my manager shared my pregnancy with people before I did, divorce at work, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Handling a divorce at work

I am in a new job (and it’s a great job, and I got it with the blog’s help!). Sadly, while my professional life is going well, my personal life has taken a turn.

I don’t know how to handle my upcoming separation and divorce from my spouse at my new job. I have only been at the position 7 months, so not enough time to become very close to anyone. But, my new coworkers are friendly and often inquire about my family. I am really confused as to how to respond now. On the one hand, it’s not really anyone’s business. But I don’t want to be stand-offish, weird or lie. Also, I will probably be changing my name back to my maiden name. Am I going to look crazy?

I’m just wondering if you have any advice, or if anyone has gone through this (or any other difficult personal situation soon after starting a new job). I want to make sure I handle this professionally because I want to stay at this job for a while!

You will not look crazy. This stuff happens, and your coworkers almost certainly know plenty of people who have gone through it or have dealt with it themselves. I think the keys here are to treat it in a way that’s (a) low-key and (b) matter-of-fact. So, for instance, if someone asks about your husband, you’d just say, “Actually, Bob and I are splitting up.” And your response to whatever concerned response follows should be something like, “It’s a tough time, but we’re both doing well” or “Thank you, we’re getting through it okay” or whatever else feels natural but assures people that you are in fact carrying on. If you do decide to change back to your maiden name, be matter-of-fact about that too — “I’ve gone back to my maiden name, so I’m now Persephone Mulberry.” That’s really it!

If you’d be more comfortable with it, it’s also fine to mention it to your boss proactively — something like, “I wanted to let you know that Bob and I are splitting up. I’m doing okay, but felt odd not mentioning it since it’s a major thing that will probably come up in informal conversation at some point.” (A normal boss will at this point express sympathy and ask you if you need any time off, etc., but will take her cues from you — if you say you’ve got it under control, people will believe you, unless you present evidence to the contrary.) Good luck, and I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

2. My manager shared my pregnancy with people before I did

At work a few months ago, I printed a document regarding my newly discovered pregnancy to an office printer and as happens at work, I got distracted and forgot about the document. Before I had a chance to retrieve the document from the printer, my manager brought it by my office and dropped it off on my desk while I was sitting there. They didn’t show any sign that they had read it, but months later, when I went to reveal the news to a friend and coworker, they informed me that my manager had already told them about it! As you can imagine, I’m quite upset. What would you suggest as productive language to tell my boss that in spite of my accidently leaving private information on a public printer, I don’t appreciate their gossiping/sharing my news with my coworkers?

“I was surprised to hear that you had told people I was pregnant before I’d told anyone at work, including you. What happened?” (Wait for response.) “I’m really uncomfortable with my personal medical information being shared with people without my permission, let alone when I hadn’t even shared it with anyone here myself.”

3. My new coworker seems overwhelmed by the pace of our work

I started a new job about 5 months ago, and although there has been a steep learning curve, I feel like I am beginning to get on top of my work and understand the office culture and fit in here. Our department was really small when I started (just me and my boss), and we have had very aggressive goals and targets to meet, but so far I have done pretty well meeting those expectations, especially given that I’ve had less than 6 months to learn this position, and I had to hit the ground running. I’m used to working in places with a fast, stressful pace and lots of crazy deadlines to meet, so this is not a new way of working to me.

However, my boss just hired a person from another department to join our team. My new coworker is giving the job her all, but she is not used to working in a salaried position that often requires long hours and can be very stress-inducing. She seems pretty overwhelmed, and I know that her new workload and responsibilities are pretty intense, especially considering that she has only been in the role for a couple of weeks. I can see her starting to crack under the pressure, and I think she often feels very discouraged because she isn’t fully on top of the work yet, but my boss has very high expectations. I went through the same thing when I first started in my position, and although I do believe in being challenged, I also believe in setting people up for success, and it seems like the new coworker is being pushed a little bit TOO much, considering she is brand new to this position. My boss is very driven and motivated, and often comes into work after getting only 3 hours of sleep (I’ve heard many stories that began with “so I couldn’t sleep last night and I was writing down all of these ideas for the campaign…” or “over the weekend I was working on…”), which leads me to believe she thinks that a lot of people function this way. She’s a kind person, but I feel like there is a blind spot as far as having realistic expectations of what other people are capable of right out of the gate.

I believe my coworker is capable of doing this work and has a good work ethic, but she isn’t being set up for success right now because the demands are so high right off the bat. Is there anything I can do to make this situation a little bit better, or should I just hold my tongue? She has already confessed feeling extremely overwhelmed and having major anxiety over this job.

Talk to her! Tell her about your own experience when you first started, and if you have advice for her based on your own experience, offer it. Also, if you have a good rapport with your boss, you might try pointing out that you’re worried that the expectations for your new coworker aren’t in line with what most people could juggle well when they’re new to the work, and suggest places where those expectations might be modified.

That said, keep in mind that you did well with the role in a similar context, and so it’s not an impossible bar. It might be a case of your boss needing to hire people with a proven track record of doing well in this type of environment (and those people do exist; you’re apparently one of them) — but for now, I’d see what support you can offer your coworker and whether you can influence what your boss expects from someone brand new to your team.

4. Preparing for an interview when you don’t have a job description

How do you prepare for an interview when you don’t have a job description? A recruiter recently contacted me on LinkedIn and asked if I was interested in a position she’s trying to fill. After I sent her my resume, she passed it on to the client and now both she and the client would like to interview me. I know the position title (executive assistant) but not the extent of the responsibilities involved. How do I prepare when I don’t know precisely what skills or expertise will be needed?

You can ask them to send you the job description in advance, but if they don’t have one or don’t send it, then you can prepare simply by turning what you know to be generally true about executive assistant roles into a generic job description in your head, and focusing your preparation accordingly. You can also treat the interview itself partly as a fact-finding mission about the job, since you of course can’t sign on for a job without having a good understanding of what you’d be doing if you took it.

5. Can I list my personal work doing equities trading on my resume?

I am an electronics and instrument field tech who has been out of professional work since 2008. I conducted a job search during this period but was rather complacent due to an interest in equities trading. While this endeavor was very much an arduous full-time job (including a formal course of instruction), I think that a prospective employer may look at it as a frivolous indulgence.

The resume entry would appear as follows:
Equities Investor/Trader – Self employed – 2008 – 2013
Achievements:
· Completion of 14-week curriculum in live online Swing Trading College course – Lectures by Larry Connors, CEO Trading Markets (intensive study of quantitative approach to equities trading)
· Studied “The Technical Analysis Course” by Thomas Meyers
· Successfully applied chart analysis and quantitative analysis to equities trading
Responsibilities & Skills:
Equity investing, utilize news, chart analysis tools and quantitative algorithms to invest capital:
· Analyze securities: understand and utilize multiple algorithm sorts of stock databases
· Implement various indicators criterion such as such as McClellan Oscillator, 2-day RSI, Chaikin Money Flow, moving average crossovers, key support and resistance levels, statistical Fibonacci Retrace analysis and Don Worden’s indicators- Time Segmented Volume (TSV) and Moneystream (MS)
· Apply principles to successful investment strategies

As I say, I’ve been anything but idle. But I want to get back to the real world and have certainly lost a measure of credibility. Do I run with this or just leave a big gap?

It’s way too much detail that most employers won’t care about (unless you’re applying to work in finance, but it doesn’t sound like you are). You could include 1-2 lines noting that you were a self-employed equities trader during that time (if and only if this was truly your job — i.e., you supported yourself this way during that period), but the rest of it doesn’t really add anything that will be helpful to an employer reading your resume.

Also, for the record, you want anything you list as an achievement on your resume to be about an outcome … so taking a course doesn’t count; getting a impressive investment return rate does count. That said, the “achievements” and “responsibilities & skills” labels are unnecessary anyway; you can just list your bullet points without dividing them like that or labeling them at all. But you do want stronger bullet points in general. (Not for this work, since you should cut it way down anyway, but as a general principle for other things on your resume.)

{ 277 comments… read them below }

  1. LAI

    When one of my coworkers went through a divorce, she sent out a professional email to her contacts letting us know that she was going to be transitioning back to her family name. She basically just said “I’m going to be legally changing my name back to my family name (X). To avoid any confusion, I will be using both names for the next few months (see my email signature below). My new email address going forward will be X.” I don’t work with her on a daily basis so I can’t say how everyone else responded but I took the hint and just proceeded with using her new name and not saying anything else about it.

    1. Em

      When my boss was new, she introduced herself in a meeting with our CEO as “Boss X- soon to be Boss Y.” The CEO said, “Congratulations!” and she sheepishly admitted that it was because she was getting divorced, not married.

    2. Amy B.

      I was recently (6 months ago) separated and we are going through the divorce now. I sat my boss down and told him when it all began and reassured him that it would not affect my work but that with the changes taking place, I may need to adjust my schedule to accommodate for my children. I told two of my coworkers with whom I am close and did not mention it to anyone else. If anyone brings up my ex now I just say, “Oh, we are divorcing.” They usually say, “I’m so sorry.” To which I reply with a smile, “I’m not.” Ends the conversation and we go about our business.

      The less of a deal we make our personal issues, the less others will make of it. Well…most of the time. There are always THOSE people.

      1. VE

        When I hear that someone is getting divorced, I’m always secretly tempted to reply, “should I say ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘Congratulations’ ?” ;)

        1. Mephyle

          I guess it’s safer to say “I’m sorry” and let them correct you, than to give a hearty “Congratulations” and find that you put your foot in it.

  2. Anonymous

    #1: I’ve had two coworkers that I worked closely with go through divorces . One handled it in a way that I thought was good, and the other handled it in a way that was more awkward on my end.

    The relatively easy one was my boss. He said something simple and straightforward, like, “You may have noticed I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately. I just got divorced.” I offered brief sympathies, and we moved on to different subjects. He didn’t go on about it. Only annoying thing about the boss’s divorce was one of my co-workers trying to gossip about it. I recommend you keep all details close, because if one co-worker knows then every other co-worker soon will, too.

    The awkward divorce story comes from a co-worker that I shared an office with. I chatted with her frequently and was acquainted with her boyfriend. I never really asked her detailed personal questions. One day, I got to the office and the last name on the door had changed. It wasn’t changed to match her boyfriend’s last name, and she had never mentioned that she was married. I had no idea what to think or what to say. So I figured I would be non-judgmental and supportive about whatever the heck she was doing (I had kinda assumed it was a threesome) and said, “I see your name changed. Congratulations! I had no idea you were getting married.” And then she said, “I got divorced. It happened a while ago, but they finally changed my name on the door.” And then I sputtered something awkwardly apologetic and hid in my laboratory. In retrospect, I didn’t handle the surprise name-change the best possible way. It would’ve helped me to respond more appropriately if I had some direct info on what was going on, and some social cue as to whether she wanted sympathy, support, or space.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Gah. I learned the hard way about that. Many years ago, a business contact changed her last name. I congratulated her on her marriage to hear “no, actually I got divorced”. A-w-k-w-a-r-d. (This was a remote contact, and I believe a client, not someone in my day to day world).

      That would be the last time I ever commented on someone’s name change. Forever more, “Oh, do you spell that S-m-i-t-h or S-m-y-t-h” is all you’ll get out of me. (I also had to ask somebody not pregnant if she was pregnant one time to get cured of ever asking that question again.)

      1. Dur dur d'être bébé

        That happened to my spouse once. After getting on an elevator, asked the question “When is the baby due?” to the only other occupant.

        The lady glared at my spouse and coldly stated “I’m not pregnant.” 27 floors later the longest elevator ride in the world finally finished..

        1. Rosalita

          This is off topic, but I had to comment on your user name. Years ago, in a middle school french class, we listened to that song – how funny and obscure.

    2. Chriama

      Ooh, awkward. I think my SOP going forward will be to ignore the change if it’s someone I don’t interact with often (e.g. external contact) and just ask about it if I work closely with them, but in a manner that suggests “hey, there’s a change in my immediate environment and I’m curious about its cause” rather than trying to be friendly by assuming good news.

      1. BarefootLibrarian

        I think that’s actually a good way to handle it if you aren’t sure. Perhaps something along the lines of “I noticed that you’ve been signing your emails “Jane Smyth” instead of “Jane Doe”, is it correct to refer to you as Jane Smyth from now on?” That way you leave it up to them as to whether they want to provide more information or just update everyone on their name.

