Mother got a job in my workplace behind my back.
February 7, 2014 10:06 AM   Subscribe

I have been working a steady job at a fairly close-knit company for about 3 years, and was recently promoted. My mother applied behind my back and got a job in the same company. We do not get along. Should I quit?

We will be working in the same building, on the same projects, and interacting with the same people, though she will be in an entry assembler job, whereas I will be working at a desk job. I'm young in comparison to my peers, so I've had to work hard to be acknowledged in spite of my appearance/age/inexperience.

I've already worked with her before at a different company and witnessed her ugliest sides, from her cattiness to her gossiping. I felt like nobody at that job took me seriously because they saw me as a “momma’s kid” and felt that I had no privacy or independence in that position. I quit that job after a year, vowed never to look back, and got a new job at the company where I work now.

I value my privacy at work and don't like mixing family dynamics and the workplace. To add to that, I don't have a good relationship with my mother. Putting us in the same building reeks of trouble.

Should I quit my job? If not, what else can I do? I’ve tried speaking to her and expressing how stressful it would be to share a common workplace, but she refuses to quit. From previous experience, I know how nightmarish it is to work in the same company as her. On the other hand, I'm going to school part-time and working towards my degree, so the benefits and wages really help with paying for rent/utilities/tuition. I've built up a strong network within the company, and my current manager has promised me a higher-level job within the company as soon as I get my BS.

Other details:

She is in her early 60s, and should be gearing up for retirement. However, due to her poor financial habits, she barely has enough to live on and has no savings whatsoever. My oldest brother has asked her several times to come live with him, but she refuses.

We live together. Seeing her both at work AND home at the end of the day is enough to push me over the edge. She has breached my privacy by informing everyone of where we live (next to work and I have kept it private for 3 years...until now).

She is financially irresponsible and often resorts to asking myself and my siblings for money. We have bailed her out of heaping debt multiple times, only for her to sink into it again and again. We’ve led her to resources and books on personal finance, but she still spends beyond her means, insisting on having the best or giving away money to relatives despite not having enough to support her own lifestyle.

At my last job (where we worked together), she would try to set me up with other single employees there, which was awkward for all. She would burn bridges with other coworkers and expect me to side with her. She’d speak badly of other coworkers to me in her native language while they would stand just a few feet from us. Although I asked her to maintain professional boundaries, she never did.

Anon in case anyone from work is reading and can recognize my username. If anyone has advice or would like to email me, I made a throwaway account:

Any thoughts/suggestions are appreciated!

Tl;dr: Have terrible relationship with mother. She got a job behind my back at my workplace. What now?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The way you describe your relationship you should neither work at the same workplace nor live together. I would seek a job in a different state, actually.
posted by Namlit at 10:13 AM on February 7, 2014 [40 favorites]

If it is a small, close-knit company that you've been working at for three years, do you have the leverage to say "she goes or I do?"
posted by griphus at 10:16 AM on February 7, 2014 [26 favorites]

I was going to say the same thing as Namlit until I saw that you're still going to school.

Currently, the economy is horrible for many, so I can't advise quitting right now, but I'd say devote all the time you can (without your mother knowing (and thus telling work)) to finding a new job, and take that job. Don't let your mom know where you work. Move out as soon as you can (before you graduate if you can). When you do graduate, look into employment in a different city.
posted by nobeagle at 10:18 AM on February 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't just up and quit, but start job hunting. And of course don't tell her. And I agree with griphus that you may have the leverage to have that conversation with your superiors, but I would be nervous doing it without somewhere to go if they say "ok, then go," even if it's something less ideal than your current job.

Also, if you're already paying rent anyway as you imply, what are the barriers to moving out of her house? You don't have to cut her off or anything, just get out.
posted by brainmouse at 10:19 AM on February 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Why not set up an appointment with your boss and HR, and ask them why they have chosen to hire your mother? Tell them it impacts performance and moral to work alongside your mother, and you do not understand why they think it's a good idea for productivity to hire family members together.

