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I'm an 18 year old student who just started a part time job a few days ago.

This was what happened: I went for the interview for the part time job and was told that the boss's wife would give me a call that night to tell me when to start work. She called, and I went to work for the next day. But she did not tell me what my working time and location were for the subsequent days.

When I called her the next day in the morning to ask for more information, she did not answer my questions. and when I told her I will be working from 11 to 7 every day except Saturday (since she did not answer my questions, I just told her what I want), she did not listen and only told me to go to another location to work. Again, she only told me what time to start and refused to respond to my question - what time will I end work? Basically, all the information I got from her was vague and uncertain. So obviously, I kept asking her about the time and location. She sounded pissed off the moment I called her (in fact, in all the calls we have made, she was pissed) and ultimately she said, angrily, "Are you done asking?" So I went to work without knowing what time I would end work.

I also told the matter to my parents because I didn't know what to do. They came down to my workplace that day to clarify matters but because people working full time there (obviously) do not deal with these stuffs, they called the boss's wife to clarify matters. Afterwards, she became really nice to me, but I guess it's just surface level.

Is it okay that I had my parents to come down to help me with the problem? I know I should learn how to deal it with myself and I'm quite embarrassed but I'm sure that the boss and his wife thinks I'm a little kid (because I'm really small sized), so they treated me this way...

Will the boss and his wife hate me? Is it okay for my family intervene at my workplace?

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Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Jan 5 at 0:48
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It's nice you're getting This Job out of the way early on in your career. Everyone has one. – Tony Ennis Jan 5 at 21:18
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+1 for asking on this website before taking any action. Smart move :) – Long Jan 5 at 21:29

11 Answers 11

up vote 176 down vote accepted

Is it okay for my family to intervene in my career, workplace or professional life?

No. Never.

As a working professional, you and you alone are responsible for managing your interactions with your employer, manager(s) and colleagues. Your parents or any other family member, including spouses, have no role at all to play there. A parent who "intervenes" on behalf of their child, even an adolescent, will do irreparable harm to that person's professional reputation.

As a professional in the workplace, you are expected to manage your own career. Your parents' guidance will be invaluable, but they have no business discussing you or your performance with your employer. Family members should only contact the employer in case of emergency, when the employee is physically unable to alert his employer himself.

In a hypothetical situation where you are saddled with helicopter parents who somehow managed to contact your employer directly, the only response is to shut them down immediately to prevent it from happening again, and to apologise for their behaviour with your employer in a tone that suggests abject mortification. Anything less can make your manager think that you are unable to handle your own affairs and don't see your parents' involvement as the oddity that it is.

To quote Alison Green:

It's great for parents to coach their kids behind the scenes if the kids want it, but 20-somethings should be entering the workplace as the adults they are, which means interacting with their employers in the same way that other mature adults do.

Parents who get overly involved in their grown kids' professional lives and the employers who cater to them are performing a disservice, and are making it tougher for young workers to fully inhabit their new identities as independent, self-sufficient adults. They're denying them the opportunity to stand on their own, advocate for themselves, make their own mistakes and to be seen as competent, thoughtful, mature professionals.

Source: "Your Parents Don't Belong in Your Workplace", Alison Green on USNews.com, 2013-11-13


A quick note on those new to the workforce who don't yet qualify for "20-something" status: while you have a lot more leeway when it comes to professional norms, involving your parents in your professional life is still a Bad Thing. At the age when you're getting your first jobs, you are already approaching adulthood and as Alison says this is the perfect time to make mistakes. You will make them. But you'll make them on your own and learn from them. Having your parents hold your hand won't help you to learn anything and will come across as childish and immature. Part-time jobs and internships can be great references when you're looking for a "real" job and you don't want to be remembered as the guy whose parents came in to complain.

As some commenters pointed out, some jurisdictions may require the legal guardians to consent or sign off on any kind of contract involving a minor. Even then, you would typically have them read and sign the contract at home and return the signed copy to your new employer. While I can't think of any countries where they would negotiate a contract on the minor's behalf, if that is legally required and/or routine in your location, that would be the only exception I see to the "zero interference" rule.

This answer is harsh, perhaps unnecessarily so, but it's important that you (and people who stumble upon this question in the future) realise that it is simply not done to involve family members in your professional life like this. It's not that much of an issue in your specific situation and the workplace you applied at sounds dysfunctional at best, but it's an important lesson to learn. My advice? Thank your parents for intervening but ask them to let you handle situations like that in the future.

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"and you don't want to be remembered as the guy whose parents came in to complain." - Ouch! – Mr. Derpinthoughton Jan 21 at 12:46

In general it's a very bad idea for your parents or other family to become involved in your work life. This is the point where you should be starting to act as an independent adult, and doing things without parental help is part of that. Lilienthal gives lots of good reasons why you shouldn't do this.

