my boss gave all the women flowers for Mother’s Day, I was demoted because of a horrific act by my employee, and more

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

1. My boss gave all the women at work flowers for Mother’s Day

I was hoping you could give your opinion on a situation that recently arose at work. I work part-time in a retail setting. My manager, we’ll call him Fergus, can be seen as a little nit-picky or overbearing, but he is generally a nice person and we get along well. Today, for Mother’s Day, he brought in a whole bunch of roses and was giving them to all the women at work. I’m not sure if he only gave them to the mothers or not—he did give one to me, and made a nice comment about how even though I am not a mother, I am still a wonderful woman and he knows that should I ever choose to have kids I would be a great mother, but I’m not sure if he did that for the other childless women or not.

Personally, I thought this was a really nice gesture that Fergus didn’t have to do. However, some of my coworkers were saying that it was overbearing, inappropriate, and sexist. I feel as though because they think Fergus is overbearing to begin with, they are seeing this gift in a negative way when it really seems to be just a nice thought. What do you think?

I shuddered a little when reading this — it’s really inappropriate. Lots of women would find this over-stepping, patronizing, inappropriate, and sexist. There’s an implication there that motherhood is a calling everyone should aspire to, and it’s awfully thoughtless toward people who may be struggling with infertility, or who recently miscarried, or who may have zero interest in having kids and don’t appreciate society treating them as if child-bearing should be their default, or who just don’t want their boss treating them in a gendered way. It’s just … ick.

And I’m betting that he’s not planning to give flowers to all the men in the office on Father’s Day — not that that would make this okay either, since it would still be overstepping and bringing gender into the office in a weird way — but I bet that he’s not, and that might make the sexism piece of this clearer.

2. I was demoted because my employee killed someone

Is it common for a manager to be demoted over the actions of one of their reports, when they had no knowledge or control over what happened? Two of my reports and some of their colleagues were sent to an out-of-state conference by our company. I was not asked to go since I was attending a trade show somewhere else. There was an incident with one of my reports at the conference. After things had wrapped up for the night, my report used illegal drugs, left the hotel, caused the death of a random individual, and was found with no clothes. My report has been charged with murder.

I did not hire them (they were on the team when I was hired to replace their retiring manager), did not know they used illegal drugs (I have never seen them impaired), and was not at the conference, but I was demoted to a non-management job over what happened. My (former) boss, HR, and the company say they had to do it to send a message. The person who hired my report and the managers who were at the conference were not demoted or written up like I was. I have been told the demotion is non-negotiable and to stop trying to fight it. My (former) boss says it is common for managers to be demoted when someone they manage does something wrong or troublesome to the company. I understand the company is embarrassed and is facing backlash over this but I had nothing to do with it. Is it really common for managers to get demoted over things they had no control over? I would appreciate any thoughts you might have. The demotion comes with a big title loss and pay cut. I am still reeling and my heart goes out to the victim. I had no idea what my report would do.

It sounds like they demoted you in an effort to show that they’re “doing something” about what happened. Demoting you doesn’t sound like it does actually do anything about what happened, so it’s for show, not for any reason of substance. (Assuming, of course, that you didn’t ignore previous signs of trouble with that employee.) It’s not uncommon for companies to want to play to public perceptions when something goes terribly wrong, although it’s pretty awful when they do something like this rather than taking a real look at whether they played any role in what happened and, if so, taking real responsibility that (if they had any — it’s not clear that anyone at your company was negligent here, other than the employee themselves).

Because they’ve told you this is non-negotiable and to stop fighting it, I’d say your best bet here is to work on moving on from this company, where you’re not only being treated unfairly but are likely to be held back from any future professional mobility because of this awful situation.

3. I was told to take PTO for time working from home

I’m not sure how to process the following mess. My sole job is to carefully read nuanced documents and write deeply analytical reports. It requires a lot of concentration and deep thought. At the same time, I share a small office space with two other people who love to have social conversations. A few weeks ago, they had a one-hour social conversation on a wide range of topics (babies, houses, pets). After 20 minutes, I indicated that I was trying to concentrate and they thought they solved the issue by ducking behind some walls, but you could still hear the loud talk and laughter. My nerves were so shot after an hour, I decided to go home and work there.

When I told HR I left because of the noise and that I had a super productive time working from home, they told me I had to use vacation time for my time out of the office. I complied with their instructions. But now I’m upset. So if I sit in the office and get no work done that is fine, but if I leave so I can actually get work done I have to use vacation time? That seems ridiculous and unfair. How should I feel about this and what, if anything, should I do?

You shouldn’t have to use vacation time for time you spent working at home. However, it sounds like you’re in an office where it might not be common for people in your role to work from home, or at least where you’re expected to get permission before doing it. (I’m surmising this based on the fact that you talked to HR about it afterwards, since this isn’t something that HR would normally be notified about.) I’d talk to your manager, not HR, and explain why you worked from home that day; say that since you were working, you don’t think the time should be charged to your PTO; and ask whether working from home is an option in the future when noise is making you unable to concentrate in the way your job requires. (If it’s not, you might look into noise-canceling headphones or ask about a quieter space, even if just means borrowing an empty conference room.)

4. I haven’t heard back about my raise request

Last week, I sat down with my immediate supervisor and requested an increase in my compensation. I’ve been with this company a little over a year, and have received one wage increase at my 90-day mark. So, it’s been a little over a year since I’ve had a salary adjustment . Since then, I’ve become a valuable member of my team (at times the only member!), have increased my output, get consistently great feedback from customers and coworkers, and am seem as dependable and capable. My supervisor was very receptive and said she felt like an increase was “absolutely deserved.” Of course, she had to speak with two other bosses to get it approved, so she let me know she would speak to them and get back to me soon.

Tomorrow will be one week since our meeting. I have not heard back about my request. All of the people that need to approve this have been in the office and it’s business as usual. Should I follow up? I don’t want to follow up too soon, but also don’t want to wait forever. Am I just being impatient?

I admit, I spent so much time anxiously preparing to ask for the raise that I hadn’t considered needing to follow up on it! And it’s very disheartening to feel like I need to remind my boss about this. I would really appreciate your advice.

One week actually isn’t that long; it wouldn’t be odd for it to take longer than that. So don’t get disheartened yet! But it would be fine to bring it up and say, “I know you were planning to check on approval for a raise for me. Is there any update you can share on that?” If there’s no update yet, plan to ask about it again in two to three weeks. If there’s no update at that point, then you can say, “Can you give me a sense of what timeline to expect?” And if it really drags on, it’s fair to ask for the raise to apply retroactively to when your boss first approved it.

5. I never heard back after my internship interview

After applying for my dream internship, I was scheduled for a preliminary interview over coffee with the first of two planned interns who I would be working side by side with. I nailed the interview and was told obstacles moving forward would be my schedule and start date, but they would reach back out by the end of the week to schedule a second interview with the department head. Which never happened! I followed up after a week via text (his preferred method). After no response, I waited another week and followed up again. I still have not heard anything back after a total of six weeks.

Normally I would just assume that they decided to go another direction, but the curious thing is that the job posting is still up and was up for about a mouth before I applied. Over 12 weeks to fill an internship position seems very long, especially considering this company is now at the start of the busy season. However, I also know they are in the midst of filling about 15 positions, many with multiple part-time workers filling them. Perhaps they are just swamped with candidates to vet and interview. Should I even bother reaching back out or is it time to call it quits?

It’s time to move on. They know that you’re interested because you interviewed and checked back with them twice. If they want to move forward with you, they’ll get in touch — but for now, assume that they’ve decided to focus on other candidates instead.

They told you that your scheduled and desired start date would be obstacles, so it’s likely that they decided those were prohibitive — or just that they found other strong candidates who didn’t have those obstacles. They should have contacted you to formally reject you, but lots of companies don’t bother to do that (which is rude, but also very much the reality of job searching).

{ 1,001 comments… read them below }

  1. dragon_heart*

    OP#1 I don’t think the manager was intentionally sexist. He probably thought he was being nice when he did it.

      1. Marthooh*

        Yeah. Literally nobody has accused Fergus of being mean or sexist or inappropriate on purpose, so there’s no need to defend him on that score.

        1. Specialk9*

          In fact, it’s exactly why it’s so problematic. He acted in a gendered way, making assumptions about co-workers’ private reproductive choices, bringing gendered trinkets, and that’s the problem. Malice isn’t required for sexism, and isn’t required to hurt, annoy, and other people.

          1. Nicole*

            “Malice isn’t required for sexism, and isn’t required to hurt, annoy, and other people.”

            I love this!

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        One doesn’t have to mean offense to cause it.

        He used a sexist and gendered line of thinking to get to his “good deed”

        It is gross.

        1. Randy*

          Gross? Really? How do you feel about the many women that appreciate something like this?
          Is doing anything “gendered” considered gross now? Or just flowers/women is gross now?

          1. smoke tree*

            Well, clearly the OP is one of the women who did appreciate it. But many of her coworkers didn’t, because women don’t all enjoy flowers or want to be seen as potential mothers instead of individuals. I sure don’t want my boss evaluating me based on his assumptions about my fertility rather than my work abilities.

          2. Nicole*

            Assuming someone who is childless will ever have and/or want kids just because they’re a (cis)female is gross.

          3. Student*

            (1) Women can be sexist too. Against themselves, and against other women. That doesn’t somehow negate the sexism, or make the sexism acceptable in the work place.

            (2) Women who enjoy this treatment may not be fully aware of how the flowers can subtly harm their standing in the workplace with the men they work with, by marking them as separate from their male peers and branding them as “mothers” first. Sometimes sexism can hurt us but also not be obvious to us. Not every woman is fully aware that mothers, statistically, get treated much worse than single women, single men, or fathers in a wide range of career impacts because they are perceived as “less serious” about their career.

            (3) Sometimes humans act like they appreciate something when they really don’t. It’s a social survival skill, and a social lubricant. Women used to act like they enjoyed getting pinched on the ass by their bosses. Now that they have the legal ability to successfully punish bosses who pinch them on the ass, virtually all of them turn out to strongly prefer punishing their boss for pinching their ass at work to being pinched on the ass at work.

            (4) Some women are just resigned to a certain level of sexism at work, and have given up trying to go further in their careers, so decide they might as well accept some of the tokens of sexism they enjoy. Just because some women have given up the fight or given up this particular battle doesn’t mean the rest of us must.

            (5) Yes, doing anything “gendered” AT WORK is gross. We just want to do our jobs, like men do, instead of being separated out of the group as “women”. You want to buy your mother flowers on your own time for mother’s day? Go ahead! Great! Just don’t give them to her at her office! You don’t really want the reverse – co-workers you barely know gifting you crappy novelty ties on Father’s day even if you don’t have kids, do you?

            1. Indoor Cat*

              This is on point.

              On a related note, everybody should check out ‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxane Gay. One of the funniest essays is about how she’s a black feminist and wants to stick with her feminist values, but just loves certain hip-hop artists who write really derogatory or sexist lyrics. And it’s like, her enjoyment of a, er, problematic fave, doesn’t negate the fact that the lyrics espouse sexist ideas about the value of women. So, should she prioritize her own joy, which is hard won in her case? Or should she prioritize the feminist action of only financially supporting artists who are pro-equality?

              It’s an excellent book.

          4. Yes, Randy*

            If it’s unwanted, it’s gross. Just because you like it, doesn’t mean everyone does, and being treated as an “other” at work, via gender, in this manner, is sexist.

          5. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            I appreciate flowers from my husband for mother’s day. Not my boss who has no business being involved in my decision to procreate. It is ABUNDANTLY clear that I did not say nor insinuate that women or flowers are gross. But you frequently behave in this ridiculous manner when gender issues come up on this site. Do me a favor – check yourself. Because it was old the first time you did it.

            Woman after woman after woman have said that this is inappropriate for a number of reasons, no matter the intent. Stop defending it because you want things to be a certain way. LISTEN to what the commentariat is saying. Mull that information. Try to understand that people with a different life experience than you, who are the victims of “benevolent” sexism, have a reason for what they are sating.

            Stop dismissing valid concerns because of your ridiculous hangups about gender roles.

          6. RUKiddingMe*

            “Is doing anything “gendered” considered gross now?”

            It was always gross.

      3. Susana*

        Yes, it was out of line. And while he may have meant well .. in a way, he didn’t. Because underlying the gesture is this view of women that has them ideally as mothers, and not everyone wants to be a mother or is able to be a mother. And even if that were not the case, *work* is not the place to bring motherhood into the equation.

        1. Triple Anon*

          Right. It crosses the work / personal line. Telling an employee, “You’d make a great mother,” or, “You’d make a great parent,” or father, is inappropriate.

          1. ADeA*

            I had a co-worker wish my cube mate a Happy Mother’s Day (I was working on a project and not paying attention) but then say to me as an unwanted aside – “I’m not wishing you happy anything because you’re not a mother!” That was awful and embarrassing. This is an example of how this type of “nice” gesture can be also used to abuse someone.

          2. Susana*

            Totally! I had a senior, supervisor-ish person at a previous job say to me, “you’d make such a great mother.” And what it really was, was why are you in your mid-late 30s and NOT at least trying to be a mother? The thing is, I have little to no desire to be a mother – I am quite enjoying my role as The Cool Aunt. And saying it’s a compliment is crap. If they press with, but you’d be SO GOOOOOOD at it! you can say, I’m good in bed, too. But I’m not going to become a prostitute (which s not to say motherhood is prostitution – don’t mean that, obviously. It’s that being good at something doesn”t mean you have to make it your work).
            The good-mother remarks are really another way of saying you’re just one of those Sad Career Gals who can’t see that she should be focusing on kids and husband instead.

            1. AMPG*

              Not to mention, how does he know that you DIDN’T try to be a mother, unsuccessfully? I have a friend who tried for years to get pregnant and is still making peace with the idea that she might just be the Cool Aunt forever, but it will certainly be the great heartbreak of her life that she wasn’t able to have kids. A well-intentioned “you’d make such a great mother” would just be cruel to her.

            2. Nicole*

              Plus, lots of people are totally collected and sane at work but are TERRIBLE parents!

          3. many bells down*

            A friend of mine was working on her PhD (medical science) when I met her. 3 years later, she finally finished and announced it on Facebook. One of the very first comments was “Now you just need the title of Mommy!”

            I was so angry for my friend. 3+ years of hard work for someone to ignore it completely and tell her that.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              I am seething on your friend’s behalf right now.

              How dare he(?) make such a comment that all at once relegates her to the role of human incubator and completely invalidates all of the years of hard work she did to get that PhD!!!

              One can be a PhD (I am) and a mother (I am), they are not mutually exclusive, but not everyone wants to do all of that hard work . And … that’s ok.

              Both a PhD and “having the title of Mommy” (ick ick ick) are a lot of hard work: looonnnggg days, an overwhelming amount of things that all need to be done right this minute, no sleep, and dealing with cranky people who don’t know when to shut up and take their nap already.

    1. Alldogsarepupppies*

      I agree. I don’t think malice or prejudice was there. There are dozens of reasons why this is a bad idea (that I don’t need to lay out for ya’ll) but he might have just been trying to be nice. I saw a thing going around facebook about the different types of mothers to remember to celebrate that included besisdes the obvious; mom’s who lost children, mom’s with rocky relationships with children (and children with rocky relationships with moms), those trying to become moms, and women who are not moms by choice. I, personally, think we can leave that last one out of it becuase its not mother is a special role, but apparently enough people out there believe that all women can be celebrated that it is viral.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        My understanding of the post was that the “women who are not moms” was there to remind people that not all women are mothers and they’re not less of a woman just because they don’t have children. I personally thought it was nice to see it added, especially since it didn’t detract from any of the other statements.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          “You’re not less of a woman because your child died.” isn’t a pleasant thing though. Yes, he meant well… but no. Unless you know for a fact that the person to whom you’re giving the mother’s day gift will appreciate it – don’t.

          1. Lindsay J*

            I mean, I seriously find it odd that people gift things to people on Mother’s day who aren’t someone who filled a strong maternal role for them or their immediate family members. Has it always been like this?

            Like, I get gifting things to your mother, the mother of your child, maybe your spouse’s mother if she’s actually a nice person, your best friend’s mom growing up who supported you and took care of you, etc.

            But gifting things to anyone you meet who happens to be a mother is weird to me. All-company or all-the-woman in the company emails are weird. I mean, you generally don’t email everyone in the company telling them to have a happy St. Patrick’s Day or Flag Day or Valentine’s Day or Groundhog Day.

            Heck, I’ve honestly never seen a corresponding email to the whole office or all the men on Father’s Day. And I definitely haven’t seen the little token gifts like I see handed out for Mother’s Day for Father’s Day. (What would it even be? Ties? Golf tees? Barbecue implements?)

            1. sleepwakehopeandthen*

              Oh my goodness, the number of people on the street on Mother’s Day that wished me happy mother’s day and told me to call my mom… I just don’t understand when Mother’s Day became a public day instead of just something inside the family (or possibly I just interact with more people now on Sundays).

              1. Michaela Westen*

                As a person with abusive parents, I find that extremely offensive! A stranger telling me to call my mom? Outrage!!! They’d be lucky if I didn’t yell at them!

                1. many bells down*

                  Oh my gosh yes. I haaaate those guilt-trippy “call your mom who sacrifced sooooo much for you” social media posts. I’ve deliberately cut off communication with my mother for several reasons. I’m not going to call her. Period.

              2. mrs__peel*

                I got a *ton*of that this year (random people wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day)– I have no idea why it seems to be on the increase, compared to previous years, unless it’s just because I’m getting into my late 30s.

                It’s pretty upsetting for me, as someone who would like to have kids but isn’t able to. I know there generally isn’t malice behind it, but it is sexist and thoughtless.

              3. PsychDoc*

                I worked at a drugstore chain and was on cashier on Mother’s Day. There were a TON of people who wished me happy Mother’s Day. I am not yet a mom. I do want to be in the future, but it’s not a great assumption. I didn’t correct anyone though, as I didn’t want to embarrass anyone.

            2. Sandra Dee*

              I had a complete stranger (older woman) wish me “Happy Mother’s Day” over the weekend. It was just … weird.

              1. Susana*

                Oh, I got about a half dozen “Happy Mothers Day” from strangers (flight attendant, clerks, can driver). And I don’t have kids.

            3. GreenDoor*

              Came here to say the same thing. So many strangers wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day when I wasn’t even near my kids. How do you know whether I’m a mom? And telling me to call my mom….how do you know I even have a good relationship with her? Or that she’s still alive?

