is my VP warning me about layoffs, interviewing while breast-feeding, and more

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

1. Is my VP warning me about layoffs?

I have moved into doing internal communications with our organization, among my other duties, so sometimes the VP of our department sends me information for our intranet to write up. 

She shared an email recently about a hiring freeze that only went to leadership and wanted something written for everyone in the company to see about saving money while traveling for business. That wasn’t too out of the ordinary, so I wrote what she wanted and went on with my day. However, today she sent me a meeting invite titled “[Department] Staffing” that was meant to go to a VP that deals with HR and Administration. It didn’t have any other details outside of the title and who was invited. Not long after that, she cancelled the meeting. It was clearly not intended for me to receive and appeared to be about a topic that would potentially impact jobs in my department.

We have already had raises delayed a few months, so are layoffs next? Is she subconsciously warning me my job is in jeopardy, or am I reading too much into this? I have only been here one year and worry it’ll be “last one in, first one out” if push comes to shove.

If she’s the sort of person who likes to communicate in elaborate clues, I suppose it’s possible, but I think you’re probably reading too much into that specific email. That would be a really weird way to give you a tip-off. That said, if your company is struggling financially, you don’t need a signal from your manager to tell you that it’s possible layoffs could be coming and should probably be proceeding on the assumption that that’s the case.

2. Another company told me my employee applied for a job with them

I had a meeting yesterday with an IT company that wants me to outsource my In house IT person and contract with them. During the meeting they told me that I should be aware that my In house IT person had submitted his resume to their company and requested an interview. Therefore, I should expedite our association accordingly. I don’t doubt they are telling the truth. I had already planned to follow the outsource course of action. However, their tattling left a bad taste in my mouth. Are there any laws against that sort of thing or is that just bad form?

Wow. It’s not illegal, but it’s an incredibly crappy thing to do. For all they know, they’ve just put that guy’s job at risk (and it doesn’t matter if they’re planning to hire him, since they have no idea if he’d accept their offer). I strongly, strongly urge you to tell them that you’re disgusted that they’d violate someone’s privacy and jeopardize his livelihood that way, and that you won’t do business with them as a result.

3. All-day interviews when you’re breastfeeding

I have recently been asked to go for a second interview to my dream job. It’s wonderful news (thanks in great part to your good advice!), but the interview is a whole day affair with people at two sites, including the president and VP, who need to sign off on whoever gets hired for this position, though I won’t ever be interacting with them directly.

I’m a new mom with a 3-month-old and I exclusively breastfeed. In order to keep my milk supply up, I will need to pump at least every 3 hours and find a private place to do so (not to mention hauling the pumping equipment all day and between the two sites, something which will leave me looking less than professional!).

The admin assistant who is scheduling the interview contacted me today and asked me to respond to her about which dates I can do for the interview. Help! How do I handle this?

Be straightfoward! Explain the situation to the person who’s scheduling the interview, and ask if they can schedule a X-minute break for you every three hours for pumping. If they don’t react well to that, it’s far better to find that out now than to discover after you’re working for them that it’s not a friendly environment for working parents, and new moms in particular.

4. Interviewing with a brain injury

I have an interview for a job I’m really excited about next week at a really great nonprofit. I’m preparing for it like crazy, but I’m not sure how to handle my recent brain injury in the interview. I had a bike accident where I broke my elbow and got a really good concussion. It was a few weeks ago and I’m totally capable of doing the job I’m interviewing for now, but there’s still some lingering things that might make the interview awkward. I can’t shake hands with my right hand, and while I offer people my left hand, it definitely creates a weird moment right away. I also have trouble recalling specific words (like saying “blood tubes” instead of “capillaries”), and substitute words without noticing it (“vanilla” instead of “soda”). It takes me a second to translate thoughts to words, and I worry that it comes off as nervousness or incompetence. The symptoms are supposed to get better over time and be mostly to completely gone six months from now.

I know these things aren’t related to the function of the job, but they definitely can make me look like a less strong candidate or just foolish. But if one of the first things I tell interviewers is that I’m recovering from a brain injury, I worry that they’ll see me as an invalid, not as a viable candidate.

It’s definitely more of an accommodating work environment, from what I can tell. The person who called to offer me an interview briefed me on her organization’s interview dynamics and was very eager to make sure the interview date/time/location worked for me. So should I power through and maybe embarrass myself, or should I tell them and have them potentially pity me?

With any kind of disability, when you’re concerned an interviewer is going to notice symptoms and attribute it to the wrong cause, I’m a big fan of just explaining the situation up-front. That way, they know what’s going on without assuming something worse, and you don’t have the anxiety of wondering what they’re thinking about it.

So I’d tell them. But I wouldn’t do it on the spot in the interview, since that can sometimes feel awkward; instead, explain it to the person you’ve been talking to there (the one who called you) ahead of time. I’d say something like this: “I want to let you know that I’m still feeling the after-effects of a concussion from a bike accident a few weeks ago, since there are some things you might notice and wonder about otherwise! I’m not able to shake hands with my right hand yet, and my brain is occasionally substituting the wrong words, or it might take me an extra few seconds to start speaking! My doctor is confident this will all go away in a few months, but I wanted to give you a heads-up in case anyone I speak with notices it.” Good luck!

5. Should I contact someone else when the recruiter is on vacation?

I have taken the first steps towards what would be a dream job. I had a successful initial interview with an internal recruiting manager and was given a mock project to complete. Once I submitted this, he followed up to let me know that he should have feedback/next steps in the upcoming week.

