updates: my coworker brought 7 plus-ones, weighing food at a business lunch, and more

Welcome to “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! Between now and the end of the year, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

1. My coworker brought seven plus-one’s to a work party

I’m the letter-writer whose colleague, “Pam,” brought four kids, her husband, her nanny, and her mother-in-law to a work gathering. The advice to let it go as a weird one-off was spot on. We’ve since had two more gatherings, and Pam missed one but came to the other alone.

Since some commenters asked: my original invitation specified that kids were welcome because the person receiving the award is a single parent, and we wanted her to know she could bring her son if she wanted even though the venue was a bar and grill.

At a recent (unrelated) work event, Pam brought two of her kids. She ended up venting to me about the fact that her mother-in-law moved in with her family to help with child care, but hasn’t lived up to her end of the bargain. That probably has something to do with the first gathering turning into the Pam Family Reunion.

2. I don’t want to start a business with my mom

First, I would like to thank Alison for publishing my letter and the response given and for all the commenters who gave me extremely helpful advice and consolation.

I did go to the meeting with the lawyer my sister recommended, I don’t know all the legal jargon so my sister took care of most of that, but the outcome was that the document I signed to be director was nullified and the lawyer suggested I send a message to my mum prior to any legal action taken, so as to not bombard her with legal documents. I spoke with her, explained how I don’t think I can fulfill the role she expects me to fulfill, how I don’t have a single clue on how to run a business, and how I’m extremely busy with film school.

She took it surprisingly well at first, or so I thought. She said she understood and that she was sorry for putting all of this on me while I’m still “so young and barely aware of how the world works” (her words, I know). She said she’ll take my name off the company. Given her previous record of lying, I told her that I can’t take her word for it so I’ll have the lawyer contact her with a contract nullifying document that she has to sign. I didn’t expect her to take this particular piece of information too well, and as expected, she didn’t. She passive aggressively texted me “okay…” and a few days later sent a very long message to the family group chat saying she wants no part of this family anymore, we all take her for granted and treat her like trash, all she’s ever done is care for us and try and make our lives better, and that she’s trying her best but she can’t be the “mother you want me to be.”

That was nearly a year ago, she seems to be doing alright now, no more talk of starting a new business with any of her kids. I don’t know what came of the flour milling company situation as I asked her to not tell me about it because I don’t want to have that bias against my father, and I’d rather remain blissfully ignorant on that front.

3. My employees constantly interrupt me and I can’t focus

To clarify, I run a small electronics manufacturing business. We fluctuate between 10-15 people, depending on quarterly workload. That said, the assembly and test procedures, I feel, are very thoroughly documented. I have, in my estimation, spent tens of thousands of dollars on documentation efforts, in terms of paying salary to people to write said procedures, take detailed step-by-step photos, make CAD drawings, etc.

Every step of every product now has detailed instructions. It is like building a Lego kit. I realized my frustration came from the fact that some people could do everything perfectly after their first day of training, while others, no matter how many times I had to explain things, the same questions kept coming up over and over.

I am getting closer to age 40 every day. The older I get, the less patience I have, unfortunately, and I’ve had to take a more abrasive tone. I am not proud to write this, but I have to say it has worked for the most part.

First, I established office hours. Since people arrive by 8:30, by 9 am I think it is reasonable to expect everyone to have settled in and know what they are expected to do for the day. I told everyone after 9 am, you can email me throughout the day and if I am free, then I will reply. Otherwise, it will need to wait until tomorrow. And if you are really stuck, then you have to go home early. I cannot hold your hands anymore because I am not getting my own work done.

For a while, if someone approached me, I would say “hold on a minute” and just keep working until I was at a stopping point. Then my response was “what have you done so far to solve this problem on your own?” Most people “got it” after a few times. For others, I had to just cut them off and say, “I’m busy now” or “ask X, he’s your supervisor.”

I had a couple of people who I had to tell them flat-out, “Part of your job is referencing and following the procedures. If I need to backtrack and do your job for you, then I don’t need you here.” Most of them understood and have stepped up. A few of them did leave. My stress level has dropped, and my productivity has increased.

In conclusion, I had to shift my personality from being overly helpful to being more of a “tough love” approach. It was uncomfortable but over time it ended up being for the better.

4. Would it be strange to weigh my food at a business lunch? (#2 at the link)

I went to the restaurant with a scale, intending to bite the bullet but luckily I didn’t need to!