              Bizarre indeed. The only people I need this from are my actual kids. And the only person I”m wishing a happy day to is my own mom.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                I can’t wish happy mother’s day to my mom or grandmother or any parental-ish generation relatives anymore because I have become the matriarch,. Yeah still wrapping my head around that… I will however say it to my sister, nieces, and friends that I know who are mothers if I happen to speak to them on that day. Strangers on the street? Nah. If some random woman says it to me, I just accept in the spirit it was given and usually reply “oh you too” (insert fake enthusiasm), but I won’t go out of my way to do it because…not my mother.

            4. Cringing 24/7*

              SO. MUCH. THIS.
              There’s nothing wrong with wishing the mother in your life a happy Mother’s Day, but don’t wish it on strangers or acquaintances! That’s weird.
              I had a waitress serving my wife and I at a restaurant wish us a happy Mother’s day, and we both said an awkward thank you, but seriously? Neither of us are ever going to be a mother and she had NO evidence to the contrary because we’re absolute strangers. Wish us a happy week or a good rest of the day – don’t make us feel weird by implying that you assume we have or are going to have a child.
              Granted, some of this may be pent-up anger from being childless by choice and being frustrated with all of the general assumptions that I’m going to be a father one day (and especially all the ridiculousness my wife gets) – but that’s absolutely a part of the point.

            5. TootsNYC*

              yeah, it annoys me to pieces when people tell me “happy Mother’s Day.” You’re not my kid.
              My mother-in-law? OK, bcs she saw me being a mom. But my neighbor?
              And yet if I don’t say it to them, they get hurt.

          2. Nicole*

            “Unless you know for a fact that the person to whom you’re giving the mother’s day gift will appreciate it – don’t.”
            ^ This! Some women have lost children. Some women who want them can’t bear them. Some women might have had them taken away. Some women who *have* them might not have even *wanted* them.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Because my son died on May 15th the anniversary of it is always near mother’s day. The first year (2010) reeeaaallllyyyy fked with my head badly. No one who knew me offered a ‘happy mother’s day.’ My family is screwed up in more ways that I can count, but they managed that one ok.

              In the years since, friends and family won’t say those three words, but most all of them will acknowledge me and mention my son and maybe share stories which I appreciate. I’ve gotten used to the epidemic of strangers saying it to the point that it basically sounds like “have a nice day/thank you come again.” That’s to say pointless platitudes that don’t really have any particular meaning.

              1. Loose Seal*

                I know I’m a few days late on this but wanted to say I’m sorry for your loss. My daughter died in 2006 and I still want to just hibernate on Mother’s Day. It can be very hard.

          3. RUKiddingMe*

            As someone whose child died (eight years ago yesterday…so the day after mother’s day) if someone had said that to me, particularly if they knew my situation, I can’t swear that I wouldn’t just haul off and deck them right there.

        2. Faith*

          Of course they are not less. But they are not mothers, so Mothers Day is clearly not a holiday celebrating them. You are not less of a person for not serving in the military, but maybe you should not try to claim your share of spotlight on Veterans Day.

          1. Pommette!*

            To be fair, every instance of the “Women who are not mothers also take on mothering roles! Yay women!” discourse I have encountered so far (and there have been too many) came from men or women with children who were trying to turn a private family event into an all-encompassing public celebration of motherhood – not from women who are not mothers.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Yep. As much as I joke about my cat being my baby, I do precisely zero mothering of any kind. I’m not even a “Mom friend” to my social circle.

            2. Luna*

              +1. This idea of “women who are not mothers by choice are also worthy!” is actually extremely offensive. As if the only way anyone knows how to tell women they aren’t worthless is by someone bringing motherhood into the equation. And yes, the only people I have ever known to do this are either men or women who have children.

              1. JC*

                Yes, this. I know that no one means intentional malice by it, but I’m a woman who does not plan on having kids and I really hate it when people try to include me in Mother’s Day in some way–by calling me a cat mom, talking about “the mothers who are mothers because they nurture in other ways”, being told “Happy Mothers Day!” by strangers on the street or grocery store cashiers because they assume a 30-something woman has to be a mother, etc. I highly doubt that many non-mothers want a share of the spotlight on mother’s day. I personally just want people to stop trying to include me in it.

                1. Liz T*

                  I agree! It makes sense to me when people include those who are struggling with infertility or who’ve lost their mothers and the like…but there is literally zero reason to mention my choice not to be a mother on Mother’s Day. I have no interest in running the NY Marathon either–you don’t have to applaud my choice this November 4th.

                2. Wendy Darling*

                  Yeah I’m like… no, seriously, you don’t have to somehow make me into a mother for my life to be worthwhile and meaningful. I am 100% cool having no offspring. I have no need to nurture. Are you going around acting like men’s lives are incomplete if they do not “nurture”?

                  It’s well-intentioned but it’s also the product of rampant systemic sexism so it irritates me. And the fact that it IS well-intentioned so it doesn’t make sense for me to be like, “hey, stop doing that it sucks,” to anyone I’m not already close to (everyone I’m close to knows better) is an extra layer of irritating.

                3. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

                  Totally agreed. I am childless by choice, and though I call my dog and cat my babies, I get really uncomfortable when people wish me a happy Mother’s Day “because you’re a pet mom!” No. Not remotely the same thing.

                4. pope suburban*

                  Same. I also happen to have multiple friends who have struggled to get pregnant, or who have experienced pregnancy/infant loss, and I can’t help but think of them when people- perfectly well-meaning people, mostly- get aggressive or insistent about Mother’s Day. It’s such a loaded topic and while I really do understand that people want to be appreciative and inclusive, efforts in that direction can so easily go awry.

                5. AsItIs*

                  The current commercialized Mother’s Day will eventually go other way or the other. Either it will be “everyone is a mother” – to be “all-inclusive”, or stopped completely because it “offends” some group(s) or other. It’s gone too far to be between a mother and her children.

                6. RUKiddingMe*

                  Funny how we never hear “the fathers who are fathers because they nurture in other ways…”

              2. Mediamaven*

                Totally. I’m childfree by choice and it irritates me when people stretch to make me feel included on Mother’s Day. I’m not a mother – it’s ok. It’s cool. You don’t need to try and make me feel special. I already know I’m special.

                1. Rebecca in Dallas*

                  This! My husband jokingly said something like, “When is not-a-Mothers’ Day?” I’m like, “That’s every day!” Haha, I get to do what I want every day of the year so I’m good.

                  The last few years it seems like Mothers’ Day has turned into “celebrate all women” day. It’s odd, we don’t do this for Fathers’ Day.

              3. Disappointed Cubicles*

                Yes, it’s like people are trying to make Mother’s Day into Women’s Day despite the pesky little fact that some women are not mothers either by choice or not and may prefer not to be lumped into someone else’s holiday as an afterthought.

                Keeping Mother’s Day celebrations as something for your own loved ones whose mother status and preferences you are sure of (and OUT of the workplace) is way better.

                Thankfully no one at my job said anything about Mother’s Day to anyone.

            3. Susana*

              Yes, this. And it’s also a sneaky way of saying women’s roles (regardless of whether they are parents) should include nurturing the community, accommodating the group. Including making the office coffee.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                And they always say “nurturing” as if it’s women’s obligation to society.

          2. SophieK*

            But you don’t know.

            I’ve had a couple of miscarriages and had to abandon my stepson due to domestic violence.

            These aren’t things I would bring into the office, so if my feelings were hurt by being left out, and someone told me that I’m inappropriately celebrating a day that’s not for me, that person and I would be out in the parking lot having a discussion.

        3. Angelinha*

          But the boss said she was “still a wonderful woman.” That implies that he’s thinking about her as being wonderful in spite of not being a mother, which is so gross. Plus, who is the boss to decide who is or isn’t a good woman? This is disgustingly patronizing and I would be super put off.

          1. Pommette!*

            It isn’t the boss’ place to determine whether she is a good woman, or would be a good mother. It’s stupid to pretend that he could know. But more importantly, that is just not an appropriate lens for him to use in looking at and evaluating his employees.
            It’s SO patronizing.

          2. Randy*

            I don’t think it implies that at all actually.

            I think it implies he appreciates her even though the holiday isn’t “hers”

            He was trying to be nice. Sounds like it might have been a little awkward. Sounds pretty far from “gross” to me though

            1. Wendy Darling*

              I think he was trying to be nice but I think the entire gesture is the direct result of entrenched sexism and the totally gross idea that women’s main and sometimes only value is motherhood. So he’s not being gross on purpose but the gesture has some really gross undertones that he has presumably not noticed.

              I don’t think the boss is a bad person, I do think the boss was trying to be nice, but I still think that the gesture is icky and he shouldn’t have done it even though the worst thing it says about him is that he’s average-level clueless about sexism which… I can’t really hold against anybody because I’d be holding it against most people.

            2. PugLife*

              @Randy Non-mothers don’t need to be celebrated in relation to motherhood. My boss wants to show that they appreciate me? great. Buy lunch for the office, offer a half day on Fridays, flexible working schedules, offer me a raise when I ask for it, support my professional development, give me a good reference when I move on. Don’t give me a flower on a holiday meant to celebrate mother’s when I am not one. The intent doesn’t matter here. It doesn’t matter if he thought he was being nice, or I’d other women appreciated it.
              Giving flowers to ALL your female employees on Mother’s day days “all women are mother’s or mother-adjacent” and that’s just.., both not relevant to a workplace and pretty offensive. And, yes, gross.

              *Sorry for typos – I’m on mobile and typing is CRAWLING.

            3. Susana*

              No. If he indeed appreciates her, give her a raise or a promotion. Not flowers and a Happy Mothers Day. Which is gross, given the context. I agree he was trying to be nice, but that almost worries me more- that his idea of being nice is thanking women for a role HE values – and maybe thinks they should be performing – when it has zero to do with the office or their actual jobs.

            4. Yes, Randy*

              “I appreciate you even though you aren’t a mother” implies that motherhood would increase her rank as a person. It’s gross. Stop trying to tell women how they should feel about this.

            5. Nicole*

              If he appreciates her, what is stopping him from showing that in USEFUL ways that actually BENEFIT her? I’d much prefer a raise or a bonus over a stupid flower.

          3. mrs__peel*

            “You’re still a wonderful woman despite your apparently defective uterus” is the subtext there….

        4. Specialk9*

          My childless friend posted that for the 8th year timing, the checkout clerk wished her a Happy Mother’s Day (bc boobs), and she told him “same to you sir”.

          People really do apply Mother’s Day to all women, and it’s not cool for a lot of reasons. (“But if you don’t have kids, it’s for YOUR mom” “My mom’s dead / used to sell me for drugs” “Actually I just miscarried for the 3rd time, thanks”, etc)

      2. MK*

        Personally, I disagree with this interpretation of Mother’s Day. In my culture, it is about children honoring their own mothers (and fathers respectively on Father’s Day), not everyone celebrating every potential itiration of motherhood.

        And, even taking the broad view of the celebration, a lot of these strike me as almost cruel. A woman trying to have a child is not a mother yet; are we celebrating her struggles? A woman who has “a rocky relationship” (or worse) with her children; what exactly is the cause of celebration in this situation? A woman who has lost a child, ok, maybe it makes sense to honor her loss, but I think this would hurt as many women as it would console. As for women who choose not to have children, the imagination boggles in how offensive this is, both to them and mothers.

        If you want to celebrate women, there is International Woman’s Day in March.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, that’s actually what got me most about this question.

          Like, I agree with everyone else with regards to the inappropriateness but it’s kinda the “essence” of the act itself that felt weirdest/most alien to me. My whole family thinks mother’s day is dumb so we never do anything about it (other than my mum sending a little present to my late grandmother’s grave because she cared about that) but in the broarder culture, mother’s day is about honouring your own mother, not any random (possible) mother you spot in the wild.

          I’d imagine that if Fergus did that here, people wouldn’t react to the inappropriateness so much as with a general “What the heck, I’m not your mother, dude!”.

          1. Julia*

            I agree – Mother’s Day was probably invented because mothers do a lot of thankless labor day to day that no one ever appreciates. (Kind of like most secretaries would prefer a better salary over flowers once a year.)

            One of the Harry Potter pages I follow on Facebook thanked Minerva McGonagall for being a mother to everyone – which I get, somewhat, because at least she taught at a boarding school – but also, why do women have to be maternal? Where was the post on father’s day about, well, not Snape, but, um, Hagrid? (To be fair, they also called Hagrid the mother Harry never had – okay?)

            1. Myrin*

              I must admit that although I’ve read the books, I’m not very Harry Potter-savvy and constantly realise that I forgot a lot of what happened in the story, but if I recall correctly, McGonagall wasn’t even particularly “motherly” in the traditional sense? I remember her as a strict badass with a no-nonsense attitude (which mothers can also be, obviously, but it’s not what people mean when they say “maternal”, I believe).

              1. Julia*

                I have the same impression. I guess they were trying hard to turn a childless-by-choice woman into some kind of mother anyway?

                1. Ada*

                  She wasn’t childless by choice. She was childless because she couldn’t marry her true love because he was a muggle. As a consequence, she didn’t marry until much older (after persistence over decades from her old boss).

                  It was tragic circumstances, not choice. Had she been allowed to marry her young muggle lover, she probably would have had kids.

                  I am childless by choice. What Minerva was is very different.

                2. Julia*

                  I know she didn’t marry her Muggle love, but we also know that wizards live much longer than humans and thus probably have longer reproductive lives. I don’t remember Jo Rowling saying anything about Minerva wanting children (but I only read her story once), and there is nothing wrong with being childless by choice.

                3. Magee*

                  @Ada, Wow, I don’t remember any of that. But I haven’t read the books in a while. What book is that info from?

                4. Liz T*

                  I married my true love during prime reproductive years and still didn’t have kids! The two are not particularly related.

                5. Specialk9*

                  I feel like Minerva was the only remotely mother-like role in Harry’s life, but only because all the other women were psychos. Actually, Mrs Weasley was more maternal to Harry. So yeah, no to Minerva.

              2. Quake Johnson*

                Personally I felt that Deathly Hallows really showed that McGonagall cared deeply about her students. Not just their physical and educational well-being but that she really liked them as people, and individuals. When Harry was thought dead there were four people who screamed extremely loudly: Ron, Hermione, Ginny…and McGonagall. The other three are people who loved him dearly, so that implies she did too.

                I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that made her motherly, but she was an older female who loved the kids strongly, so I can sort of see why someone might think so.

            2. Kathryn T.*

              Mother’s Day was invented by a peace activist as the spearhead to an international women’s movement to end war, believe it or not!

                1. Ganymede*

                  In the UK we have Mothering Sunday- which comes directly from the traditional church calendar. It is unfortunately linked to Easter, which means it’s on a different day every year. The great thing is that it’s always on a Sunday so you would have less chance of anyone in the office feeling they have to get involved.
                  Mothering Sunday was always a day off for young women in service to go to visit their mothers. In the Anglican church it is celebrated as part of the normal morning service, but non-Christians celebrate their own mothers or the mother’s of their children.
                  It would be deeply weird for a boss in the UK to wish anyone “Happy Mother’s Day”.

          2. Mookie*

            mother’s day is about honouring your own mother, not any random (possible) mother you spot in the wild.

            Growing up, my family tried to ‘celebrate’ it the preceding day because (a) it was easier to book a table at a restaurant and (b) once a female relative hit 15 or 16, she found that she was regularly wished a Happy Mother’s Day (in an obvious congratulations-on-having-children sort of way) by complete strangers when venturing outside the day of the holiday proper. I don’t really like that much, either, so if the well-wisher is male I make a special point of saying “same to you.” If they correct me and assert that they’re not mothers, I admit I’m a member of the same club and offer my condolences.

            1. Morag*

              “Same to you!” I love it and am totally stealing it next year.
              And it’s probably the best answer to any holiday greetings that don’t quite fit.

              1. mrs__peel*

                I did that without thinking to a male neighbor who randomly wished me a Happy Mother’s Day while I was out walking the dog.

                (cheerfully) “Thanks, you too!”

            2. SDSmith82*

              I actually try to avoid going out in public on Mother’s Day after a particularly bad year where I was told “One day you will be” literally everywhere I went in that former town. Being a mother seemed to be the only thing that women had in that small town, and it was sort of weird. I have fertility issues, so no, maybe I won’t be- and people just didn’t want to accept my reality. My former friends at the church we attended at the time were the worst offenders. “Well you can just work on that- right- *wink*” No. No I can’t “just work on it”. I went home and cried.

              So I just don’t do Mothers Day. I send cards, and hang out at home with my dog.

              1. Only here for the teapots*

                Some women are raised that having children really is the highest benchmark they can/should achieve, and feel the need to reinforce their place in that hierarchy by pressuring other women to join in. I’ve been told more than once that outspoken childfree women cause discomfort to mothers because it makes them question their decision to reproduce ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
                What seems to be ignored is that in most social species only a very few members reproduce and the rest of the group supports the birth parents in other ways that help the species continue.

            3. Michaela Westen*

              “once a female relative hit 15 or 16, she found that she was regularly wished a Happy Mother’s Day ” that is really creepy. I would move away.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          Yeah, same here. We had our mother’s day a few weeks back – and my kids gave me a gift (helped by dad) and on father’s day, I’ll help them get something for him.

          Before I had kids I hadn’t recognised it for many years because honouring my mother seemed inappropriate given her past actions. And yeah, it was something I tried to avoid each year – it’s great to get gifts from kids, but I preferred to avoid its impact in my life.

          Celebrating your mother/helping your child celebrate theirs is awesome. Otherwise, butt out!

        3. Daisy*

          Yeah I agree, I’ve been very struck by the American interpretation of it I’ve noticed on social media this weekend. I only know it as a holiday where you do something nice for your own mother, whereas I’ve seen a lot of ‘aren’t I a great mother?’ posts and things like the post you mention, that seem to make it incredibly general.

          1. Luna*

            Yep, it’s basically become an opportunity for American mothers to humblebrag on social media about what great moms they are/how perfect they think their kids are.

          2. Environmental Compliance*

            As an American, how my family/most of my friends and their families celebrate is is for their own mother/grandmother. But for my slightly younger in-law cousin who had kids, all I’ve gotten on Facebook is “look how awesome we are! Look how awesome my life is because of my tiny human! God bless every woman! Moms are the best things on the planet!” which is kinda funny to me, since just last month her entire feed had consisted primarily of “why the hell did I have kids, they ruined my body and life is just awful”.

          3. Bea*

            I’ve never had anyone like that in my circle thank goodness. The most my friends do is post publicly about their love for their mom or mother figure, never see anyone self congratulating or worse, talking about all women as a collective mothering unit.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              One couple I know, the husband posted a thank-you to his wife for being a great mother to their children. That’s appropriate! Awww. :)

          4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            I refer to the days leading up to mother’s day as the time when I relate to no one on social media. My own mother wasn’t much of one and honestly I don’t have a lot of “maternal” instincts. My husband is much more maternal than I could ever pretend to be. So even though I have kids, I’m not a fan of the holiday.

