my boss worries I’ll get pregnant, I accused my husband’s coworkers of sleeping with him, and more

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

1. My boss is paranoid I’m going to get pregnant and leave

I’ve been worried about this scenario for awhile and today it finally happened. I started at my job about a year ago right after getting married. Since day one, my boss has made comments about me getting pregnant and leaving my job — it sounds like this has happened to her a number of times in the past. So much so that she jokes she is a “fertility goddess” because everyone who works for her gets pregnant (which I guess means she’s hiring a lot of younger women?) Not to mention my coworkers told her I was pregnant on April Fools Day, without my knowledge, so it’s become a running joke among everyone in my office.

I’ve been scared to take any time off when I’m sick because I know what she would assume. Fast forward to this week — I had to take two days off for the first time due to a stomach bug. After texting me all day asking about my symptoms, what the doctor said, and how I felt, she finally called me this afternoon and asked if I could be pregnant. She recognizes that this is not okay. I know the obvious answer here is to vocalize how much it bothers me when she makes these comments, but I want to do so sensitively and express the larger issue which is that she’s coming across as nosy, paranoid and unsupportive, so much so that I’m not sure I want to be working here when my husband and I are ready to start a family. Any advice on how to proceed?

Yeah, you’re going to have to say something. She’s really, really out of line, and it sounds like one of those situations where the more you scratch the itch, the more she’s going to do it.

I’d say it this way: “Jane, I need to say something about this —when you talk about the possibility of me being pregnant or what would happen if I got pregnant in the future, it makes me really uncomfortable. Can I ask you to stop with the pregnancy talk?”

If she responds by again talking about how frequently people have gotten pregnant while working for her in the past, then say this: “I’m not other people, and I’m just not comfortable with those comments. I have no idea if I’ll get pregnant in the future, but regardless, it’s not something I want to talk about at work, at all. I appreciate you understanding.”

And in the future, if she texts you while you’re taking a sick day, don’t respond unless it’s a work-related emergency. She doesn’t need hourly updates about your symptoms or what your doctor said. You’re taking a sick day and you’re entitled to ignore texts like that.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I accused my husband’s coworkers of sleeping with him

I recently accused two women who work with my husband of having an affair with him. It was of course an instinctive, knee-jerk response to a horrible situation. I am not proud of what I did. It is topic of discussion among the staff.

My husband is prominent in his company and I am going to have to see these people. How do I handle it if and when someone brings up my craziness?

Ooof, this kind of thing is pretty tough to live down.

People aren’t likely to bring it up to your face, but if someone does, you could say something like, “I’m very embarrassed by what I did. It was a wrong thing to do, and I really regret what I said.” Owning responsibility for it and making it clear you were in the wrong is actually pretty disarming — so if someone does confront you, that’s the most drama-minimizing response you could have.

3. Is thinking an interview went well actually a bad sign?

Today I received an email to say that I had not been successful in an interview a few days ago. I had prepped really hard with plenty of research and was excited about the role and the company. I was interviewed for two hours by five people, after an initial 30-minute phone interview where I was put through to the second round straight away. I felt I had connected well with the interviewers, had really good rapport, and did not stumble on any of the questions. I came away feeling good about the interview, and hopeful of a third one. Instead, I received a sad automated rejection email.

So, my question is this: Is thinking an interview has gone well actually a bad sign?

When I recall past interviews over the years where I have thought I have done really well, I have not been successful. Whereas I actually I received a job offer yesterday after three rounds of interviews that I thought had gone okay with a below average practical test.

If you come away from an interview thinking it has gone well, is it because interviewers have decided you’re not right and so given you false hope or an easy ride? Or is it a case of the interviewee misreading the signs to their detriment? If this was a dating scenario, I can’t imagine reading the situation so wrongly. So why did I walk away from an interview with high hopes while my CV was being put through the shredder?

You’re reading way too much into this. There’s no indication that anything was put through the shredder. You could have interviewed perfectly, and it just turned out that someone else was a better candidate. Or that they were looking for more strength in an area you just didn’t have. Or they hired the boss’s nephew. Who knows. Basically, though, the fact that you weren’t hired doesn’t mean you weren’t impressive. Hiring isn’t pass/fail. Lots of people might have great interviews, but they’re only hiring one.

There is a thing where sometimes you’ll do better in interviews where you’re not trying as hard or where you think you don’t have a great shot, because people often do better when they don’t get psyched out by nerves and when they don’t feel something important is on the line. But that’s a different thing.

4. Was I too candid when my interviewer asks me what type of environment I don’t like?

I recently had a follow-up interview with a progressive-but-formal banking organization and was puzzled by their response to one of my interview answers. For context, I always try and be up-front in job interviews — I’ve found that I’m a lot less stiff when I’m being genuine and it helps both the hiring manager and me get a better read of each other than if I just say what I think they’d like to hear.

As such, when the head of marketing asked me, “What kinds of working environment do you not like?” I explained that I prefer teams that have a good sense of structure and planning over those that tend to be a bit directionless. His response to this was, “Oh no, we’re really disorganized!” which kind of sounded like a joke but also … didn’t.

The whole conversation has me wondering whether I’d be better off not mentioning stuff like this in an interview and instead lobbing a softball answer or if I just had a weird interview?

Well, it depends — are you willing to end up in a disorganized environment where you’re unhappy?

That sounds like a rhetorical question, but it’s not. Not everyone has the luxury of screening out jobs based on preferences like that — but if you’re in a position where you can afford to be selective, it makes sense to answer those sorts of questions honestly. Interviews are a two-way street, and the goal isn’t just to get an offer no matter what, but to screen out the companies where you’d be unhappy and screen for the companies where you’d thrive. In order to do that, you need to talk relatively openly about what you are and aren’t looking for.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Can I tell my boss something is none of her business?

My husband and I both work for the same restaurant company, and we both have for over 10 years each. We have both worked in multiple locations and been promoted into different positions. We don’t work together and we have different immediate supervisors. Because he felt like it was time for a change, my husband put in his notice to leave six weeks out. Now he is pursuing a transfer out of state because we both are desiring a change. Moving out of state would require me to leave my position.

The problem is the company gossip. People are already asking me where my husband is going. I intend to put in my notice two weeks before I plan to leave, but that is currently six weeks from now. I’m afraid my boss will hear, and ask me about it. I don’t want to lie, so is it okay to tell her it’s none of her business? If I was sure she would let me work out the notice, I would tell her now. But I really can’t afford to be cut loose early.

No, don’t tell her it’s none of her business. That’s not a great thing to say to your boss, even if it’s true. Instead, be vague and say something like “He’s not ready to share his plans yet” or “I don’t want to speak on his behalf.” There are lots of polite ways to avoid answering something without resorting to “none of your business.”

{ 350 comments… read them below }

  1. Midge*

    OP 2, have you said or written something like Alison’s script to the two women apologizing for accusing them? It’s not clear from your letter. If you haven’t, I think it could be a good idea for two reasons. First, this is the kind of situation that warrants an apology. Second, I bet it would be a lot less fun for them to gossip about someone who has apologized and expressed regret for their behavior. It may help quash the talk.

    1. Mike C.*

      This of course presumes that the two ladies will treat the apology as sincere. If it’s not taken that way, things could get much worse instead.

        1. The Supreme Troll*

          But OP#2 said that she is going to be seeing these women (presumably in social or work-related contexts); so this issue must be addressed. I think it is best that she give a verbal apology to them the next time that she sees them – of course, if it is with the utmost sincerity, and embarrassment for the stress and anxiety she most likely created for the other women that was totally unjustified.

        2. Snark*

          Not contacting them doesn’t fly when she will see them regularly at work social functions. She has to apologize, unreservedly and personally, or it will get extremely weird moving forward. More so than it is.

          1. Anna*

            Yeah, this isn’t a “lay low and it will all blow over” situation. If it’s not addressed with an apology and a sincere effort to not act like a jealous wife, it will only get weirder and more awkward than it already is.

            Besides, they aren’t gazelles who are going to be startled and run away. They’re two human women who deserve an apology.

          2. Anon55*

            Agreed and I think this is actually an apology that calls for putting pen to paper. There’s something about taking the time to sit down with the good stationery and write out an apology that really says “I’m sincerely sorry”. Best way to solve any major social/professional gaffe, in my opinion.

    2. Green*

      OOF. I feel like the correct answer to #2 is extremely fact-specific. The women could have a gender-based harassment issue going on. Their careers could have been damaged by the allegations. An apology may be helpful or unsolicited contact with the women could make things worse. This may be a time when it’s best for wife to feign sick and gracefully bow out of work events. As a prominent person in the company, having an active spouse attending events can be an asset, but here she may be both a liability to her husband and someone also making two of the employees uncomfortable.

      There are just so many permutations of this that “It depends” is probably the best answer…

      1. Midge*

        Not participating in work events is probably a good idea for now. And obviously none of us knows how contact/an apology would be received. My suggestion comes from putting myself in their situation. I think I would feel a lot better hearing that the OP was sorry and something like that wasn’t going to happen again.

        1. JamieS*

          Some people may be appreciative but I think it’s too much of a risk. I know if the spouse of a coworker, especially one higher up than me (I’m guessing), accused me of sleeping with him an apology wouldn’t be well received. Admittedly I’m of the opinion apologies mean nothing and actions mean everything but even so I’m sure plenty of other women would feel the same way in this situation.

          For the moment, OP should steer clear if possible and when she does attend work events she should express her embarrassment/regret if, and only if, someone brings it up.

          1. Courtney*

            On he other hand, those of us who would absolutely want an apology are NOT apologizing as a risk. Just wanted to make that point because I’ve noticed a common trend on threads where an apology might be necessary of people saying “well I wouldn’t want an apology, so OP should definitely not do that.” But plenty of people would want an apology just as much as you would not want one. So I have to agree with Green and Midge that we don’t know/it depends/we shouldn’t assume in either direction. Perhaps OP’s husband would have a better idea on that since he actually knows the women. But I don’t agree that not apologizing should be the default since some people don’t like apologies. It depends entirely on the person and situation.

            1. Misc*

              Ayup. Plus in this case at least, the apology would be less about forgiveness and more about acknowledging the specifics of who wronged whom and that it shouldn’t happen again. There might be no easy way to do it, but the women in question would probably be less on edge whenever she was in the area if she had already acknowledged that she was out of line.

            2. Kathleen Adams*

              I would definitely want an apology. Of course if she apologizes and then acts like a jerk, the apology would be meaningless. But an apology followed by good behavior would mean a lot to *me*. I’m not saying it would to everybody, but it would to me.

              Other posters have indicated that they would assume the apology was insincere – that all that matters is actions. For me it would really need to be both. If the OP started acting nice to me without the apology, I would assume those actions were insincere. It seems to me that she insulted them with both words and actions, and so it’s going to take both words and actions to make a difference.

              And I am sorry there’s not agreement on this. I understand why there’s disagreement, and I also understand why this makes it difficult for the OP. People react differently to different things. All you can do is the best you can.

            3. JamieS*

              I never said not apologizing should always be the default. I said in this specific context approaching the other women, who plausibly want nothing to do with OP, to apologize has more risk than reward.

              1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

                Then maybe that tips the scales toward a written apology, rather than just “the next time she sees them”? If I were OP, I’d be worried about putting these people on the spot by apologizing in person. If I send them a thoughtful apology note by email (or, heck, even snail mail, as someone suggested above), then they don’t have to (1) actually see my face until later or (2) respond in the moment. (If I were one of the co-workers, I’d be nervous about my immediate emotional response to an in-person apology — what would show on my face, etc. Also, an in-person apology seems more likely than a written one to simply be an excuse for creating more drama — frequently seen as a soap opera plot point.)

          2. Courtney*

            I should also add that I’ll have to remember this in situations where I’ve been wronged – I’ve always assumed that if someone doesn’t apologize, it’s because they’re not sorry. I’ll have to keep in mind the possibility of that person just hating apologies themself and assuming I’m the same way.

            1. Soon to be former fed*

              I don’t get hating apologies. Never do anything wrong then. We can go around hurting folks and then acting like its NBD, that is uncivilized.

              1. Marillenbaum*

                That is a thing that drives me crazy. Yes, apologies CAN be ill-advised and self-serving, but do we really want to live in a world where people aren’t expected to own up to the hurt we cause each other? It seems awful.

                1. Lora*

                  It’s not hating apologies, it’s more like – if someone has acted really unhinged and messed up to the point that you are actually frightened by their behavior (for example if someone threw a cup of eggnog at me at the company holiday party and shrieked, “I know you’re fking my husband, beeyotch!” and proceeded to go on a two hour rant about all the sluts working at the company trying to steal her darling hubby and casting their wicked spells at him, I’d be like Holy crap get this crazy person away from me. I’d be genuinely scared that she would show up to my house or otherwise pull some crazy stunt that would affect me, and I’d want her to stay the heck away, preferably returning to the planet she is from.

                  On the other hand if it was more…ummm…low key? I can’t quite visualize it, but OK, let’s say it was a very low-key type of implication where it was “this company is very political and I’ve heard that women who get to the top sleep their way there”, OK, then an apology will be appreciated.

                  Context is everything. We don’t have any here.

                2. Snark*

                  “for example if someone threw a cup of eggnog at me at the company holiday party and shrieked, “I know you’re fking my husband, beeyotch!” and proceeded to go on a two hour rant about all the sluts working at the company trying to steal her darling hubby and casting their wicked spells at him,”

                  Am I weird for kind of wanting this to happen sometime just so I can watch from the sidelines and eat all the popcorn?

                3. Turquoise Cow*

                  Would you be okay if that screaming woman at the Christmas party wrote you a letter saying that she understands her behavior was crazy and she’s now in treatment for her alcoholism make it seem more sincere?

                  I mean, obviously that behavior is unacceptable and I completely agree with you that I’d never want to see her again, but if there was some social/familial/work obligation, I’d also like her to apologize, if only to acknowledge that she ruined my nice dress with the thrown eggnog, and not go around acting like everything was totally fine afterwards.

                  (I think the quiet and pretending everything okay afterward is what bothers me. I don’t necessarily believe someone when they apologize- I’m more like, ok, if you knew it was wrong, why’d you do it in the first place? – but I’d like at least an acknowledgment that I was hurt by their actions, even if they proceed to do something similar again, or don’t admit to being wrong. Just – I was hurt. Admit at *least* that.)

                4. Snark*

                  @ Turqoise Cow “I don’t necessarily believe someone when they apologize- I’m more like, ok, if you knew it was wrong, why’d you do it in the first place?”

                  I don’t think that’s fair. A lot of times, someone under a lot of stress, or emotional distress, can act and think in ways they would not when fully in their right mind. We’ve all said and done things that seemed justified at the time but which you realized were horrible when you calmed down or got another perspective on it. And an apology isn’t just “I knew it was wrong,” it’s also “I did wrong by you and I want you to understand I recognize that, feel bad, and would like to make amends if I can.”

                  I do agree that apologies aren’t coins you plug into the I Messed Up meter until it spits out a shiny new absolution. Sometimes apologies don’t make everything alright again or restore status quo. But that doesn’t mean an apology is without value.

                5. Lora*

                  @ Turquoise Cow
                  Mmmmm not sure but that may be just me personally. Ex had alcohol and drug problems galore and he was always back on it within months after getting out of rehab, so it might just be me. I’d like to think I’d be compassionate and understanding, but I can’t say I am that good of a person.

                6. Turquoise Cow*

                  @snark I agree. I mean, if it’s something that’s been done wrong by this one person over and over and they keep apologizing but nothing changes, I tend to think in the skeptical way I describe. Acknowledgement is important, but sometimes we’d like a little more than that, you know?

                7. Isben Takes Tea*

                  @Snark “apologies aren’t coins you plug into the I Messed Up meter until it spits out a shiny new absolution” is an exquisite phrase and I shall cherish it always.