My boss went to the bathroom when it was time to order and I used that time to ask the waitress if the kitchen could weigh the steak I was going to order. They weighed my six oz (at least I have to believe they did :)) and I didn’t eat anything else!

I try my best to avoid situations with formal sit down meals for work, as I’m not expecting it to work out like this every time.

Thank you again for the advice and support :)

{ 91 comments… read them below }

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

    While the update isn’t thrilling to Seven +1’s, I’m so excited to get it! I still think of that letter often!

    #3- phew. You’d hate our manufacturing plant. I have no idea how we’d function if people weren’t in the office constantly asking questions- yes, it’s frustrating at times that people differ in their abilities, but at the end of the day, that’s the unfortunate side effect of working with humans. I’m glad you’re finding ways to deal, but yeah, that sounds like a harsh way to run a business, especially when there are so many variables as to what can go wrong and questions that need answering.

    1. Trotwood*

      Yeah I understand why OP3 needs to avoid constant interruptions if they’re the business owner and need to do higher-level work. But it does seem like their policies are a little draconian and can’t possibly be the most efficient. It seems like maybe another layer of management is needed? Maybe they can have a manufacturing team leader who is knowledgeable about the equipment and can handle the majority of these questions the employees were otherwise bringing to OP?

      1. Bast*

        That could be handy, or perhaps, assign a “mentor” that people go to first. This could rotate between who it is so that one person does not get swamped all the time and become unable to do their own work ie: Melissa will be the mentor on Mon and Wed, and Sam will be the mentor on Tues and Thurs. It would leave Friday to LW, but at least alleviate a good deal of the burden from one person’s shoulders.

        Another suggestion would be to have “Green Flag” hours where questions are welcome, essentially “office hours” like in college — but for questions. ie: My office is open for questions between 10:00-11:00 and 3:00-4:00 today, do not interrupt unless it is a flat out emergency that no one else can assist with. I am not sure in this line of work if there are other projects that one can work on until you have an answer to your question, but we implemented something similar in our firm for asking questions of attorneys and supervisory staff, as the constant questions were making it impossible for people to get work done.

      2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Yeah, it sounds like OP3 is overcorrecting and has frankly taken the wrong lesson from this. OP3, you don’t need to be abrasive or unfriendly to hold boundaries or get people to comply with what you want. Being nice doesn’t mean being a pushover and being rude doesn’t mean you’re now a no-nonsense business person. “If you can’t figure out a problem on your own, f— off, I don’t have time for you” is poor leadership.

        Being “overly helpful” isn’t a personality, it’s a behavior. I also worry that if you think this new set of behaviors isn’t your real personality it’s actually going to eventually wear on you mentally to put on this fake persona every day when you don’t need to. Alison is a wonderful example of how to be frank, direct and yet still kind and compassionate. Maybe read more of the archives here so you can strike a better balance.

          1. TechWorker*

            From the wording it sounds like they run & potentially own the company, in which case ‘retaining staff’ might be more of the issue than ‘risk of getting fired’. Fwiw I’m also not sure I agree with that use of ‘missing stair’ – plenty of jobs might have a setup where you only overlap with someone for part of the day and if you come across something you don’t know how to do in the time they’re not on shift you have to suck it up and work it out or wait.

      3. LimeRoos*

        It does sound like there is another layer, and they’re just skipping it to go to the OP. They did note – For others, I had to just cut them off and say, “I’m busy now” or “ask X, he’s your supervisor.” So OP was telling people to go to their supervisor.

        Though that’s still not a bad idea for the OP, have a SME or team lead or someone that can also answer questions.

        1. Zweisatz*

          Yeah, for the most part it sounded like people were not using references they should or not asking the people they do have available (supervisors). Though I agree that I’m not sure if OP has overcorrected to abrasiveness when no-nonsense would be sufficient.

          The only thing I’m not sure was consciously considered is performance management. Why are people coming to you? Which steps could they take instead? (I think OP got that pretty much covered.)
          But importantly, are they equipped to perform the job as required and if not, is somebody having a proactive and respectful conversation with them which changes are needed or they might need to leave?
          You’re not at the mercy of employees who are the wrong fit, but there should be somebody with people management authority who proactively manages low performers. They shouldn’t only get the hint by being brushed off one too many times.

      4. Friendo*

        That was my thought too. If it’s getting to the point where people need to leave for the day because they can’t figure something out, it would probably be helpful to have someone else deal with the day to day and keep track of the people who are just not working out.

