how do I tell job applicants that their parents are hurting their chances?

A reader writes:

I recruit for a large company that staffs festivals, conventions, and sporting events. A lot of our applicants are young university graduates or recent high school graduates, ranging from 18-21. Our younger candidates will have their parent(s) call on their behalf, asking why an application is taking so long, why they didn’t get a particular shift, etc. Our team has been advising the parent that we can’t discuss anything about an application with a third party and saying the applicant should contact us directly.

My worry is that for a lot of these applicants, this is their first job and they don’t have an understanding of professional norms and this could hurt their chances in future jobs. Do you have a script I could potentially use to help with this?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My office keeps asking about my baby plans
  • I share space with a coworker who throws temper tantrums

{ 222 comments… read them below }

  1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    High schools and colleges really should be more proactive in discussing basic professional norms throughout the curriculum. Students who don’t have family or others who can coach them about this are at a disadvantage and there’s no need for it.

    1. singularity*

      I teach high school and we definitely go over things like this. Sometimes, it’s a case of a helicopter parent that won’t let go and the kid doesn’t know how to distance themselves from their parents.

      1. NotBatman*

        Seconded! I teach a class on professional norms to college freshmen. Not everyone gets that class, but even the ones that do will sometimes have parents go behind their backs to contact me about a grade. I can use FERPA to tell parents I can’t talk to them, but I’m sure it’s even more of a pain when the students aren’t legal adults.

        1. PlainJane*

          That’s what I was thinking–it’s not necessarily the kids that need the education on the subject. They may be BEGGING mom and dad not to do this.

      2. GythaOgden*

        Having been helicoptered into two actual jobs by my mum, neither of which were a good fit, I’m kind of relieved she’s not on the phone to my boss now demanding to know when what my boss promised to me about new responsibilities at the beginning of the summer will actually materialise.

        I must be one of the few people with a helicopter mother into her forties. It helps to have an advocate at times — when my husband was ill I asked her to sit in with us at a work discussion about time off to care for him during and after a brain operation. It helped to have her there to explain what I couldn’t articulate well because she understood the logistics of the situation better than I could. I may sound like a bit of a wimp, but as autistic and living, essentially, mentally paycheque to paycheque at the time, it helped to order my thoughts about something bigger than I’d ever had to cope with before.

        But because I gave her an inch she took a mile and after project managing my husband’s care (and being there so I could hold down my job), she took to doing the same for me. It’s hard to get out of her clutches because she still sees me as a vulnerable and clueless teenager (not helped by the way I busted my ankle a few years ago and had to live with her for six weeks, which was hell on earth!), and has the money, time and energy to interfere.

        I love her to bits despite her being one of the most exhausting people I know — but her strength of character and bulldozer of a personality could actually come in handy at the moment dealing with my comatose management…

        1. LarryFromOregon*

          Sorry you’re facing such personal challenges, and certainly understand using her shoulder to cry on, and her savvy to bounce concerns and ideas off of. However, as a retired manager, I must say I would NOT have welcomed one of my employees’ moms joining such a meeting. A union rep, a lawyer, a work colleague, sure—any of these could be a support person to help you through a difficult conversation. But not a parent—I’d never say so—however it would feel as though they don’t consider you an adult, so why should I?

    2. Smithy*

      To be pragmatic about this – I think that when academic institutions have this as part of the curriculum, the reality is that you get the results that we read about here with college career centers or things like home-ec curriculum. They get outdated.

      Essentially, a lot of thought and time goes into developing a curriculum that may not get updated and tweaked to genuinely match the evolution of professional norms. The reality is that employers genuinely are best placed to provide this kind of coaching – particularly employers of staff this young. They see the highest volume of young people entering the workforce, they see the highest repeat mistakes, and they can tweak their coaching and responses as those missteps evolve.

      I think an expectation for 18-21 year old professional candidates to come to the job process perfectly formed seems counter intuitive.

      1. Pdweasel*

        Concur. When I got my first job at a grocery store back when I was 17, the HR manager specifically told me & my newbie cohort that except in extremely extenuating circumstances (e.g. in the hospital, in jail, deceased), we had to handle all communication related to our job. “You’re the ones who work here—not your parents.”

        1. Quite anon*

          Yeah, I’ve had mom talk on my behalf exactly once. The context was that I had a workplace accident, the worker’s comp insurance insisted I had to go to a doctor REALLY far away to write the prescription for an x ray, mom was driving me there because I couldn’t put weight on my foot, my manager called while we were driving, and I couldn’t understand him over the absolutely terrible signal, and mom could. So she essentially translated terrible signal voice cutting out for me while I answered questions related to the accident. Had he given me his phone number to allow me to text him instead of covering this over the phone (shady that he didn’t want it in writing but meh) it wouldn’t have been necessary.

        2. Felicia*

          I’ve worked in management at a summer camp, where under-18s make up a significant portion of the staff. We have to have similar conversations with them and the parents, but there is a complicating layer because they staff live on site for the summer, so there is a still a certain duty of care.
          I don’t know if its still the practice there, or if it was ever legally necessary, but we also made the parents of under-18s sign the employment agreement – I think it was to emphasize to them that this is a business relationship and their kids are going to work, not be kids at camp.

    3. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      I promise you, those discussions happen. But that doesn’t mean everyone was paying attention, or that they can easily thwart an overbearing parent.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        Yeah, you can tell high school kids a lot of things and they may not catch it. My state had a unique macro/micro economics requirement where we learned everything from “guns & butter” to balancing a checkbook and calculating IRA investment growth. How many kids in my class even remember that we discussed those topics, much less the content? I’m guessing not many based on how checked out most of them were. They thought it was boring and useless, where it may have been one of the most useful classes we had.

        1. B*

          Even if the kids do listen, what are they going to do when mom or dad says they know best, don’t worry about what those geeks at school say.

          We’re not exactly in a golden age of parents deferring to professionals when it comes to school curricula.

    4. KC*

      Waaay back in the dark ages of the 00’s when I was in school, we covered stuff like this. Maybe Life Skills is a budget cuts victim?

      1. GlitterIsEverything*

        Your school was likely the outlier.

        I had a version of personal economics in middle school, when I was in a private school. Never had it in public high school (graduated 1990), and my kids never had it at all, at any level (2020 & 2022 grads).

      2. This Old House*

        Or a victim of the college at all costs mentality. I’m pretty sure this was available when I was in school in the early 2000s, but I never took the courses it would have been taught in, because I was too busy trying to cram my schedule with every Honors and AP course and honor society and extracurricular that I “needed” to get into a “good” school. (And then high-achieving students come out of prestigious schools with no real-world or soft skills and wonder why they could could have been so good at school and struggle so much with life.)

    5. Anon in Canada*

      They could, but that won’t stop determined helicopter parents from overstepping. Most of those cases occur without the young person’s knowledge or consent.

      It’s the parents that need to be educated.

        1. ShanShan*

          Unless we’re talking about training teenagers to stand up to authority figures, which, weirdly, high schools seem reluctant to do. Wonder why that is. /s

          1. Anon in Canada*

            High schools obviously won’t do that. They’re all about obedience to authority and not questioning anything.

            They could, however, during parent-teacher meetings, teach parents of, say, ninth graders, that while parents were obviously are to intervene on their child’s behalf in school, they cannot do so at their child’s workplace – and provide examples of what is acceptable (mainly limited to calling out sick if the child can’t do so themselves), and unacceptable (everything else). Reasonable parents may be offended by the very idea that this training was needed, but then the teachers can explain the whole context.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              This view of high school, and what teachers can do in parent meetings, seems a little . . . off.

            2. Lexie*

              There’s a few issues with expecting that to be covered in a parent/teacher conference:
              1. Those meetings are to talk about how the child is doing in school in the present.
              2. You could easily have a dynamic where the teacher is fresh out of college and trying to teach workplace norms to someone who has been in the workforce longer than the teacher has been alive.
              3. The parents that wouldn’t do this stuff are going to be offended that the teacher thinks they need to be told not to do it. 4.The parents that would do this stuff are going to be offended that the teacher is trying to tell them how to parent.

            3. AthenaC*

              And then there’s my parents that thought they knew better than everyone around them telling them what was and wasn’t okay. It really sucks to be the teen who literally has no power to stop their parents from damaging their reputation and their future. Ask me how I know.

