I don’t want my coworkers to know about my boob job

A reader writes:

In a few weeks, I’ll be taking 2 weeks off work to have plastic surgery. After returning to work, I’ll be on a few work restrictions for 2-3 weeks. My immediate supervisor and manager know the reason, but I really don’t want to tell my co-workers that the reason I can’t shift books or push carts (I work in a library) is because of a boob job.

I’m not necessarily embarassed, but I really don’t want to have the discussion with my co-workers. We are all cordial and chat sometimes, but talking about my boob job with them isn’t my idea of a good time.

The thing is, they’re really nosy, and I don’t know what to say other than “It’s private,” but they won’t let me off the hook with that. Any advice?

“It’s private” is exactly the sort of response that you should be able to use but in reality will just encourage speculation, especially among nosy people.

Instead, I’d go with “I had a medical procedure, but I’m fine,” and if anyone asks follow-up questions, then say, “I don’t want to get into medical details, but everything is okay.”

Keep in mind that even a lot of non-nosy people might ask, “Are you okay?” — not intending to be nosy, but out of genuine concern. So you want to have your follow-up response ready, and ideally one that politely conveys “I don’t want to discuss this at work.”  I like “I don’t want to get into medical details” because you can say it in a tone that’s friendly and polite, and even one that implies “it’s for your own good; I don’t want to gross you out with the details of a situation that for all you know could be gory or highly personal.”

{ 91 comments… read them below }

  1. Lisa*

    Am I alone in thinking that if your coworkers are really THAT nosy, they’re going to notice the boob job on their own?

    You could always tell the partial truth — “Doctor’s orders, I can’t push carts because I have some soft tissue damage in my upper body that’s still healing.”

    1. Nichole*

      I have to admit I thought that, too. It’s no one’s business and not work appropriate conversation, but it’s very possible that they’ll notice on their own depending on the type and extent of the surgery. Since the OP says she’s private rather than embarrassed, if it’s something very noticeable maybe a friend at work can be the designated news spreader-let everyone know while she’s gone that she had a boob job for XYZ reason, she’s fine, and she doesn’t want to discuss it? They’ll stare for a day or two and get on with it, no elephant in the room. If it won’t be very noticeable or if the OP doesn’t want it discussed at all, I agree with AAM’s “I had a medical procedure, but I’m fine.” “Soft tissue damage” is kind of asking for it.

  2. Anonymous*

    I feel like there are a lot of people who become even more interested upon hearing “It’s very gross/gory/TMI” – as if it’s a personal challenge to them to actually hear the details!

    I would just leave it at “It’s personal” with a pointed, unsmiling look.

    1. jmkenrick*

      I have to admit that hearing something is gross makes me 100% more interested.

  3. Rob*

    Not to point out the obvious, but isn’t the reason why someone gets a boob job is to say ‘Hey! Look at me!”? I don’t get why she is trying to hide something that is going to be obvious to everyone anyways…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Plenty of times, no. An obvious example would be someone having reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy. But even in purely cosmetic cases, often the person isn’t seeking attention, but rather correcting something they feel self-conscious about.

      (It’s also worth noting that even if someone IS doing it to look more attractive to others, that’s hopefully not something they’re seeking at work.)

    2. Anonymous*

      Is that the same reason that people get their nose jobs? Or wear braces? Because they want the attention the results give them. FYI, Rob, not all cosmetic procedures (or the recipients of those procedures) are for attention, as you’re insinuating. Perhaps the OP has a deformity she wants corrected, or is getting a reduction to relieve back pain, or wants a lift to restore her confidence after having and nursing a child (among other reasons!)

      1. Anonymous*

        You said what I was thinking – the reduction to relieve pain and help with breathing. Sometimes that is noticeable while other times not.

