my coworker screamed at me for calling my cat “my baby,” checking in about a job post-holidays, and more

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

1. My coworker screamed at me for calling my cat “my baby”

I am a woman in my early thirties and my partner and I are childless by choice. We do, however, have a three-year-old cat we love very much.

Today at work while discussing plans for after work, I said that I had to swing by the pet store and pick up some more wet food because I can’t have my baby going hungry!” One of my coworkers, Jane, lost it. She screamed at me that a pet isn’t a child, it’s insulting to parents that I refer to him as such, and I’ll never understand what it means to be a parent. I was shocked into silence and she stalked off.

Later, I was called into a meeting with my supervisor. Apparently Jane had recently had a miscarriage (I honestly had no idea!) and she told my supervisor I was mocking her for it. Thankfully my supervisor knows me well enough that he was skeptical when she brought it up and enough people were around to corroborate the events.

I’m at a loss as to what to say to Jane, or if I should even say anything at all. I won’t pretend I understand how much pain she must be in, and if all she had done was yell at me I think I’d be willing to brush it off. But she went to my supervisor and lied and tried to get me in trouble.

So what do I do from here? Should I apologize to her even though I didn’t do anything wrong? Avoid her? Try to avoid call my cat my baby ever again? I’ve thought about asking my supervisor to document the fact that she lied in case it ever happens again and I need a record, but that seems incredibly cruel to do to a woman who’s already suffering so much.

I was prepared to be outraged at Jane, but grief can cause people to behave in really odd ways. I’m curious about what Jane is like aside from this. If she’s always seemed reasonable before this, I’d be inclined to figure that her grief made her really misunderstand your words (as opposed to her deliberately setting out to lie about you).

I don’t think you need to apologize to her. You didn’t say anything that it makes sense to apologize for. If she was okay with you knowing about the miscarriage, I think you could tell her that you didn’t mean to upset her and that you know she’s going through a tough time. But assuming your manager told you that in confidence … I’m coming down on the side of just making sure that your manager is clear that you did nothing wrong (it sounds like that’s the case) and giving Jane a wide berth for a while. If anything else like this happens, at that point I’d go back to your manager to problem-solve because you can’t walk on eggshells around Jane forever, but for now I’d assume this was was one bad incident but won’t become a pattern (until and unless it does).

2. Interviewing while missing several front teeth

I am currently in the middle of extensive dental work and have several front teeth missing. I’m only working part-time and can’t afford to continue treatment at the moment. I am looking for full-time employment. How should I handle this in interviews? Should I address it at all?

I know a great smile is key to first impressions, especially if I will be working with the public. I’m embarrassed by my appearance. Everything else, hair, clothes, and demeanor, is on point. I’m afraid employers will think my teeth are bad from drugs (nope, just lots and lots of coffee and a lack of dental insurance). I am going to continue treatment and have a complete smile again, but I feel it’s a vicious circle of needing a complete mouth to land a good job but needing a good job to afford the treatment.

I once interviewed someone who was missing one of his front teeth. At the start of the interview, he mentioned that he was in the middle of having dental work done and that he was embarrassed about the tooth. It was a good approach — I thought “aw, poor guy” because we’ve all had dental stuff happened and can relate to being in the middle of that, and didn’t think any more about it.

I think you could take a similar approach. There’s something about naming the thing you’re embarrassed people will judge you for and explaining it that makes most people want to set you at ease and makes them less likely to actually be judgy about it. So I would just go with, “Please excuse the current state of my smile — I’m in the middle of having dental work done and it won’t be like this forever — but it’s a little embarrassing right now, and I hope it won’t be too distracting today.”

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Checking in with a hiring manager after the holidays

I had a phone interview for a position at a company I would love to work before the holidays. The hiring manager had said at the end that she was in the midst of phone screenings, but would continue the hiring process after the new year. I think the interview went really well and sent her a “thank you” email the following day.

I normally don’t do much checking in after a job interview as I assume if they’re interested, they’ll contact me. However, because of the holidays, my extreme interest, and other opportunities I’m in the midst of interviewing for, I’d like to have a better idea of what the hiring timeline looks like for this one. What’s the best way to check in with a hiring manager after a phone interview after the holidays?

People are starting to get caught up from being out for the holidays, so you could reasonably email her early next week and say that you’re extremely interested in the position and wonder if she can give you a sense of her timeline for next steps.

That said, you may or may not get a response. Lots of employers are pretty terrible about responding to this kind of question from candidates, especially from people who haven’t yet advanced to in-person interviews. So I’d send the message off and then put it out of your mind, and move forward with your search. You don’t want to put anything else on hold, since the reality is that you may or may not ever hear from them again. (I hope you will, of course! But since it sounds like you’re still pretty early in their process, your odds for moving forward are lower than if you were closer to the finalist stage.)

4. Keeping options open at the end of an internship

I will be graduating from college this May, and I currently have an internship that will also end in May. I’m interested in working for the organization that I’m currently interning with and I think there’s a decent chance they’ll offer me a job when I graduate, but I don’t want to commit to working for this organization without exploring other job opportunities and knowing what opportunities are out there.

How can I talk to my internship supervisor about potential opportunities with this organization without committing to working for them or making them think that I see them as a back-up option? Also, is it okay to ask my internship supervisor to be a reference for me when I apply for other jobs if I might also apply for a job at this organization? She’s not the person who would be doing the hiring for a full-time position, but I’m sure the person who does that hiring would ask her opinion of me.

Volunteering with this organization helped me get my current internship, so I’ve already had conversations with my supervisor about my growth in this organization — we just haven’t talked about me applying for a full-time job.

You can indeed let your manager know that you’re interested in working for them full-time after you graduate, while also making it clear that you’re looking at other jobs as well. In fact, your manager will probably be relieved that you are — since she won’t want you to count on a job with them until the point that they’ve actually decided to offer you one.

You could start by saying this: “I’m really enjoying my work here and would be interested in being considered for a full-time role once I graduate. Is that something that might be possible, and if so, is there something I should do to formally express my interest in that?”

Then you could also say: “I know not to count on that, of course, so I’m also going to apply with other organizations. Would you be willing to be a reference for me with those jobs?”

That will probably take care of the whole thing, but on the off chance that she tells you she’s sure that you’ll get hired there and you shouldn’t worry about applying other places, you can say, “I appreciate hearing that! I don’t want to count on anything prematurely though, and while I love working here and would love to stay on, I also want to make sure I’m looking at more than one option. I hope that makes sense!”

5. My former employer removed my name from the work and put the VP’s name there instead

Is it legal for an employer to delete my name from all the blog posts I wrote while working there and replacing it with the VP’s name?

It is, unless you have a contract that states that you’ll retain authorship with a byline — which would be unusual to have as an employee (as opposed to a contractor). When you’re an employee, you’re producing what’s called “work for hire,” which means that your employer owns the work and can use or alter it however they want, and they can even put someone else’s name on it, because ultimately it’s “the company’s work” more than it’s considered your work.

That said, typically best practice when you want to remove a former employee from a byline is to simply remove the name without adding another (or present the content as “by” the organization). It’s a little weird to replace it with the name of someone who didn’t write it and wouldn’t normally be the person it was ghostwritten for.

{ 913 comments… read them below }

  1. Hills to Die on*

    Wow, #1 is a rough one. I would email your boss and ask her to confirm that you didn’t do anything wrong so that you have it in writing. Glad Jane has compassionate coworkers and you have a manager with a good head on her shoulders.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is truly such an awful situation. I also suspect Jane didn’t intend to lie. I know it’s speculation, but the fact that she thought OP referring to her cat as her “baby” was an effort to mock her suggests she may truly believe that’s what she heard, even if everyone else disagrees.

      I understand and am sympathetic to the desire to document that OP didn’t do anything wrong, but that seems unnecessarily formal / escalating to me. If there had been any disagreement among witnesses about what happened, I might feel differently. But given that literally everyone who saw what happened + OP’s boss have already exonerated OP, an email follow-up seems a bit… cold? (Although certainly not as cruel as requesting documentation that Jane lied.)

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I think it could be done with Jane’s knowledge though, which seems appropriate. It’s fine right now, but what if her manager moves on?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think it’s just a level of formality that isn’t warranted. There was a miscommunication with a grieving staff member, no one blames the OP, and it’s going to come across oddly to insist on putting that in writing. Sometimes this stuff just happens, you deal with it, you move on. If this were a workplace where people were really punitive and management had a habit of pulling the rug out from under you, maybe — but in a reasonably functioning workplace, it’s going to seem like overkill. At most, I’d think the OP could email her boss and just say something like “Thanks again for talking with me about the situation with Jane. I understand that she’s grieving and her reaction most likely stemmed from that, and I’m glad you understand that I did not in fact say what she thought she heard” … but really, even that probably isn’t necessary.

          1. Mookie*

            Yes. It’s actually not really the LW’s job to formally “document” this issue; she should let her manager handle that and be available for comment, though it sounds like this has been informally wrapped up quite easily, as well it should have been. Taking unnecessary steps that could appear defensive make it appear the LW did something indefensible. And she didn’t.

            1. Anony*

              If Jane made a formal complaint, the resolution (that Jane misunderstood) is already documented. If she did not make a formal complaint, it would be escalating unnecessarily.

          2. Turquoisecow*

            My concern would be that if the boss leaves, and a significant number of sympathetic coworkers also leave, Jane might present the OP in an unfavorable light to future coworkers/bosses. “Oh, (OP) is a horrible person who mocked me by comparing a cat to a child. She’s clearly an awful crazy cat person!” If OP has something in writing to illustrate that is not the case, maybe that would elevate it above a “she said, she said” disagreement.

            But if Jane isn’t the type of person to hold a grudge over this, then maybe it’s not necessary.

            1. Nita*

              There’s no indication Jane is a chronically unhinged, vindictive person. She was definitely over the line, but as Alison says, grief can make people do odd things. And in the unlikely event that all the old co-workers leave, and only the OP and Jane are left on the new team, and Jane really does continue to go around telling people that “OP called her cat her baby, she’s a monster!” it would be Jane, not OP, who would look bad.

              OP – this was totally not about you, and your innocent comment just got caught in a fraught situation you knew nothing about. Maybe just say to Jane “I’m sorry if I upset you” and leave it at that. It sounds like your boss told you about the miscarriage in confidence, so no need to mention that you know there was a reason for her reaction…

              1. Turquoisecow*

                Well, no, I’m not saying she’s unhinged or vindictive, but we don’t know anything else about her personality from the letter. If she and the OP were not the best of friends to begin with, this event might have (understandably, though irrationally) pushed her more into the realm of not liking OP. Maybe OP is Jane’s BEC and this was just the last straw. Maybe Jane will hold a grudge. Maybe in a few months she’ll be a cheerful person, great to work with, and she and OP will have moved on to a friendly camaraderie.

                There isn’t enough information here to know for sure. OP knows her workplace and coworkers better than I do, and maybe this would never happen there. But I’ve worked at enough places where turnover was high enough that the social and power dynamics changed frequently, and a lot of sympathetic coworkers leaving could change that dynamic. Or not.

                1. mskyle*

                  Right, but what could OP do with this theoretical documentation even if Jane did say nasty things about her in the future? I can’t imagine it would really help her (OP) if she were to show people the documentation and say “I have this note on my file that says I was *not* mean to Jane in January of 2018! Case closed! I’m the good person and Jane is wrong!”

              2. Else*

                She probably wouldn’t talk about the cat aspect, though – she’d say something about how the OP was mocking her miscarriage. Jane behaved like a jerk in this instance, however understandable it might be. The concern is that she might continue to behave like a jerk, or focus all of her pain on the OP. I think the OP needs to wait and see if that happens, but also make it clear that she did not attack Jane if it comes up with others.

                1. Immersang*


                  I’d cut her some slack about the spontaneous reaction to “baby” and the screaming in that moment (even though normally that shouldn’t ever happen between coworkers).

                  BUT, what really rubs me the wrong way is the decision to actually go to the manager and complain. That seems to fall out of the “spur of the moment” category. The screaming can happen, but I would have thought she’d felt bad about it immediately afterward. But no, she actually made it actively worse.

                2. Clorinda*

                  It’s still within the zone of ‘acting irrationally through grief’ even a few days or a week later, and not only grief but physical/hormonal upheaval too.I think this is an occasion for LW to watch, wait, and not overreact.

              3. CubicleShroom#1004*

                I like this approach.

                Miscarriages and fertility issues can bring out some really raw emotions. Hormones and grief can do a number with your head.

                I’ve been around when a coworker talked fur babies and another coworker lost it. Women had just had her third miscarriage (found out later). Worse than what you dealt with. My cousin who has been doing IVF with little success had a full bore meltdown, when she found out my drug addicted niece was having baby #3. Niece is 19.

                The coworker reacting to “fur babies”, later went around privately and apologize for her outburst. Beside the miscarriage, she was also trying to adopt AND that fell through.

                OP, Grief is an awful monster. It wasn’t right the coworker tore into you. It’s the hormones, rage and sadness. My cousin is horrified how she acted on Christmas.

                I probably might say, “I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m sorry.” and leave it at that. Especially if this coworker hasn’t given you any trouble before. She probably didn’t want everyone “knowing her business” about the miscarriage, so I wouldn’t make a bigger deal about it.

                Good luck!

                1. Chalupa Batman*

                  One of my first thoughts was that Jane must be mortified. Assuming she’s not completely unreasonable most of the time (which OP didn’t indicate), she’s probably beating herself up for blowing up over such a mundane comment and then *taking it to her boss,* realizing that OP probably didn’t know about the miscarriage. I’m very irrational when I’m extremely upset or having hormonal balance issues, and when I come down, I feel awful for even small reactions like using a hateful tone or not taking someone’s call. It’s almost like getting drunk and acting super obnoxious. You know you messed up now, but in the moment it felt completely logical, and now you have to face that person and hope they aren’t mad. I wouldn’t be surprised if OP gets an apology soon. Provided it was a one time thing and not a pattern, she can accept graciously and allow the whole thing to blow over.

                2. einahpets*

                  Yeah, I feel for Jane.

                  Because the truth is beyond the grief doing funny things, there are a lot of people that don’t really thing miscarriages are a big deal (and/or I encountered a good number of them myself while grieving after my miscarriage). I think it is partly because so many women/men keep the news to themselves.

                  If I had just had one of the many rough weekends with my in-laws dismissing the pain my family (husband, myself, daughter) were going through and then heard someone at work joking about her fur babies, I’d hope I’d not have said anything, but there are times when I’m not sure.

            2. tigerlily*

              That seems like such an unlikely scenario. So many things that aren’t indicated in OPs letter have to take place: OP’s boss needs to leave, all of OPs coworkers need to leave, Jane needs to still be enraged by the incident, Jane needs to bring up the incident to new management, new management needs to care about a disagreement that happened however long before they got there. To me, it just seems to far fetched to need to worry about it.

              1. LBK*

                Agreed – that scenario seems way too unlikely to go through such a formalized effort to protect yourself from it.

              2. Zillah*

                Yes. I’d also argue that if you’re in a point where all of those things are true (including the new boss taking a vindictive Jane’s complaint as fact and assuming malice rather than miscommunication), there are probably much larger issues going on.

          3. Carlee*

            Grownups, even grieving ones, should not scream at their colleagues.

            While I get that infertility and miscarriages are devastating/heartbreaking, screaming at colleagues has, well, zero impact on one’s ability to conceive/carry a fetus to term.

            Jane needs to grow up.

            1. limenotapple*

              I’m willing to cut Jane a little slack. Some people can handle this kind of stress, and that’s great for them, but for coworkers who aren’t chronically crazy or mean, I’m willing to give them a pass, provided they don’t continually bring it up.

              1. ClownBaby*

                I agree with cutting Jane a little slack. In a short time, maybe she will self-reflect and see that it is she, and not OP who should apologize. When my close friend committed suicide two summers ago, I felt like every happy person was mocking me. While I didn’t shout at anyone, I did respond to any questions, requests, and invitations in a less than pleasant manner. A few weeks later, while I was not “over” the death of my friend, I realized that the happy people were not mocking me. I made an effort to be nicer and apologized to a few I was especially rude to. Perhaps, Jane will do something similar especially if this outburst was not characteristic of her usual behavior.

                1. synchrojo*

                  Yes, I felt this way too after the sudden death of a very close friend. I also remember having all this anger with nowhere to direct it (his death was no one’s fault, except maybe a bit my friend’s for trying to push through illness and not seeking medical attention sooner). I walked around for a few weeks hoping someone would wrong me in some way so I could let out some of that pent up anger. The opportunity didn’t present itself, but I can really understand her misinterpreting this situation and going nuclear on what would ordinarily be no more than a minor annoyance. I am hopeful that in time she’ll realize that OP wasn’t who/what she was really angry with.

                2. Anne (with an "e")*

                  I am not sure if I concur. When I was fifteen my father, who was in sales, committed suicide. Then, the next semester in English class we read “Death of a Salesman.” We analyzed that play from cover to cover. I was forced to sit in class and listen to discussion after discussion about suicide. It was absolute torture. I cried every day after school. The pain of studying this particular in such a public setting so soon after this tragic event was… well, I’m not sure i have words to describe it. Everyone in my rather small private school knew what had happened with my father. The students knew. The. Teacher. Knew. However, I never screamed at my teacher or my classmates. If a fifteen-year-old school kid can show this kind of restraint for a couple of weeks every single day, then, I think Jane can likewise show some professional restraint. You just do not scream at people. It is not civil. It is not professional. It is not done.

                3. Clorinda*

                  Oh, Anne. This is terrible. I am truly sorry and shocked that the teacher didn’t create an alternate plan for you.

              2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                Yes, people sometimes have visceral reactions to things that are deeply personal for them. I once witnessed an interaction between two coworkers. We were all talking about office politics, and one person joked that, “Wow, people are really cut-throat around here”. Another co-worker instantly turned on her and accused her of mocking her. It all happened so fast, we didn’t know what the co-worker was referring to. It came out that the offended co-worker had been the victim of an attack, years ago, and still had a barely-noticeable scar on her neck. Her gut reaction was that the joking co-worker was mocking her scar. After a brief, clarifying conversation, she knew intellectually that the coworker wasn’t mocking her, and would never mock someone for that, but visceral reactions happen before one’s brain kicks in.

            2. Mediamaven*

              A little harsh, but I agree with you. That was royally unfair to take her grief out on the LW in that way. It’s a tragic situation but one that happens to many people and the LW is in no way responsible or involved (in fact she didn’t even know). I actually feel like a discussion may truly be in order here.

            3. Jadelyn*

              I think “grow up” is a little harsh – grief does strange things to people, as Alison said. That being said, I agree with you, and would treat this as the one single “oops” Jane gets forgiveness for. She does anything inappropriate again, regardless of it being out of grief, and that’s officially A Problem for Jane.

            4. Vendelle*

              I’m afraid I have to disagree with you there Carlee. While Janes shouting definitely isn’t right, having a miscarriage makes a wreck of a person on so many levels that in my opinion, we shouldn’t blame Jane for her reaction. Losing a child, born or unborn, is one of the worst things that can happen to a human being and like Alison said, grief makes all of us do crazy things. Doesn’t have to do with maturity at all.

              I have been in a similar situation, and the grief combined with the hormonal change from the miscarriage made me feel so awful I actually burst into tears when a client told me she was pregnant. It wasn’t a situation where being an adult helped me with reacting less violently, because at that moment, the reaction was visceral and didn’t “go past my brain”, if you get my meaning. In my situation, I apologized and explained to the client and that was the end of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if OP gets some form of apology from Jane in the near future. By now she probably knows she overreacted and is feeling mortified.

              1. TrainerGirl*

                To me, the screaming in the moment isn’t the issue…it’s the fact that Jane went to the boss afterward to accuse OP of mocking her. Again, goes from spontaneous to at least thought-out at best, calculating at worst. You can’t claim heat of the moment when you report it to the boss later.

                1. Lialou*

                  That’s a good point. What, did she going crying to the boss right afterward, or did she think about it long after the fact and then decide to go tell on OP? Admittedly I’ve never miscarriaged, but I’ve experienced plenty of death in my life and that response just seems so out of line to me.

      2. Kate 2*

        But that would presume Jane had told people in the office about the miscarriage, either that she told OP, or that Jane believed someone she told (one of the managers?) had let slip to OP. But it sounds like the only people who knew were manager(s). So wouldn’t she have berated them as well and wouldn’t the manager have mentioned it to OP? That just seems like a pretty big leap.

      3. LBK*

        Yeah, it seems like a miscategorization to say that Jane “lied” – I suspect she did genuinely feel like the OP was mocking her, even though logically to us as third parties, that doesn’t make sense since the OP didn’t even know she’d had a miscarriage. I’d chalk that up more to her being in an extremely heightened emotional state and, as long as she doesn’t seem to continue to hold it against the OP, call this a one-off and move on.

    2. Kiwi*

      OP#1, You could go a more tactful route and email your boss something like “I just want to repeat how sorry I am about Jane’s miscarriage and that me calling my cat my baby was painful to her. I wouldn’t have said that if I’d known about her miscarriage and of course, I never would say anything to mock her or intentionally cause her pain.”

      That way you’ve got in writing that you didn’t know and weren’t mocking her, but you haven’t asked your boss directly to put anything in writing.

      1. Nichelle*

        I disagree. LW 1 shouldn’t have to flagellate themselves or grovel just to save face or get it in writing. She didn’t do anything wrong and has zilch to be sorry about. She should tell her boss she wants it in writing to protect herself in case Jane tries something else. But she does not need to keep apologizing. Women are socialized to apologize for things we didn’t do or to be tactful and try to smooth things over. LW 1 is the wronged party here and should not have to apologize for that.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But OP isn’t apologizing for what she did; she’s apologizing for the impact her comment had on Jane. That doesn’t mean OP was in the wrong or that Jane’s reaction was reasonable. It’s not self-flagellation—it’s an acknowledgement that this difficult and painful interaction happened and that it was difficult and painful.

          Look, I’m the first to say women shouldn’t complain for things that aren’t their fault (and I say this as an over-apologizer). But I thought the suggested note threaded the needle deftly and empathetically. It makes OP look like the more gracious, more thoughtful, and more evolved person.

          1. fposte*

            This has come up here before about apologies; while I’m of your school of thought, that they’re a social tool for smoothing the way and are appropriate when you hurt someone even unwittingly, there’s another school of thought that they’re admisssions of wrongdoing. I don’t think the schools will ever find agreement.

              1. fposte*

                I say that with deep regret and will still cheerfully apologize regardless of fault whenever I please.

                1. JessaB*

                  the funny thing is that there have been studies done that when bad results happen in medicine (fault not admitted by doctor, it may not have been something done wrong,) that apologising actually lowers malpractise suits. It’s not about admitting wrong necessarily it’s about soothing the feelings of the people on the other end. Now people still sue, and in a lot of cases they SHOULD still sue, but it’s been shown to actually calm people down, especially the ones who shouldn’t sue because Jo died on the table from that probably fatal thing that they tried really hard to fix and just ended up not fixable. For so many years people in medicine were told “being apologetic is a guarantee you’ll be sued, saying sorry means you did something wrong.” And the courts have NOT found that way.

                2. Tara*

                  JessaB- It’s actually made law in Canada that apologies aren’t to be taken as admissions of guilt in legal proceedings for precisely this reason.

                3. MakesThings*

                  Thank you for saying this. Trying to get the apology police to understand my perspective is exhausting.

                4. lew*

                  Because I’m a pedant, just pointing out that the law about apologies in Canada is only in one of our provinces, Ontario, it’s not a national law. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news ;)

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              I agree with both camps at different times. On this occasion I think there’s limited value in fuelling the idea that the OP upset Jane – when in reality if this didn’t upset her something else would have as she was already upset. These were feelings she already had and the OP doesn’t need to take on responsibility for them.

              I think the letter writer can be kind to Jane and move past this without needing to apologise to someone else for that someone’s own feelings.