              Put it this way – my senior year in high school, the military recruiter met my mom for a whole hour and a half. That was all the contact he had with my parents. After they walked out the door, I didn’t even have to say anything; he turned to me and said, “Don’t worry – I’ll get you an early ship-off date.”

    6. Texas Teacher*

      A lot of this has its roots in the idea that “kids should never be unsupervised” so that now we have young people that aren’t used to navigating the world independently. And parents are actively discouraged from letting their kids do this.
      I remember when my middle kid was about 9 and wanted to wander a section of the science museum without me, we were told that it wasn’t allowed. She asked, “at what age will I get to?” And the desk person answered 15 or 16! We were floored.
      When I brought my 18 yr old to college orientation to drop him off there were many parents who stayed to attend sessions.

      1. Waiting for My Car to Be Fixed*

        The university where I work specifically holds orientation sessions for parents at the same time as the orientation sessions for the incoming students, at different locations on campus, and builds the first semester schedule with the student 1-on-1. It’s an attempt to start the students on the road to independent function. Thank goodness for FERPA.

  2. Elle*

    The important thing to keep in mind is that the young adult may have no idea their parent is reaching out. I have many friends who are helicopter parents and regularly put their kids in awkward spots by overstepping.

    1. annoyed by heli parents*

      It’s good that OP’s team has been telling parents “sorry, can’t talk to a third party” because of this exact scenario.

    2. MassMatt*

      It sucks that people can suffer repercussions for something someone else (a parent, a spouse, an ex) does when it is largely out of their control. I can’t recall the specifics but I believe we once had a letter from someone who lost a job because of an abusive ex.

      1. Lily*

        Wow, that sucks so much. I once had a colleague who was berated by management because her a-hole husband kept calling the office. I was NOT okay with that, but felt powerless to do anything about it. As did she.

      2. AthenaC*

        Yep – because of my abusive ex, I lost childcare, I lost my housing, I almost had to drop out of college, and I didn’t get fired from my part-time job but I was about to.

        Abusers can really wreak havoc when they decide do and yet they never seem to suffer any consequences for it. In this life, anyway.

    3. AngryOctopus*

      This. It’s a kindness to tell the child “your parent called about X, and we told them we can’t share any information with anyone but you. You may want to know not to let them call again”. It’s very possible that the kid is screaming inside “WTF WHY DID SHE CALL I TOLD HER I HAD MY SCHEDULE ALL SET”. And it’s also possible that the kid doesn’t have a ton of contact with the parent but they know kid has this job and they’re trying to sneaky reach out. So it’s a kindness to let them know this is happening, so they can (hopefully) take any appropriate action on their end. Even if it’s to say “yeah, I told them not to call but for some reason my mom thinks she can rearrange my schedule for me. Please know if she calls again that I have nothing to do with it”.

    4. Smithy*

      I will also add that very often for young adults with parents doing this – it can result in a combo of job hunting awkwardness. So the young person has their own “new to the workforce” growing pains, and while they don’t want their parent involved – having them get involved can increase their anxieties around whatever other issues they might have (i.e. nervousness speaking on the phone, worries about their resume, etc.).

      Being professional and matter of fact about the issue can give the applicant the information, and let the process move on. Because if it’s a young person already dealing with their parents around boundary crossing, anything to routine and not catastrophic can only help have it not carry over into other areas of the interview process.

    5. ferrina*

      Overbearing parents also don’t tend to hear word “no”, especially from their children (because they clearly know better than their children /s)

      In extreme circumstances, it can also put the kids in a bad place if they try to push back. Some parents will punish the kids for going against them or trying to set boundaries. Poor kids are put in a Catch-22.

    6. Eater of Hotdish*

      Oh gosh, my first year in university when I switched my major to [Insert Impractical Humanities Topic Here], my mother actually reached out to the department in a tizzy to demand reassurance that they had scholarships and career support options and I wouldn’t have to live in a box.

      How I found this out: I walked into one of my classes that afternoon, and the professor looked up and said, “Oh hi, Hotdish, your mom called.”

      Floor, swallow me whole, etc. To her credit, my mother only did this once. But yeah, I had absolutely no idea she was planning to pull this stunt.

      1. KimboSlice*

        Yeah, this is unfortunately super common. I worked as a student employee in my university’s Honors College office while in school. Almost 20 years ago! And it was incredibly common for parents to call and ask us all sorts of outrageous questions.

        We also led prospective student tours as part of the job, and it was sad to see how overbearing parents could be. They actually trained us (the student employees) on how to frame questions so that prospective students could answer, and ways to gently tell parents to back off. And if it was a particularly invasive parent, the adult employees would jump in to distract so that the potential student could ask us questions or tell us what they truly wanted to major in. And in those conversations we got to mention FERPA, and that we wouldn’t be able to talk to their parents about their academic information!

        I really feel for kids that have to deal with this, because at 37 my parents *still* try to jump in inappropriately at times.

    7. PlainJane*

      Any way you, as a friend, could tactfully raise the issue with them in a way the kid doesn’t feel he can?

    8. ErinWV*

      Yes, this happened to me with my high school job. Once I accidentally left my jacket there, not a big deal but my wallet was in the pocket. I figured no one would touch the jacket till I retrieved it, but my mom freaked out, called my boss, and had him lock the jacket up in his office. When I came in for my next shift, I collected the jacket and said to him, “sorry my mom called.” He said, “no problem, she calls all the time.” FIRST I’D HEARD OF IT.

      By the time I was in the post-college workforce, she was on a strict information diet. Now I’m in my forties and still alive and fairly functional, and she’s chilled out considerably.

  3. Midwestern Communicator*

    Just in solidarity with the person who’s office keeps asking about baby plans – my male, well meaning manager kept telling me it was okay for me not to come back to work after my first pregnancy. It was super uncomfortable.

    I’m currently pregnant with my second, and the men in management positions above me have made incredibly awkward and inappropriate comments about my pregnancy. Comparing it to their wives pregnancies or asking what clothes fit just to name a few.

    I feel like people in general should never comment or ask about a women’s pregnancy in the workplace unless they are close colleagues.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’d go as far as to say that unless the pregnant person raises the topic first you don’t start the conversation even if you’re close workers!

    2. Ace in the Hole*

      Why do people ever think they should ask/comment on people’s reproductive plans? Especially at work?!

      The only time I’ve ever been okay with someone doing so was in a very specific context and handled very delicately. It was at an interview for a hazardous waste cleanup job… the woman interviewing me said “You’ll be exposed to chemicals at levels that are normally safe, but may be damaging to an unborn child or have unknown risks during pregnancy. Is that going to be a problem for you?”

      Not sure if it was technically legal, but I thought it was a great way to make sure applicants were informed about the risks without asking them to disclose anything too personal.

      1. ferrina*

        That’s amazing wording. It gives you information without making assumptions- kudos to that interviewer!

        1. Jen in OR*

          The interviewer was amazing, but instead of asking “Is that going to be a problem for you?” they could’ve/should’ve just stated “I just wanted to let you know in case that’s going to be a problem for you.” But really, that’s just knit-picking on my part.

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Right now, we’ve entered an era in which the state(s) think it’s just dandy to oversee, track, monitor and control women’s reproductive decisions. Why WOULDN’T some employers and colleagues assume that their co-workers’ and subordinates’ pregnancy choices and futures are up-for-grabs topics?

        Also, this is NOT a new problem! Decades ago, it was quite common for interviewers to ask about a female job applicant’s choice of birth control; the more effective, of course, the better. Now we have companies that use their company-sponsored health insurance to try to prevent employees from using – that’s right, the most effective forms of birth control! Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose… (with due apologies for leaving out the diacritical marks!)

        1. Artemesia*

          I got asked my future reproductive plans in a panel interview for a job in 1976. People still discriminate on this basis, they are just more subtle about it.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Same here, in 1985 – 88. And yes, some people just got more subtle, not enlightened Sigh.