Frankly, you are in a toxic situation. It's good you're asking for help here... But I have a feeling you already know what needs to be done, but just lack the gall to do it.
posted by jjmoney at 10:21 AM on February 7, 2014 [15 favorites]

Could you move out and get your own apartment? That would create the extra measure of privacy and space that you need. Then treat her like any other potentially difficult colleague at work--with the up most level of professionalism.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:21 AM on February 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Has she already started work there? If you've got a good rapport with your coworkers and management, it might be worth explaining a bit about your situation here. If not to your coworkers, at least to management/HR.

Something like: "Hey, in case you hadn't heard, my mother is going to be filling [position] starting soon. I know that might be weird, but I want you to respect me and my work and see us as separate entities. I love her, but we don't always agree on things. You know how it is." Then shrug/eyeroll/whatever to convey that it's everyday relateable aging-parent stuff. No big deal.

I think most people, including me--and your coworkers!--would see a parent's intrusion on their workplaces as an absolute nightmare. Surely they will understand that and feel for you, and not judge you by someone else's actions.

I think the key is going to be a firm, but gentle message of differentiation. You send this message to your mother (to the extent that she's willing to hear it), to your coworker peers, and to your superiors. You seem to have made a good name for yourself at this company, and it would take more than a parent coworker, especially one who comes with an introduction, to destroy it overnight.
posted by magdalemon at 10:22 AM on February 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

You need to quietly plan your escape from this person. If you have to finish school or whatever, do that, but for your own health and welfare have A Plan.

Eventually, you need to move far away AND quit your job.

Or, you can continue to go " halfsies" in your boundary setting and this woman will continue to ruin your life.

Do you want a happy marriage at some point? Emotionally healthy children?

You can only get that if you move far away, get therapy, and maintain boundaries (as in, maybe your mother knows what city you live in, but not your address. Certainly, you can never ever share where you work with her ever again.)

I'm sorry this is happening. Your mother is... not well.... and the kindest thing you can do for her and for yourself under these circumstances is engineer your life such that she can not harm you.

Ask me how I know.
posted by jbenben at 10:24 AM on February 7, 2014 [27 favorites]


In the meantime, I want you to pretend you think everything is lovely, I want you to put a superhuman effort into ignoring EVERYTHING she does to get your goat.

Develop hobbies and interests that take you out of the home. Be professional at work. Put your focus on YOURSELF and not on her. No. Matter. What.

Also, find a therapist. Someone who will help you work your Plan. Someone who will provide reality checks when you need them. Sadly, you will need a lot of reality checks as you navigate this time in your life.

Good luck. You can do this. You can.
posted by jbenben at 10:29 AM on February 7, 2014 [16 favorites]

Your mom's behavior has transcended "technical foul" and sailed riiiiiight into the territory of "aggressively creepy". At your own speed - but hopefully soon - get another gig and DO NOT TELL HER where you work.

(Also, listen to everything jbenben said: she is always an awesome, experienced voice of reason in "toxic person is doing toxic crap!" questions).
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:29 AM on February 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

She was just hired? I'd explain to the higher ups that this was a dysfunctional situation in a prior workplace and that if they retain her, you will need to look elsewhere. I'd ask them to un-hire her.

I second jbenben that you also need to think of ways to separate yourself from her in the future, geographically as well as in terms of living/working situation. It sounds as though she has a personality disorder, and very few of those are treatable. Certainly you can't fix her.
posted by bearwife at 10:31 AM on February 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Indeed, jbenben has it right.

Your mom has no boundaries. Letting her in is toxic. My mother has not been allowed to call me during working hours for 15 years. She still tries every so often, but if I give in, even once, it will be all over. Yesterday was my anniversary. She called at 10 a.m. I will not pick up, even then.

While you are still living/working with her, you need to set boundaries and keep them firm.
For instance: Do not come to my office. If you need me for work reasons, email. I will be locking my door from now on to my room. Whatever you need to do for the time being to keep yourself in as much control as possible.

If you can get her un-hired, please do.

Good luck.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:35 AM on February 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'd definitely talk to whoever hired her/has the power to let her go and say something along these lines:

"I want to talk to you about your new employee XX who happens to be my mother. I actually left my previous position because she also worked there and couldn't maintain professional boundaries; she has now applied here without my knowledge and has already begun exhibiting unprofessional behavior with me and expecting it from me in return. I am asking that you move her to a completely unrelated sector and/or let her go given that she either hid or falsified information during her hiring process (presumably she either didn't tell them you were her child or told them but didn't share that you don't want to work with her)."