              1. Marvel*

                I’m also with both camps at different times. My job tends to be one of those where I am frequently held responsible for things not actually under my control (it’s a hazard of the particular position). When people in the same role on other projects ask me for advice on how to deal with people always blaming you for things, I always tell them to just apologize and figure out how to solve the problem so it doesn’t happen again–even if it’s not your fault and you in fact could not have foreseen the issue in any way. It makes relationships smoother and that’s worth its weight in gold in this industry. Plus, there’s a certain power in being humble enough to apologize without admitting guilt.

                However, for me, Jane’s behavior upon being upset was so egregious that I would feel deeply uncomfortable apologizing. And if I did, I would phrase it as a bit of a fauxpology–“I am sorry that you were so deeply upset by my comment.” Not to be mean, but just to make it clear that I’m not actually admitting to any wrongdoing.

                1. JessaB*

                  Also, it’s a bit hard to mock someone if you didn’t know they had a loss. Jane needs to be quietly reminded that nobody was TOLD the information they’d have needed to mock her with.

                2. ClownBaby*

                  When I was dealing with a loss, I felt everyone was out to get me. Even when I only told two people about the loss, I was convinced word spread and people were mocking me. While shouting in the workplace is terrible, I think some slack should be given.

                  I wasn’t a shouter during my loss, I was a crier. If someone said something like “What’s the good news today?” or “Happy Friday!” I felt like they were attacking me. I would quietly scowl at them, answer whatever question they posed with an unfriendly answer like “No good news today.” or “Doesn’t seem to happy to me.” and walk to the bathroom to cry.

                  I think the “fauxpology” would be a good step for OP to take and may help Jane, in time, realize that OP was not mocking her.

                  An employees mother was recently killed in a car accident while on vacation in a European country. Not knowing this information, I started gushing about how I was planning my next vacation in that country and that I was going to rent a car and go on a road trip city-to-city. Can you imagine hearing this 2 days after you were told your mother died doing the same thing?? As soon as I found out, I apologized. Sure, I did nothing wrong, but I probably managed to upset him even more than he already was. (He stayed quiet and didn’t say a word…I only found out about the death when he took two weeks off to bring the body home and attend the funeral).

                3. SunshineOH*

                  I don’t see any reason for the focus on OP “clearing her name”. She unintentionally hurt someone with an innocent comment. There’s nothing wrong with expressing remorse for that.

                4. AKchic*

                  I kind of feel like a fauxpology is the only apology warranted too. Something along the lines of “I’m sorry you felt feelings you didn’t want to feel based on a conversation you overheard about things that had nothing to do with you when I had no inkling of your situation. If I had known of your situation, I would chosen my words with more care.”

                  Because at the end of the day, Jane is the only one responsible for her feelings and the management thereof, not LW1.

              2. Mookie*

                I think you have precisely the right read on this particular situation. The LW serves no one well here, including herself, by prolonging this or behaving in any other way but normally.

            2. Wintermute*

              For what it’s worth the Supreme Court agrees with you. Despite constant misinformation to the opposite, an an apology is not (legally) an admission of guilt. I believe the term used was “apologies and social niceties are not an admission”.

              1. JM60*

                That depends on how the apology is stated. Police departments will often get suspects to write ‘apology letters’ to victims as a method of getting them to make a handwritten, signed confession that they enter into evidence. If you look for the video “Don’t Talk to the Police” by Regent University School of Law on Youtube, at 44:45 the cop that talks on the second half of the video explains how this method has never not resulted in a conviction when the suspect falls for it.

                BTW, I’d be interested to know which SCOTUS case(s) you’re thinking of.

                1. Wintermute*

                  I misread the case, it was a New Zealand case not a US one (Dovuro Pty Ltd v Wilkins if you’re curious) however state courts have found there is no liability created and some state bar associates (California being one) recommend an apology as a good way to avoid a suit. Other states (Michigan and Pennsylvania for example) have explicit laws saying an apology cannot be held against someone in a civil court. Were it to be decided at a high level I think that common law, common practice and the profusion of state laws would probably prevail.

                2. JM60*

                  Thanks for those states. That’s interesting.

                  My hunch would be that the recommendation by state bar associations to avoid a lawsuit is along the lines of “Smooth things over so they don’t choose to file a lawsuit”, rather than, “Apologizing can’t incriminate you”. I would think attorneys would prefer their clients apologize orally, rather than in writing.

                  I’m surprised to hear that courts have generally rules, and some states have explicitly enshrined in their laws, that apologies aren’t confessions. I would think that saying, “I’m sorry for punching you in the face,” would be admissible as evidence in a lawsuit claiming damages for being punched in the face. Perhaps these rulings/laws have certain restrictions, like a general “I’m sorry” not being admissible as evidence, but a specific, “I’m sorry I punched you in the face” might be. Or perhaps it’s admissible for lawsuits, but not for criminal law. Perhaps I’ll dig deeper sometime at what Michigan law, Pennsylvania law, and various state court ruling say.

          2. Another Sarah*

            But as pointed out, OP did not do anything. She should not have to say sorry. She did not know about Jane and her situation. If Jane got upset it is not on the OP. OP did not mean to upset Jane and she is not responsible for how the word baby impacted Jane. She cannot be responsible for something she didn’t know. Jane is the one who needs to show how gracious, thoughtful and evolved she is after how she behaved. Not the OP.

            1. BarkusOrlyus*

              What you are saying is (in part) literally correct, but is not particularly compassionate. Sometimes people act in inappropriate ways when they’re extremely upset. This is something that nearly every person has done at some low, miserable point in their lives. We should all be so lucky as to have coworkers like OP, who seems to be extremely compassionate in this situation. Jane’s upset is understandable and if I were OP, I would absolutely not think that she needs to “show how gracious, thoughtful and evolved she is” after that. It doesn’t seem that OP thinks that either.

              1. Cyberwulf*

                Going to the boss and lying about a coworker because you’re terribly upset is not acceptable ever. A coworker did it to me three years ago and I no longer trust him.

                1. Thursday Next*

                  I think there’s enough context to give Jane the benefit of compassionate doubt, and say she didn’t lie, she misunderstood. Grief is a terrible and sometimes distorting lens through which to view the world.

                2. JessaB*

                  I don’t think Jane was thinking completely straight that “oh I didn’t tell anyone so it’s not possible for me to be mocked about this.”

                3. Anon to me*

                  Jane’s unborn baby died, along with the hopes and dreams she had for the future of that baby. And who knows how easy it was for Jane’s to get pregnant or if there are longer term complications from her miscarriage. I suspect in her mind she wasn’t making anything up. Grief messes people up. It interprets situations in weird ways.

                4. Can't Be Arsed*

                  Cyberwulf, I agree. Same thing happened to me in oldjob but fortunately, he lied in my presence.
                  OP#1 did nothing wrong. And while Jane is going through a terribly heartbreaking time, screaming at a coworker plus lying is unacceptable in my book.
                  If I were Jane’s manager, I’d suggest she take leave time.

                5. Anna*

                  The thing is, whether or not Jane believed she was lying is beside the point. She passed along something untrue to her boss. The outcome is the same whether she knew it was true or not. Jane is going through a really tough time and compassion is warranted, but she still did something that could have had a lasting impact on the LW too. The LW was not in the wrong and I think apologizing in this specific case wouldn’t be beneficial to either Jane or the LW.

                6. Natalie*

                  @Anna, totally disagree. Someone lying about a co-worker is an actual performance issue whereas someone simply being wrong is not. If Jane had lied, as in knowingly and intentionally relayed something untrue, it would be appropriate for the LW to discuss that with her manager and assure herself that it was being handled.

                7. fposte*

                  @Anna–but it’s telling a manager, it’s not filing a police report. I mean, I’d be pretty unhappy if I had a staffer who *was* taunting somebody who had a miscarriage and I wasn’t informed about it.

                8. Anna*

                  The thing is, though, that we tend to want to see coworkers handle it between themselves before they get management involved. This was a one time occurrence that Jane assumed was taunting her about her loss. If the boss had flipped it on the LW, too, and believed everything that Jane said, I don’t think you’d be as forgiving of Jane accidentally lying about LW’s motivations. The good thing about how it’s worked out is the boss isn’t nutty and was able to give context to a weird situation, but we’ve seen plenty of times when that wasn’t the case and the outcome for the LW was pretty terrible. I don’t think that because the outcome here was reasonable it’s okay to completely write off Jane even unwittingly lying.

                9. fposte*

                  @Anna–I want staff to handle small interpersonal friction between themselves, yes. I wouldn’t consider bullying like that to be small.

                  And that’s *always* true when you make a complaint, that there’s a risk that the boss will make the wrong call. But if you shut the boss out of a big thing there’s a lot greater risk. I’d be frustrated and indignant if the OP had been fired for this, but I’d have been mad at the boss, not at Jane. And, of course, the OP *didn’t* get fired for this, and it doesn’t sound like the boss’s involvement was a particularly big deal.

                10. JM60*

                  @Natalie I think that reporting someone wrong about someone can still be a performance issue. The mere fact that you didn’t know it was wrong doesn’t automatically clear you of all responsibility. I think that people generally have a certain level of responsibility to ask themselves, “Do I really know this is the case” before reporting something, and to report it as factually as they can. I think there’s a difference between, “Brenda was mocking me for my miscarriage”, and, “Brenda said X. At the time, I felt as though she was mocking me for my miscarriage, which I hadn’t told her about.”

            2. Twitch*

              She doesn’t HAVE to say sorry, but it’s a script that is kind, professional and allows her to address the issue. It’s an option that is there for her to use if it would be helpful.

            3. CarolynM*

              I agree with you. The OP should not have to apologize – there was no way to know that anything she said could have possibly upset Jane. If the OP had not been the one to say something that triggered Jane, it would have been someone else – Jane is grieving and raw, the OP just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was not OP that caused the misunderstanding and she has nothing to apologize for. That doesn’t mean that the OP shouldn’t be understanding if this is totally out of character for Jane – I am not advocating that Jane is a terrible person and should beg OP’s forgiveness, but I don’t think apologizing to Jane is particularly helpful to her. She has suffered a terrible loss – it is one thing to offer condolences, but to apologize to her for her own overreaction is infantilizing.

              I have been in a similar position to Jane’s, loss of a different kind – when I snapped at someone who did not deserve the reaction they got, I was the one to go find them (… eventually), explain that I was going through a hard time and that my reaction had everything to do with that and that I was sorry for taking it out on them. Most of the time the person I was apologizing to politely feigned they didn’t even remember the incident or said bringing it up was unnecessary, but it was really important to me. It helped me heal. When my life exploded in my face, I felt very out of control … being able to take control of my reactions and apologize when I reacted inappropriately helped me feel more in control and helped me deal with everything that was happening. It was no longer happening TO me, it was happening and I was dealing with it. When people stopped trying to protect me from anything that might be tough to deal with, I realized I was stronger and coping better than I realized.

              I would absolutely let Jane know she is in my thoughts and that I am sorry for her loss (as long as I knew Jane was okay with me knowing and that the manager didn’t betray a confidence), but I would not apologize for saying something I could have no earthly notion would upset her. You placate unreasonable people, you deal honestly and lovingly with people who are having a rough go.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                I was the one to go find them (… eventually)

                The key word here is eventually. This letter was written to Alison the same day the incident took place. It’s entirely possible that Jane has since realized she was out of line and apologized. We won’t know unless the LW updates us.

                I went through a really rough patch years ago and had some serious rage issues that were a result of medication side effects. I had no idea how I was acting until a friend took me aside and had a difficult conversation with me. I am so grateful for her doing that and I did try to make amends to the people who I hurt.

              2. Specialk9*

                That’s cool that you sought them out to apologise once your head was sorted out. It’s a really good sign for your character.

                1. CarolynM*

                  Thanks! :) We all have our moments – apologising for them is how we tell other people that those moments are the exception, not the rule!

                  (And life is easier when you own up to mistakes and apologise for screwups – I have actually come out ahead after a huge error in judgment because of the way I owned up to it! You might come out way ahead, but at the very least, you come out ahead of where you were before you acknowledged your less than awesome actions!)

            4. ClownBaby*

              I mention in a comment elsewhere that I had an employee who’s mother (and 2 other family members) died in a car accident in a foreign country. Before I was aware of this information, and only 2 days since the employee learned of it, I went to that department and started gushing about how I was planning my next vacation for that country and that I was going to rent a car and travel city to city.

              The employee stayed silent, no shouting or anything. I think he excused himself to collect something from the printer at one point. When I was told the next week that he would be gone for two weeks as he flew to bring home his mother’s body and was having to plan and attend the funeral, you can bet I felt terrible. I didn’t do anything wrong, but I apologized to him for my earlier comments.

              Sometimes apologies are nice even without any wrong doing. OP could mend the relationship, and make it easier for Jane to apologize in time, by saying something like “I am sorry if my comments hurt you. Please know, that was not my intention.”

          3. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I am especially grateful for your kind and compassionate comments in this post. The lack of empathy towards Jane in the comment section today is astounding.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              Mmm. I think we can all agree this wasn’t an excuse but definitely a reason. And while I don’t think the LW needs to apologise for talking about her cat, I agree with you.

            2. Marvel*

              I think you can both have empathy for someone and think their behavior was inexcusable. I’ve certainly felt that way about myself and my own actions from time to time, and understanding someone’s feelings doesn’t mean endorsing the way those feelings were expressed.

            3. Julia*

              Well, Jane showed a lack of empathy towards OP1. Does Jane know that OP1 is child-free by choice and that she’s not calling her cat her baby because she’d like a real baby?

              1. Mookie*

                I don’t definitively know Jane’s motivations or subconscious biases, but I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt here, that she probably wasn’t targeting the LW because of the LW’s personal life. That being said, people will mention babies, even as euphemisms. This kind of disproportionate reaction is, under the circumstances, generally not illustrative of a person’s character or ‘soul.’ Jane could feel very foolish, especially in doubling down on her misinterpretation by claiming that the LW was mocking her loss by referring to her, the LW’s, cat. It’d be better for everyone involved if they could move on. I hope Jane has all the tools and help at her disposal to do so.

              2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                Given that Jane is actively grieving right now and her loss is fresh, this comparison doesn’t make any sense.

                1. Basia, also a Fed*

                  I actually think it’s an appropriate comparison. OP1 says she’s childless by choice. But what if she or her partner had had miscarriages? Then Jane would have been doing the same thing to OP1 that she accused OP1 of doing to her. Telling someone they don’t know what it’s like to be a parent because they don’t have a child can be extremely triggering for someone with infertility or who has had miscarriages. Or a child who died.

                2. Zillah*

                  @Basia, also a Fed – I’m not sure what purpose this sort of ‘what if’ serves. You could come up with some mediating explanation for pretty much every situation in which one person offends another. Sometimes we react disproportionately to things, sometimes we hurt others without meaning to, and sometimes both of those things happen at once. That’s just part of being human; I’m not sure why it’s necessary to call out Jane as mocking the OP’s nonexistent issues with infertility/miscarriages.

              3. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

                People call things “my baby” all the time without pretending they’re substitutes for a literal baby and almost anyone who’s not grief-addled would know that that’s the sense OP was using. I hope Jane realizes this and apologizes to OP when she’s feeling less raw, but it’s not like the reasonable response would have been “well, I’m obviously correct that OP thinks the cat stands in for a child, so I should have compassion for her infertility struggles.”

                1. Dust Bunny*

                  You’d think so, but the number of people who get their shorts in a twist when they hear pets referred to as “furbabies” suggests otherwise. Some people just won’t let “babies” refer to anything but humans.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  Seriously – a project or initiative can be “so-and-so’s baby”. Some people call their vehicles or boats their baby. In colloquial use it just means “something that this person is very invested in spending a great deal of time/energy/money/social capital/whatever on”. The fact that I call my cat my baby, call my car my baby, and call some of the complex reports I’ve authored my babies, does not mean I consider myself a parent of 5 or so children.

                  Jane’s grief made her respond irrationally to an extremely common colloquial expression, and frankly I do think she should apologize to OP once she’s got a little bit of distance from things.

                3. LBK*

                  There have actually been debates on this very site about referring to your pet as your baby or your child, argued by people who (at least not that they mentioned) weren’t coming off emotional situations like Jane’s. It’s a more common line of thought than you’d guess.

                4. Lissa*

                  Yeah, one thing that’s a bit confusing to me in this comment section is the seeming implication that OP’s defense is that she didn’t know. Would it really have been a horrible insensitive thing to refer to her cat as her baby if she DID know? To be honest, that thought would never occur to me in a million years. I have a friend who has had a miscarriage, and she refers to her own pets as her babies, and considering the rate of miscarriage means a very large percentage of women have experienced it, if this was a known insensitive thing to say wouldn’t it be known that this expression could be upsetting?

                  I personally think that Jane should be given slack for this one incident but that if I were OP I’d be avoiding Jane just in case another comment set her off that I had NO idea might do so.

                5. Teacher*

                  I think it is a little different with pets than with cars given that some people do believe the relationship between cat and owner is the same as between parent and child. Not that everyone does and not that OP necessarily does (and certainly not to suggest that Janes reaction was appropriate), but that phenomenon exists and I think that’s why people might assume that’s what someone means when they refer to a pet as their baby.

                6. fposte*

                  @Lissa–that’s an interesting question. I think probably if I knew, I’d try for a while to avoid happily talking about my baby whether it was human, animal, or mechanical.

                7. CMDRBNA*

                  And considering that dogs are basically fur-covered toddlers who can’t talk, I don’t think it’s weird to refer to them that way. My partner’s parents have two dogs and refer to the dogs as his brothers, and they often get told to go find mommy or daddy when we need them to go get one of their parents. They seriously behave like a pair of two year olds, down to covering everything in saliva and giving you damp toys and bits of biscuits.

                8. Plague of frogs*

                  It’s worth noting that if OP had a human baby, and had referred to it, Jane would have gone off on her in exactly the same way. Or if she had talked about someone else’s baby, or if she had used baby powder in front of Jane… Jane is not in a good place right now, and stuff is going to set her off. Maybe HR could help set her up with resources to help her as she grieves (I’m not sure if this is an overstep).

                  On a side note: I refer to my rats as my babies all the time. One of my coworkers has started to referring to his (human) babies as “his rats” as a result.

                9. oranges & lemons*

                  I am in the camp of people who find it annoying when people call their pets “babies” or call themselves “mom” or “dad” in relation to their pets. But I don’t actually tell people this, I just seethe silently. (Of course, I don’t think the OP was wrong to say it, and it doesn’t bug me when it’s used in the the joking way she describes.)

                10. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

                  @all – I am aware that some people earnestly call themselves a “[pet] mom/dad” to refer to themselves as the animal’s caregiver, and I’m aware that some people find that annoying or insulting, but this comment is in response to one that suggests that under different circumstances, Jane might reasonably have concluded that OP calls her cat “my baby” because she wants a literal, actual baby. That’s what I’m responding to, not whether anyone finds “cat parenting” an annoying concept.

              4. Anna*

                I mean, I see what you’re getting at, but this is getting into sandwich territory. This is one of those situations where the person most wrong is also the one who most needs understanding.

            4. Anonanonanon...*

              I feel like there’s a difference between Jane feeling like she was being mocked and blowing up at the OP, and talking to her manager to try to get the OP reprimanded. Grief makes people act weird, and I can empathize and excuse an irrational outburst of shouting that would otherwise be out of place in an office. The piece I’m having a harder time with is that extra step of going to the manager. That takes time and thought and coordination that should have slowed things down, and it just seems unnecessarily petty.

              1. Natalie*

                That takes time and thought and coordination that should have slowed things down, and it just seems unnecessarily petty.

                I’m not really sure what you’re envisioning as far as time and coordination and such, but given that all of this happened in one day it seems way more likely that Jane spoke to her manager immediately after talking to the LW and thus hadn’t had any time to calm down or reflect on her outburst.

                1. Anonanonanon...*

                  I know it all happened on the same day, but even stepping away from OP, trying to find your boss in their office, seeing if they have a minute to talk, recounting the entire conversation, etc. Even if it happened right after overhearing the OP, taking all of those steps is different than an immediate outburst.

            5. TrainerGirl*

              While I do have a lot of empathy for Jane (having suffered a miscarriage myself), grief doesn’t give you the right to act any way you feel at the moment. For me, the screaming in the moment is excusable. But going to the manager is where it gets a little murky for me. At a certain point, even those who are grieving need to be mindful that their momentary outbursts can have lasting consequences.

          4. Anony*

            I don’t think it sounds like self-flagellation or groveling. It is reiterating that it was a misunderstanding. Simple and to the point. There is no need to send anything except for the fact that it sounds like the OP wants something in writing because of the coworker’s over the top reaction. The point of the e-mail is not to apologize to Jane.

          5. GarlicMicrowaver*

            To add to this, I would just be careful about setting a precedent with this note. You don’t want to be responsible for Jane’s feelings or how “trigger words” affect her. It isn’t fair to you. I might even go so far as to ask HR how they suggest handling it if it escalates or if a similar situation arises.

            I can also see Jane’s perspective. Years ago, I lost someone close to me thanks to a brain tumor. Completely out of context in a project meeting, a coworker used the phrase “brain surgery” and I freaked out and ran back to my desk and cried. I later collected my thoughts and apologized, explaining the situation. We were fine since.

        2. JamieS*

          In this context “sorry” isn’t an apology but an expression of sorrow at someone else’s grief followed by a reassertion of the actions OP would have taken had they had complete information. It’s the same concept as telling a widow you’re sorry for her loss at her husband’s funeral. That’s not an apology as you presumably had nothing to do with the loss but the way most people acknowledge another person’s grief and attempt to empathize.

          All that being said, I don’t think it’s appropriate for OP to email her manager. It was reasonably necessary for OP to be informed of the miscarriage due to the circumstances but I think it’s wrong for OP and her manager to continue to further discuss Jane’s miscarriage between themselves, even if it’s just 1 email, when there’s no reasonable need. Assuming OP isn’t some horrible person known for lacking any compassion or empathy, it’s safe to assume OP’s manager knows OP is sorry for Jane’s loss and knows OP wouldn’t have made such a comment had they known about Jane’s miscarriage.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            It was reasonably necessary for OP to be informed of the miscarriage due to the circumstances but I think it’s wrong for OP and her manager to continue to further discuss Jane’s miscarriage between themselves

            This! A miscarriage is nothing to be ashamed of or keep hidden, but it is Jane’s personal medical information that she didn’t share widely (presumably, since LW was unaware).

            1. Birch*

              It’s also weird that Jane would be angry with OP here because either OP has no way of knowing about Jane’s situation (in which case she couldn’t possibly have been making a cruel joke) or Jane would assume that the boss told OP, in which case she should be angrier with the boss for sharing her personal info. Either way it makes Jane look extremely paranoid. I get that people are often irrational when grieving, but if it’s to the point of this kind of paranoia, assuming that people are talking about you negatively…. maybe Jane needs some time off. I would be totally humiliated in her place, knowing I had made such an irrational accusation at work. OPs compassion is great but IMO Jane also needs to realize how not OK this was.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                Logic isn’t always present when someone is in the midst of an emotional upheaval. I said elsewhere, but it’s entirely possible that when Jane went home and thought about it, she realized that there was no way possible LW could have known or had someone in her life point it out to her. Or even the manager may have done so after talking to the LW. There’s a lot we don’t know and the vilification of Jane for having one bad moment is really upsetting.

                1. Lissa*

                  Do you think if the OP *had* known that OP would have been wrong in her comment? I’m not seeing much vilification (though I’m only partway down the comments) but it just would *never* have occurred to me that this would be a thing to avoid saying! (and I don’t have pets and find the ‘my baby’ thing kind of twee sometimes so would be unlikely to even say it, I just had never thought of it as insensitive to those who lost children/can’t have children etc.)

                2. CMart*


                  I think being delicate and compassionate in the “right” ways around pregnancy loss are the sort of skills you unfortunately only really learn through experience, whether it’s having seen someone go through it or going through it yourself.

