I’m mentoring a know-it-all

A reader writes:

I have been in my position for about two years now and have a “mentee.” There’s nothing official about this relationship; it’s just an informal setup our team does to help onboard new people who get hired. We are the same level and position. I am just a person who is more experienced and acts as his guide to the company and the job.

I actually think his attitude overall is great and he is meeting the job’s expectations just fine. No complaints from me in terms of his work ethic, quality, or general demeanor. However, (and I have had multiple peers confirm this) he has a habit of being TOO helpful and it comes off like he’s a know-it-all. I know it sounds childish, but it’s actually very off-putting when other peers come to me or other senior analysts on the team with questions and he will interject with an answer, and not always correctly. I appreciate that he wants to help, but I also somewhat wish he knew his place (as dictatorial as that sounds).

Now he’s asking for a mid-year review and I hope to provide some kindly worded feedback.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • I seem too shy in interviews
  • My offer letter promised me a six-month raise, but it never happened
  • My manager shared my pregnancy with people before I did
  • Employer wants to know what my other offers are

{ 160 comments… read them below }

  1. Mediamaven*

    So, the manager who announced the pregnancy was completely inappropriate but let’s be fair. If she didn’t want people to know her personal medical information, perhaps she shouldn’t have used her company printer (and their paper and ink) to print it out. She should accept at least some responsibility for leaving it in there. Doesn’t excuse her manager sharing it but she left herself vulnerable to that.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Yeah, I would not advise talking to the boss. At a minimum, the OP should have said something to her manager when the document was dropped off. I understand she didn’t know if the boss read it or not, but she made the decision not to say anything to the manager in the moment and ask her to keep it confidential. Then, she waited several months to tell others at work. Without the boss intentionally gossiping, it would be easy to spill the beans. (Oh, we can’t assign OP to that, she’ll be on maternity leave.) She may have assumed it was public knowledge.

      1. Anion*

        If I’d found something like that on a work printer, I would have assumed it was public knowledge, honestly–otherwise why would she be using the work printer for it and not immediately picking it up?

        1. Jay*

          I agree – if I found something on a printer at work I would assume it was public knowledge…if not why would it be printed somewhere that anyone could see a document? I do print my own personal documents at work and do so while bringing my laptop to the printer room to hit print and I’m still aware that anyone who happened to be in the print room can read my documents. If I truly wanted anything private I would go over to my in-laws and have something printed there. All that aside, if OP wanted something kept private and knew her manager had held a document that she could have potentially read she should have said something to her manager. Having gone through pregnancies at work three times it is not all that uncommon for it to come up in conversation before officially communicating it as its not always that easy to hide!

        2. Katelyn*

          What if it was someone’s annual review paperwork? Would you assume that it should both be read and shared around the office? What if the review was bad?

          I think that you should assume anything not yours on the printer is confidential and that if it’s public someone will talk about it, at which point you’ll know it’s public.

          1. Anion*

            No, because someone’s annual review paperwork is a work item, which one would expect to be printed at work. The issue here isn’t “Anything on a work printer is fair game,” it’s “If Sally is printing personal docs related to her pregnancy on a work printer, and leaving them there instead of waiting by the printer to collect them, she’s probably not too worried about people seeing them–i.e. this pregnancy is news she’s shared already.”

            That doesn’t mean I’d run around excitedly asking people if they knew Sally was pregnant, but we don’t know that the manager did that, either. It does mean that if someone asked me if they could work on a project due in nine months with Sally, I might innocently say, “No, the baby’s probably due around then,” or “I don’t want to burden Sally with too many assignments around that time since her maternity leave will probably be starting.”

            The OP didn’t say they announced it to the office and everyone was like, “yeah, we knew that, manager called a meeting to tell us.” She says one person–one particular office friend–knew, and doesn’t explain the context of how that person knew except to say the manager told her (given that this is an office friend, it’s possible the mgr went to her to ask if she wanted to plan an office shower or go in on a gift or something, too). Without knowing how or why the subject came up, I just can’t fully condemn the manager for it. Just because it’s personal news doesn’t mean it’s gossip.

    2. Mike C.*

      No, this is incredibly unreasonable. Most companies are perfectly fine allowing the minor use of things like a printer.

      She is in no way responsible for the actions of someone else.

        1. Mike C.*

          I don’t understand this response at all.

          Nothing about printing something on a work printer forces a manager to start spreading private medical information about one subordinate to other subordinate.

          1. Wendy Anne*

            And no one forced her to print and leave private information on a public printer. Both people made mistakes, but the boss’s mistake would never have happened if the LW hadn’t left the info out in public.

            1. Not a Real Giraffe*

              But all the boss had to do was say to OP, “hey I found this document on the printer, is this something that we should talk about?” or similar to open the conversation. Just because the boss found the info didn’t mean s/he had to share it with others without first talking to OP.

              1. tigerStripes*

                Yeah. I mean, it would be better not to print it on a work printer, but the manager should have talked to the OP – not everyone wants to announce their pregnancy immediately, and it seems a bit much to me that the manager talked to everyone EXCEPT the OP about this.

            2. Amber T*

              There’s a difference between forgetting that you printed something and sharing someone else’s personal medical information. One is minor slip up that happens to everyone. The other is a violation of privacy. The boss’s “mistake” would never have happened… if she didn’t divulge someone else’s personal medical information. It would be one thing if the coworker or others had found out via the printer, but that’s not the case.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I really don’t think that’s true. If the manager found a document with personal details of the OP’s divorce, would it be okay for her to share that around the office too? It wouldn’t be.

              It’s true that if you leave something on an office printer, you can’t be shocked if people read it, but managers should be expected to handle information about their employees with discretion.