    3. jmkenrick*

      Not necessarily. First of all, you can use that phrase to refer to a breast reduction. Second of all, many women undergo breast augmentation after losing breast tissue to cancer, or to incorrect a naturally uneven bust (it’s possible to have one A and one C, for example, it just happens sometimes). Thirdly, it’s not necessarily obvious to everyone – my friend had a breast reduction done two years ago, and although we noticed her absence, a lot of peopel didn’t notice the physical change simply because she did a very graceful/tasteful job of transitioning her wardrobe. Clothing & undergarments can work wonders.

      But mostly, your body is nobody’s business unless you decide otherwise.

      1. jmkenrick*

        And we all typed a response at the same time. (No one else had answered that question when I started writing, I swear.)

    4. Ariancita*

      Agree with the other responses that it doesn’t indicate the person wants attention. There are lots of reasons why someone would get any kind of plastic surgery.

      But more importantly, for those instances where the person does want the attention, presumably they want people to notice their boobs, not their boob job. Big difference.

      And again, I am utterly unconvinced that attention seeking is the main reason anyone gets plastic surgery. It’s also not the reason many of us wear make-up or skirts or a tank tops, etc.

    5. Your Mileage May Vary*

      There’s a possibility that the “boob job” is breast reduction surgery.

    6. Esra*

      Boob job doesn’t necessarily mean larger breasts. I know several women who have had to get reductions for back stress and chronic pain.

      1. Blinx*

        While the term “breast surgery” could mean one of many different procedures, the term “boob job” usually always means breast augmentation. And for the record, I really hate this term. It just has SO many negative connotations connected with it.

    7. Diane*

      Rob, I had breast augmentation surgery and it wasn’t to say “look at me.” I rarely wear clothes that show them off. For me, I felt ugly naked. I worked out, ate right, and was proud of my work on my body, but my boobs weren’t something I could change. I got tired of wearing padded bras and wanted there to be something there naturally. After my surgery, not a ton of people noticed because they thought I had boobs in the first place (thanks victoria’s secret). I did the surgery for myself, wasn’t even dating anyone at the time, so when I looked in the mirror I felt like I was 100% who I wanted to be. I also didn’t go DDD. So yea, women don’t get boob jobs for the attention. You wouldn’t even notice if you saw me in a tank top. Best money I’ve ever spent.

  4. Anonymous*

    I think that, regardless of the reason, increase or decrease, people will most likely notice breast surgery.

    1. Blinx*

      It depends. A lot of things can be disguised with wardrobe choices, both before and after surgery. How do we know that the OP hasn’t augmented her “before” look with those “chicken cutlets” that are all the rage now.

      Also, people may notice that something’s different about the OP, but aren’t quite sure what. OP — if you want to throw people off, return to work with a different hairstyle or new glasses. In the mean time, just keep on saying that it’s personal and you’d rather not talk about it. Stand your ground.

      1. jmkenrick*

        This is so true. I dyed my hair brown, and people asked if I started curling it (nope, it’s always been curly). I let it go back to blond, and people thought I’d gotten a haircut. I started wearing glasses, and my boss complimented my “new” lipstick. It’s so funny.

        1. Tamara*

          Agreed. I once switched from contact lenses to glasses (which I’d never worn at work before), and I got 2 compliments on my “new dress” (which I HAD worn before).

        2. Natalie*

          My vision didn’t start going until adulthood, so I got my first pair of glasses at 25. It was sort of hilarious how many people asked me if I was doing something different with my hair. I guess that means the glasses look good on my – they blend right in!

          1. Beth*

            This reminds me of when my mom got her greying hair low-lighted, and people thought she’d had a face lift. Hah!

    2. Diane*

      OP, I returned to work 10 days after surgery and here’s my advice. From now until the surgery date, wear a padded bra and tighter clothing than usual. Let people notice you have boobs (even if it’s just a good bra). Then after the surgery, wear looser shirts and styles that focus on your legs or accessories or hair. Depending on how big you go, it’s possible no one will notice. No one noticed I had surgery. They believed that I had a lump removed from my breast and that’s why I was unable to reach things or push doors open. Good luck!