          5. Wendy Darling*

            The head of HR at my company sent out a personal essay about how working mothers are superheroes and how raising children made her into a superior human being and being a mom is the most important thing in her life. It was basically a two-page congratulations to herself for being a working mom.

            My company is huge. She sent this to 10k+ employees in many countries, most of which did not celebrate Mother’s Day either on that day or at all.

            I found it incredibly off-putting because 1. you’re not better than me or anyone else because you’re a mom and 2. no one cares about you being a mom we care that the company is reacting to a poor earnings report by gutting our bonuses and cutting hiring, how about you send us a two-page essay about THAT?

          6. Nicole*

            I don’t have any children yet, but I’ve already told my fiance my perfect Mother’s Day: he takes the kid(s) for the whole day so I get to take a break!

        4. Koala dreams*

          Yes, I share your culture on this point. Probably your spouse will celebrate with you, but other than that, it’s not a widely celebrated thing.

          Though, it does feel very strange that the manager did not stop to think about how children are a sensitive topic for many people, especially those who don’t have any for whatever reason.

          1. London Grammar*

            @Koala dreams. Unfortunately, not all managers think about the potential implications of their actions.

            There was a female executive-level manager at my workplace who thought that it was totally acceptable to go around asking female employees if they wanted to have children. When they declined to answer her, she’d continue to keep asking them. There was no thought given to the intrusiveness, inappropriateness or thoughtless nature of this line of questioning at work.

            I just wouldn’t dream of asking anyone at work about their reproductive choices, but to do it as a senior manager! Some people really don’t think.

        5. Pommette!*

          Agreed. I think that the regional/cultural differences you describe are real, but I also think that the idea that Mothers’ Day is a public event and a wonderful opportunity for everyone to comment on everyone else’s family and reproductive status, while raining platitudes about ‘the meaning of Motherhood’ down on innocent bystanders, has become more prevalent recently. And I really, really, hate having to live through this new version of the holiday every year.

          Most of my colleagues have children. I will (gladly!) listen to them talk about their children. I will (gladly!) listen to them talk about their Mothers’ Day plans, and will sincerely wish them a good time. I will (gladly!) do my part to support the adoption of employment policies and benefits that make life easier for working parents, even though I know that I will never be eligible to enjoy these myself. But I really do not want to be subjected to colleagues’ interpretations on “What it means to be a Mother!”, to their tirades about how “Womanhood is Motherhood”, or to their prognostications about how I should, or should not, have children.

          Colleagues! Bosses! I have news. You are not my mother, and I am not your mother. You don’t now (and can’t know) whether or not I would, or could ever, be a good parent, or a happy one. You don’t know anything about my relationship with my mother. Please just go on treating me like a colleague/employee and a person, and leave me alone with all the Mothers’ Day fluff.

          1. Exhausted Trope*

            Couldn’t have said it better myself. I may need to borrow your excellent wording for future situations.

          2. 40 days left @ toxic job*

            My office hosts a major mother’s day lunch for women in the community and one of the supervisors at a different area of the company got gifts for some but not all of the women who helped with the lunch which led to a lot of awkwardness. It didn’t strike me as sexist when she did it, but it’s just overall not good to only get gifts for some people.

            In my case, the candle said something about “Thanks for Being a Great Mom” and I am not a mom, so it was completely painless to share it with my coworker who helped, didn’t get a candle, and is ACTUALLY a mom

            1. Emily*

              Oof, that sounds like a mess on several different levels. Glad you were at least able to share your gift with your coworker!

        6. Umiel*

          It’s funny you posted this, but I just read the passage from the Grammar Girl Website.
          “Finally, the official name of the holiday this Sunday is “Mother’s Day”—Mother-apostrophe-s. The founder, Anna Jarvis, intentionally made the name singular because she wanted people to honor their own mother. She did not intend it to be a day of celebrating motherhood in generally, and eventually she came to despise the commercialization of her invention so much that she tried to get the day abolished—to no avail.”

        7. Michaela Westen*

          I think people who try to expand/push mother’s day are doing it more for themselves. Like throwing a party for someone who doesn’t like parties, because the person throwing the party likes parties. I think it’s like that and unfortunately our culture is so sexist and disrespectful they haven’t been stopped.

      3. Mookie*

        enough people out there believe that all women can be celebrated that it is viral.

        I would love to live in a world where all women can and are celebrated (as fellow humans to men and other people), but, y’know, mass-delivery flowers for a holiday about my reproductive organs and built-in domesticity ‘gene’ are a fantastic substitute.

        1. Jadelyn*

          …I think I love you. That very succinctly summed up why overly-broad Mother’s Day crap not only annoys me but vaguely skeeves me out; I’m not a mother, I vehemently Do Not Want to be a mother, and please stop looking at me as the sum total of my reproductive organs and capacity for domestic labor.

          1. Chameleon*

            Hell, I *am* a mother, but I sure as hell don’t want that to be my primary attribute.

      4. PB*

        Malice doesn’t have to be present for an act to be prejudiced. Gendered acts in the workplace, such as giving gifts to all the women and only the women, are prejudiced.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, the fact that so man people jump to these sexist thoughts/actions without *meaning* to be sexist is kind of exactly why this is a big problem.

          1. Jadelyn*

            This, exactly. The fact that he didn’t think that was a sexist thing to do is, in and of itself, part of the problem.

          2. mrs__peel*

            One major aspect of privilege is that you don’t *have* to think about things like sexism, racism, etc., that affect other people.

        2. Randy*

          Is fathers day equally as prejudiced? Are gendered things prejudiced for the sake of being gendered? Black history month? Women’s equality day? Mothers day has become such a thing because of commercialism. Same as valentines, Easter, Christmas and all other “if you dont buy so and so this useless crap then you are a bad parent/spouse/person” holidays. I think its a dump holiday, but I wouldn’t call it prejudiced.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I dunno, do people tell men without children on father’s day that they are in some way a father anyway? Is there a centuries-long history of acting like the ONLY thing men do that has any value is raise children? Are men regularly reduced to fathers and all their other achievements ignored? Is it assumed that all men must want to be fathers or they are defective?

            When that’s true Father’s Day will be equally prejudiced.

            1. CdnAcct*

              Thank you for saying this so well, it mirrors my thoughts and explains much more clearly than I could why I hate making the day broader than people who have been maternal to you.

          2. biobottt*

            If he went around assuring men that they’re still worth something, even if they’re not fathers, because if they became fathers he’s sure they’d be good at it — yes, that would be problematic and sexist.

          3. JennyAnn*

            Actually, there are a lot of criticisms about things like Black History Month and Women’s History Month treating the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem, particularly that if the history appropriately included in the rest of the lessons there won’t be a need for specialized history months.

          4. mrs__peel*

            I’ve never seen (e.g.) a company email sent out to all male employees wishing them a Happy Father’s Day (like I have for Mother’s Day), because there’s no underlying societal assumption that all men must be fathers in order to be worthwhile human beings.

            Your examples are not really comparable because there’s no legacy of biased assumptions behind them. Plenty of people still judge women who don’t have kids, because they consider that women’s #1 function in life.

          5. Susana*

            Randy (and sorry; I imagine you might feel a little ganged up on here, and that’s not my intention, doubt it’s others’ either – it’s not the holiday itself really (well, maybe a little – Mother’s Day celebrates and encourages women to sublimate their own desires and sacrifice for their children, whereas Father’s Day really doesn’t). It’s the fact that a supervisor “celebrated” his female employees by giving them flowers (which is still sorta gendered, though I often send my boyfriend flowers) and wishing them a HMD when it has NOTHING to do with their jobs. If he gave them chocolates or flowers on Valentines Day, it wold be equally creepy. Female employees are not there as maternal figures or (in the case of VD) girls just looking for a date or male attention. They are there to work – and would appreciate a raise instead of flowers.

          6. Jessica*

            People aren’t calling the holiday prejudiced, they are calling some people’s actions (like the boss) prejudiced. There is a difference.

            Think of it this way, it is acceptable for my child and husband to give me an unsolicited hug. It is not ok for a random person or my boss to give me an unsolicited hug. Likewise with this holiday. It is a personal celebration within a family.

            I suggest you stop trying to justify rude behavior, and instead listen to the voices of people being impacted by said rude behavior.

      5. Lily Rowan*

        But that piece was about remembering people who might not be celebrating mother’s day.

        1. LilyP*

          That’s so interesting. I was just going to say that piece sounds like it’s coming so close to the point I’d like to make about mother’s day (motherhood can be a very sensitive subject and there are so many people out there for whom it’s a fraught or painful topic, so you should be mindful only to “celebrate” with/at people you know will appreciate it) and then just missing it entirely..

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Yeah, it basically is making your point, in my view. As always, what point people take from things is another story!

      6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I saw the exact opposite going around on Facebook. Women who are not mothers by choice, or for health/life reasons, were asking people to please not congratulate/give them gifts on Mother’s day, because to them it, it is extremely hurtful on a lot of levels. I thought they were making a good and valid point, and was hoping that people would respect their request. Personally, I wished a Happy Mother’s Day to exactly one person this past weekend… my mother.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I was pretty annoyed with my father who ended a perfectly nice email exchange about Craigslist by wishing me a “happy future mother’s day” even though I have told him I am currently not planning to have children.

      7. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

        I’m stumbling a little on parsing “women who are not moms by choice”. Was that intended to refer to “women who chose not to be mothers”, or “women who are mothers, but didn’t want/choose to be”?

        1. NaoNao*

          I think in this context it means “women who are not mothers, by choice” meaning childfree by choice.

      8. Susana*

        The point is, even if you include ALL women (mothers or not, troubled relationships or not), he is still making motherhood a factor when he is looking at his female colleagues. And that suggests he sees them as women/potential mothers when he should be thinking of them as professionals. It’s just not something done to men – there’s not the assumption that while they are professional employees, they are still men first, and need to be acknowledge don Valentine’s Day or Mothers Day or whatever. The fact that he, in his mind, meant well does not make it the right thing to do.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m not sure his intentions change the ick factor or sexist nature, though, right? It only changes how OP might interact with him about it.

      OP’s question was whether this was indeed overbearing, inappropriate, sexist, etc. I think Alison is right that regardless of motives, based on Fergus’ conduct and messaging, the gesture was well-intentioned but still falls on the spectrum of overbearing and inappropriate and sexist behavior. It’s not Harvey Weinstein-level sexist and inappropriate, but it is still sexist and inappropriate.

      1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

        Yeah, the intentions are kind of irrelevant. Even if someone is being extra nice to “the Other”, well…they’re still treating them as the Other!

      2. Leela*

        +1 not meaning to be sexist, racist, ageist etc, doesn’t automatically mean you aren’t.

      3. CityMouse*

        You never hear about men being treated like this either.

        There is also a real discrimination women face in the assumption that they are going to be mothers. Mothers often take a huge professional hit because of the need to take more leave due to the physical effects of birth. Especially in fields where women are fighting for entry, women are seen as less.dedicated because “You will have babies and stay home/not work as late”. It is insidious and harmful. It holds women back.

        Intentions do not matter here at all. This hurts women and needs to stop.

        1. Mookie*

          Yep, except for this one day a year, women having children are a liability and men with children are heroes who need and deserve that promotion and raise more than you do.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            But also women without children are a liability because of course as women they will someday have children and then they’ll become a liability. Women without children are just ticking time bombs of liability.

        2. Pommette!*


          Assumptions around women and motherhood are loaded, and have real impacts on the professional opportunities open to women, and on the ways women are treated in the workplace.

          The fact that an employer sees all of his female employees through the lens of motherhood is a problem. The fact that he thinks it’s appropriate for him to comment on their role as mothers is a problem.

          The boss might be a lovely person. I mean, he is clearly trying to be inclusive and celebratory. That’s wonderful, but it doesn’t mean that everything he does is lovely and wonderful. And this particular gesture was obviously a bad one.

        3. Database Developer Dude*

          CityMouse, yeah, you do. I’m a man, and childless by choice, and I get the boutineer (sp) shoved at me during Father’s Day celebrations too…..last Father’s Day fell on a meeting of my chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star….and they insisted on honoring me too.

        4. DArcy*

          Massively so. I’ve seen people literally argue that it’s “perfectly sensible” to penalize women in the workplace because they might become pregnant. And when challenged, doubled down and argued that even if a woman plans to be childfree, it’s still “inherently a risk” and male employees should be preferred because there is no chance that they will become mothers.

      4. Jesca*

        Yeah. It is one of those dated internalized sexist thoughts so prevalent in society. Like “no look, see! I honor women!” without really understanding the implications of it. This guy may never, and it is okay if OP was okay with it and it is okay that the other employees found it gross and inappropriate. I mean, we are moving away from these types of mindsets because they are pretty damaging to women in the work place, but it takes time. If OP wanted to speak to the boss about it, I would find a way to let him know that its always great to mean well, but sometimes the thought isn’t the only thing that counts.

        1. NaoNao*

          “I love women!” says every annoying bro who spends all his other time committing sexist, gross, gendered acts he “didn’t mean to insult” by. Sigh.

          By “I love women” read: “I want to f—them, and I generally appreciate objectifying them, condescending to them, and letting them wait on me hand and foot.”

    3. CBE*

      No one ever consciously decides to be sexist. And yet, they often are…
      The impact matters more than his intention. He was sexist and he made people feel uncomfortable, period. THAT is what matters.

    4. LouiseM*

      Adding to the chorus that good intentions only mean so much. The worst sexism I have ever faced was from “lefty” feminist “bro-scialists.” They all think they are so pro-woman because they cook for their wives, but they talk over women or make them feel unsafe by bringing aggression to all sorts of situations. I’ll take someone who never namechecks feminist scholars but also doesn’t scare me any day of the week.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Agreed. To be honest, sometimes I’m more wary of the “lefty bro-feminists” because they think they’re allies, but have a lot of biased and sexist opinions and get upset when you call them on it. I feel this way about straight “allies” a lot of the time, too. At least with raging bigots, I know where they stand, but with some allies I never know if they’re going to say or do something sexist/homophobic/etc. and not realize their words and actions are microaggressions.

          1. Lou*

            I am so borrowing that term. They are the worst, because they think they’re so enlightened but they’ll never analyse their own behaviour to check if it’s problematic!

            1. Jadelyn*

              And gods forbid you actually point out problematic stuff they’re perpetuating. Suddenly it’s Brogressives Feelings Hour and now you’re expected to take on the emotional labor of reassuring him that you still think he’s One Of The Good Ones, while the actual thing he did slips further and further from effective introspection range.

        1. Mookie*

          Proud chauvinists are respectful of my time in the sense that I don’t give them any and they don’t want it, whereas the sneaky, hypocritical ones want to sea-lion and Vulcan me for hours and if I don’t budge then it’s proof that sexism is partially my fault because women like me rub men the wrong way. It’s the gender version of I Wouldn’t Be So Reactionary If You Weren’t So Mean / Radical / Intent on Progress That Doesn’t Cater to and Privilege My Many Needs and Wants.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Okay, sealion as a verb I know, but Vulcan in this context is a new one. What’s that mean? (Not even sure what to google to figure that one out myself, sorry – just googling Vulcan isn’t going to get me anywhere lol.)

            That said, yes. At least the open sexists are easy to avoid and you don’t have to waste time on them. “Feminist” men, on the other hand…I am extremely wary of any man who claims the title of feminist, tbh, because I’ve seen this dynamic play out wayyyy too many times.

            1. KX*

              My guess is that to Vulcan an argument is to Pure Logic and Reason it, and play those semantic games whereas ypu showing emotion lessens your point. I haven’t heard “vulcan” as a verb but I have been in many, many My Logic vs Hysterical Bitches conversations. It’s under the umbrella of Tone Policing (to me) as a way to ignore a disadvantaged group expressing feelings.

              Are we allowed to say “bitches” here?

      2. Lara*

        Yep. I’ve seen more talking over, dismissal and mansplaining from lefty brocialists than I have from regular dudes.

      3. Julia*

        Because why don’t we feel safe around them even though they treat us as equals? How can be have the nerve to apply Schrödinger’s Rapist to them?

      4. neverjaunty*

        There’s an essay called “Towards a Theory of the Manarchist” that captures this sort of fake-woke dude perfectly.

      5. Gazebo Slayer*

        I’ve been to multiple protest rallies where brocialists started chanting loudly and drowning out women speakers. It’s… tiresome.

    5. Cambridge Comma*

      That’s what makes this kind of sexism so insidious. In the same way, catcalling is just a compliment.

      1. Sitting with sad salad*

        The sexism doesn’t bother me as much as the lack of sensitivity. Mother’s Day can be difficult for many people, for the reasons Allison listed in her answer and also for those who have lost their own mother, have a difficult relationship with their child or mother, are separated from their family voluntarily, separated involuntarily through distance or incarceration, and many more reasons. Who wants to be reminded of that at work?

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Both would bother me. When I was young and single, I objected to being given flowers solely because I had a womb. Now that I’m older and childless due to infertility it would upset me for other reasons. He may have meant well, but it was still sexist and insensitive.

          FWIW, I deliberately avoid Facebook for about two weeks around mother’s day. Normally I’m mostly okay with my inability to have kids, but the overload of “being a mother is the most important thing ever and the only thing that gives my life meaning” is too much.

          1. VictorianCowgirl*

            Hear, hear. After multiple miscarriages, one that was almost fatal, and the constant barrage of comments from coworkers “what are you doing this weekend? Oh never mind, whatever you want because you don’t have kids”, mother’s day is a real land mine for me. I can keep an even keep but it’s hard. What makes it better is my sweet sweet nice will usually make me an “Auntie day” card on mother’s day :) <3

            1. Julia*

              Sorry to hijack this, but oh my god what is wrong with people who keep telling others “your life is so carefree because you don’t have kids”, “enjoy your freedom while it lasts”, “must be nice” etc. etc.?? My SIL knows I have endometriosis and still does it, argh! (Plus, if you didn’t want my niece, why have her?)

              1. Pommette!*

                Yup. I have a colleague who loves to complain about her children and about all the work that parenting entails (fair enough), and to tell those of us without children how wonderful and care-free our lives must therefore be (not fair and not OK). She has told me multiple times now that i should “never have children.”
                Well have I got good news for you, colleague: I can’t!

                1. Julia*

                  Wow, that’s absolutely awful. I’m so sorry.
                  Sometimes it feels like the people who should not procreate are the ones having the easiest time with it…

                2. Tricksy Hobbit*

                  Or my favorite, “just wait until u do have kids!”

