saying you have to talk over a job offer with your spouse, ordered to appear “enthusiastic and upbeat,” and more

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

1. Saying that you have to talk over a job offer with your spouse

What are your thoughts on telling a potential employer, “I will need to talk this over with my husband/wife” when considering a job offer? Does it sound too dependent or is it just honest?

It’s pretty common to say “I’d like a few days to think it over and talk with my spouse.”

That said, there’s no need to say it. People without spouses also ask for time to think over offers. It’s fine to simply say, “I’d like to take a few days to think this over. Could I get back to you by Friday?”

2. Our director wants us to be “enthusiastic and upbeat” at a town hall which will probably bring bad news

My department recently received an email from our department director that said the following: “I am not typically a rah-rah kinda guy, but I am requesting that we be as enthusiastic and upbeat as possible tomorrow, without it being obviously phony. “

To fill you in, the smallish company I work for is owned by a large billion dollar organization. The company is under-performing due to our parent company not willing to invest in technology upgrades that are needed to become competitive again. Each year, the employees lose more and more. Our benefits are constantly downgraded, yearly bonuses removed, raises never higher than 1% or less, and that’s just a small sampling of the continual downward spiral of employee treatment. For the last two years, our quarterly “Town Hall” meetings have been coming with reorganization that includes employee layoffs. The last two included laying off individuals who had been with our little company since inception, and it was done without mentioning they were doing it. We would return from the off-site meeting and discover empty desks. All that coupled with continual spending to look the part of a casual tech company, and the continued growth of required job duties has really brought morale down.

So this morning it was announced that a last-minute town hall was again scheduled to go over first quarter, with the instructions I posted above. Can the director really make such a request a requirement? I would appreciate any advice you may have.

Well, I think it’s more nuanced than that. Is he going to fire you if you look a little downtrodden and less than enthusiastic to be there? Pretty unlikely. Might he hold it against you in more subtle ways? Sure. But the other question to ask is whether he’s giving this direction because he genuinely believes it’s in your best interest — for example, he may know that your whole department is being looked at for cuts, and he knows that if people look pissed off or checked out, that’s not going to help. He may also be negotiating for something more for your department and will have a harder time getting it if that’s how you all show up. Or, yes, he might just not be thinking any further than some vague idea of shiny, happy corporate citizens, which is gross.

In any case, I don’t think you have to show up with pom poms, but it’s probably smart to look interested and engaged.

3. My boss thinks I’m struggling after only a couple of weeks on the job

I work at a PR firm as a marketing rep. After two weeks at my current job, the senior manager called me in to discuss my performance. He told me he thinks I’m “struggling.” I thanked him for calling me in and told him that I don’t think I’m struggling, but rather since the position is new I think I’m just learning my new job. To be honest, I think two weeks is an unrealistic time frame to assess my performance.

Three days later, he called me into his office saying the mistakes I had been making haven’t improved. He used examples like giving him one copy of a form instead of the two he asked for, and putting some marketing packets together out of order. He then told me he would have to take steps to fire me if he wasn’t happy with my performance from here on.

Are his expectations unrealistic? Granted, I’ve made some mistakes, but I’m just getting used to the job and don’t think I should be fired so early on. I live in a small town where it is hard to find jobs in PR.

You can definitely spot certain types of performance issues in two weeks. You wouldn’t expect someone to be performing perfectly in two weeks, but in many jobs you can tell if someone is catching on to the basics, retaining a reasonable amount of info, paying attention to instructions, approaching the work with conscientiousness, and so forth. I’ve definitely known the sinking “oh crap, this may have been the wrong hire” feeling pretty early on.

It’s hard to know for sure from here, but it’s possible that the types of mistakes you describe could be legitimately worrying. If you once put a packet together out of order or once got the number of forms he needed wrong, that’s not a big deal. But if it’s part of a pattern of lots of little mistakes like that and the job requires focus and attention to detail, he could be right to worry that you’re not getting pretty straightforward stuff right. I’d say the thing to do at this point is to see if you can figure out where the mistakes are coming from (do you need to slow down? take better notes? ask for clarification on assignments?), and really focus in on those areas.

4. My new coworkers are unhappy that I had to take emergency leave soon after starting

I started a new job as a scientist in the beginning of this past April. In the last week of May, our six-month-old had heart failure and had to have open heart surgery. He then got sick in the hospital. Therefore, I took my PTO and unpaid leave for six straight weeks. After being back at work (where there is always drama in my small department — eight people in a company of 6,000 people) for nine days, I was in a terrible car accident where I rolled down an embankment (the guy was charged with reckless endangerment in the first degree). I took five days off for the accident.

How do I handle my coworkers? I want to prove that I’m not unreliable, but I want their nasty comments about being out of work and being a mom to stop. My boss is sorta awesome — she made me leave work to be with baby boy, but in general, if you’re a good worker, she could care less if you have a horrible attitude or are a mean person. What do I do?

Your coworkers are making nasty comments about your baby needing open heart surgery and you being in a serous car accident? Your coworkers sound like pretty terrible people. I don’t know exactly what they’re saying to you, but I’d just stick to responses like, “It’s been a terrible and scary time, and I’m glad to be back at work” or — if you feel like being more pointed about it — “I’m not sure I understand what you mean — you understand my child had heart failure and I was in a serious car accident, right?”

(That said, I’m not sure what your situation allows for now, but if you’re able to go above and beyond to pull your weight in your department — volunteering to take on something extra or filling in for someone else — that may help. Nasty remarks aren’t in any way okay, but it may have been truly hard to have a new hire out for seven weeks in her first few months, and if you’re able to show that you’re now fully there, it could make things easier.)

I hope your baby is doing well and that you’re recovered from the accident — and that things look up from here.

5. How will the new overtime rule affect me?

I currently work for a nonprofit and I am a salaried employee. Our normal work week is 35 hours. I make a lot less than the new law requires (over $10,000 annually). I almost never work over 40 hours a week. Can you tell me how or if this new law will affect me?

Assuming your salary doesn’t get raised the new threshold of $47,476 on December 1, you’ll become non-exempt. That means that your employer will need to pay you overtime for any hours over 40 you work in a week. Of course, if you continue not working 40 hours a week, it won’t really impact you. But on any weeks where you do, you’ll need to track and report those hours and get paid for them. (The fact that your organization has set a 35-hour work week won’t impact things. The law is based on a 40-hour week, even if your organization uses a different one.)

{ 528 comments… read them below }

  1. mags*

    #4 – Your coworkers seem like truly terrible people. I honestly cannot imagine dealing with them after the stressful time you’ve been having. Were they at all nasty toward you before your leave? I wonder if you perhaps received a position one of them though they deserved, or something of that sort, and are now even more PO’d that you left so early into the position.

    I hope you and your baby are fully recovered.

    1. Lauren*

      Thank you for your well wishes. They were antisocial before I left, but now it’s just plain mean. I.e. “People who take unexpected PTO are the worst” or “Moms shouldn’t be allowed to work from home because they can’t dedicate to their work 100% of the time.

      I have a meeting with HR this morning as I have requested a departmental transfer per my doctor’s instructions (I had to go on anxiety medication because of the PPA that developed after I started working). I’m hoping it goes well. I moved my family for this job.


      1. Gaia*

        While it doesn’t directly apply to you (because concessions absolutely must be made when a child is critically ill), as a nonparent it does irritate me when parents (mons and dads) work from home in lieu of hiring childcare. You really can’t have the same focus on your work when you are watching your child (because, again, obviously a child is the priority over work) and that can cause issues for coworkers. I’ve seen it too many times to not get irritated.

        While your coworkers should 100% sit down and shut up, perhaps this is where their comments are coming from or from a bad past experience? I agree with Alison that, if possible, dedicating yourself and proving your work ethic will go a long way to showing you aren’t just some “slacker” but you are someone who got a ton of terrible crap thrown at you.

        I hope you and your son are recovering well

        1. Myrin*

          But as far as I can tell, that isn’t even OP’s situation – she says she took PTO and unpaid leave when her son was sick, not that she arranged to work at home for that time.

          1. Lauren*

            Correct-they just hate when other moms from other departments work from home occasionally (like 1x every 2 weeks)

            1. HRChick*

              Not that it excuses any of their behavior at all and I hope you and your baby are healing well, but – are non-parents allowed to work from home? Or only parents while taking care of their kids? If they’re allowed to work from home, what are they complaining about??

              1. Anon13*

                Like you, I recognize that this is a completely separate issue and the OP’s coworkers are jerks, but even if non-parents are allowed to work from home on occasion, there’s a strong argument to be made that people should not be working from home while their kids are present. Of course, it would be the responsibility of a supervisor, not coworkers, to bring this up, but it can be difficult to communicate effectively with someone whose attention is divided. Many workplaces actually require that work-from-home parents prove they have outside childcare for this very reason.

                1. mirinotginger*

                  I was on a call yesterday and all of a sudden there was a baby screaming in the background of the call. The only person talking was the person reporting. Obviously I have no idea what his personal situation was, or if there was a child-minder there, or if his kid was sick and it was an emergency, or whatever, but it was very distracting on our call.

                2. sickypants*

                  I guess I shouldn’t speak for other parents, but when I occasionally work from home while my child is there, it is because my kid is sick, and the only other alternative is for me to take a sick day. Often I do take a sick day and still work from home as much as I can. Then when I catch what my child has, I end up having to come into work while sick so everything can get done. It really sucks. So when you are feeling resentful, try to remember that generally speaking parents are trying to make the best of a really difficult situation, not attempting to make your life more difficult.

                  Aside from this, any arguments about work from home policy should be taken up with management, not the coworker working from home.

                3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  sickypants, the point is that if you’re caring for a child you’re not working, in which case you should take sick or vacation time.

                  If you’re not actually providing care, but just supervision and occasional check-ins, then this can work well. Otherwise, even though it’s a crappy situation for you, it’s not fair to your employer (or colleagues that have to pick up the slack).

                  All that being said, lots of jobs can be done asynchronously. I can imagine staying home with a sick kid, working for a couple of hours in the morning while they slept, hanging out with them for the afternoon, having a normal evening and then working a couple of hours while my husband took over — therefore only taking half a day of PTO. Nobody would complain about that at my job.

                4. VintageLydia*

                  @Victoria Nonprofit
                  Well, the coworkers would be picking up the slack if she took a full sick day, too. At least this way she can lighten that burden a bit.

                5. Koko*

                  I think it can depend a lot on the age of the child and how sick they are. When I was in elementary school my (single) mom worked from home full-time anyway, but when I was sick and stayed home from school she wasn’t actively caring for me at that age. I was in my bedroom sleeping or playing video games all day. When she got up to fix lunch she might pop by my room to feel my forehead and ask if I needed anything, but other than that she was just working the way she normally did.

                  There’s a big difference between an 8 year old sick in bed with a stomach bug vs a healthy 2 year old running around playing all day in terms of how much supervision they need.

                6. Kira*

                  Like Koko says, I can see two very different situations. In one, the child needs attention. They’re young, playing, need supervision, and the caregiver gives them a lot of time. In the other (the version I remember from growing up), an older child is sleeping or taking care of their own needs, but maybe can’t be left home alone at their age. Maybe the parent is just bringing the child food & water, and checking for change in condition, but not being interrupted by the child.

                7. Anon13*

                  Sickypants, I actually don’t feel resentful at all, please don’t assign feelings to me that aren’t there. Victoria, thank you for your response, that’s what I was getting at. Additionally, note that the original comment to which I replied was simply about working from home with a child and mentioned nothing about the child or parent having an illness.

                8. catsAreCool*

                  I think it depends on the age and maturity of the kid/kids – some kids are old enough to be OK on their own but still young enough that an adult should be in the house just in case.

                1. justcourt*

                  OP’s state (assuming she is from the US) might provide additional protections for employees.

              1. Meg*

                OP probably didn’t use FML because that doesn’t kick in until you have been on the job for a year.

              2. Gandalf the Nude*

                Technically it’s not FML since she’s not been there a year yet. And while status as a parent isn’t protected by the EEOC or most state laws, if those comments become too gendered, that’s absolutely something to discuss with your manager and HR.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Yes, this comment had nothing to do with the OP’s situation, and “bad experiences” with moms neither explains nor in any way justifies how the OP’s terrible co-workers are behaving.

          1. Anna*

            Thank you for bringing that up. I was looking for a good place to ask people to drop the whole “parents working from home” thing. Unrelated and sure, let’s make the OP feel shittier

        3. BananaPants*

          This is really not relevant to the OP’s concern.

          My manager is fine with his employees working from home occasionally to attend to personal matters, which can range from taking care of a sick kid to waiting for the cable guy. He does it himself, so there’s no stigma in doing so.

          With a sick baby or toddler it’s more challenging to get work done and I often ended up doing maybe 4-5 hours during the workday and another 3+ in the evening when my husband was home to take over the lead on parenting. Again, it was fine with my manager and my work got done, so why should any of my coworkers have cared? With a school aged child with a minor illness there’s really no reason they can’t entertain themselves while the parent works.

          1. Karo*

            You’re right that it’s not relevant, but to the “why should my coworkers have cared?” question – in your case, they shouldn’t have, because you got your work done. But I’ve worked with people who say they’re working from home and it takes them all day to answer a yes/no email because they’re not actually working – or they come in the next day and they were supposed to have xyz done but they’re no further than they were the day before – and it effects my work. That’s when I care. And I try to give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove me wrong, but it can be very frustrating when you’re depending on someone and they’re taking advantage of their managers’/coworkers’ trust.

            1. Observer*

              Sure, but it’s not just with childcare that this kind of thing happens. It happens with people who have pets, elderly parents, family drama, etc.

              1. Koko*

                Or just lazy people who “work from home” and watch movies and nap all day.

                The problem is the work ethic, not whatever activity the person is finding to engage in besides work!

        4. NylaW*

          As a parent who works from home one or two days every week while my child is present in the house, this really varies by the situation and the kid. I think you are coming at this from bad past experiences. Yeah there are times my kid distracts me from work. But there’s times my coworkers constantly walking into my cubicle distract me with non work related stuff. Or the phone calls that are pointless. The meetings that are pointless. And so on. There are TONS of workplace distracts in the actual workplace. My home actually has a lot less of them.

          To the OP, I’m so sorry that all this has happened to you in such a short time. I’m glad you’re back and work and really hope you and your child are recovering well. Best of luck getting out of that toxic environment.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Yeah, agreed.

            I mean, hell, my father used to take me to work with him when I was too little to stay home alone! Granted, he wasn’t an office worker (piano tuner/technician) but when he was working, I had to be silent so I didn’t mess up the tuning process. Could I have done that just as easily at home with a parent on a conference call or similar? Heck yeah.

      2. Pwyll*

        Have you spoken to your own boss about the employees’ reactions? I cannot imagine myself being a manager and not addressing these types of comments by your coworkers. Is it possible the boss hasn’t observed the coworkers and doesn’t know?

      3. Floral Laurel*

        OP/Lauren — I am sincerely wishing the best for you. Although I am neither a mom nor experienced what you’ve been through, I do know how it feels to develop anxiety over a toxic work environment (and go on meds because of that). I hope your meeting with HR goes well. I look forward to a positive (and healthy!) update!!

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Screw those people. Seriously. They’d get an earful from me if I worked there. Hell, I’ll come there and give them an earful!

        I hope you can get a transfer, because they SUCK.

    2. Kiki*

      Honestly, the nastiest workplace I ever was in was an analytical lab. It’s because analysts/scientists are fairly low paid for their education, and promotions are few and far between. Anyone hired at above HSD level is going to get some attitude, as they have not “earned” it. Best thing is take your science degree and do something else with it. (full disclosure: BS Analytical Chemistry/Animal Nutrition, and I am a web developer today.)

      1. QA Lady*

        It can go either way in my experience. I’ve experienced both extremes working at different job sites for the same company. Not shocking when the location with poor attitude and constant sniping closed down when the site with the more positive culture did not.

    3. Murphy*

      My favourite comment back when people say mean stuff like that is “do you have any idea what I would have given to be at work rather than in a hospital watching over my critically ill child?” or “I would have loved to have been at work rather than trapped in my car wondering if I was about to leave my infant son mother-less.”

      That tends to shut people up pretty quickly.

  2. Random Lurker*

    #4: This is so gross. I really hope the comments are more game than I’m imagining in my head. You have to work with these people so be careful how you respond. I’d be tempted to respond with sarcasm. “Yes, my son had a health crisis and I had a car accident in short order. How inconvienent that must have been for YOU!” Don’t be like me.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      I’d say the same thing. Seriously. It’s like my old boss who got pissed my coworker’s cancer came back and she had to go out for treatment – yes, how horrible for you, asshat. She’s just the one with the CANCER!

      I mean, really, what the hell is wrong with people?!

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        My old boss was one of those horrid people. When a coworker lost her spouse and was on bereavement leave approved by the boss’s boss, she called the poor woman demanding to know when she was coming back to work and pressured her into returning weeks early. Then pretended that she had nothing to do with it.

        1. Katie F*

          Oh, man. I can’t imagine the coldness of that boss. Also, if I was your coworker, I feel like I’d just spend each mornign spending about an hour just crying in that woman’s office. Just crying.

          My dad died quite suddenly and my mom’s workplace told her she could take up to a month off without any questions asked, but any longer and they’d need some documentation (from a therapist or doctor, I think). Mom ended up going back after about three weeks, but they still tried to work with her. And that was AFTER Mom spent a year doing chemo and having to be in-and-out for chemo appointments/recovery.

          “Then pretended she had nothing to do with it”

          What is it with terrible managers and this endless capacity for simply refusing to remember how things happened? Is it sincere, do you think, this power of denial, or does that boss sit around realizing she was terrible about this but she just can’t admit it out loud?

          1. FiveWheels*

            This is at a tangent, but it always surprises me that American companies seem to be so accommodating with sick and bereavement leave.

            Any time I’ve worked at a private company (as opposed to government) it’s been a max of 3 paid sick days per year and 3 bereavement days per bereavement.

            It’s not uncommon for people to be forced out due to illness. I know of people who were refused a day of unpaid leave to take a family member to a serious medical appointment, which was pretty much industry standard.

            Of course we have statutory sick pay for longer absences, £88.45 a week – I’m not sure if the USA has an equivalent.

            1. Katie F*

              Are you able to take vacation time for it?

              I have found that European friends have access to much more time off over the course of the year and so need less in the way of unpaid sick leave, because they are able to take hte time they need regardless.

              Americans also famously overworked, to be honest – I imagine the access to unpaid sick/emergency leave has a lot more to do with the fact that we have access to very little else.

            2. Katie F*

              I may not have made it clear in my story about my mom – her month-long leave was unpaid. She received three days of paid bereavement leave, then took the rest of the month unpaid.

            3. IT Kat*

              It’s not uncommon here to be forced out due to illness… the difference is that there are some federal protections for that (the FMLA act, for example, protects your job for up to 12 weeks, I believe). However, that doesn’t mean you get paid for it – it’s usually unpaid once you run through sick time and vacation time.

              Everywhere I’ve worked with one notable exception (which happened to be a government job), I’ve only had 3 days bereavement or less, and at most 5 days sick time a year… and I’m in the US and have a pretty diverse employment history.

              1. IT Kat*

                Oh, and forgot to mention – that statutory sick pay you mention we don’t have anything like that in the US. The closest we have is short and long term disability insurance, but that’s insurance and thus we pay for it.

            4. fposte*

              I don’t think US averages on bereavement leave are any better than that, but we do have a higher average of sick days–but it’s worth noting that quite a few US employees don’t get *any* sick pay at all.