  5. jmkenrick*

    Maybe it’s naivete, but I don’t think this is a problem. People’s bodies change and fluctuate all the time (with and without the aid of modern medicine) and clothing can be very useful for “covering up” some of those changes.

    Unless the OP also does modeling for Sports Illustrated, I can’t imagine that all of her coworkers are paying that much attention to her physique.

    I think the trick here is to just help out as much as you can in the ways that you are capable, and when asked about why you can’t do something, brush it off and try to make the reason sound as boring as possible.

    It’s generally considered pretty rude to comment on people’s bodies unprovoked, so if that does happen, it’s definitely a negative reflection of them and not of the OP.

  6. J*

    I had a coworker (at Starbucks) get a boob job not once but twice within a year and she absolutely became the butt of a lot of jokes (although she was also the butt of a lot of jokes for being tanorexic, among other things). She was fairly open about it, though and didn’t seem to care. How she could afford two boob jobs in one year on a Starbucks hourly wage is beyond me (she wasn’t management level). I’m honestly not sure if I would have noticed without knowing, however (although I only met her after the first one so I don’t know what she started out looking like).

    1. Suz*

      The 2nd time may have been to fix them. After my sister’s recontruction, she’s had to have them redone 3 times to get them even.

  7. EngineerGirl*

    Why not give a readers digest version? “I had some surgery and hope to be off medical restriction soon. Thanks for asking!”. If they pry further just smile and tell them “Oh, I’m sure you won’t want all the gory details.”. If they push after that you know you have a gossip. At that point just tell them “you know what? I’m really uncomfortable discussing my personal medical conditions with you”

    Using the term “personal medical conditions” should alert most people that they are crossing the line. If they persist after that just says “that’s inappropriate” and walk away. Boundary smashers will get angry but after a few incidents they’ll quit. The key is to be firm and nicely polite.

    1. Tamara*

      “I had some surgery and hope to be off medical restriction soon. Thanks for asking!”

      This is perfect. I’ve known a couple of people in this situation, and this is just how they dealt with it. As far as I know, everything went just fine for them.

    2. Heather*

      Exactly. People only pry if you let them. Say the short and sweet version and end it there. If they keep asking basically tell them it’s none of their business. If you don’t want your personal details out there then don’t. They are the ones being rude not you. Personally I don’t really care if I’m snippy with boundary crashers since they are being inappropriate and I’m not. I could care less if they are angry because I don’t want to tell them personal details! A person’s life is not to be the grist for the gossip machine. I don’t get why people are like this. I don’t get why working in an office means everyone has to know every detail about your life! Makes me crazy.

  8. Tech Chic(k)*

    The recovery you’re describing sounds pretty similar to the recovery from some types of cancer surgery. I wouldn’t have an ethical problem with letting people think you had something of that nature going on, if you’d find that easier to deal with. (Just emphasizing ‘everything’s okay, I’m fine’ would probably do the trick.) What’s going on under the hood really isn’t anyone else’s business.

    1. Anonymous*

      Having underwent cancer surgery myself, I have to say I don’t appreciate the idea of someone lying about having cancer. It’s just not a good idea to abuse people’s sympathy. Then there’s the issue that cancer requires treatment or at least follow up. Some people may get the idea that she’s no longer as reliable as she used to be. I tried really hard to downplay the issue, rather than emphasize it, to make sure it won’t affect my career.
      Also, based on my experience, overwhelming majority of the people are really discrete about medical issues, do not open the subject, do not ask questions past “are you OK?”, and do not comment about it. I was impressed with everybody’s civility.
      I think all she needs to say is that she had a procedure and she has to wait a few weeks for the doctor’s clearance in order to lift weight or push carts. And that she’s doing OK.

      1. Tech Chic(k)*

        Yes, I’m certainly not suggesting that she make a play for sympathy! The OP doesn’t sound like she’s looking for attention either, quite the opposite. I’m suggesting that letting people come to the wrong conclusion might possibly make them less nosy, or make it easier for the OP to deal with. Or not, she’d be the one to know.

        I’m glad that people were discreet about it in your experience.