      5. Dust Bunny*

        The LW says there is at least one supervisor, so it sounds like there is another layer for at least some of the employees. Now, why they haven’t been going to the supervisor is another question.

      6. Antilles*

        The mention of “ask X, he’s your supervisor” makes me think there IS that extra level of management, but that people weren’t doing that. Maybe because they assumed OP wanted that level of hands-on-everything, maybe because their supervisors didn’t feel empowered to make decisions on their own, or maybe just pure inertia that everybody was used to going straight to OP so they kept doing it.

        I do think continuing to push more of these day to day questions off on supervisors who already know the material is a great step though. Eventually over time, you’ll change that “just go to OP” culture. And at that point, it might even be possible to loosen up a bit on the office-hours setup after people figure out that 98% of their questions can be covered by their supervisor so the only things getting elevated to OP’s level are the 2% that really require OP’s personal involvement.

      7. Sorrischian*

        Fully half of my job is to answer these kinds of questions – and yes, people could find them in our procedures, and if one person asks the same question over and over it does get annoying – so that our manager doesn’t have to AND so that people don’t flinch from asking questions, just do what seems most correct to them in the moment, and create a huge mess further down the line. (Solving those kinds of problems is most of the other half of my job)

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*


          It’s annoying when the 10th coworker of the day asks me if the plastic donuts are edible. It still beats pumping the 11th coworker’s stomach when they assume the question is too stupid to be asked.

      8. Cabbagepants*

        I guess I’m in the minority that I think LW3 was being reasonable. The procedures are well documented, there are office hours, there is at least one other supervisor to answer questions, many questions are able to be resolved by the employee with a bit more time (the “got it” follow up) AND most employees have been able to adapt to the new environment.

        LW3 is allowed to require a certain level of autonomy from their employees. Plus the fact that productivity is up suggests that it was the right business decision.

        1. Sales SVP*

          I agree, from a different perspective. Sounds like the OP’s the business owner, and so long as it’s not a safety risk, it seems totally ok to me that they want to hire for and manage employees who can either follow the documentation or figure it out on their own. That’s just how this business runs, and people who want to solve problems more interactively with the boss just don’t fit in the culture.

        2. Twix*

          I fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t think any of the boundaries LW3 is setting are unreasonable, but it sounds like they’ve shifted from being conflict-avoidant to being passive-aggressive in communicating their expectations to their staff. It the message they want the staff to hear is “If you have a question, try to figure it out yourself by consulting the documentation, then approach your supervisor”, why not just say that and then redirect staff who approach with questions until they understand that’s the new procedure? (Obviously at some point it’s reasonable to expect people to follow that procedure without being told. But it doesn’t sound like that was ever formalized, LW3 is just trying to make coming to them unpleasant enough that people try other stuff first to avoid having to do so.) You can be pleasant and say no. Training staff not to come to you with questions because it’s inconvenient and scary isn’t really good management, it shouldn’t be necessary, and it sounds like it’s not really the kind of boss they want to be.

      9. Bonnie*

        OP did actually mention asking if they’d talked to their supervisor – sounds like part of the problem has been people skipping their direct manager and going up a level.

      10. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        They sometimes say “ask X, he’s your supervisor.” so it sounds like there is a level between OP and the people asking questions. Maybe the supervisor needs to learn to supervise too?

    2. saskia*

      People are still asking questions of OP, though, and OP is still helping them. But if you’re asking a question that’s clearly answered in the manual/specs, you’re wasting time, which it sounds like happened frequently before OP course-corrected.
      It’s much, much easier to ask your question to someone else and have them find the answer than it is to look it up yourself. It’s yelling “honey, where are my keys?” vs. hunting around the house for your keys.

      Asking people to be at work on time, to ask their supervisor for help if they’re stuck, and to use documented procedures is not a harsh way to do business. It’s normal, fine and healthy.

      1. Skoobles*

        All of those things are normal, but the ways that OP is going about managing it have swung to too abrasive, based on their phrasing. “Go home if you’re stuck” is a pretty terrible way to foster improvement and manage so people have parallel tasks to work on even if you genuinely think there’s no point to them staying; “I can’t hold your hands anymore because I’m not getting my own work done” and “if I need to backtrack and do your job for you, then I don’t need you here” are unnecessarily harsh even if you need to communicate that people are on the chopping block.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Softer language did not work. It sounds like LW is using the language they need to in order to make change, and it has worked. They inadvertently created a culture of “just ask LW” and had to take significant steps to correct that. It seems to have worked.

