16-Year-Old Tangles with Business Owner

Lindsey Novak on

Q: I'm an experienced small business owner who wanted to give a change to a 16-year-old in a bad situation. Instead, she tangled with the wrong person and turned me against her. Her mother has worked for me for a few years; she has been a hard factory worker but needed constant instructions and guidance. She has lived with her daughter in a very small one-bedroom apartment in a rough neighborhood. I felt sorry for the daughter when her mother met and moved in with a female potential business partner and wanted her daughter to move out. The daughter called and wanted to work for me as well, but also asked if she could live in one of my properties. She would only be making minimum wage. I felt so badly for her that I accepted this intrusive proposal. She begged and promised to work for me for an hourly rate just to be out of her neighborhood, plus she did not want to continue living with her mother who had decided she was gay and also wanted her daughter out, so I agreed to let her live in one of my properties. I don't have children of my own and I sincerely wanted to give her a chance to succeed independently.

Once she moved in, she reneged on her proposal to work. Once I saw she was not a person of her word, I ordered her to move out and told her she could not work for me. I wanted to help her, but I did not want a daughter. She moved out as I ordered her to do, but then she begged once again to move in. I feel terrible for her. The mother has chosen this lover over her daughter. I am considering allowing her to move in again. I see how hard it is for a child to do the right thing when she has no role model in her life.

A: This would pull at most people's heartstrings, seeing a daughter thrown aside for a lover. It would also turn your workplace into a soap-opera drama with the mother and the daughter working for you. On face value, the daughter is looking to you to save her by giving her a job and a safe haven from home. Her life is sad for sure. But if you don't want to fulfill this 16-year-old's need for a parent who can commit to her, guide her to a better solution.

You cannot risk the turmoil it could cause in your company if you take her in. She would happily depend on you, as she has been rejected by her mother, but that woman is still legally responsible for her 16-year-old. If you allow her to move in again after she showed you her word is meaningless, you will be teaching her that manipulating others works. In the end, she needs to learn that her word is the only character trait she must value and retain.


It's a tragic situation, but you can't step in for every rejected child even though you would like to help. Connect her to a local organization that is a more appropriate source of guidance.


Email life and career coach with all your workplace questions and experiences. For more information, visit and for past columns, see



blog comments powered by Disqus


Dilbert Ginger Meggs Dan Wasserman Adam Zyglis Chip Bok The Other Coast