teenager’s job wants her to go on a weekend retreat, oddball interview questions, and more

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

1. Teenager’s job wants her to go on a weekend retreat

My daughter is 15 and has her first job. Supervisor messages everyone she is planning a team-building event which will be a Friday to Sunday summer girls getaway at an AirBnB somewhere. Supervisor’s message goes on that she REALLY wants all her employees to come and she’s giving this much notice since they’ll need to clear their schedules and will each need to pay up to $400 on their own for the weekend.

The group my daughter works with is about 12 girls and women ranging in age from 15 to 28 — with just one 15-year-old, one 17-year-old, and then the majority over 21. We immediately said “no” and my daughter is on board with that decision. If the event happens and it’s something she feels she absolutely cannot miss for her job, we said we could drive her to whatever day is most important and drive her back home at night.

This all seems crazy, right? The mix of adults and minors, having to pay for this on their own, having to spend three days of personal time with no compensation … none of this passes muster.

A little more background: The job is at a boutique aimed toward teen girls with things like dresses and jewelry. The boutique is owned and managed by older women, but this group of employees are all the young part-time workers and their supervisor is about mid-twenties. Up until now, they have been expected to go to a monthly “bonding” activity (like an escape room or dinner) on their own time and at their own expense.

One could suggest attendance at these things is voluntary, but there’s always language like, “I would like everyone to be able to attend this … And I’m gonna repeat this, I REALLY want everyone to come, that’s why I kinda want to start planning it now.” So, not really voluntary? Very curious what your take on this is.

This is someone who is (a) trying to use her employees to get her social needs met (which is wildly inappropriate given the power dynamics, to say nothing of the mix of ages) and/or (b) has no idea how to manage effectively and so, rather than focusing on things like managing people to clear goals or training them and developing their skills, is instead excessively focused on “bonding,” as if managing is akin to being the head of a sorority. My guess is it’s both (a) and (b).

The monthly events are already too much, particularly if there’s pressure to attend. The weekend retreat crosses the line into ridiculous. If this were genuinely a work-focused retreat, they would need to (a) pay for the attendees’ time (since these are clearly non-exempt positions, not salaried exempt ones) and (b) cover their expenses. They’re not doing either of those things, so this is just a social trip.

Does your daughter like this job and want to keep it? There are jobs that would demand a lot less of her time and personal money! If she really wants to keep it but would rather avoid these events, one option is “my parents say I can’t work at a job that requires me to spend the money I’m earning so I can’t attend these events.”

Read an update to this letter.

2. Oddball interview questions

I came across an article that claims to compile the favorite interview questions of top design leaders. A lot of the questions are what you’d expect, but then there’s stuff like “what’s on your Netflix queue that you haven’t watched and why?” (I don’t even have Netflix!) and “how do you organize your closet?”

What do you make of this? As someone who’s just started to interview, how seriously should I take this list? Should I prepare for some of those strange questions as well as the expected ones when I have an upcoming interview?

Those are crap questions asked by crap interviewers. People who ask these sorts of questions often claim it gives them some kind of special insight into candidates; that is BS. What it does do is raise the chances they’ll hire people who they like on a personal level, remind them of themselves, or share their interests, meaning they’ll end up with a more homogenous staff. It’s a great opportunity to introduce bias into the process.

You don’t need to prepare in advance for questions like this. Most interviewers don’t use them and among the ones who do, you can’t predict what random thing they’ll ask — there’s no point in preparing to talk about your Netflix queue if what your crap interviewer is really going to ask is what’s inside your purse.

3. Employee wants to make jam

I run a news website that covers the food industry. I have an employee who has always harbored small ambitions in the space, which we approved— like making jams that he sold at several local events.

Now, he’s taking meetings with investors to expand that line of jams. It’s a small-time seed investor, but it’s a real company that sees business potential. My employee views this prospect as complementary to his job (gives insight into the industry we cover); I see it as giving the appearance of compromising his objectivity (and creating land mines for what he can’t cover). Even for a modest market launch, the demands of scaling up a product are considerable, if not all-encompassing — but he thinks two weeks’ PTO will cover it. And that’s probably the biggest red flag: He doesn’t see any of these issues, and even after extended discussion still doesn’t entirely get it.

All of this would concern me even if he was a great employee and he’s not. His work quality is erratic — sometimes great, other times the bare minimum — and his manager has spoken with him several times about this. Just before we learned about the jam investor, we spoke about whether we should put the employee on a PIP.

How should I approach this issue? I don’t want to appear punitive (you want to make jam, therefore we’re unhappy with your work). Even if his work were stellar, I’d be seriously alarmed by an employee who didn’t recognize, much less identify these complications — but the cluelessness around the jam and his job (despite prior criticisms of his work, he believes he’s doing great) has me feeling like I want to pull the ripcord.

You need — and should already have! — a conflict of interest policy. It’s really standard for journalists to have conflict of interest policies that forbid having a financial stake in the industries or people they cover. (For example, here’s the AP’s policy on financial conflicts of interest.)

You need that policy despite the situation with this employee, because other conflicts of interest are likely to come up in the future (or may have already come up) and you won’t necessarily know about them if you don’t have a policy requiring people to disclose them.

But the fact that he doesn’t even see the conflict of interest after you’ve discussed it is alarming, as is his belief he’s doing great despite serious performance discussions. The best thing to do is to be straightforward about all of it: “This is a conflict of interest and we can’t allow a reporter here to operate their own business in the industry we cover. You’ll need to pick between the two; you can’t do both. That’s non-negotiable. As you think it over, I want to be up-front that we’re at the point of needing to move to a formal performance improvement plan to address XYZ. I realize that might factor into your decision either way, so I’d be glad to let you take a few days and think it over if you’d like to.”

4. Explaining why I’m leaving my job

A year and a half ago, I was a mid-level manager in my industry. My dad was diagnosed and passed from cancer within a month’s time. A week after this, a former colleague I highly respected at the time reached out and offered me what sounded like my dream job from a financial and time aspect. I was skeptical as it would be a pay cut, but there was a schedule for raise considerations that I thought I could manage financially. I was vulnerable at the time from my loss and desperate to make something “more” of myself and so I stepped down from my managerial position (but stayed on at a lower level to make up pay discrepancies) and took the job.

Within a couple of months of starting, I was drowning in work that wasn’t communicated as part of the job and was continually expected to pick up new projects and create new system processes. On top of that, the whole structure was being reworked, which removed the previous dates for wage consideration I had been told about. I am very overworked and underpaid at the new job, and so have still been working my last job to make ends meet. The new place is extremely toxic on top of everything else, and I have been actively looking for a new job either back in my old industry or something new.

The issue I have run into is when people ask my why I left my previous position after 15 years, and why I’m looking for something else so soon. I have been told that telling the people whole scenario would make me to look emotional and lacking in judgment. So my typical answer has been along the lines of, “I took a chance to learn something new, and unfortunately I found that this line of work is not the right fit for me.” Despite my best efforts, I have been unable to find a new job. Financially I am stuck, and I can’t help but wonder if my answer to this question is what is holding me back in my job search. I have only had a few second interviews and no promising leads. I’ve been told my resume looks great, I have a lot of experience and great references, and they always sound so pleased with my interviews at the time, so I’m really not sure what’s holding me back besides this.

As long as you’re prepared to talk about why you’ve concluded this line of work isn’t for you, I don’t think that answer is holding you back. (And it’s definitely better to sum up the situation with something concise like this rather than get into all the details.) But it would also be fine to say something like, “I came on board to do X, but the job has turned out to be much more Y.”

5. Is my company violating overtime law?

I have a job that used to be on-call shift work and now is transitioning to hourly work. We only work one week a month. We used to work an average of ~10-20 hours in that week, but it really varied. I can’t think of a time it ever went over 40 hours in a week. Now they are asking us to significantly increase our hours, along with a pay raise. It’s essentially mandatory to keep this job. The new system would mean that people are being asked to work 50+ hours in a single seven-day period, unless they chose to swap shifts.

My questions are twofold. One, does overtime law protect periodic workers in our position? We all have other jobs, and this is not a job we work every week. Two, are there rules for our company having to use fair-play in deciding how a week is measured? For example, let’s say my one week a month is usually Tuesday-Monday. But they measure their payroll week as Friday-Thursday. I could have a situation where I worked 50+ hour over a seven-day period, but according to payroll I worked ~20 hours one week, and ~30 the next. How does overtime law impact this scenario?

No and no, unfortunately. In answer to the first question, no law prevents employers from assigning 50+ hours in a seven-day period, even if you’re only a periodic worker. The law assumes you’ll either accept or decline the job based on whether that works for you, but doesn’t prevent an employer from making that the job they’re offering. In answer to the second question, an employer is allowed to set their payroll week as any seven consecutive days they want (even if they choose it for the purpose of reducing overtime costs); however, they can’t keep changing it to get out of paying overtime. Once they pick a workweek, they’re expected to stick to it long-term.

{ 619 comments… read them below }

  1. Clydesdalesncoconuts*

    #1- the teenage giel is right to not want to go on these events- and i would encourage her to seek other employment. The person planning these events is showing a real lack of management skill by placing the company at risk of a huge liability. Not only is this risky but also exclusive and will likely create issues between those who go and those who do not. I think your idea of offering to drive her to any important pieces she should not miss is spot on, but the overnight request is not cool!

    1. LG*

      I had my first job at 15, and there’s no way my parents would have let me go to something like this. Not to mention, how many 15-year olds have $400 to waste on it? I would be encouraging her to find a different job.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        Yes, a totally valid response would be, “of course I can’t go; I’m 15 years old, where the heck would I get $400 from?!”
        And if she did have that kind of money she shouldn’t be spending it on what is effectively unpaid work.
        Heavens above, I’m 45yo and on a decent professional full time salary and I wouldn’t spend over £300 to spend the weekend with my colleagues. And my response to “we want you to spend a weekend of your own time on a team bonding event, unpaid” would be:
        Hahahahhahahahaha. Hahaha. Ha. No.”

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Your own time, unpaid, AND you have to pay $400 for the weekend! And it’s a little unclear what that $400 covers–only lodging? Also food? Will there suddenly be ‘activities’ that cost $$?
          Hard pass for me, and certainly a no for LWs daughter. Who should be looking for a new job with management who knows what’s appropriate.

              1. BethHolly*

                Right? Management better never figure out how much introverts would pay to NOT engage in team-building events.

                1. Bern Notice*

                  LOL – at a previous job, our manager announced that we were having “offsite team building” on a specific date. I was the most vocal about how silly I thought that prospect was. Turns out it was a ruse – it was really a surprise bridal shower for ME. Boy, did everyone have a great laugh at my expense over that (deservedly so)!

            1. NeverWasTo*

              Same! Even if my mom had met everyone going, she still would have said no and made 15-year-old me quit any job forcing me to pay for extra events. And if she hadn’t, introvert me would have pretended she did just to get out of it.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              Or “manager” has a time share or some other rental obligation in place and is using this event to defray costs or even make a little extra.

              There are so many ways this is not only a bad idea for an employer but also an incredibly shady idea.

            2. Just Another Cog*

              What a nervy manager! Besides the $400 fee, the away from home with strangers for several days would concern me as a parent.

              When my son was 15, he put in an application to work for our city for the summer through the personnel agency the city contracts with. A week later, he got a random call from the personnel agency telling him they had a hazmat cleanup job on a semi wreck and “what time can you be here to start?”. They were perplexed when we said he couldn’t do that sort of work because he had no training and also a minor. WTH?

        2. Antilles*

          To me, the really strange thing is that it’s a part-time job at (presumably) minimum wage or thereabouts.

          You, as a 45yo with a professional full time salary could at least potentially make an argument for paying it – professional development, positioning yourself for a promotion, the company is otherwise excellent so you take the wide-view of the overall benefits, etc. YMMV on how much you buy these sorts of arguments, but there’s at least a case to be made for deciding “this stinks but it benefits me in ways X and Y…” –

          But the daughter is just working a short-term job to get some extra money for the movies or whatever. This isn’t going to be her long-term career and none of those sorts of arguments apply; daughter could just walk across the street and get some other generic minimum-wage part-time job.

      2. Lavender*

        For a teenager working part-time in retail, $400 is almost definitely more than what she earns in a week or even two weeks. It’s an unreasonable amount of money to ask of any employee, but especially someone in that kind of role.

      3. I Wish I Had a Fancy User Name*

        When I was a teenage part-time retail employee, I was earning wages to pay for college. No way could I have afforded to divert the equivalent of $400 for a staff retreat, and no way my parents could/would have been able to pay for it for me — that’s why I had the job in the first place. How very clueless must this supervisor be? OP, please bring this to the attention of someone higher up the food chain in that business — I’m sure they would want to know that one of their supervisors is inappropriately steamrolling her team and potentially driving off employees who can’t afford to play her games.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          When I was a teenage part-time retail employee, I was also working to pay for school and living expenses. $400 was a whole month’s rent – multiple weeks of income. Heck, at that time even $20/month would have been a significant expense for me.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          I’m almost wondering if OP should bring this to the attention of their state’s/local authorities labor board/division of workplace rules. Where I’m at, there are special laws around employing teenagers … and though this might technically be skirting those laws by calling it it “team-building” and having the employees pay to attend, the multiple days 24 x 7 at a location that is not a place of business involving school aged children might draw some interest.

          Also, the pressure to participate without paying the employees might run afoul of minimum wage laws, depending on how that pressure is applied and what consequences there are for declining to participate.

          Here’s a round up of guidelines for employing minors:

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I suspect it’s going to be an alcohol fueled weekend as well, so doubly inappropriate to invite a 15 year old.

      If she makes $10 an hour, $400 dollars is more than 40 hours work, after deductions. For a part time worker, that could easily be an entire month’s worth of pay for a mandatory work event.

      I do wonder if the owner knows about this. It could be worth contacting her to ask if attending mandatory, self payed weekend girls’ getaway is official policy for the business.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        i can’t imagine the owner taking in the liability.

        This is so outlandish that it’s the first time I’ve thought it might be appropriate for a parent to get involved–just to ask that question and point out the safety/insurance issues if owner says they’re aware.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Taking in liability isn’t really something you choose. Accepting liability without the necessity of the expense of litigation is common, if there isn’t really any question about it. Would the owner do this? Probably not. But at this point the real question–and a very good question it is!–is if the owner has liability insurance.

        2. sookie st james*

          One thing I miss about being a teenager is the ability to use my parents as scapegoats to get out of things. This is such an obviously ridiculous situation for any worker, but for a 15 year old?? It’s MORE than appropriate for a parent to step in.

          OP1’s daughter should make full use of the ‘my mum said no’ excuse for as long as she can!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yes, one of the few advantages of being 15 is that you can lay down “My mom won’t let me” and, well, people have to accept that.

          2. Butterfly Counter*

            This was my EXACT thought while reading this.

            “Oh, you want me to work extra hours for almost no extra pay this summer? My mom says I can’t because we have plans. Sorry!”

            Instead, I have to be all, “I appreciate the opportunity to build my CV and understand my saying no will mean extra work for you and others and will affect how I’m seen as a ‘team player’ in this department and potentially affect my upward growth, but the compensation isn’t enough for the work I’ll have to put in. Sorry!”

            One is way harder to say than the other.

          3. Em*

            I know!! I really miss being able to say “my mom said I need to go home now” when I was ready to leave a friend’s house. My mom always told us to blame her to get out of anything uncomfortable. “I have to feed my cat” is my excuse to exit now, but it’s not quite the same.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              My bestie and I have an agreement where if one of us texts the other a certain phrase, we know they’re in a social situation they’d like an external excuse to bail on. It started out as a joke but now it’s like a safeword for interactions with the general population.

            2. Rebecca*

              I can’t use the “my mom said no” excuse, but I have small kids and they also work really well to get me out of things! “I’d love to do the thing, but the baby needs to be in bed by 7:30”

            3. Hats Are Great*

              I use my kids now — I’ll say, “Oh, shoot, my kid just barfed” or “there’s apparently a major homework crisis, I should probably go deal with that, sorry!”

      2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        This gave me flashbacks to my high school graduation trip. We were 17 y.o. and had to slap a girl in other group to keep her away from alcohol. And then she paid someone to bring her vodka to the hotel. She was epileptic. You can imagine what happened next.

      3. ariel*

        Yeah, I find it very weird to insist everyone come when there’s such a large age disparity. My parents, correctly, wouldn’t let me visit my (protective) older brothers at college when I was in high school. With relative strangers away from home? Absolutely not. Jobs are not meant to include compulsory $$$ bachelorette-style “retreats.”

      4. Miette*

        Seriously, the privilege is coming off that supervisor in waves. How much disposable income does she think these workers have, exactly?

        1. Tomato Soup*

          I could be a billionaire and I’m still not paying $5 to spend a weekend with my colleagues.

        2. Burger Bob*

          Even in a normal adult job with a generous salary, it strikes me as weird to ask employees to attend what is ostensibly a multi-day work outing at their own expense. It’s especially bizarre considering that some of these employees are teens and nearly all of them are part-timers in a short-term job.

    3. Lilo*

      There are just so many red flags here. They expect employees to go on an unorganized multi day retreat to an air BNB and thr employees are expected to pay hundreds of dollars? That’s not okay and absolutely not a normal occurrence for a retail job.

      They’re bringing two minors to said overnight? Yikes! Just a HUGE no there. What person pressures a 15 year old to a multi day event like this?

      Honestly I’m already side eyeing the monthly stuff. Pressuring employees to attend events where they’re expected to pay isn’t okay either.

      I’d have a hard talk with your daughter. This is her first job and you don’t want her to get the impression that any of this is normal or okay.

      1. MK*

        There doesn’t seem to be a “they”, as in the owners, but one overstepping middle manager. Could someone go over her head? Though I understand if the OP’s daughter wouldn’t want you do that.

        1. Lilo*

          I mean if the owners aren’t aware of whatbtheir manager is doing, they’re not properly supervising their store either. Surely they’d be aware of a 3 day disruption to their business?

          And at some point it doesn’t actually matter if they condone it or it’s the result of neglect, if employees are getting mistreated.

          1. Owlet101*

            Eh, that depends. It may not be a disruption at all. Where I live there are a lot of little boutiques that are closed for most of the weekend. I live in a small town and that may be the case here too.

        2. EPLawyer*

          It does say “the group” the daughter works with. So this could be on particular shift? That maybe isn’t scheduled for 3 days for some reason?

          I am going with the owner is unaware. Mom this is the perfect time to coach your daughter in how to stand up for herself. It’s pretty low stakes because she’s 15. She can get another job. So she should go to the owner and lay out what this manager is doing and the effect this can have on the business.

          Because yeah, 20 something manager is treating her employees like her social group. Let’s go hang out together. No, manager, we aren’t your friends, we are your employees.

          1. Clara*

            Yeah, not that I am a parent, but if I was, I’d definitely be contacting the store owner directly. I really don’t believe they know this is happening and would most likely (if they’re at all reasonable) be horrified. If the 15 year old is confident, maybe she could talk to them – but she shouldn’t have to.

        3. LCH*

          I would definitely want to go to the owner to be like, “sorry, working for you is getting way to expensive with all the unpaid team bonding events we’re required to go to and pay for.” Because no matter what the team leader/mid-manager says, they sound required. Just to see what the owner says.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            And be sure to take any written invitations that include prices that the “team” is being expected to shell out to go do “team building.” Evidence is always a good thing.

            Also : oh to be a fly on the wall and see owners expression if they’re (for whatever reason) unaware of what’s going on.

      2. Alanna*

        I’m with you on side-eyeing even the monthly stuff. A 15-year-old is a pretty young teenager, and I really wonder about the judgment of whoever is planning those events.

        I was a camp counselor from ages 18-22, and one thing that was always made clear to us was that while 14- ,15- and 16-year-old campers might seem like our peers, they were in fact our responsibility. Age gaps that are totally insignificant after or even during college can be a big deal when you’re talking about teens.

      3. Sally Forth*

        I am a Girl Guide leader. Our events are supervised by people with criminal records checks, etc. and NO WAY would this pass any smell test. The company is setting itself up for huge risk.

    4. lisasimpson*

      I’m not American, but are there not legal issues at play when minors are involved? In my country everyone present at the sleepover would have to have a DBS certificate, which is basically like a full police background check. There are also legal requirements involving sleeping and changing areas (I once worked on a stage play that had two 15yr olds in the cast, and by law they had to have their own changing room, and also had to have a registered chaperone who had passed exams in safeguarding).

      What kind of laws does the USA have on safeguarding of minor employees?

      1. Name (Required)*

        NONE as far as this type of activity and really hardly any in any other activity unless you live somewhere like California where they have stricter labor laws. Definitely nothing like what you have, which is pretty stellar.

        We love child labor over here (*sarcasm*)

          1. Moonstone*

            The US has extensive child labor laws – for now – but some states, such as Arkansas, have recently changed the law to allow for younger teens to work longer hours and in more fields. And I think another state wants to change the law to allow minors to be able to serve alcohol.

            1. Sacred Ground*

              US law takes supersedes state law. If US law says nobody under 14 can work, it doesn’t matter what Arkansas law says. As for alcohol service, US law doesn’t address it. If Congress did pass a federal law requiring servers to be over 21 (and it survived a court challenge by the states), then that would be the minimum age nationwide regardless.

          2. Jam on Toast*

            Child labor laws haven’t offered much protection of late to the more than one hundred thousand teenagers, and even pre-teens! who have found working as much as 60 hours a week in meat packing plants, on factory floors, in construction and landscaping. Most, but not all, are unaccompanied minors, exploited, unprotected and vulnerable. The employer fines are laughable in most instances, and in the rare cases where charges or penalties are assigned, barely register on the bottom line.


      2. Alan*

        I don’t know about employees but when I volunteered at my daughters’ high school as a camp champerone I had to have a background check and get fingerprinted. This is in CA. I have heard that we have protections for children/adolescents in the film industry but I don’t know what they are.

        1. Mitzii*

          This was something that struck me, too, when I read it. I’m sure the owners would like to know what is going on — I don’t think they’d be on board with their 20something manager needing to act in loco parentis for two minors for a weekend.

        2. LCH*

          i think that is school -specific. i had to do the same thing when giving presentations to classes in schools in FL as part of an internship.

        3. KatieP*

          This has more to do with the industry – (public, I presume?) education – and California. Other states have similar protections that govern educational entities. I’m in a different state, and work in higher education, and my state requires anyone at our institution who works with minors to get an extensive background check.

      3. anon for this one*

        I do just want to point out (for the sake of general discussion, not directed at anyone in particular, because DBS is coming up a lot) that passing a DBS check is in no way a guarantee of anything — someone close to me was groomed and abused as a teenager by a certified schoolteacher in the UK.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      For one of my jobs, my entire summer earnings were like $700. $400 is an enormous amount of money (for most of us, but especially) for a teenaged girl in what is presumably a part-time or temporary job.

      1. rayray*

        Yeah, $400 could very well be a whole paycheck. I’m a grown adult working full time at an ok-paying job and $400 would be a heft expense especially for something I have no interest in doing.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          Yes, even the other workers were described as young, part-time employees, which seems like a group for whom $400 is likely to be a lot of money.

          1. Pixx*

            $400 is my half of me and my husband’s rent for an entire month. I’m not paying that to go on some work retreat, even as an adult. As a 15-year-old kid? I’d never even *seen* that much money in my life, much less had it at my personal disposal.

      2. Just Another Zebra*

        Quick math says that, if OP’s daughter makes $15/hr (which is possible, but not guaranteed) that’s about 27 hours of untaxed labor. So almost definitely a whole paycheck, or close to it.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          At 15, that’s probably more than one paycheck. Federal labor law says children under 16 can’t work more than 18 hours per week when school is in session (although they can work up to 40 hrs/wk in summer).

          Assuming the letter was written in the last 6 months, that means this is at least 1.5 weeks of pay. Likely more, since she may not work the maximum hours and may get paid much less than $15/hr. For example, if she works 12 hours per week at the federal minimum wage of $7.25, this would be a whole month’s income.

      3. Fiona Orange*

        “For one of my jobs, my entire summer earnings were like $700.”

        That was the exact amount that I was paid for my first summer job. It was in 1994.

    6. OtterB*

      I’m no longer sure about details because the daughter in question is now 30, but my daughter had a summer job that required an overnight weekend before she started work when she was not yet 18 and it never crossed my mind to object to it. BUT it was a very different situation. It was a summer camp counselor position (mostly day camp with one overnight each week), she had attended the camp for several years and so had already done overnights there, and it provided some staff bonding but was primarily training for the summer. I don’t remember if she was paid for it, but I’m sure it didn’t cost us anything.

      1. Zephy*

        Okay, context absolutely matters here. It is not unreasonable for a summer camp counselor to attend an overnight retreat for work – that’s part of the job. But OP1’s daughter works at Claire’s, not Camp Stonybrook. I do agree that expecting employees to pay for it is unreasonable no matter the industry – if it’s truly for work purposes, then that’s work time and not only should the company cover the costs, but the employees should also be paid for their time that weekend. If it’s not then it’s a social trip like Alison said, and not appropriate no matter how old your employees are, but especially if they’re minors.

      2. EPLawyer*

        That is DEFINITELY work related. It is also one of those “know your industry” things. For camp counselor, you would expect the counselors to do an overnight training. Also because it was a camp, they probably had all kinds of rules/policies about minors participating, along with people trained and checked out to be around minors.