        1. Kerry

          I think this is the most gracious way to handle it – both clarifying their preference and allowing them to go into it if they want to, but in no way pressuring them to.

    3. JustKatie

      Hmm. Maybe it was a really long divorce process, or she had gotten the divorce awhile ago, but took some time to change her name. My cousin changed her name three years after the fact. There might not have been any divorce news for her to share with you during the time you worked together.

      1. some1

        At my company, they won’t change your name on your checks, email, etc until you change it with social security.

        We’ve had women who started with us and had to go by their maiden name because that’s what their SS card says.

        1. Elizabeth

          Same here. Additionally, if you have a professional license, we have to have everything as how you are listed on your license if you are placing information in the patient record. So if you go by Suzy Smith, RN, but your legal name is Mary Susan Smythe-Jones on your license, you’re going to be Mary Susan Smythe-Jones in all of our computer systems. We might bend so far as M. Susan Smyth-Jones, but that’s as far as we can get away from the legal requirement.

        2. TK

          My sister-in-law transferred to a new college at the same time she married my brother– they got married between when she enrolled and when classes started. So of course all the records were under her maiden name even though she’d been married the whole time she took classes. It took her 2 years and endless headaches to ensure that the name on her diploma would match the one she’d actually been using for almost 3 years at that point. She wouldn’t have messed with at all if not for the diploma.

          1. Jessa

            Oh man I had that fight. Was getting married in my final year. BEFORE graduation. I made it quite clear that they better get the diploma right or they were going to pay to reprint. They really didn’t want to make that change in advance but the date would have been too far away to change it AFTER. I had to go down personally and have it out with the particular dean in charge of that stuff. But I was paying a fortune for an education. I get that grades and stuff are not something one can purchase, but the kind of service where they get my name right IS. Sometimes you have to remind the school that you are a consumer spending money on them.

    4. Calla

      We all say things in the moment that may be a little awkward hopefully this doesn’t sound judge-y, but I don’t think observing a name change (especially if it’s just on the door – I don’t know if her email had been the same as what the door was changed to, etc.) requires a proactive response from the observer. Roll with it *until* they give you that cue, and if one never comes, just never worry about commenting on it.

      1. Anonymous

        I would disagree only because she shared an office with the woman and was therefore entitled to ask (what if people called or came looking for Ms. NewLastName?). The wedding thing was misguided but well-intentioned, and the only thing I would change about future interactions is asking instead of assuming something good has happened (not because that isn’t a great worldview, but because when its not true its uncomfortable for everyone).

        1. Calla

          I don’t think a neutral question (maybe like, “Oh, did you change your name? I noticed a new nameplate.”) would be out of place, but I don’t believe it’s *necessary* to inquire about it (which imo Anonymous is implying it was, based on “it would have helped me to respond more appropriately if she had given me more information” when Anon was the one initiating the discussion on it).

          If she was in a supervisory or supportive role perhaps, but as a peer co-worker, I can’t think of a reason it *needs* to happen. I think there’s enough information to know if someone comes by looking for Ms. OldLastName or Ms. NewLastName, you know who they’re talking about.

          1. Chriama

            I think Anon was responding to the fact that they just showed up one day and the name on the door had changed. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have expected the coworker to preemptively mention something like that, since they were the only 2 sharing the office.

            Yes, the discussion doesn’t need to happen. But I think most people would expect some sort of acknowledgement of a name change in their direct vicinity, and my advice was how to approach it if the name-changer doesn’t mention it, based on how closely you work with them.

  3. dotski

    #2 was an unfortunate situation, but that’s why I don’t print personal stuff on the company printer, and if I do, I’m there like a hawk waiting for it to spit out of the printer maw. It might have been better to risk spilling the beans to your boss when they dropped off the paper, and mention that you weren’t ready to share the news.

    1. Jill

      Same here. I expect people might blame the OP for using the work printer for this, but I can sympathize! I don’t have a printer at home (I know, I know), so there are times where I have to print things out at work, and I RUN to the printer immediately to get my hands on the print-out right away.

    2. BCW

      I don’t want to BLAME the OP, however to a point when you are printing personal things at work, thats the risk you take. And what exactly was it you printed? You just say it was a document regarding your pregnancy. That could be anything from an actual medical document to a baby registry with your name on it. I think that also has a lot to do with it. If it was an actual medical document, then your manager was insensitive (but again, why print that at work?). If it was something far more innocent, then to me its a bit harder to get angry.

      1. Leslie Yep

        I think there are two issues at play here and it’s worth separating them. One is the boss finding the document OP printed. That’s totally on the OP.

        But the second, the boss choosing to disclose private information about the OP to others. Just bad judgment and not very thoughtful. True, anything the OP wanted to keep super secret she should not have printed at work, but it also would have been common courtesy for the manager to keep this information private.

        1. thenoiseinspace

          Agreed. It was definitely out of line for the boss to spread the word – however, I do understand if the boss felt that she needed to start planning for OP’s maternity leave now for some reason, and felt that the coworker needed to know that she would possibly have an increased workload or a new temporary colleague while OP was on leave. There’s nothing in the letter about that, but it could have been a factor.

          1. Leslie Yep

            Definitely could be a totally non-gossip reason that the boss shared this info, but the right thing to do would have been to run that by the OP first, no?

            1. thenoiseinspace

              Definitely. I think the boss crossed a line, but I don’t really like that everyone’s assuming that she’s gossiping. I’m just saying that there are other, legitimate reasons the boss might have had for sharing the information, and the OP should consider that when she approaches her boss about this.

        2. danr

          Of course the OP might have been proactive after having the document dropped off and gone to speak with her boss, asking him not to spread the word and be surprised with everyone else.

          1. Sandy

            My department’s printer’s don’t require passwords but every employee has an access card and we use this card to print our documents on the shared printers so documents don’t actually print out until you scan your card.

          2. MaryTerry

            Right, I was going to mention this. Most printers have a setting for you to delay printing. (Test it first!) when I found payroll info waiting at the main printer, I mentioned this to the payroll clerk.

        3. Jazzy Red

          True enough, Leslie, but the reality is: People gossip at work. Well, not ONLY at work, but most work is so darn dull that a bit of gossip usually livens things up for a while.

          It’s next to impossible to keep something personal secret at work. Either you leave something on the printer, or you drop something on the floor, or someone snoops around your desk.

          Frankly, I’m astonished that OP2’s friends didn’t just come over and congratulate her when the boss spilled the beans.

          OP, I hope you have an easy pregnancy and happy, healthy baby!

        4. Observer

          It’s quite possible that the boss didn’t think that the LW was keeping it secret.

          I’m not *blaming* her, but I think it’s a bit unrealistic to expect someone to treat something that looks public as private.

    3. Cat

      Also – and this is purely practical I am in no way sanctioning this- a lot of offices seem to be in contention for Olympic good medals in the sort of gossiping about who is and who isn’t pregnant. Why? Beats me but God help a married or engaged woman of childbearing age who declines a drink at happy hour or mentions she’s feeling tired much less leaves a pregnancy-related document on the printer. It is pervasive enough that I kind of feel like it is what it is in a lot of ways-it feels like a fairly immutable part of iS
      US office culture.

      1. Jen RO

        Not only in the US, unfortunately… a friend of mine keeps getting asked if she’s pregnant. Why? Because she quit smoking, because she went out once without having a drink, because she ate a lot one day and her belly looked bigger… wtf! She does want to get pregnant soon, and she has shared that with people, but how on earth does anyone think it’s OK to pry?! *I* don’t even ask her, it’s her choice to share when she is ready!

        1. tesyaa

          Once you share with your co-workers that you’re trying to conceive, it’s unreasonable not to expect them to be curious. Yes, it’s annoying, but don’t share this info, period.

          1. iseeshiny

            Ugh yesssssss. And if you’re unfortunate enough to have difficulties, it just gets worse. One of my coworkers has been trying for eight years. Do I know this because I’m close with her and she told me? Maybe because I’m nosy and like to ferret these things out? No and no. It’s just office common knowledge. :(

            Even though it is really rude to pry. Once you know a lady is trying, taking too much interest is a little creepy. Like, what do you do, talk specifics?

          2. Jen RO

            She hadn’t shared that she is actively trying to conceive – she just made it clear that she would love a baby in the near future. I actually think it’s very reasonable to not want to be questioned about something so private. I’m childfree, but if I ever decided to have a baby, I would absolutely not tell anyone except my closest friends until the end of the first trimester, and I do not expect anyone else telling me before that.

      2. fposte

        I was thinking this too. I don’t think it’s just in offices, either, judging by the advice column posts about who knew first about the cousin’s pregnancy, etc.

        That’s actually why I really like Alison’s “medical information” comment–it helps frame this as something other than a delicious secret prize that somebody just won. I think there’s still a reasonable chance the OP’s concerns will be waved off, but it’s a good way to approach it.

      3. Yup

        I’ve encountered pockets of it wherever I work, but usually only as one or two people who are overly gossipy about everything. I don’t mind too much when it’s a friendly one-off, but the constant speculation drives me up the wall and back down again. I actually came down really hard on one coworker. She would not let it go and I finally said, “I’m not interested in the status of anyone’s uterus so please knock it off” in my coldest most STFU voice.

      4. Katie the Fed

        One of my employees is pregnant and waited a while before she officially told anybody. I had a constant parade of people stopping by to ask me, her manager, “Is Suzie pregnant?”

        I just said “Even if I knew, I wouldn’t share her medical information.”

        It was pretty funny though – she was really obviously showing by the time she officially told me and I was like “well, obviously! Congrats!” and we laughed about it. I told her how everyone had been asking me.

        1. The Real Ash

          I’ve always said if/when I get pregnant, I am not going to say anything to anyone at work (with the exception of my manager/HR) and just watch people try not to comment on my growing belly and try not to say anything for fear of being rude. Those who do ask will be met with a confused look and a “No, why do you ask?”

      5. KC

        That reminds me of the time I’d gained maybe 30 pounds and someone in another department asked my coworker (and roommate) if I was pregnant. I was so offended and upset.

      6. Cath@VWXYNot?

        I am always the absolute last person in my office to notice when a coworker is pregnant. Every time a pregnancy is announced (which is 2-3 times a year in my department), everyone else yells “I KNEW IT!” while I sit there in astonishment. It’s become as much of a running joke as the high pregnancy rate.

        I’m thinking of putting this skill on my CV.

    4. pop

      I submitted question #2 and to be honest, I actually didn’t know that the task I was completing would generate a print out and I was embarrassed to say so in my original question. I was using a new piece of software which, for a reason that has now become a major aggravation, doesn’t tell you that it generates a print job! So I didn’t knowingly print personal information to a work printer.

      Aside from this, I’m wondering whether my INVOLUNTARY disclosure of this information, and my manager’s subsequent sharing of my private medical information with coworkers, runs afoul of HIPPA? I’d like to hear some constructive feedback from someone who is familiar with HIPPA.

      1. Blief

        It’s not a violation of HIPAA.
        Do you know the circumstances of how she told your colleague? How it came about? Could others in the office also have been gossiping about you bein pregnant?

        If it were me, I honestly wouldn’t bring it up. It’s one example from a couple of months ago. I’d say let it go and just remember this when you have to deal with the boss an sensitive information in the future. That might even be a better time to bring it up.

        1. pop

          My manager is friends with this colleague so that’s probably how it came up. And at the time, I hadn’t told any others at work so no one else knew about it.

      2. HM in Atlanta

        I’m so concerned about this kind of situation with shared printers, that my default printer is a pdf converter. That way, I have to knowingly print to the shared printer. Not the prettiest solution, but it works.

  4. Canuck

    OP #2
    Yes, your boss was rude and should not have told people you were pregnant.

    However, I would just make sure that you don’t come across as too adversarial when you approach your manager. Pregnancy is something that everyone will find out about regardless (unlike other personal or medical information), so may not be worth getting too upset over.

    I’m sure most people here will disagree with me, but I think saying something here will depend on your relationship with your boss. If your boss will take it badly even if you bring it up politely, I would just let this one go and chalk it up to him having bad manners.

      1. Jamie

        This. I don’t think people should come down too hard on her as accidents happen…but I’m having a hard time understanding being upset with her boss over this.

        The boss wasn’t the first one in this situation to treat confidential information carelessly, the OP was. And it’s a reasonable assumption that the boss didn’t know it was confidential if it was left lying there in the open.

