candidate’s mom keeps emailing to follow up for her, pimple patches at work, and more

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

1. Candidate’s mom keeps emailing to follow up on her behalf

I’m in a position to hire older teens (usually just graduated high school) for a summer job. I have a question about how to handle an applicant’s mom. The child applied, but their mom keeps emailing to follow-up. At the beginning of my career, I worked in higher education (freshman orientation) for several years. In all of our parent programming, we were very clear that contacting your child’s professor wouldn’t help and no one can give you information anyway due to FERPA laws.

Everything in me wants me to respond to the mom and say that it’s not appropriate to email potential employers on behalf of your adult or soon-to-be adult child. To date, I have ignored the mom and only reached out to the applicant. Honestly, the thought of dealing with or making our manager deal with a helicopter parent as an employer makes me not want to hire this applicant. Is it my place to give this parent (or child) feedback?

At a minimum, you could email the mom back and say, “We do not discuss applicants’ candidacy with anyone other than the applicant themselves. We’ll respond to her directly.”

Should you say more? You’re not obligated to but you can if you want to, and you’d probably be doing both of them a favor if you spelled it out more explicitly. For example: “If I can give some advice that will help Jane, I recommend that you not contact employers on her behalf. We want to see that she can manage work-related communications independently, without a parent’s involvement, since she would be expected to do that if we hire her. You risk hurting her chances if you contact employers on her behalf.”

2. How do you evaluate “flourishing”?

I work as an administrator in an academic department in a public university. It’s basically the same old story of being overworked and underpaid. We are guaranteed a 3% raise at the end of the fiscal year and normally up to 5% with merit. Merit is based on the annual performance review, which is two parts: a self-evaluation and your supervisor’s evaluation. Even if you receive “Exceeds Expectation” on all parts of the evaluation, you don’t really see a raise beyond 3.9% (and that’s if you’re lucky).

This year, HR is shaking things up and wants us to answer five open-ended questions. Four of the questions I don’t really have a problem with, it’s the first one that I do: “How did you demonstrate [University’s] core values?” One of those core values is “flourishing.” The university website talks about “flourishing” as being able to make choices for a healthy and fulfilling life.

First, how do you prove or demonstrate that you’re flourishing? I’ve sardonically told others that I’ve taken fewer sick days due to burnout. I don’t think that is what HR or the dean’s office wants to hear.

Second, how do I evaluate if someone is flourishing? I am a supervisor, and I want to make sure that my supervisees get the best evaluation that they can get.

Can you just … ignore that value and focus on others that seem more relevant? Unless there’s something that specifically states you must address every value individually, it’s not uncommon for evaluations to pull out specific values that the manager (or evaluee) wants to talk about, rather than doing a full inventory of all of them.

But it could also be interesting to ask HR if they can give some examples of what employee alignment or misalignment with that value would look like in a work context. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t have good examples.

3. My employer wants us to list our dietary restrictions publicly

I have a situation at my job where there is a mandatory all-hands meeting that lasts all day and we will be fed. Thankfully, my workplace is willing to accommodate dietary restrictions (I have Celiac and cannot eat anything with gluten), but the way they are collecting this information gives me pause. Instead of a private form that only goes to the person ordering the catering, we were all sent a shared Google spreadsheet where we are expected to put in our name and dietary restrictions in order to RSVP. I don’t like the idea of anyone and everyone RSVPing for the meeting being able to see my restriction, but I’m not sure if this counts as private medical information that shouldn’t be shared. Is there a way I can push back against this public form and still be able to get my gluten-free lunch?

There’s no legal issue here (except maybe in some very narrowly defined circumstances) but it’s still not information that needs to be public. Try sending the organizer (or their boss, if you don’t trust the organizer to be responsive) a message that says, “Could you arrange for us to submit dietary restrictions privately instead? I’d rather not broadcast my medical restrictions to the whole company, and I imagine there are others who feel the same.”

4. Pimple patches vs visible pimples

I am a middle career professional office worker, who occasionally gets large facial pimples. (Like, about once a month, one pimple on my chin or mouth. Hormones, I assume, though regular mask wearing probably doesn’t help.) I don’t usually wear makeup, and don’t really have the skills to cover up such a large spot without it looking really weird. (And I worry about further inflaming it by piling on makeup, plus getting makeup all over the inside of my mask.)

When I’m working from home, I usually use a hydrocolloid pimple patch, which is not visible on video calls. But what’s the best thing to do for in-person days? I feel like pimple patches have gotten more mainstream, but I’m not sure if it ends up calling more attention to it, since even if I use the “clear” ones, they’re still visible. What do you think?

If you’re wearing a mask, can you just let the mask cover it?

I tend to think pimple patches draw more attention to it in person, especially for people who are unfamiliar with them, which is still a lot of people. (You also wouldn’t want to use one at work at the stage where it’s drawing out gross stuff from the pimple and trapping it under a clear patch.) But it’s a perfectly valid option to just let the pimple run free! You’re a human who occasionally get blemishes. It’s fine.

5. Leaving a job to care for an aging parent

I took a new job late last year to be closer to my aging parent. At the time, my parent was showing signs of worsening health but was still functioning well. Unfortunately my parent’s condition has been deteriorating rapidly over the last few weeks. My job requires a rigid work schedule and offers minimal flexibility, though my boss has done their best to support me within this structure.

I’m wondering if I can try to advocate for a part-time schedule in the interim or if I should rip the bandaid off and quit, knowing this is where I am likely headed as my parent requires more care? My position was unfilled for over a year before I arrived and there is a shortage of people with my skills. I’m also open to other advice from readers who have navigated similar situations.

If you’re going to quit otherwise, you might as well ask if what you want is possible first! If it’s not, it’s not — but there’s nothing wrong with inquiring. I’d say that in other circumstances too, but it’s especially true when there’s a shortage of people who can fill your job.

{ 427 comments… read them below }

    1. TG*

      Yes I’d look into that as it would allow you the time needed to care for your family member and protect your job…but if not I’d ask for what you need and see what they say.

    2. ChattyDelle*

      at least I’m n my state, you have to have worked for your employer for a year before you qualify for FMLA. I know because I was in a similar situation & my FMLA request was denied due to lack of tenure. but since the job was open for over a year, LW may have some negotiation room to cut her hours back

      1. MC*

        FMLA is federal law so the requirements are the same in every state – you have to have been there for one year (and worked a certain number of hours within that year), and the company needs to employ a certain number of employees in an area (if I remember correctly it’s 50 employees within a 75 mile radius). It leaves a lot of people out.

        1. Miette*

          That said, as I’ve learned on this site, your state’s laws may be less stringent than the federal standard, so it may be useful to look into it.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          Some states do also have family leave programs that have different rules. Mine has a family and medical leave program that just requires you to have worked in the state for a certain amount of time regardless of employer (it also pays you part of your salary while on leave) and I’ve used it both for myself and for a parent.

    3. LW 5*

      I don’t qualify for FMLA yet. I will look over the employee handbook and see if there’s anything there that might be helpful. Thank you for taking the time to reply.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Can you make it work with home health aids and visiting nurses until your anniversary when you will be eligible?

        A regular VNA visit can help families recognize when an elder needs higher levels of care than are easily provided in a home, or is no longer safe in a standard home design.

        It would make sense to me to least evaluate speed of progression before you permanently leave your job.

        I’m sorry you&yours are going through this.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        My mother took early retirement a few years ago to care for my grandmother with dementia. She did eventually need the support of home health aides from hospice, but was able to stay at home and comfortable until the end of her life because of my mom. Caring for a parent can be difficult, draining, thankless work, but as hard as it was at the time for my mom to quit her job and walk away from a long, successful career, she has zero regrets about being there with my grandmother and supporting her through the end of her life.

        My only regret for her is that she didn’t do it sooner. Trying to balance everything while working full-time took a toll on her body that she’s had multiple surgeries since my grandmother’s passing to try and recover from (multiple joint replacements). Don’t wait until you’re burned out or at the end of your rope to ask for help. Even if you don’t qualify for FMLA and aren’t guaranteed legal protections, you don’t lose anything by speaking to your employer and seeing if there is an arrangement that can be worked out so that you can get the flexibility you need to take care of your loved one. And definitely, 100% quit if you need to. Don’t sacrifice your physical or mental health to keep a job that doesn’t provide what you need.

      3. M2*

        Try and get assistance. My mom works full time and also takes care of her mom with dementia. I don’t live close so can’t help. The state actually offered a lot of free ir reduced fee care for my grandmother (who refuses to go to a nursing home) and that help has greatly helped my mom. She was burning out. She still goes over twice a day once in the am and once in the PM. She has a sibling that lives with their mom but that sibling is useless and doesn’t do anything but getting the state help has really been wonderful. Look into it.

      4. Bikirl*

        This may not apply to LW5, but in New York State there is also Paid Family Leave for eligible employees, which provides up to 12 weeks of leave at 67 percent of pay (with a pay cap–in 2024 it’s about $1,151/week).

      5. TB3*

        Have you considered finding a CNA from a home health service? I’ve been exactly where you are and I found someone who could help for a few days a week, a few hours a day, which really helped me to manage my own schedule better. Depending on your parent’s situation, it could even be a covered service.

      6. Chocoholic*

        If you live in a state with Paid Family Leave, look into that too. In my state, there is no time requirement for being able to take medical leave, and job protection is provided at 6 months of employment.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          You may also check state agencies for workers who are qualified to be caregivers through Medicare/Medicaid. They are often not CNAs, but get more training than the average private caregiver. If your income is too high to qualify for subsidized help, these caregivers often work for cash (though keep good records and consider getting cheap payroll software to properly record taxes etc.). I found a gem before my husband went into hospice (also, consider if it’s time for hospice).

    4. Tim C.*

      The others beat me to it. I lived through this when my mother was in hospice. Between my own family, my job, and taking care of her, I did way too much. I damaged my reputation and career and am now dealing with depression/burnout. Trying to juggle it all is a big mistake and this is what the Family Leave is for. I would never forgive myself if I did not take care of my mother. Take the leave if it is available.

    5. Blue*

      I would just caution with intermittent leave that the LW make sure their supervisor truly has their back on reducing duties during this time. I took a full month to support a family member after a surgery and then was intermittent for about a month, and when I moved to intermittent my colleagues who were covering for me essentially shifted all of my responsibilities save one or two small tasks back to me (even after I specifically that asked they keep only an additional one or two small tasks that were onerous for me simply because of timing (materials would come in while I was out and so if people were late I didn’t know till too late).

      This was obviously a colleague/supervisor problem which might not apply to everyone, but I only got through it because it was a. remote and b. a full-time job that really only required about 25 hours from me. I just crammed everything into the three days I was working (but since I was used to having much more relaxed workdays it made it more difficult to help my family member at all on those days). I thankfully am no longer at the job! Next time I would just take full leave for the full period, if possible.

    6. M2*

      Also look at your area for services for aging care. If your parent can’t afford it and even if they can your local area should have aides that can come, meals on wheels, etc so you have some time to not do the caregiving.

      I don’t know where you live but I have an aging relative and their state offers all sorts of assistance even if you can pay. Maybe Google state and elder care or aging services or call the local senior center and see if they have #s for people. Good luck!

    7. Lydia*

      FMLA does not cover parental care. If your state has its own medical leave law, it might, but unfortunately parental care is a huge missing part of FMLA.

      1. NotSoRecentlyRetired*

        I used intermittent FMLA when my mom had a stroke.
        Sending link to government site in separate comment, as it got blocked.

  1. Jasmine*

    If they say no to PT you might ask if they want you to give two weeks notice or work PT til they find and train your replacement.

    1. Part time lab tech*

      Could you ask for a job share? or to advertise a job share? It’s possible there’s a qualified person who wants to work part time.

  2. TG*

    LW#1 – it pains me when parents do this as my dad especially basically said go get a job and shoved me out the door – it’s how you learn and grow!

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Stories like this one always boggle my mind. It never would have entered my mind to get involved with my daughter’s job searches, even when she was a high schooler. I’m pretty sure that if I had ever called an employer on her behalf for any reason other than her being completely incapacitated, she would have been very upset with me, and rightly so!

      Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with some parents.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, me too.

        I mean, if the kid’s still a minor, there’s only so much an employer can do with interfering parents, especially if the kid needs rides to and from work. But those parents need to be told that they aren’t doing their kids any favors.

      2. Not Australian*

        My mother literally got me my first job: it’s something previous generations did. Someone I know came home from school one Friday and was told “You’re not going back on Monday, you’re starting work instead.” No choice, all cut and dried, obey or move out.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Sometimes no.

            But sometimes it’s to help a family survive poverty. My late stepfather was the eldest son and his father died during the Great Depression. He got a summer job after 8th grade to help his mother afford to feed his many siblings. He got a promotion at the end of the summer, and he never went back to school.

            (This is why that otherwise conservative businessman vocally supported government programs like social security. He knew he was lucky keeping his family together. Sorry for the tangent… I’m missing people today.)

            1. New Mom (of 1 7/9)*

              I’m glad this is a thing of the past in the US. (For now…) Imagine giving a 14-year-old a promotion. Weird stuff.

              1. online teacher*

                Still happens in the US, unfortunately. In my state you can work full time starting at 16, and we get 16 year olds signing up for online school so they can work full time and try to somehow pass their classes in the evening. Every few years we get a middle school student whose parents want them helping with the family business signed up for online school and doing little to no schoolwork, too. (We try to do something about the middle schoolers, at least, but there are limited options when the parent prefers them to work.)

                (This is in a blue state with a decent state-level social safety net by US standards, if you’re curious. I imagine this happens in states with weaker social safety nets as well.)

                1. Elsewise*

                  Yeah, there’s been a big push in a lot of states to lower the working age and remove restrictions for how many hours minors can work. I think we’re going to see more stories like that in the near future.

                2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

                  Oh, it’s definitely happening elsewhere in the US. There have been multiple companies (Hyundai/Kia, Cargill, Tyson, etc.) getting caught employing kids as young as 13 and 14 working overnight in hazardous conditions.

                  And, fun times, there have been several bills introduced to weaken child labor protections in the midwest (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota), plus a bill in Arkansas that repealed restrictions on work for 14-15 year olds that actually got signed into law last year. New Jersey and New Hampshire passed laws that extended the hours minors can work, removing limits on night shifts, and including up to 50 hours a week of work in the summer for 16-17 year olds. Aka, more than full time. Those are only some of the many, many examples, unfortunately.

                  (source: Economic Policy Institute)

                3. Jack Russell Terrier*

                  There’s been a couple of deep dives into Child Labor: how business and states are doing their best to bring it back and employers breaking the law making kids work nights etc. It’s sobering. You can easily find them googling Washington Post and child labor. The Post does excellent deep dives like this, journalism we don’t see so much these days.

              2. Ivan Vorpatril*

                US high school teacher here. We have students working nights or even two jobs to pay for their families living expenses. We try to give them as much help as we can, and I often let them sleep in my class (because they don’t have time to sleep otherwise) and we try to push some into a work-credit program so they can maybe graduate instead of just dropping out at 16, but it’s rough still.

                And red/blue isn’t very important. It’s economics. Most of the student body at my large school is on free/reduced lunch, for note.

                1. DawnShadow*

                  Ooof. Just posted a similar story from the 1980s before seeing yours. I’m sorry it’s still going on. But not surprised, I guess.

                2. It Might Be Me*

                  I couldn’t give a raise to an 18 year old, part-time college student. Why? It would have impacted his mother’s ability to qualify for public housing. Even when employers want to do the right thing we’re often hindered by other aid programs.

              3. Temperance*

                It is not. My own BIL, who is not even 40, was forced to drop out senior year to support the family.

              4. Reluctant Mezzo*

                Unfortunately, there was a family at the school my husband taught at who yanked a girl three weeks away from graduating because ‘nobody else has a diploma in this family, and who do you think you are, missy?’

                And many states recently made child labor legal again. Whee.

            2. Check cash*

              I mean, my grandma only had a 6th grade education and quit to help support her family, but that was in 1922.

              1. Lydia*

                It was more common before they really pushed compulsory education through graduation. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t still happen, but it’s not as much of a given as it used to be.

              2. DawnShadow*

                When I was in high school in the 1980s I had a friend whose father died while she was a senior. Her mother (both parents were raging alcoholics) promptly moved out to go live with a boyfriend, leaving 5 children behind. My friend was the second oldest. She took a graveyard shift at the local diner and went to school and slept through her classes, trying to keep the family together and make rent. (Her older sibling also quit college and got a full time job).

                Her grades went from As-Bs to … well. The teachers all knew what was going on, and they all passed her. She graduated. I believe she was quite grateful to them.

                So TLDNR; it didn’t just happen in the 1930s. Thankfully much less common now, or at least I hope.

              3. Polaris*

                Same – one of my grandparents had a sixth grade education, but that was also in the 1930s in rural farming country, mid-west USA.

                Where I live, at least at one point, you could not drop out prior to being age 16; I know there were bills introduced in my adult years to bring that to “18 unless the currently minor person has already achieved HS graduation”, I just don’t know if they’ve passed.