However I believe you have here a very unusual exception, and here's why:

  • The employer already has poorly defined boundaries between family and work. The fact that you are talking to the boss' wife instead of the boss means that the boss doesn't understand the difference between work relationships and family relationships. Unless the boss' wife has an actual supervisory position over you, in which case you should call her 'my boss'.
  • It worked. The boss' wife started treating you better after your parents phoned. This is not only another sign that the boss doesn't understand the difference between work and family, but also that he doesn't respect you, and clearly wants to treat you less well than he would an 'adult'. For some reason he does respect your parents more. The boss is already treating you like a little kid.

But the bottom line is: This is a really crappy job. Even with dead-end, bottom-level fast-food retail jobs they let you know when your work period ends, and give you at least a few days notice of when you will be working. Your boss doesn't respect you at all. Go get another job. A job at Macdonalds will be a significant step up.

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Yes he can. OP's experience shows it cannot possibly be a good job. If you treat your employees this way, you don´t have a good job to offer, because treating the employees better is part of what makes a job a good one. – TheBlastOne Jan 5 at 8:44
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@Chris I would not drive a race for a team that has a shitty, employee-dishonoring team boss, no matter how cool the car, the track, the payment, and everything else, might be. If the basics are violated, the rest is worthless. Nothing can make up for treating employees like this. (Your mileage might vary.) – TheBlastOne Jan 5 at 9:38
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Since it is not offtopic, and since I don't see the problem in discussing your point, I'd want to note that I consider his answer a good answer because of the conclusion he draws in the last para. It is okay if you don't share this point of view! – TheBlastOne Jan 5 at 15:19

Is it ideal or professional to have someone else intervene on your behalf, particularly your family?

Almost certainly not.

Does it matter in the long term, bearing in mind it's a part time job and you're 18?

Almost certainly not.

Honestly this job sounds pretty awful, and if you're looking for a reference they don't sound like a good option. If you can find another job that pays around the same, and with nicer people, I would do that.

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I'll agree with Chris, but my main reason for down-voting is that you give no support for your answer. You say it's not professional - explain why not. You say it doesn't matter in the long term - explain why not. As a rule around here, you need to Back it up. – David K Jan 5 at 13:11
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@Jake: Welcome to StackExchange. Comments never add value to an answer, you may add value to your answer by considering suggestions from the comments or you don't. For example you may add some more explanations or you wait until some flags it "not an answer" and it gets deleted. – Chris Jan 5 at 20:47

As a parent, I intervened on my adult child's behalf once. At first I tried guiding them through what to say and how to handle themselves. However the situation with the employer got to the point that the next step was to contact an attorney.

  • The underlying issue was surrounding getting paid for work performed.

After several attempts by my son to take care of things, and failing miserably, I got on the phone. I put it on speaker so he could hear how I handled it and started at the top of the food chain at that business. We were able to resolve everything within an hour, whereas he had been trying to solve this for a few weeks. Essentially his immediate supervisor had screwed up big time and was doing everything possible to cover it up.

In general, parents shouldn't get involved. However I do feel that there are situations in which there really isn't any other choice shy of getting an attorney.

The issue by the OP doesn't really rise to that level. Generally speaking, having a clear schedule should be handled either prior to accepting employment, or, at the very least, when you show up on the first day of work. Your supervisor is your primary point of contact. If for some reason you are unable to get your work hours resolved on that first day then you should seek employment elsewhere.

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Finally, a few might fail easily just so they don't have to deal with it, and know their parents would be there to pick up the slack. I say that not because I disagree about your answer - there is definitely a point where parent involvement is better than the alternatives even if the child is a 30-year-old, but the further into "adulthood" a person is, the more of an expectation there is by society to handle his own business. – DoubleDouble Jan 4 at 21:28
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I should note that being a parent wasn't the important piece here. Moreover, I would recommend not to mention that ie. I am calling you on behalf of John due to the issues with the pay... not I am calling you because my son John was not paid..., just like an attorney could have performed it on his behalf (in fact, some parents are attorneys, and could be hired for $0 to represent their children). – Ángel Jan 5 at 16:09

In general, your parents should not be intervening for you - you are an adult.

But, your whole story seems to be strange. By not giving you a schedule or set hours it is fairly clear the wife doesn't want you there or doesn't want to accommodate your non-standard hours, yet she seems "forced" to have you.

Did your parents get you this job? - i.e. do they personally know the husband or have authority/influence over the husband in some capacity?

If so, then perhaps the reaction of the boss's wife is passive-aggressive - she doesn't want you there, or doesn't want to accommodate your special schedule, so she'll make it as difficult as possible, hoping you quit.

If your parents did not get you the job, how did you get it exactly? You say in a comment above that the wife is really the boss, yet the husband hired you, not her, right? Her behavior is one of a manager trying to get rid of someone without making herself look bad. That seems odd if she's really the boss.

And, the situation is made even more strange by the fact that after your parents intervened the wife was suddenly nice to you.

Bottom line - the wife doesn't want you there or doesn't want to accommodate your non-standard hours. The intervention of your parents has probably made that worse, not better, so, no they should not have intervened.