      3. amoeba*

        Pretty sure that’s legal, at least hereabouts! I work in a chemistry lab and you definitely get asked whether you might potentially be pregnant/have to disclose as soon as you know once you’re in the job. It’s very safety-relevant and that trumps privacy, I guess…

        1. I Have RBF*

          Yep. I used to work with hazardous waste, and part of the training was the fact that some of the chemicals were dangerous for pregnant folks. We were told that if you were pregnant or trying to become pregnant you should seek reassignment to a job not working with the dangerous stuff. Yes, we had PPE, but some of it was a high enough risk that people needed to opt out if it might impact their pregnancy.

    3. Rose*

      For me this is a class of behavior that is firmly in the category of not putting in the requisite effort to be “well meaning.” I can see something like pushing you to take more leave time being well meaning.

      Telling a woman repeatedly that they can stop working now that they’ve procreated is frankly disgustingly sexist. The attitude that of course women should or will want to leave the work force once they’ve found their ~*true calling*~ of being a mother is extremely damaging to women’s careers. I’ve had plenty of girlfriends get the same comments, but amazingly never once have their husbands gotten the same. At this point I’m over labeling crappy, sexist behavior as “well meaning” just because it isn’t actively malicious. My standard for well meeting now includes taking five seconds to assess if what you’re saying is actually racist, sexist, ageist, nosy, etc. I’m personally not giving men credit for not intentionally causing harm, and I invite you all to join me.

    4. EC*

      A male boss telling a female employee to go be a housewife is extremely inappropriate. That’s not well meaning, its backwards sexism.

    5. AthenaC*

      Would it be really out of line to turn it around on them and let them know that it’s okay for THEM not to come back to work after their wives give birth? My husband is a SAHD and it works great!

  4. Medium Sized Manager*

    LW2: My deepest sympathy because it is a seemingly never-ending pit of annoyance. My husband and I don’t know that we will ever have children because of his family’s history with Huntington’s, which is a deeply personal and painful thing to discuss. My polite go-to is to just say that we haven’t decided on kids yet and cheerily change the subject. But, if I’m pressed, they get the rude answer because they are being rude.

    I’m sorry that you have to deal with this.

  5. Ellie Rose*

    the temper tantrum thing is so inappropriate and disruptive! poor LW3. definitely appropriate to speak up, and honestly it’s egregious enough and upsetting enough that I’d loop in their boss if it didn’t stop.

    1. MoxyMissi*

      LW is absolutely justified in asking the Tantrum-Haver to knock it off, and should absolutely clue in their manager. I can understand being leery about having that conversation, though, b/c odds are the Tantrum-Haver may not react well. Or best-case scenario, they didn’t realize that their internal monologue was becoming external, will be embarrassed that anyone else witnessed their tantrum, and reform their behavior accordingly!

      1. singularity*

        I thought the same thing, this is such awful behavior that this person’s manager should be informed. Heck, the LW should inform their own manager to, and talk about the customers who overheard her tantrum.

      2. Jack Russell Terrier*

        Yup – many years ago, at a university computer center far away … I was having a printing problem, while running late off course!

        I didn’t yell or use profanity, but there was a fair amount of not-so-under-my-breath muttering and stomping around.

        The staff member running the place came over and commiserated but added that I needed to temper my reaction as other people’s anger and frustration are hard to deal with. I was mortified and reigned it in.

        Funnily enough, she noticed I would always help someone out if I knew the answer to a tech difficulty – I was there so often, I knew the usual solutions – and asked me if I wanted a part time job there. So apparently that outburst hadn’t burnt all my bridges.

    2. Heidi*

      It always kind of amazes me when a LW starts with “this person is so kind and sweet,” but then goes on to describe some really not-kind and not-sweet behavior.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Right? I think screaming, swearing, and throwing things automatically bumps you out of the “kind and sweet” category. OP should definitely mention this to the boss, especially since it’s been alarming clients.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          If they aren’t directing the screaming, swearing, or throwing of things at another person in the room and are always kind and sweet when speaking directly to someone else, I can see why the OP would write that. There are perfectly nice people who have temper problems and deal with it in a way that is unacceptable, but doesn’t make them less kind.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        And also I understand being shocked the first time, but not telling her to “shut the F up” especially when it happened while the LW is on the phone.

        That temper tantrum is some banana pants behavior.

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          Yeah this would trigger my childhood abuse so severely that I don’t think I could stop from immediately shouting, “KNOCK that off NOW!!!! NEVER again!”

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I don’t confront people who are swearing, punching and throwing things. I think it’s too much of a risk while they’re in a rage that someone who punches a desk/wall will punch the person who tries yelling at them.

          Then again, I grew up in a house where the only people who yelled and threw tantrums were under the age of 7, so maybe I’m overly cautious.

      3. Lis*

        I think it’s becoming accustomed to the dysfunction, I had a boss and I’d always start stories by saying that he was a nice person except “insert what he had done to me this time” and it took my friend who had listened to way too many of these stories saying “honey, no-one who has done these things to you is a nice person, no-one who did even one of these things is a nice person” for me to start realising my friend was right.
        When he wasn’t being incredibly nasty to me he seemed kind and understanding but the second it could have caused him a potential problem (I knew his job better than he did and if he thought that would be exposed) the knives came out.

    3. e271828*

      If clients can hear the office mate yelling obscenities in the background, and this happens more than once, the boss should be looped in immediately. Why even complain to the office mate? She knows she’s yelling obscenities.

    4. Artemesia*

      Once you ask her to not do this, that your client heard it and asked and you were embarrassed and it can damage the business. Twice, it goes straight to the manager to deal with. Quirks, humming etc you cope with as best you can — tantrums so loud clients are hearing it in the background — that doesn’t happen more than once without making a big issue of it.

  6. Lucy*

    I have a friend who works for Epic Systems; last week a 20-something (with no apparent physical issues) showed up to an interview…with their mom. Came into the interview with them and everything.

    1. NeedRain47*

      Did they get sent away immediately? This is just bonkers to me that anyone thinks this is a good idea. I get that some parents try to do it sneakily but bringing them to the interview is not that.

      1. ShanShan*

        You’re underestimating the amount of control a parent like this has over their kid. My Mom did things like this to me all the way through college and I was still just barely learning to tell her “no” in grad school. I knew, every time, that it was bad an unprofessional and reflected poorly on me, but it took me a long time to gain the confidence to insist that my career was more important than her feelings. I’d been taught the opposite my entire life. A lot of kids are.

        1. NeedRain47*

          I’m so sorry that happened to you. (glad my parents just neglected me, I guess? I had zero expectations of any assistance, much less overinvolvement.)

        2. Champagne Cocktail*

          I’m so sorry that happened to you. Some parents don’t get that their kids are unique humans in their own right and not extenstions of the their parents.

          I’m glad you got the confidence to draw your boundaris

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      Why didn’t someone stop the mother from coming into the interview??? My mom came with me 2 times for a job. First was in highschool at the local grocery store and she took me there and went to get groceries. The second was because she worked there!!

      1. AngryOctopus*

        I mean, wasn’t the first her driving you to the interview because teenager, and taking advantage of where the interview was? If my mom had driven me to my CVS interview and then shopped while I interviewed, I don’t think that’s strange at all! Just combining errands!

        1. Salsa Your Face*

          I once took my stepdaughter to an interview and shopped while she met with the manager, but we purposely went in separately so no one at the store would know we came together. She needed a ride and I needed to run errands, but there’s no way I wanted to be seen as interfering with her work!

    3. Irish Teacher*

      I saw something similar at an interview once. Another candidate showed up with their dad who not only came in and sat in the waiting area with them, but started asking the principal if there was a canteen where he could go and get something to eat while he was waiting. The candidate was probably in her early twenties.

      1. Artemesia*

        My mother’s next door neighbors went from Seattle to LA to meet with their adult child’s boss, set up an apartment for her etc — The adult child stayed home and took care of the cats. They talked to her boss about the job and job expectations AND rented, furnished and stocked her apartment without her even being there.

        1. allathian*

          Did they also volunteer to do the job for her? I assume if they were setting up the apartment that she got the job. It’s a wonder she didn’t get fired before she started, but maybe the boss was a patronizing, paternalistic jerk.

    4. pally*

      Wow. So who will actually show up to do the work, I wonder. Is this position going to be a joint effort?