  9. Anonymous*

    I’m pretty sure if your supervisors know the reason, everyone else is going to “somehow” find out anyway.

  10. Anonymous*

    On a side note, I’m always surprised (and pleased) to see how many people on AAM work in libraries (myself included). Yay libraries!

  11. Grace*

    A friend of mine had top surgery and he just said it was a surgery to “remove benign matter” from his chest. If someone pushed he just told them he wasn’t going to discuss the matter further. So that’s an option.

    1. Ry*

      Hey, that’s almost exactly what I said! I said I had chest surgery to correct a birth defect (which was true in my case but DOES NOT mean that I consider others’ breasts to be birth defects!). Nobody wanted to hear any more about it than that! (For anybody who isn’t understanding this, we’re talking about bilateral mastectomies with areolar reconstruction in female-to-male transsexual men.)

      I also agree with Andy that the best response, when you don’t want people to pry about something, is the same response over and over. It will attract attention from the nosy (because it’ll be obvious that you’re repeating your rehearsed ‘line’ over and over), but people who are crossing your boundaries are making themselves look bad, not making you look bad.

      In your case, OP, I’d just say “I had surgery, but I’ll be back to normal soon.” Most people will wish you well, ask whether they can do anything to help (since you’ll be on restrictions) and move on. To the boundary-pushers with inappropriate follow-up questions, you can say something like, “I’m busy with this project right now, I’m sorry,” or something to that effect – politely ending the conversation.

      Those who push farther than that… are kind of a lost cause and you may have to tell them, “I’m not going to tell you.” It sounds like that would make you uncomfortable and I really hope that doesn’t happen, but steel yourself, because it may.

      Good luck with the procedure, and do not get pressured into lifting/pushing beyond your restrictions! Depending on your work environment, you may be tempted to ignore your restrictions and do too much work so that people won’t notice what happened, but your chest wall needs time to recover. Your job is important, but you only get one body (at least, as far as we know!), so it is most important to take care of yourself after the surgery.

      1. fposte*

        You can also just not answer if people keep asking questions. A small cool smile can help convey the fact that you heard the question.

        1. Ry*

          That could be more graceful, it’s true. Especially in a quiet environment like a library :)

      2. OP*

        Thanks so much Ry!

        I really like this

        “Those who push farther than that… are kind of a lost cause and you may have to tell them, “I’m not going to tell you.” ”

        That would really blow their minds. They’d thrive on that for weeks! lol

  12. Andy Lester*

    I think Allison’s answer of “I had a medical procedure, and I’m fine” is good. It gives enough information for the clueful to know that they shouldn’t ask further.

    I disagree with the followup to those who continue to pry. Allison suggests “I don’t want to get into medical details”, but I think that tells the person asking that followup questions elicit more information.

    I suggest the answer to any question on the topic be “I had a medical procedure, and I’m fine” because it works in all cases.

    “Well, was it something serious?” “I had a medical procedure, and I’m fine.”

    “Did it hurt?” “I had a medical procedure, and I’m fine.”

    “Oh come on, we’re all friends here!” “I had a medical procedure and I’m fine.”

    Just repeat it like a mantra. Anything else is engaging the person in a conversation.

    1. Tamsin*

      This seems like a pretty good idea to me. In my experience nothing stops probing quite like repetition. Unless they are completely dense (and sometimes they are), just repeating what you said will stop the questions. You can also just walk away, saying, I have some work to get done. It may come off as rude but I think that will get across the message.

      Unfortunately nosy people and even non-nosy people will want to know as much as they can about your leave. It just happens. When my coworker was out on maternity, everyone kept asking me if she was coming back. I said, yes, she has made plans to come back. But they kept pressing me for more details, as they did not believe she really would come back after her leave (she did come back and then quit a month later when she got a way better job! ha!). I just had to keep repeating myself, and eventually they left me alone, but sometimes the question would pop up whenever she was mentioned.