        You can’t expect others to be more protective of your privacy than you are yourself.

        1. AnonAnalyst

          I was coming here to post exactly something like this. Leaving out information in the open where it sounds like it was easy for anyone to see doesn’t really signal that you’re trying to keep it a secret. I agree that the boss shouldn’t have been telling everyone, but I can understand why the boss might have thought that the info was okay to share. If it were me, I’d still approach the boss about it but I might soften the language to be something more along the lines of “I can understand how this happened but in the future, I’d appreciate it if you would hold off and let me decide when and if I’d like to share this type of information with the team.”

          1. Sunflower

            The manager may have in fact walked past the printer a few times and noticed the paper still there…She may have thought that the information wasn’t confidential considering it was sitting out in the open for so long

            1. Not So NewReader

              How many other people saw it, read it and said nothing?

              I have read other people’s stuff long enough to realize- “no, this isn’t mine!” I have learned things prematurely- I stopped reading once I identified the paperwork. But that was too late.

              In my mind there are two mistakes here, but the boss’ mistake is worse because she should have known better. Sometimes people forget things or slip up, the correct response to that is to use some discretion. The boss failed to do so. If someone’s zipper is not zipped all the way- the proper response does not involve going through the building and telling everyone.

              1. Meg Murry

                Yes- if the OP uses the same shared printer as her co-workers, its distinctly possible that they all found out about it by accidentally picking up her printout then just putting it back in the stack, and only the manager bothered to hand carry it over to her. Or saw the OP doing something else not so discrete like taking prenatal vitamins or leaving a pregnancy related website up on her screen when she walked away from her computer. In fact, in one of my offices, this was generally the way people disseminated pregnancy information to everyone other than their official boss- not with an official announcement, but just by going about their pregnancy business without trying to hide it or announce it and letting people just figure it out the day they realized the person was taking prenatal vitamins, coming in late from regular doctors appointments and wearing pants that were obviously maternity pants.

        2. Cat

          Yeah, and in this day of people posting pictures of their positive pregnancy tests on Facebook, I think people no longer assume any early pregnancy is confidential.

          1. LJL

            But everyone is different, especially if a pregnancy can be high-risk. I always assume that it’s not common knowledge until I’m explicitly told that it is.

            1. Cat

              I agree. Just saying that there are reasons related to ignorance/thoughtlessness rather than maliciousness that might have caused the boss to act as he did. Especially if the document was more along the lines of a baby registry than an insurance document (which we don’t know, I don’t think?).

        3. Katie the Fed

          I kinda disagree. As supervisors we’re supposed to set the example of professionalism. Boss should have known better.

    1. Gjest

      Everyone won’t necessarily find out about the pregnancy though. One huge reason for people not telling everyone their pregnant right away is if they have a miscarriage. How terrible would it have been if the boss told everyone in the office, and then the OP miscarried and everyone started wondering where this pregnancy they thought was occurring was? I can see the AAM post now, from her coworker asking how to deal with a coworker you thought was pregnant, but then never was pregnant. Shades of the phantom-pregnancy post a while back…

      But yes, politely ask your boss not to reveal personal issues, even if (especially?) if he found out accidentally. And be more careful about the work printer (which you already know now, I’m sure)

      1. Boo

        What makes me wtf about the whole thing is that supposing OP was printing it out for a friend or relative and she wasn’t pregnant at all? Such a bizarre thing for the boss to do without at least getting confirmation from the OP herself.

        1. Jamie

          I’m assuming it was a medical document with her name on it – like an insurance statement which would note condition.

      2. sunny-dee

        It’s not necessarily true, though, that the boss was telling everyone. Just a guess, but let’s say it was the OP’s birthday, and her friend (or a group of friends), were all planning to surprise her with drinks after work, and the manager said, “well, you might not want to do that….” It may have been not been gossip. Or maybe the OP has been talking about *trying* to get pregnant for awhile, and the manager didn’t realize that actually getting pregnant was a secret.

      3. Jen RO

        Exactly… I can think of few things worse than having to share a miscarriage with the entire office. (And I don’t even plan to have kids!)

      4. Natalie

        Or for that matter, what is the OP decided to terminate the pregnancy for whatever reason? That’s probably not a conversation most people would be comfortable having with their co-workers!

    2. Elysian

      I disagree that because “everyone will find out regardless” that its not worth getting too upset over. OP doesn’t say how far along she was (or is) but I think we can assume its pretty early since she doesn’t seem to be showing. As I understand it, lots of stuff can happen in early pregnancy, and a lot of people don’t start sharing the news until they’re out of the woods. I think the boss was out of line – imagine how much more awkward it would have been if she had lost the baby after the boss told the whole office, and then people eventually would be wondering what happened? Or started asking about it? Or if the boss starting planning for a maternity leave that was never to come?

      Sure, this could have been handled differently all around. But at this point, I think AAM’s approach is a good one. Boss should know that he went too far.

      1. FiveNine

        This cannot possibly be the first time OP left something highly inappropriately personal on the printer — because, really? A pregnancy she didn’t want the office to know was the first thing? And boss is the one who pointedly dropped it off after she left it sitting there however long. We don’t know how many people already saw it and already were talking about it before boss even picked it up. Yes, OP could have this conversation with boss that is suggested — and the definite point that would come across is adversarial and one of telling boss he went too far. I’m just saying, I agree with the poster above here that the response OP might get really might not make things better.

        1. fposte

          That doesn’t make sense to me, though. Leaving stuff in the printer isn’t exactly a situation that escalates–it’s not like it’s an audacious crime, it’s a momentary memory lapse. Why would this be less likely to be the first time than something else? Sure, she picked it up, but this sounds like it’s going a bit too far to make the OP out to be an unabashed copy-leaver who was riding for a deserved fall.

          1. Persephone Mulberry (also Kelly L.)

            Unabashed copy-leaver! :D I love it. I’m picturing it on a Wild West style Wanted poster.

        2. aebhel

          Why not? She said upthread that she didn’t even know the program she was using would generate a print job, and even if she did print it out on purpose and just flake…well, (a) one thing that pregnancy often does is seriously mess with your short-term recall and (b) I imagine that a lot of people who use a shared printer have forgotten and left something lying around that they shouldn’t have.

    3. FiveNine

      Yes, I’m not entirely sure what the OP would hope to accomplish by using the line suggested and asking “What happened?” is unless the OP means to convey a law was broken (was it?), because it definitely comes off as hostile and only seems to open the door for an equally adversarial response about inappropriate personal use of the computer in this and this and this instance.

    4. OhNo

      I’m going to jump on the disagreement boat with this one as well. Not only was there the chance of a miscarriage, as several people have mentioned, but what if she had chosen to get an abortion? Can you imagine having that conversation with your coworkers? And if that had been the case, suddenly you’re opening yourself up to all kinds of comments and opinions on abortion – which I think we can all agree is a topic best left alone in the office.

      Pregnancy may be something that’s pretty visible after a certain point, but discussing pregnancy opens the woman open to all kinds of comments and pestering about aspects of her personal life (i.e: who is the father? Are you married? Why/why not? Do you want a boy or a girl? Do you believe in abortion? What parenting style will you use? Are you a surrogate? Who for? Why? Are you giving it up for adoption? How can you give up your baby? Oh, you didn’t want to get prgnant? Why not? Were you raped? What do you have against kids?)

      I can totally understand this woman wanting to choose who knows and when. Shame on her boss for gossiping about it before she was ready.

      1. Observer

        I totally agree that wanting to keep this private is reasonable. The thing is though, that printing a document shows this information to a public printer and leaving it laying around while “getting distracted” by anything other than a major emergency would signal to most people that she is not a person who cares about this.

        In short, I disagree that there is no reason to keep an early pregnancy quiet. But, I also disagree with the idea that the boss was doing something he really should have known not to do.

    5. Chriama

      Yes, the OP should have been better about not leaving things at a shared printer. I read through stuff do it all the time — sometimes I think it’s part of the job I just printed and I need to check, sometimes I see it lying on top of the printer and I’m just naturally curious.

      However, OP asked for our advice in how to approach her boss about this. I think it’s fine to say something like, “I know it wasn’t ideal for me to leave that job lying on the printer, but when you see information like this in the future, could you please talk to the person it relates to before you chat with coworkers? Some people are sensitive about sharing medical news before they’re ready, and I’m one of them.”

      In general, it’s more helpful to the OP when the advice you offer them is more than just “you were wrong and here’s why”.

      1. Not So NewReader

        In general, it’s more helpful to the OP when the advice you offer them is more than just “you were wrong and here’s why”.

        Yep. Stuff happens. Can’t unring that bell. Although whoever invents a go back machine or a redo button will make a fortune!

        I take those driving courses every three years. One instructor said that if you are on a road and an accident happens – either ahead of you or behind you- in all likelihood you did something to help that accident to occur. Even if you did a minor thing, you still have some culpability because you are in the situation.

        What I like about this thought is that it reminds me that we all impact our own circumstances without even realizing. This makes many questions more practical- “Okay, I neglected X and now Y has happen, so how do I get back on track?” The answer looks more like a to-do list: “Do step 1 [fill in description] then do step 2 [and so on].”

        If we are looking for people who are just by-standers in a situation, then not many people will write in to this forum.

        1. Persephone Mulberry (also Kelly L.)

          I find your instructor’s philosophy kind of a scary slippery slope, actually, but that gets into issues way too heavy for a column about copy-leaving.

          1. Not So NewReader

            Many rules of thumb tend to work up to a point and then turn the corner to something dark/negative.
            I agree that I found his comment chilling in some ways. He would have done better to say it in a positive context.

            But what jumped out at me is that if we want to “prove” how wrong someone is we will most of the time.

            The people who have been the most helpful in my life have been the ones who were able to say “yeah, I did something similar a while ago. I have a couple ideas on how to handle it.” Then they give me their ideas or talk about what they did in their own setting.

            1. Chriama

              “If we want to “prove” how wrong someone is we will most of the time.”

              I’m quoting you because you quoted me and I really like this. Devil’s advocate is helpful when it points out a perspective you hadn’t considered yet, but annoying (and alienating to the OP) when criticism is intended to point out flaws rather than offer suggestions or solutions. Do you want to be right, or do you want to be helpful?

    6. stebuu

      Agreed: don’t print anything private at the office.

      Many larger companies use print servers, and routinely scan all print requests. Even if you make 100% sure that nobody is going to see the physical paper you printed, that still doesn’t mean that nobody at the company will see it.

    7. Jessa

      There are a subset of women who are seriously superstitious or who have lost pregnancies early that freak out immensely if someone finds out before their specified cut off date (30 days, 90 days,) it’s just not on to divulge that info if you haven’t been given it.

      Also, is the boss going to report ANYTHING they find on the printer even if it’s not pregnancy information – “Oh Janet is getting divorced, oh Brad is being sued,” whatever.

      Presuming of course like many offices one is permitted to use the company printer for a few sheets of paper now and then. Most companies I’ve worked for didn’t care if, for instance you printed out a bank statement or a couple of sheets to be notarised (in the case of an estate I inherited.)

      The fact that the information was about a pregnancy isn’t the issue. It’s that the boss found something PRIVATE and blabbed about it. Even if they have a business reason (Brad being sued could end up in a garnishment that finance might have to know about. So it’s not just potential maternity leave.) It’s not on to be spreading personal stuff around.

      @theotherjennifer – a lot of companies permit this. Yes the OP should have been more careful with getting to the printer about it. But things happen (you get a business call you have to take, etc.) It’s still not on the boss to be telling tales.

      1. aebhel

        This. I don’t print out personal business at work now, but at my last job, it was perfectly normal for people to print out tickets, documents to be notarized, etc.. A lot of us didn’t have our own printers, and management never minded if we used the office one, as long as it was within reason. Every once in a while someone would leave something in there (sometimes they accidentally double-printed, sometimes they just forgot, whatever), and it was just common good manners to drop it off with them and not mention it to anyone else. Office culture is relevant here.

        And even if the OP did screw up, so did the boss. S/he shared private medical information about an employee with that employee’s coworkers. That’s not acceptable behavior from a boss, and I don’t think ‘well, if you really cared about keeping it to yourself, you wouldn’t have left that print-out lying around’ is a particularly good excuse. It doesn’t make the boss the devil, but I do think it’s something that ought to be addressed.

    8. ixiu

      While I know OP printed her document by mistake, I do feel OP and the manager have equal fault on this one.