After the full week passed, I did not hear back so I wrote a brief, enthusiastic follow-up this Monday. I instantly received his out-of-office message saying he will be out on vacation for two weeks. He left two points of contact: a coordinator for rescheduling interviews and also his supervisor for urgent matters. I certainly know this is not urgent and that I do not have an interview. In this situation, is it out of line or over-eager to reach out to the coordinator?

If it makes a difference, I noticed that yesterday the man who would be my boss viewed my LinkedIn profile. Should I just have faith that the process is moving along and try and relax?


Yes, it would be overkill to reach out to the coordinator (since the recruiter’s out-of-office message only said to contact the coordinator if you need to reschedule an interview). And yes, you should assume that they’ll contact you if they want to talk to you. The best thing you can do now is to put it out of your mind and move on.

{ 132 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*

    It comes off to me like the outsourcing company is using the in house IT guy’s application as a sales tactic. Like they are trying to scare the OP into thinking they are about to lose IT support so they’d better get to outsourcing.

  2. Mike C.*


    I’ll go one step further than KarenT above – I bet that the outsourcing company is devious enough to make that whole “your IT person is trying to get hired here” story up in the first place. I mean, what a great way to sell their services!

    1. Fuchsia*

      Yep. And they will use the same ploy on your IT person: “Your company is about to outsource your position to us, so you’d better join our team.”

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        +1. Even if they are telling the truth, it’s a really crappy thing to do to a job applicant. I have been in the shoes of the tattled-on, and it’s really upsetting to know that a) your trust has been breached, and b) your job may now be in jeopardy as a result.

        So, at best they fail to treat job applicants with professional courtesy, and at worst they’re liars. Not a company I’d want to do business with.

    2. Purple Dragon*

      # 2 – I second Mike C’s comment and also Allison’s advice. I wouldn’t touch that company with a 20ft barge pole. They cannot be trusted with confidential information and therefore should not have access to any of your sensitive info. IT people tend to see too much and have to get really good at not seeing what we’re looking at.

      I’d be concerned that they’d say to your competitor “did you know company x is doing y ?”

      1. My 2 Cents*

        And when you decide not to use this IT company, you MUST TELL THEM WHY! They will never learn if they aren’t called out for their unethical behavior.

        1. Angora*

          Agree with you. Inform them why you’re not using them. But I agree with the others, they may be lying about the IT’s application.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

      I’ve been in business for a long, long time, and this is the crappiest sales stunt I’ve ever heard of.

      These are dark, unethical, untrustworthy people.

      There are a million IT outsource companies. Pick another one.

    4. straws*

      I’d also let your IT person know what the company did. If it were me, I’d want to know this piece of information when deciding whether to move forward with them. You could also use the conversation as an opportunity to show support of his job search, depending on your relationship and if you haven’t done this already.

      1. Lisa*

        Yeah, I would tell him too. But only if he knows that you are about to outsource the dept. He/She prob does know since they are interviewing, but its good information to have. I would worry that tell this company would actually hurt this IT worker’s chances of working there after OP tells the company they are unethical for sharing that information. The IT person may still want to work there, so I would talk to IT person first so they have that info. When the company keeps calling, you can tell them later why you chose another company. At that point IT person is in that job or at another.

    5. Sigrid*

      That’s exactly what I came on here to say. Maybe your in-house IT person did apply to this company — but maybe he didn’t. Either way, such a statement as a sales tactic is shady as hell.

  3. Ed*

    #4 It might just be me but I personally wouldn’t use the term brain injury. I know it’s factually correct but it sounds much severe than concussion.

    1. Seal*

      +1 to this. Concerns about the after effects of concussions have been all over the news in recent months, so many if not most people will have some awareness of what you’re going through.

      As far as not shaking hands goes, are you still in a cast or sling? If so, it should be self-explanatory as to why you can’t shake hands normally. Otherwise, tell people you hurt your right arm in a recent bike accident while offering your other hand. That gives people an explanation as to why you are going against convention and makes for an ice breaker of sorts (as opposed to talking about the weather).

    2. Jazzy Red*

      That’s the first thing I thought of, too. “Brain injury” sounds permanent whereas “effects of a concussion” is temporary.

      A friend of mine fell on Christmas Eve and suffered a concussion, and is still dealing with the aftereffects (that’s 7 months now). I was surprised to learn how long it takes to recover from a concussion.

      1. The Other Katie*

        I had a severe concussion in 2004, and I am still dealing with the aftereffects. I still substitute words like the #4 OP is doing and I often take a minute to get my thoughts together. I lost significant chunks of my memory completely, and have issues with my long-term memory (short term memories often don’t translate to long term memories). The worst part is that I ended up with severe migraines. I get one about once a week, and that is an improvement over what it has been in the past.

        For OP #4 – I have to say that besides the migraines, which cause me to use sick time, most of my coworkers don’t know and don’t notice the effects of the brain injury. I’d give the head’s up in the interview situation, but I’ve noticed many people use words incorrectly or stumble when speaking, so I don’t think I come off as any different. At least no one has ever said anything, and I have some brutally honest people in my life!

        For OP #4 – I have to say that besides the migraines, which cause me to use sick time, most of my coworkers don’t know and don’t notice the effects of the brain injury. I’d give the head’s up in the interview situation, but I’ve notcied many people use words incorrectly or stumble when speaking, so I don’t think I come off as any different.

        1. C Average*

          I have some colleagues who definitely suffer from what I’ve always thought of as That Word Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means Syndrome. Maybe they have concussions somewhere in their medical history . . .