                1. Drew*

                  It could have been a high-risk pregnancy that the employee wasn’t ready to disclose. Or it could have just been something the employee was choosing to celebrate privately with their partner before announcing it more widely later. I am firmly in Team Don’t Spread My Info Around Thanks.

                2. Zombeyonce*

                  Not in all cases. What if OP wasn’t going to continue the pregnancy for some reason that’s entirely her business. How upsetting would it have been to find out people now know way too much about your personal choices? The manager should have kept it to themselves.

      1. You're Not My Supervisor*

        It’s not using the printer that makes this situation open to interpretation, it’s leaving your private medical info out in a public place where there should be no expectation of privacy, and then getting annoyed that your privacy was violated.

        1. Mike C.*

          You have plenty of expectations that your own manager will be professional enough to either deliver the information without talking about it or immediately shred it upon coming across this.

          This is nothing more than victim blaming.

          1. Angelinha*

            Shred it?!? I agree with the people who are saying that if you left a document effectively announcing your pregnancy in a public area, it’s not great that the manager shared it, but you can’t really be shocked. If you’re going to print something secretive at work you should run and grab it right away!

            Plus, it says the friend said the manager had told her months later. It could be that the manager kept it to herself for awhile, then when LW started showing, figured it wasn’t a secret anymore.

            I don’t think it was the manager’s news to share but I’m not scandalized that it happened.

            1. Mike C.*

              Yes, either hand it over to the person it belongs to or shred it, that’s really standard for offices that deal with sensitive materials. You can always print something again.

              And yes, you can be shocked that a manager would casually discuss private medical issues with coworkers because part of a manager’s job is keep certain types of information private. I can’t for the life of my understand why this is so controversial, it’s been discussed many times here.

              1. Justme*

                Agreed a billionty. The manager could even go a step further to and say “Hey, I found something of yours on the printer with private medical information and I shredded it before others could find it.”

              2. Shadow*

                It’s understandable. pregnancy info is a bit different from most health info as most people think of it as good or exciting news that will be shared (at least eventually) as opposed to info about a medical problem that can be kept private.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Yeah, sure, but most people–I’d say almost everyone–want to be in charge of when that information is shared.

                2. tigerStripes*

                  It could be a high risk pregnancy, or it might have been very early in the pregnancy, and in both cases, the OP might not have wanted to talk about it yet. Either way, a manager should have known better than to spread the information about without talking to the OP first.

              3. Amber T*

                Agreed. OP writes she didn’t officially share it with coworker until months later, for reasons that are entirely her own, but there were reasons she waited. This is another instance of pregnancy being made everyone’s business, which shouldn’t happen.

              4. crookedfinger*

                Yeah, I’d be shocked too.

                HAVING information about someone else doesn’t give you the right to SHARE that information with others, no matter how you learned it.

              5. Mookie*

                Completely agree with you here and throughout the thread on this subject. I’m bewildered by the notion that This Is What She Gets. Implicit in that framing is the understanding that something’s bad happened but she has no call to complain about it. It’s very weird.

              1. Justme*

                That doesn’t matter. What matters is he appears to be the only one who shared that information. If others did happen to see it, they kept it to themselves.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I think it’s a stretch to call it victim blaming. The OP wasn’t a victim. As others have pointed out, the manager wasn’t necessarily gossiping when she mentioned the pregnancy to the coworker. It’s an unfortunate mistake.

          3. HR Caligula*

            I’m 100% with Mike on this one. A manager with any professional decorum would know this was not her news to share.

        2. Brandy*

          I have found all sorts of court info (child support issues) and tax info left on printers. I see it, recognize what it is and discreetly take it to the person. I wouldn’t dream of letting that info be public. Its a mistake they made to leave it there.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        She is responsible for her own actions, though, which include management of her confidential information. She mismanaged her info, and then she was mad because her manager mismanaged the same info!

        1. Mike C.*

          Stop it with the “responsibility” crap. She’s not responsible for her manager talking to everyone else.

          Just because I forget to lock my front door doesn’t mean I’m responsible for someone robbing me. The person robbing me is. This is no different.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            She is responsible for her manager knowing the information and not telling her it was confidential. You make it sound like the manager broadcast it to everyone. Geez. We have zero evidence of that. I think it is a lot more likely that it came up in passing, or the boss didn’t know it was not public knowledge. I can easily see the boss casually chatting with another employee along the lines of, “Speaking of OP, I had not heard OP was pregnant. Good for her.”

            I also think you’re responsible for securing your home and belongings, so you lost me with that analogy.

            1. Mike C.*

              You don’t need to tell something that medical information is private, it should be presumed that unless said otherwise. If we were talking about specific business planning issues that’s one thing, but this nothing more than causal gossip with subordinates.

              And the analogy is quite simple – just because someone didn’t do everything to prevent someone else from doing a bad thing to them does not make them responsible for the bad thing someone else does to them. The only person responsible for doing the bad thing is the person doing the bad thing. It places the blame on the wrong person and gives others a false sense of control.

              1. Raine*

                I agree with you that the boss shouldn’t have shared the information and should have at least said something to OP, but it seems like OP is also partially at fault because she didn’t pick up the document quickly at all after printing it and didn’t say anything to her boss when she knew it was possible that she had read it.

                The boss was insensitive but the OP did make a mistake which caused the problem.

              2. Raine*

                The boss is still 100% at fault for sharing private information. That is not okay in any way. The OP had an opportunity to avoid the information being shared by saying something to the boss when she gave her the printout, but she didn’t. That doesn’t make what the boss did okay at all but the OP didn’t do what she could have to stop it.