            5. EmmaLou*

              Bereavement can also be remarkable strict on who you get to grieve for. (Yes I ended that in a preposition) For example, you can mourn your parents, spouse, child or grandparents, usually also your spouse’s parents as well, but no siblings except by special permission and not any of your spouse’s other family: grandparents, siblings, etc. By “mourn” I mean, you get from one to three days off, otherwise, be at work or take PTO/Vacation/unpaid leave. For example, when my husband’s younger brother died in an accident leaving a wife and three small children, he got special permission for time off and then tried to go back to work on the second day. He told his boss after an hour, “I am completely useless to you today and not safe (he drives) to be working. I’m going home now.” “So, this’ll be vacation time then?” “Sure. Whatever.” His work was understanding about him wanting/needing the time but they weren’t going to pay him for it.

              1. fposte*

                I don’t think bereavement leave is meant to about grief, though; it’s about allowing time to deal with the logistics. The assumption is you’re less likely to be point person for arrangements for, say, your cousin than for your parent. (And my condolences on the tragedy with your BIL. That’s a hard one with a young family.)

                1. Layla*

                  But time off to attend a funeral ?
                  Our company’s rule is similar and I took PTO to attend a grandparent in laws funeral. Over here we’re kinda expected to be at the wake most of the time too

        2. Spooky*

          A former colleague of mine experienced almost this same thing – her grandfather died and naturally, she took time off to go to the funeral. Her manager CALLED THE FUNERAL PARLOR and asked the receptionist if it was a “really important funeral” or if she could have come to work.

          I later had to work with that same manager, and let me tell you, Satan has motivational posters of her face hanging in his bedroom for inspiration.

          1. (different) Rebecca*

            …how would the receptionist at the funeral parlor have that information? I’m asking purely to emphasize how ridiculous this sounds from the outside, because I know you know it does. Just, like, what??

          2. RVA Cat*

            Somehow I guess that manager’s funeral won’t be “important” for very many people…unless maybe they’re dancing on the grave.

          3. Thornus*

            I dealt with something similar. My uncle died back in February, and the memorial service was on a Friday morning. The service was a few weeks after his death mostly because his children are my age (mid-20s to early 30s) and were obviously overwhelmed dealing with all that. The day after he died, I told my bosses my uncle died, that a memorial service will be sometime in the next few weeks, that I didn’t know when it was, but that I would tell them first thing.

            Fast forward about two or three weeks later, and it’s on a Friday morning. I travel for it. I’m in the service and have my phone on silent. I finally look at my phone several hours later (long after the work day has ended), and apparently my bosses had the receptionist text me, during the service, just to ask if an e-mail was printed off. I was irritated that they bothered me. I figured that since the work day was over and no one would be in the office until Monday that I could tell the receptionist then.

            Come Monday morning, when I walk in, the first thing the boss does is ask, in a rude voice, “Don’t you check your texts?” I responded by saying that I was in a memorial service, that my phone was on silent, and that I didn’t see it until several hours later after the office would have closed. Her only response was “Oh… Well be sure to check your phone from now on.”

            And then they docked my pay (salaried, exempt) for that day since I was out of the office and they don’t give any PTO. So I guess they wanted me to answer work questions when they were already not paying me for that day.

            1. Michelle*

              Good grief. What is it with companies that think you have to be glued to your phone. Every. Single. Minute. Of. The. Day?? I left my phone at home this morning (accidentally) and I turn it off as soon as I arrive at home at night. I would have had it turned off for the service.

              There sure are some coldhearted companies and managers out there.

          4. Kristine*

            “Her manager CALLED THE FUNERAL PARLOR and asked the receptionist if it was a “really important funeral”…”
            Ohhh, I would have been happy to have taken that call from the reincarnation of Ebenezar Scrooge!
            “Important, as in – say – YOURS, sir?”
            Said politely and innocently, with halo in place.

            1. Annonymouse*

              If you mean important as in this person had a meaningful impact in people’s lives and made their lives better then yes, this is an important funeral.

              Unlike yours which will be for a bitter and withered a-hole jerk that controls someone else’s pay check and will be poorly attended.

      2. BananaPants*

        Or like my boss when I had my first baby, who couldn’t understand why I would take FMLA beyond my 6 weeks of short term disability – after all, the team “needed” me.

      1. Ultraviolet*

        It sounds miserable, and I’m so sorry you’re stuck with these unconscionable jerks during such a terrible time.

        I’d be interested to hear what HR has had to say about all this, if you’re up for sharing.

          1. Ultraviolet*

            Awesome!! That is such a relief and I’m really glad to hear it. Thank you for updating us!

      2. LJL*

        How horrible for you to be going through the horrible co-workers on top of everything else. I’m sending good thoughts and best wishes.

      3. blackcat*

        It’s not on-topic to the work stuff, but I wanted to say that one of the folks I work with currently (a scientist!) extended her maternity leave when her son went into heart failure at 2 months old. There was an additional scare when he got whooping cough at 8 months old. He’s now a happy, healthy 14 month old. I hope your son’s recovery continues to go smoothly. I know there can be scary follow ups to these issues, but little kids can bounce back amazingly well. I wish your family the best of luck.

        (PSA: whooping cough vaccines don’t last forever. Adults can get boosters, and it’s a good idea if you’ll be around infants.)

        1. BananaPants*

          When my kids were born, I got a booster in the hospital the day after delivery and they directed my husband to where he could get a booster for free. He and my parents all got boosters – let’s not talk about my in-laws refusing to do so, OK?

          Literally 2 weeks after I delivered baby #2, they started giving pregnant women a booster in the 3rd trimester to help give some immunity to pertussis before the baby is even born. If we have a third, I’ll get that shot during pregnancy because pertussis is NO joke.

          1. Anon because surely this is identifying*

            Whooping cough was my nightmare when I had my son. On a side note, I learned recently that day care workers in contact with infants aren’t required to have a tDap in my state. We (the parents) discovered this when one of the infant room teachers was diagnosed with whooping cough. Further testing by a doctor recommended by the health department revealed it was NOT whooping cough. That teacher did have the tDap because she chose to share that information (she was very concerned during this scare), but we discovered that it’s not requirement for those in licensed centers. TLDR; when looking for infant care, ask about tDap policies.

        2. Marillenbaum*

          Thanks for that recommendation about a whooping cough booster! I’m going back to grad school, so some supplementary babysitting is in my future, and I want to be responsible. As soon as my new insurance kicks in, I’m going!

          1. Rana*

            Get the booster for your own sake, too! My husband had it a few years ago, and it was horrible. Watching him struggle with it made us both really adamant about getting it when I got pregnant, and I was so relieved when my daughter was finally old enough for her own shots. If it was that bad for an adult who at least understood what was going on, how terrible would it be for a tiny infant?

            1. ThatAspie*

              Yeah, and not to mention how delicate babies are. Because babies are so tiny and delicate, whooping cough is more likely to kill a baby. Whooping cough is freaking scary for anyone who gets it, though. There was an outbreak when I was in High School, and some of the kids whose parents couldn’t or wouldn’t keep them home were coughing and wheezing and whooping and gasping all over the whole darn school!

          2. Kyrielle*

            You might ask about checking all your vaccines status – sometimes vaccinations can wane. They can run titers for them and figure out which ones you don’t have a proper immune reaction to. (Which is what was done after my oldest was born. I was surprised by some things that I didn’t have immunity to – I got all the usual vaccines growing up!)

        3. Talvi*

          The last time I got my tetanus booster (those don’t last forever either – you need a booster every 10 years), I was given the option of just the Td (tetanus + diphtheria) or the TDaP (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis). The province only covers the Td, but I opted for the TDap because they recommend at least one adult dose for whooping cough.

    2. AMT*

      Similar (not as terrible) thing happened to me when I had to take time off at a new job for the wake/funeral after my grandmother died. My boss got on the phone with HR and it turned out you can’t take bereavement leave for a grandmother, so I would have to take the day(s) unpaid. I went down to HR to see if they could make an exception (advance a vacation/sick day?) and the HR person ended up yelling at me. “Weren’t you there when I was on the phone with your boss?! You can’t take bereavement leave!”

      1. Prismatic Professional*

        O_o I cannot believe how unfeeling people are! I am very glad my boss had my back when my grandmother died. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    3. Rachael*

      Or: you know, you’re right. Who cares about that kid, right? I could always have more. Next time I’ll tell my child that I’ve got some projects to work on. Thanks for the perspective.

  3. Dan*


    I know you didn’t ask for this advice, but you know you’re getting coded messages to get your resume up to date, and start searching, right?

    You do not know for certain that your job is safe, even if you’ve been told you’re a top performer.

    -Been there

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I agree with Dan. The writing is on the wall for this one. If you don’t get a job now you’ll be competing with mass layoffs later. Don’t be that person.

      1. nofelix*

        At this point the writing is on the wall in six foot dayglo letters with a commemorative plaque, spotlights and flashing neon arrows.

    2. Artemesia*

      Been there too. People in the know can’t tell people the truth — but they often try to telegraph this info. I learned this the hard way — I could not believe that an institution that had been around for literally a couple of hundred years was going down and I was pretty dense to the hints that would have alerted me. This is definitely a ship to dessert before there are dozens of you on the market.

    3. Joseph*

      “You do not know for certain that your job is safe, even if you’ve been told you’re a top performer.”
      Actually, given the situation, I’d go further and say that the entire continued existence of the small company is questionable.
      1.) The small company is underperforming and losing money
      2.) They’re owned by a billion-dollar megacorp (who tend to be purely about the bottom line)
      3.) Some of the longest term employees have been laid off. This is always a really bad sign, both because companies usually care about seniority and because there’s all sorts of unwritten institutional memory/knowledge you lose when laying off long-term workers.
      I think it’s unlikely the “Town Hall” is going to lay off the entire staff and close the company (though it’s not unheard of), but all the indicators you listed show a company that’s bailing water to keep the ship afloat.

      1. JessaB*

        I wonder about this town hall and sequential layoffs thing, are they trying to avoid reporting and notice requirements by doing this in batches? Also if they ARE trying to modernise or keep the division open at all, are they opening themselves to an age discrimination suit by laying off all the long termers first?

      2. MashaKasha*

        Agree. Additionally, it’s a “last-minute” town hall. Meaning something has transpired very recently and they are going to announce it. Something that isn’t good. They may have sold the small company and the announcement is that the deal just went through.

        I’ve been on both sides of this situation and from what’s being described, it sounds like Small Company’s days are numbered.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Whoops. Thought you were responding to the OP being told they were struggling.

    4. themmases*

      Yes, definitely. Two years of layoffs and bad morale? It sounds like the OP’s job hasn’t been safe for a while and there isn’t much to like about the company to encourage them to stick it out.

      If the OP is right the poor treatment and benefits are a product of dysfunction within this company, not something about their market in general. That should automatically suggest that they can find a better situation elsewhere.

  4. Mustache Cat*


    That’s so horrible. I hope you and your son are okay now. What kind of remarks were people saying? Do you think it’s possible that they said something thoughtless that they didn’t mean with any malice, or that you heard it second hand and it’s not exactly as mean as it seems? It’s just such a terrible way to treat anyone that I can’t quite wrap my head around it.

    1. Lauren*

      Thank you for your well wishes. They were antisocial before I left, but now it’s just plain mean. I.e. “People who take unexpected PTO are the worst” or “Moms shouldn’t be allowed to work from home because they can’t dedicate to their work 100% of the time” or “moms think they get a pass for anything”.

      I have a meeting with HR this morning as I have requested a departmental transfer per my doctor’s instructions (I had to go on anxiety medication because of the PPA that developed after I started working). I’m hoping it goes well. I moved my family for this job.


      1. Myrin*

        Wow. How does “anything” translate to “heart failure and open heart surgery of your child”? Jesus Christ. OP, I am so sorry about this horrid situation and hope you have a strong private net of family/friends to help you through these times.

        1. Spooky*

          And bet your bottom dollar that every single one of those people had at least a dozen days in their own childhood when they needed their moms to take time off for them.

            1. RVA Cat*

              Ding ding ding. I am detecting a huuuuuge undercurrent of misogyny in these co-workers’ comments. I could see that some women could be piling on too, especially if they’re under pressure to be “one of the guys” and may get a little less heat if they are single or don’t have children.

              But beyond the sexism, they’re just horrible people and it is a sign of intense disfunction that they are allowed to be vocally horrible (aka bullying) like that. Honestly, I would say get out ASAP and also think about moving your family back to where you have more of a support network.

          1. themmases*

            Wow, that is great! I hope this is the start of things getting better for you and your family.

            I can’t imagine the stress of being bullied where you make your living, on top of everything you have been through. I’m glad your HR department seems to have realized how serious and abnormal this is.

          2. AnonAnalyst*

            Hooray! I’m really happy to hear that.

            Best of luck in the new department, which I hope is staffed with people who aren’t complete jerks!

          3. Marillenbaum*

            Thank goodness! (insert praise-hands emoji here) I hope you never have to deal with these horrible garbage-people again, and that they step on Legos in the middle of the night for the rest of their lives.

          4. RVA Cat*

            So happy for you! Looks like things are finally turning around!

            I hope your old job goes vacant for a lot time just to punish those scumbags…I mean, imagine candidates asking their boss in interviews why the last person left?

          5. AD*

            That’s such wonderful news, Lauren. I’m glad to hear, and hope your new team is a more considerate one.

            Speaking of which, several of the comments here today pertaining to your situation have been unkind or unwarranted. I hope you don’t take it personally, and also there are many of us who are on your side and support you in what you’ve had to deal with in the past months.

          6. Jo*

            Fantastic news! I’m really pleased you are happy with this outcome. I wish it had not been necessary, but lots of luck and good wishes for your move :)

          7. Kristine*

            I’m so glad that this worked out for you. My heart is hurting just imagining what you’ve been through the last few weeks, and I hope a new work environment will help you regain some sense of normalcy. Sending lots of good vibes to you and your baby!

          8. Myrin*

            Yay Lauren, I am so happy for you, congratulations! And I expressed this above already but I really hope your little boy and you yourself are healing well and that you’re going to have good times ahead of you. All the best!

      2. Windchime*

        Lauren, how is your baby doing now? Open heart surgery on an infant sounds terrifying; I hope your little one is healing and doing well.

      3. specialist*

        I hope you are still here, OP.

        Soooo, your (former) co-workers are now doing extra work because you have been transferred to a different lab–all secondary to their pedantic behavior? Well, doesn’t it just suck to be them. You really need to watch that karma thing as it will bite you in the ass.

        I am significantly older than you and have spent my life working in a male dominated field (surgery). I have a history of working in labs. This also explains why I am very blunt and sometimes have to actively try to not scare people. It does get better with time. It takes longer for a woman to establish herself as the one who gets stuff done. After 15 years most people in the community know that I am someone who gets stuff done. I have still dealt with the women-don’t-do-as-much-as-men statements, even grossly misogynistic statements from a program director. You do not say crap like that. I don’t care, you don’t say crap like that. IF you have a person taking advantage of their situation to get out of work you bring that up directly and not with all this snide comment crap. This isn’t a situation that involves taking advantage–this is a major family crisis followed by an auto accident. This is where you have to suck it up and deal. Management should be providing some perks to the co-workers to help them get through the period.

        I’ve seen plenty of times when “I have kids” was used inappropriately to get out of work. Or to demand changes to something. We just got through a couple years of demands for free child care at our state medical society meetings. Yeah, the fact that nobody actually needed it and that it was prohibitively expensive weren’t sufficient reasons to not offer child care. Guess where I fell on that argument? I learned early on that you don’t offer to cover for others for regular events. You offer to trade. Sure, I’ll cover you this Friday, you take my next Friday. That is completely different from the time my colleague’s wife delivered 3 weeks early and he got called for an emergency at the same time. I took that patient to the OR for him and covered his immediate call. And sent baby clothes as a gift. OP, don’t be the person who pulls the parent card. I don’t think you are.

        If I were the manager of this problem department, I’d be pretty hard on the problem co-workers. You made the new person quit because you had to be an ass and now you’re complaining about the extra work? Perhaps you’d better rethink your complaint. And, yes, when you have life happen to you, you’re going to get reminded of this.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          Soooo, your (former) co-workers are now doing extra work because you have been transferred to a different lab–all secondary to their pedantic behavior? Well, doesn’t it just suck to be them. You really need to watch that karma thing as it will bite you in the ass.

          Exactly. Those dumbasses didn’t think this through.

          1. Ann Marie*

            Please stop this line of conversation, OP 4 did nothing wrong in changing departments after being treated terribly and we’ve been asked multiple times to treat OPs with respect

            1. Inksmith*

              I think they meant that karma will bite the co-workers, who lost a good colleague by being so horrible about her leave, which is what they deserve – not that the LW did anything wrong or will get bitten by karma.

              Cos, let’s be honest – it really does serve the co-workers right to have extra work as a result of their poor attitude, and I think the LW wins here

  5. NicoleK*

    #3. Alison gave you good advice. I’d also start looking for a new job. You’ve been in your job for less than 3 weeks and your boss is already mentioning termination? Not a good sign.

    #4. Do your coworkers know why you were out of the office? It seems strange that your coworkers would make nasty comments given the seriousness of the situations.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      Yup, I agree with your suggestion to OP #3. You never want to be behind the eight ball on these things, and it doesn’t sound like this guy has much patience for someone to grow into the role – he wants someone who can hit the ground running now.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        To be fair, though, based on the examples cited in the actual letter, those are attention-to-detail/following instructions issues and not really a dearth of training in a job-specific function. I would be concerned about someone who couldn’t follow basic instructions, too.

        I work with fresh college graduates, and both of these items are things we bring up in interviewing, in orientation, in training, and at review time. If someone can’t give you a basic task and have you complete it correctly, how will they be able to trust you with greater responsibility? It’s easy to zone out on the boring, low-level stuff, too. This is why I tell my new folks that they need to knock even the most boring, basic projects out of the park because it’s the path to gaining trust and getting more substantive work.

    2. Spooky*

      Agreed for #3 – unfortunately, finding a PR job that lets you learn on the job is like finding a unicorn. You’ve got to move FAST and get it right the first time. In my last job (fashion and beauty PR) it wasn’t unheard of for people to be terminated within their first month. If you haven’t gotten it in three weeks, this may not be the job (or, I’m sorry to say it, the industry) for you.

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        I moved from fashion PR to teaching middle school and in many ways the former was harder (8th graders were much more flexible and understanding, for example.) Speed and accuracy! Speed and accuracy! (As my boss used to repeat.)

    3. Dot Warner*

      Re: #3, I agree. OP, it’s impossible for us to know whether you aren’t a good fit for the job or your boss is an unreasonable a-hole (or both), but either way, this situation is not fixable. Get out while the getting is good.

    4. Sunshine*

      Yeah, I would get that resume ready. I was in a situation like this where the boss started putting me on a PIP a month in. I think the reason was that I was not a Christian and did not fit in to a pretty traditional structure, but basically I was being bullied out of my new job.

      Be careful. Cover your ass.

  6. stevenz*

    #2. Those are the worst kinds of things an employer can throw at you. I’ve been to a few and they’re awful, on a good day. But lots of things can or cannot happen a them. I am incapable of being upbeat, enthusiastic, etc at them. It’s the best I can do to stay upright and sober. But try to keep up your energy, make eye contact with people, stand up straight, and generally look alive. It will make you feel better and look better. Then get together with a few friends and head for the nearest bar.

    #4. Tell them to go pound salt.

  7. Marilyn*

    What those coworkers should be doing is sending you condolences. At the very freaking least, sent you a card with flowers or something.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I heard in a meeting this morning that a co-worker’s mother died last week. I’ve never met the co-worker but we’ve emailed and he’s done work for me. I just wrote a card for him. Because you’re right.

  8. Mando Diao*

    OP4: It sounds like there’s a larger management issue here. I have to admit, I’d be seriously annoyed if my department had been understaffed for a while and then the new hire was gone for seven weeks in the space of three months, and if there were no temps or floating employees to help with the workload. If management allows that much time off in one stretch, management has to make sure all the bases are covered. I would not be annoyed at the reasons for the absence; I would be annoyed that I went three extra months without a fully-trained coworker to lighten my load to an acceptable level. I certainly wouldn’t blame it on my coworker though.