Also, were I in your position, I would move out.
posted by vegartanipla at 10:35 AM on February 7, 2014 [20 favorites]

Don't quit without another job. Don't ask your boss or HR why they've hired your mom. I also think you should not give your work place a "her or me" ultimatum, cause they are most likely to fire you both.

I would not pre-emptively talk to people about it either, with the exception of your immediate supervisor. I would mention to your immediate supervisor that you've worked with your mother before and found she was not good at maintaining appropriate professional boundaries and ask how your supervisor would like you to handle any difficulties, should they arise. In this conversation, downplay the drama as much as you can, minimize the disruption you're expecting, and focus on how your supervisor would like you to handle disruptions. If she comes into your office or by your desk while you are at work, do not engage her, firmly state "Ms. Jones (NOT "MOM"), I am busy at the moment and cannot talk. Please see [name of her supervisor] if you need help with something." Then look back at your work and don't respond. If she routinely interrupts you, go to your boss and say "Hey, can you have [my mother's supervisor] talk to her about how it's not appropriate to be coming by my desk during work hours?" If she gossips, and someone mentions it to you, say something neutral and noncommittal. If pressed for a response, state firmly that you don't engage in office gossip.

Although it's fine to say to people--when they mention it to you that you know it's an unusual situation, but that you hope they will continue to treat you in a professional manner, based only upon your own work and behavior, do not drag your co-workers between you and your mother. If you fear people treating you like a kid, or assuming you're inexperienced, warning people about your mom's gossiping before she starts working or talking to them about how they should not think of you as a "momma's kid" beforehand is a surefire way to get pegged as a drama llama in someone's eyes.

In the meantime, start ordering your life so that you can move out, move on to a different job and start moving on from a life that is routinely sabotaged by your mother.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:40 AM on February 7, 2014 [34 favorites]

Tell your immediate supervisor and see if they have some helpful advice. Make it clear that your experience in having worked with her in the past is that she's been unprofessional and entangled you in divisive situations that you wanted no part of. As long as you let your supervisor know that you want no recognition of your familial relationship with her, that should be sufficient.

If at all possible, find a new place to live. You say you have rent expenses, put those dollars toward buying yourself some freedom. She'll probably try to guilt you into staying and be doom and gloom about being abandoned, but she has your brother's offer to stay with him, so be strong and move toward independence.
posted by quince at 10:50 AM on February 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why do you live with your mother if you don't get along with her?

Assuming she is able to hold a job, she is able to live on her own.

You can't really complain about your mother's lack of boundaries when you are doing noting to enforce them yourself.
posted by Sara C. at 11:08 AM on February 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Did they know she was your Mother? I'm still having a hard time imagining a company saying "Hey lets hire this emplyees Mom and not tell her, it will be a nice surprise". Many companies won't hire family members to work together for all sorts of very valid reasons, yours being one of them. Usually if you know someone who already works in the company you would use them as a reference. It should have sent up all kinds of red flags that a Mother wouldn't use her own Daughter as a reference. I definitely think you should talk to someone and find a diplomatic way to say "Are you out of your effing minds?!" Have someone help you write a script that sounds businesslike but seriously this is just insane... I haven't worked in an office atmosphere for quite awhile so maybe things have changed so radically that this question makes me feel like I've stepped into the Twilight Zone but, jeeze Louise, your MOTHER?
posted by BoscosMom at 11:19 AM on February 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

Why is she no longer at the job where you both worked before?

You make it sound like you think it's just coincidence that this is the second time this has happened... I hope that's not true and that you understand that she's following you basically to maintain and deepen your dysfunctional relationship and her power over your life.

This will not ever stop until you make it.

When you look for your next job, one of the criteria should be something she can't follow you to. Something on your feet all day, or far away, or where you have to do heavy lifting or need special knowledge or skills. Or you could get a job in the HR office of your next company, overseeing the job applications that come in...
posted by thebazilist at 11:20 AM on February 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

You have a part time job with good wages and benefits while completing your undergraduate degree? If you are located in the US, then NO DO NOT QUIT. Suck it up, and talk to your manager about what her expectations are for the working relationship and conflict resolution.

