employee got pregnant to avoid working on Christmas, did I burn a bridge with a former manager, and more

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

1. Employee said she purposely got pregnant to avoid working on Christmas

My good friend and I are at a stalemate and I was hoping you could help. She’s a pharmacist in a very busy medical clinic, which is open on holidays. During this time of year, she tries to make the schedule as fair as possible to accommodate people’s travel, time with family etc. There are a few employees who do not celebrate Christmas and/or New Year’s, and because they receive double pay, they typically don’t mind working those days. However, there is still some crunching of shifts that just has to be done.

About a month or so ago, she overheard one of her lead techs (who was very pregnant) tell another tech that she’d gotten pregnant on purpose so she’d automatically be off during the holidays…again. This pregnancy is this woman’s second child; her first was born last year, two days after Thanksgiving. She returned to work in late January. This new baby arrived a few days before Thanksgiving, and she’ll probably return from maternity leave around the same time next year. My friend then heard her say something to the affect of “Anna (my friend) screwed me over a couple years ago and I wasn’t going to let that happen again.” Apparently the year before last, they were short staffed and this woman had to work the evening shift on Christmas day. She was paid double and my friend even made food available because she knew that this employee was upset. But she was given a month’s notice that she would be required to work that day.

My friend thinks she should speak to this employee when she returns from maternity leave. I think she should leave it alone. I mean, sure, she could’ve kept that fun fact about her planned pregnancies to herself and it was thoughtless, but I don’t know if it rises to the level of “needs a talking to.” I feel like if there were other issues going on with her performance, then that should definitely be addressed, but my friend is pretty set on speaking with her upon her return. What do you think?

Good lord, no, she shouldn’t say anything to her.

First, I’m skeptical that this woman is truly making her reproductive decisions based on not wanting to work around a holiday, and it’s more likely that the timing just happened to accommodate that. Second, if it the comment was 100% sincere, what is your friend going to say — “you need to make reproductive decisions without regard to holiday scheduling”? Of all the things that are none of a manager’s business, an employee’s personal reasons for how she times a pregnancy is high on the list.

Your friend needs to let this go.

2. My employees had a Christmas party and invited everyone but me

I saw your letter about the employee who wasn’t invited to the Christmas party. I’m a manager who wasn’t invited to my employees’ Christmas party. If the party had just been for line staff, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. I get it that it can be awkward to hang with your boss. The weird part is, other managers in my department who do not supervise this staff, including MY manager were invited. I found out they handed out invitations to make sure it was exclusive and all colluded to keep me in the dark.

I haven’t had the best relationship with line staff at times in the past but thought it had improved. I used 1 on 1’s, I thought, to great effect and have had no issues arise in the last few months. I’m unsure how best to proceed here. Do I mention it? Do I pretend I don’t know about it?

If it was framed as a work party, that was rude of them — but I don’t think you have anything to gain by mentioning it. Your manager is actually in a position to mention it to them since she was invited, although ideally she would have done it earlier; doing it after the party isn’t great (especially if she attended, which hopefully she didn’t).

But I think the best thing you can do is to take it as a flag that there are still tensions in your relationships with at least some people on your staff. It’s one thing to not want to hang out with the boss, but going out of their way to hide it from you is an element of intentionality that says it’s more likely about the relationship. That sucks to learn, but it’s also better to know than not know, since now you can think about what to do about that.

3. I may have burned a bridge with a former manager and I don’t know why

I spent five years at my previous position, a small department (three people) within a mid-sized organization. I had a strong and positive relationship with my supervisor, whom I considered both a mentor and a friend. I left for a new job because there wasn’t any room for advancement, which she understood and supported.

Less than a month after I left, the third person in our division also left. If I had known that she was looking, I would have probably have stayed and applied for that position! I let my former supervisor know that I intended to apply. Her response was cool. I applied and was not considered for the position — which is fine! I never assumed the job was mine to have. However, I haven’t had much communication with my former supervisor since, and I fear that by applying, I have damaged our relationship. I purposefully did not contact her after applying so as not to appear eager, or act like I should receive favoritism, etc.

I finally reached out via email after about four months when I received a rejection letter from the organization. I talked about my new job, my personal life, and asked her to lunch, and received in reply just a curt, “Can’t, Fergus.” a few days later. That seemed odd, so I followed up saying that I hoped that I hadn’t offended her in some way. She did not reply to that email. I emailed her about a month ago to let her know some good personal news – my wife and I are having another baby – and she did not respond to that either.

At this point, I’m not sure what to do next. I don’t know why she hasn’t responded, or even what I might have done to damage our relationship. I felt really close while we worked together – our desks were five feet apart in an open office, so we talked all the time (all of us in the office, it really felt like a family.) I know that she didn’t have any qualms about my performance. I had hoped to continue to use her as a professional reference in the future, and now I’m worried that I won’t be able to do that. Do you have any advice about repairing the damage? Do I just accept that this appears to be over and that I can no longer use her as a reference?

I’m sorry — that sounds frustrating and confusing.

Unfortunately, I don’t know that there’s anything more you can do here. You’ve made multiple overtures that she’s ignoring — including one specifically asking if you’d offended her in some way. Someone who ignores that email is sending a pretty clear signal that they’re not interested in resuming a relationship.

Her behavior is pretty weird. If I absolutely had to come up with a reason for it, I wonder if it’s in some way related to you and your coworker leaving so close together (maybe your manager thought the two departures were connected somehow or that they made her look bad), or to you applying without even contacting her to talk about it (that’s a stretch though).

If you want to try one more time, I’d call rather than emailing — or even drop by in person. It doesn’t seem like she’s going to respond to emails, for whatever reason.

4. What to ask a contact at an organization where you already applied to a job

I’ve applied for a job that I really want at an organization I’m excited about. Because of the deadline, I applied quickly without tapping into my network first to see if I knew anyone. Now that I’ve applied I find that I have a friend who knows someone at the organization. My friend asked her contact at the organization if I could get in touch and was told yes and passed along her email address.

So, now what do I ask? What is appropriate to ask? I see on your blog that I should not ask for an informational interview, although in other blogs I was told that was the way to go. And in my own and friend’s experience that would be pretty normal — it’s how I got the internship I have now! (I applied, found a contact, met up and asked some general questions about the work.) I was told by my boss that’s a big reason I was chosen.

But is that only normal for internships? What is right?! I can see how it wouldn’t always be appropriate, especially in my particular case right now, where this contact is not in a position to let me know what my particular duties would be. But I’m also told it’s all about who you know and to use your network. Okay — I’ve built a network. How do I appropriately use it?? I’m about to tear my hair out here.

It would be weird now if I do not contact this person at the organization. But how to do so appropriately, expressing interest without expecting them to do anything for me?

The reason you shouldn’t ask for an informational interview after applying for a job is that informational interviews aren’t supposed to be back-door job interviews; they’re supposed to be for learning about a field you’re new to. If you ask for one after applying for a job, it comes across like an attempt to circumvent the company’s selection process for interviews.

Honestly, I’m not sure your friend’s contact is going to be particularly useful to you at this point if she’s not involved in the hiring process for the job or the same type of work (which sounds like the situation?). If your friend hadn’t already asked her for something else, she could have sent her your resume and said, “Hey, my friend is applying for this job and I think she’d be great because of X and Y, if that’s something you can pass along to whoever is doing the hiring.” But at this point, when you’re already locked into contacting the friend yourself, probably the best you can do is something like this: “I’ve recently applied for the X job, and was excited to realize that my friend Jane knew someone at the company. If you have a few minutes, I’d love to hear your perspective on the role and what it’s like working there.”

But honestly … a lot of people find those sorts of emails annoying, because you haven’t even been called for an interview yet, and they don’t necessarily want to spend their time telling you all about the company when the hiring manager may not even move you forward in the process. And you definitely shouldn’t ask that stuff if you’re not genuinely interested in hearing it from her; if you’re really just thinking of it as a a boost to your interview chances, that’s a sort of impolite and disingenuous thing to do.

5. Giving employees a family card

Is it appropriate to give my team each a box of See’s Candy and a card that has my family on it?

Candy, yes. Card with your family on it, no. Those are social cards, and work is a different sphere. The gift is from you as their boss, so a family card isn’t quite appropriate.

{ 466 comments… read them below }

  1. MK*

    While I agree with Alison’s advice, I sympathise with your friend, OP. Whatever else, the overheard conversation shows that an employee is holding something of a grudge, or at least negative feelings, towards her over something that happened two years ago; that’s disconcerting (unless there are other tensions in their relationship, in which case your friend is probaby focusing on the wrong thijng).

    1. TL -*

      It’s possible she meant it as a joke – I could totally see myself making that joke in a very dry tone, especially if someone was asking me about the timing with too much interest (2 babies in 2 years is a lot and might provide some comments.)

      1. bearing*

        That’s just what I came here to suggest. I bet people have been making thoughtless comments to her about her 2 babies in 2 years and she’s developed a “well, I enjoyed getting the holidays off so much I did it again” joke as a light way of shutting the unwanted comments down.

        1. Emi.*

          Ooh, that’s a good thought, especially given how freely some people made rude remarks about other people’s children.

          1. bearing*

            Seriously — having a baby over the holidays is a bad way to have a good holiday. I had a baby on December 28 one year and we still refer to it as The Year Without A Christmas.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Exactly. My husband is a December baby, and I planned for summer babies so that I wouldn’t have one in December. Never mind the year the child is born. . .that’s extra stress in December forever!

              (Not that I would say “no” to a baby over the holidays, if that’s what happened, but I sure wouldn’t plan it that way to not work Christmas.)

            2. Jubilance*

              I’m expecting my first baby any day now – she’s due on December 29th – and surprisingly it’s been really chill. I had an excuse to not travel for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and with the cold & snowy weather, I’ve been able to work from home more. And with the baby coming in the winter, we’ll just hibernate for those first few weeks & I won’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.

              Also it’s saved me on Christmas shopping, as the only gift my husband and I want is a baby that shows up in December!

              1. bearing*

                Oh, it *can* be chill. Mine just wasn’t that year because of complications that arose the last week before birth (aka just before, during, and after Christmas).

                When it comes to pregnancy and birth, we are rarely in control of the timing.

              2. LJL*

                Congratulations and best wishes for a quick and timely delivery. Dec. 29 is my nephew’s birthday..it’s a good day for babies.

                1. Marcela*

                  Not really…. =^.^= as a December baby (30th), I can’t tell you how many times people who loved me gave me just one gift, instead of the two my siblings or all the other people in my life would get because their birthdays were in other months.

                2. Candi*

                  I have opinions about people who make one present to double duty -even if it’s a really nice present.

                  They’re right up there with people who give twins, especially identical twins, the same gifts.

                  Two real, separate, different gifts is just polite.

                3. Cath in Canada*

                  My birthday’s in mid-February and I used to sometimes get a combined Christmas-Birthday present from my parents. I didn’t mind because it usually meant it was something really good – I got my first computer that way, and driving lessons when I was older!

              3. fposte*

                Hey, I was just wondering about Baby Pi on the weekend free-for-all. Glad you’re having a peaceful time and are moving safely toward that landing.

              4. Jubilance*

                Thank you fposte, LJL, Elle, and Emi! I’m hoping for a smooth and safe delivery, and one that is hopefully soon! Pregnancy has been great but I’m so ready to meet my baby girl :-)

              5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Congrats, Jubilance! I’m so excited for you (and that you were able to have a chill holiday season!).

            3. anonny*

              9 months pregnant here, and really hoping the baby holds off until close to his Jan 19 due date. Because I’d like to relax around the holidays–probably for the last time in god knows how many years.

              1. MommaCat*

                January 13 due date here; solidarity fist bump! But this is my second kid, so… what’s this “relaxing” thing of which you speak? ;-)

                1. SouthernLadybug*

                  Due the end of February…..with a preschooler as well. I thought I was tired with the first pregnancy! LOL. Congratulations, Jubilance!

            4. MashaKasha*

              I had my second baby on October 13 and my (then) husband was on my case for years about the NYE celebration we had that year. I was half asleep on my feet most of the time and don’t remember much of it. I vaguely recall that I made him a pan full of home fries, set the table for one, and went to bed around 11. That was honestly the best I could do that year. He was pretty mad at me about it, though. I believe he did refer to it as the year he didn’t have a New Year.

                1. MashaKasha*

                  We were young and messed up in a lot of ways. He told me the following year that he had developed a philosophy where, since I was temporarily not working and not getting paid (we had super long unpaid maternity leave in the country where we lived then, that were impossible to get out of, because there was no daycare available for children under 18 months), his responsibility in the family was bringing home the money, and mine was everything else – “the cooking, the garbage, the kids, the laundry… and don’t come to me with any of that stuff. This is not my job.” I admit, this kind of attitude was a big factor in later deciding whether he should be an ex!

                2. the gold digger*

                  That philosophy works out so easily and well because taking care of a home and children also ends at 5 p.m., just like an office job! So you both had the same level of responsibility and the same amount of free time!

                  Oh. Wait.

                3. MashaKasha*

                  I was especially surprised when the roles changed after we came here, I had a job, he didn’t, but his philosophy continued to dictate that he not do anything around the house or with the kids! Good times! We’re on great terms now, but that’s because we run separate households and don’t need anything from each other.

            5. Temperance*

              My sister regularly bemoans that my niece was born on Halloween because it would have given her an entire year without having to do family obligations on Christmas.

            6. Venus Supreme*

              I’m a Christmas Eve baby. My mom was SO p*ssed when I was born; I messed up the family Christmas Eve tradition! Haha.

            7. JoAnna Wahlund*

              My poor mother-in-law had babies on Christmas Eve – TWICE (my husband, and five years later his youngest brother). I’ll be almost 36 weeks pregnant on Christmas this year and yeah, it hasn’t exactly made things easier.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            Seriously, people say some really inappropriate things to pregnant women, and I probably made a few sarcastic cracks about/in response to those comments as well. Both my kids were born in the same month, which happens to be 9 months after our anniversary — cue lots of comments about people knowing what we do on our anniversary, wink, wink. I finally flat-out told one of them that I was positive neither kids was conceived on an anniversary and could tell them exactly how I knew but felt it was a pretty inappropriate topic.

            I am also dying to know how Anna’s going to approach this issue with pregnant lab tech. “So, I’ve noticed you’re often pregnant around the holidays. What’s up with that?” Or maybe, “Can you tell me what consideration you gave to the holidays when scheduling your pregnancies?” Or, “In fairness to other employees, I have to ask that you plan future pregnancies at a time of year other than the winter holidays. Can you do that?” I mean, there is just no way to “address” the timing of her pregnancies without at best being an insensitive ass and at worst opening the company up to a lawsuit.

        2. rawr*

          I think this is a likely scenario. For several years after my Thanksgiving baby was born, I was gently teased that OF COURSE I managed to time my maternity leave perfectly with the holidays. No, I really didn’t. DH and I were trying, and that’s when it happened. How much information do you want about my s*x life, people?

          As a side note, after going through some nasty secondary infertility issues, I still feel all the rage when people insinuate that it’s possible to perfectly time a pregnancy and birth, sometimes down to the month. Good for you if it works that way, but for many (most) people, it really doesn’t.

          1. Still Hurts*

            As someone who went through a miscarriage earlier this year after a year of trying, and would have been expecting on Jan 17, I, too, feel that rage.

          2. AK*

            Yeah, no kidding! If things had worked out as I’d planned, I would have had my first baby in December… of 2007. Almost ten years and one divorce later, still no kids. Infertility definitely teaches you that life does not necessarily go according to plan.

          3. MMDD*

            Argh yes. That’s the first thing I thought when I read this. No, just no. We started trying for a baby and didn’t bring one home for another two years after two miscarriages and a chemical pregnancy. People successfully planning to be pregnant in a specific month is always possible, but definitely rare.

          4. Crazy Dog Lady*

            Yes to all of this – I’m trying to get pregnant, and “jokes” have been made by my manager and other senior members of the team as to when my colleagues and I can have babies (first they joke that we can never have kids, then they joke that it has to take place at a convenient time for the rest of the team). They’re unaware that I’m trying, but still, I just want to get pregnant. I don’t care when at this point, and I would hope that when the time comes, nobody accuses me of timing it to get out of certain projects or working around the holidays. And I am totally that person who would joke, “I timed this perfectly – you caught me!”

            1. Still Hurts*

              I feel the same way when my (well-meaning) coworkers are complaining about their kids. This year, it’s been especially hard to sit there, thinking, “If only I had kids to yell at!” but just pretending everything is a-ok.