    OP, you could consider responding with something like, “Jane approved my time off. Please take it up with her if you feel like your workload was too heavy for too long.”

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Yes, and it may be there are resentful types in the team, of the sort who have have popped up in questions here before. (“I’m snowed under with work and caring for ill family members without complaining and they get all those accommodations.”)

      1. Mando Diao*

        Yep. And while I have all the sympathy in the world for OP4, I can’t help but put myself in the position of the coworkers, especially if they don’t know the all of reasons behind the absences. OP4 was hired because there’s work to be done. The coworkers dealt with an understaffed team while presumably being told that no one else could be hired. The MYOB thing goes both ways: it’s not up to the coworkers to investigate OP4’s emergencies, and they don’t really have to care about what those reasons are. They are absolutely allowed to be mad that there was essentially a four-month delay in getting the new team member integrated, fully trained, and up to speed. I can’t propose a better solution besides perhaps rewarding those employees with bonuses or extra PTO, but IMO it’s not appropriate to act as if these employees weren’t asked to shoulder excess work for a borderline unacceptable amount of time. A boss who encourages new moms to go home to their babies while everyone else has to stay and finish all the work is
        NOT awesome in my book. Those workers are people too, with families and issues behind the scenes. No one’s emergencies are more important than anyone else’s.

        Again, this is a management problem, and this is exactly why many companies have probation periods before allowing time off. I’m frankly surprised that OP was allowed to use all of her PTO before the 90-day mark. I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of thing happens all the time and the coworkers have built-up resentment.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No one’s emergencies are more important than anyone else’s.

          I don’t think that’s really true though. I think most people agree that some situations do warrant special levels of accommodation. I’d put an infant having open heart surgery and recovering from a serious car accident in that category. A good company — hell, a semi-good company — will accommodate those things, regardless of whether someone is new.

          If the manager didn’t step in and manage any problems created by the OP being out, that’s on the manager. But there’s no excuse for the coworkers to make crappy comments to the OP if they know the reasons she was out.

          1. Mando Diao*

            A lot of good companies really couldn’t accommodate this, especially if the employee was hired to fulfill an immediate need. Does that make the company bad? What about small businesses?

            1. Katie F*

              Yes, if the company’s response is “Welp, sorry your baby almost died/could still die at any second unless this surgery is done and you’d like to make the most of the time you have with them, you best show up for work or get lost, sister!” or to be resentful or nasty to her after-the-fact.

              There are a lot of people out there who seem to think we can plan our family emergencies around our work schedules, and… that’s simply not how life works.

              My God, what a terrible place to work it would be.

            2. Cambridge Comma*

              Yes. Anyone can get hit by a car any day of the week. Every organization needs a contingency plan for that. Even sole traders need a plan for that.

            3. Mookie*

              What makes the situation bad for the LW is that her colleagues are focusing their wrath and resentment on “motherhood” and parental “perks” rather than poor management. Anger and frustration doesn’t justify how awful, backwards, unfair, and sexist that reaction is, particularly when voiced so loudly and pointedly.

              1. Christopher Tracy*

                Yes, and what a “perk” – OP gets to work from home because she and her baby almost died!

                I can’t even with these people or anyone who defends this disgusting attitude.

                1. Katie F*

                  Yeah, I know round-the-clock care for a recovering infant who A. feels pain you can’t do anything about and B. you can’t explain what’s wrong, you just have to comfort them as best you can… that sounds like one hell of a perk.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  Thank you. It doesn’t surprise me, but it does make me sad, to see the knee-jerk “but sometimes moms DO suck so…” comments.

                3. Observer*

                  Actually, she didn’t work from home. In a way that makes it even worse. They are not complaining about the burden the OP inadvertently put on her. They are just being mean.

            4. Amtelope*

              Yes. If you hire someone and they have to take emergency medical leave, you accommodate that. That’s part of being a decent employer and a decent human being. Sometimes that’s hard, but that’s part of the cost of doing business.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                Yes, exactly. A company has factor this kind of uncertainty into its business plans. If it can’t afford to have coverage/delay things while a key staff has an emergency/shift things around/etc., it can’t afford to operate at all. Human beings having human emergencies is a normal, predictable — we can’t know when it will happen, but we can know that it will happen — part of life (and therefore business).

            5. Kate M*

              If operating becomes a hardship when you are one person down, then I question whether that is a good company. Something is being poorly managed, yes, even with small businesses. You need to be able to accommodate workloads with the knowledge that at some point, everyone in your team might not be in all at the same time.

              1. fposte*

                Maybe, but you know, that’s my reality, and I still think my unit is worth unitting. We just do very specialized work and can’t afford redundancies, and I suspect that’s true of many non-profit and state units in my brokeass state right now. We’ve been fortunate in that the timing of disasters has been complementary rather than synchronous, since I don’t know that we could survive otherwise.

        2. Nico m*

          A company of 6000 people should be able to organise itself so that small teams arent ruined by bad luck.

        3. Sarahnova*

          Encouraging a parent to go home to her infant who has just been critically, life-threateningly ill is definitely awesome in my book. And if OP#4’s coworkers didn’t have seriously ill babies, or major car accidents or their equivalents, going on at the time, then yes, her emergencies were more important than theirs. I’m puzzled, because the implications of what you’re saying seem frankly bizarre. The OP shouldn’t have had any time off for these life-changing incidents, because she had only been there a few months?

          I can definitely understand the coworkers being hacked off, but they should take it up with the boss around arranging cover of some kind, and they should absolutely NOT be making horrible comments to someone life has already given a hell of a kicking to this year.

          I would quit on the spot any company that tried to keep me from taking leave to be with MY BABY WHO HAS HEART FAILURE. I feel sick just thinking about it.

          1. Mando Diao*

            I don’t want this to become derailing because it tends to happen with this topic, but it only takes so many emergencies, maternity leaves, accidents, surgeries, and illnesses before even the most gracious employee would start to feel burned out, especially if all of these absences created a sense that it would be inadvisable to take time off by choice. A company with a great emergency leave policy is assuming that other employees will always be there to pick up the slack. It’s a decision made by management without input from the people who are actually doing the work.

            The coworkers most certainly should not be taking this out on the coworker, which is something I’ve already said several times. I just sometimes feel the need to push back against the pervasive idea here that everyone’s workday happens in a vacuum. When you skip work, someone else has to cover for you, and it SUCKS to be the person with the relatively calm home-life who finds herself constantly on call to compensate for other people’s emergencies. OP took seven weeks off for reasons that were not her fault. IMO she should still thank the people who did her work for her and not just her manager. Perhaps she shouldn’t have to say something in a perfect world, but if she wants to nurture a pleasant work environment with these people, she really does need to acknowledge that her absence had a huge effect on the lives of all of these other people. Did any of them have to put in over time? Reschedule a doctor’s appointment? Miss a kid’s game or pageant? If so, it was done to accommodate OP4.

            And as for your willingness to quit if you were not allowed to take six weeks off, I don’t understand the aplomb. Many workplaces would make the neutral decision to let go of an employee who could not be present in the office to do her job, especially within the first 90 days.

            1. Alix*

              I agree with this. I also think this is why a company with a truly great emergency leave policy hires temps or has plans in place to scale back the work being done if people are out for a while, because it’s really not the fault of the coworkers that someone has an emergency, either.

              I suppose this is where I admit that being forced to pick up all the extra slack from one ill boss is what drove me to quit my previous job. There were plenty of issues with how that place was run, but they tripled my hours for no extra pay and then got mad when I asked, after two months of this, to scale back. I don’t blame that boss for being ill, but I do damn well blame her and co-boss for being unreasonable.

              1. Rat Racer*

                The OP says her job is as a Scientist. I would imagine that is a difficult job to cover using temp labor.

                1. Anxa*

                  It depends on what level.

                  Technician and technologist and research science is frequently done by temps, fellows, interns, volunteers (depending on org) and other contingent or non-regular employees.

                2. SusanIvanova*

                  But it may also be a job where there’s some flexibility in *when* things get done. Everyone on my software team was highly specialized, with very little overlap, so nobody tried to do my job when I was out with a broken ankle. The manager just extended the deadline for the features I was working on.

            2. Sarahnova*

              Well, there are two potential issues here. One is a poorly managed office where policies are not enforced fairly, but one is just life. The OP *may* have #1, and if you are in an office like this, naturally you are hacked off. But OP#4 just had a confluence of two awful, out-of-control happenings, and I really don’t think she should be expected to apologise, to anyone, about it. She could say thank you, but frankly the coworkers sound horrible enough that I wouldn’t waste my breath doing so, as I doubt it would make a lick of difference. The human thing to do is to recognise that as much as it sucked to pick up some of someone else’s work for those seven weeks, it sucked a lot less than being in an accident or having your baby nearly die. I presume this time off probably sucked up all of the OP’s paid leave, anyway. Shouldn’t a well-run office be able to accommodate the mere 5 days the OP took off after the accident? And coworkers taking a 2-week break even for normal holiday?

              I don’t really understand your last paragraph. I would accept a company terminating my employment because I chose not to come in in these circumstances during my first 90 days (assuming they followed the law). However, I don’t see the case for *ever* pressuring, guilting, or manipulating someone to come in in those circumstances. It’ll probably take you at least six weeks to hire someone in those circumstances anyway, so why not try and do the right thing, grant unpaid leave if you can’t grant all paid leave, and address the issues that cause you to be so short-staffed because this won’t be the last unexpected happening?

              1. Christopher Tracy*

                She could say thank you, but frankly the coworkers sound horrible enough that I wouldn’t waste my breath doing so, as I doubt it would make a lick of difference.

                Exactly, and I just want to remind folks there’s nothing in OP’s letter that indicates she didn’t say thank you to whoever had to cover for her while she was out. But let’s say for the sake of discussion she didn’t – so what? If the first thing out of her coworker’s mouths amounted to, “Must be nice” when she came back from almost losing her child and her life, they don’t deserve a kind word in return. They can kick rocks in hell with no shoes on.

                1. animaniactoo*

                  I’ve been trying to read everything before commenting, but I had to stop here to say – THIS.

                2. Rachael*

                  Exactly. If I covered for someone whose child almost died I wouldn’t in a million years be lining up in the “say thank you to me” line.

                  I understand the concept that the commenter was getting at, but decent people should never expect a thank you for people who are going through the worst period of their lives. Those people are allowed to have a selfish outlook.

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  This. Anyway, they should be complaining about the SITUATION to their manager, not making digs at the OP. Nothing anyone has said excuses their reprehensible snarky behavior.

                  I seriously want to spill a smoking beaker of something nasty on them right now. >:(

              2. Dynamic Beige*

                it sucked a lot less than being in an accident or having your baby nearly die.

                Yeah. That would be “the worst”. Having to cover for someone going through that is merely inconvenient and a PITA by comparison.

              3. catsAreCool*

                “The human thing to do is to recognise that as much as it sucked to pick up some of someone else’s work for those seven weeks, it sucked a lot less than being in an accident or having your baby nearly die.” This!

            3. Colette*

              You know, if a coworker had a critically ill minor child and was not given time off, I’d probably start looking. Yes, it can be annoying to have to cover for someone, but that’s not more important (or worse) than having a critically ill child. The OP didn’t choose to have a critically ill child to inconvenience her coworkers.

              And the advantage to the coworkers is that when they have emergencies, they can expect the same consideration from their employer.

              1. catsAreCool*

                “Yes, it can be annoying to have to cover for someone, but that’s not more important (or worse) than having a critically ill child.” This!

            4. Cambridge Comma*

              But isn’t that the whole point of human society? If you are lucky and privileged enough to have a calm home life, you can help out others a little? And be helped out in turn? Otherwise we’d still be alone, trying to catch a mammoth.

              1. Rat Racer*

                I was thinking along the same lines: how to a certain extent, places of employment are communities, and in functioning communities, people lean on and rely upon each other beyond the bounds of what they are “obligated” to do. This occurs in small ways, like taking time out of a busy day to teach a co-worker a skill in Excel, and in big ways, like making personal sacrifices for several weeks for a new co-worker whom you don’t know well, because her life has taken a sudden and tragic turn for the disastrous. I’d love to see research on the dysfunction of an office where people’s every action is calculated in ROI.

                Of course this logic doesn’t extend indefinitely – a job is NOT a family, or a circle of friends. None of us works for free. But I think Cambridge Comma is really on to something here – I bet that this is something that academics of the business world have studied. And I wonder if there’s a compelling response to the NIMBY-ness of folks who say “I don’t have kids/family/extenuating circumstances, therefore my sacrifices to you will never be repaid, so don’t ask me to do anything nice for you.”

              2. Mike C.*

                That’s really not a fair thing to say, given the years of folks already performing the work of multiple people, and the treatment many single/without children people already face.

                Though again, this is an issue between those who are overworked and management, not those dealing with near-death situations.

                1. Doodle*

                  I actually do think it’s fair, because there’s a difference between “You have to work Christmas Eve because you don’t have kids” and “Mollie’s deathly ill baby means we all have to work a little harder right now.” It’s the difference between a policy that creates a de facto second class status for non-parents and one that responds to tragedy with empathy.

              3. Rebecca in Dallas*

                Agreed. My home life is usually relatively calm and I have covered for coworkers out on bereavement leave, whose children or parents have been seriously ill and whose flight got canceled and they were stuck in another state.

                My usually calm home life has blown up in the last couple of months (my husband got laid off, he had to have serious surgery, my best friend’s fiance killed himself, my reactive dog has a health issue, my migraines are coming back…) so I’ve had to “lean out” lately. My boss knows most of what is going on in my personal life and has not said anything when I’ve had to come in late, leave early or take a long lunch in order to take care of some things. My coworkers who usually ask for my help have mercifully left me alone so I can focus on my own workload. My husband’s friends have stepped up to help me with some stuff around the house. Because that’s what people do, we help carry each other’s load.

            5. Mookie*

              Reschedule a doctor’s appointment? Miss a kid’s game or pageant? If so, it was done to accommodate OP4.

              And in her working life she’s invariably had to accommodate other people and will do so in the future, ad naus. I don’t understand why requesting time off for children’s events is okay (not an accommodation?), but emergency leave for a child’s life isn’t. Part and parcel of working is cooperating with other people. No one is being oppressed by being expected to do their job (which in reality will always require covering for someone else eventually).

              Do you think morale would be any better if the LW’s employer fired her because her child was ill and because soon after she’d been in a car accident resulting in injuries? That kind of profit-driven callousness may temporarily placate her colleagues because it doesn’t cost them their job, but who would want a long-term future with a company willing to do that?

            6. Amtelope*

              Are you arguing that employees shouldn’t be allowed to take time off for medical emergencies? What are those employees supposed to do? Lose their jobs because they were sick or injured, or because their children were seriously ill or injured? That’s appalling.

            7. AthenaC*

              ” it SUCKS to be the person with the relatively calm home-life who finds herself constantly on call to compensate for other people’s emergencies.”

              I humbly submit that having the relatively calm home-life is its own reward. I understand that it’s sadly all too common for people not to see the world beyond the end of their nose, but I would argue that we collectively have some obligations to each other as social creatures, which would include covering for emergencies.

              Also, a really good life skill that adults ought to learn is the ability to set aside feelings of anger or irritation in situations that you can’t control. Makes it that much easier to find joy in life, whether you are the one going through the emergency or the one covering for the person going through the emergency.

              1. Xarcady*

                Yes, but how often is the person with the calmer home-life expected to work extra hours for those without such a home-life?

                I’m single and have no children. Did I mind taking over Sam’s entire workload for a month when his son got cancer? No. Clearly Sam needed to be with his kid, in the hospital 200 miles away. Did I mind when Cindy had to take leave two months early because of a high-risk pregnancy, and I had handle all her clients? No. Because the lives of those babies were important.

                But when you add those events, which happened in the same year, to all the late nights I put in because my co-workers, who are all parents, had to get to school meetings, or sports events, or recitals, or took the day off because of sick kids–and I was the one appointed by our manager to take over their work and get it done on time, while not missing any deadlines with my own jobs–then I do indeed start to get resentful. Because no one person should be picking up all the extra work, for reasons that are not related to work.

                It is not fun to hear, “Well, you don’t have anyone to go home to, so I’m having you stay late to finish up.” “Jim’s kid has a game tonight, please stay and get his proofs to the client.”

                I choose a quiet home-life, the rest of my co-workers choose partners and kids. I did not choose to be single and without kids just so that I could work more uncompensated hours for those who made other choices.

                If I only worked extra hours for true emergencies, it would be one thing. But that’s not the case. The extra hours get worked for ball games, parent-teacher conferences, Friday afternoons when the family has to travel for some travel league sports competition. At some point, there are limits to what I will graciously agree to.

                Mostly because a lot of those extra hours, while not under my control, are under a manager’s control. The managers can, and should, spread the extra work out amongst all their employees, not just the “quiet home-life” workers. They also have veto power, as in, “Nope, sorry, taking off early on Friday when we have a major project due Monday just isn’t possible.” But they don’t use it.

                1. Myrin*

                  But as you say in your last paragraph, the fault for this lies with the managers/supervisors/people who assign workload etc., not with the people who have families, so it’s reasonable to be annoyed with the managers, not with the other workers (because even if someone tries to “milk” their having a family, like, trying to leave early all the time because they wan to see every single one of their child’s football games or something, it’s on the manager to bring that to a halt).

                2. Lily Rowan*

                  But that’s bad management, and possibly you should start accumulating some “unmissable” after work events yourself. Even you have to make them up.

                3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  Frankly, though, this is all a side point. The OP did have a couple of true emergencies, and regardless, you would not be justified in taking out your understandable ire on your coworkers who did have to take off for genuine emergencies. That is the problem here. There is no excuse for OP’s coworkers to behave gaping assholes.

                4. AthenaC*

                  So, you’re blending a couple different issues together. First of all, to be clear, “quiet home life” means no emergencies or other crises, so simply being single doesn’t mean a person has a “quiet home life,” and conversely simply having 1, 2, or 10 children doesn’t mean “not a quiet home life.”

                  Emergencies simply have to be covered for, because life / health is at risk. There’s no other option, and I see you don’t dispute that.

                  Sports events / recitals are not emergencies and in fact are the trappings of the “quiet home life.” If management is treating emergencies and “quite home life” things alike, that’s a management issue.

                  The other thing about coming back to work after an emergency is that you’re often still dealing with the emotional hangover of the emergency and yet you have to pull it together and get work done. That can be a struggle as well.

                  So! Between experiencing the actual emergency (when you’re “on” for far more hours than any coworker who covered for you) and then having to work through your emotional hangover when you come back to work – yes, the “quiet home life” is its own reward.

                5. Tammy*

                  and I was the one appointed by our manager to take over their work and get it done on time, while not missing any deadlines with my own jobs

                  And therein lies a failure of management. If your manager is assigning you someone else’s work in addition to your own, there’s no reasonable way (in my view) for the manager to expect that neither set of deadlines is going to have to change to accommodate that. If they do expect that, I see that as a plainly unrealistic expectation. A good manager should know better.

                  My team is a bit short-handed right now, and this is something I’m very careful of. I am constantly reassuring my folks, “set your deliverable dates as necessary to ensure you’re not killing yourselves, and if anyone is unhappy your projects are taking longer, send them my way.” I will GLADLY take the heat and be the lightning rod if someone wants to push back on my team members for being realistic about workload and schedules. As a manager who trusts the judgment and professionalism of the people she manages, it’s the very least I can do.

                6. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  This is the fault of your company, not your colleagues. If your company doesn’t treat you well, you can organize to try to change it or you can leave.

                7. Anne (with an "e")*

                  If I were in working under those conditions I would not necessarily have an issue with my coworkers; instead, I would have a huge problem with management and how the company was run in general. It’s clearly discriminatory to assign work to people based on their obligations (or lack thereof) in their personal lives. It’s not healthy and I imagine that in the long run it would lead to people searching for greener pastures.

                8. catsAreCool*

                  Having to work because of someone else’s kid has a game doesn’t really relate to the letter.