                1. JessaB*

                  Also we don’t know if the boss shared the information before or after they gave the paperwork back to the OP. That information is not clear.

          2. Shadow*

            Carelessness is your own fault. You can’t leave your house unlocked and be surprised when someone breaks in.

              1. You're Not My Supervisor*

                But, nobody robs a house thinking “the homeowner won’t mind, since they left the front door unlocked and all.” While I think it’s totally understandable how the boss might have thought the pregnancy was not a secret when they found the info left casually on the printer.

                1. 42*

                  >>it’s totally understandable how the boss might have thought the pregnancy was not a secret when they found the info left casually on the printer.<<

                  Not the boss's call to make. OP's body, OP's call.

                  At the VERY minimum, if the boss absolutely had to share to news all around, she should have *asked permission* first. "I found this; is this common knowledge yet?" It's not hard to do.

                2. Blossom*

                  I think the reasonable assumption to make as a manager is that if you don’t know about your direct report’s pregnancy, then almost by definition it’s not public knowledge in the workplace. (I don’t count social relationships between colleagues, e.g. Ms Pregnant whispered it to her lunch buddy)

                3. Mookie*

                  This is absurd. Seeing something in a printer means someone intended to take it but got side-tracked or forgot about it. No one interprets printed material in the printer as a free-for-all. Why are people pretending they don’t know this?

                4. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                  >But, nobody robs a house thinking “the homeowner won’t mind, since they left the front door unlocked and all.”

                  Actually, I’m pretty sure one serial killer (Ramirez, maybe?) chose his victims based on whether or not they left the door unlocked, because if they did then they were basically giving him permission to enter.

              2. Shadow*

                True but to me the important question is did she take reasonable steps to keep it private? When the answer is no she shares at least some blame

                1. Mike C.*

                  No, this isn’t how it works. If someone breaks into my house and I’ve left the door unlocked, I don’t share in the jail time the thieves earn from robbing the place nor am I charged as an accessory or as an accomplice.

                  Same thing here.

                2. Purplesaurus*

                  She’s partly to blame for the information being seen, but not at all for her manager sharing that information with others.

                3. Mookie*

                  No, that’s ridiculous. We keep lots of sensitive material around us all the time, like social security cards in wallets. Leaving your wallet doesn’t imply people are now free to open the wallet and use the information and money within at will.

              1. tigerStripes*

                +1000 on what Amber T said. Leaving a document on the printer too long is something people do sometimes.

          3. tigerStripes*

            “Just because I forget to lock my front door doesn’t mean I’m responsible for someone robbing me.” This!

          4. Thermal Teapot Researcher*

            “Stop it with the “responsibility” crap.”
            This is getting uncomfortably aggressive.

        2. Soon to be former fed*

          This situation is what hold print is for. Go to the printer, punch in your code, and print while you are standing there.

          I don’t think the manager should have said anything though, I return forgotten docs, even work related one, without looking more than necessary to get the name of the rightful owner. People forget stuff.

      3. Help!*

        Agreed. The extreme anti-printing at work stance I see on here when the topic comes up is totally foreign to how anywhere I’ve worked has operated.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          I don’t think anyone is saying that you “can’t” or absolutely “shouldn’t” print personal stuff at work. I think everyone is saying (and I personally agree) that if you choose to print something at work you MUST accept a certain level of risk in that personal information being exposed (particularly if the person doing the printing is not vigilant about collecting their personal documents right away or using some sort of secure printing option).

          1. Amber T*

            But OP isn’t mad that her manager found out via the printer that she was pregnant. She’s mad that her manager shared that information (which she had no business in sharing) with someone else. There are two separate actions here – discovering something on the printer (not manager’s fault, and OP doesn’t claim that to be), and sharing it with a third person (which manager chose to do).

            1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

              I think everyone here actually agrees but I think people are getting a little lost in specific wording. I NEVER said that the manager should have repeated the information. This isn’t a zero sum game or an “either-or” situation. OP should have been more careful with her personal information AND the manager should not have shared the information she stumbled across. Its not one or the other.

              All I’m saying is that the OP does share some (in my opinion, a minor portion) of the blame for doing something that I think we can all agree was pretty dumb (leaving personal, confidential information sitting on a shared printer for any amount of time – no offence meant to the OP, we’ve all made dumb mistakes).

              1. Mike C.*

                You aren’t saying the same thing as I am. I am saying that the OP bears no blame or responsibility for her manager talking to everyone else about the pregnancy.

                That leaving the paper on the printer does not in any way, shape or form mean that the manager must talk to everyone else about it. It’s the responsibility of the manager to stfu when it comes to the private medical matters, regardless of how the manager finds out.

                1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

                  Ok, well I think you and I are at least 75% on the same page, because as I’ve already said: IT IS NOT OK THAT THE MANAGER SHARED THIS INFO. Sorry for the shouty caps, but I truly believe everyone agrees that the manager should not have shared this info.

                  I also (again not at the exclusion of the above) believe that the OP should not have left personal, confidential, sensitive information on a printer. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on the that small portion of the blame that I think the OP shares, and that’s totally ok. I just don’t we’re that far apart on this.

          2. Ramblin' Ma'am*

            Yeah, I do print personal stuff at work because I don’t have a home printer. It’s common in my office and nobody minds. But our printers also use a secure log-in. You have to swipe your badge to access any documents you’ve sent to the printer. Then after it’s printed, it’s automatically deleted.

            1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

              I print personal stuff at work all the time! It’s a risk I’m willing to take.

              If it’s something truly confidential/sensitive (either personal or work related) we have a secure print option and it’s amazing!

          3. 42*

            Sure. But just because personal stuff is found does not mean it’s open season to share at will. I don’t understand the confusion around this. It’s not hers to share no matter how it was found.