            3. UKDancer*

              Yes sometimes it’s necessary. My grandfather left school at 14 to start working in a factory because that was pretty common in working class England in the 1930s and his family needed the money. Most of the boys in his class at school did the same. As a result he was very keen that all 3 of his children had more opportunities and encouraged them to stay on in education because he knew it was the only way out of poverty.

              I’m very glad people can stay at school for longer now as 14 seems horrifyingly young to be working.

        1. not nice, don't care*

          Depends on what you consider ‘previous generations’. Not a thing in my gigantic extended family.

        2. Bitte Meddler*

          My [divorced, single] mother told me over winter break of 1979-1980, when I was 13, to go get a job. I had to lie about my age and give a fake Social Security Number. This was back when computers weren’t ubiquitous so it was easier to get away with lying about one’s identity.

          I worked at Ron’s Krispy Fried Chicken, where I was se&ually harassed by the owner, and then got a job as an Assistant Manager at Dairy Queen about six months later. It was wild. [I was *13*!!]

          The only thing that saved me is that I went to live with my dad at the end of the summer of 1980. *He* didn’t tell me I had to get a job until during my Sophomore year (when I turned 16).

          I worked 30+ hours a week for the rest of my high school years, and then 40 hours a week into my first two years of college when I eventually dropped out because a full-time job plus full-time school was taking a toll. The need for money won out over a college education.

          At no time did either of my parents contact my employers. Nor did they help me with applying for jobs.

      3. Knitting Cat Lady*

        My aunt is the platonic idea of a helicopter parent. She’s determined to eradicate all obstacles in her kids’ lives. Said kids are 40 and 33. 40 took 10 years and changing her major 3 times before she finally finished one of them, then she worked two years before doing the SAHM thing. 33 has been at uni for the last 13 year without any sign of a degree in sight. He hasn’t worked a day in his life.
        What kills me most about this? They’ll be fucked in retirement.
        And they both fall apart at the slightest hint of adversity. They have no resilience at all.
        So, helicopter parents of all kinds are absolutely detrimental to their kids.

        Meanwhile I grew up neurospicy without knowing it, my mental health fell off a cliff, and I’m currently fighting the state for a disability pension. But at least I have that option because I’ve been working at least part time since I was 16…

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          My mum has a cousin like your aunt. She sent her son’s then employer a gift for employing him ( he was in his mid-20s, not a teen), drove him to and from work, questioning him about what friends he’d made there and what he ate for lunch. She wouldn’t let him do the college course he wanted because it would mean moving away from her and she’d miss him too much. He had to attend a commuter college.

          Yeah, like your cousins, her kids are now in their 40s and neither has a stable job.

          1. BubbleTea*

            What these parents fail to recognise (often due to unaddressed issues of their own) is that their offspring are not dolls.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              As a parent, I think “my offspring is my do over” has been a thing for some parents for decades.

              1. Coffee Protein Drink*

                Yes, it has, and it’s sad. Some parents don’t get that offspring have their own personalities, hopes, wants, dreams. I lived through that. Fortunately, I went to college far enough away that I could start asserting more control over my life.

                1. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

                  That is exactly why as soon as I graduated high school, I went to college a thousand miles from my parents. And until the pandemic, everywhere I’ve ever lived has been at least a thousand miles away. My brother stayed close, which made it that much easier for our parents to trample all over his boundaries. Physical distance can do wonders for kids with parents like that.

            2. BlondeSpiders*

              I think what a lot of parents forget is that they’re not just raising kids. When many people think about starting a family, they focus on the kid part. Some drag it out way too long.
              I think your main goal as a parent should be to raise a kid to be a successful adult. By successful, I specifically mean: self-sufficient, kind, resilient; the type of skills a human needs in order to navigate the world.
              But so many focus on the kid part and forget that they won’t be kids forever.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I always wonder about what those “kids” are thinking, as well. Probably because I have an above average drive for independence (I told my mom to stay OUT of my homework in no uncertain terms in first grade, lol. She’s a perfectionist, and I wasn’t having it.). Do they get that drive conditioned out of them? Do they have a lower one to start with?

          My preschooler daughter is currently in a phase where she’s discovered weaponized incompetence, and it’s driving me slightly batty. Like, don’t you want to put on your shoes without my help?

          1. Knitting Cat Lady*

            Heh, on my second day of primary school my mum still wanted to walk me there.
            I told her no, if you want to take a walk you go that way and i go this way!

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            In the case of my mum’s cousin, I think she has a tendency to guilt them out of it. Like when her son wanted to go to a college two or three hours away, she started crying about how much she’d miss him and how she always thought she could depend on him to be there for her and so on.

            I think personality does play a role but I also think it is pretty hard for a kid to push back against an adult who has all the power. And then it becomes cyclical. If their parents have always pretty much done their homework for them, intervened with teachers etc, they don’t really learn how to advocate for themselves.

            1. PotsPansTeapots*

              I had a much milder form of helicopter parenting, but all of this tracks. It’s very easy to confuse “what mom wants,” and “what I want,” and “what mom wants,” and “what’s right in this situation.”

              1. StarTrek Nutcase*

                My parents weren’t helicopters at all, but we’re very controlling in many ways. I was independent at 18, but it took me to 50 to really make choices not influenced by a mostly subconscious desire to not be controlled. But I definitely appreciate them not being helicopters.

          3. Humble Schoolmarm*

            It depends a bit on the kid. Sadly, I’ve taught a bunch of them. In some kids, it manifests in extreme passivity and perfectionism. They won’t engage if the activity seems at all like a stretch. They also don’t ask for help, because they’ve never taken that step alone.
            A lot of helicoptered kids do weaponize it with teachers and other authority figures too. If pushed, (and a push is really a nudge for these kids) their parent will hear of this!
            At the start of the pandemic, I had a kid who, if you asked them to write a sentence (in grade 7) put their head on their desk and started to cry. I tried everything I could think of, scribing, computers, breaking things down into teeny tiny steps, nope! more tears. In the end I was basically down to swinging by their desk with a “Hey kid, are you going to give this a try today?” *quivery lip* “Okay! I’ll check back!”
            Predictably, the kid’s grades were low and falling but when the helicopter checked in, kid’s story was that they were struggling valiantly and the teacher (me) was just ignoring them.
            Things escalated quickly from there with the parent showing up randomly at school one morning to yell at me and a meeting with the school board where everyone nodded in the parent’s direction, left me feeling thrown under the bus and then quietly told me not to worry about it too much.
            And then March 2020 happened. Not two weeks into at home learning, the principal gets a call from the helicopter. She’s at her wits end! Every time she asks kid to do school work, kid starts to cry! What could the parent do? I have to say, while I felt badly for the kid, that brightened those early pandemic days.

            1. bamcheeks*

              a meeting with the school board where everyone nodded in the parent’s direction, left me feeling thrown under the bus and then quietly told me not to worry about it too much

              I recognise the parent is a huge part of the problem here but OH BOY your principal and school board are not doing their job!

              1. Emily*

                Yeah the bigger issue here is an administration/district not supporting the teacher.

                I hope LW #1 follows Alison’s advice. Helicopter mom is not doing her kid any favors.

                1. bamcheeks*

                  Or the student! I mean, the whole point of a state school system is NOT to go, “huh, looks like this kid has crap parents, well, sucks to be them I guess.”

            2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

              Oooh, your first few lines describe what my youngest stepkid struggled with (his Mom is a helicopter parent; his Dad and I, not). He’s turned that around in community college over the past year, but that was spot on for a while.

            3. Seashell*

              That sounds like a kid who needs an evaluation to see if there’s some sort of underlying learning and/or psychiatric problem.

            4. Pizza Rat*

              I’m glad you got some validation, but damn, you shouldn’t have had to deal with that. I have a friend who teaches high school social studies and he is constantly at his wits’ end with dealing with parents.

              1. Humble Schoolmarm*

                Yup, I’d say about 80% of the parents I deal with are either lovely or I never hear from them. 15% are fine, they just don’t really get that I teach 140 kids and I don’t have the time to provide the level of support and communication they want (which is a systemic flaw, not something they or I did wrong). 5%, well, the less said about them the better.

            5. ferrina*

              it manifests in extreme passivity and perfectionism. They won’t engage if the activity seems at all like a stretch. They also don’t ask for help, because they’ve never taken that step alone.

              This pretty closely describes someone I know. His parents were not quite helicopter- they just did things for him so the family looked good. If he struggled with something, they just did it for him because it was easier than helping him (basically emotional neglect in the form of helicoptering). He’s now almost 40 and is extremely risk averse. He doesn’t do anything unless he knows for a fact it will make him look good. He does what his parents say, no matter what.

              He hides it really well- he says “yes” to everything so people will feel like he’s helpful, then he only does a little bit and only exactly what he is instructed to do (because initiative is risky). When he isn’t sure what to do, he calls his parents then presents all ideas as his own. His relationships take a nose dive when his partner figures out that he doesn’t actually have original ideas, it’s more like he’s an intermediary between his parents and his partner. He’s an extreme people pleaser, but also somehow expects people to know when his “yes” meant “no” and will talk behind people’s backs.

              He’s been working the same job since he graduated college. His coworkers like him because he puts on a friendly face and does as instructed. From time to time his parents try to get their friends to hire him in a more prestigious job, but somehow after the interview the “funding didn’t come through”.

          4. Falling Diphthong*

            First, mad props to the username.

            Second, people can adjust to anything as the norm. And start glaring at other people who dare to not perform the Great Hopping Dance To The Mighty Tardigrade at 2:07 pm every day. And a willingness to push back on norms often rests on being in a situation where people have been taught that is rewarded.

            And of course, whatever your parents establish as their expectation, defying that is then how you establish your own identity, for many people.

            1. Genevieve en Francais*

              Off topic, but do you have a brochure for your Church of the Mighty Tardigrade?

              1. Nomic*

                No! No! This is abject heresy! The Great Hopping Dance To The Mighty Tardigrade is at 2:07 AM, not 2:07 PM! You cries for mercy will fall on deaf ears!

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  @greenlily – No, of course not, that’s why we perform the dance. Did you forget your entire catechism after reciting it?

                  I’d take a tardigrade over Buddy Jesus any day. They look so cuddly!

          5. Check cash*

            There are so many kids who aren’t even wanting get their driving licenses. It’s a serious societal problem that they don’t want to separate from family of origin just a bit, but I see it in hiring younger people is that they literally cannot do things that havent been done for them. Let kids make mistakes when stakes are low so when they are HIGH they will be ok.

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

              I think the issues with driving are more cost (it’s really expensive to own and maintain a car), time (in a lot of states, you have to spend a lot of time in driver instruction), a lack of desire to go hang out with friends (if you can “see” everyone or be in constant contact 24/7 on a device, why be around them IRL, especially when you can visit with people all over the world, not just locally?), and the availability of ride share apps (Uber, Lyft, etc). Also, driving is a HUGE responsibility- I was terrified of it until I was 40. So, I don’t think not wanting to separate from family of origin is the issue there.

              1. Le Sigh*

                Yeah, agreed. IME, it’s the things you cite — cost, different ways to be social with friends, ride share apps that greatly expand your transit options. We heavily romanticize driving in this country to the point where we treat it like it’s the be all end all — why? When I was younger it made sense to a point, since online socializing wasn’t as feasible and cars were the only option where I lived. But people have more options now — and cars, fuel, and insurance are way up — so as long as folks figure out ways to get around on their own, why does it matter if they drive or own a car?

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  Yeah, I was late getting my driver’s license, moved halfway across the country at 18, and only actually bought a car at 29. The impetus for buying the car was that my sister, who had moved two hours’ drive away, had a kid I wanted to be able to visit.

                  I don’t think separating from family of origin is closely related to driving/car ownership. It probably has more to do with class and culture; my middle-class white parents also moved halfway across the country from their parents for work, but I know a lot of people who live with or close to multiple generations of their family as a way to share cost of housing/childcare.

              2. Jelizabug*

                Apart from those reasons, you have the insane traffic in so many cities. My sister would LOVE for her son to drive himself, but he gets very anxious about the traffic. I don’t blame him one bit, either!

              3. FlyingAce*

                This so much. I didn’t learn until I was 40 either – and by then I had long left the nest and had a family of my own. (Which reminds me that I still have to park my car in the driveway – I left it in front of my house because a couple of neighbors have their cars out and I’m terrified of hitting them!)

            2. Wanda*

              I waited until 18 and in college to get my license, because when my parents tried to teach me to drive it involved just non-stop screaming at me.

              My mother is a teacher, too, and quite a good one. All her students praise her and learn a lot. I guess I must be the stupidest person on Earth, because I’m the only person she needs to scream at when teaching.

              1. SweetestCin*

                Might be the reason why driver’s ed in my state is done through a certified school, not a parent.

                1. Avery*

                  Our driver’s ed was through high school, but there was definitely the expectation that parents/guardians would be supplementing it with driving time and instruction. Which didn’t work out well for me, with one parent who flat-out refused to be in the car with me because it made her anxious and another parent who worked six days a week and had a lot of other stuff to do on that one day off besides help a nervous teenager learn to drive.
                  I had some other issues that got in the way too–diagnosed ADHD, undiagnosed other mental health stuff and a sleep disorder–but lack of support from my parents is a big reason that I don’t have my driver’s license to this day. And trust me, it’s not because I want to rely on them for everything, I’m actually trying my best to draw boundaries on my mother’s helicopter-ing nature in other ways…

            3. AKchic*

              My kids mostly didn’t learn as teens because we couldn’t AFFORD it. None of them wanted to learn to drive in a big suburban (the only vehicle we had). I couldn’t afford to buy a smaller vehicle for them to learn on. I couldn’t afford the higher insurance rates for one teen, let alone THREE AT ONCE (yeah, back to back to back teens and all three would have had licenses at the same time at one point if they’d gotten them on time). And then the inevitable fighting over the vehicle? One kid was a kamikaze as it is (I know he has his license now, and I know he’s perpetually on the verge of losing it due to his poor driving habits).
              All of my kids are ADHD and are really bad at paying attention to what they are doing (hence why kid 2 hasn’t gotten his license yet). Kid 3 hasn’t because his father is fine driving him where he needs to go.
              My youngest is now able to get his permit. I gave up my vehicle in the divorce and need to get one for myself. I can’t afford to buy a vehicle for my youngest. Cost is definitely more of a barrier than “oh, I can see my friends online”.

            4. ferrina*

              Citation needed.

              My sister didn’t get a driver’s license until her mid-20s.
              She also moved across the country at 18, regularly traveled internationally (without the family or origin), lived in different cities in different parts of the country, and each time did quite well just using public transit and a bike. She’s highly independent, she just didn’t want the hassle of owning and maintaining a car. She finally got a car when her job took her to a suburb that didn’t have good public transit.

            5. pope suburban*

              While I grant that there has been a tendency to overparent, culturally, based on the time I spent working in youth programming, the absolute horror stories I’ve heard from friends who are teachers/nannies/members of parent groups, and observing things since my own childhood in the 90s, I do wonder how much of modern kids being unwilling to be on their own is structural. It was possible for me to get a shared apartment with other kids when I was in college, gas was affordable, activities were plentiful and accessible, and we tended to have parents to help when we really needed it. Now, though, good luck getting a studio that can be afforded on even a generous starting wage! Gas hasn’t been below $5 a gallon for me in quite some time (I’m in California, mind, but kids live here too and other places are proportionally as costly). Parents don’t necessarily have the ability to be a safety net. I love the idea of a multigenerational household, but we’re seeing people forced into it just to barely survive in America; this isn’t your robust family unit where everyone is living comfortably. When I consider that many of these young people went through the crucible of covid at formative ages, I wonder how that impacted them too- but not being a parent or psychologist, I can’t speculate. So I think the other underlying truth is that times are very tough out there and it’s forcing people to do without, and creating a lot of anxiety that’s hard to say isn’t justified.

          6. greenlily*

            I work in a college student services office, as the front line of our financial aid, billing and registration offices. I can confirm that many current college undergraduates in the ages 18-22 range have had the drive for independence conditioned out of them. These students’ parents have hammered it into the students’ heads that college is too important (and is costing too much money) for the student to make any mistakes.

            The normal pattern in my office looks something like this:

            –student comes to my desk
            –student asks a question
            –I give an answer
            –student barely responds, gives no reaction that they have heard or understood me, takes out their phone, and sends a text while they are standing in front of my desk
            –phone rings instantly
            –student hands me the phone and stares at the floor
            –on the other end of the phone is a parent shouting at me that I have upset their child

            A good outcome is that I’m able to defuse the parent’s anger a little, they ask me to put them on speakerphone, they tell the student to ask the question again, I can answer the question where they can both hear me, the parent makes the decision about how my answer will be dealt with, and the student walks out of my office still on the phone with their parent.

            A bad outcome is that the parent demands to speak to my supervisor. This happens multiple times a day.

            I’ve been working in college financial aid offices since 2001. It didn’t used to be like this.

            1. DawnShadow*

              Oh wow. I’m so sorry! This is bananas and it would really wear me down. Thank you so much for your perspective from the front lines – I’ve been wondering how the new grads who had their formative high school years during Covid would be affected (my youngest graduated in 2020).