              2. Myrin*

                I agree completely, Athena. I’d much rather (and I have done that, actually) have to jump in and shoulder more work than be in a car accident or have my child almost die. There’s really no contest here.

              3. Temperance*

                Honestly, I really, really disagree here. Because you can’t enjoy the “calm” life if you’re working constantly and never get a break.

                I remember hearing once a complaint from a single friend who was sick of covering for the parents at work, and who had been told over and over that she would get the same benefits when she had children. Her complaint was that it wasn’t going to be possible to MEET a husband and have kids with her schedule.

                1. AD*

                  That has nothing to do with the OP’s situation, and the problem that’s she’s having at HER job that she’s written in to AAM to seek help for.

                2. AthenaC*

                  See my comment above about blending emergencies, non-emergencies, and management issues. See also my clarification about what “quiet home life” means. (Quiet home life =/= no family)

                  It seems that in these discussions, non-parents are rightfully frustrated because of those parents who get out of pulling their fair share (and don’t make up the hours or otherwise make up the workload) for non-emergencies. But instead of being upset at management for allowing this, non-parents instead come out swinging at the parents for taking off work for any reason – emergency or non-emergency.

                3. AnonAnalyst*

                  I agree with this point, but that’s not the situation here. I suspect that if your friend had a life emergency of some kind she would be able to take time off and could probably look forward to returning to work without nasty, passive aggressive comments from her colleagues.

            8. Jinx*

              I see where you are coming from Mando (in general), because I’ve been the person who had to cover for an unexpected emergency. But honestly I’m not sure what you are advocating in this situation. Do you think her boss should have refused the time off? Fired her for missing so much time due to circumstances beyond her control?

              One thing to consider is that we don’t know exactly how much slack OP’s coworkers had to pick up – were they all working 12 hour days and getting burnt out, or did it just add some busy work to their schedules? I don’t think the letter mentioned this (correct me if I’m wrong). I’ve had coworkers go out for unexpected surgeries and come back six weeks later, but I didn’t have to work any overtime to cover it because we spread it out. I’m just throwing that out there to show that things don’t have to come to a screeching halt just because an employee has an emergency – heck, if one of our new hires was out for two months it’d barely register on our workloads, that time is earmarked for training.

              I don’t like extra work either, but some things aren’t avoidable. I am much more willing to cover for someone dealing with a horrible life situation than someone who is just a slacker, which happens more often in my experience.

              1. Purest Green*

                I am much more willing to cover for someone dealing with a horrible life situation than someone who is just a slacker, which happens more often in my experience.

                So true.

              2. Jennifer*

                Yeah, I suspect the coworkers are already burned out on other people’s disasters before this to be this pissy about it.

            9. Xay*

              A company with a great emergency leave policy should structure itself so other employees will be there to pick up the slack and to support those employees as well. That is a choice a company should make for their own sustainability, not just to be a great employer. Emergencies happen and often, it is less effective and efficient for the company to fire or replace every employee with an emergency than to accommodate it.

              Under your scenario, companies cannot accommodate illness, military reserve duty, or even natural disasters.

            10. Anna*

              If only she had planned her unexpected emergencies better.

              Man, I am giving so much side eye right now. The problem is how you’re phrasing it. She did not “skip work.” She had unavoidable medical emergencies come up. I’m willing to bet she didn’t even get the chance to think about thanking anyone before some asshat started making shitty comments about her time off.

              I think it’s really important to point out you are literally telling a woman to “nurture a more pleasant work environment” in a place that is attacking her in a sexist manner. I think I’ll just skip past the rest of your comments.

              1. Marcela*

                That’s a common view, almost always from young, healthy, well feed and well paid people. They just don’t GET life threatening emergencies or even worse, chronic illnesses. I try to be generous, thinking it’s good that they don’t really understand what it means not to have control or the ability to foretell and plan the future. Sometimes, though, I feel just like you in your last sentence.

            11. BananaPants*

              If people are making cruel comments about me being out of work for such major, important reasons rather than asking the boss to arrange for coverage or scale back on expectations while I’m out, then there’s no way in hell I’m going to go to them and APOLOGIZE that my baby almost dying and my being in a massive car accident was inconvenient for them. They’re unlikely to appreciate the thanks anyways, so why waste my breath?

              I was out of work for three months after having a baby – with each kid (I’ve had two so far). My job is not one that could be done by a temp, so my manager and I sat down and decided which of my tasks could wait until I got back and what was critical for coverage during my absence. The colleagues covering specific tasks had their lower-priority items on the backburner so that it wasn’t a disparate impact on their workload. No one had to cancel a vacation or miss their kid’s activities or whatever simply because I was out of the office.

              People get hurt, people get sick, people have family crises to deal with. Usually managers have to adjust workload among their reports on short notice or no notice to accommodate those events. Based on my experience we wouldn’t be able to fire them, post a new hiring req, screen and interview candidates, and complete the hiring process in less than 2 months anyways – even if a new hire was out for 6 weeks we’d still be better off waiting for her to return rather than going through the headache of starting the hiring process over again AND being down one person in the meantime.

              1. Serafina*

                I might “apologize” – as loudly and sarcastically as possible, using the sort of description that you just did: “Oh, dear me, I’m TERRIBLY SORRY that my infant’s catastrophic illness necessitating OPEN HEART SURGERY followed by a ROLLOVER CAR ACCIDENT made things inconvenient for you! SO VERY, VERY SORRY, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?!”

        4. Lauren*

          They actually don’t have immediate families. I am the only one with a child. Only three are married (within the past year). We are all between 28 years old and 32 with Master’s degrees. Most scientists have families later on or none at all. My hubby and I planned our pregnancy during our last year of grad school so we could have a baby before returning to the work world. Also, I did tell my coworkers and they were barely phased. My son could have died.

          1. Mando Diao*

            What emotional reaction were you expecting from them? It’s certainly scary and I’m thrilled your son is better, but I’d hate to have it held against me if I didn’t show a certain degree of interest in a stranger’s son’s medical emergency. I don’t see any hostility in minding your own business and treading lightly when someone mentions medical stuff at work.

            1. Lauren*

              I could have cared less if they reacted or didn’t react. It wasn’t going to change anything. I just wish they weren’t so hostile. I’d be fine if they said nothing at all being that I, myself, am a private person.

              1. Mando Diao*

                Just don’t judge them for not being “phased” by your son’s emergency. I’d have expressed concern in the moment you told me, but I certainly would not have been phased, and I probably would not have brought it up with you again.

                1. Myrin*

                  I feel like this might be nitpicking one single word and that OP actually meant the same thing as you.

                2. Mookie*

                  She was answering the question put to her half a dozen times so far: whether her colleagues knew the circumstances of her leave or not. And you appear to have missed that, far from being silent and polite, they are making snide, passive-aggressive remarks. She is more than allowed to judge them and she’s not asking for your permission (although I note you granted her colleagues the right to be mad).

                3. Gaara*

                  If I had a new coworker and their son almost died, I would express concern because when they told me, and I would not give the employee shit about missing work because I’m not a monster.

                  Frankly, as the manager, I would be having a serious talk with these assholes about how their behavior is unprofessional, rude, and unacceptable.

                4. Jinx*

                  This is a culture thing, I think. When one of our team members had unexpected surgery (not life threatening, just an injury) we sent a card to the hospital and people asked how he was doing when he came back. If one of my teammate’s babies almost died I would certainly be concerned for them. Mando is correct that this is not required in a work context, though.

                  OP, you are also correct that if your teammates have nothing nice to say, they shouldn’t say anything at all about it. I’m very sorry for everything you’ve been through and I hope things get better.

                5. Dot Warner*

                  We’re not judging them for not being “phased.” We’re judging them for being openly nasty.

                6. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  Mando, why are you so angry with the OP? Or, if you’re not, why are you acting like you are?

                7. BananaPants*

                  From what I can gather, Mando seems to be mad about working mothers getting special privileges or treatment in the workplace and expects them to fawningly thank their coworkers for any absence that might impact the coworkers’ workload in any way.

              2. catsAreCool*

                These co-workers sound awful. When a new co-worker has such awful things happen, the proper response is something like “That’s so awful. I hope you and your kid are feeling better now.” Not passive-aggressive comments insinuating that what, LW should be somehow superhuman and recover immediately from a car accident and what, ignore her child at a crucial point?

                I don’t have kids, and I can’t understand the co-workers.

            2. Fjell & Skog*

              I see where you are coming from on some of your points, but this just sounds so cold and unfeeling to me. When my dad died, I had to leave work for 2 weeks. It was not a convenient time at work, and many people had to pick up the slack for me. I didn’t expect, or even want, a huge “emotional reaction” from them when I returned, but I was happy they didn’t just say “huh, that sucks. Anyway, I left you this pile of labwork to do….” Everyone gave me their sincere condolences when I returned, instead of bitching about the extra work they had to do.

                1. Fjell & Skog*

                  I still wouldn’t want to be treated poorly, or not have any sympathy expressed at all if I was out longer and/or was in my probationary period.

                  Shitty things happen at bad times. A little sympathy from coworkers is not too much to ask, even if someone’s shitty time is inconvenient for the others.

                2. Sarahnova*

                  What’s the 90 days got to do with it? Do I only become fully human at the end of those 90 days?

                3. Amtelope*

                  Expressing concern over the serious illness of a coworker’s child — or, at least, refraining from making short-tempered remarks about it — is part of the respect you give someone for being a human being, not for being past their probationary period at work.

                4. the gold digger*

                  I was only two months into a new job in corporate finance when I had to leave for my dad’s pending death. The place was a sweatshop, management was awful, and I worked horrible hours, but when I told my director I had to leave and I didn’t know how long I would be gone and they could fire me if they wanted, he just said, “Go. Take as long as you need.”

                  I was gone two weeks. When I returned, I asked the director please to let payroll know not to pay me and he just shrugged and said it was just too much trouble to do the paperwork. Everyone expressed their condolences.

                  I hated that job and was miserable every single day. I quit one year and one day after I started, but I will never forget their kindness to me.

                5. Jinx*

                  I said this further up, but I’m really struggling to see where you want to draw the line. Emergencies are okay as long as they are short term and outside of a probationary window? I get that you don’t like people having to cover for long-term unexpected absences, but what is the solution?

                  Companies employ people, and part of that is acknowledging that s*** happens. Even if coworkers work extra to cover for it, they don’t get the moral high ground to turn around and be a jerk to someone experiencing a painful life situation. I covered for my boss last year when he had a death in his immediate family. And when my grandfather died two months ago, he said “take as much time as you need and we’ll handle it”, so I got to travel home for the funeral last minute and spend time with my family.

                  I don’t mind covering because I know it will be reciprocated in my case, and I’d rather work for someone who lets employees have time when they really need it.

                6. neverjaunty*

                  Yes, isn’t it thoughtless when people can’t put off getting hit by drunk drivers or having a child die until they’ve been there at least a year? Such a pain in the ass at work, amirite?

                  Plenty of us have been in the situation where a co-worker is gone for a long stretch because of an emergency, and yet managed not to 1) mistakenly blame the co-worker rather than management for failing to alleviate the workplace results and 2) behave like assholes to the co-worker.

                7. Nervous Accountant*

                  why does that 90 day period even matter? If someone was there for 91 days and was struck with an emergency, should the coworkers be even nicer?

                  It’s weird you’re defending the coworkers hostility and nasty behavior, but not even acknowledging that the OP went through hell.

                  As many have said, the frustration should be aimed towards management for bad mgmt practice, not towards the OP. It’s just mind boggling how anyone could even defend this.

            3. Ultraviolet*

              Presumably she was expecting them to stop saying how horrible people who take unexpected time off are once they heard how dire the situation was.

            4. nofelix*

              Anyone can manage a “Oh jeeze that’s awful” when hearing about such an obviously difficult event. And I say that as someone who is a near-robot when it comes to social conventions. Coworkers were most likely being jerky buttfaces more concerned about managing their workload than a kid possibly dying.

          2. Gaia*

            I think your coworkers are being jerks, but I’ll caution you against the idea that just because they do not have children they do not have immediate families or that their families are not as important or valuable to them as yours is.

            I do not have children but I have a nephew who I provide care for (no one I work with knows this). I am extremely close to my grandparents who raised me – and I provide care for them when they are ill. If any of them became critically ill, I would need to the same accommodation as a parent whose child was ill.

            1. Lauren*

              I completely agree that I am wrong to assume that they don’t have other immediate family members….but if they did, wouldn’t they be at least a little nicer?

                1. Dynamic Beige*

                  Actually, how people treat other people at work says a lot about them. Rude to the waitress and think it’s cute to not leave a tip? Condescending to the mechanic? Having a bad day and decide to build the worst sub ever so that you can go back and complain to the kid behind the counter and force them to make you a new one (I saw that one personally)? Kiss up to the boss but kick down at those around them? It may not be a life story, but it sure does say a lot.

                  I don’t know exactly what’s going on but it seems that there’s a real lack of empathy that’s been building for a few years now.

                2. EU-RO-Cat*

                  You can’t read anyone’s life story from how they treat people at work

                  Actually, people do it all the time, and with (at least some) success. Because everyone treats people at work according to the same paradigm they use in the world at large and behave along the same inner narratives. The roles might be different, at home and at work, but the actor is still the same.

                3. Rat Racer*

                  Since when do different standards of human decency apply in an office setting than the rest of real life? Seriously, Mando, I know this touches a nerve of yours (I’ve seen you post before about being asked to step up when people with familial obligations have to step down) but you’re taking your argument way too far.

                4. catsAreCool*

                  I think you can tell a lot about someone by the way that person treats others, especially others who can’t do anything about it if the person is rude.

                  Mando Diao, I keep thinking that when you read this letter, you were reminded of a different situation that seemed somewhat similar, and maybe that’s what you’re responding to instead of this situation?

              1. misspiggy*

                Don’t forget that your coworkers didn’t have time to forge a bond with you before you had to take leave. At that point you were not in their ‘work family’, so they would not have been likely to feel very sympathetic. They clearly have appalling manners, or they would still have said all the right things, but people often don’t empathise with people who are still new to the group.

                It might be worth observing to work out how this group ticks. Does your team’s culture have its heart in banding together against constant perceived external threats? If so, is there anything you, someone who has (wrongly) been seen as a threat, can do to build trust and enter the group? This is in addition to firmly rejecting any nasty comments etc.

                1. Myrin*

                  At that point you were not in their ‘work family’, so they would not have been likely to feel very sympathetic.

                  See, I don’t understand that. Maybe we’re defining “sympathetic” differently but even as someone who’s actually not extremely emotional, I sure am able to feel very sorry even for total strangers, much less someone I actually work with, however briefly.

                2. Katie F*

                  Agreed, Myrin. I feel sympathetic for Lauren and I’ve literally never met her and have no visual image representation of her in any way. Having a baby with a seriously life-threatening condition, and realizing that what little time you’ve had with your child may be all you get, is absolutely terrifyingly sad. Basic human compassion should kick in at some point, even with inconvenienced coworkers.

                3. Sarahnova*

                  …yeah, not getting this either. I also feel a lot of sympathy for Lauren, and I’ve never seen her face in my life. If I were here coworker and had worked with her in amicable fashion for two months, I would feel awful for her.

                4. SystemsLady*

                  On Myron’s note I once had to work with a guy from another company on a short term project who was an awful, dismissive, in your face, meddling blowhard.

                  I was relieved when he didn’t show up the next day but quickly learned it was because he had gone to the hospital passing a large kidney stone.

                  You bet I still felt sorry for him! Nobody deserves that.

                5. fposte*

                  I think I know where misspiggy’s going with this, though. You’re more upset when bad things happen to people you know well than people you know slightly.

                  Of course, that doesn’t mean you don’t exercise compassion towards those you only know slightly and who depend on that compassion; part of advanced civilization is understanding that the emotions of the moment don’t dictate what is right to do.

                6. catsAreCool*

                  Not long ago, a young child was killed in Florida by an alligator. I’d never heard of the kid or his family before, but I felt sad about it, and a whole lot of other people did too. The co-workers have actually met the LW, and they don’t seem to care. That’s really cold.

              2. Jinx*

                I don’t have kids (and don’t really want them), but I’d be sympathetic if one of my coworkers babies had heart surgery. So not necessarily.

              3. FiveWheels*

                I have immediate family members who needed my daily care in life threatening circumstances. Nobody in my work knew about it because I’m a very private person. It was a serious juggling act and it ate up all my paid leave, but at that time I didn’t want to discuss it.

                Hypothetically, had a colleague taken a lot of time off to look after a relative, and as a result i had to cover some of their work, I would definitely be annoyed. I’d be thinking: I’m working all my hours a week, and being a carer, AND picking up slack for someone… how is this fair?

                I want to be very clear that your colleagues are total jerks and your boss is even worse for failing to hold them to account. I’m pretty sure the swear filter wouldn’t even let me make my feelings clear.

                I just wanted to throw in that just because someone doesn’t disclose non-work issues, it doesn’t mean they have them.

                By the sound of them your colleagues are just very unpleasant people… But unless someone makes it clear they have no commitments like that, you don’t know.

                1. A*

                  But to some extent it’s on you if you’re not even willing to tell your manager that you have a lot going on in terms of emergency health needs of family members and that you need to be able to leave at a certain time. Sure, people shouldn’t assume that everybody else’s lives are going swimmingly, but it’s also not really fair to be mad at a coworker for asking for help and getting it when you could do the same thing and presumably get the same help. Not being a mind reader goes both ways. I’m a very private person too but I still don’t think it would be fair of me to complain that others were getting support that I refused to ask for.

                2. fposte*

                  Strongly agreeing with A here. I’m a private person too, and I’ve occasionally fallen into the trap of considering it morally superior to struggle silently. But it’s not, and it’s not fair to resent people who sensibly asked for help when they needed it.

                  And while it didn’t work for the OP, that’s also a way to strengthen human connections. The admission of need isn’t a bad thing! People generally like being able to provide some assistance, especially when the effort is spread out among a group so the burden per person is pretty low.

                3. FiveWheels*

                  I think it’s always okay to be annoyed by something. It’s NOT always okay to take that annoyance out on someone else.

          3. Alix*

            Ah, and here we go. :/ Your family is the only one that counts, those other people couldn’t possibly have things just as important to them that matter, they’d only matter if they were married, had immediate families, and children.

            And you know what? You wouldn’t get a very emotional response from me either, frankly. You’d probably get an expression of sympathy when you first inform me, then nothing more. I understood and empathized with your original post – no one should get hostile bullshit for dealing with an emergency. I don’t understand this post. What, exactly, did you want from your coworkers? And really, do you have to belittle others’ families and lives in the process? My family is not somehow less important than yours just because I’m not married and the child I help raise is my nephew and not “immediate family.”

              1. Snork Maiden*

                I’m trying, but you know how these BBQ lighters are…they never work when you need ’em to.

            1. Amtelope*

              Why are you assuming that the OP thinks these things? What does this have to do with the fact that her coworkers are being hostile to her and judging her for using emergency leave?

              1. LJL*

                Alix, I didn’t get that from OP 4’s post. I got that she would like less hostility and an end to the snide comments,, not that she felt that her family is more important than anyone else’s.

              1. Dot Warner*

                This. Nowhere did OP say that she wanted them to fawn all over her, or that her family is the most important. She just wants them to treat her with a little decency and kindness, and this childless woman is really appalled that so many people think that makes her entitled.

                There are a lot of situations where management grossly favors parents or parents use the fact that they have kids to get perks they don’t deserve. This is not one of them.

            2. TheCupcakeCounter*

              What she was looking for is exactly what you said you would give. An expression of sympathy and to stop being assholes.
              She said nothing about her family being the only one that counts just that as far as she knows they have no immediate family so maybe that is why they aren’t more understanding of her situation.

              1. Temperance*

                That’s what makes it hurtful and offensive – just because you don’t have children, does not mean that you don’t have a family.