              2. JamieS*

                It’s simple. Apologies are said to make the wrongdoer feel better and take no effort. A change in behavior does take effort. It’s not hating apologies it’s hating just an apology with no behavior change.

                Yes not doing anything that you’d have to later apologize for is an excellent way to live your life and requires basically zero effort.

                1. Marillenbaum*

                  If you think apologies take no effort, I have my doubts about whether you’ve ever really done it. Owning your mistakes without excuse is HARD. And it’s impossible to not do anything you’d have to apologize for later–we are human, and it is inevitable that in going through the world, you are going to hurt people. Not always on purpose, but you will, and that means having to say, “What I did wasn’t okay. It hurt you, and I’m sorry”. The fact that some people apologize badly isn’t an excuse for not holding ourselves to a high standard.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  So I’m assuming you’re a perfect human being who has never made mistakes, ever, since not doing anything that you’d later have to apologize for “requires basically zero effort”, right? If only we could all aspire to such a level of interpersonal perfection!

                  Snark aside, apologies *can* be said to make the wrongdoer feel better, and I agree, that’s not cool. However, they can also be sincere expressions so that the wronged party knows that the wrongdoer is taking the situation seriously, when used *in conjunction with a change in behavior*, so you really can’t write apologies off as just “making the wrongdoer feel better” unless you already know that it’s not being accompanied by a change in behavior. I also strongly disagree that apologies take no effort – it really depends on the person.

                  If someone wrongs me, and they change their behavior but without ever acknowledging their original fuckup, I would feel pretty weird about that. But if they apologize first, I know they realize what they did wrong and why it was wrong, so I can trust the behavior changes I see are deliberate and coming from a place of understanding and wanting to do better.

                3. JamieS*

                  Jadelyn actually yes if your definition of a perfect person is not intentionally doing something you’d have to apologize for than I’m perfect. I prefer to think of it as thinking about my actions beforehand but saying I’m perfect has a nice ring to it albeit a bit conceited for my tastes.

                  What effort does an apology take beyond the effort to talk?

                4. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  “if your definition of a perfect person is not intentionally doing something you’d have to apologize for than I’m perfect”

                  That’s …just wrong. I mean, you have intentionally done things, and I am sure than in the whole course of your life, some of those things have hurt people. You did not intend to hurt them, but you intended the action, and someone was hurt. You can certainly start to define this whole process in increasingly narrower and narrower ways, so that you can absolve yourself of ever having to admit that you have behaved in a way that caused another human being hurt so that you feel justified in never having to apologize, but at that point, it is disingenuous at best, and certainly not really self-aware (and absolutely not in tune with other people’s perceptions and experiences of your actions).

                  At any rate, claiming that is just easy to live so that you never have to apologize is not useful as advice, because whether you are willing to believe it or not, it is not achievable to go through life never owing an apology to someone. It’s a great goal, but it’s aspirational only.

                5. Myrin*

                  You seem to have a really unusual take on apologies.

                  You honestly don’t see how uttering a heartfelt apology takes effort? How it’s hard to honestly tell yourself that you did something wrong and to admit this to the wronged person and own up to it completely? How an honest apology is said because you realise you hurt another person and you want to make it clear to them that you understand that? You are never in a mental state that makes you react in a way in the moment that you later regret? You never learn more about a situation later and realise you were in the wrong?

                  If that’s the case – and it does seem to be – I think you’ll have to agree to disagree with many others whenever there’s a discussion on apologies because there seems to be a fundamental difference in the understanding of their mechanics, uses, and occurrences.

                6. Jadelyn*

                  @JamieS – You clearly have a very odd view on wrongdoing and apologies. You do understand that it’s possible to inadvertently hurt someone, right? That apologies can be useful and necessary in situations where it’s not “I was intentionally a jerk to you” but “I didn’t realize this thing I said would be harmful, but it was brought to my attention after the fact and I realize now that I hurt you and want to make it right”?

                  Like, I very specifically defined perfection not only as “not ever doing something intentionally that you’d have to apologize for”, but “never making mistakes”. I was super clear about that. I mean, if you really think you’re above making mistakes, okay, but I can pretty much guarantee that you’re not because we are all in fact human and literally everyone has done something wrong at some point in their life – not necessarily intentionally! But by accident or through ignorance! That’s still a mistake, that’s still something that you would need to apologize for. So in that context, your claim to “perfection” because you haven’t intentionally been a jerk to anyone comes off not only conceited but really tone-deaf.

                  (And FYI, “thinking about your actions beforehand” is no guarantee either. I’ve had multiple instances in my life where someone used an offensive term for someone else based on ignorance, and once it was pointed out that they had said something hurtful they were horrified and apologized right away. You can think about your actions all you want, but if you’re not all-knowing and all-seeing, you’re still just as vulnerable to making mistakes out of ignorance as any of the rest of us mere mortals.)

                  Anyway. A real apology, a good, deep, sincere apology, requires that the person apologizing have the self-awareness and introspection necessary to review their actions, recognize what they did wrong, own their mistake without trying to make excuses or weasel out of it, and then publicly admit “I did wrong”, which can be hard on one’s pride. It’s not physical exertion, sure, but it’s still emotional effort expended, and that counts for something.

                7. Snark*

                  “Yes not doing anything that you’d have to later apologize for is an excellent way to live your life and requires basically zero effort.”

                  So you’re attempting to tell all of us that you successfully go through the majority of an adult life without doing anything, intentionally or unintentionally, that merits an apology? Either that’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve seen since the last time I checked Twitter or you’re incredibly un-self aware or both.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Not always. There’s always the classic non-apology, something along the lines of “I’m sorry you were upset,” which is more an accusation than an admission of guilt, and accomplishes nothing.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Bonus points for “I’m sorry *if* you were upset” – a favorite of the non-apologizer set, since it lets you distance yourself even more from your misbehavior. I’m a big fan of calling that right out, like “There’s no hypothetical here. I told you I’m upset. This is a known fact, not an “if” that maybe might have happened.” The blustering that usually follows can be entertaining in a frustrating sort of way.

          3. Rat in the Sugar*

            I don’t understand the statement of “apologies mean nothing, actions mean everything”. To me, choosing to apologize is an action that you are taking and therefore meaningful. Whether or not the apology is sincere and thoughtful will definitely change the meaning and could change it to a negative meaning if it’s obvious they don’t care, but I don’t think it’s ever meaningless.

            1. JamieS*

              Yes apologizing is an action in the sense the act of talking is an action. That’s about it.

              Put simply it means an apology with no effort to make the victim(s) whole and/or modification to behavior is basically worthless.

              1. Snark*

                What it means is you’ve got a very strong, absolutist, black-and-white opinion that’s not actually borne out by real human interactions. The act of apologizing, of expressing contrition and regret and acknowledging wrongdoing, IS “making the victim whole” in a lot of situations, in your oddly transactional wording. How else do you imagine it’s possible to “make someone whole” when their feelings are hurt or they’ve been slighted?

                I mean, my wife said something really snappy and rude to me last night because she was tired and stressed and hungry. I said, “Hey, not cool,” and she was like “I apologize, that was totally uncalled for, I’m really hangry right now.” And it was fine. That “made me whole,” for whatever that’s worth. What was she supposed to do? Hand me five bucks for emotional reparations? Promise me she’d never snap at me again, which would be either a lie or a promise no human being who gets hangry could possibly keep? No, she apologized sincerely and I felt better. The apology had value.

                1. Specialk9*

                  Yeah, a good, real apology can pull me straight out of the stratosphere, and pull the teeth from the memory of a bad interaction. A great apology can leave me having admiring feelings for someone I just wanted to punch. Apologies can be magic!

                  Of course one element of a real apology is that it’s not part of an insincere cycle. Do wrong – apologize – do wrong – etc.

        2. Soon to be former fed*

          I agree. Apologizing is the right thing to do, at the very least, when you injure someone. Not knowing how the injured party will react is irrelevant.

          1. Jadelyn*

            To a point, yes – if what you did was severely traumatizing to someone, initiating further contact can be more harmful than helpful, so the injured party’s probable reaction does remain relevant in some situations.

          1. Green*

            Obviously it depends a lot on the environment, but I’ve never seen the spouses of any prominent people in my company. I obviously saw a lot of spouses at law firm events, but nobody was penalized for having a busy spouse.

            Spouses at these events are usually supposed to be an asset (create a “culture” or help people find you fun and engaging because your spouse is also fun and engaging, help you connect with people you may not otherwise connect with, etc.). If your spouse is accusing colleagues of trying to break up her marriage, I can’t imagine any company where either the employee or the company would actually want spouse there. I mean, I can see it not be much of an option if you are the wife of a preacher or something…. but in most circumstances, spouses at events are a nice plus rather than a requirement.

      2. Nursey Nurse*

        Yeah. There’s really no easy solution to this one.

        I guess for me the crucial question is whether OP’s claim was taken seriously. As office gossip goes, “have you heard that Lucinda and Jane are sleeping with Fergus?” is very different in implication from “did you hear about the crazy thing Fergus’s wife did last week? What was she thinking? He must be so embarrassed!” If it’s the former, or there is any other hint of damage to these women’s reputations, I think OP needs to find a way speak up and make it clear that she was wrong. If it’s the latter, I think she could probably get away with steering clear of office functions for a while to let things settle down.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          If the former, I don’t know that LW has that much credibility here–that her actions would be seen through the filter of trying to save her marriage or salvage her dignity.

      3. INTP*

        Agree that it depends on the details in this case, but I wanted to point out that if anyone actually believes that her husband had an affair with these women, not going to events could just cement that in their minds and hurt them further professionally. It could look like their marriage is rocky or she refuses to be around the former mistresses.

        1. AJHall*

          I agree with the people saying we need far more details, including how and in what context she accused them, because it sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen on most interpretations of it, especially if the husband is senior in the company.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This approach worries me, only because we can’t really anticipate what will make the women feel better about being mistreated this way. And I think this is a situation where it’s going to be really important to treat them as they want to be treated, not to treat them in a way that will assuage OP’s guilt. If OP wants to apologize, it’s important that that apologize focus on what the women want, not on OP feeling better about herself.

      Personally, if someone had accused me of having an affair, and if it had caused drama for me in the office by way of water-cooler-talk, etc., I would not want an apology note. I would want them to stay as far away from me as humanly possible, to keep my name out of their mouth, and to vocally tell anyone who asked about the situation that they were wrong to have done what they did.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ooof, forgive the poor editing/grammar. I meant “If OP wants to apologize, it’s important that that apology focuses on what the women want and how they want to be apologized to, not on OP feeling better about herself.”

        1. Ramona Flowers*


          I think minimising the amount you see them would be good if you can – of course you mention that you need to see them but it’s not clear when and where, so that might be something to think about if it’s possible to minimise contact with them.

          If my boss’s wife accused me of sleeping with him I would not want an apology. I would want no further communication from the person.

      2. Soon to be former fed*

        I would definitely want an apology as direct recognition that I was the injured party. Then, they can stay as far away from me as possible since they have shown tgwy are an impulsive person with poor judgement. If I were the husband I would seriously reconsider my partnership with this career liability.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          Yes, this is pretty much exactly how I would feel. I’d want an apology, and I’d want the person to show by her actions (e.g., being very polite but staying away from work functions for a good long time) that she was taking that apology seriously.

          I think both words and actions are necessary here – but again, that’s what *I’d* want. YMMV, right?

          1. K.*

            Me too. I’d want an apology, and then no further interaction with the wife of any kind. Maybe a polite hello if we absolutely could not avoid each other, but nothing beyond that.

        2. Artemesia*

          I think her husband needs to find a new job. I cannot imagine that this is not an irretrievable disaster for his career at that place and certainly she can’t show her face at a company event. This is not something that can be overcome.

          1. Mike C.*

            I’m not sure why the husband needs to ditch his career over this. He didn’t do anything wrong.

            1. Green*

              No, but someone else’s actions can definitely damage your career prospects, reputation and standing. Lots of executive level or prominent jobs are all about judgment…

          2. Kathleen Adams*

            Hmmm. I don’t know. Lots of companies, and lots of executives at those companies, have lived down far worse. Whether this particular person can live it down at this particular company reeeeeeeally depends on a lot of details, not of which we have.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s fine—I didn’t say “don’t apologize.” The point of my post is, “Make sure the people you’re apologizing to want you to apologize and in the format [written] you’re suggesting, and be really clear that they want you to apologize and that it’s not solely to make you feel better about yourself.”

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              She could ask her husband? Or through him, HR? There are several indirect ways to get information if people know it’s to make an apology.

              1. Anna*

                I get where you’re coming from, but this is becoming needlessly complicated and involves people who really shouldn’t be part of it. If the husband approaches the women, it looks self-serving. If HR gets called into it, it becomes even more entrenched in the husband’s job.

            2. Green*

              That’s why I said earlier that “it depends.” If HR is already involved, you shouldn’t have interactions with the individual without working through HR. It depends on what was said, how, in what context, and what has occurred thereafter… that wouldn’t be a perfect indicator, but it should give one a lot of insight into whether someone would be receptive to an apology or whether it would be self-serving.

              1. Wrongfully accuser*

                HR is not involved. The girls plus my husband would be reprimanded if they were. The voice mail I intercepted by one of the girls to my husband would have gotten her in more trouble than my husband as it was waay too familiar, needy, crossed all professional boundaries.

        4. Wrongfully accuser*

          Yes. I get that – If he hadn’t been the one who actually did betrayal his spouse and behave with conduct/boundaries unbecoming.

      3. Rat in the Sugar*

        Well, I would definitely want an apology and would be pretty damn miffed if I didn’t get one. If the person accusing me just ceased contact and never mentioned it again the way you describe, I would be absolutely furious. It’s not enough to accuse me, now they’re just going to pretend it never happened and stop acknowledging my existence?? That would make my blood boil! So, do we assume the women would feel as you do and an apology would be threatening and unwelcome, or do we assume they would feel as I do and that a lack of apology would be a salty slap in the face?
        Since we can’t know how those women feel, we can’t say whether one approach or the other would be more correct based on how we ourselves would feel about it. It really changes with the specifics of the situation, and since OP didn’t provide many details I’m going along with other commenters who are saying, “It depends”.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Please see my prior comment. I am not assuming the women do not want an apology. I’m saying OP should do the due diligence of figuring out an appropriate way to apologize, if that’s what the women want.

          This, to me, is like the OP who showed up at their coworker’s house, resulting in their transfer and a no-contact order. A few people kept encouraging OP to apologize through a third person, as if that would make the situation better. Here, we don’t know what would be preferred (whereas we did there), but it’s incumbent on OP, as the offending party, to make sure that they don’t force an apology on someone who doesn’t want it. But if they do want an apology, by all means, give an open and honest one!

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            Sorry, I think I was conflating your comment with others above and with some of the replies to yours saying that OP should definitely not apologize.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              No worries :) I realize that the first comment could have been construed as “definitely don’t apologize!” which was not how I meant it to be taken. But I should have been more thorough/careful about clarifying what I was saying.

      4. Wrongfully accuser*

        The accusations came out of text, emails and voicemails that I found. My husband and were going through an awful crisis and I was searching for answers and found contact between him and the girls that made me lose my mind.
        I wanted answers and he was not being accountable.
        I regrettably contacted the girls to get my answers. In no way did I ever confront the girls in the work place, or tell anyone else about what I thought (other than the girls and my husband).
        The water cooler talk came from one girl (not me) who went to one of my husband’s bosses with my actions and then talked about it with his staff when she was out drinking with a group.
        (The boss (es) understand marital problems and have been good to him about it.)
        The girl I was able to apologize to has dropped it and actually understood how, under the circumstances I could have come to that conclusion. …She wasn’t happy about it but she understood.