        In this situation, its just a clueless boss wanting to do a girls weekend.

        1. Alanna*

          Yeah, it’s my experience as a camp counselor that makes me so horrified by this! Counselors definitely get up to shenanigans, but people who work at camps are usually very aware of the maturity gaps between (say) a 15-year-old and a 21-year-old, and the risks of having multiple age groups in a workplace setting with overnights, and any reputable camp will have trainings, policies, etc. in place to ensure that minors are protected and supported (whether those minors are campers, counselors, or both).

    7. jasmine*

      IMO Alison is being generous in her assessment of #1. Another possibility, in addition to what Alison describes, is that she’s trying to do something more cult-like. My first thought was how abusers who try to encroach themselves more and more into someone else’s life.

      The supervisor probably isn’t malicious but she might be.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        #1 screams MLM to me. I don’t know specifically what flags it as an MLM for me, but for some reason that’s what my gut is telling me. That and that the people arranging this getaway are predatory towards the younger employees. (Yeah, I know that’s dark, but I’ve become rather suspicious in my middle age.)

        1. Tai*

          I agree, this is creepy. And anytime employees are asked to pay up from their own pockets it’s a red flag. I’m not a parent, but if I were the parent in this situation I think I would report this to whatever authority was appropriate, then ask the child to leave the job. This screams “UNSAFE,” to me.

    8. Rex Libris*

      This is definitely a manager with boundary issues who can’t separate work life from social hour. I’d advise the daughter to look for a job with saner management, and more typical workplace norms.

      You don’t ask your employees to spend their personal time and money on their workplace. Depending on how mandatory this is (in practice, not in theory) might it even be illegal?

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I almost am getting a “promoted from in the team to manager” vibe, and manager hasn’t figured out that being manager now means she can’t continue to hang with the girls like she did when she was just one of the members of the team.

        I’m not going to ascribe to malice yet what incompetence can easily explain.

    9. Minerva*


      Also any event that is “mandatory,” which this really seems like they are, the business should pay for. The owner is basically trying to dictate how her employees spend their free time and their money. This is not normal.

    10. 2 Cents*

      I’m 40 and would still use my parents as an excuse LOL This supervisor has serious boundary issues (as in, she doesn’t have them).

    11. Meep*

      Maybe it is because when I was 16, a 32 year old “befriended” me (made my life hell after the one time I mildly complained) and my toxic former boss was 55 years old while I was 23, but I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would want to hang out with someone nearly half their age.

      This goes away from “lack of management skills” to seriously emotionally stunted in a way that is predatory.

  2. Farts*

    Wow, #1 is so baffling! I’m assuming it’s a part-time job for after high school and on weekends, that is so ridiculous! My first job was at Claire’s (accessories and jewelry for teen girls) Senior year of high school and we never had to do stuff like this. All of us Associates were in high school! I could maybe understand at the Manager or Assistant Manager level, and that would be 18+. Please don’t make your teen daughter go to this retreat, it is so ridiculous. You could even say, “my daughter has a big test/project she needs to work on it. Her #1 priority is school”. And I’m sure your daughter could find another part-time job that pays better and where she isn’t expected to go on retreats.

    1. allathian*

      400 bucks is a lot of money for most teenagers, how much does she even earn in a month of part-time work?

      I could understand it if the event was for 18+ only, or even 21+ if, as it sounds like, this in the US.

      The owner really hasn’t thought this through at all, the potential for legal liability if there’s an accident or even if someone just gets sick at the event is considerable. Or are the attendees expected to sign some legal release? In that case, problem solved, because minors by definition can’t sign legally binding contracts.

      My son’s an introvert and not particularly susceptible to peer pressure because he’d rather be alone than do something he doesn’t want to do just to be able to hang out, but I’ve always told him that if his friends want him to do something that he doesn’t want to do, or invite him to go somewhere he doesn’t want to go, that he can always blame us.

      It didn’t happen often as I had sensible friends, but I’m really glad that my parents had my back when I was a teen. I could always blame them and say they didn’t allow me to do something, even when the reality was that I just didn’t want to do whatever it was myself.

      In this case, it’s a no-brainer. In general, I agree with Alison that parents who meddle in their kid’s professional relationships, even when the kid is a minor, are doing their kid a disservice professionally. But this whole thing is so out of line that I’d have no problems as a parent putting my foot down and telling my kid that they aren’t allowed to go.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I think this is ridiculous even for people over 21. Charging people $400 for a work event is outrageous, especially for people who are probably being paid $15 an hour if they’re lucky.

      2. Minerva*

        Some quick pre-tax math.

        Let’s be generous and say she is making $15 and hour for a 20 hr workweek and that the month has 4 full weeks of work. Let’s also say that she is losing just 8 hrs for this girls weekend.

        Under those assumptions daughter is making $1080 the month she goes on that trip, and boss is telling her she needs to essentially spend 37% of that income on a mandated work trip.

        And like I said, that is pre-tax. After taxes $400 is certainly north of 40% of the girl’s income for that month in question…under those generous $15/hr 20hr a week assumptions for a part time 15 year old.

        It’s absurd.

      3. Long time worker looking retirement in the eye*

        I am nearly 63 with a (just barely) 6 figure income and I wouldn’t pay $400 to attend a retreat. That’s beyond ridiculous. We DO have weekend retreats in my job, but the firm pays for travel, all food, travel and lodging and you get two *free* personal days to take in lieu of pay for the retreat.

    2. coffee*

      This is just a complete nightmare idea. Has the manager considered that someone would need to take responsibility for a 15 year old on this trip? I would definitely lean on “my parents won’t let me go on a weekend trip by myself” as an initial response.

      Also, I am incensed that the want these workers to attend a work event UNPAID, and not only that, but then pay $400 themselves?! If they are earning the federal minimum wage, which I guess is possible for a 15 year old, that’s 55 hours worth of work. How many shifts would your daughter have to do before they broke even on that?

      I don’t know what your daughter’s actual wage is, or if she gets a Sunday loading on top, etc. etc. – but I would do the maths and find out exactly how many hours of work it would take for her to make $400. It really puts this kind of demand in perspective. (Along with the whole “compulsory work trip for a minor child”!!!)

      1. Mister_L*

        My first thought when reading # 1 was “MLM-pitch”. Except they usually want you to join before you are “invited” to the expensive trips.

        1. Lavender*

          I was thinking that too—either that or the manager (or their family) owns the Airbnb and it earning a profit.

          It sounds like this isn’t the first time the manager has pressured her employees to spend money on social stuff outside of work, though, so maybe not!

          1. Fiona Orange*

            If they own the Airbnb, then they should let the staff stay there for free- that is, assuming that it really is a work retreat and not a social trip.

        2. HumbleOnion*

          Yeah I definitely thought MLM too. It’s got that forced lifestyle ‘this job is your identity’ vibe that MLMs have.

      2. BlueSwimmer*

        I’m a high school teacher, and when I read this I was thinking about all the permission slips and planning that goes into taking teens for even a day trip to a museum or something related to our curriculum: parent permission slip, permission to drive with another adult or student or information on mode of transportation, special chaperone training for any students with allergies, diabetes, or other health issues, specific number of adult chaperones per x number of students, chaperones need to be parents and/or licensed school personnel who have passed background checks, etc.

        1. PurpleShark*

          OMG, high school counselor! I was thinking the same thing only adding liability for underage kiddos if something happens. Those permission sips also allow you to take the kid to the ER in an emergency and allow you to make decisions if the parent cannot be reached. In addition, although it didn’t mention underage drinking we had a local school that took a group to France where they drank alcohol – ya know because it was OK in France. It was a nightmare!

        2. BUMBLEBEE*

          Right? I think I would have to have a background check to go to the aquarium with my kid on his next field trip.

      3. EPLawyer*

        I don’t think manager is thinking how much people make. Although she should know it. She is just stuck on — hey girls let’s all hang out together. Wouldn’t hanging at an AirBnB together for the weekend be GREAT!!! I’ll call it a retreat so we can all get off work that weekend. Your share is $400, I’m sure your parents will help you out.

        1. Rex Libris*

          I’m sure this is it exactly. It’s an excellent teaching moment though. You can never learn too early that A) You’re allowed to have boundaries B) Your job is not your life C) Your coworkers are not your family and D) Your job is supposed to pay you money, not the other way around. All those lessons wrapped up in one clueless manager.

      4. Ace in the Hole*

        Also, just to add, US federal labor law restricts working hours for minors. Kids under 16 are not allowed to work more than 18 hours per week during school terms. They can’t work earlier than 7am or later than 7pm, no more than 8 hours any day and 3 hours on school days. Most places like to play it safe, so they won’t schedule a kid for the maximum hours – that way if the kid stays a few minutes late, the employer isn’t breaking the law.

        So… how many hours is this compulsory work trip, anyway? Will she be required to participate in any activities after 7pm? I’m not sure this trip would be legal even if they paid her for her time.

    3. Artemesia*

      The hard stop should be at paying $400 which is much of a teen girls part time job compensation for a month to attend a work retreat. Before even talking about overnight trip with minors etc, this is so outrageous that if the owner hasn’t had the complaint about this manager they should.

      1. Pink Candyfloss*

        From a legal and HR perspective, the hard stop is an unaccompanied, unchaperoned minor on an overnight trip with adults. That’s a key issue here — I can understand why the focus from this largely adult, experienced commentariat is on the money – but the safety & liability issues of having a minor in this situation is beyond the pale.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agreed – the liability issues jumped out to me as well – and I think the parent also picked up on them. But those same liability issues are what is leading me to think this is a cockamamie “let’s have a girls weekend in disguise” stunt being pulled by the shift manager without ownership’s knowledge.

          This needs to get brought to the attention of ownership – and all the other unpaid but pay your own way “team building” jaunts as well. And to be honest I’m side-eyeing ownership a bit for not knowing how much social pressure is being exerted on their employees, because at least some of the planning/inviting has to be happening at work.

          1. Bob-White of the Glen*

            Agree – OP please contact the owners/corporate head and indicate what this manager is doing. They are abusing their employees, and many adult employees may not feel comfortable reporting it/worried about retaliation. Worst case your daughter is fired for your whistle blowing – does she even care that much if she’d be helping people out?

        2. Alanna*

          100% agree. Frankly, having a minor (and a minor with a significant age gap from anyone else in the group — we’re not talking about, say, a swimming pool where some lifeguards are high school juniors and seniors and some are college freshmen) constantly attend social events with people significantly older than them shows terrible judgment, even before you add in the overnight aspect.

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I’m also wondering about this Air BnB if they are thinking 12 (13 with the supervisor) people will spend $400 each–that’s $4800!

        1. House On The Rock*

          Yes, this jumped out at me as well! What all is being included in this weekend for that amount of money? I would think that splitting a whole house among a dozen people for a weekend would cost, at most $200, a person…are there multiple high end meals? Or, more likely, is there’s going to be a lot of alcohol involved which, of course, isn’t appropriate for the teens who are being asked to pay the full amount.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          If I were planning a trip with adult friends, it wouldn’t be out of line to come up with a ‘whole package’ quote. Like, with accommodations and travel costs and food, your share will be $400. I’ll book the house and do the Costco order, like that. Maybe they’re renting a big van, so they all go in one vehicle? Anyway, I could see four bills for a weekend package like that.

          But that’s setting aside the larger point, that this is all ridiculous and out of pocket.

    4. Bagpuss*

      TBH it’s pretty ridiculous even for a full time, adult employee. I would absolutely not want, or b willing, to give yup a weekend and $400 of my own money for something like this. Either it’s a work event, in which case it ought not to cost the employee anything, and they should be paid, or it’s a social event in which case it should be fully optional and voluntary .

      On a practical level, if OPs daughter isn’t comfortable pushing back about how totally unreasonable it is, I suggest that she just have prior commitments / parents won’t consent

    5. Lavender*

      I got my first job at 17, and every employee in my role was in high school or college. The owners did one social event for employees every year—usually a dinner after the business closed for the day, which they paid for. It only lasted a few hours and there was never any pressure to attend. It was a great place to work and I stayed there for five years.

    6. Young Ten*

      This! working teens #1 priority is School. Any manager needs to understand this. Even if the person is 18, if they are still in High School, their studies come first

  3. anywhere but here*

    It’s extremely concerning that the boss wants to bring minor children on an overnight trip without parents around! That’s grooming behavior.

    1. Jill Swinburne*

      I doubt it’s as sinister as that, more just cluelessness and a person who has little-to-no life outside work.

      But that being said, it absolutely leaves the manager open to those kind of accusations (Cards Against Humanity, or a drinking game of I Have Never, or One Truth One Lie, perhaps) so it baffles me that they think this is a good idea.

    2. Allonge*

      Eh – there are plenty of issues with this trip but let’s not go into the every contact between a minor and unrelated adult is suspect for sexual abuse.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        While this boss may not be grooming, good employers do not blur lines with minor employees in this way because they understand what boundaries are required to keep children safe.

        1. Lilo*

          +1. I have worked an hourly job a coworker who was a minor and he had very specific rules about breaks and what he couldn’t do. He was never supposed to go on trips in the manager’s car for instance (to do bank drops or pick up inventory).

        2. Allonge*

          This would not be an acceptable employer move even if everyone involved would be over 18/21 (or over 40, for that matter)!

          I am not excusing the action, I am trying to say that we don’t need to immediately go to grooming as that reflex has its own issues. OP and their daughter quite correctly assessed this as bonkers and inappropriate, and things can be very inappropriate without them being grooming a minor.

        3. Parky*

          It’s just some owner that spends too much time looking at glamping on IG and wants to look chic and popular. Silly

      2. KateM*

        In my head, the boss just forgot that some of her workers are minors and therefore need a different kind of approach.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Exactly this. The essentially mandatory self-paid monthly get togethers support this as well. It’s a young manager who has no idea what she’s doing and thinks that since a weekend trip with her girlfriends is so super fun, why not do that for work and you can all bond and be close and make a better team?? Simple cluelessness is a fully adequate explanation.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          A supervisor pressuring subordinates to spend $400 on a not-mandatory-but-I-REEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAALLLLLY-want-you-to-come trip wouldn’t be appropriate even if everyone WAS over 21!

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          I can imagine this happening. It shouldn’t happen, but it does.

          When I was a teen I looked much older than I was – people often mistook me for a college student in high school. That included bosses/coworkers. I occasionally had bosses ask me to do hazardous jobs or work late hours. They were horrified and apologetic when I reminded them I was a minor.

          Even with that in consideration, this supervisor sounds terrible. Making employees participate in such a time-consuming thing at their own expense is unconscionable even if everyone were 30.

        4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I just posted this up above – but I wonder if this is a person who was on the team and really friendly with everyone and they all did a monthly hang out. But then manager got promoted and two minors got hired – and the manager just hasn’t transitioned her thinking from “my friends I work with” to “my employees I supervise?”

      3. Colette*

        Agreed. It’s likely the organizer hasn’t really processed that their employee is a child. They work together, so she sees her as her peer.

        It’s a bad idea for many reasons, but, unless the 15-year-old is being targetted in some way, it’s not grooming.

        1. Lilo*

          I mean it can’t be dismissed and it is important to coach a 15 year old on how adults may push boundaries a little at first to test the waters.

          1. Colette*

            That’s generally a good idea, but in this case workplace boundaries are more relevant.

            1. Lilo*

              I mean there’s absolutely no reason it can’t be both. Unfortunately you do also have to chat with your kids about workplace boundaries as it applies to harassment and what to do. Pretty much every woman, particularly, I know (including me) has stories be it from the public, coworkers, or bosses.

      4. Lana Kane*

        It is likely not grooming, but it’s not good optics and the boss is opening themselves up to that scrutiny.

        1. BUMBLEBEE*

          Right! Why open yourself up to that kind of accusation, no matter how unfounded? I once had to explain to my husband why he couldn’t drive the teenage babysitter home by himself at night. Not because he would do anything, not because she would wrongfully accuse him, but because why even create that possibility no matter how unlikely?

          1. Allonge*

            Gently, because you are normalising that an adult male, any adult man, is a danger to women and children by default. What will your babysitter learn from this? That someone she works for, cares for their child(ren), is not trusted by his own wife(!) to drive her home, cause you never know.

            Next step: she also cannot be alone with the two of you, because why would you take her side, ans women can be abusive.

            Next step after that is no child under 18 can in any way trust an adult other than their parents, and if you have bad luck with your parents, I guess then that just sucks. And of course no woman can be alone with a male manager, or colleague, or anyone at all. What a wonderfully safe world that will be.

            1. Anonymous 4 this*

              Slippery slope is a logical fallacy. That said, poster isn’t saying she doesn’t trust her husband. She is “avoiding even the appearance of impropriety” as we say in the Federal service. Sadly, the vast majority of sexual predation is done by males. There is danger there, commenter didn’t invent it.

              1. Anonymous 4 this*

                I should add that at 15, I was subject to inappropriate sexual behavior by a man while working in my father’s business for the summer. This man was a friend/business partner with my father. It would have been much better if we were not alone in that office.

          2. Lucky Meas*

            What?? I think it should be perfectly acceptable to drive home the babysitter if you trust your husband, the babysitter trust you all, you know her parents, etc.
            I don’t think we should ban men and young women from being alone together on principle. Driving home a babysitter when there is trust on all sides seems perfectly OK in most situations to me.

    3. amoeba*

      Huh? I’d say that’s the smallest problem here – have been to many overnight trips without my parents as a minor (from sports, choir, etc.) – several of which had mostly (youngish) adults and only a few minors. Not sure how that automatically leads to grooming?
      I mean, if it was a teambuilding thing with appropriate activities, completely voluntary and fully paid for by the employer (!) and I was friends with my coworkers, I’d have been thrilled to go as a 15 year old! However, none of those things are the case, so obviously the employer sucks.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Your sports coaches and youth workers will have had safeguarding training which prevented overnight trips from becoming grooming situations. This manager is way more likely to be clueless and untrained than a deliberate predator, but they are definitely creating a situation ripe for a predator to take advantage of. Before you know it there’s an applicant for the team who’s heard about all the social aspects of their training and wants to be part of all that very badly! It could even be another kid, since peer on peer abuse is common. That’s the worst case scenario, but what about other lower stakes safeguarding issues, like just making sure young people don’t get drunk on your watch. It’s not screaming well thought out to me.

        1. amoeba*

          Hm, that might be a cultural/Europe vs. US thing – pretty sure nobody there had that kind of specific training and again, for a 15 year old to go on an overnight trip without their parents or professional would generally not be considered a very big deal in my experience… (but then the drinking age for beer and wine is also 16 and honestly, nobody would be very shocked about a 15 year old getting a little drunk, either!)

          1. Bagpuss*

            I can’t speak for other European countries but for the UK, these days anyone working with minors is likely to have had a DBS check and some safeguarding training (My dad recently had to do the training as he is involved with a voluntary activity linked to their local cathedral – people from all voluntary groups were required to do it, whether or not they actually ever have any involvement with minors. Which, for the activity my dad is involved with, they don’t – for unrelated safety reasons no one under 11 is allowed and anyone under 16 has to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, but in reality other than open days everyone is an adult, and most are at or past retirement age!)

            I think teachers and school support staff typically have enhanced DBS checks and I would be very surprised if there aren’t requirements for safeguarding training for any trips, although when I was growing up and involved in things such as Guides I’m sure it was different!

            1. amoeba*

              In Germany, it definitely wasn’t required when I was teaching kids training (maybe 10 years ago?) Might have changed since then, of course, but haven’t heard anything of the sort from the people who are still active, at least…

              1. Irish Teacher*

                I don’t know about Germany, but certainly in Ireland, a lot has changed in the past ten years. The requirements definitely weren’t as strict ten years ago; I think they started being introduced about that time and at first, I think they were only for newly qualified people. Checking online, the current laws here seem to have been introduced between 2012 and 2016.

              2. doreen*

                I think “training” might sound like more than it really is – when I was a Scout leader 20 years ago ( both boys and girls) there was a background check and some training but the training consisted of learning how to report child abuse and the organization’s requirements such as there should always be two leaders present, you should never be alone with a child other than your own, don’t assign kids more than two years apart in age to the same tent, etc. It wasn’t that every situation is going to lead to grooming/abuse or even really that adults were expected to identify when someone else was grooming – it was to prevent situations conducive to grooming. And the rules were fairly well publicized – when I was a kid, no one would have thought twice about a single leader taking a few kids camping. By the time I was a leader everyone knew the rules required at least two leaders and would have looked askance at anyone who proposed taking a couple of kids on even a day trip without another adult.

                1. Regular Reader*

                  Yup. And now in Scouting, Safeguarding training is mandatory for all adults and renewed every three years.
                  In the UK anyone employing and under 18 is also subject to additional Health and Safety rules and I’m sure some of them would be valid in this instance.

          2. Calanthea*

            I’m in the UK and volunteer with the guides, we’ve had to do this kind of training for… at least fifteen years, maybe 20.

            1. Buni*

              Me too, 4 separate stages of training depending on your involvement. And it’s a new DBS for every independent organisation – I currently have 3 (teacher, church worker, Guides) and there’s training attached to each.

            2. Remes*

              I joined the guides in the UK when I studied there and was not allowed to attend any camps since I hadn’t participated in the training and then every course and document I had were outside the UK. I was allowed to be in weekly meetings of older kids supervised. then in comparison in Finalnd I took one safety test online and have been alone (as a 30 yo) with minors overnight sharing a tent/room. the teens have even had a sleepover at my flat when we did our sleeping bag challenge cause we couldn’t find a cabin. and it’s totally normal. there are very different requirements in different places.

          3. tg33*

            I’m in Ireland (Europe) and I volunteer with teenagers. Background checks and child safeguardaing training are absolutely required for any organised activity. The chance of an abuse arising is low, but the consequences are so devastating that the posibilty has to be considered.

          4. Rew123*

            it’s not a us vs Europe thing. it’s a country and organisation specific thing. I’ve done scouts in few different countries in Europe and worked in the scout center in Swizerland that had tons of scouts all over. Some countries had tons of safeguarding rules and and I’ve nailed a towel as a divider cause minors couldn’t be in the same place. then others had none and evrruken just happily out sleeping bags next to each other regardless of age or gender.

          5. Ellis Bell*

            I’m not in the US, I’m in the UK – the standards where minors are concerned leap forward every time there’s a huge scandal, so there’s a lot been done in ten years!

        2. hbc*

          Maybe my high school coaches had such training, but none of my extracurricular coaches did, and I never received training like that when I was a coach. I currently live in a pretty…litigiously aware area, and all my kids’ current coaches had was a background check and initialing some legal boilerplate.

          I think you’re overestimating the universality of training.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            …and also in the US here, and a youth sports coach (dealing with kids close to but still under the age of the child in question in LW 1, and at least in my sport, it applies for across the board for minors to the age of 18):

            I have annual training through Safesport that is run through our national entity
            I have bi-annual background checks run through the national entity (this one’s for anything criminal as well as whatever else they look for)
            I have annual training through our sport club (in addition to above Safesport) about the legal requirements/basically “not just don’t do wrong, but provide no questionable appearances of wrong being done, both for your protection and that of your players”
            I have annual background checks run by our club (these local ones are for financial reasons; sadly embezzlement in youth sports is a thing)
            I have age specific sport training with each additional age group I progress to.

            And though my parent group knows I’m trained and certified, I’d put money on over 2/3 NOT understanding what that means and the hours (and money from my pocket) put into this.

            Yet my kids play a second sport that is….not exactly as tightly verified. It seems highly dependent on the sport and its governing body.

            And having said all of this – reading this letter had my alarm bells clanging – not that they’d necessarily do anything wrong, but that the manager was being an absolute idiot from the perspective of “you don’t put yourself into any questionable situations with a minor in your charge” and opening themself and their employer up to a host of legal issues.

            1. Kyrielle*

              YES. And also, this manager is normalizing this for their employees, which is both wrong from a workplace perspective (because this is anything but normal), and for young people could be setting them up (grooming them, but not on purpose) for someone with bad intentions later. If this situation is accepted as “normal” and they go, if it’s a condition of employment, then what about something similar…but with one or more adults with bad intentions? This is really not a situation any employee should be put in, least of all a minor.

              Do I think the supervisor in question has bad intentions? Enh, I don’t know, we can’t know, but my guess is on probably not. (It’s possible, but it’s more likely it’s just a total lack of boundaries on the supervisor’s part.) Do I think that this supervisor is sending the wrong message and setting up the wrong attitude toward what constitutes a “work activity”? Oh HECK yes.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        While I agree that grooming is highly improbable, I think there is a big difference between organised, official activities or events where an adult or a small group of adults are taking young people on a trip organised primarily for the young people and a group of young adults going on a team building overnight event and insisting a young person come with them. My biggest concerns here are the fact that there are only two minors and one of those is close to adulthood so the LW’s child is the only one who is really at an age to require supervision and the fact that most of the others are youngish adults. Putting these two things together, it’s rather unlikely anybody will be “responsible” for the LW’s daughter.

        I’d be less worried about a 15 year old getting a little drunk than I would about everybody else being drunk and the 15 year old possibly in a pub in a strange town or city with no responsible adult she can turn to if somebody goes wrong.

