say.. if you are a people manager or in charge or making travel policies.. consider the needs of our bigger employees! And if you ARE a bigger employee, please find it in yourself to ask!

    1. Hamster Manager*

      I agree with you and Alison, but I also worry “we need to pay the full costs of people traveling” is going to translate to some crummy businesses as bigger people being passed over for travel to save money and thus missing out on opportunities, which is also obviously a major problem.

      1. K*

        This was my main concern when I asked for accommodation but realistically, an extra $300 for a plane ticket shouldn’t be make or break for a company. But yes, agree, since fat people are not a protected class this is a risk. Not sure of the solution! Unfortunately, many fat people face this type of limiting discrimination outside of travel (assumptions about the way we “take care” of our body and how the translates into our abilities to succeed at work comes to mind..) but that’s another discussion!

        1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

          Reading it back that sounded snarky but I promise I did not mean it to be. It is meant sadly. :(

    2. Dawbs*

      yeah, we should be making all accommodations easy for people!

      My kid’s autism isn’t readily apparent to the world at large, so they don’t know we need priority boarding (we could survive without it. But trust me, everybody on the plane is happier when we get settled by ourselves and nobody accidentally touches her in the crowd. FWIW, assuming we don’t have to make connections, we’re quite willing to sit and be the last ones off so we don’t have to touch people then either!)

      That’s just to say that none of us knows if someone is claustrophobic or unable to handle exit-row duties, etc (my boss wouldn’t know this, but I’m physically uanble to do the job there; I decline an exit row–which is sad for my legs wanting the room but better if someone did need to evacuate the plane). We need to have simple matter of fact ways to address these things; make it as easy as possible to have employees state their needs and a solution nd policies to make sure we can meet them.

      1. BellyButton*

        When I was traveling last month the person behind me in line to board was complaining that the person getting priority boarding “was perfect normal.” I said “you don’t know their life, their situation, their body. How does one person going first make a world of difference when we are in group C to board.”

        1. spruce*

          Plus it’s not like the person getting priority boarding will get to arrive any earlier at the destination. People get so difficult about anyone getting any kind of perceived privilege…

        2. Rosa*

          LW3: covering 2 airfares instead of 1 would likely affect how many people we could afford to send on a work trip. Not all businesses have the luxury of an unlimited travel budget.

    3. POUS*

      Southwest has plenty of problems, but their policies for larger passengers certainly aren’t one of them. I was very happy with how easy that entire process was.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    It’s been a nightmare to deal with him, but he does just enough to not be let go.

    No, see–this should not be a thing. “Nightmare to deal with” should be grounds enough to let him go. Soft skills are job skills.

    1. Antilles*

      Especially when your description is “just enough”. Like, you’re not even saying he’s an A+ all-world superstar whose skills are irreplaceable, you’re saying he’s adequate!

      If he was really elite, maybe you decide that he’s so valuable that you put up with his bullcrap. Not a choice I’d make personally, but I could at least understand the logic in signing that devil’s bargain.

      But if he’s an average performer, then it’s just baffling. Why keep him around? You can absolutely find another average performer who’s not a jackhole!

    2. Mark Baron*

      I was thinking the same thing. Someone who is a nightmare to deal with shouldn’t be working there. Start being uber-strict and follow your company discipline policies. Eventually they will comply or work their way out of a job.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      So much! It is endlessly fascinating that bad behavior is tolerated because the perceived actual work product is adequate.

      PSA interacting politely with those you work with IS part of the job.

    4. Coder von Frankenstein*

      This, so very much.

      *Sometimes* you have to put up with someone who is a nightmare to deal with because they are just that good at their jobs. (Even then, not as often as people think.) But someone who does “just enough?” There is absolutely no reason to keep that guy.

    1. rayray*

      Sounds like she did earn the job on her own merits, I just feel sorry for her having bulldozing helicopter parents. I am guessing she is young and hopefully she can grow as a professional and gain more independence. I blame her father, not her.

        1. rayray*

          ehhh, I agree but she may just be super crippled by her overbearing father and got stuck in an awkward position. I think it would only be fair to let someone learn and grow. Jane maybe just has not been given the tools she needs to be an independent grownup, but may have great potential. If after a while she isn’t performing well on the job, then things could be looked at but it seeing as she got the job offer, she must have something they liked.

        2. ShanShan*

          I mean, not physically. But parents like this have ways of getting what they want. Trust me on this.

        3. Samwise*

          So you may think, but you know nothing about Jane and more to the point, about Jane’s father.

          For YOU, it would not be a problem to not hand over the phone. Or not much of a problem.

          But there are terrible parents out there.

          I would not rescind the job offer. I’d talk with Jane about it — matter of factly, explaining that you can only speak to employees about work and their employment unless it is a dire emergency. And I’d also keep an eye on her for signs of domestic abuse.