                  People use “baby” to describe a whole litany of things that are precious to them (pets, cars, intensive work projects, etc…) and it’s done really automatically, so I wouldn’t say that using it in that way would necessarily be “wrong”, even if OP knew about the loss.

                  However it’s definitely a compassionate thing to do to avoid the mention of children/babies in general around someone grieving a loss. Some people can handle it, a lot can’t. After my losses I would get emotional and upset just seeing a pregnant woman existing in my field of vision. I still to this day really bristle at people calling their pets their “babies” in non-flippant ways (though I can take it as a joke now, I couldn’t before). So it’s more a case of erring on the side of caution/compassion to avoid calling your pet a baby than it is a malicious wrong.

                  Now if OP knew about the loss AND knew that Jane was extremely raw emotionally AND deliberately chose the word “baby” to describe her cat in front of her then yes, that would have been mean and likely warranted an apology. But simply knowing that a loss had happened absent any other factors? Not “wrong”, just careless and a learning experience.

              2. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

                When I was trying to get pregnant I became irrationally upset with a co-worker when she got pregnant without trying. So upset that I went to the bathroom, sat in a stall, and cried my eyes out for 10 minutes and then didn’t talk to her for the rest of the week. She had no idea why. Later when I did get pregnant and found out I was having a girl that same co-worker wouldn’t talk to me for a week because she was so angry as she was having her 4th boy and had really been hoping for a girl.
                My point is…sometimes grief makes a person react in a way that doesn’t seem rational. I’m sure Jane will look back on her reaction and cringe at how she handled her grief this time, but I don’t think she’s being paranoid. She’s a grieving woman who had a bad reaction. I don’t think OP should apologize though. She’s done nothing wrong. OP should just keep on doing her regular thing.

              3. CMart*

                Well, it’s only been a day (as of the writing of the letter). Maybe that night Jane was at home with her husband, processing what happened, and feels awful about how she reacted/escalated.

                It’s embarrassing to overreact, especially when in the midst of grief. The gracious thing for Jane to do would be to apologize, but I have to imagine that feels perhaps insurmountably tough right now. I would hope that if I knew the manager had talked to OP that maybe I could just let things lie and pretend it never happened.

                I also don’t think it’s disproportional paranoia, necessarily. Maybe Jane had told some people and assumed word might spread quietly. That’s what I hoped would happen when I was in her exact position. I didn’t know who did or didn’t know that I’d had a miscarriage, but I operated under the assumption that my gossipy workplace had done its thing.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            In this context “sorry” isn’t an apology but an expression of sorrow.

            This is something that more people need to realize. “I’m sorry” –> “I feel sorrow.” That doesn’t have to continue to “because everything is my fault.” It can just acknowledge that something is sorrowful.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              Yes. This is similar to saying “I’m sorry for your loss” at a funeral, even though you didn’t kill the person and were in no way responsible for the death.

              If OP wants to, she can say to Jane, “I’m sorry you took my comments the wrong way,” or even “I’m sorry about your miscarriage,” and neither of those is an admission of guilt or an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

              1. fposte*

                I wouldn’t go with the first–it may be accurate, but it’s a construction that tends to be blamey. I think the second is fine.

              2. Tequila Mockingbird*

                “I’m sorry you took my comments the wrong way” is SUPER passive-aggressive. I’d advise against this language.

              3. TootsNYC*

                Instead, I’d say, “I’m sorry that it seemed I was mocking you.”

                Don’t say “I’m sorry for what YOU did/thought” or “I’m sorry for what *I* did/thought”

                Say “I’m sorry IT seemed…” or “I’m sorry you were hurt,” maybe (the passive can be helpful here).

            2. MM*

              I’m constantly having to remind people of this. Someone will tell me about something bad that happened in their day, or a problem they’re dealing with, I’ll say “I’m sorry” and they’ll immediately go “It’s not your fault.” I know! That’s not what I said!

        3. Britt*

          I agree with you here. Obviously a miscarriage is very sad and my heart goes out to Jane. However, that doesn’t mean Jane can scream at her coworkers in the name of grief. I could see moving on and letting it go after this incident but Jane then further escalated taking it to their manager accusing OP of mocking her. That is beyond inappropriate and clearly her grief is impacting her more than she realizes. Jane should be the one apologizing here, not the OP.

          1. Oilpress*

            You are right. Jane shouldn’t even be at work if she is this volatile. I really hate what Jane did because it seems as if she was looking to punish someone else for her miscarriage. Totally not fair.

            1. Zillah*

              I’m not sure why there’s a jump to malicious intent here. It’s far, far more likely that Jane was grieving and reacted irrationally than that she was trying to punish someone else for her miscarriage.

              1. Safetykats*

                Whether or not it was malicious (and I doubt it was) it was irrational. Jane needs some help, and it is possible that she needs some time off. If I was OP I would be more concerned about what their boss is doing to make sure that happens, and that Jane isn’t given a free pass to continue to be abusive of coworkers. I think it’s fair for the OP to talk to the boss, and also to HR, although the best way to do that is to express concern. That way OP’s side of things is formally on record just in case this isn’t a one-time thing.

                And I hope this won’t be interpreted as not sympathetic to Jane. I am sympathetic; but losing a baby (or a child, or a spouse) doesn’t make it acceptible to abuse your coworkers. The boss should be held accountable to ensure this doesn’t happen again, and I’m a little afraid that’s not going to happen.

                1. Tabby*

                  Exactly. Jane needs to stay home for awhile and come to a point where she isn’t screaming at her coworkers over things that have nothing to do with the loss of her child. I do feel a great deal of empathy for her for the loss of her child.

                  I feel zero empathy for the absolute lack of respect for others she’s displaying by screaming at people. That is just not on, no matter how deeply you may be grieving.

                  Not that this is the same thing (just an example of how messy emotions can be, and how they are not always under complete control): I suffer from low-grade depression and anxiety, and am often irritable and somewhat irrational; sometimes I will think (completely erroneously) that people are talking about me behind my back, and are deliberately causing me problems and pain just because they can, or something. If I fall off the deep end and scream at a friend? I will go away and come back later with an apology because my behavior is completely wrong. Fortunately, these instances are very, very rare. And always, ALWAYS my responsibility to manage, not anyone else’s.

                  Long story short: Jane needs to find a way to manage her grief that doesn’t involve abusing her coworkers’ good will. Hopefully she will have done this shortly after this incident. Her going to the manager was over the top and out of line, period. There’s no excusing that, at all.

        4. Grapey*

          “Women are socialized to apologize for things we didn’t do or to be tactful and try to smooth things over.”

          If only Jane felt the same way.

            1. CMart*

              And even if she doesn’t, I don’t think it will be some great crime or injustice, personally. I wouldn’t need an apology from someone once I knew there were extenuating stressors like this.

              1. Zillah*

                Ditto. I’ve actually felt pretty uncomfortable when people have apologized for something vaguely along these lines in the past, because there really was nothing to forgive as far as I was concerned.

      2. Eva*

        Why should the OP have to apologize? She did nothing wrong? Why should she have to be the one to keep the peace and act embarrassed? Jane should do it. Not her, OP did not make the mistake here.

        1. MerciMe*

          She needn’t apologize, but a gentle acknowledgement can sometimes help smooth through awkward situations like this. Both compassion and indignation tend to echo back and forth across relationships, so I personally have made the choice to emphasize kindness over strict correctness – other people make different balancing choices but I think there is benefit in being able to pick and choose from among a full range of approaches.

      3. Snow*

        I agree. This is a perfect time to utilize the ‘I’m sorry to hear (Jane has this feeling and situation)’ format, which is loosely related yet separate from ‘I’m sorry that I said/for my action’ format. OP can acknowledge her words impacted Jane in an unexpected and negative way without disavowing them.

      4. another Liz*

        Or “I don’t want to approach Jane directly, in case she wants to keep this private, but could you tell her I didn’t know and am truly sorry for her loss”? This would be an apology for the hurt, no accepting blame for things not OP’s fault, and subtle documentation for CYA reasons.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          This is probably the best course of action, presuming the LW didn’t already say as much when she was talking to her manager.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          That’s a good idea. I’d feel awkward about approaching Jane if I were OP, but would still want to clear the air.

        3. Lissa*

          I like this! As wrong as this might seem to some people, I’m sorry (heh) but no way would I be approaching Jane any time soon about this incident – I’d be too worried I’d unknowingly set her off again and either deeply upset her further or cause her to really hate me. I understand intellectually that people have all kinds of weird reactions after grief, but I’d still feel pretty freaked out if a coworker did this to me, to be honest. I don’t react well to being yelled at (it makes me feel viscerally sick) and the follow up with the manager would make me worry if she’d believe I meant ill no matter what, because perceptions and memory can be like that.

      5. Camellia*

        Putting this in an email apology: “I wouldn’t have said that if I’d known about her miscarriage…”

        This is my concern and one the OP mentions in her letter: now that she knows, is she supposed to never ever call her cat her “baby” again? What if she forgets and Jane reacts again? Is the OP now in trouble?

        1. JM60*

          The OP shouldn’t have to refrain from referring her cat the way she’s use to referring her cat, as her baby, indefinitely. She should only temporarily be expected to not call her cat her baby around Jane. If the OP’s cat’s name was Tom, and the OP knew that Jane happened to have picked the name Tom for her child, should the OP have to rename her cat? I don’t think so.

    3. Lujessmin*

      My cats ARE my babies. ive been fortunate that people I’ve worked with understood that. I’m sorry Jane had to go through that, but you don’t owe her an apology. If anything, she owes you one.

      1. ms-dos efx*

        So glad I’m not the only person who feels this way! I’m tempted to say that what Jane said to OP goes the other direction too–it seems like people with children tend not to understand how much pets can mean to those of us with no maternal/paternal instinct toward humans.

    4. Thia*

      #1 – the employee also needs to document the entire thing. The initial conversation about going to the pet store and what her boss told her. That is critical in case this happens again. I’m a hiring manager and the employee really needs to document this.


    Grief is no excuse to act like a jerk. I say this as someone who has had a miscarriage in the past, as well as having a parent who was the victim of murder. Even if Jane was upset in the moment (still no excuse) going to your boss afterward is beyond the pale. Jane is not a nice person. She planned to try and get you in trouble over nothing. You have NOTHING to apologize for LW #1. If I was you I would go to your boss and ask that it be put on record she lied. I would also avoid Jane at all costs and only interact with her if it is absolutely necessary for work, and even then only with a witness present. Jane is a jerk and you owe her nothing. Don’t feel bad, don’t change how you talk about your cat. Jane should be ashamed of herself. This is NOT on you.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I’m really sorry all of that happened to you.

      Your manager and/or HR should be able to make a note in your record without Jane even knowing. Although, I do hope someone with tact has a conversation with Jane because what she did was uncalled for. I say that while having a great deal of compassion for her grief.

      1. Specialk9*

        Just…wow “Grief is no excuse to act like a jerk.” What a dogmatic and unkind approach.

        Approaching life so rigidly is not helpful – a good therapist will teach one that reframing events can help us deal with them better. In this case, coworker’s behavior was clearly in the wrong, but an ounce of compassion for a grieving person acting the way grieving people often do is a much kinder route.

        I hope in your grief, people were kinder to you than you seem to be to others.

        1. Aes Sidhe*

          Jane knows she didn’t tell anyone about the miscarriage (not even sure she told management until this happened), so she can’t claim to have been mocked about it. LW#1 would have to know about it, and it wasn’t disclosed to her until the manager got involved. Really, how do you mock someone for something you know nothing about? Jane might be sensitive and taking everything personally, but that is on her. Grief is not an automatic pass on bad behavior. She is an adult and can control herself. If she can’t, she needs to see a therapist. ASAP. She purposefully went to management and lied. She knew she lied, and I would have no issues going to management and making sure that this was noted in Jane’s file.

          1. Zillah*

            so she can’t claim to have been mocked about it.

            People in emotionally trying situations aren’t always behaving rationally – that’s part of the point.

            1. Aes Sidhe*

              There’s irrational and then there’s intentional malice. Grief doesn’t cause you to not know right from wrong.

        2. Fish Microwaver*

          It’s true that grief is no excuse to behave like a jerk. If Jane is still so emotionally fragile that she screams at a coworker, then accuses her of egregious behaviour to her boss, she should not be at work. She needs to take time to restore her emotional balance. And the poster who said grief is no excuse was not being dogmatic or unkind.

          1. Jo*

            Thank you for saying this.

            The double standards that happen on this blog’s comment section with increasing frequency are seriously frustrating. It’s gotten to the point where I seriously cannot keep up with who is “worthy” of a special free pass on their behavior – almost every other time, when someone messes up, the SECOND someone tries to “reframe events” that might explain why the wrongdoer acted the way they did, it becomes a rage mob with everyone self-righteously preaching about how we shouldn’t make excuses for bad behavior and why are you DEFENDING this jerk!? But this time, for some reason, Jane has an army of people totally excusing and defending her actions, because for some reason HER case is special and she deserves it even though in general no one else ever seems to.

            Her grief and hardship is not more worthy of that consideration than anyone else’s, so I don’t see why she gets kid gloves when everyone else’s reasons for why they might’ve chosen to act poorly get met with a total lack of sympathy and a frosty “stop trying to make excuses for your bad behavior.”

            The “logical and dogmatic” approach here is almost always applied to every other situation we read about on this blog when someone admits to behaving less than perfectly. Why the sudden demand for kindness this time? It’s not cool to arbitrarily just pick and choose who deserves a reframing, or the benefit of the doubt. Either bring up this call for empathy and compassion to everyone who makes mistakes, or hold Jane to the same standards commenters seem to hold everyone else to rather consistently.

            1. Zillah*

              I don’t think that these two things are analogous – and I say that as someone who’s also found the comments here frustrating lately.

              For me, I’m often bothered when it feels like people are making assumptions or overlaying their own biases onto a situation to talk about things that haven’t been addressed one way or the other as though they’re facts. That’s particularly true when they’re implicitly (or explicitly!) accusing the OP of lying or purposefully holding information back, but it’s problematic regardless.

              However, I don’t that’s what’s happening here. There’s no subtext or reaching – it’s explicitly stated that Jane yelled at the OP and complained to the manager because she’s recently had a miscarriage. I don’t think that compassion for someone going through a very difficult time is so out of line – nor do I think the exact same compassion has to be extended to every person who makes a mistake regardless of the situation or consequences for it to be valid here.

              1. Anon For This*

                I can see your point. I think I’m just kinda fed up with the trend here lately that’s taken over where whenever someone screws up, instantly there’s a mob of commenters calling them an abusive sociopath (two words that really, REALLY shouldn’t be used as glibly and flippantly as they’ve been recently. Suddenly anyone who harms anyone in any way is “abusive” or has NPD. Good grief).

                Given that, to see everyone tripping all over themselves to excuse and defend Jane makes me bristle. She gets a pass but everyone else who messes up is an abuser, or a horrible person, or what have you. It’s so hypocritical and arrogant.

              2. Annonymouse*

                I think it’s a matter of both sides not being able to see the others point and feeling like it compromises their own.

                The discipline camp seems hard and unfeeling to the show compassion people

                and the show compassion people seem to not want consequences to the discipline side.

                this works best if we can all clearly see what we all agree on:

                1) What Jane did – the blow up and going to the bosses saying she was mocked was not appropriate

                2) OP was very much in the right

                3) Some action needs to happen around Jane from above.

                point 3 is the sticker.

                Jane should have a firm talking to, maybe a write up, about behaving appropriately to colleagues and coupled with an EAP referral since she is clearly still grieving and needs to deal with that.

                No-one is saying free pass and no-one is saying fire her, there’s no way she will ever be a good human again.

                Instead their needs to be compassion and understanding along with the discipline.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed that grief is not an excuse, but I do think it’s possible that Jane doesn’t think she lied. She may have legitimately heard something completely different than everyone else because her headspace is over-wrought right now. That doesn’t excuse her behavior, but it suggests that she may not have understood that she was intentionally misleading the boss because in her head, OP really did mock her. (Of course, OP did not mock her. But grief can really twist your perception of reality and make you lose your mind a bit.)

        1. OxfordComma*

          I was recently in a meeting and a coworker who I admire tremendously took exception to something I said and basically said I was talking down to them. That was not my intent, but that’s how the coworker took it. I apologized and am watching my tone from now on. (We’re all fine now)

          I’ve never had a miscarriage. I don’t know what that’s like. But I agree that it’s entirely possible that Jane doesn’t think she lied.

      1. neverjaunty*

        It really can, but the OP should still give Jane a wide berth. At best, Jane’s grief means she is not someone the OP can trust to act rationally towards her, and it’s best to let Jane work through her situation. At worst, well, bad things can also happen to bad people, and she may well have been a jerk before her miscarriage, so keeping contact polite, civil, and to the minimum required to do her job is probably OP’s safest bet.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes. I think people are forgetting what grief can do to your brain. I really doubt that Jane lied. She was far more likely reporting what she perceived to be true.

          The question now is whether she went home at the end of the day and realized how she must have been wrong, or whether she’s the type of person who will double down on what she said because she can’t admit to being wrong. There is no way for us to tell that from the letter. OP’s best bet is to just to do what Alison said and give Jane a wide berth for a while.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        My understanding is that miscarriages can be tough hormonally in addition to emotionally, so depending on just how recent it was poor Jane could be in quite a state. I know that I’ve been in less than perfect touch with reality after a major emotional trauma. Add hormone chaos and I can totally understand how Jane could believe she was in the right even though she was totally not.

        Regardless, I don’t think it harms anyone to chalk this one up to Jane having a really difficult time personally and let it go. If it ends up being a pattern of behavior someone can address it then.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I certainly cried at particularly emotional burrito ads when pregnant. They are some impressive hormones.

          For your second paragraph, I agree that sometimes you can give a one-off an opportunity to be just a one-off.

          1. Natalie*

            In fact, in most circumstances I think you’re best erring on the side of “one off” until you see a pattern, especially when you have a mostly positive or neutral history with someone (which OP presumably has with Jane). Nobody wants to be forever categorized by their worst moment, after all.

            1. Lissa*

              Totally agree! I’d be giving Jane a wide berth for awhile out of my own reactions to the situation, but if things calmed down (I wouldn’t need an apology) and went back to normal I’d be cool.

            2. EchoChamber*

              True, but even if it’s a one-off, the manager usually at least addresses it with the offender. I can see why the manager sat down with OP to explain Jane’s reaction, but if s/he hasn’t already, the manager needs to address Jane’s actions as well, even if they were uncharacteristic and the result of grief.

        2. CMart*

          I can definitely attest that the hormone fluctuations are insult to injury after pregnancy loss.

          It’s not good that Jane reacted the way she did, but I don’t know. I don’t think it’s a crime for everyone to just quietly move on from this incident.

      3. Another Jane*

        Agree. In the early months of my first pregnancy I was convinced co-workers could tell, that I was already showing, that my behavior gave it away etc. When I miscarried, this rolled over to feeling like since OF COURSE everyone had figured out I was pregnant, OF COURSE they now all knew I’d miscarried, or alternately didn’t know and were still anticipating a baby announcement.
        In reality, nearly no one has the interest or ability to detect early pregnancy – just because I thought about my pregnancy constantly didn’t mean others did.

      4. Clare*

        That’s true, but that makes it even more necessary for the manager to have a conversation with jane, otherwise she will continue to believe that OP deliberately mocked her. I’m not sure the OP can request that though, without looking like she isn’t able to let things go. OP, I would try to avoid jane as much as possible for now, and if there are further negative behaviors from her try to document them if possible.

        I have empathy for jane, but as a 30 something woman who is also childless, but for reasons beyond my control, I would be livid if anyone ever said this to me, no matter the reason.

        1. JessaB*

          I think the boss handled this well, and I think the OP can count on the boss to continue to handle it well, and I don’t see any reason unless Jane is still acting really frosty or weird with OP for the OP to do anything further.

      5. Anna*

        I said this before, but I don’t think it matters much if Jane didn’t think she lied. The outcome was the same. Jane deserves compassion, but not realizing you’re giving false information to your boss because you believe it’s true based on your feelings and grief isn’t really a defense.

        1. fposte*

          But being wrong is always a risk when you tell your boss something; I can’t see any way to parse this that doesn’t hurt people who need to report actual bad behavior and malfeasance.

          1. fposte*

            I’m thinking more on this and I want to expand a little. I hear, here and elsewhere, so many people thinking a co-worker is probably sexually harassing them but that they can’t be sure so they won’t report it, and so many places where people focus on documenting something over *telling* somebody about it. And I think those patterns are counterproductive at best and destructive at worst. Sure, if your manager’s an asshole you make a different calculus, and sure, you don’t go to your manager and say “I think fposte is behind the water problem in Flint” because you don’t like fposte. But conversations with your manager are an ongoing thing, and it’s weirder *not* to mention a problem than to mention it.

            1. Anna*

              I get it, but I also think comparing this to sexual harassment is a bit of a red herring. Of course we want people to feel like they can bring forward sexual harassment and workplace bullying, but we also want people to recognize when they should resolve issues for themselves and when they should take it up the chain of command. Nine times out of ten, Alison recommends coworkers talk to each other before involving management. I don’t see a lot of difference here, no matter what Jane thought happened.

              1. Shiara*

                I think being mocked for a traumatic medical event is something that should be escalated up the chain of command though. That’s not really something to expect coworkers to resolve between themselves. Of course that’s not what LW did, but involving an objective third party is pretty much the ideal situation. And that objective party looked at the situation, talked to the people involved, and decided no, not bullying, a misunderstanding.

                It was Jane’s yelling in the moment that was inappropriate (if, hopefully, forgiveable), not her going to the manager.

        2. LBK*

          Insults and mockery can be pretty subjective in general, though, so even though in this case we know categorically that the OP couldn’t have been mocking her because she didn’t even know about the miscarriage, I’m not sure I agree that it’s providing false info to think someone was mocking you “because you believe it’s true based on your feelings.” How else do you define an insult than by whether you felt it was or not? You can argue intentions are what makes the difference but if we posit that Jane’s motivation doesn’t matter, only the impact of her actions, doesn’t the same hold true for whether the OP intended to insult her or not?

        3. Kaitlyn*

          I don’t really think that the mocking feeling felt false to Jane, though. If I was feeling extremely vulnerable and someone at work made a jokey remark that hit on exactly the area I was upset about, I would absolutely take it personally. Emotions, like the people who have them, aren’t always rational. I hope OP can cut Jane some slack and reframe the idea Jane’s “lies.”

    3. TL -*

      It isn’t okay to be a person who is a jerk, as in someone who acts in a consistent pattern of jerkiness. But I think everyone is allowed one or two outbursts of emotions they’re not proud of in the worst moments of their life – some people yell; others have different methods of acting out but almost everybody does it at one point or another.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        And that’s pretty much what the “pretend this didn’t happen” approach was invented for. For a one-off outburst from someone who is normally reasonable, and where it didn’t make sense to address it in the moment (like when the person yells at you and stomps off).

        The incident happened, Jane complained, the OP explained what was going on, their supervisor now knows what’s happening. Pushing it further would probably make things worse for everyone. An apology from the OP would be of limited use, given that the OP didn’t do anything wrong and really has nothing to apologize for. Forcing Jane to apologize for her outburst would not be productive. Likewise making them shake hands and make up.

        If Jane continues to have outbursts over random comments, or is antagonistic towards the OP, then things need to go further.

        1. Not Australian*

          Yeah, not to amateur-psychologize, but I do know that at times of great stress when there were big things I *couldn’t* fix I’ve tended to obsess about little things I thought I *could* fix – and later I’ve looked back and wondered how I could possibly have got my priorities so wrong. Realising that has really helped to put other people’s apparently irrational behaviour into perspective at times, and enabled me to cut them a bit of slack whenever it seemed appropriate.