        Definitely in Ireland, there are now very strict safeguarding rules to the point that my badminton club decided we had to put the age for joining either above 16 or above 18 because younger than that would mean there would have to be some kind of garda vetting (police check) for those running the club. I would imagine any organisation that was taking children somewhere overnight would both have some form of vetting done and would have somebody officially responsible for the young people, even if the young people themselves were unaware of this.

        I wouldn’t be worried about sexual abuse here, but I would have concerns about idiotic behaviour, such as what if one of the late teen/early 20s employees thought it was funny to get the 15 year old drinking more than she was comfortable with? Or what if she wasn’t allowed into a bar and the rest of them went in without her and left her to make her own way back to wherever she was staying late at night in an unfamiliar city?

        If I were a parent, I think I would be reluctant to let my 15 year old go even if she were friends with her coworkers and it was fully paid and completely voluntary, especially given the ages mentioned here. If it were a group of teens with a couple of adult managers, then I’d feel more confident that the activities would be teen-friendly and if it were a group of mostly older adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s and a couple of teens, I’d feel more confident that there would be adults who would take a parental role, but in this case, the kid is old enough that I would see the 17-21 year olds seeing her as one of the group but still enough younger than them that she is both likely to be easily influenced and not really have the maturity to take part in activities that might be suitable for them.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Completely agree. I went on a bunch of overnight trips as preteen and teen, a lot of them where I am fairly sure nobody received any kind of training. Still, the dynamic is just very different when there’s a group of minors and one or more “responsible adults” (even when they were barely adults themselves) and a situation where everyone are “peers” and no-one feels responsible for the minors.

          The only situation I was in that got… pretty iffy was one when I was 17 and camping with a hobby group of mostly young adults, and no-one was really in charge. A friend also there was 15. No lasting damage was done, but we certainly did some very inadviseable things (getting the most drunk I’ve been in my life was the least of it). It’s obviously not guaranteed to go off the rails, but the risk is substantial.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Yes, those factors make all the difference. I volunteered with the parks department/my local nature center as a teen and went on a couple overnight trips, usually organized as volunteer appreciation events for teens who logged the most hours the preceding year.

            1) they were optional
            2) they were paid out of the volunteer program’s budget
            3) all the attendees were teenagers, except for the program organizer and two parents who would come along as volunteer chaperones and carpool drivers
            4) they were usually to campgrounds near interesting hikes or places we could practice our plant ID skills, places that had bunk bed dormitory buildings and a cafeteria, not random vacation house rentals
            5) they were annual, not monthly

            I don’t think the naturalist at the parks department who ran the volunteer program had any special training for working with minors, but he had (still preteen at the time) daughters of his own and definitely understood what his role needed to be – that of an adult chaperone, not a peer – and, quite apart from the annual trips, as a general rule he made a point of getting to know all the volunteers’ parents, so he was a well-known quantity to them.

            Basically every thing that differs between those trips I went on as a teen and this one are what make this one an abjectly terrible idea.

        2. Allonge*

          I think that’s perfectly reasonable.

          Another reasonable outcome could be, if the teenager in question actually wants to go (and without the rest of the bonkers conditions!), is to say ‘no way my kid is going without my talking to the supervisor first, and after that we will see’.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, this.

          I agree that, in theory, grooming could be a concern on a trip like this but I don’t feel like it is in this instance–this feels like someone who has forgotten how young her employees are and is maybe in a bit of denial about her own age. I would be more worried about everyone else creating a situation that a 15-year-old shouldn’t have to experience.

          Also, asking your employees of any age to spend $400 on a voluntold pajama party is bonkers in any setting.

        4. Rebecca*

          Yes, it’s less the training and more that an adult has stepped up and said, “yes, I acknowledge that this person is a minor, needs extra supervision and care for their safety, and I have agreed to be the one who is available to provide that for the duration of the trip.”

          In this case, nobody has stepped up to acknowledge and provide that, and the trip is not designed for children the way school trips are, so activities aren’t being designed with them in mind. A school trip where some kids snuck some beer into the dorms and there is an adult who will be around if one of them drinks too much is very different from being in a pub or at a party with a group of adults as the odd one out.

        5. Dona Florinda*

          “I’d be less worried about a 15 year old getting a little drunk than I would about everybody else being drunk and the 15 year old possibly in a pub in a strange town or city with no responsible adult she can turn to if somebody goes wrong.”

          You nailed it.

        6. Alanna*

          From a legal liability standpoint, the concern is definitely drinking and sexual behavior and other illegal acts, but there’s also just a big maturity gap between 20somethings and a 15-year-old and not every 15-year-old is going to be comfortable in that situation. Lots of behavior that’s healthy and normal when you’re an adult is pretty transgressive for a 15-year-old.

          I was young for my age at 15, but I remember being occasionally scandalized by older kids in high school when I first started spending time with them; same for early 20somethings when I was 17/18 and working as a camp counselor. In both cases, those were pretty small age gaps, I was too sheltered, and it was appropriate for me to stretch my comfort zone! But I think if I’d been thrown in with people who were out of college when I was 15, and they were treating me like a peer, I think I would have been pretty uncomfortable.

      3. CommanderBanana*

        “have been to many overnight trips without my parents as a minor (from sports, choir, etc.)”

        These are not remotely the same as the situation in the letter.

    4. Turingtested*

      I used to work food service with teens and in addition to not being a predatory creep you must not look like a predatory creep even if your intentions are good.

      1. Colette*

        Sure, and if the supervisor wrote it, that would be good advice for her.

        But the fact that she’s planning this particular event does not make her a predatory creep. (Maybe she is one! But it’s more likely that she’s just thinking of her employees as her friends, and hasn’t processed that some of them are not actually adults.)

        1. Turingtested*

          I meant that her planning the trip could be taken the wrong way. Working with kids you need to be extremely careful about appearances as well as actual behavior.

          1. Colette*

            Which is why that would be good advice for her. But it’s not relevant to the parent of one of her employees.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          She’s definitely a fool if not a creep; that’s not all that much more reassuring.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yup – to mangle the phrase “don’t ascribe to malice what incompetence can explain away?”

    5. I work in this field*

      Trust me, this is not grooming behaviour and is not how child sex offenders operate. Yes it’s clueless and ill-conceived from the point of view of working with children, boundaries, liability, being in loco parentis etc (as well as the other issues) but it is not symptomatic of child abuse.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Hello everyone, friendly reminder that grooming does not always mean sexual abuse. Please look up the definition. Putting this child in a situation where adults may pressure or influence her into using alcohol or other drugs would still be considered grooming.

        1. Seashell*

          Where are looking up a definition that says that? Prior to certain political figures and media sources deciding to use it to smear their opponents over anything involving kids in recent years, it meant preparing kids to be sexually abused.

        2. I work in this field*

          Sorry should have said I am in Britain not USA. Grooming (in a legal context; not re horses or show dogs!) here absolutely does mean child sexual abuse. Sexual Offences Act 2003.

          1. Seashell*

            I don’t think grooming is a legal term in the US (I’m an attorney in the US, and I’ve never heard it used in that context, although it’s possible it might be used on a state level somewhere), but colloquially, I have always heard in the context of preparing a child for sexual abuse. I suppose if alcohol and drugs were being used to make the child vulnerable to sexual abuse, that might fit, but just giving a child the substances? Not grooming as I’ve ever heard it used.

      2. Lilo*

        As someone who has worked in the field and had a friend groomed and abused when we were teens this is not correct. Bosses grooming underage employees happens all the time.

        1. Allonge*

          I think the point was more that if this particular boss wanted to groom any of their underage employees, they would not have to resort to organising a costly 3-day out-of-town trip for that. They already have all the access to OP’s daughter they need, every week for a certain number of hours; the trip is going to trigger all kinds of alarms compared to that.

          So it’s not that supervisors don’t groom, it’s that this is a pretty unlikely way it would manifest. AND because it’s inappropriate on many levels, it does not need to be grooming for it to be declined by OP.

          1. Lilo*

            I mean, what happened to my friend happened at parties with all employees present. Yes, him inviting her to the parties in the first place should have been a red flag. She was 14.

            Don’t trust the presence of the other employees to be protective.

            1. Lilo*

              To be clear it doesn’t have to be grooming to not be okay, but as a parent people have to know that, especially in a power differential when the bad actor is someone like a manager, it’s often the case that other people are completely aware of what’s going on and do nothing. So don’t ignore red flag behavior because other people are around.

    6. JustMe*

      That was honestly my first thought, too. It immediately made me think of a time when I was 15 or 16 and the parent of my friend called me up and asked if I wanted to do something over the weekend as his step-son (my friend) and his wife were out of town. I was so relieved when my mom shut it down, because I was young and didn’t know what to say.

      1. Rae*

        That just makes my stomach turn. I’m so sorry you even had to deal with that kind of phone call.

        One of my friends uncles used to hang around a lot. I don’t think there was anything inappropriate actually happening in that specific instance – but I remember my mom telling me that any adult that wanted to spend their free time with unrelated minors shouldn’t be left with unrelated minors.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          That seems a little over-the-top. Plenty of people volunteer as youth coaches, group leaders, etc., without it being weird. My best friends’ kids are neat people, and it wouldn’t be weird for me to take them to the movies or whatever.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Yeah as someone whose HS friend moved in with our English teacher after his parents divorced when he was 16 *and neither of the parents wanted my friend apparently* – more than a little OTT. Things like abuse, parents kicking teens out of the house etc. happen and having a support system is important.

          2. Rae*

            Very different situation than the adult who hangs out with teenagers — as a teenager. Not a coach in anyway, not participating in school or extra-curricular activities. The adult hanging out in the basement, making fast food and cigarette runs. And my example isn’t someone hanging out with kids known through their parents. Not weird that friends Uncle liked to hang out with nephew, and plenty of family is made up of family of choice so people can be unrelated and still like family. It does become weird when Uncle is hanging out with nephews friends – as in me – like he is a peer.

        2. Allonge*

          To be honest what your mom told you is a way to isolate children, plain and simple. ‘Every adult is out to get you’ is something that controlling parents use to ensure that their kids are scared to talk to anyone.

          It’s a ‘great’ way to make it difficult, for example, for an LGBT+ or questioning child to get any kind of advice on their identity, for abused-by-family children to get help, for young people to get out of cults and so on. Not to mention get work experience, form reasonable connections with people in general or to live a life that is not defined by fear of being kidnapped.

          Are there bad people out there? Sure, and parents have a difficult role to keep kids safe. But isolating children from the world is not the answer.

          1. Rae*

            You’re skipping over the context where an unrelated adult was already pushing his way into a group of teens. My parents never isolated me, and they taught me critical thinking skills so that I could evaluate if it was an appropriate situation or not.

        3. Dahlia*

          What? No, that’s ridiculous. I volunteer to do stuff with kids a lot, and enjoy their company, because kids are cool and I’m good with them. I don’t want any and I’m an only child with no cousins or anything. Am I not allowed to be around children ever, despite my years of experience working with them?

          I’m literally volunteering to teach a class in the near future because my library has an all-ages event and the kids like me…

          1. MHA*

            This is pretty clearly not what Rae/their mother was referring to, which is adults who hang out with related teenagers *socially.* Not professionally, not for youth-focused activities, not in a volunteer capacity, not being the designated ride to and from activities, not distantly supervising group hangouts to make sure they actually stay teen-appropriate, but actually inserting themselves as a social peer. And yes, *that’s* a very common red flag and grooming tactic.

    7. New Senior Mgr*

      I thought the same… grooming behavior. Keep your eyes open for other unusual requests by this manager.

    8. Peanut Hamper*

      Just because it’s grooming behavior does not mean that it is actual grooming. This is amazingly bad judgment on the part of the manager, nevertheless, and should be dealt with appropriately, and from that standpoint.

    9. Rex Libris*

      I’m betting the boss is only five or six years older than the minors, and emotionally and professionally immature enough that she sees them as peers. It’s more likely she’s just clueless and excited at the idea of a girl’s weekend on the company dime. She probably thinks of her employees as her very own sorority.

      1. Clisby*

        That’s what I think is most likely. She’s thinking of them as her group, and not focusing on one being 15 and one 17. And then there’s advice not to exclude co-workers in a group from gatherings like this, and there you go.

        (This is completely apart from the fact that this is a terrible idea anyway, no matter how old the co-workers.)

      2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        I agree with your analysis of the manager’s motivation, but remember, this is not on the company’s dime. She’s charging every one of the “girls” $400 apiece.

    10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Unlikely to be intentional grooming, but things may go bad really fast.

      Story time (CW/TW SA attempt…) When I was 16, I and a group of my age peers that I knew from a math camp I used to go to in the summers as a teen, were offered an opportunity to fly out to a national conference for high-school kids. We were two young women (my close friend and I) and 5 guys. The woman who later that year took over as the math camp director, acted as the chaperone/looking out for me and my friend – we stayed at a boarding school and she shared a room with the two of us, had lights-out time and curfew, would barge into the guys’ room and march the two of us out of there if we were there chatting and it was curfew time etc. well one night I was woken up by a grown man (20s?) standing over my bed and asking if he could get into my bed with me?!?!?!!? I argued with him, no luck, I then said that I was going to scream and “all our guys will come in here and get you to leave” and he left after that. It was a pretty heated conversation and our chaperone snored through all of it. She never even found out, died ten years later of a long illness, still none the wiser. Imagine if he’d gotten violent and she still would’ve slept through it all? or she’d have woken up and what – taken him out with a skillful right hook? I doubt she could’ve done anything. At least it was a science conference that we got a lot of value out of, but what value is this ridiculous trip have? OP’s kid’s manager is asking for major, major trouble with this trip and OP’s kid is right to stay out of it.

    11. WorkingRachel*

      It might not be grooming, but it’s definitely very bad judgement! I have a job where I get to know young people very well over many years. I genuinely consider some of them friends and I think some of them consider me a friend. But would I do this? Never, ever. I’ve been known to grab lunch or go to a play with some of my ex-students who I know well and WHO ARE OVER 18. But it’s not appropriate for me to socialize with minors in general, it’s not appropriate for me to socialize with minors who I work with, and it’s definitely not appropriate for me to invite, much less pressure, minors to attend a social event that mostly involves people over 18! It would be so weird it would never even occur to me.

    12. Parakeet*

      It’s bad enough that the transphobes and other despicable far-right bigots call everything “grooming” without other people jumping to do it at any opportunity.

  4. NewNameWhide*

    I’m not really understanding the big issue in letter 3. He already sells the jam. I’m not understanding why the business expanding creates a new conflict of interest that didn’t exist before.

    I’m also not fully convinced there’s a huge COI at all. What are these “land mines” of things he can’t cover? How much content regarding jam or related products could this site possibly have? Like short of fruit, sugar, and jar vendors or competing jam brands, I’m not sure who or what he’d appear biased towards (or against). Also, how has the site been managing the alleged COI up until this point?

    That said, I recognize that “website that covers the food industry” is pretty non-descriptive, so I might be missing important context here that would make this a bigger issue.

    1. Looper*

      I think when it was a small, self-funded business it was fine, but now that he’s talking about scaling and taking on investors, the conflicts are arising. Like if a large specialty foods company invests in his product, will he be able to objectively write about that business’ other products? If a restaurant starts using his jams, can he objectively review their food? If he were in HR or marketing or a non-journalistic role I think it would be less of a concern.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, the optics are not great here. Even if he can remain objective, the public perception will likely be that he’s not as his business becomes more widely known.

        Also, even if none of that were an issue, LW’s already concerned whether he’s focused enough on his day job. That’s almost certainly not going to improve as he tries to scale up the side hustle.

      2. Pink Candyfloss*

        Any of his writing would at the very least need to disclaim his possible COIs.

        I think about NPR for example, they report often through some of their podcasts & news shows on companies like Amazon, who does sponsor some of NPR’s content, so they disclaim it in the broadcast.

        But in this case he is an employee with a COI not the company overall with the COI – so that becomes a different tangle of string.

        In my industry, certain COI you have to either choose to take one path or the other – you cannot work for my company and also have certain other situations, because the possibility for appearance of bias is too great – so an employee as a condition of their continued employment with us would need to refuse the other situation or else they could be let go with cause.

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

          Same with any articles about Amazon in the Washington Post…Bezos owns both so they have a disclaimer in the article.

          But for the OP, I think the lede is that he’s not a great employee to begin with, and this side business that’s growing is making him even worse. Why get into the weeds of debating a conflict of interest in the sense of his jam business is food-related, yadda yadda yadda. The real conflict of interest for the company is that he’s working two jobs, and his performance is suffering. IME, any employer will have some sort of policy to the affect that an employee’s other job or side-hustle of any kind can’t impact their job performance.

      3. Alanna*

        This is correct. And, broadly, we’re talking about going from a hobby with small-scale one-to-one sales to participating in an industry. It’s a very, very strong norm in journalism that you can’t participate in an industry that you cover — not because anyone intends to behave unethically, but because the appearance of a conflict makes you less trustworthy.

        In addition to the other possibilities noted here, there’s also the fact that you’re now mixing journalism and business. Are you interacting with people as sources who can trust you to be an honest broker? Or are you interacting with them knowing that you might need them at some point in your jam business, so it’s in your interest to do them favors, have them on your good side, etc? Food journalism isn’t necessarily adversarial, but in all kinds of industry coverage, people want things, and if you’re a participant in that industry, you’re going to want to be able to give them what they want so that they’re happier with you.

        It’s just a sticky (pun intended) situation. And it’s such a common norm that it’s completely understandable for LW to be shocked that jam guy doesn’t see how this is a problem.

    2. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      Now that he has seed funding from an investor in the industry he covers, writing about any other business or product that investor funds is a conflict of interest. The fact that the employee doesn’t get this raises all kinds of flags about his judgment; the OP now knows that he can’t spot a conflict of interest from a mile away. So when he vets sources in his own stories, he’s not evaluating them critically either.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Not to mention that if he tries to sell his jam to a local cafe and they decline, if he can’t be objective about a subsequent review, that can hurt the cafe’s business for no reason other than “they said no to me”. This employee already doesn’t have a good track record at his job, and he’s clearly shown he hasn’t considered the ramifications of taking his product more commercial. I think the LWs best option is to have the tough convo with him and let him go.

        1. doreen*

          And no one (not even him) can be sure that his reviews are objective – even if he gives the place that turned him down a good review, maybe they deserve a better one. Or maybe he gives an undeserved good review tot he place that said yes.

    3. *kalypso*

      Hobby businesses and commercial businesses are not the same thing; if you’re just selling to friends to cover material costs for your hobby, you’re not competing with supermarket brands or indie producers. Once you take it into the realm of ‘business for profit not fun’, when you have to register for tax and you’re showing at the same markets or aiming for the same shelf at the shops (whether it’s a supermarket, local health store, the local producers’ shelf at the cafe) or trying to supply the same businesses, any reader can go ‘hey is this dude lying about the things in this article to make his brand look better’, and thus you have a perceived conflict.

      It’s an actual conflict when one is taking money from a third party who wants to invest in X and chooses you over Percival’s X Factory and Montcourt, and your job is to cover the X event at the local ag fair and the X Makers Expo.

    4. MK*

      A person making home-made jam and selling it at fairs isn’t competing with larger vendors, they don’t have the same reach, won’t be in stores against eachother, etc. Once it has a production line, no matter how small, it can become an issue, not only regarding the jam content on the site, but also the general position in the field. Say the site features a specific store, and at the same time the store has to choose whether to stock this employee’s jam or another company’s; how can the OP trust their employee to be impartial and won’t the store be influenced by the fact that one potential vendor is a journalist reporting on their business?

      These policies exist to act as a prevention, so there doesn’t need to be a “huge” COI, the possibility of one is enough. Do you really expect the OP to wait till there is a huge issue to act?

      1. My Cabbages!*

        And even if the employee is scrupulously guarding against his bias, it’s still a problem. If a cafe is getting reviewed, will they feel like they’ll have a better shot if they buy the jam? They’ll be unfairly put in the circumstance of making that decision even if the employee says absolutely nothing about it, because they won’t know whether he’ll be honest or not.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Well, he can’t cover anything related to the business that’s *giving him money*. Depending on the size or scope of that investor, and whether it’s a division of a larger conglomerate, it could compromise his objectivity in a lot of sectors of the food industry.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And the fact it sounds like he didn’t tell them about the funding until after the deal was done makes me worry more about his objectivity.

        Sounds like he’s not the greatest employee anyways – just cut him loose based on the performance issues, and honestly they’ll probably get worse as he scales up from hobby to commercial production anyways due to distractions.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      I think the line is between “hobby” and “actual business”. When it was a hobby, it didn’t matter. Now that it’s a business, it does.

    7. Ace in the Hole*

      If he’s making small batches of jam in his kitchen that he sells direct to customers, there’s not much conflict of interest.

      Now that he’s expanding, he’ll be working with a distributor, advertisers, retailers, investors, and larger-scale suppliers/vendors in the industry. He might appear biased in, for example, reviews of other brands served by his distributor, products sold at retailers or restaurants who carry his product (or their competitors), recommendations for supplies or equipment (even non-jam supplies, since the vendors he use might offer kickbacks for referrals), etc.

      1. Alanna*

        This, and also how he interacts with everyone in the industry. Lots of food coverage isn’t reviews — it’s writing about trends, new products, etc. If you’re (for example) writing about the rise of low-alcohol beer, everybody wants to be the low-alcohol beer CEO you quote as part of your story, because it’s great exposure for their product. If an investor who is thinking about an investment in your jam company also invests in a low-alcohol beer brand, oops, you have a conflict of interest.

      2. Sharon*

        And when his jam takes off and becomes wildly popular, he can either thank his supportive employers or never mention them again. I doubt he’s really going to be writing many reviews of other james or jellies.

    8. Nom*

      The conflict of interest arises if he is reporting on an investor in his company or a competitor. As an individual, he isn’t really competing with big brands like Smuckers, but if he gets outside investment, its possible that one day he might be and that could influence his reporting. He may also have a perceived conflict of interest if he reports on his investor, or other companies his investor invests in. There’s just too many opportunities for a COI.

  5. Queenie*

    With regard to #5, some states have a “one day off in every seven” law. California, New York, and Illinois for certain.

    1. doreen*

      What’s described in #5 doesn’t necessarily violate that – New York’s law is written as “at least twenty four consecutive hours of rest in any calendar week” and. Working one week a month of 50 hours between Tuesday- Monday gives Monday off in the first calendar week and Tuesday is the only day of work in the second. California’s interpretation appears to be that a person must have one day off in each workweek – if the workweek is from Friday – Thursday, they are off from Fri-Monday in week one and Tuesday – Thursday in week two.

    2. Nynaeve*

      Kentucky doesn’t have a “one day off in every 7” but it does have a law that says the 7th+ day(s) worked in a row have to be paid as if they were OT, regardless of how many hours you have worked in whatever your employer defines as a pay period. So here, you would have to be paid OT for the 7th day in a row, but if say, the first 45 of the 50 hours you worked happened in the first 6 days, you would only get the OT pay for the 5 hours you worked on the 7th day, not the whole 10 you went over 40. It’s complicated, but it prevents employers from scheduling people to work multiple days in a row, but without managing to make any of it OT.

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      California doesn’t require a day off; it just requires that it’s paid as OT (or double-time, depending on specifics). I can’t speak to NYS or Illinois.

      1. Illinoisan*

        In Illinois, it’s a one day off in any consecutive 7-day period for non-exempt employees. Or as I find it easier to think of it, I can’t schedule non-exempt employees more than 6 days in a row. Normally, it’s not even an issue, but sometimes weekend events make it tricky.

    4. Ace in the Hole*

      Not exactly. Some states have laws requiring overtime if an employee works 7 days in the same workweek, not just the 7th day in a row. The employer can define the workweek start on any day of the week.

      I’m in California. My employer defines the payroll workweek as starting on Sunday. If I work 7 days in a row starting on Sunday, I get automatic overtime on the last day (saturday) because they were all in the same workweek. But if I work 7 days in a row starting on Friday, I would get no overtime because 2 days were in one workweek (fri/sat) and 5 days in another workweek (Sun-Fri). Depending on shift length, you can work up to 12 days in a row with no overtime if it’s split across two workweeks.

  6. Looper*

    LW1- if I’m reading the letter correctly, this is all coming from the 20-something supervisor and not the owner? I would 100% suggest your daughter get another job regardless, but also might be worth contacting the owners and give them a heads up. Possibly they are (unfortunately) aware and fine with it, but they may also be bad at managing staff and not keeping a close eye on this supervisor. Just from a logistical stand point, I’d be concerned that a supervisor was planning on making all my store staff unavailable for a full weekend. Like, who is supposed to be running the shop?

    1. allathian*

      Good point.

      In any case, 400 dollars is a lot of money for most teenagers, so the parents would be perfectly within their rights to say that their daughter can’t attend the event for that reason alone. Normally I agree with Alison in that parents who meddle in their kid’s professional relationships are doing the kid a disservice professionally, but this is so out of line that I’d make an exception here.

      I’d hate to think of the legal liability to the employer if something happens at what’s supposed to be a work retreat.

    2. Francie Foxglove*

      I think the daughter should avoid this event, but I hope she’ll tell the owner face-to-face, without parental involvement. Like, “I don’t feel comfortable spending multiple nights away from home with mostly adults. Also, I’m working to cover my (family’s?) expenses, and I can’t spare $400 for this.” More effective if she speaks for herself.