            Would it be any different if the OP retrieved that paper from the printer but unknowingly dropped it on her way back to the desk, and THEN the boss found it? Or if the OP had printed it at home and dropped it on the floor for the boss to find?

            Why does it matter where it was found?…It was found and it’s still no one’s information to share but the OP.

      4. Xay*

        Agreed. If you find a document on the printer that isn’t yours, you don’t get to read it and announce the contents to everyone in the office. That’s common courtesy.

      5. Where's the Le-Toose?*

        If a coworker who is a peer had found the OP’s information on the printer, then I agree with the masses that OP is to blame because a random coworker peer is not in a position of authority when it comes to the OP’s information.

        But since the manager is the only one who found the information, and since the manager is obligated to keep private medical information private no matter how the manager came across the information, I have to agree with Mike C that the manager was way out of line. The manager is a representative of the company, and most states have laws that prohibit the company from disclosing private medical information.

        I’m going on my third direct report being pregnant in the last 18 months. For each one, when they tell me, the dialog is as follows: “You’ll need to confirm your leave with HR and you have to have that conversation directly. As for your coworkers and my boss, your pregnancy is on a need-to-know basis. I won’t tell your coworkers. And my boss will only know if it’s absolutely necessary. Sharing your pregnancy news is your news to share, not mine. I’m very happy for you and just let me know what you need.”

        The fact that the manager found the document on the printer is no different than the OP telling the manager directly. Managers can’t gossip about their direct reports. Ever. And that’s what this manager did. OP gets a pass on this one.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      If you’re printing something personal and sensitive to a shared work printer, you shouldn’t “get caught up” doing other things and forget to pick it up.

      That doesn’t mean it was appropriate for her manager to share, but I think it would be weird to say something about it to the manager at this point.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah, if she was going to bring it up and request privacy, she should have said something to the manager at the time. “Oh! Thanks for bringing that over, I lost track of time and it’s a sensitive document. Could we keep this info just between us?”

        Also, even though Boss brought it over, some other coworkers might have seen it as well. I’ve often gone to pick something up from the printer and seen that others had left their documents. I didn’t bring them over, I just left them for the person to get on their own time. It wouldn’t be difficult or even privacy violating to glance at a document that was just laying there and see what it was.

        As an aside, my last few workplaces implemented a type of printing where you had to walk over and scan your badge, and only then would your printouts appear. This saved so much hassle with people printing things and forgetting about them, or people taking documents that weren’t theirs, and then tossing them.

        1. paul*

          God yes.

          I’m pretty sure I knew a coworker was getting a divorce before her spouse did (and good for her, he was a bastard).

          1. Turquoisecow*

            People were often printing personal things in my office. Which is fine, but don’t get mad if it gets lost or others see it.

            On the rare occasions I printed something personal (maybe two or three times in the past decade?) I made sure that it was a small document, I ran over to get it ASAP, and I tried to do it at a quiet time, like when a large number of people were on lunch, or early or late in the day.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              But she’s not upset that someone saw it. She’s upset that someone saw it, recognized it was hers, and then shared what she saw with other people.

              I think it’s possible that the boss genuinely thought her friend already knew, but it’s not reasonable to me how many people are acting like this is an unreasonable thing to feel upset about. I do agree though that she should have said something in the moment when the boss brought her the paper; no point in bringing it up now I think.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I once had a coworker call me to retrieve a job requisition for another company from our printer. He was at home and accidentally printed it here. I was asked not to say anything, and I didn’t. When you make a mistake like that, I think you have to possibly expose yourself a little to minimize the damage, rather than just hope there was no damage.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago*

          If you were going to speak up, it should have been in the moment, yup.

          I love that method of printing. All offices should do that.

    4. Ms. Annie*

      First, you don’t know what the time frame from finding the letter and OP’s official announcement was. There could have been enough time that the manager thought OP had already announced, or, as someone already said, come up in a planning and scheduling meeting.

      While most employers don’t begrudge a little bit of personal internet use or the odd print job, it was still the employer’s printer and everything that prints on their printer is technically fair game for the employer. It’s no different than the idea that everything sent or received at with the employer-provided email is discoverable with a subpoena. OP printed the letter and then did not run and hover over the printer waiting for it.

      Lesson learned OP. If you don’t want the employer to know something right then and there, don’t use their resources. You can get a really nice ink-jet for about $70 these days. Kinkos and the public library charge about $0.10 per page.

      Don’t go to the boss. Don’t say anything to the manager. Tell the friend “sorry, I should have handled that differently” if you feel the need to go there.

      1. Mike C.*

        I don’t need to know the time frame, that information is not the manager’s to hand out for non-business reasons.

        Your example of email being discoverable by subpoena doesn’t make any sense because the legal system is set up with very strict checks and balances where certain conditions must be met and then signed off by a publicly accountable legal expert in an effort to ensure our laws function properly. That’s completely different from a manager causally talking about one employee’s medical conditions to other employees! There is a massive difference here.

        Even in cases where employers must go through their employees email accounts, that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to then publicly discuss every little thing they find with anyone they happen upon.

        There’s no “lesson” to be learned here. It doesn’t matter how the manager found out, that information was not theirs to share with others. Normal workplaces understand this.

        1. Shadow*

          Sure there is. Don’t print out stuff on a public computer you don’t want other people to see.

          1. Amber T*

            The issue isn’t that someone saw it. The issue is that that person decided to share it after the fact.

            1. PlainJane*

              And that that someone was a manager, who should know better. As a manager, I’m privy to all sorts of confidential stuff about employees. I know darn well I shouldn’t share it.