      OP printed her personal information on a work printer. While I know many employers are okay with it, isn’t what she printed company property at this point?

      I wouldn’t be so harsh to point out her manager is completely in the wrong, but yes, her manager probably could have handled it better.

      I do feel a bit guilty at times using company paper, ink, and time to print my personal stuff, do others feel that way or is it just me? Technically speaking, aren’t you only suppose to use work computer for work stuff only?

      1. pop

        So my “accidental printing of a document” and “sharing my private medical information without my consent” are considered “equal” in terms of fault? That’s absolutely ridiculous. Good thing I didn’t have a wardrobe malfunction at work or else my manager would be within their right to snap a photo of it and share it with my coworkers.

  5. Anthony Alfidi

    I agree with your answer to number five that achievements matter more than courses. The hurdle for some categories of employment is that not all occupations are results-oriented. Military veterans often have a difficult time translating their duties to something a results-based manager would recognize, and I speak from experience in my own Army duties. Prospective employees who have only skills and coursework need to understand that they will only be eligible for entry-level jobs until they have years of results.

  6. Anne 3

    # 1 hits home today – My boyfriend broke up with me on Monday and asked me to move out because I’m probably taking a job abroad. I’ve been struggling to address it at work without giving too many details and bursting into tears.
    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, good luck.

    1. Chriama

      I’m sending you a virtual tub of ice cream and really loud music. I’m sorry you’re sad, and I hope you feel better sooner rather than later.

    2. JustKatie

      Good luck! The hardest part for me about people inquiring into sensitive topics at work is trying not to burst into tears. Perhaps you could tell a trusted coworker you’re close to the news, and have them warn others and let them know you don’t want to be pressed for details?

      1. Anonymous

        Yes! When my dog died everyone was really sympathetic but I didn’t want to talk about it at work because I kept tearing up!

      2. Cath@VWXYNot?

        Good advice – the day after a really bad break up (a loooong time ago now), I told the coworker I was closest to as soon as I came in. I asked her if she could possibly let other people know so I wouldn’t have to keep saying it over and over, and also ask people to leave me alone for a few days. It really helped to have everyone being nice and understanding, but not initiating awful conversations about it or asking why I was crying in the bathrooms.

    3. Leslie Yep

      Sorry about your breakup. That sucks in itself, and sucks to have to process it while trying to act normal at work. Warm fuzzies coming at you.

    4. Jen RO

      I’m sorry to hear that, it must suck to deal with it at work :( Maybe you can do what JustKatie suggested?

    5. Not So NewReader

      Aww. That sucks. One thing I have found helpful in the past is to have a designated cry time. In one situation, my cry time was driving to and from work. I don’t recommend this but since my tears were more like little leaks rather than sobs it worked for me.
      In another situation, I would sit and cry deliberately before or after work each day. Sometimes I had to throw on some sad music to get the tears moving.
      The deal is those tears have to come out of us- we can either plan the cry time or the tears can plan the cry time. One session did not do much. But I found that by doing it semi-regularly, I had tighter control over the tears at work.
      No solution is perfect, I would still tear up a little at work. But I could pull myself together quicker. The cry time does not have to be long– 5 minutes? Depends on the person and the situation.

    6. Natalie

      Sympathies! I went through that last summer.

      I’m not sure how many of these suggestions with help; obviously it depends o your specific office situation.

      I got lucky (ha!) in that my officemate and my direct supervisor were out for a few days, so I was able to close my door for most of three days. If I started tearing up at least I didn’t need to worry about someone walking by and quizzing me. If you need to tell someone to avoid making waves, your direct supervisor should be sufficient. You can even email them if you aren’t feeling like you can have that conversation face to face.

      I also tried hard to pay attention to where my focus was. If I was in an “easily distracted, will start ruminating” period, I picked up some work that was easy to do while listening to podcasts or watching Netflix on my phone. Possibly not the best work ethic in the world, but I don’t especially care. In my “more focused, stop thinking about that jag and get this project done” periods, I put upbeat music on and dug into whatever. No sappy breakup music at work! Angry punk music and hip hop only.

      And more generally – if you’ll forgive the cliche, time really does heal all wounds. Despite a lot of crap that’s gone down in my life in just the last month, I’m 1000 times happier than I was six months ago.

    7. some1

      If you haven’t had the chance to tell family members or friends who would normally ask how your ex-BF is doing, don’t take calls from them at your desk.

      1. Jessa

        Oh yes this. Especially if you’re in a cube farm and people can see you. Because invariably they will ask THE question that makes you lose it.

  7. His Boy Elroy

    Yeah, the pregnant worker is in the wrong. I would absolutely not say anything to the boss. She used the company printer for personal business – SENSITIVE personal business! And then left the document sitting there. Not smart X2.

      1. sunny-dee

        But, again, we don’t know the circumstances of the sharing. Looking at it, the boss knew for MONTHS, and no one in the office said anything to her — no well-wishing, no questions about how she was doing, no surprise showers, no questions about names. The boss may have told one person for a specific reason or the boss may have said something to that friend, knowing they were close and assuming she knew, how the OP was doing or how long she was planning to keep working or something that let the news slip unintentionally. I’m guessing it’s not widespread gossip since people aren’t doing the normal baby things.

    1. Anonymous

      Why is everyone dumping on the OP? If the boss felt compelled to take action based on finding the paper, boss should have come to the OP directly.

      Let’s think of it this way – how would you feel if the OP had told the boss about her pregnancy in confidence and the boss had then told other people? Would that change your reaction?

      1. Observer

        Of course that is different. Then the boss knows that this is a confidence, and he should keep his mouth shut.

        A paper sitting in a public printer for any amount of time (and from the LW’s description, it was there a fair amount of time), is a totally different thing.

        1. Coffeeless

          I don’t know about you, but I always assume medical information is private, unless you check with them first. I don’t think you can blame the boss for finding out, since she did leave it at the printer, but there’s a difference between finding out and keeping it to yourself or addressing it with the person in question, and telling other people in the office about it.

  8. anon

    Number 2 should tread lightly. How does she know others didnt see the printout laying on the printer and that her boss did her a favor by retrieving it before more people saw it?

    1. JustSomeone

      I doubt this is the case of a considerate manager trying to protect OP’s privacy, since the manager clearly told at least one person about it who didn’t already know, which is wildly inappropriate.

      1. Jamie

        Is it? Maybe it’s me, but I’m confused why the default assumption to stuff left on a printer for an indefinite period of time would be to treat it as confidential. I’d think the default would be to assume it’s not a secret since it was left in the open.

        If it was gossip then I agree it’s inappropriate, regardless of how the info was acquired, but it could have been brought up in a matter of fact discussion about work in which case were back to why is the boss expected to safeguard this information more carefully than the OP?

        1. Chriama

          I’m curious about what that document was, and how the boss brought it up with coworkers. Was it a doctor’s appointment that the boss gossiped about just for the sake of gossip? Was it an HR request for maternity leave that the boss hadn’t expected, panicked about, and asked someone else what was going on because they were blindsided and not sure how to approach it with the OP directly?

          In this case, the OP is unhappy with the way her boss handled things, and I agree that fishing for an apology probably won’t be that gratifying. However, depending on her current relationship with the boss, OP can totally state “In general, when you see news like this that you haven’t heard before, I know I’d appreciate being asked about it before you speak to coworkers and I bet other people would too.” If they have a contentious relationship this will come across as giving unsolicited advice, but I generally assume that other people are reasonable until proven otherwise, and part of that definition of reasonableness is wanting to be told if your actions have inadvertently made someone uncomfortable or unhappy. You don’t have to listen to that advice, but I think most reasonable people generally want to know.

        2. BB

          #2- I’m sure after this you will be more careful than ever to make sure you don’t leave confidential info in the printer. But if something like this does happen again..First, assume the paper has been read. There is no way for a person to know the document was yours unless they, well..read it.

          Then address the situation ASAP and head on. If someone drops off a paper like that at your desk, it’s best to approach them immediately after and say ‘I’m not sure if you glanced at the paper you dropped off at my desk but it has some confidential info on it. In the case that you did happen to see it, can we just keep that between us’

          1. Chriama

            I agree to this too. Assume its been read and pre-emptively address it if that matters to you. However, in this case with the boss there’s still action she can take after the fact. It’s not closing the barn door after the horse ran away so much as it is building a new barn with a better door for your new horse… ok that metaphor was awful, but I hope that drift makes sense. Just because the “damage” has been done doesn’t mean the OP should never speak up about it again.

        3. Colette

          If the boss really was the one who shared the info before being officially told, I think she was in the wrong. (As was the OP, because leaving confidential information on a shared printer is not appropriate.)

          My thought is that if you find out something about someone else other by chance, you shouldn’t share it with others. Assuming the OP was within the first few months of the pregnancy (and that she’s not off work due the pregnancy, because if she were that would be the time to tell the boss), there’s no business need to share the info until closer to the time when she’d be away – it’s simply gossip.

          1. Chriama

            I don’t think there was no business need. What if the boss saw a request for maternity leave that coincided with an upcoming busy season? They need as much advance notice as possible to hire a mat leave replacement (especially for positions requiring specialized or institutional knowledge), and may have panicked. Obviously not a good response, but hardly gossiping for the sake of malice.

            1. Colette

              But there was no request for maternity leave – he just saw a document on the printer. An early stage pregnancy may never result in maternity leave, and many of the documents it could have been wouldn’t give the manager the due date.

              1. Chriama

                I was talking about a printout of an email to HR or a filled in official HR form. We don’t know what the document in the printer was.
                You said that the boss had no business reason to share that information, and I was pointing out a situation where there could have been a legitimate business need. I agree that the boss should have gone to OP first and handled this badly, but I was proposing circumstances that turn this situation from “malicious gossip” to “ignorant or incompetent handling of a situation”. Motives matter, because they can influence how you choose to approach someone.

                1. Colette

                  I assume if it were an HR form, the OP would have said something to her manager more quickly, but you’re right – it could have been something like that.

                  I do agree that the manager could have let it slip thinking someone else knew, or been trying to minimize downtime as opposed to being malicious – but I do think that the default way to treat sensitive information that you found out by accident is to keep it confidential. That should be even more important if you’re a manager, because you would naturally have access to more sensitive information.

                2. Chriama

                  I can’t nest any more replies Colette.
                  I agree that the manager should have approached this differently, and if OP has a generally decent relationship with them and the manager is reasonable, I agree that OP should say something. Not to fish for an apology, but to point out a better way to handle this info in the future by explaining how she felt about it.

            2. some1

              Or the LW has a job where she would have been expected to travel during her third trimester or she has to lift heavy boxes from time to time, or any number of things.

              1. Jen RO

                Even so, wouldn’t the appropriate response be talking to the OP, not with everyone else *except* the OP?

                1. Jamie

                  I agree with this – and I was thinking driving in that my pre-coffee responses maybe sounded like I thought leaving it there negated the need for discretion and that’s not the case.

                  Even if there was a business reason the boss should have talked to the OP before mentioning it to others – because yes, mistakes happen. If I accidentally leave the ladies room with my dress tucked into the back of my pantyhose mention it to me just incase it was unintentional – don’t take a pic and post it on Facebook.

                  So yes, the boss was still wrong.

                  Thinking of it another way, often by the time someone announces a pregnancy many people have suspected for a while due to physical cues or the old familiar presence of what appears to be morning sickness (anyone else for whom it lasted all day every day want it renamed to something more accurate? Just me?). But I would never in a million years ask them, allude to it, or mention my suspicions to other co-workers.

          2. anon

            The thing that stood out to me was that it was “months later” when the OP told her coworker, and the coworker said she already knew because the manager said something. It doesn’t sound like the manager necessarily ran out and told the whole office. No, it wasn’t her business to share the information, but when you know that info, over a period of months it could slip out in a business context. (I.e., Can you handle trade show X that Jane normally does in October? I think she may be on maternity leave then.)

            That said, I have had my single page print out end up in the middle of several hudred page client proposal book print runs, and I would be mortified if anything personal ended up there permanently. Can you imagine a client finding your pregnancy information? It is not worth the savings of $40 on having a home printer, or waiting a few hours to print at home.

        4. Elsajeni

          I can understand assuming that something left on the printer must not be a secret, but all the same, I think it’s basic courtesy to double-check before spreading it around. Especially when it’s something like this, where both the topic and the timing are potentially sensitive. It would have been nice if, when the manager came by to drop off the paper, she’d asked about it, or even just said something like, “I did take a look at that, by the way, to see whose printout it was…” to create an opening where the OP could say, “Oh dear, I didn’t mean for anyone to find out yet!”

