Managing multiple employees is a difficult, nuanced task.
A good manager must have one ear in the realm of business or organizational success, and the other trained on the wide-ranging needs and tendencies of the employees who look to them for direction.
For one Redditor, known as Acceptable-Jump4191 on the site, that task grew complicated on a recent workday. She posted about the experience on the “Am I the A**hole (AITA)” subReddit.
The Original Poster (OP) clarified the particular sticking point right in the post’s title.
“AITA for my ‘discriminatory’ instructions to my elderly employee?”
She began with a quick rundown of the workplace and the personnel situation.
“I know the title seems absurd, but hear me out.”
I [27-year-old female] am the head of a childcare-related business. We’re relatively small (only about six employees) but the ones I’ll be mentioning are K [17-year-old female] and B [86-year-old female].”
“B, though in excellent shape, is elderly and isn’t able to move around as well as she once did. She often plays with the kids and allows them to be physical with her.”
“We employ her as an as-needed worker, meaning she generally comes later in the day when K is working.”
One slight impasse would be the sign of more to come.
“A few weeks ago, B was playing with the children and allowed them to get rough with her (pull on her clothes, push her around, etc).”
“K tried to intervene, but B assured her it was all fine and that she could take care of herself.”
OP explained how that was only the beginning.
“Well, later that day, one of the children hugged her so hard that she tripped and fell into the wooden playhouse. She ended up being virtually incapacitated on the ground.”
Meaning K, the seventeen year old, had to call 911 and help B as best she could, all while having to wrangle over a dozen young children.”
“B ended up being totally fine, and was released from the hospital the next day.”
But B wasn’t the only one who took a blow.
“However, that event was extremely hard on K.”
“She’s an extremely capable worker, but seeing someone she cared about hurt combined with having to call 911 and being virtually alone with the kids was hard.”
“She asked me privately if I would be okay with instructing B and the kids to not get too physical with B. K has said she’s terrified of having another event like that, and I don’t blame her.”
OP gave her best attempt at conflict resolution.
“I talked with the kids and parents to make sure they understand that playing with K is different than playing with B, and they need to be more gentle.”
“However, when I discussed this with B, she accused me of being ageist and said she could do everything she used to do just fine.”
“Our coworkers are divided. AITA?”
Anonymous strangers weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Plenty of Redditors agreed with B.
“YTA. You had good intentions but by framing it solely aimed at B it becomes an age discrimination thing. You should have sent a general email reminding parents/staff about boundaries with rough play.”
“Also despite her being energetic, in this capacity B is, as callous as this may sound, a liability. If she has an accident in the work place you’re the one liable for it.” — Dangerfyeld
“It really sounds like you’re more concerned about K’s feelings in this situation than you are about B’s physical well-being. At least with the way you’ve written this. If this is true, YTA.”
“B sounds like she can, and wants to, take care of herself. But this is also a workplace injury and should be treated as such- as in your company should be covering the cost and also finding a way to prevent these things in the future.”
“In order to do that, I would maybe sit down with B and come to a solution together, rather than you making decisions on your own that make her feel excluded/discriminated against.” — gnarwhalbb
Many Redditors criticized OP, though not for the reason she expected.
“YTA. The kids roughhousing with any of your employees is a liability. They shouldn’t be playing like this with any of your employees. You really should rethink this policy and extend it to all employees not just B. What you are doing is ageist.”
“You’re already responsible for B’s medical bills. This is a workers comp nightmare. A bad fall can kill an elderly person (or even a young person). Had B hit her head hard on that wooden playhouse, you could be looking at a death claim on your insurance.”
“If the kids are roughhousing with all your employees, the employee doesn’t have to be old to be hurt.”
“If one of the kids were hurt, then you could be sued. I hope you have good liability insurance with umbrella coverage.” — PotatoLover-3000
“YTA. You run a child care facility not a doggy daycare. Why are you teaching kids it’s okay to rough house and get physical with any of your employees at all instead of keeping their hands to themselves????” — captnunderpanties
“YTA because it’s inappropriate to allow students to manhandle a teacher/staff of any age. You need to be teaching boundaries and personal space and, yes, respect for the elderly, which she is whether or not she acknowledges it.”
“It’s not ageist to set safety guidelines as long as they’re consistent with everyone.”
“As a former preschool teacher, I’m honestly pretty appalled that you’ve allowed the children to do this. Who is the boss here, you or B? Make the rule, make it clear and make it universal.” — Underwater_20897477
Others couldn’t believe OP’s management decision that led to the mishap.
“YTA why are you scheduling a 17 year old and an 86 year old on the same shift?” — katherinemma987
“Holy moly, you have an 86 yr old and a 17yr old minding kids, is that even legal? You need to have 2 fully appropriate adults at all times. 17 is not an appropriate adult. Both these women need to work with a qualified cc professional. YTA” — SnooChickens5652
“YTA here. There’s 2 things I think you did wrong:”
“1.) You made it ageist against B. She is absolutely right. She said she she can handle herself, and you decided that she can’t because she is too old. That’s ageist.”
“2.) It’s incredibly irresponsible to have 2 employees of their ages, being the only people working with 12 kids. K has every right to be terrified of having to make that call again- she shouldn’t have even been in that position in the first place.”
“And just throwing it out there: I would never trust your daycare to watch my son knowing you leave a 17 and a 86 year old alone with the kids.” — jxcegxhris
We’ll never know if OP takes this feedback to heart, but perhaps the onslaught of Reddit criticism will result in a few scheduling changes at the daycare.