          2. Mike C.*

            Again, you’re conflating “the form was seen” with “private medical information was spread around the office for no reason”.

            1. Statler von Waldorf*

              Mike C, why are you assuming that this info was spread “for no reason?” Maybe this is one of those US/Canada differences, but up here we have 35+ week maternity leaves. One does not simply snap your fingers to arrange coverage for a period that long. Given that the OP did *not* specifically ask for this information to be kept confidential and several months had passed, I can easily see professional reasons why the manager may have decided to share that information with some employees.

              I’m definitely not saying the manger was 100% in the right, but why are you so convinced the manager was 100% wrong?

              1. tigerStripes*

                Maybe if the manager was concerned about maternity leave, the manager could have talked to the OP instead of other people. Wouldn’t that have been the best thing to do?

                I agree with Mike C. on this. You don’t spread around personal information unless the person is OK with you doing this.

                Also, I’m sure the OP knows that leaving a personal paper on the printer isn’t a good idea. Do we really need to tell her this over and over and over and blame her for the manager gossiping?

              2. Mike C.*

                Because the OP didn’t mention one, and it would be strange to be mad about information being discreetly passed on for a clear business purpose.

    5. crookedfinger*

      Yup, this. If you’re printing personal, non-work stuff at work on a shared printer, it’s up to you to jump up immediately and grab it before anyone else starts pawing through it — ESPECIALLY if it’s medical stuff you don’t want to share with anyone!

      Still doesn’t excuse the boss sharing it, though.

    6. kittymommy*

      Thank you! No doubt the manager certainly shouldn’t be telling people about this, but she only knew because the LW printed off personal medical information on a shared work printer and then left it there. I’m not feeling a whole lot of sympathy for her as she created the issue.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wow, I’m surprised by these reactions. Yes, she left something on the printer and thus can’t be *surprised* that people know about it, but the fact that her boss shared something that’s widely understood to be personal, private information that people like to control the release of is pretty crappy.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think it really depends on the context of how the manager shared the information.

        If she was gossiping “omg did you hear Jane is pregnant?!” my reaction would be a lot stronger than if she mentioned in a budget meeting that she’d “probably need a temp to cover when Jane is on maternity leave”.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          I agree that it could either be a jerk move or a simple mistake. But even if it was (“just”) a mistake, it’s a pretty big one. Pregnancy isn’t rare; it’s something that managers should expect and know how to handle. Managers need to be able to be prepared to handle employee’s choices about their pregnancies with discretion.

        2. Blossom*

          It really baffles me, though, that a manager would talk about “Jane’s maternity leave” when she hasn’t even had a conversation with Jane about the pregnancy. Seeing a document relating to a pregnancy in its very early stages – and then hearing no more about it – is just nowhere near enough to start openly planning maternity cover without discussing it with the presumably pregnant employee.

          1. a1*

            But this was several months later. We don’t know when the manager told coworker. Yes, maybe she did right away, but maybe she didn’t. LW didn’t find out until several months later so we don’t know. Without any more information I’m not going to assume it was right away. What she did was still wrong, but it’s not like it was the early stages anymore.

            1. Blossom*

              It does seem that the manager and pregnant employee had not had a conversation about it, though. Even if the pregnancy was by then quite advanced and visible, the first step is surely for the employee and manager to discuss it. Ideally at a time chosen by the employee (I’m assuming this is not a case of someone strolling around the office 8 months pregnant like nothing’s up)

              1. Someone else*

                Right. If I give the manager the benefit of the doubt, it’s possible she knew because of the printer incident, employee still never broached it directly, weeks passed and manager still knew but forgot she hadn’t actually been told, said something in passing like the maternity leave comment above (possibly realized the slip later and was mortified, but possibly didn’t). It’s still not good if that’s how it went down, but it’s a lot less crappy a thing to do than: see on printer, immediately begin discussing with others. But we have no way of knowing whether what happened was the former or the latter or something in between. If OP wants an explanation, she has to ask “what happened?” as Allison suggested. Or she can let it go if the manager in question has otherwise generally shown good judgement with regard to private stuff. It’s just not possible to know if this was the manager being a jerk or forgetful.

        3. JamieS*

          Agreed. Also the fact the OP found out months later and that the timeline of when the manager blabbed isn’t clear takes away quite a bit of the indignation on her behalf.

          If someone said her manager found out she was pregnant and told her coworkers the next day my reaction would be along the “how dare she!” line but a manager finding out and saying something 3 months later puts me more along the “unfortunate slip of the tongue but she probably thought everyone already knew” line.

      2. Formica Dinette*

        Same here. I work at a company that deals with PHI, so I’m accustomed to a culture of privacy around personal information. However, this seems like a simple issue of common decency.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        I see it as being like accidentally eavesdropping.

        Sometimes you overhear things that you’re not supposed to know. Unless there are unusual circumstances, you can’t erase the knowledge, but you pretend you didn’t hear it. If someone walked by her office while she was discussing a medical appointment on the phone, and then went around the office telling people that Jane was pregnant (or doing fertility treatments, or taking medicine for depression), would people be telling her that she can’t sort out a doctor’s appointment during office hours if she doesn’t want her medical information to be spread around the office?

        If you overhear someone talking on the phone about something personal, or see a revealing email subject on their phone as you walk by their desk, or recognize the type of medicine they’re carrying, or see a revealing printout, or see them at the doctor’s office, you might do the courtesy of letting them know that people can figure out what is going on, but you don’t make it office gossip and then blame the victim for insufficient levels of paranoia about protecting her personal information at work.