          1. TL -*

            One of my friends was cried on the plane ride home from visiting her boyfriend while the lady next to her tried to comfort her. This went on for TWO HOURS! Two hours of crying. In public. On a plane! With a complete stranger clearly incredibly worried over your well-being who also can’t escape!
            And my friend saw nothing wrong with this; she eventually got tired of the woman trying to comfort her and stopped crying. She never could understand why I was so horrified by her behavior.

            The thing is, our way of dealing with stress always makes perfect sense to us while other people’s doesn’t – but our way is generally just as irrational as theirs from an outside perspective.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              Was she crying deliberately? That’s the sort of emotional reaction many people can’t really control, especially in a situation where it was embarrassing but not exactly a safety hazard or anything.

              1. TL -*

                From the way she talked about it, she didn’t seem like she was inconsolable, just having a good cry because she was sad but I didn’t probe – too shocked. I’ve seen her cry and she’s not terribly subtle about it, that I do know.

                I’m not a crier generally and I do not cry in public (and I’ve also spent a lot of time and effort learning to imperfectly manage my own can’t really control emotional reaction because it’s much less acceptable.) I think 15 minutes I would’ve been like, aw, we all get sad, but 2 hours and I was like, that’s super inappropriate and you need to learn how to manage your emotions better.

                1. Triangle Pose*

                  Being that woman next to your friend is the stuff of my nightmares. I am compassionate to a point but I draw the line in being trapped and forced to be an emotional support system for a complete stranger. I would ask to be moved or walk the aisles during all possible periods on the flight that are not take off and landing.

                2. Plague of frogs*

                  I cry in public when I can’t help it. I prefer that people around me ignore it. Did your friend ask the person next to her to comfort her for two hours? Maybe, maybe not.

                  I get that to some degree we have to hide our emotions to keep people around us comfortable–for example, not losing your temper at someone who didn’t do anything wrong. But crying in front of strangers doesn’t hurt the strangers. It is neither a moral nor an etiquette failure.

                3. TL -*

                  @Public Frog – I would actually argue against that it doesn’t hurt strangers. While a short crying burst would probably not impact me much (because hey, sh!t happens), someone sobbing for hours on end 3 inches from me would be incredibly stressful and very emotionally hard for me to deal with. I would feel such pressure to make them try to feel better (as did the woman on the plane, clearly), feel terrible for them, feel like I was somehow responsible for easing their pain – it would be much, much worse than if someone had just snapped or yelled at me. And I would be unable to do any work that I had planned to get done on the plane (I usually plan work for plane trips.)

                  Because crying in public often does trigger a very specific social script, especially for women, where we are supposed to step in, take responsibility for, and help the distressed person. And, yeah, sure I can ignore that script but it’s about as easy as choosing not to be upset by someone yelling at you – that is to say, it’s really transgressive of social norms and that makes it really hard for a lot of people. Also, if you ignore someone who’s crying, especially if you’re a woman, you’re at risk for a lot of side-eye and cold-hearted b!tch comments.

                  Emotional outbursts in public happen, of course, and there are definitely things that we decide are perfectly okay to break the script for. This…wasn’t one of them and I think the stress my friend put that poor woman through was actually a pretty negative impact of her behavior.

            2. Serin*

              You’re reacting to her crying as if it were a thing she did on purposes, like clipping her toenails.

              My experience is that it’s involuntary and not controllable by will. More like having a sneezing fit.

              I would be very shocked if your friend could have stopped crying in public for two hours but somehow chose not to. It’s much more likely that she could see something wrong with it, was horrified by her own behavior, but couldn’t stop.

              1. TL -*

                Maybe? I certainly wasn’t in her head when it happened.
                But lord, as hard as I’ve had to work to control my emotional reactions to emotional pain, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that she put the a similar effort into controlling her particular type of emotional outbursts. :)

                1. Rebecca in Dallas*

                  Haha, I’m the same way as you! I always feel like Liz Lemon when someone cries, I’m like “There there… no be cry.” I’m stoic to a fault and the idea of having a complete crying meltdown in public is just foreign to my robot brain.

                  But that’s how some people are! They need a good cry and then they’re fine.

                2. another person*

                  Yeah, if I am crying on a plane, I am certainly not choosing to. And the big problem with being upset on a plane is that there is nowhere that you can go to be upset elsewhere (since usually if I’m in public and get upset enough that I cry, I can go somewhere private until I’m done). And I certainly have put in tons of work into controlling emotional outbursts in public. But if I was crying in public and couldn’t escape, it would probably make me cry longer because I would also get upset about the fact that I was getting upset in public.

                3. TL -*

                  @Rebecca in Dallas

                  Sure! I’m the kind of person who needs a good angry outburst and then I’m fine. I just have learned to be much more selective about when and where that happens. Someone might not be able to get the tears out of their eyes, just like I might not be able to get eyes of rage off my face, but I can refrain from snapping/yelling/outbursts in public like 95% of the time and I would hope people would be able to refrain from visibly sobbing uncontrollably in public a similar amount.

                4. PlainJane*

                  I’m with you, TL. Extended emotional outbursts push your (the generic, “your”) emotions onto other people to deal with. Some days it takes all my emotional energy to manage my own pain; I don’t need to be forced to deal with someone else’s. There are good reasons why big emotional outbursts are considered socially unacceptable.

              1. TL -*

                You get friends who message you first thing in the morning to warn you that the comments section got a little mean while you were sleeping :)

        2. Rebecca in Dallas*

          This, absolutely this. No need to rehash everything out with Jane, if she’s a reasonable person she’s mortified (or at least will be in time). She may apologize or she may just want to pretend it never happened.
          OP isn’t in any kind of trouble with the higher-ups, so just let it go.

          One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was, “You can’t take everyone’s bad mood personally.” Jane was having a bad moment and reacted badly. Assume things will calm down.

          And my cats are also my babies, nobody can tell me otherwise.

        3. RES ADMIN*

          I have to agree with this. This is the perfect situation for “pretend that never happened”… that lets everyone safe face, doesn’t cause any extra reminders of her grief to Jane, etc. There really isn’t anything more to be done and an “I am sorry for your loss” apology is not going to make Jane feel any better.

          Having said that, if Jane continued to act in a way that interfered with my getting work done properly, then it may be time for a serious conversation. I’m good with ignoring unpleasant people–as long as it does not get in the way with getting work done.

      2. meagain*

        So, not to one up anyone, but we’ve had five miscarriages. After the 3rd, I pretty much lost it. I was in my own head, and while I wouldn’t have screamed out about a cat (we have 5 cats, too), I did lose it on someone at work. Other tensions had built up, someone said something (I don’t even remember what it was), and I lost it. I worked with cool people, talked with the boss, apologized in person, and took another 2 weeks off and got some meds.

        People respond differently to grief. I am a nice person, and I’m sure the co-worker is, also.

        1. Bea*

          The thing is you knew you snapped and got help. That’s a world different than losing your cool and dragging management into it. It doesn’t sound like Jane knows she’s off the rails and that’s going to make the workplace a living hell if she’s not stopped due to everyone having compassion. So she may be a good person or she may not, jury is still out on that. No amount of trauma gives anyone the right to abuse another.

          1. fposte*

            If a co-worker mocked you for having a miscarriage, yelling and going to the boss over it wouldn’t seem abusive to me. And I think that’s where Jane is; she’s just wrong about what actually happened.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              yeah, this. Complaining when you believe (mistakenly here) that someone mocked yout loss is not unreasonable.

              1. Clare*

                But is it reasonable to allow jane to continue to believe the OP mocked her? Or should the manager make sure jane understands that wasn’t really the case?

                1. Akcipitrokulo*

                  Oh, manager should *definitely* make it clear to Jane! It isn’t only fair to OP, but it’s cruel to allow Jane to think that manager investigated and the comment was meant maliciously!

                  Depending on relationship, OP could ask manager to explain that she didn’t know and to pass on her condolences, or do it herself – but either way, I do think it’s important that the misunderstanding is resolved.

                2. Natalie*

                  Since the manager seems fairly reasonably, it seems probable that they have had this conversation with Jane already. As someone mentioned, if Jane seems particularly frosty to the LW they should definitely bring it up to the manager, but if everything goes back to normal I think it’s fine to drop it.

                3. Tuxedo Cat*

                  It’s not reasonable at all. In a certain light, I think it’s kinder to let Jane know that she misunderstood the situation. Maybe Jane isn’t aware that she isn’t handling things so well.

                4. Mediamaven*

                  Agree with what you are saying. I don’t know how that comment could have been perceived as mocking. I don’t think it’s a healthy idea to let her believe that.

          2. MerciMe*

            Also, did Jane seek out the manager or did the manager hear there was an incident and specifically inquire? They feel like two very different scenarios to me, but I would expect the outcomes to look very similar.

          3. Wendy Darling*

            I snapped at a coworker once because she happened to be extremely frustrating on the anniversary of a major trauma in my life while I happened to be transitioning from one psych med to another (which turned out not to work for me AT ALL). It was not my finest hour. I apologized and told her I overreacted because I had some personal problems. She forgave me. We moved on.

            For me, this was one of several things that let me know that 1. my medication change was nooooot working out, and 2. I had some unresolved crap around the aforementioned major trauma. I did not share these things with my coworker because they were none of her damn business. I knew I was out of line about 15 minutes after I freaked out on her, but I did not feel the need to inform her that I was getting help and I still think it would have been inappropriate.

            You have no idea what Jane is thinking and it’s uncharitable and unfair to assume that she’s going to blindly go on some kind of a rampage unless someone steps in to stop her. There’s no evidence for that. Certainly if she does something similar again her manager should say something to her, but I think there’s room to trust people to take care of their crap.

              1. Natalie*

                Perhaps, and if she was the one writing in here Alison probably would have suggested that. But it’s in that middle ground where it would be good for her to do but not so critical that the LW should request or even expect one, I think. YMMV.

                1. Emi.*

                  And maybe she will apologize (or has since the letter was submitted). It doesn’t sound like a lot of time elapsed between the events and the letter.

                2. Lehigh*

                  Yeah, I really don’t think “trying to extract an apology from a grieving coworker who misunderstood you” would be a great look on the LW. I’m not blaming LW, she seems to be as other have noted compassionate and reasonable. But I really can’t blame Jane much either – in times of extreme stress not everyone behaves perfectly all the time. Yes, clearly she was technically wrong. That’s not enough to rub her nose in it, IMO.

                3. Chapeau*

                  “That’s not enough to rub her nose in it, IMO.”

                  Indeed. If/when Jane realises that her behaviour was out of line, she’ll probably do that to herself already (I know I would)

                  Grief is something that doesn’t let us think logical. When combined with hormones, you get this. OP is not at fault. But what Jane is going through is pretty hard as well.

          4. Connie-Lynne*

            After surgery to remove some metastized polyps, I made the poor choice to go back to work the next day. I lost my cool in a work chatroom, in print, over the course of several hours. I didn’t realize I was flipping out, I thought I was being reasonable.

            My boss showed up in the room and told me to stop working and take the rest of the week off. When we talked the next week he said people had asked if I was OK and that he’d told some people privately that I was recovering from surgery and I hadn’t been in an appropriate state of mind to work.

            As soon as he said that, I realized that, duh, of course that’s what had happened, but until then I didn’t. I appreciate the compassion my boss gave me and would do my best to extend it to anyone else.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              Oh lawd, I have been like HELLO I AM FINE after minor surgeries only to realize like a week later that I was suuuuuuper not fine. I think it’s the anesthesia. I had an outpatient procedure and thought I was running at 100% the next day — in hindsight I had the intellect of a boiled turnip. I kept making stupid mistakes and crashing into the furniture, but the drugs had also stripped me of all self-awareness regarding my own dumbness and clumsiness.

              Apparently it takes 5-7 days for some anesthetics to really clear your system. My partner and family all just know now that I will be an overconfident menace post-surgery and try to keep me contained.

              1. Wintermute*

                As an aside that’s why benzodiazepine drugs (like the versed they use in conjunction with sedation) are terrifying to me.

                I was outside my dentists taking care of some errands while waiting for an uber, I’d taken .25mg of my pre-appointment anti-anxiety medication three hours prior, and I didn’t actually think it worked much. And then I suddenly realized that my motor coordination was GONE. I sat right down in the parking lot (on the curb not like the middle of it) because I realized I was standing there wobbling like I was totally off my face at noon on a Tuesday.

                You don’t realize you’re impaired but you can be completely obliterated.

                So I totally believe it, the drug I take has a half-life of two hours, and three hours later I’m feeling fine but walking like I just downed a fifth of whisky, I can’t imagine what a surgical-grade equivalent with a half-life of eight hours and a higher dose would do to you!

                1. Conrad the Librarian*

                  I hope I’m not intruding in asking, but would you be comfortable mentioning the anti-anxiety medication you’re on? The one I know my psychiatrist refers to as such that I’ve taken for a little past twenty-two years is called clonazepam (chemical drug name; I have no recollection of a ‘brand name’ for it, as I do some of the meds I’m on) and I can’t recall it ever hitting me that hard, in regards to co-ordination or mental stability.

                2. Wintermute*

                  Late reply I know! (though your response was fairly late too :) )

                  Clonazolam is trade name “Clonopin”. I take Triazolam, trade name Halcyon. It’s a far shorter-acting benzodiazepine (1.5h half life) with more sedative and less anti-seizure activity than most drugs in its class.

                  As an aside, the mental effect is mild calming effect, really, it’s the effect on my motor coordination that is so startling!

              2. peggy*

                I had the awful luck of having kidney and gallbladder issues last year and I had 3 surgeries in a 1 month span. Work was tumultuous at the time and I was certain I was going to get fired so instead of taking off 2 weeks after kidney surgery, 2 weeks after gallbladder surgery, and a few days after my final (most minor of the 3) surgery, I took a grand total of 4 days off and worked from home a few times.

                I was a NUT. I was in pain, I was depressed, I was afraid about losing my job, I made stupid mistakes that took MONTHS to clean up, I wasn’t in my right mind, and people probably thought I’d gone crazy. In hindsight, I needed a 6 week medical leave and I took 4 FREAKING days off.

                This anesthesia thing makes a lot of sense. I wish I could go back and do that again because it messed me up for a while – it took a long time to get my confidence back too, because all the mistakes I made while recovering/medicated were things that I ended up internalizing and blaming myself for.

          5. Gen*

            The timeline for someone realising they’re acting irrationally in grief isn’t always instant. Not everyone copes the same or as effectively. There can be PTSD and specific forms of depression around that sort of loss, especially if it’s been repeated. I say this from experience and have been receiving help for four years with no end in sight. I have been outright mocked and subjected to cruel commentary even from family, some of which has involved pets, and honestly I can see myself getting into the headspace of think this was yet another incident of that kind, not just an innocent overheard remark. I might later realise that irrational but not necessarily instantly

            1. Mookie*

              Yes. This is not a “…but you shag just one sheep” situation. Jane erred here badly and loudly and probably did herself more harm than the LW, but it’s not a capital crime, not something that can’t be mended and moved on from with everyone in one piece, and there are obvious extenuating circumstances. Nothing the LW has said indicates that Jane is the sort of person who regularly jumps to conclusions, consistently interprets benign remarks as malicious or back-handed, misrepresents past events when reporting them, or is otherwise disruptive. The LW knows Jane, and the impetus for writing to AMA is to figure out how best to help Jane (and not contribute to her grief) while also protecting herself. Those are good instincts, and speak well both of the LW and Jane herself. If Jane can move on from this, the antagonist in this story, as in most stories, is death, not her. We’re not all or always impeccably graceful when confronting hard truths like oblivion.

          6. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I think it’s a bit harsh to imply Jane was abusive towards the LW.

            This letter was written to Alison the same day the incident happened. Jane hadn’t had a chance to realize how inappropriate her outburst was. It’s entirely possible she went home that night, told someone in her life about the situation and they gently pointed out that it didn’t make any sense because how could the LW have known about her miscarriage.

        2. Creoline*

          “People respond differently to grief.”

          People also respond differently to different types of grief. People respond differently from one year to the next.

          I once had a PTSD expert tell me that he really wished we could predict who would get PTSD and how it would manifest….but he’d worked with a unit all exposed to the same horrific trauma and some members got PTSD and some were reasonably fine.

          While past experience w hardship can teach you coping mechanisms, it’s not always dispositive.

          1. Wintermute*

            This is so, so true.

            I know someone with childhood PTSD from having been near a housefire when young, not in it, just near it. And I know people who have been through some terrifying situations and it doesn’t really affect them at all.

        3. AKchic*

          I feel you here. I’m not even going to mention the number of miscarriages I’ve had (because frankly, its just not worth rehashing). Generally, I’m even-keeled at the office. My mental health issues don’t affect my work because I don’t let it.
          After my last miscarriage (and we decided yep, we’re done having kids, we’re done “trying”, granted, we didn’t try for that pregnancy in the first place – I’m great at getting pregnant, just not good at keeping them) I just kind of got fed up. I wanted to be left alone. One coworker didn’t want to leave me alone and he got snapped at. Nothing major, but enough that he realized something was up (I hadn’t planned on telling anyone since I hadn’t mentioned anything to anyone about my previous miscarriages).

          Being hormonal and grieving doesn’t give us the liberty to be bat guano where ever we happen to be. We still have to follow office and societal norms.

        4. JoAnna*

          This. I’ve had four miscarriages, and after the last two (which were consecutive — one in June 2015, and one in October 2015, both after we’d seen a heartbeat via ultrasound and made cautiously optimistic pregnancy announcements to friends, family, and co-workers) I was not in a good place at all. I never lashed out at my co-workers, but there were some family members who said awkward things in an attempt to be comforting and I lashed out at them. So while Jane’s behavior isn’t excusable, it’s understandable.

      3. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, this. Thank you for saying this. Who among us has not, in an emotional moment, said something terrible? We are never always our best selves. If there’s not a pattern of jerk behavior from Jane, the OP should just give Jane some space for a while and see what happens.

      4. Specialk9*

        “It isn’t okay to be a person who is a jerk, as in someone who acts in a consistent pattern of jerkiness. But I think everyone is allowed one or two outbursts of emotions they’re not proud of in the worst moments of their life”

        Exactly this.

    4. Nita*

      It’s not quite that simple. People often act like a jerk *unintentionally* when they’re grieving. I remember very clearly, when there were two deaths in my extended family within two months of each other, a family member literally told me that I should not carry on like I’m upset about one of these deaths, because it was not as tragic as the other. Without going into many details, to them, that statement made perfect sense and they may have felt like they were standing up for the other family’s right to grieve “more.”

      That makes exactly zero sense when you’re thinking with a clear mind, because it’s very personal what one sees as “more” or “less” tragic, and in any case it’s not a contest about who has more right to compassion. It just so happened that two bad things happened close together. But in the moment – no one was thinking clearly, and there was some unintentional jerk behavior from normally decent people.

      1. Specialk9*

        Wow. That’s awful. Policing comparative volume of another’s grief. That’s terrible behavior.

    5. BioPharma*

      Agreed. As someone who has had 2 miscarriages and a very traumatic TFMR (termination for medical reasons), I know that grief can make you act… unlike yourself. (I almost burnt the house down by leaving the stove on, and “broke up” with a friend of mine).

      However, I’m move forgiving of Jane than most people on here. There’s a part of me that’s jealous that she acted out on a gut reaction, although I realize that it was inappropriate in this context. I’ve had had so many moments where I’m seething internally and I certainly haven’t shared details with my colleagues, so sometimes I can be jealous of people who externalize. =/

      But yeah, OP does not need to apologize for anything.

      1. member of the same crappy club*

        I’m really sorry for your losses. I have also had two traumatic TFMRs. Sometimes I’m amazed I’m still upright and functioning. There’s a high value placed on keeping a stiff upper lip and sometimes keeping all that inside takes a toll. I’m very even keeled at work but have definitely broken down unexpectedly in front of strangers after my TFMRs.

    6. Kate 2*

      I agree with you. I’m always a little shocked by the people excusing bad behavior because something happened to the person acting like a jerk. It really, truly is possible to have self-control. The number of times I have heard someone use being sick or having a bad day to, for instance, scream at customer service people makes me so angry and sad.

      If Jane had “just” screamed at OP because she overheard her use the word “baby”. Well I could forgive her for that if she apologized later. The fact that she went to her manager and *deliberately* lied and misrepresented the situation *after the fact*, that’s unforgivable. It sounds to me like Jane was afraid of getting in trouble for screaming at OP and went to the boss to preemptively get her spin on the story.

      1. OxfordComma*

        We really don’t know that Jane deliberately lied. Jane may have believed that the OP was mocking her. I don’t think we have nearly enough information to condemn her for that.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          I think we do. No reasonable person hears “my cat’s my baby” and assumes “nyah, nyah, nyeh, sucks about your miscarriage.”

          1. OxfordComma*

            It’s entirely possible that Jane legitimately thought that the LW knew about her miscarriage and was mocking her. There are dozens of commenters here who have suffered miscarriages and have said that they were not in the clearest place emotionally.

    7. Yada yada yada*

      I think people are being way harsh on Jane here. Acting like a jerk once doesn’t make you a jerk, that’s a stretch. Was Jane wrong? Of course! But I can see how you could snap in the situation. I personally find it super annoying and a bit unprofessional when people call their pets their babies (I say this as an animal lover!) but it’s totally your right to call your pets whatever you want and I know it’s my responsibility to hide my annoyance and be nice to people/show interest in their pets regardless. If I were Jane and my coworker went on and on about her cat all the time possibly for years, I’d probably be already annoyed. Then during a difficult time, who knows, I might snap. Again, it wouldn’t be ok and I would definitely apologize, but I think we can tone down the meanness towards Jane and cut her some slack.

  3. TL -*

    LW1: I think there’s a good chance that Jane didn’t lie, precisely. What she said was most certainly untrue – but she might not realize that you don’t *know* because to her, the miscarriage is the center of the world right now, so everyone has to know, even people who don’t know. Thus, to her, your words were mocking with full knowledge of the tragedy.

    She’ll process her emotions at some point and things will calm down, but I would refrain from mentioning your cats if possible and definitely stop referring to them as your babies at work. (In general, I’m not a fan of that term anywasy for reasons more or less exactly like this, but in specific I think you need to stop here.)

    1. Wendy Darling*

      The term “furbaby” makes me grit my teeth for totally non-rational reasons. I just find it subjectively totally annoying. I have no idea why, I’ve given up trying to make sense of it.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I hate the term fur baby. I don’t get to expect other people not to use it.

        I dont think the OP should have to stop mentioning her cat.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          Oh, I don’t expect anyone to not use it. I just do a little internal twitch every time it happens. And if I’m ever elected god-king of the universe I guess I’ll ban it right after I ban man-buns and institute severe penalties for people who don’t cut that thread in their kick pleat before they wear their coat/skirt in public.

          Definitely don’t think LW should have to not mention their cats, regardless.

            1. AKchic*

              Easily. I look at every person who is not them sporting man buns. Like my cousin who uses it to hide his bald spot.

            2. Wendy Darling*

              …basically I have really annoying intrusive thoughts about running up behind guys with manbuns with a pair of scissors and CHOPPING OFF THE MAN BUN.

              Man buns need to go away before I lose my mind and go on a supervillain manbun-chopping rampage. (I would not actually do this. But I would daydream about it.)

              1. Catherine from Canada*

                Oh, I’d use the scissors to surreptitiously cut those kick pleat threads. Drive me nuts, especially when the person obviously is having trouble walking because the bottom sweep is too small!

                1. Tiny soprano*

                  Seconded. Those drive me batty. And while I was at it I’d pick moulted hairs off their shoulders and tuck in any protruding clothing tags…

              2. AKchic*

                Use the Dirk Gently season 2 Wendimoor scissor swords. So much funnier. Everything is better when done with whimsy.

          1. Mookie*

            Furbaby sounds like you accidentally swallowed a furball (or your cat stuck it down your gullet while sleeping) and as a result your gut is now swollen. That’s the mental image. I love all cats at all times, so I also try to avoid this very visceral-sounding word.