      1. Another Emily*

        I agree with Andy and Tamsin. Just repeat “I’ve had a medical procedure, but I’m fine” in a calm, neutral tone. Eventually even the nosiest or obstinant person will get the idea that they will not be getting the details and give up.

        If you get riled or change your mantra, the nosy people might get the idea that they can bug you and get the details they want. So the trick is not to change anything about the phrase you say, ever. You shouldn’t have to use the technique too much, even with really nosy folks.

  13. Nelly*

    I work in a library. One of the front desk girls had a boob job about two months ago. Everyone knew as soon as she came back. From B cup to D cup? Everyone knew immediately.

    1. Andy Lester*

      I don’t think it’s that she wants it to be a secret as she doesn’t want to discuss it with others. Anyone who is obviously physically different has this same situation. It’s obvious that someone is a dwarf, but that doesn’t mean it’s a fair topic for conversation.

  14. Mike C.*

    I’m just kind of irrationally angry at these coworkers. Don’t they have books to shelve? People shouldn’t feel uncomfortable coming back to work after having surgery nor should they feel like their whole medical history is going to be pried into. What in the hell is wrong with people?

    OP, whatever route you take remember one thing – it’s your body and it’s no one’s business but your own. Don’t let people like this make you feel obligated to act otherwise.

      1. Anonymous*

        Are people really this nosy and rude? In public libraries, yes. Particularly the circulation staff (the people who check out your books and put them back on your shelves) but often the librarians too. I know it is a sweeping generalization, but it is kind of shocking to those of us who were raised to mind our own business.

        1. Another Emily*

          I think it’s because all types of people go the library. There’s something for everyone in a library, even if that person is a nosy jerk. I got the impression though that it’s her coworkers and not the patrons that the OP is concerned about.

  15. OP*

    OP here, thanks for the responses!

    Just to clarify a bit, I’m not getting surgery for entirely cosmetic reasons (“Look at my huge boobs!). I’ve lost 90 pounds, and the boob job is mostly just a lift with very small implants, to get me back to some semblance of normalcy.

    The thing is, my co-workers are kind of lazy on top of nosy, so they’re really going to take issue with my restrictions. That’s mostly what I’m worried about.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Think about how you’d react to that if the surgery were entirely non-cosmetic, if it were health-related. You’d probably feel entirely annoyed and justified in asserting yourself against that kind of reaction, right? That’s the same reaction you should have here, because this is none of their business, but I suspect the fact that this is elective/cosmetic surgery is making you feel less entitled to view it that way. Get yourself out of the mindset that you owe them any explanation or compromise; these are doctor’s orders and they’re none of their business, period.

      And congratulations on the weight loss!

    2. your mileage may vary*

      Congrats on the weight loss!

      Make sure you follow the restrictions, though. You need that time to heal. Don’t start pushing around carts before you’re ready just to keep your co-workers from being nosy.

    3. Interviewer*

      If it’s like my workplace, we have some whiners – but they wouldn’t dream of saying anything to you, ever. Instead, they would moan & groan privately to their best work friends. However, for a good cause, they’d step up and help without grumbling at all. And your surgery would count as a good cause. This sort of selflessness without any questions redeems them in my eyes for that moment. Somehow, they just KNOW they have to do better.

      Obviously your past experience with your co-workers may trump my hopes for better behavior from them – but sometimes true need will bring out the best in people. Maybe I’m just too much of an optimist, but I will cross my fingers for you.

      Good luck with your surgery, and congrats on the weight loss!

    4. Heather*

      I would keep in line with whatever you do when something medical happens to you. So if you typically tell people to mind their own business, then say that. However, are you the kind that usually tells people what’s up with them? If so, since losing 90 lbs is fairly obvious, you could say: “I’m having some corrective surgery that became necessary because of my weight loss. I really don’t want to get into it as it’s a pretty sensitive topic for me.”

  16. DC*

    If they persisted with their questions, you could turn it back on them. Make it seem like there’s something really weird about being THAT curious: “Why are you so concerned about my surgery?” They’ll either say “We just really care about you” (yeah right!) or something along the lines of, “We just want to know.” At which point you just tell them, “I’ll be fine, thanks.”