            2. MigraineMonth*

              Could the parents call your office directly for answers instead? Because I get that 18-year-olds are legally adults, but loans can be really complicated, and remembering how much trouble I had with a single credit card at that age, I’m not surprised parents want to be involved. Particularly because it seems like most financial aid is based on parents’ ability to pay, rather than the student’s ability to pay themselves.

              Of course, yelling at you and immediately escalating to a supervisor without listening is NOT appropriate behavior, and ideally the student would be part of the conversation, but I wouldn’t expect a college student to be able to navigate financial aid without parents’ help.

              1. greenlily*


                Under the terms of FERPA (the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) we can’t share most information with the parent unless the student has signed a waiver explicitly stating which information we can share and who we can share it with. We notify the students frequently that they have the option to sign this waiver, but we can’t legally force them to sign.

                There are exceptions to this (such as a loan that’s been borrowed in the parent’s name) but in most cases, this legal requirement prevents us from giving answers to parents who call us directly. We can of course share information with the student in the parent’s presence, and we stretch that to include speaking with the parent on speakerphone while the student is present and giving verbal permission or even speaking with the parent and the student on a three-way conference call, but if the student tries to leave the three-way call (“Mom, can you just deal with this? I have other stuff to do!”) we have to terminate the conversation.

                All of this is for the student’s protection. Most parents have their student’s best interests at heart, but some do not. It’s quite common for our students to put into writing (e-mail) that they do not want Specific Person to have access to their records. This is usually a non-custodial parent in an unfriendly divorce situation, or some other complex family dynamic in which the student wants only one parent to have access to their information. Sadly, we also have a few students each year who have been declared independent of their families due to documented abuse yet those families continue to contact the school to try to get hold of the student’s schedule/financial information. It is for these students that the protection of FERPA is most vital.

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  I’m glad those protections are in place! Thank you for the work you do, even in challenging circumstances.

                2. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

                  I adore FERPA and I adore student services offices even more. I didn’t learn about FERPA until later in college. My mom handed me a stack of papers to sign when I first went to college and since at that time I did whatever she said, I signed without knowing I was signing a FERPA waiver to allow her full access to my information. I’d get angry calls from her, screaming about my final grades because she’d call to get them before I ever saw them (oh no, I got a B+! the horror!). She’d also get my schedule and call me when I wasn’t in class to make sure I was studying, then lecture me if I didn’t answer, plus deep dives into financial info so she could criticize everything else.

                  Eventually, I broke down crying in the student services office and asked if there was a way I could get my grades before she did so I’d at least be prepared. The employee I spoke to told me that I had signed this waiver and explained everything about it. I withdrew that waiver faster than anything I’ve ever done in my life. I don’t remember that employee’s name, but I will forever treasure their help.

            3. not nice, don't care*

              I work at a university library and am amazed at how poorly some students do as employees. Kind of a mix of zombie and deer in the headlights reaction to everything, but also completely averse to asking for help or even reading a task list. And not getting that you have to notify someone if you’re not showing up for work.

            4. An academic*

              “These students’ parents have hammered it into the students’ heads that college is too important (and is costing too much money) for the student to make any mistakes.” To be fair, college does cost too much money for students to mess it up. The problem is that if the student continues being a passive onlooker to their own life, at best they won’t get anything out of college, and it will be a waste.

              The other thing is that, at least at my university, the three offices you’re representing are known to be bureaucratic, arcane, and error-prone. Financial aid here is known to be particularly error-prone, with devasting consequences for students. (Examples: students getting dropped from classes because the financial aid didn’t come through, and then when it’s restored in the next day, the student is at the bottom of the waitlists for all their classes and is at a serious risk of not being able to take any of the classes they need.) I’m not surprised that students are fighting with parents over financial aid, billing, and registration or that they want their parents to advocate for them when the system punishes the students for the system’s own mistakes.

            5. ferrina*

              To be fair, financial aid is ridiculously complicated and hard to navigate. And most kids need their parents to help pay for it (hence the FASFA). So yes, usually the parent does need to be involved in those conversations (but the yelling is totally unwarranted).

              I was a highly independent kid- solo international travel before I was 18, working since I was 14, had my own check book at 16, and had my own car when I was 15 (yes, before I had my license. and yes, I bought it myself- it was a cheap beater). But my mom didn’t talk to me at all about student aid beyond “sign these forms and borrow as little as possible”, so I didn’t really know anything. If I had tried to make any decisions on my own, my mom would have gotten really mad, and it would be an even bigger headache to try to undo it. Especially since I was still reliant on my mom to pay almost everything, and if she cut off financial aid in other ways (like paying for airfare to return home in the summer or declining to house me during school breaks), I’d be in trouble. It was easiest to just let my mom lead the conversation. Early on I decided it would be easier to just graduate a year early rather than navigate financial aid for four years, so I took max credits and that’s what I did. Yes, I graduated a year early to avoid paperwork.
              I was later diagnosed as ADHD, so the executive function issues were probably at full-force around student aid.

          7. Bitte Meddler*

            My mom has always been a Blanche DuBois type of person: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

            As in, she mastered weaponized incompetence early on and has been trying to shoehorn / force people into the role of her caretaker for at least as long as I’ve been alive. (She succeeded in making me her caretaker until I was in my late teens and got wise to the game).

            She lives with me now, and has since 2007.

            It’s been a hoot telling her No.

            She’ll make one feeble attempt to, say, open a jar, declare she “can’t” do it, and try to pass it off on me. I’ll point her to the drawer of jar-opening tools I have helpfully purchased for her. She frowns. And then opens the jar.

            She’ll tell me something is too heavy for her lift (when it’s only 10 lbs) and I’ll point her to the set of dumbbells I bought her and tell her she needs to work on her strength. She frowns. And then lifts the “heavy” object.

            And I am utterly baffled by this behavior.

            Just like Emmy Noether and her toddler… Don’t you *want* to do these things on your own???

            I am terrified of not being able to take care of things myself. If 10 lbs is too heavy for me today (eek!) I will start lifting 5-lb weights throughout the days until I can graduate up to 10-lb weights. (And then up to 15, then 20, and so on).

        3. CommanderBanana*

          That is so sad. If you want a perpetual toddler, get a dog! That’s what I love about my dog – she’s a forever baby.

      4. Fellow Canadian*

        I believe many parents who do this are either stay at home parents, work at a family business, or have had a job where they have never had to be “on the other end” of the recruitment process. Because as you mentioned, nearly anyone who has been close to the hiring process would find “parents contacting employers for anything other than an emergency” extremely problematic.

        1. sparkle emoji*

          Very much agree. Slightly different kind of helicoptering, but I have a friend who’s inexperienced with job searching and was planning to go in person to speak to HR(unannounced, in a setting that probably didn’t have in person HR) after not hearing back on his application for a week on the advice of his parents. Both fit the categories you outlined. Nearly had a tale of gumption gone awry.

      5. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Yeah the only time my mom ever called in for me was when I was having a medical crisis and I was scared out of my mind and wasn’t able to function to call.

        1. pope suburban*

          I had my mom call in once in college, and my manager was disproportionately angry. But I don’t know what he expected me to do when I had laryngitis, and literally could not speak! That job was predictably terrible; I was working at a call center that used headsets, and they still wanted me back, breathing all over shared equipment, before my family doctor gave the okay. It’s not that I needed my hand held as the manager acted, it’s that I couldn’t talk, didn’t want to come in in person (I felt bad and didn’t want to infect anyone), and didn’t have texting on my family phone plan/didn’t have my manager’s personal number (This should tell you how long ago it was, that texting was not yet prevalent; back in the days of the T9 keyboard, haha).

      6. TiffIf*

        When I was in high school (though I was over 18) my mother did a little networking for me and found out that Mrs. B from Church had a part time job opening and my mother had told her I might be interested. Mrs. B told my mother, who passed along the information to me, how to apply.

        This is the end of any interaction my mother had with my (future) employer.

        (This was a Walmart one-hour photo when there was still film developing as part of the process. Mrs. B managed the photo department. I worked after school and on weekends part-time.)

    2. Elsa*

      I once had a coworker try to plead the case for her daughter who had unsuccessfully applied for a job in my department. and then had multiple people who had only met the daughter as a child send me recommendations.

    3. Artemesia*

      It would be such a kindness to this young woman to tell HER ‘When a parent calls an employer when you are looking for a job, it hurts your chances.’ AND to tell the mother who is calling not only ‘we only discuss employment with the applicant and for what its worth, when a parent involves themselves in the hiring process most places will not go forward with that candidate. You are damaging her prospects by doing this.’

      1. ferrina*

        I’ve shared this story before, but at one point my mom actually argued against me being hired. She worked at a non-profit organization, and when I was in high school I regularly volunteered because, heck, why not? One of the other managers knew me from my volunteering and wanted to hire me to work on a minor short-term project. My mom vehemently argued against it, because she didn’t want to work anywhere with any family member. The other manager was annoyed, because he didn’t want to go through the hassle of posting for this role when it would just be a few months. It was easy, but important enough that he preferred someone who he knew had a good track record, and he’d seen me volunteer enough times to know I could do it.

        Finally he waited until I was volunteering and my mom was elsewhere and he offered me the job. I said yes- I had no idea he and my mom had been arguing about this. My mom was annoyed when I told her, but there was nothing she could do about it. It ended up being a total non-issue. We never worked on the same things (usually not even in the same building), no one treated me or her any differently, I did a great job and I left when the project concluded. Completely boring and satisfactory.

    4. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

      Somehow my siblings and I managed to avoid that with our parents. Though once the job starts, our mother forgets all boundaries. Especially if it’s a new job. And my younger sibling can’t bring themselves to say no. Some recent highlights:

      1) Younger sibling gets a new job (10 years into their career) and mom insists on a whole family tour of the new workplace.

      2) Same job not long after, mom waits until sibling is distracted, grabs their badge, and takes a photo of it to commemorate…something? Sibling works in a secure government facility. This is all kinds of not ok.

      3) Mom insisting she take photos of me at work to commemorate…something? I flat out say no because I have to work with strict confidentiality agreements. Pictures of me working still manage to appear in the family newsletter, along with all the confidential information in the background that can get me fired if the wrong person ever sees it.

      And then there’s the countless number of times mom has called or emailed our managers over various jobs to thank them for hiring us, plus the times she’s “just dropped by” our workplaces and then made a show of meeting managers in person.

      Parents, for the love of bob, do not do this. Your adult kids are not off to kindergarten for the first time. They’re trying to work and pay bills and do not need parents acting like this is a parent-teacher conference.

    5. Orora*

      LW 3: That’s really an overstep. This is where technology can actually help.

      If you feel like helping the organizer, tell them that they can use a Google Form to collect all the RSVPs. If the organizer has to have a spreadsheet for whatever reason, the form will auto-generate a spreadsheet for them. If they need to share it, they can hide the column that lists people’s dietary restrictions and make the spreadsheet View Only. Problem solved.

  3. Loved and Missed*

    Re #3, a Google form can collect that info privately and then deposit it all into a spreadsheet for easy sorting. I hope the OP gets a quick resolution!

    1. Brain the Brian*

      So can a Microsoft Teams form, if your company uses the Microsoft suite of products.

      1. Got This*

        Tools like Airtable and Wufoo can also be used to create forms to collect info into a spreadsheet.

      2. Recovering Chef*

        Yes! I came here to say both of these things! The added benefit of a form is that it enforces the data structure more than an openly editable spreadsheet and prevents people from editing the responses of others. Finally (because I see this too much in my work, and it’s become a pet peeve), this should be done in your company’s preferred tool suite. I see so many people use their personal google account to set up a shared form/sheet/whatever because they haven’t learned how to do same in our organization’s Microsoft products – that means they’re collecting company info (or personal info, in this case) in their own private account that is not as secure as a corporate account and the info cannot be retained when they leave.

        1. Kaiya*

          At another employer, I happened to find out that apparently some people could use their personal Google Docs accounts on our firm’s network.

          Even I was aware that should have been a huge security no-no. A few months later the firm announced they were tightening up on use of GD. My guess is they’d been more lax than they should have been, with certain clients who insisted on using GD. Then something happened and they had to crack down.

      3. JustaTech*

        If your company purchased that level of Teams.

        My company apparently bought the most basic version of Teams and we didn’t get forms or a whole bunch of other stuff until a lot of people complained, and even then only a few people got the ability to make forms. It is very frustrating.

    2. Inclusion or bust*

      I am cringing thinking of people now, or many times, putting things like “kosher” or “boxed meal to eat after Ramadan fast ends” or, from my friend who got dental or periodontal work, “soft mushy food please”

      I do think this should be private even if it doesn’t seem that way

      1. Freya*

        Yeah, there’s a few conditions that become readily apparent if you look at people’s food restrictions, even if they haven’t shared it. For example, if someone says “no seafood, no soft cheese, no processed meats” when last month they had no food restrictions, and they are capable of becoming pregnant, then I am sure going to jump to the conclusion (right or wrong) that they’re pregnant. And that is none of my business!

      2. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

        Yeah, my dietary restrictions ‘out’ me as a member of a religion that I really don’t want to disclose to my entire team/company. I’d a million times rather pick from a menu on my own or privately disclose to my manager (which is what I do for our company events).

    3. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think a lot of survey software can export into excel. Microsoft Forms and Qualtrics are the top 2 that come to mind for me.

      What i find problematic is that if this is a google sheet, that means someone could go and edit what others put in, either by accident or to be malicious.

    4. Clorinda*

      I don’t understand why this wouldn’t be obviously not okay, even if not illegal, as it essentially forces people to reveal religious or medical information they would prefer to keep private.

      1. Leenie*

        I see where you’re coming from. But on the other hand, I don’t even order our food, and I know how everyone who I work with manages their level of religious observance through their diet – this person just doesn’t eat shellfish or pork, someone else won’t eat meat unless it’s kosher, but doesn’t fully keep kosher, another guy tries to fast during Ramadan, but doesn’t hold to it if he gets too busy. I had a colleague who visited from India who had a complex observance where she was vegetarian or pescatarian most days, ate poultry one day, and fasted one day, but never ate beef or pork. My best friend is celiac and wants everyone to be clear on that since she doesn’t want to wind up vomiting. Anyway, my point is that I agree that people are entitled to privacy and a spreadsheet is an inefficient and uncomfortable way to handle this. But food is such a public undertaking – I’m not surprised that the person who does the ordering didn’t really think of it as a private thing.

        1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

          Yes, food is somewhat public and it’s difficult to arrange food for a group of people without anyone noticing who eats different things. It’s even possible that a catering company could send a dish labeled with “Jane Warbleworth gluten free + dairy free” if a certain food is only for one person. (I’ve seen schools do this. It can actually make things easier.)

        2. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

          I’m guessing you either work at a company that’s very accepting and supportive of different religions, your coworkers are extremely comfortable being open, or you just pay extremely close attention to what people eat (or all of the above). If someone doesn’t want to disclose a dietary restriction, especially because they’re worried about discrimination, it’s likely not going to be obvious.

          Unless someone is tracking exactly what ingredients I eat in my lunch every day (and which ones aren’t in my lunch) and cross-referencing that with a list of religious observances and medical conditions (which I think is rather invasive) it’s not going to come up unless I say what’s going on. But having to specify everything on a public spreadsheet makes it super easy to figure out.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I think people really vary on what they consider private or public information. While there is a general consensus that some things are/are not appropriate to be mentioned at work, we’ve gotten plenty of letters from people who overshare or feel uncomfortable sharing even that much (sometimes for very good reasons).

        Eating food tends to be a public enough activity that most people are comfortable sharing their food preferences and restrictions, but that doesn’t mean that people who aren’t comfortable with that should have to!

    5. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      It’s so interesting – as another Celiac, I wish there were more places that I could ‘yell’ at my colleagues that I need gluten free food, so they’d be more likely to remember to order anything at all that I can eat for our faculty coffee gatherings.

      I also disagree with the LW on this: ‘Celiac disease’ is medical information, but “strict gluten free” is a requirement. I don’t understand their desire to keep that private? Like another commenter said, it’s pretty obvious when you walk up to the food box that says your name while everyone is serving themselves from a buffet, or whatever the set up is.

      1. Allonge*

        Eh, it’s different though. Yes, I know who else at our org eats gluten free because we talk, but putting it in a document where everyone can see it is not the same thing.

        Not that we would have to – GDPR is a godsend for stuff like this.

  4. Brain the Brian*

    LW4: I have a coworker who regularly uses pimple patches. I think nothing of it, and I don’t think anyone else in our hybrid office does, either. I myself have stubborn acne well into my 30s, and no one has said a damn thing to me about it despite my company’s otherwise conservative attitude toward appearance. Do what’s right for your skin.

    1. Yup*

      Yeah, I think the new trend is to wear pimple patches in public now. My teen and her friends wear them to school, and I’ve seen lots of 20-somethings wearing them at work in coffee shops, restaurants, and such. I think acne can feel traumatic to some people, or at least make one very self conscious, so whatever helps is fine. It’s nice to have more options than the soaps of our day that just left your skin dry!

      1. Maestra*

        Yes! I see my (high school) students wearing them regularly and, while I wouldn’t think they’d make sense for an adult, the ones they seem to be using now are meant to be noticed – little shapes like stars.