          1. Skoobles*

            The letter does not give me the sense that they really tried softer language; their initial letter just involved them answering questions, and here it doesn’t seem like they used “what have you done to solve the problem” as a coaching strategy if they’re cutting people off. I agree with them using “ask your supervisor”, but there are several levels of harshness between that and threatening their job in an insulting way.

            If these statements were made by anybody except a LW, they’d be pretty thoroughly toasted as bad management because they are.

      2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        If that was what OP described, yo’d be right. But you’re cherry picking. They very clearly gave harsh examples.

        -Go home if you can’t figure out a problem on your own? That’s absurd, and frankly a waste of that employee as a resource.

        -“I can’t hold your hands anymore” is also needlessly condescending. Nobody should be talking to subordinates like children.

        -“What have you done so far to solve this problem on your own?” then just cut them off and say, “I’m busy now”?! So OP asks a question and while employee is answering OP cuts them off? Maybe they didn’t relay that accurately, but as described that’s rude as hell.

        Much of this also sounds like OP is being passive aggressive. Instead of saying what they want, they are giving hints, like ignoring people until the feel so awkward they learn never to ask again. You don’t want employees to learn to never ask questions. I mean, I’m assuming you don’t want massive errors in your product because you’ve scared your employees away from voicing their concerns.

        1. Mornington Crescent*

          Agreed- making employees feel like they have no voice means it’s less likely they’ll report accidents and near-misses too, which is not the kind of culture you want to encourage.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Agreed. Your comment makes me think that OP has perhaps lost sight of the fact that they’re all on the same team trying to get everything put together correctly; OP is behaving a bit adversarial with their employees. I listened to a presentation recently by a woman who fosters several children at a time and when she finally realized that she cannot do All the Things herself, she decided to implement a chore wheel/chart for the dinner cleanup. The kids were absolutely Not Interested in that (destroyed the chore chart more than once). So eventually she decided to ask them how they wanted the chores to work so that everyone pitched in and she wasn’t exhausting herself doing everything. They discussed it and came up with a great solution that everyone bought into, and it even became part of the bonding experience for all the kids.

          My point being, maybe you need to discuss with your employees how *they* would like to handle the situation wherein they are stuck and you are in “do not disturb” mode. Maybe you need to discuss it with the supervisors who you would prefer handle these kinds of questions and ask them how they want to deal with the questions. It does seem a little harsh to tell your employees, essentially, “My way or the highway.” If you tried instead to get more buy-in from them, things might run even more smoothly. And I agree with other comments here that telling people to simply go home if they are stuck doesn’t seem very efficient. What if you asked the employees how they prefer to deal with that scenario? Remind them gently that there is documentation for everything and ask them if looking things up for themselves is something they feel comfortable doing. (If not, well, that would be a situation where I think it’d be valid for you to at least *think* that you can’t hand-hold that employee and indeed they should probably find a job that’s a better fit for them, but maybe don’t actually say that to their face, OP. :-) )

          Another thought: do you have weekly one-on-one meetings with your employees, or do the supervisors? Maybe you could ask them to save up the questions they have to ask at these weekly meetings so that you/the supervisors have blocked aside that time for question-answering and the rest of the week they only ask questions if they have an emergency. My own supervisor and I have this kind of arrangement and it works really, really well. I have ADHD myself and would 100% be asking her questions left and right all day long if I didn’t take a deep breath before asking and remember that I can save 99% of my questions for our weekly mtgs.

          I think, OP, that you’re definitely on the right track with your solutions so far, but in a rare moment when the advice actually is to soften your approach (unlike many of the letters here where the advice is to *stop* softening your approach), I think you could probably pull yourself back from the extreme you’re at now where you are treating your employees a little more harshly than they need to be treated. Best of luck, OP!

    3. Skoobles*

      I feel like LW #3’s expectations aren’t super realistic. Great documentation is a huge job aid, but not everybody learns best by reading rather than doing or via instruction, and expecting people to be able to function purely off of documentation within days as some employees can, to the point that they’re trying to create a culture of asking questions = bad, is not realistic.

      Now, it sounds like there’s a supervisor in the middle, and they should absolutely be directing those questions to the supervisor and making sure the supervisor is capable of training up employees and knows the documentation themselves, but at that point you’ve still got to accept some employees are going to need assistance and training.