    4. MK*

      On the other hand, I think quite a lot of women would want a written acknowledgement that I was wrongly acused and an apology for the insult. If there has been office gossip about this, the OP saying nothing and staying away might even be what these women prefer, but it will probably lend credibility to any rumors. Personally, I would like the note, so that I could circulate to the office via a couple of coworkers “remember OP’s wild accusations? She wrote me to apologize”.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I think the husband keeping the wife away from work would do more for the womens reputations. Let the leaders at work apologize and treat the wife as the troublemaker by keeping her out of work functions.

        1. MK*

          Unless the husband and/or the leaders are prepapred to make an announcement about the wife being kept away as a punishment, the optics would likely not work that way (and I don’t see why the leaders would be apologising for?). Who’s to say that it’s the husband keeping her away for inappropriate conduct and not that she is refusing to associate with her husband affair partner(s)? Or that the husband is not keeping her away so that she can’t interfere with his affairs?

          The wife did something wrong and insulting. She should offer an apology and, if possible, she should stay away from work functions too, at least for a time.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            The only scenario I can come up with for the initial offense is that she was at her husband’s office making these accusations, or at a work event packed with people from his office when she did. In which case, her not appearing at that location in the future would just read as “Realized Wakeen’s wife is waaaaaay too drama prone to appear at these things any more.”

            Which is really cringe-able if you are Wakeen’s wife, but not inaccurate. I imagine his co-workers, accused of affairs or just bystanding, would be wildly relieved if she just doesn’t appear and so they don’t have to figure out how to act with her.

            1. MK*

              The OP being “drama-prone” has nothing to do with the truth or otherwise of the accusations. I think it’s naive to assume that people would compeltely dismiss it; and many would think that, though ill-advised, the drama was the natural reaction of a betrayed spouce.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Yes, but it seems unlikely that she can do anything now that will not be read through the filter of either a betrayed spouse or a crazy one. I don’t think there’s a degree of performative polite chatting around the office or cocktail party that will reliably land as “Oh, I get it, Sue and Luann definitely did not sleep with her husband and that’s why she’s acting this way.”

                1. Green*

                  ^^ agreed. People who want to think they had an affair will continue thinking so, regardless. People who don’t, won’t.

              2. Wrongfully accuser*

                It absolutely was the response of a betrayed spouse.
                And an otherwise laid back, friendly human being.

          2. Green*

            Depending on how much of a “thing” this was in the office and damage control needed, OP’s spouse could just put the word out quietly that he’s asked his wife to get some counseling so she’ll be stepping back from company events in the interim, and that they’re very embarrassed about what happened.

      2. nonymous*

        honestly, I wonder if OP’s husband needs to take some responsibility (not in the I caused this sort of way, but in a I subjected my co-workers to this person and they acted poorly kind of way).

        OP can certainly offer a direct apology for her actions – she should state that going forward that she will not be attending company events, and will avoid them unless they initiate contact in public situations (e.g. grocery store). However, OP’s husband owes his coworkers an apology for subjecting his coworkers to a maliciously unruly guest, and reiterate the no +1 in future work-social events sentiment. Coworkers’ relationship is with husband, and it is reasonable for them to expect that a professional relationship does not require dealing with the emotional/drama/harassing baggage of his spouse.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I agree with the suggestion re: OP’s husband and his role in letting the coworkers know he’s working with his partner to proactively manage her attendance at company events.

    5. PatPat*

      The wife should ask the husband if he’d like her to apologize since he understands the politics of the situation better than we do. The last thing he needs is the wife further injecting herself into his work. What if the women the wife accused are pursuing some type of action? The apology could make things sticky for the husband and the company. What if the apology only angers the women or causes more drama somehow? Plus apologizing in writing is proof that the wife accused the women. We just don’t have enough information to say whether it’s appropriate.

      1. Soon to be former fed*

        An apology is always appropriate when you have done wrong and regret hurting someone else. Don’t overthink it. The time to overthink is before spouting off false allegations about people. There are few things I hate more than false accusations, aka lies, said about me. I will confront someone if they do this to me.

        1. Apostrophina*

          But if someone has been making wild accusations, I am not going to want that person around me at all. Moreover, it sounds as though there could be some kind of power differential between the LW’s spouse and these women, too: in that case, they also may not be able to comfortably say that they don’t want to be approached by the LW. Forcing me to sit still for an interaction with someone I don’t view as a safe person is a lousy way to apologize.

          If there’s anything the LW can do to correct the impression she made about these women before approaching them, that might help.

        2. Andy*

          I disagree. I do not think that this is true even for most situations where someone does something wrong.
          There are lots of examples of an apology NOT being the right thing to do. for example: If the wrong this you did was something along the lines of too much contact or something stalkery (just one example) then it would not be the right thing.
          Another note: I truly believe that many an apology is done for the apologizer, and frankly as a wronged party I might not interested in helping Ms. False-Accusations feel better…and that’s ok.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Hard disagree. An apology is sometimes more about the person giving the apology feeling better about themselves, or about continuing to try to exert control over the person you’ve harmed, than it is about atonement/regret. My point is that apologies can be selfish.

          I get that I’m a minority position on this, and I am generally in favor of people making amends with people they hurt or harm. I just think the platinum rule is really important in scenarios like the one OP has provided, and it should guide her actions more than a default presumption that all apologies are good/worthy.

          1. Specialk9*

            Oh I agree that apologies can be selfish! There’s a super coercive element, especially in cultures that demand that an apology must be matched instantly with forgiveness, full and complete, and that if the victim holds a ‘grudge’, then they are now in the wrong. It’s coercive, manipulative, and doubles down on injuries.

            I’m still a fan of genuine apologies, but it’s worth noting that nobody is *owed* forgiveness. Thanks for the apology, I owe you nothing in return.

          2. Wrongfully accuser*

            I am inclined to agree. Which is why I left it alone.
            I would like her to stop throwing the story around. I am sure that is not to ever to be. But, I let a Jennie out of the bottle or Pandora out of a box because of a massive and extended betrayal by my husband and I was trying to make sense of.
            The boundaries with these girls were not clear (that is what the text and calls showed) and I flipped.
            I do know that the girl spreading rumors would stop in and have lunch with my husband (even though she was no longer his employee). She may be covering herself by making me look crazy.
            NOT the fault of the girl(s), obviously.
            I will have to go weddings and etc. These girls may be in attendance. They know nothing of the horrible betrayal by my husband. He is just the poor, good guy married to the crazy woman.
            I am accountable to my actions, and wish it never happened and would apologize if she would want that – but I think she could care less at this point.

    6. Yorick*

      I would appreciate an apology in this situation, as long as it was sincere and not just a segue into more accusations.

    7. My 2 cents*

      Also, if the accusations were made publically, so should the apology. The spouse should also do this separate from the husband’s account. Meaning on her own accord and do not mention him. Solely take responsibility and be contrite. That’s all she can do. Running away every single time there is a work event may make it worse. She will be noticeably absent which may become fodder for more gossip as well as be seen as nonchalance or lack of remorse.

    8. Wrongfully accuser*

      One girl, I was able to extend an apology. She accepted and has said nothing. If I could figure out a way to apologize to the other, I definitely would extend my apology. I don’t however want to intrude or insert myself into her life – maybe a letter would work?

    9. Wrongfully accuser*

      I was able to apologize to one. I regretted contacting her the second I did it. I knew it didn’t rest on her to be appropriate. It rested on him.
      She knew she was over the appropriate contact line and even said that her relationship with my husband was one of more than just coworkers-she said it exactly like that. She understood how I could react the way I did. She has left it alone.
      The second girl, went straight to my husband’s boss and still has fun telling all of the employees that still work for my husband how crazy I am.
      In fact, her behavior did cross the line, personal texts, lunches, phone calls; though it may not have been a full fledged affair. Again-not on her-on him. My accusation was borne of pain, confusion and attempting to make sense of the depth of betrayal.
      She is having fun. She is the only one doing the talking. As I have said. I mentioned to know what what I spoke with her about.

  2. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: If women consistently don’t come back to this company after their pregnancies, it means that your boss might not be protecting their jobs (which she doesn’t have to do if the company is small enough but should still be doing if it bugs her this much), isn’t offering any pay during their leaves, or otherwise did/said something that made literally every new mother at the company decide it wasn’t worth going back. If you’re going to hide behind the regulation exemptions for very small businesses, the tradeoff is that employees generally eventually leave if they can.

    If your boss is predominantly hiring people who are all fairly young, that’s a problem on her end. It might be subconscious bias, it might be that it’s the type of business where no one needs much experience to do the job well so most of her applicants are fresh grads, or it might be that she doesn’t pay enough to attract older and experienced employees who have better options.

    Have you tried saying something like, “Do you have plans for this business six months from now that you’re worried about me not being present for?”

    1. Rando*

      I agree with your statement that all these new mothers are leaving for a reason.

      Your boss sounds unreasonable. Texting you for updates from your doctor on your sick day is unreasonable. I bet a lot of the new moms are switching jobs after leave or staying at home because time away from your boss made them realize fill extent of the problem.

      Honestly, I would plan your next move to get away from this boss whether you want to have a baby or not.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I mean, based on this:

      I want to . . . express the larger issue which is that she’s coming across as nosy, paranoid and unsupportive, so much so that I’m not sure I want to be working here when my husband and I are ready to start a family.

      it sounds like the boss’s constant haranguing, alone, is a major turnoff to OP (and likely to previous employees). I’m not sure we have to get into the specifics of whether this is a small business to know that it’s not a winning approach to management.

      The question you pose is of course fine to ask, but it doesn’t seem to get at the bigger issue that concerns OP, which is her boss’s inappropriate and paranoid nosiness. I think Alison is bang on that this is about scratching an itch. Who text messages someone all day and then calls them in the afternoon, of their day off, to ask if they’re pregnant? That’s mind-bogglingly out of bounds.

      So I think OP is best served by not helping her boss satisfy that itch, as Alison suggests. Don’t respond to her prying questions about your symptoms and what the doctor said (!?), and tell her (politely, directly, professionally) to back off. And then maintain and reinforce the boundary. Don’t get sucked back into her whirlpool of paranoia.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        I think it’s worth asking the question not to get the direct answer (as if OP cares what her boss has planned for next February) but to trip the boss into defending her actions. Sometimes it’s effective to ask a faux-innocent question if it makes the boss realize there’s no acceptable answer.

        I also think the small business angle might be relevant if we are in fact dealing with a small business (or by extension, it’s helpful to look at the framework of the business you’re working for and then determine whether there’s something about it that makes it difficult for people to stay on as they get older and their lives expand). New parents aren’t going to stay at jobs that don’t offer paid leave, job protection, or affordable insurance benefits, for example. It may not lead to any change or suggestions of action, but it might ring a few bells for the OP and help her recontextualize what’s been going on in her office. At the very least, she’ll know what to look for when she starts applying for new jobs.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It sounds like the boss knows her actions are wrong, though? OP notes, “[s]he finally called me this afternoon and asked if I could be pregnant. She recognizes that this is not okay.” (emphasis mine).

          But otherwise I am generally in favor of asking people faux innocent questions to help unearth the depths of their chicanery.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            I mostly think it’s odd that this particular role keeps being handed only to women who are fairly young. The boss is creating this problem for herself if she thinks that this job can only be done by a younger woman, or if she’s not casting her hiring net in a way that’s pulling in men or women who are old enough to be done with having kids. I’m not advocating that she discriminate. I just think it’s weird that the history of that job is so homogeneous and that the boss doesn’t realize that she’s in control of her own hiring decisions. All other things being equal, hire the 40-something woman next and let her put her decades of experience to use.

            1. Mookie*

              As you say, the pay and benefits could be shite, and young women eat a lot of sh*t early in their careers. Or the industry is disproportionately female. Additionally, and as you said above, the myth the boss is openly perpetuating (that married women with children don’t take work seriously, lack professional goals, skive off work when they can) could very well have a chilling effect. Given that what she describes is an anomaly (a plurality of women do work, married or no, children or no), it’s worth considering why she can’t hold onto young female employees. My guess is that she offers them no incentives to stay, promotes them less often (because BABIES!1!), and creates an atmosphere hostile to pregnant people. The “fertility” comment more-or-less clinches it; this isn’t about families — children don’t necessarily follow from marriage, children happen in all relationships, men have families, gay and lesbian couples have families, families are common, some of my best friends are families, etc. — but about the pregg0rs. That pregnant people choose not to work for her in no way implies those women she’s referencing aren’t still working somewhere else, and she’s an ass for suggesting otherwise. If young men were exiting in droves, I can’t imagine her not trying to suss out why this was and then address the source accordingly rather than just chalking it up to young male biology, video games, and masculine torpor.

              She recognizes that this is not okay

              I’d be interested to know how she does this. Could be instructive for the LW.

              The illness angle also needs to be confronted directly. “Boss, you need to be okay with me occasionally using sick-time like everyone else.” I don’t know how to word that courteously, but it somehow needs to be said.

              1. Observer*

                I can’t imagine her not trying to suss out why this was and then address the source accordingly rather than just chalking it up to young male biology, video games, and masculine torpor.

                Considering some of the stories we’ve seen on this site, I’m not sure sure.

                As for the rest of your comment, I agree 100%

            2. Samata*

              But she doesn’t know for sure this role is only offered to women who are fairly young – she is speculating this on the fact the boss says people in the role always leave because of pregnancy. This could have been an exaggerated 1 or 2, this could have been several in a row but that were aged 33, 22 and 50. (2 women who were in their 50s recently had kids where I work so it’s possible).

              I have to agree with PCBH that the focus should be on redirecting the boss and avoiding answering the really probing questions. I also agree that the constant haranguing is a very good reason to not return to this place of business, not lack of other benefits which we are speculating are not there. If she is this harassing at the prospect of pregnancy I can only imagine how the questions/concerns will roll in once a young kid is put into the equation and her perception of how it might affect OPs work.

            3. OP #1*

              You are right on about hiring in this small department being pretty homogeneous – from the background I have, every person my boss has hired has been a woman under the age of 35.

              1. Lora*

                What the heck? Is your field dominated by women? Like nursing, kindergarten teacher etc? How does that even happen? I mean granted I am in a male-dominated field and I make an effort to get a diverse crew, I know my perspective is skewed. Unfortunately as others have said, when the demographics skew towards younger women, it’s usually because they don’t want to pay the real market rate for that job. Literally every job I’ve had that skewed heavily towards young women, paid peanuts and was crap about promoting women or supporting their careers in the sense of professional development. We were really thought of as disposable. More than usual.

                1. aebhel*

                  Eh, it’s not uncommon in my line of work for nearly all of the candidates for a position to be women. I’m a librarian–the field as a whole is generally underpaid for the amount of education it requires, but every individual job I’ve had has been great about supporting its employees (and to be fair, librarian jobs are generally in the public sector, which is not known for forking over money; the benefits more than make up for it, IMO).

                2. The OG Anonsie*

                  Not uncommon in plenty of industries, although it would also be weird and something to be cautious about in others. Nonprofit development first into the former category AFAIK.

                  That said, the industries in which it’s most common are ones that typically: don’t pay well, don’t do development or promote from within, treat them as disposable, and bank on the nature of the work or company to keep people in, so… You’re kind of right either way, now that I think about it.

                3. Kj*

                  My industry is about 95% women. And the few men get paid better and get more opportunities because they are so rare and “we need them!” They are way over-represented at the top ranks of the profession, but in the trenches they are rare. It is very frustrating.

              2. nonymous*

                There are some managers out there who prefer to hire young inexperienced staff because supposedly it reduces the bad habits that they have to retrain. My experience is that managers who travel this route are actually selecting for compliant personalities and ducking the opportunity to challenge their processes/assumptions. It also, imo, suggests a lack of confidence in their own authority. It could also mean that the company model is to have rigid processes in place and hire a rotating cast of new workers who quickly move up and out.