          (I can understand why the manager didn’t do that, of course — obviously an awkward conversation, right? “So, uh, I read this thing you left on the printer. Are you knocked up or what?” But if she wasn’t willing to have that conversation with the person the information belonged to, I don’t think she should have mentioned it to anyone else, either.)

  9. Ali

    Yeah…no sympathy here for No. 2. I’ll echo what pretty much everyone else has said. If you don’t want it potentially shared at work, print it somewhere else.

  10. John

    #2 — My guideline for calling someone out on something is whether it is a potential repeatable offense. Otherwise, you damage a relationship for zero gain.

    In this case, it doesn’t sound as though this is likely to happen again. Unless there is a pattern of the boss gossiping about OP’s personal life, I would let it slide.

    It’s distresssing but it sounds as though the pregnancy worked out so no real harm done.

    Focus on the the exciting prospect of welcoming your baby. Congratulations.

    1. Jen RO

      Thanks for saying this better than I could have. I don’t see the point of talking to the boss, since the odds of this happening again are slim (because sensitive situations like this are rare, and because OP will probably be more careful in the future).

    2. Boo

      I don’t know…I see what you’re saying, but for me I think it depends on how much this has upset OP, and whether she thinks it’s something she could perhaps save other women working for this manager from in the future.

      I was assaulted on my way home from work last year, and emailed my boss to let her know I’d be in late the next morning as the police were taking my statement. When I got in, my boss came out of her office and asked me about it in front of my coworkers. I then had to deal with their questions when really I did not want to talk about it to anyone. Yeah it was hardly likely to be an offence the boss would do again, as it’s unlikely (hopefully!) that I’d be in that position again, but I certainly let her know I was Not Happy about how she dealt with it.

    3. AnonAnalyst

      I really like this guideline. In this situation, though, I can see that there might be some gain depending on the relationship the OP has with the boss, not just for the OP but for others on the boss’ team. If the relationship is good, a gentle reminder to be cognizant that people don’t necessarily want personal info to be shared and to ask before telling others could be helpful and might prevent other instances down the line (not necessarily other pregnancies, but just other information that the boss might think is okay to share that other employees would prefer to keep to themselves). If the relationship is strained or the boss is likely to react badly, though, I’d probably think hard before deciding whether I thought that was a battle I wanted to fight for the reasons that you outlined.

  11. Bluefish

    #5: your list as is makes it look like you studied equity trading from 2008-2013, but I can’t tell if you actually traded real money. If you’re applying in finance (even if you’re not), you need to make clear that you actually traded during this time. AAM described it well.

    2008-2013: equity trader, self employed
    Managed personal investment portfolio, rate of return 12%
    Portfolio strategy focused on trading at blah blah inflection points to maximize return.

    Something like the above makes more sense.

    1. Chriama

      I’m also confused about OP#5. Did you make money trading? In that case talk about how successful you were and frame it as an accomplishment. That single resume entry is super long and focuses on duties, not accomplishments (seriously, an employer doesn’t care about what class you took. They care about what you did with that knowledge!). If the rest of your jobs are described like that you need to read Alison’s post on how to write a better resume.

      1. Chriama

        Sorry to keep commenting on my own posts, but I re-read the resume entry and taking a class is not an achievement. Even completing a degree only gets 1 line unless you’re something like an honor society or Dean’s List, and 14 weeks is a much smaller commitment than 4 years. Unless you did really well in class in a quantifiable way (got an award, was 1st in a class of x people, got a scholarship or got published), don’t list it as an accomplishment. It might be an accomplishment for you, but an employer won’t see it that way.

        1. LBK

          Yeah, the whole resume reads like name dropping. I guess those things would be impressive to a specific set of employers who know exactly what they are and are looking for candidates familiar with them, but for the most part that’s going to be a blur of useless words that make it seem like you’re trying to impress me without actually having done anything impressive.

          1. Chriama

            Yes, I get the temptation to throw out a bunch of terms that show you understand something, but unless the people you’re talking to will get your reference (e.g. it’s a prestigious course), you’re wasting your time. Talk about the impact!

    2. fposte

      And identify what measurement you’re using for rate of return and measure it against the S&P. If you didn’t do better than the S&P, keep quiet about the rate of return.

  12. Chriama

    #4 — Alison mentioned treating this as a fact-finding mission about the company and role, which is super valuable. Go ahead and prepare all those behavioural and situational answers, but also make sure to look at your strengths AND weaknesses not only with the goal of presenting your strengths well, but sussing out whether the job will involve a significant amount of your weaknesses.

    1. OP #4

      I asked the recruiter if they have a job description, and she said no, but so far what they know is it’s a second assistant to an ambassador. The current assistant is overworked and I assume would be in a sort of supervisory role. I’m trying to brainstorm some potential interview questions, but I wish I knew if it’d be more of a planning-travel-arrangements type position or a preparing-briefings-and-attending-conferences type position. I’m guessing more of the former since I’d be joining someone who’s been in the role for a while and she’ll likely handle the more substantive work.

      So far all the questions I’ve come up with are fairly generic: “Tell me about previous admin experience,” “Why did you major in [region] studies?” “Tell me about a time when you worked on a short deadline” etc. Aside from practicing these, and researching the ambassador’s pet project, I’m not sure exactly how else to prepare.

  13. badger_doc

    For #1, I am sorry you are going through a divorce. We had an office horror story a couple years ago when our admin went through a divorce. She was VERY public about it, including taking phone calls in which she screamed at her ex and bad mouthed him loudly to her girlfriends. She was very dramatic about it in the office and often brought her kids in if she didn’t have anyone to watch them. This was highly inappropriate behavior, so be mindful of what you say about your ex in the office. You sound very professional in your letter so I’m sure it won’t be a problem, but it can make people rather uncomfortable to hear certain conversations and badmouthing of the ex. Good luck!

    1. Chriama

      I think coworkers will generally feel uncomfortable about how to handle things and would appreciate being expressly told to do nothing. Like, they might feel obligated to offer sympathy or commiseration, so if you straight up tell them “This is something I’m handling and I just want to let you know about the name change” it lets them off the hook. Set the standard for non-involvement and pretty much everyone will follow your lead.

        1. Chriama

          Well, sometimes. You’d be surprised at how audacious nosy people can be. I was actually going to mention that, then I decided the OP didn’t mention it so she isn’t anticipating having to deal with any nosy parkers. In case it happens though, hereès a script:
          Nosy Parker: Oh, how are you dealing with the divorce?
          OP: Thanks for your concern, but one of the ways I’m dealing with it is by not discussing it in the office.
          NP: I just wanted to know if you’re ok/ Is there anything I can do?
          OP: I appreciate your concern, thank you. The best thing you can do is keep our relationship the way it has always been.

    2. Elle D

      +1. I had a co-worker like this as well, and it was so uncomfortable. I completely respected that she was upset, as this was a very difficult time for her. That said, it’s challenging to deal with a co-worker who is regularly having yelling, screaming, crying phone conversations. I felt uncomfortable asking her for updates or assistance on certain projects, because I never knew what kind of mood I would find her in. Her professional reputation definitely suffered from this. As long as you’re not that co-worker, I think however you opt to share the news of your divorce (whether it be proactively or as it comes up) will be just fine.

    3. EvilQueenRegina

      I sympathise. A year ago the woman sat opposite me split up with her partner and was equally as public – the entire office knew the whole story, and yes she was very dramatic. Every time someone new walked into the room she’d start the whole story from the beginning, so a lot of people would hear just one story about her snooping on his Facebook and finding out the rude names he’d called her, and I’d get it about eleven times in the day. Even now it still gets brought up that she said “And the worst part is, he’s taken his bloody pension with him!” I really didn’t want to hear this amount of bad mouthing of the guy.

  14. Lanya

    #2 – I disagree with the flak OP #2 is getting. Yes, she left the information on the printer accidentally. Okay. We all get busy and make mistakes. But whoever found the information should never have shared it with others, and that is the crux of the problem here. If that person had simply kept their mouth shut about the personal information they saw (and that wasn’t theirs to share), there would not be an issue today.

    1. NylaW

      Thank you. You and the two anons below get it. The OP making a mistake does not in any way make what the manager did right and the OP should address that with him/her in a respectful way.

    2. some1

      Disclaimer: I’ve never been pregnant, but even I know not everyone treats sharing the news the same way. I have friends who have called their whole circle of family & friends the minute they got the results of the home pregnancy test; and I know women who chose not to tell people (or certain people) until it they were showing and it was obvious (well into the pregnancy).

      As a general rule it’s not something I would share in the boss’s shoes, but I also would not assume it’s supposed to be a secret if I saw that on the printer.

      Also, supposing what the boss did was crass, doesn’t it follow that the LW’s friends should have pretended they didn’t know about the pregnancy when the LW announced it to them.

      1. Anonymous

        When you are the boss you need to hold yourself to a higher standard. The boss just set the standard that essentially gossiping about personal information is totally okay. I wonder how he or she will react when it’s their personal information being seen on the printer accidentally and shared without their consent?

    3. snarkalupagus

      I have to agree here too. If I print a doc at home while connected to the VPN, my doc goes to the network printer at the office if I don’t remember to check and change it. I learned that the hard way, fortunately with something that wasn’t particularly sensitive. Accidents happen.

      I don’t think it’s out of line at all to expect that personal information be treated with discretion, regardless of the accidental see-er’s position on the food chain. I once found a coworker’s pay statement on the printer one morning–he’d done the VPN-print thing accidentally. I picked it up, saw what it was and his name, folded it in half, tracked him down, and handed it to him, and then did my best to forget about the small bit I had seen before realizing that it was personal and therefore none of my business to either read *or* share.

      In terms of the OP’s original question, I think there’s less to be gained with the message “I don’t appreciate being gossiped about,” because that comes across as more snide than anything. But it’s not out of line to address the real issue with the manager by saying that in the future, you hope that if s/he sees personal information like that, s/he could refrain from sharing it. No further discussion is needed beyond that, honestly.

    4. aebhel

      This is kind of my thought. Did the OP make a mistake? Yes. It doesn’t sound like it’s a mistake she’ll be making again anytime soon. Did the boss make a mistake? Yes. And it’s the sort of mistake that could happen again, which means that (depending on the relationship) a gentle request to be more sensitive in the future might not be a bad idea.

  15. Anoners

    I’m really surprised and let down by some of the reactions here. Why does everyone seem to think that the appropriate course of action for the manager of OP #2 is to blab about her pregnancy to the rest of the office instead of coming to her and saying something about personal/confidential items being left on the printer? Should the OP have printed it and left it sit? No. But is it not bad management to turn around and talk to everyone else in the office about it except the OP whose personal information it is?

    1. Anonymous

      This is my feeling too. The OP made a mistake, but what the manager did was worse. He/she should have assumed no one else saw it, and handled it with the OP and only the OP. If this had happened at a healthcare related organization, the manager would be fired on the spot because HIPAA applies to everyone no matter who the subject is or the person violating it. Pointing the finger at the OP reeks a little of victim blaming (no I’m not saying the OP is a victim of anything, but it’s this kind of thinking that leads to victim blaming in other, much more serious situations).

      1. Not So NewReader

        The OP simply forgot. The manager deliberately told other people.

        Huge difference in my mind.

      2. Lily in NYC

        I really don’t see victim-blaming here. People are trying to point out that there’s a difference between having a conversation with your boss and asking him to keep it confidential than with having him find out via print-out. If you print something personal at work, you have no expectation of privacy; I saw a despised coworker’s offer letter for a new job on our scanner and I handed it to my boss. No regrets – she should have done it at home if she didn’t want anyone to see it. I feel bad for OP and I think it sucks that the boss gossiped, but I just don’t see any satisfactory outcome in confronting him. It will put him on the defensive and might do more harm than good, depending on his ego and sensitivity level.

        1. Anonymous

          No the conversation is about the fact that the boss saw something and instead of coming to the OP about it, talked about it to other employees. Sure okay in this instance it’s that the OP is pregnant and presumably this is a joyous thing. But again, the OP making a mistake is not a justification for the manager doing something that is inappropriate, especially for their position.

          1. Lily in NYC

            I’m not saying it’s a good thing the boss gossiped. My point is that confronting him would probably be a bad idea because of the circumstances.