          1. Fala*

            It’s not up to employers to bear the consequences of bad parenting, or to teach college graduates about adulting.

            1. ShanShan*

              It’s not “up to” anyone to be compassionate to people in trouble, but a lot of us want to do it anyway.

        4. Bookmark*

          True, but if this is a ~22 year old living at home with the kind of parent who demands this kind of intervention in a child’s life, it is very hard to learn and enforce appropriate boundaries. Assuming you’re hiring an entry level position for recent college grads, part of the gig is teaching people how to be professionals and dealing with this kind of awkwardness. It certainly doesn’t rise to the level of something that would merit revoking the person’s job offer!!

      1. Observer*

        I am guessing she is young and hopefully she can grow as a professional and gain more independence. I blame her father, not her.

        Could be. But still a real red flag. Because either way she is allowing waaay too much parental involvement and that’s a real problem for her employer.

        I hope that there was a serious conversation with her, after which she was able to do whatever it took to keep her father out of her relationship with the office.

        1. Nina*

          I’ve been there. If this is her first job and she’s been living with her parents during college (not unusual and also a sound financial decision), then yeah, parent saying ‘give me the phone so I can talk to them’ is something you just do. Maybe you know there will be bad consequences if you don’t, maybe you’re just conditioned to do what you’re told… who knows. I feel more sad for Jane that her dad is so overbearing than mad at her for not somehow magically knowing when to tell your parents to butt out of your life.

        2. ShanShan*

          The main thing it will “take” to keep her father out of her relationship with the office is GIVING HER A JOB so that she can move out!

      1. Artemesia*

        But definitely something to have a very direct meeting with the new hire about when she comes for training. No softening or pussyfooting around about it. It is grossly unprofessional and she needs to know that and the manager needs to handle it professionally as well the next time it happens. (and yeah, everyone screws up when confronted with the unexpected sometimes — but no manager should ever have this conversation with a parent and should set the parent in their place firmly.)

        1. LB33*

          Personally I don’t think it’s necessary to have such a weighty conversation – it’s not great but let’s not blow out of proportion either. All you need is a chat about some basic business norms and giving some baseline expectations. She’s young, she’ll learn

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      Employees make mistakes.

      Young employees make considerably more.

      This really doesn’t rise to anything more than a conversation with Jane about business norms and strongly encouraging her not to do that in the future.

    3. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      And if I were the person hiring Jane, I’d have serious concerns that the father had a heavy hand in writing her resume or filling out an online application.

      1. LB33*

        Even if that were true, presumably Jane went through some sort of interview process where she had to rise or fall on her own

      2. Be Gneiss*

        oh no! you mean there’s a chance that someone submitted a resume that was not written and reviewed and edited solely by that candidate?!?!

        1. I have RBF*

          Seriously. Paid resume preparers are a thing. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re very bad. But it’s not a crime, or even an inherently bad thing.

  8. Marna Nightingale*

    LW3: My spouse is 6’8″ tall.

    His employer routinely pays to ensure he’s in an exit row/economy plus seat or if those are gone they bump him to business class on any flight longer than an hour, and always in an aisle seat even for short flights, because not only is being crammed into a regular economy seat miserable at the time for him, he really cannot move his legs at all if he’s not on the aisle, and that’s a heightened embolism risk.

    So yes, the employer should be covering the actual cost of an employee’s travel, including extra seats and upgrades.

    It costs what it costs, and needing to pay more for an extra seat isn’t materially different from, for example, needing to pay to rebook a ticket for someone who couldn’t take their original flight because of illness or injury or any number of things, or needing to make sure they fly direct or any number of things.

    FWIW, business/first class seats are wider as well as deeper and one of them is sometimes roomy enough and cheaper than two economy seats.

    1. Cait*

      Exactly. If there is an extra fee being applied for something a person cannot change (their size, their disability, their allergies, etc.) then the company needs to absorb that cost. If someone wants to upgrade to business class because they like having more leg room and free champagne, that’s one thing. But asking someone to foot the extra cost for something they can’t help should not be an acceptable policy.

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        I also appreciate the way his job handles the many, many upgrade coupon-thingies Air Canada gives you when your corporate account handles that much travel.

        Rather than give them to the board and managers, they assign them randomly.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      This is a perfect example because unfortunately “too tall for spaces” has basically no social stigma while “to wide for spaces” does, even though they’re essentially the same logistical problem of “need more space than is standard.”

      1. Gerry Keay*

        (I realize now that this syntax makes it look like I think there *should* be social stigma for being tall. I do not.)

        1. Marna Nightingale*

          I mean, there is in very specific circumstances, but it is in no way comparable to the stigma around being fat.