                  It bugs me to no end, that after I’ve sat listing to parents gripe about their kids, they want to know when I’m having mine. I made my choice you had yours!

                3. Julia*

                  It’s also the worst advertising/propaganda ever. “Having kids sucks – when are you gonna have some?” Er, what?

              2. Alex the Alchemist*

                Yeah, I feel it’s like people who get married and refer to it as losing their freedom or whatever. Like, you know you don’t really HAVE to do this, right?

              3. Oxford Coma*

                I’ve had a bit of ‘fun’ with the childfree = freedom nonsense. “Actually, I’ll be caring for my disabled sibling my whole life. Your kid will grow up and move out.”

              4. Fiennes*

                I hate this kind of thing. Especially I hate it when parent friends scoff at something fun I got to do/trip I got to take by saying, “must be nice! You can’t do that with kids!” Actually, what would be nice for me would be having the family I dreamed of, so thanks for reminding me of that pain every time I do something besides sit at home.”

          2. Mookie*

            When I was young and single, I objected to being given flowers solely because I had a womb.

            I used to work for a curmudgeonly retail florist who didn’t traffic with the big, dumb wholesalers and who was glad to lose the potential income from Mother’s Day (but not St. Valentine’s) by operating on no hours the day before and fobbing off to another shop all potential orders and deliveries. Her reasoning was that handing a woman a bouquet of colorful, good-smelling vulva-shaped things as reward for (ostensibly) having given birth creeped her out*. She loved vaginas (I mean, yeah, same here, I hear that’s a pretty common fetish) but she didn’t think of them as purely utilitarian and respected their many functions and pleasures. She didn’t like my idea of selling anthuriums and callas lilies** for Father’s Day, either.

            *plus, not all women have vaginas
            **not all men exhibit spadices on their person

            1. Juney Junipero*

              Erm, isn’t it actually not relevant to put those asterisks because Mother’s Day isn’t Women-are-Mothers Day and Father’s Day isn’t Men-are-Fathers Day? If someone has fathered a child, that is, to have contributed sperm, they typically have the XY or similar physiology at some point in their life. And if someone has “mothered” a child (not the term I know, just writing in parallels) then it really does require a uterus at least.

              I’m all for recognizing gender fluidity, trans folks, and all the broad spectrum of identities. But I think this is actually an example where biological mother and father status are substantially determined by the physical characteristics of the person in question, not their gender identity.

              The narrative that flowers are meant to represent reproductive organs and that’s why they’re given on Mother’s Day is actually pretty othering for those who build their family by way of adoption or fostering.

              1. Mookie*

                Well, I agree with your third paragraph completely, which is why your first confuses me. No, biology and physiology and genes do not determine parental roles and identities. Mothers are mothers, not necessarily the people that birthed you, and mothering doesn’t require a uterus because mothering is life-long behavior, not a body part. Fathering is not sperm donation.

                1. Juney Junipero*

                  I mean the biological essentialism behind referencing Mother’s Day as a celebration of those who have given birth (“vulva-shaped things” for example, but also the person in the post who gives flowers to all women as mothers or potential mothers) is not particularly sensitive to gender identity so it’s odd to call out “all women not having vaginas” here.

                  If Mother’s Day were a gender-neutral celebration of those individuals who take on primary caretaking roles in children’s lives, then attention to the diversity of gender presentation among those who “mother” (verb) would absolutely make sense. Since both the OP’s boss and you in the flower shop are choosing to base the celebration on perceived gender (but assuming things about their anatomy and its similarity to flowers, in your case), then it’s specifically focusing on those who give birth and this requires specific anatomical input.

                  Agreed that fatherhood is not sperm donation, but to define Father’s Day as a day associated with phallic plants you are specifically focusing on the physical component, aka providing genetic material through insemination.

                  My point is your original post is confusingly essentialist *and* gender inclusive at the same time. I personally think sticking to the latter is the better way to go.

                2. Mookie*

                  Yes, I didn’t and don’t agree with my boss about the flowers. That was the point of my rejoinder to her about Father’s Day.

                  Thank you for the advice.

              2. Dragoning*

                Well, no, because plenty of trans men with kids want to be called a father and plenty of trans women want to be called a mother, and plenty of nonbinary folks wants to be called either mother or father regardless of their reproductive organs.

        2. whingedrinking*

          The sexism doesn’t bother me as much as the lack of sensitivity.
          Stuff can be two things!

        3. Julia*

          Even if those extremely good reasons didn’t exist, why is it necessary to celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, whatever at work?

    6. Screenwriter*

      I’m sure he did. But it’s also incredibly patronizing, giving women a weak, typically feminine-gendered, pointless gesture of “flowers.” This is the typical meaningless gesture that men have always shown to women, typically subordinate women, rather than respect, which would be shown by promotions, meaningful positions, and real rewards like bonuses. As Alison says, of course he wouldn’t dream of doing it to the men in his office. There is also some very unpleasant overtones of judging women by their “motherness,” to the point where even OP makes haste to invent that of COURSE the manager meant to say she “would be a fine mother”–as though that’s the judge of a woman. Imagine if this whole thing played out as flowers given to the men, and men concerned and assuring us that they’re sure the manager sees them as potentially good fathers. It’s a workplace; the men are being valued for their work. It’s asinine to “value” the women for something irrelevant in their personal lives, and that’s exactly what the gesture says, and worse.

      1. Magee*

        Thank you! I knew that what the manager did wasn’t a good idea, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. It’s because:
        It’s a workplace; the men are being valued for their work. It’s asinine to “value” the women for something irrelevant in their personal lives, and that’s exactly what the gesture says , and worse.

      2. Allison*

        “This is the typical meaningless gesture that men have always shown to women, typically subordinate women, rather than respect, which would be shown by promotions, meaningful positions, and real rewards like bonuses.”

        THIS! I don’t want chivalry at work, I don’t want men giving me flowers and chocolate, or holding the door with a gallant flourish of the hand, I don’t want hat-tipping, I don’t need men to stand when I enter or exit a room (what does this even DO? I don’t get it!), I don’t want to have to walk past a man to exit the elevator before him, to me those things don’t signal respect, they just signal “I am a man and you are a woman.” I want my male coworkers to respect me by treating me like in intelligent, competent, important adult person who’s worthy of the space she takes up at work.

        1. Randy*

          To me holding the door is respectful. Not because you are a woman but because I am at the door and you are heading this way. I hold the door for people all the time, regardless of gender. If you assume that the men holding the door for you are doing it for any reason other than respect, I suspect you are wrong and causing unnecessary stress on your relationships.

          1. Luna*

            There is a big difference between holding the door because someone is right behind you vs. making a big show of waiting & holding the door to make the other person (usually a woman) walk through first.

            1. Allison*

              Right, and there’s a difference between holding the door for a PERSON because they’re close behind, and going out of your way to grab the door for a woman because it’s the gentlemanly thing to do. One is common courtesy, the other is unnecessary unless she is old, disabled, or has her hands full.

              It’s also really annoying when I hold a door for a man and he gets all weird about it, insisting I should go first until I look him dead in the eye and insist. If I hesitated like that and a man was holding the door, I know exactly what he’d call me.

              1. Amber T*

                I’m also creeped out when a dude holds the (usually elevator) door for me and expects me to squeeze by them, usually forcing me to brush up/basically grind up against them. No thanks. I’ve learned to stand my ground on that. There’s some random neighbordude who has started referring to me has a bitch because I won’t exit the elevator before him (the one time I did, he took a step forward so I rubbed up against him… it could have been accidental but I was grossed out). The next time it happened we had a stand off until the elevator angrily beeped because the door was held open too long. He marched out calling me names. Someone please explain to me how that was gentlemanly of him.

          2. Jessie the First (or second)*

            “holding the door with a gallant flourish of the hand”

            Maybe you don’t notice this, but there are two kinds of door holders. One kind holds the door for anyone who happens to be nearby – that’s polite and helpful. The other kind says “Oh, look, a lady! I must rush to the door and be the gallant knight who holds it open so that she may pass!” That second type is annoying and no, it isn’t done out of respect, and the kind of guy who holds the door with a “gallant flourish of the hand” is of the second type, the patronizing type. So no, I doubt Allison is wrong about her experiences.

            1. heatherskib*

              Those and the guys who cannot walk through a door being held by a woman because of their ingrained chivalry. We have two sets of double glass doors to get into our building. If a man is behind me when I open the first set and insists on holding the door I’m already holding the entire issue replicates at the second door.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Oh, lord, the double doors thing…The mall near my house has double-doors like that at the entrance I usually use. I can’t tell you how many times I, trying to be polite, have held the outer door for the person behind me, who was a man and who got all “Oh no, I got this, you go ahead!” and then immediately had the same issue 3 steps later at the inner doors. *rolls eyes* I could be halfway to the Gamestop by now if you’d just have let me hold the door like a normal person.

              2. One of the Sarahs*

                I do quite enjoy the kind of man who finds it an affront to his masculinity if a woman holds a door for him, in a warped sort of way. I knew a guy who was like this, and watching him scamper to get ahead of me as we walked through buildings, and crossing in front of me to get to the handle first, was pretty hilarious.

                I’ve always held doors open for anyone – to me it’s utterly non-gendered, but those dudes who see it as a Manly Duty are ridiculous.

            2. CMFDF*

              Once, a guy walking into a store ahead of me appeared to be the first kind of door holder. He held the door for me casually. I thanked him. Since I got to the second set of doors first, and I am also the first kind of door holder, I held it open for him, and cheerily smiled, glad to return the favor.

              He GRABBED THE DOOR FROM MY HAND SO HARD I BROKE A NAIL (not the point, but like, it was aggressive), and grunted at me. Turns out he was the second type.

              1. Allison*

                Reminds me of the neighbor who begrudgingly held the door for me. I was still a good 5-10 seconds away from the door, and I hurried up so as to not keep him waiting, gave him a cheery thanks and he spat a nasty “sure!” at me and stormed off. Why even bother?

                While we’re on the subject, if you’re the type to yell “YOU’RE WELCOME” (or worse) when a woman doesn’t thank you, or doesn’t thank you in the way you were expecting, then don’t even bother. Of course I believe in thanking someone for a favor, but it’s gotten to a point where I say it because I’m also scared of how a man will act if I forget.

            3. Secretary*

              I’m a woman. When a man goes out of his way to open a door for me, I strongly doubt that what’s going through his mind is “Wow she looks so weak I should open the door because I’m the strong gender.” I’m pretty sure that 90% of the time they’re thinking about their mother/father/authority figure that taught them that it’s respectful to open a door for a lady. In return, my ultra-feminist mother taught me to go through the door and graciously say “Thank you” and not make up why they might be doing it, but appreciate the sign of respect that it is.

              I get that maybe that’s the description of the first kind, but the second kind that “rush to the door and be a gallant knight who holds it open so that she may pass” is probably just trying to impress you. It’s still a sign of respect.

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                I don’t actually need to be grateful for every action a man takes just because he’s a man and in his mind he thins he is doing a good deed.

                The catcaller thinks it’s a compliment when he hoots at me.

                FormerBoss who talked to me about which were his favorite actresses to see naked, and which ones I reminded him of, thought he was complimenting me too, because who doesn’t like to be told they are sexy and it was awesome of him to do that, right?

                The guy who holds the door open with a big flourish after rushing in front of me and waving me through and leering – yeash, super respectful. (and eyeroll goes here)

                Some men have held the door and it’s been respectful! Yes! That happens!

                But don’t come here and tell me “nope, the ones who are being patronizing to you are ACTUALLY being respectful.” I can actually tell the difference between respect and condescension. Some people act condescendingly. Even though some men hold doors for people in a nice and polite and respectful way, some do it and are obnoxious. True story.

              2. Traveler*

                It’s sexist – even if he believed it was meant as a sign of respect because of cultural and codified behavior taught by elders. It also doesn’t matter if women taught him this.

                Men get away with a lot of sexist and inappropriate behavior on the basis of he was “just trying to impress you”.

              3. Specialk9*

                Non-consensual chivalry is icky all the way down. Someone holding a door as a polite habit, without feeling entitled to praise and that warm glow of having done a Good Deed, is totally fine in my book, especially if they do it for everyone.

              4. Jadelyn*

                Who cares? I don’t mean that to be flippant, seriously, why should I care about the Real Reasons for his actions and suddenly decide to be okay with it because he’s trying to impress me, or be respectful? I’m not going to make a scene over it at the time because I have better things to do with my day, but I don’t appreciate you aggressively waving your supposed feminist bona fides at us while simultaneously chastising us for not being appropriately grateful for pseudo-polite gendered behaviors simply because they theoretically might come from good intentions.

                1. Tricksy Hobbit*

                  It like men/guys who help you carry something bc they are a “nice guy” but then get mad bc you will not date them. If you do something nice for a stranger, don’t expect a thank you of any kind. If you want something in return, then you are not being a “nice guy” (or gal).

              5. Delphine*

                A man once stood up on the bus when he saw me (I’m a woman and at the time I was college-aged and not carrying anything heavy or pregnant). I thanked him, but said I wouldn’t be sitting down and he should take the seat. He insisted, and so did I, and then he insisted again and then when I moved away because he was starting to creep me out, he lost it. He spent the entire bus ride going on and on about how I had disrespected him until I gave up and got off early. I’ve also experienced men who absolutely will. not. go through a door if I’m holding it open for them. So, no, I don’t think these “gallant” chauvinists are motivated by respect, but by their own egos.

                1. Allison*

                  I like to sit down on the train or bus, and I don’t mind if there’s a seat open and a nearby middle aged man says I can have it, heck if a man offers a seat I might just take it because it’s easier for me to read if I’m sitting down. However, on one train ride a man turned down a seat and let me take it, and proceeded to talk to me about how it’s healthier to stand, sitting will slowly kill you, etc. etc. and it was then that I realized that if a man offers you a seat or declines an open one, letting you have it, he might feel entitled to stand over you and chat, or just talk at you, because he did something nice and you owe him attention.

                2. Juney Junipero*

                  I hear ya! It is very frustrating for *me as a woman* to be the one trying to do the nice thing and hold the door for someone and have them insist/demand that I go through first. What about my feelings being hurt? What about my intentions? Oh right, chivalry is in place to make men feel that their dominance is okay because it’s accompanied by conditional politeness.

                3. Allison*

                  “chivalry is in place to make men feel that their dominance is okay because it’s accompanied by conditional politeness.”

                  WOAH! Yes, so much this!

              6. Sue Wilson*

                it really is not a sign of respect to be treated differently for no rational reason.

          3. Environmental Compliance*

            Holding the door for me because the timing works and you’re being polite – everybody should do. It is indeed basic respect.

            Running in front of me, cutting me off, to open the door with fanfare and a “ladies first!” or “beauty before brawn!” or some other related BS with a creepy smile? Nah….please stop.

            There’s a significant difference between those two things.

            1. Luna*

              I love being elbowed out of the way so the man can get to the door first and then having him look at me expectantly for a big smile & thank-you. Like, no dude.

          4. NaoNao*

            Every time the door holding example is brought up, there’s a chorus of people chiming in “I hold the door for everyone!!11!”. Yep, and that’s great. And it’s missing the point.

            Here’s the deal: standing when women enter, holding the door, tipping your hat, and other gestures of “chivalry” are what is known as “benign sexism”. Benign sexism is friendly, even polite or good natured gestures that indicate women are “the fairer sex”—meaning they are weaker, both physically and mentally, than men. It is still harmful, because it slots women int the category of possessions that must be protected, objects who must defer to the superior power and control of men.

            It means that the man holding the door for women is also the man who believes women are not suited for certain types of work, are “natural mothers”, need to be “protected” from other men’s advances (perhaps even by curfews or dress codes) and so on.

            A friend summarized the door holding discuss very succinctly:

            If you are ADDING to a person’s power and mobility by opening the door, you are in the right.

            If you are TAKING AWAY their power, you’re in the wrong.

            Therefore, a woman who is struggling with a package will likely not even think twice about a man who holds the door for a moment as he precedes her into the doorway.

            However, a woman unencumbered by anything who has to wait while a man opens the door with a flourish for her, that’s annoying and sexist and unnecessary.

            *A man stands as a woman exits the room generally to give her access to the exit, and/or to show respect

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              But, there are women who prefer to treated in this way. Should men defer to their preference or insist they know how best to treat women?

              1. Jadelyn*

                …really? You’re going to try that tired old “gotcha”?

                The topic is not, what does each individual woman want men to do when walking through doors?

                The topic is, what should the default behavior be between TOTAL STRANGERS walking through doors at the same time?

                Unless you seriously think the ideal is for each and every man, each and every time he approaches a door where there is even a single woman in the vicinity, to ask each and every woman present how she prefers to go through doors, the idea that “some women prefer to be treated this way” is a complete and total moot point.

                This is not about individual preferences. This is about a social default that either signifies and perpetuates, or does not signify or perpetuate, gendered power differentials in the wider culture. There’s no need to make this complicated and introduce the “But SoMe WoMeN wAnT iT!” element to try to defend a sexist pattern of behavior.

                1. Trout 'Waver*

                  Please respond with civility.

                  NaoNao makes no distinction between strangers and acquaintances. Clearly I am describing situations where the man knows the preference of the woman. So I’m really struggling to see how your reply is in any way relevant to what I posted.

              2. tusky*

                Obviously, if you actually know someone’s preference, the kind thing would be to defer to that. But given that it’s unlikely you’ll know the preference of every person passing through a door, the kind thing *in general* is to act in an effort to minimize offense (here, offense includes reinforcing sexism). You might genuinely decide it best to hold the door for everyone, and that’s ok! You might sometimes not hold the door for someone who would have liked you to hold the door; that’s also ok! The point is to consider how gender and sexism enter into our decisions about what is kind or polite in a given situation. In other words, (how) does your calculus about whether to hold a door change based on the gender of the person, and why?

            2. SignalLost*

              *I* hold doors while wearing a veil and barbette and bestowing a small scarf or ribbon on the men passing through the doors. I am trying to work out whether I may provide my own troubadour to sing about my power, beauty, and financial and social wealth, or if the men must get into the spirit of chivalry by bringing their own troubadours to sing about how awesome I am.

        2. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

          I HATE THE ELEVATOR THING!!!! The worst is when the man is standing closer to the door to begin with and has a bag or something and I have to weasel my way around in order to exit first since he just decides to stand there like a lump and “help” by holding the door open for me. It’s just slower for both of us!

          1. essEss*

            When that happens, I use my words… “It would be much easier for me to exit if you went out first since I can’t get around you.” I’ve actually had to say that a few times.