            1. TrainerGirl*

              Yes, like a giant furball rather than a food baby. I don’t have pets and while I probably would roll my eyes when people say “fur baby”, I’m also childless and whatever is precious to you is precious and I won’t hate on it.

          2. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

            >people who don’t cut that thread in their kick pleat before they wear their coat/skirt in public.

            Who don’t what their what now?

            1. Catherine*

              You see it in pleats and vents, it’s the little X of thread keeping it closed so it hangs nicely in shops, but is meant to be taken out before wearing to allow ease of movement (which is the point of the pleat/vent in the first place, otherwise it would be a seam to the hem). I share this pet peeve and wish it were socially acceptable to walk around with a small pair of scissors and snip it for people.

              1. essEss*

                Dry cleaners also do it on the vents of men’s suit jackets. I can’t count the number of times on my walk to work that I’ve spent a lot of the time staring at the X in front of me on a total stranger’s suit jacket waving away in front of me as he walked along on the sidewalk ahead of me.

            2. Natalie*

              A lot of coats and skirts that are some variation on a tube (pea coats, trench coats, pencil skirts, etc) have a little flap cut into the back or side to allow for greater leg movement. Typically when you first buy them, that pleat is sewn closed with one or two loose threads, and you’re supposed to cut those threads and pull them out. But a lot of people don’t know that so they leave the pleat closed.

              1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

                Or the ‘100% wool’ tags sewn on the outside of coat arms. I’ve seen more of those running around than I thought possible.

                1. Arjay*

                  My husband nearly married me with that tag on his sleeve. He tried the suit on, we bought it, and made it to the wedding day without looking at it again. On our wedding day, I didn’t see him before the ceremony. Fortunately one of the women at the church saw the tag and took care of it for him before we got started.

                2. Wendy Darling*


                  Seriously I have a little pair of scissors in my purse, complete stranger, can I get that for you???

          3. Media Monkey*

            OMG the kick pleats thing! drives me mental. i think people think they are meant to stay like that.

            1. Natalie*

              Or they don’t even notice they’re there. I think I bought my first skirt with a pleat at a thrift store, so no sales clerk was going to point it out to me, and I just never noticed the pleat. It was in the back so I couldn’t see it when it folded or bunched weirdly.

            2. Yvette*

              The same with the jacket pockets in a suit. Most of them come stitched closed for the same reason, making the pocket appear as just a decorative flap. A lot of people don’t realize that there is actually a functioning pocket there. I think that and the pleat cross stitch should be part of an interview / resume writing prep class.

              1. LadyL*

                Although sometimes (particularly in cheap women’s clothing) they really *are* just decorative flaps, and if you’re not careful you’ll end up ripping a hole in the lining of a new jacket looking for a pocket that isn’t there. Ask me how I know.

              2. Tabby*

                The only reason I’ve even discovered this kind of thing (I get most of my stuff from the thrift store) with pockets being sewn shut is that I am obsessed with having pockets in most of my dresses (and pants, back when I wore them) and would feel anything that looked like a pocket to see if it actually WAS a pocket. And if I felt material bunching under the seams, I would carefully cut it to release the pocket. I didn’t know about the extra stitching for pleats tho — mostly because I avoid pleats if at all possible. lol I have to see if my clothes have this kind of stitching now…

          4. Parenthetically*

            “people who don’t cut that thread in their kick pleat before they wear their coat/skirt in public”

            Why yes, that WAS a snort of solidarity.

          5. MechanicalPencil*

            I so desperately wanted to help this poor girl last week who was obviously on an interview who had not cut that stupid thread and was taking the most mincing tiny steps I’d seen recently. Just…let me cut that thread for you. Please.

          6. Specialk9*

            You take it back!!! Man-buns are a long overdue visual thrill for those us who love men with long hair. Your god-king universe is so cruel. (Sobs)

            But yeah, clip that dang thread, folks!

          7. CMDRBNA*

            THE KICK PLEAT OMG.

            That drives me crazy. I want to sneak up behind people on the subway with nail scissor and snip it.

            My partner’s parents refer to their dogs as ‘the boys’ and call them his brothers and it doesn’t seem weird because they are basically two large, furry, slobbery toddlers, and it’s also funny how they treat him like he’s a third puppy. If you tell them to go find Mom or Dad or their brother they tear off to find them, it’s really cute.

            1. AKchic*

              My youngest son (four boys) was not happy when he was told he would not get a younger sister. Not sure why he wanted a sister. Guess he wanted the novelty of a girl in the house. We have female cats. We moved to a bigger house, got a female dog, one brother moved across country to live with his dad for a year, the oldest brother moved out, so I let a ren fair girl (who we call my fauxdopted daughter) move in. We jokingly told him “well, you wanted a sister”. He got indignant and said “I wanted a younger sister!”

              Just can’t please siblings.

              Now, with the animals, even if they aren’t the same species, we call them all siblings. I just try not to refer to them as my kids. I have enough of those already.

              1. Nic*

                Props for taking in a ren faire girl! I’ve hosted some great folks from the faire before, and want to take to the road eventually!

          8. kitryan*

            The kick pleat thread drives me crazy. I’m one step away from cutting if for strangers I see on the subway. Man buns I can handle :)

          9. Connie-Lynne*

            Speaking of pet peeves in other people’s language, “man X” drives me nuts. It’s just a bun, it’s just a boob, it’s just a purse.

        2. Strawmeatloaf*

          Probably because “fur baby” can easily sound like “furby”? And those are evil incarnate.

        3. T3k*

          As someone who’s of childbearing age but doesn’t want babies, I always use the term “fur baby” when the subject of children comes up to let them know 1) I don’t want a baby but 2) I do want lots of pets (dogs).

          1. Kate 2*

            I’m in the same situation, sometimes to escape the sexist “all women love babies, all women should want to get married and have babies, what’s wrong with YOU?” questioning I play up the crazy cat lady thing. The part where I talk about getting a stroller to walk my cats in is usually where people back away slowly. Just kidding about the backing away part, but yeah, I am a proud crazy cat lady and I do weaponize it.

      2. Super anon*

        Thanks for saying this Wendy Darling! I share your teeth gritting, although for me it’s because I come from a long line of pet-allerglic folks and have experienced an unfortunate correlation between “furbaby” users and the folks who make sarcastic comments when I say I can’t visit their homes, suggest I can “just take a pill” and refuse to make basic accommodations like keeping their pet out of the room where I am if I do visit.

        Jane was in the wrong, I don’t deny it, but honestly, it’s not impossible that I would do the same if I was grieving enough to lose perspective over the difference between pet peeves and unkindnesses. I think giving Jane a wide berth until you can tell if this is a very bad day one off is wise.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          Oh how rude! “Furbaby” grates on me, too, although I do refer to my cats as brother/sister to each other. But people who don’t take allergies seriously are jerks!

          I have two friends who are so allergic I have to wear a freshly laundered coat around them and be careful of how much fuzz is on my clothes if I hug them. It’s not a difficult accommodation to make.

          1. Eh? Non Y. Mouse*

            I’d probably have to sever the friendship for their safety. Some breeds are worse than others and I have animals who shed to a point that I can open a sealed package at home and find pet hair on it immediately.

          1. TL -*

            I think that avoiding something that clearly hurt a grieving person and is easy to avoid is the kinder choice in this situation. I try to be kind to grieving people when I can.

              1. TL -*

                This is one moment, probably the worst social moment in one of the worst times, of someone’s very full and complex life. Maybe Jane needs therapy; maybe she just had the one bad moment.

                Sometimes a mistake is just a mistake, not a diagnostic criteria.

                1. Elspeth*

                  I’m not disagreeing; I am saying that Jane needs some time to recover and her reaction to a perfectly innocent comment shows that she needs some help. I know what it’s like to miscarry -I’ve had two and almost lost a child to serious illness to boot.

                2. TL -*

                  I’m so sorry for your loss.
                  I still don’t think one moment means “get thee to therapy.” It could be – I hope Jane has and knows EAP options available to her – but it could have also just truly been one horrible mistake never to be repeated. It’s way too early to tell which one it is.

                3. Bette*

                  If it’s serious enough that everyone has to treat Jane in a special manner lest she crack, then therapy is warranted. Either it’s not a big deal, and people can act normally around her, or it is a big deal, and people need to walk on eggshells and Jane should seek professional help. You can’t have it both ways.

                4. Parenthetically*

                  “everyone has to treat Jane in a special manner lest she crack”

                  I… I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about AT ALL. I think we’re talking about an extra bit of human kindness and consideration knowing Jane just went through a terrible loss. And I find it strange to suggest that everyone who warrants a little gentle treatment while grieving needs to get out of other people’s space and deal with it in therapy. Everyone goes through loss at some point, and grief often comes out sideways — this is about treating people how you’d like to be treated in that situation.

                5. LadyL*

                  I mean also people go to therapy who have had absolutely no traumatic events happen to them. I don’t understand the idea that suggesting someone see a therapist is suggesting that they’re broken in some way. I think everyone should regularly see a therapist, the same way it’s recommended everyone see a physician regularly for check ups (and insurance should cover it). So yes, Jane should see a therapist, I should see a therapist, everyone should go see one.

                6. KellyK*

                  @LadyL, it’s not so much the suggestion that they get therapy (therapy is good and useful for lots of people in lots of situations!). It’s more the idea that this presumed need for therapy absolves everyone around them from any attempts at sympathy or gentleness. Trying to avoid baby and pregnancy talk around someone who you know is grieving a miscarriage is pretty basic human kindness.

              2. Wendy Darling*

                It would probably help, but people can’t always take leave. :/ Right now I’m in mild financial discomfort because I don’t get paid time off and my company closed for a BUNCH of holidays, so I basically haven’t seen a full paycheck since the beginning of November. (I used to be sad I didn’t get MLK day off when I was salaried… now I’m hourly with no PTO and I’m ticked off that my company is closed that day.)

                Also I think sometimes people feel like getting back in the saddle is the best thing for them… and then sometimes they’re wrong. I tried to take a full grad school courseload a month after a death in the family because I needed to get out of the house. I was right about needing to get out of the house, but that turned out to noooooot be a good way to make that happen.

                1. Connie-Lynne*

                  I feel like I’m following you around today saying “YES,” Wendy Darling, but this. Getting back to routine and work can be more healing than taking leave, if approached compassionately.

                  This year I chaired a huge conference. I could’ve noped out after my husband’s death without anyone thinking worse of me, but it was the chance of a lifetime and also it helped. Unfortunately my keynote speaker, who didn’t know my situation, put up a slide about nets on the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve never left the front row of a conference so fast in my life — I abandoned my phone and my computer. I recovered myself in 5 minutes, and came back to a ton of IMs from folks who did know asking was I OK?

                  Should the conference have sent out revised guidelines to speakers letting them know all of this year’s chair’s triggers? Of course not. Should I have avoided necessary professional development because I might get triggered? Also hell no. But you know what, that compassion and caring from my community when I got back to the keynote address really helped.

        1. Mookie*

          I think avoiding a very specific trigger for Jane for a short time would do both of them a world of a good.

          I find it difficult to imagine that Jane would do this again, or experience that same moment of blinding mixture of rage and grief once she’s realized precisely what happened here and where she went horribly wrong. She’s probably mortified. Also, she’s not going to be able to escape the mention of babies altogether, because the LW doesn’t have a patent on the word and I doubt there’s ever going to be a tacit, temporary, and office-wide moratorium on it, related words, and the subject of children and dependents and pregnancy and labor in general.

        2. ceiswyn*

          What about all the other triggers that Jane might react to, that are impossible to identify in advance because Jane isn’t able to be rational or logical right now?

          1. Natalie*

            What about them? The possibility that there are other triggers that people don’t know about doesn’t mean the LW has to ignore the one she does. Being sensitive about this one wording choice now won’t somehow void the LW’s right or ability to act *if and when* it happens again.

            1. ceiswyn*

              You’re still approaching this as if Jane’s reaction had anything to do with sense and rationality. It doesn’t. She had a massive reaction to the word ‘baby’ used for a cat this one time, because her hormones/emotions happened to line up that way; that doesn’t mean that she’s going to have any reaction to the same thing in the future.

              Sure, it’d be kind for the LW to avoid references to babies if she realises in time. But also avoiding all references to her cats because she sometimes refers to her cats by the word ‘baby’, even if she’s not doing it right now? That’s an unreasonable expectation based on a single moment of grief-related irrationality.

              1. Natalie*

                No, I’m not, I just don’t think it’s necessary for the LW to sew up all possible reactions before responding to one that she has been made aware of. I don’t personally see any harm in LW being a bit more cautious around Jane for a short period.

                That said, it wasn’t immediately clear from the threading but it seems like you object mostly to the suggestion that she stop talking about her cats, and I agree that specifically is overkill.

            2. Kate 2*

              Yeah, but she wasn’t even in the conversation in which the word “baby” was used, she overheard it. So OP is supposed to avoid the word “baby” as well as all possible baby-related words she can think of for weeks or months in all conversations with anyone at the office *just in case* Jane hears and goes off the deep end?

              1. Natalie*

                I think focusing on the word “baby” is taking both the situation and the suggestions here way too literally.

                1. Kate 2*

                  How? That’s what people have actually, literally written. That OP avoid triggering Jane and not use the word baby. Or anything baby-related.

                2. Natalie*

                  There are a lot of comments so its certainly possible that I missed one, but in the thread where I am replying there’s nothing about “avoid the word “baby” as well as all possible baby-related words she can think of for weeks or months in all conversations with anyone at the office”.

          2. tigerlily*

            What about them? If they come up you deal with them then. If not, what’s to deal with?

            I don’t feed my son peanuts because I know he’s allergic. But I’m not going to keep milk or strawberries or anything else out of his diet just because maybe he might be allergic to those too. I’ll deal with it when they come up.

      1. Wintermute*

        There are eggshells and then there’s showing compassion.

        We’ve all done it, when someone in your office loses a relative to suicide you watch your gun and mental health metaphors for a while, when someone loses a parent to a cardiac arrest you avoid using phrases like “as funny as a heart attack” or the like, when someone in the office has a loved one diagnosed with cancer you avoid using ‘cancer’ in casual conversation.

        Sometimes certain words get really loaded really fast when someone is going through a traumatic time. It’s a credit to the compassion and kindness of the people that choose to moderate their language to avoid throwing land mines around.

        Sure, Jane should behave professionally, but at the same time what skin is it off the OP’s nose not to cause her difficulties in doing that? I’m reminded of the saying in Leviticus about putting stumbling blocks in front of a blind man; not causing an infirm person additional difficulties on purpose is an obligation.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Excellent comment.

          A friend of mine lost her mother unexpectedly a few months ago and I was conscious of not mentioning my mom too much right afterwards. Because I’m a caring, compassionate person and I didn’t want to cause my friend additional pain.

        2. Marillenbaum*

          THANK YOU. It’s lovely that so many commenters would never, in the midst of grief and hormonal fluctuations, make a mistake, but really, when you can be kind and it costs you nothing, why not be kind?

        3. Jesmlet*

          Exactly. To consider it an impossible inconvenience to slightly adjust your language while a coworker grieves is just baffling to me. Sure, the onus shouldn’t be on OP, but it’s the kind and decent thing to do in this situation. I feel the same way about the apology. OP did nothing wrong, but to say they’re sorry for what happened and for the impact of the words regardless of the intent is such a little thing that may go a long way.

        4. Rebecca in Dallas*

          This. We lost my FIL to suicide, it’s been over 4 years and I still cringe anytime someone says “I could just shoot myself” or something similar.

          1. Anon Accountant*

            I’m sorry about his passing. I’ve lost a friend to suicide too and each time someone says they could just “kill themselves” or something similar I cringe.

          2. Connie-Lynne*

            I am so glad I had already been working on taking those metaphors out of my mouth before Erich’s death.

        5. Aiani*

          Your comment just reminded me that after my dad died due to a stroke I felt much more sensitive about strokes coming up in conversation. I think right around that time there was an incident in which John Travolta behaved really oddly at an awards show and someone made the comment that he looked like he was having a stroke. I had a really hard time keeping it together over that.

          Anyway reading a lot of these comments has been a good reminder to me about having compassion for people. It’s also making me remember that I was definitely not my nicest self after my dad passed away. I was full of anger and hurt and ready to be mad at anyone at any moment. Grief is hard and I never expected the amount of sheer rage I contained within myself because of it.

        6. Elspeth*

          I wasn’t talking about not having compassion; merely that (having gone through multiple miscarriages myself) if Jane is so raw that other workers can’t talk with her in earshot without getting upset, EAP may be a good choice.

          1. Wintermute*

            This is also a valid point, I was responding to many comments I saw but picked yours to place the comment to because it seemed a good place to enter the conversation and you seem like a reasonble person that wouldn’t turn it into an argument.

            I absolutely agree that I hope this is a wakeup call to Jane that she’s not managing her emotions appropriately and she needs help, and maybe to step away for a while, but that’s sort of beyond the scope of the letter.

    2. Cyberwulf*

      I’d pull back on any small talk that Jane doesn’t initiate. She’s in a place where she’s easily rubbed the wrong way and she’s already gone to the boss about what she imagined someone meant. Nice pleasant yes and no and the weather is certainly being weather, here is that work thing you need.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah, regardless of my sympathy or empathy to Jane (and I do have both), I’d stay clear of her for the time being. oP made an innocuous statement and Jane blew up at her (and granted, this could have happened to someone else – what if someone who owned a fancy car referred to it as their “baby”, or a dog owner, or someone else with a child), and took it to management – so I’d stay out of the way until this passed.

    3. Lilo*

      The word “baby” is used in a lot of contexts too Like “that project is your baby” kind of way. Ok would just avoid Jane. A good manager would gently have counseled her that a common word choice is not mocking and screaming in the office is not okay (gently) and then the best thing for everyone is to pretend it didn’t happen.

      1. TL -*

        Absolutely, but there’s a world of difference between calling a project/inanimate object your baby and calling your pet your baby. One is using “baby” as a metaphor for something that requires a lot of care and attention and the other is placing the speaker into the position of parent to a living creature (could be metaphorically or literally) akin to child.

        1. Lilo*

          Although you could argue a pet requires a lot of care and attention.

          I most often refer to my cat as something that rhymes with “glass bowl”, personally, but people refer to pets as “my baby” all the time. It’s not abnormal and could easily happen again. That’s why supervisor should engage in some gentle correction on Jane’s part here. Once is understandable, but if this keeps happening in the workplace, you’re beginning to have a problem.

          1. TL -*

            Oh for sure! but I think having a two-party relationship changes the nature of the metaphor in a very real way. (heh.)

            I think the LW should avoid it for a while just because she accidentally hurt Jane with it and if I were in Jane’s shoes it would have more sting coming from the LW, just because I would view it from the lens of “she knows how much it hurts me to hear that” whereas with everybody else I could tell myself that they just didn’t know. So it would be purely out of kindness, and then the LW will be able to ease back into using it again.

            1. PlainJane*

              You just described my dogs. I occasionally refer to them as the four-legged good-for-nothing bums. Good thing they’re so cute.

          2. Mediamaven*

            Agreed. I like the term gentle correction. Otherwise, Jane will feel it’s ok to become outraged if people use the term baby in a way she feels is insensitive.

        2. Grant Us Eyes*

          My cats are my babies. They are small, defenceless living things who love me and who rely on me for food, shelter, and medical help.

          They aren’t my offspring, but they are my babies.

          If the OP wants to stop discussing her cat or using a different nickname, she certainly can – but it’s not remotely required or even reasonable, IMO.

          1. Caro in the UK*

            “If the OP wants to stop discussing her cat or using a different nickname, she certainly can – but it’s not remotely required or even reasonable, IMO.”

            But it would be kind. And kindness cost nothing.

            1. Kate 2*

              But for how long is she supposed to stop referring to her cat in a completely normal way? Weeks? Months? What if Jane decides to keep trying for a baby for *years*, as people often do? I just don’t think there it is reasonable for OP to do this. I wouldn’t use the word with Jane, I’d avoid her actually, but I don’t think OP or OP’s office should have to self-ban themselves from a common word for as long as Jane feels bad.

              1. fposte*

                I think you’re falling afoul of the slippery slope fallacy here. You minimize baby talk for a few weeks at work. If Jane loses it repeatedly after that, you have a conversation with the manager about a new plan. None of this has to be carved in stone.

              2. JB (not in Houston)*

                It wouldn’t be “reasonable” to require the OP to not use the word, but nobody is saying that. Caro isn’t saying what is or isn’t reasonably to make the OP do. Caro is talking about *kindness.* We don’t have to set out a bright-line rule for how long the OP shouldn’t say the word around her. Nobody is suggesting that the OP banish the word from her vocabulary forever more. Just, hey, maybe for a little while, be mindful that what she says could be causing real hurt to Jane, so if she can, for a little while, try not to bring up what is obviously a painful topic. I don’t understand why so many people, when faced with the option of choosing out of kindness temporarily not to say something that they fully know would hurt a grieving person, come back with “it’s not reasonable to expect that of me.” This isn’t about workplace requirements, it’s about humanity.

                1. Kate 2*

                  I wasn’t suggesting that anyone here “requires” OP to avoid the word, I said “self-ban”. I didn’t suggest forever either, I was asking commenters to realistically think about their suggestions that OP not use baby or discuss baby-related things in the office. How would that play out in real life? What if Jane struggles with infertility for years? How will she know when Jane has stopped trying or when Jane has recently had a miscarriage?

                  I am all for kindness, but commenters here are suggesting the only “kind” thing to do is something completely unworkable!

                2. fposte*

                  And I answered that. Do you think two weeks is too long for people to dial down the baby talk in front of a bereaved colleague?

                3. TL -*

                  @Kate 2 I said this below but …
                  In the short-term (a few weeks to a few months), it is much more important to my self-identity to show compassion to a grieving person than it is to insist on using a phrase that I know is acutely painful for them to hear. Especially because I know after a shorter period of time, the intensity will fade and I will be able to start using it again.

                  Those are my priorities, though. Yours are different.

        3. ceiswyn*

          …but I am in the position of parent to a living creature akin to a child. I feed it, I clean up after it, I decline social engagements because I have to consider it, I keep an eye on its health and take it to an appropriate person when it needs medical treatment, I learn to interpret its mood and desires from its behaviour, I cuddle it when it wants reassurance, I protect it and I love it.

          And interestingly, domestic cats have become more sociable with humans than their wild ancestors via a process called ‘neoteny’; the retention of kitten characteristics. So their owners are, in a limited sense, in loco parentis :)

          Obviously my cat isn’t an actual child, but that’s the closest parallel to the relationship.

          1. TL -*

            I am purely speaking about this from a “why a word might be hurtful in one context and not in another” point of view. I’m not interested in the pets v kids conversation, though I certainly think there’s enough interest to have a rousing conversation on the weekend thread if other people want to discuss it!

            1. Grant Us Eyes*

              I think it’s possible to understand why a certain word might cause somebody to feel pain, without thinking it’s reasonable for that word to be avoided.

              Comments like “I wish X had never been born” are obviously close to the concept of miscarriage and it would be compassionate to avoid them, but “baby” is clearly so common a word that IMO it’s totally unreasonable to avoid it.

              Certain words remind me of traumatic issues in my life but I think it would be incredibly inappropriate to ask or even hope for colleagues not to use them.

              If Jane is so upset that a common word, with no relation to miscarriages, can set her off then I don’t think she should necessarily be in work. It is wrong to expect people to walk on eggshells. Again, this is bringing my own baggage to the situation, but I have found being made to walk on eggshells to me more traumatic than individual acute stressors.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Whoa, in what world does the word “baby” have no relation to miscarriages?

                No, the OP doesn’t *have* to avoid the word “baby” around Jane for a bit, but geez, it’s the compassionate thing to do. People are not expecting the OP to walk on eggshells. That’s not the same thing as having compassion and choosing to temporarily avoid a word you know is painful for someone.