When you graduate and move into full-time employment, move out.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:28 AM on February 7, 2014 [11 favorites]

I agree with the several suggestions to go to your manager or immediate supervisor who knows you and trusts your judgement. Explain that you have some concerns about your mother's ability to maintain professionalism at work, based on your past experience, and you don't want her behavior to reflect poorly on you. Maybe explain that you did not know she was applying for the position and you will be setting firm boundaries with her, but she tends not to view you as much of an authority. You are going to continue working at the same high standards as always and don't expect special treatment for your mother.

Keep the job and act as gracefully as possible while you make a concrete plan for distancing yourself from your mother. Unfortunately, you may have to endure embarassment or spoiled relationships with coworkers, but I would say it's best to hold on to all you've worked for at that company and the stable income at least until you finish school or find another position.

In the meantime, start very actively seeking a way to move to knew digs, find a roommate if you have to. If this upsets your mother, remain calm and firm, she has violated your trust and your privacy and if she cannot support herself on her own, she has the offer from your brother. She is no longer welcome to live with you.
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:34 AM on February 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Time to look for a new job and to look for a new living situation.

Your mother has boundary issues, really honking big ones, and your living with her exasserbates the problem.

If you can, move out first, THEN find a new job, but make both a priority in your life right now.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:40 AM on February 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

jbenben has a lot of good points especially with the "put on a superhuman effort to show that all is well."

But I don't think you should be the one to have to look for a job. Why? 1) She may just follow you there too and then you'll be back to square one. And 2) Moving out of state is, like, WAY too much to expect from your situation. Remember! She is the problem here, not you!

If it's not too late, I'd be utterly and completely "Mr. Professional" at work. Your mom is not your mom at work. She is your coworker. Period. Handle problems as they arise as if she were a complete stranger before her hire. If you don't have a great relationship with her now, then that shouldn't be too tough. Your job is your career--your means of income. Don't let her jeopardize that!

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, do what you can to get her transfered away from you. You must have a friendly superior since you received a promotion. If s/he notices something funny going on between you and the new hire, level with your superior (if you can--depends on his/her personality) and enlist his/her help in transfering your mom. Remember, it's for the good of the company.

Your professional attitude and approach can only help you in this situation.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 11:44 AM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

You need to meet with your boss and/or HR and get a better understanding of the situation. The key question you need answered at this point is whether or not they knew she was your mother. In many companies, it is against policy for family members to work together, due to the possibility of nepotism or other issues that would raise concern or conflict among non-family team members. If this is the case in your company, then the issues around your existing relationship issues and conflicts are largely irrelevant.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:49 PM on February 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

I am so sorry you are going through this. Although not everyone agrees, I think you should go to your supervisor and tell them, in a very neutral way, that your mother can have a hard time being professional towards you at work, and that you were blindsided by her taking this position. You say you have a good relationship with your supervisor, so they may be a good ally for you. It will also clue them in to watch for out-of-line behavior by her, which probably won't take long to manifest.

You might also take a look at the employee handbook and see if there are any rules about hiring family members in the same department. If there are, and especially if they didn't know you were related, perhaps she can be transferred.

I would not assume you were "not taken seriously" at your last job, or that you won't be here. Many people have overbearing or abusive parents, and I am sure at least some of them felt profound sympathy for your situation. If I had a co-worker's mom trying to gossip about them/set them up around me, it wouldn't be the co-worker I would dislike. I'd feel anger and sadness on their behalf.

You mention you want to stay at this company long-term. That means you are going to have to fight (in a professional way) your mother's attempts to ruin it for you. It's either that or run. (Neither is better than the other; you should do whichever you feel most capable of/have the strength for).

If you fight, then you have the advantage of having gotten there first/made good connections/proven yourself. You do also need to get your own place in any way you can as soon as possible. If it's a small town, that makes it harder, but even a garage apartment or roommate situation is bound to be better than being stuck at your mother's.

If you leave, then do so in the most professional and safest way you can, and of course cut off contact with her. There is nothing wrong in doing that if that's what you need to do.