  9. Cait*

    Oh my! Alison’s answer was spot on but I don’t fault Sally for being absolutely flummoxed in the moment. The sheer audacity on Dad’s part and naivety on Jane’s part is truly something to behold. I’m hoping Jane was just new to the job market and completely unaware that her Dad should no longer be playing the protective parent, and not that she was in an abusive situation where her Dad had to control every aspect of her life.

    Either way, I hope she’s doing better now.

  10. Cobol*

    I wouldn’t let what the dad did color your opinion of Jane. Overbearing parents are going to overbear. Agree you’d be doing her a huge service by pulling her aside and letting her know that now she’s an adult there expectation is her employers have zero interaction with her family. Put it in writing for her so she has “proof” for her dad next time even.

    1. ShanShan*

      For heaven’s sake, literally the only way she’s going to get out from under his thumb is if someone gives her a job!

    2. AthenaC*

      I like your suggestion of putting it in writing. Oftentimes that’s the only real thing that has a chance of getting the parents to stop because of the “proof” element you pointed out.

  11. Lavender*

    My dad once offered to call a potential employer on my behalf, after they gave me a verbal offer but took a few days to get back to me about a start date etc. He didn’t understand why my answer to this was something along the lines of, “No, absolutely not, why on earth would I want that?!”

    (The employer got back to me shortly thereafter and all was well.)

  12. CLC*

    I hope this doesn’t reflect poorly on Jane. It’s not her fault her dad did this. If she’s a new grad she is very likely still taking her professional cues from the adults in her life, especially her parents (I know I did but luckily my dad did not get on the phone and ask questions for me). She may have assumed that if her dad thought this was ok, it must be. Her dad might also not have a professional background or much education, or he might be from a culture where it’s unfortunately normal fathers exert more control over adult daughters (there are many). None of that would make it ok, but it would explain it, and it wouldn’t be Jane’s fault. Even if she knew there was something wrong with it her father might have strong armed her into it.

    1. Cait*

      Yeah, I definitely hope a follow-up conversation was had with her about intrusive behavior on her father’s part and how details of her work life are going to remain strictly between her and the company from now on. Not that her dad can’t recommend questions for her to ask later but no one should be trying to stand in for her and expecting the company to respond.

  13. EPLawyer*

    Oh parents who try to run their kids lives. I used to get it a lot at the legal clinics (pre pandemic). Parents would come in to get information for their kids about how to obtain custody of the kid’s kid. One parent even if they could appear in court instead of their child.

    My usual response was to explain that this is custody. A court needs to decide if the kid is a fit and proper person to have custody. If they cannot even meet with a free attorney to get information on their own, court is not going to go well for them.

    The best thing you can do for your kids is to teach them to stand on their own two feet. If you do everything for them, they never learn.

  14. Veryanon*

    Parents: I do get it, as the parent of two young adults. But I’ve always coached my children that they have to deal with these issues directly, and that I was happy to offer advice, wording, etc., but I would not handle the issue for them.
    In past lives I’ve worked a lot with young adults (retail) and would often get parents contacting me because the employee was “too busy with school” or the like. My response always was, “I am not able to discuss confidential employment information with anyone who is not the employee, even if they are not yet legally an adult. [your child] will need to contact me directly.”

  15. mango chiffon*

    LW3: My organization prefers everyone to book economy class up to a certain length of flight (and then extra leg room can come into play), but there is ALWAYS the option to have medical needs met for flights/travel. It’s an extra step of communicating with HR beforehand to have the medical accommodation for upgraded travel approved, but it is an option in my org that exists for those who need it.

  16. Chihuahua*

    I agree with the companies paying for extra/larger seats when needed, but where do you draw the line? How tall/heavy does someone need to be where it is too uncomfortable? I’m 5’3” and 130lbs and often find economy seats tiny and uncomfortable. I don’t know how people of even normal size fit in them well.
    What is to stop anyone from saying economy is too small? I need business class? (We all know how well honor system would work).

      1. ferrina*

        Honor system also leaves room for invisible conditions, for example, if you have a joint condition and need accommodations. This way they can get the accommodations without needing to get into medical details.

        Will some bad actors slip through? Probably. But bad actors can get through any system. The trick is to properly understand the cost of bad actors vs benefit to excellent employees.

        1. StressedButOkay*

          As is the case with most honor systems, most of the people using it are the people who need it. And if one or two slip through who are being jerks, I’d rather have the option open for people who do need it rather than try to close it to try and stop the few trying to abuse it.

          1. Marna Nightingale*

            Especially given how endemic fat-shaming is and how dire airlines frequently are about accommodation issues.