                That said, with a small department it is incredibly helpful for staff to be cross-trained and have flex options. With such a high % of staff in the <35 crowd, parenthood is likely to be on the horizon for many, and this would be a perk that reduces attrition and gives more career mobility.

                If your boss is coming from a place of anxiety (who will do XYZ task if OP1 is gone! ohnoes!), it may go a long way to reducing the panic because it mitigates against loss of institutional knowledge when individuals are out of the office for any reason. Even if the staff demographics change over time, parental leave applies to both genders and older staff have other responsibilities (like elder care or sports tournaments for older children). A decent flex policy will go a long way to retaining staff at any phase of life if the compensation package is otherwise low.

                1. Serin*

                  My first and best boss loved to hire people right out of college, and it’s true that part of that was that nobody with experience would have been willing to work for as little as that newspaper paid.

                  But another element of it was that he had a coaching personality and loved the idea of being able to give people a start on their careers.

                  One of the things that made him a standout as a boss was that he was aware that this meant people would move on as soon as they could get a job that paid better — and he really would help them do that, using his contacts and his knowledge of the industry. He was immensely proud to be able to point to larger newspapers all around the region where “his” people were now working.

                  All of which is just to say that managers can find that their budget results in their workforce being very young, and some of them adapt to that reality the way my boss did, and others are jerks about it.

                2. Bostonian*

                  Re: the concern in your last paragraph: I was also thinking that the boss may be concerned about coverage if OP gets pregnant. In that case, part of the overall conversation to be had with the boss can include, “If I do get pregnant, I will let you know within a reasonable time frame to arrange coverage for my leave.”, if you want to throw her a bone and think that will help reassure her.

                3. The OG Anonsie*

                  There are some managers out there who prefer to hire young inexperienced staff because supposedly it reduces the bad habits that they have to retrain. My experience is that managers who travel this route are actually selecting for compliant personalities and ducking the opportunity to challenge their processes/assumptions. It also, imo, suggests a lack of confidence in their own authority. It could also mean that the company model is to have rigid processes in place and hire a rotating cast of new workers who quickly move up and out.

                  This has been my experience as well.

            4. SpaceySteph*

              Whoo, boy, OP1. This question has me right in the feels today. I’m 4 weeks back to work after having my first child and today is her first day of daycare. I am lucky to have a job I love, where all degrees of management are supportive of moms. We have lactation rooms, flextime, telework, and I have lots of female coworkers who have done this before me who are happy to be resources to me. We still only get FMLA, but with a combination of disability and vacation I came out the other side ok. And I make enough money to have some left over every month after paying for daycare. I know that I am lucky and that many families in this country are in much *much* worse shape.
              But you know what? It’s still hard. Really freaking hard. I suspect women don’t come back from maternity leave because they’ve taken all those same things into account and its not worth it to them. They don’t love the work or they don’t make enough to justify the cost of daycare, and for sure they don’t feel supported by management. I suspect that you’ll see plenty of evidence of all those things if you look around. If you do want to have children at some point, it’s probably time to start working on your exit strategy ASAP. You can try to get your boss to butt out and stop asking, but even if she stops saying it, you know what she’s thinking and it ain’t good.

            1. Observer*

              Either unmanaged anxiety / OCD / other personal issues and/or she’s a boundary crossing jerk.

    3. Caitlynn*

      Since “new grads” tend to be 22 or so and first time mothers in the US are on average about 4 years older than that, I’m not sure about some of the logic of your middle paragraph.

      I suppose one possibility is it’s a quite conservative area where new mothers in general tend not to return to work, or of course the boss’s has made this specific workplace inhospitable to new parents/these particular new mothers.

      As a married woman who does not have children and is an age when many people are having children, I will note that being asked about my plans for pregnancy (at all, by anyone) is awkward, invasive, and unpleasant. (I guess with the exceptions of my spouse and doctor.)

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        I’d put the ages of 22 and 26 in the same basic age bracket. I’d actually consider anyone under 30 to be a fairly recent grad these days, especially since a lot of people spend a few years waiting tables or working retail before landing their entry level career-track jobs.

      2. JamieS*

        I believe the average college duration is 5-6 years putting graduates at about 23-25. OP’s company hires a 24 year old who graduated a few months prior, she gets pregnant 6 months-1 year later and has a kid when she’s around 26. Very conceivable timeline.

      3. Natalie*

        For college graduates the median age is a little older even – 28. There’s a long spread between first children for high school graduates and first children for college graduates or more than college and skews the overall average lower.

        1. An Inspector of Gadgets*

          We also now refer to people who have recently finished graduate school (so anywhere from 24 to … any age, but commonly up to ~30) as “recent grads”. Definitely childbearing years.

      4. Specialk9*

        Is it even legal to ask? It’s not ok in an interview, but after hiring? It seems like gender based discrimination and hostile workplace, based solely on gender.

        1. SSS*

          In California, they have stricter laws so yes it’s illegal to keep asking about pregnancy if the OP works in that state. Otherwise, its just one of those unregulated rudeness issues. :-)

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      I wouldn’t use this line. Boss will take it to mean you’re three months gone.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, that’s going to sound like she’s saying she’s getting ready to leave. It also feels off because in lots of jobs the answer would be that of course there are plans in six months that would be impacted by her absence.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think this is what’s tripping me up. The boss’s conduct is objectively unacceptable (as is the behavior of the joking colleagues—have people seriously not learned that it’s not ok to joke about someone’s fertility or lack thereof?). The question Stellaaaaa describes would be normal in so many contexts that I don’t think it really calls out what’s bothering OP—invasive and ongoing harassing comments/contact about her family planning.

          I don’t think subtlety is going to work with this boss, especially if the subtlety refers to questions that would be pretty normal under slightly more normal circumstances. It sounds like the boss knows what’s she’s doing is wrong and makes OP uncomfortable (to the point of avoiding taking sick leave – !!!). She probably notices this discomfort but keeps doing it, anyway. This is like the creepy coworker from last week—subtle isn’t going to work with someone who’s purposefully crossing the line to see how far you’ll let them go.

          1. agatha31*

            It’s *so* icky to me to think of a boss asking me that. I don’t want kids and to think that someone would be inquiring into my fertility status *every single time* I had to take a sick day? Pregnant or not, I’d be quitting very quickly after the first six million or so repetitions of “are you suuuuuuuuuuure you’re not pregnant???” That’s just… EW. Get OUT of my womb, please, because it’s gross and weird and creepy for *anyone*, let alone a co-worker, let alone a boss, to be this freakishly obsessed with it. Ugh, my skin is crawling at the idea of this. I have to wonder if all the women who left her *were* actually pregnant or if at least a couple just got so skeeved out by the creepiness of this behavior that they found other jobs asap and just went “uhhh… yeah, yeah I’m pregnant now, how ’bout that? Anyway I’m leaving and never ever returning because, um… joy of motherhood. Or something. Yes. Okay, bye now!”

            1. Rookie Manager*

              I had a manager who asked about my baby plans at every single monthly 121. Every single one. But as it turned out that was one of the least bad things she did as a manager.

              Its over 5 years since I left that job and the thought of her still makes me anxious.

            2. boop the first*

              I get skeeved out by it, too, and even if it’s happening to another woman! There’s just something… misogynistic about women constantly having their fertility thrown into the spotlight. Is there really nothing else we are good for? Is breeding our only value in the world? Why do symptoms of pregnancy have to be identical to SO MANY illnesses, and then become #1 suspect right off the bat?

              Woman: “I feel slightly nauseated just now”
              World: “OMG YOU’RE PREGGARS”
              Woman: *gets heatstroke*
              World: *wanders off to the first woman they find who doesn’t have a concave stomach*

            3. ZenJen*

              yeah, ITA with you–reading #1 had me screaming in my head “HOW IS SOMEONE’S UTERUS HER BOSS’S BUSINESS?!?!” That boss has some serious issues, if she’s taking EVERY employee leaving as personal abandonment. I couldn’t imagine being pregnant and having a decent work experience at that company!

            4. Rana*

              And can you imagine what it would be like if the OP were trying to get pregnant, and it wasn’t working? Ugh.

              1. Turtle Candle*

                I did once burst into tears in public when one too many people had asked about my having kids (I have been trying for years without success). There are SO many reasons not to ask this question.

              2. Gem*

                As a woman currently battling infertility I cannot begin to express what it would do to me to have my boss check if I was pregnant every time I used a sick day. Particularly as recently I’ve had several investigative procedures, a surgery and multiple medical appointments all related to why I can’t get pregnant.

                (I excel at infertility and basically if I can stop you conceiving or carrying a child to term I’ve been diagnosed with it)

    5. Victorian Cowgirl*

      My question on this letter is when does this cross the line into harassment based on gender? A man wouldn’t be asked this. Perhaps I am just so so tired of being asked if I’m pregnant every time I say I’m craving something at work, because I’ve not been able to carry a pregnancy to term and I really don’t need the reminders.

  3. Story Nurse*

    OP 3, in the writing world this is called “rejectomancy”: trying to do some sort of divination or find a pattern that’s not there in rejection letters or the amount of time a publication takes to respond to a submitted story. It never works! It’s hard to accept that uncertainty when you’re already in the very uncertain liminal space of job-hunting, which is why you look for something you can rely on like “Every time [this] happens it means [that]”.

    From the other side, I once saw an editor named Ted* reject a manuscript because someone named Ted died on page two. Presumably there were other flaws in the book, but that was the only comment he left in the log! So please remember that the people who are interviewing you are only human, and are sometimes prone to irrationality and making poor choices. The form rejection is pretty rude after that amount of time investment on both sides, and I totally get why you’re hurt by it and wondering “What did I do to deserve this?”, but they may just be rude people. Tell yourself they were fools to pass you up, and move on to doing the best you can in the next interview.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Ha, I’m a writer and haven’t heard “rejectomancy” before – thanks!

      And that editor’s decision was… a bit unprofessional? I mean, if that was his only comment!

      1. Story Nurse*

        Yeah, this was way back when I was an intern and even then I thought “…really?”. I assume the author got a form rejection, so no harm done there, but the rejection log is there for a reason and people do refer back to it, so you should put useful comments in it, not little jokes!

  4. persimmon*

    OP#3: Another thing is that some interviewers are very friendly and conversational, while others are more reserved or awkward. So, in the first case, everyone will come out thinking the interview went great even though only one person can get the job, whereas in the second everyone will feel it went poorly but someone will still get it. Like Alison said, it’s impossible to predict.

  5. Mookie*

    Not to mention my coworkers told her I was pregnant on April Fools Day, without my knowledge, so it’s become a running joke among everyone in my office.

    Christ. This is the kind of environment, LW1, your boss appears to have deliberately fostered, in which you are fearful of contracting an everyday cold lest it harm your reputation and standing and where your uterus and its contents are a source of general speculation, amusement, and ribbing, like pregnancy is something one needs to be lightly chastised for as irresponsible and unprofessional, something silly young women end up Doing To themselves in spite of everyone warning (read: implicitly threatening) them what will happen. As Stellaaaaa indicates above, this is probably a pattern many former employees have endured, and then escaped (through pregnancy or otherwise).

    You probably don’t, in fact, want to continue working here — because all indications point to your boss making it difficult if not impossible to return if and when you and your spouse do decide to start a family, a perfectly normal course of events in the scheme of things — but in the meantime I’d use Alison’s scripts and, if the circumstances permit, deliver them dead-eyed and in a neutral tone, possibly with a tight-lipped smile. Thank her for your concern and reassure her that you’ve got this under control and that being ill once in the course of a year is no reason for panic or speculation. I’d personally turn on the Coldest Bitch Face I could muster and not end the conversation until she agreed to stop pestering me about babbies and my personal life in general, but not everyone has the privilege to do so. “This line of discussion makes me uncomfortable, thank you for your understanding [or cooperation]” could also get the job done, with the odd “we agreed this is not an appropriate topic for discussion, what’s going on?” thrown in when necessary.

    1. Mookie*

      Sometimes reinforcing a boundary you’ve set (irrespective of how much doing so displeases someone) doesn’t need to feel or be received as antagonistic, and can be delivered in a pleasant, curious, and confused manner. In my experience, however — being physically small and femme and at work generally conciliatory in nature — when a boundary is repeatedly violated adopting a cold, flat, and business-like tone works wonders in jolting people out of rude behavior and otherwise unnerving colleagues who have come to expect me to manage their social improprieties with grace and understanding.

      1. Mike C.*

        But when that doesn’t work you need a backup plan and be comfortable enough to use it.

    2. Lilo*

      I agree. I do not have kids, but I have seen how my office handles family leave and no one freaks out about it, they actually have promoted a few women who were pregnant just in the last year, and no one batted an eye or pressured them when they took a few months off. I really think this office sounds pretty toxic. I shut down my mother in law’s pestering about babies pretty quickly, no way I would take that from my boss.

  6. Caitlynn*

    For #4 it seemed the LW understands that being honest improves the odds of finding a good fit, but now is worried that it might have worked as planned. If they’re disorganized and you dislike disorganization, that’s useful information to have on both ends. The system is great, keep it up! Until you get really desperate for a job, in which case I guess don’t.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      In an ideal world I guess you’d be able to find out what the place is like without revealing why you want to know, so they don’t reject you because they’ve presumed – based on what you’ve said – that you won’t be happy. Maybe the LW feels they’ve given too much power away in this respect.

      1. LW4*

        Thanks guys :) I appreciated Alison’s comments and do intend to keep being upfront in interviews!

        I think my underlying concern was perhaps that expressing a dislike for disorganisation may work against me for lots of employers, rather than just disorganised ones? (I’ve worked in places with the usual organisational issues but only one place had literally not a clue.) However I could see how some managers might feel they’re less organised than they actually are and I didn’t want to put off those kinds of places.

        FYI there were a number of other red flags in the interview (including oddly personal comments made about me?) that made me decide the job wasn’t for me. In the end, the hiring manager had wanted me but had been overruled by the Head of Department so I guess they aren’t organised at all!

  7. SusanIvanova*

    A former co-worker I’d thought was my friend contacted my mother (!) to accuse me of sleeping with her husband, because “men and women can’t be friends without it leading to sex.” When we’d worked together we were 2 of about 5 women on a software team of about 20. What that implied about what she thought about me being friendly with my other co-workers had me fuming. I haven’t spoken with her since, and it’s been over a decade. I’m still friends with her husband – her accusation was 100% projection; she left him for a co-worker shortly thereafter. (And I still have never once been interested in sleeping with him.) If we’d still been co-workers and she’d said that at work, I can’t even imagine how incandescent my reaction would’ve been, or how much of a groveling apology it would take to salvage the work relationship.

    (It wasn’t that surprising that she was texting with my mom – all four of us had gone out to dinner several times when Mom came to town and Mom is great at making friends. But the accusation… Mom told me immediately because she knew me.)

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      *jaw drop*

      Sounds like “men and women can’t be friends without it leading to sex” (can we bury this idea permanently please?) was a rationalization for her own affair, in addition to being a projection.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        I know. Her ex-husband is in complete agreement with you.

        I was used to that sort of thing at parties when the techies would group together to talk techie stuff, and non-techie wives would side-eye any women in the techie groups, but ex-friend was a techie!

      1. Specialk9*

        Ugh. Seconded on creepy! I hate how often women are complicit in enforcing sexist rules and perpetuating misogyny.

  8. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 It’s highly unlikely that interviewers would want to give you false hope. It’s understandable to want to make sense of rejection but bear in mind they probably won’t even have decided at the interview itself but will pick their top candidates afterwards.

