Waving, Not Drowning

Dear Viv: Is it OK to charge my daughter rent?

In this week’s podcast, Viv discusses whether to charge your child rent, a line manager from hell, a daughter caught up in negative comparisons, and being terrified of confrontation at work

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By Viv Groskop on

Dear Viv,

My daughter has just graduated from university, and is going to move home to be within commuting distance of London, where she’s hoping to get an internship. She’s been financially independent since she started college, working part-time as a waitress to supplement her student loan. And while she’s been away, I’ve got quite used to having the extra cash which I’m not spending on food and bills. Would it be reasonable to charge her rent when she comes back? What do people usually do in this situation?

Ah, what do people usually do in this situation? What a great question. Wouldn’t it be great to say to your daughter, “I don’t care how this makes you feel -- this is what people usually do in this situation, give me the money.” I’m joking, of course, but I feel like this is what you want me to say, that there’s some kind of social rule that might apply here and make you feel better. There isn’t really. This is a difficult situation and you’re going to have to think and talk your way out of it and work out what you and your daughter want. What do people usually do? They find a solution that works for them. Well, in reality probably they fail to talk about it and behave all passive aggressive until they have a massive shouting match. You get my drift.

That said, I think it’s absolutely reasonable for you to charge her rent. What interests me, is that you’re hesitating over it. I’m assuming you haven’t had a conversation with your daughter about this yet because, judging by what you’ve said about her, I would be very surprised if she didn’t offer to pay you something anyway. What would be good to work out in advance of that conversation is how much you’d like that to be and how you’re going to reviewing it as time goes on. The key is to be straightforward: bring up the subject, say you’re thought about the contribution you’d like to suggest and that you want to review it every four weeks so see how you’re both getting on. This is perfectly reasonable.

What is not reasonable is to leave it as something that can’t be talked about and be quietly festering behind closed doors and drawing on the cheese packet with a biro to mark who has had what. You are utterly reasonable to expect your daughter to make a contribution and I suspect she will be utterly reasonable too. Just have the conversation.

Dear Viv,

I’ve got a new line manager at work, who started three weeks ago. I know it’s early days, but he seems really bad at his job - certainly much worse than anyone else who’s joined the company in a similar role. He doesn’t seem to understand some of the basic processes behind what we do, and common jargon totally baffles him. Because I’m just beneath him in the chain, I’m responsible for a lot of his office training, and I’m picking up a lot of slack because he’s so slow on the uptake. It’s having a big impact on our department and it’s only a matter of time until one of the managers asks us what’s going on. Should I dob him in? Or give him the benefit of the doubt? At the moment I feel like if anyone asked me how he’s doing, I’d have a half-hour rage about it, though I know it would be very unprofessional to do that! It’s extra frustrating because I took over the role briefly while we were waiting for him to work his notice period at his last company, and everything went fine! I discussed a promotion with my manager at the time but she said I wasn’t ready for the role.

Can I say first of all that I love the sound of your line manager: doesn’t understand basic processes, totally baffled -- love it. If he were a sitcom character obviously. Probably to you it is not quite so amusing. On the other hand, though, this guy is not a fictional character, he’s someone all of us have worked with, do work with and will work with again in the future. This guy is everywhere. (And I’m not being sexist -- women are just as capable of being like this. In fact I am very inept and process-phobic and if I ever did work with you I would probably be a bit like this.) 

But seriously. There is an issue that needs unpicking here. Let’s step back. Can you genuinely say that you’re OK with being passed over for promotion? Because that’s what happened. This guy is not a neutral colleague -- he’s the person who was given the job you wanted. So it would be perfectly natural if your feelings towards him were erring on the side of hostile to start with. Is it possible that attitude is coping into your dealings with him? You gloss over this in your letter and I wonder if you’ve worked out your feelings of disappointment. Your company passed you over and seem to have chosen someone instead who is not actually capable of doing the job, in fact who needs you to do the job for them. I wonder if you’re angry with the wrong person. Don’t be angry with him. Be angry with the company. There’s also another wider issue here if your picture is accurate. You say, “It’s only a matter of time until one of the managers asks us what’s going on.” Who is really in charge? Is anyone in charge?!

Setting all of that aside for a moment, I want you to think about what it is that you really want and to be honest with yourself about this situation. Is it really true that this guy is inept or is he just settling in and figuring out how your company works? What are his good qualities? Why was he picked over you? What can you learn from him? I think until you start answering some of these questions, you’re going to be trapped in resentment and irritation.

If, however, you can honestly say that he’s wrong for the job and doesn’t know what he’s doing then you have every right to speak to someone about it. But you need to make sure you do so calmly and cautiously - with no emotion. The anger you’re feeling now is not really about him, it’s frustration that you were passed over. Be honest about that, allow yourself to feel it and then work out what’s really going on. Try not to kill him in the meantime.

You can hear the answers to these and the following questions on Viv’s podcast, Waving, Not Drowning, above.

Dear Viv,

My daughter seems to be constantly comparing herself to her friends. She’s in year 6, and has been coming home from school in tears at least twice a month, crying about how her friends (I think there are two in particular that are the worst offenders) are getting better results than her at school. I’ve tried telling her that it doesn’t matter as long as she’s trying her best, but it doesn’t seem to be getting through. How can I help her deal with this?

Dear Viv,

I’ve recently been promoted, which is great, and I’m now head of a department at work. The only downside to this is that I will have to deal with discipline and letting people go. I’m not great at confrontation (I’ve never even broken up with someone!) - do you have any tips?

Got a question for Viv? Email her at DearViv@thepoolltd.com. The Dear Viv podcast airs fortnightly on The Pool at 5pm on Tuesdays. All letters will be edited for length. Unfortunately Viv cannot reply to your emails personally. 

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