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, everybody says the wrong word now and then. And so many people have migraines or know others who do that most wouldn’t question your being absent for that reason.

          Migraines suck, and I’m sorry you have to deal with them.

          1. The Other Katie*

            Thanks Elizabeth. I am just grateful that they are less than what they were. After my concussion, I had almost two years of constant migraines. It was so disabling that I missed most of my senior year of high school, not that I would remember it if I had attended! It’s definitely better than it used to be. I’ve also been very lucky to have been employeed at organizaitons that have been very understanding.

      2. Angora*

        I would leave the phrase “brain injury” out of the conversation. Go with suffering a mild concussion.

    3. Jess*

      I was just about to comment and say the same thing. Brain injury is such a vague term and it really does sound pretty severe. It’s use might be more understandable if the only other way to describe your injury was with relatively unknown medical terminology, but a concussion is a common enough injury that most people would know the term (even if they’re not familiar with exactly what it means or its effects) and would probably be pretty understanding.

    4. Artemesia*

      If at all possible I would not mention the head injury; there is no way to spin that that is reassuring. I have a friend whose concussion was two years ago and she still has serious memory and word usage problems. An employer is going to fear that is the case. I’d rather go slow in responding and ‘fake it’ then discuss a brain injury during an interview; I would be afraid this would take me out of the running.

      1. Op#4*

        I think I’m going to follow that advice. One interview is today ( in a few hours, wish me luck!) and it would feel weird to call a few hours ahead and let them know. The interview I’m really excited about is later in the week and because of the work they do, their number is unlisted and there’s no contact info on the website.

        Any general advice for recovering from interview flubs or taking a long time to answer the question?

        1. holly*

          would it be a good idea to begin with, “let me think about that for a second” if you knew you were going to take awhile to answer? or some form of that sentence. “let me organize my thoughts.” just so you don’t sit there in silence.

          i think any flubs can be fixed in the moment with whatever you actually wanted to say.

        2. Juni*

          If you can put your right arm in a sling, DO IT. Go out to CVS and buy one now. Then you won’t have to worry about explaining that part. Just say you got in a bike accident a few weeks ago, but you’re healing well.

          Don’t give your interviewer any excuse to discriminate against you. Don’t bring up the concussion. Don’t say the words “brain injury.”

        3. James M*

          My advice: prepare and practice (!) phrases to cover for potential flubs. Just saying something innocuous (e.g: not “clatu verata nicto”) without needing to think about it can give you a merciful 2 seconds of non-awkwardness.

          I wish you luck (and an expedited recovery).

          1. QualityControlFreak*

            I think this is good advice. I was very lucky to recover from my concussion/epidural hemorrhage/traumatic brain injury without any problems with word substitution, and the only lost memories appear to be those between impact and waking up in the ICU. However, injury aside, I sometimes have trouble remembering the exact word I want to use, so practicing any likely scenarios up front (along with phrases to buy yourself time) is a good idea – for anyone! Good luck, and a speedy recovery to you!

            1. Op#4*

              You guys, the interview went great! I was able to shake hands normally, which set my confidence. In the interview, I had a bad brain to mouth moment and just said something like “I’m sorry, I had a concussion a few weeks ago and it takes a minute to get from brain to mouth”. The interviewer asked about the accident and we chatted briefly in a friendly way about the location, which is an infamous local hazard for bikers.

              Thank you all so much for your advice! Like everybone says, it comes down to preparation and confidence. I feel like I presented myself well and did my best, which is all you can hope for.

              Now, on to the interview thank you note!

              1. Erica B*

                Great to hear! I think you handled it well, and it came up naturally on its own which is way less awkward I think. Good luck in the hunt!

      2. neverjaunty*

        I agree. The Miss Manners “Sorry, I have a problem with my arm” is way better for explaining the odd handshake.

      3. Jennifer*

        I had a friend who had a head injury and was interviewing for jobs a few months later. I would not mention it unless you HAD to. My friend finds it really noticeable when she forgets words (because she’s doing it all day, she says), but I honestly don’t notice it being “out of the ordinary” at all until she says it is. I think you’re more likely to “pass” than you think. My friend got the job, after all….

  4. Artemesia*

    for #1 I speak from experience when I say, when you start noticing signs like this, start looking for a job immediately. It doesn’t matter whether you are being warned or not, clearly when a company is having financial problems, layoffs are likely and if you are a likely layoff take these obvious signs seriously. I worked for an organization that had been around forever; we knew times were tough, but we never dreamed the place would crater. Even when people came in and put little numbers on everything, taking an inventory of property, we didn’t realize that it meant it was all over. Duh.

    My daughter knew her company was badly managed and expected layoffs but she misjudged how soon they would come since she was working on a big new project. Her whole office got the ax and the big new project transferred to another office.

    Anytime you see the signs, begin to mentally prepare to move on and begin serious efforts to find out what your options are.

    1. Brittany*

      +1 to this. I knew layoff’s were coming eventually to my old job but I was a bit blindsided by how fast they came due to the fact that we were still signing new business. Tons of us from all levels in the company got the ax and they ousted the founder and COO on her birthday. When you feel it in your gut like something is up, it’s time to brush up your resume.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        One of our guys was laid off on his 30th anniversary with the company. Heartless b@stards.

      2. OP #1*

        It’s the same thing here – we have new business and they’re even remodeling on my floor and building another building nearby for new staff, BUT there’s a hiring freeze, a freeze on non-essential travel, and we’ve had our salary increases moved to Sept. from July (which I posted about in open thread a few weeks ago). We’ve had lots of growth, which is good, but at the same time, it’s starting to feel like the cash flow problem is getting to be too much.