        1. Mookie*

          I agree. You can’t help but hear or see certain things, but under no circumstances are you entitled to reveal what you’ve heard and seen when there’s no good reason (like preventing an accident, reporting a crime, or so forth) to do so. You’re supposed to err on the side of caution in these circumstances, and allow the people concerned to make those decisions for themselves.

      4. oranges & lemons*

        Me too! If it were a coworker it would still be crappy, but I would think one of the expectations of being a manager is being discreet about this kind of information. I mean, if the OP told the manager directly that she was pregnant, and the manager then shared it, I don’t think that would be the OP’s fault, so I don’t see why this is any different.

      5. OldJules*

        I agree. The behavior I’ve encountered before from my team, is for the person who finds it, typically takes up that paper, places it downwards facing on my desk and say, ‘I didn’t think you wanted this laying around.’ and walk away. Granted, we work on confidential things and don’t let any of our things lay around.

    8. Jerry Larry Terry Garry*

      If I leave my car unlocked, it’s much more likely to get burgled. If my boss steals my bag out of the car- my leaving it unlocked doesn’t make stealing the bag any less of a theft.

  2. Amber Rose*

    My experience with promised raises after X amount of time is that you always have to ask for them. In an ideal world (and in more organized companies than the ones I’ve worked for maybe) they would just know and do it, but most of the time I think they write it on a sticky note and promptly forget unless you remind them.

    It’s probably not a personal slight or a broken promise or anything nefarious like that, just plain old forgetfulness. I wouldn’t take it too personally unless you remind them and they give you excuses or continue to put it off.

    1. Coalea*

      Yeah, I would have been almost expecting that the company would drop the ball, so I would have made a point to follow up with my manager 1 month before the 6-month mark, saying something like, “I know that my raise will be taking place a month from now, so I just wanted to see if there is anything that I need to do, like sign paperwork, to make sure that it takes place seamlessly.” Then there would be ample time to get things taken care of, even if they had forgotten.

  3. John*

    My gut tells me the “know it all” won’t be there long and will move on to greener pastures sooner rather than later.

    1. Fuzzy pickles*

      I…uh… kinda got the same feeling. But insufferable over achievers whose sole purpose is to show off do exist so I have to give the OP the benefit of the doubt here. It just really didn’t read that way, so she’ll need to be careful with this feedback in my opinion.

      1. Purplesaurus*

        OK, I’ve reread the letter again and I’m still not seeing whatever you guys are seeing.

        1. Fuzzy pickles*

          I very well might be projecting…But I haven’t encountered as many insufferable know it alls as much as I have encountered people who object any display of knowledge not their own.

          It appears I was applying my personal experience without much reflection so I’m willing to bet my view is heavily biased.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Really? I have run into it so. many. times. And actually we’ve had several letters here of people working with someone who will jump into a conversation they aren’t a part of to offer wrong information, so it’s definitely a problem that comes up with others.

          2. Purplesaurus*

            Gotcha. I can understand where you’re coming from because both types of people absolutely exist.

          3. oranges & lemons*

            At my office, we regularly have student interns, and I’m often a little surprised by how eager some of them are to offer their opinion about fairly high-level industry-specific questions. I don’t think it does anything good for their reputations so I can understand wanting to mention it.

    2. Amber T*

      Meh, depends on how young and inexperienced the know it all was. Honestly, OP could have been describing me when I first started my current job (second job out of college, and really, the first one hardly taught me anything about professionalism). I wanted to prove my worth and show how helpful I could be, and that I could be become an invaluable employee. Thankfully most of my coworkers took my overeagerness in stride (the phase “there’s a reason we do it this way, I’ll explain next time it comes up” or something similar came up multiple times when I tried to “improve” something). Several years later, I’m still here with no plans on leaving.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yes!! Me too! I was trying SO HARD to impress people, and didn’t realize that I was insufferable instead of helpful. I wish I could sit young me down and explain life… But I wouldn’t have listened. :D

    3. SusanIvanova*

      In my experience “know it alls” never leave. Their attitude is that they’re the best, so why should they?

    4. some dude*

      Maybe. But in my experience, people like this get noticed, and they are the ones who actually get the opportunities that people like me can only dream about.

      1. Gunner*

        Of course gunners get noticed. There’s nothing wrong with that. OP would do well to be more of a know-it-all herself.

        The real problem is that this particular know-it-all doesn’t seem to know it all.

  4. Lynca*

    Having dealt with a situation like OP#1- What Alison said is spot on.

    But if you haven’t had the discussion with him about how consistently interjecting into conversations, especially when they weren’t directed at him, is going to come across as rude to others- you might want to have that conversation.

    We have an issue at my office with people interjecting themselves (into work conversations, meetings, etc.) when they don’t need to and when it isn’t helpful. We’ve had to remind people that wanting to learn about other aspects/be helpful is a good thing but there’s a time and place for it.

  5. Turkletina*

    I read the title as “I’m a mentoring know-it-all”, and I was prepared for a much different letter.

    1. NPOQueen*

      I did absolutely the same thing. I had to read the letter again because I thought the know-it-all was the wrong person!

  6. Kate*

    #2 is such a great question and answer. I struggle with this too, and people make *a lot* of assumptions from lacking communication skills to being inexperienced or unsure of yourself, so I agree that it’s important to work on being more engaging during interviews. But I also really like Alison’s suggestion for addressing it and sort of reframing it in a way that shows how it can be strength.

  7. Brett*

    #5 One huge thing that irked me at former employer was that the background check form included a section where you had to list _all_ other positions you applied for in the last six months, with their status and any pending offers. This was on the very first page right after you sign the perjury statement and consent to a lie detector test. And I know the answers were shared with the recruiter.
    Same section is still there to this day.