            1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

              Yeah, I’m still working my way up to that. Especially since 95% of the time I’m in the elevator with strangers from other companies in my building. Right now I’m at the passive-aggressive eye roll stage…

          2. LtBroccoli*

            Ugh yes. The elevator thing. And they will just STAND THERE no matter how many times I ask them to go ahead. Or, worse, if I assume they’re going to do that and head out first when I’m in the elevator with a man, but it turns out he’s one of the reasonable ones who wasn’t going to make me go first, then I just feel rude!

            The elevator thing bugs me more than anything. Rushing ahead to hold doors or refusing to go through a door I’m holding is a close second, but I don’t run into that as often at work.

            1. Randy*

              People are awkward. Doesnt just happen to women. Say “Go ahead” or just go ahead yourself. Doesnt have to be a big deal. Ever try to pass someone in the hall on the the same side and do the side to side shuffle thing? Me too.

              1. Jadelyn*

                This is not just garden variety “awkwardness”, and it’s disingenuous in the extreme to come into a discussion of NUMEROUS women talking about specifically gendered behaviors they experience men doing towards women (that women do not do to other women, nor do men do to other men) and try to shut it down as “well people are just awkward”.

              2. biobottt*

                Yeah, what you’re describing is not at all what people are discussing here. A few minutes of thoughtful comparison would make it easy to see that.

              3. Alton*

                Not that simple. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cheerfully said, “Go ahead! You were first” or something only to have the guy get flustered, outright insist on making me go first, or grudgingly take the offer while muttering about how they’re an old-fashioned gentleman.

                If it was really just about being polite, men wouldn’t see it as any big deal for a woman to hold the door for them or let them get off the elevator first, because politeness goes both ways. What really happens a lot of the time is that they double down or make it awkward, forcing us to either give in or become the bad guy who won’t accept their gesture.

      3. Randy*

        I have seen this line of thinking here 100 times. That giving a gift like flowers or food or anything simple is a way to get around fair pay. What???

        If I give a simple, inexpensive gift to someone it is commonly known as a gesture and represents the thought/appreciation more than the gift itself. The reason cards exist is to show that some amount of effort, forethought, time was put into the gesture more than just saying “thanks”. It has NOTHING to do with pay rate or any other work benefit. If you arent being paid fairly speak up to your manager about it. If you think your manager is “keeping you down” by giving you flowers or a card then maybe consider self employment.

          1. Randy*

            That was one of the ones I was talking about. I get it, you don’t want flowers. But what I mean is that the flowers aren’t a way to “get around” fair pay. People like a pat on the back. Some of my employees have told me straight up they prefer the smaller gestures to bonuses etc because it reinforces their worth in a secondary way.

            My point is that the reason these gestures are common is because they are commonly appreciated. The reason people bring cookies in to work is because MOST people like cookies vs some obscure food. If I told all my staff they would never see flowers or food around the office because it was misogynistic and continued to pay them a fair wage, I do not they they would appreciate it.

            1. mrs__peel*

              A fair number of employers DO provide things like flowers in lieu of offering decent pay and benefits, and that happens more often in fields that are primarily female (e.g., with administrative staff). Many people understandably roll their eyes at that. Just because that might not happen where you work doesn’t mean it’s not a widespread phenomenon.

              Whether a gesture is sexist or not, or appreciated or not, depends entirely on the context. There are contexts where small gestures are perfectly fine (e.g., leaving food in the break room for everyone to enjoy to celebrate a successful project), and contexts where they’re inappropriate because they single out one group of people in a way that reinforces stereotypes.

            2. Mookie*

              People like a pat on the back.

              Yes, people do, for their hard work and successes. Not for the “accomplishment” of their gender or for having babbies. If you want to celebrate babbydom, make it affordable and viable for everyone who wants one to have one and agitate for laws that respect the autonomy of people who don’t.

        1. NaoNao*

          I have for sure had jobs where the powers that be acted like super small, insignificant things like gifts on holidays, PTO (!!) or “on site gym!” (and flowers/cake/cards on special days) were the equivalent to fair market rate compensation and/or actual benefits and were flabbergasted when people asked for raises or asked about bonuses.

          “But we do so much for our teams!!”

          1. Randy*

            Are gifts on holidays, PTO, on site gym, flowers cake cards not something to be seen as a benefit? I thought the point of benefits was the “added value” beyond pay. Taking away the benefits doesn’t necessarily equal better pay, so why not appreicate the PTO and benefits?

    7. Getresal*

      People are to flippen sensitive! Geez! He tried to do something nice and rather than just say thank you people have to be asses. Put your big girl panties on people and get over it.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Should we put our panties on before or after we determine whether we’re being underpaid relative to our male coworkers? Or when our manager is commenting on our relative worth to society as a function of our reproductive capacity a la Handmaid’s Tale? Or should we wait until after one of the recipients is passed over for promotion because she has children or will likely have children in the future?

          1. Oryx*

            The guy literally gave the OP a Flower in honor of Mother’s Day because she has a womb and might someday bear children.

            That’s the whole point of the Handmaid’s Tale: it’s not just about the red dresses and white wings in the “present” but examining the attitudes and beliefs about women that led to that extreme society. Reducing a woman to her ability to bear children — regardless of whether or not she has children or even wants them—is exactly in line with those attitudes.

          2. Tardigrade*

            The thing about Atwood’s speculative fiction, and what makes it so frightening, is that it wouldn’t take much for the real world to slip into that fictional reality.

        1. Randy*

          Considering the pay gap doesn’t really exist….

          Mothers day is a thing. If you want it to stop being a thing, start there. He made a very simple gesture, with good intentions. You can pick apart every action by every individual every day if you want to… but that sounds miserable.

            1. Frankie*

              People who say the pay gap doesn’t exist are usually relying partly on the argument that women actively choose lower-paying positions because they like things like nursing more than doctoring or assistanting rather than managing, because genetics. That argument also involves being willfully ignorant to a lot of subtle sexism that disproportionately pushes women into lower-paying jobs (you’d make such a great nurse! oh you’re so good at organizing, this guy is really good at being a leader, though! oh why don’t you teach elementary school, you must love kids!).

              1. Dankar*

                I’m guessing you’re 100% right. “The pay gap doesn’t exist because women self-select into lower paying fields!”

                What strikes me about this, besides the point you’re making about subtle sexism guiding career choices, is that argument seems to support the idea that underpaying caring fields or jobs that require emotional labor is A-OK! Like, sure, it makes total sense that we underpay teachers, nurses, social workers, etc. because it’s not like what they do is critical or anything. Dumb.

                1. Julia*

                  Underpaying the people educating future citizens is pretty dumb. But if most of them are women, it’s easier to get away with it. :(

                2. Frankie*

                  OH yeah. And I think it’s less about underpaying “caring” fields than it is about underpaying anything considered “feminine.”

                  At least in western culture it goes back centuries. There are many examples of activities that were owned by women and didn’t offer many commercial rewards, until they were “professionalized” and controlled by men, who suddenly made tons of money on it. Beermaking comes to mind as an example.

                3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  @Frankie- and conversely, occupations like teachers, which were well-paid when primarily male, and became low-paid as they became predominantly female. It’s really sad.

                4. DArcy*

                  The most dramatic example is looking at countries where full up medical doctors are a barely above minimum wage profession specifically because all medicine is gender typed as feminine.

              2. Catelyn*

                Even that math doesn’t hold up! A fascinating economic point: The unexplained pay gap is actually *larger* now than it was in the 1970s, because women are more educated than men, on average, and are still paid less than men, on average. This effect holds even if you enter in controls for the type of field. The way you test this is called a Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition, before some dude comes at me, and I am an economist and studied this.

              3. KellyK*

                “Women choose lower-paying professions” also completely ignores how often women are harassed or bullied out of male-dominated ones.

            2. Genny*

              There are some really bad statistics out there that people try to use to show the pay gap exists (the one that showed a 23% gap failed to account for part-time work and field of study). Then there are the people who grab on to the statistic they think proves it doesn’t exist (the study that showed a 5% gap) without bothering to disaggregate the data to determine whether that number masks gaps within an industry. Spoiler alert: it does mask those gaps.

              1. Randy*

                The pay gap in the way it is generally portrayed is not a true pay gap. If women work less than men, and are therefore paid less than men, the pay gap that exists is also fair.
                If women choose lower paying job, and get paid less, that is also fair.
                There are 1 million subtle things that play into this, but the pay gap of $.73 on the dollar or whatever does not exist that way.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Please read the research. It’s not okay here to deny the effect the effects of sexism on women, so I’m going to ask that you do some research before continuing to comment about issues of gender here. Thanks.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Again, this is derailing and inaccurate. There are a number of robust studies that show that, all else equal, the pay gap still exists in the United States, and it is particularly glaring for women of color and trans women of color.

                  Whether that gap is $.73 on the dollar (which has since been refined to account for demographics and industry) or another amount, there is a gap, and it is a profound factor in driving poverty and economic insecurity among women.

                3. Lynn*

                  I’m guessing that at least some stereotypically underpaid professions – teachers, social work, etc – wouldn’t be underpaid IF they attracted more men than women.

                4. Frankie*

                  There is a wealth of data that the pay gap exists, both in situations where women and men hold the exact same jobs, and in situations where jobs considered “feminine” are paid less despite not being any less work. Your arguments to not hold up to the data.

                5. tamarack and fireweed*

                  Yeah, no. We’ve seen a lot more of this uninformed “the pay gap doesn’t exist” propaganda lately.

                  Even if the pay gap was entirely due to choice of occupation, this still raises the question why occupations that are chosen by women are valued less than male-dominated ones (and why income levels tend to go down as formerly male-dominated fields feminzise, and vice versa). But it isn’t the case that choice is the only factor. To summarize very very superficially the best research that I have seen, there are three that contribute on the average (in the US, across occupations and regions) roughly equal parts: choice of occupation, more junior experience ranks of women, and “unexplained”. The second is heavily impacted by women taking time out and not advancing at the same rate due to motherhood. The third is about men and women in the same field and at equal experience levels, that is, when there’s really no good reason to pay a woman less. None of the free factors are completely unrelated to sexism.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Randy, are good intentions all that matter to you? As long as you can say you have good intentions, you believe the actual impact of your behavior is not important, and no one can complain?

            I disagree. It’s the workplace. Your behavior matters. You need to be professional. I think it sounds exhausting to have to examine everything to try and determine intent, and to put up with or not put up with behavior based on whatever I can speculate about the mindset of the person who is misbehaving. Far better, *in the workplace*, to focus on behavior. You can have all the feels you want to about the women you work with and mothers and giving birth, Randy, but in the workplace, most of those feelings aren’t something you should be acting on. Good intentions or no.

            It’s not “miserable” to address behavior and expect professionalism. It’s actually easier.

            1. Randy*

              My point about intentions has more to do with the OP1 wording, and the people that I know in my life. The way I interpret the post, he was saying he appreciates his employees, and was using a holiday to time it. I agree that it was a little weird, and not something I would do (I dont say happy mothers day to any mother other than my own) but I feel bad for the guy being smeared for a sincere gesture that I just cant see as being gross, rude, or otherwise offensive.

              1. Louise*

                That’s fine that you don’t see it being gross, rude, or otherwise offensive, but maybe you should sit back for a sec and listen to the dozens of women here telling you that it is.

              2. biobottt*

                Look, if you want to receive flowers just because you have testicles, great. But many women would like to not be judged worthwhile based solely on the fact that they possess (or appear to possess) uteri. It’s pretty regressive.

              3. mrs__peel*

                If you “can’t see” why women might find this kind of thing annoying or upsetting, you could… you know, stop posting and instead read the hundreds of comments from women explaining why.

          2. NaoNao*

            The pay gap as most people think of it (77 cents on the dollar) actually is not quite accurate, that much is true. All but 8% of it can be explained by education and job choice, plus ‘the child penalty’.

            However if you check out the government documents, which I have, it clearly and unequivocally states that 8% is “unexplained”. Not by location, job choice, education, race, or any other factor, and it’s across all jobs and education levels, within the same job. (So, for example, any given female lawyer makes 8% less than any given male).

            It does exist.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Yeah, the “child penalty” is not a mitigating factor that explains away pay gaps; it’s a contributing factor to those pay gaps.

            1. Susana*

              I don’t have children. I have never asked for “flexibility” at work. I have spent weeks – months at a time, even – on the road here and overseas, sometimes in war zones, doing my work. And at every single job I have been at in my life, the men have been paid more than the women- or at least paid more when the experience/production levels were similar. it gets institutionalize and exacerbated, since men make about $1,000 a year more than women a YEAR out of college (so much for the “taking a break to have kids explanation), so even if both get the same percent raises after that, the gap grows.

      2. Mookie*

        Put your big girl panties on people and get over it.

        Is this you trying to do something nice, or do I have permission to be both offended and underwearless?

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Man, you’re really mad about this guy’s poorly-thought-out gesture going over like a ton of bricks.

        Here’s a hint for you: sometimes when people mean to be nice, what they actually do is awful, and the awful things should still be treated as such.

        1. Allison*

          It’s possible for a genuinely nice person to make a mistake based on good intentions, what matters is whether they listen to people saying it was a bad idea and apologize, or double down, get angry at the people who didn’t like it, and yell “BUT I WAS TRYING TO BE NICE!”

      4. Tardigrade*

        Nobody suggested treating the guy badly. But it’s good to see the “I’m offended by your offense” and “you’re too sensitive” lines alive and well, because that means you have no credible argument on this topic. But please try again when you find one.

        1. Mookie*

          Yeah, that “offended” tactic to silence nay-sayers makes not a lick of sense and lacks internal logic. In one fell swoop it is implied that any level of emotional reaction to outside provocation is somehow a sign of weakness in the person and of deficiency in the correctness of their beliefs but that implication itself is couched in emotional, melodramatic, manipulative language. Make up your minds!

      5. Anon for this*

        It’s not “too [sic] flippen sensitive”….some people may be grieving miscarriages or fertility, which is appropriately sensitive.

        Others (like me) are just squicked out by the IDEA of being a mom. Like, prayed as a kid to be infertile, then took action to make it so once I grew up and discovered science. I probably wouldn’t be offended by this, per say, but I would definitely think it’s weird, and my awkward mouth would probably come out with something inappropriately personal like “Oh thank goodness I never had kids! I don’t like them much, I’d be a terrible mother and hate every moment of it. I love roses though!”

      6. Pommette!*

        He tried, but failed, to do something nice.
        No one is saying that the OP’s boss is an evil person. Nor is anyone doing anything to harm or insult him, or suggesting that the OP do anything of the sort.
        We’re saying that this gesture is potentially hurtful and definitely inappropriate for the workplace.

      7. JS*

        Honestly agreed. It was a nice gesture and he included all the women, not just mothers.

        1. LBK*

          That’s the whole damn point. It’s sexist to assert that all women could/should be mothers.

        2. Luna*

          But all women DO NOT WANT to be included in this. Why would we??? I’m not a mother so why would I care about being included in Mother’s Day? Especially at work?

        3. March Madness*

          Call me weird, but I’d rather not be thanked for having a uterus. It’s not that much of achievement.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Seriously. I developed in the manner that mammals often do? Good job, cells!

            I, for one, now want to celebrate Spleen Day.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                If those exist I would send them to everyone. Randomly.

                Happy Spleen Day!
                Happy Kidney Day!
                Happy Fallopian Tube Day!
                Happy Tragus Day!

                And my personal favorite: Happy Uvula Day!

          2. SusanIvanova*

            I cracked my grandmother up during my “things nobody told me about menopause” rant with “what did my uterus ever do for me?”

            But seriously, what? 1/4 of the past 40 years would’ve been a lot more enjoyable without one.

        4. Oryx*

          Yeah, that’s the point: he included ALL women on Mother’s Day, thereby reducing women to the common denominator of having a uterus.

          I don’t want children and have taken measures to make sure I don’t have children. I don’t want to be told “You’d make a good mother” because, no, I wouldn’t: that’s one reason why I don’t want children.

          1. Mookie*

            Yeah. I low-key think it’s an insult to parents when I’m told I’d make a good one by someone who knows me well. I respect small humans too much to leave their lives and development in my hands.

            We’re constantly shitting on parents, but now you think it’s the world’s greatest job? Walk it like you talk it, and promote laws and policies that make parenting easier, child care more accessible, and early education more robust.

        5. biobottt*

          But including all the women on Mother’s Day is the problem. He reduced women to one particular facet of the female experience — and one that not all women experience. He basically said women are either mothers or would-be mothers, and that’s where their worth lies. That’s ridiculous.

        6. mrs__peel*

          It’s not a “nice gesture” to thoughtlessly include people who don’t want to be included.

          As someone with infertility issues, I find this kind of thing quite painful, myself.

        7. Susana*

          No – it’s not a nice gesture. It reduces women to their reproductive production (or potential) IN A WORKPLACE. And to hell with good intentions – it’s just a way of saying that what the man felt is more important than how the women felt about it. It’s like when you;re in jr. high, and a boy is flipping your books or teasing you, and the adults say with a wink: “oh, that just means he LIKES you.” Who cares? Control your behavior instead of blaming people for “taking it wrong.”

          1. mrs__peel*

            “it’s just a way of saying that what the man felt is more important than how the women felt about it.”

            Exactly. That’s it in a nutshell.

            1. Allison*

              Yes, absolutely! Why is it that when women speak up about how they want to be treated, men tell us to shut up, we should appreciate what we’re given and shouldn’t ask for anything else. Platinum rule, people! Treat people* how they want to be treated!

              *this includes women

      8. LBK*

        Would you hand wave it away like that if, say, he brought in a kwanzaa present for all of his black employees?

      9. NaoNao*

        But doesn’t it strike up that you are in fact being very sensitive to other’s remarks, by using two exclamation points and vigorously exhorting people to “put on their big girl panties” instead of just rolling your eyes and getting on with your day?
        Seems like it might be time to check your own house, it being glass and all, before you throw that stone.

      10. PC Police*

        Totally agree – thank you for saying! We’re in a new day and people will find a reason to be sensitive to almost anything. The poor guy certainly didn’t buy flowers for the ladies in the office just to be demonized by a bunch of people on the internet who think they know better and are totally offended by… the delicate nature and all that is inferred by a flower??! Give me a break!

        1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq*

          … did it never occur to you that people aren’t “finding” a reason to be offended, and that this is actually offensive? I would be offended… it’s none of my boss’ business if I’m a mother or not, I don’t want any commentary from him on my “delicate nature,” and giving such a gendered “gift” at work is *extremely* weird. You wanna know why this “new day” finds so much offense? Because the same stuff was offensive 15 years ago but women were generally in too perilous of social positions to call it out. You’re advocating to a return to the dark ages where people in power did what they wanted and everyone else had to deal with it in silence, get fired, or worse.