          2. some1

            I believe the LW when she says she mistakenly forgot to pick up her print-out right away and wanted the pregnancy kept secret from everyone at work until she was ready to know that.

            But I don’t see where the evidence is that the boss knew the LW wanted the pregnancy to be confidential. When the boss delivered the print-out, the LW had the opportunity to ask for discretion at that point and didn’t.

            1. Colette

              My opinion is that the default is to treat other people’s medical information confidentially. It’s not your information to share.

              1. some1

                Again, I’m not getting why the boss is supposed to make the connection that it’s confidential if he found that print-out. Not every woman wants to keep this confidential.

                1. Lanya

                  Many women choose to keep their pregnancy confidential up until a certain point. This is common knowledge. The boss might have treated the information more delicately.

                2. Colette

                  Because it’s information that she hasn’t shared with the manager. By default, it should be confidential – if she wants to share it, she will do so herself.

                  Let’s say you have a teapot collecting hobby and you leave a document relating to it on the printer. Your manager finds it and drops it off at your desk. Wouldn’t you think it odd if your manager’s manager, who you’ve never had a direct conversation with, brought up your hobby in a session on work-life balance? Or if one of the people on your team who you’ve never mentioned it to brought it up in conversation?

              2. fposte

                I agree that that’s a good default, but I also think it’s wise for the person who’s invested in confidentiality to make sure she’s on the same beam as the person with information. If I left something confidential in a department printer and somebody brought it to me, the first thing out of my mouth would be “Can you keep this between us? Thanks.”

                As Not So New Reader was saying, this is kind of like a traffic accident, in that defensive driving keeps you safe even if the other driver pulls out in front of you too fast. Even if the cops find it’s the fault of the other driver, it’s still your car that’s bashed up, and you have more invested in avoiding that than Mr. Speedy/Mr. Talky.

          3. some1

            “No the conversation is about the fact that the boss saw something and instead of coming to the OP about it, talked about it to other employees.”

            The boss *did* come to the LW about it, though. When he handed her the print-out he was letting her know there’s a good chance he read the doc. At that point she could have addressed her privacy concerns. “I didn’t mean for anyone else to see this; can we keep it between us for the time being?”

            1. angie

              +1 on how this could have been nipped in the bud in exactly this way.

              I think OP2 confronting the boss at this point needs to be based on whether this is a pattern of behavior, maybe not just with her, but with others. For example, is the boss known to share confidential employee info? Are there other noted lapses of trust/ethics there? If so, might be worth addressing directly and discreetly. If that behavior seems out of character for the boss, it might still be worth a conversation just to clear the air, but I certainly wouldn’t needlessly come out guns blazing by assuming ethical lapses and trustworthiness. Not saying OP2 is proceeding in that manner…but sometimes if you go there in your mind, it comes out of your mouth. Would not be a constructive conversation if so, regardless of the boss’s underlying motives for spreading the word.

      3. Gilby

        Agree with all above.

        Not a good move on the OP but bottom line is is anyone, manager or not who see’s something on a printer they know is personal should give it back to the person and STRONGLY suggest they either do not print that stuff again or high tail their behinds to grab the info ASAP so no else gets their hands on it.

        The manager should not have blabbed it around and she was wrong to to that. I do question the manager and her ethics. If anything, she should have slightly chided the OP when she found the document, saying that if that got in the wrong hands, people might tell others.

        The OP mistake was printing it to start with/not getting it quick enough. The bosses mistake strikes me as more ethical and a trust issue.

      1. Not So NewReader

        I think you are saying this in sarcasm.

        However, the bigger concern comes in when people decide not to write into Alison because of the deluge of criticism that follows. It defeats the purpose of the forum at it’s very core.

        There are no perfect people out there. We all miss stuff from time to time.

        1. Anonymous

          Obviously this was sarcasm. Half of the comments here are blaming the OP and its ridiculous.

        2. fposte

          Yes, I definitely see the point about discouraging people from writing in. I do hate it when things go that way.

          But I also think it’s not useful to have comments restricted to agreeing totally with every word the OP says. Most situations are, as Cat notes below, ones that have involved the contribution of more than one person. We’ve had several OPs who’ve cooled themselves down after responses that basically say “We’re not seeing this as a big deal,” too. I’m also not seeing much denigration of the OP, just noting that there were factors under her control here that contributed to the situation, which I think is a reasonable point, and it’s one the OP might want to consider when deciding how to approach her boss.

    2. BCW

      i don’t think anyone is blaming the OP, however people are finding it hard to feel too bad for her. If I leave my apartment door wide open and stuff gets stolen, most people won’t feel too bad for me that they did it. They may say, “File a police report, but you were kind of stupid to leave your door wide open”. Kind of that same thing at play here. It sucks that it happened, but she kind of made it very easy for it to happen. But aside from that, bringing it up to the manager when there is a very low chance something like that will happen again (since more people are more careful with info they consider private), just doesn’t seem like a battle worth fighting.

      1. Anonymous

        Honestly, if the manager goes around saying something about her pregnancy, who says he or she doesn’t go around blabbing about all the other personal things they know about their employees? Maybe the manager needs it brought up or needs to get called out in a way. Pregnancy is also a temporary protected status. Telling others before the OP is ready for them to know might affect their work and how others treat them in ways the manager doesn’t realize.

        The OP was wrong. The manager was way more wrong.

      2. Graciosa

        I think this sums it up very well – good analogy.

        I will add that I am not surprised by all the comments about the printer issues – this is what I would be thinking if someone complained to me about disclosure of personal information left on a company printer.

        Our company resources are there to serve the business – not to save our employees from buying a printer or going to Kinko’s. It’s very hard to be overly sympathetic when someone in the office failed to treat the office printer as the personal property of another individual employee.

        1. Zillah

          I think it very much depends on the culture of your office. There are plenty of offices where people do occasionally use the office printer/photocopier for personal documents, and no one thinks twice – I’ve worked in environments where it really wasn’t remarkable, and if that’s the way the office wants to operate, I don’t see a problem with it.

          The OP didn’t use the best judgment in printing a document about her pregnancy at the office, nor was it a good idea to forget to retrieve it.

          However, I don’t think that it follows that the boss should be revealing this information. It strikes me as similar to overhearing a personal conversation between people, or seeing someone in a sensitive place (e.g., leaving a cancer ward). The classy thing to do is pretend it didn’t happen and feign ignorance unless the person tells you otherwise.

          Poor judgment is not an excuse for rudeness.

      3. Persephone Mulberry (also Kelly L.)

        I feel like a lot of blaming posts masquerade as “I’m not blaming BUT…” posts. It doesn’t matter if someone disavows the specific word “blame”; if they then follow up by explaining that it’s that person’s fault, it’s still blaming.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Hey Anonymous, remember when I asked yesterday if you would you pick a user name since it’s hard to keep track of conversation when there are multiple comments as Anonymous? I’m reminding you again now :)

        1. Cat

          But more than one person can contribute to a situation. What the boss did was wrong, but it’s a lot more likely to be a relatively innocent wrongdoing than if, say, he had rifled through her personal stuff to find this info. That affects the tone you take in dealing with the situation.

      4. Jamie

        I think BCW had a good analogy. And I don’t think anyone is blaming her in the sense that she had it coming…no one has said that.

        Mistakes happen – that’s okay, we all make them…but sometimes there are consequences to mistakes and for this one it’s people knowing your business.

        I don’t see blame as much as people just pointing out that there is a huge difference between the boss finding this out by looking at a document in her purse – where there is an expectation of privacy – and it being left in a communal area where there is zero expectation of privacy. And it’s not like she hit send and ran up there to try and grab it – she admittedly forgot and and left it there.

        Again – not a blame thing, it happens, but it’s not logical to hold others to the confidentiality standards when your actions indicate that’s not a priority for you.

        I won’t argue the point anymore – I just wanted to explain that there is a difference between blame and just understanding that logical consequences happen when we make mistakes…as we all do.

        It just really boils down to if you take $20 from an area where I had an expectation of privacy and it was under my control I have every right to be outraged. If you take my $20 because I left it on the counter at the front desk…still shouldn’t have taken it, but it’s kind of hard to sympathize with my being that upset about it as it was an easily foreseen consequence of leaving it unsecured.

    3. LizNYC

      I’m with you on this. And while lots of people on here are content to throw stones at the OP for *heavens* printing out something personal and private at work, I’d like a show of hands who’s done that during their careers. At my office, people do that constantly. And it’s been that way at every.office.I’ve.worked.in. True, if I found something sensitive, my first reaction would not be to blab it around the office. But then again, I’m not the OP’s boss.

      1. Tinker

        Yeah, I have seen a lot of stuff that was in some way personal on the office printer. I also recognized that it was not mine, so I did not read it. And if I had read it, I have more or less developed the skill of not knowing things that I do not know because they are not any of my business.

        Maybe it’s the hidden Southerner coming out again, but it just strikes me as unbearably tacky to be reading stuff you know isn’t yours.

      2. fposte

        Though I think this is kind of like getting personal mail sent to you at work, in that it’s fine to do it, but you can’t do it and expect your privacy to be carefully honored.

    4. Xay

      I’m really surprised too. I guess I’m the only one who was taught the basic office etiquette of if it’s not yours on the printer, leave it alone and don’t share it with others. My first job was as an admin who shared a cubicle with the office shared printer and fax machine – discretion was key. Maybe I sound old fashioned, but what happened to minding your own business?

  16. Mena

    #1: I am sure that the divorce is a BIG deal to you, but it isn’t a big deal to your workplace so don’t make it one. Just say, “I am changing my last name to XYZ – I am divorcing.” And for those nosy co-workders that actually ask WHY you are divorcing, say “That is a really big question and I’m not even getting into that with close family.”

    Good Luck.

  17. B

    #1 – Sending you lots of hugs from someone that has been there and done that. If you don’t want to talk about you can easily and quickly let your manager know and then move on. If others ask rinse and repeat the line.

    #4 – Tread carefully. I did one of these where no description was given until a piece of paper after a long process had already concluded. Should have been a warning sign (reading AAM has helped me realize those now) but I didn’t realize it until it was too late. Could be nothing, could be something but definitely keep an eye out for other warning signals.

    1. OP #4

      Hopefully there will be one available at/after the interview! They were a little difficult about scheduling a time but on the plus side, they mentioned that I’ll have to do a writing test drafting letters/emails similar to the day-to-day job. That implies good things about their evaluation process, I think.

  18. Anonymous

    If you’re thinking of commenting that this was the OP’s fault – STOP! We’ve already read that 100 times and its getting old.

    1. AVP

      I have to say I read that question/answer and immediately thought “Great, cue 100 comments about it being the OP’s fault!” I get their point, but the pile-on gets sort of ridiculous at times. #internetproblems

    2. Jamie

      I agree that there is point where opinions become piling on – but an issuing directives anonymously and asserting that too many people are posting opinions with which you disagree is not helpful.

      No one has been impolite and there is nuance thus far in the opinions – it’s not lockstep agreement.

      1. angie

        Agree, Jamie.

        I’d also add that the “piling on” seems to be happening on both sides with some questioning trustworthiness and/or ethics of boss. That perspective might be fair; it might not. Hard to tell with one observation point. Both the situation and resulting opinions have nuance. When it comes to how people behave and what drives us to do what we do, it’s hardly ever as black and white as we sometimes hope it to be (or think it should be).

        1. VintageLydia USA

          Personally I think the difference is the boss isn’t likely to come here and read all this stuff, but the OP likely is. We do not want to scare away future letter writers from writing in with advice on dealing with minor mistakes (though I will make a personal exception for Truck Sticker Guy and Extremely Sexist At-Least-You’re-Pretty guy because those weren’t minor mistakes and just looking for reasons why they couldn’t possibly be wrong.)

          In this case the OP acknowledged their mistake in the letter itself. She knows and will be more careful in the future. Us harping on her isn’t going to turn back time to unmake the mistake or make her feel even more sorry. It will just make her feel less welcome here for doing something many many people have done.

          1. fposte

            Maybe, but it might also give her some perspective that affects her interaction with the boss and gets her a better outcome.

            1. Jamie

              I agree.

              We also need to keep in mind that yes, this particular advice is to the OP, but every day lots of people come here and comb through the archives looking for advice and so it’s also going to be read by future readers in a similar situation.