              1. catsAreCool*

                Lauren, I don’t know what’s going on with Alix or Mando Diao, but they seem to be reading something into your situation that doesn’t seem to be there. It sounds to me like all you want is for the co-workers to treat you decently, which is what they should do. I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through.

            3. Marvel*

              Wow. I can’t even seem to come up with any other response to the comments on this post, just: wow.

              Lauren: Please assume these commenters are approximately the same caliber people as your coworkers, and ignore them.

          4. Katie F*

            Lauren, your phrasing here is seriously problematic and may actually make a point about the lack of empathy you’re receiving. If you dismiss your coworkers’ spouses, parents, or siblings and don’t “count” them as “immediate family”, you’re doing said coworkers a serious disservice. And if this kind of thing has come up at work, it could explain why there is an issue.

            I know scientific and medical research involves a lot of people who specifically “time” having children much later, and that that can lead to environments that are vaguely or outright hostile to those with babies/small children (they haven’t “done their time” yet, as my friend in a similar situation says she was told), but if you’re telling them “I have an immediate family and you don’t” that’s dismissive and hostile in its own very real way.

            I am hoping your phrasing was just unfortunate and that’s not really how you’re looking at this.

              1. Katie F*

                Yeah, I think it’s just a mistake of phrasing, really. Like I said below, I’m mostly just kind of desperately trying to figure out a reason for her coworkers to be so awful and coming up terribly short.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Yes, and you’re doing that thing where it’s upsetting to believe people would be horrible for no good reason, so you’re trying to find some way that it’s understandable – that the OP was responsible – to explain that away. Please stop.

                2. Katie F*

                  I’m not going to shut off my ability to believe people are human beings with three dimensions, no. Obviously these coworkers are behaving like terrible spoiled brats, which I’ve expressed elsewhere in the comments. But as I do believe they are people, I have tried to figure out what motivations migh tbe, as I find that conflicts are best solved when conversations that acknowledge the thoughts and motivations of other people are taken into context before the conversation occurs. If she’s going to talk to her coworkers (which, from a comment I just saw pop up, it looks like she’s being transferred and this issue is going to be negated entirely, thank God she’s getting out of that morale-swamp), thinking about that sort of thing is important.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  Recognizing that people are capable of being horrible for their own selfish, unpleasant reasons that have nothing to do with their target is believing that they are human beings with three dimensions.

                  Trying to find some reason – however attentuated – that their behavior must have a shred of justification, though, isn’t really trying to understand them so much as it is not wanting to think other people can be this terrible.

            1. Mookie*

              but if you’re telling them “I have an immediate family and you don’t”

              Where are you getting the idea that she’s said that?

              1. Katie F*

                I’m not, at all – and let me make it clear that I don’t THINK she said that or anything like it.

                I’m mostly just flailing around trying to figure out why human beings, who supposedly are functional and have feelings and brains, would be so devoid of empathy.

                All I can come up with is that Lauren’s comment there does imply a level of “Well, I have a kid and you don’t”… which I frankly think is just a mistake of phrasing from someone who is being nitpicked to death and is getting a bit defensive about it. But I just have a hard time understanding how her team could be so. awful. about these things to HER instead of taking the “hey, a temp would have been useful” to management.

                1. Mookie*

                  All I can come up with is that Lauren’s comment there does imply a level of “Well, I have a kid and you don’t”…

                  Okay, but that’s just you re-wording and then re-stating what you said before, substituting kids with immediate family, which you admit she didn’t say. There is nothing to suggest that her answers given to explicit questions here have ever been shared with her colleagues. And it’s not unreasonable for her to wonder–to us, to herself–why she and other employees who are “open” about being mothers are targeted or blamed for what sounds like a much larger, company-wide problem. It’s also not unreasonable to imagine that because this criticism is cloaked in weird language about “mommies” and perks, that the people being snide may not understand or empathize with a crisis involving a child. After all, she’s not the one who framed this as a “mommy” or “family” problem; her colleagues did. She’s trying to come up with a reason why that’s so. She’s not pulling rank, she’s just responding to what they’ve explicitly said. And, yes, if the LW is saying they don’t have children, they likely don’t. There’s no reason for her to lie about this or speculate wildly.

                  I’m a little uncomfortable with the notion that because people are behaving quite badly towards someone, that someone must have done something to deserve it or that she’s misrepresenting something. I may be wrong, but it sounds like you’re looking for a justification (“flailing around”) hidden in her responses here rather than responding to what she says has actually happened. It’s understandable that you find what she’s sharing shocking, but shocking things happen and people behave unreasonably and often take out their aggression on people with comparatively little power over them. She’s a new employee who’s been dropped headlong into a situation (bad management practices around extended leave) she didn’t create.

                2. Mookie*

                  I mean, the take-away from this is that her colleagues are being distracted by an age-old sexist argument that women neglect work responsibilities when they procreate rather than focusing on the real issue: the company is spreading people too thin by lacking a comprehensive policy regarding temporary staff to compensate for justifiable paid leave (which should cut a wide swathe that includes injuries, personal crises, family emergencies, etc). It’d be a non-issue for everyone if such a policy were in place and enforced, rather than slapdash according to each department’s preferences. “Mommies”* wouldn’t be scapegoated over something that affects (good and bad) everyone.

                  *I have to imagine women are merely an easy, convenient target here, because dollars to donuts no one is complaining about Cancer Patients and their lovely “perks,” and yet the outcome (no coverage) is the same

                3. Katie F*


                  “I may be wrong, but it sounds like you’re looking for a justification ”

                  Nope, not a justification. You’re misunderstanding “searching for some explanation that even remotely borders rationality” with “reason this was okay for htem to do”. I’m basically just trying to figure out how someone with a working brain could be so mean, and to do so I’m having to plumb some serious depths of guesswork here, and still came up short, as you noted.

                  I understand that just about everyone is on the defensive here, but I’d appreciate you not trying to make this me judging Lauren’s choices when I absolutely have not. I’d stay home for my own daughter’s recovery in a heartbeat and I’d expect my coworkers to be human about it. That her coworkers are acting like put-upon robots utterly baffles me.

                  And yes, she did say “I am the only one with immediate family” in her comment. Obviously she meant “the only one with kids/dependents at home”, but if she uses similar phrasing at work, that COULD be part of the issue… frankly, I think it’s an issue of coworkers who don’t think they can go to management, so they’re taking it out on the new person who they feel can’t really fight back. But it’s always hard for me to grasp the idea of multiple people being awful. This isn’t a single nasty coworker, this is her entire team. That baffles me.

                4. Mookie*

                  I didn’t mention you judging her choices at all. I mentioned you parsing her comments for clues about what she might have done at work to deserve being treated this way. Which you are literally doing in your last paragraph.

                5. Gaara*

                  I don’t think it’s useful to try to dream up outlandish hypotheticals about how horrid people might possibly not be so horrid after all — when they so clearly are. It’s a good way to blame the victim and almost certainly has no basis in reality.

                6. Katie F*

                  I’m not in any way saying she “deserved” anything. You’re still misunderstanding. I get that, because she’s getting a LOT of hostility here, but “comments that invalidate the family situations of other coworkers are hostile in their own way” isn’t saying “you deserve hostile treatment.”

                7. Gandalf the Nude*

                  I think Katie F is on the same side as you, Mookie, in being sympathetic to OP and wanting these comments to stop. She’s not looking for ways in which OP is deserving these comments. She’s trying to figure out if there’s a cause to the comments that can actually be addressed. You can’t do anything about someone being a jerk for no reason, but if, for example, OP has used some unfortunate phrasing around her colleagues, we can advise her on how to fix that. It doesn’t sound at all like that’s the case, but I can understand wanting desperately to find a fixable problem.

                8. Gandalf the Nude*

                  I will also say, though, that given the environment certain other commenters have created, this is not a good time to do that. Mookie is right that, well-intentioned or not, that kind of questioning can be damaging to victims.

                9. Katie F*

                  Gandalf, you are 100% correct, thanks for your comments. I was attempting to find a motivation or thought process the OP could address, since she was clearly looking for a way to get the comments to stop or to address them. Luckily, her newest comments I’ve seen suggest she’s being transferred and this problem will be gone very soon and she’ll be able to start over with a new team.

                  The problem is essentially that I wanted to help the OP with thinking through what to say to the coworkers. I thought i had expressed my sympathies/agreement with her position clearly enough, but obviously I had not.

              2. FiveWheels*

                On the top of the anti-mom sexism at play, if the baby’s father is around (sorry, I don’t recall if the OP mentioned it) but didn’t take the same time off, I could see that feeding into the general a-hole behaviour. Especially in a STEM job. Like “Great, we let a woman in and she ends up doing woman things, the men don’t do this.”

                I’m not justifying them. Sometimes the explanation for unpleasant behaviour is they’re not just a-holes, they’re sexist a-holes.

            2. Mustache Cat*

              I think Lauren was answering a question that was directly posed to her, and then upon answering a follow-up to a follow-up, made the remark about being a little nicer. Which was obviously an incorrect comment, but fueled by a frankly horrible and emotional situation.

              I have to say, this comment section is REALLY reaching as to what OP4 is thinking or doing.

                1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  So far, I’ve merely learned which commenters I would never want to work for or with during a family emergency. Wow.

            3. Anon on Occasion*

              That’s simply a statement of fact. Where are you deriving a hostile tone or dismissive tone from it?One’s immediate family is parents, spouse, children, siblings. Other family members are part of one’s extended family (yes, even if they live under the same roof). Calling a member of one’s extended family one’s immediate family doesn’t make it a fact. I’m assuming that most of Lauren’s co-workers don’t live with their parents and it sounds like they don’t have spouses and some of them aren’t married. They have no immediate family. That’s not hostile of dismissive, it’s just factual.

              I don’t think it should matter, though. I find it appalling that every place I’ve ever worked doesn’t give any bereavement leave for cousins, nieces or nephews, and some don’t give bereavement leave for aunts and uncles. They might be extended family, but for many of us, they’re just as close and just as important as immediate family.

              And nothing excuses pure meanness of the type Lauren says her co-workers are engaged in. (Didn’t they get taught that if you can’t say anything nice, not to say anything at all? I realize that that’s not always possible, but in these circumstances it certainly is.)

          5. blackcat*

            My best guess is that they just don’t “get” what it’s like to be a parent. I have heard similar really uncaring things said by my fellow grad students (in science) about folks (male and female) who take time off to *have a child.* From their perspective, the parents are getting time “off” while still having health insurance (no pay), and that’s not “fair.”

            In an work culture where parents are in a small minority, and folks are young enough to generally not have faced as many serious “life happens” emergencies, people can be really uncaring about some stuff.

            And while kids are certainly up there in causing “life happens” emergencies, it’s not the be all end all. I was in a car wreck when I was a 22 year old young teacher. My older coworkers, mostly in their 50s and 60s with kids, were all AMAZING. A+ job responding in an emergency. Workplaces that are more parent-friendly are also often simply just more people-friendly, and it does seem like that often correlates with the average age of workers.

            FWIW, I don’t mean this as a “young people today” comment, but rather as an “experience often brings empathy” comment. I’m roughly Lauren’s age.

            1. Katie F*

              I agree with this – regardless of age, coworkers who have had to go through a few “life happens and sometimes what happens is terrible” situations are going to be more empathetic/understanding than people who just… haven’t, yet. It’s not really a factor of age, just life experience.

          6. jhhj*

            They’re really wrong for being nasty to you. But remember: scientists — especially women — are told not to have kids young, that they need to put their social lives and families on hold for science, etc. They might now be realising that they did not have to make those sacrifices and are resentful that they were told they did, and are taking it out on you. Which isn’t any better, as the recipient of what they’re saying, and I hope you get a transfer, but it might be easier if you think they’re coming from something about them than about you.

            1. Anxa*

              I was thinking that this may be part of the route of the problem.

              Many people in science want to have children and families but feel as though the can’t, at least not yet. Perhaps not until they are indispensible.

              Unfortunately, what happened to OP #4 could derail–perhaps permanently–an otherwise promising career. It doesn’t excuse any hostility or nastiness, but seeing that the OP was able to keep their job through all of that may make them feel as though they hadn’t had to sacrifice having children of their own?

          7. Temperance*

            They actually *do* have immediate families, just not children.

            I’m very sorry that you went through all this, but I needed to correct the misconception that childless = no family. Because, ouch.

            1. AD*

              As other commenters pointed out, this is semantics. She meant “dependent, immediate family” – as in, children. Everyone has “family” – parents, aunts, uncles, whatever. No one (especially the OP) is denying that. Can we leave the nit-picking of the OP’s language aside, and move on please?

            2. De*

              She already commented with “I completely agree that I am wrong to assume that they don’t have other immediate family members”.

        5. Gaia*

          “A boss who encourages new moms to go home to their babies while everyone else has to stay and finish all the work is NOT awesome in my book”

          Ok. I’m not a parent and I often get irked at “parent privilege” that definitely exists in the workplace – but I gottta call this out. She wasn’t just a new mom encouraged to go home to spend time with her baby. She was a new mom to a baby that had heart failure and was encouraged to go home to care for her baby who had heart surgery. That is a big, huge, important difference.

            1. Ultraviolet*

              This is starting to feel pretty mean. The situation as OP laid it out is that her coworkers are being total jerks toward her in ways that are not justified by anything she’s done. Maybe they’re burned out because of the way their managers have handled the situation, and that’s certainly not ideal, but I hate that the conversation has focused so much on whether the OP has the correct feelings about that. It’s far from the biggest thing going on in this situation, or the thing OP has most ability to affect.

              1. Myrin*

                Yes, I’m quite shocked, to be honest, since I wouldn’t have thought that this topic, of all things, would somehow manage to make people turn on the OP. She did absolutely nothing wrong here and I hate that she has to come into the comments and defend herself.

                1. De*

                  Yeah, I agree. I was gone from this site for a while precisely because of these types of comments and come back and see more of them.

                  At this point, some people are just being needlessly mean to the OP. What good does that serve?

                2. catsAreCool*

                  If it helps, I’ve only notice a couple of people who have been mean about it – one of them is posting a LOT. I think most of us are horrified at these co-workers and the mean posters.

              2. Mando Diao*

                OP was given a generous amount of Maeve and us wondering why no one us being nice. I explained why. I tend to see things from the perspective of the constantly available employee who us perceived as having no family because I don’t have kids, which is how OP admits to viewing her coworkers. It’s mean of you to call me mean. Let’s both let it go.

                1. Alix*

                  FWIW, you’re not the only one getting a whiff of that attitude from the OP, and I, for one, have really appreciated your comments.

                2. Christopher Tracy*

                  @ Alix and it may be that that whiff you’re getting is a byproduct of the hostile way she was treated when she returned to work. I don’t have kids or a spouse, but if I did and my kid almost died and I was subjected to snarky, passive-aggressive bullshit on my return to work, I’d be less charitable about my coworkers and their personal lives as well.

                3. Katniss*

                  She did not admit to viewing her coworkers that way. You twisted her words and then declared your interpretation the correct one. You are being a bully.

                4. Trout 'Waver*

                  So you have a chip on your shoulder and you’re taking it out on a woman whose infant had open heart surgery? Seriously?

                  I’ve always been the guy on-call because I’m still waiting to start my family. So I get where you’re coming from. There are definitely people out there who play the parent card to shirk work. But this is clearly not one of those cases. Show some compassion.

                5. Mustache Cat*

                  She’s not wondering why no one is being nice. She’s stated that she doesn’t care about that. She’s wondering why people are being openly hostile

                  OP4, if you are seeing this, I’m sorry that this comment section has become so unexpectedly nasty to you.

                6. disconnect*

                  I’m calling you mean because you’re acting mean. It’s reasonable to be annoyed by this situation. It’s unreasonable to act mean towards a person because you’re annoyed at them. Take your emotions to a therapist to learn how to deal with them.

                7. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  OP and her child both almost died, and she’s wondering why people are actively shitting on her. FTFY.

                8. LBK*

                  A whiff of attitude? From the woman who’s spent the last 6 months dealing with multiple serious medical issues? Are you f-ing kidding me? Maybe she deserves to have something of an attitude, because people are seriously calling her out about her maybe not having the absolutely perfect response to *dealing with the possibility of her child dying*. Like, seriously, please step back and think about what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to. This is insane.

                  The nastiness towards OPs has gotten really out of hand lately. I don’t know if it’s the heat making people more irritable or what but this is just flat-out unacceptable and not at all in line with what I usually expect from this site’s community.

                9. Lindsay J*

                  You know, you don’t have to be the always available employee. You can say “No, I can’t do that,” when it’s something that infringes on your personal time. If your work holds that against you, then that is a problem with the management, not the coworker that needs the time off.

                  And, not having children currently, or being childfree for the long haul doesn’t mean that someday you won’t have the same need for leave and/or flexibility. You could wind up caring for an ill parent, an injured spouse, have your home damaged by a natural disaster, nor have some type of medical or personal issue that requires time off. And presumably the same manager that encouraged the OP to go home and spend time with her baby that was having surgery would also encourage you to go home and tend to whatever you needed to tend to. And again, if they do not, that is not the fault of the OP or the people with sick children, that’s a problem with management. Parents don’t hold the monopoly on needing emergency leave.

                  Maybe I’m just lucky to have never experienced this type of thing? I don’t know. I’m 30. I don’t have children and am still not sure if I ever want children – it’s been a hard “no” for most of my life. In the last year or so I’ve moved to “maybe in a couple years”. I work in a very male dominated, blue collar-ish environment. I’ve never felt that I was treated like I was treated as “less than” because I didn’t have kids.

                  Sometimes I was asked to come in to cover a shift when people who had kids asked off so they could go to a recital or field day or whatever. If I wanted to and was able to I agreed to. If I had other plans or just plain didn’t want to I said “I’m sorry, I’m not able to do that.” The same thing happened when I asked for time off to spend an extra day in Las Vegas, etc. If they could, they agreed to cover. If they couldn’t, they said no and I made other arrangements. I don’t think it was ever held against me.

                10. catsAreCool*

                  OP is just asking for people to not be hostile. I think that is more than reasonable. Open heart surgery on a young child plus an auto accident – those are big things.

              3. AD*


                Alison, can you please chime in? Of all OPs, it feels awful that this one is getting push back (in some less than nice ways by a couple of the same commenters).

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Yes, please. The way people are using the OP as a punching bag for their own issues is disgusting.

                2. Macedon*

                  I don’t know, AD, I think we haven’t completely exhausted the ways in which we can pin everyone’s vaguely-related anecdotal work woes on OP4. Maybe that’s the goal here.

            2. AD*

              Ok – some of these comments are starting to have a hostile/callous tone towards the OP (who has had two significantly awful, unplanned events happen to her in the last two months including the near death of an infant). Not cool.
              Alison, can you please chime in?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I agree — I’m only seeing it from a couple of people but it’s pretty awful. Hopefully the OP sees that 99% of the comments here are supportive.

              2. Nervous Accountant*

                I always thought this comment section was different than the typical internet garbage, but good God, some of the posts here are awful. It’s only a very small handful,b ut it still making it very sour. As someone said, in the parent vs non parent war, a baby needing life saving surgery should be exempt. A parent OP who hasn’t done anything wrong shouldn’t have their words nitpicked to death like it’s being done here. People are grasping at straws here

        6. mander*

          I think there’s a world of difference between encouraging someone to stay home with a new baby for general care, like you would do on regular parental leave, and encouraging someone to stay home with an infant that had a critical health problem, major surgery, and probably needs special care for a while until they recover. The emergency is not necessarily more important but it is probably more time-consuming, especially when it was followed by yet more bad luck for the OP.

          If it were my colleague I’d be annoyed but I certainly wouldn’t be as nasty as the OP’s colleagues seem to be. Given her account they seem to be seriously lacking in empathy.

          1. Katie F*

            Yeah, I think the problem is that people are thinking “Well, the coworkers are just annoyed at this happening so close to hire date”, which is totally understandable, and “coworkers are nasty to someone whose baby nearly died and who was in a very serious car accident and they are taking all of this out on her at work”, which is not acceptable.