        They’ve only let go of one VP to restructure departments, but once that happened, I wondered whether more staff changes/cuts would be made, and since then, all the above has happened. Scary stuff when your personal circumstances (new mom, financial difficulties exacerbated by yearly raise being held off, etc.) make layoffs a nightmare scenario.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          It’s right to be a bit nervous. Something else that has always been a good indication to me that layoffs are coming – contract labor is eliminated.

          1. OP #1*

            I’ve noticed contractors aren’t employed here as much in some positions – one that was super active on our social media dropped off the radar, and I looked on her Facebook profile (since I monitor our page), and she was interviewing elsewhere. What’s troubling is her role was in tech, and we are badly in need of skilled tech people. So I’m not sure what to think other than that I need to keep looking for jobs if I’m let go.

        2. Angora*

          A large percentage of a company’s expense is salary. Many times when they are investing a large sum of money into buildings and other capital expenditures, they will cut staffing costs by eliminating positions, or placing freezing on hiring and/or raises.

        3. Jen RO*

          On the other have, my company went through the same thing (repeatedly) and it never meant financial trouble, they were simply trying to save money and make more profit. We had a hiring freeze about 2 years ago, but since it was lifted hundreds of people were hired in my location.

          1. OP #1*

            Yeah, that’s what I hope happens. They had layoffs about 6 years ago, so I hope we avoid that. Not going to hold my breath, though.

    2. Liane*

      Even if you don’t think you are a “likely layoff,” start preparing, as your daughter’s situation shows. Husband thought 1 of his former positions was safe because No One Else knew how to do some very important parts. He was in layoff round 2, which came very close after round 1, and it was not pleasant to be training someone who was being kept on.
      Companies can also change their layoff timetables–or perhaps even misrepresent them. Years before, another company where Husband worked was bought by a larger better known company, which decided to move everything to another state–but layoff all but 2 or 3 of the employees they had acquired. The anouncement was made around January, and employees were told this wouldn’t happen until August, with a few laid-off employees staying on through early October. By the end of February, everyone was gone and the plant shuttered.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        That’s really common, too.

        Be aware, OP. Management almost never tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Trust your instincts and start looking for a new job. Looking (and even interviewing) are not commitments. Even if nothing bad happens at work, at least you did your due diligence.

        1. OP #1*

          Thanks for your suggestion. I had already submitted some applications before this came up, but now I feel like I may be one that’s cut because 1) they can’t tie everything I do directly to ROI (social media/SEO) versus other people in my department (technical writers/designers), and 2) I’ve only been here a year. Moreover, every week there’s something new going on with finances (cutting travel, cutting other expenses), so it’s only a matter of time before cutting people comes up.

        2. Anon for this*

          The company where I work said there would be a reduction in force, but it would be done through attrition. Then they started combining departments and letting people go. When they got to our department, a bunch were laid off. This was about 4 months after the email talking about attrition. I think that was their original plan but it would have been nice to have a communication that they were changing from attrition to layoffs because the way it was done felt like dishonesty.

          Fortunately, I survived the layoffs. This time.

    3. OP #1*

      Thanks for your feedback. I had already been starting the job search before some of the financial issues came to light, but after seeing she was going to speak with another VP about our department’s staffing, it convinced me something’s going on. Despite having new business and even building a new building next door, I’m not confident there won’t be layoffs. Every week there’s a new financial issue. Last week, it was that 15% of non-payroll expenses had to be cut. Guess payroll is next…

      1. Juni*

        The new building next door could easily be built with funds from another company who is awaiting it’s completion to finalize a closed sale.

        1. OP #1*

          That’s true. They have told us it’s ours and that the contact center folks on one floor will relocate there, but I’d rather see it before I believe it. Should be done in a month or so.

  5. Aussie Teacher*

    Alison, there’s a few typos in #2:
    “it’s incredibly an incredibly crappy thing to do”
    “no idea if they’d accept their offer” – should be “he’d accept”

    #2. What a horrid situation. Please do go back to that company and challenge them on the way they’ve handled this – it’s absolutely thoughtless and, as others have pointed out, potentially not even true, but certainly very damaging to your IT guy’s continued employment there.

      1. fposte*

        Alison has invited corrections to her responses, but she’s asked that posters not unsolicitedly correct the OP or one another. So let it go.

  6. University Allison*

    #3 I had to do two full day interviews when my daughter was 7 months old, plus a travel day on either side. I would STRONGLY recommend that you be straightforward with your interviewers well before you arrive, otherwise you’ll just suffer.

    I opted not to ask for any accommodation, and that was the end of breastfeeding for me. (I didn’t have a strong supply anyway, but that trip was the death knell.) Not saying this will happen to you, just sharing my story.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, just tell them upfront. By US law, employers have to provide a private, non-bathroom space for women to pump, but if they haven’t had any employees that needed it yet they won’t have a space setup, and if you wait until the day of the interview they might have to scramble to find a space, or the person with keys to the space.
      The way the company treats a pumping mom during an interview will probably say a lot about how they will deal with it as an employee. If they are matter-of-fact about it, that’s a good sign. If they make a (negative) fuss, chances are they also will be the type of place to not respect your need for breaks to pump during the workday.
      Last, be prepared for all worst case scenarios – extra nursing pads in your purse, battery packsbif there isnt electricity and ice pscks for if there isnt a fridge, and a towel in your pump bag for your lap – I once spilled milk all over my lap right before a meeting with the big bosses – not fun. Very worst case, a hand pump in your purse used in the ladies room would work in an emergency, but hopefully it won’t come to that.
      Last, most interviews will be meeting with a series of people, so scheduling a break for you between interviewers shouldn’t be a problem. I’d say “2-3 hours” or “3-4 hours” and “for 15-20 minutes” (or whatever applies to you) to give them a little flexibility in creating the day’s schedule.