          5. rawr*

            Big hugs to all of you. It is not a fun club to be in, and the only people who really get it are the ones who have been there.

        3. SystemsLady*

          Yeah, I’ve made similar comments when a non-medical thing I have literally no control over conveniently helped me avoid something.

          I work with people even drier than I am, though.

      2. Pregnancy Doesn't Mean You Can Ask About My Sex Life or Medical History*

        I agree that it could be a joke. People make weird comments about pregnancy, when you are due or when conception could have been (my son was born in mid November…cue the awkward Valentine’s Day conception comments!!!) I could see myself saying this exact thing to someone who commented about my “timing” to redirect the conversation and nicely shut it down. Especially if the commenter was a coworker I’d have to interact with again and not just some random stranger!

        If my boss called me out on it, I’d be both pissed that I was even having this conversation and mortified that they asked about my child’s conception!

        1. MMDD*

          I found out I was pregnant a few weeks into a one-year term position but didn’t mention it to coworkers until several months later when it became obvious (after a few heartbreaks we weren’t in any rush to tell our wonderful news.) Intern asked my due date, did some quick math in her head, and exclaimed, “Oh wow, you must have gotten pregnant like, the day you started here!”. Cue the mortified looks from everyone in the lunch room. What was I supposed to say in response to that? I don’t know what it is about pregnancy that makes people think all common courtesy goes out the window but man, it’s exhausting.

          1. Crazy Dog Lady*

            Ew. I would’ve been tempted to say, “That’s right, we were celebrating my new position! Let me draw a picture for you….”

            1. Still Hurts*

              LOL, I know you meant “job position” but given the context of this discussion *laughs like a middle schooler*

      3. not really a lurker anymore*

        Eh, some people do try to plan pregnancies for certain times of the year. Both of mine kids were accidents so obviously I didn’t do that.

        But if you hang out on some of the pregnancy chat boards, you’ll find a couple of people that will admit to trying or not trying during certain months. The tax people who don’t want to be due in March/April comes to mind.

        1. nonymous*

          yeah in the teaching world it is pretty common to try extra hard for babies at the end of summer. A May/June delivery allows for approx three months bonding without having to dig into sick leave.

        2. Chinook*

          I know teachers who aim for summer babies so that it is an easier transition for their students because there is no need to change teachers part way through the school year.

        3. Faith*

          Yeah, in certain industries, you really do “try” to plan your pregnancy around your busy season. Otherwise, you are basically never able to spend your kid’s birthday with them (even if it falls on the weekend). Of course, having gone through one miscarriage, and having seen someone lose their pregnancy at 20 weeks, I am fully aware of what a joke the whole “planning a pregnancy” concept really is.

      4. Bonky*

        My thoughts exactly. (And I envy the hypothetical person who is able to conceive to order.) I’m positive this person meant it as a joke; the alternatives are just too crazytown.

        And as Alison says, even if it was a dastardly plan for holiday leave (with all the nausea, constant peeing, pelvic girdle pain, stretch marks, worry and inability to put your socks on for several months that that entails – I can think of easier ways to get out of working over the holidays), how on earth is Angry Boss going to frame that conversation? The mind boggles.

      5. Stranger than fiction*

        That’s exactly what I thought it might be. I’m the queen of eavesdropping and misunderstanding so I know.

      6. Annonymouse*

        Except then why add “because Anna screwed me over on holidays?”

        I can get a or the joke but you don’t then add a vindictive comment about your boss. It changes the tone and makes it Clearly Not A Joke.

        I vote on say nothing but Anna now has a very good indicator of this employees attitude and thought process (timing their own children’s births to screw over the employer who screwed you is seriously messed up)

    2. BabyShark*

      Definitely agree with Alison that this specific instance isn’t something that needs to be commented on but I agree with MK that there’s probably some other underlying issues that would make Anna want to say something.

      1. OG OM*

        I would argue that it is probably a sign that *Anna* has a problem. Not the comment itself, but that she would hear it (or hearsay it) and think that she needs to reprimand a pregnant lady making a joke. It abstractly reminds me of that letter from a boss who wanted to contact an employee who quit* to “teach her a lesson.”

        *the person who wanted to go to their graduation

          1. SystemsLady*

            With all due respect…somebody who actually did something like that would show being unreasonable in so many other ways, it likely wouldn’t be worth addressing just this.

          2. Observer*

            In all fairness, as others have pointed out, the likelihood of someone *successfully* timing TWO babies around any given holiday or event is SOOOO low, that it’s really ridiculous to think that this was serious. The only exception would be if this person were so out of touch with reality that there would be lots of other issues showing up, anyway.

            1. Temperance*

              That’s actually the kind of person I was picturing, to be completely honest with you. Normal people don’t do this.

              1. aebhel*

                Well, I mean, a normal person wouldn’t time their pregnancy to coincide with the holidays just to spite their boss, but a normal person may very well make a joke to that effect.

                1. Elliot*

                  I doubt even the craziest of crazies could actually pull off planning two pregnancies in three years planned down to a one month period. I have previously been employed places where employees get super upset about the fact that other people take maternity leave, though. “Why does Jane get twelve weeks off every two years because I use a condom and she doesn’t?” Some people simply don’t value leave for childbirth, which is major medical event, because it’s “voluntary.”

            2. Natalie*

              It reminds me of that saying “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” The idea that she maliciously & successfully timed two pregnancies is definitely a zebra.

            3. Sami*

              I have several friends (like three or four) who are teachers and they’ve planned for babies to be born in late May or June so they’re able to have the summer off and then take six weeks maternity leave in the fall.

              1. Working Mom*

                I was going to say something similar, I have had friends who timed pregnancies (or tried to) to coincide with a particular time of year – either a really slow/boring season at work, or a really busy/hectic time at work, etc. But in reality it’s all a crapshoot. You can try, but you can’t control it. (Even if you need fertility treatments, you can schedule the intervention but there is no guarantee.)

                I would assume the person was joking, and agree that someone who would time two pregnancies to avoid working a couple of days would have much bigger and more noticeable issues in the workplace as well.

            4. Rachael*

              I was fortunate to time my pregancies down to the month of when I wanted to be out of work. My first was timed so that I was pregnant during the winter and would actually be warm for once (lol) and the second was timed so that I would give birth at the beginning of November and be off during the holidays. However, I didn’t time it out of spite – I timed it to what was best for my family since our daycare has a mandatory closing the week of christmas and I wouldn’t have any vacation due to maternity leave and doc appts.

              So, it IS possible that she timed it. But, it is her prerogative to have a child whenever she wants and pleases. I find it a little weird that someone wants to sit down with her and tell her off because her planning isn’t good for THEM. I would tell anyone who had an issue to” kick rocks. I do what I wanna do.”

          3. sarah*

            Oh well! It’s still not your boss’s right to interrogate your pregnancy timing, regardless of whether it’s a great or terrible reason.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I mean, even if the pregnant lady were serious it would be completely inappropriate for Anna to try to reprimand her. There’s literally no scenario I can think of in which Anna is in the right.

        1. Christine*

          I would take the pregnancy timing as a joke, that would be the safest route. The manager also got it second hand from an individual that just might resent her co-worker being unavailable during the holidays.

          The joke was made in poor taste, but I agree with the other writers that it was probably in relation to someone else’s comment. It could be that one of her co-workers, even the one that repeated it to “Anna” might have accused her of the pregnancy timing, got the statement and/or joke in response than tattled.

          OP’s friend needs to forget this one, walk away before finding herself being the receiptant of a formal grievance. Holiday scheduling brings out the worse in everyone and management has to deal with the personalities involved and unhappiness.

  2. amy*

    Sorry that Fergus is getting that reaction from his old supervisor — it’s awful, but sometimes these things happen in life, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever find out why. Or that, if you do, the explanation will seem at all reasonable.

    I’ve had it happen twice, once in a work/friendship that meant a lot to me, and once with someone I’d started working with on a great project that all of a sudden — inexplicably, to me — went sour. I never got an explanation from either person. But you’re both presumably grown-ups, and if one of you isn’t interested in working out whatever the problem is, it isn’t going to happen. All I can say is: grieve the relationship, and know that you did what you could, but don’t let it stand in your way of forming other good work friendships.

    1. Christine*

      Many times we feel like family when working with people but the dynamics change when you leave. Fergus’s old supervisor may be unwilling or unable to put energy into maintaining a former working relationship. Some people are like that, it’s nothing personal.

  3. BestInShow*

    #1 I have been trying to have a kid for over a year – you can’t plan them that precisely. Definitely let it go.

    1. Jeanne*

      Some people are unbelievably fertile but it was probably lucky timing the forst year and not realizing how soon she was fertile again the second time. But she can’t have a new baby every Christmas. I suspect once she was pregnant she thought cool I get Christmas off. I think it was a bad joke that she had a baby to get vacation.

      1. Mike C.*

        Haha! I grew up knowing a family that announced a new kid every fall like clockwork. I lost count of how many there were.

      2. Ashloo*

        I was thinking this too. As hard as it is for some to become pregnant, there must be those for whom it’s relatively easy. It doesn’t seem that odd to me for someone to think that a winter maternity leave would be nice and attempt to make it happen again (or make the attempt twice and have it work out both times, which is obviously pretty lucky). The comment and grudge are eye-rolling, but… I mean… wouldn’t it be nice to have maternity leave over winter/holidays?

        1. Tuckerman*

          I think it definitely makes sense to try to plan maternity leave around the holidays. Especially if the other parent does not get leave, but does get the time off between xmas and new years, or family is able to visit around that time.

        2. anonny*

          The thing is–you really don’t know if you’re one of those people for whom getting pregnant is easy until your pregnant. I know a number of women who had a very easy time the first time they got pregnant, and then found it taking years their second attempt. So this employee could have been hoping to have another winter baby, but even if she’s one of the lucky ones when it comes to fertility, you really can’t plan that stuff aiming for a specific date (in this case xmas) )with any accuracy.

        3. neverjaunty*

          She didn’t say she was trying to get “maternity leave”; the OP is talking about being assigned to work on Christmas and New Year’s.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Not being pregnant during the summer was definitely a motivating factor for me on when to start and stop trying. I’m pretty proud of my April due date. A lot of factors go into deciding when to add to your family, and if a small bonus like not having to work Christmas or not having to drag your 9 months pregnant self through the parking lot in August is part of your decision, that’s not really so unreasonable.

      3. Bwmn*

        I have to say, I see this far more as a joke than anything else. Additionally, while it clearly has an irritation for the pharmacy – I have to imagine that aiming for the holiday period likely means that her partner and other family members are more time off to to help and support.

        While there’s a comment downthread about a teacher planning pregnancies for June, I know two teachers that have planned for pregnancies around April/May so that they enjoy off a month or two at the end of the school year as well as the entire summer.

        For those mom’s who can plan their pregnancies – supporting them to do so in the most advantageous ways for their family has to be the height of being a family friendly place of employment.

        1. Temperance*

          I also think that it can really punish colleagues who aren’t mothers, though. I also don’t think it makes good business sense to encourage women to plan their pregnancies in order to be able to spend holidays with their children or maximize leave, because then we have childless/non-pregnant coworkers left to hold down the fort.

          I’m not a supporter of “family-friendly” workplaces, TBH. I think workplaces should be “people-friendly”, meaning that those of us without biological kids get the same perks and flexibility afforded to parents.

          1. Bwmn*

            I’m not married and I don’t have kids. I do understand the push back deeply around the notion that those with kids are treated as somehow more deserving of time off.

            However – the notion that maternity leave is punishing other colleagues is a very aggressive stance. In lots of countries, maternity leave can be up to a year and businesses figure out how to adapt around those needs so that operations continue. Maternity leave is people friendly. And encouraging people to be pregnant on their schedule is also people friendly.

            1. anonny*


              Also, @Temperance, if you read these comments you’ll see how impossible it is for most women to “plan” with any kind of accuracy.

          2. Jessie*

            So Temperance, what is it about family friendly that annoys you? And what do you thin is punishing to childless folks? Are you annoyed that parents take leave? I would hope not, but I certainly know plenty of people who do feel that taking maternity leave is a terrible imposition.

            “I also don’t think it makes good business sense to encourage women to plan their pregnancies in order to be able to spend holidays with their children or maximize leave, ”

            I don’t know of any company that actively encourages their employees to start having unprotected sex at certain times of the year in order to “encourage” births to coincide with holidays, and I don’t think anyone is saying that’s something an employer ought to be doing. But sometimes, the timing happens that way.

            1. Temperance*

              I fully support maternity and paternity leave policies – I was pushing back against the idea that it’s good for employers to reward/encourage women to have children around holidays/busy worktimes, which I think is what the person I responded to was saying. It’s a theory, not something that actually happens.

              “Family friendly” is usually coded language that shows that parents will get more flexible scheduling, priority time off, etc. I’ve seen it happen far too many times that parents will get WFH while childless coworkers don’t, or parents get to leave right at 5 while childless coworkers pick up the slack … you get the idea. That’s my beef with “family friendly”.

              1. tigerlily*

                “Family Friendly” can also become very narrowly focused to mean children. Using the holidays as an example, I remember working for a non profit that was very proud of their “family friendly” structure and they gave families (meaning people with children) priority when it came to holiday time off. Due to the nature of our business we were required to be open on Christmas Day, we just needed a smaller staff for coverage. All of us without kids were encouraged (read shamed) into making sure no employees with children needed to work that day, and the rest of us would have that covered.

                I have no children, but I do have a family. I also was not living in the same state as my family at the time, so needed time off to travel if I wanted to spend any time with them during the holidays. But since I was a lesser priority than “real” families, I didn’t get that chance.

                Being supportive of working parents is great, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of those who are not.

                1. Elliot*

                  I’m a single custodial father, and I have worked at “family friendly” companies where it simply means you don’t get fired if you have to leave at a moment’s notice to pick up a puking kid from daycare. Parents who can’t afford a nanny, don’t have a spouse at home with the kids or a family member nearby need flexibility beyond what is offered in the typical workplace. You have to leave work at a certain time to relieve your daycare or else pay $10 for every 5 minutes you’re late, or leave an older kid standing outside his school alone waiting for you. You can’t work evenings and weekends that there isn’t anyone around to watch your kid. You have to take double sick days because you can’t send a sick kid to school or daycare and you both always get it, but never on the same days.

                  “Family friendly workplace” in my experience has been nothing more than a regular company that has a family barbecue once a year and MAYBE will let you leave at your scheduled time if you whine “but I have a kiiiiid” loud enough. Aside from paid parental leave, policies that support parents naturally support all workers: a decent PTO benefit that can be used without penalty, normal working hours with minimal overtime and flexibility when possible, affordable health benefits with reasonable coverage, salaries that workers can live on, etc. Where possible, workplaces should close for major holidays; if not, working holidays should have enough monetary incentive to encourage workers to volunteer. If there are still conflicts, a fair system needs to be put in place.

                  I actually do volunteer to work almost all major holidays because my ex has them off, but I only see my son on Christmas once every two years and I absolutely refuse to spend them away from him. That’s a total of 7 Christmases off over the course of my entire career. I’ll work the rest of them, but I would quit any job before I miss that day with my son.

              2. Iamanengineer*

                Having a couple of extra days when the work is slow is hardly encouraging. What about people who schedule medical procedures/surgeries around that time for whatever reason. Are they worth ire too?

              3. Jessie*

                It’s possible for a company to be “family friendly” in a way that is NOT code for “parents of young kids get extra flexibility than everyone else,” and that kind of family friendly I think it fantastic: that means being flexible for all employees – allowing work from home or flexible scheduling if the role allows for it (not based on presence or absence of kids). But yes, a place that simply prioritizes the schedules of people with kids isn’t right. That’s lazy management, IMO, and lazy management seems to be remarkably common.

              4. RD*

                Seriously, there is no employer that actively encourages pregnancy at specific times of year. It just does not happen.

                There are some professions that naturally have schedules that encourage people to try to time pregnancies for certain times of year, for their own, personal convenience because it’s nice to not have babies during tax season or to combine your leave with summer holidays, etc, but that isn’t driven by employers. That’s driven by the school year or the IRS. The causation goes in the other direction.

                Also, as so many other posters have said, for the vast majority of people timing a pregnancy is impossible. You can hope or try, but regardless of what you want, it happens when it happens.

                And I say this as a woman who was actively trying to avoid labor for a week past my due date with my first child so that my leave would last until after Christmas. Timing couldn’t have been better. I came back just in time for quarter end close, but got Christmas off.