I don't know what industry you're in, but hopefully it's one that gives you options to work in a variety of places.
posted by emjaybee at 12:58 PM on February 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

you were recently promoted, so you're apparently of higher rank than your momma. unless she's independently wealthy and just doing this to annoy you, it's a credit to her character that she's chosen gainful employment over government dole. in the navy, a captain is the boss of the ship, but he doesn't have absolute veto power over the sailor roster.
posted by bruce at 1:11 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

A vote for going to supervisor or HR to make sure that no one is running afoul of a policy. Ask this in all innocence and light because you are not a complainer - you are merely interested in workplace compliance.
If she did not mention having a daughter at the company, that will be their first red flag.

If or when she starts being awkward, shrug it off as rridiculous as though she's a small child who wants to eat all the jelly out of her PB&J and then eats the rest of the sandwich. She's messy and inexplicable but what are you gonna do ... why waste time on such silliness. This attitude ups your credibility, subtlety diminishes hers.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 2:28 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ok. The job, with bennies and new responsibility, and flexibility for your studies, jeez, is too good to leave right now.

I would have a come to Jesus talk with moms. I don't like suggesting this, but with such a person, and considering this is about your freaking survival right now, and your future: use any leverage you have. She doesn't want to live with your brother, and (maybe?) believes she has no other alternatives. She just got this job. she's in a weak position. Make this explicit.

I would lay down the law and come down hard if/when she breaks it. "Mom. I swear to shit, if you act out of line, I will do what I can to get you fired. If you pull anything like the stuff you did last time, I ll not only get you fired but will move out (you should also actually work toward this, as well as use it in this way) and it will be up to you to get roommates or live with Brother. You do not talk to me except when necessary, in a professional way. You do not talk about me at all. One hair out of line and I will move on all of this, stat."

It's ugly, but so are the alternatives. Wow.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:57 PM on February 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can you move in with your brother? What your mom has done is akin to stalking. She will continue to ignore any boundaries and insert herself into your life whenever she can.

Move away. Get another job. Warn HR that you have a stalker mom and they must never hire her, for any reason.

She sounds like she has a parasitic personality and she will suck you dry. She is probably trying to set you up with men so that she can have some control over your future marriage. Get away from her. People like her will always find another person to suck dry. Do not continue to be her victim.

Think of all the money you will save when you no longer have to bail her out. And apply that money to the cost of moving far away.
posted by myselfasme at 6:54 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Having thought about this some more, I'm going to soften my suggestion, which came out of vicarious outrage (during my commute). I (now) realize you probably would not be able to talk to your mother along those lines, or else you would have.

She's emotionally immature, has no boundaries, and is indiscreet (will have to deal with that no matter what, if she stays), but believes in loyalty and 'blood over water'. It sounds like she wants what she thinks are good things for you (e.g. husband) and believes she's trying to support you, albeit in a totally inappropriate and unhelpful way. Does she take pride in your accomplishments? Do you think you can get her on-side that way -- can you get her rooting for you and your promotion, maybe? If she accepts your professional aspirations as a goal she can share in, maybe she'll be more willing to accept a tough conversation about what's ok and what's not, and to play along at work.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:51 PM on February 7, 2014

First of all, yuck. What a terrible thing for your mother to have done behind your back. I'm sorry!

I don't think talking to your HR people or your manager is the right thing to do, I honestly don't. If your mother is already hired and in place, they won't just turn around and get rid of her because you have issues with her. In scenarios like that, it tends to backfire on the complainant, so be careful there.

I'm sure it's a hardship, but can you try and muster all your resources and move out of your living situation? At least then, you will have some refuge while you finish school and plot your next move.

Finally, I agree (as usual) with jbenben -- seethe silently, plot thoroughly, and smile in their faces.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:23 AM on February 8, 2014

Reminds me of something I'd see on the Reddit community Raised By Narcissists. I agree your first priority should be to get into a position where if things go south at work and your mom is let go, either because of you or because of her own behavior, that it doesn't bleed into the rest of your life. That means moving out as soon as possible, and disentangling any sort of financial accounts or other ties. Make sure she isn't on any of your bank accounts and that you have all your own documents like birth certificates, etc. before you move out.

I would do the bare minimum with HR until then, simply look through the employee handbook to see if this is even allowed and tell them simply that they have hired your mother and you did not know about it.

There should be no shame in cutting psychologically harmful family members out of your life.
posted by melissam at 8:45 AM on February 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

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