    5. Risha*

      I’ve always wondered what the parent’s point of this is. Like, I understand some parents are overbearing, helicopter parents. But what is the point of actually going into the interview with their kid? It’s almost like they’re purposefully trying to prevent their kid from ever getting hired. There’s no way the parent doesn’t realize this is not appropriate behavior.

      1. NeedRain47*

        This is what I wonder too. Do the parents actually think they’re helping, when their child will almost certainly fail to get a job?

      2. pally*

        My initial thought: they probably want to make sure all the questions that *ought* to be asked are asked.
        I know when I went on my first interviews (as a teenager-unaccompanied!), afterwards my parents would ask me if I had asked about things that I’d usually not thought of. Maybe some parents figure attending the interview circumvents that issue (not a good way to handle it, however). Let the kids learn the ropes themselves!

        Although with some helicopter parents, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they are in there negotiating pay, hours, duties, etc. for their child, figuring they are “protecting” them from being exploited.

      3. OyHiOh*

        My dad did this to my sister when she auditioned to get into a prestigious arts high school, follow her into the audition room. He absolutely was trying to sabotage her opportunity by making her feel nervous and not as capable (he also tried to answer questions for her!). She did not get in. He persists in feeling he was correct about her perceived lack of skill (I’m reality, a stunning, talented musician who would have thrived without his manipulation of the situation).

        Parent may present it as simply wanting to “help their kid succeed” but in my experience, “help” is code for “prove to the kid that I am right about you” and subtle sabotage.

        1. B*

          Wow that has me seeing red. Unfathomable what parents do their kids, all the while telling themselves they’re the hero.

      4. ShanShan*

        They want to feel important. For a lot of these parents, the idea that their kid/family depends on them and could never succeed without them is a big part of their identity. The idea that their kid could go off into the world and do well without needing their advice and guidance anymore is terrifying to them: much more terrifying than their kid just not succeeding at all. At least if their kid fails, it proves they’re needed.

        1. ShanShan*

          You should see some of my relatives when one of their kids buys a house, accepts a job offer, picks an insurance company, etc
          etc. etc. without consulting them first, even though those “kids” are fully employed professionals in their late thirties. We’re talking full screaming, crying meltdowns and grudges held for actual years.

        2. Orv*

          I’ve known people who essentially got trapped by parents like this and never really made it out of their orbit. It’s really sad the level of learned helplessness it creates.

      5. Sage*

        “It’s almost like they’re purposefully trying to prevent their kid from ever getting hired.”

        This is rare, but there are parents like that. If the adult children are financially dependent, they become easier to control.

    6. Veryanon*

      I’ve had job applicants show up for interviews with their entire families – husband (the applicant was almost always a married woman), mother, and children, including small babies in infant carriers. I used to suggest that the family wait outside or go to a local mall for a while. But it never failed to surprise me.

    7. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Story time: My mom came with me to an interview once by mistake.

      I was in my mid/late 20s and had flown across the country for interviews, and Mom met me there so we could hang out and make a vacation out of it. My interview was at a creative agency in a part of town we didn’t know, and we decided it would be an adventure to take transit down together and check it out. Mom planned to sit in a coffee shop during the interview then we could explore after — creative firms are often in interesting up-and-coming neighborhoods. BUT THERE WAS NOTHING. It was industrial, deserted, and a little sketchy. No cafes, no shops, definitely no cabs, and this the late 90s — no smart phones or ride share services. I don’t even think she had a cell phone yet, though I did, so meeting up if we split up was a challenge. She came into the loft with me and sat in their lounge silently. I was completely flustered but didn’t know what else to do. They seemed to understand and said it was fine, but they didn’t move forward with me and I’ve always wondered what they really thought.

    8. pagooey*

      We were too broke to travel for college admissions interviews, but my (eventual) school sent someone out to interview kids across the country, in an airport hotel. My mother barged on into the interview with me, AND COMMENTED ON OR CORRECTED MY ANSWERS. This was 35 years ago and is still in my top-ten humiliations…shudder.

      (The interviewer did not muster the will to send Mom down to the bar…but I think she took pity on me, because I got in, and got the hell out of Dodge ASAP.)

      1. Burger Bob*

        Ugh! My mom has thankfully never full on corrected my answers, but she does have a bad habit of talking for me when I’m in a conversation with someone and she feels I’m not asking the correct questions or sharing the correct information about myself, including in a couple of short meetings with college professors during college tours. It seemingly never occurs to her that maybe I didn’t ask because I already knew, or maybe I didn’t share because I wasn’t looking to share that particular information with that particular person right at that moment. She means well, but my goodness it’s grating, and all the more since it’s continued well into my adulthood.

    9. Jzilbeck*

      I saw a similar story the other day, possibly on the AITA subreddit? Someone was conducting scholarship interviews via zoom and somehow one candidate’s mother logged in and she completely hijacked the interview. Instead of the candidate sharing their greatest accomplishments, THE MOTHER kept butting in and was listing them all out in great detail. I have no idea why the interviewer waited until AFTER all of her talking to say that she needed to knock it off and leave the interview. Nobody will be shocked that she then followed up with calls and emails demanding why her precious amazing child was not selected.

      I hope I remain diligent enough to never be this kind of parent.

    10. workswitholdstuff*

      I mean, technically I went to an a couple of interviews with my mother in my late twenties – but in the context of ‘I’m interviewing for something half a days driveaway and she was my map-reader….

      But both were museums/galleries, where we walked in at the same time and she went off exploring and I went off to the interview, and met her in the site’s cafe afterwards We’d split directions no later than the reception desk if it was before the cafe.

      One of them I had a horrendous cold for and she was doing the driving. (And I’ve known others in the sector bring people along and do similar – but very clearly having nothing at all to do with the interview beyond travel-buddy to get there….)

    1. bishbah*

      Why complain about the occasional paid content when Alison makes so much available to us for free? This is her profession and she should be paid for it.

      1. wordswords*

        Inc restricts you to a certain number of free views per month (which is smaller than the number of articles of Alison’s they publish per month); after that, it’s paywalled.

        1. Indolent Libertine*

          I read AAM every day, always click through to the off-site content, and have never been prevented from seeing it or been prompted to create an account anywhere. Weird how different our experiences all seem to be, but I guess Internet gonna Internet…

          1. Michelle Smith*

            This. It is very easy to access the content and plenty of ways to bypass any account security concerns without stealing/doing things Alison does NOT want advertised here. For example, waiting until the next month ticks over to read the article or trying another browser if the popup comes up in error or creating a free email account with a provider like Google with incomplete information to use for signing up for accounts like this. It’s really very easy to view the articles in a way that gets Alison paid and doesn’t compromise personal privacy.

    2. MassMatt*

      Alison writes for a living. These articles for Inc, Slate, etc are how she gets paid. She usually posts multiple free content throughout the day.

      It’s a gift horse, and you are looking it in the mouth.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I agree, but there are plenty of ways to support AAM without subscribing to anything. Just reading the site helps with advertising, you can click her amazon links, etc..

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      You get a certain number of free reads before creating an account. And I’m all for Alison being paid for her writing!

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Then don’t. But Alison should get paid for her work. Just enjoy the other three free articles you get a day.

    4. Magpie*

      Writing for Inc is one of the ways Alison makes money for her writing, which allows her to provide so much free content on this site.

    5. Anonymous*

      I wish people would stop complaining that Alison publishes a tiny minority of her content that she publishes for free somewhere that requires people to log in so that she can actually get paid for it. And this is all letters that have been released entirely for free here already!

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Seriously. We get tons of writing from Alison every week day and she moderates our extensive comments; other advice columnists post maybe once or twice a week (or, in the case of Captain Awkward lately, once or twice a month if we’re lucky, no more comments).

        And the Inc posts are letters that we can look up in the archives if we *really* want to read a response from Alison. Frankly, if I’m out of free articles on Inc, I can usually glean what the advice was just from the comments here anyway.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      I actually think it’s astonishingly generous there’s so much free content to read on there. We already get enough free content here.

    7. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      As others have said, Alison has bills to pay too.

      Also, these are reprints, and labeled as such. So if your budget is tight, this isn’t where I’d spend my subscription dollars–I’d use them for new content, which might be Alison’s articles on a different website.