      1. cv*

        As Meg Murray said, definitely tell them beforehand so they can figure out arrangements. When I started a new job recently, my supervisor was a 20-something gay man who had never thought about any of this before and had to go to HR to find someone who knew something about the existing arrangements in my large, bureaucratic organization. Even with a little advance warning, it took a couple of days to get the appropriate keys and whatnot set up, and I’m still using a room across the building instead of the one close by because of issues with keys and the schedule with other people using the rooms. I’d also second the idea of a hand pump as backup.

      2. Meg Murry*

        And FYI for the “is it legal?” questioners, here is a link to the law:
        Since its part of the Fair Labor Standards Act the break time requirements technically only apply to hourly employees, but most reasonable companies apply it equally to hourly and salaried employees.

      3. mweis77*

        Just fyi, the law only applies to hourly workers in companies with fewer than 50 employees. However, they way they react to this request will tell you a LOT. I pumped for a year in a supportive environment. It makes a huge difference. And ditto on all the other tips Meg Murry shared.

        (Meg Murry – love your name and I think we have the same taste in books :) And I want to cry now thinking about spilling the milk on your lap. Those who say “don’t cry over spilled milk” never pumped!)

        1. JoAnna*

          I believe it’s hourly workers in companies with *more* than 50 employees.

          OP #3, if you don’t have one already, I recommend investing in a car adapter for your pump. Worst case scenario, if they can’t find you a room or the one they arranged for you doesn’t work out for some reason, you can pump in your car. (If needed, you can get there early and pump before you go in, and/or pump right before you leave to go home.)

          And yes, a supportive environment is huge. I have a dedicated room for pumping (it’s used as a small conference room when I’m not using it) and it makes such a difference.

          1. OP3*

            Good idea! I do actually have an adapter, so I will be sure to bring it with me just in case.

        2. Observer*

          You are not entirely correct. The Federal statute only covers hourly employees, but covers ALL employers with more than 50 employees, while employers with fewer than 50 employees have to prove “undue hardship”.

          Many states have laws that are considerably broader than this, though, and those laws are not pre-empted by the Federal statute.

        3. hildi*

          “Those who say “don’t cry over spilled milk” never pumped!)”

          I had a friend whose friend came home from a long weekend and discovered her deep freeze had lost power and she lost her entire supply of stashed milk. I cried for her upon hearing that story. You’d have to scrape me off the floor, I think.

      4. CAA*

        The law only applies to employees, not interviewees, so if they don’t have a need for this in their current employee population, it’s entirely possible that they won’t be able to set one up on short notice for an interviewee and she may have to use a bathroom or borrow an office.

        At one of my previous employers, this was a huge issue. We were in a very old, very small, very overcrowded building. It had been remodeled to have two floors of open space and only two smaller rooms that had glass walls and doors, one of which was the CEO’s office. Although we had far fewer than 50 employees, we are in a state that applies the law uniformly (besides, we’re decent people who want to support breastfeeding), so the only solution was to curtain off a section of the back hallway that leads to a bathroom and provide a “Privacy Please” sign for the new Mom to hang at the entrance to the hallway. I do not think I’d have been able to pump successfully in that environment, knowing that my coworkers couldn’t use the bathroom and could hear the pump.

        1. Observer*

          To be honest, if a place couldn’t come up with SOMEPLACE decent to pump with a bit of notice, that would be a huge red flag. Especially if they are not that small. So, be up front ahead of time.

      5. dawbs*

        Good stuff up there, the only other thing I’d add is that if there’s a way for you to do the schedule, do it. Saying “I could make that time, and am looking forward to it, could we schedule a break at 10 am?” works better than explaining you need a break between 9 and 11–because people don’t ‘get’ some of the stuff and I found more than a few people were caught pretty flat-footed when I explained what I needed.

        (also, going between places, cars aren’t a bad place to pump. I pumped on my commute for about 16 months–pop on cover, use hands free thingy, plug into car adapter, turn on–drive for 20 minutes, turn off. PUll off at rest-stop, pop everything off, put milk in cooler–tada!)

        1. Erica B*

          I was going to suggest a hand pump. When I was breastfeeding it’s what I used exclusively. I never lugged around the big awkward plug in thing. I tried it at the hospital and I wasn’t a fan. When on the go or at work I would pump in the car. it wasn’t bad, and most cars have tinted rear windows, so you can sit in the backseat comfortably without people really noticing.

      6. OP3*

        Good suggestions, thanks! I did end up asking for accommodations and they said it would not be a problem, which is a big relief! Someone else suggested a hand pump, which is a great idea, so I’m going to try that too beforehand to see how that works and if it’s less conspicuous than the big electric pump.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Do not rely on a hand pump for a full 8 hour day. Its fine for an emergency, but since you have to do one side at a time and it isn’t as strong as a double electric it takes far more than 2x as long. And it gives you major hand cramps after a few sessions. Save it for emergency use or for when you will miss a single feeding.
          If you already have the accommodations, they will not be surprised when you show up with a pump bag. As long as it isn’t a pastel diaper bag with frolicking baby animals, no one will care that you have a pump bag.
          Are you pumping at your current job now, or are you still on maternity leave? If still on leave, make sure you take the time to get comfortable with your pump – an interview in a strange place shouldn’t be your first time using it.