              Forums in which comments which are limited to validating people may be warm and fuzzy…but they aren’t helpful. VintageLydia, I know you weren’t suggesting that…but that’s where the comment policing of disparate views can lead.

              As long as people are expressing their opinions civilly it does more of a service to see how any given situation is perceived by others than to hear only what makes one feel better. It’s kind of like an informal poll from people representative of co-w0rkers.

              If the OP were a personal friend who came to me with this I’d have said the same thing. And maybe people will come away with a better understanding of where others draw the line on right to privacy in shared spaces…from all the comments on all sides.

              Maybe it’s not my place to say, but as a commenter I’m not really comfortable with content policing regarding different opinions and how do you draw the line where X number of critical but civil opinions make a point and but X+1 is unkind. Sure, there is a limit where it becomes piling on – but that line will be different for all of us. With the exception of Alison who gets to make the call when no one else should chime in with opinion Y?

              Civility and kindness though – I think that’s everyone’s responsibility to police since it is a remarkably civil and intelligent forum and no one wants to see that disintegrate.

          2. angie

            One thing I’d add is that I value AAM for perspective both as an employee and as a boss. I am both and want to be the best I can be in each role. I agree that the boss in this specific instance may not read the comments, but other bosses might and could possibly take something useful from them, if only to better understand the actions and perspectives of others around them. Even though I weigh in pretty infrequently, I try to offer comments with a balanced perspective – as others have said – there’s learning to be gained from thinking about both sides of an interaction.

  19. JH

    #3, maybe your coworker just isn’t a good fit for this type of environment. I say you should just leave her alone and let her decide if she wants to continue in her role. Honestly, I would’t blame her for bailing out of a toxic situation like that. It sounds like the boss has unreasonable expectations and no understanding of the concept of work/life balance which is so crucial to an ordinary person’s health and sanity. What person says on their deathbed that they regret not working more? Not very many, I’m sure.

    1. Chocolate Teapot

      I think this sort of boss has appeared on the site before. The tale of the employee who worked straight through a weekend, then got docked a day’s holiday instantly springs to mind.

      My own work environment is very busy with lots of deadlines (and sudden, urgent last minute requests), but I found weekly meetings to discuss priorities makes a huge difference.

    2. AVP

      I don’t know, I have that type of job and don’t mind it. It’s not for everyone, but it does work for some people if they can get the right support and have the right ambition and life situation to take it on.

    3. Zahra

      I’m pretty sure that many people wish they had had the money to do X (at the very least, some people wish they had had the money to leave their family not in debt from their passing). Where do you get that money? Working, usually. So yeah, I’m pretty sure that some people regret not working more (whether by choice or by circumstances).

      1. Jamie

        ITA – I am always mildly irked by the common assertion that no one on their deathbed wishes they’d spent more time at work.

        I am sure there are many people who regret not working more if they were unable to care for themselves and their families the way they’d have liked to…and regret for leaving loved ones with final expenses or other issues to clean up after death.

        And I’m certainly sure that there are children of parents who didn’t prioritize working and caring for them properly who wished said parent had spent more time at work.

        I just hate the notion that work is a necessary evil and when people evaluate their lives they universally wish they’d spent their time on more important things. The implication that work isn’t important and that’s not true. The implication is also that if people didn’t work so much that time would have been spent having deep, quality conversations with family, building relationships, or appreciating sunsets. Sometimes it would have just meant more TV.

        But regarding OP #3 Alison’s advice is dead on. She should definitely talk to her because when you’re struggling it can feel like everyone else was born knowing the job and it can be such a relief to know that the OP had a rough start and it got better.

        There is also the possibility that the OP adapted better than most – not everyone is a good fit for a position like the one described. And if it’s not a good fit for the hours or expectations even after mastery of the tasks that’s a recipe for a stressed out employee and frustrated manager indefinitely.

        For these kind of positions you really need to hire for fit far more than for skills that can be taught otj.

        1. fposte

          I can guarantee you that some people on their deathbeds wish they’d achieved more, which is often going to translate to more time at work.

        2. bearing

          Work is one of the things that makes us human, and it possesses an inherent dignity, so that even the most menial tasks can be done in a way that enriches the lives of others and the self.

          So, yes. With the caveat that this is true about work that’s paid as well as work that’s unpaid — you can’t issue blanket statements about nobody ever wishing they’d spent more time at work, or worked harder.

        3. JH

          True that you can’t make a blanket statement that everyone feels that way, and I never said any such thing. I said, and I quote, “Not very many, I’m sure.” Some may regret that they didn’t work more on their death bed. Acknowledged. That is certainly not the case for the vast majority of people.

          The fact remains, people who are constantly under stress and anxiety about their workload and deadlines are likely to experience health problems or struggle with substance abuse as a coping mechanism. A lot of people think doing tons of work is a great virtue. But they sacrifice their personal life and health in the process.

          I believe the vast majority of lifetime workaholics have mild to severe mental health problems. Many are just doing it to cope with other issues in their life. I’m not saying some people don’t work just because they love it or want to make lots of money in the short term. Some do. But the fact remains, some people can and do allow their work to consume every aspect of their lives. It isn’t healthy and should not be praised.

          1. Jamie

            I believe the vast majority of lifetime workaholics have mild to severe mental health problems.

            Wow. That is a very sweeping statement. Having known more than a couple of people who’d fit your definition of lifetime workaholics I adamantly disagree.

            1. JH

              Well, I speak not as a medical professional, but merely as a layperson with an opinion. You clearly have your own opinion on the topic, so I’ll leave it at that.

              But I would recommend you google some studies on the effects of working long hours constantly (8+ hour days) as well as studies on workaholics and their quality of life before you assume there is no downside to working long hours.

              1. fposte

                But that’s a bit of a straw man. Have a look at the studies about sports participation, transportation use, showering, etc., and you’ll find there’s a downside to all of them too. It’s whether for an individual it outweighs the upside the matters.

                Some people really like what they do, and they do a lot of it, and that’s what’s really important to them in their lives. That’s a legitimate measure of quality of life too. You may be using “workaholic” to mean something other than that, and there are certainly people who are driven to work long hours by something other than job satisfaction. But there are also people who work long hours because they do get job satisfaction. (And fortunately, many of them create stuff that improves our lives, so yay.)

              2. Ask a Manager Post author

                JH, I doubt you’d say that about someone who poured tons of hours every week into a hobby they loved, like knitting or raising horses. Some people feel similarly about their paid work too. (Hell, some people make their hobbies their paid work.)

                There’s just too much variation here for a statement like “the vast majority of lifetime workaholics have mild to severe mental health problems” to make sense.

              3. Jamie

                before you assume there is no downside to working long hours.

                Everything has a downside. We choose things – not just work – based on what has more benefits than disadvantages.

                I’d have more money if I didn’t have kids – that’s a downside…but it’s a tradeoff I’d make all day long for the rest of my life because the upsides so outweigh the down.

                If I buy the blue car I love I can’t get the black one I like a lot. Big and small every choice comes with tradeoffs.

                And downsides =/= mental illness which was what I took issue with.

                1. JH

                  Just to clarify, working long hours can cause mental and physical health issues and mental health issues can cause one to work long hours. Either way, long work hours for extended periods of time are generally not a good thing for anyone. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but they are exceptions.

                  Also, when I said mental health problems, I wasn’t necessarily referring only to mental illness, but was referring to a wide range of problems with a person’s mental health, including everything from low self esteem to neurotic perfectionism to social anxiety disorder to mild depression to OCD to bipolar disorder. Things are not always as they appear on the surface- just because a person acts like they enjoy working all the time doesn’t mean they really do.

    4. OP #3

      Hey everyone, OP #3 here. I did take Alison’s advice and have a heart to heart with my coworker over lunch…I just shared my experience with her starting in this department, and told her how I adjusted when I started, and that things will get better once she gets a handle on her role in a few months. I think my co-worker and boss also had a discussion about expectations because things seem to be much calmer (less tension and stress) than before…I think coworker understands that she just needs to revise her own expectations of the job, and that she will need to put in some extra time up front to be successful and get caught up. We’re a lean team, so that means people having to take on extra work on a regular basis…however, although demanding, our boss does have a kind heart and encourages us to take care of things in our personal lives (take vacation, take care of medical issues, etc) as long as we make sure that we’re showing our unwavering commitment to job, which is something I value highly. I think coworker is going to make it, but it definitely took a realigning of focus and understanding.

      Side note, I had my Q1 performance review this week (have been dreading) and got “exceeds expectations” in several categories :)

  20. Bluefish

    Re: #2. Personally, I would never use a common printer at work for something I didn’t want anyone to see. If I did, and this happened to me I would have mentioned something immediately, when the boss handed me the printout. “Oops, I probably shouldn’t have printed out something so personal at work. Can you keep that confidential until I’m ready to announce”? Other than that, I’d take it as good information to know about my boss, and adjust my future actions and conduct, accordingly. My current boss is the king of gossip. Honestly, knowing that, and acting accordingly really works in my favor some of the time. If the boss likes to gossip I don’t think callin her out on it is going to change anything. You’d be better off using tht knowledge and let it guide you as to what you should use the work printer for in the future (hint, work related items). Disclaimer: I’m not bashing the OP, this is just my opinion :)

    1. LBK

      I was 100% on the OP’s side until you made this great point – the OP had a chance to try to cut this off early by asking the boss to keep it quiet right after she found the printout on her desk. If the boss saw something like that printed out and left publicly on the office printer, and then OP never said anything about it after, is it that unreasonable for the boss to assume that OP wasn’t trying to hide it/keep it confidential?

      I’d also say pregnancy isn’t exactly a “medical issue” – it would be one thing if the OP was printing out a bill from a therapist or an oncologist and the boss spread around that she was depressed/had cancer, but pregnancy is usually a positive thing that people are happy about sharing. I think of it kind of like an engagement – people do tend to hear about it via word of mouth rather than you going around announcing it to each coworker individually (which I would find pretty weird).

      1. Fiona G

        I’m confused…how is pregnancy NOT a medical issue?? It sure felt medical to me. And it’s totally different from an engagement…with any pregnancy there can be mixed feelings, complications, there’s maternity leave to think about, how you will be treated in your job when you announce, possible accommodations, etc. It’s just a lot more complicated than announcing an engagement IMO.

      2. Anoners

        Pregnancy is exactly a medical issue, that causes other medical issues and a whole host of personal issues. There is good and bad with it and unlike an engagement you don’t know if someone is actually happy about it or not. So keep it to yourself. It’s not something the boss should have shared at all. Period. The OP shouldn’t have to say “Please keep my personal medical information private.”

        I wonder if it was something other than pregnancy or if it wasn’t for the OP at all but a significant other or child, would so many fingers point at her?

      3. LBK

        Sorry, I phrased that badly – I didn’t mean to imply that there are no considerations to be made for a pregnancy and that privacy isn’t important. What I was trying to say is that pregnancy is something that does typically end up getting shared with everyone intentionally. Pregnancy rarely remains a completely private issue that the OP’s coworkers would never hear about – unless it’s unintentional or unwanted, most women do eventually tell their coworkers that they’re having a kid. It’s not the same as other medical issues like, for example, being treated for depression. If the manager accidentally found out the OP was being treated for depression, he would have no cause to believe that OP wouldn’t mind others finding out, because that’s something that almost always remains private. I don’t see sharing a pregnancy as being equally egregious, especially that OP knew the manager had found out and didn’t say anything.

        I also do understand that not everyone is happy about being pregnant or gets pregnant intentionally, but I didn’t get the sense that this was the case with OP.

        1. bearing

          But any pregnancy may turn into a situation in which the person would rather not discuss it at work.

      4. LBK

        Also, one final clarification – my point is just that we don’t know the boss went running around conspiratorily whispering to others that OP was pregnant in a gossipy, malicious way. It could’ve just been a lunchtime discussion and the boss said something along the lines of “I didn’t realize Jane was pregnant” and the coworkers said “Uhh, neither did we.” Essentially, accidentally divulging it by not realizing OP hadn’t told other people yet.

        1. VintageLydia USA

          The etiquette, generally, around this sort of thing is pretending you don’t know unless you’ve been told AND not to tell other people until you get the OK even if you have been. ESPECIALLY in the workplace.

          Is this something other people aren’t taught? The sheer number of people here not seeing what the boss did wrong makes me wonder if this isn’t a widespread rule.

          1. LBK

            I mean, I wouldn’t personally have said anything, but I think there is a perspective on the boss’s actions that don’t make him sound like a mean gossip that wanted to spread the OP’s personal business around.