  7. Mom2ASD*

    Honestly, I think that employers should be telling the PARENTS that their interference is going to harm their kid’s chances at the role.

    I mean, I get it – there is nothing I would rather do than advocate for my kid who has ASD with potential employers. He’s an awkward penguin, but he has skills, a good work ethic, he’s reliable, etc. etc. And he keeps losing out on roles because employers can’t see past the fact that he doesn’t make eye contact.

    BUT, I know it won’t do any good, and that he has to make his own way. All I can do is provide support and coaching in the background.

    1. Lobsterman*

      There are two types of parents who do this: the deluded and the abusive. Neither would be much deterred.

    2. AgainstHypocrisy*

      You should be able to advocate for your kid, and I hope the toxic norm that considers that something to be frowned upon can be dismantled.

      The number and frequency of advocates, experts, third parties, etc. that employers use make it incredibly hypocritical for them to look down upon anyone else for having those same resources.

  8. ShanShan*

    As I do every time this topic ones up, I want to mention that “helicopter parenting” is very often coercive, if not outright abusive, and the kids might have little knowledge of and/or control over what their parents do.

    1. Risha*

      I just wish more people would realize it. I grew up with parents like that (esp my mom). Very helicoptery, but not in a way to guide me, more in a way to embarrass me and ensure I’d be the laughing stock of anywhere I went with her. Often times, a young adult has no idea this is not normal behavior from the parent. Or if they do, they may not know how to stop it or push back on it.

      I like the script of letting the employee know their parent is calling, and maybe also let them know it’s not really appropriate for the parent to handle their employment for them. For interviews where the parent wants to come in, if I were the interviewer, I would just say that I can only speak with the applicant, no one else. Personally, I would not hold it against a young adult if their parent came to the interview with them. Because just like you said, this type of helicopter parenting is usually coervice/abusive and the applicant may not know what to do.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Personally, I would not hold it against a young adult if their parent came to the interview with them. Because just like you said, this type of helicopter parenting is usually coercive/abusive and the applicant may not know what to do.


        If the kid is economically dependent on the parent, using the fact that their parent came with them to knock them out of consideration may be exactly what the parent wants to “prove” that they are the only one who cares for/wants their kid. Refusing to interact with the parent but interviewing the kid anyway may a) get you a very good worker, and b) help break the kid free. Yes, it’s a bit extra to deal with the helicopter parent, and some folks don’t have time for that, but if you are in the habit of hiring young folks anyway, you can make a big difference in their life helping them to be an independent adult.

  9. Kelly*

    I got married in my 40’s and still asked when I’m having kids. It blew my mind. Also another coworker had to be stopped before asking if I would like pregnancy massage (he does it on the side) when I’M NOT PREGNANT. Stop asking.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Late 40s here and I still get ‘it’s not too late!’ comments. Worst was trying to convince the doctors to do the hysterectomy I needed (have got it done now) because all the way up to 40 I got ‘you’re too young to make such a permanent decision, what if you regret not having children?’

      Dear people of the world: stop assuming anyone with a uterus will be using it for reproduction. And definitely keep your nose out of it.

      1. Kacihall*

        my mother in law wants her 22-yr-old granddaughter to get a hysterectomy. I laughed in her face. even with 3 kids, the number of doctors who would even consider it for an otherwise healthy young adult are close to zero. I got the condescending ‘you might want more!’ when I asked for my tunes tied or a hysterectomy after a very rough pregnancy (I was 28 and just post partum the first time i asked; 32 the next time) . No health reasons given, just that I might want more kids. I don’t the energy for that fight right now, so as long as long term BC is legal in my state I’m not pushing it.

        but my niece isn’t going to get one even if she wants it.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Yeah, not going to happen lol. I have had major reproductive issues for well over a decade and hysterectomy wasn’t something a doctor would even talk to me about as an option until recently. I’m 35. I’ve had other, less “extreme” (I’m not sure what word to use…dramatic doesn’t fit…less severe?) surgeries on my uterus over the years to try and address the issues and the recovery time has ranged from a week to 3 months for the most invasive one. I’m no longer interested in hysterectomy except as a last resort because I’m aware now of how involved the recovery process will be and because my doctor is still optimistic about other treatments tiding me over until menopause. I cannot imagine this procedure will be available to someone who is perfectly healthy just because…their grandma wants them to get it?

      2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Honestly, I wish there was some way I could just *donate* mine to someone who wants it. Because I would like very much to no longer have it, and I know there are people who want kids and can’t because of medical reasons that a shiny new uterus/etc. would probably alleviate.

        1. Iain C*

          I genuinely thought you meant your skyway existing child right up to the last sentence…

      3. Sage*

        Funny how they never ask about regretting to have children. Because this happens too. Plus having children is the biggest change.

    2. Rainy*

      I married Mr Rainy when I was in my early 40s (and he was in his early 30s) and about five months later one of my colleagues (who I saw almost daily) ran into me outside our building and asked me when Mr Rainy and I would be “starting our family” and I was like “Aroo?” Because, like, we did? We’re a family? She clarified “I mean have you started trying for kids” and I said, “Oh, no, we’re not having kids” and she *corrected me*. “You mean you don’t *intend* to have children.” I was like, uh, no, we are absolutely not going to have kids.

      1. Rainy*

        Which is still better than when Mr Rainy’s cousin asked him at our wedding if I was pregnant yet and he was like no, we aren’t planning children (so much nicer than I would have been) and his cousin said “Oh, you don’t plan for children, they just happen!”

        My dude, we know what causes it now and also how to stop it.

        1. starsaphire*

          “Oh, but enough about my sex life, Aunt Betty; let’s talk about yours. So have you ever tried…”

      2. Michelle Smith*

        Horrifying. I would be way too embarrassed to ask a work colleague if they are having unprotected, birth control-free sex with their spouse and whether either of them are infertile. That would be way more information than I should be privy too, let alone feel entitled to!

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      You’d think a benefit of being 50 is aging out of comments about how it’s not too late, but nope. It’s the only time i mind people mistakenly believing i’m much younger than I am.

      1. Jam on Toast*

        Ooh, I feel this! I look young, and because I married quite young, I had children before many of my peers (I was 25 and 28). Mr. Jam and I are at least a decade younger than all of my kid’s friends. Twenty+ years of nudges, ‘friendly’ queries about being ‘done’ with kiddos, and speculative side eye every time I get the stomach flu. It’s exhausting.

  10. Peanut Hamper*

    #1: Since you know this is a thing that happens, why not add that to your application materials?

  11. DivergentStitches*

    Dang, how do people who throw full-on temper tantrums in office settings have jobs? I got “talked to” once for slightly forcefully slapping a stack of papers onto a desk in frustration.

    1. Artemesia*

      Amazing isn’t it. The temper tantruming co-worker would be gone the second time that happened if I were the boss.

    2. A person*

      I work in manufacturing. It’s pretty common there but in an office job I can’t imagine it going over well…

  12. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I agree with Alison – there really needs to be a funded plan for stopping people from making personal comments or questions about other peoples reproductive status or choices.

    I’m childfree and over 40 and the amount of times I’ve had ‘you’ll change your mind’ or ‘your biological clock is ticking’ or predictions that I’ll be the next pregnant person in the office is beyond my ability to count.

    I can’t have kids anyway due to health problems! Let alone the tokaphobia.

    People think they’re being nice making these assumptions but as we see in this letter it can hurt an incredible amount. After one too many ‘you’ll change your mind’ comments one day I actually did snap and say something really crude in response. That wasn’t professional at all.

    1. Misshapen Pupfish*

      Similar for me, I’m in my thirties now but childfree, sterilized, and tokophobic. I’m deeply uncomfortable talking about ANYONE’S pregnancy, let alone when people ask me these questions. I don’t seem to face much of it myself anymore, maybe it’s because I’m single now or I just have an aura of “shouldn’t have children” but I wish there was a universal prohibition on this line of sensitive/extremely personal questioning unless someone clearly invites it.

    2. Miss Muffet*

      I was a newlywed when I started this one job (many many moons ago) and i had a colleague who was maybe only 3 or so years older than me constantly on me about when I was going to have kids. I was like, well not for a while but also we’re adopting (because that was our plan and the reasons why are none of her business) and she kept saying, You’ll change your mind. I was like, since when do you know my mind better than me?