            I hope it’s improved, but I’ve heard more than one story about people who had purchased two seats arriving to find that their two seats *were not beside one another* and being pressured to squeeze into one seat, charged a large fee to change them, or blown off entirely and just not getting to fly.

            I am strongly inclined to think that anyone trying to “abuse” the system by claiming accommodations they don’t need for a flight will resolve never ever to try that again at a very early stage in their journey.

        2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          Bad actors also tend to “out” themselves by doing things like bragging how they got the Company to pay for them to have a bigger seat by just saying they needed it for “medical” reasons they don’t have. Sure, Company will still give Bad Actor the extra legroom, but all the co-workers obeying the honor system will definitely think less of the Bad Actor.

          1. Marna Nightingale*

            Everyone who needs accommodations will already know about Bad Actor.

            Bad Actor is that person who will actually walk up to a person using an accommodation and say “How do I get a sweet deal like that?”

            To which the only reasonable answer is to raise your cane and say “left knee, right knee, or should I just pick?”

            1. I have RBF*

              Oh, temptation, get away from me.

              Yes, the people who imply that I have some sort of “perk” for being able to park in a handicapped space or board a plane early because of my disability need to be helped to understand that it’s not the perk they think it is. I sometimes wish it was legal to welcome them to the club if they want it so badly…

              1. Splendid Colors*

                I don’t understand people who want me to use my disability to qualify for accommodations I don’t really need.

                Yes, I know that people with Autistic kids can get handicapped placards so they don’t have to deal with getting a “bolter” all the way to the store from the far side of the parking lot. But if I’m driving myself to the store, I had better have more self-control and traffic-sense than that or I shouldn’t have a driver’s license!

                And yes, I could qualify for a service dog. Except then I would need to take care of a dog, deal with the logistical problems of a dog at a makerspace, and worst of all, deal with all the jerks who don’t know how to interact with service dogs or their handlers. And I’d have to pay for a service dog, its food, its vet bills, etc. for… I’m not exactly sure what, in particular, a service dog would help ME with. One person suggested that having a service dog would help me make friends because people always want to pet the dog. Right, because obviously I want to be friends with people who are clueless about service dog etiquette instead of with people I actually want to hang out with?

    1. Event coordinator?*

      Ugh yeah. It also varies from airline to airline, even individual plane to plane. Those embraer jets used for smaller airports pack ya in like sardines, but a new Boeing 737 has a bit more room.

      “The circumference of my hips is 60 inches” feels like a weird thing to put on a spend authorization or expense report.

    2. Jane Bingley*

      There’s a world of difference between finding seats uncomfortable and not fitting. Can you physically sit down? Can you put the armrests down? Can you fasten your seatbelt? It’s not about comfort, it’s a logistical yes or no question.

      1. Littorally*

        Eh, it’s more complex than that. People are not entirely rigid forms. Sure, there’s a point where the answer is definitely no, but there’s also a fair bit of grey area that boils down to a question of how much discomfort that person can tolerate.

          1. Jack Russell Terrier*

            Right – if I remember a Washington Post article, the FAA is thinking of stepping into the incredible shrinking airline seat situation because the evacuation testing isn’t done with a representative population. It’s a serious safety issue.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              Fat person here – I don’t fit comfortably into a lot of seats. When I say not comfortably, I mean I had to take a tiny plane from Alabama to North Carolina last year and I thought I might pass out from how bad squeezing myself into the seat hurt my legs. There was no option to buy an extra seat. It was a single seat, aisle, then double seats on the other side – and all those were already booked by the time I was told by my job to book travel to replace someone who could no longer go on the trip. Ack! I was all the way in the back. I’m disabled. I walk with a cane because seats EVERYWHERE (doctor’s office, my office, airport waiting areas, etc.) cause my legs to go numb. It took me ages to even get to my seat, let alone squash every ounce of my hips into a seat half the size I needed. I could not buckle the seatbelt (I can in other planes). I’m saying all this to say, it would be awesome if the FAA stepped in. It’s really an understatement to say it’s nerve-wracking to know that in an emergency I’ll probably just die.

              1. I have RBF*

                I am fat, disabled, and 5’8″ tall. I need early boarding because I move slowly. I can no longer stand, even hunched over, in the steerage section of airplanes, which messes with my balance. IMO, the FAA should require that airline seating meet the demographics of the population now, not that of 70 years ago. If the seats are too small for me, AFAB, they’re definitely too small for someone AMAB.

      2. NeedRain47*

        No one of average adult size is comfortable with the seat size and legroom on economy flights. Everyone would be more comfortable in business class. That’s not how flying works tho.

        1. DataSci*

          Agreed. I am not comfortable in an economy seat. I can physically fit with the armrests down, and fasten the seatbelt without an extender. So I don’t need accommodations here. People complaining about larger people getting special treatment here sound a lot like people complaining about handicapped parking permit holders getting the good parking spots. Yeah, we’d all like them. We don’t all NEED them.