      1. Cabbagepants*

        But this is a workplace, not an educational institution. The point is to get the work done, not to deliver tailored instruction to everyone. Anyway, while not everyone learns well from written documents, the OP was also giving verbal coaching for a long time (hence their letter) AND OP is still offering multiple ways for employees to get verbal direction, such as during daily office hours.

        If anything, OP is doing their employees a service by communicating that being able to work independently for one day (!!) is a requirement for the job and their job would be in jeopardy if they couldn’t do that.

      2. Isben Takes Tea*

        On the other hand, if he’s running his own business, it’s perfectly reasonable to have the attitude of “I don’t have time to explain things, so I will only keep people hired who can learn from the existing documentation.” If he’d rather fire employees that need more assistance/training, then that’s his prerogative. He may miss out on otherwise good employees because of it, but if he can still keep his business well-staffed otherwise, it could even be considered a sound business decision.

        1. Selena81*

          They aren’t running a job-placement program so it’s perfectly reasonable to let go of the occasional employee who doesn’t measure up. Employees who keep asking the same questions or refuse to follow instructions or otherwise take a lot more effort from management.

          But they kinda come off like they are creating an atmosphere where *any* questions are discouraged. Which is not the way to long-term succes.

      3. hbc*

        Having overseen people who do this kind of assembly, the assemblers absolutely have to be able to read the documentation. It is non-negotiable that you be able to deliver a paper update that says “for drive X, use 3 of screw Y and 1 of screw Z as shown with torque setting W” and not have to field questions, either the day they get the doc or when drive X is used again in eight months.

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

      BTW: with #3, I’m not talking about the questions about procedures that are documented already that happen day to day. I’m talking about all the weird stuff that happens during the day that isn’t normal- the heater broke; a truck driver ran into the dock; someone’s car was broken into in the parking lot (unfortunately, it was the owner’s car so…); the fifteenth vendor of the day stopped by unexpectedly and did NOT bring cookies like he was telling me was going; one of the toilets is jacked up because apparently someone’s squatting over the seat and now one of us has to stop what we’re doing to clean and/or explain to that person how a toilet is used…

      Sure, you can have documentation but if you’re dealing with a business and people, you’re dealing with weird stuff all. the. time. At a previous job, not at a manufacturing plant where there are literally thousands of moving parts, a boss told me, “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and this has never come up before.” That happened once in my time there- but stuff happening that you and your stuff haven’t encountered? You have to be available to deal with it and acting like you can’t be bothered isn’t good for the business physically and definitely not good for the morale of the company. No one wants to work for a boss they can’t communicate with.

      1. Cabbagepants*

        LW3 says in the letter “the same questions kept coming up over and over.” I don’t think that could apply to one of events like you describe.

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

          True- though, the LW also mentions 10-15 people quarterly, depending on the workload. So…some of these people might be temps and, speaking from experience, that’s a whole other beast. They might not be at the company long enough to learn the procedures in and out and even basic stuff might be hard to accomplish if they’re there less than 12 weeks total, training time included.

          1. Grith*

            The owner of the business interrupting their day in order to train temps on procedures that are already written out seems like an even less effective use of time than we previously thought.

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

              Yes/no? It depends on how many supervisors there are, how many people are running individual jobs (are they highly specialized per position or are they all doing the same work), how much training they have, etc. No, it’s not an efficient use of time- but in that small of a business, the owner has to be available to do almost everything.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          Sure, but LW seems to have overcorrected to cutting off ALL questions, which is not a good idea. There has to be some kind of triage in place.

    5. Samwise*

      It doesn’t sound harsh to me. OP needs employees who, most of the time, can complete work on their own, referring to the detailed documentation and/or speaking to their own supervisor. If they can’t do that, they are not right for this workplace.

      How often do we see letters in which an employee can’t work independently, doesn’t bother to look at the documentation / guidelines, and finds it easier — or necessary — to ask how to do a task long after they should know how to do it. And the advice is almost always: maybe this job isn’t for this person, here are ways to redirect, here are ways to establish boundaries and stop interruptions.

      This OP has become clear about expectations, has set boundaries, and has provided resources for employees to complete their work. Sounds good to me.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        It does sound a little harsh to me, but if employees are repeatedly bothering their grandboss (who may be the most senior person in the company?) about “Does the red wire go on the 3mm bolt or the 5mm bolt?” a little bit harsh may be reasonable at some point.

      2. KTB2*

        What’s funny to me is that we see so many letters here where the answer is “have you told them directly, or did you sugarcoat it too much and they still aren’t getting it”?