    3. Orange You Glad*

      One of my co-workers (30s) got married not long after starting with our company. Ever since then one of our other co-workers (60s) has been concerned that we have to plan for whenever she might go out on maternity leave because obviously, she’ll be having kids soon. I just keep thinking “Is it obvious?”. She said in the past she didn’t plan on having kids.

      It’s now been 8 years and this co-worker has not had any children. She and her husband just sold their house and moved to an apartment in NYC so I doubt having them anytime soon is on the horizon but also it’s none of my business so I don’t dwell on it.

  13. Cookie Monster*

    Don’t wait for her to throw another tantrum before saying something – if you do, she won’t be in a place where she can take in any kind of feedback like that. You’ll have to say something when she’s calm and basically in a good mood.

  14. Jiminy Cricket*

    I can’t believe this needs to be said in 2023, but never, ever, ever inquire or speculate as to the current, future, or past state of another person’s uterus. Just stop.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      “Uterus” is the key word here. This kind of behavior is rarely ever directed at men.

      Mind your own business, people.

      1. not a hippo*

        Weirdly when I was married, my ex husband was the one getting all the “so when are you gonna have kids??” questions. I guess I gave off a “don’t fucking ask me about my personal life or I’ll push you face first into the cricket bin” vibe or something because no one at my job ever asked me.

        1. Burger Bob*

          Same. My husband has had several people do the whole, “You’ll change your mind” routine at him, or–our personal “favorite”–“Kids are the best part of life and your life is incomplete without them.” I rarely get any comments of the like. But I do give off a less friendly vibe than he does. XD

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Yep, be they male, female, non binary, if they have a uterus it is none of your business!

      1. Jerusha*

        To add to your point, Keymaster:

        Also not anyone’s business: whether a particular person currently has or has ever had a uterus! Nothing regarding people’s genitourinary anatomy or physiology is public business! Original configuration, modifications, current status, functionality, occupancy, none of it.

    3. semicomposed*

      this. it shouldn’t matter what my reasons are for never having kids, it’s literally no one else’s business. luckily I work with people who know that it’s inappropriate to ask anyone that, but if/when it does come up again, I feel like I’m going to end up throwing my hands in the air, yelling something like “In this economy?!” and then probably just leave the room entirely because ugh.

  15. Fikly*

    Key question:

    Are the applicants asking the parents to call, or are the parents calling and saying that their children asked them to call? My guess is that in the majority of cases, it’s the latter, but regardless, the way it needs to be handled by the applicants is different, and you need to start by letting them know the parents called, rather than assuming that the applicants asked.

  16. Just me*

    I would bet that the students either have no idea the parent is doing this or has given up trying to get them to butt out because it’s a futile effort. These kind of parents are usually the ones who WON’T LET their kids work out their own problems. If you’ve never been a member of a college parent group, you should join one. You will be shocked at the number of parents who want to solve their child’s issues (roommate, professor, food, basic life skills, etc). My children have always thanked me for forcing them (at times when they didn’t want to) to handle their own issues. I would give suggestions to them as to how I would handle it but they ultimately had to pick the way they wanted to handle it.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      That’s why LW should tell the student–that gives them the chance to say “Oh no, I was hoping they wouldn’t do this, but here we are. Please know I didn’t and would never ask them to call on my behalf unless I’m very ill or had an accident.” That way you know that this isn’t on the student, but also that the student has tried to send the “I got this” message but it’s not getting through.

      1. Just me*

        Yes! That kind of reply is awesome but unfortunately they need someone to help guide them to this statement and we all know it’s not going to be the parent. I wish high school would teach this but I have seen first hand what happens when teachers teach things like this at this level. The parents get mad, raises a stink with administration and then the teachers are told to stop. I would love to see employers tell the parents “your call will only get your child put in the ‘do not hire’ pile because we don’t want to have to deal with you”.

        1. ShanShan*

          It won’t help. The parent will just decide the employers are mean, unreasonable people and come away convinced they helped their child dodge a bullet.

          Total silence is the only way to go.

          1. ShanShan*

            Like, trust me: anything you actually say to a person like this is going to get folded into whatever weird narrative they’re spinning in their heads.

      2. Samwise*

        I;ve said to students, “Your mom/dad called me…” and all too often the student responds, “I.m really sorry”

    2. Veryanon*

      I deliberately did not join any parents’ groups at the colleges my children attended. I will offer advice if asked and will provide a listening ear, but I will not jump in to solve problems.

  17. I should really pick a name*

    For number 3, I’d advise talking to a manager, not the coworker.
    Throwing things is where I draw the line at talking to the person directly.

    1. allathian*

      Throwing things, hitting things, invading my personal space in a threatening way, it’s above my pay grade to handle myself, all of it.

  18. Irish Teacher*

    While it’s not really something you can do much about, I wonder how many “have” their parents make the call versus how many are parents calling without their son or daughter’s knowledge. The sort of parent who would do this is often the sort who also assumes that their child telling them not to is one more instance of their child not understanding professional norms and needing them to do it for them, even behind their backs.

    1. Anon in Canada*

      True, which is why a first instance of this should never be held against the employee or candidate. Unless the reason for the call was to call out when the employee is unable to do so themselves (the only case where this is acceptable) the employer needs to give a very stern talking to to the parent, and inform the employee (or candidate) of the events.

      Then the employee can tell the employer that this happened without their knowledge or consent, and tell the parent to butt out.

  19. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    #3 – really tempting to do a slight head tilt, put on one’s best pre-k teacher voice and say, “Do you need a juice box or a nap?”

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      To be fair, I would like both of those things and I do not have temper tantrums at work.

      1. Panicked*

        Not once in my professional life has someone asked me to finger paint a picture of my family and that is just a gross injustice! Never gave me graham crackers and apple juice either…

    2. HonorBox*

      This reminds me, in a good way, of a former boss. I’m diabetic and get a little grumpy at times if my blood sugar gets low, so if I got grumpy about something – a client not signing their contract in time for their ad to run, for instance – she would just ask me if I needed a piece of candy. It was always done with playful concern.

  20. HonorBox*

    For LW3 – I think that sort of escalated angry outburst not only should be addressed directly, but potentially with your boss. There is ZERO reason to throw things in the office. What if something that was company property was damaged. What if something broke and injured you? And while I love a good four letter bomb, there is a time and place for it. Your boss should know that not only are you subjected to the outbursts, but your customers have overheard them too. That’s fully unprofessional and someone above you needs to address it.

  21. Sunflower*

    The public humming and temper tantrums both sound like someone who’s somehow unregulated in their actions. Like the barrier between feeling and doing is more permeable.

  22. BellyButton*

    Temper Tantrum lady needs to be told now to knock it off. Not only is it childish and unprofessional, it can also be really triggering to people have experienced violence. Someone yelling, banging on things, and throwing things would at best make me shut down, at worst spiral me into a PTSD episode.

  23. Risha*

    I wish any talk of kids/family would stop in the work setting. I feel for those who cannot or don’t want to have children, and the comments they face from so many people. Work is work, and personal issues really don’t belong there. It’s really no one’s business why a person may not want to have kids.

    I have 6 kids. When I’ve told people that, I get looks of astonishment. Or people will say nonsense like “wow, I bet you get no sleep at all”, or “how do you even find time to work”. My favorite was when some woman at work said to me that she hopes I’m done having kids because I already have so many. I did not take that comment well and let her know very clearly that’s absolutely none of her damn business. She got offended with me for shutting her down! Idk why people at work need to even concern themselves with coworkers’ private lives (I’ve never asked about someone’s family status at work). Then if you refuse to answer those questions, you’re seen as rude and not a team player.

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I can think of people who might be justified in saying they don’t think you should have more children, but they don’t include your co-workers.

      Heck, if your medical staff thought another pregnancy was medically unwise, they should say that–because it could be true, or not, about a person with six children, or two, or zero.

      1. Risha*

        Yeah, pretty much the only people that should say would be medical staff. No one else should ever have express an opinion on how many kids someone has. They need to keep it to themselves.
        And the woman that said it to me meant it in an insulting way, not even in a concerned way (not that it would be any different)

      2. Hannah Lee*

        A friend (Ann) of my mother’s got a visit from one of her nieces (Jane) on her husband (Bob)’s side. Jane wanted to know why Ann had had so many children, because didn’t she see how having so many kids was ruining Uncle Bob’s life? How could she be so selfish?