                Did I time that? No. We were trying for 13 months before I got pregnant. Sure it worked out, but I had zero say in when it happened.

                The idea that you can consistently time your child’s birth is laughable.

      4. Temperance*

        Seriously one of my cousins has so many kids and pretty much gets pregnant the second she decides it might be nice to have a new baby. She’s currently at 6 and she’s 29. She could easily have 12 kids by menopause.

        1. anonny*

          My grandmother had 10 kids (and 2 miscarriages) in 13 years….

          As a currently pregnant woman (who has had a really easy time, comparatively) I cannot even fathom how terrible that would be.

          1. Temperance*

            My cousin likes being pregnant and having babies. It personally sounds like my worst nightmare, but she wants a large family and is genuinely happy with her choices.

    2. Marzipan*

      I’ve been trying for a couple of years, to the tune of over £25k and two (maybe three) miscarriages. #1, I am beyond furious at your friend. Under no circumstances should she say anything.

      First off, women’s reproductive systems (clearly, see above) just aren’t that predictable. You can set out with a timeframe in mind to get pregnant and not have it happen. You can set out NOT to get pregnant, and have it happen anyway. Maybe, maaaaaybe, your friend’s employee deliberately wanted to have her second child a year after the first and pulled off the timing… but, planned or not, it wasn’t really in her control; it’s just how things happened to work out for her. And it absolutely would not be appropriate for a manager to demand to discuss that. What if the employee turns out to have health or fertility issues meaning she’s been advised to have her children soon or not at all? What if the pregnancy was unplanned and she’s terrified about how she’ll cope with two?

      Secondly, I appreciate that I don’t have first-hand knowledge of either, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that having to look after a month-old baby (plus a one-year-old) is… considerably more work than doing a shift in a pharmacy. Pretty much any other plan to avoid working on Christmas day would make more sense than that one. That’s like ‘I didn’t want to have dinner with my mother-in-law, so I faked my own death’ territory. Or ‘I didn’t want to go to that marketing meeting so I ran away and joined the French Foreign Legion’. And so on. Here, though, the person saying this isn’t in some naive dream-world about what will be involved; she’s had one baby already. The reason she’s having another one is because she’s chosen to expand her family.

      I would really love, one day, to be able to say to my colleagues ‘Ha! I’m only having a baby so I don’t have to work (really hectic part of the year)’. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that I’ll ever be able to. But if ever it happens, IT WILL BE A JOKE.

      1. Rebooting*

        “What if the employee turns out to have health or fertility issues meaning she’s been advised to have her children soon or not at all?”

        This. I’m 31 and I’ve passed that point according to my doctors. If I’d wanted to have children, I would have had to have had them by about 26 or 27; my conditions have deteriorated to a point where I flat-out can’t anymore, and I’d have been furious if I -had- been pregnant and my boss had thought it was appropriate to interrogate me about my timing.

      2. Vin Packer*

        I’m sorry to hear about your struggles, and hope it works out for you.

        I also wanted to say that I totally laughed at “I didn’t want to have dinner with my mother-in-law so I faked my own death”–definitely a comparable analogy! :D

      3. Nervous Accountant*

        I really hope and pray that you soon get to make that joke, I like to joke around that it’d be awesome to get pregnant and get to go on maternity leave in March/April (tax deadlines), and I’ve had 2 (maybe 3) miscarriages and trying for a long time now.

      4. Kate*

        ‘I didn’t want to go to that marketing meeting so I ran away and joined the French Foreign Legion’.

        Is there a movie about that? I want to see that movie! Or I want the manager of that employee to write in to Allison “I keep losing valuable employees to the French Foreign Legion because of our daily three hour marketing meetings”.

    3. New Bee*

      As someone with a late November birthday I also know they’re some of the least common, so she’d have to be a real magician! (Google “how common is your birthday” if general-you are interested.)

      1. Teclatrans*

        How interesting — a significant proportion of my friends and loved ones have birthdays in the last week or so of November, and this has been true throughout my life (early July being th other major clump), so I thought it must be more common than it apparently is.

          1. LCL*

            I know a lot of November babies also. I thought it was weird until I counted backwards; that’s about 9 months after Valentine’s Day.

              1. New Bee*

                This is thr case for me and my kid! (Though like others have pointed out, not deliberately so.) Given my parents’ contentious divorce… -_-

      2. Kathlynn*

        I found this very interesting, I looked for the day I was supposed to be born (as a premie), and I would have had a very uncommon birthday. (I was supposed to be born in early jan.) My actual birthday is still uncommon, just not quire as uncommon.

      3. Hear you*

        My siblings and I have 16 children in total. 4 are December and 4 are November. I’m pretty sure that none of them planned that way. Especially my son who is Dec 23.

        1. FDCA in Canada*

          Which amuses me, because within my family there are several of us with May birthdays–me, my parents, couple of aunts, several cousins, and some family now deceased–apparently we are singlehandedly hogging up May. Sorry, universe!

          1. Julia*

            Same here. I was born in May (although I was supposed to come in early June), and both my grandmothers plus several more distant relatives and friends have May birtdays.
            (Incidentally, I was born minutes before midnight the day before my paternal grandmother’s birthday, and my mother says she pushed extra hard because my father threatened to name me after his mother – Erna.

    4. Czhorat*

      My wife’s parents were both teachers; She and her brother were both born in June so as to not interfere with their teaching schedule.

      That said, it’s a highly personal situation and choice; if they really planned their baby to not work one holiday that’s pretty highly crazy. I’d more likely assume this is just talk. Even if not, so what? It isn’t as if she’s going to have a baby every year for the rest of her life to avoid the holiday schedule. Sometimes all you can do is shrug it off.

      I’ll aside that I’m not a lawyer, but questioning an employee on the motivation for a pregnancy might get you dangerously near legal violations; family status IS a protected class. . Don’t discuss the pregnancy except to say “congrats”.

      1. Joseph*

        I’ll aside that I’m not a lawyer, but questioning an employee on the motivation for a pregnancy might get you dangerously near legal violations; family status IS a protected class.
        Yes. It also lands you very firmly in the “what is wrong with you?” class with every single one of your employees who hears about this.

      2. Lance*

        That last part is precisely what I was thinking here. Please, please tell your friend not to bring up the subject; it’s likely to raise more issues for her than it ever could for the employee in question.

      3. Raine*

        That major issue aside, I don’t even understand what OP is trying to accomplish. It’s almost like OP WANTS to make this employee work on Christmas and is going to make damn sure it happens. (Seriously, WTF?)

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          From my reading of the letter, the OP actually has nothing to do with the situation. Her friend Anna is the pregnant woman’s supervisor.

        2. caryatis*

          If your employees usually care about “holidays,” but someone has to work on “holidays,” it’s a managerial headache. That said, it’s a short-term problem with this employee–she’s probably not going to have a baby every Christmas for the next 10 years. Or if she does, she’s going to suffer more than she ever would with work.

        3. Temperance*

          I’m guessing it’s because other employees have had to cover more Christmas shifts than their fair share, and Pregnant Employee caused such a stink about it that it left a bad taste with OP’s friend.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        It isn’t as if she’s going to have a baby every year for the rest of her life to avoid the holiday schedule.

        And if she does, what an awesome story Anna gets to share!

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        As Alison noted, familial status is not a protected class under federal employment discrimination laws, but federal employees are entitled to protection for sexual orientation or parental status under Executive Order 13152 (and Title VII can sometimes be applied to caregivers if there is discrimination on the basis of sex/gender).

        The following states and D.C. have statutes that prohibit discrimination on the basis of certain family statuses: Alaska (marital status, parenthood); California (marital status, domestic partnership, pregnancy, childbirth, parenthood); D.C. (marital status, domestic partnership, parenthood, caregiving); New Jersey (civil union/domestic partnership status, marital status, familial status). Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico (spousal affiliation), New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin also prohibit discrimination on the basis of marital status.

        The bigger legal issue (at least in my mind) with questioning an employee about their pregnancy, or penalizing that employee for the timing of their pregnancies, is the risk of running afoul of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act’s prohibition on discriminating in the disparate provision (or denial) of a benefit, term or condition of employment on the basis of an employee’s pregnancy. I’m not saying that’s the case here, but it’s another reason employers/bosses should never question the timing of an employee’s pregnancy or suggest that they will assign a pregnant/formerly-pregnant employee to less attractive work shifts in retaliation for their pregnancy.

    5. Chinook*

      “First, I’m skeptical that this woman is truly making her reproductive decisions based on not wanting to work around a holiday, and it’s more likely that the timing just happened to accommodate that.”

      Umm…my sister-in-law proudly bragged that she had arranged to have her kids so that she, a cardiology nurse, hadn’t had to work a Christmas in 4 years (and was actually angry that she had to that year because it’s not like she got the holiday off the previous year because it was maternity leave, not part of the every other year rotation). Considering both her sister and I were currently celebrating while our husbands were working Christmas shifts in other locations, it was kind of hard to sympathize that she had to work a 10 hour shift but be back in time to watch her kids open presents (especially since she insisted that my brother, her husband, be the one to cook all the meals while her family was visiting because he was a professional cook, so it wasn’t like she was coming back to do all the housework after her shift).

      While most times I give people the benefit of the doubt when to comes to motives, my SIL has proven that some people can be that conniving and subsequently proud of what they accomplish despite how it impacts others.

    6. One Handed Typist*

      I disagree. While I struggle with infertility, my best friend does not. She is an elementary school teacher and honestly scheduled all three pregnancies. Her kids were all born in May/June so that she could take disability for the end of the school year, have the summer off, then take FMLA for the start of the next school year. Instead of having a typical 12 weeks off, she often had 6 months off. It’s definitely possible to schedule like that, if you are fortunate enough.

  4. BadPlanning*

    On OP#5, a previous manager would send us Christmas photo cards of his family and I thought it was odd every time that I got one. I knew the intention was to be nice and he was good manager overall so I didn’t think it was bad. Just odd.

    1. Rob Lowe can't read*

      Yes, I wouldn’t be offended, but I’d think it was really strange to get a card featuring a family photo from anyone I work with. (I don’t know any of my colleagues’ families beyond, “Oh, Lucinda has two young-ish kids.”) It would land in the recycling bin pretty fast.

      1. T3k*

        I honestly do this with any photo card I get, family or not. I mean, really, what do they expect me to do with the card, frame it and have it year round?

        1. Emi.*

          I put photo cards on my fridge and display regular cards…somewhere (new apartment, so I haven’t quite figured out what to do without louvre doors to hang them in). They’re like bonus Christmas decorations to me.

          1. E, F and G*

            Someone once mentioned wrapping holiday ribbon up the length of a floor lamp and sticking cards in spaced intervals for a holiday feel.

            I haven’t had a chance to try (the floor lamp is in a weird location due to outlets not being placed well) but liked the idea enough to keep it in case I get the chance to try.

        2. Central Perk Regular*

          I’m with you. I don’t have kids yet, but honestly – I seriously doubt I will ever spend the time or money putting together a family Christmas card. To me, the majority of them are braggy. I don’t need other people to tell me how adorable my family is.

        3. Sally-O*

          @T3k of course not! You’re supposed to take a look, appreciate the thoughtful holiday wishes and the spirit of love and family, and then recycle it. Or, you can stick them all on your fridge at Christmastime as bonus decorations (as Emi says) and then recycle them in the new year.

      2. misplacedmidwesterner*

        I asked pretty much this same question last year, can I give my employees my family holiday card. The answer was no. So I didn’t. I continue to give them a generic winter/happy holidays card. This year it has a snowman and a simple gift attached.

        But on a personal note I love holiday cards, especially photo cards. I have a wall I decorate them with. I take most of the non photo cards down by mid January. However the photo ones stay up a really long time. (My friends tease me about it.) Last year they stayed up until I hosted my daughter’s birthday party in the summer. I love seeing all my friends and their families pictures up. And my toddler is always pointing to them and talking about them.

    2. Sally-O*

      Yikes, I am about to give my boss and coworkers our family holiday card, which has pictures of our baby. They threw me a baby shower and have met the baby. Is it seriously inappropriate? Even when you have close relationships with your coworkers? I mean, people have photos of their families at their desks, and people talk about their families all the time. Why is the annual holiday card a no-go?

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        Yeah, TBH I don’t think it’s that bad, especially if they’ve met the kids. I’d be surprised if it were received badly. I hate cards in general, of any kind, so it’s hard for me to react more strongly than “oh, I guess people are still buying pieces of paper to give to each other.”

      2. Jen*

        I’ve always done this too – I mean, I only give cards to a few people who are both friends and co-workers but I order family Christmas cards and so I might as well use them. I’ve never thought much about it. I usually just do one photo with my kids and I try to pick a funny one and have a funny saying. They aren’t family newsletters or anything.

      3. BadPlanning*

        I think it does depend on your work culture. I work with a bunch of men at Mega Corp. So sharing family photo cards just aren’t a thing here.

      4. Jerry Vandesic*

        I have received cards from some of my employees. I have met their families, and didn’t see the card as unusual or inappropriate. It was just another personal connection, one of many, that I have with people I work with.

      5. Zoethor2*

        I think it definitely varies by workplace culture and the relationships in question. I receive family cards from a few of my close coworkers and I really enjoy getting them. I think if my boss blanket-handed them out to everyone that might seem a little weird, though.

      6. DaniCalifornia*

        I think it depends on the office culture. Ours is a close knit one. I got one from a co worker who invited us all to his lake house for a day and we met the entire family, and it’s on my fridge with other Christmas cards. It’s a nice extra decoration. As long as you wouldn’t get mad if they don’t keep it forever I think you’re fine.

    3. Sadsack*

      Dear World,

      No one outside of your family wants pictures of your kids. I can see your kids in real life and in pictures when I visit your house. If I have never visited your house, then that should be an indication that I don’t need or want pictures of your kids.

      Kind regards,

      1. Natalie*

        That’s not really necessary. Nor is it accurate – I like seeing pictures of people’s kids even if I don’t go to their homes on a regular basis.

        1. Sadsack*

          My comment wasn’t meant to be mean, just honest. I am honestly telling you all that I can’t understand what I am expected to do with photos of strangers. I hang them up with my Christmas cards, then throw them away. If that’s what you are expecting, then I guess we are cool.

          My SO currently has a card with an acquaintance’s ten year old staring down at us as we watch TV. we don’t know this kid, but he hangs there because his head is surrounded by holly. It is weird.

          1. Natalie*

            You took it upon yourself to speak for everyone in a pretty rude way (mean & honest are not mutually exclusive). This is a discussion about what may or may not be appropriate for work, not the rabbit hole of whether or not anyone gives a shit about anyone else’s kid.

            (And just throw the photos away if you don’t want them. This is not a big deal.)

            1. Natalie*

              Sorry, I got kind of snarky there myself (I’m not a huge fan of “I’m just being honest!” because it’s so often disingenuous). I hear you that you don’t really want these cards or care, and that’s fine. You would have come across better if you had said what you said in your second comment rather than making a broad statement about how “everyone” feels.

              1. Sadsack*

                Yeah, I agree with your last statement. It was a bit douchy of me. I’m sorry. I don’t want to come across as one of those people who claims to be just telling the truth while being insulting, but I guess I did this time.

            2. Sadsack*

              I am not a person who appreciates receiving photos of coworkers’ kids. I admit my comment was too broad for this discussion, so sorry to offend. It is my genuine feeling. As I wrote, my intention was honesty, however it was abrupt. I actually thought it was a little funny, but maybe not for everyone.

          2. Emi.*

            When I send people things, I expect them to do whatever-they-want with them. That’s how transferring property works. Your comment did sound pretty harsh/aggressive so I’m glad to hear you didn’t mean it that way.

          3. anonny*

            I hang them up with my Christmas cards, then throw them away.

            As someone who likes getting these kinds of cards, this is exactly what I do. What else is one supposed to do with holiday cards?!

            1. EmmaLou*

              Well, you can turn them into crafts. Lots and lots of crafts. An amazing amount of crafts. Of course, with photo cards… less of an opportunity to craft. :D “Well, I had to cut through Mitzi’s face to get that edge right and that’s Emerald’s left eye there in the corner…” Not a fan of photo cards even though I don’t craft with any at all.

              It’s kind of funny when I get them from those I know place a large meaning on Christmas itself. What’s the thought-process: “Hmm… symbol of deep faith or .. picture of us with our perfectly smiling faces and matching sweaters and the dog??… Us! of course! Front and center! Whee!” And, yes, I get them from people I love. And I still love the people. Just not the cards so much.