            1. VintageLydia USA

              They still should have talked to the OP first and she has a write to be angry or upset that they didn’t.

  21. Joey

    #2. I just don’t see the point in telling the boss you don’t appreciate her telling people about your pregnancy before you did. What purpose does it serve to the boss to hear that? Unless I had a habit of carelessly sharing medical information Id wonder what you’re expecting me to do with the complaint.

      1. Joey

        If you go looking for an apology there are two probable outcomes:

        1. You’ll be mad when the boss doesn’t realize you want one.
        2. You’ll get one and the boss will wonder why you made such a big deal out of it given that you told them anyway.

        1. Us, Too

          This is a pretty big deal. It’s a huge trust and personal/medical information violation. It is up to OP to talk about her medical conditions, not her boss. PERIOD.

          Bosses are human and good bosses will take feedback like this in stride. I’ve been “corrected” by employees when I screwed up something big and here’s the geist of my response.

          You’re right. I really screwed this up. I should have done x instead of y. I apologize! . Also, I want to thank you for bringing this up to me. I screw up sometimes and having your feedback will help me improve. I won’t make this mistake again!

          1. Joey

            True, except it isn’t necessarily a violation. Its also likely that the boss said something like:
            “Joey, Jane will be going on maternity leave in the near future so I want you to be prepared to take on some of her duties. We’ll discuss it more as she gets closer to her leave.”

            1. Colette

              But in that scenario, there’s no need to mention the maternity leave. He could have just said “I want you to start cross-training with Jane.”

              1. Chriama

                I agree that there could easily have been a business reason to share that info, but I think he also should have reserved the particular details like Colette suggested. IOW, the boss wasn’t necessarily “wrong”, but I’d rather work for a boss who would be ok with suggestions to handle it better in the future.

              2. Joey

                Absolutely, but most people would probably better understand how it affects them since they have an idea of how maternity leave works.

                1. Us, Too

                  Even if you know she’s pregnant, you don’t actually know that she’s going to need maternity leave. She may miscarry. She may have an abortion. She may quit tomorrow! Knowing she’s pregnant tells you only two things as a manager: you need to talk further with her about if/how it will impact her work and, if not already done as a best practice, you need to make sure others are cross-trained on whatever she does.

                2. Joey

                  That’s a hard conclusion to draw without knowing exactly what the printout was. For all we know it could have been fmla or short term disability paperwork which are what most people would print at work.

                3. VintageLydia USA

                  Joey, that’s still something to bring up with the employee FIRST. If the boss has business reasons to plan around the pregnancy (which is totally valid in the vast majority of cases) than she still needed to talk to the OP first.

            2. Chriama

              I mentioned it above. Going into the conversation expecting an apology will go poorly. However, most reasonable people like to know if they’ve inadvertently done something to make others unhappy or uncomfortable . Of course they don’t always choose to apply that information to future behaviour, but I think reasonable people like to have that information available to them.
              In that case, bringing it up to the boss gives the OP a chance to say “this made me unhappy, and this is how I’d appreciate it if you handle such things in the future.” Not to condemn the boss, but to provide the boss with info about the impact of his actions in this type of circumstance and suggestion for how to handle future circumstances.

            3. Ask a Manager Post author

              It would be pretty odd for the boss to be discussing her maternity leave with other people when he hadn’t even acknowledged the pregnancy with the OP yet.

          2. fposte

            Though “personal/medical violation” makes it sound like there’s an actual statute or something that got violated, and there wasn’t. There’s nothing illegal about this; it’s just tacky.

        2. Anonymous

          Or 3) Boss thinks back to other employees telling him that there was some private stuff on the printer. I’ve been there – it’s an awful/funny situation when you know, everyone knows, but it’s not the fault of the accused. Sometimes things just happen, and this is one of them. No one got hurt, and everything will be fine.

  22. JMegan

    #1 and Anne3, I’m sorry you’re going through this. It sucks, there’s no other way to put it.

    I went through it myself last year, complete with the new job, and with the added wrinkle of having started dating again before my husband moved out of the house. It was fun explaining *that* to new co-workers!

    My solution was, I just didn’t talk about it. I answered questions as neutrally and as honestly as I could, and didn’t volunteer any information that wasn’t strictly necessary.

    I also used a lot of the tactics in the “I want quiet” thread from yesterday to deflect the small talk, and turn it back to what other people were doing. Bear in mind, for most people it *is* just small talk, and they don’t know what’s going on in your head unless you tell them. So if somebody asks you how your husband is, one option is to just say he’s fine and change the subject.

    There will come a time where you’ll be more comfortable talking about it, and you can share details then. There’s a lot going on in your head right now, and there’s no rush to share the details. Wait until it feels more natural to you, and do it then. Good luck.

  23. JennyS

    To #1 – I know from personal experience (having been divorced a few years ago) that telling the boss is an important thing to do, even if the two of you are not close. The divorce procedure might mean you need to take time off of work, you may be moving to a new place, need time for counseling, even time to grieve if needed, etc. And of course, it’s important to reassure the boss that things are under control in terms of your work. Most bosses would be sympathetic – it’s a sad thing no matter what the circumstances are – and could be helpful in letting your co-workers know if that’s something you’d like he or she to do. As for a name change or inquiries from co-workers, I think Allison’s advice is spot on. Keep it simple, thank others for their concern, move on with your business. Good luck and sincere sympathies.

  24. Aaron

    #1 – I am also going through a divorce, which got started last fall, two months into a new job. I’m sorry, it sucks–sending you lots of kind thoughts.

    I found that, yes, conversations where people said “when do I get to meet your wife,” and I said, “actually, unfortunately, we’re getting divorced” were awkward. But so what–your coworkers will continue to be friendly, and everybody has some awkward stuff in their lives.

    I have also gotten better at having this conversation in a short, professional manner as I’ve become less emotionally raw. So for me, not telling anyone proactively was probably a good choice. But if you’re working for one particular boss, I’d suggest finding some way to bring it up, even if you will get slightly too emotional, just because if your work quality is lower than usual–which is totally normal–someone who knows you are dealing with a divorce may be more understanding.

  25. Bluefish

    I find it bizarre that a lot of people here are just assuming that the boss gave up the information as a result of the printout. Didn’t the OP say, Month’s later, she told a co-worker, and the co-worker said the boss had already told her? A lot can happen in months. I wouldn’t be surprised if at that point it was a gossip item around the office by multiple people, and then at some point people start assuming its common knowledge. I’m not saying its right, I’m saying this is the real world folks. More people than not gossip. Do you know how often a day someone at work is coming up to me saying “don’t say anything but I heard Jane did blah blah”. People tell me stuff I don’t care about all the time. I have no appetite for gossip so I just ignore these people, but come on folks. Let’s not be naive. Gossip isn’t going anywhere.

    At my work the policy is: only put it in an email if you’re comfortable with the whole world reading it. I think you should apply this to the printer as well. Rightly or wrongly, you are the best keeper of your personal information, if you don’t want it out there, don’t be careless.

    This isn’t giving the boss a pass on bad behavior.

    1. Us, Too

      OP does say that the boss told someone that she was pregnant. Since OP didn’t tell her boss or any other colleague up to that point, there is one of two issues:
      1. Boss learned about it on the printer and shared.
      2. and/or Boss is engaging in inappropriate office gossip.

      In either event I’d want to talk to my boss about it.

  26. The Real Ash

    I just went through the same thing and there’s no need to be sheepish about it! Someone would ask if I had gotten married, and I would say, “The opposite” and smile and say that the congratulations were still warranted and welcome. Putting a smile on definitely helped people not feel bad for saying the wrong thing or worrying about me and bugging me about how I was doing. It was still a difficult time for me, but having to put on a cheerful mein definitely helped me get over it faster than I think I would have had I been a downer about it at work.

    1. Mints

      Haha that’s true, if the divorcee is cheerful, it might be a little awkward, but you’re not really sad for them, which makes it easier. You’re not navigating grief or anything

      (Aside, I had a teacher in highschool who brought the class breakfast one day, for a “celebration” and didn’t explain until we pestered her all day that it was to celebrate her divorce)

    2. Jamie

      I think this happens to a lot of people. I know someone recently married and almost everyone who commented on her name change to ask if she got married followed it up immediately by “or divorced.”

      As anyone who’s been through a divorce can attest, it can be really tough but what made it easier for me was a smile and letting people know I was fine…because that allowed them to change the subject.

      They don’t want to talk about it anymore than you do, and it’s a nice escape to talk to people about anything else.

      This is great advice and taking a similar stance helped me get over it more quickly as well.

  27. Andrew

    Regarding #2, ideally you would have said something when your boss dropped off the paper to cut off any potential gossip. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect your boss to know that you want him/her to keep it secret if you’re leaving proof where anyone can see it.

  28. Maureen P.

    It seems the discussion on topic #2 focuses on whether or not you should print personal documents at work. The real issue is whether your boss should tell other people about your personal life, regardless of how they come by the information.

    I was once on a conference call during which my manager announced that one of my coworkers was pregnant. This coworker had kept her pregnancy a secret from *everyone* for the first 7 months (petite woman in baggy clothes), and hadn’t planned on telling folks working at off-site locations at all. She confided to me that she felt upset/violated, but was too meek to tell our boss.

    1. Anonymous

      Of course the manager shouldn’t share that information, but I say just let it go. Lesson learned. To take your manager to task months later about your suspicion of her spreading a rumor? That just not going to reflect that we’ll on you. You dont een know how it played out. these are all asumptions. if it were me, I’d file this under sunk cost, lesson learned.

  29. Anon

    I’d be peeved that the boss spilled the beans, but I really do not see any utility in bringing it up with the boss. If she doesn’t see anything wrong with it, I would think the chances are high that she’s the kind of person who’s not going to take the conversation/input (i.e., that she should stop doing that) well.

  30. KVM

    re: #2 – If there’s something that isn’t mine on the printer, I leave it there. it’s not my business. If it’s been there for more than a day, I throw it out.

    The manager was out of line, and in violation of HIPAA rules, not to mention it’s not their news to share.

    Frankly, I’d address it with the manager.

    1. Anonymous

      And how do you know it’s not your business unless you read it? You can’t unsee something, and as other people have mentioned, it’s all too easy to slip a comment about mat leave in a business related context.

        1. EM

          Unless she’s working in a medical setting and her boss is a medical professional, there was no violation.

          If I know my neighbor has cancer, I can tell the entire neighborhood if I want to and I’m not in legal violation of anything. Certainly, ethical violation if the neighbor didn’t want anyone to know.

          If I’m a nurse in an oncologist clinic and my neighbor comes in for treatment, then I would be in violation if I shared that information.

  31. Rachel - HR

    #2 – I am pregnant and I happen to work in HR. I think the OP is grossly wrong to bring this up at all with the manager.

    First, do you even have permission to utilize company property for personal means? Because that’s exactly what you did. Whether everyone does it in the office or not, it’s a form of theft and probably against company policy.

    Second, you left it sitting there. If you were that concerned about confidentiality then you should have gotten up immediately and picked it up.

    Third, the manager has every right to plan for your eventual absence and is under no legal obligation to keep it secret.

    Fourth, the OP never knew that other staff knew. I think that shows a lot of discretion on the part of all of the staff in the office.

    1. Us, Too

      I can’t argue with points 1 and 2 – no brainers there.

      To your third point: I had an employee who told me she was going to need to be out for cancer treatment. I still managed to plan for her absence without telling everyone she worked with that she was out to get a double mastectomy and chemo/radiation. Part of being a good manager is not being an a-hole and sharing other people’s medical situation without their consent/involvement. I could have legally blabbed all sorts of details to the rest of the team. But legality is a pretty low bar to hold a standard for good management and leadership.

      Your fourth point is simply that the manager is good at gossiping in such a way that the subject of the gossip is unaware of it. Again, that sets the bar pretty low. It would be completely legal for me to share another staff member’s review results with the rest of the team. Being discreet about it doesn’t make me less of an a-hole and crappy manager if I do so, though.

    2. aebhel

      The fact that the boss didn’t do anything illegal doesn’t mean he didn’t do anything wrong. His behavior was tacky, indiscreet, and unprofessional regardless of how he came by the information.

      Also, you have no idea what the company policy is regarding printer use. I have worked at places where there was no policy whatsoever and everyone did it; I have worked at places where the policy explicitly allowed it.

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