          You are advocating for a world where women shut up and demure when people do wildly offensive things. That’s a crappy world to work in, and a crappier one to live in.

        2. mrs__peel*

          “People will find a reason to be sensitive to almost anything” = “I’m upset that people are finally holding me responsible for the rude things I say and do”

        3. Scarlet*

          Why are you being so sensitive about it then? Looks like you’re trying very hard to be offended by random strangers’ comments on the internet.

      11. Louise*

        This comment is so unbelievably sexist and condescending that I thought it was sarcasm. Why are you so angered by women saying something doesn’t have a place in the workplace?

    8. Mom MD*

      Does every well meaning gesture in this world have to be racist or sexist? I agree he was trying to do a nice thing. If this is your coworkers biggest problem, they have a pretty nice life.

      1. London Engineer*

        I’m not sure where you’re getting that this isn’t the biggest problem in their lives. And while this is relatively minor that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be dealt with. Just asking the boss to be a bit more thoughtful could easily prevent it from escalating to anything more serious.

        Plus, the fact that people are reacting strongly makes me wonder whether this guy who OP admits can be ‘overbearing’ has a history of being otherwise patronising which is being picked up on now that there is something concrete they can pin this on.

      2. Easily Amused*

        This is how women have been gaslit forever… “shut up and say thank you with a smile”… to unwanted “gifts”, unwanted advances, being treated differently than male counterparts at work…

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yeah, my former boss rubbing my shoulders was just him trying to help me with my stress! Why can’t I be more grateful?!

          Intent doesn’t equal impact. Women want to be treated as equals in the workplace, not placed on some pedestal of fertility.

          1. Future Homesteader*


            I’m sorry you had that happen. That’s gross and I’m sympathy shuddering now.

        2. Allison*


          And then we’re told we can’t ask for equality because men do all these nice things for us, and when we ask them to stop so we can have a chance at real equality, they call us ungrateful and insist they can’t stop, it’s how they were raised, they can’t help it, they’re just so nice!

      3. Sylvan*

        Nah, but this one is.

        It’s obviously not the worst injustice in the world, but it’s not super nice, either.

      4. Mookie*

        Does every well meaning gesture in this world have to be racist or sexist?

        Does every mild criticism warrant rampant, untruthful hyperbole?

            1. Susana*

              Because we figured running most of the governments, economies, businesses and media in the world was enough? (Pssst…wanna trade?)

        1. Scarlet*

          It’s funny how people accuse others of being “too emotional” in a way that clearly shows they’re upset and emotionally invested in it. “You’re being too emotional so I’m going to get upset and emotional about your emotions (but MY emotions are totally valid)”.

      5. Claire (Scotland)*

        No, they don’t have to be. There are LOADAS of genuinely nice gestures people can do which are neither.

        This one is sexist.

      6. Anon for this*

        I agree, I thought it was a nice gesture! Also, let’s not assume there’s nothing for men; sometimes organizations do gift all the men something for Father’s Day.

          1. Anon for this*

            I think this is unkind. I received a flower for Mother’s Day (not a mother) and it is brightening my life. And honestly? When I’ve heard of men getting something for Father’s Day, it’s usually something nice to eat/drink (think chocolates or a specialty soda pop) – so, not expensive.

            1. AKchic*

              So… something more useful than a flower? Because I can’t eat a flower meant for decoration. At least the chocolates or soda can be consumed and are meant to be consumed. The flower is already dead/dying and will have to be tossed out within a few days/week at my labor.

              When I’m at work – I’m not “Mom”, I am capable human being AKchic. My status as a parent does not come into play. In fact, my bosses shouldn’t even be thinking about my genitalia or my reproductive organs or what they do or what they might be for. I am here to do a job, not get judged for a different job that my gender has historically done “well”.

        1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq*

          What about non-binary folks? Trans folks? People who simply don’t want their reproductive organs or proclivities to be part of their life at work? You can *think* something is a nice gesture all you want; that doesn’t erase the negative impacts it might have. If I’m doing something that I think is “nice” at work but it’s actually making people feel bad, or offended, or whatever, I’d want to know about it so I can reflect on whether I should continue doing the thing, now that I know how truly “nice” it is. So much of this defensiveness just feels like folks not wanting to take responsibility for their actions.

        2. Delphine*

          Since our patriarchal society doesn’t see fatherhood as the only valuable contribution a man can make, giving male employees gifts for Father’s Day would be fine. I imagine a lot of men who don’t have children would find it super weird, but even then it wouldn’t be sexist.

      7. Parenthetically*

        It’s really, really ok for people to get annoyed with gestures that are small but rooted in a base mindset of sexism. “I was trying to be nice” doesn’t retcon someone’s actions to make them exist in a vacuum where women haven’t been primarily valued for their fertility for, like, ever.

        Also, who said this was the biggest problem in their lives? Come on.

      8. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Well, the “well-meaning gestures” that are extended to people only on the basis of their race or sex tend to be racist or sexist, yep.

      9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        So, if a coworker tells me “I’d tap this”, I need to smile and say thanks, because he meant well and was trying to be nice? It is possible to be nice to people in non-terrible ways. Why can’t we work on that?

      10. Jam Today*

        No, they don’t have to be sexist, which is why its so frustrating when, like this, they are.

      11. Annie Moose*

        Mom MD, I couldn’t agree more. If your coworkers don’t at minimum have cancer and an eating disorder, then how dare they complain about anything else?

      12. LBK*

        Does every well meaning gesture in this world have to be racist or sexist?

        It doesn’t have to be, which is why it’s so stupid that this guy chose one that is sexist. There are plenty of other ways he could have shown appreciation for his employees.

      13. Tuxedo Cat*

        No, but it’s okay to remind people that good intentions aren’t enough. Maybe not this particular manager but for the other readers out there who might’ve considered doing this thing.

        Is it worthy of screaming at this guy? Is it the worst problem that has ever faced people in all of history? No, of course not. But it’s fine to affirm that the gesture, as well-meaning as it was, had some issues.

      14. Jadelyn*

        Oh no! I thought human beings were able to be annoyed at multiple things, in different ways, at different levels, at the same time. I wasn’t aware we were only allowed to be upset about the single biggest problem in our lives at any given time. Can we assume that you’re available for problem priority consulting, so you can make sure that each of us is properly directing our annoyance at the 1 thing that’s Most Important in your estimation?

    9. Miss Elaine e.*

      I agree: he was not intentionally sexist. I remember a former colleague (a politically active feminist) being asked if she was insulted by what was then still often called “Secretary’s Day.” Her response:

      “I was never offended by a flower in my life.”

      Yeah, he was tone deaf and inconsiderate of those who are not childless by choice (or by choice). (Once I had miscarried a child whose due date was Mother’s Day that year, I think I would have died a little had I been given a flower that day.)

      1. Miss Elaine e.*

        The more I think about the OP’s post, the more I think it went down something like this:
        Boss: “Hmmm, Mother’s Day’s coming up. I should do something nice. How about I give each one of the moms a flower?There’s Jane and Anne and Mary and….”
        “Ooooh, erm….What about Louise? She doesn’t have kids….Or Penelope, she doesn’t either. Will they feel left out? I’ll get flowers for them too…”

        Not intentionally sexist but another Michael Scott trying but failing to do the right thing.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          I’m going to guess that no one has ever thought, “Hmmm, how can I be sexist today??” Instead, they just genuinely think that all women feel like mothers, or all women are worse at certain tasks, or whatever.

      2. MeridaAnn*

        Just because one person has never been offended by a flower, that doesn’t mean all flowers are 100% inoffensive. I believe we just had a letter recently about someone who was given flowers for Secretary’s Day / Administrative Professionals Day, but her job wasn’t in admin and she felt like her boss was dismissing her real job title and just seeing all women is admin no matter what their actual job was. That’s a problem, and this is too.

        Being a woman doesn’t automatically mean that you are or want to be a mother, and for people to assume that all women must be in one of those two categories, and that therefore every woman should be recognized on Mother’s Day, is wrong. The boss should be thinking of all his employees, no matter their gender, as just employees, not “male employees and the mother/potential mother employees”, which is the way he categorized them when decided who to get flowers for in this case.

        1. Aveline*

          Anyone who asserts flowers cannot be offensive has no idea what they are talking about. Flower giving in the US and Europe developed to convey meaning. To express that which could not be politely stated, including f-you, I want to have sex with you, and I am sorry for your loss.

          There’s a whole rabbit-hole of information on the topic.

          We didn’t start giving flowers because they were beautiful, we gave them because there is meaning attached to them.

          To pretend flower giving is, and always has been, a neutral gesture and so people are being overly sensitive is disingenuous or ill informed.

      3. NaoNao*

        The flower is not the offense.
        It’s what it represents.

        Also women who make these blanket statements and then get trotted out as “the good ones” make me see red and go a little mad.

        Like the giggly Midwest Housewife who said she wouldn’t mind be “groped” tee hee (in response to the hoorah around A Certain Current President’s “grabbing” remarks).

        I wonder what else that “politically active feminist” had to say?

    10. Angelinha*

      Knowing someone’s intention can help soften the blow of something like this, but ultimately, intention doesn’t matter. People’s implicit biases show up constantly. Is this boss maybe a nice guy and did he maybe think he was doing something pleasant? Sure! Is it still sexist and is it still reasonable for someone to find it offensive? Absolutely!

      1. Katie the Fed*

        maybe we just take the word “offensive” out of the equation altogether. It was inappropriate. It was well-intentioned, but that absolutely doesn’t matter. It’s inappropriate in an office. Women don’t want/need to be placed on a pedestal.

      2. MrsCHX*

        Nope. He should have done that for the women he has relationships with = mother, sisters, aunts, cousins, nieces, friends…

        There are so many things people do around here that if done to me I would be super annoyed. And I’m a very laid back person…but I’m AT WORK. I am at work to the job they are paying me to do. Recognize me for my professional contributions please, not for my lady parts.

    11. Allison*

      Not all sexism is intentionally malicious or misogynistic, and an action doesn’t have to have sexist intentions in order to be sexist. You can have nice intentions and still be sexist without realizing it.

      1. Allison*

        Also as a reminder, a lot of laws we consider sexist today, like laws declaring a man as head of the house and his wife as his subordinate, and laws requiring a woman’s husband cosign for a credit card, were all “intended” to protect women. Wasn’t that nice?

    12. HarperC*

      A lot of sexist things that actually harm professional women are done by people who think they are being nice.

    13. Jessie the First (or second)*

      The OP says this: “I feel as though because they think Fergus is overbearing to begin with, they are seeing this gift in a negative way when it really seems to be just a nice thought.”

      So, Fergus is overbearing. If you have a difficult, overbearing boss, are you quick to assume that any given icky gesture is him being nice? Or do you look at it in the context of his overall personality and behavior?

      I mean, I think, as is discussed exhaustively below, that it is actually preferable to not try to figure out everyone’s mindset and intentions, and just really focus on behavior at work (because boundaries! And professionalism at work!). So regardless, his behavior here is not great for the reasons AAM explained. But where we know from OP that Fergus is actually overbearing to begin with, I’m not at all clear on why we need to rush to Fergus’s defense with “but he was just being nice!”

    14. Leticia*

      I talked to my mother on mother’s day. She said: “Every day is mother’s day!” and I replied “Yeah, sure! And every day is indians day!” That’s actually the lyrics of a song in Brazil.

      Not only we have a Woman’s Day, a Mother’s day, but we also have a Indians Day. That’s not celebrating immigration from India, that’s meant to celebrate the native peoples of Brazil, the Tupi, the Guarani, and all other tribes.

      My view is that only the categories of people who are exploited get to have a day for themselves. Has anyone heard of a day celebrating White Males?

      I am against celebrating any of those, be it the women, the mothers, the fathers, the “indians”. And every year I get to be offended in new and more stupid ways. I have got flowers for some of those dates and gave people a piece of my mind then and there.

    15. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

      The flowers on their own aren’t a problem, the problem is the fact that the motivation was to just give them to women on Mother’s Day. You want to give me flowers at work? How about you give them to me for closing a big deal or another major work accomplishment. Keep my uterus out of it.

    16. Chatterby*

      They actually do this at the church I grew up in.
      Every Mother’s Day, the little kids would give a special little musical number during the service (usually singing a song along the lines of “Mother, I love you” or similar) and then every ‘adult’ woman got a carnation or other flower after the service. I say ‘adult’ because after you hit 15, you got a flower as a ‘future mother’.
      Mothers of small children like it because it means they get *something*, since they wouldn’t get much or anything at all if their husbands failed to help the small children arrange a present, and because they get to see their little darling sing.
      Everyone else thinks it’s pretty Ick. Young women think it’s gross they are walking wombs, women with fertility issues dislike the reminder, and women with older children think watching someone else’s kids sing is kind of dumb and they already got something, thanks, they don’t want to carry around a flower for the next few hours.
      If people dislike it at church, where people are expected to be into traditional roles, they’re definitely going to dislike it at work.
      They do something similar for Father’s Day. The kids sing “I’m so glad when Daddy comes home” and all the ‘dads’ get cookies or Big Hunk bars.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Yeesh. All we do on Mother’s Day is sing one of the many Ave Marias. This year was Rachmaninoff.

    17. Fiennes*

      As a person who had a long, unsuccessful fertility struggle, I would’ve been deeply, deeply hurt by this. This is not kindness. It is insensitive.

    18. Bostonian*

      And I’m sure the stranger in the park who told me I was pretty didn’t mean to be sexist either, he was thinking he was being a nice guy, but still… I don’t want to be seen as an object. Thanks!

    19. ADeA*

      I had a co-worker wish my cube mate a Happy Mother’s Day (I was working on a project and not paying attention) but then say to me as an unwanted aside – “I’m not wishing you happy anything because you’re not a mother!” That was awful and embarrassing. This is an example of how this type of “nice” gesture can be also used to abuse someone who doesn’t fit the mold what they think a woman should be.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, Fergus is way out of line. He’s reducing/essentializing women to their wombs and implying that there’s only one role that women fulfill that’s worth celebration. Unless you’re a worker’s coop of doulas (and even then, it’s a stretch), this is really not an appropriate or thoughtful gesture on his part. If it’s hard to imagine the ick factor, pretend it’s Valentine’s Day and he only gave flowers to coworkers who are women. Possibly well-intentioned, but still sexist and icky, right?

    If he wants to honor his employees’ contributions, he can raise their salaries (and if that’s not possible, go to bat for them on bonuses), improve their opportunities for advancement, and generally advocate for their development. But flowers for Mother’s Day is not helpful.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                And you must be able to walk the red carpet within 12 hours in full fancy dress with high heels.

    1. Duncan*

      … or he thought he was doing a nice thing and just missed the mark. Not every action one finds offensive has an evil intent behind it and “reducing/essentializing women to their wombs” is probably not even a thought that crossed his mind. And as a woman, I don’t actually find it offensive at all – even on Valentine’s Day which is a bogus holiday in my eyes. I’ve been handed flowers on holidays at restaurants, etc., just because I’m a woman. If you are in any scenario where someone offers you a flower and you are offended, you can simply say, “No, thank you.”

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Being handed flowers at a restaurant is very different from being handed them at work.

      2. Alton*

        Do you think everyone would feel comfortable saying “no thank you” to their boss in a situation like this?

        A lot of people don’t like being treated differently based on their gender, sex, race, etc. Just because some people are okay with it doesn’t mean it’s smart or appropriate to assume.

      3. MLB*

        It wouldn’t offend me but it would annoy me. It’s inappropriate -at work- to give a gift to a group for the simple fact that they are women, for a holiday that celebrates procreation.

      4. Yorick*

        He may not have actively thought he was reducing women to their wombs, which only makes it scarier that he literally did so.

        He gave every woman in the office a mother’s day gift. The only reason to do that is because they are (presumably) physically capable of giving birth.

      5. Fiennes*

        I wouldn’t be offended. I’d be hurt. The last thing I want on mother’s day is to be reminded that after years of painful, expensive treatments, I was still unable to have a child. Turning down the flower doesn’t take the reminder away.

        This has no place in the office. Lots of gestures that are perfectly kind when done for close friends whose feelings you know aren’t work-appropriate, no least because you almost certainly don’t know your coworkers as well. Basic professionalism and manners dictate that you don’t do this.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        His obliviousness doesn’t negate that what he did was sexist. Seriously, are we going to argue that if you didn’t have actively sexist thoughts when you came up with a bad idea (that was well-intentioned) that somehow the sexist part of the behavior disappears?

        Whether you were offended or not is totally up to you. OP asked if it was inappropriate and sexist. Yes, it was inappropriate and sexist.

    2. BuffaLove*

      I do work somewhere where all the women are given a rose and (non-romantic) Valentine for Valentine’s Day. The same guy does it every year. He’s a very sweet person and really does mean well (and is not a manager, so that takes some of the ick out of the equation). It weirded me out a little at first, and I kind of hope it dies a natural death when he retires in the near future, but as a woman in engineering, it’s honestly not even on my radar as an offense worth pushing back on.

      1. Specialk9*

        Right, but is that manager your boss, who handed it over and said that even though you’re not a mother you’re still a very nice person, and then evaluate your suitability as a potential future mother? It’s not just the flowers!

    3. Bea*

      All the excuses popping up here is giving me hives. I had a “well meaning” man wish me a happy Mother’s Day this weekend and it was so bizarrely presumptuous I just rolled my eyes internally.

      Just because someone isn’t gross and obviously taking the piss on the cute little mamas out there working like the mens doesn’t mean they aren’t wrong.

      I just saw someone yesterday brush racism under the rug as “they’ve only ever seen POC on tv in bad light so ofc they’re scared of the unknown!”. This place tilted so hard randomly, it’s like the universe is swerving us.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        If someone is genuinely well-meaning, they’ll understand or at least consider a gentle correction or suggestion.

      2. CoveredInBees*

        Yes, intent vs. impact.

        You don’t get cookies because you “meant well” on something that was hurtful. It just makes you less of a jerk, especially when it was very easy to know better.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Totally agree that “meaning well” is not an excuse. It didn’t work for Hanukkah Balls, and it doesn’t work, here.

          It’s the whole idea that accusing someone of being sexist [or racist, or any -ist/-phobic] (which, btw I didn’t do—I focused on his behavior being sexist) is worse than the sexist behavior. It’s derailing and excusing and frustrating because it fails to deal with the underlying problems that inform sexist behavior.

    4. Mediamaven*

      I agree with all of these comments but I do want to argue one point. There are many women, my mother at the top, who expect and demand to be treated like an absolute queen on Mother’s Day. You know going into it that there is a certain expectation and if you don’t meet it there will be hell to pay. So, I do believe there has been decades of conditioning on men and women alike to recognize the day in this way. This perspective is more new and can be confusing to people who’ve been conditioned to think differently. So, let’s cut them a little slack.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Does she expect and demand that from her boss at work, though?