    3. Nesprin*

      I mean, if you can’t trust your employees to book airline seats based on their needs, can you trust them to actually travel for company reasons? And seriously, if someone’s willing to lie about needing a business class upgrade, do you trust them to handle budgets/funds/timecards?

    4. K*

      Well, for me, I’m 300lbs. So like.. yeah I need 2 seats. It’s not a matter of me being uncomfortable, it’s a matter of me not encroaching on another seat + being able to put the armrest down, etc. If someone needs proof, I can provide that by presenting my body to them. Sorry not trying to be rude or anything at all, but I’m sensitive to the “where do we draw the line” questions because it tends to indicate not really understanding the issue. It’s not about comfort. No one is comfortable on a plane. It’s a physical accommodation needed for me to safely fly in a plane.

      1. oh, she's an ingénue*

        FWIW I don’t think you’re the one being rude and I don’t think you’re being overly sensitive about this. It’s hard to continuously pretend that all the “where do we draw the line” questions are in good faith and try to respond to them accordingly.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Yup. Sometimes, comments like this (“it’s uncomfortable for everyone!”) make me think that skinny people really don’t understand being fat. It’s the same as people who don’t get that, for clothes, for many fat people, it’s not about the fit or whether the clothes look good/flattering, it’s about whether or not the clothes literally, physically fit on one’s body. We don’t often get an option beyond that baseline, when we get it at all. (If a mall doesn’t have a Torrid or a Lane Bryant or maybe two or three other stores, i literally cannot buy clothes there.)

        Also, I’m about 220 pounds and 5’6”. I’ve fortunately never had an issue fitting in an airplane seat, so it really makes me side eye people who are 100 pounds lighter than me saying how uncomfortable and awful it is. (Yes, it does suck for everyone but let’s not act like it’s the same suck. Also, yes, I’m sure there are smaller people who have other concerns that make plane travel more difficult. I’m not directing my comment to them.)

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I am the same height and a few pounds heavier than you and I feel exactly the same way. I can fit in the seat, and yeah, sometimes it sucks and my back hurts and I get really tense and it pisses me off when people put their elbows in my flank, but it is indeed totally different than not being able to fit in the seat.

      2. Bookmark*

        yes, exactly. Part of the distinction is *being at risk of being summarily thrown off the plane* by a flight attendant based on their judgement of whether you fit in the seat or complaints from other passengers.

    5. Lenora Rose*

      Uncomfortable isn’t the issue; I can’t imagine the person who can find an airplane economy seat comfortable. Physically unable to fit at all / actively a danger to health are. So, like, I’m heavy but I can sit in the seat and buckle the belt, even if I prefer to move at least one armrest. My tall husband looks for exit rows and strongly prefers an aisle seat if he can’t get exit, because he wants more leg room, but he’s not pinned in place to the point of health duress if he doesn’t get one. I do think the average person better understands uncomfortable vs physically impossible.

    6. Gerry Keay*

      I think this is a scenario of “if you know, you know.” I have long legs and my knees get achey if I don’t have an aisle I can stretch them out in, which is very different from someone who cannot safely fasten their seatbelt.

    7. Some words*

      “What is to stop anyone from saying economy is too small?”

      I actually wish vast numbers of people would say this, loudly, because economy IS too small for an average size person.

      I was watching an old educational film the other day (field trip to the airport) and marveled to my husband “Look at how spacious the plane is!” It was just a regular seat in a regular plane. The seats were about 30% wider than the current ones.

      And yes, companies shouldn’t even question this if an employee needs size accomondations.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        When I won a trip to Hawaii in the late 1980s, my 6’2″ husband and I preferred riding around the island on Honolulu city buses over the tour buses because of the extra leg room. The tour buses were charging $30/seat and sold out the tours, so they were motivated to squeeze in more people than the regular transit company did. The transit company probably values the speed of people getting in and out of seats more quickly than it does a few more potential fares.

    8. cabbagepants*

      Some companies will in fact pay for business class seats for any employee on flights longer than a certain duration!

  17. I should really pick a name*

    For #3, The primary goal should be to enforce the no, not to avoid awkwardness.

    You can’t control how people feel. Be as polite as possible, but you haven’t failed if it becomes awkward. Just stand firm and avoid negotiating.

  18. Event coordinator?*

    I want to hear more about Bill with Authority Issues. Lots of us have to work with or manage Bills.

    1. Gerry Keay*

      And lots of us ARE Bill and simply know to keep our mouths shut about it because we know saying stuff like that gets a target on our backs. “Issues with authority” has inspired many many labor organizers, but you gotta know how to be smart about it ;)

      1. Grammar Penguin*

        No, there is a difference between having legitimate grievances about upper management decisions and having issues with authority. Please don’t treat labor organization as if it’s a psychological phenomenon or disorder.