          1. Erica B*

            To each their own here. I used a hand pump exclusively for 2 children, worked full time and it worked fine for me. I probably did it for atleast 6 months for each kid. It depends on the pump and your milk supply.

            I am not trying to argue, but just commenting that it IS okay to hand pump exclusively if that’s what works for you.

          2. Op3*

            Thanks, good to know. I just ordered the hand pump do I’ll try it out. I might just bring the electric one with me though since it will go faster. I’m pumping at work now, so I’ve got the procedure down.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I agree with everyone so far that yes, you want an employer who is supportive of and accommodating to new mothers, and this is a chance to see where they are on that.

      However, while we’re generally a smart, sensitive, and insightful group of commenters here, let me pre-empt any potential “just suck it up” comments by pointing out that unless the mother’s supply is already very low as mentioned by University Allison, not pumping for even a full 8-hour work day will cause extreme discomfort, and probably pain and lots of leaking. It’s very much like having to hold your pee for 8 hours while constantly drinking water. It’s not just about parenting styles, it’s a physiological issue, so please let’s not get into that.

      IANALC (I am not a lactation consultant), just a dad who strongly supports breast feeding.

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        Oh goodness yes! Even if she didn’t pump she’s soak through her bra and shirt unless she pops into the bathroom really often to change her nursing pads.

      2. Laura*

        Not to mention the risk of plugged ducts and/or mastitis, which is an infection and can make you quite sick – not to be toyed with.

        Not pumping when you need to hurts. Quite a bit.

      3. TotesMaGoats*

        The thought of not pumping for 8 hours makes everything in me cringe. I get grumpy if I can’t pump every three. But it did get me out of jury duty.

    3. WorkingMom*

      OP #3 – I can also relate! I had a long meeting with a client once and had to ask to use their restroom to pump, and it was totally fine, no big deal at all. I agree to be straightforward upfront and let them know that you’ll need a short 15-20 minute break every X hours. I’m sure it won’t be an issue, and like AAM said, if it IS a big deal to them in a negative way, best to know that early.

      Also agree with being prepared. Have your power plug and battery pack, small towel, ice pack/storage for milk, etc.

      Good luck!!

    4. hildi*

      For those that successfully navigated this, I’m curious exactly what terms you used to tell your interviewers you needed a break? I’m assuming you were straightforward and said ‘pump’ or something like that. That’s how I always referred to it when I was training in a facility and asked if they had a room. “lactation room” always sounded so odd to me, but “pumping” wasn’t a whole lot better. It’s probably just me, but those words always sounded so blunt to my ears. Wondered if there was a more discreet way others have found to convey it.

      1. OP3*

        I agee– phrasing it was part of my concern and I thought about just asking for long breaks “due to a medical issue,” but I ultimately thought that would be weirder than just asking for a pumping break– so that’s what I just asked for. Fortunately my contact is a woman– I’m not sure how I’d feel if I had to ask a man for the same accommodation and putting it in blunt terms.

    5. OP3*

      Thanks! I did ask for the accommodation and at one of the sites they have a lactation room with a code to the door, so they are getting me the code. They might end up splitting the interview between 2 days since it’s at 2 sites, so it might work out that I don’t have to pump at all if they are less than 3 hours each day! Glad I asked!

      One of the pieces that had me worried is that while I know the person who would be my direct supervisor is ok with it ( since I mentioned my baby in the first interview, since I wanted to be sure they were family friendly) , the interview was at the central office which is more formal/stuffy with older men who might not be as receptive to accommodating a mom with a young kid. Looks like it will work out though!

      1. Meg Murry*

        Even if it turns out to be less than 3 hours, I would take the pump in the car with you. That way if it runs over you can pump in the car (in a different parking lot) before driving home if you have more than a few minute drive home. Few things worse than being stuck in traffic and not havin nursed or pumped for 4+ hours when you are used to only going 2 or 3.

  7. Gene*

    Let’s see if we can get through this thread without jumping on the “dream job” bandwagon. Mmmmkay?

      1. Ali*

        This blog is part of the reason why I realized my dream job really wasn’t that! (Of course, I had an outside influence too, but I don’t want to get too off-topic here…)

    1. AVP*

      I like that Alison put the link in the article, which negates the point of the comment bandwagon!

    2. C Average*

      Sometimes I dream about my job. Usually when that happens, I wake up with my heart pounding and then can’t go back to sleep and wind up getting up, powering up the laptop, and sending work emails in the middle of the night.

      If this is what “dream job” means, you might want to be careful what you wish for!

      (I like my job most of the time. It’s a good job. It’s not my dream job, though. My dream job would involve somehow monetizing my AAM addiction and the quality time I spend with my cat. Probably not going to happen.)

      1. Laura*

        I knew it was a very bad week at work several years ago when I woke up from a dream in which I was climbing through a screen full of code, each letter of which was twice my height, trying to find a bug.

        I’m with you, if that’s what “dream job” means, I don’t need a dream job! I like my job fine during the day…but if it invades my sleep, I’m not as thrilled about that. :)

      2. Jazzy Red*

        I had a very busy job once, and I commented to my boss that I was writing specs in a dream last night. I did ask for overtime pay, of course.

  8. NW Cat Lady*

    I saw the headline for this one and immediately thought, “breastfeeding during an interview is extremely unprofessional!”

    I knew (or at least sincerely hoped) that couldn’t be the actual question.