            1. Britt*

              But is it really “understandable” to be annoyed that someone has a child who needed major life saving surgery and then recovery from a car accident? What if the surgery on her child was a result of the car accident, thus lumping them into one incident? I just don’t see how people could be so heartless to be “annoyed” that someone going through this, which is completely beyond her control, impacted their own workload. I agree the company needs a contingency plan, but it’s not like the OP went skydiving. Her child has/had a condition and then she drove her car and happened to get into a terrible accident. After going through all that, I would absolutely expect some kind of empathy from the people I work with, regardless of how long they knew me. Obviously we don’t know the whole story, except for the fact that the OP has been through A LOT. If my daughter needed open heart surgery, you better believe I would be by her side throughout the entire process. If something happened and I was doing something at work, I would never forgive myself. Her coworkers need a head check.

              1. jhhj*

                Of course it’s understandable to be annoyed that one of your coworkers is out for months, especially a new hire. Even when it is entirely not their fault, even when you think the company is right for letting them have all the time they need — why wouldn’t it be annoying that you have extra work to do for months? What isn’t understandable is how they are treating her because of this annoyance. But I don’t think judging people for being annoyed by this, if they keep it in their secret hearts, is fair. (I know that isn’t the story here.)

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, I’m self-focused enough that I’d whine internally, same as I do when colleagues go out on maternity leave. But that is not a sentiment that anybody else needs to know about or that I need to dig deeper into.

              2. Jinx*

                I think it’s the difference between being annoyed at the situation (understandable) and being nasty to the person who is taking leave (unacceptable). You can be frustrated by the extra work and still be understanding of why it’s happening. But in that case you talk to your manager about the workload, you don’t make mean comments to the person with the sick baby.

                1. AnonAnalyst*

                  This. Being annoyed at the situation is different than being annoyed with the OP. I think it’s fair that the coworkers might be annoyed with the situation, particularly if they have had to pick up a lot of extra work while the OP has been out, but I would hope that the coworkers would recognize that the OP isn’t at fault.

                  Either way, the comments are inexusable.

              3. Lily Rowan*

                Being annoyed that someone has gone through major personal issues? Not right.
                Being annoyed that there is no back-up plan for reduced staffing on the team? Totally fine.
                Blaming the reduced staffing/increased workload on the person with the sick baby? Not OK.
                Saying any of that out loud? Terrible.

              4. Callie*

                It’s never “understandable” to take it out on someone when they have bad things happen to them. In my past job I had to cover for someone twice–once when she was out for three months after a stroke, and then almost exactly a year later when her husband suddenly and unexpectedly dropped dead. I had to do her job in addition to mine AND go to grad school. I was “annoyed” at my employer for not hiring a real temp instead of pushing a grad student into coverage, but I was in NO way “annoyed” with HER and never expressed to her anything but sympathy and understanding, because I’m not an asshole. It’s basic human kindness and decency and has nothing to do with whether you have kids or not.

                1. lfi*


                  my manager quit in march. my interim manager (two levels above me) has been dealing with some serious health stuff. so i’ve stepped up to handle it. i’m not mad at my interim manager – she need to take care of herself. but do we need contingency and succession planning in the event that she can’t come back again?


              5. catsAreCool*

                ” I just don’t see how people could be so heartless to be “annoyed” that someone going through this.” This!

            2. LJL*

              Life happens. We had a new hire whose daughter was hospitalized within new hire’s first week. We figured it out and NH turned into a stellar employee.

              Within the last 6 months, my husband had a heart attack and just last week, my dad was hospitalized. Fortunately my colleagues rallied around me, allowing me to take the time off (husband) and work from hospital (dad). I have no children, but I”ll guarantee that sooner or later, everyone will have a need and it will probably not come at a good time for work.

          2. eplawyer*

            We all know I am the queen of “I hired you to work for ME, not for you to fit work around your lifestyle.” I also don’t have kids. But even I would have been “take the time you need to be with your CRITICALLY ILL child. Oh darn that is terrible you were now in a car accident, how much time do you need?” to the OP.

            I am quite sure the OP would have rather had a healthy baby and not been in a car accident than taken time off. It’s not like she was sitting around eating bonbons and watching soaps during this time. Or traveling to Europe or whatever. She was dealing with a physically and emotionally stressful time.

            Sometimes parents do play the parent card to cut out early or take extra days off. That’s not fair to co-workers. But this was not a case of that.

            As for the co-workers not being fazed when she told them, I am sure she meant it’s didn’t stop the nasty remarks, not that she wanted sympathy.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              As for the co-workers not being fazed when she told them, I am sure she meant it’s didn’t stop the nasty remarks, not that she wanted sympathy.

              That’s what I was thinking. It didn’t stop them from being giant jerkholes.

        7. Nervous Accountant*

          “A boss who encourages new moms to go home to their babies while everyone else has to stay and finish all the work is NOT awesome in my book.”

          Did anyone even mention that? That the boss let someone go home to spend time with their baby? The baby needed life saving surgery…how is that even comparable?

          I was wondering if/how anyone would be able to defend the coworkers position. With what OP went through, that’s still gross of them to take their frustration out on her.

          1. catsAreCool*

            I’m shocked that anyone is defending the co-workers, even if it’s only a couple of people.

        8. Observer*

          The manager didn’t send a “new mom to go home to her baby”. She encouraged a parent to go to THE HOSPITAL to be with an infant who had had heart failure. Having a parent around, preferably mom, is NOT just a “nice” thing for the baby. It’s amedical necessity. Understanding this basic necessity is what decent human beings do.

          There are always exceptions to rules like MYOB. (Another example that has come up in the last few days is the issue of unfair payscales.) Understanding that someone has a LIFE AND DEATH emergency, is one of them. And, yes a LIFE AND DEATH emergency DOES absolutely have greater priority than other emergencies.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Seriously. My niece (the one who is now 16 and was interviewed here last week about lifeguarding) had open heart surgery when she was about a week old. She was in the ICU for months and months. It was terrifying; we all thought she was going to die or that her life would be severely affected by lifelong heart problems. (It was not! She is totally healthy and a champion swimmer.) I’m pretty sure my sister didn’t eat or sleep for months while that was happening. This isn’t about “going home to relax with your baby.”

    2. moss*

      wow, these comments. If anyone didn’t believe that a person would be treated so terribly by their coworkers, here is the thread that proves people can be completely without compassion and even vicious toward someone. WHOSE BABY ALMOST DIED.

      1. Rat Racer*

        I mean really, of ALL the posts to get the whole Kids/not Kids war going, I would think that THIS one would be exempt for crying out loud. The lack of empathy from some of these comments is making me queasy.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          Agreed. There is nothing the OP could possibly be doing to justify this reaction from her coworkers, or anything that makes those comments acceptable. To be honest, I’m surprised that nothing improved after she talked to HR the first time — I would think that that would have at least resulted in a talk with HR or with the manager for the coworkers making comments (although, maybe it did and it was completely ineffective…)

      2. neverjaunty*

        Seriously. I’m starting to think AAM needs to be one of those “great advice, don’t read the comments” sites.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh. 99% of the comments here are fine. A couple of people are way off-base on this and it’s taking up a lot of air time as a result, but it’s hardly the majority.

          1. Anon for this*

            While it’s certainly just a few people here, this can have a really big impact. I had to miss a lot of work the past two years due to having *three fucking miscarriages*, plus various other health issues on top of that nightmare. These comments almost made me cry, even if it’s not a lot of people voicing them. I might need to stay away even longer…

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I will amicably beg to differ, neverjaunty. I think even in this instance, where people are interpreting and reading into the letter based on their own viewpoint and experiences, and coming away with very different interpretations, the discussion has been contentious but hardly what I would call a flame war. I think if this is as bad as it gets, we’re very, very lucky.

          Although I think it could have been done with more circumspection and fewer assumptions, I believe that hearing from the viewpoint that may be fairly close to that of the OP’s coworkers is very useful in understanding and dealing with the situation, and considering how contentious the OP’s workplace has become, I don’t think we could expect to get input from someone with that viewpoint without some strong disagreement.

        3. anonderella*

          I’m going to jump in here before I finish reading the comments – I love the comments/commenters!

          As I started reading, I was going ‘Man, OP’s coworkers are pretty awful to be saying that stuff out loud – everyone has the right to feel how they want, but it’s a pretty inefficient and thoughtless way of changing their working conditions, if that’s what they are trying to do. If they’re just trying to vent, get together after work – I’m all for that.
          But then as I read the comments, I’m feeling the anger/resentment of those speaking up for the ‘Calm-Family-Life’ crowd (which would include myself) and I feel that both ways too.

          My point is, I thought I had one opinion when i read OP’s post, but seeing the responses of everyone gives me a clearer idea of what the norm feelings are surrounding this issue. the people who are angry and are letting that show too much, maybe need to be given a break. It’s just a comment – nothing saying they won’t change their minds with further discussion and contemplation.

          I’ve made comments here that I regret, but I don’t regret having spoken my mind, as I know I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, but just express frustration or confusion. I’d like to give the same benefit of the doubt to the other commenters. The OP is a very real person, but the issues are posted here as a point to argue/otherwise reflect upon the argument presented, so it’s easy to remove the human element of it – we are arguing in a vacuum. But it’s interesting to me to see what other people think belongs in that vacuum with the issue.

      3. Security SemiPro*

        I’m seriously disappointed in the commentariat today – as a group we’re usually better people.

        The parent thing really brings out the knives in some of this crowd though, jeez. Today is the first day where I’ve been thinking I’m glad I don’t work with half of this group. Or manage them.

        As for work load and the nasty comments in Op#4’s job? I see that as a manager problem – both for not balancing work appropriately when the team was a person down, which can really damage morale, AND for not shutting the cruel comments down hardcore. I don’t tolerate that kind of snide backstabbing out of my staff at all and I don’t describe any manager who does as being “good”. Part of being a manager is building and maintaining the team – even if the work is relatively individual, a strong team keeps your individuals productive and supportive, and can get through times where someone has an emergency or runs into problems with the work. Allowing nastiness to continue without laying down some standards of professional respect and behavior? Not cool. Being snide and nasty to your colleagues? I see that as a performance problem and address it as such.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          I should have refreshed the page before posting! I really cannot understand how the comments haven’t been addressed by the manager, although I guess it is possible she doesn’t know about them (I initially misread the post and thought the OP had already talked to her manager/HR about it, but I’m realizing that might not be the case).

          1. Lauren*

            I did talk to the manager and she said “they need time to realize you’re back”. HR has now stepped in and I’m being transferred laterally. The only thing that could make this situation better is the situation not occurring at all.

            1. AnonAnalyst*

              WUT. I am now more appalled. I did not think it was possible. That complaint would have merited a Serious Conversation with the offender(s) in any of the places I’ve ever worked.

              Glad to hear you are moving on. Good luck in the new job!

            2. Muriel Heslop*

              I hope your transfer is smooth and that things take an upturn. Good luck! You’ve had an incredibly tough run and I hope things get much, much better.

              1. fposte*

                You mean the manager’s comment? Yeah, I don’t get it either–is she saying that they don’t realize the OP is there when they say mean stuff? Because then they’re rock-stupid as well as mean.

                1. FiveWheels*

                  Yeah, apparently it’s a-okay to say vile things about a colleague, so long as she isn’t in the room. Wt-actual-f.

                2. Katie F*

                  Yeah, I am baffled and furious at the manager’s comment, because… what even IS that? “Oh, well, they talked about you like that because you were GONE, just remind them you’re back, haha”. No. No. No.

                  Terrible team AND a terrible manager. I’m glad Lauren is getting transferred, a work environment like this is going to be objectively awful forever.

                3. Temperance*

                  I have a feeling that the manager means that the coworkers need time to trust that the OP will be a reliable employee and not have another emergency. Which doesn’t give them the right to treat her badly.

            3. neverjaunty*

              Your manager sucks and your co-workers suck even more and I hope they get paper cuts every day forever.

              Best of luck to you in your new position, and so glad that you and your family are on the mend.

            4. animaniactoo*

              Um. No. Nobody needs time to realize somebody is back in order not to act like a jerk about their situation. General human decency should mean it never occurs in the first place.

              I’m glad you’re getting your transfer. I sincerely hope HR does address the manager’s *management issue* with them in allowing these comments to continue unchecked.

            5. catsAreCool*

              I’m glad you’re getting transferred laterally. I don’t understand how the co-workers “need time to realize you’re back”. I would have thought that scientists would have enough intelligence to not need time to “realize” this.

              Maybe the pointed comments are about someone else? I doubt it, but I keep hoping that these people aren’t completely messed up. I don’t have kids, but I can’t understand what kind of heartless people would deliberately say mean things about you having to miss work because of 2 traumatic events.

              Also, the manager should have stepped in. I’m thinking “We need to talk. In my office.” with anyone saying those kinds of things.

        2. moss*

          I am not technically a manager but I do lead teams and holy cow, if I ever heard anyone talking like this about a team member I would… I’m not sure because I’ve never seen it in real life. I’ve heard people moaning about workload but not because someone was out due to terrible circumstances beyond their control. It’s amazing and saddening to see.

      4. themmases*

        Thank you. I had to scroll past most of these because they are so ugly. I’m sure the OP’s coworkers justify their behavior in the exact same terms as some of the absolutely unbelievable people in this thread.

        There are no circumstances, and no possible dissatisfaction with your own work environment, that could ever excuse being nasty to someone in the OP’s situation. If you feel that there is something systemically unfair about your job, then you seek a new job. It comes up here all the time.

        But you keep these particular feelings to yourself, because they are not shared by good, or even normal, people.

        Just disgusting comments today. Wow.

      5. Dot Warner*

        I agree. I don’t have kids and never will, but seriously: A. Baby. Almost. Died. I’m really disgusted by some of the commenters today.

  9. Robot*

    OP #3… ” I thanked him for calling me in and told him that I don’t think I’m struggling, but rather since the position is new I think I’m just learning my new job.”

    This really isn’t something you can do. If the senior manager says that he thinks you’re struggling, you can’t just thank him and tell him that you’re not. From the way you’re telling the story, it sounds like you brushed off his concerns, which if I were your manager, I would be even more concerned about you as an employee now. The expectations may be unrealistic, but you’ve only been there for two weeks. You don’t really have standing to push back against unreasonable expectations at this stage, if they even are unreasonable, which it’s hard to tell from the letter, like Allison said. Buckle down, make no mistakes, and honestly, get everything ready in case you have to job search again, because this doesn’t bode well for you.

    1. A Signer*

      I completely agree. The unfortunate truth of starting a new job is that you have no goodwill bank to back you up on when you push back unreasonable expectations. The first year of a new job is eating sh*t until people take you seriously. It sucks completely but I think this was a mishandling of the situation. Start looking now.

    2. Vancouver Reader*

      Robot raised a very good point about OP’s response to the manager. You may have been very sincere inyour response, OP, but it could be construed as being flippant or not caring.

      Also, the examples the manager provided makes me think she’s concerned that if the OP doesn’t complete more seemingly simple tasks correctly, then more complicated tasks will be even more of an issue. Make sure OP, going forward, you have all your t’s crossed and your I’s dotted.

      1. Phoebe*

        Yes, I agree with all of this. I also think that the “minor” errors mentioned by the LW, aren’t as minor as he/she seems to think. Both are things that would have caused someone else to have to re-do the work. 1) The boss asked for 2 copies in order to save himself the interruption and the time, but since he only got one copy it actually did neither. 2) The Marketing packets being out of order may not seem like a big deal to the LW, but I bet it does to the Marketing Department. The truth is that the LW hasn’t been at this job long enough to judge whether or not the mistakes they’ve been making are minor ones and its’ obvious that the boss doesn’t think they are. I think he/she really needs to take the boss at his/her word, that this is a serious issue. Especially since they “live in a small town where it is hard to find jobs in PR.” This may mean that the boss had a large applicant pool to choose from and wouldn’t have any problems filling the position again.

        I’m not saying this to be mean, but when your boss tells you there’s a problem with your performance you really need to listen, even if you don’t agree. I am speaking from my own experience with a very similar situation when I was going through a rough time. My best friend had just died from a brain tumor and I was struggling at work, making what I thought at the time were really minor mistakes and getting called out on them. What I didn’t see at the time, was the way it was affecting my co-workers and the additional work I caused. Thankfully, I was not new to the company and I had a few years of hard work and a good reputation banked that I could draw on. I also have a very understanding manager who knew what I was going through at the time and finally got me to see how serious it had gotten before it was too late.

    3. JessaB*

      That was my thought. I would have responded, “please let me know what your concerns are so I can make sure they’re addressed going forward.” I’m not sure if the OP made it clear to the boss that they’re seriously listening to the feedback, because it seems they were more concerned with pushing back on it. So many employees would be thrilled that the boss was actually taking time to give them feedback this quickly.

      I’ve been in jobs where I literally had to go over and ask “Sometimes no feedback is great and sometimes it’s not, can you tell me if you’re satisfied with my performance so far, and if not what can I fix?” Because I had absolutely no clue whether I had one of those bosses who only bothered to speak to people having problems.

      OP it’s really important to A: take the feedback seriously and B: if you think maybe the boss didn’t think you were, to do something to change that right away. Right now your boss is probably not happy about how you reacted to this.

    4. Colette*

      I completely agree. If the person who evaluates you says they have concerns, you need to assume that the concerns are valid and work on correcting them.

    5. Purest Green*

      Bingo. If I were in your manager’s shoes, I’d be more worried about your reaction to criticism than your performance at this point.

    6. Clever Name*

      I agree. Frankly, the only opinion that matters here is your boss’. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best damn PR whatever to have ever existed. If your boss has concerns about your performance, that’s what matters. Is it fair? Maybe not, but it’s a reality of the working world.

    7. Security SemiPro*

      You’ve been there for two weeks and your boss is having to double check your work on basic administrative stuff? Is there work that you can do independently, that you can be trusted to complete perfectly or is this an internship/your first professional position?

      Your performance is concerning *to your boss* That means that it should be a concern to you as well, and you have been given an opportunity to understand what is important *to your boss* about how you do your job and fix it. Trying to figure out if its fair or right or if your boss could have the right idea about your performance at this stage is the wrong approach. Correcting the idea that you’re struggling is not the fight to get into here, you can correct that reputation by doing the work better – more accurately, faster, with better organization, whatever is missing from your current performance.

    8. Anonymous Educator*

      If I’m reading the situation correctly, the manager was using the term struggling to be polite and give the OP an out instead of saying doing a poor job. It’s sort of like when teachers write comments about students like “Jane could pay more attention to the syntax in her essays” instead of “Jane’s essays are poorly proofread or not proofread at all.”

      The OP took it to be “Do you feel you’re struggling?” and answered “No, I’m not,” instead of taking it to be “I have definite concerns about how subpar your performance has been.”

      1. Megs*

        That was my impression as well. I would really encourage OP3 to take Allison’s advice to heart to really try and figure out what’s working and what isn’t. Maybe this is a performance issue and you need to step up. Maybe it’s a communication issue with your boss, which can sometimes be even harder to figure out, but can sink even the most competent employee. Don’t focus on what’s fair or not, focus on what your boss is saying.

      2. Ad Astra*

        I think you’re exactly right, and I know I’ve responded similarly to the same “polite” wording in past jobs, not realizing that they were essentially lodging a complaint, not expressing genuine concern for my feelings. (Or, at least they weren’t expressing only concern for my feelings.) My pet peeve is when managers are indirect with entry-level employees; those are the employees least likely to pick up on workplace subtleties — so you’re not likely to get the improvement you want and the employee isn’t likely to get the guidance she needs.

        I’m on the fence about whether the boss is right to be so concerned about these particular errors, but it’s important for OP to realize that it doesn’t really matter if the person in charge of hiring or firing is being reasonable in their assessment. What matters is their assessment. Which is another thing I had to learn early in my career.