        It was bizarre that Jane thought this was any of her business. After she got over the shock of the audacity and the question, Ann managed to point out a) it was absolutely none of Jane’s business and b) if Jane was so fired up about it, she should go ask her Uncle Bob, since he was just as responsible for making all those kids as Ann was.

        What is it with people thinking they get a vote in other people’s reproductive choices?

    2. NYAnon*

      Not just in a work setting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people ask, “don’t you want to try for a girl?” IN FRONT OF MY TWO BOYS.

      And this was after going through infertility for 2 years with my first, then as soon as he was born people asked me when we were going to have another… then the girl comments and/or questions about yet another kid. We never planned to have a third child, but it would have been painful if we did want that, since I got cancer & was advised not to get pregnant again.

      Now I’m in my mid 40s and the kids are teen/tween so people don’t ask anymore, but geez. Enough! I don’t think I’ve ever even asked these kinds of questions to my very closest friends, unless they raised the subject first.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah…people have (thankfully) pretty much stopped asking me about when I’m having children (the noise was CONSTANT in my late 20s/30s when I was going to lots of friends’ weddings, and there would always be that ‘Are you married? No? Oh. Any kids? Oh, well, there’s still time!!’ person – and then what do you do? Smile and nod and seethe internally, and let them carry on believing all women are just mothers-in-waiting? Or say ‘Oh, actually I’m not planning on having children’ and inevitably get into a ‘What? But you’re still young! Plenty of time! Clock will start ticking soon! You’ll end up with a brood, I’m sure! It’ll be the making of you!’ conversation?) but my sister has one child and doesn’t plan to have any more, and the number of people who make comments about how Nephew is growing up and wouldn’t it be nice for him to be a big brother, or ‘but don’t you want to try for a girl?’ or ‘it’s a shame when children don’t have siblings to play with’. STOP IT.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, I’m glad I’m 51 and my son’s a teen, so the questions about when we’re going to try for a sibling for him have finally stopped. I was 33 when I met my husband, the only man I’ve ever dated that I even considered having kids with, 36 when I got pregnant the first cycle we tried, which I definitely didn’t expect. Even though our son was a fairly easy baby to care for who rarely cried without an obvious reason, he was about 3 before I was willing to try for another because I knew that there was no guarantee a second baby would be as easy to care for, and I was already exhausted by caring for ours. Then I had two first-trimester miscarriages and we decided to stop trying, and after the second miscarriage the nosy questions finally stopped, although I did have to mention the miscarriages a few times for the questions to stop. I was 44 at the time.

        It’s like the expected norm for heterosexual cisgender couples is two kids, one of each. Those of my friends who have managed that pretty much never got any questions about their reproductive choices. But when one friend who had a son and a daughter got pregnant for the third time, some people wondered why (yes, really). When she got pregnant for the fourth time, people asked her if the pregnancy was unplanned (yes, really). It’s like the only time it’s acceptable, or even expected, to try for more than two kids is if those kids are the same sex and you’re supposed to have at least one of each.

        It’s way past time we stopped questioning other people’s reproductive choices or circumstances (infertility isn’t a choice).

        My sister’s childfree by choice, in a committed monogamous relationship but she and her guy don’t live together although they do live in the same city so it’s not exactly an LDR, either. She told me that she was so happy that people finally seemed to stop questioning her choice when she was about 45.

        I’m so grateful that I’ve had great managers and coworkers who don’t ask intrusive questions. All the questions I got were from nosy relatives, mostly on my husband’s side of the family. And it was really weird that they always directed the questions at me rather than my husband, often when he wasn’t close enough to me to be included in the conversation.

  24. Former Retail Lifer*

    As a retail manager in a mall for many years, I dealt with so many parents checking up on their kid’s application, complaining about their kid’s schedule, calling off on their kid’s behalf…

    Every time, I’d say we can’t discuss employee matters with anyone other than the employee. Parents sometimes got mad because their kid was a minor. I had to hold firm that I could not share employee information with anyone, even a parent. They usually wouldn’t try it more than once or twice more before realizing I meant it and so did any other manager there.

    1. Anon in Canada*

      I used to work at a bank, and one father got mad at me because I wouldn’t give him information on his daughter’s account, “because she was a minor”.

      If a child is under 12, yes, the parent can always access their child’s account. If the child is 12+, the parent can only access it if the file says “X and Y are authorized signers”, which in this case it didn’t.

      Just because a child is a minor doesn’t mean that the parent can always act on their behalf.

      In your case though, calling off on behalf of someone else (not necessarily a minor) can be a necessity if the person is physically unable to do so themselves. Calling to inquire on someone else’s application is never okay.

      1. Empress Ki*

        How can a minor have an account without their parents’ consent ? Aren’t the parents legally responsible of the use of this account ?

        1. Anon in Canada*

          In Canada, the minimum age to have a bank account independently of parents is 12. This could be different from one country to another.

          You need to be of the age of majority (18 or 19, depending on province) to have a credit product under your name (like overdraft protection), but a bank account is not a credit product.

          I opened an account at a new bank at 12 and my parents never had any involvement in it.

        2. Anon in Canada*

          Actually you gave me the idea to look up this information – Canada only has 6 retail banks so it was easy to look up – and it’s a matter of bank policy. 3 (including the one I worked at) set the minimum age for opening account without parental involvement at 12, 2 set it at 13 and one sets it at 14. It seems to be a matter of bank policy rather than law.

        3. Anonymous*

          I’m sure it varies depending on a lot of factors, but at the bank I work for at least, anyone under 18 only needs one other person over 18 as a joint owner in order to open an account. It’s often a kid plus both parents, but is also frequently the kid plus just one parent, or a grandparent, or older siblings, or some combination, etc. Just because someone is a parent doesn’t mean they have the kid’s best interests in mind, after all. Same goes for spouses or adult kids, though of the three groups it always seems to be spouses that get the most upset when I won’t give them information for an account they’re not on.

          (Not to mention: I have no way of knowing if the person I’m talking to is actually who they say they are! I can’t exactly look into a crystal ball and go “Ah yes, this is definitely Joe Smith’s parent/spouse/child/etc, and he’s definitely fine with them knowing his current balances/making a withdrawal/etc.”)

          1. Anon in Canada*

            Canada seems to be very different from many other countries (including the US) on this issue.

    2. Sage*

      Thanks for standing firm. Probably most parents are just being overprotective, but unfortunately, abusive parents are a thing.

    3. Empress Ki*

      Even if a their kid was a minor ? That surprises me. In my country, a minor needs parents consent to have a job.

      1. Former Retail Lifer*

        It can vary by state here in the US, but in Ohio they don’t need a work permit if they’re over 16 and there hasn’t been a need for parental consent in any of the handful of states I’ve lived in (but I can’t speak for the rest of the country).

  25. not a hippo*

    I knew someone who would tell people “well it’s either I get pregnant & die or I stay alive” when asked about kids.

    But no one should have to defend their decisions about their bodies.

  26. Veryanon*

    Years ago, I worked in HR for a retail company and received a call from a parent of a part time employee who was also a college student. Apparently the employee wanted to report an issue with her manager. I explained politely to the parent that I could not speak to them about any employment issues concerning their adult daughter, and that the employee really needed to contact me herself. The parent (her father) became very rude and confrontational, and started berating me by telling me that his daughter was soooooo busy between her school and working that she had no time to call anyone. I again reiterated that I would need to speak with her directly and told him that she could call me from the store the next time she was working, especially so that we could make sure she was paid for the time. He yelled “Eff you, I’m contacting the CEO!” and hung up.
    He did not, in fact, contact the CEO and the employee quit shortly thereafter.

  27. gen text*

    Actually talking to anyone by phone, much less someone they don’t know, is incredibly intimidating to the current generation of youngsters to the point that they will sacrifice opportunities if they can’t do things by text. I work at a university and have seen students actually screw up their lives in major ways because they won’t. just. call.