  17. Anonymous*

    If I got this procedure done I would assume people would gossip and just ignore it, but I’d be horrified if someone actually asked me directly about it— if they did, I’m simply state “I do not discuss my personal medical procedures with co-workers, it seems a little inapropriate for the workplace…” If I was a more sarcastic person in the workplace (as I am out of the office), I’d probably say something more along the lines of, “My boob job procedure was great! How was your most recent colonoscopy?!”

    1. Ry*

      Oh god this is beautiful. OP, I wish you could say this. (From your letter, it sounds like this would not be a good option for you, but it would be so cathartic!)

  18. Anonymous*

    I must confess, I am one of those people who would go on to ask, ‘Are you ok?’ out of genuine concern, not out of nosiness. What I would consider a satisfactory response if to say, ‘Yes, I’m fine, thanks for asking.’ and be done with it.

    Before the OP responded , I was going to suggest that the operation could also be a lift–which it is in part, so the suggestion that you had some benign matter removed is actually true but also general enough that nobody really knows the detail.

    Congrats on your weight loss!

  19. Student*

    If your boss knows, you should assume that your nosy co-workers will find out. If you wanted to keep it private, you probably shouldn’t have told anyone exactly what you were having done. Just say, “I need a surgery, I will be under these restrictions, I suggest these alternatives to cover my job duties while I recover, do you have any concerns Boss?” the next time you’re in this situation.

    If you want to try to keep it a secret, then you’ll probably have to learn how to turn the conversation around. Make some generic complaints about pain and the surgery staff, and then ask the co-worker about something he likes to talk about to redirect the conversation. Or, ask the co-worker to help you with some unpleasant task, to deter these conversations during your recovery.

    You might be best off just owning up to it and making it clear you aren’t ashamed, since management already knows. It’ll save you days of snooping, and it’ll blow over faster if you make it clear that you’re confident in your decision, instead of acting like it’s something to hide.

    1. Andrew*

      I agree with this, and I don’t understand why the OP seems to think she has to hide her surgery. The best way to make the whole issue go away is to describe the procedure exactly as the OP did in her response here a bit earlier. If you’re not ashamed, don’t act as if you are.

      Most people will just say something along the lines of “Oh, that’s interesting…” and then go about their business. Being evasive and coy will only prolong the drama.

      Only if the library is staffed by 12-year-old

      1. Andrew*

        Last sentence was cut off. I meant to say that only if the library is entirely staffed by people with the emotional maturity of 12-year-olds would an honest answer be problematic.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But it’s really no one’s business. There’s no reason she’s obligated to share and if she prefers to be private about it (as I imagine many people would), she’s perfectly entitled to.

        1. Andrew*

          I don’t disagree–but I think Student was right in saying that if the boss knows, it is likely that co -workers will also, eventually know.

          Also, unless her social and business lives are entirely separate–without even the chance of second or third-hand acquaintances existing–someone will mention it to someone else, and then the question of “why didn’t you tell us?” will return.

          Being upfront from the beginning will just make the “issue” go away all the sooner.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I totally get what you’re saying — but it’s one thing for people to know and another for them to expect they can discuss it with her. For a lot of us, this isn’t a topic we’d want to be discussing with coworkers.

          2. Andy Lester*

            The answer to “Why didn’t you tell us?” is “I don’t normally discuss medical matters with anyone other than my doctor.”

            Just because we fear that people are going to be nosy doesn’t mean that we should give into them, and especially not pre-emptively.

            1. Andrew*

              But she already told the details to her boss, so that statement, while in theory useful, is not in fact the truth.

                1. Andrew*

                  Well, of course I agree with you, but just because they have zero right to discuss the subject doesn’t mean that they won’t.

                  My whole point was that if her coworkers are as nosy and her supervisor as weak as she says they are, it may be less painful in the long run to not drag the matter out.