    It is possible to do well in an interview but not to be offered the job, due to going up against other candidates. You aren’t in a position to compare, so are trying to make meaning from the facts you do have. But honestly it’s just not that complicated.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I recall an ask-the-readers thread about gut instinct (when it’s been right or wrong at work), and several people said that their experience was the interviews they thought they nailed went nowhere, and the interviews they left feeling meh-to-awful led to offers.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yeah, I could see that. When we interview people, we do 3 one-hour interviews with different people, back to back to back. So I can’t cut my interview short if I realize the candidate is a dud; I have to fill the time with SOMETHING. So the duds either get really easy questions that even a dud can probably answer (because I’m not interested in watching them sweat and fail just for kicks) or we just chat. Then they probably walk out thinking they nailed every question and built rapport. But the candidates that have promise, I’ll ask much harder questions, trying to see the limits of what they can do. And they won’t nail them all, and won’t feel as great.

      2. AJJLC*

        I wonder how much of this might be confirmation bias. Do we ever recall interviews we felt went poorly and didn’t receive an offer? At the very least people won’t share those stories because, well, they’re a little obvious!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It definitely wan’t a universal rule. Just a scattered personal experience of their gut’s opinion about an interview and the interviewer’s opinion being reliably at odds.

        2. Specialk9*

          I have a pretty good sense, so far. The interviews I thought I flubbed, I didn’t get the job. The ones I thought went well mostly ended up with job offers.

    2. SC*

      True. My husband interviewed for two jobs where they ended up not hiring for the position at all.

      In the first instance, the manager was pressured into hiring an internal person from the company’s training program. The manager didn’t want the trainee, so he carved up the sales territory for the position, gave the good parts to his sales team, and gave the leftovers to the trainee. It was a commission-based position, so it was effectively an elimination of the position–there was no way the trainee was going to make it.

      In the second instance, upper management demoted the hiring manager to the position my husband was interviewing for. He found out because the company advertised the hiring manager’s job, then he asked his network what happened.

      My husband works in a brutal industry. But I don’t think there was bad faith on the part of the people he was interviewing with. Circumstances changed in the middle of the process.

  9. The Supreme Troll*

    For OP#5, yes, I am sort of agreeing with what Alison is saying. But there are times when this situation will arise and will need to be addressed head-on. And, if after constant & continuous pestering about a private matter by the boss, what can a subordinate do then? Softening the language or trying to find the best euphemisms might become tricky or simply near impossible to do.

    Maybe “I really don’t want want to say this is none of your concern, but…”.

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        I agree, then just put it out of your head and continue focusing on your work.

  10. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 Alison is right – wouldn’t you rather end up in an environment you won’t hate?

    All that said, in future it’s perhaps worth being specific about what kind of planning and structure you actually appreciate as that are concepts that mean different things to different people.

    1. Specialk9*

      Yes! I think it was so broad of a statement that any non-narcissist could find ways to apply that to them. “My junk drawer isn’t organized” was likely not what OP would consider problematic, but it could be why an interviewer rejects them proactively. Pretty much the only person who wouldn’t worry you’d be judgy would be an actual narcissist. So it’s a statement that does the opposite of intended. You have to be much more specific…

      It’s like online dating profiles… All the stuff someone *WON’T put up with* ends up painting an inadvertent picture of someone’s ex. An interview is not the place for your baggage. Be relentlessly positive… And ask frank questions.

      People who are unhappy will conduct an interview but likely won’t lie. Ask the questions that would have gotten the truth out of you.

      1. LW4*

        Thanks both – I think this is the answer I’ve been trying to figure out myself! (How to explain that I like structure without putting people off?)

        I’ll think about how I mention this is other interviews in the future but I also think the way he responded, “we’re so disorganised!” rather than probing for more info, was a red flag in itself.

  11. MommyMD*

    There is no going back for something as extreme as accusing coworkers of having an affair with your husband. Stay completely away from his job site, his coworkers, and any company affairs. Don’t even call his office. I would not contact these women. It may alarm them and make matters worse.

    1. INTP*

      I think this is best if everyone knows she was wrong, but if they don’t, it may be seen as evidence that he really did have the affair. It could look like she has left him or she refuses to be around his former mistresses.

      If she takes that route I think she needs to make a retraction that was as public as her accusation was. (It’s not clear from the letter whether everyone knows because she made the accusations in a public way or because the women accused told them.)

    2. Specialk9*

      In the kindest way, OP, this is really abnormal behavior. It’s worth some really serious reflection, far beyond the etiquette of the situation.

      Is your husband really a cheater? You may be picking up on the reality, even if the particular partners were off. (Assuming they really were.)

      Do you need to really examine beliefs you have about male female interactions, and female empowerment?

      Do you need to see a psychiatrist and assess meds? Could this be an unmanaged condition that can be managed, or a managed condition that needs tweaking?

      Do you need a therapist to figure out healthier approaches and why you did this?

      There are so many options, and etiquette advice is only the most shallow of the things to explore.

  12. The Supreme Troll*

    Which, I think related for what I mentioned for OP#5, for OP#1, yes, you should definitely draw that line and stand firm about it. Alison gave excellent talking points.

    OP#1, you can also mention that “if this were to happen, it would be a private matter. I will share this news with you and anyone else when the time is right and I am willing to do so. Otherwise, please, I respectfully ask you that we do not talk about this anymore”.

  13. MommyMD*

    Tell your nutty crazy pregnancy obscessed boss you are infertile and can’t talk about. It’s ok to fib when you are dealing with a nutcase. If you do become pregnant proclaim it a miracle. Ignore her texts on your days off, sick or otherwise. Start looking for another job. Good luck. You can’t fix crazy.

    1. Nursey Nurse*

      I don’t think this is a good solution. If OP is going to continue working with her boss, she needs to follow Alison’s suggestion to set and enforce appropriate boundaries. Giving her boss information (even if it’s false information) in response to her frequent haranguing just reinforces the idea that OP’s reproductive status is somehow her boss’s business. Which it isn’t at all, unless and until it starts affecting her work.

      In addition, I think that people as a whole need to be sensitive to the fact that infertility is a real, serious problem for many women, possibly including some of OP’s coworkers, and that they might not take kindly to having the condition used untruthfully as a way to curtail the boss’s inquiries. Yes, the boss is being a jerk by asking, but that doesn’t make it okay for OP to pretend to have a medical problem she doesn’t actually have.

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        I agree with what you’re saying. And also, while I don’t think the boss is being reasonable here, I don’t she that she is a complete lunatic nutcase who needs to be lied to in order to remain calm.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Agree with your second paragraph.

        (Also, anyone who thinks announcing you’re infertile will make people stop talking about pregnancy and asking intrusive questions has probably never tested that theory.)

        1. Observer*

          Especially in an office where people think it’s a “cute prank” to announce someone’s pregnancy as an April fool’s joke. Blech!

          1. AJHall*

            Assuming that her coworkers know OP’s manager’s insecurities on this point, that sounds like a hostile bit of stirring to me. Had anyone done that to me I’d have definitely raised it with HR.

            1. teclatrans*

              Could be, though I can also see a situation where the prank was suppressed hostility at the boss and her creepy monitoring, with OP as collateral damage/chum in the water (especially since it sounds like they must all be or have been targets of this fertility harassment). Or, perhaps, a product of the brainwashing that happens in a toxic situation — in this instance, normalizing fertility harassment.

            2. OP #1*

              Amazingly, a detail I left out and only learned a few weeks ago, is that coworkers told boss’s boss (our ED) about their “joke” beforehand and she encouraged it. So, yes – quite a bit of stirring at all levels.

        2. AMPG*

          Yes to your parenthetical – someone with no boundaries around fertility issues is the LAST person who should be told about a medical condition, especially a fictitious one.

    2. FDCA In Canada*

      Please don’t do this.

      Infertility is as much of a medical condition as anything else and it’s not OK to lie about it–and lying about it and then calling it a miracle if it does happen is ridiculously, blatantly offensive to people in the office who might actually struggle with infertility. And given how interested this boss is in the concept of pregnancy, this is a one-way ticket to a rabbit hole of even more talk about childbearing, which is, I’m confident, not the OP’s intent.

      Just set and enforce appropriate boundaries. This is the equivalent of someone saying they’re allergic to an ingredient when they just don’t like it. There’s no need to make things needlessly complicated by introducing lies.

  14. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 Your boss is completely out of line. I’m coming at this from a different angle, as someone for whom it will be medically problematic to get pregnant. I would be very, very upset if my boss hassled me about whether being off sick meant I was pregnant, or people joked about that for April Fools. This sort of thing is not a joke. There are so many women out there who experience fertility problems or pregnancy loss that anyone with half a brain knows not to make jokes like that. Even someone completely able to conceive does not want to be fending off this rubbish, though, obviously. I imagine she’s driven these other women away and it has long since become a self fulfilling prophecy.

    1. sap*

      This was my reaction too. I’m currently undergoing tests as a late 20s woman that are likely to tell me I need a hysterectomy. If I had a boss asking me this every time I had a doctor’s appointment (to figure out if I need my uterus removed…) I would probably snap and either end up yelling “no, I’m not pregnant but I am probably having a $** hysterectomy, which I’m sure you’re over the *** moon about” after one of the sick day phone calls?!? Or end up dreading work and performing abysmally. Or both. Boss is so, so out of line.

      1. Lora*

        Yeah… I may have done this when I was 26. Except I think my exact words, when the boss asked about my time off, were something like “I’m going for a second opinion about not dying of fking cancer within a year.”

    2. Not me today*

      I’m infertile, which no-one at work knows, and I can’t even imagine how I’d react if my coworkers made an April Fools joke about me being pregnant.

    3. Anon for this*

      As someone who’s had multiple losses the last three times I’ve had to call out sick on short notice would have been when I’d suffered those losses, I can’t imagine how much more upset I’d have been to be dealing with such a nosey inconsiderate manager. I couldn’t work with someone like that for very long :/

      1. Juliecatharine*

        I’m so sorry for your losses Anon.

        Completely agree with the comments here. The entire situation is beyond any realm of appropriate office behavior.

    4. aebhel*

      I agree that this seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy; if I was working there, I would probably quit when I got pregnant, since the boss is broadcasting loud and clear that she’s going to be a nightmare about it.

    5. E_lizabits*

      This was my thought as well. Pregnancy is not a joke, and I would feel very comfortable saying that to someone who thinks it is. I’ve had auto-immune health issues over the past year that include pain and nausea, and it is incredibly annoying that continuously for the past 6 months I’m asked if I am pregnant. One co-worker, who is also female, I ended up having to say that I think it’s slightly sexist that just because a woman is ill she’s immediately accused of being pregnant. I also went into that I would never ask someone that question, because it could be borderline for grounds for someone to sue if they were ever fired for other reasons. That put a stop to people questioning me. Another comeback I’ve had is to tell people I’m not currently planning on having children (which for me is true, I have 2 children and we are not planning on having any more). Sometimes they’ll try to reply with a coy, “Sometimes surprises happen…” I usually shut the conversation down by saying firmly, “We have a family plan in place. We aren’t having anymore children.”

      1. Annabelle*

        Ugh, I hate this. I have endometriosis, which not only has messed up my fertility but also causes health issues that kind of mimic early pregnancy symptoms. At a former job I had a group of coworkers – all women with kids, fwiw – constantly assume my pain-related nausea was morning sickness. It was really frustrating to keep saying “I’m not pregnant, quite the opposite, and that question is actually pretty hurtful.”

      2. ACS*

        Sometimes they’ll try to reply with a coy, “Sometimes surprises happen…”

        This can go very, very badly. When working retail, I watched this type of conversation devolve into a screaming match, since the woman who started the “accidents happen” topic was very religious, and the woman to whom she made the comment responded in a way that made it clear she was pro-choice.

        1. chomps*

          Hopefully, that taught the questioner to stop asking other women about fertility related issues.

      3. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

        When I found out my second child was a boy (my daughter was about 2.5 years old when he was born), I was dumb enough to respond honestly when people asked if I intended to have more- I said I thought we were done having kids at that point. One of my coworkers loudly asked “So, you’re going to go ahead and have your tubes tied while you’re on leave?” I was so taken aback I couldn’t even form words about how intrusive of a question that was.

      4. Kj*

        My old boss asked me if I was pregnant every time I had a migraine, since my migraines made me puke. Ugh. I loved that boss in a million ways, but not in that one! It was weirdly intrusive and I found myself explaining I had an IUD, which I did not want to talk about with my boss…. Ugh, just ugh.

        Bosses, do not ask about anyone’s fertility, family plans or birth control! You pay us, we work, we don’t owe you this info. It is not part of the contract.

  15. sap*

    #5, since it sounds like you have a few weeks before your spouse’s job starts, is it possible for you to use the answer that your husband’s new job won’t start for a few more weeks and you’ve been asked to keep it confidential until then? There are lots of non-moving, business reasons that could be the case (your husband has been hired by a new joint that hasn’t announced an opening date, or your husband has been hired by a joint that’s doing a steal opening as some sort of misguided publicity stunt, or your spouse has been invited to join the first season of Gordon Ramsay Screams At The Maitre D’ For An Hour. That way, your failure to answer is:
    -not attributable to you (reasonable people can take “I don’t want to talk about it” personally but will generally not take “I’ve been asked not to talk about it and I keep my promises” as personally)
    -doesn’t suggest anything about YOUR plans changing (since the cageyness of your husband’s new job is the cause, and people aren’t going to speculate about you–they’ll be busy speculating about what your husband could possibly be up to, which is far more interesting)
    -has the benefit of probably being true. Every time me/my husband has changed jobs we’ve had the conversation “what kind of gap will you have, do we want to take that time to go on a rare, covered, joint long vacation, and does (no quitting) spouse need to be earning income the whole time (i.e., no unpaid vacation?). I assume you and spouse talked about when you should give notice, as well.

    Of course, you might get some unwanted speculation about your spouse’s new job this way, but that seems like a better trade-off than risking your paycheck while you’re a single income family, especially since it will at most be 4 weeks of speculation.

    1. sap*

      *doing a stealth opening

      I think this may be what AAM meant by “he’s not ready to share his plans yet,” but I think there’s value to a script that’s more explicit about you being asked not to share (by an unspecified party). Is the party your in reality your husband? Yup. But I think most people will infer that it’s husband’s new job that’s made the ask and won’t hassle you–whereas if you are telling them it’s your husband, because he used to work with these folks they might get huffy about him not wanting them to know. I’m not normally an advocate of “make a vague and true statement, knowing that the most common inference will be false,” but preserving your income stream in an environment where plenty of notice will be punished with loss of income is an exception.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      or your spouse has been invited to join the first season of Gordon Ramsay Screams At The Maitre D’ For An Hour.

      The British version, I hope. You know it will be better than the American version.

      But yeah, I think “I’ve been asked not to talk about it” is a good plan.

    3. OP#5*

      I want to clarify that it doesn’t bother me so much that someone would ask where he’s going, if we were planning on staying put. But a District Manager out of state contacted his store directly, which put it out there that he was pursuing moving, which would automatically beg the question of what my plans are. People would assume that I’m moving too (which I am), or that he was leaving me, and I definitely would expect my boss to ask me about that. Just to give an idea of the gossip mill, yesterday my boss asked me if I was trying to go for another position at a nearby store, just because someone asked her if I would, which came totally out of left field… Like not even on my radar. And I would put in my notice now, just to give her plenty of time to find a replacement, but I can’t afford to be let go early and not allowed to work my notice. If I was confident that she would let me work it out, I would tell her now.

  16. Nico m*

    #2. Do you really have to see those people? I think that for the happy clappy wheel-out-the-spouses family values bullshit type company , you and the Mr have already pissed on that bag of chips.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      That visual was priceless from start to finish, from wheeling out spouses, to pissing on potato chips.

  17. Engineer Girl*

    #2 ” It was of course an instinctive, knee-jerk response to a horrible situation.”