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        This is what I was going to say.

        I teach in college and I have a lot of students who wear them to class. I also know a student with relatively clear skin who wears them because she likes star decorations (these are Starface patches). Basically, they’re pretty trendy and I like that skincare and the fact people don’t have perfect skin are more openly acknowledged.

        There are definitely some subtle ones out there as well. I sometimes wear them on less noticeable places (my neck, behind my chin) if I am teaching because they really help me not to pick at the zit in public (anxiety issues that I’m working on).

        If you’re worried about the redness and are open to try a little makeup, first moisturize the area with face lotion or some primer (something light), then just a little powder or concealer on top. It will be noticeable close up, but so will a zit and so will a patch.

        1. AFac*

          That reminds me of when people used to put little black patches of fabric to cover smallpox scars. And then the little beauty patches were just fashionable and used to send ‘secret’ messages depending on where they were placed on the face.

          What goes around, comes around.

    2. RIP Pillowfort*

      I’m literally wearing a pimple patch in the office right now. It’s much better looking than the unsightly red monster bump underneath.

      I think it’s a case of someone might think it doesn’t look great but ultimately it’s the equivalent of a band-aid. It’s not a super big issue unless you had to look polished to do something like a public facing presentation, etc.

      1. A Poster Has No Name*

        I agree. IME, the huge red bump with the gross white spot at the top looks quite a bit worse than the patch, even if it’s done its job and there’s the little splotch of white stuff underneath. Far less noticeable than if it pops on its own! The stuff has to go somewhere, so I figure I might as well contain it as best I can.

      2. Artemesia*

        it feels kind of like a bandaid to me — it covers an ugly spot like a bandaid and protects it.

    3. Perry Men O’Pause*

      I had no idea this was a trend and it reminds me of Versailles and the trend to use beauty marks to cover up smallpox scars.

      Is there a trend to cover wrinkles or accentuate them? I may be at an age where I have wrinkles and acne…

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I always told myself when I was young that the acne would be gone by the time I got wrinkles, and it gave me hope. But NO. It seems I can indeed have the worst of both worlds…

        On the bright side, I give fewer fucks now. Bring on the wrinkles.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Lol! I’m gonna make that into my theme song for when I look in the bathroom mirror in the morning…

        1. ferrina*

          I don’t have the time or energy to spend time trying to get my skin exactly perfect and ageless. If someone wants that, they can hire a model and some photoshop. I am neither of those.

      2. Esmae*

        I liked the (extremely brief) trend of putting glitter on undereye circles instead of concealer.

    4. cese*

      absolutely. i work in higher education and would say i regularly see students wearing visible pimple patches to meetings. i am in my mid-30s and do wear them at home, but i shy away from wearing them publicly.

    5. VermiciousKnid*

      I work in a large and very stuffy corporate office and I see colleagues wear pimple patches regularly. Always the ones that blend into skin, not the fun ones like stars (though when I see people wearing those, I barely clock it anymore). It’s like a bandaid. I assume they change them if they get visibly gooey.

    6. Sleepy in the stacks*

      Yep, not all pimple patches are fun, bright colored ones. I have patches that I save for work that are a neutral color that matches my skin tone. No one has said anything about it. You can even put makeup over some of them if you’re into wearing it to work or are willing to use it to disguise the patch a bit more :)

    7. Garblesnark*

      I for sure see skin tone pimple patches at work on a regular basis and I think are band aid level among younger crowds.

      The decorative ones may be a judgment call – particularly on whether you want to potentially explain what a pimple patch is to your silent gen colleagues.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        I landed on pimple patches = band aids as well. One of my young colleagues wore one a while back and at first it struck me as unprofessional, like wearing a full on face mask or other ‘self care’ item at work. But I thought about it a bit more and decided I wouldn’t care if someone wore a bandaid on their face, and this is no different.

    8. morethantired*

      Agreed! I was also going to say that you can pat a little makeup over the patch if there’s a worry about the gunk showing. I think the patches are way less noticeable than a pimple.

    9. Voluptuousfire*

      I agree. I say it’s better a discreet acne patch than a potential pus oozing zit. I can get nasty pustules that take a week to come to a head, so I’ve had to pop them in the past to make them
      not hurt and they could ooze pus/blood, which was unsightly and embarrassing.

    10. Caroline 2*

      This is better advice than Alison’s, imho. You wouldn’t feel awkward about wearing a band-aid to work if you had a cut, so don’t feel bad about a pimple patch. It is what it is–normal treatment!

  5. HL*

    for Q4 — I wouldn’t care and most of the time I doubt I’d even notice. I noticed a colleague wearing one the other day and that was after I’d been standing near her for over an hour. I would suggest taking a pack with you /keeping in your desk so you could change it out (in the bathroom) if there’s enough moisture to create the white patch. but otherwise it’s just a small bandage…. much bigger fish to fry!

    1. Mama llama*

      You can also just cover it with a literal band-aid if you don’t want it to be obvious that it’s a pimple! People can have sores, scratches, scrapes, stitches, really anything on their faces and the office doesn’t care or need to know what it looks like under your band-aid. (assuming you are healing!)

  6. Anne Nomimous*

    For LW #4, since Allison mentions that people might be more put off by the clear bandages (where you see the stuff being sucked up by the patch) you might check your local pharmacy out for the old-fashioned hydrocolloid strips. I had no idea until a YouTuber I watched said that you can get these larger patches cheaper at the drugstore and cut them up into smaller patches. I’ve seen some marketed as “wound care”, which I like because a messy pimple is as much an inconvenient wound as if I banged my head on a door and needed a bandage. Unfortunately these are often the old school “skin color” which sucks but an opaque bandage is an opaque bandage.

    1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      Whose skin color? This crap is still around? The label actually says that? I thought that retired when Crayola opened their eyes decades ago. This makes me furious.

      1. JSPA*

        I don’t think the poster means they’re called “skin color.” They’re just warning that the only option is a tone that blends with mid-pale caucasian skin, that being the same tone that used to be labeled “skin color” in the box of crayons back in the 70’s. As opposed to many brands of band-aids / sticking plasters, which now come in bright colors and/or a range of different skin tones.

    2. M*

      There are brands like Matched that do a diversity (small range, but still) of skin tone pimple patches, if that appeals to LW4.

      1. Clorinda*

        if you want a match you could a your-own-skin-color bandage on top.
        When I had the wonder pimple, once a month two days before my period, usually right in the third eye position, I used a dab of Neosporin and a regular bandaid.

        1. M*

          Or cut a section of bandage tape to cover it. There’s definitely options, though *personally*, I’d find them more obvious than a neutrally-toned pimple patch. Think this is more one of those cases where a reasonably-newly-available bit of tech hasn’t quite become fully normalised, so stands out more than it’s likely to do as social norms catch up.

  7. Missa Brevis*

    LW4: If you’re just worried about the appearance of the pimple, I think Alison’s advice to just let the zit be visible and not worry about it is solid. If you’re like me and half the benefit of wearing pimple patches is to keep from picking at them, I do think you can probably get away with wearing one in all but some very polished office environments. (As long as you’re wearing one of the translucent ones. Last week I had a whole conversation with my apartment building’s maintenance person with a bright blue microneedle zit patch, complete with smiley face, over one eyebrow. Hugely awkward.)

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Don’t they make zit patches that you can cover with makeup?

      My skin has always been problematic. I got very, very good at foundation and concealer at about age 12 and continued through my 20s and 30s. If they’d had pimple patches when I was in that phase, I would definitely have learned to incorporate them.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        I’m pretty good with makeup because it’s a hobby of mine and I’ve never successfully covered a pimple patch, though admittedly it might be the brand(s) I’ve used. I personally think that trying to cover them with makeup makes them more obvious because you can’t easily blend over the surface.

      2. Sleepy in the stacks*

        You can cover them up with makeup. They’re still slightly noticeable that way since the makeup doesn’t sit on the patch the way it would sit on skin. They also make liquid pimple patch that is more designed for wearing under makeup. I’ve never used that, but I think that’s more geared towards protecting the pimple from being suffocated by makeup rather than the drawing out properties.

    2. Leenie*

      Oh, I would go for a neutral tone before the clear ones. What can become visible under the clear ones is way more upsetting to me than either an exposed pimple or a smiley face.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Agreed, the stars and smiley faces are a brief notice for me, while I would probably fixate more on a clear one with visible pus. An opaque neutral patch might not even register.

    3. Caroline 2*

      It’s not awkward unless you make it that way (and apparently you did). It’s completely harmless.

  8. Honeylemon*

    LW 4: I’ve gone all-in and have worn the Starface pimple patches to work. I work mainly with younger people so that may skew my perception on this topic but most people didn’t bat an eye and a few commented positively.

  9. Posilutely*

    LW2: We also have to give examples of employees’ alignment with a similar core value and I often mention (it it’s true) that they have self-awareness and are conscientious about communicating and seeking any help necessary during periods of work stress.

    LW3: Coeliac is an autoimmune disease so I think you’re right about your dietary requirement being medical information in the way that (for example) vegetarianism or a requirement for Halal meat would not be. Here you would not be required to disclose that publicly but I’m not sure about the US (if that’s where you are).

    1. Posilutely*

      (LW3 – I’m sure you know that, it was not my intention to explain your own condition to you)

    2. Ellis Bell*

      LW3 has really got me thinking, because I wouldn’t think twice about putting my gluten intolerance on an Excel spreadsheet – I wouldn’t put my medical condition on, psoriasis, I would just put the dietary restriction. But OP is right, there’s a certain amount of information that can be deduced, even if it’s incorrectly deduced; I’ve definitely had people assume I’m Celiac. If you see the same restriction on the sheet all the time, you’re going to learn that Jane can’t have nightshades, what then? Is it more polite to remember Jane’s restrictions going forward (a bit like remembering the office tea round) or more polite to ignore it and pretend you didn’t see it. Will some people prefer to advertise their intolerance so they stop being left out, or will people want you to overlook it and leave them be because they’d never eat food they hadn’t personally packed anyway? It’s interesting.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Good point. I think it would depend on how private you want to be, and how nice your coworkers are. Best case, it could lead to there being a gluten free option the next time someone brought in baked goods. Worst case, there are people who are somehow personally offended by the existence of dietary restrictions and will try to make your life difficult. You’d have to use your judgement to know which it will most likely be.

      2. Nancy*

        Most people aren’t going to read it at all. They are either going to ignore the form because they have nothing to list, or just scroll to the first empty row and exit once they are through.

      3. Silver Robin*

        my team has a spreadsheet just for us that lists name, supervisor, telephone extension, pronouns, communication preferences, in-office days, birthday, and dietary restrictions. Everything after telephone is optional. Dietary restrictions help with lunch orders and the like. People put a range of stuff from “no red meat” and “no nuts” to “kosher (default to pescetarian/vegetarian)”. We have some go-to places that we know work for everyone so it only really comes up if somebody new joins us and we have to check if those still work. Some folks are open about it being a religious/medical thing, in that the underlying reason comes up in conversation and a person can make the connection, but others just specify the restriction and nobody pries based on that. The farthest it might go is double checking if something is an allergy we need to be asking restaurants to handle appropriately. Honestly, except for those of us in charge of birthdays/lunch orders, I am pretty sure nobody scrolls that far over in the spreadsheet XD

    3. CommanderBanana*

      I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of anti-Semitism after I’ve put kosher or no pork/red meat in for dietary restrictions, including having a banquet worker flip out on me for asking for a salad that didn’t have dead pig dumped all over it.

      1. Nonanon*

        Yeahhh I live in a liberal part of a red state, and I can EASILY see not wanting to make it public that you’re fasting for Ramadan, or need to keep Kosher, or any other non-WASP dietary requirement (hell, even the traditional Catholic Fish Fry Friday gets weird looks) out of potential retaliation.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Interesting thing to fixate on. Just so you have alllllllll the context, I was staffing an event where we’d been asked to send in any dietary restrictions. One of the lunches had exactly one item that didn’t not have pork, which I believe is dead pig, on it.

          When I asked if I could have a bowl of salad that did not have bacon (which I’m pretty sure is also dead pig) all over it, one of the banquet staff flipped out, then grabbed the tongs from the salad that was covered in bacon and jammed them into the non-bacon salad, thereby making it also inedible for me and the several other people in attendance who also had indicated they don’t eat pork.

          I don’t know why my not eating pigs and cows is so incredibly offensive to other people, but I’m terribly sorry if it offended you.

          1. KA*

            Hey CommanderBanana, philmar may have just been amused by your “dead pig” comment. . . I certainly thought it was funny xD

          2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            Dead pig made this omnivore smile. It’s not like we pork-eaters are often a disadvantaged group.
            I couldn’t care less what other people eat; not my business.

            If I’d witnessed this, I’d have made an official complaint about the staff member who flipped out. They are a disgusting person who almost certainly discriminates against race & religion.

            1. SweetestCin*

              Same here with the “I’d file an official complaint about the staffer” – I figured that if we were in the land of “dead pig”, capital S-Something had happened in the story.

              I’m so sorry that this staffer was such an arse, unprofessional, and likely made a lot of folks go hungry.

    4. urguncle*

      I think Celiac would fall under “you don’t have to disclose your diagnosis, just that you have to have a gluten-free meal” which is not medical information. It’s your choice to disclose a diagnosis that results in a dietary restriction, in the same way that saying “vegetarian” is different than saying, “I have high cholesterol.”
      It’s not confidential information that you need a gluten-free meal, but it is more of a need-to-know thing. d

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        The thing with celiac is that some people have extreme reactions. So it’s not just can’t eat gluten, it’s that they cannot have gluten near their food and the cooks have to be aware of cross contamination. So just putting gluten free is not going to register the same as celiac disease (or at least it should register that it’s an allergy).

        1. Ellis Bell*

          It should register as serious really, because being gluten free is very different to just being wheat free. Gluten is gluey, invisible and easily spread through contamination. So if you say anything is “gluten free” you have to make sure foods are segregated. If you’re just wheat free, the same thing doesn’t apply. “gluten sensitive” is the next stage down, and doesn’t necessarily involve preventing contamination, but any responsible caterer will have a full on gluten free approach even for the mildly sensitive.

    5. Nancy*

      LW3 just needs to say gluten-free. No medical info disclosed and people do choose to not eat gluten even if they medically can.

      There’s are ways to make it private, but the form does not require medical info.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Yes and no. From a catering perspective, there’s a big difference between a medical-necessity-no-cross-contamination-allowed lack of a gluten and a preference. Whoever’s dealing with the food would be better served assuming anything listed in the doc that could be a medical requirement, is, but in my experience unless you explicitly say it’s medically necessary, it’s often not treated as such and then that causes its own host of problems.

    6. Kristinyc*

      It could also expose other medical things someone might not want to share… like, if a woman said “No soft cheeses, lunch meats, sushi, or caffeine,” that would probably indicate she’s eating with pregnancy restrictions (which she may not be ready to share with the team yet).

      1. Silver Robin*

        people get around that by finding a different thing to ask for that also covers those needs.

        Example: I keep kosher(ish). I could ask for kosher style meals, but that gets complicated depending on how much the person ordering knows about kashrut. So instead I ask for vegetarian or pescetarian, because that is a subset of acceptable food for me with easier rules for the orderer to follow.

        A pregnant person with the restrictions you listed could ask for vegan food and just, not drink caffeinated drinks (caffeine is very rare in food by my understanding, aside from coffee in chocolate cake etc to bring out the chocolate flavor). If anyone asks, they are trying a new diet for a month as an experiment. Or it is none of the asker’s business. Or pregnant person could simply bring their own food, if saying anything feels like too much at the moment.

        1. Rose*

          But asking for a special vegan meal when coworkers know you’re not vegan is likely to raise eyebrows if anyone happens to read it. And bringing your own food isn’t always practical, like if you’re traveling.

          1. A. Nonymous*

            I have been organizing events like this for a decade and no one has ever once expressed interest, let alone noticed.

        2. kendall^2*

          I also keep kosher, but I don’t eat vegetarian/pescetarian without kosher certification. So there’s no way I could massage my request to not give religious information as well as dietary restrictions. Which may be fine, but based on CommanderBanana’s comment above, may really not be.

        3. Garblesnark*

          As someone who medically can’t have any caffeine (which is much less caffeine than allowed in pregnancy), it actually rules out all chocolate that isn’t Dutch processed. For a while, I went to local bakeries and asked, “hey, is your cocoa Dutch processed?” but I’ve since given up, as the cashier at most of my local bakeries had not heard of that.

        4. Emmy Noether*

          Vegan is NOT a good workaround for pregnancy restrictions, because salad and raw veggies are MUCH more likely to give you food poisoning than unpasteurized* cheese or smoked/dried meat. I could write a whole essay about how society expects pregnant women to forego “luxury” foods, and not more dangerous “healthy” foods.

          For early pregnancy, you can take the risk that there’ll be something edible (especially if it’s going to be warm/cooked food), or claim an upset stomach, and/or bring your own food.

          *pasteurized is the criterium for cheese, not soft! Soft/hard is for lactose. And in the US it’s all tragically pasteurized anyway.