              1. misplacedmidwesterner*

                In defense of picture cards and holiday sentiment: I am deeply religious and I place a lot of meaning on Christmas itself. And I send out a picture card that says “Happy New Year”. Our family and friends have a lot of variety in their religious choices (from atheist to devout across several major religions). In my youth I was quite evangelical and not always the most tactful about it. Now I go with a non descript Happy New Year greeting so that I am not pushing my religion into anyone else’s home.
                Also it gives me an extra week to get them out.

            2. JD*

              I’m such a weirdo. I have kept every single card anyone has ever given me, since I was an adult. I’m not a hoarder, honestly, I just have a deep attachment to nostalgia. They’re all in decorative vintage suitcases and steamer trunks that double as furniture.

          4. Elsajeni*

            Well… what do you do with other Christmas cards, though? I don’t think people are expecting you to treat the photo cards any differently, or specially treasure them — they just like taking a Christmas photo of or with the kids, and then it’s easy to have photo cards printed, and for folks they’re closer to, it’s a convenient way to send out an annual “Hey, look how much Timmy’s grown!” update.

      2. sarah*

        Whoops, sorry! I LOVE getting those photo Christmas cards with my friends’ kids on them. You might not like it, and you’re welcome to recycle/trash the cards if so. But plenty of people do like it.

          1. Sophie Winston*

            Eh, I’m with you.

            Seeing the picture pinned to the parent’s office wall? Aw, cute.

            Having my own copy to take home? Not so much.

      3. CMT*

        Aww, I love seeing pictures of babies and kids! I might not keep them up all year long or anything, but I do appreciate receiving those kinds of cards. I’m sorry you’re so sad :(

        1. Sadsack*

          Haha, thanks. Despite my name…And, er, my seemingly deeply troubled person’s comment, I am not sad. I just have certain feelings about people thinking everyone loves pics of their kids.

          1. Elliot*

            Can we apply the same to dog cards? I had a coworker give me a Christmas card with a professionally shot picture of her dog on it once and she watched me open it with a big smile on her face. I didn’t know what to say. I don’t even like dogs, really.

            What made the whole thing weirder is that she has kids.

    4. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      My worst boss ever handed out a card with his family on it every year. I just accepted it and filed it away unopened for some distant future time when looking at his face wouldn’t cause me to rage. That was until I moved overseas and I was at a holiday team drinks party last year recounting the story of how I would get that card every year and how horrible it was – to many laughs from non-Americans, including my dept supervisor (an American), about how ludicrous that was because honestly, why would you ever want to receive a photo of your boss for a Christmas card?

      Guess who got a card with a picture of him and his daughter on it two days later.

      The guy has proved to be a raging, sycophantic jerk with no emotional intelligence/aptitude however, who has also fired/laid off 90% of the team since last year (including me), so I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised. To me any family photo card from boss = danger!danger! raging egomaniac in the vicinity!

      By the way, I filed that card too.

      1. Elliot*

        Yeah, getting one from a boss definitely adds a layer of weirdness to it. I am a parent of a small child, and I work with other parents and grandparents, and we frequently show each other pictures. I don’t do Christmas cards, but if I got one from one of them I wouldn’t think it was weird or anything. I’d tell them how nice they looked, maybe show it to a couple parents in other departments, then dispose of it.

        My boss, on the other hand, would just be a little uncomfortable. But, my boss is single and doesn’t have children, and he’s a really cool guy with a great sense of humor, and if I got a Christmas card with a picture of him in his house in some fabulous Christmas sweater, next to his jungle of Christmas cactuses with his cats beside him dressed in Santa hats, it would make my day.

  5. LarsTheRealGirl*

    #1 – I feel like this is probably some level of overheard sarcasm that your friend is taking literally. Like “oh Jane, so lucky you’re gonna get to be off for the holidays again this year.” Jane: “oh yea. Planned it tooooootally on purpose. 9 months of cankles, indigestion, pregnancy with an infant in tow, and a baby human later be damned, JUST wanted revenge on Anna for making me work Christmas 2 years ago – really showed her!.”

    Either way – yea – what Alison said. What exactly would she talk to her about? Put her on a “we need you to not get pregnant again next year” PIP??

    1. Cristina in England*

      I told everyone that I had my second baby, due on Christmas Eve last year, just so I wouldn’t have to make Christmas dinner. But that kind of humour is very British I suppose so no one took me seriously.

      1. Mreasy*

        Ha! This reminds me of my sister on Christmas Eve, hugely pregnant, scurrying around & trying to do chores (I was following her picking up all the bits of laundry she dropped & couldn’t pick up) saying “I will NOT have this baby on Christmas Day!” – and thirteen years later, we do Christmas in the morning and my nephew’s birthday in the evening. To be fair, she didn’t have to make Christmas Eve dinner like she usually does. But I think she may have had a rougher time of it than throwing together a couple of lasagnas…

          1. FatRascal*

            I read this as that kind of nesting thing that makes women start washing the kitchen floor or turning out the linen closet just before they go into labour, rather than her being forced to do chores.

          2. Kate*

            Nesting is a thing that happens. My best friend de-stresses by cleaning the house to loud music, when she was pregnant you could have eaten off any surface of the house you chose. And the furtniture was rearranged constantly, and at least three rooms were painted, and, and… her husband was quite happy that things calmed down a bit when the baby came.

            1. anonny*

              I’m currently 9 months pregnant, and definitely nesting. But my version of nesting is obsessively organizing baby clothes storage systems and bathroom storage. The rest of my house continues to be a mess; nesting has not overridden that strand of laziness.

          3. Junior Dev*

            I think the idea is that she wanted to do them so she could believe she wasn’t about to have a baby? That’s how I read it.

          4. SouthernLadybug*

            I agree with the general side eye…but this one does also sound more to me like the nesting thing. It hit me – I felt like a walking cliche, but there it was!

      2. SpaceySteph*

        I am due the day before Passover starts this April and I told my sister I did it just so I could claim Passover this year (we went to her house last year).
        But yeah, it was totally a joke. Plus, while we were trying, its not like even the most fertile and regular person has the power to plan the due date it to the DAY like that.

    2. Kelly L.*

      +1. Pretty sure it’s a joke. Pregnancy and childbearing involve a lot of hassle and expense, way out of proportion to what most people would do for a vacation day.

      1. anonny*

        There’s a really dreadful work conference that happens every year in January…the same weekend I’m due (currently 9 months pregnant) and I have been making the joke for months that I got pregnant so I could avoid going to the midwinter-teapot assoc. conference. I *do* hate that conference, as I’m sure this employee hates working Christmas, but I certainly didn’t plan my pregnancy around avoiding it. (Let’s be honest, I didn’t plan my pregnancy.) If someone overheard me making my joke, they might hear the truth of how much I dislike going to this conference, but to believe that I actually planned this major life event around avoiding one weekend of work?! That would be nuts.

    3. LBK*

      And if she did actually sign on for all of that just to get out of working on Christmas, you’ve gotta admire her dedication. At that point I’d just give it to her.

  6. Mookie*

    LW2, don’t mention it and do your best not to let these understandably raw feelings (towards your staff, peer managers, and your own manager) bleed into work. You now know where you stand. You don’t have to be friends or socialize with colleagues after hours, and you’ve got an excellent reminder here for yourself why maintaining appropriate boundaries, in this environment, anyway, is advisable. Enjoy the holidays, the upcoming solstice, and the new year with people outside of work whom you care about and luxuriate in the splendor of (with any luck) pleasant, warm, mutually supportive, and melodrama-free celebrations. So long as work itself is chugging along smoothly and there are no obvious ripples, continue doing what you’re doing and, as Alison says, use this knowledge only as useful background information and as necessary if and when related problems arise.

  7. FTW*

    For #5, I think it depends on the company culture.

    At my firm we spend a lot of long hours together and do discuss our families. Partners will occasionally host the team at their house with their spouse. Given the culture, a family card is not at all inappropriate, but is also not necessarily the norm.

    So, I would make the decision based on your company and team culture.

    1. sarah*

      I agree. I got a family photo card from my supervisor this year, and it felt totally normal/appropriate. We have the sort of office where folks with kids will bring their kids into the office from time to time, and we have events where partners/family are invited every few months. So, it’s not like these are random strangers — I actually know my coworkers’ families. Obviously this is not the norm at every office, though. I think one way to tell might be: Would my coworkers know who all the people in the photo are, or are you giving a photo with random strangers (to them) on it.

      1. Crazy Dog Lady*

        Yes to this – I like getting the family photo holiday card. But I had a colleague send one out to her department and it just had her kids in the photo, who I’d never seen before, with their last name (which is different from my colleague’s). It took me a full day to figure out who sent me that card! Enough people had the same reaction that she didn’t send one to us the following year :/

    2. Honeybee*

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. My boss’s boss gives everyone on our team a Christmas card with his family on it, but we’re also the kind of team that has parties at which family and are invited and I’ve met most of my coworkers’ kids and many of their spouses and partners. It felt nice to get one, not awkward. But that’s because of the team culture. If my former supervisor had given me a Christmas card with her family on it, it would’ve been weird.

    3. Blossom*

      I think I’d think it was sweet.

      And Christmas photo-cards aren’t really “a thing” in my country. And no, I don’t really know my colleagues’ families.

      But it’s Christmas, and clearly well-meant. I would just think “Aw, a card, that’s nice. A bit American (the photo part), but whatever, it’s sweet they thought of me and don’t the kids look cute? Presumably they got a load of these made and are giving them out to everyone”.

      And yes, it would go in the recycling after Christmas, like most other cards.

    4. Natalie*

      Agreed that it definitely depends. My current and last two bosses all had youngish kids that I had met at various points, and we all talked about our families and lives. I wouldn’t have found it odd to get a family picture card from them. But I’ve worked places that were far more anonymous where it would have struck me as extremely weird.

  8. Mookie*

    I’m confused about what LW1’s friend wants to say and what she intends to accomplish in saying it. Also, no, it’s not thoughtless to plan pregnancies for any reason or to say so out loud, even if such planning somehow took into consideration sticking it to a manager and their holiday staff scheduling (which is, as everyone has mentioned, highly implausible).

    1. Juli G.*

      Exactly. A friend of mine tried and succeeded in having both her kids’ due dates hit in April – she’s a teacher and it allowed her to easily roll her leave into summer so she didn’t return until school started in September/late August. I don’t think this was particularly devious.

      1. Mookie*

        Good for your friend and her family. That’s awesome when it works out that well.

        And three cheers for access to all manner of family planning (which keeps more people alive and healthy, makes pregnancy and birth safer, helps pregnant people to remain in or helps them to return to the workforce according to their own desires, and creates happier childhoods).

      2. Lance*

        Definite congrats to your friend; both on the kids, and having it fit so well around her work situation.

      3. Bwmn*

        When you compare maternity leave in the US to what it is in Canada and most parts of Europe – I just have a hard time hearing any plans to maximize time at home as devious. Saying nothing to the reality of how many women there are who struggle to get pregnant – getting all twisted about how this plays out seems like a really petty rabbit hole to go down.

        From my mother’s colleagues, I’m aware that there are plenty of “down low” conversations among tenure track women around how best to “plan” pregnancies while aiming for certain career advancements. I do think that ultimately it’s sad that something like this can’t be talked about more openly, but letters like this clearly show how that can still work out.

        1. Temperance*

          In this case, though, it’s not about the woman’s potential career advancement, but about her wanting to stick it to her boss and not work another Christmas. I’m sort of shocked that she would admit it, especially considering that the person she told this to likely DID have to work Christmas, maybe even an extra one, in order to cover.

          1. Natalie*

            That’s assuming the comment was serious, which I don’t think is the likeliest scenario here. It sounds like a joke.

          2. Observer*

            I’m sort of shocked that there are actually two people who think that this is real. *Reality* is that even couples that don’t have fertility problems generally can’t easily control which precise month they will have a baby, especially if the year is important. As for controlling the WEEK? Close to impossible, unless you are doing ART.

            In other words, whatever this woman actually said, it’s just silly to take this as a factual description of how these two pregnancies came to be.

            1. Bwmn*

              Regardless of the medical nonsense – I never get how anyone think that poor family leave plans doesn’t ultimately impact all employees – including those who don’t have kids. If your place of employment has no consideration or thought to maternity leave – then for all kinds of FMLA, injury or long term absence – it’s likely also going to be punitive. Because if such a place can not put in place systems to support any kind of long term absence – then maternity issues or not – something will ultimately leave you out. And it’s not your coworkers choosing to get ill but your company not willing to adjust for those realities.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                Yeah, workplaces that are running on expecting to never have anyone out are massively dysfunctional. At any given moment in an office/team, there’ll be someone sick, someone on holiday, someone out on leave cos of grieving, or a member of their family needing care, someone on maternity leave, or someone who’s just handed in their notice etc etc. Staffing needs to take this into account.

                (I have a friend who felt horribly guilty because she had to take leave when her dad died, as it was when another colleague was on maternity leave, and it was so hard for her – BUT absolutely not her fault that her office had this weird “only 1 should be out at a time” nonsense)

              2. aebhel*


                And maybe I’m somewhat less than sympathetic because I’m (a) the only person at my workplace with a young child and (b) probably the person who has taken the least amount of time off in the past few years, but childbirth is not the only thing that could possibly happen to make someone need a whole lot of time off–and a lot of the other reasons are not nearly as easy to plan around. If someone’s having a baby, even if it’s inconveniently timed, their employer has a general idea of when it will be happening. Falling down a flight of stairs and breaking a hip, or having an elderly parent have a stroke (to use two examples from my workplace) are not planned events, and if you don’t have adequate coverage, you’ll be scrambling.

                People tend to pick on pregnancy because of the perception (accurate or not) that it can be deliberately timed, but there are a lot of other things that can crop up.

            2. Temperance*

              Maybe it’s because I’m from a background where it wouldn’t be so farfetched that people behave this way and are this petty?

              It’s not about controlling the literal day you give birth, or even the week, but the timeframe. If you have a baby on November 10th, you’re out of work until January or February. Same if you have the baby on Thanksgiving Day.

            3. Chinook*

              “I’m sort of shocked that there are actually two people who think that this is real.”

              Make that three because I heard it come out of my SIL’s mouth (and not as a joke). She truly resented missing her youngest’s first Christmas because her “mean boss” insisted she work a Christmas shift because she didn’t work the previous one (the nurses would get one on/one off and maternity leave counted in the rotation otherwise it would be possible to go years without having to work Christmas) and thought that her colleague should have to suck it up and work two Christmases in a row because SIL should get to celebrate her baby’s first Christmas. After all, said colleague didn’t have kids, so what was the big deal, right?

              Luckily, not all humanity is that self-centered.

              1. Observer*

                I’m not shocked that someone could resent stupid things or be mind blowingly selfish. But, did your SIL actually time TWO babies to avoid that shift? Seriously?!

            1. JLaw*

              “And the person who covered Christmas got double pay – let’s not act like the person who is working on Christmas isn’t being compensated.”

              To be fair. It isn’t always about financial compensation. Some people’s families live across the other side of the World (as mine does) and so Christmas is sometimes the only time that some people get to see their families. Therefore, it’s not always about being paid extra. I value being able to see my family much, much more than that.

              1. Amy the Rev*

                From what I understand, if you observe Christmas as a religious holiday and the employer has 50+ employees they are obligated to give you time off if you request it/aren’t allowed to retaliate. Sometimes though it still feels risky to ask for Christmas off, even for religious reasons. I used to work at a restaurant that made a big deal of being open every day, and all employees were required to work on Thanksgiving, and also on 2 of the following 3 days: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve. I ended up putting in my 2 weeks notice at the beginning of December because I really wanted to be able to go to the services on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and I was too new to feel safe pushing to have both those days off.

      4. Is it Friday Yet?*

        I know A LOT of teachers who try to do this… my mother included. I was born in March, and my brother was born in April. I agree with Allison’s advice 100%. There’s really nothing to say here.

    2. LCL*

      I disagree. Your planning is your business, but announcing to your coworkers that you did it to game the schedule, even if you are joking, is mean and tacky.

      1. Emi.*

        I think joking about it to a friend, if they know it’s a joke, is fine. (I wouldn’t say something like that to my supervisor.)