        Whereas this OP actually IS telling people directly, and getting roasted in the comments for it. I don’t see the problem with the OP’s approach, frankly. If people are skipping over clear documentation and a supervisor to go directly to the owner/manager multiple times with the same questions, it tracks that the owner/manager might have to be blunt to get their attention and get them to stop doing that and solve things on their own.

        1. Twix*

          The problem is that he still isn’t telling them directly. Telling them directly would look like saying upfront “From now on, policy is that you should try to figure out the answers to any questions you have by referencing the documentation, then approach your immediate supervisor if you still need help”, and then pleasantly telling any employee who approached with a question to go do that instead. What he’s actually doing is being passive-aggressive in hopes that people will figure out what he wants on their own and not telling them directly until he’s already annoyed at them not doing so. There is a point where bluntness would be appropriate, which is if that message and policy were communicated clearly and the staff had had a reasonable amount of time to adjust and some employees were still not following it, but it sounds like LW3 skipped that middle step. Training your staff that you’re unapproachable is not the same thing as training your staff on when it’s appropriate to approach you.

          1. Twix*

            To add on, the reason that matters is because his current approach will fix the immediate problem but can create other serious problems, like employees being afraid to approach you in cases where there really is a serious issue you need to know about. Would you want to tell a boss who tells people “If you need my help, you’re wasting my time and should go home” that the warehouse is on fire? “I need employees who can be self-directed so I can do my own work and if you can’t do that you’re not a good fit for the job” is a perfectly reasonable position to take, but how you communicate that matters.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I’m also curious if they have previously been self-described as “overly helpful” what they consider to be “abrasive.” It’s highly possible they are describing their own tone more harshly than others would!

          If they’ve really spent tens of thousands of dollars to create documentation at the level complete with pictures then I don’t think I disagree with their tactics much. The only part that gave me pause really was the “go home for the day” bit but I can’t think of what the context would be for that so I don’t feel equipped to have a real opinion about it I guess lol.

    6. redflagday701*

      The update doesn’t mention it, but in the original letter, OP explains that the problem is their ADHD — an employee’s question might take only five minutes to answer, but it could take OP 20 minutes beyond that to refocus on what they were working on. That’s a big problem! And even someone without ADHD deserves to have decent-size chunks of uninterrupted time to do their work.

      It does sound like OP has overcorrected a bit, but it also sounds like it’s their company and things are going better now. There are worse things than a curmudgeonly boss who expects you to try to figure things out on your own before coming to them. (Also: The fact that employees were coming directly to them with these questions, instead of asking the supervisor, makes me wonder if OP has a history of micromanaging, and I would much rather work for someone occasionally abrasive than a micromanager.)

      1. Selena81*

        I pretty much assumed the reason this situation arose is *because* LW was trying to micromanage and initially encouraged these kinds of questions.
        (And when the company grew and they were gradually spending more time on managing the habit was entrenched)

  2. Falling Diphthong*

    Really appreciate all of these.

    Sometimes people do a weird thing outside of norms and it really is a one-off that they will correct on their own.

    1. Ray B Purchase*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking for LW1 in the original letter. Some folks do a one-off weird thing and overly address it so that people are aware that they know it’s Not Done and some do the weird thing and don’t address it at all, hoping that their normal professional behavior is enough for most folks to realize it’s a one-off and it seems like that’s what Pam must’ve been doing.

      1. Selena81*

        It sounds like it was an honest miscommunication and Pam was probably mortified to realize nobody else was bringing their entire family

  3. Antilles*

    #2 dodged a bullet because with that reaction, your mom definitely would have continued to push you forever. Smart to have the lawyer provide that formal notice of the contract being canceled, because she would definitely have “forgotten” to remove you as a director.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      And the fact that sister not only recommended getting a lawyer – but gave you contact information for one! makes me think mom pulled the “forgetting” thing on her till there was some sort of trouble and sister HAD to get a lawyer.

    2. Selena81*

      I could be wrong, but mom sounds like she is using a lot of weaponized incompetence: constantly ‘forgetting’ things, constantly manipulating others (her husband, her children) into giving her orders so she is never responsible if things go wrong.

      Given mom’s reaction the lawyer and the formal letter were definitely needed.

  4. Chocoholic*

    For #3, is there not someone else at your company that you could designate the person for new staff to go to with questions, and then things only get escalated to you if that person can’t answer the question? Or maybe pairing a new employee with a more seasoned employee for a while to show them the ropes/help with training would take some of the day to day responsibility off your plate.