        1. fgcommenter*

          Having “issues with authority” isn’t a psychological phenomenon or disorder. The need for labor organization goes beyond specific management decisions; it is needed to counteract the systemic problems with the type of authority found in businesses.

  19. Olive*

    The first time my parents came to visit me after I’d moved to a new city, my mother said “you’ve said nice things about your boss and coworkers and I’d like to go to work with you and meet them.”
    Even though she accepted me saying no, she did not understand why. She remained insistent that it would be a perfectly appropriate thing for her to do and that I was just being stuffy.

    1. Be Gneiss*

      My husband’s mother and aunt just showed up. At his Real Adult Job at a factory where they made big heavy things using processes where it would be dangerous to have people wandering around. Since they didn’t get past reception they just….stayed and talked to the woman in reception for a very.long.time.

      It’s been more than 25 years and he’s still angry with her about it, and she still doesn’t think she did anything wrong.

      The story is such a part of family legend that both teenage children with service-industry jobs refused to give her their schedules because they were afraid she would show up at work and expect to be entertained. And to be fair, she absolutely would do that.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Heh. I had a new, fresh-out-of-college co-worker who brought her parents by one day and it was… uncomfortable. Her father shook my hand and asked me when I graduated. I was his daughter’s supervisor. It was weird.

      On the other side of that coin, I worked at that place for almost 10 years and I once invited my mom to come up and hang out in my office before her train and she refused. Oddly, she doesn’t respect a lot of boundaries but she had that one.

  20. JD*

    I don’t think you need to be polite to the father in this situation. You can say that it’s inappropriate for the father to do that and request to speak to the daughter again. Explaining to the daughter/future employee is the time to be polite. The father can be dealt with very matter of factly and then move on to the daughter.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Saying “No” is not impolite! It’s absolutely possible to say it impolitely, but that’s true of anything. “I’m sorry, I really can’t discuss this with you because you’re not the employee” is not impolite, it’s matter-of-fact. And just because someone doesn’t like the answer they’re getting, that doesn’t mean the other person was rude.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      I’m a little confused by why you think being polite isn’t appropriate? Polite doesn’t mean fawning and using soft flowery language.

      It means saying, “We only discuss the job with employees” and not “Gee Dad, aren’t you an overbearing glassbowl? Now put your daughter back on.”

  21. Katrine Fonsmark*

    I truly think that I’d consider rescinding Jane’s job offer. That to me just shows SUCH poor judgment and immaturity. And before anyone jumps on me for being “unkind” I don’t think that’s what it is – it’s a new piece of information that you found out at the 11th hour.

    1. Indolent Libertine*

      It might show poor judgment and immaturity if Jane had asked Daddy to do this for her; if it was Daddy insisting on doing it, really all it shows is that he’s an overbearing glassbowl and maybe she desperately needs the job so she can break away.

      1. Eddie Crane*

        Urgg all the people commenting “daddy this” and “daddy that,” you’ve really made a huge assumption about what’s going on here and it’s… kind of weird.

        Yes, it’s a mistake, and very inappropriate. But it isn’t hugely out of the realm of the embarrassing mistakes that new graduates make.

        Not everyone was raised to understand professional norms perfectly. And not everyone has been raised to stand up to their parents, or doubt their judgement.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I don’t think it’s unkind, and if a friend had the offer rescinded I’d say “well now you know not to let Daddy on the phone then!” However I don’t think I’d go that far myself. It could easily be that she simply doesn’t know, and once she’s clued in she’ll be more sure to keep parental advice back stage.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      No – Jane is just very young and inexperienced, which is the way things are for kids starting out. They will need to learn professional norms at some point. At least you know where the point is to start with Jane – she needs to learn to be more independent.

      On the other hand, you could equally make the assumption that Jane will follow directions, responds well to authority (Unlike Bill from the other letter), and will be reliable — all because she defers to a parent. You might be wrong on these things, but they’re equally as likely as her having bad judgment and being immature.

      Also, you don’t know if Jane simply doesn’t know business norms, or if her father is extremely over-bearing, or both.

    4. Michelle Smith*

      It absolutely is unkind. You do not know what her home life is like. That might be the job she needs in order to get away from an overbearing helicopter parent or worse. I had a parent sit in on a JOB INTERVIEW once and I cringe thinking about it today. Hard. I’m really glad the Subway manager gave me a chance anyway so I could go back to school and eventually get away from my overbearing family.

      Does LW *need* to be kind in this situation? No. But it definitely would be unkind to pull the offer regardless of whether it’s in the employer’s reasonable right to do so.