    9. Bob*

      It can depend on the manager’s style but many managers aren’t going to make any comments to you until they have seen significant evidence of you struggling, heard concerns voiced by co-workers/other managers, etc. From my experience, the situation is often dire by the time anything is said to the employee. I would personally take even a casual negative comment from my manager very seriously. The next step is being written up and then put on an action plan which often has an unhappy ending.

    10. BananaPants*

      Agreed. When your boss says they’re concerned that you’re struggling only a few weeks into a new job, you don’t get to brush it off and tell them they’re wrong. You listen to their concerns and try to make them happy. The person who signs the paychecks (literally or metaphorically) gets to decide if you’re working up to par or not.

    11. Marvel*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. Oftentimes, someone who is struggling is not cognizant of how much they’re struggling. Your manager gets to decide whether your performance is indicative of normal learning curve or not; you don’t have the perspective to do that.

  10. Lily*

    #2: Start sending out your resume now. Even if your job is not on the line, that place sounds horrible to work for.

  11. nofelix*

    #3 – Having struggled with that sort of thing before, I suggest you start making some personal processes to improve quality control. Use a notebook to take notes for even simple instructions, so that you don’t forget the details. Create checklists for packs that get sent out so you can tick everything off before showing it to your boss.

    A lot of jobs have undocumented processes because the employee responsible never thought to write down what they were doing since they had been doing it for years. Then the new person comes along and looks bad and it’s not really their fault.

    1. JessaB*

      This with process problems. But the way to answer that is to admit you did something wrong and ask someone who knows the process to watch you go through it and see what you missed.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I second this. And the manager or person doing the training when someone new comes in may not be all that good at it.

      Plus, there can be ulterior motives–not that I’m saying there are in this case, but it does happen. But I had a job once where I was given almost no time to get up to speed and then summarily fired for “insubordination” in a situation VERY similar to this one. Later, I found out through a fairly reliable source that the real reason I was let go was because the manager (who was not the person who hired me) wanted his buddy to work there instead. So I was let go and he hired his buddy.

      Even if the reason isn’t something as nefarious as this, the manager could just have very unrealistic expectations. Or the workplace–not necessarily the job–could just be a very poor fit for the OP. I’ve been in workplaces where the job wasn’t that difficult, but the power dynamic / culture just absolutely had me running in circles.

  12. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

    #4 – First off, I hope you and your baby are doing better. Secondly… Devil’s Advocate, do they know why you were out? I would not assume that your boss has told them. If they know and they are making snide remarks then they are assholes. If they don’t, they might just be frustrated and think you were on vacation or something. I’ve been out for seven weeks and return to work on Thursday and I’m slightly worried about what folks will say. Usually management doesn’t disclose why people are out and since none of my coworkers have contacted me, I know none of them have any clue why I have been out. And it’s not their business, they shouldn’t be mean to you either way, but at this point they really don’t know you.

      1. Alix*

        She also said that they didn’t respond emotionally enough for her satisfaction, and that she considers their lives and families less important than her own. If any of that came through in her attitude, I’m not terribly surprised she’s receiving some hostility. I’m not excusing it, but I’m not surprised.

        Besides, her examples of hostile comments – complaining that other mothers work from home and that’s not fair, for example – read to me as just as “hostile” as her own comment that she’s the only one with actual family. So at this point I have little sympathy for her.

        1. Sarahnova*

          She didn’t say that, actually – not to them and not to you. She said she is the only one in the relevant group with “immediate family” – the rest is your intepretation and projection of that comment. She could actually know that the others don’t have family or caring obligations, or she could have been using a common manner of speaking that *does* obscure the many people who have caring responsibilities for beings other than small children. (After all, the relevant factor here was that she needed time off *to care for a dependent*, not to leave work on time to see her sister.) When OP is snapping back at the relevant people in the office that their families ARE less important, I’ll consider it equivalent – not until then.

          I don’t think this is the discussion you think it is. A discussion about offices where caring responsibilities for small children only, or leaving on time for parents only, are privileged is an important one to have. But I don’t think this discussion is one to get into it. The OP needed that leave, she didn’t do anything wrong, and she’s not trying to make her co-workers’ life harder or being given parental privileges. She’s not responsible for unfair treatment you or anyone else may have received in different circumstances, and making her the focus of your objections is unfair.

          1. De*

            She also already said that she was wrong to assume that the others don’t have immediate family.

            1. K.*

              Yeah, that’s a poor word choice, and one that I’ve called colleagues out for when they say I don’t have a family (“Did you think I emerged from Zeus’s head, fully formed?” Said with a slight smile). I don’t have kids but my family of origin, my parents and brother, are my immediate family and I’m close to them. My mother, who works full-time, requires a bit of care (not much, but I’ve had to take a bit of time off to take her to doctor’s appointments, etc.) which is as important to me as a child is to its parents. She was in the ER a couple of years ago (she’s fine) and I dropped everything at work to be with her there, missing about half a day.

              Now, having said that, it would not occur to me to make comments like the one the OP is describing. I can’t fathom having so little compassion. That is insane, cruel, and absolutely should not be happening.

          2. nofelix*

            Amen. OP is not a representative for all parents ever. She needs support not criticism. These events only happened a couple of months ago.

          3. Christopher Tracy*

            + 1000 Sarahnova. I’m sitting here with my jaw on the floor with some of these comments. The OP takes time off to recover from her own near fatal injury and her six-month-old almost dying, her coworkers are being assholes about it, but she’s the bad guy here? Like, what?!

          4. AnonInSC*

            Yes. There are a few commenters today with issues they need to work out elsewhere and not on the OP.

        2. Jo*

          I think this is uncalled for and extrapolates most unfairly from some comments. This is again one of the few times when I am saddened at comments on AAM. I feel for ALL people who have a child (or indeed a parent or even a pet) go through a terrible and shocking illness, consider it is a shame more compassion can’t be shown to someone experiencing it (new job or not) and I personally would like to wish the OP all the very best. Disappointing.

          1. Caledonia*

            @ Jo. I agree. This is the second time in a week where I’ve been dismayed at the comments in response to a letter – the other one being the LW for wanting to take her boyfriend to the UK as a surprise gift.

            I too, wish the OP and her wee family all the best.

          2. Natalie*

            FWIW, it seems to only be 2 people who happen to be especially vocal about their opinion. I wouldn’t hold a funeral for the comments section quite yet.

            1. LJL*

              Thanks for pointing that out. I had lost track and now feel more hopeful about AAM comments in general.

            2. Myrin*

              Yeah, usually whenever there’s some “controversy” going on in the comments, it’s a handful of people having a different opinion from everyone else but replying to every single person who had replied to them, resulting in it seeming to be an equal amount of people on both sides when that’s really not the case.

        3. nofelix*

          Not sure where you’re getting “she considers their lives and families less important than her own” from. OP just said that “They actually don’t have immediate families. I am the only one with a child.” which isn’t a comment on their relative importance, she was just responding to an earlier comment. I also dislike the ‘parent privilege’ convention but I don’t see it here: these were genuine emergencies that require understanding and sympathy.

          1. Maria*

            She’s getting it from the fact that “immediate families” does not only mean “I have a child”, but LW seems to think that it does. Unless every colleague of the LW is an only child in addition to being both single and an orphan, then they do in fact have immediate families.

            1. Christopher Tracy*

              That’s not what she meant, and people really need to stop twisting her words to fit some narrative in their minds of her being a childfree single person hater so they can be righteously angry about it when she’s the one being mistreated in the workplace.

              1. AnonAnalyst*

                YES. Seriously, this extrapolation is really uncalled for. Plus, the OP only added that comment as a clarification to another poster’s question, not as holier than thou about why her coworkers were being jerks.

                I’m one of the few childfree employees in my office, but the only one who does the type of work I do so I usually end up having to pick up the slack when my colleagues with children have to leave work to attend to something at home. So I understand the frustration when this argument usually comes up. But this is not that argument, and people need to stop trying to turn it into that.

            2. MashaKasha*

              This was not what she meant at all. I took her comment to mean that her coworkers do not understand the situation she’s been in, as they cannot relate; so they’re blowing it off as something insignificant on par with “my kid has a ball game tonight”. Which appears to be true, judging by their reaction and comments. I’m puzzled as well. My kids are adults, and the only family I have outside of them is my mother who’s an independent senior, so also, “no immediate family” that I have to take care of. But, if I heard that a coworker was out because her baby HAD NEARLY DIED, I’d be completely understanding, to say the least! It’s not that big of a stretch of imagination to put oneself into OP’s shoes, yet her coworkers are somehow failing to do that – why is that, if they have families too?

              1. Faith*

                That was exactly how I took OP’s comment – that her coworkers do not have similar type of dependents (be it children, elderly parents, or other family members with health issues), so they cannot relate to what she’s dealing with. My old boss would give me grief if I had to take time off to take care of a sick baby even though my work still got done (I would work after 8 pm when my baby went to sleep). And I bet that at least some of it had to do with the fact that his wife was a SAHM, so he never had to juggle work and taking care of a sick baby.

            3. Doreen*

              Apparently not immediate family that they can imagine needing to take six weeks off to care for.Because if they can imagine taking six weeks off to care for a parent or sibling, and still are treating the OP this way, that just makes the coworkers seem worse.

        4. GreatLakesGal*

          At the risk of rehashing, I take OPs comment to mean, “I’m not getting unwarranted special treatment that others in similar situations should also be getting, so I’m at a loss regarding this aspect of the hostility I’m receiving.”

          And this would apply equally if the new hire was the caregiver to a critically ill parent, spouse or sibling who required emergency surgery and then got into a serious car acccident and was injured.

          Are people really complaining that someone with a set of truly horrific tragedies, was treated compassionately by their employer?

          I worked with a new hire whose spouse became critically ill and spent a month in ICU and another month in a rehab hospital, and then worked short hours for a month, all during her initial 90 days.

          I guarantee you that none of us were looking resentfully at the clock and muttering, “Gosh, I wish I got to leave at 3 to take my spouse to the cardiologist, pulmonogist and neurologist. Those marrieds sure get special treatment around here!”

          That’s because we were NOT HORRIBLE PEOPLE.

          1. Mookie*

            I don’t even understand that “special treatment” whinge in light of LW’s specific situation. Are parents somehow supposed to be immune to car accidents?

            1. nofelix*

              Yeah, it speaks to how attacked OP feels that she included the other driver’s charge for ‘reckless endangerment’, just to make it clear she didn’t intentionally get into an accident to skive off work!

              1. JessaB*

                Yeh even if it was her fault, it’s not on to be like that, I mean they call it an accident not an on purpose for a reason. But it’s even worse when it’s so totally not. I mean okay if the OP was drink driving maybe I’d see someone going “how could she,” but cheese on crackers, someone slammed into her.

          2. Myrin*

            For real. My sister had been working part-time at a supermarket for a year when she had to spend the first three months of this year at the hospital because of extreme mental health issues (some regular commenters my remember the situation, I talked about it several times in the open thread). During that time, she was in contact with her coworkers so she knew that there were some tight spots due to understaffing, but not a single one of them ever made her feel guilty – they were supportive and urging her to take all the time she needs. Not only that, but very shortly after she came back to work, she was actually offered a close-to-full-time position which came with a raise and more responsibility. They easily could have let her go because she wasn’t there to work for a full three months but instead they were compassionate and realised that she’ll come back in much better health than before – which she did, and they’re all very happy with her new position at the market.

          3. MashaKasha*

            “And this would apply equally if the new hire was the caregiver to a critically ill parent, spouse or sibling who required emergency surgery and then got into a serious car acccident and was injured.”

            This * 1000. I don’t understand how this became about parents vs childfree in the first place. This could happen to any of our family members and then we’d have to take off work too.

            This discussion just blows my mind. I honestly had not expected to see those posts.

          4. catsAreCool*

            “Are people really complaining that someone with a set of truly horrific tragedies, was treated compassionately by their employer?” This!

        5. Mike C.*

          Uh, what? Do you seriously have no idea that sort of crap mothers face in lab jobs? This is even before all the other terrible things that happened in her personal life.

        6. Mustache Cat*

          This is a ridiculous reach. What exactly is your bias here?

          She said: I could have cared less if they reacted or didn’t react.

          She told us how many other coworkers have children because one of the commenters above was speculating (wildly, may I add) about it. No judgment attached.

          Those examples of hostile comments were examples of comments made, typically, to women with children in other departments, not to her specifically. They are there to provide context.

        7. LTR*

          “She also said that they didn’t respond emotionally enough for her satisfaction, and that she considers their lives and families less important than her own.”

          Whoa. Clearly I missed something. Where exactly did the OP write this? Your comments are accusatory and unhelpful. I’m not sure if you’re new, but this isn’t how we respond to letter writers/other commenters here. If you don’t have an objective or helpful comment, feel free to step away from the keyboard.

        8. SystemsLady*

          She misspoke, and I should note trying to come up with a valid reason as to why they’d minimize her child’s suffering to her being an entitled parent (easy to misspeak there…because there isn’t one, if you ask me!). She acknowledged that it was wrong of her to imply somebody who doesnt have children doesn’t get it.

          There is absolutely zero reason to assume she thinks this!

        9. CM*

          None of that is true.

          You are reading a LOT of negativity and judgment into OP’s comments that is simply not there.

          She said that her coworkers don’t have kids and didn’t really react to her baby almost dying. She only said this in response to several questions about her coworkers. It was not part of her original story. This information is relevant because it’s a possible explanation as to her coworkers’ blaming her for being out; they have not been in this situation so maybe they don’t understand how serious it is. There is no evidence that she acts judgmental toward her peers for not having kids.

          Can we please lay off the OP now?

        10. Purest Green*

          Do you habitually blame the victim, or does motherhood specifically raise your hackles?

        11. themmases*

          You need to stop.

          The comments you’re referring to were Lauren responding to questions about her letter. Her situation is serious– she moved for a new job, nearly lost her son, could have died herself, and probably has medical bills as a reminder of both terrible experiences. Most people would feel sympathy for her automatically because that’s the human response. Instead she’s being bullied at her new job.

          Whatever issue you have with parents or with your job has nothing to do with her. Your comments are hostile and cruel, and if you really can’t see that, or that Lauren did not personally harm you, then there is something very wrong with you. You’re trashing and browbeating a stranger whose child almost died because you don’t like the way she worded an internet comment. You need to seriously step back and think about your behavior and your treatment of others. They’re not acceptable to decent people.

        12. BananaPants*

          Do you feel this way about all working mothers, or just this one whose baby almost died and whose words you’re twisting beyond the point of recognition?

        13. Observer*

          Except that she didn’t say either of those things. And saying that taking unpaid leave is “the worst” qualifies as hostile by any measure.

          I don’t know what your issue is. But, making clearly inaccurate statements in a bid to defend the indefensible doesn’t inspire respect, sympathy or sense of credibility.

        14. catsAreCool*

          Alix, how can you have “little sympathy” for someone whose child just went through heart surgery and who was in a serious accident? I don’t think her comment that she’s the only one with family was meant the way you think it was.

    1. Marietta*

      I second the idea that all employees might not have really known what was going on. When my child was in the ICU for 6 months, I had told my immediate supervisor and department director and assumed the grapevine would take care of it. It didn’t and a lot of people I worked with hadn’t known why I had been out so long.

  13. Juli G.*

    #2 – we had a number of benefit cuts happen when our company hit a rough patch during the recession. I always remember what our VP said. After all the explanation and announcements he told us, “This sucks. Today, you can be upset and angry and worried because I can’t tell you there isn’t more to come. But tomorrow, we have to work and work harder than we ever have.”

    In that moment, it was one of the most motivating things because it both validated our feelings while gently reminding us that we had to deal with it. I always think about it when I’m getting rah rahed.

    (By the way, all benefits were restored within 18 months.)

    1. nofelix*

      Must remember this, it’s really good. Being given the space to be upset must have felt really supportive and prepared you for working to deal with it.

    2. Megs*

      That is really well put. I would guess that part of #2’s frustration stems from the feeling that they’re being told not to feel totally justifiable feelings. There’s something important about taking time to recognizing that feelings exist, but then working through them because there’s still a job to do.

    3. Bob*

      I didn’t read OP’s question so much as “you need to be upbeat” (though that was said) as “this announcement can’t turn this place into a non-stop whining session”. I’ve been through several lay-offs, mergers, etc. and there are always a few employees who make it their goal in life to remind management how much the situation sucks. A random problem happens? “Well, I guess our genius bosses should have considered that before they laid off Sally!” It gets old for everyone and makes it hard to stay positive. Those people also have a tendency to move themselves up the list for lay-offs. Phase one is “what positions can we do without?”. Phase two is often “who is a pain in your ass?” (sometimes phase two comes first)

  14. Katie F*

    I feel like LW’s #2 and #4 need to start job-hunting ASAP, for very different reasons. LW #4, your boss is doing everything but telegraphing to you that you are going to be fired soon. They’re giving you some time to find something else, so I would use that time and I would probably tell my boss upon leaving that I appreciated all the feedback and that they made it so clear that my work wasn’t up to snuff, I hope to do better in my next position, etc. But while the errors -seem- little, they also seem like things that could cause potential issues later on and also seem like they’re fairly simple errors to fix. I’m wondering if this isn’t a problem of attention.

    LW #2, eventually those layoffs are going to get around to you. The loss of benefits, money, and other things tells me this company is probably being slowly dismantled. I’d be on my way out, were I you.

    #1, I usually do say “I need to talk to my husband, just to get everyone on the same page.” I’ve never had it be an issue – I’d say just about every boss understands the need to make decisions as a unit.

    1. Joseph*

      Re: #1 – Not only is it not an issue, it’s actually a positive for you to discuss it with your spouse. As a hiring manager, I *want* you and your spouse to be on the same page about accepting the job, because if you two aren’t on the same page, you’ll probably end up unhappy, stressed, and looking to leave.
      The old cliche “Happy wife, happy life” has a lot of truth.

      1. Katie F*

        I do, thanks! That’s on me for not scrolling up to double-check before I wrote it out.

  15. Homo homini lupus est*

    There are times when you can get away with being a total jerk (and a sorry excuse of a human being) and there are times when *not* taking a stance against said jerks (not to mention defending them) automatically makes you a jerk, too. In my opinion, OP #4’s case falls into the second category.

    Let’s see again: Lauren (OP #4) had not one, but two major life events. In ascending order of importance for our species, she’s been in an accident committed by someone else and faced a life-threatening condition for her baby. Both outside her control. And her coworkers showed an appalling lack of empathy.

    From an evolutionary POV, in this instance said coworkers (and those commenters supporting their stance or looking for excuses) place themselves outside the bounds of “normal” (species-forwarding) human behavior (while retaining the humanoid shape of their bodies). And that is because the species conservation instinct is the instinct of the highest order (self-preservation comes next) – that explains why endangering children, or kicking puppies, maddens almost anyone. Empathy is one way through which the species preserves itself – it summons co-operative and defensive behaviors meant (among others) to keep the gene pool large enough and to ensure mating possibilities.

    Continued lack of empathy usually makes an animal unfit for reproduction; thus, my conclusion about coworkers placing themselves outside the bounds of normal human behavior.

    I didn’t bother explaining why empathy is a basic trait of a decent human being. It’s one of those things where you either get it, or you don’t. Coworkers and supporting commenters do not get it, at least today. I don’t know anything about anyone of them, but in this one instance they didn’t get it. At all.

    Lauren, I hope all will be well soon in your life!

      1. EU-RO-Cat*

        I don’t know if HHLE was serious, but there is some science there. Many of our present-day social rules have evolutionary roots (see the latest neurobiology research, or Daniel Kahnemann’s work), so at first glance there might be some truth in this comment.

      2. Homo homini lupus est*

        Yes, MikeC, dead serious. It was that, or a slew of swear words. I preferred the cold scientific approach to underline that the lack of empathy and compassion means a (at least temporary) suspension of the Human Race Membership Card for the offenders.