    1. Roland*

      Sounds like that person already exists and it’s their supervisor.

      > For others, I had to just cut them off and say, “I’m busy now” or “ask X, he’s your supervisor.”

  5. Alan*

    For #3, that’s not really “abrasive” IMO. You’re setting quite-reasonable boundaries. I’m sorry this is uncomfortable, and I’m sure some feelings were hurt, but you did nothing wrong that I can see.

    1. spiriferida*

      I don’t know about that. I would call multiple instances of telling people to go home or that they can’t be here if they can’t do the work fitting of the descriptor abrasive. They maybe found that their blunter language worked, but I think this is a bit of a sharper shift in tone that was needed. It may be that some people weren’t appropriately filling the roles of the job and would need to be fired anyway, but… this doesn’t create a great work environment, if the boss is acting that grumpy all the time, regardless of how their work is being interrupted.

      1. RedinSC*

        Honestly I see where LW3 is coming from. There is significant documentation on how to do the work. There’s a supervisor there who can also answer questions.

        People tend to just ask rather than look for the information they need. Honestly I’m ready to do this for 2 people on my team. They don’t seem like they’re learning. I can’t keep stopping my work to hold their hands through things we’ve covered in person multiple times, and have process documentation for. Perhaps the tough – figure it out or it’s not for you is really what’s going to work for some people. OR perhaps they should just be fired.

        1. spiriferida*

          There are still ways to have that tough conversation without being abrasive, or expressing frustration in the way the LW describes, though. It does seem like they’ve addressed the problem, so hopefully they can come to a more even keel, but there’s a difference between stern and abrasive. One is good for setting boundaries, the other is not great. Their later paragraph describes something more of an in-depth conversation about expectations, which is good, but they undermine themself if they’re giving sharp and frustrated responses in the moment when someone asks them for help – if they’re getting that annoyed with multiple people, then in the future they should take it as a sign that they needed to have the expectations conversations a few ‘hey can I ask you a quick question’s back.

          1. Ann Nonymous*

            I give LW some grace after having to guide and help the same people for the umpteenth time. By being “nice,” they take advantage. Being abrasive will make them think twice and figure things out for themselves as they should have been doing in the first place.

  6. Tobias Funke*

    OP1: Lots of people gonna be disappointed their fanfiction about Pam and her various pathologies didn’t pan out. I for one am tickled, as it is just part of the rich tapestry of life.

    OP3: Tough love is an interesting framing.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I read “rich raspberry of life” and thought that would be a tasty treat at the Pamily reunion.

  7. Pescadero*

    Yeah… if you say “kids welcome”, that means ALL the kids – and I’ve had a co-worker with 13.

    1. Annony*

      I’m not surprised at the update. She probably realized the misstep after arriving and seeing that she was the only one who brought her whole family.

  8. rollyex*

    “her husband, her nanny, and her mother-in-law”

    I could see bringing one of these along with kids to an event. I wouldn’t do it myself w/o asking, but bringing one other adult “makes sense” to me in some ways at a work event if I had multiple kids. All three is over-the-top and weird.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Since Pam’s mother in law isn’t helping with the children like she promised, they might have needed the nanny along to ensure that there were enough responsible eyes on the children while Pam and probably her husband were socializing.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup. Makes me wonder if Pam was telling spouse, MIL overheard and jut showed up ready to leave night of the event and Pam decided the lesser of two evils at that point was just “grin, bear it, and bring MIL along” instead of an argument at the door as everyone actually invited is trying to get out the door.

      2. Dahlia*

        Yeah, since Pam was working and MIL isn’t helpful, the husband + nanny makes a 2 kids per 1 adult ratio, which is perfectly reasonable tbh.

  9. Coyote River*

    LW3, by handling it like this you’re actually doing your employees a favour. Most people don’t actually need their hand held, and by taking a step back you’re demonstrating to them that yes, they are competent adults and they can figure things out for themselves. Furthermore, you’re reminding them that if they’re still having trouble, they have a chain to go through (ie their supervisors) before they bring it up with you.

    1. All Het Up About It*

      Yeah – I think some of the language examples LW 3 used are abrasive as they stated, but not overly so. And I think the general approach is a reasonable one, that is obviously working! This OP was working 12 hour days constantly because they were doing other people’s jobs!! That’s not sustainable, reasonable and it has nothing to do with these weird “problems that can’t be documented” commenters are bringing up. The OP clearly stated that these are problems that can be solved via documentation or other means.