    1. TK*

      This reminds me of the classic entry on one of the “crazy interview stories” threads, about the interviewer who started breastfeeding midway through an interview, and when finished, continued the interview while remaining completely topless.

  9. VG*

    “I worry that they’ll see me as an invalid, not as a viable candidate.”

    Hmm, people with disabilities can also be viable candidates though. I agree it’s best to be upfront, good luck with your recovery and the job OP#4

  10. FD*

    #2: If you do think it’s true, I wonder if it might be legitimate to talk to the associate about it? Not to push him out, but to say something like, “Hey, word was passed on to us through the grapevine that you might be job searching. We’re not looking to push you out prematurely, but if you are looking to move on, maybe we can work out a good transition plan?”

  11. TotesMaGoats*

    #3-I second asking for the accommodations up front. And I would get a hand pump too. I forgot my flanges one day last month and had to run out and buy new but I also picked up a hand pump while I was out there. Never hurts to be prepared. I had to work a conference and had the joy of sitting on a toilet to pump…with the electric cord going under the door and around a half wall….and women talked to me while I was pumping. OMG. It was all sweet and supportive but I was concentrating on balancing everything and not spilling. Just ignore me!

    And like everyone has said, if it seems like the employer views this as a red flag or you get the problem child label, run away. It sounds like you plan to pump for a while yet to come and you don’t want to have to deal with an uncooperative employer.

    1. OP3*

      A hand pump is a good solution! That would fit more unobtrusively in my large purse than hauling the pump around! Great idea!

  12. Kayza*

    The others have given you some good advice on the pumping issue.

    One think you should not have to worry about – looking “unprofessional” with your equipment. If you haven’t yet, invest in a good quality pump (which your insurance may actually cover). When you choose the model get one that comes with / in a case. I’ve had really good experience with the Medela Pump-In-style, but there are a number of choices. The nice thing about the better models is that they are designed for you to have everything you need in one neat, carryable bag – and the nicer ones don’t scream “diaper bag” :)

    Here is an example of what I mean.

    1. aebhel*

      This. My pump (also Medela) comes in a plain black tote that doubles as a purse for me. It’s very discreet, and if people didn’t know I was pumping, they’d have no idea what it was.

      1. University Allison*

        This. My bag was mistaken for one of the portable projectors bags we have at work. From the outside, it doesn’t scream unprofessional at all.

        1. Observer*

          Oh, that’s really funny. That could totally have happened to me, as I did actually do a number of presentations requiring a portable projector during the time period I was pumping.

          1. bearing*

            A (male) admin where I used to work once asked me, in front of a lot of people, about my pump case, “what’s that? a French horn?”

            I really, really, really enjoyed looking him straight in the eye and answering, “No. It’s a breastpump.”

    2. OP3*

      I do have the medela, but I have the backpack version– which is great for carting around, but not the most professional. Someone else suggested a hand pump just for the interview, and that actually might work out very well since it should fit in my purse!

      1. Meg Murry*

        You might be able to pry the pump part out of the backpack and put it in a different bag. On the other hand, a company that doesn’t hire you because you are carrying a pump in a backpack isn’t one you want to work for. Just carry it in your hand, not on your back and you’ll be fine.
        At a minimum, put it in your car and just carry the hand pump into the building. But I highly discourage you from trying to get through the whole day on just a hand pump.

  13. OhNo*

    Re: #4

    If you ever feel awkward bringing this up out of the blue (because goodness knows I do), you can also phrase it as a question. For example, “Would it be possible to provide a written list of the questions? I’m recovering from a concussion, and sometimes it takes me a minute to get my thoughts in order and start speaking, but having a written version of the question asked will help me.”

    It can be any question you like that sounds related to the topic, even if it not strictly speaking something you need. It’s just a slightly less awkward way to introduce your disability into the conversation.

    FWIW, I always do this so I can “warn” whoever I’m interviewing with not to be shocked when I show up in a wheelchair. Usually I ask about accessible entrances, or parking, or elevators.

    1. Mimmy*

      I was mulling over how to respond to this question since it’s right up my alley, but I really like your idea. The law does allow you to request accommodations even for the interview–I don’t think the ADA covers temporary disabilities such as this (please correct me if I’m mistaken), but I still think this is a reasonable thing to do.

  14. Lily in NYC*

    #5 – I know it’s hard when you are anxious about a possible new job, but look at it this way: an out of office message from your main contact means they probably aren’t even going to discuss the candidates and make a choice until that person returns. Calling the person in the away message isn’t going to accomplish anything except to make you look eager or maybe even a little pushy. Sit on your hands if you have to! And do not contact the person who is away on their first day back in the office. Give them some breathing room. Not hearing anything for a few weeks is completely normal.

  15. Mimmy*

    #5 – This kind of thing really irks me, but Alison is right. Move on mentally so that if the recruiter does get back to you after his vacation, you can be pleasantly surprised.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. Sometimes they leave you hanging like this when they want you and so maybe this will work out fine. But often this is a sign they have moved on. Rather than sitting by the phone with a ‘will he call, will he, oh please let him’ expression, recognize it is time to move on in the search and be thrilled if it turns out they are still interested.

  16. #5Query*

    #5 Questioner chiming in. Thanks for the advice, Alison! Thankfully, I successfully sat on my hands, didn’t reach out, and am attempting “moving on.” I’m just feeling extra antsy as I am looking at apartments, and even though it’s not entirely rational, I’m having trouble not letting this “maybe” influence things. Thanks for the feedback and I’ll keep everyone posted.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      Personally, I see no harm in one short note to the covering person (not the emergency contact of course). If there’s a chance you can schedule something this way, it’s worth it. I think the potential downside is negligible (again, I’m saying one and only one friendly casual email).