                1. ceiswyn*

                  Sure, but the starter of this thread didn’t actually advise the LW to avoid the word ‘baby’. They advised LW to avoid talking about her cats.

              2. TL -*

                I would avoid talk of babies for 2 or 3 months – I wouldn’t go, “Oh did you hear about Janet’s new ba-” and then gasp, but I would do my best not to bring it up or to gracefully change the subject if it did come up.
                Not permanently, just for a few months to let the rawness of the pain fade. I would definitely not refer to my pets as babies but I also wouldn’t want to hurt someone that badly twice.
                And then, after a while, I would relax as we got further away from the incident and unless I could see Jane reacting to such subject/requesting otherwise, I would let them gradually come back in to normal levels in our conversations.

                This is how I was taught to handle recent tragic events with people. I have found it to be a fairly good one, or at least I’ve never made anyone run from the room crying for obvious reasons while using it.

          2. Yorick*

            That’s why it’s hurtful to use “baby” in this context the way it wouldn’t be hurtful to say “that project is my baby.”

            A person grieving about a miscarriage is hearing someone trivializing their pain: if cats are the same as babies, the analogy to a miscarriage would be something like not being able to buy or adopt the cat you wanted.

              1. fposte*

                Can you expand? I’m getting that you want to dismiss Yorick’s remark, but I’m not sure where you’re differing with her.

              2. Yorick*

                I know nobody would really mean something like that. But that’s kind of what they’re implicitly saying by claiming a domesticated animal is the same as a human child, and that’s why people roll their eyes when someone calls a pet her baby.

            1. Relly*

              A better analogy would be, the cat you were in the process of adopting died before you could take it home.

              If I couldn’t adopt a pet because he or she went to a different loving home, I’d quietly celebrate, no matter how attached I was.

            2. Temperance*

              That would be a super heartbreaking situation, though. I still dream of the pup who got away.

          3. Specialk9*

            NPR once did an interview talking about how humans used to have all kinds of animals as pets, but some species are able to domesticate well – eventually having baby physical traits and behavior as adults, which you say is called neoteny – and others just can’t, like deer and bears. They said that foxes start to look, and act, like dogs as they are purposely bred for domestication. Curly tails and actual barking.

      2. Temperance*

        I call my nieces and nephew and pets “my babies”. It’s an ingrained and weird habit at this point. I call certain projects “my baby”, too. I would probably set Jane off again, accidentally.

      3. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah, what if a person with a fancy car called it their “baby”? (And I have seen/heard people do this. My cousin has a muscle car that he refers to in this way.)

    4. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      I flashed back to the woman who framed her coworker for fraud to bring in the police and fall on the side of: give Jane a VERY wide berth, do not apologize (or make small talk of any kind) and email a follow up to you boss. Jane is in a terrible place right now, stay far away from it.

        1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          As Hill to Die writes, Jane said something that wasn’t true to someone with enough authority to get OP fired. And the accusation carried enough weight that there was an investigation. And both results were from people reacting to emotional distress.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            But the other situation was a calculated decision whereas Jane was reacting in a moment of grief. I can guarantee she didn’t sit there and think “gee, I’m going to make up stuff about LW to get her in trouble”. She genuinely believed the comment was a slight, despite how illogical that sounds, and reacted as such. Very likely she went to the manager within minutes of the incident. It’s not like she took hours or days to contemplate her actions.

          2. Natalie*

            Ah, I think I was thinking of the fake arrest prank letter, which is a totally different kind of situation but had a “framed for fraud” component.

    5. Nita*

      Exactly. She could think that OP had known, or suspected, and had still chosen to say that in front of her. And she’s probably not in the most rational place at the moment.

    6. Anon for this one*

      I call my pets my babies. My ex and I tried to conceive for ten years. We spent five of those ten going through expensive, invasive and ultimately unsuccessful fertility treatments. At the end of it all we realized how badly the stress had damaged our relationship, so we are now divorced.
      I feel for Jane, but I don’t think LW should have to stop mentioning her pets at work, or even calling them “her babies.” No one ever stopped talking about pregnancy or babies or kids in front of me, and they were right not to, even though for the longest time I couldn’t hear someone’s pregnancy news without having to hide in the bathroom and cry.
      At one point my boss even mocked me for being the only one in our group who did not have children, even though she knew exactly what the issue was, so when other coworkers were insensitive or rude I couldn’t go running to anyone to complain. I was also told to “stop being such a Debbie Downer,” which probably gives you an idea of what that workplace was like overall.
      I call my pets my babies because, as it stands now, they are the only “babies” I will ever have. Without them I don’t get to be anyone’s “Mom.” I know it’s not the same, but it’s all I have. I won’t let anyone take that away, and I have told people this when they make comments. Being sensitive is wonderful, and I wish everyone were sensitive to those of us with fertility issues. They’re not. If Jane has enduring fertility problems she is going to have to realize that at some point it is all hers to deal with, you can’t expect everyone else to walk on eggshells around you. I know that sounds cold, but it took me *years* to understand that, and it’s just easier to realize it earlier rather than later.

      1. Epiphyta*

        . . . I am so terribly sorry, and if no one is using the cannon I would dearly love to fire your former boss out of it, with the landing area a friendly patch of cactus.

  4. Middle Name Jane*

    I am in my late 30s, childless by choice, and have a cat that I consider to be my baby. I call her my little girl all the time. I’ve never been pregnant, so I can’t pretend to understand the grief a miscarriage must cause. But LW, you didn’t do anything wrong, and I don’t think you have anything to apologize about. If anything, Jane should apologize for yelling at you even if it’s just to say she is going through a hard time and didn’t mean to take it out on you.

    A former coworker yelled at me a few years ago in front of everyone when I asked about the edible fruit bouquet thing he had brought into the kitchen to share. Turns out, his ex-boyfriend had sent it to him. Still, I had no way of knowing that and I was deeply embarrassed to be yelled at in front of numerous coworkers. I avoided him after that, and he ended up leaving the company later for another job.

    It depends on how your relationship with Jane was before this incident. I hope it can be resolved. I’m glad your manager seems understanding.

    1. Call me St. Vincent*

      I have a toddler, am pregnant with my second, and have a sweet baby dog who I still refer to as one of my babies. He was my first! I have also been known to refer to him as my “furson” (rhyming with person). There is nothing wrong with calling your pet your baby. Having had a miscarriage in the past, I can completely understand how the hormones, grief, trauma, etc could cause Jane to react this way. I just want to point out that in general there is nothing wrong with this and I consider this a “wrong place, wrong time” unfortunate coincidence incident that went awry.

      1. LadyL*

        My mom considers her pets her other children as well, she calls the dog my “little brother”. Personally I like it, my mom has an intense personality and I appreciate that there are several furrier siblings to absorb some of the overbearing love. Also as the youngest I’ve always appreciated getting a boost in the pecking order once we add the cats and dogs into the family line up.

    2. CM*

      I think the coworker fruit bouquet story is a perfect example of why we should all strive to let these things go, as long as they’re not part of a larger pattern. Everybody has freakout moments, and often for causes that your coworkers couldn’t possibly know about and you wouldn’t want to tell them.

    3. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Oh, god, that just made me remember that my freshman year of college I yelled at my roommate about flowers.

      She had gotten really pretty flowers from her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day and she asked if she could put them on the windowsill above my bed (so they could get some sun). Little did she know that my boyfriend had not even acknowledged Valentine’s Day and my feelings were really hurt about it, so it felt like she was just rubbing it in that she’d gotten flowers.

      She gave me wide berth for a few hours then very nicely called me later from the grocery store to see if I needed anything. When I said no, she said, “OK, just know that I’m here for you if you need anything.” I seriously started crying because it was such a compassionate response to me being so rude to her. She knew it wasn’t about her or her flowers.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        I’m not suggesting that OP needs to have some kind of heart-to-heart with Jane if the relationship doesn’t warrant it, just recognize that her reaction has nothing to do with OP.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah… what is it with people suddenly yelling at coworkers like that. I don’t care what happened, it is not an excuse.
      I also had that happen once with a woman I worked with you SCREAMED at me because I asked her a simple conversational question about a housewarming party (she had just bought a house). She was a real whack-a-doodle.

  5. Another Sarah*

    If I said what I thought of Jane I would be violating the commenting rules. So all I will say is OP 1, you do whatever you need to do to protect yourself. Document everything and get the record straight with your boss. You need to put yourself before Jane and look after yourself. It is not cruel for you to look after yourself.

    1. Nichelle*

      +1000. The boss should have done this already but I would double check if I was LW 1. Jane is the one who should have been called in the boss’s office, not the LW.

      1. Circus peanuts*

        The boss may have spoken with Jane in addition to speaking to the letter writer. I think it was a good idea for the boss to speak to the letter writer to give them additional context to the outburst.

    2. MilkMoon (UK)*

      This this this. I was bristling with rage the moment I read the headline, and still am after reading the letter.

      I too am in my early thirties, CFBC and have a cat who is absolutely my baby. The amount of grief I have had/get from people (especially coworkers!! Even across different workplaces) for it with NO recourse from management (I’m the bad guy, of course) just leaves me cold to people like Jane tbh. People talk about things I fundamentally disagree with all day, every day at work, and not once have I screamed at someone, or even mentioned my discomfort to a manager. No, my fiancé (and cat!) gets the tears at home when it all gets too much.

      1. BarkusOrlyus*

        Miscarriages involve wild hormone imbalances. This isn’t someone attacking cat people. This is someone in deep, disappointing grief after losing what she thought was going to be her child. Why is that so hard to understand? Why is it so hard to have sympathy for a person in that position? Cheers to your fiance.

          1. AB*

            It wasn’t weird. If you can’t understand it then I think it’s clear why you’re ‘the bad guy’ at work…

            Jane had an innapropriate outburst because she is suffering. We don’t know anymore about her. She could usually be a perfectly kind person most of the time. I’m childfree but i still empathise with the grief of a miscarraige. I probably wouldn’t talk about children/babies around them for a while (as the OP admit they wouldn’t have had they known). Same way I wouldn’t start complaining about what a strained relationship I have with my mother and how much I hate seeing her around someone who’d just lost their mother. I’m not going to pretend that all mothers are saints but I’m not going to say something I know will cause them pain when it causes me literally no disadvantage to just keep my mouth shut.

            1. Grant Us Eyes*

              I can empathise with someone, but still consider their behaviour to be completely inappropriate. And while I can empathise with Jane, in this situation my sympathy is with OP, so got shouted at and reported to her manager for no valid reason at all.

              I have done emotional baggage about this, because most of my family are prone to losing their tempers – some more than others. I’m not. And it has always stung that I’m expected to accept “Billy Bob is REALLY STRESSED FOR A VERY VALID REASON” as a reason why his shouting is okay, but my reaction (upset, stress, anger at him) is not.

              Fundamentally no amount of stress makes it okay to lash out at an innocent party. It does happen and it’s not a capital offence, but if someone lashed out at me the way Jane did, I wouldn’t feel safe* working with them until I knew they understood their behaviour was not okay.

              *By safe, I don’t mean physically – I mean the psychological safety of not having to watch every word lest I get screamed at

              1. fposte*

                Yes, I do think that yelling is a key part of many people’s experience of abuse, so that may influence the way they respond to reports of yelling. Whereas if you haven’t, especially if you have experience in fields where it’s common and not particularly meaningful like sports or the military, it doesn’t carry the same implications.

                1. Natalie*

                  This is exactly what I was thinking re: people’s reactions to the yelling component, specifically. But, I think an important distinction (as far as advice goes) is that the LW does *not* seem to be triggered by yelling, or she probably would have written a different letter entirely. Similarly, while I am somewhat triggered by yelling my response is to yell back, so if I had been the LW we’d have a yet third type of situation where me and my bereaved coworker screamed at each other.

              2. mcr-red*

                I totally understand Grant. I too lived/live with family members that are the same way, and while I can understand the valid reasons, stress/mental illness/grief/etc., it is freaking wearing on you to be the one that has to take it.

                The “cat is not a baby” outburst I can understand coming from Jane, its the telling the boss “OP was making fun of my loss” that made me think, “ooh, you might want to watch yourself around Jane.” That’s…not a logical assumption to make, someone saying they have to get food for their baby (cat) means they are making fun of your miscarriage! Believe me, I get grief isn’t logical, but that was a wild stretch. And I also say this after listening to my friend complain about someone they work with that takes everything offensively: “Can you fix this typo?” becomes “You’re saying I’m stupid and incompetent at my job!” This may be a one-off with Jane, but I’d probably be wary in the OP’s situation until my interactions with her prove otherwise.

              3. Lissa*

                Yeah, this is I think where my reaction comes from too. Getting shouted at and accused of something I didn’t do (whether Jane was lying or really saw it that way) would be hugely, hugely emotionally upsetting for me, regardless of the reason. The reason would help me be OK with Jane on a practical, rational level but for awhile I would be avoiding her and to be honest, probably jumping internally every time she came near me.

          1. Lt. Frank Drebin*

            How is that out of line? It’s a good explanation. If anything, MilkMoon’s followup comment is out of line.

            1. Perse's Mom*

              “Cheers to your fiance”

              I read that as ‘good luck to that one, marrying someone heartless like you.’

          2. Wintermute*

            I don’t think it’s out of line at all, What do you think is the problem? The very sensible explanation for why someone might not be in their normal state of mind? Stating how he sees the situation? Stating disbelief that people could not understand that, in a rather mild way? I don’t see it as objectionable, but rather reasonable.

          3. Hills to Die on*

            I think ‘Cheers to your fiancé’ is snarky since she doesn’t congratulate them both. I think that ‘why is that hard to understand?’ is antagonistic, and I think that following that with ‘why is it so hard to have sympathy for that person’ immediately after is also antagonistic. I could have misread it but the whole thing reads as a bit off and adversarial to me.

            1. MilkMoon (UK)*

              Thank you Hills (and Perse’s Mom). Had I been in a less het-up state already I would’ve just ignored their (definitely antagonistic) comment, but, I wasn’t.

        1. Mike C.*

          Grief also doesn’t render someone an irrational mess that is unable to communicate like a normal human being.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            But pregnancy hormones do, and so to the post-pregnancy hormones. I really dislike blaming behavior on hormones so please understand I offer it as a reason and not an excuse.

            I yelled at my toddler daughter once when I was pregnant and then had a sobbing fit because I thought I would lose the baby as punishment for my actions. Completely not like me at all and completely irrational.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            Sometimes it does. People react in different ways. It doesn’t make it *ok* to yell at your coworkers, but it does mean that unless this continues it seems pretty reasonable to write this off as a moment of temporary discombobulation and move on.

            1. Fish Microwaver*

              Exactly. We all have a choice how we react to life’s blows. We also have to suck up a certain amount of unpleasantness because it is simply unreasonable to expect your path to be smoothed, that everyone will tie themselves in knots to avoid triggering you etc. It’s called being an adult.

              1. neeko*

                Also being an adult? Accepting that you can’t possibly know that you will know everything that will trigger you. Understanding that you will have bad days. Being an adult is not being a freaking robot.

                1. Fish Microwaver*

                  If you know that there are things that trigger you, it is on you to be able to moderate your response or excuse and remove yourself instead of crying and screaming like a toddler.

                2. TL -*

                  @Fish Microwaver
                  neeko is saying sometimes you don’t know something is a trigger until it actually triggers you. As so many AAM commenters have said in so many different contexts: you’re often surprised at what brings back memories and elicits grief after a tragedy. It often seems like it comes out of nowhere.

                  I’m sure Jane will be more self-aware and careful in the future – now she knows how strong of a reaction she has to this kind of talk. But sometimes you just don’t know until it happens.

                3. Fish Microwaver*

                  @TL, as someone who is prone to panic attacks, especially at work, after a workplace assault some year ago, I am aware of the need to have a strategy in place for when one starts. It doesn’t completely stop it but allows me space to excuse myself and get a grip. I also recently lost a close friend to suicide and am aware of the random hits of grief that overtake me but it is my personal pain and I don’t reveal it to, or take it out on others.

                4. neeko*

                  @Fish Microwaver
                  Great that you have those strategies in place. Most people don’t put strategies like that in place until they realize they need them. Like, for example, they get triggered and scream at a person for an innocent comment. And even when you have those stragies in place, sometimes they don’t work. Or sometimes you forget that something might trigger you. Or many other things that might happen. Again, we are human. Not robots.

            2. Wintermute*

              Explanation is not exculpation.

              You can understand why someone did something without saying that they had no choice in the matter and you can think someone is wrong and still think that they shouldn’t be punished because of exceptional circumstances.

              It’s not okay but it would take a real cold person to completely ignore the many potential factors– grief, hormones, potential psychiatric issues, trauma– that should affect how severely the situation is dealt with.

            3. PlainJane*

              Yes. Thank you. I’m also really uncomfortable with the, “blame it on hormones,” argument, because that has been used as a reason to declare women unfit for positions of responsibility since, well, forever. Everyone has terrible moments, and this instance may (or may not) be wildly out of character for Jane. But it doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be expected to control themselves around others–even when they’re grieving or hormonal.

          3. Zillah*

            If grief has not had that effect on you, you’ve been lucky. It has absolutely made me an irrational mess, and I’ve had disproportionate reactions and said things I regret because of it.

        2. Carlee*

          Because grownups don’t take their grief out on their coworkers.

          Because, well, getting pregnant or having kids isn’t a zero-sum game. It’s not like other people’s ability to easily bear children is any way, shape or form related to, say, Jane’s ability to get/stay pregnant.

          1. fposte*

            Ideally, they shouldn’t, but I don’t think you lose your grownup badge for doing something you shouldn’t.

            Nobody’s saying “Yeah, go, Jane! You tell that OP!” But grief affects cognition, and even if you were lucky enough for that effect to be limited, that doesn’t mean everybody else had the same experience.

          2. TL -*

            Oh, but that’s such a common emotion to have when you suffer from infertility/miscarriages. I agree that Jane is no example of how to act on such feelings but please don’t shame them.

            1. Anon for this one*

              Agreed. Jane’s feelings are 100% understandable (at least to me) but it’s not ok to yell at your co-workers. During ten years of infertility it was like a knife in my heart each time co-workers announced their pregnancies or brought new babies by the office for a quick visit. It hurt so much, but I never took it out on my coworkers. I did spend a lot of my break and lunch time sitting outside in my car crying, however.

        3. Isabelle*

          People who have lost a baby through miscarriage or an older child through an illness or accident carry that pain forever. We’ve all experienced grief and yet most of us manage to remain professional at work. If your grief is so overwhelming that you can’t interact with your colleagues normally, it could be that you are not ready to go back to work yet.

          Having sympathy for Jane doesn’t mean her employer should tolerate her abusing her coworkers.
          Should the entire office ban the word ‘baby’ in conversations? and for how long?

        4. Plague of frogs*

          If it comes to that, why is it so hard to have sympathy for someone in MilkMoon’s position? They put up with offensive comments at work, have no support from management, and cry at home.

          MilkMoon doesn’t mention exactly what’s been said, but as a childless person I can guess. They are constantly pressured to have a baby, told that their life is incomplete because they don’t have children, told that they are selfish, told that they will die alone. I have had all this, and more, said to me by a manager at ToxicJob.

          As a rat person, I’ve had people tell me how gross my pets are, and how gross my house must be. (Although mostly not by people who actually have small human children, who correctly assume that my self-grooming children are cleaner than their offspring). I’ve been told “lovely” stories about torturing and killing rats. If I react angrily, I have “no sense of humor.” If I say that my rats are my babies, I’m told I “can’t possibly understand because I don’t have a real baby.” (No, you can’t possibly understand. You don’t have a rat).

          I’m not arguing against compassion for Jane. I am arguing for compassion across the board. I get that compassion at my new job. When I have to time off work because I’m doing end-of-life care for a rat, I get it. I get nothing but sympathy when I get back. MilkMoon should get this stuff too.

          1. MilkMoon (UK)*

            Thank you Plague (oh it feels rude to call you that?!). I am sorry that you share my experiences, and so closely too.

            I ended up leaving (feeling distinctly managed-out) ToxicJob ultimately because it became so actively anti-Childfree/less after a new director came in who was seriously flying the ‘Parents are Gods’ flag; among other things I was quite literally told that I wasn’t to talk about not wanting children (it’s not like I was saying anything nasty – I was working for a family charity before I worked there for goodness’ sake!). A CFBC colleague got formally disciplined for it, being told it was for “Having a problem with mothers”!! They tried to formally discipline me for the same reason so I told them to go F- themselves and quit without notice.

            Now I work somewhere that is very diverse and supportive, but still I’ve had otherwise nice coworkers call me a ‘witch’, and “joke” about my cat dying, and then when I got visibly upset and told them to stop, try to show me some video of a dead cat on a drone. I pointed out that I wouldn’t “joke” about someone’s child dying and they said “it’s not the same” (followed by much laughter) and just get laughed-at when I say that it is *to me*.

            Coupled with all this at work, I have of course encountered nastiness and dismissal in the rest of my life and on the internet also.

            I was commenting from a ‘triggered’ (for want of a better word) personal perspective, which those who have reacted poorly to my comment have completely bypassed. I wasn’t necessarily seeking compassion for myself, just agreeing with someone elses sentiment and giving a personal reason as to why. But perhaps they would offer me more compassion if they came back and read this anyway? But I shouldn’t have to pour my heart out to be granted it. I clearly (well, to me I guess) said that after horrid experiences at work caused by simply being a CFBC & animal-loving woman I felt enraged on behalf of the LW and had been numbed to people ‘like Jane’ (holding that kind of opinion, thinking it’s okay to take it out on someone like the LW, and trying to cause someone like the LW a problem at work because of it).

            Anyway! FWIW I know rats to be very loving, clever, kind and indeed clean(!) animals :)

        5. Traffic_Spiral*

          I think what you’re finding hard to understand is the concept of “personal sadness or hardship” =/= “nullification of bad behavior.” The “why” of this lady’s actions are separate to the “what.” *What* did she do? She screamed at a coworker without justification and lied (or is delusional enough that she can’t tell lie from reality) to her superior. Regardless of *why* she did it, that’s a serious issue that needs addressing.

          Most everyone who does terrible things has some sort of sadness in their personal life. That doesn’t change that they’re doing terrible things and that those around them need to take protective measures.

      2. TL -*

        But Jane’s reaction is not about the cat, not even a little bit. Calling the cat a baby was only the trigger; Jane was reacting to the grief of losing her baby, not a deep hatred of cats and cat owners.

      3. Agent Diane*

        I hope you show rather more empathy and tact for anyone you know who has a miscarriage. They are a traumatic physical event with a huge ripple-effects on emotions. That’ll be what caused Jane’s response here.

        I love my hairy baby but I don’t do all the “my cat is my baby” outside the house because I’ve also been the woman trying to get my life back to normal after both a miscarriage and a successful birth that did involve time in NICU. I know my cutesey “hairy baby” stuff may hurt a friend or colleague who is privately grieving their loss of a real baby.

        1. Birch*

          I think part of what bristles MilkMoon et al. is that pet people and childfree people are often given this same lecture about how they can’t possibly understand real joy/responsibility/grief/exhaustion of they haven’t had a child, as is having children is the one objective Most Difficult and Most Important thing any human can do, and it tends to get annoying because people with children (often, not always, but often) disregard the experiences of people without children. It turns into this “I’ll care about you when you start caring about me” cold war on both sides. I think both sides understand the issue, there’s just not enough people willing to bridge it with compassion and many people have been burned by broken friendships from either side that makes them sensitive to the issue. It’s not really about lacking empathy for people dealing with miscarriages.

            1. Yada yada yada*

              There’s another side to this coin though. When people talk about losing a parent or dealing with a sick child and then people make comments related to the illness of their pet, trying to compare the two. I once heard someone compare the death of their pet ( who typically have lifespans less than 20 years and are typically expected to pass away before their owners) to an unexpected and untimely human death in someone’s family. I’m not saying people with kids can’t be annoying and dismissive, they totally can be, especially in this day and age. But people can be just as bad about their “fur babies”

              1. Plague of frogs*

                In all fairness, “I know just how you feel” is the wrong thing to say to anyone who’s grieving. Doesn’t matter exactly how you’ve convinced yourself that you know exactly how they feel.