          1. Freya*

            Australia had a recall last year of a camembert, made with pasteurised milk, that had a potential contamination with listeria. Back in 2012, we had several cases of listeriosis where a soft cheese was implicated, including a miscarriage at 19 weeks.

            The problem is that listeria can grow at fridge temperatures, so if there isn’t another factor that makes it difficult for the bacterium to grow (like the acidity of harder cheeses like cheddar and parmesan), then contamination after pasteurisation is a possibility. And if contamination has occurred, then the bacterium will grow to dangerous levels during maturation and during the shelf life of the product.

      2. Office Lobster DJ*

        My thought is that asking for food restrictions is by its nature voluntary. If someone decides they’d rather not share, they aren’t in any worse shape than they were before this spreadsheet existed. Then again, I’d also think that most reasonable offices would encourage – or at least not discourage – folks from talking privately to the meeting organizer about restrictions they’d rather not go out to the group.

        Maybe this office hasn’t thought things through yet (which is where the script in the answer comes in), but my bet is that this tool was simply meant for efficiency for the meeting organizer, and once they stop and think about the implications, they’ll work with people.

        1. Observer*

          If someone decides they’d rather not share, they aren’t in any worse shape than they were before this spreadsheet existed.

          Yes they are. Because now they have no way to get their needs met.

          Claiming that something is voluntary when that thing is the only way to get a *need* met is a bit of a stretch.

          but my bet is that this tool was simply meant for efficiency for the meeting organizer, and once they stop and think about the implications, they’ll work with people.

          I hope that you are right about that! It’s common enough, that I would not be surprised.

          1. Office Lobster DJ*

            I guess my assumption is that this spreadsheet isn’t the only way. (Which, yes of course, everyone has a right to accommodation if they want, as well as medical privacy) There had to be a pre-existing way to communicate these things, right? Even there wasn’t an established route, ignore the spreadsheet and talk to the organizer directly as if of course they don’t want you to share more than you are comfortable with, and of course you need to eat, so here is what you need….

            Essentially, treat this spreadsheet as a tool for someone’s efficiency that won’t cover all situations.

          2. A. Nonymous*

            Well, that’s the crux of the problem: you can’t have your needs met if you don’t express what they are.

            1. Observer*

              True. Which is why there needs to be a way to express those needs in a way that does not invade people’s privacy unnecessarily.

        2. I'm just here for the cats!*

          Yes, it is voluntary, unless they are going to a work meeting where food will be provided, then it is a requirement to give the person ordering food what your restrictions are.

        3. CommanderBanana*

          ….what? If I don’t share, I’m likely to show up at an event where the lunch is the Big Beef and Cow BBQ spectacular and not be able to eat anything.

          1. Office Lobster DJ*

            Absolutely! But it’s voluntary in the sense that no one is going to force you to disclose that, nor should they be able to (e.g. being required to disclose sensitive medical information).

            It’s voluntary for the employee to share, but the employer needs to accommodate what is shared with them.

    7. Catering woes*

      When we moved to more in-person events our social committee sent out a Google form asking about dietary restrictions, noting that it was optional but we couldn’t accommodate needs we didn’t know about. Originally the results went on one of our planning docs but Boss said we couldn’t do that because one employee had mentioned celiac so it was medical information; now the answers are just in the form and only the person who made it has access. I saw someone else in this comment thread say “you don’t need to say celiac, just gluten-free” but there’s a difference between “I can’t actively eat gluten but can have stuff ade in the same kitchen/oil/whatever” vs “cross-contaminating utensils could knock me out for days”; the coworker who disclosed celiac was quite open about it anyway but also did so to communicate severity.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ This! There is a HUGE difference between gluten-free and needing celiac accommodations, all the way up to needing food prepared in a certified gluten-free kitchen and making sure all the serving utensils, etc., are separate.

    8. Flourishing (LW2)*

      That’s a great point. I’ll definitely include that in my notes when I have to write my supervisee’s assessment. Thank you!

  10. Mom2ASD*

    OP#1 – it would be a kindness to the teen to tell their parent to cut this nonsense out and why. You don’t have to, and arguably, you shouldn’t engage at all with parents, but it would be a real service to the kid, who doesn’t deserve the kind of damage their parent can do.

    Believe me, I’m a parent and would DEARLY love to intervene on my ASD son’s behalf – sometimes to shake people who won’t give neuro-divergent kids a chance – but I know it won’t help and would be worse for him than staying in my own lane.

    1. Snow Globe*

      I suspect the parent probably won’t be too receptive to hearing that they may be harming their child’s chances. It might be more effective to communicate this to the kid.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, I would worry that telling the parent that might make them force the kid to not work for the place the kid might actually want to work. And tbh, this part of OP’s letter worries me: “Honestly, the thought of dealing with or making our manager deal with a helicopter parent as an employer makes me not want to hire this applicant.” Not that you as a hiring manager need to take into account a job applicant’s relationship with their parent, but please don’t write the kid off just because you are put-off by her mother. I think AAM’s first suggestion as to what to tell the mom now is great and if you do hire this kid, you could tell the mom the second part and do the kid a favor. You can also, once the kid is working for you, show the kid professional norms WRT parents in the workplace and maybe that’ll give her a nice confidence boost that will help her rely less on her mom when looking for a job in the future.

        I’m now remembering the LW here whose dad was applying to jobs for them without telling the LW about it. It’s possible that’s happening here too; maybe the mom is sending these emails and the kid knows nothing about them at all.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          “…rely less on her mom…”
          I’m thinking of a classmate long ago whose mother didn’t like her volunteering at the fire department.
          Mom kept trying to push her into a traditionally female alternative. Last I heard she was a full l-time firefighter.

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          It’s highly possible the child has no idea that Mom is doing this. I immediately thought of all the letters here from kids whose parents deliberately sabotage their kids chances at freedom. A job means their own money. Which enables the kid to get away. Mom could be this way. Or just a clueless helicopter parent.

          Unfortunately, you don’t know so telling the parent could set something off. You are hiring for a position, not solving all the world’s problems. It more than probable even if you tell this parent how their behavior is hurting the child that if you hire the child it will continue. You are right no manager deserves this.

      2. HannahS*

        I still think it’s worth saying. The parent won’t listen when their child says it and they may not seem to be receptive if the LW says it, but being told to stop by a fellow adult will likely carry some weight.

        1. Beany*

          I agree. If the parent is overbearing, then it may be hard for the child/applicant to get them to back off, or convince them that they’re not helping. Even if they say “my prospective boss said parents shouldn’t contact them directly”, the parent might claim the child misunderstood the message. A direct reply from the company to the parent saying “back off” is less ambiguous, and doesn’t put the child in a tough spot.

          1. Observer*

            Exactly. No matter what the kid says, there is a good chance that the parent will insist – and *believe* that THEY know. Better. Because of COURSE “Mom always knows better. That’s what Moms are for!”

            Hearing it from another adult – and one in a hiring capacity might be the first crack in that armor.

          2. Chas*

            Perhaps it would be best to let the applicant know it’s happening and could be hurting their chances with applications, then ask the applicant if they’d prefer for you to correct the parent’s behavior or just keep ignoring/deflecting the requests for information? I’d imagine the applicant would have a better idea of if this is a case of “Parent won’t take me seriously but would listen to an adult.” or “Parent is too stubborn to listen and would cause more trouble if someone pushed back at them.”

          3. tabloidtained*

            Yes, my overbearing parent never did this, but if they had, my objections would have meant nothing. But hearing it directly would probably have made an impact, especially if it allowed my parent to save face.

    2. Mostly Managing*

      I have several neurodivergent kids, and I completely agree with you.
      Job hunting is a hard thing that they have to do on their own.
      My role is “support from behind the scenes”. I proofread their resume and help make it as strong as possible. We roleplay interviews, practice answers to common questions, talk about what to say if there’s a question they can’t answer.

      But then they have to manage it themselves.

      1. Rara Avis*

        I did the same with my 15 1/2 year old applying for their first summer job. I taught them how to write a resume and did (at their request) some possible interview questions with them.

    3. Rose*

      They don’t have to, but since OP has specifically said they don’t want to hire the kid because of this factor that is totally out of their control, I think it would be the right thing to do. It’s not the kids fault their parent is overbearing. Tons of teenagers hate having this kind of parent. And tons of helicopter parents don’t listen when kids tell them to back off.

    4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Individuals with disabilities who need supports when job searching may be able to access vocational rehabilitation services (at least in the US, and I’m sure in other countries). That way if they actually need someone to reach out or to coach them how to do it for themselves it carries a lot less baggage than “mommy called.” If you can’t find the right organization, check with your local career center. They’ll know who to hook you up with.

    5. Pizza Rat*

      I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’d do in the situation. It came down to two things:

      1) Tell the parent I will only communicate with the applicant about the job AND that it is inappropriate for her to reach out to me. I would also include that this behavior hurts her offspring’s chances for a position.

      2) Email the applicant, saying their mother contacted me, and that I sent her a letter telling her it was not appropriate and she should not to do it again. Next I would say they are still under consideration, but if I hear from their mother again regarding anything other than a medical emergency, they will no longer be considered.

      The kid may not know their mom is doing this and needs to be aware, and both parties should be aware of consequences of this ludicrous and offensive behavior.

  11. Come for job advise stay for the skincare*

    LW 4: If you’re a makeup wearer, you could try experimenting with concealer and/or foundation *over* the pimple patch. This should work with any translucent hydrocolloid patch, but Peace Out has a version called “Acne Day Dot” specifically designed to adhere to makeup.

    Best practices: make sure skin is extra clean/dry (e.g, use a dab of witch hazel to remove any excess oil/moisturizer), be really careful applying the patch to get smooth edges, apply primer to the patch before any makeup product(s) (skip this if you use the Peace Out patch mentioned above), use very light layer(s) of product, and blend all product from the middle of the patch out (blending from your face toward the middle will make the edge of the patch more obvious)

    1. Roland*

      I think this is a good tip even for people who don’t regularly wear makeup. I’ll dab foundation on a clear patch if what’s going on underneath is especially gnarly – not because I have to but because I prefer it blend in. It doesn’t make it invisible or anything but it does tone it down.

  12. Coverage Associate*

    Re #4. A few months ago, the teenage worker at the grocery store was wearing pimple patches, the clear round ones. As a customer, it made her look younger and less in touch with workplace norms. But the job was a typical first teenage job, so it didn’t make me think less of the store.

    A few weeks ago, I wore some sparkly pimple patches to a different grocery store. The cashier, a middle aged man, asked what they were for/meant. I am terrible at coming up with lies on the spot, so I said they were part of a medical treatment. (No pun intended) I should have said something about coming from a party and not washed off all my makeup.

    As an acne patient, I order big packs of 2” hydro colloid bandages online. It probably works out cheaper per use than the pimple patches. (I cut them to fit my face.) They are higher quality, usually hospital grade and sterile. I cut them in half and use them on my back overnight. The little pimple patches never stay on my back overnight. I have only worn the hydro colloid bandages to my office job once visibly. It was more on my neck than face, no one said anything.

    1. New Mom (of 1 7/9)*

      I personally do not give a rat’s butt if my cashier is wearing pimple patches or has a nose ring or blue hair or anything else. You do you.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        I worked at K Mart as a teen, back in the 90s when we actually were required to dress more professionally. I could wear sweatshirts, sneakers, and jeans to school, but then had to change into slacks and a button-down shirt and dress shoes for my crappy part-time job.

        I certainly hope my customers weren’t judging me (or the store!!!) for the spots of chalky-white regular Clearasil, or the brownish spots of the “doesn’t match anyone’s actual skin tone” tinted Clearasil on my face.

    2. Happy meal with extra happy*

      Would you think the same if you saw someone with another type of bandage on their face, for instance, like when someone has to have something removed?

  13. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – If you’re going to have to leave your job to care for your family member, I don’t think you have anything to lose by exploring a part time or flexible work arrangement with your employer. But before you do that, make sure that you know what the labour laws are in your jurisdiction – you might be able to take a job-protected leave of absence or there might be other rules that would allow you to get accommodations (like a flexible schedule or part time) to deal with family obligations.

    From a recruiting perspective – if you do leave your job – a LOT of people now are taking a break from their career to take care of elderly parents. I interview people in this situation – usually after the parent has died, unfortunately. It can be difficult for people to answer why they left their prior role, given their bereavement. If asked why you left your prior role, and it’s too emotionally difficult to be specific, you can say that you were dealing with a family obligation that is now concluded, and that you are eager to resume your career. The recruiter will (or definitely should) understand the situation.

      1. TCPA*

        Hi LW5 – I just wanted to offer my sympathy and send some kind thoughts your way. This sounds like a tough situation; however it works out, I hope you get time to not only care for your aging parent, but also to spend quality time with them. Looking back someday, perhaps you will appreciate the opportunity you had to step away from your career and be with your parent. Work (either at the same employer or a different one) will be waiting when you come back – I think it’s amazing you want to put family first. You are doing a wonderful thing, and I wish you all the best <3

  14. cori*

    Lw4: I started having a similar issue after working masked & saw my dermatologist. I got a rx soap (sodium sulfacedimide) that’s also available otc – I’ve had maybe 1 zit in the last year. An absolutely lifesaver!

    1. ldub*

      Adding to this thread that I had a similar issue as well and started using tretinoin thanks to my derm, and now almost never break out. I also don’t really wear makeup so it’s been so nice to trust that my skin will generally be clear, or if I do break out, it’s a regular pimple and not the deep cystic kind that I used to get.

    2. LW 4*

      Yeah, I use a retenoid which has helped keep it down to ~1 pimple a month vs multiple and constant. My skin is very dry so I haven’t been able to do more than OTC adapalene 2x week without excessive drying.

    3. The Nanny*

      I hate to evangelize, but I struggled with acne all the way up into my late 20s and nothing helped, medicated or otherwise. Then I tried a random one off product and it fixed my skin. I still have acne now and then but I put a dab right on the spot and it clears up overnight. It’s Deliverance by Diuex Skin and it costs so much money for such a little bottle but I pay it. They could charge me a toe for every bottle and I would give it to them.

  15. Catherine*

    OP4, please do wear the patches! A pimple is a wound, particularly if it’s the leaking kind, and I think it’s much worse to go around with an exposed wound than to let the bandage be visible (even if the bandage is in the “sucking” stage).

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I have never heard of these and I think they sound really clever. If a colleague was wearing one and I asked what it was (not sure I would) my only response would be to ask where to get them!

    2. Nobby Nobbs*

      This feels really shamey to me. There’s nothing wrong with having pimples, and covering them is not some kind of moral imperative. Don’t bend over backwards to make it one, we have enough to be getting on with.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        It’s not (to me) about covering them but about the fact that a hydrocolloid bandage helps to heal them so much more quickly than just leaving it uncovered.

      2. Cabbagepants*

        I think it’s reasonable to ask people to not walk around work with open wounds. Some pimples never get to that point, in which case they wouldn’t need to be covered, but if there is stuff coming out/risk of stuff coming out then it’s only fair to your colleagues that you either cover it appropriately or WFH.

        1. Allonge*

          Please let’s not go there. People walk around all the time with paper cuts, small wounds and abrasions and all kinds of skin issues where stuff is sort of coming out without any impact on others. People leak.

          Covering up pimples does not necesssarily help with the healing process either. Generally the actively leaking open wound stage is a few minutes at most. Acne is involuntary, severely genetic and not something you can reliably regulate.

          You are not owed perfect people around you.

          1. Cabbagepants*

            I have acne and can emphasize with the shame, but at the same time, this isn’t about “perfect people.” Pimple goo is infectious material and walking around with infectious material coming out of you isn’t workplace appropriate.

            1. Bella Ridley*

              What did humanity do for the thousands of years before hydrocolloid patches were invented? Never in my life have I heard anyone refer to zits as leaking infectious material or that it’s somehow socially unacceptable to have a zit in public.

              1. cabbagepants*

                People died at huge rates due to infectious disease before modern germ theory and medicine! I don’t think we should look at the past as a role model for sanitation and health!

                No one is saying “don’t have a zit in public.” I am saying — if your zit is leaking pus (am I really the only one who knows what is inside a pimple? it is not sugar and spice) — please keep it from getting on others. Just like you hopefully wouldn’t walk around with snot pouring out of your nose.

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  I walk around with snot pouring out of my nose for 80% of the winter months. I’m not sick or particularly infectious, it’s just my body’s reaction to moving from the cold outdoors to the worm indoors. I wipe my nose, wash or sanitize my hands and go on with my life.

                  We have bodies. They’re kind of gross. I’m all for stopping the spread of infectious diseases and taking reasonable hygiene steps, but my open, not-currently-bleeding cut isn’t in any way dangerous to you unless you decide to touch it.

                2. Ellis Bell*

                  I don’t think Bella was talking about the middle ages; hygienic practices did exist before hydrocolloid patches. I’m not knocking them, they’re great; but I’m allowed to go to work with a surprise pimple and no patches in the house. You clean up a bit more frequently, dab with a handkerchief, keep your distance and don’t rub your face on people. That should suffice for cleanliness and protection of others, unless I’m mistaking the severity of the pimple we’re talking about. I suppose you’d have to use a sick day if it was literally exploding AT people.