  17. Glorified Plumber*

    OP#2, a couple of people have touched on it…

    But is it possible you could touch base with your IT associate? This guy/gal appears to be the one getting the most raw deal here. As others have pointed out, this guy/gal could be getting told one thing by this outsourcing firm, “Hey your firm is going to fire you, work for us!” while they tell you another, “Hey, your employee works for us, hire us!”

    If you can speak with him/her and maintain a healthy relationship (i.e. not be mad/hurt they are considering leaving) while doing so, this might be a GREAT teachable moment for BOTH of you.

    Him/Her about how other companies are shady like this, and how they should be very careful in the future. And yourself to get some practice at situations like this and help someone along in his or her career. Said employee may have some great info to share and would PROBABLY appreciate the advice.

    However, you cannot open with an emotional, “Hey, I hear you’re leaving me after all I did for you!” This seems to be more of a, “Hey ITJoe… there is something you probably want to be aware of. I know ShadyITFirm compromised your privacy, and I want you to know I am super angry about their behavior. I thought you might appreciate talking about it, because it was a crappy thing for them to do, and I am here to offer my support!”

    This kind of crap from prospective employers in quasi-incestuous industries (the kind where everyone used to work for everyone else back in the day) really makes me angry.

    REALLY curious to hear a follow up on this one.

  18. Anon55*

    #1 Your boss might be subconsciously tipping you off to the situation with the meeting invite. If your name isn’t similar to someone who should be involved then there’s a chance you were on her mind when she sent the invite. I once had an awful boss who would leave attendance reports and copies of PIPs at the floor printer for hours before picking them up. Depending on who saw them first there would be all sorts of drama.

    Some people would make them ‘disappear’ in the hopes of the boss being so scatterbrained that they’d forget about the write-ups/PIPs. My old boss would bounce between the man who could recite numbers to the 10th decimal place to such a severe loss of memory it appeared to be something medical. Obviously, when my old boss was called on some shady behavior everything became I don’t remeber, I don’t recall, that doesn’t sound like something I would do/say. He would never outright deny things because our floor had a funky set-up so you could never be 100% sure who was listening. We could never figure out if it was done this way to give people a deliberate heads up, a subconscious heads up, a power play or if they were just so incompetent this was standard protocol. This boss had a printer in their office so there was no legitimate reason for personal employee information to be out for everyone to see, but awful bosses are typically backed up by awful HRs and VPs. In our case if we’d mentioned these printouts it would have been deemed our fault for looking through the stack of printouts that were at the main printer, while we were looking for our individual printouts.

    But no matter what the reason for you getting the meeting invite there are a lot of other signs that your company is in financial trouble. You really should start looking for another job. After the travel cuts they may come for bonuses and raises next.

    1. OP #1*

      The weird part was my name and the intended recipient’s are nothing alike. My first name starts with M and hers with K. She said she was thinking of me for something else when she sent it, but it seemed like a weird coincidence when the meeting was about staffing in our department.

      I have applied for a few jobs here and there since before this happened and had one interview in early July, but I didn’t have quite enough experience for it. Hoping a few more come my way soon just in case!

  19. Kate*

    I had interviews while breastfeeding last year, when my daughter was 11 weeks old. I was pretty up-front about my needs — and I’ve been working for the place I interviewed (in a fantastic role that I love) since December. :) It’s super-awkward but worth being honest about. And there are decent odds that someone on the team either has also once been a nursing parent, or is partnered with someone who has been a nursing parent, and will be sympathetic.

  20. Astor*

    #2 “I had a meeting yesterday with an IT company that wants me to outsource ”

    I’m wondering if they prompted you to investigate outsourcing or if you called them first? Even if you called them first, something about this seems awkward and it’s useful for you to remember that they may have invited him to submit a resume (that he then submitted for curiosity, or because they told him they already had an appointment set up with you).

    Either way, make sure you’re planning on going with outsourcing because it’s right for your company and not just because of what might be going on with your current employee. And it’s worthwhile to bring it up with your employee so that if he does end of leaving, you can make sure it’s on good terms for both of you.

    1. Jamie*

      I agree – and please OP do not hold this against him. These companies badger IT all the time and it’s totally normal and acceptable to want to see what’s out there – so even if he sent a resume it doesn’t even mean he was looking.

      And it may be a load of crap – they could be completely lying about this.

      I really hope you tell them the reason you won’t ever do business with them is because of their unethical behavior. Maybe if they realize it will cost them business they will stop, since clearly their moral compass is broken.

  21. OP #1*

    Well, looks like I was right. My position has been eliminated in a layoff. Thank you all for your advice – I’m glad I went with my gut and started looking elsewhere.

    1. Anon55*

      Oh no! I’m so sorry, no matter what the situation it still sucks when you leave on someone else’s terms.

  22. Rev*

    #4 — To the OP, congratulations!

    As someone who has interviewed a person before who had a very similar circumstance, here’s what I was told by my HR department (after said interview): END THE INTERVIEW IMMEDIATELY. It’s also why we eliminated the “tell me about yourself” question from interviews. If there was any question that we didn’t hire the person because of the injury, they could sue us for discrimination. I was told to tell the person that I needed to end the interview, and before we could continue they would need to talk with our HR department. It sounds brutal, and I’m not entirely sure of all the reasoning, but we have to maintain a strict agenda when interviewing, and conversations cannot deviate from the set topics.

    (If you can’t tell, I work in a corporate international environment.)

Comments are closed.