      Plus, I hope the LW doesn’t call daughter’s boss about this, only because she sounds like someone I wouldn’t want knowing my name and number!

      1. Boof*

        I agree it’s best if she can speak for herself, and is in the best position to judge if it would be helpful to do so. I would avoid giving “reasons” though; just “I don’t want to spend my money on a work retreat” and “I’ll stick with my own personal plans outside of work, thanks!” would be best – doesn’t matter if she wants to spend the money on an escape room that DOESN’T involve work or feeding herself work does not have dibs on her time outside of work or money!

      2. LG*

        I disagree the daughter should talk to the owner. She’s 15 years old, and I doubt she has the confidence to do so, which is why she’s happy her parents said no. The major problem here is that she’s a minor, so her parents should be the ones to speak with the owner, if anybody should.

        1. *kalypso*

          Nope, no, no. If someone is working, they are the ones to speak to their employer unless they’re physically unable to and they’ve delegated someone to call in sick for them.

          If the daughter isn’t confident speaking with the owner, her parents should encourage her and help her build up the confidence to do it, but not just do it for her.

          Putting a minor in the position where they have to explain to an assumably functional adult that they do not want to be in a situation where they are away from home at a party-like gathering with adults is a bad move on the part of the employer; but having one’s parents sail in and try to fix it is a bad look for the employee. It’s such an obvious issue that it shouldn’t be hard for a worker to bring it up, and they shouldn’t get pushback or have to argue about it.

          1. LG*

            Yes, they should be speaking to their direct manager. I was disagreeing with the suggestion of going over their head to speak to the owner. That’s asking a lot of a teenager at their first job.

          2. Malarkey01*

            As someone who was a teen worker, supervised hundreds of teen workers, and has my own child as a teen worker I generally agree that the employee should be the one talking at work and parents should not be involved in the job whatsoever. HOWEVER there have been a handful of caveats where I have thought it was appropriate a parent contacted me- all in the realm of safety. When you’re dealing with extremely young workers (14 and 15 in my experience) there’s different issues that come up and in my state different laws. The parent who called to tell me their 14 year old was being worked past her hours and told they’d be fired if they told management saved us from huge issues and protected other kids, the parent who called to relay that a 22 year old line manager was dating a 14 year old employee, same.

            I just want to throw out that NEVER is almost never actually true.

            1. MsM*

              Yeah, in this case, I think “I am stepping in because while my daughter may be your employee, she is also 15 and this is not something you should be putting a minor in a position to have to navigate” helps drive the message home that…this is not something they should be putting a minor in a position to have to navigate.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                Exactly this. Also this supervisor is so oblivious to what’s appropriate I’m not sure they would even hear it from the teenager, it’s very likely they’d dismiss it and be annoyed with the kid. This is a case where you may need the gravitas of an adult speaking to another adult.

                In an ideal situation I agree, if you’re old enough to work you’re old enough to navigate everything that comes along with that. But we’re not dealing with reasonable players here.

                1. alienor*

                  I’m thinking back to something that happened to me when I was 13, so just a couple of years younger than the teen worker in this letter. There was an annual week-long school trip for my grade that was a pretty big deal – it was optional in theory, but in practice everyone was expected to go. Unfortunately, my dad got laid off halfway through the year and there was no way my parents could pay (it was about $200, which was a lot for the mid-80s), so as the deadline approached, they told me I had to speak with the teacher in charge of the trip and let him know I wouldn’t be going. I approached his desk after class to have this hard and embarrassing conversation, and it went like this:

                  Me: Mr X, I have to tell you that I can’t go on the trip to [location]
                  Mr X: Why not?
                  Me: It’s too expensive.
                  Mr X: It’s the same price it’s been all year.
                  Me: I know, but it’s too expensive now.
                  Mr X: Don’t be silly. Get on to your next class.

                  When I got home I reported what had happened, and the next day my mother called Mr X and the whole thing was resolved in a 5-minute conversation. But I think it goes to show that adults often reflexively don’t believe kids or take them seriously when the kid is telling them something they don’t want to hear.

              2. Eater of Hotdish*

                I agree! There’s a big difference between “mom goes to job interview with 19-year-old and answers questions for them” and “parent steps in to say NOPE when boss with sloppy boundaries tries to peer pressure 15-year-old to go party for a weekend with them.”

                The 19-year-old adult is in a different place, emotionally and legally; it’s appropriate for them to speak for themselves. But a 15-year-old child shouldn’t have to face this BS alone.

                1. House On The Rock*

                  Yeah, I was a pretty independent teen in the mid-80s and was generally comfortable navigating the part time jobs I had, but there were a few times when my parents stepped in and I was very thankful they did (once in a case of an older person at an adjacent business being inappropriate with me and once when I was asked to work with an intoxicated coworker).

          3. Not your typical admin*

            I disagree. Sometimes, with young workers there is the rare occasion that parents need to step in; especially with safety issues. Teenagers are learning how to a set boundaries, especially with adults. They’re so used to having adult authority (teachers, coaches) who have training, rules and established procedures in place to ensure safety that it’s hard for them to recognize when they need to push back. For example – when I was 16 I was a cashier working at a small mom and pop grocery store before the arrival of a major hurricane. All the workers, other than our manager were teenagers. My dad came to pick me up and couldn’t believe we were still open because the weather was deteriorating so quickly. After waiting about 15 minutes and seeing our sign blow away he called the owners and told them they were putting their employees in danger, and needed to close quickly. As soon as he got off the phone, they called the manager and told him to lock the doors and close down. None of us teens would have had the gumption to do that, or the knowledge that we were not safe.

            In this case, I would say that the teen should be given the words to push back against the monthly events. The weekend trip is different. There’s so many ways it could go wrong that it’s a safety issue.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              Legal and safety issues are ones where the parents may need to intervene. As you say, teens are used to being under the authority of adults, and pushing back against someone who is acting unethically is advanced work negotiations. Step one is to coach the kid, but if that doesn’t work, more direct action may be needed.

              The parents also have a responsibility to their minor child. If the kid has a job, shrugging their shoulders and allowing the employer to exploit a fifteen year old because it’s they are an employee, and it’s their responsibility to push back against illegal/unethical/unsafe demands would be irresponsible. Also, she’s fifteen. Unlike an adult employee, the LW has the authority to forbid her daughter from going.

            2. New Jack Karyn*

              That is some high-quality Dadding right there! I’m imagining a 40-year-old man looking at the mid-20s manager and thinking, “Kid, I’m about to take this decision right out of your hands.”

          4. Yorick*

            Agreed, the parents can coach the daughter on what to say to the owners if she wants to talk to them about it.

          5. Allonge*

            Eh, when you are 15, it’s perfectly reasonable for these things to be handled with a parent present or by them.

            Not stuff like ‘I need to leave 15 minutes earlier’ but for stuff that’s this inappropriate in the first place? Parents are fine. That’s what they are there for.

            1. Lilo*

              Yes. This is a bad situation and needs an adult to step in and say “this is not okay”. This goes beyond normal employee relations.

          6. Pink Candyfloss*

            Many states have different protection laws and requirements for workers under a certain age (15 qualifies in my state for example) – parents are expected to be involved to some degree in the safety & welfare of their minor child.

            This isn’t “I don’t want Jane to work X hours” or “I don’t like Jane’s work uniform”. This is: “I don’t want Jane in a potentially libelous or dangerous situation outside of work hours and off the premises of her employer where she is at the very least covered by insurance.”

          7. Totally Minnie*

            I would agree with you if this was a more standard workplace conversation like “you scheduled me for a day when I told you I wasn’t available.” But this is not that. This situation is one that would be hard even for an experienced adult to navigate with the owner of the business they work for, and because it’s such an egregious breach of workplace norms, I think we can classify this as an exception to the “parents should stay out of their children’s work conversations” rule.

      3. AnotherLibrarian*

        I agree it’s more effective if the daughter speaks up, but as a teenager I am not sure I would have had the spine to do so. Part of having a job is learning to speak to your boss, so it is something she needs to learn. The reality is, however, that this is so odd and not normal work behavior, that I think her parents should discuss with her if she wants to remain at the job. Sometimes, having supervised younger people before, they need permission to “quit” and need help formulating their own thoughts on this sort of thing, especially young people who feel a need to be “perfect” or “responsible” without realizing that part of being responsible learning when to set a boundary. I’m glad her Mother wrote in and I am glad she’s talking with her parents about this. That’s a good sign.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Agree – especially when you are dealing with someone who already sounds like a boundary-stomper.

          I worked in a jewelry boutique starting when I was 17, and while I overall really enjoyed the job and my coworkers and manager were lovely, the owner was a boundary-stomping nightmare. Fortunately she didn’t actually come to the store that often, but whenever she did it was a nightmare.

          One particularly egregious example was, after our riverside district was hit with a terrible hurricane and flooding, the staff was responsible for cleaning out the store, which was shin-deep in river mud and contaminated water. The Red Cross and hazmat teams were literally out cleaning out buildings, and we were in there shoveling out mud and debris with no protective gear or breathing filters. (She was, of course, out of town.)

      4. Artemesia*

        I was paid a very good salary and would never be expected to pay this kind of money for a management retreat experience. Yes professional conferences which enhanced my career usually involved quite a lot of outlay on my part as the organization had a not fully adequate budget for this, but they generally covered air fare and modest per diem. but I was making good money. I can’t think of a job among my friends and relatives where they were expected to pay hundreds of dollars for a ‘retreat’ — this is totally outrageous even if this were not a part time teen worker. Since it is, it is beyond outrageous. The owner needs to be told. It would be best if the teen with coaching managed this herself so she gets some value out of this ridiculous job experience.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          I would be extremely salty now to be expected to pay $400 for something work-related, and TBH I probably wouldn’t.

          1. I have RBF*

            Same here. I make low six figures, and I wouldn’t be easily able to splash out for a $400 work retreat. As a teenager I would have laughed.

      5. Zarniwoop*

        I’d go with forwarding the email over fsce-to-face. Document!

        If that manager still has a job after the owner sees that email, it’s time to look for a new work situation with fewer bees.

        1. EPLawyer*

          I like this idea. Send it to manager/owner whoever is above Ms. Clueless’ head and ask “Is this mandatory and will it be paid.” You know but more diplomatic. Kinda point out the labor law mine fields, not to mention, the issue with taking minors so the company is aware of what legal liabilities this person is opening up for the company.

          An email can be drafted and reworked until the kid is comfortable with it, while also avoiding having to speak up to the boss.

          Also I GUARANTEE YOU that others don’t want to fork over $400 or go on these monthly trips either but think they have to because the asst. manager is planning them. It just takes one person to let others know its okay to push back on bonkers things.

      6. Smarty pants*

        I’d make an exception to the “parents stay out of work problems” rule for this. My kid’s safety and most likely *my* $400 is involved. Yes, I would encourage my kid to handle it themselves. Given the level of WTF for this one, I’d have no shame getting involved if needed.

      7. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Of course it’s better if the daughter speaks up herself. But she is a minor and we can extend grace to her. If she prefers her mother to helicopter in roaring like a tigress, I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong in this instance. This is precisely the point of being a minor. You’re allowed to hide behind your parents. And it’s your parents duty to protect you because you’re not yet capable of protecting yourself.

    3. Polar Vortex*

      I was thinking that too. Do we think the owner is aware that this is being given as a requirement by the supervisor or is just a “fun outing” some of the girls are planning – if they are even aware of it at all.

      My first step would definitely be seeing if the owner is aware that this is being sold as a team outing (one of many) that employees pay for. Moreover that it’s a weekend with minor kids away from home. I feel like any sane boss is going to have a reality check. The younger supervisor might not have that thought process, but I’m hoping the middle aged owner does.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, I’d love to know if the owner knows about it. I think the parents could even reach out to the owner- this is such a ridiculous overreach and the daughter is a minor, I could see this almost as an “adult to adult, just wanted to make sure you were aware of this”. Normally I’m firmly parents-don’t-belong-at work, but this is such a wild scenario and I could see the owners shrugging off their employee as “over-emotional 15yo girl” instead of “legitimate business concern” (source: my own experience as a 15yo). At the least, this is a LOT to ask a 15yo to navigate.

  7. Name TBD*

    There are federal laws about the amount of hours 15 year olds can work. Even if they are saying this is unpaid, Wage and Hour might consider it hours worked that should be paid and a child labor violation. Doesn’t hurt to call WHD and ask, they keep complaints anonymous.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      if OP’s child is the only minor (or one of two) it would be pretty easy to know who called. best to model direct communication, boundary making and conflict resolution skills for the 15 year old from the beginning. yes, sometimes whistleblowing is required but in such a small boutique, give the owner the been benefit of a conversation first

      1. Nina*

        As an adult who has worked the kind of jobs where it’s common to have a few teenage employees around (to face shelves, sweep floors, make coffee runs, while the adult staff do all the handling of cash, suppliers, and customers), I would be sufficiently concerned about this to call it in to the relevant labor board if my adult boss was trying to organize an unpaid (in fact negatively paid) sleepover involving the teenage employees and adult employees in the same place.

  8. Avva*

    Where do people get the confidence to be so sure theyre doing great when directly informed theyre not doing great??

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Well, it’s a really hard thing to hear, so people often sort of filter it out psychologically. Plus, I think managers soften their language and hope the employee “gets it”, but then the employee doesn’t get it and suddenly there’s a mis-match of expectations. I’ve certainly learned over the years the some employees will never “head” criticism, but I’ve also had other times when I’ve realized I’ve overly softened my language in a way that harms communication between me and my staff. So, it can be an issue on both sides.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Yes, I’ve witnessed a manager giving his direct report a final warning. He started out strong and then softened somewhat as the conversation continued. I think he knew generally what he had wanted to say, but didn’t rehearse it or write it down prior. He probably started feeling bad about being so strict.

    2. jamlady*

      There are a lot of potential reasons, but most recently I found myself in a situation where a staff member simply valued things differently than I or the company did. She is technically very skilled and puts 150% into her work, but she is also incredibly alienating. Just absolutely zero soft skills and incapable of improving in that arena. Plus, she simply didn’t think those things were necessary, and was quite judgemental of others when they weren’t as technically skilled as she was. She valued degrees and techncial knowledge over all else. I just left my role and she expected to be handed my job as I left, and apparently is still completely baffled why she hasn’t been promoted (despite not meeting minimum qualifications and having no ability to lead).

      1. Spicy Tuna*

        Soft skills are so important the higher up the food chain / more people you manage. At my current job, there is a very high level role that’s been open for quite some time. There are several people who have the technical skills to do it, but would never be able to manage the people involved.

      2. Avril Ludgateaux*

        She is technically very skilled and puts 150% into her work, but she is also incredibly alienating. Just absolutely zero soft skills and incapable of improving in that arena.

        This could be my new coworker! It is so hard to assess her objectively because she is absolutely amazing at the technical duties of her job and I am so glad to have somebody like her on the team, when it comes to output… But I do not like her, I do not enjoy interacting with her or working with her, the boss has revealed to me that he’s hearing nobody in our office particularly likes her, and it appears the reason she was transferred to our department from the central operational department of our whole organization, may be related to rubbing her former coworkers the same way. The prevailing rumor is that upper management clearly recognizes she is an asset because she is so clever and skilled, but she is deeply unpleasant to work with, so they moved her to our (kind of) organizationally isolated department to let her run amok here.

        It’s hard to explain, but it’s not even a strictly a charisma or personality thing. Some people I work with are neurodivergent, as are some of my closest friends, and I am used to their differences, their quirks, their systems, their habits, their needs. While Newbie may be neurodivergent, I don’t know, it’s not because she “can’t read social cues” or “is too literal,” it’s because she repeatedly violates workplace boundaries and imposes her will on the office in a way that is way out of line with her responsibilities or authority.

        For example, whenever she does not like how something is being done, even when it is well outside of the realm of her job description, she simply decides to go over people’s heads or behind their backs and do it herself. If that person complains, she’ll write a loquacious, even obsequious apology, but she won’t actually change her behavior, and in fact sometimes she will go far enough to get the boss to formally impose a new system/model or she’ll take over that duty without anybody’s approval, from the perspective of “clearly I can do it better.”

        This has happened more than once. One notable time where it happened to me: I submitted a project which was long-established and designated to me. She went to somebody loosely connected with said project to obtain a copy of my work. Then she rewrote it such that only about 40-50% of it was my own work. She also made some crucial errors, not because of incompetence per se but because of lack of understanding of both the background and goals of the project and the audience it was aimed at. When I politely confronted her about it, telling her what she did was both unnecessary and inappropriate, she then went to the boss to complain that this work should not be done in-house anyway and instead should be outsourced to (other related department), to which he agreed. Even though it lightens my load, it was a part of my job I found engaging and rewarding, and I hold a lot of resentment about it.

        She then complains about being unable to handle her workload and being treated like the boss’s assistant, when nobody is asking her to step out of her job description to stomp on everybody else’s toes. I’ve asked the boss on numerous occasions, “hey, I heard Newbie has been rearranging all the cubicles in the building” and he’ll shrug and laugh and say “You know, I never asked her to do that. She takes it upon herself.” As if he has no say as to how she spends her time! As if he isn’t her boss! He is literally the director of this department and Newbie’s and my immediate manager.

        What’s most frustrating is he keeps telling her that “at this rate, you’ll be taking my role when I retire,” which she is most definitely taking to heart. But his role is very much managerial, and she simply does not have the people or delegation skills to do it. You can’t be a good manager if your own staff don’t like and respect you, at least on a superficial level. I imagine if that promotion eventually happens, a number of people will quit, but I have my doubts since it is not the director’s decision who his replacement is.

      3. CommanderBanana*

        I’m glad your organization recognized that and didn’t promote her! The consequences of promoting people into managerial positions that they are unsuited for can be disastrous.

      4. Hats Are Great*

        Yes, I’ve watched similar, someone get warned that they’re failing at X part of their job and it’s a problem, and they shrug it off because they’re good at Y part of their job and consider that the most important part.

        Sometimes exacerbated by managers delivering information like, “Jane, you’re great with the technical side of the work, but we’d like to see some improvement on your soft skills.” And Jane goes, “They recognize I’m great at the technical side, and everyone knows my soft skills are terrible, that’s not news.”

        And to be fair, sometimes that’s the correct response — if my boss commented that my Excel spreadsheets are an ugly mess, I’d be very shruggo about it, because that is 0% of my job. I’d assume he was just commenting, not warning me about my Excel skills. I occasionally put one together for my own convenience, but I’m here to perform a specific type of legal analysis, and write up reports and documents relating to that. I very occasionally put together a Q&D graph for something, but if I need anything more than that, I go to the team’s data analyst whose job that actually is. (My Excels are a bit legendary on the team for being Rube-Goldberg machines that DO crank out an answer but typically in the most complicated, least streamlined way possible, that make our data analyst go, “Why would you even DO this? How does this even WORK?”)

    3. Irish Teacher*

      I think there are a number of reasons. One can be lack of respect for the person telling them their work is not good enough. This can be due to prejudice, due to having been with the company longer than the person correcting them or just due to not liking that person or not thinking they deserve the promotion.

      Or just not having respect for authority in general. There are people who think all bosses are out to get their employees and might think “well, of course the boss is going to say my work isn’t good enough. That’s just their way of getting out of giving me a raise.”

      There also seem to be some people who don’t really grasp the connection between what they do and how people react. I’ve had a couple of students like that (and yeah, my students are teens, but I’ve seen it in adults too, including a supervisor I once had). I had one student in particular who would ask “Miss, why are you nice sometimes and mean others?” (this in response to his repeatedly pulling down his mask or placing it over his eyes or on his head during covid and being genuinely confused as to why the first time I reminded him casually, thinking it had slipped down accidentally and the 15th time had less patience) or asked why I had given him a punishment for running around the room during class but had not punished a classmate who was sitting quietly at his desk working. In his perspective, teachers punish you when they are in bad moods or if they are “mean teachers” and don’t if they are “nice teachers” or in a good mood and what you do is irrelevant.

      I would hope adults wouldn’t be that out of touch with reality, but even adults can convince themselves “the boss just doesn’t like me and is looking for ways to find fault; whatever I do will be wrong with him/her” or “oh, (s)he’s probably just under pressure from the higher-ups and wants to be able to say they told somebody to improve. They don’t really mean it.”

    4. AlsoADHD*

      Honestly in the jam case (but not about the jam as much as the general performance), I think LW as the manager might be part of the issue frankly. No one should be given a PIP out of the blue, without direct conversations that if XYZ isn’t fixed, a PIP may be necessary. LW mentions putting together a PIP and the worry that even though it wasn’t all about the jam, it might look like it. That tells me that the multiple direct discussions about performance issues leading up to a PIP that should happened haven’t happened.

      1. musingplatypus*

        Hi, LW here. We were discussing the potential necessity of a PIP, not preparing one — meaning a direct conversation around “this needs to be fixed, or we need to talk about a PIP” — and then we learned about the jam investor. I agree; we’d never create a PIP out of the blue. I do think we’ll look at our tough conversations more carefully to make sure that issues are clearly stated and expectations set, but as I said this person is remarkably confident in their own performance… which isn’t the worst trait for an entrepreneur.

        1. AlsoADHD*

          Yeah I’m not sure how you give feedback or 1:1 cadence. I’m spoiled because I have a remote workplace that has a very regular 1:1 cadence and online workbook model where I have trouble imagining ANYONE not knowing their performance issues as long as managers follow the process. My performance is updated in the journal and my manager says kudos and growth points in every meeting (growth points for folks without performance issues—if someone HAS issues, those have to be logged with a specific request/recommendation). I have worked places where expectations were implied, where management used their feelings instead of productivity metrics and clear duties/expectations, and where people figured you “must know” how others felt and frankly it’s exhausting so I know such places exist. I just can’t imagine “confidence” making someone think their performance is good if their boss has said, “We have a performance issue with X. You’re currently doing ABC, but in order to perform adequately, I need you to improve Y by doing Z” even in a conversation. They might disagree with the manager, of course, but that’s not obviousness and over confidence, per se, it’s the sense nothing negative will happen to them as a result.

      2. Sally*

        Not saying this is true in this case, in this case it sounds like the manager is confusing. Sometimes when you’re on the spectrum the feedback doesn’t make sense because the expectation of how you’re supposed to function is outside of how you actually function and you may not realize it. So there’s a disconnect and a lot of your responses are physiological. EG saying you need to be more confident and less overwhelmed but the reason you’re overwhelmed is the job takes place in an open room with lots of complex interactions happening all around and you’re overstimulated. So you might focus on being more confident but what you really need is to work one on one in a quiet room.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I think many people are bad at accurately assessing their own performance and that of those, a significant proportion will attribute criticism to ill will or poor management or bias, because that’s easier to believe.
      And it can be that the concerns haven’t been communicated clearly r bluntly enough.

      Years ago, in the last big recession , we had to make some employees redundant. There was one person in a particular ‘pool’ who was an easy selection for us, as they were demonstrably performing at a much lower level than any one else, which was documented in their appraisals, and had been addressed with them multiple times. When they were told they had been selected for redundancy they argued (and appeared genuinely to believe) that their performance was as good as that of their peers and that they were being unfairly picked on.

      I’ve also had a situation with other employees – one where we had put them on a PIP and another where they were doing the basics and it was in the context of pay and what they would need to be doing to qualify for a merit rise. In both case, despite very clear discussions and guidance about the concerns / changes needed both continued to believe that they were performing well. In the case of the person seeking a raise, this continued over several years and with appraisals and discussions with multiple different people (they were doing the job at a basic enough level that there was no need for disciplinary action or anything like that, it was a case of them comparing themselves with others and being unwilling to accept that the others were getting performance related raises because their performance was better)

      1. Artemesia*

        no one likes to think they missed out because they were not as good as someone else. I know of two men who told everyone in our circle that they didn’t get a particular job (two different jobs) because ‘they had to go with a diversity hire’. or ‘they had to hire a woman’. In both cases I know the successful candidate was another white guy.

    6. Spearmint*

      As Alison points out often, managers often think they’re being much clearer in their negative feedback than they are. A lot of managers will soften the message without even realizing it.

    7. Violet Rutherford*

      Sometimes people only hear half of what they’re told. “You’re churing out those teapots faster than anyone else, but you aren’t documenting them correctly and it’s causing a pileup at the packing stage while they correct things” becomes “I’m the BEST teapot maker but everybody else is just too slow so they’re trying to dull my shine!!”

      1. AlsoADHD*

        Isn’t the message there part of the issue though. If they’re causing so many issues by being fast and so sloppy, why would you start with a positive statement about speed? Or bad metrics—is the speed incentivized over accuracy?

    8. Totally Minnie*

      I read a study a few years back about how the skills you need to recognize you’re bad at something are essentially the same skills you’d need to be good at that thing. If you truly don’t understand what’s required to do the job well, it makes sense that your ability to gauge how well your actually doing would be way off.

      1. Olivia*

        That’s really interesting. It sounds kind of like the Dunning-Kruger effect. This is sometimes thought to be just a general overconfidence in one’s skill or knowledge, but it’s specifically about how people with a little bit of knowledge or experience in something tend to overestimate how good they are in that area. I guess they don’t yet have the greater level of expertise necessary for the perspective that would make them see that they aren’t that good.