        1. blackcat*

          “…underline that the lack of empathy and compassion means a (at least temporary) suspension of the Human Race Membership Card for the offenders.”

          LOL. Man, would I like a means of enforcing that…

        2. Marvel*

          I’m really not comfortable with suspending anyone’s Human Race Membership Card based on evolutionary psychology, of all things. Which is… often not a scientifically rigorous field, to say the very least.

    1. themmases*

      Hahaha thank you, I love this comment! Turns out I do want to live on this planet anymore!

  16. Not Karen*

    #4: I think it’s important to note that OP is a scientist. In the sciences there can be anti-parenting standards and the expectation that women in the sciences especially should be career-focused and not family-focused – and in fact, not want a family at all. Once upon a time in college I told a guy I was seeing that I wanted kids and he was shocked – because I was a biology major, he had assumed I didn’t want kids (talk about irony).

    Ridiculous, yes, but I suspect this has something to do with the derisive mom comments that may specific to this workplace because it is scientific.

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, the sciences are incredibly shitty towards people who have lives outside of the lab.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yep. I work in litigation, a profession dominated by ego-rich white dudes, and the attitude about families in general and moms in particular is light years beyond what it would be if I had a job like the OP’s. Which is pathetic.

    2. the_scientist*

      Indeed. I wanted to make this comment as well but was too busy this morning. Laboratory sciences are notoriously unfriendly to women with children, or who want children, and this attitude often comes from the top, with many principal investigators making comments deriding motherhood and belittling women who choose to have children because they aren’t “focused” or “dedicated” enough to their work. If you came up in labs where this attitude is prevalent, it’s really easy to internalize this attitude (and IME both male and female PIs are equally guilty of perpetuating it).

      Plus, competition can be incredibly fierce in labs, and there are really dysfunctional environments where lab-mates will do almost anything to undercut or one-up each other: for prestige, for plum projects, for publications etc., and also because the job market is so fiercely competitive. The combination of fierce competition and disparaging attitudes towards motherhood can create incredibly toxic laboratory environments. And while it sounds like the OP’s PI is compassionate and doesn’t share this bias against female scientists, PIs aren’t trained as managers, and usually don’t want to be managers, and therefore are pretty hands-off as long as the work is getting done.

      1. themmases*

        Interesting! I come from a not at all lab science (I sit in a cubicle using SAS to count cancer cases) so to me this attitude is something I’ve heard of but not really seen in person.

        I think I might just have a really weird career path that insulated me though. I did research at a children’s hospital and then came to a school of public health that, although it’s not my thing, is known for its maternal and child health program. I’m pretty sure I’m the weirdo for not wanting kids.

        Also just putting it out there that I’m pretty sure I’m not using my non-kids time to be harder working than anyone else. :) If I had more of a sweet tooth, I would be the one eating bon-bons while I watch Walking Dead after work.

        1. moss*

          Hello Fellow SAS user! I think it’s very interesting to hear this perspective as well. I work for a CRO and my management chain is mostly women and work-life balance is very good here. We have moms and not moms and smart friendly people working together.

          I’ve seen the penalty in my brother and sister-in-law’s careers though. She was put on the mommy track and only got contract work (despite being whip smart and a really good researcher) whereas he has been very successful in a traditional sense. It’s sad.

        2. the_scientist*

          In fairness, I have noticed that public health tends to be very supportive of work-life balance, for everyone, not just for people with children. It is also female-dominated, at least in my area! I come from a basic science background and this attitude is still unfortunately pervasive in many of the basic science disciplines, especially in academic settings.

          Corporate labs (i.e. pharmaceutical companies) tend to be decent about work-life balance as well, which I attribute to the fact that there are better management structures in place than in academic labs, and the fact that there are more worker protections (including unions).

      2. TL -*

        But there’s no punishment for men having children. It’s expected that they’ll have a wife to take care of them and it won’t interfere with their science.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        This makes me want to cry.

        WE NEED SCIENCE. And we need women in science. And we need to stop acting like jerks and just get the science done.

        Because science.

    3. Calacademic*

      Not always. I’m in a hard science, working in laboratories daily. I’m also a woman with a 3 year old. Since I started my job, my kid broke her leg, and I was in a serious bike accident requiring weeks off for surgery. My colleagues? Couldn’t be more supportive.

      Op’s former coworkers are jerks.

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah, it does really depend.

        I once worked in a lab where a post-doc had to bring his infant into the lab for a stretch when daycare fell through. He was offered time off but really wanted to get work done in time for a conference. It was fine and the only eyes batted were about safety (“Uh, dude, put her further from that machine. It gives me headaches, so I’m sure it’s bad for a kid.”). It was easier given that the kid was like 5 or 6 weeks old, so basically just sleeping all day in a carseat. I think it did matter, though, that it was a TINY lab. A PI, 1 post-doc, 1 grad student, and 1 undergrad (me). So none of the competitive stuff folks above have described. And the PI’s only complaint about having the kid around was that he (the PI, not the dad) ended up doing less work because all he wanted to do was play with the baby.

        So certain labs can be super supportive of parents/people who have life happen.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Also, he was a dude. I don’t know about your lab in particular, but believe me, dads ‘babysitting’ their own kids get a lot more admiration and slack than moms.

  17. Recruit-o-Rama*

    After reading through this thread, I am so sad. No wonder women get paid less than men, they are seen as slackers for having a child who nearly died. In my working experience, there are slackers and excuse makers in every job and whether or not they have children is not the determining factor. There are also bitter whiners who will use any excuse to elevate themselves as “better workers” above their co-workers with legitimate life emergencies. Where is the sense of decency and common human compassion? I am so thankful for my boss and co-workers after reading through this. I have been with my company for a long time, but I had three seperate “big” emergencies in the last 18 months; one with my husband (6 weeks in the ICU) one with my son and one with my grandmother. Not only did they cover me while I was out, they took care to make sure I didn’t feel guilty about it, which I did to a certain degree but after sleeping in hospital chairs and spending many sleepless nights worried about my loved ones, I had a hard time mustering up much guilt.

    OP#4, I am so sorry for your recent emergencies and your co-workers are jerks, full stop. There is no room for sympathy for people who had to work a little extra for 6 weeks while you feared that your infant was going to die. I hope your baby is recovering well.

  18. Jubilance*

    I was a laboratory scientist for 7 years, and I’ve never encountered coworkers like the ones OP#4 has described. I would have been shocked and saddened if a new coworker told me her baby was in heart failure, and then had a serious car accident myself. Her coworkers have misplaced their anger/resentment – it needs to be all directed towards management if the work has not be distributed equally and others are feeling burnt out over the work.

    Listen, I’ve been the only single and childless person in the office but I’ve NEVER had a manager demand or even imply that I was the person who needed to stay late to finish work. If my coworkers with children needed to leave early, either due to a family emergency or a planned event, they rearranged their schedules or took their laptops home so they could continue working once their child was asleep/event was over/etc. Yes, as a scientist, you can’t take laboratory equipment home, but there are always reports to write, documentation to complete, emails to answer, white papers to review, etc. It’s not all lab 24/7. Sure I’ve pitched in to keep tests running, because that’s what a good person does, and my coworkers have done the same for me when I’ve been sick/needed to be out of town/etc. Honestly, what happened to treating other people like you want to be treated? Anyone can have a car accident or a sudden serious illness – would you want your coworkers to be hostile to you over something you can’t control?

    Frankly, I’m really disappointed at some of the comments directed towards the OP today. Maybe some of you are new, but piling onto the OP and tearing into them isn’t something we do here on AAM. She came here for help, not to be told she’s a bad person because her kid got sick and she was in a car accident. If you can’t be a compassionate person and not let your own personal work bitterness impact your comments, maybe you shouldn’t be here.

    1. Leatherwings*

      +1 Great comment. OP4, I hope everything levels out to normal soon and that you and your child feels 100% soon.

    2. Glouby*

      I appreciate seeing your and others’ pushback on comments that express hostility and/or unfounded assumptions about the OPs. I’m new to reading AAM, and find this kind of peer-moderating rare and refreshing.

    3. animaniactoo*

      “If you can’t be a compassionate person and not let your own personal work bitterness impact your comments, maybe you shouldn’t be here.”

      Or maybe you should be here asking for help on how to get that in check, because it is poisoning your ability to be compassionate and not demonize relatively neutral words from an OP into a reductio ad absurdum interpretation of what’s been said. That’s a kind of mindset that has to be affecting your life and ability to enjoy it far beyond how you comment here, and it’s worth working on, asking for help for also.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        +1,000. I know people in my life who read malicious intent into everything (and I used to be one of those people myself – working on it in therapy), and those people lead exhausting lives.

    4. Marillenbaum*

      Madam, I think you win today’s Good Human Prize. It basically just consists of my admiration and esteem, but still. I, too, would really like to see no more of these “Well, I’m sick of parents doing…” or “Just to play Devil’s Advocate…” No. The Devil (quite an apt description of these coworkers) does not need an advocate; not here, not on this.

    5. themmases*

      This is an awesome comment Jubilance. I find the comments here so infuriating today that I’m especially just in awe of your grace and calm in responding. :)

    6. Nervous Accountant*

      I’m still shocked. I feel like there was more sympathy for the manager who’s employee quit on the spot for not being allowed to attend her graduation, even though that person was 100000% in the wrong. I know many harsh posts were deleted out of respect for that and future OPs and frankly I’m disgusted by the comments from the small handful here who are piling on the OP especially when SHE DID NOTHING WRONG!!!!!!!

      Someone who said that the parent threads really bring out the knives and pitchforks was spot on. How exhausting it must be to constantly nitpick words and see malice in everything

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          I know, you’re right, but it feels like so much more to me, I’m not sure why :|

    7. Prismatic Professional*

      @Jubilance This.

      @ New Readers: If you read the commenting guidelines, they say to NOT do the following:
      *personal attacks or harsh or unkind comments to other commenters or **letter-writers**
      *Nitpick people’s spelling, grammar, or **word choices**

      Be kind and assume the best. If we want people to feel safe writing in, we have to be kind. We can give constructive feedback and still be kind doing it. Many longtime commenters have been doing it for years. :-)

  19. Leatherwings*

    OP#3 You mention that you told your boss that you didn’t think you’re struggling. The issue is that to really improve (and quickly) I think you need to accept in your own head that your performance isn’t up to par regardless of whether your bosses’ expectations are too high.

    If you let yourself get defensive about your performance, it’ll hinder your ability to buckle down and figure out what the issue is then fix it.

  20. animaniactoo*

    OP4, Lauren, the next time you hear crap about “People who take unexpected PTO are the WORST’, I would really appreciate if you could look that person dead in the eye and say “And for your sake, I sincerely hope that you never have to. That nothing in your life ever goes so badly wrong that you need to do that. And if it does, I hope you have co-workers who won’t pile on top of all the horrible stuff you just had to deal with that made it necessary for you to take that unexpected PTO.”

    And then calmly and quietly walk away or change the subject back to whatever you’re working on “Now, about those numbers for…”

  21. Grrr*

    What the heck is WRONG with people? Look, I get that it’s inconvenient when a team member is out for an extended period. I’m dealing with that myself, right now. But talk about misplaced blame! Blame the managers for not having a backup plan, but do not blame OP #4. Have some freaking compassion. Not just as a coworker, but as a HUMAN BEING.

  22. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #4 – Holy crap, I am so sorry for everything you’ve had thrown at you! I’m glad your employer was able to accommodate your leave and that both you and your baby are on the mend, and that your HR responded well in getting you the heck out of that disgustingly poisonous atmosphere, but even with all the help in the world, that still must have been such a horrible time.

    It sounds like your coworkers were doing exactly what some of the commentariat here are doing — holding you personally responsible for the perceived sins of All Working Mothers Everywhere, which is a giant load of horsecrap. I really can’t offer any advice, but my heart goes out to you and I hope things continue to look up.

  23. Turanga Leela*

    OP #4, I don’t have any helpful advice, but I’m so sorry you went through all of this, and I hope you and your baby are doing better. Hang in there.

  24. EJ*

    #1 — Super normal.

    Think of all the changes that could be occurring with a new job — Higher/lower pay and needs to go over finances. New working hours. Childcare routine or needs to find childcare. New distance from home/Longer commute. Relocation/Move to a new city. Needs a new possible mode of transportation (Buy 2nd car? Need ride to train/bus?). Etc…

    When you have a partner/share a life with someone (especially someone you share the finances with) everything needs to be discussed!

    1. themmases*

      I agree; I think the OP’s way and Alison’s way of phrasing are just two variations on the same thing. If you are partnered, discussing the new job with your partner is probably part of the “thinking it over” process whether you say it or not.

      I wouldn’t read a lot into one over the other in an off-the-cuff remark. It’s like the difference between “how are you” and “how are you doing”.

  25. Jen*

    So side question regarding Letter 5.
    Starting a new career as a teacher. Obviously we work more than 40 hours a week. Starting salary is 43-45k in the city I’ll be in. My contract stated “exempt” specifically. When this takes affect, does that change things for teachers?

      1. Kira*

        Is that because of the professional exemption? My work would fall under administrative exemption, so I never knew much about the other paths to be exempt.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nope, those three professions are specifically called out in the law as not being subject to the salary test, whereas other “learned professional” jobs are.

  26. CaliCali*

    Yikes. I would think “my infant nearly died and then I got into a car accident” would be a pretty bulletproof rationale for a work absence, but between the work colleagues and the (small number of) commenters here pushing back on it, I am incredibly saddened by the lack of empathy. Yeah, if you’re the one having to pick up the slack, it sucks, but good god, it’s what you DO for your fellow beings.

  27. Pamalamadingdong*

    Another side question re: #5

    I work in a CPA office (admin). I’m exempt and my pay is based on 30/hrs per week. It’s about $36,000 right now.

    When I asked my boss about the new OT rules she said she doesn’t think it will change anything for me because it’s based on 40 hours. If you adjusted my pay to 40 hours it would be $48,000, over the new limit. It sounds right to me, but is it?

    Also, during tax season I regularly work over 40 hours per week. Anything over 40 I earn comp time to use later in the year. Will anything have to change with that? I have another question about this but I’ll save it for Friday.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, she’s not right. The new threshold of $47,476 does not get prorated if you’re part-time. You will become non-exempt, which means that you’ll be owed overtime for all hours over 40 in a week. They can’t pay you in comp time, unless that comp time is taken within the same pay period (which, as the daughter of a CPA, I know isn’t going to happen during tax season).

      1. Callietwo*

        I think I’m one that will be affected by these new rules, due to income amounts.

        Currently, my company has us flex our time around so we don’t go over in any one pay period but our pay period is on a 2 week cycle. So currently we’re expected to have *no more or less* than 80 hours per pay period. Will this change with the new rules, if the pay period is 2 weeks vs 1 week?

        1. fposte*

          That’s more a policy call. They can keep to the old rules and pay you OT for the week you work over 40, or they can change it so that you have no more or less than 40 hours per week rather than 80 hours per pay period.

          1. Callietwo*

            That’s what I was wondering- will it have to be flexed in that pay period (Not always possible, Friday’s often end up pushing us over in one week at the last minute but they have a strict “no OT allowed” policy as well) so I’m curious what will happen there if we cannot flex our time in a two week time span. I foresee an expectation that we eat it, and with jobs so scarce where we live that we will end up doing just that.

            I would prefer to keep what we have, it gives us far more flexibility and they’re a non-profit so there will be no more $$ coming our way.

    2. (Not an IRS) Auditor*

      No, you cannot be exempt if your actual weekly earnings are less than the threshold. There is no such thing as part time exempt in the rules.

      You will need to track your hours (all hours worked, not just billable) and be paid OT for any hours over 40 in an individual week. Comp time is only legal for governmental employees.

      Is your boss a CPA? If they are, they are negligently uninformed.

      1. (Not an IRS) Auditor*

        And I really need to learn to refresh when posting at the end of a long thread.

  28. J.B.*

    Lauren (OP4),

    I am so sorry about the meanness and am so happy that a) your baby and you are recovering and b) HR came through with a transfer. What a load off!

    As a general musing, comments dealing with “parents” (but they really mostly mean moms) are tough. A reasonable flexible track is a nice thing.

  29. Anna*

    For the person that got called into their boss’ office in the first two weeks, this may be a huge sign of the company culture. Who is training you? I swear sometimes the wrong person training you can make things worse. I’d start looking around for a new job if it’s already like this. Ugh.

  30. costume teapot*

    Lauren/OP4, I wish you and your family the best through these trying times and that both of you recover quickly! Your baby joins an awesome band of folks with zippers. I know at least half a dozen who went through this or something similar and have grown up to be healthy, active people and I wish the same for your babbin.

    OP#1, not that I’m a hiring manager, but I do think I’d be a little worried about the people who jump to accept an offer and do not ask for at least a day to think it over. It’s such a huge life-change!

  31. TheVet*

    #3, If your boss thinks you’re struggling…you’re struggling. It would be in your best interests to not tell him you don’t think you are. I’m imagining the comic of a dog sitting in a room that is on fire saying, “I’m fine.” You’re not fine. Your boss has brought you in to discuss your poor performance twice in two weeks. You’ve got to get this together or the third discussion could be “We’re letting you go.”

    Ask him what you need to do. Take notes. Read them. Use them. Ask colleagues for tips. Finish your work, go over it, walk a lap and go over it again before turning it in.

  32. SaviourSelf*

    OP5 – One thing to consider, as non-exempt they will probably make you hourly. Please make sure they set your new hourly rate correctly (based on 35 hours/week or 1820 hours/year) and do not base it on a 40 hour week (2080 hours/year). If they miscalculate you could see a drop in your income.

    They could also make you salary non-exempt. That would mean that you are paid the same every week, regardless of hours worked until you hit 40 hours. At 40 hours they will have to abide by overtime laws.

    1. fposte*

      That is a very good point, and it wouldn’t hurt for the OP to raise that issue if it doesn’t come up from management.

      1. Jaimi Wolf*

        Also, I was generous and assumed you made $12k/year at your 1820 hours per year, and you are making $6.59/hour. So they will either give you a raise, to make you meet at least minimum, or cut your hours.

        This changes, of course, if you are making at least $13,200/year, but it sounded as if you were closer to 10,000/year.

  33. Lauren*

    Hi everyone. After reading every single comment as of 1:56am EST August 3rd, here are my responses:
    1) I am a cell biology scientist 3 with a masters and 8 years of cell banking experience and 4 years of supervisory experience (I.e. Lab techs and associate scientists). At this new job, I HAD NO OFFICIAL workload because the first six months of employment are reserved for training. This is because we have to wait for internal cell banks to generate (vs. external/client) for new hires to be trained on them. So there was literally no work to be divied out among my coworkers.
    2) I did mean DEPENDENT immediate family, which I only said in response to someone’s question. I did not include it in my OP because it was irrelevant. Everyone’s family (near and far) matters. I just couldn’t understand how they could be so mean. About a baby. Who could have died. And who was in pain before and after surgery-yet Mommy couldn’t explain why.
    3) karma? Seriously dude? I haven’t been through enough for now?
    4) my transfer is to project management, not another lab
    5) thank you to all the supporters. I’ve cried reading some of your amazing responses. :-)

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      hey OP, I hope you realize that as stated above 99% of the comments were kind and supportive and the hostile, nasty comments were from a very very very few people.

      Also, re: 1 &2, well now….I wonder what the commenters have to say about this now.

      I hope things are looking up for you and best of luck at the new position!

    2. Liane*

      @Lauren: I didn’t see until a few minutes ago that you got a transfer yesterday because I couldn’t stand to read any more hateful posts by a couple glassbowls–on whose behalves I apologize. I am so glad to hear you have been moved and even gladder to hear that your baby is doing well!

      @Alison: Would you consider separately posting Lauren’s comment from between 10 & 11 am yesterday where she mentions that she was transferred, since other readers may have missed that amid all the, um, tumult–and we love updates with Very Good News. And maybe this one as well? I understand you might decide not to, to avoid a repeat of that chaos.

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