      2. neverjaunty*

        “Announcing”? People are talking about joking within a conversation. Not walking out the door on Christmas Eve and pausing just long enough to say “hahaha, too bad you suckers didn’t plan ahead like me! While you’re here earning double time I’ll be IN LABOR!”

        1. LCL*

          I dunno, what was reported sounded like the classic drama llama game, to me.
          DL:reveals TMI, in an inflammatory way.
          Audience: has a delicious conversation with DL, and now they are more bonded. Or, ending two, audience gets angry at DL, DL gets to be angry back because how dare audience harass me about this very! personal! information! Either ending is fine, for DL.
          For manager, no, don’t talk to her about it. This time. If she repeats it, tell her that her family planning is her own business, and to keep it to herself. And to not keep mentioning to other employees that she didn’t have to work two Christmas seasons in a row.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It can be mean and tacky, but it certainly doesn’t warrant your manager/boss “having a talk” with you about it.

        1. Candi*

          If they’re playing it as a ‘nyeah nyeah I don’t/didn’t have to wooork’ for any reason, the manager can intervene on the ‘please be polite to your coworkers and act professionally’ basis. They don’t (and possibly can’t per law/reg/policy) need to address why the person was off work. (Unless it’s the person who skivs out all the time and needs to have the relevant productivity issues address.)

          Basically, they can address it as not having drama llama-riding bananas messing with the work environment. The underlying cause? In this case, a whole lotta nopes.

  9. Taylor Swift*

    Nooo, I don’t think #3 should drop by in person to try to figure out why this person doesn’t like him. The former manager has made it clear that, for whatever reason, she doesn’t want to talk to him. I think it would be so rude and awkward to show up in person and try to find out why.

    1. Mike C.*

      What about the fact that former managers are often called by perspective employers?

      Unless there’s something the OP is leaving out, it comes across as incredibly unprofessional to simply cut ties with no word why and when it could risk the future of someone else.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I think the reference question is a valid one but it isn’t immediately critical – it sounds like the OP isn’t currently job-searching. When they are, I think then they should reach out to the old supervisor again.

        This also sounds like a good situation for having a friend call as a pretend reference-checker.

        1. CM*

          Agreed. I wouldn’t have the friend call either — I would just let this relationship go for now. It sounds like for whatever reason, the old supervisor is not interested in staying in touch, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be willing to be a professional reference a few years from now. OP#3’s reaction is more to being suddenly friend-dumped, which has also happened to me so I get that it doesn’t feel good and you spend a lot of time wondering what happened… but I think you’ve done everything you can to try to reach out without becoming a nuisance.

          1. Natalie*

            That’s true, but it’s still probably better for the LW to let these sleeping dogs lie until it actually becomes an issue. It’s hard to effectively address a problem if you don’t know whether it exists or what exactly it is, and if they are fired out of the blue they aren’t going to need the reference literally that same day.

            Besides that, a reasonable person isn’t going to let their lack of interest in a social relationship affect a professional reference, and an unreasonable person can’t be trusted anyway.

          2. Taylor Swift*

            Mike, you’re really reaching here. Is it possible that LW3 may at any time become unemployed and then need a good reference? Yes. Is it likely, and should he live his life as if that were the case? Probably not. In any event, showing up in person to talk about why the former manager hasn’t replied to his emails and to ask her to serve as a reference wouldn’t be the best way to go about it.

              1. Taylor Swift*

                Then I don’t know why you were arguing with my comment that was only addressing the idea of showing up in person.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Whether or not this person is unprofessional, it’s not the OP’s job to talk them into being chatty.

      3. LBK*

        Not wanting to continue to be friends with a former employee isn’t “cutting ties,” it’s just the normal dissolution of a work relationship after you’re no longer working together. It’s also not a prerequisite that you maintain a relationship with a former manager in order for them to give you a reference, so it’s a weird assertion that it would be somehow risking the OP’s future if the manager doesn’t want to keep in touch – if anything, the OP is risking her own future by trying to force a relationship that the manager clearly isn’t interested in and possibly leaving a bad final impression.

        1. Mike C.*

          There’s “not keeping in touch” and there’s “complete ghosting”. The OP is feeling the latter, not the former. I don’t care about the friendship, what concerns me is not wanting to have contact under any circumstance.

    2. Misc*

      She may never have liked him that much but was professional about it (and there’s a vast difference between actively disliking someone and just not wanting to chat). She may like him just fine but not as anything outside of a workfriend – it’s very normal to get along great with the person you’re stuck with all day, but not have much in common outside of that. She may just be stressed and busy and not feel like emotionally hand holding someone who randomly contacted her, or have planned a better followup and never gotten round to it. She may be terrible at ‘keeping up’ with people and not feel like they have anything in common anymore simply because they haven’t seen each other. She may indeed have some kind of work related grudge or just be feeling some kind of work constraint.

      It doesn’t really matter – she doesn’t owe the OP ‘socialness’, or an explanation, and noncommittal or negative response = politely drop it, not push harder. If she looks around in a few months and goes ‘hey, I miss them, wonder what they’re up to’ or ‘guess I misread that’, or anything like that, then she is quite capable of reaching out from her end.

      *If* it was entirely natural for the OP to be in the area and strike up a friendly chat, great, but going out of their way to do that would be… weird and pushy, especially as she’s already clearly not into it.

      Equally, while I think it’s fair to want to know if she can offer a good reference, I also feel like asking her now would feel like the OP was just using it as a pretext (mostly because it seems like the OP is more bothered about the social aspect, which she doesn’t owe him at all and can just walk away from), so they’d need to phrase it carefully, have a good reason for asking when and how they ask, and without pressure/random social stuff mixed in too heavily .

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        All of this. Leave the supervisor alone for now, OP. If in the future you begin looking for another job and would like her to serve as a reference, then reach back out.

      2. OP3*

        I appreciate the comments (Misc, Allison and others). I am more concerned about repairing the social relationship. It eats at me and I spend more time than I should wondering what I did wrong, so hearing that perhaps this was going to play out this way no matter what is a small comfort in the sense that there’s nothing I could have done differently. My new position involves a lot of local travel and I’m near my old workplace several times a month, but I agree that dropping by seems like a bad idea.

        1. Misc*

          Yeah, it’s really REALLY normal to just… stop talking to people you used to work with. Like all the old schoolfriends you never keep up with. The only work relationships that tend to last are the ones were you built up something outside of the workplace. I worked somewhere for nine years, got lifts with someone every week, we were really close, and since I left… I’ve seen them once, and only because I was in the area and managed to ‘book’ ahead for their lunch break. We still get on great, but we just don’t have any reason to connect outside of work, it’s just not enough (I have another friend from there that I also get along with, but we have actual shared interests and established regular board game nights *before* I left). And every other staff member there… that hey, I got along fine with, I have zero interest in actually seriously socialising with outside of ‘forced into the same workspace’.

          If you’re in the area and she’s not the only person you’d be happy to see, it’s probably fine to drop by and be all ‘hey, just wanted to stick my head in and say hi’, but only if that would be a normal thing in the context of your old workplace and it wasn’t just to see her specifically and you didn’t have any expectations other than maybe a little bit of closure with that workplace (because you go every single day and then suddenly you don’t).

        2. Joseph*

          “I am more concerned about repairing the social relationship.”
          There’s no non-blunt way to say this, but it’s not happening. She has made it quite clear that’s over and done with.
          If it makes you feel better, it’s worth remembering that work social relationships usually do fall apart or drift apart once you’re no longer working together. Never seen actual numbers, but I’d guesstimate at least 75% of work social relationships die out after someone leaves the company. The fact that she didn’t bother to respond to your pregnancy email with even a token “congratulations! super busy here, don’t really have time to meet up” email is a bit odd, but the overall situation is very, very common.

          1. fposte*

            I agree with this. Additionally, attempts to repair the social relationship are likely to make things even worse. People who don’t want to talk to you really don’t want to talk about why they don’t want to talk to you.

            1. LBK*

              Yes, nothing makes people less interested in a social relationship than constantly trying to force one to exist.

        3. Mookie*

          Try your best not to shoulder the blame here. Sometimes these things are blameless, inevitable, or just an unfortunate confluence of good and bad things happening at a crucial time. It doesn’t sound like you did something to hurt, anger, or offend her, but even if you did, a slight’s a slight, a wound a wound, people measure and react to them differently and you’ll never able to help her forgive you because it doesn’t appear that she wants to (if, in fact, she feels she has a grievance she could forgive). That’s just not in the cards.

          As for a reference, although this isn’t what you’re concerned about, I don’t think it’s a bad idea when necessary to send her a heads-up-applying-for-something-you-may-be-contacted-as-a-former-supervisor-fair-warning e-mail with some courteous but low-key language. With the exception of a token “hope you’re well” near the end, I’d just avoid any mention of things that are intimate or personal in nature because otherwise, as Misc says, it might read as pestering, rather than informative, to continue pushing at her in the face of obvious and pointed silence. You’re concerned about having inadvertently burned bridges in the past, but doing this inartfully could burn another bridge (and, depending on your industry, might mar your reputation if this supervisor is likely to be acquainted or have standing with future employers).

        4. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Knowing that it’s the social aspect that’s most important to you, I agree with the others– please don’t drop by or call. She simply doesn’t want to be friends, for whatever reason. It could be as simple as she likes to compartmentalize work and her social life. It could be as complex as having an “out of sight, out of mind” view when it comes to relationships. It could simply be that she doesn’t feel like she has enough in common with you to be anything but co-workers. I understand that it may be hard to accept, but if this is her choice and how she operates, you’re better off respecting that, shrugging your shoulders, and moving on.

        5. neverjaunty*

          Drop it. Badgering people to give you an explanation of why they won’t be your friend… ends up affirming they were right to stop being your friend.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Eh, this seems pretty straightforward to me; I don’t think it was intended to be harsh. We all have different styles, of course, and some things will read as harsh to some people that don’t to others … so I’m trying to keep moderation to stuff that seems clearly on the wrong side of the line.

        6. Sorin*

          You’re not going to be able to argue someone who doesn’t want to be your friend into being your friend.

        7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          OP#3, unfortunately, it’s possible that the social relationship was more meaningful to you than it was to your OldBoss. It may take some sting out to think of this as concentric circles of friendship, where the center circle is your strongest/most intimate relationships (your bffs, your SO, etc.). Old Boss was probably 1-2 circles out when you worked together, and now she’s steadily drifting further out. That’s really normal for all friendships, but it’s even more normal/common for work friendships. I know that that drift can feel painful, but unfortunately there’s no way to make someone stop drifting, and

          On the professional side, there’s a slight chance that your OldBoss mistakenly thinks you coordinated with your coworker when you both left (although applying for coworker’s job would seem to undercut any “collusion” to leave). I once quit a job where only my coworker and me staffed a specific department in a field office, and we also shared an office. Three days after I gave notice, my coworker did as well. The timing was purely coincidental, but our OldBoss thought we colluded to quit to make it harder on the organization (the fact that she thought that of us says a lot about the organization), and she complained to folks in our industry that we both left to sabotage/cripple our old organization.

          Which is all to say that while I think it’s extremely unlikely given your account of what happened, there may be a small part of OldBoss that wonders why folks left around the same time or felt short-handed. Nonetheless, because you don’t need her reference right now, I would back off until you come to a point where you might still need to have her on your list. It’s all tough, and I’m sorry you’re going through this experience.

    3. Katie*

      I agree, definitely do not just “drop by”! At best that would be awkward, at worst it could be perceived as (or actually become, if the OP loses his temper) a threat. Whatever the issue is or was, Former Manager has made it clear that the door is closed. The OP needs to move on.

    4. Red Reader*

      This, definitely. If I make it very plain that I don’t want to talk to you and then you show up at my workplace to try to force it? That’s basically peeing on the ashes of a burned bridge. I mean, you might think you’re trying to put out the fire, but really you’re just going to make it so much more unpleasant.

    5. LBK*

      Agreed, and pretty surprised Alison would suggest that. I think it would be super weird and a little creepy, like “Well you wouldn’t talk to me via email so I’m just going to show up and force you to speak to me!”

    6. Green*

      I agree. I thought Allison’s advice to drop by in person was uncharacteristically off — dropping by in person to see a professional contact and former manager who has conveyed they have no interest in seeing you isn’t going to turn out well.

  10. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: I don’t think it would be out of line to say, “Jane, remember that people hear the things you say. Anna did not screw you over. Please don’t say things like that to other employees in the workplace.” She might put it together that you overheard the other part too.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Maybe in the moment – but the OP’s friend overheard that comment “a month or so ago” and the employee won’t be back until late January. Bringing it up three months-ish after the fact would look petty in the extreme. The employee may not even remember saying anything like this by then!

      I would chalk it up to something between a joke and the complaints of someone who was probably quite tired of being pregnant. Then let it go.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        True, I didn’t catch the math of all that. I do think it’s reasonable to tell this employee to stop spewing BS/insulting other staff while acting like other people can’t hear her.

    2. Mookie*

      Anna is the LW’s friend, the one who allegedly did the “screwing” (of the figurative rather than possible pregnancy-making sort. Presumably.).

  11. OP #2*

    Hello, OP#2 here. My peer managers and my manager did not attend. They were invited the day of the party, which was held at work during work hours over the lunch break times of the line staff. I even saw them bringing the food in and asked about it but they still kept it secret.

    A coworker pointed out my peer managers and even my manager are not the people who have to enforce the rules for them so the relationship is different.

    My manager offered to say something but my instinct is to tell them not to.

    As Michelle Obama says, ” When they go low, we go high”

    1. Sherm*

      I think your instincts are correct. What’s done is done, and I doubt you want them to invite you next year out of obligation and make it awkward for everyone. And, given the different relationships they pointed out, maybe it really is that they just didn’t want to hang out with the boss and didn’t think through the optics.

    2. Misc*

      “A coworker pointed out my peer managers and even my manager are not the people who have to enforce the rules for them so the relationship is different.”

      Yeah, that was my thought. You’re the Scary (or whatever) Boss, the other managers are just ‘random higher up people around the place’. Having you there is a Big Deal, the others? Not so much.

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      It really hurts to be left out of things.From what you’ve told us, your instincts are right. It’s impressive that you’ve been actively working to change your relationship with your employees and that counts for a lot. It has only been a few months, so perhaps your employees aren’t yet used to the new you/way of doing things? You may well find that the situation is different next year and that people will be friendlier. I hope you have a good time over the holidays!

    4. hbc*

      For what it’s worth, it’s much more understandable that they were planning amongst themselves and the other higher ups were invited last minute. Less of a deliberate exclusion and more of a in-the-minute poor decision (possibly not even supported by most of the team.)

      As for going high, I’d strongly consider whether you can make a gesture next year that shows you support their party and that you understand their desire not to celebrate with the Enforcer. Can you tell them in late November that they can get an extra 15 minutes on their lunch whenever they choose to have the party? Donate a food item and vamoose? That would go a long way towards building the goodwill that balances out the necessary tensions.

      1. Op2*

        I cant give them extra time due to the nature of our work and the union contract (which forbids it) but I like the idea of contributing something. That wouldve been a good way to go had i known about it in advance

    5. eplawyer*

      It is highly possible this is the work of only a few people and the rest just went along to not make waves. They don’t like being around someone who actually expect them to follow rules, so they are going to avoid you.

      Let this go, as you are clearly planning to. Address work/productivity issues only. You don’t have to be friends with your staff. You just have to make sure they are doing their jobs properly with a degree of professionalism.

      1. HolidayAnon*

        Came here to say this. I’m guilty of having hosted a holiday party for coworkers at my house one year and shutting one middle manager out of it. It was a limited list, so not all were invited. But every one of this guy’s direct reports got the invite. They were all sworn to secrecy, did not tell him about the party, and would do things like fall silent whenever they’d be talking about the party and he would walk in. I didn’t feel one way or another about the guy. The idea came from someone who happened to be my closest work friend at the time. In my friend’s exact words, “you can invite him, but if he comes, I won’t.” I wanted my friend and his family at my party and so just rolled over and went with his suggestion. In hindsight, I think I should have pushed back, because that was a ridiculous request. Fast forward to six months after the party, my friend was now good friends with Non-Invited Guy, and Non-Invited Guy was barely talking to me – word must’ve gotten out after all. TL;DR: This might be the work of a few people, or even, one person. I know it looks like your whole group has turned on you, OP2, but I really don’t think that’s the case.