        In college I had an interesting experience where being really good in something allowed me to see how bad I was at it in a different context. I was a French major and in my junior year, I started taking German. I had never taken German before, but by that time I had been studying French for 10 years. In French I was in the top echelon of the French majors in my classes, and I could hear the range of skill that people had in pronunciation. When I started taking German, I could hear how bad my accent was. My accent was awful–it sounded very much like an American pronouncing German badly. I couldn’t magically wave a wand to have a better German accent overnight, but ugh I could hear how bad I sounded. It was a strange experience!

  9. Venture Initiation Lady*

    Jumping in here to say there’s more nuance to having conflict of interest/competing interest clauses than what is described in the answer especially for consumer products or services. This often extends beyond simple policy and instead needs to be a contractual clause. There’s not too much concern as far as terminating him for doing this (or just telling him to knock it off), but this has more to do with use of company leads and resources, and not with a competing venture in an adjacent market. My point is that this isn’t as simple as a policy statement, and LW/LW’s company should take a step back from the “conflict of interest” problem (since I think LW really has a different concern and this is just the tip of the iceberg) and instead focus on what seems to be the real issue, which is that he may be presenting this opportunity as part of work the company is supporting instead of a separate, personal project as well as his poor work performance.

    Source: in venture initiation and have worked on numerous startups/product launches

    1. JSPA*


      Based in part on prior letters where people had no idea what a “performance improvement plan” actually means, I’d be more direct. As a first draft (which I’m sure others will improve… as it’s awfully hard to thread the needle of conventional managerial politeness with the fat cord of plain speaking):

      “Jimbly, We have two separate pressing problems here.

      “First, as a general policy, we absolutely cannot have a reporter who is also a professional producer of the things we report on. That’s conflict of interest.

      “However, even without that conflict, you are very close to being let go for inadequate performance. Our attempts to clue you in, using standard management terminology, have failed. We are about to put you on what is called a performance improvement plan. Being on a PIP means you will be fired if you do not improve substantially, in very specific ways that will be laid out in the PIP.

      “Your future employers–or investors–can legally ask if you have ever been fired or have ever been put on a PIP.

      “If you would prefer to be free to launch your line of jams without having had a firing or a pip on your record, we need to receive your resignation. You will need to leave by [date]. You will also need to put further development of [jam line name] on hold until your resignation [has been received / is in effect]. We are prepared to [list of things you’re willing to do, like 3 month extention of health care, modest severance] in view of your general collegiality and the good will we hold for you.

      “Your only other option here is to put your side project on permanent hold while here, and take the terms of the upcoming PIP with a focus, seriousness and consistency that have to this point been lacking.

      “When you give your projects a hundred percent of your attention you can be very effective and persuasive. We would be glad to give you a reference to that effect, if you choose to search for new job. Note, however, that most jobs in the field of food reviewing will have at least as strict a ban on direct conflict of interest as we do.

      “We will have a half hour at your disposal tomorrow to answer any questions, and will expect a response 48 hours after that, telling us which of these two options you prefer. If we hear nothing, we will be proceeding with the PIP at that point.”

      PS this site…is becoming very buggy on my phone. Posts go to threads I don’t even have open.

      1. JSPA*

        I freaking give up. I checked twice that my post would post as a stand-alone, not a response. sorry, V.I.L.

          1. Avril Ludgateaux*

            Eh, if you are going to be the one left thinking “why are my employees surprised when I fire them for poor performance? I was so clear about it,” then it is your problem, as a manager. Communication is a critical management skill.

            It’s best, when delivering harsh news, to be brief and direct, and leave room for questions or discussion.

            “Employee, this jam endeavor is risking your employment here in two ways: 1. it may create a conflict of interest that prevents your performing your required job duties, and 2. it is creating a practical performance deterioration, forcing us to put you on a PIP that is likely to result in your termination.”

            Everything explanatory can go after laying out the harsh truth immediately and succinctly. That way, if they choose to breeze through the communication (by email) or zone out during the conversation, they’ve at least received the main message.

            1. ThatGirl*

              Yeah my (personal) problem with JSPA’s spiel is that it’s too long. You can say all of that in a sentence or two.

              1. Willow Pillow*

                That might be a trend, based on the paragraph suggested for for the LW in “my coworkers keep asking about my assault” yesterday.

        1. JSPA*

          1. disagree in general, but I suppose one gets (at best) the quality of employee that one expects, so your experience may well differ.

          2. This is someone who works with words, successfully pitches investors, and hopes to run a company; expecting them to process words is hardly a wild ask.

          3. They check out after one sentence regardless? Then you’ve done your part, and they’ve proved themselves 100% expendable. You can only be clear and honest; you can’t listen or think for someone else.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Agree that checking out after a sentence or two is a problem, however (haha) I think your spiel is too long. Get straight to the point and don’t passive-aggressively say things like “we tried to tell you but you just didn’t get it”.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          If you check out at “however” in that very clear very necessary statement, you are the problem and deserve to be let go.

          1. Nina*

            I mean, yeah, sure.
            I process audio really, really badly, and while I’d absorb all of that in writing really fast and quite permanently, if it’s in person and I’m trying to process the noises into words and also not fidget and also have a neutral facial expression, I’ve absolutely zoned out before they get to ‘however’.

        3. September 21st*

          I don’t think it’s that long. There’s plenty of room for conversation in between each paragraph. It can be said slowly so that the receiver processes it. It can be written down so the receiver can go back and re-read to understand.

          This is the type of communication that I would personally prefer: it’s specific, clear, direct, serious but kind so I’m not confused about the severity of the situation. It tells me the problem, the potential consequences, a course of action to avoid the negative consequences, and still offers a nice reference.

          Information does require words.

          If someone chooses to check out during this one-on-one meeting with their manager during a conversation like this, then that’s a problem.

          Clearly, previous communications haven’t worked with Mr. Jam, so laying it out like this makes sense.

      2. Ganymede*

        I think this is really clear language.

        [jam line name] has to be “Jimbly’s Jams”…

    2. Kit*

      In general, you might be correct about the COI/competing interest issue… but given that LW works specifically in journalism, where both the appearance of a conflict and the ethics about how to handle it are baked in assumptions in the field (ha, pun!), it is absolutely industry-relevant.

      Having an employee with a personal interest in a subfield of journalism is good, from an editorial perspective, when it gives them more technical knowledge; that includes hobbyists, which it sounds like this guy started as, and in fact it seems like his hobby interest was a specific selling point re: his employability. Having such an employee with commercial interests, including investors (who may well have many other investments in the food industry), is a vastly different kettle of fish, and is the kind of example that gets brought up in Ethics in Journalism courses all the time, because it is at the very least an appearance of conflict. That he doesn’t even recognize the concerns about disclosure is directly relevant to his ability to do his job in accordance with basic journalistic standards, and thus could absolutely be part of a PIP discussion.

      tl;dr: it’s not about whether a COI clause is legal, here, it’s about norms in the field that exist for very good, well-established reasons, and an employee who doesn’t even recognize when he’s breaching them.

      1. musingplatypus*

        LW here – thanks for this. Y, that’s a key bit for me. We’ve had people who have written books, but things like food histories — conflict of interest capacity is very low. If someone wanted to write, say, How Smuckers Changed the World and it meant a deep dive into The J.M. Smucker company, that would be another matter. They have so many subsidiaries and holdings, over 7K employees… not all of our work intersects with publicly traded food corporations, but a lot of it does. It would require a lot of effort to figure out if that made sense for us. I’ve seen similar situations where people worked it out, or they took a leave of absence, or their work was so curtailed that they left anyway. And in all of those cases, the journalists understood what was at stake.

  10. LoV...*

    Re: LW#2 – If you get an oddball question, sometimes it’s helpful to take a quick pause before answering. I swear some interviewers ask these questions to see how you react when you’re thrown off your game. Good luck out there.

  11. philmar*

    Sounds like there’s MLM nonsense happening in LW1. “Up to” $400? The manager is probably going to pitch her cheap jewellery and say you can join her downline for as little as $150 but the premium package is $400 with a guaranteed ROI. Try to sell to all your friends in high school!! If it was to cover the ABnB wouldn’t she know the amount every guest has to bring already?

    1. BubbleTea*

      It sounds like the amount depends on how many of them go, which lends credence to the idea that it’s about meeting the manager’s social needs- that’s how you organise a friend holiday.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes. If the mgr wanted to sell them on MLM she probably already would have tried. What with her lacks of boundaries and professionalism. Not everything is an MLM.

    2. JSPA*

      I was guessing boss either gets a kickback or gets their own ticket comped, for bringing enough suckers in the door. Shitty behavior in any case… but there can well be multiple levels of badness in play here.

      1. Lily*

        I eventually realized that most of her ‘friends’ were just business opportunities for her.

  12. Rosacoletti*

    #2 I totally disagree about what we call the ‘fun’ questions in an interview. Like a lot of interview questions, it’s often not the answer that’s actually important, but the way they approach the question. I also totally defend that soft skills are absolutely as important as other things you glean from an interview. We have got some amazing answers from these types of questions (yes, we do ask what you’d binge if we had a 3 day lockdown), as well as what your favourite chocolate is. These questions often lead to great conversations that reveal a little more about the interviewee than had been revealed up to that point.

    It’s also nice to have a bar of their favourite chocolate on their desk on their first day!

    1. BubbleTea*

      But what is being revealed isn’t about work. You could ask a question like “if you were given three days to arrange a [work-related event], what would you do?” or “if you were asked to design a free promotional item to give to potential customers, what would it be?” and those would be work related while still giving you the same insights.

      1. LG*

        Exactly this. My TV viewing habits and choice of snacks are irrelevant to how I would perform as your employee. Stick to job-related questions.

      2. Artemesia*

        Exactly. It is like ice breakers. They can be useful to get a multi day training going BUT many people will be annoyed by silly ones that seem irrelevant to the task at hand, but enjoy and find useful ice breakers that do relate to the training about to take place. Most people are annoyed by announcing what kind of tree they would choose to be, but will more readily share an anecdote about a ‘disaster in training’ or ‘workplace failure’ they observed in the past.

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

        It really is dependent on the industry or job though. The OP said it was asked of design leaders. The fun or absurd questions for a creative job don’t bother me as much I guess, because as a creative professional, I wouldn’t be suspicious that they were just using a job interview as a front for free consulting/ideas on a real project. I’ve also seen portfolio samples with absurd content just to demonstrate their skills, without giving away their work for free. Similar to subbing in llamas or teapots here.

        But for about 90% of other jobs, fun questions are indeed useless.

    2. Guildford*

      I don’t watch TV and I don’t eat chocolate. How does that information help you decide if I’d be good at the job? Unless the job is TV critic or chocolate taster, these are irrelevant questions,

      The fact that you like asking them doesn’t make them good interview questions. It just means you are not very good at interviewing, and prioritise the wrong things. Many people are bad at interviewing and ask these silly questions, but you can learn to be better!

      1. Rosacoletti*

        The questions aren’t about whether you’d be good at your job, they are unashamedly about cultural fit, sense of humour, determining whether people are easy going – all of which, for my business, are extremely important. It certainly doesn’t mean we’d only offer a role to someone who preferred Seinfeld over Friends – it’s about understanding as much about the person as we can. We have virtually zero staff turnover and record longevity for our industry so I think we’re actually doing a lot of things right. If someone seriously couldn’t carry a conversation started by these questions, they are unlikely to be a good fit for us.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      Mmmh, if I squint, I could see the “how they approach the question” angle for things involving problem solving, conflict resultion or the like (but still, better to just use a work related example question there). But there really is no “approach” to analyze in things like favorite chocolate or show.

      I’m just gonna tell you 70% dark chocolate with candied orange or pomegranate and you will (rightly) be able to conclude that I’m kind of a food snob, but what does this tell you about my approach to work? It will just make me more or less likeable to you depending on whether you are also a food snob, which is not a good criterion for hiring.

      1. Corporate Goth*

        Not a good criterion for hiring, no, but I would love to have you at a potluck…

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Well, there have been discussions at my job whether putting “baking” in the interest section of a CV should give a candidate a leg up, so you may have a point there…

    4. SarahKay*

      But you saying

      These questions often lead to great conversations that reveal a little more about the interviewee than had been revealed up to that point

      sounds to me like exactly what Alison was warning against in the second paragraph of her answer:

      What it does do is raise the chances they’ll hire people who they like on a personal level, remind them of themselves, or share their interests, meaning they’ll end up with a more homogenous staff. It’s a great opportunity to introduce bias into the process.

      I mean, the bar of favourite chocolate on my first day is nice, but I’d rather have an interviewing process that doesn’t rely on my interviewer thinking how like them I am.

      1. JSPA*

        Especially with the modest but real risk that the answer ends up in the weeds, by disclosing health or religious stuff that you really didn’t intend to ask about.

        Do you want someone to awkwardly lie about only eating kosher, halal, gluten free, sugar-free chocolate…awkwardly say that it’s complicated…or disclose stuff they should not have to disclose?

        None of the above?
        Then maybe ask about something that’s not about food and personal stuff.

        “Take some interest that you have–whether it’s a hobby or a favorite food or a show or book or music–and give me a soft pitch on how great it can be, starting with the assumption that I know nothing about it”–that’s a useful question. (This has a creative component, and also lets you gague if you’re dealing with someone who can only do the “hard sell” on whatever they love, or conversely, someone who has trouble formulating or explaining any personal preference…both of which can be problematic…without insisting that they have opinions on chocolate or television.)

        1. Flowers*

          To me that would be an indication on how you can take complicated, nuanced issues and explain them to someone with no background. And I think that’s a valuable thing to know, especially if you’ll be dealing with clients and have to explain things to them.

        2. Rosacoletti*

          Anyone who interviews with us will know that we’re an extremely inclusive place to work so I would really hope nobody would feel you need to lie about about only eating kosher. halal, gf etc?

      2. Rosacoletti*

        It’s got nothing to do with whether interviewees are ‘like us’ or not – I’ve been recruiting for over 35 years and could count on one hand how many times I’ve got it wrong. I generally can’t stand the TV shows people name and get genuinely excited when someone names something quite obscure, or something truly interesting they do instead. One recent recruit didn’t watch TV but is writing a screenplay – he completely lit up when describing it and the enthusiasm was palpable – that is what we look for when recruiting.

        Skills can be taught but attitude, values, empathy, sense of humour, care factor etc – that’s what I try to uncover in the recruitment phase as they are are much better determination of success in my company.

    5. Inkhorn*

      If I had a three-day lockdown, I’d go to my bookshelves and binge the Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

      I’m 50/50 whether that would lead to a great conversation or bring it to a befuddled stop.

      1. Mica*

        And then there are those (me) who would think “fanfiction” and then panic over not wanting to reply that..

        1. SarahKay*

          Yup, that would be me too. Both the binge and the panic over not wanting to admit it in a job interview.

          1. Avery*

            Oddly enough, though I don’t think I used the term, I’ve discussed fanfiction in a job interview and ended up sending in a sample of my own fanfiction writing to my interviewer.
            I got the job.

              1. Avery*

                Indeed. I definitely wouldn’t expect mentioning fanfiction to go well in every job interview, and mostly posted my experience BECAUSE it’s so contrary to the norm/expectation.
                Sorry to hear the fanfiction connection worked out poorly for you, though. Hopefully all’s well for you now.

        2. Rosacoletti*

          What’s wrong with fanfiction? We’ve had lot so staff who are really into it, write it, go to events – cool!

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        My honest answer is that I would finish whatever book I had going at the moment, followed one from the to-read pile. I am currently rereading The Crucible of War by Fred Anderson: a really excellent history of the Seven Years War. Does that make them more or less likely to want to hire me?

        1. Avery*

          I mean, I’m hoping I wouldn’t be asking those kind of questions in the first place as a manager (not one yet myself), but it sounds like you’ve got my kind of reading tastes! My latest reads have almost all been a hodgepodge of nonfiction, from a guide to investing to a history of what prevented the Nazis from getting the atomic bomb, to name two recent and memorable examples.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            While it was a reasonable concern at the time, in retrospect the war would have had to go on a lot longer for the Nazis to develop the bomb. This is even without any of the lurid stuff about Heisenberg sabotaging the project. The physics wasn’t really the problem. Honestly, anyone paying attention even before the war understood the possibility. It was just that only pencil-necked geeks were paying attention to this stuff back then. But the engineering issues were non-trivial. The Manhattan Project had a lot of institutional, industrial, and financial backing it, all the while having the luxury of not being bombed. And while the Germans had plenty of good engineers, this was very resource-intensive, and the Germans had a lot of other stuff going on.

            1. Avery*

              Yeah, that was a lot of it: while the book’s title made it sounds like it was all about saboteurs and spies, a lot of the reality came down to “they didn’t fund the project well enough, they made some bad guesses about the science needed, and being in the middle of the war certainly didn’t help them keep their hands on vital supplies”. Still fascinating stuff, though!

      3. ecnaseener*

        And I’d be like “…binge? Why would I binge anything for three days? Who has the attention span for that?” It’s a weird question, I’d be stuck between either trying to come up with something that sounds good or rambling about why I wouldn’t binge anything because I like variety, this job sounds like it has a good amount of variety, that’s how I work best, bla bla bla.

        1. Rosacoletti*

          Saying you don’t binge is fine too (I don’t) but you wouldn’t have a preference for genre? Maybe watch an old fave or something you’ve heard about that’s coming up? It’s about getting to know the person a bit. We spend a huge amount of time in one another’s pockets so knowing we can build rapport is super important

          1. I should really pick a name*

            That starts venturing into “hiring people who are like me” territory which is best to avoid.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Nope nope nope. That’s exactly what the answer to the question is warning against.

            “People who ask these sorts of questions often claim it gives them some kind of special insight into candidates; that is BS. What it does do is raise the chances they’ll hire people who they like on a personal level, remind them of themselves, or share their interests, meaning they’ll end up with a more homogenous staff. It’s a great opportunity to introduce bias into the process.”

            You build rapport by working with people over time and sharing professional experiences. This is a terrible way to hire.

          3. ecnaseener*

            Sorry to be harsh, but if you can’t build rapport with me because we don’t like the same genres, or because heaven forbid I’m not into TV much at all, I super don’t want to work for you. (So I guess that’s good that you’re signaling it so people can select out! But really, reconsider this.)

          4. Overit*

            I would REALLY hesitate to tell an interviewer about my genre preferences. There is SO much judgmentalism in that area, ko matter thr answer, but especially if is perceived as “women’s fiction.”
            I can totally see an interviewer red checking a candidate for “poor culture fit” based on genre preferences.

          5. Totally Minnie*

            Even when I was hiring library workers, we never asked about genre preferences. It just has nothing to do with the work. We would sometimes ask something like “what’s the best book/movie/TV show you’ve read/watched recently, and how would you describe it to a customer who asked you for a recommendation?” Because that is related to the work the person would be expected to do.

            In general, I just don’t think it’s good practice for interviewers to seek out information about applicants that doesn’t have anything to do with how well they’d do the job and/or collaborate with the team on work tasks.

          6. Colette*

            This is the mistake the supervisor in question 1 is making. Colleagues are not friends, and if you’re hiring because you like the same things, you’re hiring badly.

          7. Jessen*

            Many of these questions would be very difficult for me to answer without revealing private information about how various health issues that affect my time off and that I would rather not discuss in an interview. Incidentally, these are also traits that can affect how I communicate in social situations, without necessarily having a lot of effect on workplace communication. This is something that could very easily slip into cultural or disability discrimination without you meaning to.

      4. Rosacoletti*

        It would be a great answer, and it’s not unusual to have someone say they don’t watch tv but love to read – a wonderful insight into someone!

        1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

          A “wonderful insight” perhaps, but how is it relevant to their qualification for the job they’re being considered for?
          And how can a candidate know their answer will not be used prejudicially?

          As a result of much practice and feedback, I have good soft skills and am considered friendly and easy to talk to (my supervisors, colleagues, and friends/hobbygroup members ‘ assessment, not mine; as a neurodivergent person I’m aware that my own perspective may not reflect standard expectations).
          One of the soft rules I use where many people apparently rely on social instinct, is to keep conversation topics relevant to the situation/location and the kind of relationship I have with the people present. That prevents over-prying and over-sharing, and minimizes the risk of unknowingly bringing up an emotionally difficult or contentious topic, or putting someone in a position where they have to choose between politeness (being responsive vs shutting down unwanted conversation), honesty (giving a true answer versus inventing a ‘safe’ one), and fair treatment (respecting boundaries versus judging or penalizing someone for having different boundaries/preferences).

          If a new potential employer asked what I “binged” during lockdown, or what my favorite chocolate was, I’d answer like
          “I followed news, policy, and scientific sources to understand the Covid-19 situation’s public and individual social, medical, and scientific impacts, and my employer’s policy declarations to learn how my workplace and work would be affected. How did [Potential Employer] respond to the pandemic and lockdown?” <-work-relevant behavioral question

          "I don't have a favorite chocolate, but I do have some strong preferences about treats that I don't want to waste our limited interview time boring you with. Is there a particular reason you ask?"

        2. Isben Takes Tea*

          It sounds like you earnestly want to be able to relate with your employees, which has good intentions. But these icebreaker type questions should come after they are hired, not as part of the evaluation process. There is way too much potential for unconscious bias if your goal is truly to higher the best person for the role.

        3. JSPA*

          You don’t need to be in someone’s head to have a fruitful work relationship.

          “Tell me what you like about what I also like, or suggest what else I might like” questions are great for speed dating. Ditto for befriending people at an event, or figuring out roommate compatibility.

          They have little-to-no place in a job interview.

          If a prospective manager were to remember and act upon my chocolate preference some days, weeks or months after it came up in an interview, I’d as likely be skeeved out as charmed. (Unexpected chocolate is welcome when it’s on my pillow at a hotel, not because it’s personal, but because it isn’t.) If I asked around, I suspect I’d hear, “oh, yeah, that’s their little thing, asking you about your favorite chocolate, and having it on your desk when you get here.”

      5. marcus by goldman sachs*

        Pretty sure that a lot of people know who Shakespeare is and why someone would want to read all his works in one go

    6. Scarlet2*

      Honestly, if asked what I’d binge, I would probably carefully think about an acceptable answer instead of telling the truth, which would be “horror movie marathon”.
      People can get weirdly judgemental about those things. I’m assuming people would also hesitate before saying they’d binge-watch Real housewives of Beverly Hills or My little pony.
      I agree that soft skills are important, but I’m not sure what that has to do with binge-watching or chocolate eating.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, once people at work know me and think I’m smart, it’s fun to say that I watch Love Is Blind or whatever, because it runs counter to how I present at work. I would not want that to be part of my first impression.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Honestly I would have to “binge” Teletubbies because I have a toddler and keeping that show on would be marginally preferable to having an extremely bored toddler interrupting whatever I tried to watch for myself. This isn’t a hypothetical. This happened when he had Covid during a cold snap in January so we couldn’t go anywhere else including playing outside. But I guess I would just lie so I don’t face potential discrimination for having a kid?

        The whole question just lands really weird when so many of us literally lived through lockdowns just 3 years ago.

    7. Aqua*

      if you asked me what I’d binge on a three day lockdown I’d be distracted thinking about my eating disorder and how my mental illness was so bad during the last lockdown that at one point I spent a day hiding in a cupboard

      1. Oryx*

        Solidarity. My mind immediately in that direction and it took me a minute to understand why everyone else in these comments were listing books and movies.

      2. metadata minion*

        Ugh, yes, I don’t even have a history of eating disorders and I still can’t get used to that phrase when used for media. Back In My Day(TM), when there was a long run of the same thing on TV it was a “marathon”. Can’t we go back to that?

        1. Eff Walsingham*

          Yes! I preferred “marathon” too. Maybe because it sounds less like a compulsion and more like an elective activity?

          1. Rosacoletti*

            This might be a cultural thing – it’s definitely referred to as bingeing in my country

      3. Fran*

        Same! I immediately thought of my eating disorder not other topics- especially because they also asked about chocolate (which is a whole other minefield)

    8. Seahorse*

      IMO, there are other ways to determine soft skills. Chat with the person in the hall before the interview formally starts, see how they interact with other staff members, ask questions about how they handle socially delicate work scenarios, ask about conflict resolution.

      When asked those unconnected personal questions in other interviews, I’ve made up a bland, professionally acceptable, simple answer. If the goal was “getting to know” me, then those interviewers failed.

      I always assume those are mostly opportunities to either approve of a person’s irrelevant hobby choices or else mock the interviewee later. At least for me, it’s off-putting to be on the receiving end of “fun” questions. We can have fun later when my livelihood doesn’t depend on this conversation.

      1. Corporate Goth*

        I don’t know if I’d take pre-interview hallway casual conversation responses as the norm from most people, who are presumably distracted and in their heads still prepping for the (maybe) more formal interview about to happen. I’ve caught a lot of interviewees mumbling to themselves before the panel was ready for them. After, sure, though people react to relief and adrenaline drain in different ways – it still might not be the norm.

        I guess it would make sense it if it were an all-day event, although then I’d be focused on the interactions and how they handle different scenarios.

        But I’m also an introvert and lean toward negative politeness, so as an interviewee, would rather not be forced to make chitchat generally. :)

        1. Seahorse*

          Depends on the job, I think. If I’m hiring for a technical position that mostly requires individual work, then chattiness or the ability to fake a casual conversation in a high stakes situation isn’t that relevant. Still, observing how people treat the receptionist, for example, can be pretty telling. In jobs that require a lot of public interaction, being friendly under pressure might be a valid skill to evaluate too.