    5. Delta Delta*

      I’m going to be unpopular and agree with you. Turning the phone over to her dad shows a lack of maturity and very poor judgment. It would be very hard to come back from this and still appear professional.

  22. Luna*

    I question why anyone would ask ‘is it okay to arrive late on your first day of work’? Unless there’s some genuine reason you end up late on accident (traffic, your mode of transport messing up, oversleeping, etc), there’s not really a reason to be late.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Late starts can be common on the first day. I haven’t phrased it that way, but I have asked what time they want me on the first day. This was after many occasions of the company giving me a late start for the first day, forgetting to tell me that, then leaving me hanging around for hours waiting for someone to deal with me and show me new starter stuff they need processing. Sometimes I didn’t even have somewhere to sit and tap my fingers.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        In my last 2 jobs, new starters would always be asked to come in at 10am on their first day to give us a bit of time to make sure their desk and everything else was set up correctly. Plus, if their first day is a Monday, there’s more time for the caffeine to kick in.

        1. londonedit*

          Same where I work – new people come in at 10am on their first day, just so there’s no risk of them sitting around waiting for their boss to arrive, and so everyone on their team has an hour or so to check their emails and get settled for the day so that they can then devote a decent amount of time to welcoming the new person.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I do the same– “What time should I arrive on [start date]?”– but I would never phrase it as, “Can I come in late?”

        And a pox on those companies that had you come in just to sit around.

    2. ABCYaBYE*

      There’s absolutely a better way to phrase that question. We just hired someone, and I told them our “normal” start time but said that between that start time and a half hour later would be fine, just to ensure we were prepared for them.

  23. ABCYaBYE*

    RE Letter 1 – It is imperative as parents that we provide help and support without doing all the things for our children. My teenager has had questions about how to approach teachers with questions about assignments, and I’ve happily answered them. I have walked her through ways to ask the questions that are more direct than how she presents them to me initially, but in our house we try to treat those situations as part of the overall learning experience. If I contact the teacher to get clarification, how is she going to do that when she’s in the working world, or when I’m not able to help her? Jane’s dad wasn’t helping at all. He could have coached her on things to ask, even going as far as writing questions down for her. But it is a terrible look because dad won’t be there in the moment if she has to have important conversations in the workplace.

    I hope the LW did chat with Jane about workplace norms, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that Jane already knows…

    1. Samwise*

      Yes, exactly.

      My son talked over issues he had w teachers/the school. If it seemed pretty serious, I’d ask him, “do you need me to make a call or send an email?” Most of the time, he did not. Very rarely, he’d say, There’s nothing more I can do, or, the teacher is just not responding to me at all. So then I would make an inquiry lol. Because in K-12, alas, parents often get a faster response than kids.

      BTW, this is how a distance learning middle school math teacher got herself fired…if only she’d actually graded his work. And, as it turned out, graded the other students’ work too…

  24. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: You can also be supportive of friends and family without partnering with them, working for them, or investing in their business! If they’re opening a bakery, buy a cake once in a while. If they’re starting an Etsy jewelry shop, buy some earrings every blue moon, rave about them, and give them away as gifts (or wear them on occasion). If they’re joining an MLM, you might not want to encourage that, but consider grabbing some Avon body wash every 6 months or whatever you can swing that’s not a big financial investment but still shows you are not turning your nose up at their efforts. Reasonable people will appreciate you showing support in this way.

  25. LB33*

    The plane letter reminded me of an older letter where someone had to buy two seats, but he didn’t have enough $$ so he bumped another colleague off the flight and that person was stranded on a weekend with no money (sorry I may not be remembering all the details accurately)

    Maybe if the two seat things were normalized that wouldn’t have happened

    1. Observer*

      No. That person was being a jerk.

      Not only did they bump that person, they didn’t alert anyone, *kept his work phone* (making it impossible for him to call the office himself), and kept the cash he could have used to at least buy himself some food – the guy didn’t have enough money with him to even get a hotel for the night, so spent 2 nights in the airport. And the whole situation happened because the OP changed the tickets that their company had originally bought.

      And that OP *was* terribly embarrassed and ashamed that they made a bad decision. But they showed no recognition of the harm done to the employee – and made no effort to at least mitigate the financial damage. (Yes, the company was being jerky about that, but ultimately, the OP should have taken care of it.)

  26. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

    I know these are older letters but a thought or #3 would not only be for people who need another seat but also for people who may need more leg room. I don’t air travel but my understanding is that it really sucks for people with long legs. Couldn’t the policy just be if you need special seat arrangements such as an isle seat or an extra seat do X

    1. Michelle Smith*

      This is a good point. Unfortunately airlines have started charging even for the “privilege” of sitting in an exit row or anywhere north of the absolute back of the plane! My organization has a policy that you can’t pay for any upgrades, so tall people would just be screwed I guess.