        1. Mediamaven*

          She’s retired, but likely she wouldn’t demand it but she’d probably be angry if she wasn’t acknowledged. She sure as heck wouldn’t be offended by by receiving a flower. But she’s also very traditional in her thinking. She believes men and women have different roles. Trust me, I don’t think my mom is reasonable in her thinking. I love her, but she has an extremely over inflated view of her contributions to my life so it’s challenging to buy her the gooey card she wants. That’s very off topic – my point is that education is good especially since we’re evolving in the way we view these things. But it’s possible Fergus had a mom like mine, who very much believes she is owed a flower on Mother’s Day so he’s making a kind if misguided gesture.

          1. Susana*

            Except that Fergus’s employees are not his mother, individually or collectively.

      2. Delphine*

        Let’s not. Cutting people slack doesn’t bring about change. Let’s instead recognize that pretending like Mother’s Day is actually Women’s Day is sexist and needs to stop.

        1. Mediamaven*

          I don’t think that’s what I said. It’s only very recently as we’re starting to evolve in our thinking that it’s being looked at that way. So when I say cut some people slack it’s because a lot of women enjoy this kind of doting and that’s what he is responding too. He made a gaffe.

      3. RW*

        My question is, how did the boss know who had children or not? Probably because these women talk about their children. I don’t have children, but at my last job almost everyone else did and there was not a day that went by that something about someone’s child or children was not brought up or mentioned. I’m not saying that it bothered me. I enjoyed my team and learning more about their lives outside of work. But my point is, if you don’t want anything about your non-work life brought up or acknowledged at work, then don’t talk about it. You don’t get to put something into the atmosphere then try to control how people react to it. It comes across to me like the boss was trying to acknowledge his employees as people and not just workers. Yes, there is a line in non-work related conversation and interaction. But most of us spend a lot of time with our co-workers at work. It is difficult not to get to know them at least a little bit as individuals.

      4. Mookie*

        if you don’t meet it there will be hell to pay.

        I’d love to know what that would entail in a professional setting. Your mother throws fits when her boss doesn’t crown her Queen Mom every year?

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Sadly, given the many bizarre letters we’ve had, I wouldn’t be surprised by such a person throwing fits at work because her boss didn’t “treat her like an absolute queen.”

          1. Mookie*

            Oh, for sure, but do we ever advocate altering our and other’s behavior to cater to unreasonable people’s expectations, particularly when the splash damage is so costly?

  3. LouiseM*

    OP#3, I can’t tell from your letter if working from home is A Thing people in your office do or not. The fact that your HR said you couldn’t be paid for it makes me think it isn’t. Even though it seems like a lot of commenters here do WFH a lot and feel it is unfair when companies don’t offer the option, it’s certainly not uncommon for offices not to have much or any paid WFH (barring an unusual circumstance, which “I needed to concentrate” is not). If my employee decided to WFH one day in an environment where that wasn’t standard, I wouldn’t be thrilled. Just my two cents.

    1. Alldogsarepupppies*

      I wonder in HR meant literally the time between leaving the office and getting home – like that hour commute?

    2. MK*

      What I found odd was that the OP simply decided to work from home for the rest of the day and left without clearing it with her boss. Unless there is a stated policy that one can do that, why would you just assume it’s ok?

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        This is what I thought as well. It seems like (and I might be mistaken) that she was getting annoyed with the environment and just packed up and left, missing out a couple of steps in between, such as talking to her boss. Maybe a conversation with her boss would have resolved the noisy coworkers, maybe it would have meant she could work from home, but it sounds like people have been left out of the loop here.

        1. Tardigrade*

          I strongly empathize with OP’s predicament, but I agree she needed to talk to her boss first.

      2. Luna*

        Yes, I thought this was weird too. And the only reason I can think of that HR would be involved is that someone – either OP’s manager or her office mates- must have complained to HR about OP leaving. It definitely should have been cleared by the boss first.

      3. mrs__peel*

        Yeah, I would have to agree with that.

        My office has many people who work remotely, but it’s considered a perk granted to people who have a proven record of getting their work done. Our managers have to agree to it first, and we have to sign remote worker agreements that spell out IT requirements, privacy issues, etc.

    3. Quickbeam*

      #3…this was just “a thing” at my office. We do not have WFH and a couple people just decided to do it, no manager approval. It did not go over well, couldn’t locate staff etc. Learning to concentrate in an open office is a challenge but doesn’t excuse just up and leaving for home.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah my company is very opposed to any form of WFH. They claim they don’t have the tech setup to provide security (?) but really they just don’t like it. So anybody who unilaterally decided they could do it would absolutely be told that was vacation time.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          And actually what people here do, is take “sick leave” in order to work from home. To be fair, we do get a lot of sick leave.

          1. MLB*

            But that really isn’t “fair” to force people to take sick leave for working from home. If your company doesn’t allow it, then you can’t do it. If I’m taking PTO or sick leave, I’m not working AT ALL.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              I’m not saying it’s right, but nobody makes anybody do this. The official company line is no work from home at all. Employees just want this perk.

        2. Kay*

          A lot of workplaces I’ve been at have health & safety concerns about WFH. Technically in Australia an employer is responsible for their employee’s safety if they’re injured from WFH, and some workplaces want their own HR to go out and review the work space to make sure they are in line with the requirements and that can be a big undertaking if the company is worried

    4. LBK*

      I’m kinda curious how it’s even possible to work from home in a place where you’re not supposed to, how do you have access to your network without a VPN? I assume they wouldn’t set one up if you’re not ever meant to use it, unless it’s only meant for emergencies like snow days? And if you’re not using a VPN that just sounds like a security trainwreck.

      1. Sarah*

        Our company only uses laptops and you just need your security codes, so you can use them at any office.

        1. LBK*

          Typically company networks are secure/recognize your computer, it’s when you’re outside the office that you should need a VPN to connect.

          1. Sunflower*

            My company has a few different security measures. There are a few things you absolutely must have VPN to access but things like email and other systems are accessible through Okta.

            I have VPN set up on my computer because I travel frequently and work offsite at events. For most people in my position, WFH is granted on rare occasions or in emergencies.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        I work from home, but my company has dropped the ball on getting me a laptop. (I just started the wfh part of it, previously it wasn’t officially allowed, although people at a high level would do it on nights/weekends for emergencies.) I had a borrowed laptop which I then had to give back. Since all I was doing was in Excel spreadsheets, I didn’t really need the company network, except to access the shared drives to get the spreadsheet. I sent those to myself and worked on them from home.

        OP says she’s reviewing detailed reports – maybe she doesn’t need company resources to do that, just the documents themselves. For that, she wouldn’t need a VPN or even access.

      3. Tuxedo Cat*

        It depends on the line of work and the file storage situation. I can log into Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. anywhere in the world. These have been the file storage systems of choice. Granted, this is academia but still. When I had a university-issued laptop that I needed to use for specific things, I could still access things remotely. The nature of my work then involved travel so I needed remote access. We still weren’t supposed to WFH unless the weather was awful.

        In the OP’s case, it’s possible that she printed out the documents too.

        1. LBK*

          I guess this depends a lot on your line of work – we are absolutely under no circumstances to ever upload anything to Dropbox or Google Drive.

          1. PizzaSquared*

            Lots, and lots of companies these days (I’d wager most tech companies founded in the last several years, at least) use Google Apps as their primary software, including Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, etc. I haven’t worked anywhere in 10+ years that required VPN for any of my work. Obviously this is far from universal, but it’s not terribly uncommon either. I would agree, you definitely shouldn’t be going off and creating your own personal Dropbox or Google accounts and using those for work documents, though!

        2. Kimberlee, no longer Esq*

          Yeah, I worked at a fairly prominent media company and everything was on the cloud, via Google Drive or Dropbox. There are certainly some jobs that require higher levels of security than that, but I don’t think that’s by any means the default.

      4. Yorick*

        I don’t have VPN set up but I often work from home when I’m writing reports and all I need is a Word file. I also like to work from home when I’m doing things like reading, doing journal reviews, or correcting page proofs.

      5. CoveredInBees*

        It really depends on where everything is stored. The documents could be on the laptop with analysis also written to the hard drive as well with email access via a browser-based portal. I used to do this all the time because the VPN my employer used was incredibly slow and the display only showed on part of my laptop. This was cleared by my employer, btw.

      6. Thegs*

        Where I work we offer virtual desktop infrastructure so users can navigate to our VMware portal in a web browser and log in to a VM on the network (there’s software you can use too, but using the web browser doesn’t require installing anything new on your computer). From a sysadmin perspective this is better than a VPN because it’s easier to use for end user and easier to administer because everything is built on-demand from a single VM. The performance isn’t great because you’re essentially running a remote desktop session in a web browser, but if all you’re doing is analyzing technical documents like LW was, it is more than enough.

        I’m kind of rambling but what I’m getting at is that there are other options to securely allow remote access to your corporate network without a VPN.

      7. PizzaSquared*

        Look at the stats for how many companies are using Google Apps, Office 365, Box, and Dropbox Business. The numbers are HUGE. None of those companies’ employees would need VPN to access their email or documents. Obviously there are industries that can’t (or, more often just think they can’t) use cloud services due to security restrictions, but I’d argue that these are the exception rather than the rule. In reality, for most companies, letting Google or Microsoft run their servers is likely to increase security rather than decrease it (I say this as someone who had a past career in IT security and saw how even the largest companies run their infrastructure)…

      8. Just J*

        Most of our company travels a lot for work. We ditched servers and moved everything to the cloud. We now can quiet truly work from anywhere. It’s way better than a VPN. (But the assumption is now that the company has enabled us to all work remotely, we should all be working whenever we are remote).

        BTW, our IT crew says that hackers make dozens of attempts per day to break our fire walls. So, yes, a whole new level of IT (and beyond my wheelhouse to understand or explain) to be cloud based.

    5. Jessie the First (or second)*

      So I definitely agree that if HR says to use PTO, then it seems working from home is simply not allowed.

      However, the way to handle this from an HR standpoint is to *not require that she use her PTO* this time and explain that next time she is not in the office, she will be charged PTO unless she has explicit approval from her boss to work from home ahead of time.

      Of course, since it isn’t HR writing in to ask the question, that’s not helpful advice to the OP. But for the OP, it’s helpful to understand that in many and likely most offices, you do actually have to get permission to work from home – you can’t just up and leave without clearing it with anyone. Doesn’t matter that OP sincerely believed she would work better from home that day. That’s something she needed to discuss with her manager.

    6. KAG*

      OP3, I’m totally with you.

      I actually used all my PTO (10 days, including sick days) up working from home (16 hour days – I’m very productive at home) because of an anxiety disorder that the company wouldn’t work with me to accommodate.

      Yet I was the only person always available 24/7 and reliably productive (when not forced to be in the office) – and the only person not affected by the network crash that left the rest of.the office without fumctioning access to their files for almost a week. This did not go unnoticed, but as it was just not done there, I was chastised for “bringing down morale”.

      There were, of course, many other problems with that place (which actually make better stories), like the security cameras, the nasty email I got from the CEO a few hours after my father died, and the whole ADA debacle (to name a few), so I resigned. Barely escaped with my health.

      What I learned: in the future, WFH is something I definitely need to screen for, as well as for companies with “butts-in-chairs” mentality. For the time being, I’m going to try to make a go of working for myself.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, this is awful on every level. I cannot even imagine what you, the victim’s family, or anyone else connected to this is going through right now. My jaw has become intimately familiar with the floor.

    If you had been aware of your employee’s drug use or propensity for murder (!) and had done nothing, then a demotion would be the very least your employer could/should do. In this case, however, it sounds like you were a complete bystander with no knowledge or warning that your employee was capable of this, and also with no responsibility or control over hiring this person.

    I’m hoping your company fired your report (and if they did not, that is a whole separate bucket of WTFness). But as Alison notes, they’re essentially scapegoating you so they can say they “did something,” whether or not the “doing somethingness: is effective, fair, or relevant.

    It’s not right, and the fact that they’re telling you not to fight it suggests that they’re not going to do right by you. I would hire a plaintiff-side employment law attorney to help navigate your exit while also actively job searching. I am truly so sorry.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Agree with the above, completely.

      I do wonder if there’s any legal recourse here. I know it might seem a bit heartless to do it if the victim’s family catches wind of it but your company is handling this very badly. Talk to a lawyer, see what your options are, and if you’re unionised, go there as well. In the meantime, start looking for another job.

      1. SuperAnon*

        I wondered the same, does this go as far as creating a hostile work environment? Or at least trying to fire LW by proxy?

        1. fposte*

          “Hostile work environment” means something very different in law, not just a work environment that is hostile. This would have to be happening to the OP for a reason forbidden by law–for her race or religion, for instance. Being the boss of a criminal isn’t a protected class.

            1. fposte*

              I suspect it’s an uphill climb for that as well, at least from a court-case standpoint; UI would be easier. But I also think that that’s part of a conversation about a negotiated severance, which is really why the OP should go to a lawyer, not because a lawsuit is a good plan.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Likely not. A hostile work environment has a very specific meaning and applies to specific forms of statutory employment discrimination. OP doesn’t appear to fall into those buckets; this looks like standard at-will employment, to me. It’s not right, but it may be legal.

          But this is why I think OP should consult a lawyer—not to sue, but to negotiate an appropriate severance and an agreement on OP’s reference from this employer.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        How is it heartless to the victim’s family? The LW had absolutely no part to play in what happened and doesn’t deserve to have her career ruined over it.

        1. Yorick*

          It isn’t heartless to the victim’s family, but it could seem that way to them. They may not know that OP has nothing to do with this and feel that OP is fighting a rightful demotion for their role in the family member’s death.

          I don’t think that changes the fact that OP should push back if it still makes sense to do that (it sounds like OP already tried and was told it was final).

          1. Alton*

            On the other hand, the victim’s family might not appreciate innocent people to be punished as a result of what happened to their loved one. It’s hard to know how people who are grieving and dealing with a terrible crime are going to feel.

            But since this is an employment law issue, I don’t see how the victim’s family would even be exposed to it unless it resulted in a big lawsuit that was covered in the press, and even then, that’s probably secondary to the criminal trial that’s happening.

            1. Samiratou*

              Yeah, if I was a family member and thought about the company at all, I’d be kind of pissed that the company would choose to scapegoat and innocent bystander for appearance’s sake. I don’t know what happened, but I don’t think I’d fault the company for the actions of an employee, in this case, unless there was a history of him doing drugs or other bad behavior at this conference (or others) and the company still sent him.

              1. I See Real People*

                It makes me wonder if the company might be somehow shifting the blame or getting ready to shift it onto the OP. A just-in-case strategy if they get sued by the family.

          2. AKchic*

            As a manager, LW could have testified for the victim’s family, potentially. Now that LW has been demoted and made to be the scapegoat, LW is an unreliable witness at best? I dunno, thats the best I’ve got for the victim’s family.

            In all honesty, I agree that the LW needs to be working with an employment attorney to see if there is some way to fight this, even low-key. This kind of demotion is career derailing.

      3. Antilles*

        I do wonder if there’s any legal recourse here.
        Assuming OP’s job was the standard US job (no union, typical at-will provisions, no real contract), probably not. They can basically demote or fire you for any reason whatsoever unless it’s specifically illegal…and odds are, the employee handbook and employment agreement explicitly say that. So no, there’s likely no legal recourse.
        That said, PCBH is absolutely right about consulting an employment attorney to negotiate the exit. Given how the company is trying to scapegoat OP, it’s absolutely worth bringing an employment attorney in to get a clear understanding (in writing!) as to what the company will say when future employers call for an employment verification/reference check, to keep them from denying her severance/unemployment benefits, and so on.

        1. Anonymoose*

          Agreed. We already see how concerned they are about their public image (eyeroll), so it may not be too difficult to negotiate severance after the fact to keep this little issue ‘quiet’.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I was really surprised that Alison’s answer did not include consulting with an employment attorney so I came to the comments specifically to see if any of the AAM lawyers weighed in on that.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think the tough part is that there likely isn’t a legal hook for a lawsuit. But, lawyers can be helpful for negotiating the exit process (benefits, severance, content of the reference, ensuring OP isn’t defamed), and I think OP should look for a lawyer who is capable of assisting for those kinds of negotiations.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          That makes perfect sense. My gut reaction was that OP needs *someone* in her corner who has her best interests as their priority.

        2. Markethill*

          This really depends on jurisdiction. I studied and practiced law in Canada, and this letter had big ol’ lights flashing “CONSTRUCTIVE DISMISSAL” to me. A consult with local employment lawyer is well worth the time, especially if the LW is based outside the US.

    3. a1*

      I understand and agree with this feeling unfair especially since it looks like the people with him weren’t also demoted or anything, “for appearances sake”.

    4. Wolfram alpha*

      Legally the only recourse I can think of is that there may be a state law guiding how demotions work but that is it. Where I live pay can’t be cut without 30 days written notice.

      IMO OP is better off getting good references in order. Trying to get some breathing room on the pay cut. And finding another job.

  5. neverjaunty*

    OP #2, this is horrible and makes me wonder exactly what’s really going on in your company that they would demote you – and only you, not other mangers who were present at the event – despite the fact that you plainly had nothing to do with this employee’s actions. These people are awful and you should get out ASAP.

    1. LouiseM*

      I hope they wouldn’t demote the other managers either. Unless they actively aided and abetted the murderer, which is a crime itself, I don’t think anyone should face work consequences for this.

      1. Snark*

        I agree that nobody deserved to be demoted for this, but OP is especially removed from the situation – to the point that I also suspect OP is being used as a whipping boy. Under the bizarro non-logic of this company’s actions, it would tend to follow that if OP is responsible for the after-hours and unknown actions of their subordinate, a manager actually present at the conference would bear some too.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Exactly. It isn’t that they should have fired someone else (absent actual culpability) but there was no reason to fire the OP – which they openly admitted!

        2. Lil Fidget*

          I can only assume that they would say OP is this person’s manager, and “should have known” the kind of character / issues they would have being sent to a remote conference. It’s still pretty nuts, but that’s my guess.

      2. Anonymoose*

        I’m really confused with why it’s a murder charge. wouldn’t it be manslater if he’s inebriated and doesn’t have a relationship with the victim?

        1. Blah*

          If the suspect intentionally killed someone, inebriation wouldn’t even be taken into account when deciding how to charge them. It’s also pretty common to start off by charging with the worst offense possible, even if a lesser offense like manslaughter is really more applicable, in order to either intimidate the defendant into a plea or see what stands after the opening phases of the court process. It could very well be that this starts out as a murder charge and ends a manslaughter conviction.