          Either way, I don’t see any merit in throwing people off with “fun” questions that are unlikely to provide any real insight.

        2. Yorick*

          If pre-interview smalltalk isn’t gonna tell you much about the person, imagine how much less you’ll actually learn about the person by asking these silly questions.

    9. Greige*

      Behavioral questions are better for soft skills. They show how the candidate has approached actual situations in real life, not how they think they would. And if they’re about work, they’re hopefully less likely to trigger your biases than something personal and unrelated like their favorite show. What if they don’t watch any shows for religious reasons? What if their medical condition prevents them from eating chocolate? There’s no reason you’d need to know these things, and it creates liability if you find them out during the interview process.

      1. Heidi*

        Agree. The “fun” questions can obviously lead to more entertaining conversation, which can make interviewing less of a chore. But not all jobs are about being entertaining. Plus, it’s difficult to come up with questions that don’t make assumptions, like everyone eats chocolate or everyone watches Netflix. Doing this can give the impression that you’re looking to hire people who basically share your same cultural background, which can discourage applicants who aren’t from that background. A clever applicant might cheerfully feed you an acceptable fun answer, but at the same time come to the conclusion that they don’t really belong in this workplace.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I specifically ask candidates how they have handled conflict in the past, although I word it differently to avoid such charged words. When two people have different (but both good) ideas for a project we need someone who doesn’t get so caught up in “winning” that they’re unable to consider other ideas fairly. So we just ask that specifically. Spoiler alert: the man who admitted to getting into a shouting match and didn’t seem to see anything wrong with that did not get a job offer.

      3. Gemstones*

        “I don’t watch TV, but I enjoyed [insert movie/book/play/shadow puppetry show] recently.”

        “I don’t eat chocolate, but I love [insert anything else].”

    10. Corporate Goth*

      That’s a very kind reason to ask about chocolate, though I wonder how many favorite chocolate answers you get that are made up on the spot. I once told someone offering one of my favorite desserts that I didn’t like that item out of sheer panic. Still wonder why my brain went there.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        It had never occurred to me to think about what is my favorite chocolate. Probably something made in the back of a local candy store. At least that is what I gravitate toward when considering special-treat chocolate.

    11. Lance*

      To add to the proverbial chorus, another problem with these ‘fun’ questions: several types of neuro-divergent folks. Me, for example, whose processes would come to a screeching halt trying to figure out where such a question came from and what possible way it could be relevant, what sort of cue or hint or anything else I’m missing.

      In short, if you asked someone like me something like that, nothing would come of it, and… then what? I’m guessing it would hurt my odds because I didn’t come off personally likable to you?

      Please, please focus on work-related things; as others said, there’re ways to suss out soft skills within that scope.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        Very that! I perform best with context, and this kind of fluff question puts me at an unnecessary disadvantage.

    12. Irish Teacher*

      I think there is an additional problem with some of the “fun” questions chosen though, mostly that some of the examples are too specific.

      Stuff like “what’s in your Netflix queue?” really only work for people for whom watching TV is one of their hobbies. I don’t have Netflix and watch…maybe 2-3 hours of TV per week. I don’t usually even have that much awareness of what TV shows are out.

      To some extent, same with chocolate. I have students (mostly those with ASD) who do not eat chocolate at all and while it’s pretty low-stakes, I can imagine somebody with dietery restrictions being made a bit uncomfortable by a question that assumes they’d have a favourite of something they can’t eat.

      Nor do I really see a variety of approaches to answering some of those questions.

      “How would you spend a three-day lockdown?” yeah. I can see how that could lead to a variety of approaches. Would they talk about how they’d keep up with work or what hobbies they’d spend time on or how they’d keep in contact with friends or family? And what hobbies or passtimes would they discuss?

      But a lot of the questions people seem to use for this don’t really give that opportunity for different approaches or show you much about the person.

      1. MsM*

        I think the strategy with “this question presumes I’m into something I’m not” is to pivot: “Oh, I’m not a big TV watcher, but I did just read a really great book on X/I’ve been getting into [other hobby] lately.” Or “I’m not really a sweets person, but I love a good [insert other food here].”

        But yeah, it does create a nagging doubt of “will they reject me for not being into this?” that shouldn’t be there. If the company wants to provide a “welcome aboard!” treat on their first day, ask after they’ve signed the offer letter.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Also for me “watching Netflix” means “putting something on and then passing out on the couch before we’ve gotten past the title credits.” So yes, I’ve “watched” lots of shows but not actually seen any of them.

      3. LW2*

        Yeah, I would be worried about looking like a stick in the mud because I don’t really watch *any* shows, much less binge them. I do read, but that’s not what they asked, so I think I would be hesistent to answer with that. And I know some folks who read or watch really disturbing, experimental horror in their free time, which can’t look good to an interviewer. Hence my concern about these questions

    13. ecnaseener*

      The question and answer didn’t mention soft skills at all, so I’m confused why you feel the need to defend that — of course soft skills are important, but how does asking about someone’s Netflix queue help you assess any soft skills? If it’s the soft skill of chitchat, you can see that by chatting about stuff that actually comes up naturally in the interview.

    14. Still not picked a username*

      Asking about lockdown behaviour in that manner is assuming that interviewees experienced lockdown in a fairly non traumatic way, which effectively assumes things about class and wealth. You would have immediately returned me to the only point in my life when I have ever considered suicide, not somewhere I would want to be when selling myself in an interview.

      1. DataSci*

        Class, wealth, and family situation/caregiver status. My then first grader was traumatized by the complete lack of social interaction and the anxiety he picked up on. Between Zoom school, keeping him from going completely off the rails, worrying about my high risk parents, and work I barely had time to shower much less binge anything.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          Yeah, I worked in person for most of the pandemic, so I essentially did not “lock down” at all. I would scroll through twitter and see people talking about their baking and their movie marathons and their walks through the neighborhood while I was in a perpetual state of near-panic-attack.

          Invoking lockdown in a job interview is a bad idea.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, I think part of what makes this question so sticky is that there are SO many assumptions baked into it: that “lockdown” to you means free time at home, that free time means vegging, that your preferred form of vegging is consuming lots of media and specifically binging one particular thing… every one of those narrows down the pool of people who can answer the question in a way that makes you feel good about your “rapport.” If you want to know someone’s favorite TV show or comfort show or whatever so bad, just ask that, don’t wrap it up in so much other stuff.

    15. metadata minion*

      If you’re going to go for soft-skills questions, why not pick ones that are at least *vaguely* work-related? Maybe “how do you like to arrange/decorate your workspace?” or pick a weird business hypothetical like “A flock of wild turkeys has gotten into the library. What do you do?” to get a sense of how they approach problem-solving.

    16. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Please rethink this. Lockdown was incredibly traumatic for a lot of people – hell, I don’t even hear “lockdown” in the context of COVID, I still hear it and think about the Boston Bombing. A lot of people have things like eating disorders and questions about food can be difficult, especially in a setting where no reasonable person will expect them. This might sound like “everyone is so sensitive these days” but in the context of hiring for a job, you need to realize if you’re unintentionally filtering out people based on demographics or personal factors unrelated to their ability to perform the job.

      Not to mention you really aren’t learning about anything work related here. “We had a good/interesting conversation” is not screening for soft skills, it’s screening for personal compatibility. Those are not the same thing. Ask behavioral questions to assess soft skills.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Thank you. We’re coming up to the 10th anniversary of the Boston Bombing. I had college-aged students who were there when it happened. I have friends and colleagues who were living in the areas of lockdown. I was glued, neurotically, to the news for part of this.

        COVID–heck, even in the earliest days of “stay home” I worked, full time, and lived my introvert life. I had it easy, but I wasn’t devouring days worth of Netflix, nor was I dusting off my sourdough or other fermenting skills. I have dear friends who are doctors and nurses. “lockdown” wasn’t some hoot of a time.

    17. Eff Walsingham*

      Yeah… As a household, we don’t stream, we don’t binge, and my spouse can’t eat chocolate for medical reasons. These questions would have me thinking that maybe the fit wouldn’t be amazing.

      All well and good, if your compensation and benefits are top notch and you’re in a niche industry. I don’t feel like I have to have that much in common with my colleagues, so I’d let it pass. But for a solid candidate who’s comparing multiple offers, this sort of tone-deaf impression might weigh against you.

      Don’t get me wrong; they’re not the worst questions I’ve heard. If anyone ever asks me what animal I identify with (this actually happened to a friend of mine!) I’d be torn between giving them a piece of my mind and just standing up and walking out.

    18. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It tells you absolutely nothing about what that person is going to be like *at work*.

      Additionally, if their answers are very much outside your own preferences/areas of interest there’s a risk it’ll stop the conversation dead. What would you say to someone who doesn’t own a TV and dislikes sweets?

      One more thing: please reconsider using lockdown as a question. That time brings back some highly traumatic memories for quite a few of us.

    19. Newsletter Subscriber and T-shirt Wearer*

      I happen to be diabetic, and both of those fun questions would have me sitting there weighing how much medical information I want to share about myself when none of it affects my workplace performance or behavior.

      I’d also raise an eyebrow if I read about someone else having that experience on, say, Glassdoor.

    20. DataSci*

      So, “What would you do in a lockdown” absolutely reveals whether someone has caretaker responsibilities, which is really thorny in an interview situation. You can argue, as people always do, that you’re not expecting honesty here (which itself really hurts non-neurotypical people who may be more literal) but why not just ask a different question?

      1. Nina*

        (Am not neurotypical, for context)
        If you’re not expecting honesty, why ask the question?

    21. takeachip*

      “Soft skills” and “making fun cocktail party conversation” aren’t the same thing. Your comments are veering really close to “we’re all a family here!” kind of thinking. You don’t need to learn all this personal stuff about potential hires. And as much as you may enjoy this line of questioning because you like small talk or you think you have some ability to suss out meaningful insights about a person from a superficial, short term conversation, I promise that a substantial number of interviewees are feeling uncomfortable with it and second guessing whether they gave the “right” answer.

      1. Meow*


        I work in project management, and I would argue that 99% of project management skills is soft skills/quick-thinking problem solving capabilities, and the other 1% being hard technical skills. So I get it. Soft skills are important. But I don’t think oddball interview questions are the best way to get at them. Instead, I recommend case studies or behavioral questions.

    22. Snow Globe*

      I really agree with Alison on this. Those questions don’t tell you anything about the candidate’s work strengths, it’s only going to lead you to liking the candidate that gives an answer similar to what you would answer.

    23. Cyndi*

      I’m just going to leave the same opinion I have every time this comes up: from the interviewee’s side of the table, where my ability to pay my bills is relying on answering questions to whatever your standards are, there no “fun” questions and there are no questions with “no wrong answer,” even if you say so outright.

    24. JO*

      I’d love to understand how “I’m not sure – I’ve been too busy lately to get into new shows” and “I hang my clothes on the rack and keep my shoes on the shelves” provide any valuable context whatsoever.

    25. Jinni*

      This one has me in a pickle. I’d lie about the chocolate (I hate chocolate), then I’d feel guilty about the gift.

      Then I’d worry about telling the truth (I hate sweets, candy – well anything sweet really), and how that would go over (not well in one job that had weekly cake type gatherings), and whether I’d be branded a liar…and how that would/could harm my reputation.

      The TV binge feels like picking through a similar land mine situation.

    26. Andrew*

      I can see something adjacent to the “fun”/soft-skills question being useful, but it needs to be done wisely and carefully.

      Suppose I’m hiring an instructor for basic-writing college classes. I know that often the students in these classes are inquisitive and sometimes easily distracted; the instructor who works with them will have to gently deal with questions that seem random and unrelated. The teaching job will require them to accept some chaos in the conversation but also steer it back on track.

      So if I asked, “What’s on your Netflix queue,” I would pay attention to which interviewees seemed flustered or annoyed by the question. Then I would pay attention to which of them got sidetracked into a long list of all their favorite shows. The successful candidate would likely give a concise answer to the question, then be ready to move on, or, perhaps, would find a way to pivot the answer to something relevant to the job interview.

      However, this requires a lot of careful attention from the interviewer and self-awareness of why we’re asking the question. That’s not something I expect every interviewer would have.

    27. RagingADHD*

      Yes! They reveal:

      1) Whether you can re-define a question outside the original parameters.
      2) Whether you can find a mental or logical connection without having it spoon-fed to you.
      3) Whether you can deviate from prepared talking points and participate in a spontaneous conversation.
      4) Can you connect to things outside your own direct experience or preferences? That’s hugely important in creating a diverse and inclusive culture!

      ..and do so in a way that (for most people) is lightweight, low-pressure, and easy to answer.

      If the given category (chocolate, Netflix, pizza, or whatever) doesn’t apply to you, could say, “Oh, I’m not a chocolate/pizza fan, but my favorite treat is…”

      “I don’t do Netflix, but you know, I’ve seen [movie] twelve times and it never gets old.”

      “I’m not big on TV, but I love [band or composer] and I have all their albums.”

      “Actually, if I had 3 days of lockdown, I’d want to be locked down in the art museum.”

      What are you enthusiastic about, and can you communicate that enthusiasm in a way that connects with people and invites them in, rather than shutting them down/ shutting them out?

      These involve executive functions: mental flexibility, metacognition, response inhibition, as well as interpersonal / communication skills that are very important in a lot of jobs.

      TL/dr: it’s not about the chocolate. It’s about your thinking. And unless you manage to do your job without thinking or relating to other people at all, it is relevant to work.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is all true in theory. In reality these questions are commonly used for jobs that don’t require that level of social fluency outside of work topics and are instead used in ways that introduce bias.

      2. Snow Globe*

        Really? So if one candidate says they’d spend lockdown in an art museum and another would spend it baking sour dough bread, how exactly would those answers provide you with a way to distinguish which candidate would be a better llama groomer?

        1. RagingADHD*

          You are missing the point. The substance of the answer doesn’t matter at all.

          The way they carry on the conversation tells you a lot about how they’re going to react if the llama kicks over the wash bucket, or turns out to be a hybrid with non-standard hair, or if they have to help train a new member of the grooming team who asks questions they hadn’t thought of before.

          If the job doesn’t require any independent thinking or communication skills, then clearly there is no need to assess for them. But an awful lot of jobs do, even if those communication skills are team-facing rather than customer-facing.

          1. Snow Globe*

            I understand the point you’re attempting to make, but I don’t believe you can actually get that kind of information from this type of question. From this thread alone you can tell that a lot of people will be annoyed by that question, most of them will just give a somewhat generic answer, which tells you nothing except that they are annoyed by your question.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            How much independent thinking and communication skills can you really tell from “star wars and milk chocolate”, though?

            Just ask them about the llama and the wash bucket directly, instead of trying to guess at it from unrelated questions.

            1. Scarlet2*

              “How much independent thinking and communication skills can you really tell from “star wars and milk chocolate”, though?”

              Yeah, I’m puzzled too. So saying “I don’t like chocolate, but I prefer cheese” is indicative of a “skill”? Guess I’m way more skilled than I thought!

      3. Emmy Noether*

        ok, but say you have
        – candidate A that actually had an easy true answer
        – candidate B that pivoted elegantly
        – candidate C that panicked and stammered something vague.

        So you exclude C because you absolutely need great social skills (do you really?), but how do you choose between A and B? Go with B because they demonstrated those skills? But what if A also has those and it was just not the right question to demonstrate them? Should A lie and pretend they don’t like chocolate just to show how they can pivot? What if all your candidates have easy, simple answers? What did you learn then?

        1. RagingADHD*

          You learned that the candidate can hold up their end of a simple conversation. Which honestly, I am shocked to discover is considered such a high bar by so many people.

          I don’t think they’re ideal questions, nor that they should make or break a hiring decision. There are very few interview questions that should stand alone as a dealbreaker.

          But the reactions here to a slightly silly question are so over the top, it’s starting to make me think they might actually be useful for screening out people who would seriously opt out of an entire job just because of a random conversation starter. What an overreaction!

          1. quicksilver*

            It’s not a high bar, it’s such a low bar that it’s strange and kind of insulting. Like, I came here to have a presumably much higher-level conversation about a job that I’m excited about, and the interviewer is asking me about Netflix in order to figure out whether I know how to make small talk?

            As MHA pointed out below, it doesn’t even necessarily convey that information, because the context of an interview is inherently different than the context of the water cooler or the reception desk. If my coworker asked me about my Netflix habits on the way to lunch, that’s a totally different scenario and of course I would respond conversationally! But I would expect an interview to have different standards.

          2. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

            It’s not an overreaction to opt out of a job if the interviewer were to insist as strongly as some commenters are, on the validity and importance of non-work-related interview questions that could easily introduce bias about protected status/characteristics as well as a focus on nebulous “good communication skills” or “culture fit” which are often dogwhistles for bias into the hiring process.

            Especially if the interviewer won’t accept redirection to work-related conversation, or openly discounts candidates who decline to answer. That gives a good indication that the interviewer, and perhaps that employer, is at best ignorant about and at worst actively against minimizing bias or supporting the candidate’s personal/professional boundaries.

            Remember that LW several days ago who asked something like “how do I find out how a potential employer might react to a request of accommodations for my disability, without actually disclosing my disability that might make them not want to give me a chance?”
            This is one way that LW could find out: observe how the interviewer/company responds to any divergence from their expectations. Do they focus on candidates’ ability to do the job and accommodate on non-job-related differences where the accommodations don’t pose an undue burden? Or do they refuse to budge over “silly” and “random” non-job-related expectations and reject and dismiss politely expressed business-relevant differences of perspective as “an overreaction?”

          3. Meow*

            No one is saying that they would totally opt out of a job because of this question. (But if they do, it becomes a non-issue since the employer and job candidate’s preferences would be mutual.)

            Small talk is fun, but it’s not an effective interviewing technique.

      4. Lucky Meas*

        I feel like you could get that information anyway from asking questions about their work behavior and history!
        “How have you handled llamas with curly hair?”
        “Well actually I’ve specialized in straight hair llamas, but I have read that this technique works for both…”
        “I don’t work with llamas but alpacas with curly hair are quite similar…”

      5. Meow*

        Whenever I get asked a stupid question in an interview, I just answer with a straight face and a smile, but I’m rolling my eyes internally.

    28. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I love how you’ve illustrated just how right Alison was!

      I too would love to find a bar of my favourite chocolate on my desk on my first day. My partner doesn’t like chocolate. If he started talking instead about how he loves Iranian caviar, would you get him that? It might be a bit complicated (not to mention eye-wateringly expensive).

      The “great conversations” are better had down the pub because you’re not learning anything that you need to know about how the person works, only whether you actually like them. But you’re choosing a future colleague, not a person to rap with about chocolate.

    29. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

      There used to be a recruiter’s advice column in one of the free newspapers given out at train stations and the recruiter author justified asking questions like, “Finalist A or B?” [referring to a topical TV talent contest] because he wanted to make sure the person he was interviewing wasn’t living under a rock or something. The implication being, if you don’t watch TV or aren’t into celebrity culture, you’re out of touch. This was, of course, a general recruiter advice column, and not someone hiring for a particular role, but the idea that if you don’t follow that type of thing you’ll be so removed from your colleagues that you won’t be an attractive hire seems dubious to me.

      I don’t have any entertainment subscriptions (I prefer academic lectures), I dislike sweet things, and if anyone asked me what I’d “binge” on during a 3-day lockdown, it would be going out protesting against the rampant inequalities resulting from the last lot of draconian policies.

    30. Tai*

      I have off-beat tastes and would simply have to lie in order to answer these questions. I also don’t eat chocolate. Please stop putting people in these awkward and irrelevant situations.

    31. MHA*

      You can assess people’s soft skills for professional situations by asking them questions ABOUT professional situations. “What’s your favorite kind of chocolate” in an interview context doesn’t even tell you what the person would actually be like to chit-chat with at the water cooler because of how different those two contexts are, much less give you any insight into how they might make or handle professional requests, repair professional miscommunications, handle frustration in a professional context, etc. etc. etc.

    32. Hats Are Great*

      I interviewed with a guy who was 100% convinced that the secret question that taught him everything he needed to know about a candidate was to ask to see their Uber rider rating.

      I kind-of made a face and said, “That’s actually illegal to ask in this state; you’re not permitted to request or demand that a prospective employee show you their social media.”

      He got very upset and informed me that your Uber rating shows whether you are a decent person to service people, just like how you treat the waitress at a restaurant. (Then take candidates out to lunch maybe?) Having justified his reasoning, he asked again.

      “I’ve never used Uber,” I said. He asked for my Lyft app. “I’ve never used Lyft. And this question is still illegal.” He asked how I got around, then, when I needed a car, and I told him I hailed taxis. He told me no one under 60 hails taxis and I was obviously lying about not having the apps. So, having shot the entire interview to hell and having no interest in working there after talking to this dude anyway, I proceeded to inform him why I find Uber unethical and dangerous, and turns out he really didn’t enjoy having his preferences questioned or being told his preferences were wrong, which you’d think he would given how enthusiastically he told me mine were wrong.

  13. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I think the situation in #1 is a good example of where parents can be the bad guy and give their child an out. It’s much easier for a 15yo to say “I can’t, my parents won’t let me” than “this is a stupid idea and I can’t afford it anyway.”

    Obviously it would be better long-term if the 15yo could advocate for herself and lay out the issues to her supervisor on her own account, but that’s a rare ability at that age.

    But the devil on my shoulder is wondering what would happen if she instead said, “my mom says I can only join you if she also comes along to chaperone.”

    1. Melissa*

      definitely. As a parent, this is part of my job. The teen can say “I would looove to go but my parents are super strict” and that’ll be the end of it.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. In general, I know the advice is “stay out of your child’s professional life” – but this is not the kind of situation they need to navigate by themselves and is a perfect exception to that rule. The power dynamics are so out of whack that any employee would struggle with pushing back, much less the youngest employee with the least experience. I fully support parental interference here.

      1. Pink Candyfloss*

        “Stay out of your child’s professional life” doesn’t mean the same thing when the child is a minor. In some US states, 15 has to have a work permit and is not treated the same as even the 17 year old from a legal and liability standpoint.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          This is true! For things like negotiating a schedule or dealing with minor personal conflict, I’d still encourage the employee to handle as much as possible. They’re learning, these are good skills to develop. But this is beyond the pale.

    3. Ama*

      Yup, my first real summer job I ended up hating for a lot of reasons (largely that it was a lot of customer facing work at a very busy retail store and it turns out I am not built for interacting with that many people in a day) but the managers thought I was great and by the end of the summer were pushing me to tell them what hours I wanted to work during the school year. I was a very eager to please 16yo and had never needed to tell an adult no before. My parents pointed out I could just say “my parents don’t want me to work during the school year,” so that’s what I did.

  14. Empress Ki*

    1# I am surprised this is even legal. Aren’t organisations supposed to have measures in place to Safeguard minor employees from potential abuse ?
    Who is going to be responsible for her during the weekend?

    1. Ganymede*

      My thought too. It seems the phrase “in loco parentis” hasn’t occurred in the manager’s thought process at all.

    2. Anonymous 75*

      Why would it be illegal? Assuming the parents give permission for their child to go, then (at least legally) it’s fine. Now I wouldn’t let my kid go because it sounds stupid, but it wouldn’t be illegal. And I’m assuming the person in charge would be the organizer/supervisor, but it sounds like there are other adults going as well.

      1. WellRed*

        It could run afoul of labor laws designed to protect minors but the simplest option is the best. My parents won’t let me.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        It varies state to state in the US, but there are actually quite a few laws dictating what can be required of minors by their employers. Overnight trips could easily be covered by those, they often cover consecutive hours worked or give parameters for what time frames can be required.

        1. HonorBox*

          I don’t know the law now, but I do know when I was the age of the LW’s child, there was a hard stop at particular times for me. I worked in a restaurant, and I think I had to be done by 10 on weeknights (school nights) and midnight on weekends. There was no budging that. Whether or not this is a work or non-work event, it sounds like it is planned and highly suggested activity for work and would definitely run afoul of laws because of work’s involvement with the organizing and inviting.

  15. I forgot my old name*

    I feel like people are missing the point with #1. Yes there are things to consider because she is a minor. but regardless of what kind of retreat this is, no one in a retail position, part time. non exempt should be expected to attend any type of “meeting” unpaid. And even if they are being paid, their mileage, meals and lodging should all be paid for.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Oh it’s banana crackers on every level. But the fact that they don’t get basic respect for any kind of employees’ time and money, means they are probably a long stretch from understanding child safeguarding or understanding in loco parentis. That’s deeply concerning! There’s no way OP could permit this even if the trip became paid for. That’s a basic requirement, but it’s still not good enough.

    2. Melissa*

      Yes I’m 40 and would absolutely not go on such a trip! I think Alison is spot on when she says this is a social trip for the person organizing (who needs to get her own friends).

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’m not sure that’s the point for the letter writer. It’s absolutely true, and this place is a parade of red flags. But when it’s your child, I think you’re writing a) for a gut check and b) to know the appropriate level to interfere. Given how many letters we’ve seen from parents who hugely overstep, I’m happy this parent wrote into Alison and I think it’s appropriate for the advice to focus on how to help this particular child in this particular situation, as opposed to addressing the larger scope of issues.