    6. Tuckerman*

      I can see why you feel hurt, and even betrayed, but your comment, “When they go low, we go high” makes me think you may be attributing more malice to their behavior than they intended. The fact that your peer managers and manager were not even invited until the day of the party suggests, to me, that the employees really wanted to celebrate just among themselves (maybe had even planned a nsfw white elephant gift exchange), but realized they should not have been so secretive. I think they should have held this event outside of work if it was not going to include everyone, but it sounds like they invited everyone who would be available during their lunch break.

      1. OP2*

        You may be right. This group has a history of acting in a childish and malicious way, which is why I tend to jump there. I wish I could weed out the bad apples but they tend to mis-behave in a way that is disruptive but yet not quite to the threshold of disciplinary action.

        My plan is to just let it go, but use it as a sign that there are some culture problems still to be addressed as Alison said

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          What do you mean, OP? It seems like disruptive behavior merits feedback/consequences, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of “formal” disciplinary action.

          (But I’m sorry they’re being petty, I’m glad the other managers didn’t attend, and it sounds like you’re handling the situation really well and with maturity.)

          1. Candi*

            Agreed. If 2 isn’t sure how to go about it, it’s worth an archive search and/or another letter to Alison.

    7. The Expendable Redshirt*

      Can you be my boss OP?

      Yeah, you’re doing the right thing by not mentioning it. Sorry for all this, being left out can hurt.

  12. Alienor*

    It’s pretty common where I work for people to give family cards to their coworkers, bosses, direct reports, whoever. I’ve never found it offensive or inappropriate – most of us have family photos on our desks and/or talk about families at times (people with no kids will talk about their nieces/nephews/pets), so it just seems like a natural extension of that. I guess it depends on the environment, though.

    1. Jessie*

      #5 Agreed. It seems weirdly arbitrary to say that holiday cards (which in my area, almost always have family photos) are in the “social sphere” and thus inappropriate for work, but it’s okay to talk about family, throw birthday parties and baby showers, display your kids’ photos at your desk, go to happy hour with your coworkers, send flowers and get well cards, etc. I think Alison missed the mark with this response.

      1. Jessie*

        Also, I am not sure why Alison is assuming that LW#5 is the boss. I assumed that (s)he was one member of a team and wanted to give gifts to the rest of her team.

        1. Sorin*

          I read “my team” as a boss referring to their subordinates, though I could see how it might be interpreted other ways.

  13. beetrootqueen*

    1. are we absolutely sure it wasn’t sarcastic. I mean honestly even if she was explicitly planning it for a particular date (which barely ever works) she may have a different reason and thats just the jokey work reason. the fact that she was grumpy about your friend in this conversation honestly it’s not worth talking to her about. She’s heavily pregnant and probably very stressed. just drop the whole thing its not worth the bother especially not near Christmas.

    1. babblemouth*

      I can totally picture myself doing a sarcastic remark like this. Planning a whole pregnancy just to piss off a manager is such a massive overkill, I don’t see it happening. Occam’s razor says this was just a joke that would have been unfunny to someone else out of context.

    2. blackcat*

      If she is one of those mythical people able to successfully time babies, maybe she was just aiming for the time of year when her significant other has the most paid time off.

      And if I was going to time having a baby, I might aim for around the holidays to have a good excuse not to go (“Too pregnant!” “Baby hasn’t had enough shots to be on a plane/in crowded spaces!”).

      There are lots of reasons to aim for a Thanksgiving/Christmas baby without it being about pissing off a manager…

  14. Blossom*

    Alison, #3 says he *did* tell the boss he was going to apply for the newly vacant post, and was meet with a “cool” response. So, this grudge started even before then… though maybe the job application aggravated it, who knows.

    Perhaps she lost face having both employees quit in such a short timeframe? No excuse, though; her behaviour is a huge overreaction.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I was referring to this part: “I purposefully did not contact her after applying so as not to appear eager, or act like I should receive favoritism, etc.” (Not that that would warrant her response, of course.)

    2. Mookie*

      Perhaps she lost face having both employees quit in such a short timeframe?

      I wonder if the LW is still in contact with the other employee that left and if they’ve experienced similar difficulties or have heard something to explain the former supervisor’s behavior.

      1. OP3*

        I had lunch with my other former coworker last month. She’s had a small amount of contact our former supervisor, all pleasant. She was surprised and had no idea, and said that she had never heard anything to indicate that there was a problem.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Is it possible OldBoss is not mad, but rather, dropped the communication ball and now is being awkward about following up because she feels she ghosted you? Or, of course, she could just suck at staying in touch (but do so w/o malice or anger).

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have to disagree with categorizing her responses as an overreaction. If anything, she just… didn’t react. Her responses weren’t particularly warm or kind or polite, but I don’t think she’s being over the top here.

      1. Blossom*

        Hmm, I’d be very hurt to receive a two-word reply of “Can’t, Blossom.” to a chatty email suggesting lunch. There are far kinder, more civilised ways to say no. And not replying at all to the other emails, not even to say congratulations on the wife’s pregnancy… that’s not how you treat a neutral acquaintance or business connection. It’s deliberately setting good manners aside. It’s actually quite provocative, considering that the OP has done nothing to warrant the withdrawal of basic social courtesies. You can cool down or bring a relationship to an end without going cold turkey on someone with no explanation.

        1. CM*

          I agree — even from a casual acquaintance, this response would be rude. From someone you know well, it seems deliberately hurtful and I can understand why OP#3 is wondering if she did something to offend.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          IDK. I wonder if the OP really did do something unknown that offended the manager. When I was much younger, a fantastic manager took a chance hiring me. I quit after 1.5 yrs to go back to my previous job. Then I let myself get talked into staying with the new company, but changed departments, and my manager helped me navigate the change. Another couple years after that, I was in a rough career patch and asked that former manager to go to lunch to chat. I was pretty oblivious. She had every right to send me an email that just said, “Can’t” but she was very kind and didn’t.

  15. EarlyMoringCommenter*

    RE #5 – I just had to share an awkward card that I get. For the past 7 years a department manager, someone that I don’t even remotely work with and doesn’t even recognize me when I say hello, has mailed out a family update Christmas card to everyone on staff. This card is covered in photos of their child and includes rather personal updates about their family. It would be one thing if I had that level of relationship with the department manager, but I don’t so it just comes across as out-of-touch and weird. This card has also become a running joke with people that don’t closely know the department manager. Many have expressed confusion when opening the card about who this person is and why did they receive such an intimate card. My favorite part of the card is how it’s addressed to my ex-husband first and me second when she’s never met him when we were married and we’ve been divorced for going on three years now.

    1. babblemouth*

      Are any of your colleagues close enough to her to mention she might want to stop? I feel like etiquette faux-pas like these should be gently pointed out to give everyone a way out with their heads high.

      1. EarlyMoringCommenter*

        I wish. She’s rather high up in the food chain and the culture here is to turn a blind eye towards behaviors of those high up.

    2. Important Moi*

      This person may not want to go through the effort of creating or using a second Christmas greeting. He may not see it as personal at all.

      1. anonny*

        But if you don’t recognize someone enough to say “hello” when you meet in the hallway, you also shouldn’t send them a Christmas card.

    3. Gandalf the Nude*

      I would be overly tempted to do a dramatic reading as a group with soap opera organ music playing in the background. My survival instincts are not always the best, though.

  16. Chris*

    Obviously I wasn’t there, but #1 sounds more like a joke than anything else. Like, if I wreck my car on the way to an event I didn’t want to go there, if I stand there and say, “heh, at least I don’t have to go to that stupid event!”, I’m pretty sure it would be insane to think that I deliberately wrecked my car just to not go to a thing.

    I don’t mean to compare children to car wrecks (*cough*), but it’s a huge, life-changing event. No, she didn’t get pregnant out of spite. Don’t be a crazy person, and bring up an insane criticism months after the event. And what would the OP’s friend say?? “If you get pregnant at the holidays again, you’re fired!” Um, no, that’s ridiculous, not to say probably illegal. So… there is literally nothing else to be said. Let it go.

  17. bluesboy*

    I really don’t think this is something you need to worry about. I’ve had bosses where I’ve had a great, friendly relationship with them and was happy to see them outside work and I’ve also had bosses that I respected but would never have chosen to see them at a party if I could avoid it.

    The only thing that’s a little weird is other bosses being invited, but as you say, it was on the day. If I were walking in with pizzas and saw someone from another department who’s a nice guy for a chat by the coffee machine I might say ‘come along and have a slice’. It doesn’t mean there are professional issues.

    All it takes is one person in your team to say that they wouldn’t be comfortable relaxing if you were invited and…you could be out. There are letters posted here sometimes from bosses who are clearly too close to their employees (one very recently) and you’ve avoided that – not a bad thing!

    1. Op2*

      True! Except I was the one who saw them walking in with food! I think you and the other commenters are right that it may just be that tgey couldn’t relax if i am there. It sure feels bad to be the boss no one likes, but better that than the too involved boss

      1. Amy the Rev*

        Reminds me of an old Greys Anatomy episode, when George has to repeat his intern year and he and the fellow interns don’t invite his best friend Izzie to a party because she’s a resident now who they directly report to, and “no one wants to party with the boss”… doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, and while it may be workplace-personal, you can somewhat rest in knowing that it likely isn’t PERSONAL personal.

  18. Hannah*

    #1: Yup she didn’t want to work on Christmas, so instead she signed up to push a human out of her body and wake up to feed it every 2 hours. Relaxing vacation!

    1. KarenK*

      I feel I should defend the OP’s friend Anna, here. It was the employee herself that said she got pregnant to get out of working on Christmas. Anna did not infer this. For every couple that struggles with infertility, there’s another couple that would have no problems timing a pregnancy.

      For what it’s worth, I think the comment was a bad joke, and Anna had the good sense to seek guidance as to what, if anything, she should do. The consensus is she can do nothing.

      1. Hankie Enlightenment (formerly Sarahnova)*

        I don’t think Hannah said anything about Anna’s culpability; she’s just pointing out the general implausibility of having a baby to avoid working Christmas, and why it was almost certainly a joke.

        And I really don’t think any of what Pregnant Employee said was that bad (including the ‘screwed me over’) bit. She basically said that she wasn’t happy about having to work an evening shift on Christmas Day (who would be?) and joked that she got pregnant to make sure it wouldn’t happen. There’s nothing actionable or even worth discussing there really.

        1. Karen K*

          I didn’t mean to single out Hannah. The general tone of some of the comments indicates that the Pregnant Employee could not possibly have timed her pregnancy, so therefore it was obvious that she was making a joke/being sarcastic, either unprompted or in response to a comment by her coworker. I’m still not completely comfortable with the “screwed me over” comment, though.

          I could so see myself responding like this, although to be honest, I’d probably word it more like Hannah did!

          Fact is, she could very well have actually done what she said she did, but it doesn’t matter. Anna still can’t ask her about it.

          1. Hannah*

            No worries. And yeah exactly, my point was not really that she wouldn’t have timed her pregnancy, because maybe she truly did aim to have her mat leave overlap with the holidays. But OPs friend seems to view this on the level of someone who bought concert tickets without checking her work schedule first, warranting some kind of scolding. I think she’s thinking about it wrong. Births and deaths happen when they happen, it transcends your work schedule. You cannot discipline someone for when they give birth.

            As for the “screwed over” comment, well, people are allowed to be upset that they had to work on Christmas. This is a reality of being in a position of authority and having to make an unpopular decision. You can’t police everyone’s feelings.

        2. Alton*

          Yeah, I don’t see a big deal either, unless there’s a larger pattern of her grumbling about the lack of holiday leave to a point where it shows low morale. The “screwed over” part could have easily been meant as a joke.

        3. MK*

          I agree there is nothing to be done, but

          “she basically said that she wasn’t happy about having to work an evening shift on Christmas Day”

          is not a probable interpretation of “she screwed me over by scheduling me to work on Christmas”.

          1. Alton*

            I think it depends on the tone and how it was worded. Sometimes people will joke around with friends by acting mock angry, and I could see someone saying something like, “Oh yes, I’m making sure I always have a baby during Christmas now–that’ll keep Anna from screwing me over. Hah!” and not really mean it. And the idea of having a baby just to avoid working a shift is so ridiculous that I think considering the whole conversation as a joke taken out of context is plausible.

            It really depends on how serious she sounded or if she has a habit of “joking” as a form of passive aggression. I wouldn’t infer much from this one incident.

      2. Observer*

        That’s actually not accurate. It’s a huge myth that it’s easy to time pregnancies precisely. It’s not. Here is the reality – A couple gets a single shot once every 4 – 6 weeks. And each attempt has approximately a 25% chance of succeeding. And, it’s not so easy to plan the time of month that you get to take your chance. AND you also can’t entirely control when the baby gets born.

        Someone up thread mentioned parents who tried to time their children for April (not even “late April”). One try worked and one, not so much. That’s totally not surprising.

        1. anonny*

          Thank you! This!

          There’s literally a handful of days each month where a woman can get pregnant, and if it doesn’t happen in that tiny window–you have to cross your fingers for the next month. So if she was trying to “plan” to be out on Christmas, she had a tiny window during a maximum of 3 months to successfully get pregnant, and then count on the baby not showing up early or late, this latter detail being a thing you have zero control over.

          Basically, it’s biologically impossible to “plan” a pregnancy around avoiding a single shift, not to mention ludicrous. I could earn double pay for one undesired shift, OR I could grow a human inside of me, push said human out/have major surgery to have them removed, and wake up every 2-3 hours to to feed them….etc etc etc, pay for college.

          It sounds like you already know this, but your friend will sound like a nut job if she brings this up, OP.

    2. Spiny*

      Yep. Even if she did plan it- for only that reason, not to work on Christmas- what is your friend going to say? I’m genuinely interested.

      1. Elliot*

        She should say nothing, and instead create a new policy prohibiting all employees from engaging in sexual relations at times of the year that could result in a need for parental leave on Christmas Day. Seems like the only logical way to go, right?

  19. TaxGuy*

    Re #1- I’m convinced tax people schedule their children’s births so they miss as much of busy season as possible. Fact of life.

    1. Science!*

      My FIL is a tax preparer and he jokes my my second baby (due in April) will be our tax baby. I’m due after tax season ends so they could actually come visit.

  20. Evie*

    #1 Even if she did plan to have a kid around the holidays in purpose that is her choice. I know several teachers who have planned their pregnancy (as best you can obviously) to give birth in end of April/early May so the they get 8 weeks off that then leads them into summer so the get an extended maternity leave.

    1. Oryx*

      I’m pretty sure every single one of my teacher friends have done this. I think it’s so common it’s actually the norm.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Yeah, even if she really did time the pregnancy so that she’s off work at an optimal time for her, so what? Family planning is her prerogative, and her boss at work doesn’t have a say in it.

    3. blackcat*

      Yep. My cousin just barely failed at this goal and had to go back for a week and a half at the end of the school year…

    4. A Teacher*

      Actually, a lot of teachers do this in part, because it is a pain to leave lesson plans for a sub for that long so if you plan for around breaks or right before summer its a lot less planning on the part of the teacher. My daughter’s teacher planned hers for a week before Thanksgiving to the best of her ability because with Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks she took 5 weeks of PTO instead of 8. It was also less planning. As a teacher, I understand that part.

          1. J.B.*

            On extended sick leave/maternity leave teachers can get pay – daily amount for substitute. Maternity leave is 30 days unless a doctor’s note requires longer. So it’s something…

            1. anonny*

              In the states, according to law, you are required to allow 12 weeks. That time is often unpaid, but you don’t need a doctor’s note to have longer than a month–unless teachers fall under a special, different set of rules?

          2. Chinook*

            In some Canadian districts too. The unions usually negotiate which type of absences cost the teacher and which ones don’t (i.e. sick leave doesn’t cost up to a certain number of days and one day at a professional conference per year), but it does happen and it isn’t $50 but the cost of the sub for that day (which can be over $100).

    5. J.B.*

      Honestly, with kids spaced so closely together a 6 week checkup surprise may have happened, or that everyone else in the world assumes it happened. Either way the employee is probably seriously sick of nosy questions given to pregnant women. There are also tax benefits to having a child at the end of the year, and maybe out of town family to “help”…there’s a lot of different possibilities.

  21. M*

    OP #1 and #3, let it go. I have personally experienced both situations and with the benefit of time and distance, it’s SO not worth your time/effort.