    1. Catalin*

      WTA? I’d honestly probably write “Information Confidential”. All the jobs I’ve ever had? Sure! All the jobs I’ve applied to in the last six months? The only way I’d answer that is if the answer is ‘None’.
      Also, lie detector test? What were you doing?!

      1. Brett*

        Local government public safety. I didn’t actually get the lie detector test because I was non-commissioned, but all commissioned officers definitely had to do one. But nothing in the application tells you whether or not you will have one, you just sign the consent to take one.

    2. anon24*

      I know someone who lost a job offer because of this. He didn’t list everything on his application because he felt it was none of their business, then panicked during the lie detector and admitted he lied on the application. His going through the application process had been somewhat of a formality since he knew some of the higher-ups and they really wanted him but he ended up completely burning that bridge forever.

  8. I Love Spreadsheets*

    Re #1: I sit next to a know-it-all and it’s so very frustrating. He’s a mansplainer and so often butts in when I’m already explaining something. Luckily I have no problem continuing to speak and totally ignoring his attempted interjections!

  9. Puffyshirt*

    I’m I the only one who doesn’t understand why people/organizations started to use “mentee” instead of protege?

    1. Kathleen Adams*

      No, you are not. Because to me “mentee” sounds like a refreshing mint-flavored hard candy.

        1. FormerEmployee*

          Yes, manatee is what I see/hear when the word is “mentee”.

          At least they are fellow mammals.

    2. JanetM*

      Hm. To me, they have somewhat different connotations.

      Protégé — someone who I see as a rising star, and whose career I am trying to advance
      Mentee — someone, possibly someone assigned to me, whom I am guiding in learning either technical or cultural norms for this company

      But I could be wrong.

      1. Lissa*

        Yes, to me protege suggests a more personal relationship, someone where the mentor is probably a very experienced person really invested in the protege doing well. Though this might be because the first times I encountered the term was a protege when it came to the creative arts/music etc.

        1. ronda*

          protege remind me of the movie my man godfrey.

          i looked up the definition for you :

          One whose welfare, training, or career is promoted by an influential person. [French, from past participle of protéger, to protect

          so i think the mentoring relationship does not have the element of protection that the protege relationship does.

    3. McWhadden*

      Whether accurate or not, protege suggests someone fairly high up in an organization with a lot of experience.

      When I was an associate at a law firm I was a mentor to an intern and then a first year when I was a second and third year associate. I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling them my proteges since it suggests I have a lot of great wisdom to pass on. When really I’m just telling them who to be careful around, how drunk to get at functions, and be careful of typos.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, I could be assigned to mentor a new coworker, but if they’re my “protege” that kind of implies that they have oddly modest professional goals ;-)

  10. The Ginger Ginger*

    Op #2. Have you pinpointed what actions or non-actions are making you read as shy in your interviews? A good interviewer should be asking open ended questions that you have to actually, you know, speak to address. Are you only giving one sentence responses? Do you struggle with elaboration? Are you showing you’re engaged while the interviewer is talking, instead of just sitting quietly? (i.e. nodding, “mhm”, “yes, i see”, “I understand”). Are you asking questions when/where appropriate? (i.e. “Can you elaborate on that?”, “I’m hearing X, is that what you mean?”) Are you taking notes when appropriate? And do you have a list of questions for the end of the interview prepared ahead of time? Make sure you have questions when the interviewer asks if you have any. Alison has some excellent recommendations in other posts. You say you’re a thinker. Can you do some (edited and articulate) thinking aloud? You don’t need to be an orator, but you do need to show that you can ask for clarification when you need it, provide follow up when warranted, and expand on ideas presented by the interviewer.

    It could be that “quiet” is code for not seeming engaged. How’s your body language? I’ve interviewed people who sat silent while I talked and asked them questions, gave me single sentence responses, didn’t make eye contact, and it almost comes across as bored.

    And finally – practice! Find a friend or family member who can help you role play an interview. Get used to talking about yourself and past work experiences so you seem relaxed and comfortable. You can even give your friend a list of questions to ask you (Alison also has great ideas on interview questions that you could look at to get ideas). Ask them for feedback. Let them know ahead of time what you’re trying to work on, so they can be really targeted in their assistance.

    Good luck!

    1. SC*

      +1 re body language. I’m not shy, but I can be very analytical, which used to make me seem quiet as I processed all the information coming at me in interviews. I received some feedback that I came across as disengaged in interviews. Without (consciously) changing anything else, I changed my body language—sat up straighter, leaned in slightly, maintained eye contact, let my face be more expressive. It worked, and I was offered the very next job I applied for. (As an aside, I think my signs of engagement led my interviewer to ask more questions, which led to more of a back and forth and actual engagement.)

    2. Dinosaur*

      I agree with the body language advice and to up the level of interaction. I’m similar to the OP. I’m not quiet but I am an “internal processor” much of the time. To compensate for that in interviews, if someone asks me a question that I have to think about I just say “I’m an internal processor, so is it okay if I take a second to chew on that question?” Having a label for it that is easily understood and avoids the quiet/loud or shy/outgoing dichotomy seems to go over really well with interviewers.

  11. JanetM*

    Re: “Too shy” — many years ago, I applied for a receptionist position at a janitorial agency / job shop, and was told, “You’ll hear from us by Friday.”

    Being young and stupid, when I didn’t hear anything by Friday, I called on Monday morning to follow up. Three hours later they called me back and asked me to come in and start “now” (I was not employed when I applied, so I didn’t have to give notice — this was my first job out of college). I did.

    About a year later, I ran across my application form in the files. It was annotated, “Do not hire. Too quiet.”

    I casually mentioned this to my manager and asked what had changed that he decided to offer me the position. He said, “You were the only one who called back.”