      1. Eff Walsingham*

        Thank goodness I’m on the left coast, and wasn’t drinking coffee yet when I read this! :)

  16. Boutiques*

    Most true boutiques do require employees to buy (at discount) and wear the boutique’s clothing while at work, so you are required to spend some money anyway. Saying her parents won’t let her work where she’s required to spend the money she earns would seem out of touch. I think the truth is better: I’m only 15 and my parents said I can’t go on a three day group retreat yet, I’m too young.

    1. WellRed*

      I agree. I don’t live Alison’s suggested response in this case, though I get the point she’s trying to make.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I think saying she’s not spending $400 on a “work activity” is not remotely out of touch and would apply regardless of age.

      1. Boutiques*

        I’m not saying it’s okay. I’m saying that boutiques make it known upfront you have to purchase their clothes and wear them while working, so telling the owner “my parents say I can’t work at a job that requires me to spend the money I’m earning so I can’t attend these events,” isn’t going to make much sense. Or say “I can’t spend $400 on the required trip.”

    3. Dr. Rebecca*

      I think we need to start pushing back on things that are expected/required, but incredibly unreasonable. The job is supposed to be paying their employees, not requiring purchases by them. Yes, it’s a custom, but it’s a really bad one; let’s not normalize it. If the boutique wants their employees wearing their styles so badly, how about they let them pick out two pieces for free as their ‘starting uniform,’ then?

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yes, this!

        (Also what the heck is a “true boutique”? Is there such a thing as a “false boutique”?)

        1. Boutiques*

          A boutique is a small, upscale store that specializes in certain inventory and provides a personal touch. Boutiques usually have limited inventory and use brands that honor territory, so you won’t find the same brand in another establishment within a certain number of miles. Boutiques will do personal shopping for you, my favorite calls me when my favorite brand has new items in. They typically allow you to keep a monthly tab. Lots of places call themselves boutiques, but actually don’t fit the description of a boutique, so sure, you could call them False Boutiques. In fact, I love the term and will start using it!

          1. Irish Teacher*

            I’d guess it’s quite likely this is one of the ones that doesn’t fit the strict definition or even that the LW is just using the term “boutique” when the shop itself might not, though. Given that she says the stock is aimed at teen girls, I would doubt it specialises in certain inventory and provides a personal touch. It’s not impossible, but those shops are generally more likely to be providing clothes for adults, as teens are less likely to have much money to spend and less likely to care about a personal touch (in fact, teens would often be embarrassed by a personal touch and avoid shops offering it).

            It also seems like this shop is largely staffed by young adults, possibly college students, who are less likely to be able to provide such services well and who probably wouldn’t be as likely to apply for jobs that require wearing their clothes and so on.

            I could be wrong, of course, but I’d say it’s more like that this is what you describe as a “false boutique” or just a teen clothes shop than the sort of establishment that fits the strict definition, so I wouldn’t be assuming she was expected to buy clothes from the shop. It’s possible, but I don’t think it’s a given.

          2. Peanut Hamper*

            Interesting! Thank you!

            I guess I’ve only ever seen False Boutiques then. That explains my ignorance!

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

            Well-said — a boutique having a requirement to wear 1-2 items from their store makes way more sense than HotTopic requiring employees to do it. A graphic tee is a graphic tee even if it came from Target.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Agree. I worked at a jewelry boutique and we were required to wear the store’s jewelry, but it was all pieces that were for sale. It wasn’t unusual to sell a necklace or brooch off of yourself during your shift.

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      Yeah actually if the 15 year old is expected to buy pieces to wear them the parents should be shutting that down as well.

      I don’t care if it’s “done” it shouldn’t be. It’s taking advantage of employees for the employers benefit.

      It’s not out of touch. It’s addressing something that’s wrong.

    5. HonorBox*

      I’ll set aside the fact that I think it is stupid and out of touch to force employees to spend money for their “uniform” and just say this… The boutique asking employees to wear products the shop sells is work-related (I guess…). A weekend “retreat” isn’t at all. If it is work-related, the business should be paying for it, should provide an agenda, and the employees should be paid for their time.

    6. tg33*

      My 17 year old is working for a well known clothing store and they get a new uniform of current clothing every 3 months or so, for free.

    7. SB*

      One of my first jobs as a 20 something while I was at uni tried to pull the “we expect you to wear store inventory to work”. Luckily I was confident enough to point out that this was not in the contract & if they want me to start wearing their clothing they will need to provide it as a uniform, otherwise, no. I expected to be fired but I wasn’t. I worked there part time for three more years until I finished my studies & got a job in my field of study. Sometimes pushing back works.

  17. The Original K.*

    Among all the other issues with #1, I wouldn’t spend $400 of my own money on a work event now, today, and I can afford it. I had my first W-2 job at 15 and there’s no way I could have done it then.

    My parents would have been like “Hahahaha no, quit today.” That is CRAZY.

    1. kiki*

      $400 would be a wild ask for a full-time career sort of job. To ask that of part-time employees is really outrageous– that’s potentially more than they earn in a month.

    2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      And $400 for a weekend trip too! I know it’s not at all the point, but that is more than I would want to pay for a weekend trip that I planned myself and wanted to go on. What is it getting spent on? They are probably sharing hotel rooms and that’s usually the biggest expense.

    3. HonorBox*

      Exactly! If I’m going to spend $400 to do something for a weekend, then I’m going to pick where, with whom and what. Not for work.

      I’d be curious how comfortable those who are “of age” are with teenagers going on this trip, too. That would make me feel all sorts of creepy.

  18. Isolda*

    I’m in the “this girl needs to find another job” camp. If she doesn’t go on this weekend adventure, the manager could make things very unpleasant for her at work (fewer shifts, not respecting her need for time off for things like homework, sports practice, etc., as well as social exclusion). The manager’s requirement that all employees attend the monthly team building events makes her seem very insecure and immature. People like that are unpredictable.

    1. Clisby*

      Possibly – but also possible that the girl saying “my parents say no” will jolt supervisor at least into the Outlands of Common Sense, if not into the Principality of Wisdom.

  19. Katie*

    Requiring underage teenage girls to attend overnight “retreats” is sketchy as heck and should be reported to the labor board. This kid needs another job.

  20. Random Bystander*

    I am absolutely in the “needs another job” camp for the teen in #1.

    It’s been said on this site multiple times that bad jobs (ones with dysfunction or abuse) can impact the future jobs and require mentally re-setting the inappropriate learning from those jobs. For a teen in a first job, it just seems like that is even more of a factor.

    There are tons of jobs for teens that do not require outside of work investment of time (you put in your hours and do a good job, but when you are off the clock you are *off*). Mandatory (or very nearly so) monthly off-the-clock “bonding” and retreats are not the norm. Voluntary socializing with co-workers outside work just does not look like that.

    1. The Original K.*

      I think *most* jobs for teens are of the “put in your time, clock out, don’t think about work again until you clock back in” variety. Certainly all my teenage jobs were.

      1. Random Bystander*

        And well they should be (teen jobs). Even for my daughter, who got her CNA through the high school program and worked at a nursing home, when she was off the clock, she was not thinking about work/her patients (she’s planning to be a nurse, and is in college now, still working based on her CNA certification but at a hospital now).

  21. Doodle Brain*

    My husband just did interviews and asked favorite pizza toppings as a way to get them to loosen up. *shrug* If worked out well and he hired the guy that said pineapple.

    1. Tired of Working*

      I have severe problems with my esophagus and am unable to eat most foods, including pizza. If I were asked what my favorite pizza toppings were, it would not loosen me up. It would make me think that the company did not want to hire people with dietary restrictions.

      1. Pink Candyfloss*

        I have allergies and can’t eat pizza :( the question would force me either to disclose or to make up a lie on the spot, which would NOT loosen me up at all.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          And both of these responses are examples of why these are not great questions to ask in a job interview.

        2. Tai*

          Same. It’s ableist any way we look at it. This also puts people with certain disabilities (diabetes, heart failure and rheumatoid arthritis come to mind), in a position where they either have to disclose their disability or make up a lie.

      2. Lana Kane*

        Would it not be fine to say something like, I don’t eat pizza, but I like soup and my favorite one is french onion? (Or insert foods you can eat here)

        1. Totally Minnie*

          Because not everybody’s brain can pivot like that in the moment. I have particular difficulty when people ask me a question using the word “favorite.” I know most people’s advice would be to just say something you quite like, but when the interviewer has said “favorite” my brain becomes determined to be truthful and accurate and it can be really hard to think of an alternative way to answer the question.

          1. Willow Pillow*

            Yes. I am fully capable of “carrying on a conversation without fixating on trivia” when I’m relaxed and not anxious – which is the opposite of a job interview. It’s such a privileged position to dismiss things like what one can eat as trivial.

          2. Suze*

            I understand what you’re saying but as an interviewer, seeing that a candidate has that kind of rigid thinking is absolutely something that would be relevant and important to know.

            1. Willow Pillow*

              Your judgment is biased against people who think differently than you do. This goes right back to Alison’s response…

              People who ask these sorts of questions often claim it gives them some kind of special insight into candidates; that is BS. What it does do is raise the chances they’ll hire people who they like on a personal level, remind them of themselves, or share their interests, meaning they’ll end up with a more homogenous staff. It’s a great opportunity to introduce bias into the process.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Yes – that is the whole point. And there are many jobs where the ability to just carry on a conversation without fixating on trivia to the point that you freeze up is in fact a core work function.

      3. Nope.*

        Seriously? You think this question means they look down on dietary restrictions? That’s a gigantic leap. It’s okay to simply say “oh, I don’t eat pizza much, so I don’t have a favorite!” and move the conversation along. All this hand wringing is really not warranted.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I honestly used to think this too, then I got a supervisor who liked to ‘joke’ about how my medical intolerance was really a faddy affectation that made it difficult for her to plan team lunches and office treats. It’s pretty easy to dismiss the possibility of silly attitudes if you’ve never had to encounter them.

          1. Nope.*

            Oh I totally agree they exist! It’s not cool, and Im sorry you’ve had to deal with that. I just don’t agree that asking about a favorite pizza topping immediately throws up a red flag that they may be dismissive about dietary needs.

    2. takeachip*

      Did he hire the guy because he said pineapple? If so, that’s a really odd and capricious reason. If not, the question was irrelevant to the hiring process and served no purpose other than to make your husband feel good about himself.

      1. Lana Kane*

        I read it as, pineapple is a controversial topping but he hired him anyway. I saw it as a lighthearted comment on Doodle Brain’s part.

        1. Doodle Brain*

          This is exactly it. My husband hates pineapple on his pizza so there was no bias of a kindred spirit on this. The guy he hired was right for the job and is doing great but he didn’t get hired because of it and it wasn’t a strike against him.

          his other top pick was a guy that didn’t like pizza but preferred tacos but they couldn’t agree on salary.

          My point is these can be used to loosen people up, see how they think with a curve ball, and other things without there being bias.

          1. takeachip*

            I understand that you believe these questions are somehow relevant and harmless, but you’re assuming that the interviewees find them fun and relaxing, and that you can equate interview performance to on the job performance. Avoiding silly questions like this isn’t just about avoiding bias it’s about recognizing that the interview process is a different experience for the candidate than for the interviewer, and that given the power dynamics involved, what is fun for the interviewer can feel like a minefield for the candidate.

      2. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Those of us who enjoy pineapple on pizza are denigrated by all “right thinking” pizza gatekeepers.

        I mean, I’m glad he hired one of us, but….?

        1. Doodle Brain*

          Hey I love pineapple on my pizza so he married one too.

          I was apparently too asleep when I commented for it to make the sense to anyone else what I meant

    3. skittles*

      I’m vegan and don’t eat pizza because the only good pizza place that used vegan cheese (as opposed to just sauce and burnt veggies) closed. I’m not about to mention that because people still get up in arms about someone choosing not to eat animal products.

      What am I supposed to say? Am I supposed to lie? How on earth is this going to help the hiring process?

      1. takeachip*

        Isn’t it obvious? You’re supposed to lie to make the interviewer feel good about their silly question, and then choke down the welcome pizza they order for you on the first day based on your answer.

      2. alienor*

        You’re supposed to answer in whatever way makes sense for you. I’m vegetarian and if someone asked me “hamburgers or hot dogs?” I’d say “veggie burger for me” and expect them to treat that as a valid response, because it is. I don’t think this is a question that needs a lot of overthinking.

      3. Courageous cat*

        Doesn’t all of this fall into the “not everyone can have sandwiches” thing? Goodness y’all, just say “cheese” and move on. They don’t have to know it’s vegan cheese. Literally it doesn’t matter, at all, and they don’t care.

    4. MHA*

      One of the maaaany problems with this is that for many, many, many* people, these questions absolutely do not help them “loosen up,” and instead make them irritated or anxious that their response to a totally insignificant question is going to affect whether or not they get an offer. (Because… if it’s NOT going to affect whether or not they get an offer, why are you asking it?)

      And since at least in my experience, these questions are always tacked on at the end of the interview, I’m not sure what benefit they could possibly be providing by “loosening up” even the people that don’t actually mind them. Thanks for helping me “loosen up” to say ‘thanks for your time?’

      (* I won’t insist that it’s the MAJORITY of people, but just say that anecdotally, I have literally never met someone who didn’t hate these questions from the interviewee’s side of the table.)

  22. Rebekah*

    One of the nice things about being 15 is having an automatic “bad guy” to get you out of social events you don’t want to attend. “Sorry, my parents won’t let me. They’re super strict about things like that.” There’s not a lot of places for even a pushy manager to go from there.

  23. L. Bennett*

    Thinking back to my part-time jobs in high school, $400 would have been like my wages for the entire MONTH. What could this supervisor be thinking??? I would balk at that price tag (or honestly any price tag) for a mandatory work event now but at 15??? Wow.

  24. Meghan*

    Re #2: I think silly questions like that are terrible for interviews, but great for small group ice-breakers. It’ll get people talking with each other (even if you dont have netflix or whatever, just what movie have you put off watching and why?) and chatting. But as an interview question? Garbage.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Also much easier in a group setting to say “I don’t really watch movies, I’ll skip this one” without it being hugely derailing.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        And even that response is still appropriate because people can ask why or what you do instead. And then the conversation can go in a completely different direction, which is the purpose of an ice-breaker.

        But in an interview? Nah, we need to stay on topic.

        1. Jessen*

          I’d still want to be careful that you’re handling potential cultural and disability issues appropriately. For example, my answer might be “because of my executive functioning and visual issues I have significant difficulty with absorbing information from movies and tv shows, which makes watching them a chore that I often feel I have to do to be considered socially acceptable rather than something I would willingly do for entertainment.” And that’s hard to make acceptable in an icebreaker session.

          1. I should really pick a name*

            Eldritch Office Worker’s “I don’t really watch movies, I’ll skip this one” response seems like it would fit in that situation.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              That’s the advice for the person who finds themselves in the situation. Jessen’s advice is correct for the person creating the situation. I always advise people not to ask questions about childhood, family traditions, religious traditions (including things like Christmas and Easter), food, and romantic relationships. And to be very thoughtful when talking or planning about hobbies and recreational activities.

            2. Jessen*

              I wanted to mention in response to the idea that such a response is appropriate because people can still ask why or similar. Even if I give a response like that, it can still easily end up being difficult dealing with followup questions of “oh why not” or “oh you should watch X!” or “surely you’ve at least seen Y?” Canned breezy responses only go so far.

              1. I should really pick a name*

                Maybe I’m just good at stonewalling people when they keep pushing XD

    2. LW2*

      Another of the questions was “Which of the following animals best describes your role in a team: Lion, Dolphin, Owl, Beaver?” And I just… I have no idea how to approach that? I’d worry I’m reading the wrong characteristics into each animal. Same with what kind of tree I would be. I guess they’d find out that I’m an overthinker…

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        “Honey Badger”
        Then don’t elaborate further.

        (I may have actually done this in an awkward round of “What’s your spirit animal?” to shut it down)

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          “I’m a raccoon. I’m up all night, I eat garbage, I have dark circles around my eyes, I’m kind of cute and kind of pudgy, and I might fight. How does that fit into your team?”

          1. Relentlessly Socratic*

            Well, we need someone to cover the late shift, and the only food is a snack-food vending machine. Welcome to your new job, Peanut Hamper!

      2. Eff Walsingham*

        One time I asked a dear friend how her interview went. She seemed troubled, and said “I don’t think they liked my animal.” And I said, “WHAT?!” Apparently they asked some open ended question like “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?” and she said that after that, all the warmth went out of the room and they just seemed to be going through the motions.

        I was so offended on her behalf. My friend is diligent, professional, and well qualified in her area (finance), and doesn’t deserve to be subjected to that kind of bullish!t, if anybody does! I told her that they were way out of line, not to dwell on it, and that if anyone ever asked me that I’d shut them right down (“I don’t want to work for anyone who compares their employees to animals!”) and leave.

        Just because somebody read the latest book on How To Interview, doesn’t mean they’ll get a better accountant by demeaning all their applicants. I can’t believe they’d be so foolish in today’s job market. What answer are they looking for, anyway? Performing seal? Bah!

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah I’ve had that happen to me too. I definitely picked the wrong kind of tree! I’ve been in interview rooms where I just rolled with a stupid question so long as they didn’t care about the answer, but when they clearly do, it’s so ridiculous. I feel like it’s a comedy sketch just waiting to be made.

      3. Lucky Meas*

        What kind of role do owls play in a team… they are solitary hunters…
        I would be concerned about someone who said lion, instead of lioness. They’re gonna lay back and let others do the work, then jump in and take the first bite for themselves!

    3. Cyndi*

      Yeah, it’s very different once you’re actually hired! I’ve had jobs where we kept a communal list of people’s favorite snacks, for birthdays and holidays, and that was really nice. But that kind of interpersonal bonding goes over very differently at the interviewing stage.

  25. Snooks*

    #1 No, she should not go. The list of things that could go wrong varies from the uncomfortable to the dangerous.

    #1 No, she should not go. She should give notice and resign. After she has worked her last day, her parents should send a letter and a copy of the “invitation” to the owners. This is too sketchy for her to continue working there.

  26. I should really pick a name*

    As an interviewee who has taken time off of work to interview, questions like that make me feel like my time isn’t being respected.

    In an interview, I was asked a question that had been recently popular on the internet (to the effect of here’s a mathematical proof of the best option in this scenario) and I basically responded by saying “that’s been floating around the internet lately, and the mathematical proof says X”. I still got the job.

  27. Pink Candyfloss*

    Team building events are common in my industry and never ONCE have they been 1) outside of normal work time, except for travel or 2) employees been expected to pay OUT OF POCKET to attend? Ludicrous, and unprofessional, and probably shady to boot.

    Happy Hour is something people attend and pay for outside work hours but that is not TEAM BUILDING.

  28. eeeek*

    #1 took me all the way back to one of my first jobs, when I was fresh out of college and working as a bookseller for one of the chains at the Mall. Our manager was ten years older than me and new in town. Lacking a social life, she scheduled frequent team building events with weird party games “to get to know each other”, and had “show up even if you’re not on the schedule” store meetings after closing (always with the offer to buy the first round of drinks at the bar). One bookseller was a non-confrontational teen who was an excellent and ambitious worker, but he couldn’t make these “mandatory” meetings work for him. He also had the sense to know that they weren’t really about work. His mother (an HR manager IRL) showed up one day and set the store manager straight about what her son would and would not do for his job, and what would be reported to corporate if that nonsense didn’t stop. Everyone benefited when the situation changed, I think.

  29. JustMe*

    LW 1 – yeah, no, none of that is right. The manager sounds like she’s planning a bachelorette party, not a work retreat. Definitely not right a) for minors to be pressured to attend, b) for employees to be pressured by their boss to attend when it’s not work related, c) for employees to put up their own money, d) for people who work in retail to do any sort of work retreat overnight. Typically, I don’t think parents should intervene on behalf of their teen kids who are working a part-time job, but this is one of those very rare instances where I think the parent would be justified in stepping in and asking the manager if they’ve taken leave of their senses.

  30. kittybutton*

    #2 – I don’t fully agree that you cannot plan for these questions. You should have a response for when asked about personal interests. Think about a book, a show, a movie you like. Be prepared to mention something about your personal life, like a hobby.

    The key to being prepared for these questions is understanding what they are looking for. In most cases, they are just trying to get to know something about you. So don’t worry about having a literal answer to their question, but give them a response that gets to what they are hoping to learn. So to use an example of the Netflix question you mentioned, you don’t need to literally tell them what has gone unwatched on your queue. Either answer the question by telling them what content you have recently enjoyed (a book, movie, TV show, even a podcast). You don’t have to choose a perfect answer but I would suggest something that is a bit more serious and not a guilty pleasure. Or you could say, you know I don’t even have Netflix so everything there has gone unwatched! What I really enjoy doing in my spare time is X.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      But this is a job interview, not speed dating. This is about finding out if I’m the right person to fill this role. The questions should be about my work. That’s it.

      Are you really going to reject a qualified candidate because of something they haven’t watched on Netflix? Or, are you really going to hire someone who’s not qualified because of something they haven’t watched on Netflix? In both cases, I hope the answer is no. And if so, then this is not a good question for a job interview.

      If they want to know what my personality is like beyond the job inteerview, they can hire me and find out then.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Sure, but we live in a world with a wide variety of personalities, and these questions sometimes come up because there are people who think they truly are ice breakers. And no one is saying that the question would count towards hiring.

        I’m not defending these kinds of questions in interviews, but I also think too much nefarious intent is being ascribed to them.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Again, it’s an interview. We’re not doing icebreakers here. This is not the place for icebreakers. That’s why these questions are wrong. Let’s focus the very limited amount of time we have on assessment.

          And I would say it’s pretty nefarious if I’m qualified to do the job but didn’t get it because you didn’t like my answer to how golf balls fit in a 747.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          “And no one is saying that the question would count towards hiring.”

          Let’s look at this from another angle. It’s not technically illegal to ask about pregnancy in hiring, it’s illegal to take that information into account when making decisions. Do you know why you’re still not supposed to ask? Because everything you hear during an interview is taken into account during hiring, whether that bias is conscious or unconscious.

          It’s not about nefarious intent, it’s about nefarious impact no matter what your intent is.

          1. Chick (on phone)*

            Asking about pizza toppings is in no way equivalent to asking about pregnancy. What an absurd comparison.

            1. Peanut Hamper*

              I do believe that you are the one making the comparison. You can judge it as you wish.

              But Eldritch Office Worker’s point is still valid: you have unconscious bias and you therefore need to focus on questions that will minimize the impact of that bias on your decision-making.

            2. Eldritch Office Worker*

              What I said was “everything you hear during an interview is taken into account during hiring, whether that bias is conscious or unconscious”. It’s two different but real examples of the same thing. One has higher stakes, so it’s easier to see the logical flaw you’re making. But the idea that you are not taking everything you hear into account when you make a decision is incorrect in both instances.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think there’s two sides to the question. From the employee side, yes it doesn’t hurt to be prepared to talk about the last book you’ve read (I don’t know if it’s just my industry but boy have I gotten that one a lot) or a couple of personal hobbies.

      From the employer side – stop. It’s not giving you insight into the candidates and you’re introducing a ton of personal bias into the process.

      1. rayray*

        I have gotten the book question a couple times too.

        To an extent, I don’t mind a question or two just to be a little personable. Sometimes I have been asked what kinds of things I enjoy doing. I’m in Utah so chances are always good we can bond a little bit over hiking and outdoor activities. I’d keep these questions minimal though.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      I think it’s more that the questions won’t necessarily be about hobbies. Some other “fun” questions we’ve seen here have been things like “if you were an animal, what animal would you be?”

      I think the point is more that you can’t be planned for every possible option they could ask. Hobbies are one thing, but stuff like “how do you organise your closet?” or “what chocolate bar would you be?” are rather more difficult.

      1. Delta Delta*

        “I throw everything in, shut the door, and pray” is a) correct and b) not the right answer. But it’s the one I’d give and then I wouldn’t get hired and I’d be okay with that.

    4. Anonymously yours*

      My reply would be that I have been reading “serious” books about schizophrenia and homelessness, because that is my son’s situation right now. Why would I want to discuss that in a job interview?

      1. Peanut Hamper*


        And I’m sorry you’re in that situation. I do hope everything works out okay for you and your son.

      2. Chick (on phone)*

        Hi: the answer to *choose* not to say that. Say literally anything else! They cannot force an answer out of you.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          So you are advocating to lie in an interview. In that case, does the question have any value at all?

        2. MHA*

          The fact that these questions give you no insightful information as an interviewer because there’s every likelihood that the interviewee is just feeding you a meaningless lie is exactly the point in saying they have zero use in a job interview.

    5. LW2*

      I suppose I worry that being so new to interviewing, I’ll misinterpret what they’re looking for. Some of the questions are so unusual I don’t know how to read them. I overthink. Do you have suggestions for that?

      1. Allonge*

        Internalise that these are bad questions and if this is the one thing based on which people decide not to hire you, most likely the company culture would trip you up in similar ways once hired.

        Part of the reason they are bad questions is that most likely they would have a hard time telling you what they are looking for, so…

        1. Say something like ‘not sure, what are you looking for here?’ if the question is not connected to reality in any way (how many golfballs fit in a school, what kind of tree would you be). Practice this one.