                1. Yada Yada Yada*

                  Agreed! I meant more along of the lines of “my 6 year old son has cancer” and a coworker or friend saying “I’m here for you, that’s so difficulty, my child once had cancer so I understand how hard it is” versus some pet owners (not all, but they do exist!) who will say “I’m here for you, that’s so difficulty, my 6 year old cat once had cancer so I understand how hard it is.” Not the same

                2. Trigger*

                  I agree plague and temperance. When I lost my mom as a 22 year old under tragic circumstances I had a couple people clumsily try empathise by saying they had lost a loved cat or dog so had an idea of grief, though thankfully never said the erroneous ‘I know how you feel’ (which would have been untrue even if they’d lost their moms at 22). I took it as intended: someone they loved deeply died, and left a huge hole and lots of pain in their life. I appreciated the empathy and not once thought ‘wait a minute, my mother is more important than your cat!’ which would have been arrogant, albeit understandable as an internal gut reaction in the worst stages of grief, when we act irrationally at times.

              2. Temperance*

                How do you know it’s not the same? While I would not compare my pet to someone’s child to the person, you just can’t tell me that I feel pain losing a pet less deeply than I would a child. A child who doesn’t wxist and probably never will.

                1. Yada Yada Yada*

                  People don’t wake up every morning for 50, 60, 70 years, or the rest of their lives, with a pit in their stomach and hole in their hearts from the moment they open their eyes because of a dog or cat. People who have lost children do. Do you know anyone who had experienced the loss of a child? In encompasses everything, forever, in a way that losing a pet (although definitely very painful) simply does not. I know.

          1. TL -*

            That’s a valid conversation and it’s been had on AAM before and probably will be again, but I have a very hard time finding a place for it in this conversation about someone’s grief over losing their baby.

          2. Mookie*

            Sure, and I’m childfree, as well, so I get my share of what you describe*, but I regard those kinds of interrogations / proselytizations / monologues as belonging to the same genus as other boring lectures I am subjected to about why my life is incomplete because I don’t run marathons, I don’t have a spouse, I don’t eat this fad or abide by that trend, I don’t care about that all-consuming habit or hobby my interlocutor is devoted to, my values aren’t right, my priorities are all wrong, I’m not practicing my political beliefs in the right fashion or for the right cause, and my life’s ambition is a joke because I’m just not that good enough to get there and the ‘there’ that’s there is just dumb, anyway, a waste of time.

            It’s just a fact of life, that making some choices means other choices are no longer available to you, and that inevitably and for many people creates in them an existential dilemma, which in turn requires that they justify their habits and decisions to anyone who will listen because, like most of us, they are deeply invested in proving why their precise life is the only one worth living and that it’s all gone according to plan. Also, we all fear snootiness and judgment and sometimes that makes us launch desperate pre-emptive, humble-brag-y defenses of our own existence as though they aren’t all just mixed bags cobbled haphazardly together as we’ve aged and tried to avoid as many pitfalls and potholes as possible in the process.

            This isn’t specific to people with children or to people who believe, for whatever reason, that raising children is an edifying experience that should be imposed on adults irrespective of their desires. It’s hard to fathom other people having internal lives that aren’t accessible to you. I remember going ’round in public looking at strangers and thinking, “fuck, you don’t know the half of it, mate,” soon after my father died, and that’s just self-centered nonsense, understandable but completely pedestrian. Everybody feels that way! Live long enough and you’ll be an orphan. Most of us hold at least a few precious people dear and losses of that tribe are inevitable, unless you’re the first to go. You don’t need a child to figure that out because parental feelings aren’t uniform or universal, but bound up by time, culture, and individual quirks and personal histories. It’s utterly subjective. In their heart, even the most fervent of parents knows this to be true. What they want is not that every person experiences being a parent, but that everyone experience being a parent Precisely This Way. Never going to happen.

            *as an atheist, I get to watch and then run away from fellow atheists and self-described skeptics who practice atheism-minus and bemoan relativism and post-modernism and think that the absence of a pantheon or an afterlife can solve all the world’s problems, like racism won’t matter once churches cease to exist or whathaveyou, and are more interested in clean hands, sea-lioning, and maintaining an impossibly objective air than in digging in and getting dirty

          3. Call me St. Vincent*

            I think this is understandable. Temperance has actually made a really good point on this in previous discussions. I think parents need to do a better job of making it clear (and really understanding) that they can only talk about how being a parent has made life more difficult than it was when THEY were single/child-free. The problem is speaking for everyone as if you can understand what has happened to every other person who hasn’t had a child and making a sweeping judgment that their life is just not that hard. I think for me personally, life is definitely harder to manage with a child, but that doesn’t mean my life is intrinsically harder than any other person’s who is child-free (by choice or not). That is the important and respectful distinction that parents must make! Too often we fail to make that distinction. Thanks, Temperance for helping me see this previously!

          4. Clare*

            Exactly. I know people think this about childless people, but are usually smart enough to not say it to that persons face. Still, most of us of a certain age without kids are well aware of how often we are judged for it, made to feel worth less because of it. But to actually say it, and in a professional setting? So wrong.

            1. I'm Not Phyllis*

              Yes, this so much. There is a lot of judgment out there on people who don’t have kids – whether it’s by choice or not (and most people never really know the why of it).

              I think Alison’s advice is correct though. I would just ensure my manager knows I wasn’t malicious in my intent and give Jane some space. I don’t think LW has anything to feel sorry about, and I don’t think they need to change the language of how they speak about their cat. But really, this isn’t a debate that I’d want to have with anyone who is grieving. It’s best to just leave it alone unless it becomes part of a bigger pattern.

          5. You're Not My Supervisor*

            I think this is exactly what’s making this such a polarizing argument.

            If OP had mentioned babies in some other context– like, “oh, that actor has a baby face” and Jane went off on her, I think people would be more sympathetic to the fact that Jane’s thinking here is warped by grief. But since this is an issue for which childfree pet owners have existing feelings towards those with children mentioned above (i.e. the disregarders), it becomes a heated issue where people will staunchly defend their right to call a pet their baby.

            1. Call me St. Vincent*

              Also just want to point out (in addition to my (I think) more meaningful contribution above) that some of us with children still call our pets babies (like me!). I have been known to refer to my dog as my “first-born.”

              1. You're Not My Supervisor*

                I also have both a human baby and a cat I called my baby until he passed. I don’t have the childfree by choice perspective, but I do think people are being hard on the grieving coworker, in a way they might not be had the incident not involved pets being referred to as babies.

              2. You're Not My Supervisor*

                Also I wasn’t sure if by “more meaningful contribution” you meant that your previous comment was more meaningful than your reply to mine, or if your previous comment was more meaningful than my comment, but I assumed it was the former ;)

              3. Perse's Mom*

                I distinctly remember my sister relaying a comment an aunt of ours had made about how her cats were her babies until she had an actual baby and then she realized they were just cats. The context of this was that my sister – who had long said she was fine with just kids of the four-legged variety – had recently had a human kid of her own… and found that her feelings about her four legged kids didn’t change at all. She didn’t suddenly see them in a new light, or as less-than.

                It’s all very individual and deeply personal and not necessarily something easily explained or particularly rational. Which means people are going to disagree and argue about it and get mad about it basically forever.

                1. Yada Yada Yada*

                  OK, imagined scenario: Aliens storm into sister’s house and they say “we’re going to zap somebody in this house with a fatal laser beam. Do you want us to choose your child or your pet?” Do you really think anybody would say “Give me a few minutes to decide Mr. Alien, I’m trying to figure out if I’m gonna give up my son or my cat”? Now, if the choice were between somebody’s two sons, it would be nearly impossible. But not a single person on the planet would be unable to choose between the life of their child and the life of their pet, the choice would be painful but clear. This is not to say the pet’s death wouldn’t totally wreck them, but the decision would be made. I know that people love their pets and consider them to be their children, even people who do have children, but I think we’re all kidding ourselves to say there’s no distinction between the two.

                2. Perse's Mom*

                  @Yada Yada Yada
                  In this entirely fictitious and ridiculous scenario, my sister would bean the alien with a frying pan from across the room while it was distracted by the german shepherd jumping all over it and then finish it off by snapping its neck.

                3. Call me St. Vincent*

                  @Yada Yada Yada Seriously dude. This comment has been made on a zillion threads and every time we come to the same conclusion. This tired hypothetical is pretty meaningless and this type of comment is off topic, unhelpful and a little bit condescending.

                4. Yada Yada Yada*

                  Do @s work on here? Sorry, I used the alien scenario because I didn’t want to to use analogies to real violence on here, so it was with the best intentions. But point taken Perse’s Mom on the ridiculousness of the analogy, you’re right. A more realistic scenario is that my pet and daughter both need medication to live, I’m all out of money (very realistic for many families) and either have to bring the cat to the pound or the kid to social services (ok, that last bit is not realistic). No brainer, everyone would sacrifice the cat yet again. St. Vincent sorry about that, I re-read what I wrote and personally don’t find it to be condescending but I’ll keep that in mind in the future to make sure! You might, too, as your comment reads to me as unnecessarily hostile

            2. MilkMoon (UK)*

              Yes. I definitely have Existing Feelings about this, *especially* in the workplace, as I have now detailed further up in response to Plague of Frogs.

          6. Anon for this one*

            People who are childless not by choice get the lectures as well. I can’t even tell you how much it hurts to have wanted a child, be unable to have one, and then get that lecture. I have experienced it many times, and I’d rather have my teeth pulled without anesthesia.

            1. MilkMoon (UK)*

              I am sorry.

              We, as a society, need to just stop with the glorification of parenthood (among other things of course) for the sake of *everyone*. It hurts you, it hurts me, and it hurts people with children – and all we end up doing is hurting one another because of it!

          7. Kate 2*

            Thank you Birch! My god, the number of times I have been told I am a sociopath for not wanting kids, that I am not a “real woman”, that I don’t know what “real love” is, that I am heartless, cold, that I am not a “real adult”, don’t know what responsibility is, no one will remember me after I die or care for me when I grow old. All from perfectly “normal, nice” ordinary people.

            1. MilkMoon (UK)*

              Preach it, sister.

              In my early-thirties and about to get married? I’m right in the sweet-spot for this nonesense and am perpetually exhausted by it. Can’t wait for my (Middle-Eastern) family to go into harassment-overdrive at some point in the next year *weary sideeye*.

  6. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

    #1 – I think I would say something to Jane. It’s great that the supervisor recognized what was going on, but even though jane’s reaction was over the top, in her grief, she may have believed, in that moment, that LW really was mocking her. Of course she was wrong to try to get LW in trouble. Grief can make people irrational.

    A gentle “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know about your loss. I’m sorry if I came across as insensitive” would probably be useful for their future work relationship.

    1. Middle Name Jane*

      But since Jane didn’t tell the LW about her miscarriage, wouldn’t a comment like this just infuriate her further because she will know that a third party told LW about the miscarriage? I think the LW would be better off just avoiding Jane as much as possible for a while. Be polite/civil/professional, but keep her distance.

      1. Someone else*

        Possibly. The whole situation is weird from the get-go because in order for LW to have been mocking Jane as Jane appears to believe, LW would have had to have known. If Jane knows LW didn’t know, how the hell could LW have been mocking Jane about a thing she wasn’t aware of?

        That said, assuming we’re just dealing with grief-driven irrationality, keep as distance and wait for things to cool off. Because the entire situation is dependent on a not logical premise. So logic-ing about it after the fact is unlikely to be productive.

        1. Middle Name Jane*

          Oh, true. I wasn’t thinking about the mocking aspect of this. Jane thinks LW was mocking her, so that would suggest LW had prior knowledge of the miscarriage–even though Jane didn’t tell LW and it doesn’t sound like it’s common knowledge around the office.

        2. Geoffrey B*

          I can’t speak for Jane, but when I’m under serious emotional stress my theory of mind tends to go out the window and it’s hard to remember that other people are working from different facts.

        3. SarahTheEntwife*

          I’m not clear from the letter how private Jane was being about her miscarriage. If she maybe had told a few coworkers but not the LW, it makes more sense that in the moment she assumed everyone knew.

      2. Hills to Die on*

        But Jane is already assuming OP knows, so mane not but I do agree that it could add fuel to the fire.

      3. Video Game Lurker*

        I wouldn’t think as much, considering that the report against OP1 was about OP1 “mocking” Jane for her miscarriage. Well, Jane may still get upset, but I always figured that if a complaint was made, then it would be the manager (or whoever deals with complaints)’s job to try and inform the subject of the complaint in order to address any issues.

      4. Temperance*

        Honestly, I would just avoid Jane for a while. She was offended and upset by a seriously innocuous comment by a cat mom, and she might just now see LW as kind of a Target for her misplaced rage. LW didn’t do anything to cross Jane, but grief can make people do weird things. (Disclaimer: I do believe that adults are responsible for their actions.)

      5. Student*

        Jane already thinks the OP was mocking her for her loss, if we take her at her word. I think anything to counter that notion is both a good idea and a kindness to her. Can you imagine having a miscarriage and then thinking people at work were making fun of you for it, how horrible that feeling is?

        Even if she does get angry int he moment, which is possible out of embarrassment for getting something so wrong, it’ll be a long-term relief to know her co-workers are not out to get her or making fun of her miscarriage.

        I’d say something to her in private like, “Jane, there’s been a terrible misunderstanding, and I want to apologize to you and set things straight. I had no idea you’ve had a miscarriage recently. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can understand now why my comment about my cat upset you. It was never my intention to hurt your feelings when I said that. I’d hate for you to go on thinking I’d do something so mean to you. I’m sorry.”

        Jane’s response was terrible, but this is not the time or place to pick that fight. This is time to offer an apology, even if it’s mostly empty because the OP didn’t do anything wrong. Private, empty apologies are a cheap way to fix a co-worker relationship. If Jane keeps going off on her, address it next time. Avoid calling the cat a baby around Jane for 2 months, after that go back to normal.

        If the OP is open to it, calling her cat by some other term might avoid general co-worker confusion and still express her endearment towards her cat. I assume people referring to babies are talking about human babies by default, and would’ve been confused had I overheard part of this conversation. You certainly don’t have to do so because of this incident, but if you call your cat a baby then other people will make this same mistake (with less explosive results, normally).

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Or even “I didn’t know… I’m so sorry for your loss.” when things have calmed down a little.

    3. TL -*

      I would probably say, “I know that it’s not like you to yell and so what I said must have really upset you; I’m sorry it happened and it wasn’t my intention to hurt you. I hope whatever is happening gets better.”

      That would be both more or less true and not intrusive on LW’s part. And it gives Jane a way to save face and apologize on her end without going through the “Oh, god, how do I even start this conversation” cycle that most of us would find ourselves in. It also very gently sets the expectation of “you’re not a person who yells.”

      1. Natalie*

        Oh, this is a good idea! If I was the LW I think I would really want to clear the air just because it’s SO AWKWARD to just pretend a yelling at/being yelled at incident never happened. Framing it as though the yelling is the clue that something is wrong is pretty brilliant IMO.

        1. TL -*

          Thank you! I was trying really hard to obnoxiously give people the benefit of the doubt in college and decided I, such a wonderful person, would no longer get angry at people for snapping at me and instead inquire kindly into their being.
          Then it actually worked and I started using it for real and I’m incredibly grateful to holier-than-thou college me for stumbling upon it!
          (though *cough* I still sometimes get angry instead of compassionate)

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Agreed. I don’t think it’s about whether the OP owes Jane an apology, but whether the working relationship would benefit from smoothing things out. The OP can be gracious and empathetic without admitting some kind of wrongdoing.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I would stay FAR away from Jane. The yelling might be one thing, but going to the supervisor about it is quite another.

  7. KWu*

    LW1: others have commented on the lying/not lying part, but I wanted to add that it may also not be so much that she tried to get you in trouble as she’s really hurting and desperate to do anything that (seems like it) will help her hurt even a little bit less, like “protecting” herself from “mockery.”

    It sounds like you’re in the clear with your supervisor and other co-workers and that you already have compassion for Jane, so in terms of any further action you might want to consider, it could be not too different than if you’d found out through other means that Jane had suffered this loss.

  8. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #1: I wonder if Jane is ready to go back to work if an offhand comment like that made her fly off the handle like that.

    I’ve heard so many people call all kinds of things their ‘baby’. Pets, Cars, Computers, all sorts of hobby stuff…

    If she is this raw daily life must be a mine field for her, what with all the baby commercials and what no out there.

    Is there any way that you could ask your employer to nudge Jane to take time off to grief and heal somewhat?

    1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I also thought about how calling things “baby” is really common. And miscarriages are also common. If it was common to react like Jane did, we would all know about it.

      1. Gens*

        Oh it’s not that uncommon, people just tend to do it in their heads and suffer their grief in silence, or end up snapping about something else. There are a bunch of charities for infant loss and postpartum depression but they are hard to find, even when you know they exist so it can be really difficult to access specific support. I work with a lot of these charities because my own grief festered for years and many people I speak to who have just joined will also mention a period of irrationally strong upset about those kinds of triggers. Society doesn’t talk about infant loss much sadly

        1. TL -*

          Oh god, yes, this. The day I decided someone near snapping at me over an innocent comment or question was them dealing with their own stuff and not me being horribly offensive over a stapler was the day I stopped worrying over a lot of really small interactions. It was also the day I decided I didn’t have to worry about them being upset and could just say Okay, thanks, and leave.

      2. Another Jane*

        Not defending Jane’s actions, but I’ve both miscarried and lost a child. My reactions to words like ‘baby’ were absolutely more intense around those times. I put a ton of effort into not showing those reactions to co-workers and causal acquaintances both because I’m a private person and because acknowledging miscarriage and infant loss is incredibly stigmatized. I was repeatedly told that I shouldn’t disclose losses because it would make others sad or paranoid if they were pregnant/parents (and this isn’t something I bring up myself, I’m talking about when person asked if my husband and I wanted kids, I responded we had miscarried, they or another person said ‘ oh you shouldn’t share that because…’).

        Please don’t assume not hearing about traumatic reactions to miscarriage means they aren’t happening.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I am so sorry for your losses and the fact that you were encouraged not to talk about them. Pregnancy and infant loss is so much more frequent than people realize because of attitudes like that and there should not be any stigma or shame in talking about it.

        2. Wintermute*

          I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve gone through, and I think your statement about stigma is incredibly important.

          I constantly feel awful that we do such a terrible job talking about miscarriage in this country. Women are often left completely unprepared for the fact that the average pregnancy isn’t carried to term, and if a woman plans to have a family they are quite likely to have at least one miscarriage, instead we leave people in this awful nexus where self-blame and self-doubt meet cultural taboos, and it’s just cruel.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            I think it’s especially odd that we’re so bad about infant loss, given that only a century ago it was common enough that most people had lost at least one sibling or cousin while growing up. But then, we’re bad at talking about death in general, so I guess it makes a weird sort of sense. (And when I saw “we” I can only speak to what I know, here in Major Metro Area, USA.)

            > if a woman plans to have a family they are quite likely to have at least one miscarriage

            But I do object to your numbers. While super-early miscarriages (meaning, you didn’t know you were pregnant and maybe just had a late super-bad period) are common, once you’ve got a “recognized pregnancy” the numbers are more like 15-25%.

            1. Wintermute*

              that is very fair, and I know unnoticed spontaneous terminations that occur with normal menstruation are different, both medically and emotionally, but even the 15-25% number means that we should prepare young girls that if they plan to have the typical 2.5 kids they are fairly likely to experience a miscarriage at some point. It’s not because they drank from a plastic water bottle or ate tofu or any of the reasons women castigate themselves for, but because their body is built that way.

              My stepdaughter had a miscarriage and I was aghast that she graduated from a fairly progressive school with decent sex ed and as far as she knew miscarriages were really rare and usually the fault of the mother, it broke my heart.

        3. Grant Us Eyes*

          I just want to say I’m horrified, and really sorry, that people told you not to share anything about your miscarriage.

          If someone discloses a miscarriage I think the only response that’s appropriate is along the lines of “I’m so sorry for your loss. If you ever want to talk about it, I’m here to listen”

        4. Parenthetically*

          I’m so sorry for your losses, Another Jane.

          And yes, plenty of people, even here, as evidenced in previous comments sections, have the opinion that coworkers or people in general shouldn’t talk about their losses.

    2. Kitten*

      I was thinking the same – I call my car and random bits of tech ‘my baby’ and say ‘thank you, baby’ to objects regularly in the course of a normal day. If I were aware of Jane’s situation, I’d make an effort not to, but I’m sure I’d slip up when I got focused on something.

      And as much as I feel for Jane (my sister is struggling with a similar situation and is really raw about it all), there has to be line where co-workers aren’t being made to walk on egg-shells.

      Maybe Jane could work from home for a bit where she has more support and more control over her environment?

  9. Super anon for this*

    I had 2 miscarriages and a stillbirth before my husband and I decided we weren’t going to be parents / it wasn’t in the cards for us. I hate people like Jane. She makes all of us look bad. There is already stigma and misunderstandings around miscarriages and Jane is contributing to that. There is a stereotype that women can’t control our emotions and Jane is contributing to that stereotype. You are kinder than me OP. I would make sure my boss puts it on record, I would go to HR and I would have told Jane to stop acting like that. I would have been beyond embarrassed if I ever carried on like her. She gets exactly zero sympathy from me.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I’m really sorry for your losses. I can feel the heat coming off your comment, so I wanted you to know that FWIW, I really think that people who believe those stereotypes are pretty few and far between. <3

    2. Anon Uterus*

      I’m so incredibly sorry, anon. What painful experiences.

      I think it’s worth noting that some people, myself included, have a overwhelmingly negative psychiatric reaction to large hormonal shifts like the ones involved in miscarriage. (Heck, plain old hormonal birth control gives me panic attacks and weeping fits.)

      It’s not feeeeemale histrionics, it’s just genetics, and my shame over the “feminine” intensity of my own reactions and my inability to “suck it up” caused me to miss out on a lot of help initially. The entire situation was punishing enough on its own, but trying to process shock/grief through a freshly malfunctioning brain is like trying to strain rocks through a colander.

      It’s possible this woman is experiencing an entirely new level of distress that is completely overwhelming her normal judgement and inhibitions. In my most disturbed moments I have absolutely freaked out on more than one innocent civilian, in ways I now find both embarrassing and saddening.

      In this case, extending Jane some compassionate benefit of the doubt is probably appropriate, even if her behavior (and the dimensions of her loss) don’t seem to stack up to what we’ve come to expect or hope of ourselves.

      If she continues to be a jerk after she’s regained some equilibrium, there should be no shortage of opportunities to hold her accountable.

      It seems like the boss is already handling this with kindness and discretion, and that will hopefully be enough to see carry both the letter writer and Jane safely on to better days. <3

      1. Inclusivity*

        Agreed. As someone who has been in tough situations before, I’m getting really uncomfortable with comments that go along the lines of “I’ve been through so much worse, so how dare she…” It’s attitudes like this that perpetuate hazing and toxic cultures– the previous forbearers have had terrible experiences, so now they think it’s time for the next class to “pay their dues” because why should the next class have an easier time than them, even if that’s unreasonably harsh. Not to mention that grief shouldn’t be a one-upping contest over who has a more tragic story, and even if it was, what makes Super anon think that Jane hasn’t had more miscarriages and/or stillbirths than her?

        Jane probably thought the rumor mill had informed most of her office about her miscarriage, so it’s quite understandable why she would be upset by OP’s comment, especially if OP said it in a facetious or sarcastic way that could’ve been misinterpreted as snarky. Sure, yelling at work isn’t professional, but it’s quite understandable why people would yell at others who are acting insensitive toward their tragedy. If OP’s cat just died and her coworker (who knows about it) loudly talked in front of her in a flippant way about cats (ex: “dogs are so much better than cats”), it would be quite understandable if OP reacted unprofessionally.