            2. Allonge*

              I mean – if someone is leaking sufficient amounts that it has a chance of getting on other people, that will likely need some kind of wound cover, yes.

              In my experience, pimples are a much more localised thing – pimple patches I have seen are round tabs with less than half an inch in diameter. Anything that is stopped by such a device is not going to be a danger to others just based on proximity.

        2. Armchair Analyst*

          Should I cover the cuticle that got cut too close and has some blood?

          I mean there’s wound and then there’s “stop the game and call in the body fluid hazard folks with PPE” and a pimple is not in the 2nd group.

          1. cabbagepants*

            Yes, you should cover up any break in the skin where your body juice is coming out and clean up any leaked body juice. This is not an undue hardship.

          2. Catherine*

            I mean, yes, I do, because if I don’t it will reopen several times throughout the day and I’ll leave blood streaks on the paperwork I handle. You can’t possibly be suggesting it’s appropriate to hand someone forms that I’ve bled on.

          3. Grim*

            I wouldn’t say you’re REQUIRED to, but it’ll be better protected and probably heal quicker if you do. I have pretty raggedy cuticles and constant hangnails, and I’ll often pop a bandaid on for a few days to keep them protected. Likewise, I wouldn’t want anybody to feel obligated to cover their pimples in any way (I sure don’t) but if your pimple is open and/or leaking, some people might find that it’s helpful to cover them. I’m more thinking about the pimple owner’s risk of it getting infected here, not about the risk of them somehow getting potentially infectious bodily fluids on somebody else (which I agree is not likely, and I think some people in this thread are being a bit over the top).

        3. CommanderBanana*

          I mean, I thought it was reasonable to not want chicken caked under one’s fingernails in a previous thread, but a few people were very upset that I consider having chicken caked underneath one’s fingernails to be gross. Who knew.

          I did work with a woman who, in addition to never washing her hands after using the restroom, chewed her fingers and cuticles constantly and left blood smears all over any paper she handled. I would say that that being handed a blood-smeared paper by an unwashed bathroom hand is gross, but that is also probably judgmental. :)

          In general, I think it’s prudent to cover any actively weeping, seeping, and/or bleeding wounds, whether they are on one’s face, hands, or elsewhere, but I wouldn’t want to come across as judgy about it in case someone on here is really into weeping, seeping, and/or bleeding in the workplace.

          1. Nobby Nobbs*

            Having a zit is not equivalent to either of those things. That’s a bad-faith argument unless your coworkers are rubbing their weeping pimples all over your paperwork.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            Can we agree that a pimple (or other small break in the skin) that is not currently weeping, seeping and/or bleeding does not need to be covered?

          3. Ellis Bell*

            Those are really extreme, and very different, examples to what we’re talking about here.

        4. I should really pick a name*

          Is this a thing that happens?
          Have you ever seen a coworker with an actively leaking pimple?

          1. Bitte Meddler*


            I had a coworker once who had the kind of acne where some part of his face was almost always in overdrive-zit stage.

            We were standing around talking and he gesticulated with some file folders in his hand and they brushed his cheek… which caused 2 or 3 large, greenish-tinted zits to burst open.

            This was back in the early Aughts (2000’s) and I sincerely wish pimple patches were a thing back then.

      3. greenlily*

        oh, interesting, I didn’t read this as shamey, I read it as “keeping an exposed wound covered to minimize the likelihood of infection”. I’m dealing with a huge zit on my face right now, actually, and do not really care how people feel about seeing my “imperfection” but am concerned about the possibility of an infection in this specific location due to possibility of it spreading internally. Google “danger triangle of the face” for alarming details!

        1. JustaTech*

          Yes, this is what I thought we were talking about!

          In general, people should *try* to treat big, leaky pimples like other wounds to prevent additional infection for *themselves*. Which means the appropriate amount of cleaning/covering/ airing out and hand washing.

        2. Tea*

          It’s the AAM community. There’s no element of personal hygiene or germ control that they can’t make weird.

    3. strawberry lemonade*

      What? No it’s not, it’s a pimple. It’s pretty different. If you think it’s gross that’s okay, but sometimes bodies do things that are both gross and acceptable.

      1. Catherine*

        Ok, maybe my body is especially weird or volatile? But I’ve found that when I get pimples, they tend to burst even when I don’t touch them, and then they… drip for a while after they do.

        I have to handle things at work that other people touch too. I use the patches so that I don’t accidentally get body fluids on things I handle in the office. I’m not saying it’s unacceptable that bodies do stuff like this, but it’s not okay for me to make it someone else’s problem by getting it on anything handled communally.

        1. scotsgal*

          You’re not wrong – rightly or wrongly, I doubt many people want to see open or weeping anything in a workplace, and I say this as someone with my fair share!

        2. strawberry lemonade*

          No, you’re not particularly or uniquely volatile–generally people will blot any fluids until they stop fluiding and then go about their day. There’s just a wide gulf between obligatory products for a pretty normal occurrence, and letting all fluids run free forever with no intervention.

          I’m not saying it’s bad or whatever that you use pimple patches, I’m saying that “this normal skin thing is gross and you ought to buy a beauty product to shield the world from it” is reinforcing…well…needing to buy a beauty product to shield the world from a normal skin thing.

          1. Catherine*

            I’m wondering if “until they stop fluiding” is where we’re disconnecting? For me that’s 20 minutes for a small one but I’ve had plenty where the blood just refused to clot and I was still actively bleeding 3 hours later (or where normal activities like talking or eating reopened the wound), so of course I’m going to apply a first-aid product to get back to my day instead of waiting around for my body to behave itself.

            1. Hlao-roo*

              Yeah, I think the disconnect is in the “until they stop fluiding” part. I’m one of the “blot my leaking pimple with a tissue, then I’m good to go about my day” people.

              Your strategy of a pimple patch (or band-aid, etc.) is definitely a good one for pimples (or paper-cuts, etc.) that don’t stop oozing for a while!

            2. Kstruggles (Canada)*

              If that also applies to things like paper cuts, or bruises taking longer to healyou might want to talk to your doctor. Makes me wonder about your clotting factors. But IANAD

              1. Catherine*

                Paper cuts also tend to take a while to stop bleeding and reopen very easily if I don’t bandage them. I thought that was just because fingers Do That?

                I cannot believe that AAM might be identifying some medical problem I didn’t know I had.

            3. doreen*

              I think that’s probably where the disconnect is. Because I’ve never had a pimple bleed for 3 hours or even 20 minutes. And never actually dripping blood or any other fluid – yes they have goo, which sits on the of surface my face when the pimple pops and sometimes after I blot the goo there’s a drop or two of blood which also sits on my face rather than dripping off. The only way I would get either substance on anything I touched is if I got it on my finger and didn’t clean it off.

            4. Cyndi*

              This sounds to me like a very unusually long time for small things like paper cuts or burst pimples to go on bleeding or otherwise oozing. The only times I’ve ever had a pimple bleed for that long were due to compulsive skin picking, where I would actively be reopening it the whole time and couldn’t make myself stop. (This issue is fortunately much less severe these days.) If you’re just going about your day and not messing with it I don’t think it’s normal for blood to “just refuse to clot” for hours at a time.

            5. MigraineMonth*

              Oh wow, I’ve never had a pimple seep or bleed for longer than 2 minutes, and mine rarely pop on their own. It’s just unsightly and I use a bit of antibacterial gel on it to make sure it stays clean and heals well.

              It sounds like we’re talking about very different situations; I can definitely see why you would want to treat yours as an actively seeping/bleeding wound.

              1. LW 4*

                Op 4 here, just want to say for the record that my pimples in question are never oozing in the office. Like the commenter above mine almost never pop on their own, and once they do they bleed or ooze for a minute or two tops. I’m the opposite of a compulsive picker – I think one of the advantages of a patch for me is helping a pimple drain where usually it would just get bigger and bigger.

                The experience that kicked this letter off was my much more common experience of leaving the house with a small pimple (maybe even one that did not yet have a head) and mostly ignoring it, then coming home and discovering over the course of the day that it had grown to a very inflamed white head, and worrying my coworkers had been horrified by it all day.

                Anyway, this whole thread was very gory and mostly irrelevant to me, but fun to read. Bodies! They do weird things! And people all have very different ideas of what is normal!

  16. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (flourishing) – what a strange thing to have to evaluate someone against, given their definition of flourishing. (I could easily define / evaluate whether someone is “flourishing” relative to the role / in the job context, but that doesn’t seem to be what they’re asking). Given that it’s a university I wondered if flourishing is more from the students’ perspective and your role (as administrators, professors, staff) is to create the environment to allow that “flourishing” to happen.

    1. Myrin*

      I’ve never encountered “flourishing” (one of those words that become strange and stranger the more you repeat and think about it btw) meaning “being able to make choices for a healthy and fulfilling life” – is that just a facet of this word I’m not familiar with as a non-native English speaker or is it indeed a little bit strange?

      1. Brain the Brian*

        It makes sense in the context of university studies, but it’s definitely a little on the “fluffy” side of things and not a standard use. Like, the specific way that you would expect to see students “flourish” would be that they are “able to make choices for a healthy and fulfilling life.” But it really is complete horseshit when applied to staff evaluations, IMO.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          It is corporate babble even in the context of students. One flourishes as a result of good choices, not the other way around. But more to the point, this is even more blatantly babble in the context of a department admin.

          1. Frieda*

            Sounds to me like a nod towards Aristotelian virtue ethics, where good choices lead to virtue (which Aristotle argues is aimed at human flourishing) and then virtue leads to more good choices.

            Or someone picked a nice word out of the list of approved nice words, hard to tell.

          2. JustaTech*

            Eh, if you were a nasty person you could possibly take a student who was flourishing and be so hash on them that they stopped flourishing (just like if you stop watering a plant it won’t flourish).

            But all of that could be better described (and more widely applicable) as “supporting students”. “The department Admin supports students by having the grad school application forms they need available/ doing X Y Z administrative work so their grants keep paying out/ etc etc”

          3. Brain the Brian*

            I suppose some level of flourishing (or at least not collapsing) is required to make decent choices. That is, if you’re in a free-fall, your choices may not be the best. But it’s a bizarre performance metric in a professional setting.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        “Flourishing” makes me picture a growing, healthy, flowering plant (which I believe is the etymology of the word). So, healthy and fulfilling does sort of fit. It’s the “able to make choices to…” that’s kind of weird to me. It seems more like an evaluation of the environment (university) than of the person.

        1. bamcheeks*

          With a good manager, I think it could lead to some really useful discussions about whether the individual can see how their job role contributes to other people flourishing, and what it would take for them to feel they could “flourish” in their role. With a less good manager…

        2. Myrin*

          That’s exactly what I’m picturing as well whenever I read the word (are Germans more flower-minded, for some reason?) and yes, the wording and direction of causation is what’s throwing me; I can totally see someone flourishing in a certain work environment but not in the way it’s expressed here.

          1. bamcheeks*

            No, I see it too– and according to Google it’s literally the etymology!

            Middle English: from Old French floriss-, lengthened stem of florir, based on Latin florere, from flos, flor- ‘a flower’. The noun senses ‘ornamental curve’ and ‘florid expression’ come from an obsolete sense of the verb, ‘adorn’ (originally with flowers)

            But I also wouldn’t necessarily read it as “Prove to us you’re flourishing or get less money!” so much as “tell us how you support others to flourish and if you’re not flourishing yourself tell us what you need”.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          That is exactly my connotation for the word as well: the ability to grow and flower based on environmental factors.

          I also think of it as the opposite of the somewhat bizarre phrase “failure to thrive”, which I believe is also usually based on environmental factors.

    2. higher ed teaching*

      I’m not disagreeing with any of the comments here, but as someone who just got ‘flourishing’ on my review….my supervisor basically picked examples of things that were going well and making the unit function more smoothly. In my case, she spoke about relationship-buidling (relevant because I’m new and my responsibilities require good relationships to be done well, which ultimately makes the students flourish in terms of the university services I’m developing). And I’ll be better in my role directing those services because teamwork and collaboration.

      So as a bit of a creative work around, perhaps you could….choose an aspect that is related somehow to flourishing (either growing or doing well) and praise your employees for something good that doesn’t show up in the other questions? I bet other supervisors are doing something similar and at the least you can add ‘other great things about my employee that we value’ to their official review? It is vague enough I think we can just hit on the ‘doing well’ portion? (I have to do STAR evaluations next year as I hire people for my new service and I’m not totally thrilled about it since we’re higher ed, but the last 3 schools I’ve worked at use it for staff).

      Going with the flower connections here, flowers can’t flourish unless the environment is well tended? as admin, you and your people help create a healthy environment. As kind of an example, our financial aid department just sent out a long email to all faculty and staff explaining the FAFSA delays and giving very specific steps about what they will do to ensure our (largely low income) students are registered for fall classes and then what the background steps are to alleviate or lessen financial worry. No idea how it will actually turn out, and maybe this is more problem solving, but that clear communication with clear steps will seed the ground for students to focus more on school to later flourish, we hope? I know now if a student of mine is financially struggling, as the first person they are likely to speak to about it as their professor, I can just email the financial aid department and help them help the student instead of just commisserating how difficult administration can be.

      anyway. Just some thoughts from someone who is actually both faculty and administrator….

    3. Media Monkey*

      i wondered if you could include something around your personal growth/ development given that it’s a university setting. training you have taken, any learning you are doing either work related or in your own time?

      1. Flourishing (LW2)*

        I’ve definitely taken trainings over the years that are directly related to and/or adjacent to my position. I guess it won’t matter too much if I say, “I’ve taken X, Y, Z training over the last few years. It demonstrates flourishing because…It demonstrates [other values] because…”

    4. daffodil*

      (I’m also in academia with similar values). I would write about how I use my role to promote flourishing for others or create opportunities for students/colleagues to flourish. Whether that is through core job functions or something like a welcoming attitude and interpersonal care.

    5. Ama*

      I’m at a nonprofit and our evaluation form has a question about how we “live the mission” of our org that makes me role my eyes every year, but I always just write down some version about how I do my job and make sure the projects I oversee get done well and on time. (I’ve also told this to other coworkers stressing out about that question; I don’t know if any of them have done the same thing but some of them definitely hadn’t thought about how showing up and doing your job is, in fact, advancing our mission, because if you weren’t doing it crucial parts of our work wouldn’t be getting done.)

      That said this past year they wanted all our goals to be connected to our broader organization annual goals — and only one of the four organizational goals had anything to do with the work my department did (and it only tangentially connected to my role, it didn’t connect to my report’s role at all). I pointed this out to my boss (who admitted she also wasn’t sure how to set goals for me because of this) and then just set the goals I wanted to set for my report and no one said anything to me. It turns out that it doesn’t matter anyway because both my report and myself will be gone by the time the next review cycle happens.

      1. Flourishing (LW2)*

        Interesting! Was your boss able to provide that feedback to the leadership/HR?

        I hope you and your report are off to bigger and better things!

    6. LaurCha*

      I still have PTSD from academic annual evaluations and their squishy multi-layered, triple-rubric, moving-target bullshit. Using subjective terms like this lets deans and chairs assess profs according to their own preferences. If you don’t like a prof you’re evaluating, you can just decide someone isn’t “flourishing” or rah-rah enough or whatever. There’s a lot of this kind of language in mission statements, and you have to meet the standard for your department, your college, your university, and both of your accrediting organizations. The opacity of the process is a feature, not a bug.

      1. Flourishing (LW2)*

        “The opacity of the process is a feature, not a bug.” My friends and I have definitely complained about the opacity of the Dean’s Office, whether it’s a change in policy, a salary compression review, etc…

    7. Flourishing (LW2)*

      Maybe! I’m going to a drop-in session for the self-assessment and ask HR whom they’re referring to (Staff themselves? Students? Faculty?). It’s just a little tougher because my job isn’t really people-facing, and I can’t imagine all staff (admins, facilities, etc.) has direct interactions with students.

      1. Goldenrod*

        I hate the metric of “flourishing” because it’s subjective in a way that feels invasive to me.

        (And I lost my place in the comments but kudos to the commenter who posted the poem about flourishing, especially this line: “We are also soliciting papers/For a plenary session entitled/“If You Are Poor,/You Have Clearly Failed to Flourish.”)

        Once when I had a boss who was extremely mean and bullying (to everybody) one of my peers suggested that I should find a new job, because I hadn’t developed a good working relationship with her…He hadn’t either, no one had because it was impossible…but he still put this expectation on me.

        The thing is, the job paid a lot and I needed to leave only when I could find a comparable salary, so…not anytime real soon. I resented him deciding for me that the job wasn’t working out – I said, “But this is MY job, and I do it well, and it’s not my fault that she’s hard to get along with.”

        He said, “But you’re not flourishing.”

        I wanted to say: “But my salary is flourishing!” I think I said something like, “But I am flourishing, I’m very good at my job.”

        Who was he to judge whether I was ‘flourishing’ or not??

        I feel like it goes beyond “are you doing a good job?” and into the territory of fulfillment and passion and joy which is….not really anyone else’s business. If you are doing your job well, it’s no one else’s business what emotions you have about it, you know? Maybe you don’t love it, but you’re good at it and need the damn money.