                  It would be completely admirable for the OP to refuse to answer questions, but it would not make her life any easier.

    2. Anon*

      I take offense to the assumption that if the boss knows, then the staff will know. I was a library manager with very nosy staff. When one of my staff would tell me something, especially regarding medical issues, I would never share this with other staff members. When I started, I slowly tried to get them to realize that I wasn’t going to share why someone was out, and they were not to ask me. Everyone was very open with each other about their own medical procedures, but I warned them that one day something might come up that they wouldn’t want to talk about it, and the more we avoided the subject of illnesses and medical procedures, the better off we all were.

  20. OP*

    OP again. Thanks for all the insight and congratulations.

    I think what I really want to avoid is the inevitable discussions about my body. These people didn’t know me when I was overweight, and I just think if they knew my reasons for the surgery, they’d want to discuss my weight loss too. Like I said, I’m not embarrassed, and it’s not a secret, per se, but I just don’t think anyone’s body should be up for discussion at work, ya know?

    I could tell them the things you all have suggested, but I know these people. They’re VERY persistent. And most of my co-workers (9 others in my position) are really weird about who does what, like if so-and-so shelved 25 books while so-and-so had to shelve 28. It’s really petty. What’s worse is that my supervisor has left it up to me to determine what I feel I can do, and if I can’t push a cart at that particular moment, I have to ask one of my co-workers to help. I asked if she could just go ahead and divvy up the work, but she thinks that will elicit complaints from them, such as “Well, maybe she’ll feel better in 5 days instead of 9, she should just ask for our help.” And when I’ve asked for help in the past, I get so much complaining and whining.

    I speak up for myself, but I just dread this situation.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Can you push back on that with your boss? I’d say, “Is there any way you could divvy it up? My doctor was clear that I can’t do this stuff for X days, and I’m concerned that if people think it’s up to my discretion, it’ll cause issues with them.” Hell, I’d go ahead and say “this tends to be a petty group when it comes to workload.”

      1. Andrew*

        Your manager doesn’t sound particularly strong or competent, for what it’s worth. I’m sure her attitude isn’t helping.

    2. ThatHRGirl*

      Are you doing your medical leave through your company’s short term disability insurance?

      I’m wondering if there’s any way that your boss could just tell the LOA folks that they can’t easily accommodate your restrictions (which is mostly true, if only for the drama they may cause with the coworkers) and just let you recover at home the entire time, and only return when you are at full duty.

      1. OP*

        No, I am using all of my PTO.

        I am considered part-time even though I work 40 hours a week, because of the classification of my position. I don’t have insurance through my job, I’m still on my mother’s insurance. I’m also paying for the surgery myself, and I can’t afford to be out for 2-3 weeks unpaid.

        What’s LOA?

        1. ThatHRGirl*

          Ah.. Leave of Absence. And it sounds like something that you wouldn’t qualify for. Although every employer is different, sometimes it’s worth asking your HR rep (if you have one).

          In my company… If an employee needs time off for a medical reason (outside of FMLA eligible medical conditions) they are able to apply for a medical leave through our Leave of Absence administrator (a 3rd party company). The employee will provide all medical paperwork and info to the 3rd party so that I don’t have to know anything about the actual condition – just that they have gotten it covered.

          When they are returning to work, the 3rd party provides me a list of restrictions and I have to answer whether we can or cannot accommodate. If we cannot, then the person stays out on leave until they can return to full duty.

          If the person is eligible to be paid under the Short Term Disability plan they are automatically enrolled in as an employee, they will be paid a % of their regular income while they’re off.

    3. Jamie*

      I’m not a medical professional, but I do know this: If you doctor says don’t do x for x number of weeks then absolutely don’t do x for x number of weeks.

      I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had surgery > felt better > went back to normal > delayed recovery. Believe me, as silly as it sounds there is a reason they don’t allow you to vacuum for several weeks following major surgery. (I have no idea what it is about vacuuming that ensures a relapse – but something bad happens.)

