How do I tell my kids they crushed their hamster to death?

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 17 2009 6:13 AM

Fuzzy's Gone to Hamster Heaven

How do I tell my kids they killed their pet?

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I am 25 years old. I recently received a promotion at my job and now manage a group of my peers. Our boss is now relying on me to pass along departmental information about who is working diligently and who is not. My problem is that two people in the department hardly work at all. They come in an hour or more late, then they are on the phone, surfing Facebook, online shopping, or talking to each other all day. Their behavior is causing complaints from managers and co-workers. These two people happen to be my close friends; we often go shopping or to happy hour, and we confide in one another. I feel like I am ratting them out if I tell my boss what they really do, but at the same time, it is completely frustrating to be surrounded by people who have so little work ethic. I have the authority to say something, but one of them has been here longer than me and is a little bitter I've surpassed her, so I am uncomfortable "disciplining" her. Do I let our boss know what is really going on?

—Stumped

Dear Stumped,
I assume you know how many hardworking people are desperate for jobs, yet you let these two manipulative dead weights take advantage of you, and the company, because they're smart enough to go out for mojitos with you and encourage you to spill your most intimate thoughts. You're the boss now, so start acting like one. That may mean no more happy hours, and it definitely means telling them you expect them to work during working hours. Explain to your (probably soon-to-be-former) pals that their full-time extracurricular activities have been noted, and there are going to be severe consequences if they don't start doing their jobs. Tell your boss the truth: that you have spoken to these two about their self-indulgence and that you will monitor whether there's an improvement. If there's not, think of how refreshing it will be to have two new colleagues who appreciate and enjoy their work. And if you can't bring yourself to discharge your duties, then you should be looking for work elsewhere, along with this pair.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I am a 16-year-old girl who works at a supermarket collecting shopping carts in the parking lot and lining them up near the entrance. Customers frequently express to me their disapproval of a girl pushing shopping carts. They've said: "Girls shouldn't be doing this," "Tell your boss he should be sending boys outside to do this," and "You're too cute to be doing this job." Some customers have tried to pry the shopping carts from my hands, and one man even threatened to talk to my boss. Surprisingly, the biggest perpetrators of sexist comments are women. By the end of the day, I feel awful. I want to tell the customers to stop when they say sexist things to me, but it's been my experience that adults get indignant when someone younger tries to set boundaries. Is there any way I can let people know to leave me alone and let me do my job?

—Leave the Girl Alone

Dear Leave,
You're right—you don't want to give lectures; you want to use your youthful charm to defuse the sexist commentary. You need to have several ready replies that you deliver with a disarming smile, such as, "With this job I get exercise and fresh air. Please don't complain to the manager, because then I might have to work the cash register!" "When I'm an adult, I'll have to do my own grocery shopping, so this is giving me plenty of training in pushing carts." "Someday we'll have a woman president. But for now, I'm blazing the trail for female shopping-cart wranglers."

—Prudie