    OP #1, almost a decade ago, I relocated to a smallish town and got a job in teapot marketing after several years of being in teapot production. I also got pregnant within six months and ended up having an incredibly complicated pregnancy where I ended up on bed rest after the first trimester. The location closed about a year ago – I am working on moving out of the geographical area soon for (mostly) unrelated reasons but in part because I’m so tired of hearing around town how I single-handedly started the slow decline that led to the location’s closure by getting pregnant soon after being hired. The final straw? – my kid heard about the role her conception played in the decline of our town’s economy from staff at the local elementary school. Before going on leave, I also had to deal with two male contemporaries that were actively hostile about not being able to get the same “breaks” and “accommodations” I was receiving for fainting at work, having to be rushed to the ER by ambulance, and recovering from a head injury while pregnant. Please do whatever you can to get your friend to let this go – at best, it’s gossip and at worst, it can lead to far-reaching Very Bad Things.

    OP#3, sometimes people are inexplicable. A former supervisor cut off contact with me in writing by a third party for no apparent reason in a very close knit area of teapot distribution – she literally wrote I’m done, go away and had a co-worker forward it to me by email. She also stopped verifying my employment. Turns out she had a small stroke that affected her frontal lobe and before succumbing to a third stroke, continued to act more and more unstable without any explanation. I’m sorry she wasn’t able to get the medical intervention/understanding that might have saved her but I remain glad I didn’t add anything to the gossip because it was a medical issue that was completely outside of her control. Take Alison’s advice and please let this go.

    1. Mreasy*

      The elementary school told your child that she was in part to blame for the slowdown of the entire economy of your town?!?! Because she was carried & born at an inconvenient time?! I almost wonder if the fact that the company’s business acumen is so poor that they couldn’t handle having an employee out for a medical reason for half-a-year had something to do with it?????!! My god, I wish you a speedy exit from that small town of crazies.

      1. Mookie*

        Yeah, this story truly cannot have enough interrobangs. What the everloving feck?! Just picturing staff venting at a small child that their existence Ruined Our Town gives me vertigo. It’d be an awesome super hero power, though. Much like the monorail, M’s children have the power to giveth cushy jobs to brain-dead slobs and taketh those jobs away.

    2. rawr*

      #1: That is freaking terrible, both for you and your child. Talk about misplaced blame. If the business was in such a dire condition that your pregnancy played a role in its failure (which seems highly unlikely), then it had much bigger issues.

    3. Alton*

      Wow. If they really think that one person getting pregnant can ruin their economy, their economy had much bigger problems to begin with.

    4. Temperance*

      Yikes. Your story is a good illustration of why moving to a small town as an outsider can really freaking suck. I hope you and your kid can GTFO soon.

    5. M*

      Thank you – it will be great to have this town in our rear view. And you are right – lack of business acumen was the deciding factor but small towns have their scapegoats. Just glad to have the ability to remove ourselves from the toxicity!!

  22. Eliza Beth*

    LW #1: Your friend needs to let it go. It happened a month ago and most (barring a minute percent of women) cannot time a pregnancy, it’s just not that easy. Maybe she was just speaking in jest, or she said such a thing because she is frustrating.

    (My ex-SIL got pregnant twice and both times at work was given a shower. She also had a baby shower with family and friends. Both times she terminated the pregnancy before the due date, returned or sold all the gifts and baby stuff, and used the pre-birth leave policy and bereavement policy to take a vacation with her husband. She told everyone she miscarried and that she got rid of the stuff from the shower because it was a painful reminder. When her and her husband divorced everything came out and there was a lot of anger towards both of them. They admitted to getting pregnant with no intention of having the baby and deciding to get time off and baby items to sell. They purposely set out to mislead people. I doubt your friend’s employee actually did).

    1. BouncingBall*

      I don’t understand how the ex-SIL and husband did this. Did her work place give unusually early baby showers? In my experience, most baby showers are given quite late in pregnancy. And by that point, no doctor is terminating for funsies. I wonder if that was their cover story for their grief, or if this story has grown in its retelling by various family members over the years. Like how Uncle Bob’s trout was just thaaaaaaat big.

      1. Alton*

        Yeah, I feel like there’s got to be more to the story. I wonder if it was actually something like they knew there was a big risk of fetal abnormalities but didn’t tell people that they’d be aborting if that was the case. Or they were unplanned pregnancies and people really jumped the gun in throwing early baby showers. Because getting pregnant and having second trimester abortions just to con people is really impractical.

      2. Hanna*

        Plus, aren’t late-term abortions very expensive, far more so than early ones? Insurance usually only covers late-term abortions if the mother’s life is at risk, so that wouldn’t come in to play here. Selling off the baby shower gifts never would have covered the cost of the procedure (unless there were thousands of gifts), so this “scheme” wouldn’t have netted them any money in the end.

        1. FDCA in Canada*

          Yes. No part of this story makes sense. Unless the workplace gave wildly early, extremely lavish baby showers (enough to cover an expensive abortion)…I’m leaning more towards faking a pregnancy rather than getting knocked up, on purpose, to sell baby stuff. It wouldn’t even be a very productive scam.

        2. Jenbug*

          Yes, and there are only a few doctors trained to do them safely. Once the fetus is at the point of viability (typically around 25 weeks), abortions are only performed if there is a severe abnormality that is incompatible with life or danger to the life of the mother.

        3. Temperance*

          They’re incredibly expensive, if you include travel time, because it’s frankly not so easy to get a normal abortion, much less a late-term one.

      1. TL -*

        Yeah that sounds…less than likely. Most baby showers are given in the third trimester and abortions then are either because the fetus is non-viable or the mother’s life is threatened.

        Maybe she faked a pregnancy but ending one on that timeline is unlikely.

        1. blackcat*

          In the third trimester? Only in cases where the fetus won’t live or the mother’s life/health is in danger. Even if it’s legal otherwise, doctors are super selective about what cases they take late in pregnancy.

          Also, an early second trimester abortion costs at least 1k. Late 2nd trimester is at least 5k. Beyond that, they often induce labor (and try to save the fetus if it’s the mother’s life at risk, like with pre-eclampsia), which carries childbirth-scale costs (10k-30k+). No way someone’s making money by selling gifts.

          I’d be willing to bet that there were fetal abnormalities in both cases–genetic problems can certainly occur in more than one pregnancy. I can see this being taken badly if the abnormalities *weren’t* incompatible with life but something more like downs syndrome, and one party in the divorce could be making things sound worse than they were to tarnish the other.

          Regardless, I view it as not appropriate to judge the reproductive choices of others. We never have the full story–just like the friend in the OP.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Doctors can do late-term abortions (i.e., third trimester), but there are very few who will do them for non-maternal-health reasons (I think there’s 3-5 in the whole U.S.?), and there are very few states that allow them absent danger to the mother’s life/health (states are allowed to ban third-trimester abortion, and most do). I could be wrong, but I can’t think of a state where doctors perform late-term abortions for purely elective reasons—i.e., there’s almost always a significant health issue that will degrade the child’s quality of life, or the risk of the pregnancy could endanger the mother (but isn’t yet, or the risk levels aren’t sufficiently high to pass state restrictions).

          Women seeking elective late-term abortions almost always incur significant expenses because they have to travel long distances before the “window” closes, and they basically have to lie to get on a plane at that point in their pregnancy (or they take a train).

    2. jenny*

      I this this sort of story is similar to bringing up house fires and burglaries every time someone buys a house, except worse because women already face discrimination for their gender and reproductive decisions at work

      1. Junior Dev*

        Yeah, I’d say at this point it’s more like bringing up homeowner’s insurance fraud every time the topic of homeownership comes up (and maybe eyeing the prospective homeowner suspiciously).

    3. Mustache Cat*

      How’d you hear about this story, anyway? Is there any chance that your ex-SIL’s husband spread this around to purposely try to make her look bad?

    4. Eliza Beth*

      Her husband brought it up in the divorce because things got messy and he was trying to prove she had mental health issues. She admitted to it under oath in court and he admitted to his part in an agreed statement if facts. Many awful things came out in the divorce.

      As for when baby showers are, perhaps it is different where I am because they are typically held around the sixth month. Also we don’t have any laws on how late are pregnancy can be terminated in my country.

      1. Observer*

        There may be no laws about it, but responsible doctors don’t do them in the third trimester, other than for medical necessity. This is not about “judging” or anything like that, but medical issues.

        In any case, clearly she had, as the husband tried to prove in court, mental health issues. And so did he, clearly. It’s easy to see why they are divorced. This is NOT something that anyone normal does. Certainly, it would show up in other behavior as well. And, according to you, it did.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I don’t know what country this poster is from, but I have heard that in countries where male children are more desired, it’s not as difficult to get a late-term termination if you’re carrying a girl, or if you claim to be.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I would normally agree with you, Observer, but it’s true that there are countries in which not particularly scrupulous doctors will offer third-trimester abortions even if they’re unsafe/unwarranted. But this story is certainly a head-scratcher.

    5. HRish Dude*

      Merely based on science, finance, and abortion laws, this story seems implausible and I think someone in the divorce might have stretched the truth to make the other person look bad.

  23. Enginerd*

    It could also be an indication that the company’s parental leave policy needs expansion. The mother could be in a situation where adding the holidays to her leave could be a real benefit. My company gives everyone a full week off between Xmas and New Year, so if someone was on their 6-week maternity leave, it becomes ~7.5 weeks. This could be an opportunity for the OP to see if the company’s leave policy is enough.

      1. Enginerd*

        I’m not saying that’s the case, but if the leave that’s offered is too short, this is a good opportunity to re-evaluate the policy.

    1. Judy*

      6 weeks of maternity leave is generally short term disability in places I’ve worked. One of my kids was born in early December, and even though there were 4 days of holidays in December, my leave was not increased. My leave was a time from a date that I was disabled not an overall number of “days off”. The short term disability was handled by an outside insurance company.

      It had the same rules as when my husband had surgery.

  24. Trout 'Waver*

    OP1, Your friend should drop the bit about pregnancy. But there is another issue here. The employee felt screwed by a reasonable policy and continues to carry a grudge and complain about it several years later. Even if the comment was a joke, it’s still a gross and inappropriate joke for a work setting.

    Also, for the record, I want to point out that Thanksgiving is 39 weeks after Valentine’s Day.

      1. Evan Þ*

        … Oh wow. I literally just realized my birthday is eight months after my parents’ anniversary too, and I was born slightly premature, so…

    1. Amy the Rev*

      Mine is 9 months from when Easter was the year I was born…had never put it together since the date of Easter moves around a bit…then one Easter when I was 16, my mom, thinking I was out of earshot, gave my dad a mushy look and reminisced about how that Easter ’16 years ago’ was so special and how they now had their wonderful daughter or something like that….

    2. Red Reader*

      I’m the oldest of three, and my birthday is exactly 9 months after St Patrick’s Day.
      My brother was born almost exactly 9 months after my first birthday.
      My sister was born almost exactly 9 months after HIS first birthday.

      We’ve had some joking discussions about our parents not really understanding how birthday presents work. :P

    3. aebhel*

      Yeah, this is the real issue, imo. The pregnancy should not even be a consideration; an employee grousing about a very reasonable policy–especially if she’s doing it repeatedly, where other people can overhear–is the real problem.

      At this point, I wouldn’t bring it up. But if OP’s friend does bring it up, that’s what she should focus on.

  25. hermit crab*

    See’s Candies are always appropriate, except for the weird ones with the key lime pie filling! Yech! :)

    1. LJL*

      Here, here! My aunts on the West Coast used to send them to us (we grew up in the East). How I miss See’s! Almost as much as I miss my aunts.

  26. Allison*

    #1, I’m guessing the employee really did want to have another baby, and aimed to have it around the holidays so her maternity leave would overlap with Christmas. I have to wonder if that’s really problematic. Or it was just a crazy coincidence and she was joking. Either way, there’s nothing your friend can really say about that.

  27. Pudding*

    OP1: I wouldn’t touch that topic woth a 50′ pole! Can you imagine the discrimination implications when this woman is sat down accused of getting pregnant for time of and the probably warned of discipline if she gets pregnant again next year or disciplined for this year??

    I highly suspect she was joking about how she now gets time off 2 years in a row in retaliation to a screw over – that would be a bit extreme but also 100% her choice and RIGHT. You’d only have proof after her 6th consecutive holiday baby or her throwing a fit the first year she isn’t having a baby and needs to work.

    She may even just be planning holiday babies (which again is her right) for other reasons and this is a pleasant payoff of having a kid this time of year. Or it could be a very convenient coincidence that she didn’t plan for.

    If she is purposefully carrying a child for 9 months and committing herself to at least 18 years of care – frankly she deserves the time off this time of year! I mean it isn’t like she stabs herself in the stomach every Thanksgiving or schedules a facelift every holiday… in those cases it’s be appropriate to look at, but not when someone is reproducing.

  28. Jessesgirl72*

    OP1: You might want to point out to your friend that it’s illegal to discipline or threaten to discipline someone (and that’s what talking to her would be viewed as!) for getting pregnant, even if every word the employee said was absolutely true and intentional in the way your friend is taking it.

    It’s not only a bad idea and bad managing, it’s also opening up herself and the pharmacy to liability.

  29. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    A bit OT, but related to #5:

    My wife and I had extra Christmas cards this year, and I sent one to Ruth Bader Ginsburg! She probably won’t see it in time for Christmas, and she’s Jewish, but it only says “happy holidays!” with family pictures.

    I wanted to do something to thank her for fighting for LGBT rights.

    I also sent the same card to a socially conservative college friend. Mostly, so I can imagine the cognitive dissonance it will cause!

    And that’s how a lawyer does Christmas. But, I understand it’s not appropriate to do what the boss wants to do here; and besides, how well do you know your employees? You don’t want a disgruntled or just bad person having a family photo.

  30. OP#4*

    Hey, I’m OP #4. Thanks for taking my question! Asking “I’d love to hear your perspective on the role and what it’s like working there” I would consider asking for a sort of mini-informational interview (and I think Alison would consider it the same, seeing as she considers it the best I can do at this point). That’s what I asked someone when applying for the internship I have now, and it’s what I’ve been encouraged to do before. So…if this is something that annoys people why do I keep getting encouraged to do it, even by my supervisor now? Not trying to disagree with Alison, I can totally see why it would be annoying, just confused why other people are telling me the opposite.

    1. Judy*

      I’ve generally used friend of friend contacts to discuss the culture of the organization and possibly work group, if they’re close to that.

      How many hours do people generally work?
      Do people socialize outside of work?

    2. jenny*

      This is probably a case of considering your sources and context – are the people who recommend this to you people who actively hire on a regular basis? I am, and I very much agree with Alison. In fact, I actually make a note of people who try back door ways into an interview (having their mom email, calling with a “question about the posting”, and more) because for me, in my industry, this demonstrates the wrong kind of approach and is not something I’m going to bother to deal with as long as our postings are so competitive. In different workplaces this might be different, but I’ve very rarely met active hiring managers who encourage this behaviour

    3. Government Worker*

      I agree with you about the fact that Alison’s wording basically asks for a mini informational interview. In your position I’d probably soften the language and say something like, “If I end up being considered for the job, would you be willing to chat about your experience Teapots Ltd.?” That way you’re following up on the connection your friend has made but you’re kind of kicking the can down the road and being respectful of the person’s time.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh, that’s better. I suggested my wording because the OP felt like she had to say something now since the friend had said she was going to get in touch, but this is better.

    4. animaniactoo*

      There’s a lot of bad advice floating around out there which gets repeated by many people. Some is personal preference, some is “I’m a marketing person, so I take this approach, you should listen to me because I know about marketing!” when this is the kind of thing that is an HR person’s domain, not a marketing person’s domain, and some of it is “I know someone this worked for”.

      In the case of “I know someone this worked for”, generally I think the deal is that there was more context – the person was a highly valuable asset and it was looked at more as them interviewing the company or overlooked as “we’d have been interested anyway”, or they found the one company that is looking for that kind of initiative, etc. So in those cases, the fact that it worked was because it was an an exception to the rule, not a wholesale good idea for everyone.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP #4, people aren’t irritated by informational interviews—they’re irritated when a job candidate tries to scoop the job interview by pretending to seek an informational interview. The key issue is timing: if you ask before you apply for a job, that’s fine. If you ask while your application is pending, you put the work contact in a difficult/frustrating position where they feel like they were trying to do a friend a favor but are actually being hit up by someone who’s doing a run-around of the system. I have friends who work at organizations that now bar their employees from conducting informational/networking interviews with anyone who is a current/verified-perspective job applicant/candidate for exactly this reason.