    Note: This was 30-some years ago. Norms have changed. I do not recommend “calling back to check.” :-)

  12. Annie Oakley*

    My boss recently left my supervisor’s PIP on the printer and LEFT THE OFFICE. I happened to be printing something and picked it up off the printer. I pretty quickly realized what it was, and tried not to glance at it for too long (it was hard not to with something that juicy though, if I’m being honest). I called my boss and told him it seemed he had left an important document on the printer. He advised me to shred the document, and told me he was glad I found it instead of my supervisor. I felt bad that my supervisor’s privacy was violated due to my boss’s carelessness (even though her behavior justified the PIP.) I can’t imagine what would have happened had my supervisor found it before she was actually placed on the PIP.

  13. Anon-a-mouse*

    OP’s divorce is not going to make OP unavailable for work for an extended period of time in the near future.
    I mean, I wouldn’t go blabbing about it, but if we’re going to demand that employers treat pregnancy as a totally normal thing that effects all people (as we’re all the product of a pregnancy) and protect it and give pregnant people benefits to encourage them to stay in the workplace and all of these other things, we can’t compare it to something personal and scandalous or tragic (divorce) or tragic and unexpected (cancer diagnosis) or sad (death of a parent) – something that we should all tip-toe around.

    If we want to normalize pregnancy, we shouldn’t treat it like some big secret.

    Besides which [mostly tongue in cheek here] pregnant people are terrible about keeping it an actual secret. You’ve been talking incessently about how Marcus is your favorite name for a boy and you made a big show about refusing to eat sushi, Carol. We know what’s happening.

    1. tigerStripes*

      But what if it was early on in the pregnancy, when most people don’t announce it because miscarriages are more likely to happen then? Seems like an announcement should be up to the parents to be.

      1. Anon-a-mouse*

        I had a cancer scare recently. If I had left my medical docs on the printer, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone asked me about them. I wouldn’t be happy, and I wouldn’t like it shared with others, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Even though it wasn’t “real”cancer, just a test.

        1. snake plant*

          Scenario #1, where you leave something private on the printer, a coworker finds it and doesn’t say anything to you or anyone else, I could deal with. I’ve been on both sides of that.

          Sceanrio #2, where a coworker finds your print-out, and later takes you aside and asks you about it quietly, I could also deal with. A bit annoying, but it’s my mistake, so okay. Had that happen too.

          But this is scenario #3 – which I have never ever seen – where a MANAGER finds your personal info, and then thinks “Oooh, this looks private – TO HORSE! FOR I MUST IMMEDIATELY INFORM THE ENTIRE OFFICE!” Just – NO. That is not okay.

          Part of every manager’s job is being trusted with sensitive or legally protected information. Confidentiality is a large part of Professional Ethics 101. And this is also just plain old bad manners. It shows a lack of awareness of social norms. At heart, it’s disrespectful.

          I mean, I’m not saying that Manager should be on a PIP for just this, but I think it would justify checking to see if this was a one-off ‘moment of madness’ or if they have habitual problems.

  14. Temperance*

    I once found a letter firing someone for taking too many days off on the printer. I’m a fast reader, so I pretty much read the entire thing before I computed that it was NOT FOR ME. (I was looking for my own letter that I had printed). I slid it under my friend’s door with a post-it on the top saying that I had found it and read it, but didn’t want anyone else to.

    I felt SO GUILTY even though I didn’t know the woman personally. My friend in HR was thankful that it was just me.

  15. some dude*

    The manager who announced OP’s pregnancy was wrong. She should have kept it to herself.

    If you need to print private things at work, you need to be more careful. If you leave it in the printer, anybody can see it. If I need to print something very private, I connect to the wifi, walk to the printer with my laptop and print from there. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but I am a bit paranoid.

    On a similar note, my ex manager used to have very loud private conversations over speaker phone. It was mostly just annoying, but one day I heard him talking to one of my coworkers about her medical situation (she has cancer). I still feel bad that I didn’t say anything.

    1. nonymous*

      or learn the feature that lets you set a password to release a print job. It will only print after you’ve walked to the printer and entered the password on the machine.

  16. HR Bee*

    #1 – I was given very similar advice as a young professional in my first job. I absolutely needed to hear it because I was talking over senior staff members and generally making a fool of myself, and everyone was too polite to say anything. Thank goodness my boss was smart enough to address it with me immediately. So please, kindly let your mentee know – they may not realize they are doing this or that it is unprofessional.

  17. CMA1997*

    #4 – Although I don’t believe anyone should be sharing such personal information, I’m not sure her manager did. She states that her manager “didn’t show any sign that she had read it, but months later, when I went to reveal the news to a friend and coworker, she informed me that my manager had already told her about it” I’m not sure that equates to “her gossiping/sharing my news with my coworkers”. I read that as the manager read some good news, mentioned it to #4’s friend, (assumptions now) discovered that it wasn’t public knowledge and kept quiet for those months until #4’s friend finally told her she already knew.
    Having said that, I wouldn’t have a flaming clue how to approach her boss.
    I love this site!

  18. Joe*

    Re #3: I once got a job offer that included a raise after 6 months. I had been out of work for a year (voluntarily), so they were wary of giving me the salary I wanted, but as a compromise they put it in writing that I would get a review after 6 months, and would get a raise to $X if the review was good. At the six month mark, I got the review, and my performance was excellent. I then asked for the raise, and they said no, they had decided not to do that. I escalated it to the VP of my team, and also flagged it to HR. A month later, they conveniently found an excuse to fire me. (Fortunately, the story has a happy ending in that I ended up getting another job pretty quickly, which paid me more than I’d been looking for, and was a great fit, and I’m still there 10 years later.)

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