    Hunh? I’m sorry, but I don’t buy this. Not one bit. Most people do not “instinctively” accuse other women of sleeping with their husbands! In fact, I can only think of one woman that I know like this, and she had a LOT of other insecurity issues. In her case she ordered her boyfriend not to speak to me. Since the boyfriend and I worked on the same project, it wasn’t going to happen. We just didn’t tell her that nothing had changed at work. Except now I was truly disgusted with her.

    You have done something really horrible. You’ve slandered the women and hurt their reputations because of your own issues.

    You need to stay far, far, far away.

    1. Yellow Bird Blue*

      It seems like the OP is aware she has some issues to work. I agree with your conclusion though – it’s not very likely that anything good will come out of approaching the women again. She should make amends behind the scene, if the opportunity arises – apologizing and taking responsibility, as Allison suggests.

      Otherwise, and those might be my cowardly instincts speaking, I would excuse myself from company events if I were.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I’m not sure. Using the terms “of course” normalizes the action. The problem is that most women would not make that kind of accusation.

        1. Oryx*

          Agreed. My “instinctive, knee-jerk reactions to a horrible situation” don’t involve accusing women of sleeping with my SO, even when my ex-SO actually *was* cheating on me.

        2. KR*

          I read it as her saying, “Of course I am aware that it was awful and recognize that.” And really she didn’t accuse us of having an affair with her husband so we’re not the ones she needs to explain herself to and apologize extensively to. I think it’s valid to recognize that this wasn’t a good action on the part of the OP but it grates on me to see commenters getting on her for not seeming sorry enough in the letter.

        3. chomps*

          Right. Plus, what kind of horrible situation would lead to a woman accusing two of her coworkers of having an affair with her husband? I mean, I’ve snapped at people before because I was irritated about something else, but it’s never involved me saying something like that.

    2. CodeWench*

      I, too, am confused by LW#2’s statement. I can only hope that the “horrible situation” the LW refers to is something more than her husband working with women. Particularly because it seems she must have accused him publicly in some way that got back to the women in question. I really wish we had more details about what went down.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I guess if you had a long history of men who’d slept with other women, possibly including your current husband, that kind of assumption might become “instinct?” Or if the “horrible situation” was that you walked in on them in a state of undress?

      1. paul*

        The only way I can see it being an “instinctual” reaction is you walked in on them en flagrante or close to it. Otherwise I’m at a loss.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        And two women, no less? I can almost understand overhearing something that might lead you to think it was one, but two? That’s very complicated and makes some kind of ‘leap’ harder.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Unless it was all three of them at the same time, which makes the “horrible situation” that much more… horrible.

        2. Risha*

          Maybe she found out he was cheating on her with someone else, and then started randomly assuming the same with every woman he spent any time alone with? His coworkers would be natural, easy targets.

          We should probably stop speculating, since this can’t be any fun for the OP to read.

    4. Cleopatra Jones*

      Even if he was banging every woman at work, this still wouldn’t have been the way to handle it.

    5. Squeeble*

      Maybe, but I read the “of course” as “of course this wasn’t a pre-planned action I took, it just came out and now I’m trying to figure out how to deal with it.”

      1. Mookie*

        Yes, I think the “of course” is meant to underline the spontaneous nature of the accusations, that they weren’t planned.

    6. Rat in the Sugar*

      Hey now, people don’t always word things the best way when writing in to Alison and I think we should give OP the benefit of the doubt and not assume she’s like that other woman you knew that one time. Telling people who write in that we don’t buy their story “not one bit” and that they’ve done something “really horrible” and “need to stay far, far, far away” does not really help with the situation she’s in and certainly does not encourage people to write in to the site. “Stay away” is not advice, you’re not telling her whether she should stop attending her husband’s work functions or stop showing up at his job site or anything else specific and actionable, just “stay away”.

      Also, you’ve honestly got no idea if those women had their reputations damaged because OP provided very little detail; they could be stellar and well-respected employees while OP’s wife is known to be impulsive and/or hot-tempered, in which case everyone might have just laughed it off and not had change their view of the coworkers at all. We have literally no way of knowing.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Actually she’s worse than my coworkers wife since she publicly accused the women of sleeping with her husband. And it’s become discussion among the staff. This is classic gender based harassment of women in the work place, especially male dominated ones. It’s a nuclear type of attack. It goes back to inferring that a successful women got her position through sex instead of merit. It is extremely damaging.

        “Stay away” is most certainly advice.

        1. Yorick*

          We don’t actually know how public the accusations were, or if there are just rumors about it

    7. CMDRBNA*

      THIS. Also, what the LW did could have real, tangible negative impacts on the lives/careers of the women she’s slandering. It could even be legally actionable depending on the circumstances. If the LW can’t trust herself to fling baseless accusations when she gets upset, she needs to keep herself far, far away from any work situations involving her husband. Yikes.

  18. sap*

    #2:. It seems like you’re getting a lot of feedback about the already completed, and wrong, actions of accusing these two women of an affair with your husband. And, everyone is right that it is way out of line that you accused these women of affairs. Even if you had been RIGHT, that’s between you + your husband; married people who have affairs rarely paint and honest picture of their marriage/intentions, and it’s the rare mistress who thinks they’re getting involved in a happy marriage that isn’t already “basically over, he’s just waiting until [x] to finalize the divorce/leave her/move out even though they’re already separated.” I don’t know whether you’re dealing with some serious insecurity, married to a person who is actually terrible and untrustworthy and experiencing the mental effects of that, or both. But I hope you deal with whatever the underlying issue is–this doesn’t happen when two healthy people are in a healthy marriage–something in your marriage needs treatment.

    But you’re not asking about your marriage; you’re asking about these women. And I disagree with everyone’s comments here on that, as well.

    When you’re socializing with people at these women’s level/above them in the org chart, I think you should be conscious about trying to make it clear that these women didn’t sleep with your husband. If people who might have a say in their promotion have heard that you accused these women of an affair, it could be bad for their careers. Try to drop a compliment of these women’s professionalism into a conversation. Talk about them unambigously with respect and trust. Show people that they should not think poorly of these women on your behalf.

    I would also advise you to be extremely conscientious about never, ever making any statements to your husband’s bosses about your feelings or knowledge regarding his work. Want to make a joke about never seeing him because he’s so busy? Too bad. Curious to get to know new hire x because of all the good things your husband has told you? That doesn’t come off well anymore. You want to be very, very conscious about telegraphing that your husband’s job is between him and his employer and you won’t interfere going forward.

    Finally, if your husband is these women’s boss, he is most certainly being talked to by HR; if he isn’t, he might want to do so proactively. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you reach out to HR. But you should communicate to him that you are open to whatever HR needs him to do about you, and that he’s free to share that during your discussions. Make it easy for him to ask you not to come to events based on what HT has told him/implied, and make it easy for him to offer solutions that will place boundaries on YOUR interactions with his co-workers while he’s talking to HR. You have probably created a lot of problems for his career. Your embarrassment is probably 1/10 of his–because he has to navigate this every single day. Make this about solving his work problems rather than your social problems, and be prepared to hear that it’s best for his career if you step back from events that you would otherwise be invited to. And that is EVEN IF he’s the problem in your marriage. No rocky marriage has ever been fixed by an otherwise faultless spouse threatening the wrongdoer’s career.

    1. Lora*

      +1 upvoted.

      Even if you decide to get divorced, don’t do this stuff, because in that process in order to get the best financial deal you really have to be on your best behavior even if your soon to be ex is a puppy-kicking jerk.

      If my ex had pulled these shenanigans while we were getting divorced, he’d have gotten a restraining order and would have needed a police escort to help him collect his things. I’d consult with your husband as to whether you should apologize or not – I’d imagine security is monitoring any contact you have with the company.

    2. OhNo*

      Well said, and you have some really excellent points about HR especially. They need to get involved no matter what, to help protect the company from any kind of issue that might evolve out of this mess. Better that you (or rather, your husband on your behalf) should proactively offer to cooperate, than to wait until they are ready to issue ultimatums.

      More than anything, I think it is important to keep in mind that sometimes, the best thing you can do when you’ve made a mistake is put others’ needs above your own. Even above apologizing, I think the best way to make amends to these two women is to put their needs first. That might mean apologizing. It might mean never seeing or speaking to them again. It might mean something else entirely that none of us have thought of yet.

  19. Yellow Bird Blue*

    OP3, I’ve had the exact same feeling. It’s weird how ‘off’ your own perception can be, right? But then again, it doesn’t necessarily need to have been off – the interview can have been great but that doesn’t mean you’re getting hired. I think it’s okay to trust that good/bad distinction without inferring too much from it about the hiring process, which you really can’t judge accurately anyway.

  20. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*


    By answering the question honestly, you passed on and received very important information. While we aren’t disorganized, tasks, goals and methods at Wakeen’s can change frequently. We try to get at this in interviews so that we match with people who are happy and comfortable with change. One woman’s “I love my job. It’s a bit hectic but it’s never dull . I always get do new things and I feel valuable” is another woman’s “This place is a circus, drives me nuts. I wish people would leave me alone to just do my job for a couple of months!”. For self aware folks, the interview should be the place to try to talk it all out to see if there’s a match.

    In your case, what if the employer wanted to be more organized but needed someone to drive the change? What if you were that person? Ideally and in hindsight, if you’d been able to ask questions to further a conversation about why the interviewer considered themselves disorganized, you might have found a real match out of what seemed like a mismatch on the surface.

    We do really well when we hire folks who thrive in our kind of environment and really poorly when we don’t. “Culture match” has come up so misused around here lately I’m becoming averse to the term. This is what I meant when I used to use the term (not “everybody is 28 and hangs out on Snap Chat dissing the odd woman out, all in the sake of bonding” kind of culture match O.o )

    1. AMPG*

      Yes to all of this. They asked the question because they wanted an honest answer – it’s in nobody’s best interest to hire someone who’ll be swimming upstream from day one trying to match the organizational working style.

      1. LW4*

        Thank you!

        I think my response was, on some level, a check to see how they’d react to questioning on their structure and all I literally got back was “oh we’re disorganised”, which wasn’t particularly useful. I would have asked more questions but I was struggling to get a word in edgeways around the interviewer as is.

        I’ll deliver more carefully answer this question in the future but won’t be holding my tongue either.

    2. Princess Carolyn*

      I’m not the OP, but I do prefer offices that are organized and have some processes in place. So, what’s the best way to explain in an interview that I do want a structured environment, but I’m still OK with change?

      I work in media and marketing, so adjusting on the fly is important, and I can do it. What I can’t do is hound people about their deadlines or extract information from people who hoard it or succeed without a strategy and plan in place.

      1. AMPG*

        I think the thing to talk about there is wanting a strongly collaborative environment, which allows a team to adjust as a unit to external changes.

      2. Story Nurse*

        Saying it just the way you said it here seems very reasonable to me. I’m a magazine editor and I think everyone I work with is quite cognizant of the difference between “I can’t cope with breaking news” and “don’t make me chase you down when you owe me work”. A well-structured environment where regular tasks are done on time with minimal hassle is what makes it possible to respond well and fluidly to irregular events, and anyone in media or marketing should understand that.

  21. EleonoraUK*

    I don’t know in what capacity OP #2 is visiting her husband’s office or why/when she’ll be seeing his co-workers, but from my perspective, regardless of her role previously, the best way forward would be for her not to be at any of his work functions for a good long time.

    If she worked there, it would be a different story and apologising would make sense, but since she doesn’t have a paid role at the company, the slight awkwardness of her absence at events she previously would have attended is preferable over the major awkwardness/risk of her being there.

  22. Bookworm*

    Oof to #3. Absolutely been in your shoes. Thinking the interview went well and I had a shot…only to be rejected. It could be any number of things that were mentioned: things changed for them and they can’t hire someone, they actually had someone else in mind and they hired that person instead, you really *were* a great candidate but you didn’t have a particular skill set they need, etc.

    I’ve also been on the flip side where I thought the interview wasn’t that great or I wasn’t feeling it (and thought the interviewers didn’t either!) only to find that wasn’t true.

    I’m sorry this one didn’t work out for you. But it may have been all for the best.

  23. AnonNurse*

    #3 – I completely understand how frustrating these things can be. It’s really hard not to try to find some reason or a better answer than a form rejection but sometimes it just didn’t work out.

    I had this happen recently. I was encouraged to apply for an internal transfer by multiple people in a department. I had an awesome panel interview and tour of the department. I didn’t think it was a lock but I sure as heck did think my interview had gone extremely well. And then I got the call. Because I was an internal candidate, they were kind enough to go in to detail as to why I didn’t get the job. It had nothing to do with me at all. If all things were equal, I would have had the job. The decision had been made. And then at the last minute they received an application from someone with 10+ years experience. So no matter how amazing the interview went, the job ended up going to the outside candidate.

    Did that make me feel a lot better in the end? Of course not but it did give me an answer as to how an interview could go so well without me ending up with the job offer.

  24. cornflower blue*

    LW #2 is sorry that she did what she did…but I don’t actually see text stating that she was wrong, just that she’s sorry about the accusation. Whether or not she was wrong changes what I would do next. Are we assuming that she was wrong, and no affair took place?

    1. Observer*

      Why does it matter? These things do not belong in the workplace, and they are between her and her husband. *Especially* since he was not a subordinate in this situation.

      What the OP writes also indicates that this was not a reasoned response to some specific and convincing facts but a bad response to a bad situation.

      1. cornflower blue*

        Because multiple commenters are telling her to go to hubby’s work social functions and make clear that the women are totally innocent. We don’t actually know that.

      2. cornflower blue*

        Again, not saying what she did is a good thing. I just see a lot of suggestions predicated on an assumption I wouldn’t have automatically jumped to.

        1. Malibu Stacey*

          I think it’s a reasonable assumption that the accusations were false, for the reasons Courtney and K pointed out below.

          If the women actually were messing around with LW’s husband, were she my friend the advice I would personally give would be similar – to stay away from husband’s work & work functions but if that’s not possible, apologize for bringing drama into their workplace where it didn’t belong. I’d try to explain to her how this is a “cut off your nose to spite your face” situation – where it might have felt good in the moment to punish everyone involved; it would end up having long-term ramifications that would not make it worth it, such as trying to knit a marriage back together when your husband’s professional reputation is in the toilet and he resents for it, or worse case scenario trying to get alimony & child support from someone who’s career advancement you have severely limited.

    2. Courtney*

      I am reading it as her being wrong. She refers to what she did as “craziness.” I don’t think it would be a crazy accusation if it was a correct one. I mean, it still wouldn’t be the way to handle it, but I can’t imagine that she wouldn’t elaborate at all on the fallout from the affairs, particularly since her husband is higher up and all involved still work there, if she had been right.

      1. K.*

        I also don’t think she’d be as concerned with trying to make things right if one or both women had actually slept with her husband.

  25. Recruit-o-Rama*

    Candidates. I like pretty much everyone I talk to about a job. I picked this career because I enjoy talking to people, asking them questions, getting to know them. Unless a candidate is a jerk, my interviews and phone screens almost always go really well and are very friendly in nature. My goal is to make people comfortable so they open up.

    I can really , really like a person as a person and still not think they are a good fit for the job. It is not personal at all. When I end my rejection letters with “I wish you the best of luck in your job search” I am sincere.

    I am in every conversation with a candidate with an open mind; thinking that they could be “the one” so I can see how that might come off as telegraphing “you are the one!” But I can’t think of any other way to approach an interview that wouldn’t telegraph that without unintentionally shutting the candidate down.

    OP, I’m sorry this happened to you, but please know your interviewers didn’t reject you personally, they did so for business reasons and the good feelings you left with are probably because they like you and think you are a good, nice, fun person who just unfortunately isn’t the right for for the job at this time.

  26. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – I feel like I might go a small step forward, and remind your boss that pregnancy is a protected condition under EEO laws. Like “I feel like you’re consistently telling me – and sending a message to the staff – that pregnancy is unwelcome in this workplace. It’s a protected condition under the EEO so that definitely concerns me. I also feel like I’m being singled out on this issue because I’m a woman.”