      Are the people giving you advice specifically suggesting that you wait until after you apply to request an informational interview? Or are they saying that once you discover a contact in your network, you should follow up regardless of timing? Or are they assuming you already have a relationship with the person at X employer and are simply giving that person a head’s up that your application is in the pile?

      I also second Government Worker’s suggested language for follow up.

      1. OP#4*

        Thanks for the reply! My one supervisor giving me the advice was referring to when I asked for (and received) an informational interview AFTER I had applied for the position. He seemed to think that was a great and proactive thing to do, and said it was why he gave my resume a second look. But of course, that could just be him. From now on I will be far more careful about tapping into my network BEFORE applying. However, sometimes that’s really hard to do when trying to get an app in before the deadline…(I’ve done it before and then just had to apply before getting replies from everyone). I’ll just have to do what I can!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh that’s interesting. I mean, it’s conceivable that there’s an industry in which it’s good advice to tell someone to try to schedule an informational interview after applying for a job at that organization, but I honestly cannot think of one. The only rational explanation I can think of for your boss’ advice is that the process for hiring an intern can be different than hiring an employee, and he may not have thought through the distinctions between the two.

          And it’s totally ok to tap your network even if you’ve applied, already—you just lead with a different ask. For example, instead of an informational interview, you either use the language Government Worker suggested, and/or you let them know you’ve applied but suggest grabbing coffee or whatnot after the hiring process concludes (that way the process of getting to know the person isn’t contingent on you getting the job).

          Good luck with your job hunt!

  31. AP*

    Man, if I’m getting See’s candy out of it, you could put your family’s face on the candy box and I wouldn’t care :p

  32. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I know it’s not the work thread, but I guess this is related to #4:

    I finally got out of survival mode (I’m doing contract legal work), long enough to apply for a permanent lawyer position making 12-22k more a year. I thought I put together good materials, and I was excited because the firm does work with my community, LGBTQ families.

    But, one of the partners is nonbinary. I’m not used to “they” singular but can use it; the issue is, can and how do I ask how they would like to be addressed in correspondence? We’re in the US so Mx. is not a thing.

    1. caryatis*

      Ask them. I’m kind of surprised you’re not on a first name basis in the legal field…but anyway, if they are “nonbinary” they know they are outside the norm and won’t be offended by a good faith question.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        Well, initially, when you talk with someone, you aren’t. Often, once I meet the person in person, they say “you can call me [first name], but it’s not really appropriate over email to use first names with someone who has a power differential that you don’t know well yet.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      I thought it was always recommended to ask how they would like to be addressed- in correspondence and everything else?

      Just because Mx isn’t a “thing” here yet, the partner probably is aware of it and its appropriateness.

      So “How would you like to be addressed, and does that change in person vs in correspondence?” and then based on that response, “Are you aware that the Mx honorific is becoming common in the UK, and would you consider that appropriate?”

      1. fposte*

        I think that second sounds too much like schooling somebody else for an opening conversation. If they want Mx. they’ll have let you know without the issue being specifically raised, and if it’s not their preference they don’t need to hear about it from somebody they barely know.

        1. LBK*

          Agreed – I would think someone who’s part of the community would be pretty in tune to what’s going on in it, and it would be a little “binary-splaining” to bring it up to them.

          1. Natalie*

            Maybe a better wording would be “How do you feel about Mx?” so you’re not explaining what it is, just asking about it? Or maybe that’s still overkill.

            1. Alton*

              I think wording it like that is probably fine, but not really necessary either. Generally, the best bet is to focus on what the trans* person would like you to use, rather than what might be “best.” This can be a loaded topic because many trans* people have had people not respect their pronouns/titles/names, and non-binary people in particular are subject to a lot of opinions on the appropriateness of what we call ourselves (“Singular ‘they’ is grammatically incorrect!’ ‘Zie/hir is confusing!’ ‘How can you use ‘she’ if you’re not a woman?”).

              The non-binary partner has almost certainly weighed it all out, especially if they’re this out in their professional life.

      2. Meg*

        People use Mx. in the US. It’s not common, but I’m fairly confident that a non-gender binary attorney in the US will be familiar with the abbreviation. I also think you can just use the first name (I’m a lawyer).

    3. Alton*

      I think it would be fine to ask. It’ll show that you’re considerate and don’t want to assume. Some non-binary people will prefer Mx, some might prefer to avoid titles and prefixes when possible (which isn’t always possible, admittedly), and some are fine with using a more binary gendered title.

      We’re generally used to fielding questions about stuff like this.

      If you’re asking because you’re trying to write a thank you note after the interview or something, you could try to ask whoever set up the interview. If you just want to generally make sure you get it right, I would wait until you’re working with them and just keep it short and simple–“Do you have a preferred title that you want people to use for you in correspondence?”

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A request to hold stuff that isn’t directed related to the letters for open threads. I’m really trying hard to get the comments back under control. Thanks!

  33. TwinCitiesHR*

    I purposefully scheduled my IVF to make my child due so I would be off during the holidays and winter in MN. It worked about perfectly. We were able to travel and stay with my family on the East Coast for a few weeks due and I didn’t have to drive or take my baby out at all in winter in MN.

    Yeah I would let this go otherwise you are open a whole can of unnecessary worms and possible legal problems. Also you would sound like a crazy person.

    1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

      I’m a lesbian and plan to have my baby anytime not-April! My wife and I both have birthdays then, less than two weeks apart, and so I don’t want everything in one month!

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        As someone with a birthday this week, can I recommend not mid/late December too? Neither you nor the baby will enjoy a Christmas birthday. No one does.

        1. Venus Supreme*

          Happy birthday, Jessesgirl72! I’m a Christmas Eve baby. I can second that it effing sucks. I’ve always wanted a pool or beach party for my birthday and that’s pretty hard to do in NJ.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            Happy Birthday to you too! I’m the 22nd. I have an aunt and a friend whose birthdays are the 26th and a cousin whose birthday is the 31st.

            One year, my parents gave me an unbirthday party in February, so I could have a party with my friends. I never was dying for a warm weather type party, but a party on or near my birthday that people weren’t too busy to attend would have been nice.

          2. Temperance*

            I was always jealous of kids with holiday/school year birthdays because I never got to have a friend party as a kid, except for the one wonderful year where I won a McDonald’s party from our local Fox affiliate. I also was hella jealous of kids who got to bring cupcakes to class.

          3. blackcat*

            Somehow, as a cranky 13 year old born in the middle of winter (mid February), I convinced my parents to let me have a half birthday party (so mid-August).

            Later, as an older teen, there was a freak heatwave (like record highs by 10+ degrees, ~40 degrees F above normal) on my birthday, so my friends and I went to the beach. I had thoughts that included both “This is awesome!” and “Oh, is this what they mean by climate change? I dunno about this warm birthday thing….”

        2. Liane*

          There’s an even worse birthday to have–Mother’s Day. Husband was born on Mother’s Day so his birthday never falls more than a few days away from it, if it isn’t the same day. When my in-laws were alive, FIL would chew Husband out but good if he forgot to give his mom something. Because it ought to be extra-EASY to remember because they were the same day!

          1. anonny*

            My bday is mother’s day-ish! My mom is super chill about it (and she’s not super chill about many, many things). We’re not a big gift family, but now that I’m an adult (and less concerned with the importance of my own bday) I try to make sure we get some family time in for both events, even if it’s not on the actual day(s).

          2. Cath in Canada*

            I have a friend whose TWIN BROTHER forgot her birthday! She handed him his present, and it took him several hours to realise that he should have bought something for her, too!

          3. CMT*

            Well, Mother’s Day isn’t always on the same day (at least in the U.S.). My birthday is sometimes on Father’s Day and I get annoyed by my dad’s constant comments about how many shopping days are left.

  34. NK*

    #4 – If the contact works in the same type of job function, it can be helpful to chat with them about the work at this stage in the process. A couple years ago, a colleague reached out to me because his friend had applied for a job at our company in a different department, but same job function as me. I ended up doing a call with her and liked her, so I reached out to the hiring manager to make sure she had seen this person’s resume. Somehow the resume wasn’t in the stack she had reviewed, so I sent it over to her. About a month later, I found out the person had been hired. So it can help to reach out!

    Also, it’s probably too late for this since you already applied, but since many larger companies have referral bonuses, I always frame it that way when asking an acquaintance or friend of a friend to pass along my resume for a job. It’s a win-win – the person has the potential for a bonus (and can just say they don’t know you professionally, so they’re not putting their professional reputation on the line), and you’re much more likely to get an interview if your resume comes from an employee, even without a professional endorsement.

  35. Venus Supreme*

    OP#1’s situation reminds me of OldBoss at ToxicJob who accused me of planning my allergic reaction to get out of working the office holiday party. (Because I really wanted to be near-death to get out of a crappy party?!)

    Sometimes, things are just really really poorly planned, and I highly doubt this woman crafted this elaborate, expensive, and energy- and time-consuming plan SIMPLY to get back at your friend. I’m sure this woman found this coincidence delightful and was bragging about it. Who knows? Maybe she really wanted a Sagittarius/Capricorn baby. This is not the hill your friend wants to die on.

  36. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: Is there even a remote possibility this was a joke?

    Look, even if she were serious, the odds of her being able to pull this off year after year are pretty small (and if she does, having to raise all those kids will be its own just desserts). Besides, if she thinks working holidays now isn’t fun, imagine how much less fun it will be when she has kids, plural, with whom she would rather be spending holidays and whose school/party/class program schedule she’ll have to juggle.

    1. MashaKasha*

      I’m going to join the previous couple hundred of commenters and say that there’s a 99% likelihood of it being a joke.

      1. Natalie*

        “Just deserts” doesn’t mean punishment, it’s literally “that which one deserves”. If you have a ton of kids to miss work, the work you have to do to raise those kids is something you have deserved.

      2. Alton*

        Even people who love being parents will usually admit that it’s a lot of work. Having multiple kids as a way to con your way into time off would be illogical because the responsibilities of parenthood are bigger than the break you’d get from having a Christmas off. That’s why it’d be just deserts.

      3. Emi.*

        Hm, I’ve only ever heard “just desserts” used to mean “here’s something bad, and serve you right” before.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          “Desert” is the past participle of “deservir [deserve]” in Middle English/Old French, so it can be used to mean a reward or a punishment. It’s true that folks often use it to refer to a comeuppance, but I think the closest modern analogue would be referring to karma. Folks often say, with satisfaction, that “karma’s a b***” when referring to someone behaving badly and then being punished. But karma isn’t inherently bad; karma can also reward a person for their good deeds. I think the ratio of good : bad “just deserts” tends to vary by region and by a person’s family’s use of the phrase.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I just realized that might sound super patronizing, and if it reads that way, I apologize. I am a total word geek, and I get super excited and then want to talk about all the reasons a word is interesting, but this can sometimes come off as know-it-all-ish and obnoxious. :(

  37. animaniactoo*

    OP1 – I once broke my leg and did an amazing amount of damage in the space of under 1 second. Tore the major ligament in my ankle, broke another bone in my foot, broke 1 shin bone completely, fractured the other, all fun stuff…

    One of my former employers asked me: “Wow, was it hard to do that?” and I answered with all the sarcasm in my soul, “Yeah, I really had to work at it.”

    Benefit of the doubt, your friend needs to assume that her employee’s statement was some form of sarcasm. On the off chance that it wasn’t, taken at face value, that’s the real deal? There is literally nothing, NOTHING to be gained by say anything to an employee who would reductio ad absurdum such a petty thing. Nothing. At *best* they’ll listen, mouth the right words, and walk away snickering to themselves. And that’s the best outcome you’d get. But precisely because it’s so ridiculous that would be the actual reason? Is the exact reason your friend needs to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume there must be something else going on there and leave it alone.

    1. Venus Supreme*

      Exactly!!! I’m sure PregnantEmployee intentionally said that within earshot to get a rise out of OP’s friend. She’s aware of the bad blood between the two of them and probably knows what will set the Friend off. And to follow through with Friend’s intent, what is she supposed to say? “Hey, can you please stop having children around the holidays..?”

      1. Epsilon Delta*

        Yeah, if it was not a joke, then it was said to get a rise out of the manager. In either case the response is the same – say nothing and put it behind you. It sounds like there are bigger issues to deal with between the manager and the employee anyway, if she interpreted the statement that way.

  38. Allison*

    #5, I know it’s not uncommon for people to exchange family Christmas cards at work, but I’m glad my team doesn’t do it where I work. Not that I would feel “offended” by one, but it would make me feel awkward and uncomfortable. I just don’t have that kind of personal friendship with anyone I work with, and I get kind of annoyed when people try to show me pictures and videos of their kids.

  39. peachie*

    It could be an office culture thing, but it doesn’t seem weird to me to get a holiday card with someone’s family on it. This year, a usually-remote staff member sent all of us at the office a card with her two kids, and I don’t think anyone found it odd. Heck, I’m not a big holidays person, and I enjoyed seeing a little snapshot of her family.

    (I WOULD feel weird if there was an expectation to do this, though. And I appreciate that when we get cards like this, they are delivered to our mailbox, so there’s no awkward “Aww, your kids are so cute!” small talk.)

    1. hayling*

      I don’t think it’s weird, either. That said, I think OP #5 should give the candy separate from the card. Candy is from her, card is from her family. I always thought of holiday cards as a separate thing from holiday gifts.

  40. animaniactoo*

    OP3, it’s a bit of a reach – but do you think that maybe she thought it looked unprofessional for you to be applying to come back *so soon* after leaving? That she thought it reflected on her training of you that you would do it?

    Other potential thoughts:
    • She didn’t want you in the role, but didn’t want to have to reject you for it either and feels awkward as all get out.
    • Doesn’t really understand why you (appropriately) dropped off the face of the earth with no contact for 4 months – and feels that the reach-out now is a backhanded attempt to find out why you weren’t chosen for the position.
    • Took the “hope I haven’t offended you in some way” as a guilt trip/you being over-sensitive.

    Note that all of these potentials are about *her* takes and how she is responding. Whatever the situation is, as far as this friendship/relationship goes, it’s not important enough to her to attempt to rescue. You’ve made what attempts you can without being that person who just can’t take a hint. Yeah, it sucks. But let it go.

  41. anon for this one*

    Regarding #1, I may or may not have scheduled non-emergency surgery to occur shortly before we closed between Christmas and New Years, since that meant I was allowed to use sick leave instead of vacation time during the shutdown. But planning a childbirth is a little bit beyond that.

  42. Nate*

    #3 Your old boss supported you in your move and probably gave you a good reference. And within a month of getting that new job, you were prepared to leave it for something better. She may find your decision professionally inappropriate.

    In applying back at the old company, you are asking her to consider re-hiring someone who just quit work with her looking for something better, and a month later is prepared to do that again to her new company. This would be a red flag for me in hiring, despite prior loyal service.

    And when you asked her for a reference for that job, she likely vouched for your loyalty which is something she can no longer do. This bridge may have been burned by your seemingly callous treatment of your new employer.

  43. Maternity Schmaternity*

    Even if the pregnant employee wasn’t joking and truly meant that she timed her pregnancy for the holidays, I don’t see how that’s a problem. With little to no maternity leave in most workplaces in the United States, you have to drain your leave just to have a baby. That leaves you with no time to take off at holidays or for other milestones/events. If you are going have a child, why not The flip side: when my first (a toddler at the time) needed non-urgent surgery, I scheduled it when my second was only three weeks old (also a Christmas baby!). I was using all my leave to stay home for a mere 6 weeks with #2 and wouldn’t have any leave to do the surgery later. Two birds, one stone.

  44. Jill*

    #1 I’d urge your friend to take it as a joke. I had two babies less than a year apart, both born in late May of 2013 and 2014 and I used to joke that I “purposely” did that so I could have my summers off. They were both “whatever happens, happens” babies. I certainly didn’t PLAN on inconveniencing the summer for the rest of my coworkers!

  45. OP#4*

    OP#4 again here for an update:

    I ended up sending an email asking about academic/research resources for a topic I was interested in (which made sense for the industry and her position) rather than asking about the position at all (although I also mentioned I had applied to the job). This seemed to work well and the contact replied with what sounded like enthusiastic recommendations, which I thanked her for. I hope that didn’t hurt my chances and I’ve learned how to use my network better now!

    But any advice on timing? Sometimes I can’t get replies from my network before a job app has to be in!

  46. ECHM*

    I read my husband the headline “employee got pregnant to avoid working on Christmas” and he said something to the effect of, “is she going to claim it’s an immaculate conception?”

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