  17. Penguino*

    I like Alison’s script for #1 but honestly don’t think it’s worth saying anything to the mother. A helicopter parent like this who obviously lacks common sense isn’t going to appreciate the good advice. If anything she’s more likely to get offended and argumentative. If she will learn at all let her learn her own lessons.

    1. Arthenonyma*

      I think assuming they’re an unrepentant helicopter parent is a bit unfair. Late teens can be a weird transitional time for a lot of parents in terms of what they are and aren’t supposed to be doing on their child’s behalf, and I can understand getting tripped up if you’re used to following up on their doctor’s appointments, school stuff, etc. I think it’s worth one brief reply with the suggested “we don’t discuss candidates with others” language.

  18. bamcheeks*

    LW1, can you answer how your supported students or other staff you manage to flourish? I wouldn’t read it as meaning how are *you* flourishing but also how are you supporting others to flourish

    (And “what would you need to flourish in this role” is a slightly overwrought but otherwise decent review question when you’re doing reviews!)

    1. Higher Ed Lifer*

      I agree! The question is how do you serve the university’s mission, and one of the mission values is flourishing- that definitely means student flourishing, and so is absolutely appropriate and relevant. It is kind of fluffy and broad, but staff have a lot of different duties to cover. If you work in advising, you can talk about helping students set goals and meet them; if you work at the library talk about creating a community third space; etc

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The LW is a department admin. The best that can be said for the question is that it can be answered as “do you do your job?” but with a large dollop of blather to fulfill the warm fuzzy requirement.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I don’t really understand this comment. The department admins I know absolutely know how they contribute to students’ flourishing, both in the general terms by keeping the infrastructure working and by problem solving and signposting for individual students who rock up with problems.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Sure. This is functionally equivalent to “Do you do your job?” but with buzz words attached.

            1. bamcheeks*

              I don’t think it is! “Can you see how your work contributes to the broader mission of the organisation” is a pretty critical question for things like job satisfaction and rentention.

              1. Fierce Jindo*

                Yeah, but that’s something for the manager to help with if it’s not there, not punish someone for lacking. Having it on an employee evaluation for raises does indeed feel like pure corporate blather.

                (I also work at a university and I loathe this part of university culture.)

                1. bamcheeks*

                  I think that’s a bigger problem with evaluations/performance reviews, tbh. It *should be the place for that broader, big-picture how are you feeling about your role more generally, how do you want to develop, what support do you need. If you feel like you can only say positive things because otherwise your going to lose pay it becomes pretty meaningless whatever the questions are.

                2. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  All things on an evaluation are for a manager to help with if they’re not there

            2. H2*

              I mean, ok, but in the sense that LW’s job is contributing to the mission.

              I guess that flourishing is combining health and mental health considerations with vocation and purpose aspects that have become prevalent in higher ed. As a faculty member, I actually really like this! As someone else said, the term flourishing is maybe kind of overwrought, but it gets across the idea that universities serve the whole student and want to set students up to be happy, healthy members of society who have a purpose to their lives.

              I agree that this is mostly about probably helping students flourish (although a lot of universities also at least pay lip service to employee vocation as well). But admin absolutely sets up a system where students and employees can thrive. Success in that case looks more like laying the groundwork for others’ success, maybe, but that’s beyond essential.

              1. Flourishing (LW2)*

                I will definitely be including how I see my job helps the students. But I will say that in previous admin training, the discussion has been focused on the admins themselves and not so much on the students. I remember someone from HR saying something to the effect that they wanted us to flourish and be in alignment with the other values. Someone brought up that that is nearly impossible because it feels like we have to make choices that contradict “flourishing” (as defined by the university) in order to get the job done and ensure that students and faculty are supported.

    2. Former academic*

      I agree, I’d answer in terms of “how did I promote student flourishing”– and I think a department admin can have a huge role in helping students navigate all kinds of choices that affect their well-being and connect them with resources they may not be aware of, so I’d imagine there’s a lot to draw on from that perspective.

  19. Minji*

    LW4, I recognize that this may be less common in the West, but I’m in Asia, and literally everyone in my office is wearing pimple patches here all the time. You can find ones that match your skin tone and they are not noticeable at all unless someone is actively looking closely for them. It should not at all be a problem for OP to wear one in the office.

    1. LW 4*

      I appreciate this feedback that this is something that is a variable norm, and may (hopefully) change in the US in the near future!

  20. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    Whose skin color? This crap is still around? The label actually says that? I thought that retired when Crayola opened their eyes decades ago. This makes me furious.

  21. Thomas*

    #1, I’d say mention it to the candidate if you haven’t already, in writing/email, being clear that the mum poking her nose in is not a good thing. The candidate might well be unaware their mum is even doing this.

    #2, my assumption is they want to hear how you help students flourish, or maybe other staff.

    1. urguncle*

      As an adult child whose parents did this against my will and despite me pleading with them not to, please let the candidate know.

    2. chewingle*

      I’d do that and also still talk to the mom. It’s entirely possible the candidate has already explained this to her mom, but her mom refuses to grow out it “but you’re my baby” mode and has zero respect for anything her kid says to her. It’s also possible that this mom is unused to someone with authority challenging her, which is why she is so un-self-aware, so a complete stranger who currently has power over her child’s future might hold more weight with her than anything else. She’ll probably be mad and embarrassed and take it out on you, but hopefully she stops and rethinks her actions before fucking up her kid’s next opportunity.

      Also, on the mother’s part — good lord, how is this not common sense?

  22. Alice*

    LW4: How about wearing the translucent patches but only use a spot of concealer in the “looks disgusting” phase? Not trying to blend and hide that you have a pimple but putting a lid on how much other people will see.

  23. Astronaut Barbie*

    Look into FMLA as others have suggested. But also, consider (before quitting) asking if you can stay on as an outside consultant. You can open a company and then invoice for your time, which will then be spent at your discretion.

    1. Brillig*

      Depending on LW’s temperament and skill set, opening a consulting business while in the midst of caring for a family member may be quite challenging.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I agree, consulting comes with its own set of challenges like tax stuff, and how much to charge the client, etc. Also, not every type of job can be made into a consulting job.

  24. March lamb*

    LW 2: Alison has a rule against breaking a LW’s anonymity so I won’t say the name but given the specificity, I’m sure we’re at the same university. If so, “flourishing” is described as helping the campus and its employees thrive. It’s about providing the conditions to allow people to have healthy relationships with the workplace. If you are a manager, you could talk about what you do to support work life balance, professional development, etc. And for your direct reports, it can be how you support the work of students, faculty, and staff. Like all performance evals in higher ed, you’ll drive yourself crazy overthinking it.

    I’m also intrigued to hear about a guaranteed 3% raise, because that’s No.t been my experience, lol.

    1. JustaTech*

      It seems like in your case the less fluffy word would actually be “support”, and “flourish” and “thrive” are nice words chosen by the people who write corporate/institutional values that sound really nice, but are hard to apply in their exact written format.

      (Says someone who’s corporate values sound great until you remember that more than half the company never has even indirect access to patients, so it’s hard to do that “patient” value.)

  25. Bookworm*

    #5: Aside from the PT arrangement, I wonder if you could advocate for a “fractional” work arrangement:

    It is PT work (as you and others have said), but I wonder whether if your job went unfilled and that you have specialized skills it could be something where you can do the really specialized stuff but someone(s) else handles the more mundane tasks OR can be trained to do part of your job, etc. Maybe this is something that you’ve already brought up previously with your job in some way but I just wanted to throw this out there. Good luck and wish you the best.

  26. Dog momma*

    #1. I’d certainly let the parent know..use Allison’s wording..its perfect. The applicant may not know anything about this an be mortified

  27. Morning Reading*

    LW1: at a previous job, where we hired teens for summer positions and had volunteer positions for younger teens, we had an information sheet that we could hand out to inquiring parents. It included basics like expected hours or shifts, general job description, and that the teens were expected to communicate with their supervisor/volunteer coordinator/hiring manager directly, not through their parents, and that this was part of the job learning experience for them. In that case, it was teens still in high school or middle school, so more obviously appropriate to have information for parents. You might come up with some similar verbiage to either hand out (if a parent comes to pick up application materials) or to use to respond to an email or voicemail later in the process.

    1. Dr. Doll*

      Tanned. Rested. Ready. (for anyone who doesn’t remember or know, that was Bobby Jindal’s monumentally dumb opening slogan for his presidential bid.)

  28. Not your typical admin*

    Wear the pimple patch. I have a teen daughter and she and her friends wear the clear ones all the time. They’re not noticeable at all. Just stay away from the colored shape ones and you’ll be fine.

    1. Media Monkey*

      my kid and her friends use the star shaped and coloured ones. they were even used in a fashion show recently. maybe not professional for work but love that it is normalising spots!

  29. mreasy*

    I disagree with Alison (this never happens!) on #4. I find that the clear hydrocolloid patches are no more distracting/noticeable than just having a pimple, and they’re so beneficial in keeping out bacteria & helping it heal that it seems like a much better idea. Just keep an eye on it that it doesn’t get too gross looking and replace?

  30. nnn*

    I’m a huge fan of pimple patches myself, but I’m a bit grossed out when I see other people’s. For some reason, they really viscerally evoke to me the fact that there’s oozing pus underneath (more so than an actual visible pimple does), plus they remind me of that thing people did in elementary school where they put banana stickers on their face. (Why? I have no idea!) I think they’re more appropriate to at home.

    However, as Alison mentioned, a bonus feature of wearing masks is that you can wear your pimple patches underneath and no one will ever know!

    (And a bonus bonus feature is if you run into one of those people who decides to interrogate you about why you’re wearing a mask, you can say “I’m treating a zit with a hydrocolloid patch underneath, and I don’t want to make everyone look at it”)

  31. Boof*

    Lw1: Would consider having a very generic (could reuse in the future with any new parent) and polite email that states you will only talk directly with job applicants / employees about the job absent emergencies in order to teach them life skills and avoid confusion. I would try to keep the tone light at first and brief but warm rather than lecture-y or brusk; i’m sure some parents really just need a slight nudge.

  32. NYWeasel*

    LW#3: Let me preface this comment by saying there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting personal information to remain private. But as someone who also deals with dietary restrictions, I’m curious if you ever have awkward situations when people *don’t* know the restrictions? For example, I’ve had multiple birthdays where well-meaning colleagues purchased treats I couldn’t eat. I’ve found that by making comments regularly and advocating for choices, people tend to remember that there’s *some* restriction even if they don’t recall specifics, so I’ve greatly cut down on having to graciously turn down kind gestures.

  33. TLC Squeak*

    LW4 the patches seem to be all the rage, but I’d do some research into their actual effectiveness. From my own googling, plus personal experience, hydrocolloid patches actual draw out liquid, not the gunk causing the inflammation. (What looks like gunk on those patches is actually liquid interacting with the gel on the patch.) They may not actually be beneficial to you at all and there may be more effective treatments.

    1. Myrin*

      My sister has been using hydrocolloid patches for years to treat her cold sores and they apparently work incredibly well – but until this thread, I had no idea people used them for regular pimples, too! Today I learned.

    2. LW 4*

      I saw a lot of people mentioning the Star Face patches – those definitely don’t work for me. But the thicker ones (I use corsx, but will check out some of the other brands) are definitely really effective for me. If I apply medication as the pimple is forming, and it still turns into a white head, applying the patch at the moment the head forms, and leave them on until they are fully gross or fall off, it clears up more quickly and with much shorter lasting redness than just medication options alone.

  34. ijustworkhere*

    Just want to say thank you to the LW who mentioned the privacy of dietary requests. I had not considered that certain requests might signal a medical condition that someone has the right to keep private.
    I will ask our team in the future not to use a shared document to get this information. No one has complained, but that doesn’t mean that someone hasn’t felt uncomfortable about it.

  35. Workerbee*

    #2, because I work in an organization that strives to ensure “human flourishing,” some keywords and thoughts that might help are:
    -Creating services / products that aim for long-lasting value vs just a bandaid
    -Supporting vulnerable populations (I realize this is a loaded phrase)
    -Teaching / training others to create long-lasting value
    -In general, being mindful of what you do & your impact

    1. Three Owls in a Trench Coat*

      Oooooh. I like these suggestions. I would also mentally substitute “flourishing” with “succeeding in role”, another positive metric on the evaluation, or demonstrating another core value.

      For the LW’s self-evaluation, what do they do to support or encourage their reports or the university’s core values? Maybe discuss someone who showed job growth/performance improvement on their team. What problems were solved by the team? Were any projects completed? Any new programs or processes? Any accomplishments of the team are a reflection of the LW’s successful management.

  36. HonorBox*

    OP1 – The only thing I’d chime in to say beyond the advice is that you should probably say something to the applicant too. It doesn’t need to be negative feedback, but they should know that a parent trying to follow up will potentially do more harm than good. They may not even know that mom is doing something behind the scenes. And if they do know, they should know that it may be frowned upon by some employers.

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yes, as the child of a semi-helicopter parent, please let your employee know. Make sure to let them know that they’re not in trouble.

      “Hey X, I wanted to let you know that your mom called on your behalf to talk to me. You did nothing wrong, but I know I’d want someone to tell me if this happened. Even when you’re under 18, it’s not our employment policy to talk to an employee’s parents unless there’s an emergency and you can’t talk to me yourself.”

    1. Flourishing (LW2)*

      OMG, amazing. I may or may not have printed this out and stuck it on my whiteboard.

      We’ve had the same guy talk to admins during training sessions about how to flourish when there’s “too much-ness.” The short answer is to lean into your values and remember your why. The guy is nice, and I’m sure the people organizing the training sessions have nothing but the best intentions, but the messaging to me comes more across as a problem we need to fix.

    2. Artemesia*

      This is fabulous!!! Thanks for sharing this. Having spend a lifetime in academia I am ROTFLMAO.

  37. Czhorat*

    I initially kept parsing “flourish” as in “extravagant gesture” rather than “thriving and healthy”. I had two thoughts:

    1) It would be a very LIVELY workplace
    2) I’d do very well in this environment.

    In any event, that would be an easier thing to judge. Give extra points to the guy who keeps doing magic tricks for his date at the holiday party.

    1. Flourishing (LW2)*

      If only! As a former theatre geek, I would do so well in a Vaudville-esque environment. Bigger the gestures, the better!

    2. Cher Horowitz*

      This description immediately made me think of the “37 pieces of flair” from Office Space!

  38. Face Problems*

    As another “older” person who still has to deal with constant acne (I realize 30s isn’t all that “old”, but I’ve talked to a lot of people who seem to think acne should magically stop happening after you turn 20, haha) I’m so happy to see all the support for #4!

    I hope it’s okay for me to ask here, but I have a semi-related question: in addition to the acne, I’ve always had a very hard time not picking at my skin, and try as I might I often end up irritating a pimple to the point of it being very red/swollen/bleeding. I’ve hesitated to put a regular bandaid on my face out of concern that it would look weird, but would it really? Or should I be looking into the pimple patches (if those can go on actual open wounds)? So far no one has ever mentioned the angry spots on my face, but I don’t know if a bandaid would somehow draw more attention to things, though it *would* help keep medicine on the spot, and keep me from picking further, which usually helps things heal up much faster for me.

    1. vombatus ursinus*

      Of course everyone’s skin is different, but I would absolutely look into the pimple patches! I just commented below on what a big advantage they bring to me in stopping me from touching or further irritating the pimple. Depending on the individual pimple, I sometimes wear the patches almost constantly for a couple of days until they heal enough, or I might wear a patch during the day to protect the spot and then remove it, wash my face and let the area dry out with a dab of tea tree oil overnight, then apply another patch in the morning. Good luck to you from a fellow thirtysomething who still needs pimple treatments :)

    2. A Manager for Now*

      I use pimple patches to stop myself from picking, but I will say they tend to turn white with the moisture from the open wound and look pretty gross/slide around on my face after a while. I WFH in a no-cameras team, so being presentable isn’t much of a concern for me and I can swap them out frequently.

      This said, if a regular bandaid is close to your skin color, I’d actually go for it because it would stop the picking and other compulsive touching, which (as you and I know make it so much worse). At worst, as a co-worker I’d figure you’d run into something or otherwise cut yourself and ignore it.

    3. former recruiter*

      Same – in my 30s still getting acne. Look at Hero Mighty Patch Invisible+. Use tweezers to take the patch off the sheet so you don’t fold the edges (the sheets are also designed to pull apart to help get the patch off too). Use tweezers to apply to the pimple. These are actually pretty invisible and you need to get close to see them. I haven’t tried putting makeup over them yet but will try.

    4. Lulu*

      Also in my 30’s, personally if I wear bandaids too long they irritate my skin. Pimple patches help me a lot with not picking and don’t irritate. I usually only wear them overnight, and let the zit breathe during the day, unless it’s a particularly angry one.

    5. Juicebox Hero*

      If you use band-aids on your face, get the “sensitive skin” or “gentle” kind. The adhesive on the regular and especially sport ones is waaaaaay too beefy for the skin on your face. I used one on my forehead last summer when a rose bush I was trimming fought back. When I peeled it off I had two big red marks where it took some skin with it. Dealing with a zillion questions about that was worse than the original cut.