    I’m not disregarding any of the above comments, but I suspect that a portion of the parents calling are doing so because their children won’t communicate by phone on their own and, as we know, business norms are not necessarily text-friendly. So it’s a self-deselection process really. I encourage all parents reading this to work on the telephone soft-skills with their children that so many clearly lack in this day and age.

    1. Anon in Canada*

      There may be some situations that fit what you describe, but I don’t think they’re super common.

      Many “old” people don’t realize that a lot of processes that used to be done by phone are now done online, or through email, or through other non-phone communication channels. When I was younger (late 2000s/early 2010s), my mom MADE me make phone calls that in retrospect were highly embarrassing and may have hurt me. It didn’t occur to her that the communication channels had changed from 20+ years prior. She has long ceased provide me outdated job-related advice, but this attitude still occasionally shows up, like when she threw a tantrum because I booked a hotel room online instead of calling.

      1. Beard Business*

        There’s another side effect to this insistence on phone use. My 70-something dad recently saw a scam internet ad that said his computer was infected and he should call Microsoft at some phone number. This seemed normal to him – *of course* Microsoft would want him to call to fix it.

        So, he called, followed their instructions, and downloaded ransomware that trashed all his data. Luckily my mom called in the middle of his conversation with them, and I was able to get him off the phone before he handed over any passwords or financial info. I explained to him that, no, tech companies actually don’t want you to call them, because having a billion customers means that phone calls aren’t really reasonable.

    2. ShanShan*

      Where are you getting the idea that current business norms aren’t text friendly?

      I’m in my late thirties, literally can’t remember the last time I had an important work interaction over the phone or face to face. It happens perhaps once a year. Nearly all of my work communication takes place through email, text, or Slack.

      1. ShanShan*

        I will grant that a couple of Zoom meetings are on the list, but they’re still a tiny proportion of my work communication compared to what’s done in writing.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          The norms for you and your industry are not universal though. I could not do my job, at all, without many virtual calls (whether on the phone or Zoom) and in-person interactions. The only work-related texts I ever get are automated from Microsoft or Google giving me the code I need to sign into my email accounts and OneDrive/Google Drive. Having phone skills is still valuable for a lot of people. It’s not just work either. There are some customer service interactions that have to occur over the phone. I’ve reached out to places via email to hire them to do work in my home and I routinely receive a message in response with their phone number to give them a call. My insurance company only provides support via phone. Etc. Etc.

      2. Anon in Canada*

        Yes, there are far more situations where making a call used to be appropriate, but no longer is, than situations matching gen text’s description.

        Most business calls nowadays are scheduled and done through Teams or Zoom rather than through a phone number.

    3. gen text*

      Y’all are talking about workers who are already in the system. These younger folks are outsiders who are applying to be in a low-level service job. They are not on your slack channels or having a zoom meeting with the company that is hiring to staff “festivals, conventions, and sporting events”. Yeah, there might be a text option for a lot of customer service businesses, but not necessarily for their employment office or HR. And I’m making the broader point that at times, a call IS the fastest/best/required way to communicate. For goodness sake, there are still federal offices that require paperwork to be faxed; processes don’t get updated everywhere by everyone at the same rate. People still need to know how to use a phone and it is a skill that is lacking for younger people.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        Pointing out that “phone skills” are lacking in a lot of young people is one thing. But considering how oblivious many “old” folks are to evolving processes, I think there’s a much higher likelihood that a parent will provide bad advice in the form of recommending a call when one is inappropriate (e.g., “why don’t you call businesses X, Y and Z and ask if they’re hiring?”, “you need to call to follow up on your application!” or “cold call to network!”) than there is of a parent actually being right that a particular situation still warrants a call when the young person is resisting making one.

    4. obleighvious*

      Uh, no? My niblings (16-24) have picked up their phones and called businesses, strangers, etc. on many occasions with no problem, in some cases even on my behalf because *I* (in my 40s) or their mom are the ones with phone anxiety. Let’s not paint everyone with the same brush, please.

    5. Burger Bob*

      It’s not always to do with being in the “current generation of youngsters.” Some people just have phone phobia. I’m one of them. It’s a thing. I know it’s stupid. My husband (exact same age) doesn’t have it at all. He couldn’t care less about making phone calls. Meanwhile if I have to make a phone call in my personal life, I will often delay it as long as possible, and when I can’t put it off any longer, I will have to give myself a mental pep talk first. I realize it’s stupid. But sometimes a thing just gives you anxiety, and if you don’t have any reason to force yourself to do it on the regular, it will continue to do so.

  28. Empress Ki*

    I can understand that a young applicant without professional experience may believe it’s okay to have their parents involved. But the parents ? At their age they should know better.

  29. Good Enough For Government Work*

    LW2 – I’m so sorry. I’m mid-thirties and very happily childfree, but when I’m asked this stuff I will always give the most embarrassing/rudest/TMIish answer I can come up with (or get away with), in hopes of putting these idiots off asking someone they’ll actually hurt.

  30. Just*

    Temper Tantrum’s boss should be dealing with this violent behavior. Personally, I recommend starting with HR. I also recommend refusing to share an office with someone who has unpredictable, violent outbursts.

    I realize LW might not feel able to do this.

  31. Dragon_Dreamer*

    I know someone whose mother, once informed that it could hurt his chances of being employed, went out of her WAY to do so. Every chance she got, she was trying to contact his employers. She got him fired from more than a few jobs.

    I want to say that he was able to get her to stop, or get employers to ignore her, but it only ended when she died. Her goal was to keep him dependent on her. >.<

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Honestly, I think there ought to be resources and advice publicized about how to handle this kind of situation as an employer from a domestic violence lens, if there aren’t already. It’s not intimate partner violence, but it’s absolutely still family violence and abuse to try and control a child this way and I think workplaces need to be equipped to support people in the same way they would if it had been his spouse trying to sabotage and control him.


    My son just had this happen at a career fair for a federal prison. Seriously, a 27-year-old brought his parents with him to fill out the application. That’s who I want running a housing unit with convicted killers. Sigh

  33. Freckles47431*

    My son just had this happen at a career fair for a federal prison. Seriously, a 27-year-old brought his parents with him to fill out the application. That’s who I want running a housing unit with convicted killers. Sigh

  34. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    My mom insisted on coming with me (and staying, for much of it), when I was touring my grad school of choice. Already accepted, just getting information.

    I was only 21 at the time as I’d graduated undergrad early, and was living with my parents, working, and using one of their cars at the time.

    I argued that I should go alone, no one else would have a parent there, it made me look bad, etc. But, she had the house and the car and the power. Big argument, then she finally said that I would not be allowed to drive to the city an hour away to do the tour and intro. So it was either she comes with, or I couldn’t go at all, period.

    Of course she was the only parent there. Luckily she left me alone for a meeting, and I apologized there and said she had forced me into it.

  35. Catabouda*

    Not work related, but helicopter parent related. I work at a college. The calls I have received over the years from parents have become increasingly demented.

    This year, I kid you not, a parent called to demand I go to the dorm room of her student to wake him up so that he didn’t miss the deadline to get tickets for the graduation ceremony. No ma’am. I will not be entering the dorm room of a student to wake them up.

    She said he won’t pick up his phone, his RA keeps hanging up on her, and campus security had already checked on him and he was fine so they weren’t willing to go back again.

    She kept calling random numbers she found on the college’s website to try to get someone to help her. I’m pretty sure she probably was going to call the local PD next.

  36. Mica's Mom*

    I had a coworker who used a slur as an expletive. It clearly wasn’t being used the negative way, more as a substitute of the f-word, so I overlooked it. I later heard another coworker say the next time they heard that word come from the first coworker, they would say something. I preemptively said something to the first coworker who promptly stopped using that word.

    Looking back now, I should have said what I said sooner and will in the future. Oddly this coworker’s office was right next to their boss and my office was down the hall. Sound travels funny apparently.

    In another incident, an assistant of a long-time employee/big wig at the office used a slur (not the same one) in a story they were telling me in reference to a group, of which their boss was a known member. I

  37. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    During the period after my sister had my niece, but before she had her second child, she would say something along the lines of “Well, I don’t normally discuss my sex life but if you REALLY want to know…” It always led to the questuoner hastily changing the subject. >)

Comments are closed.