    1. OP #1*

      She actually said right after she asked, “Is this illegal? Could I be sued for this?” So, there’s that. I laughed uncomfortably at the time but next time I will absolutely use this language.

      1. (Different) Rebecca*

        It’s not illegal to ask, it’s illegal to discriminate based on the answer. But you definitely don’t have to answer.

        1. myswtghst*

          It’s not illegal to ask, it’s illegal to discriminate based on the answer.

          But once you do ask, it is certainly a lot harder to say with certainty that the answer didn’t affect the actions taken next, which is why it’s generally a good idea not to ask in the first place.

      2. Observer*

        She actually said that?!

        I’d say the best answer is “Probably. It’s certainly massively inappropriate.”

        Do you have an HR department? If they are any good they should be wondering why the turnover. And telling them what is going should get them moving, because there is an already existing cost to the organization, as well as the really major issue of a discrimination law suit down the pike. And that’s true even if you are in a jurisdiction that has few protections on pregnancy per se, as she’s basically treating all women of a certain age differently – and significantly worse – than she would treat men and it is TOTALLY because of their gender.

      3. INTP*

        Do you get the sense that she’s doing this as a sort of anxiety tic? She worries obsessively about the business and confirming that you aren’t pregnant is how she reassures herself that the sky isn’t falling?

        If that’s the case, absolutely try all the verbiage that is suggested here, but I also wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for change, unfortunately. (I’m not saying this as an “It comes from anxiety so you have to be understanding!” comment btw, ethically I don’t think it’s okay to constantly harass people you have power over no matter what is causing it – remove yourself from power if you have to. I’m not even suggesting it’s any particular anxiety disorder, some people do things like this because it’s just their personality type.)

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          If I suspected it was some kind of anxiety thing, I’d tell her something like “I know you worry about the business/your staffing/whatever, but constantly bothering younger women about whether they’re pregnant is inappropriate and discriminatory and it’s not OK no matter how you feel. You need to stop.” I’d be direct and confrontational about it.

          1. myswtghst*

            I don’t even think it’s necessarily confrontational – it’s just being direct. If you can say it with empathy, it could be helpful to acknowledge “This is clearly something which worries you, and I want to make sure you know I’ll tell you if it ever becomes relevant to my situation, but until then, it is really inappropriate to keep asking and I’d appreciate it if you could stop.”

            Then, if she keeps it up in future conversations, just keep circling back to “I know we’ve discussed how inappropriate this is, so I’m not going to answer that question. Let’s move on to…”

      1. Toph*

        True, but even if they might currently be under the threshold, if the boss isn’t aware and is asking the question, it’s probably worth pointing out to her that it exists. It doesn’t seem like the boss is doing this in any rational sort of way, so there isn’t really the concern that she’s intentionally operating under the assumption “well that doesn’t apply here”. It seems more like the boss is having an emotional response, absent any awareness of EEO, and with a vague idea that what she’s doing is inappropriate. So putting a hard label on it, to me, can only be a good think for the boss to have some new awareness of. It might help her keep herself in check. Maybe. Hopefully.

  27. always in email jail*

    #5 My husband and I are “colleagues” in our region, though we work for different organizations. When I’m asked about his plans or where he is or if he’s interviewing for the promotion etc., my go-to line is in the realm of “You’ll have to ask him about that! We draw a hard line at answering on behalf of each other when it comes to work matters, we both felt it was an important boundary to set for ourselves and everyone else. ‘work’ always in email jail doesn’t know any more about the situation than you do!” (vs. “home” always in email jail)

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Ooh, that’s a great answer.

      “As far as work is concerned, we aren’t married. I don’t answer for him the same way I don’t answer for anyone else who works for Sucracorp.”

    2. Cercis*

      My husband and I are in the same field and are active in many of the same organizations. I’m constantly being asked if he’s going to join a conference call or attend an event. I just say “I’m not him, so I can’t answer that” or “he’s at work, so I have no idea what his plans are” or some variation that makes it clear that I’m not going to respond. EVEN when I know his plans, I won’t answer (which is kind of a double standard, because if another colleague emails or texts me that they can’t make it to a call or a meeting, I’ll volunteer that information up front). In my case, it’s about trying to make a clear boundary between us, I’ve seen that other wives become de facto assistants to their husbands in this field (there are 3 couples in the field in our smallish city and we all work together to various degrees).

  28. Nox*

    #1. I had encountered an issue with my boss where he wanted me to upsell my client into paying for a backup account manager incase I got pregnant because we needed to protect the best interests in the company. [I’m the only resource on the account I run] He would constantly do this during our biweekly 1 on 1s and I would just sit there and laugh saying I don’t see kids in the cards right now and he would say well you never know.

    Eventually during one of the one on ones I popped out my pack of pills and said I do not feel comfortable using my womb as a sales pitch for a service that my client doesn’t need at this time. And he stopped….. for a while. Now when it comes up I openly get annoyed and he will slow his roll. Some places for whatever reason are so afraid of people breeding and leaving instead of coming up with ways to retain the talent once they return to the workforce that they will sit there and harp on this.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      *applauding* I love your direct approach. Often the best way to deal with people like this is to embarrass them by confronting them with how inappropriate their behavior is. In front of witnesses if necessary so they can’t deny the conversation happened or twist it around so it looks like you were in the wrong. (Unless they’re so bad they’re impervious to embarrassment…)

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m… having a hard time picturing this sales pitch. “I’m awesome, but I might leave, so you should pay extra for a backup.” Seriously?

      1. Natalie*

        As a customer, I’d assume coverage during my primary’s extended leave would just be included as a matter of course. Being told I’d be paying extra would have me shopping for a new vendor.

        1. required name*

          Yeah, I would seriously assume “coverage in case someone goes on mat leave” to come standard with what I’m paying. If I wanted to contract with that specific person for this specific job and have to accept that they would be unavailable at times, I’d being doing that. But I’m not. I’m contracting with the *company* and mat leave coverage is the company’s problem, not mine.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Exactly. Either I’m misunderstanding what Nox said, or this boss is, like, the worst salesman EVER.

          1. Nox*

            So to elaborate on this point I am a vendor for call center QA so I work directly with a client and we charge them managing fees and my salary. So I’m a contractor with a pimp essentially. You guys are absolutely correct that it’s normal for businesses to take care of internal coverage for medical issues and whatnot but at this organization there’s a push to try to sell this extra body even if they won’t be working on the account ever or full time to clients yup better serve their needs. It’s a crappy way to make more money because we don’t really have benefits or anything special here so all the extra fees are profit for them. [Which further provides me nore reasons why I’d be unable to even having a Kid as long as I work here – no insurance]

        3. paul*

          No frigging joke. Pregnancy isn’t the only medical issue that puts peoplee out of work for a period of time you know?

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s like the car pitch “Incredible reliability… Okay, now that you’re buying, you want to pay extra for the extended warranty, right? Because this baby could blow at any moment.” Except saying it about oneself.

  29. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#3. I just wanted to say I’m sorry you got an automated form rejection after interviewing twice with that company. That’s really rude.

  30. AndersonDarling*

    #3 It helps to remember that interviews are different from auditions. We can get swept up in crafting the best responses to common questions and working on posture, dictation, and other subtle cues. But in the end, the person with the best performance doesn’t get the job, it still comes down to skills, experience, and match.
    But, if you had a good connection with the interviewers, then you can keep them in mind for future positions. I didn’t get the job for the best interview I ever had. I was so impressed at how the interviewer/company handled the interview process, so I have a good feeling about the company and always keep my eyes open for any other positions.

  31. Observer*

    #1 Start looking. If you are right and she knows that this is not ok, nothing you say is going to change her behavior.

    TELL HER, *very clearly*, why you are leaving once you find a new job. Not “I’m pregnant”, even if you are, but “Your boundary crossing, making impossible to take a sick day, and paranoia had me looking since a few weeks after I took my first sick day.” It’s the truth. It may not help, but it’s the only thing I can think of which MIGHT.

  32. The IT Manger*

    #3. This is a way that job hunting is not like dating. Usually the person you’re dating is not simultaneously dating 5 or 6 other people and comparing you against them. Whereas the company probably will interview at least that many people before deciding who to hire.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      When you put it like that, job hunting is more like the Bachelor! Yes, you “had a genuine connection,” but he still went with someone else!

      1. Lora*

        I was about to joke, “oh so you dated my ex too?” and then I realized that like three guys I’ve dated (one of which I was married to for years) have done the same thing. It’s like there’s a factory somewhere that churns them out.

          1. Lora*

            Women outlive men, statistically – you can be old biddies together with your women friends. Like the Golden Girls!

    2. Oryx*

      Eh, people casually date multiple people before committing to one person all the time. That’s basically what the interview process is: casual dating.

      1. Malibu Stacey*

        But you don’t *have to* select a finalist in dating. Sometimes you have to hire *somebody* because you have a business need.

  33. Powerpuff Girl*

    OP #1 – I can totally relate.

    I’m 24, have been married for 2 years, and been at my current job for almost 2 years. My supervisor (who didn’t have children until she was almost 40), is constantly (unprompted) telling me the reasons why it’s best that I wait and have kids. I also have a husband who will graduate with his master’s in less than a year, and will be making very good money right out of school. So, my boss thinks that I’ll try and get pregnant, then leave to be a stay at home mom as soon as he graduates (neither of which are necessarily true). The real kicker was one day when I came back from my lunch break, I had an email from her with the subject line of “Reasons to wait…” In the body of the email, she had typed “just putting in my 2 cents :)” along with an image that said “Parents over 30 tend to have children with higher IQs, fewer behavioral issues, and lead more successful careers.” I was so irked. It’s non of her business WHEN I have kids, or if I chose to work once I have kids. Not to mention, NO ONE’S “2 cents” means anything on the issue except for me and my husband.

    I’m sorry about you situation, OP. Your boss is totally out of line!

      1. Powerpuff Girl*

        Sadly, she’s out of line in so many ways, it didn’t even surprise me. They didn’t do anything at the time, but now, several months later, she’s on a PIP. I’ve actually taken several things to HR on her, per big boss’s request.

        1. Observer*

          It sounds like they were trying to build up a dossier before going after her.

          Has the PIP helped any?

          1. Powerpuff Girl*

            I think that’s exactly what they were trying to do. Sadly, it’s not even the worse thing she’s said/done in her job. The PIP has helped (she’s been on it for nearly a month, and hasn’t said anything since then on the topic.) However, I’m afraid that (and other serious issues) will just start back up again if she makes in through the PIP.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      Yo, take that shit to HR, if you have one. It is so staggeringly out of line she can’t even see the line from here.

      1. Powerpuff Girl*

        It was several months ago, but I did take it to HR (which is located in another city). They didn’t do anything about it immediately, but she’s now on a PIP for that, among many, many other reasons. She happens to be out of line in pretty much everything she says/does.

    2. Jubilance*

      I would have gone to HR immediately – your manager is completely out of line. Would she have sent that email to a male employee who is married?

      1. Powerpuff Girl*

        It was several months ago, but I did take it to HR (which is located in another city). They didn’t do anything about it immediately, but she’s now on a PIP for that, among many, many other reasons. She happens to be out of line in pretty much everything she says/does.

        And no, she certainly wouldn’t have sent that email to a married male!

    3. CMDRBNA*

      Powerpuff, can you shut down this line of conversation with your boss?

      I’m an early-30s woman who is not ever having children, and in the past I’ve had to field a lot of bullshit about that decision (which, frankly, I’m not interested in discussing or defending with anyone because I think it’s a boring line of conversation).

      I just refuse to engage on that topic with anyone. I change the subject, or if they persist I act really bewildered about why they’re bringing it up at all. “What a strange thing to ask/say” followed by a puzzled silence is a really good way to shut it down. If someone lets a “when you have kids!” slip, I just smile and nod and let it go.

      Whether you intend to have kids or puppies or iguanas or whatever, your boss needs to stop.

      1. Powerpuff Girl*

        Honestly, I probably haven’t shut it down as much as I should (although I did take it to HR). She says/does so many things that cross the line, that nothing about her even phases me anymore. I usually just say, “well, my husband and I haven’t made any sort of plans on that, yet.” Probably not direct enough, I know – now that I’m reading it, it definitely leaves the discussion open for her to keep pestering me.

        I need to shut it down the way you do!

        1. CMDRBNA*

          Your mileage may vary, but when people persist in trying to bring up subjects I don’t want to engage on, my best strategy is just acting really bewildered about why they want to talk about it in the first place, because it doesn’t leave them anywhere to go with the conversation.

    4. Sunshine Brite*

      You should really consider taking that to HR or if there’s not HR her supervisor.

      1. Powerpuff Girl*

        Both HR and her supervisor are aware now. She’s actually on a PIP now, several months after this incident. Sadly, it’s not even the worse thing she’s said/done in her job.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      One of the best ways to get my hackles up is to talk about various IQ-raising nonsense theories. (You know what these people never have? Links to scientific studies. It’s all “…and may even raise IQ.”) There is no magic to the over-30 genome that enhances the intelligence of babies conceived then.

      The great discovery with rats was “Oh. It’s not that giving them cardboard tubes to play with turns them into genius rats. It’s that putting them in a bare cage with no stimulation isn’t normal and has negative effects on development.”

      1. Powerpuff Girl*

        I had the same thoughts! Aside from it being out of line, the “facts” in her email weren’t even facts at all.

      2. BF50*

        Even if the over 30 thing does raise IQ, it’s correlation, not causation. For example, most likely older mothers are frequently more financially secure and are therefore work fewer hours which may make it easier to spend more time reading to their children or they can afford a really great early childhood education program.

    6. cornflower blue*

      Besides the raging lunacy of doing this, is the info even correct? I vaguely recall reading science articles suggesting that older eggs and sperm may be linked to several disorders.

      Not saying you should even remotely consider her thoughts on the matter–but it’s extra crazy sauce on the WTF sundae if what she’s saying is wrong.

      1. Observer*

        Actually, there is some good evidence that age does seem to co-relate with problems after a certain point. So, yes, definitely an added helping of crazy sauce.

        1. BF50*

          It has been ages since I read this stuff, and it’s well off topic, but I thought that those studies related more to the viability of pregnancies, vs the child’s health or intelligence after birth.

          1. aebhel*

            Children of women over 35 are (slightly) more likely to have Down Syndrome, but outside of actual genetic disorders I don’t think there’s any evidence of risks to the child. Most of the risks of pregnancy in older women are to the mother.

            1. Rana*

              And it depends a lot on the health of said mother, her family genetics, etc. General demographic trends don’t really say a whole lot about a particular individual’s likely experience. (Though they do affect how doctors tend to treat you.)

        2. Kj*

          Honestly, while overall trends might be one way or the other, in the end, anything can happen to anyone- being a young mother is no protections, being on older mother is no protection, anyone can have a child with a disability. And every kid with a disability is different and valuable and wonderful and hard in their own way.

    7. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yuck. There’s just something so icky and passive-aggressive about giving “just my 2 cents” advice about something that’s really not your business, disingenuously pretending it’s to benefit the other person when it’s really purely self-serving.

      My sister had a boss like that in the opposite direction. When my sister was 22, straight out of college, her boss was telling her to have children right away. (Boss was late 30s and had recently had a baby herself. My sister was planning on going back to professional school after a two-year position, which Boss knew.)

  34. CMDRBNA*

    LW #1, I can understand you wanting to be sensitive and not make it awkward and all that – but your boss has ALREADY made it awkward. Let it be awkward! She is way out of line, and her fixation on people around her getting pregnant is frankly bizarre.

    It’s really admirable that you want to handle this gracefully, but it’s not your responsibility to spare the feelings of someone who is actually creating the problem here.