        OR 2. Give a random answer. Whatever number/tree comes to your mind first. Why? Why not.

        3. Be prepared to speak of a reasonably neutral hobby (reading, hiking, television, cooking, friends, gardening, plants, sports all work) and bring that up for questions that are obviously related to hobbies or free time (like the Netflix queue) – say ‘I don’t really do [stupid thing you asked me about], I am more of a [my hobby] person’. Practice this one too.

        1. Eff Walsingham*

          I think this is the most genuinely useful advice anyone has given on the subject here today.

        2. Former_Employee*

          Good thinking. I don’t have Netflix either, but I do have cable. I would say something about not a movie on Netflix, but such and such film is currently being shown on HBO and I plan on watching it as soon as it comes on at a convenient time.

          Sometimes, people get so nervous during interviews that they barely remember their own name! That’s why prepping for questions about hobbies, personal likes and dislikes (within reasonable boundaries) and so forth can be very helpful.

  31. KatEnigma*

    LW1: Encourage your daughter to get a different job.

    Then clue in the owners that their insurance company would likely DROP THEM LIKE A HOT POTATO if they knew their manager was taking minors on overnight trips. Do you know how many background checks and training and strict requirements are required for any youth organization that does overnights? Requirements, in the end, that are imposed by the insurance companies.

  32. Peanut Hamper*

    What’s on my Netflix queue that I haven’t watched yet?

    I forget the name, but it’s about a serial killer who hunts down hiring people who ask really asinine questions during job interviews. It’s in its third season!

  33. Dinwar*

    I’ve seen oddball questions used in interviews. The purpose–as reported by the one asking–wasn’t to find out the answer (no one cared what was on the person’s Netflix cue, or whatever), the purpose was to see how fast they could change gears and think about something totally unrelated to what they’d been thinking about. This is an important skill in our line of work–we work on complex sites and even a junior staff member needs to be able to think on their feet in high-stress situations. The ability to quickly understand a random question and provide an answer is important to career success, and it’s valid to at least try to figure out how good the person is at that skill.

    Is this the best way? Maybe not. But it is a way to test that particular skill.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yeah, but you could ask those sorts of questions about the work at hand and not with regard to some hypothetical thing that’s never going to happen.

      the purpose was to see how fast they could change gears and think about something totally unrelated to what they’d been thinking about. This is an important skill in our line of work–we work on complex sites and even a junior staff member needs to be able to think on their feet in high-stress situations.

      This is an important skill in just about any line of work, including dog-walking, retail, fast-food, accounting, nursing, comedian, and NASA engineer. No field is so special that these questions are ever appropriate. (And I’ll bet that no one who’s ever interviewed at NASA has ever been asked how many ping pong balls fit in a Space Shuttle.)

      1. HR Friend*

        Why are you arguing with commenters, as if they’re the ones asking these questions of the LW? Maybe try offering some constructive suggestions instead of just declaring over and over that any interview questions unrelated to work are inappropriate. A candidate can dislike an interview question or not see the point in having been asked it. They still have to try to answer it.

          1. HR Friend*

            My comment? It’s not combative to point out that a commenter is rephrasing one POV in multiple threads, and that POV isn’t addressing LW’s situation.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              Yes, your comment. The other commenter is just engaging in discussion. I don’t get what you’re taking them to task for.

        1. Eff Walsingham*

          “They still have to try to answer it.”

          No, they don’t. That’s just it.

          For some of us, it would be a red flag. There are definitely questions of this type that go beyond irrelevant into oh-no-you-dint! And there are some qualified candidates who would take this as a cue to wind up the interview and look elsewhere.

          Look at it this way: a candidate who is desperate for the job will struggle on through all manner of humiliation. Does this mean that companies should aspire to make applicants run a gauntlet as if hiring were some sort of game show? No, because the stronger the candidate, the more likely they are to self-select out of the process if it reveals things that make it look like the company will be unpleasant to work for.

          1. Dinwar*

            “Look at it this way: a candidate who is desperate for the job will struggle on through all manner of humiliation.”

            This is an example of the overt hostility in this discussion. If you define “asking an oddball question once to provoke a response” as “humiliation”, that’s a new definition that I’ve never heard before. Humiliation is degrading and abusive; asking oddball questions may or may not be a great interview tactic, but it’s hardly either of those. And to be blunt, if you find an oddball question humiliating we’re probably better off parting ways; you’re obviously not a good fit for the culture. (Note that any offensive questions–racist, sexist, ageist, etc–are totally different here.) If you think oddball questions make the company unpleasant to work for the first week of fieldwork on a Superfund site will have you running screaming.

            Further, in each context I saw this happen the person wasn’t desperate for a job. We were one company among several that they were interviewing with. If they had felt humiliated they’d have gone with someone else–and I can say that because it happened over a salary issue in two cases (nothing at all to do with the interview questions). Quite frankly anyone who was desperate would be rejected, we couldn’t trust them.

            To be clear, none of what I’ve said above is a defense of oddball questions in an interview. I’m pointing out that people are doing a LOT of roleplaying and adding in a heaping scoopful of stuff that simply isn’t there, while ignoring or ignorant of the realities of the jobs we were hiring for, then interpreting everything–including their assumptions–in the worst possible light, then accusing the interview panels of acting in the worst manner. It’s worse than pointless, it obscures the actual issues involved.

            1. Eff Walsingham*

              “To provoke a response” is a very open-ended motivation, and I think it behooves interviewers to think beforehand about the range of responses they might provoke. Elsewhere in this comment section, people have spoken of questions that refer to lockdowns taking them back to extremely dark times in their recent past. Also, food questions were pointed out as being a bit of a minefield, what with medical restrictions and religious accommodations and all sorts of things the commentors didn’t want to bring up in an interview. If you don’t want to take this into account, it’s up to you, but it might be useful to reflect on whether whatever you’re getting out of asking a question is worth the potential negative consequences.

              My friend found the “animal” question to be humiliating, and I do as well. I have no idea what sort of reaction her interviewers were hoping to provoke, but for the sake of whoever got the job, I hope that wasn’t it.

          2. HR Friend*

            I mean, sure, no one has to answer interview questions. You’re not under oath. But to see red flags when an interviewer asks you about your favorite pizza topping is extreme. To withdraw from a hiring process because someone asks you what you like to watch on TV is extreme. It’s extreme to extrapolate that an entire company is unpleasant to work for because one person asked you a question not directly connected to work you’ve delivered.

            1. Eff Walsingham*

              Look, I’m prepared to agree to disagree here. But I do think you’re twisting my words a bit. What I’m saying, and what I’ve seen Alison say elsewhere, is that questions that appear kooky or offbeat or totally unrelated to the job under discussion run the risk of alienating qualified candidates who may be receiving multiple offers.

              If everything else is reasonably comparable, and Company A conducted a standard / pleasant / interesting / challenging interview, while Company B had kind of a weird / rambling / pointless-seeming interview, I will take that into account. As is often mentioned here, an interview goes both ways. And it seems to me that if a company conducts inept interviews, it is more likely that they will hire staff who turn out to be ill-suited for their jobs. That is more likely to lead to turnover, which affects the job satisfaction of those who remain.

              No, it doesn’t mean that the whole company is stupid. Let’s call it a yellow flag. Even if it only means that their HR department isn’t very good, that’s still information that might matter to a prospective employee.

              I’m still not sticking around for animal questions, or anything sexist or infantilizing. Call me extreme, but life is too short for that crap. YMMV, of course. But I think/hope that every job seeker has some personal standards that are deal breakers for them.

      2. Engineer*

        Ping pong ball questions or windows in NYC questions are very common for STEM new grad interviews – I’d be surprised if a NASA engineer was not asked some sort of on-their-feet question like that.

        I interviewed for an engineering job at a different aerospace firm a few years ago. I was asked how I thought gas pumps worked. Similar idea.

      3. Dinwar*

        “This is an important skill in just about any line of work, including dog-walking, retail, fast-food, accounting, nursing, comedian, and NASA engineer.”

        That’s sort of like saying “A truck driver shouldn’t be given a particularly hard test. Driving is an important skill in just about any line of work!” Sure, to a certain extent this is true, but I have found over the years that my line of work is particularly heavy on the “Be able to switch directions radically on a moment’s notice” side of things.

        There probably are better ways to assess these skills. A group of paleontologists and archaeologists can hardly be expected to be expert interviewers–but on the other hand, we’re who the folks had to work with, so we were the best people to do the interview. It’s a real problem: those who are experts in interviewing skills are often not well placed to utilize those skills, while those who are well placed to utilize those skills have spent decades honing other skills entirely. On the flip side, understanding if you’re a good fit for the culture is important, and frankly if you’re the type of person to be offended by being asked a question you can’t immediately tie to work you wouldn’t work well with the group anyway; when you work ten hours a day, six days a week, three months at a time with someone, you either get to know each other or be miserable the whole time. (It’s actually an important part of safety–getting to know the person allows us to know if they’re suffering heat stress or other issues that could endanger their coworkers.) So, not to put too fine a point on it, if this sort of question weeds out people like you and Eff Walsingham, I count that as a benefit. Nothing against you personally, it’s just that we wouldn’t work well together at all.

        1. Eff Walsingham*

          The site crashed and seems to have eaten my reply, so I’ll try again.

          If the methods you use are getting you the hires you want, more power to you. Similarly, I’m going to keep not divulging what animal I think I would be, what’s in my purse, or how my closet is arranged.

          I went on to point out that individual candidates’ experiences will vary based on many factors such as industry and gender. Personally, as a female-presenting person who’s been interviewing for decades, I’m not surprised to have had interviews that veered all the way into blatant sexual harassment, and of course that colours my view. Often I have had interviews that involve speaking with one man who I have never met before, in a closed office or conference room. If the interviewer starts rambling or asking irrelevant or personal questions, my attention is then distracted by the need to keep the conversation relevant and professional. In my experience, many men who do not turn out to be creepy at all, just don’t pay much attention to how they come across in one-on-one situations. Maybe they just are not very skilled interviewers, or the position is already filled, or I don’t know what. But I’ve had interviews where so many of the questions seemed unrelated to the position, that it seemed like a waste of time on both sides. Maybe they preferred to rely on resumes and references to make their decisions? But it was very frustrating, considering the effort I’d made to prepare.

          Theoretical questions are fine, don’t get me wrong. By all means, ask about 747s and golf balls and gas pumps, or whatever. But all that parachute coloured star sign crap that sounds like a bad 70’s pickup line? No. If I like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, that’s my business. ;)

    2. MHA*

      It’s not just not “the best way” to test that particular skill, it’s a *bad* way to test that particular skill, because “transitioning from one work-related topic/task that draws on my expertise to a different work-related topic/task that draws on my expertise” is *not the same skill* as “transitioning from a work-related topic/task that draws on my expertise to an entirely non-work-related topic/task that has nothing to do with my field of expertise.”

      You’re not getting an answer to the former by testing the latter just on the face of it, and that’s before you factor in all the complexities of anxiety/frustration/formality that are present during a job interview that aren’t present during a normal day on the job. I’m not thinking “ugh, what are they looking for in this answer, is this actually going to affect my candidacy? should I answer honestly so they actually get to know me or are they going to be turned off that I [am a vegan/have nothing but anime in my Netflix queue/like Broadway musicals/insert datapoint here]? what would a good, neutral lie look like here?” when I have to switch between writing a report on client outcomes and answering a phonecall about inventory needs.

  34. Fluffy Fish*

    OP1 – while i would normally be staunchly against a parent getting involved, and daughter should tell the manager no herself, but I think I would reach out to the owner myself on this one.

    An adult planning sleep aways with minor children is absolutely appallingly inappropriate.

  35. Elyisan*

    On #5, I feel like the answer is a little incomplete. The OP didn’t mention that the employer was changing the workweek, just that her scheduled 7 days might split over two weeks. If the administrative “week” is Saturday-Friday and her work schedule is Tuesday-Monday, she’ll split two weeks and likely not be entitled to overtime. It might be 50 hours in 7 days but it could be 30 hours in one admin week and 20 in the next. In most states she wouldn’t be entitled to OT in that scenario, and that would be absolutely compliant with the law. I don’t think the OP even suggested the employer would be moving the workweek, just that they are deliberately scheduling her so she doesn’t run over 40 hours in their week. And while I get why that feels crummy in this situation, that complies with the law in most states.

  36. El l*

    Short answer: These questions are designed so that you cannot prepare for them. So don’t bother.

    Long answer: These questions are hot among Silicon Valley and creative types, as they want to see how you think. The problem as Alison says is that what the correct answer looks like is…nebulous. Even supposedly random famous interview questions like “How many golf balls fit into a 747?” (quantitative) or “What would you do with a pile of bricks?” (Forex trading) have defined correct answers.

    These ones tend to end up at, “We’re looking for someone just like us,” or “We’re looking for a charismatic mouth.” Neither of which is really in OP2’s control.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I had some questions in this vein in my interview for my current job, but the interviewer prefaced by saying she was going to ask some questions to get an idea of my problem solving techniques, and she was less interested in me giving correct answers and more interested in seeing how I would go about finding the answer. It took a lot of the pressure off knowing I didn’t actually need to know the number of traffic lights in out city, I just had to propose a plan for how I’d find out.

    2. Seashell*

      If someone asked me how many golf balls fit into a 747, I would probably say, “I have no idea. I would need to research that.”

      I guess I wouldn’t get the job.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I would be really tempted to say something like:

        “golf balls in a 747? no idea. Now, how many otters could I fit on a small regional jet? Hmm, let me take a crack at that!

        Any other Cabin Pressure fans around?

    3. A. D. Kay*

      Recently I was asked this winner: “If you could have a superpower, which one would you pick?” I was very annoyed and didn’t bother to hide it. Not surprisingly, they passed on me. Just as well.

      1. Rex Libris*

        The power to read minds so you could understand why they’re asking such a pointless question? The power to teleport so you could leave the interview quicker?

  37. RetailWorker*

    #5 Remimds me of when I was constantly scheduled 9 or 10 days in a row at my former retail job… And then get berated when I called out sick at the end of the work week because I was so run down that I would catch a cold. It’s not illegal but it SHOULD be.

    1. Cyndi*

      I got fired for attendance once–at a job where we worked mandatory Saturdays every week for two months, plus I had a part time night/weekend job, and the fatigue starting causing migraines that made it impossible for me to do my job. They cleared up within a month after I was fired–shocker!–and also I stopped waking up with nausea every morning, which I hadn’t even realized was work stress related.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Nah, because those organizations still require marketing and fund-raising, and still have a bottom line. It would be like Paul Newman writing for Food and Wine. “Yeah, Brand X salad dressing is really great, but Newman’s Own gives all their profits to charity.” Still a conflict of interest.

  38. I'm just here for the cats*

    jumping on right after reading Letter 1. It sounds like this is the manager doing the required outing snot the owner. does the owner even know?
    I know that typically you wouldn’t want a parent getting involved in their child’s job but could this be an exception? could a parent, or groups of parents of the few underaged kids) go to the owner saying they are concerned for their child’s safety at this get away. I would go to the owner not the manager because I have a feeling the owner doesn’t know

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yeah, I would definitely go to the owner.

      And I’m generally in favor of letting kids work out job issues on their own, with hands-off guidance from me as necessary. But you’re right–this one is the exception: there are issues of cost, safety, and legality involved, and no minor child should have to navigate all of that on their own.

    2. HonorBox*

      I noted in my response below (I didn’t read all the responses right away) that I’d probably consider jumping in if it was my child involved with this. There are multiple legalities that could be in question and someone outta know.

      I think you’re right that the owner is unaware, but absolutely needs to be. It is worth a phone call in this case, or at least forwarding the manager’s message with a note that your child will not be participating and you may be helping them find somewhere else to work because this isn’t the kind of environment you want your child working in.

  39. April Thirteenth*

    Thank you Alison for your response to #1! My boss is new to management and is obsessed with bonding. She calls it teambuilding but that’s not it and I couldn’t figure out why until this letter.

    It’s a minor frustration in the scheme of things (and I’m not a minor, what the heck!) but it’s so nice to put a word to my boss’ management “type.”

  40. All Het Up About It*

    LW4 – I’m so sorry about your dad!!

    I’m actually wondering if your answer is hurting you a little because the focus is on your leaving the field you are trying to get back into. If you switch your answer to Alison’s “I was hired for X, but the job is Y” you might have more success because you aren’t focusing on the fact that you wanted to leave the type of job you are applying to again. It’s more that a job didn’t live up to expectations.

    Also – I get the sense that you have some embarrassment about your decision or guilt maybe. Like you shouldn’t have tried to change things or let our grief drive you. Is it possible those feelings are coming across when you answer? Do you seem less than confident? Unknowingly grimacing, stumbling over the words, etc? Those sort of tells could lead people to assume that maybe you aren’t telling the whole truth with the answer.

    All of this is absolutely conjecture and might not be true. It’s 100% possible you are just one of those people who just has the bad luck of losing out to slightly better candidates for longer than you would like. Also – if you do have embarrassment or guilt about your decision – LET IT GO! You wouldn’t be the first person to move to a job that sounded better than it was for any reason. And even if you were reeling emotionally and that influenced you.. so what? Losing a parent so quickly and unexpectedly (and based on where you are in your career, I’m going to guess probably relatively young as well) absolutely can influence us to make unexpected choices. Sometime those choices work out, sometimes they don’t.

    It was 8 years ago this week we received the terminal diagnosis for my own father. That year and a half around his diagnosis and death sucked. Period. I also dealt with serious job related issues and job searching then. I hate to hear that anyone else is experiencing the same thing and I’m sending you all kinds of positive energy!

    1. Seashell*

      I would think being misled about what the job would entail is a valid reason for wanting to switch. LW should frame it as the problem being the people who did the hiring, not the decision to switch jobs.

  41. another_scientist*

    Can NOT believe that you missed the opportunity to title #3 ‘We are in a jam’!

    1. Phony Genius*

      Or that the writer should tell the employee “Jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today.”

  42. HonorBox*

    RE letter 1 – My oldest child is almost old enough to get into the working world as a part-time employee. And I guarantee you that if they came home and said to my wife and me that they were being “invited” to a staff retreat that took place over a weekend, was unpaid, and would cost $400, we’d strongly encourage a hard pass on both the weekend and the job.

    And while I don’t want to be helicopter parent to fight my child’s battles, I think I might consider a reply to the message reminding the owner of this business that a work-related event like this shouldn’t cost their employees money and might border on illegal if there’s any sort of work activity and employees are not compensated appropriately.

  43. Phony Genius*

    On #1, the supervisor is in her mid-20’s and is putting managerial pressure on employees to participate in “bonding” activities? I am wondering when she learned to do that. I wouldn’t be surprised if she learned it at this same boutique from a former supervisor. She could have learned it elsewhere, but she probably does not have enough experience at her age to realize why this is a problem. Someone above her (possibly the owners) needs to be aware that this is happening. Not only for the 15 and 17 year olds, but the over-21 employees as well (who I assume are not much older than that). They shouldn’t come out of this thinking that it is OK for bosses to do this.

  44. CSRoadWarrior*

    #1 – Unpaid weekend trip that involves minors? Requiring to pay $400 out of pocket? Absolutely not! Anything work related should be paid, and any trips that are required by employers should be paid by the employer, NOT the employee. Period.

    And more importantly, none of this is okay. If I were 15 and this had happened to me, my mother would have told me to quit ASAP. None of this seems right, and I was really baffled halfway through reading the letter. This is really inappropriate, and as a teenager I would have better things to do than go to this.

    But yes – as many other said above, I think your daughter should look for another job. None of this seems okay.

  45. Young Ten*

    LW 1,
    As a fellow parent to teens, Listen to your gut. Something feels off to you and you’re not crazy. Even your teen is uncomfortable with it. And when you stop to think that most teens would love a few days away from their parents, this whole thing really seems off. Your daughter’s manager is in the wrong. I think Allison is right about maybe seeking other employment. I bet this is just one of several areas in that her manager is failing to be good at her position.

  46. Yes And*

    LW1 didn’t say where they were or what the daughter’s wages were; but most retail jobs held by teenagers pay the locally prevailing minimum wage. At the US federal minimum wage, it would take just over 55 hours to earn $400 – and that’s not including any tax deductions. Depending on how many hours this kid works per week, we could be talking well over a full month’s wages for this trip. Whether this boss has thought of this and decided it’s appropriate, or hasn’t considered it, either way this boss should not be managing anybody ever.


    WRITER OF LETTER #1 HERE: I am blown away by all the comments here! I’m reading through them and thinking how glad I am that this is indeed a crazy expectation. Both hubby and I are older and only have worked in the corporate world. We considered that maybe this is how young people in other fields do things nowadays, crazy as it sounds.

    Letting our 15 year old go was an instant and firm NO – she’s only just now being allowed to ride in cars of older classmates if the journey is just a half a mile across town to the gym, not even a possibility she’s going off for three days with people we don’t know doing heavens knows what.

    I think it really is a “wouldn’t it be fun if we all went together somewhere and had a girls weekend” scenario – totally naive and misguided, but without any nefarious purposes. But golly, I’m really hoping one of the non-teens might feel bold enough to speak up and point out all the many, many reasons why this is a bad idea. Knowing our daughter she’ll just use the “mom said no” excuse and that’s fine with us. At least it’s been a teaching moment for her in what NOT to do if you are a supervisor. :-)

    1. HonorBox*

      Thank you for the additional info!

      While I think your perspective of the motivation for the trip is probably spot on (I read it the same way), it might not be a bad idea to let the owner of the boutique know what’s happening, and that’s especially important if your daughter/you and your husband know them and think of them as a decent person. The way this is being presented to the staff by this manager puts the owner and the business in some potential peril on a lot of levels. They may not know and if they don’t they sure deserve to know. I don’t think I’d leave it up to a staffer to point this out, especially if there’s pressure from the manager to attend.

    2. Zarniwoop*

      There’s the a larger issue you may wish to consider, which is whether your daughter is learning dysfunctional work norms from this (apparently bananapants) supervisor.

      1. Random Bystander*

        That was definitely my point above–it’s especially magnified because it’s the teen’s first job, so it could make a really deep impact.

    3. Alan*

      Glad your daughter isn’t fighting you! This reminds me of once when my daughter asked to go to some event, don’t remember exactly what, because “Everyone else is going! All the other parents said it’s okay!” but we said no. No way. Unsure a few weeks later if we had done the right thing, I asked how her friends had enjoyed the event and she said “No one went. No one’s parents would let them go.” Parenting teenagers isn’t for the faint of heart.

  48. Katy*

    #1 Teen Girl—It sounds like the actual owner(s) of the business may not be fully aware of what’s being asked here. It might be appropriate for daughter (with parents’ backup of course) to approach the owner about this situation. I might also have her discreetly reach out the other employees and (where appropriate) their parents first. If they are also feeling excessively pressured to participate, they may be able to go to the owners as a group. The owner should be aware of what’s happening, especially if it might lead to legal liability for them down the road.

  49. Journey of man*

    Re daughter at boutique. Not only should you step in, but I would go on the local Facebook page and let the other moms know that the owner of the local boutique (that probably caters to their own daughters) is doing this. unfortunately, a lot of these kinds of stores are vanity projects for women with disposable income.

  50. SB*

    That first one sounds like trouble in the making. $400 per person for a weekend trip sounds very much like they will be, in part, subsidising the alcohol consumption of the adults & definitely not an environment I would want my 15 year old to be trapped in overnight. Be the “bad guy” & put a stop to this one!!!!

    1. Mothman*

      When I was a little older than her, still in high school, I had an opportunity to perform in an opera in Italy under the guidance of my singing coach. The price was, say, $800. It was going to be my graduation present because that wasn’t cheap, even then.

      Then it went up. And up. And up.

      We eventually realized we were subsidizing his portion of the trip PLUS his wife and kids’ portions because they were randomly coming. I wonder if the boss is planning to pay a single dime. Doubt it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if she wrote off everything on her card as a business expense, even if repaid by staff…I mean, if you’re already breaking some laws, might as well go all in!

      (Also, no, I have still never been to Italy.)

  51. Delta Delta*

    Not for nothing, but 3 days in an Airbnb as a “work retreat” sounds like actual hell, no matter the age or industry.

  52. Mothman*

    Where I live, 15 year olds can’t work past a certain very early time (maybe 8?). I feel like all work events, including “bonding time” (yuck), would probably violate that.

    And not paying minors for their work time while also making them have sleepovers with you violates basically all the laws. All of them. Not just the employment ones.

  53. L. Miller*

    #1- I don’t know about employment laws regarding minors but there’s some good advice given in comments.
    But I’d be concerned about the liability of having minors on a work trip and what waivers or protections the owners will put in place.
    In the two non-profits I volunteer for, background checks are required for anyone volunteering with minors. One of the groups is a community music group I’m on the board of, because we had one minor join ( with her parent) the board had to all do background checks.
    I know it’s not the same as a retail business or for profit businesses but it’s something to consider as a safety.
    Is the boss going to plan to act as a guardian?
    LW would be wise to say no and suggest her daughter seek other employment.

  54. Former_Employee*

    Why would a 25-year old want to hang out with teens unless they were her relatives?

    I wonder if she read an article on team building that was meant for corporate types and has taken the message out of context.

Comments are closed.