    My stepson has mild aspergers and is quite socially awkward in a lot of face to face situations- for several years when he was trying to get a job in his early to mid 20s, I had a very hard time convincing my husband( his father) not to call and try to “explain” why his son may not assimilate as well as one might expect… Also.. in regards to the letter writer- it is also quite possible that Jane has to rely on her parents for transportation and they may have a schedule conflict with her forat day of work… not everyone has access to public transit and not everyone has reliable transportation….this may be why the Dad asked about being late the first day…

    1. Observer*

      None of that is a good reason for Dad to make that request.

      Having a reasonably reliable way to get to work is not an unreasonable expectation on the part of a workplace. And if there really was an unusual issue going on, then the *employee herself* should have apologized and explained when asking if this is ok.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      I mean, okay, but I don’t think, “This person might be neurodivergent” changes the advice, nor does “this person might not have access to transportation.” There are a million and five reasons why this scenario could have happened but that fundamentally doesn’t change that it’s not appropriate for employers to talk to their employees’ or job candidates’ parents.

      I’m glad you convinced your husband not to do that!

  28. raida*

    I think I’d go with “Hello you’re [applicant]’s father? I’m Raida, and you? Alright Fred, put the phone on speaker.
    Applicant, Fred, can you hear me all right?
    Great. Applicant, I’m going to address all my answers to you and explain why it is or isn’t a useful or professional question to ask at this time in the recruitment process.
    Fred, you would have served Applicant better by writing these questions down and coaching them instead of having their Dad on the phone for a job interview for an adult.

    Alright, Fred, what’s the first question?”

    It’s the nicest and most direct way I can think of to tell the applicant your mummy or daddy shouldn’t be on the phone to the person interviewing you for a job – by putting the onus on the parent who may well have inserted themselves in the process and also by allowing it to be an actual lesson on professional norms in interviews which they aren’t familiar with.

  29. GreyjoyGardens*

    Dear Helicopter Parents: I know you mean to be helpful, but please, please, BUTT OUT of your grown child’s job search. If your child is old enough to be interviewing for a job – even if they’re still a teenager – they’re old enough to handle an interview.

    I know I sound like Kids These Days ™ but the ONLY times I had a parent call my office: when I was in the hospital (and too sick to call in myself), and then, in pre-cell-phone days, Mom called to say that she and Dad were going to be out of town unexpectedly and would I please drop by to feed and walk the dog? And she called ME, not my boss.

    There is no reason for a parent to helicopter a child’s job search! Don’t do it! If your kid blows the interview, well, she blows it, and lesson learned. She won’t ever learn a lesson if Dad is always there to prop her up.

  30. fgcommenter*

    One interesting piece of U.S.A. business culture hypocrisy that often gets overlooked is as such:

    Business person has an experienced person look at a contract, ask questions about it, and ensure the person they are acting on behalf of isn’t being taken advantage of in the contract: smart business person

    Job candidate has an experienced person look at a contract, ask questions about it, and ensure the person they are acting on behalf of isn’t being taken advantage of in the contract: stupid job candiate

    If you wouldn’t expect to be dismissed as “unprofessional” when having your expert/lawyer/team review a contract before signing it, you don’t have any grounds for dismissing someone as “unprofessional” when they have their available expert review the job contract before signing it.

    1. londonedit*

      If the applicant had spoken to her dad privately about it, fine. There’s absolutely no problem with that and I’m sure many people here have asked their parents or partner for advice when they’re going for a new job. If her dad had coached her on what questions to ask when she spoke to the OP, also fine. The problem is that her dad asked to speak to the OP on the phone himself. That’s what completely undermines the applicant and makes her look unprofessional. It’s not unreasonable for employers to expect their adult employees to be able to manage their own professional interactions without their parents butting in.

    2. Grammar Penguin*

      Another interesting point of USA business culture is that the vast majority of job offers are not actually contracts. Few workers in the US have the protections of contract law, just labor laws. For any entry-level job I can think of, a verbal offer met with, “let me put my lawyer on the phone with you now” would be as unusual as putting one’s father on the phone. In the USA, we are all expected to negotiate our own employment unless we have a union or are in a profession where employment contracts exist. That’s not most of us.

      Here, as I expect everywhere, there’s nothing wrong with getting advice and counsel from someone whether before or after the conversation. Having someone negotiate on your behalf is different. I’m not sure there’s many places in the world where having a parent negotiate on your behalf for an adult job is considered normal or professional.

      1. Grammar Penguin*

        (Correction: not sure of many places in the *Western* world. I’ve heard that in India, for example, expectations of parental involvement in adults’ personal and professional lives is very different.)

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