      If your workplace is like most, when you return you will be on light duty with a doctor’s note outlining what you can’t do for a set period of time. Your work shouldn’t ever allow you to violate that, much less encourage it.

      1. jmkenrick*

        “If your doctor says don’t do x for x number of weeks then absolutely don’t do x for x number of weeks.”

        This. Always.

      2. ThatHRGirl*

        Absolutely. The employer can even be found responsible/negligent if it causes the employee to injure themselves further.

        Not saying this is always the case, or that a lawsuit to that effect would hold up, but it is a huge reason why I will NEVER make someone do work outside of their restrictions, even if they say they are fine. The main reason is that I care about their well-being and safety!

  21. Andrew*

    One last comment:

    OP, regardless of how you end up dealing with this (and my opinion seems to be a minority one) you should be commended for not wanting to talk about it. Many people are all too happy to share blow-by-blow accounts of their every medical procedure with everyone they meet.

  22. EngineerGirl*

    I’m getting a little annoyed at some of the comments.

    First off, people can be clueless. So it is important to take the high road when drawing boundaries to account for the well-meaning-but-clueless crowd. And what good does a strong/snarky/rude comment get you? Momentary pleasure, long term enemy. Not worth it for such a small thing. Better to have a gentle but firm rebuff.

    Second, people get so angry at boundary pushers, and blame them. The annoyance builds up, then explodes. But the point is, if you say nothing (don’t draw the boundary), then it is YOUR fault if the behavior continues. For heavens sake, get some guts! Politely tell the person “I’m uncomforatable when ….”. Really. That is what grown ups do.

    Third, you don’t have to engage in the drama. Yes, people get annoyed. Yes, people get petty. But you don’t have to participate. Just be nicely polite, smile, and walk away. If you are polite, they really have a hard time faulting you. They may get petulant, but really? “Whaaah! Jane won’t tell me about her surgery!”. Now doesn’t that sound silly and childish? Take it as that. And ignore it. If you are performing instead of gossiping, you have an edge over your co-workers.

    It helps to veiw them as silly people that may someday grow up. And be sad for them, because boundary stompers miss out on so many opportunities.

    1. KellyK*

      And what good does a strong/snarky/rude comment get you? Momentary pleasure, long term enemy. Not worth it for such a small thing. Better to have a gentle but firm rebuff.

      Definitely true. Not being clear about boundaries and then snapping at people when they violate the boundaries they didn’t know were there is just asking for trouble.

      I do think a little bit of snark or harshness is warranted when someone keeps pressing after one or two firm but gentle “no’s,” are ignored, but only if you can do it while remaining reasonably polite.

  23. Anonymous*

    Since you work with books and someone questions you about your surgery:

    “Are you writing my biography? Then, leave that chapter out and make it a mystery!”

  24. Joanna Reichert*

    Yes, I would certainly hope that, “I’m fine now, thanks for asking!” would be all you have to say in reply.

    Consider practicing the Eyebrow of Disbelief in the mirror. If you do it right, it can really save your breath. : )

    1. Jael*

      OK, that made me laugh! Now I simply *must* go practice the Eyebrow of Disbelief to make sure I have it down pat the next time I need it!!

    2. khilde*

      I think I have this!!!!! I got together with some college girlfriends a few weekends ago and we were looking at old photos and they all reminded me of the one raised eyebrow I would practice so that that I could use as a way to be seductive at parties (god grief, I was shallow).

      Now I use it on my 2 1/2 year old when she needs to be reminded to use manners or somesuch thing. I didn’t realize it was effective until the other day she demanded me to go get her juice and I raised my own eyebrow and she very meekly said “please.” Who knew one eyebrow could wield so much power?!

  25. hill*

    I am planning on an augmentation, and like the comments from Diane! I will do that!

    I am hoping that no one will notice (I’ve already started wearing pads that up me to where I want like Diane suggested), but my plan so far is to tell anyone who is nosy enough to ask that I’ve had “feminine issues”. That is a magical way to shut people up.

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