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No, it's not. I want to share my experience with you.

I'm having the same experience like you, I'm 19 now and I start working from a year ago in my workplace. My boss is my mother's friend's husband and he was the one who asked me to work there(I designed their website and I'm improving and updating it right now). But from the first day I talked to my boss directly about work and we (me and my boss) didn't involve my parents and his wife in work stuff. We even go to each other's homes for family parties but we rarely talk about work.

Because of this kind of relationship going on between us I can talk about my work stuff(problems with colleagues, salary, my days off, etc.) and our family can have a nice relationship between together too.

Now think about it for a second what would happen if my parents involve in my work stuff? For example realize my mother asks his friend (my boss's wife) for a raise in my salary:). Of course their relationship would be affected. Or from the other way I start being very comfortable at my workplace with my boss. That would affect my work, too.

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This doesn't seem to deal with the issues that the OP has when they where getting little to no communication from the boss and where being directed elsewhere. Sure it is easy to say that you shouldn't involve others when things are going smoothly and you don't need help. Was it the right thing for the parents to get involved? I don't know but trying to compare a situation where it is good to one where it isn't good and bad communication is not the correct thing to do. – Joe W Jan 4 at 21:04

As the other answers have already covered, no, it is never acceptable for your parents or other family or friends to intervene with your employment situation. You should post a separate question, I think, about the specific troubles you are having with your current work situation, so that you can better get advice on how to improve your situation yourself.

I am left with the strong impression that, like a very high percentage of adults your age, you are inexperienced at communicating with an otherwise interacting with persons older than you as an equal. This is unsurprising, as social changes of the past few decades have served to completely remove any contact between minors and adults in any situation except those of total subservience - parents, teachers, etc. A work relationship is not one of total subservience, not even a relationship with a boss. I do not personally know how, or even if it is possible, to acquire the interpersonal skills necessary to interact with other people who are not in your age group once you are an adult. In the past, you would have had experience to draw upon through non-family non-school interactions with people both older and younger than yourself where you both related as equals. It would likely be very helpful, however, if you recognized this limitation and the need to work on dealing with it. Good luck. On behalf of the more misguided members of our society who have put you in this position, I apologize. Also, you might want to distance yourself from your parents, or at the very least from their thinking. They can very clearly be of no help, as they saw it as an acceptable thing to intervene and almost certainly contributed to making you incompetent at interacting with people unlike yourself in any frame of reference except subservience. They probably had good intentions, but that doesn't affect the consequences of their choices.

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The answer is defiantly Yes. You should always use your family to purpose like these. Why? Not al have a supporting family so by using them will show that you have one that supporting you. This is a very strong signal to your colleagues and especially your chief.

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Is this meant as a satirical answer? Also: "defiantly". – Kay Jan 7 at 13:26

I'm going to flip this around a bit. In an employment matter, there's absolutely nothing wrong with bringing along a support person. That person may be family or not, the relationship is irrelevant.

However the support person is exactly that, they're not there to be a negotiator or a representative or to front a meeting in any way. Their main job is to buttress you and help keep things moving towards a mutually satisfactory conclusion, and to some extent be a witness should the meeting and resolution process not work well.

But - "what are my hours?" is such a simple question at a low level, its not an employment matter. If this is how the employer interacts with staff, I'd suggest triple-checking your pay every payday, and use this position as a leg-up to a better and nicer job.

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What benefit would a support person provide that would be appropriate? Employers generally expect employees to handle work problems without involving outside help. – midfield99 Jan 7 at 9:35
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@midfield99 I've been involved in a HR dispute relating to bullying. A support person is a recommended factor in this kind of situation, simply because it changes the dynamic between all the people involved, some of who could find it difficult to express the issue by themselves. – gbjbaanb Jan 7 at 9:58

Unfortunately not. You're only 18, so you might have done this due to inexperience. No worries, just know that since you're grown up,you have to deal with these kinds of things yourself. You could have asked your colleagues when they finish. Your boss certainly should have told you what time you have to work, I find it inexplicable that they didn't, it is very much their responsibility.

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this doesn't seem to offer anything substantial over points made and explained in prior 6 answers – gnat Jan 5 at 17:37

The working world is rough. Take every advantage you can get, including help from your parents, provided: 1) You're not stepping on someone else; and 2) You don't feel diminished by taking the advantage. (Note well: Getting the job/promotion that someone else wanted is not "stepping on someone else.")

Other people will probably criticize you for it. You will hear (second-hand) "He's a momma's boy," or "He only succeeded because of his parents." If you suspect those are true criticisms, then they will eat at you and steal the joy of your success from you. So, in that case, don't accept your parents' help.

But if you are a well-balanced person with a decent self-image, then I say to let people talk. The losers ALWAYS bad-mouth the winners. There will ALWAYS be people who say "He only succeeded because of ______." Often the criticisms are mere tautologies. ("He only succeeded because he went to the top schools his whole life [and therefore is the best prepared].")

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