      Sure maybe in time OP can lighten up a bit, but that will be because their employees will have demonstrated if they are coming to ask, it’s because it’s a SERIOUS issue, or yes, something where they’ve walked through all documentation and brainstormed with supervisors/colleagues and it still can’t be solved.

      But I really don’t feel they have to and so many commenters suggesting that their actions are out of line is a little bonkers to me. Thanks for the update #3 and congrats on reclaiming your time!

      1. boof*

        Yeah, I think tone can play a huge role in how these come off; over the internet they seem a little harsh but it sounds like it was the only thing that got folks to consistently do what LW needed (and it is a reasonable thing to do – don’t bug the big boss outside of specific hours! Apparently there are documents and other people for that!) – I favor clear and direct and “slightly harsh” over softer language that doesn’t get the message across; seriously do not interrupt the boss when they are working on something!

  10. Formerly Ella Vader*

    Re, #1: In general, I like it when the same rules/guidelines work for everyone, rather than having a stricter general rule and some people (the ones who dare to ask for it or the ones who have been around longer) getting exceptions.

    But the situation where the plus-one was intended as “bring a partner or someone else”, and the OP put “kids welcome” on the invitation specifically to make the the award recipient feel comfortable … What if the “kids welcome” had been left off the invitation, but the OP had talked to the award recipient privately to say “by the way, kids are welcome at this venue, so you can bring Brady as your plus-one if you like. There will be snacks and free soft drinks, and of course he can bring a book or tablet.” On the other hand, maybe the more generously worded invitation that led to Pam bringing her four kids might have ended up with Brady and Miranda feeling more at home … which would be a win.

    1. SnackAttack*

      Eh, I wouldn’t push it. It seems to have resolved on its own. Plus, it would be kinda weird to just tell one person that they can bring their kid, and then have them show up to the venue and find out that no one else had gotten that memo. I could see them feeling self-conscious or embarrassed (plus that kid would probably be bored out of their mind!). It also might end up reflecting negatively on the awardee, since other people might think that she/he just presumptively brought their kid when they weren’t welcome.

  11. Emily*

    # 2, it sounds like things worked out for the best given the facts and your mom’s pattern of behavior (things truly working out for the best would mean your mom would do some deep soul searching and apologize for burdening you with things she shouldn’t be and change her behavior, but that does not sound likely). I am glad your sister was able to help you, and I wish you peace in the future and success in film school.

    1. Emily*

      Oh, and OP #2, I’m sure you have already realized this on your own and don’t need to be told, but you clearly know much more about how the world works than your mom does.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Agreed, and I think your point is worth saying. LW2, you are doing really well managing family and life stresses even though it sounds like your parents are creating challenges for you.

    2. ferrina*

      Indeed! LW did a great job standing up for themself and looking out for their own interests (goodness knows, mom wasn’t looking out for LW). I’m glad LW took action, rode out the storm of Mother’s Big Emotions, and things have settled down. I’ve also got a few family members that become magically deaf around the word “No”, and it’s a lot to deal with. It’s never easy, but it gets easier with practice (it also helped when I no longer gave a fox, and let them have their tantrum and ignored them. I’ve got better things to do with my time)

      Best of luck to LW in school and beyond!

      1. Emily*

        Yes, thank you! I was guessing OP had provided an update somewhere in the comment section of the original letter, and I appreciate you taking the time to link to it.

  12. ferrina*

    Love the update from LW1! It’s so nice when these weird occurrences are able to be recognized and resolved by the person without anyone else needing to say anything. I like that LW waited it out. I’m socially awkward, and I’ve had a few of these moments myself (though I don’t think it’s been quite this bad?) It sounds like everything worked out, and it makes for a great story.

  13. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Love the update from LW4. Eating disorders are a very difficult terrain to navigate and I’m glad they weighed the food for you :)

  14. MCMonkeyBean*

    “Since some commenters asked: my original invitation specified that kids were welcome because the person receiving the award is a single parent, and we wanted her to know she could bring her son if she wanted even though the venue was a bar and grill.”

    I was one of the people that felt on the first letter that it was the fault of the invitation and this honestly makes me feel that way even more! If that was your goal, I think this was an odd way to handle it. Why not just tell the guest of honor directly that she would of course be welcome to bring her son?

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Because then everyone else says, “I didn’t know kids were welcome–I’d have brought mine!” and it’s a whole other thing.

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