        1. Elspeth*

          We don’t know how the LW commented about her cat – let’s take LW at her word, rather than second guessing the tone of her comment.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          Thank you for this. I am uncomfortable with the amount of unkindness towards Jane… yelling wasn’t professional or OK, but definitely understandable.

          If I’d been in her shoes, and believed that OP knew about miscarriage, I wouldn’t have yelled. I’d have headed to toilets, cried my eyes out, and then probably have complained to OP’s manager, or decided not worth it and just quietly despised her from that point on. So it’s better that it has been clarified in one way that Jane knows OP is not a nasty person who deliberately mocked her.

            1. Bette*

              +1. I can’t say here what I really think of Jane. Where’s the compassion for the person who was yelled at and whose job was potentially imperiled due to someone else’s hormones and irrationality?

              1. Natalie*

                job was potentially imperiled

                Not only is there no evidence of that in the letter, there is specific evidence that it is not the case.

                Nor does it necessarily follow that if people aren’t saying what they really think, what they are saying must necessarily be appropriate. It could just be less mean.

              2. tigerlily*

                I don’t think you’ve seen a single comment where anyone was unkind to OP. You are, however, responding to a thread that started with “I hate people like Jane. She makes all of us look bad.”

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Agreed. Jane acted very inappropriately, to be sure — I don’t want to come across as condoning what she did. But a little empathy goes a long way. She’s in quite a lot of anguish, obviously, and probably having some really weird physical stuff going on, which makes exactly nothing better when it comes to trying to act like a normal person when you’re going to pieces inside.

        3. anon for this one*

          There is a huge culture of one upmanship of grief among parents who have suffered a loss of a child, there’s a big culture of ‘the depth of your grief shows how much you loved your child’ and posits that the grieving parent who sits outside in freezing cold for hours without a coat or can’t get out of bed for days or can’t function at work or screams inappropriately at coworkers are the parents who deserves huge amounts of compassion and support.

          It’s incredibly hurtful and stigmatizing to us grieving parents who manage to continue to work and care for our other kids and to function reasonably well to be continually exposed to social cues that imply that obviously we didn’t love our children as much because we don’t display our grief continuously for everyone to see.

          That’s why many parents who have suffered similar and worse losses than Jane’s are going to react badly to Jane’s actions and the resulting outpouring of sympathy here. Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of my dead child’s birth, and I’m finding it very hard to muster up much sympathy for Jane here myself.

          1. TL -*

            Thank you for this – it contextualizes a lot of the answers really well in a way I wouldn’t have considered. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to navigate performative expectations/valuation of a grief like that.
            I’m very sorry for your loss.

          2. Future Homesteader*

            Thank you so much for this response. It’s incredibly helpful not just for this context, but on a larger scale. It’s something I’d ever even thought about before, but it makes so much sense and is something I’ll try to remember.

  10. Augusta Sugarbean*

    #2 I can’t think of anyone who loves the dentist and plenty of people loathe it. I’m guessing addressing it up front will garner a sympathetic reaction. And if they are jerky about it, that’s probably valuable information. Good luck with the job hunt and the dental work!

    1. Pollygrammer*

      I have a dental bridge myself. I definitely wouldn’t hold missing teeth against somebody, and honestly we would probably bond over it.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah – that’s a good point! Dental issues are pretty common and everyone knows they suck, so chances are the interviewer’s just going to feel sympathetic and then move on and do the interview normally. My dad has had to have a few emergency dental procedures to save face (literally, i guess) before conferences and business trips, so I’d probably relate to the OP just based on seeing his experience.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I have some missing teeth and one implant. I wouldn’t assume drugs – you might’ve had an accident, been attacked, had cancer, there are all sorts of reasons.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        Heck, I just lost the genetic lottery re: teeth. I’ve been fortunate to be able to keep all mine so far via a combination of being warned (my dad also has awful teeth), good childhood dental care, and consistently having enough money to pay for the dental care I inevitably need (e.g. I could afford thousands for a root canal + crown rather than just having the tooth pulled). If any one of those things had not been the case I’d be a couple teeth short by now.

        I’d be more likely to assume a tragic baseball accident than drugs.

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          Heck, I just lost the genetic lottery re: teeth.

          Me too, and I really max out my dental coverage/FSA each year staying on top of it all for myself plus trying to prevent similar issues with my children.

          If someone showed up for an interview with me and said dental work I’d probably launch into commiseration with them!

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I had a front tooth that has been a bitch since I was ~12, and it finally gave up and I ended up with a root canal and a veneer. Then, my dentist screwed up and I got 4 veneers on all my front teeth because he started grinding on the wrong tooth. Because he did not have four veers prefabbed, he finished the grinding and I had temporaries for a month. That was ~4 yrs ago, then one of those non-required veneers broke this summer on a weekend and I had to walk around with the nasty stub for a couple days. Mortified. I completely sympathize and would never assume it was your fault. My family on my mom’s side all has really, really crooked teeth, and it’s just 5 yrs of braces and privilege that has kept my problems from being a mouthful of crowns and partials. I have never even had a normal cavity, but I’ve still had a bunch of work done.

      2. Lilo*

        I have a missing tooth that is just the result of how my teeth came in on top of each other. I had good dental care and take care of my teeth, this is just something that happened when I was a teenager and despite the efforts of like ten various dental professionals of multiple types fot well over a decade, it couldn’t be fixed. I finally had the tooth pulled this year and it has honestly been a relief to not have to deal with it any more. My best friend had something similar due to a bike accident when we were 12. Stuff just happens sometimes.

      3. Lany*

        My two front teeth were discolored when I was a kid due to a heavy dose of tetracycline when I was two. I got crowns in high school, almost 20 years ago. In June I was enjoying a frozen candy bar when my left front tooth snapped clean off. I’m now in a nearly year-long process of getting an implant and a new crown on my other front tooth (which cracked at the same time). I’m lucky to be able to afford the flipper tooth so I don’t have a gap, but I would empathize SO HARD with the OP on this one.

      4. Dawn*

        Mine was the result of a filling falling out, and a mother that just did not care, long story short, I’m missing a molar. I got lucky that it wasn’t a front tooth, but it’s still noticeable from some angles. Life keeps getting in the way, so I haven’t replaced it yet. I sympathize so much with dental issues, and wouldn’t automatically thing drug user, I think most sane people wouldn’t either.

      5. Kate 2*

        Yep, good point. The number one reason I have heard for missing teeth is an accident. About 50/50 car accidents and sports accidents.

    3. Natalie*

      I actually do love my dentist! But I am possibly a weirdo. (And willing to recommend a great dentist to basically everyone in my city.)

      That said, dental surgery is still basically the pits so matter what, as is all surgery now that I think of it. I agree that mentioning it up front is the way too go. As well as explaining it to the interviewer so they don’t make assumptions, I suspect getting it out of the way will put you at ease, LW. If you didn’t mention it, you might have a constant undercurrent of “did they notice my teeth? What are they thinking? Should I say something?” running through you head, which would distract you from your interview and negatively affect your performance.

        1. Natalie*

          Sadly no, I’m in the Twin Cities. But you could always ask on the weekend open thread – I think we have quite a few folks in the Boston area.

            1. Natalie*

              Linden Hills Dentistry! All of the dentists there are good (they had one once who was meh but they asked her to leave the practice) and I find their prices pretty reasonable. I know multiple people who have gotten serious dental work there – root canals and such – that have said it was actually an overall positive experience.

    4. Menacia*

      I am someone who is naturally distracted and would wonder what happened, as soon as it was explained, it would be a non-issue for me.

    5. K.*

      Yeah, an ex of mine cracked his front tooth and couldn’t afford to fix it for a while, and he would just say something like “I fell, I’m working on it” and gesture to his mouth, and that was the end of it.

    6. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      LW2 I feel for you on the lengthy dental work. Since it bothers you I think Alison’s approach is perfect.
      If I was interviewing you and you said that I would say I really sympathize then totally forget about your teeth for the rest of the interview.
      For what it’s worth I don’t think people care about other people’s teeth as much as toothpaste ads suggest. I know people who have missing teeth from poor dental care as children, poorly done dental work that damaged teeth, or taking a softball to the face. Plenty of hockey players who only wear visors have lost front teeth too. (Drew Doughty is down at least 4 teeth right now and he’ll probably only get them fixed after his hockey career is over.)
      I would never judge someone missing teeth for any reason whatsoever and I think most people are like that.

  11. Bea*

    My response to anyone who gets mad over those of us who treat our cats, dogs, hamsters, jellyfish, stickbugs or whatever animal companion like they’re our children or anything else for that mattee is “That’s your opinion, maaaaan.” and I will never change how I speak or feel about my cat, your cat, my mom’s cat and the cat I see every day outside work.

    I’m sorry she’s hurting but that’s no excuse to ever bring this kind of thing up to a manager. She should have been written up for screaming at you. By catering to her and even bringing you in to speak about it but not acknowledging that you never have the right to scream at a co-worker is under my skin so far right now.

    1. Middle Name Jane*

      Exactly. I consider myself to be my cat’s adoptive mom. I do everything for her a good parent would for a child. I provide my cat with food, water, shelter, medical care, love/security, and attention. People who discount the importance of animals or think that pet parents are somehow less than can kiss my a$$.

      1. Bea*

        I love all creatures to be fair. I’ll coo at a human baby and a neighborhood cat and the corgi walking down the street. I’ll grab any of them out of the way of danger as well. Idk why some folks need to choose, I sure do not. The more cute, friendly faces the better my world is.

      2. RebeccaNoraBunch*

        +1 to both of you from me, as well.

        Screaming at a co-worker is never okay. Never.

        I am my dog’s mom, and anyone who screamed at me for me calling her my child would be taken straight to HR right there and I would expect her to be written up or get a written warning. The going to the manager thing is…just incomprehensible. No. Absolutely not.

    2. AB*

      It’s not really Jane hating people that treat pets like children though is it? And no one is saying that it’s okay to scream at a co-worker but if it’s a one-off then it’s hardly a fireable offence.

      If my co-worker had just suffered a miscarraige it would be a kindness to not talk about your human children infront of them, let alone your animal children. Really, what does it cost you?

      1. Menacia*

        But the OP had no idea Jane had a miscarriage and was just sharing with the group…and Jane responded in a completely irrational way… Hell, I have people talking about things in my office all the time that piss me off but I certainly would never scream at any one of them, or go to their manager to get them in trouble.

        I think everyone has experienced something traumatic in their lives, we can’t walk around on eggshells just in case someone is feeling a certain way on a specific day.

        1. TL -*

          So, my mom had a very traumatic head injury when I was a kiddo, which has really sucky episodes attached. Now, while the beginning of Kubo and the Two Strings made me sob like nobody’s business, I’m fine. I can talk about, think about, read about, have it brought up in casual conversation, or even ask people to please change the subject if I need to without it being a big deal. it’s all good.

          The first days after my mom’s first episode? I would like to say that I didn’t behave badly; I don’t remember much of anything except crying, marathoning Hannah Montana and desperately trying to figure out how to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving. I was not okay and I had literally no idea, at the time, how not okay I was. Honestly, if I had had school that day, I would have gone – because what else would I have done? – and I would have probably exploded in a very bad way.

          Now, I’m older, I’ve been through more, I know that “shut down” does not equal “okay” and that I need to loop my friends in. But I could have just as easily learned that lesson in my late twenties or thirties as my late teens – that’s not an emotion I have the misfortune of experiencing frequently.

    3. Natalie*

      By catering to her and even bringing you in to speak about it but not acknowledging that you never have the right to scream at a co-worker is under my skin so far right now.

      I don’t think this is a fair assessment at all. It seems like you’re taking “manager met with employee to speak about incident” as akin to being brought into talk to the principal or anything, but in my experience it’s not like that. In a typical workplace the manager is just gathering information and possibly providing some context, exactly as happened here. Even if Jane had absolutely no mitigating circumstances and was just a jerk, if she screamed at a co-worker I’d expect the manager to meet with that other employee and talk to them about it. And there’s simply nothing in the letter that tells us one way or another what the manager said to Jane or if anyone is “catering” to her.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think some people are considering this as basically the OP being disciplined, but this would just be a conversation I’d have with an employee, with whom I have many conversations anyway.

      2. Bea*

        Upon rereading and reminding myself I have been recently traumatised by an incident that ended with “a meeting with managers to discuss things”, I can see where the supervisor was just conducting an internal investigation of sorts to see what happened. I am in the process of healing from that Twilight Zone cluster of an employment nightmare and how one employee simply being naturally anxious and worrisome that Other Employee was taking a tone with them was enough to bring the entire department to Jesus. In turn turning into “oh and your tone and humor are now unacceptable, despite us having the exact same one, fix it or you’re terminated.” So yeah, big nontrust of management lately has been something to shake off on my part.

    4. Cyberwulf*

      We don’t know what the manager said to Jane. What was manager supposed to do when Jane came to them and said ‘LW1 mocked my miscarriage’, just blow it off?

    5. AllDogsArePuppies*

      I don’t trust anyone who thinks of their pet as just a pet and not a family member. Esp the bigger pets like cats, dogs, horse (and not a betta fish). I call my cat my baby, and my mom sends her presents and signs the cards “Grandma”. When you take in a living, breathing thing – they are a member of the family and should be treated like one.

      One thing I’m surprised that hasn’t come up is that some people have feline/canine babies because they are child free not by choice. I have many friends like this – they can’t have kids naturally and for one reason or another the other ways of bringing children into their life are not options – so fill their home with the pitter patter of little paws.

      But, all that being said impact > intent. Netiher OP or Jane is a monster. And I’m sorry for both of them.

      1. Anon for this one*

        Here here! That’s me, childless not by choice, and “mom” to a (very spoiled) dog and cat. My mother gave me a necklace for Christmas that says “Dog Mom.” I’m wearing it right now, in fact.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          I guess my mom’s weird? Because she sends gifts to my cats too, but they’re not from *her*, they’re from *her cats*.

          (But then, my mom used to label xmas gifts as from the Easter bunny, or Captain Kirk. I love my mom’s goofiness.)

      2. oranges & lemons*

        I think I’m in a bit of a minority position on this issue–I’m a huge animal lover and love my pets, but I don’t think of them as children, although I do think of them as members of the family. This is just my personal perspective, but I’ve known lots of people who really embraced the “my pets are my babies” stance and inadvertently didn’t do right by their pets because they treated them much like human toddlers. I have an affectionate relationship with animals but I also respect that they are adult members of separate species, and try to treat them that way.

    6. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

      To be fair we don’t know all the details. I was a manager in a similar situation and I had one conversation with the coworkers that basically said “I know, give him some space.. yada yada yada”

      And next had the conversation with the grieving coworker that said “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but you’re taking it out on your coworkers and that’s not right. What help can I offer to you… Can’t have this continue”

      I can’t say that I ever fully addressed the behavior of the grieving with the coworkers, I think to a certain point it’s implied.

    7. Yorick*

      The manager may have had a talk with Jane about her inappropriate reaction. We only know about his conversation with the LW.

    8. Dankar*

      It always strikes me how people like that seem to think they have the right to define how other people (pet-parents like me!) see and think of themselves. No one gets to tell someone else how they should feel about the pets/progeny/parents/people in their lives. If we could all live by that, we’d see a drastic reduction in those awkward conversations we get on AAM every year about coworkers grilling a letter writer about why they’re not spending the holidays with their parents, whey they don’t have children, etc. etc.

      That being said, I don’t think Jane is one of those people. I think she’s had a momentary lapse that was shocking and inappropriate, and that everyone can move beyond given some time and distance. I don’t disagree that this is something Jane could be written up for, but that seems unkind, and as though it would keep calling attention to an event that everyone probably wants to move away from.

    9. Dawn*

      I’m with you Bea, my dog is my baby. I call him by name, but I also call him my baby. As a CFBC, early 30’s woman, it is nuts to me that people get judgemental about the amount of love I have for him. He’s got a laundry list of allergies, three major health scares, one surgery, and a bunch of quirks, so I am very actively involved with him. But he’s my boy, and I won’t minimize how important he is to me, because someone else might get upset.

  12. Nichelle*

    I guess I am cold hearted because if I was the boss Jane would have had to apologize to LW 1 and it would have been made clear to her if she did anything like this again she would be out the door. LW 1 didn’t even know about the miscarriage. Is no one supposed to talk about anything ever in case they upset someone. I would be different if LW 1 knew and she kept talking about her cat as a baby in front of Jane, but that is not what happened. LW 1 should not feel guilty or worry about being cruel to Jane. At all.

    1. kas*

      I know I’m cold hearted so if I was the manager, after speaking with the OP, I would’ve gone back to Jane to let her know what the OP said and mention an apology. I’m not sure why she assumed the OP knew about the miscarriage, did she tell everyone else and assume the OP heard?

        1. Marvel*

          Yeah, I don’t think we should make assumptions about what the manager is or isn’t doing. So much of a manager’s work is invisible due to the necessary elements of sensitivity and discretion.

    2. Pollygrammer*

      There isn’t really anything outside of a legitimate emergency that justifies screaming at a coworker.

      1. Middle Name Jane*

        This! I have been screamed at by a few coworkers at various jobs over the years, and none of these instances were due to emergencies. Just people who were psycho.

        I hate confrontation and try to take the high road, so I never yelled back. I just kind of stood there like a deer in headlights because I was young and didn’t know how to handle it.

        1. Bea*

          My one rule is “don’t ever yell at me”. Both times I’ve quit abruptly was due to yelling. My last two employers were told directly that rule and were horrified that I had to make it clear that’s not tolerated. Needless to say I am not afraid to just walk away and leave them scrambling.

          I wouldn’t accept it from a partner or a family member, I sure won’t take it from some co-worker.

          1. TL -*

            I think that’s a totally fair boundary to have. But I, personally, would much rather deal with someone who snaps and yells once in a terrible moment than someone who withdraws completely or someone who bursts into tears. So much rather the yelling.

            The reality is that people learn how to handle hard situations well by going through sh!t and genereally handling it badly. What you consider a forgivable emotional outburst or inburst depends mostly on your personality.

      2. tangerineRose*

        The screaming is something I’m having a hard time with. Jane might have felt that the comment was mocking when she reported the LW, but screaming at the LW that way… I’m just picturing being in the LW’s position, where one minute I’m making friendly small talk with a co-worker, and the next minute, with no warning at all, she’s screaming at me. I’ve never been pregnant, so I don’t know about those hormones, and it sounds like they’re different for different people, but the screaming makes me want to hide just hearing about it.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Me either. And I especially wouldn’t want someone who was going through a difficult personal time to be forced to apologize to me for an outburst.

        No, it isn’t right that Jane took her grief out on LW, but we are all human beings and we all make mistakes. It’s very likely that Jane will be embarrassed by her behavior when she is not in the throes of grief. The best thing LW can do is pretend this incident didn’t happen unless Jane decides to apologize of her own free will.

        1. Chapeau*

          “No, it isn’t right that Jane took her grief out on LW, but we are all human beings and we all make mistakes. It’s very likely that Jane will be embarrassed by her behavior when she is not in the throes of grief. The best thing LW can do is pretend this incident didn’t happen unless Jane decides to apologize of her own free will.”

          She made a mistake, caused by grief. And a forced apology can cause worse results than just ignoring the incident. If it happens more, then yes the manager needs to intervene. But so far it is a one-time.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          ” I especially wouldn’t want someone who was going through a difficult personal time to be forced to apologize to me for an outburst. ”


      2. Marvel*

        Agreed! That sounds sooo uncomfortable–for all parties.

        If I were the manager in this situation, I can see saying, “I think you might owe LW an apology for screaming at her.” But I’d drop it after that. We’re not four year olds; adults don’t sit other adults down and force them to apologize to one another.

      3. hbc*

        Yeah, but I wouldn’t want to continue working with a coworker who wasn’t sorry about yelling at me, you know? I’d like a genuine apology for the snapping, and then I could offer an apology for unknowingly causing her pain.

        I mean, let’s say Jane can’t offer a genuine apology because she thinks she was right to yell at OP. Does this still line up with the nice-person-having-a-bad-time theory?

        1. Grant Us Eyes*

          I genuinely COULDN’T continue working with someone who shouted at me, but didn’t accept that it was wrong (and let me know that).

      4. JennyAnn*

        I agree that I wouldn’t want a reluctant, forced apology. But no apology at all is definitely going to be factored into my opinion of them as a person. I probably not write them off entirely, because I do understand that people behave poorly in the moment with both grief and hormonal issues, but they don’t give you a free pass. I get it might be uncomfortable for Jane to say something (it could be vague – “I let personal issues influence my behavior toward you and I apologize”), but whether she’s willing to undergo that discomfort says a lot to her character.

    3. Lilo*

      I din’t think I would make her apologize but I would gently counsel her that it was not okay and make gently but firmly clear that it can’t happen again. If it did happen again, then the conversation would shift.

  13. meagain*

    LW3: If it was for anything related to a University position, we’re back, but not really. Throw in the latest weather, and most of the staff at my school have only worked 5 or 6 days since the 22nd.

    1. Violet Fox*

      Even without weather beyond the normal winter, my university isn’t really back yet either, and I think a lot of people in general are not as well, just going by the lack of rush-hour traffic.

    2. Alton*

      Plus, if the people involved in the hiring decision are faculty, they might not all be fully back from break yet, since classes are either just starting or haven’t started yet at a lot of schools. They might be using the time to attend conferences or do fieldwork, too.

  14. kas*

    #1. You don’t owe Jane an apology, she owes you one. I have a very difficult time moving on and being nice to people who take their bad days/grief out on others. I can be cordial but I won’t go out of my way to speak to you/be friendly. I understand everyone deals with grief in different ways but I still don’t find it acceptable.

    OP, I would move on and only be cordial with her, especially now while she’s still grieving. I hope she clears things up with you though.

    #5. It’s unfair for them to remove your name but it’s business.

    1. TL -*

      Everybody I know has taken their worst moments out on someone in one way or another. Not everyone is an explosive screamer – I myself have learned that I tend to say quietly biting things under the guise of humor, which I hate and try to stop – but every single one of my friends and family and a couple of my coworkers have had moments where they took something out on other people in one way or another.
      I won’t hang around with people who do this as a pattern, but neither will I write someone off for one aberrant moment with cause.

      1. kas*

        I’m trying to work on not writing people off. My family and friends don’t really take things out on others (or me at least) so I have a hard time accepting it from others.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I have a temper. It’s waaaaaaaay back there, I have to be under a LOT of duress before I really get angry, but it’s there.

          Very, very occasionally — like once every 3-5 years — circumstances conspire and I yell (well… it’s more like a snarl) at someone who does not deserve it. Usually it’s a combination of my personal life imploding in some way + being overtired or sick + some incredibly frustrating circumstance. I always know I’m out of line <5 minutes after it happens, and I apologize if at all humanly possible. Over the years as I learn better coping skills and my mental health improves generally, it happens less.

          I don't think I'm a terrible person. I am a flawed person who is doing their best. I'm not, like, out of control and on some kind of abusive rampage — I'm a human being who occasionally behaves poorly when I'm super, super stressed, and apologizes afterwards and does my best to make sure I don't do it again.

            1. TL -*

              It’s happened to me and honestly, while I wasn’t a fan, it didn’t traumatize or stress me out – the first time I got an apology and we talked. The second time, a year and a half later, I told him (in writing) this was now a pattern, it was inappropriate to yell at me and if it happened again, I would be taking the email to our boss and HR without talking to him first.

              For some people, it would be way worse but I doubt I’m the only person who doesn’t like it mostly because it’s unprofessional and unpleasant.

              1. Annabelle*

                I get that some people might not view it this way, but a lot of people have trauma directly tied to being yelled at. It’s an extremely common mechanism of abuse, and having it happen in a place you have to show up to every day would certainly be traumatic for lots of fo