  39. vombatus ursinus*

    Re: LW4 — I am a bit surprised at the suggestion that a hydrocolloid patch would draw more attention to a pimple! The kind that I use are colourless with a kind of ‘frosted glass’ quality, so they blend in by showing through a bit of my skin tone underneath but obscuring the pimple and surrounding redness a bit. From a distance or on camera, you can’t tell there’s anything on my face, and close up it’s less attention-drawing and less gross than an exposed blemish. I think the suggestion above to carry around or keep a pack at work to change the patch if it starts to look gross or peel off is an excellent one.

    Another huge advantage of the patches for me is that they protect the pimple from the outside world, prevent me from accidentally touching it, and thereby speed up the healing time from ~1 week to 1-3 days. I would be pretty irked to find out that someone thought I looked unprofessional for … treating a wound, essentially?

    And if you’re wearing a mask anyway, the patch will help stop mask rubbing or collected moisture from aggravating the pimple. I struggle to see the downsides.

    LW4, it’s 100% fine to leave the patch off if it’s your personal preference! But if YOU would feel more comfortable wearing one, I don’t think anyone who would want to criticise you for it has a leg to stand on. Good luck!

    1. Myrin*

      I was surprised by this as well because my mum and sister have been using these patches for ages and they’re honestly almost scarily invisbile most of the time.

  40. AnonInCanada*

    Re OP#1: My response:
    “Dear (candidate’s mom):

    I cannot concentrate on my work with the helicopter you’re sitting in hovering over my office making all this racket. Neither can your daughter, undoubtedly. Please fly away.

    Hiring Manager.”

  41. Joe*

    RE Pimple Patches
    At this stage of the game, pimple patches are no different than bandages. As someone who gets cystic acne, pimple patches aren’t to hide the blemish but to really help the healing process. They have truly been a game changer and have increased my quality of life when dealing with a flare up.
    We wouldn’t bat an eye at someone with visible stitches and scabbing, why are we treating another wound differently other than it being “icky”.

  42. watermelon fruitcake*

    #4 I am going to politely disagree with Alison about the pimple patches. It’s not just a cosmetic concern as acne is a medical condition. As somebody who had moderate-to-occasionally-severe acne and remembers how *painful*, never mind embarrassing, a cystic pimple can be, I would do anything to help it go down faster. They weren’t really “a thing” when I was suffering from acne, and even still my acne was bad enough I would’ve had to put a hydrocolloid mask on my entire face for any hope of relief, but if hydrocolloid patches help your pimples dry out and heal faster, please use them without regard for how they’ll be perceived. People who are familiar with them know what they are and likely won’t comment; people who are *not* familiar will probably presume they are band-aids/plasters (which they are), and likely won’t comment.

  43. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    re: OP 2 Flourishing – some answers you could consider:

    “I have a fulfilling life in part because my work empowers students to be prepared for the lives in front of them.”
    “One of the things that contributes to me having a fulfilling life is the opportunity to enjoy campus cultural assets such as (play/student art exhibit/music/athletics/whatever).”

    1. And thanks for the coffee*

      Re: Flourishing
      After considering AB’s Evil Twin’s comment

      Flourishing is an odd value to use when evaluating an employee. How does one enhance their flourishing? Most of us are just trying to make it through and to do a reasonable job at work.

      I’d be flourishing if only my daughter wasn’t going through a divorce and might have to move in with me, my mother is not doing well and lives far away, my partner has been unable to find a good job, and I’ve just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Not only that, but I have an inept manager/coworker/subodinate and the parking was almost impossible today.

      1. Flourishing (LW2)*

        I’m so sorry that you’re going through so much. <3 I hope nothing but good things come your way.

  44. flb*

    i’m director-level in a creative/manufacturing space and wear pimple patches all the time! even the fun star shaped ones. so i think it’s definitely industry/company culture dependent.

  45. CzechMate*

    I work in higher ed and this has recently become an issue for our front desk. While FERPA is something we can rely on, technically students do have the right to give that information to their parents (and we still don’t want parents calling nonstop about things their kids should be handling on their own) so we’ve recently started having our front desk use this script: “Thank you for your inquiry. We can only speak directly with the candidate about x at this time.” And then that just gets used on repeat. Sometimes we throw in, “All individuals have received information about x on [date] and can follow those instructions to move forward. At this time, we cannot provide any other information to individuals other than the candidate.”

    So far, it seems to be working.

  46. Jenny Linsky*

    Regarding LW3 and the folks saying you can just say “gluten-free” without discussing your medical condition: I also have celiac disease, and many restaurants or caterers will make a distinction between “Do you just not want to eat gluten?” and “Do you have a medical condition?” (usually they say “allergy” which isn’t technically correct for celiac but I know what they’re going for). This is because it’s pretty easy to prepare a dish that doesn’t have gluten-containing ingredients, but can be more challenging in certain kitchens to ensure a dish isn’t cross-contaminated. For this reason I will always make sure to say when requesting a special meal that my request is due to my medical condition, so that they take cross-contamination seriously and don’t, say, just pick the croutons off the top of my salad as an afterthought.

  47. Observer*

    #1 – Please do give the teen herself a heads up as well. Tell her clearly that she needs to be the one making contact and that although her mother is undoubtedly well intentioned (whether she is or not doesn’t really matter), it is *not* a favor and it would be to her benefit to get her mother to stop if she can.

  48. Eng Girl*

    LW 5, I would just be very frank with your boss. You appreciate all they’ve done to try and be flexible thus far, but unfortunately you’ve entered a new phase in caring for your mom that means you’re not going to be able to work full time. Maybe add something about how you want to resolve this before it ends up putting additional strain on the organization (bosses love that kind of stuff). Then say you’d like to continue on in a part time capacity if that will work for the org, but you understand if it will not and see where it goes.

  49. FT*

    LW #2 — professor here —

    Different universities have different cultures, but in my estimation it’s likely that your supervisor rolls their eyes when HR talks about “flourishing” and the university’s values. Especially if staff is underpaid.

    Does the university describe multiple “core values”? I agree with Alison — I’d emphasize whichever of them line up the most with your actual job responsibilities.

    1. Flourishing (LW2)*

      I’m sure my chair will be asking me what is this and why if my chair even thinks that deeply about it.

      There are other core values, and I will definitely be emphasizing for myself and my supervisee the other values since they’re more tangible. But I am eternally grateful to others who have provided ideas on how to respond to the question of “flourishing.”

  50. Lulu*

    Like others have said, I think pimple patches can depend on your work environment. In a more casual office, probably not a big deal, I’ve sometimes forgot I had them on at work half way through the day and I doubt anyone noticed. But I did once witness a staff member wearing one in food service that was full of gunk and looked like it was about to fall off, which was rather off-putting.

  51. RagingADHD*

    Well, it seems to me like “making choices for a healthy and fulfilling life” in a work context would be that you take all your PTO or have plans for why you’re saving it, that you take advantage of any benefits or perks you’re entitled to, and that you have long-term goals for your work / career. (Even if your goal is “stay in my comfortable lane until retirement”, that’s still a long term goal that is healthy and fulfilling).

    Those are all quantifiable and within the normal purview of an annual review.

    1. Leenie*

      But a place that is overworking people probably won’t grade them particularly highly for taking all of their PTO. I think the real problem there isn’t the lack of objective criteria. It’s that what they say they value and what they actually value are wildly mismatched.

      1. RagingADHD*

        LW asked how to grade their direct reports on Flourishing and give them the best possible report.

        1. Leenie*

          I understand where you’re coming from. Those are valid and measurable answers. My point was just that the powers that be are unlikely to see using all of their PTO, or really anything that reflects a healthy life/work balance to be a positive thing. So I don’t think that would actually be the best possible report, in a place that says one thing, but means another.

  52. K8T*

    I think the subtle pimple patches are fine but I would add the caveat to make sure to change it when it gets “gunked” up as that grosses me out wayyyy more than any zit.

  53. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #2 – Our company also has a goal about core values and I approach this for both myself and others by considering whether the employee models positive working behaviors for their peers/clients/staff. I consider this the company’s way of asking if the employee is demonstrating that they care about the work beyond “the company tells me to produce 5 widgets so I produced 5 widgets”. Perhaps for flourishing, LW could talk about how someone offers positive suggestions to improve a process or how someone has personally exhibited growth in their role by taking on more ownership where previously they were being handheld.

  54. Student*

    #1: Please be aware that sometimes people meddle in job searches like this specifically to try to prevent the applicant from getting a job. You should ignore the parent, send her emails to junk mail – and then talk with the applicant directly, so the applicant knows that the parent is (with either good or bad intentions) sabotaging the applicant’s job search.

    My parents were like this. I had to make sure they had absolutely no knowledge of places I applied, or else they would try to meddle specifically to prevent me from getting a job, so they could try to control me. I have been estranged from my parents for decades, and I am still careful to make sure they don’t know enough to directly contact my workplace, lest they try something horrible.

    People who are meddling for malevolent reasons can sound very much like a sincere helicopter parent. They know that they can’t just fling poo around and still get taken seriously, but if they make it sound like their child is a helpless idiot who can’t manage a job application, and like they, the parents, will be a demanding pain in the ass, that’ll repel most hiring managers. Some tip-offs for the malevolent ones are off-hand sounding comments that are insulting towards their kids capabilities – comments about how they don’t trust their kid to do basic working adult things, like schedule work or follow up on communications.

  55. Daisy-dog*

    #2 – A past employer did a similar review where we were to rate everyone on the different company values – individually in their own categories, not holistically. I was HR and just in charge of rolling out the performance review, leadership didn’t ask for my input on the design. One of our values was “diversity”. I explained to management that this was the “freebie”. Everyone should get top marks. If they don’t, that means they participate in some type of discriminatory behavior and we needed to talk ASAP – before any other steps of the review are taking place.

    So in some cases, these situations are ones where deep analysis of each value isn’t really necessary. Basically doing your job well accomplishes this.

  56. Addison DeWitt*

    I’m hoping for a followup to the “mom calling in about her child’s application” letter. I think what Alison suggested is perfectly logical, certainly gentle, definitely good advice… but I predict it not being received well.

  57. blood orange*

    OP #1 – I totally agree with Alison on this. I hire a workforce that starts at 16, and the bulk of our employees are between that age and mid-20s. I’ve had parents contact regarding applications, terminations, investigations, want to join an interview, all sorts. We have a pretty firm “no external parties” policy, and train our managers to politely say this to parents. We do try to be really gracious and understanding, and flexible when it makes sense, but Alison’s scripts are very similar to what we use frequently in 99% of scenarios.

  58. Flourishing (LW2)*

    I will say that I’m not sure how much of HR itself is the driving force behind this question. I know that the university president is very much values-based and has rolled out many initiatives that are centered around values. As well, the university hired an outside HR consultant to help restructure HR, so the consultant may have had a role in this.

    Yeah, I’ll definitely take a step back and overthink less.

  59. Alex*

    Re: Pimple patches, I would wear one or not as you prefer. I know when I have a really bad zit, I actually find it more comfortable to keep it covered (and it heals faster!), so if you find the same thing, wear a patch. I wouldn’t think anything of a coworker wearing one, and I also don’t think of it when my co-worker has a zit (except, maybe “ouch, that looks painful, I sympathize” if it’s a particularly bad one) that they leave uncovered.

  60. Throwaway Account*

    LW #2 I was able to easily google for a university that has “flourishing” as a value. It spells out what they mean (at least for students) in many ways. You might find examples you can use there.

  61. LW3*

    LW3 here with a quick update.

    I sent a script similar to the one Alison suggested and while the public form is still up, the person organizing the catering was happy take my restriction privately. The meeting is next week and I’ve been burned before with trying to get accommodations at meetings organized by others, so we’ll see what I end up with, but I’m hopeful. It seems to truly be a case of the organizer just not thinking of it.

    As for comments on how some people might want this info public so that others can remember and accommodate, my workplace has about 100 people, many of which I’ve never met and barely know I exist. We don’t have a culture of bringing in food to share, and my immediate unit of three people know my restriction, mostly from conference travel together. I’m a fairly private person, and most of these people are effectively strangers, hence my hesitation.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      This makes a lot of sense to me; I’m glad the organizer took your information privately.

      I also have celiac and everyone on my immediate team (of about 15) knows that I eat gluten free and why. They’re all reasonable people about it and I think it helps during team lunches that when they see a meal marked gluten-free they think “that’s for Hlao” instead of “oh, I’ve always wanted to try a gluten-free [sandwich or whatever].” But I would also feel like 100+ people having access to the information that I eat gluten free/have celiac is intruding on my privacy.

  62. LW 4*

    OP 4 here. Thank you for all of the comments. I think Alison’s response was sort of my initial take, and all of the commenters have shared what I guessed might be the way of the future. I think my main takeaway is it’s okay to do what is most comfortable to me, and also that my internalized acne-shame might be making me feel like this is a bigger deal than it actually is!

  63. Willow*

    OP4, you might consider seeing if there are any skin tone pimple patches that work for you. A quick google search shows some options in a variety of shades.

  64. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    LW #2, Is your position one that works directly with or support students or programming for students? Can you describe contributions that support the flourishing of the university’s students? That may even be what is intended by its inclusion in the values statement in the first place.

  65. DollarStoreParty*

    I understand not wanting your private dietary restrictions to be public. I’ve found, though, that making people aware of my status as a Celiac has helped them to understand – I’m not just picky, gluten is very, very bad for me. They now go out of their way to make sure there’s gluten free options for me that are more than salads. I’ve gone from people thinking I was a germophobe when I buttered my gluten free bread with my own knife and my own butter (that I did not share). Now they know all about cross contamination. Educating people about a very real disease that is not, in fact, me just being picky, has gone a long way.

    1. DollarStoreParty*

      ** i wrote this before I saw your update, which makes complete sense to me. My workplace is 15 people. Total.

  66. LW 5*

    LW 5 here: thank you all for sharing your advice and experiences. I would love to reply individually. Please know that I read and appreciate every comment.

  67. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Don’t these parents work? Don’t they talk to other people who work? How do they get the idea this is normal?

  68. katydid*

    #2– Since it is a university, I think that what they want is for you to discuss how you’ve contributed to the flourishing of the student body, not how you yourself have flourished. If that helps.

  69. Coco*

    I once had a 20-something mother who, during her first week, called in sick twice and during the second week had three days of car trouble and then just stopped showing up. No call, non-responsive to calls or emails. After 5 days of no contact, HR said I could leave a message terminating her and then send a registered letter.
    After that, her dad called me and told me I must be a cold and heartless shell of a human to fire a single mom who needs this job and demanded to know why she was let go. All I could say was that it was confidential information and I could only discuss it with the employee directly. She never called back to find out.

  70. Loud Quitting*

    #5 really resonates with me. I recently resigned from a job I loved and was ridiculously good at, because my manager refused to allow me time away to take care of a family member. They were outrageously cruel about it too. My abrupt resignation sent shockwaves through the department; several others came forward with reports of unrealistic expectations, gaslighting, and general abuse from this manager. It turned into a #MeToo situation (not sexual, but similar themes of abuse of power), and the EVP has had to get involved.

    I say this because this was a person I thought was generally ok as a manager until I actually needed their support and all of a sudden they flipped faster than a Julia Child omelette.

    So #5, be prepared for anything.

  71. Raida*

    4. Pimple patches vs visible pimples

    From someone who gets acne from time to time: just wear the thing at work.

    If someone’s eyes are drawn to it more than once you can tap it and say “pimple patch. real life saver, highly recommend.” and that’s it.
    If someone actually asks, you say “Pimple patch! Real life saver, *highly recommend*.”

  72. Tiger Snake*

    LW4: To me, pimple patches fall under the same category as doing stuff like putting on your makeup or doing your hair or brushing your teeth. Necessary, but these are things that should happen before you go out; either when you’re getting ready or when you’re going to be.

    They seem unprofessional in an office, but sometimes you need to just sort out your hair or something discretely in the bathroom and that’s fair enough. They’re more unprofessional without that discretion or if you’re doing it all the time. I probably wouldn’t notice the clear ones, but if I did I’d wonder why you didn’t just apply an ointment.

  73. Meghan C*

    LW #4, if I need to wear a patch I just add a bandaid over it if it’s somewhere visible. Very few people will ask why you have a bandaid, and if they do, you can just say “You know; got a cut”, or if you don’t like the fib, “oh you know, stuff happens” and move on.

  74. ElliottRook*

    re: #4…I think the grossest, ugliest state of a clear pimple patch is still less distracting/noticeable and more attractive than any pimple, but if it’s really “unprofessional” to be seen with them on, could one not put a bandaid over it?

    I’m just baffled by the idea of them being unprofessional at all! I would think it would be similar to sitting at your desk with a small, bleeding cut vs. sitting at your desk with a bandaid on–surely covering it up (and preventing potential leakage of a bodily substance, if the pimple ruptures) is always preferable to the alternative!

  75. janewont*

    @1 — supporting students, coworkers, the organization in flourishing/to make and hold a commitment to flourishing

Comments are closed.