    Your boss’s speculation is gross. Your coworkers’ telling her that you were pregnant of April Fools Day is gross and wrong (I hope you had a chance to tell them how inappropriate that was??).

    It sounds like your boss’s terror of employees getting pregnant is her own stuff to sort out. If I were you, I would squash all pregnancy talk immediately and shut it down as a subject entirely. Your boss is going to have to take her pregnancy terror to someone else. And you’re under NO obligation to share the details of your illness with anyone, aside from any documentation your job might require re: sick days.

  35. Employment Lawyer*

    1. My boss is paranoid I’m going to get pregnant and leave
    Ask her to stop, in writing. Keep a copy of the email. The email will be necessary evidence if you’re then fired/demoted/mistreated, either for asking her to stop (retaliation) or if she suspects you may be pregnant. If she doesn’t stop, then you can either report to HR, call a lawyer, or live with it. Save all evidence and keep a diary of any comments (personal diary in your purse, not one on a work computer.)

    As a practical matter, if you don’t plan to get pregnant any time so, you may want to say so. You can also lie about it if you want. Telling her to stop will protect you legally but not socially. OTOH, convincing her you aren’t planning kids any time soon (truthfully or not) will also protect you socially. After all, it often costs employers a lot of money and time when folks leave: As a society we have chosen to classify this line of questioning as “unacceptable” in a legal sense, but it doesn’t change the effect on your employer.

    2. I accused my husband’s coworkers of sleeping with him
    Apologize openly and directly. if you don’t usually do this, read articles on “how to apologize” BEFORE you do so; a bad apology can be worse than no apology. Practice in front of a mirror before you do it in person. Be prepared to own the fallout.

    3. Is thinking an interview went well actually a bad sign?

    5. Can I tell my boss something is none of her business?
    Seriously, folks: If someone is leaving in six weeks, that is very much the employer’s business. And I mean that both literally and figuratively. It doesn’t mean you need to tell her (your own interests come first) but it’s ludicrous to claim that she shouldn’t want to know, or is being nosy, etc.

    Anyway: your husband put in 6 weeks’ notice and he works for the same company. Why do you think he would be OK and you would be fired? Were it me, I’d do a bit of digging to see how other notice-givers are treated. Companies who don’t respond well to early notice have waived their right to get it. OTOH, companies who treat people well (like your husband) have often earned the right to extra notice, if it’s available. Giving longer notice (and helping with a good transition) often pays major benefits for references.

    1. OP#5*

      They way notice-givers are treated has varied in the time that we’ve been with the company. I probably could have worded the question better. I just couldn’t think of a euphemistic was to say “none of your business,” I definitely wouldn’t use those exact words with my boss. I was mainly asking if my boss even has a right to ask what my future plans are based on my husband’s work decisions, because in most circumstances bosses don’t know what the spouse of an employee is doing. My husband is being allowed to work his notice, because letting him go early would put a huge burden on the rest of his store. I’m not in that position. It would be inconvenient to let me go early, but not a huge burden. The chances are high that I would be allowed to work it out. Regardless of how long of a notice I give (as long as it’s at least 2 weeks) or whether or not I’m allowed to work it out, I know what I’m entitled to when I leave (unused vacation time, etc…). But I need that unused vacation time in addition to being paid through my full notice.

  36. Observer*

    #2 Absolutely apologize. However, be very careful about HOW you apologize. Someone suggested reading up on how to apologize and to practice. Both are good ideas.

    Some things to keep in mind. This is NOT about making you feel better or even about them feeling better. Do NOT ask for forgiveness. This is NOT about them feeling hurt or offended – This IS about something the YOU did wrong.

    So keep it simple and straightforward. “I’m sorry for what I said, and my behavior to you at xyz. I was wrong and I apologize.” End. If this is in person, walk away, so they don’t have to respond.

    The main reason so many people are cautious about apologies is that all too often, it winds up putting a burden on the offended / damaged party. Whether it’s the “I’m sorry you’re hurt variety” which implies that the offended party bears some of the blame for being hurt, or the “please forgive me” (direct or implied) variety which puts the burden of smoothing things over onto the offended party, it s inappropriate and unfair. Don’t do it.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, this is excellent, especially the walking away. You are not saying this to get a response.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        And the “walking away” part is why a note might be a really good idea – because it means they don’t have to face you at all, and there won’t be any pressure on them to respond.

    2. myswtghst*

      Very well said. In this case, I think an apology should be a way for the OP to let these women know that she is owning what she did, and acknowledging it was wrong. That’s it. It’s not about forgiveness, or explaining why it happened, or making the OP feel better – it’s just about acknowledging “I was wrong and I am sorry.”

      Depending on the context (if the accusations were public / harmed the women’s reputations, what they have expressed to HR / the husband) it might be better to do this via a note, or it might be better to do it during the next event where they are in the same room, and if at all possible, I’d take their wishes into account when deciding how, but, FWIW, I’m in the “apologize, but be sure you do it for the right reasons and in the right way” camp.

  37. INTP*

    #3: As someone who has conducted a lot of phone screen-type interviews, I do see where that impression could come from. I’ve found myself being more relaxed and chatty with candidates after determining that they’re definitely not a fit, because I’m no longer thinking critically and trying to get as much information as I can, freeing up my brain for more small talk and friendliness. The candidate could see this as us having good chemistry and the interview going well, though I tried to be conscientious not to use any wording that implied they were getting an interview if they weren’t (I was just the HR assistant, and not supposed to reject people outright). So I don’t think it’s all in your head, though I do agree that at the end of the day, it’s a waste of time and energy to try to read into it because you really never know what the interviewer is thinking.

    That said, my personal experience with interviews with hiring managers at the later stages has been that they’re usually less friendly when I’m not going to get a call back – there’s usually a moment where I detect a note of them sounding annoyed with me, in a really subtle way. I guess this makes sense, I was on the phone all day no matter what but they took time out of their actual job to interview someone that didn’t work out. Though, I did once think I was hearing that annoyance and get a call back – it turned out that he was just an antagonistic personality type (we could never get through a deal with a vendor without him asking for special treatment, it was just culturally how he approached business).

  38. Suz*

    If I was OP#1 I’d be tempted to blame my period every time I was sick. “Hi Boss. I need to take a sick day. Aunt Flo came last night and the cramps are killing me.”

  39. gmg*

    OP #4’s question resonated with me. I once had an interview for an editorial gig at a consulting firm where the members of the interview panel made repeated jokes about being workaholics. They weren’t really jokes, of course — employees at this ostensibly M-F 9-5 gig were in practice expected to pull 60-hour weeks and come in every Saturday — and that was useful information to have because that wasn’t a work style I was in any way interested in.

    The twist was that after the first workaholic joke was cracked (and before I had picked up on what the schedule was expected to be), they asked me why I was interested in leaving the job I held at the time (on a newspaper copy desk). I explained that their work was much closer to what I’d gone to grad school intending to do, and that I felt my skill set and interests aligned really well with what they needed — but also mentioned that I wouldn’t mind having a more “normal” work schedule. Well, that was like a hand grenade of miscommunication, and what I had to quickly follow up and explain was that my schedule at the time was 3-11 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. I’m not sure this really computed with them, as it often doesn’t with office folk, but it also helpfully elicited the “but, but, but, everyone around here does M-F 8-7 and then Saturday 8-1 or sometimes longer” information.

    I was never 100% sure how to handle the schedule issue in an interview — anyone else had this problem? I know it doesn’t ever come up for many people, especially in white-collar work. Like OP’s thoughts re honesty about organizational style, it seems like an obvious enough thing that it makes sense to be up front about it, while taking care to show that it’s not your No. 1 concern. But I realize the risk even if it’s mentioned at all is that the employer then thinks “well, you don’t really care specifically about working HERE, you just want a better schedule.”

    1. INTP*

      I’ve frequently asked “What would be the expected hours for this position?” late in the interview process and it doesn’t seem to give the impression that I don’t want the job. This would be, of course, after you’ve already shown interest by going to multiple interviews and asking plenty of questions about the company.

      I haven’t figured out a reliable way to gauge the total number of hours actually expected. You can try asking open-ended questions like “What is the company culture like?” and listening for red flags like “We’re ambitious and motivated” or “work hard play hard.” But unfortunately even if you outright ask the expected hours. It seems like the standard response is “40 hours per week, with overtime as needed in special situations” but then you have no idea if you’re working 40 hour weeks 48 weeks of the year, or if the company culture is so chaotic that a “special situation” arises literally every week.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I think even that is industry-specific. If I asked “what are the expected hours?” for a job in advertising, I would probably get a “WHUT?” double take, because it’s understood that the hours in this line of work are unpredictable and based on client whim. In my experience it’s worked better to ask certain strategically phrased questions, such as “Is this a launch?” (if the answer is yes, *guaranteed* 60-hour weeks will be involved), coupled with asking anyone I know at that agency, especially those who do not have a vested interest in the hiring process, what the hours there are like.

        1. gmg*

          That makes sense. Curious, though: Are there agencies that compensate for those 60-hour weeks by giving you a breather after the launch is done, vs agencies where that breather never really happens because they prefer to run on a shoestring and burn through talent? In the case of the firm I interviewed with in this example, the excuse for the 60-hour weeks was “well, it’s when we have a proposal due,” but I knew enough people who worked at this place to be aware that either proposals or large-scale grant/contract report documents were due almost every week.

          1. CMDRBNA*

            And a lot of employers are dishonest about things like office hours – maybe not deliberately, but I’ve accepted jobs only to later find out the employer misrepresented things I had specifically asked about. For example, I interviewed for a fed job and explained that I do volunteer work in the evenings, and was interested in working flextime or an earlier schedule (which would have made a lot of sense for that position, because my portfolio was southeast Asia, and working earlier would have given me a few hours overlap with our contacts who were posted there as opposed to receiving emails from them starting at 5:00 pm).

            I was assured that flextime was a thing, other people did flextime, it was fine. After I started, I found out that only ONE person was on flextime and it was because she had been given it by a previous director and was kind of grandfathered in. No one else was allowed to have it. I needed to leave the office at 5:00 instead of 5:30 one day a week for physical therapy and it required WEEKS of negotiating and an official memo to be allowed to work 8:30 – 5:00 one day instead of 9:00 – 5:30.

            I quit after six months.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Rather than a “normal schedule,” you might say you’re interested in a “more typical shift.” It puts the emphasis on when you work, and not how long you work.

    3. Princess Carolyn*

      People really do struggle with the copy editor schedule. It’s like they can’t comprehend that professional, white-collar jobs might have hours that resemble a factory worker’s.

      Eventually I started saying I was interested in “moving to working days instead of nights,” rather than the “a more normal schedule” thing. And it does go over better if it’s accompanied by a good reason for your interest in that specific job and that specific company.

      1. gmg*

        “Working days instead of nights” — perfect rephrasing. I can tell you’re a darn good copy editor. Or perhaps that should be “darned good.” :-)

  40. Irish Em*

    OP3 I feel your pain. I always assume I haven’t got it in the hopes that I’ll be pleasantly surprised. However, my last interview (customer service in the local branch of the bank) went really, really well. I had great banter with the interviewers, I was asked questions that were obviously trying to get deeper into me, it went on for ages, and I walked out of there still sure I hadn’t got it… until I mentioned in passing to a friend who does recruitment that the interview had taken ages and all the other good signs and she basically said “You’ve definitely got it!” Annnnnd… No.

    So, I am returning to my automatically assuming I haven’t got it, and now I’m not telling people when I have interviews so I’ll stop getting messages like that – she meant well, and was trying to encourage me, but it just fell flat. I wish you all the luck in the world, OP£, and I hope you have that magic interview that leads to getting the offer really soon.

  41. Cheesehead*

    #1: There were some good suggestions above about telling the manager to knock off the pregnancy comments, and pointing out that she’s on thin ice legally. So along those lines, I’d almost want to draw her out a little bit when she asks. “Boss, what would you do if I actually said that yes, I’m pregnant? Are you going to fire me? Demote me? What outcome are you looking for by asking me that question so frequently?” Let her chew on that. Because really, that’s the next step. What WOULD the boss do if the OP had an unexpected pregnancy?

    Legally, at that point, she couldn’t do anything without repercussions. So point that out to boss….what is her end game with asking so much? Is she trying to drive the OP to quit before she becomes pregnant? And then tell the boss that the specific questions about her health status (because that’s what they are) need to stop. Harassing someone (even if this wouldn’t be harassment in the legal sense) about private health concerns is not cool and it makes it very difficult to do her job when the random threat of being interrogated about her private reproductive habits is stressing her out.

    And I think the OP should start refusing to answer any medical-related questions at all. If she’s taking a sick day, she’s ‘under the weather’. No specifics. And always refer to any further prying as ‘private medical information’. “Are you asking me to share my private medical information?” “Sorry, I don’t share private medical information. I should be fine to come in tomorrow, but if not, I’ll let you know.”

  42. alie*

    An ask for advice related to number 4 – any suggestions for what to do once you start somewhere and the environment is very off from your preferred style? Any coping strategies would be much appreciated!

    1. LW4*

      In all my roles, I’ve found ways to bring structure to my own job and then (if others see the benefits, which they normally do) offer to help colleagues and my wider team introduce a bit more structure to shared tasks. (I normally use collaborative spreadsheets or agreed processes because setting up regular meetings is never going to work.)

      I’ve been lucky though to always go into new roles that were quite autonomous so I had the freedom to do this. If you’re in a role where you don’t have any real control over processes then I’d recommend just trying to structure your own day so you can plan time for unexpected work to land on you rather than feeling constantly overwhelmed.

  43. Bets*

    I had a boss like this when it came to pregnancy. She was so worried about it because, when new moms came back to work, she refused to offer any amount of flexibility for this really hard adjustment period and that usually meant they left. She said things things like “being a parent doesn’t mean you get special perks” while simultaneously doling out perks and promotions to those who didn’t have kids. Some women have really internalized the misogyny inherent in the American workplace.

  44. Student*

    #1 If you’re already reconsidering this job anyway, I’d be tempted to have a very blunt heart-to-heart with this boss.

    Something along the lines of, “You keep fretting about what will happen if I get pregnant. This is causing me significant problems, and there are some major issues here you need to address.

    1) People taking pregnancy leave, just like other temporary medical leaves, or even leaving the company, are a normal part of business. You’re the manager; you are literally employed to deal with exactly that kind of thing. If you have no idea what you’d do if any specific person on staff was unavailable for a couple weeks, then you need to step up your game and make some contingency plans, get familiar with your options. That is your job. I’ll try not to be a jerk about leave so that you have some advanced warning when possible, if you ease up on your general panic about it.

    2) You asking me incessantly about whether I may be pregnant and dwelling on how such a major life change for ME would impact YOU is wrong on so many levels. For one, if I ever get pregnant, it is not about YOU and it will never be about YOU. You do not get a vote. I resent your attempts to influence MY deeply personal decision based on what would be convenient for YOU.

    For another, you’re making the occupancy of my uterus a subject of office jokes and gossip! This is so hurtful. You are the boss here; I expect better of you. I expect you to stop that immediately, and quash future speculations/conversations about it among my co-workers.

    For a third, it sends a message that you don’t trust me at all to be professional about major leaves of absence. What have I ever done to make you think I won’t be professional about taking time off? I’ll give you reasonable notice, provided you stop acting like the sky will fall if I get pregnant. If you keep acting as you have, then I will run for the hills soon, and it won’t be due to a baby. It’ll be due to your treatment of me.”

  45. DCompliance*

    #1- Just want to add, as someone going through infertility issues, the questions OP’s boss is asking could be incredibly painful to some people.

  46. nnn*

    On my first pass, I read the title of this post as being about just one letter, i.e. LW’s boss worries she’ll get pregnant, so in retaliation LW accused her husband’s co-workers of sleeping with her boss.

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