    2. Sherm*

      I’m guessing that OP#2 was politically the “safest” to throw under the bus. The managers at the event are perhaps more entrenched in the company/have more friends in high places. Please be kind to yourself, OP. This would be upsetting for anybody, and I’m sorry the company decided to punish you instead of support you. Hope you get out of there soon.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Rather than trying to fight the demotion, honestly I wonder if it may be better for OP to negotiate a layoff with severance.
        I also have to wonder how the company is handling this otherwise. Do they have an EAP and are they offering counseling to the OP and her team? Finding out your co-worker killed somebody would be unsettling for anyone.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Agree, OP, if you can job search aggressively do you think you’d be able to get a position better than the newly reduced one you have now? If you think so, I might also try to negotiate a good severance and leave.

      2. Luna*

        Yeah the only advice I have is to get out ASAP. There is nothing good or salvageable about this situation.

      3. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        Agree that something doesn’t smell right at all about the company’s response. Maybe I’m overly paranoid, but I’d be seriously wondering what may or may not have been known about this employee prior to the incident and whether any other colleagues on the trip partook of illegal substances. OP, I’m so sorry you’re in this position. I would document everything related to the demotion (including the facts that you hadn’t hired the person, weren’t at the conference, and had never seen him impaired) and their subsequent demand that you “stop trying to fight it.”

        1. Pollygrammer*

          Seconded–I think it’s highly likely they’re not trying to protect the company, they’re trying to protect a few specific employees who were involved in something they shouldn’t have been related to this.

      4. Rachel01*

        I’m wondering if they wanted to fire OP and are using the events as an excuse. It could be as little as someone in upper management and/or HR doesn’t like him. Are there laws in OP’s state (which is) that covers demotions and decrease in salary?

    3. SaraV*

      I’m curious to know if the company would still demote LW #2 if this happened in their report’s hometown while off-hours and not on a business trip out-of-town.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        A work trip is different than a regular incident because you’re travelling on the company dime and representing the company in some capacity. Ideally employees will be on their best behavior on these kinds of trips. The tragedy that happened in this case would be terrible even if it happened on a random Tuesday night, but the company would not have been linked to it in any way.

        This doesn’t excuse the company’s behavior to OP here, especially because OP wasn’t even in the same city when it happened, but punishing other managers that were actually on the trip would make at least more sense.

    4. Beatrice*

      It also makes me wonder what *other* problems they’re coming up with superficial, poorly thought out, pointless solutions for.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. OP you have a company here with little to no ethics, hence any ol’ solution is good enough for them. Superficial solution that makes sense to outsiders who do not know the lay of the land? Great! Let’s go with it.
        Actual solution that addresses the problem? Na, that’s a lotta work, why would we do that?

        Moving away from these people is your best bet, I think you know that. I like what others have suggested about finding a good employment lawyer. I would aim high and aim for getting the company to pay that lawyer’s bill on top of everything else. If you reported how, you, the person who had the LEAST ability to prevent tragedy in this story, was the one who got demoted, that would make really bad publicity for this company.
        Heck, I want to know who they are so I don’t accidentally do business with these people.
        I agree with others who suggested that buddies are protecting buddies in this case. Since you did not have a buddy to protect you, you became a scapegoat. I have worked for places where you needed someone protecting you, long story short, the answer is to leave.

    5. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      Agreed. This is a cit and run situation. Get a lawyer who can negotiate an exit for you and get out as soon as possible. This company is awful.

      I feel so terribly for you OP2. I can’t even imagine. I am so sorry.

  6. LouiseM*

    OP#1, I think this was icky. Now I’m trying to think aloud about whether or not I’d say anything to Fergus, since you say he is a nice guy and he might take the message as it’s intended. Truthfully, I deal with sexism in almost every interaction I have with a man so I’m often out of spoons to deal with “benign” sexism when it comes up. Like, I’ve already tried unsuccessfully to hide from my bizarrely aggressive coworker who scares me every day when he tries to pick a fight with *someone* about a totally banal workplace issue, and dodged the “witty” but actually-just-rude dude who thinks he’s smarter than me because he uses three SAT words in every sentence, and it’s only noon! It’s so exhausting, so dealing with things like this falls by the wayside. If that’s not the case for you, maybe you should have a chat.

    1. Wibbets*

      I don’t think OP should say anything. The people who should be talking to Fergus are the multiple employees who were actually offended by it, so they can explain to him what the problems are–and they’re choosing to complain about it to each other, probably because they know Fergus will just take offense. Also, OP risks dry snitching on her co-workers by telling Fergus how his gifts were viewed. There are certainly times when it’s worth it to take a stand for people who can’t or won’t assert themselves, but this just isn’t one of them. YMMV.

      1. Beatrice*

        Yep. Validate their feelings, and encourage them to speak up for themselves. Don’t speak for them.

  7. RAM*

    OP #1, is Fergus potentially from a different country and equating Mothers Day with International Women’s Day? In many other countries it can be quite common to give out flowers to female coworkers on March 8th, and he might be assuming Mother’s Day is the equivalent American holiday.

    1. LouiseM*

      I was thinking something similar. But actually, I think it’s more common for Americans to equate IWD with Mother’s day than the other way round.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      This seems like a leap. “Mother” is in the name, and America “celebrated” international women’s day on March 8th.

      More likely, unconscious sexism and it is icky. All women = Mother’s lead to sexist assumptions that women naturally fill care taking roles and do the heavy emotional labor in the office.

      1. SignalLost*

        I do not disagree in the slightest that it’s icky, sexist, and gendered. My only comment is that, whatever he thought he was celebrating (and IWD seems a biiiiiiiiig stretch, since he mentioned OP wasn’t a mom) it’s very common for all women in a group to be celebrated at Mother’s Day – my mother and sister are sometimes given flowers at restaurants on that day, and so am I despite not being a mother. There’s a risk of offending mothers who do not have children present if you don’t give all women in a group flowers. It’s got to be equal to the risk of offending women by assuming we all want to be mothers. I don’t see that as the gross part, personally, but again, it’s pretty common in my experience that Mother’s Day bleeds over to all women.

        1. Willis*

          Agree. I often get a flower or well-wishes on Mother’s Day although there’s nothing about me or what I’m doing at the time that would suggest I have kids, other than being a lady in her 30s. It doesn’t particularly bother me, but does get an internal eyeroll, especially when people persist with it even if I tell them I don’t have kids.

          The manager’s flowers are weird, unnecessary, and obviously gendered. They don’t appear to have struck a chord with the OP (which is fine) but I can totally see how other women would think it’s icky. And how it would be potentially hurtful for women in a variety of circumstances.

        2. Student*

          Inherent in “Mother’s Day bleeds over to all women” are two very lousy assumptions:

          (1) All women aspire to motherhood.
          (2) Women can’t deal with other people’s achievements being recognized like reasonable adults.

          Not all of us want to be mothers. Not all of us can be mothers.

          We are adults. We should be treated as such. Women who aren’t mothers can sit through this, just like they sit through father’s day, other people’s birthdays, and various other holidays, with reasonable responses. If you can’t sit through a celebration of somebody else, then you deserve to get called out on it and told to chill out – not extra rewards for being a champion whiner – no matter your gender.

          If you can’t name all of someone’s kids, their approximate ages, and relate at least one funny anecdote about each of them, then you aren’t close enough to that person to celebrate her role as a mother with gifts.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      I do live in a country where people celebrate International Women’s Day by giving flowers to the women in their lives, and it’s still inappropriate to give women flowers in the workplace then.

      1. Jen RO*

        I’m also in a country that celebrates IWD and each year we receive flowers from our male coworkers without it being seen as weird.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I lived in a country that celebrated IWD for the first 29 years of my life, and it was treated like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s day and probably a few more major holidays wrapped at one. Every woman at work got flowers. There were parties in the office during work hours. There were parties after work.

          This was also in the same country where my boss changed jobs and tried to bring me in to work for him, and the CEO said “no, we don’t hire women, company policy”.

          Bottom line, it was an extremely sexist society and the original meaning of IWD had been stripped from the holiday completely. Also, it was way back in the last century. I don’t know what things are like there now.

      2. Emi.*

        “So, uh, sorry about all the times my people assaulted and murdered your people, oh and the primogeniture thing, and the voting thing, and all the other things, but here’s a carnation. Do you like carnations? They’re the cheapest.”

        1. mrs__peel*

          ” I got you this at the gas station to honor your accomplishment of having a uterus”.

    4. Close Bracket*

      Frankly, that sounds even weirder and less appropriate. Giving a flower, which is typically a gesture you make to someone with whom you have a close bond, to a woman for existing while female on a day meant to highlight inequity is diminishing. I mean, thanks, but how about a pay raise or a promotion?

      1. Lil Fidget*

        +1 completely agree. Flowers are such a gendered gift, I don’t ever want to be singled out on my (all male) team and provided a “you are a woman” token – especially not by male coworkers. Ugh.

    5. neverjaunty*

      C’mon. The holidays are two months apart and the OP made it clear in her letter (including through the reference Fergus made to her potential motherhood) that this was about Mother’s Day.

      1. LBK*

        Seriously, this is stretch so far to try to justify something that’s very easy to explain. And to what end?

    6. Rez123*

      According to internet Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Laos, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Uzbekistan celebrate mothers day on International Women’s day. While Fergus was completely innapropriate culture could play a factor in case he is closely connected to on of those above mentioned countries.

      That being said. Fergus was completely out of line. If it was IWD the flowers would have been innapropriate but mothers day with his comments it was a actually offensive.

  8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, unfortunately places that seem keen on extending an internship offer can be slow to follow up, especially if they’ve gone with another candidate (at this point, they’ve likely gone with other candidates). Alison is right that it’s time to refocus your efforts.

    And they can be terrible about notifying you that you’re rejected. I was once rejected from an internship 2 years after I applied by some mass-email that the application software sent when HR finally purged old/lingering applications that had never been closed out.

    1. notanon*

      If it is anything like my workplace, the intern OP interviewed with and texts may be dropping the ball entirely. If OP is truly interested and has another contact person outside of the texting intern, politely reaching out to the alternate person once to follow up since you haven’t heard back from the intern in the timeframe texting intern originally mentioned wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    2. grace*

      They’re awful about it. Searching for internships was 10x worse than searching for a job — mostly because at least with jobs, I usually heard back, even if it was just a form email. With internships, it was always just a shot in the dark, and it can be SO hard not to feel like you’ve done something wrong even though the fault is entirely on their side.

      Good luck with the hunt!

  9. Sami*

    OP#2: What an awful situation. It’s so odd that you were demoted and nothing happened to the managers who were on the trip. But that’s just the tip of the awfulness.
    Alison is right – time to move on. Good luck!

  10. Espeon*

    OP2: For me, this would be a ‘Go fuck yourselves’ quit without notice situation. It’s a matter of integrity, and you’re working for a bunch of twats who have none. Good Luck.

    1. What Is This Nonsense?*

      Seriously, it’s just a race to the bottom from here, and the longer you stay, the more awful they’re likely to be. I’m sorry you’re stuck in this terrible situation, and I hope you can get out of there ASAP.

    2. Wintermute*

      Even better, talk to an employment lawyer first, depending on the size of the pay cut and the degree of changes in employment conditions, there is a chance that this legally might be a case of “you’re fired as a manager, but here’s a job offer for another position)” and in that case you might be able to turn down the demotion “offer” and quit, and still receive unemployment. It’s highly fact-dependent and just how easy it is depends on the state you’re in, but it’s a possibility!

    3. Massmatt*

      Espion, you have a way with words.

      I would also consult an employment lawyer. If that comes to naught I would go nuclear with your story—talk to the media, write it up on Glassdoor, etc! This is terrible behavior by your company.

      Goof luck, OP!

      1. Kir Royale*

        No, dont go to the media. A person has died, a family is grieving, if you put yourself out there saying its not my fault it will end up going against you

        1. Susie Q*

          Just because someone died, doesn’t mean that OP just has to accept whatever BS her company doles out.
          If my family member was killed I would be pissed that a company acted this way. The only person to blame in this entire situation is the employee that killed the person.

          1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

            No, OP doesn’t have to and shouldn’t accept it, but “go to the media” isn’t necessarily good advice, either. Stories can take off in ways that are not always predictable or helpful and the narrative is out of your hands at that point.

          2. Temperance*

            I don’t think you would be “pissed” about this employment action, because, hey, your relative is still dead. It might suck for LW to be unjustly demoted, but at least she’s alive to have a job.

            You can’t know how you’ll think until this happens to you, and I hope it never does.

          3. paul*

            Playing the media is tricky and can backfire if you’re not careful. Don’t assume “go the media” automatically works, even if you’re being screwed.

        2. Lynca*

          As someone who has had a family member die in a workplace accident, I would have been pissed if they demoted or fired people not directly involved in the incident. That isn’t sending a message that they understand what caused the problem and are taking concrete steps so it doesn’t happen again. It’s saying they don’t want to deal with the problem and likely have further ones. It’s insulting.

          I can see being wary of going to the media. That’s not something I’d do without advice from a lawyer. But there is a broad range of options before even getting to that point. Glassdoor review? Perfectly acceptable. Physically telling other managers this is what you can expect? Also fine.

        3. Snark*

          I’ve known folks with family members who died violently. Whether or not their loved one’s murderer’s boss was being demoted, or fighting that demotion, would have been about 9,672 on their list of things to care about.

          1. Kittymommy*

            This. While objectively (and with more time) this would register and I would definitely think it’s unfair, if my loved one just died, I wouldn’t give a crap. And I cannot imagine it playing well if one went to the media.

          2. Wannabe Disney Princess*


            I’ve had a family member murdered. I wouldn’t have given a crap about what happened to his boss. I only cared about the trial outcome and him going to prison. (Which he did.)

      2. Lil Fidget*

        I’m so surprised people think there’s a legal option here. I think you can be fired for any reason in the US unless it’s based on a protected class. They can fire you because they work up one day and decided you’re too ugly for the job. Surely “manager of a murderer” is not protected. (I do agree OP will probably want to quit, and maybe can try for some guilt-severance).

        1. Kyrielle*

          I think involving a lawyer is wise, but I don’t think there’s a legal claim against the employer. What there might be are a series of steps that lets OP get unemployment, or a situation where negotiating with help from a lawyer will preserve a neutral reference, or that sort of thing. Unless the OP is in Montana (and maybe not then; I don’t know the ins and outs of their law, just that they’re different), there’s no case directly against the employer. (But trying it could be expensive, annoying, and bad publicity for the company, which is why negotiating a neutral reference or maybe even a guilt severance might be possible.)

          The lawyer may well evaluate the details and tell the OP they’re out of luck on all fronts too, but they’d be better able to evaluate the individual situation and any local laws that might apply.

        2. Judy (since 2010)*

          The only way I could see that it would be a case would be if there had been another circumstance where this happened at the company, and the company didn’t respond in the same way while the other person wasn’t in a protected class and OP was.

          For example, if there had been a similar instance where the manager was a white male, and OP is a woman, that could make it an illegal move. The question would be if there are other circumstances similar to this at that company.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Well, every single body is in a protected class, so I assume you mean was a different gender/race/nationality etc than OP. Even then, simply being different isn’t much of a basis for any kind of legal action – especially as it’d be really, really bizarre if there was another similar incident at the company (a wholly separate work conference with a wholly separate set of employees in which one employee murdered someone after the conference hours while high? – that’s a really specific set of facts to happen twice!)

            The advice to go to employment counsel isn’t because there is a basis for litigation, but because a lawyer may be able to help frame a claim for unemployment for OP, and/or help negotiate severance and a decent reference for OP.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            I wonder if the other managers who were actually at the event are men and OP is a woman, or they’re white and OP is a person of color, or some such. That might look suspicious.

          1. New Commenter*

            Could that be a case for a civil suit, though – arguing that a demotion in this case infers blame upon that OP for the incident, which will unfairly disadvantage them in future endeavours, even though they had no part in it.

            The point being made that at some point a person will do something so stupid that it cannot be blamed on anyone but themselves. Especially with this case

    4. Akcipitrokulo*

      With, I suspect, more rights than OP, I’d be looking at legal action… but failing that, I’m out of there.

      Which may be what they intended. Not just being able to say “manager has been demoted” but “manager no longer works with us”.


    5. Discordia Angel Jones*


      Yes, OP2, please lawyer up and quit.

      It’s an awful situation to be in but was in no way your fault and has nothing to do with your performance in your role (unless there were signs which you missed, as Alison said, and even then it is a stretch) and therefore, they have no concrete reason to demote you.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        I’m guessing there were signs that someone should have missed and the company knows it–and also knows it wasn’t OP.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Well, when you put it this way… I have to agree 100%. Thank you for putting so well into words what I was only able to feel as a wordless rage at these people.

  11. Junior Dev*

    Ugh #3 I currently have a situation where the actual area of people’s desks is full of social conversations and a lot of people go to the lunch room when they want some quiet to get work done. It’s totally backwards, and frustrating to me since I have ergonomic equipment I need to use. No advice but you have my sympathies for this annoying situation.

    1. Massmatt*

      Why are people doing work (like the OP) having to move to the cafeteria or oput on headphones or USE VACATION TIME to make way for people to chat and socialize in the office?

      It sounds to me as though these people haven’t got enough work to do! Where are their managers? It’s bad enough they waste their own time while at work but they are keeping others from working also.

      Consider complaining to the manage, oddly absent from the letter or the response.

      1. Daisy Steiner*

        I think that’s true, but in a way the fact that these are social conversations is beside the point – I can find it just as distracting when people are loudly discussing work matters near my desk. OP needs a way to be able to get her work done, free of distraction in whatever form

        1. Tardigrade*

          I think Massmatt’s point (or maybe just my forthcoming one) is work, not conversation, should take priority. Even if that conversation is about work, it needs to take place without disturbing others who are working. The burden should be on them to make other accommodations rather than the misplaced expectation that people who need to work at work should use headphones or leave their workspaces.

          1. MLB*

            I think you’re both right. It’s my job to not disturb others while they’re working, but it’s also my job to find a way to focus when there is noise happening around me. In a large office environment, there will never be complete silence and different people require different things to focus – it’s your own responsibility to figure out what works for you, and if it’s out of control, you need to address it…multiple times if needed.

          2. Lora*

            Key word there is SHOULD – it SHOULD be but depending on the office culture it may not be.

            The vast majority of open plan offices I’ve been in, the only area where people used their indoor voices was right around the executives’ office doors. Which made it all that more aggravating – because clearly You Noisy Fkers are 100% capable of using indoor voices, you just deliberately CHOSE to be a pain in the rear to everyone you possibly can be if you think you won’t get yelled at / fired.

            I have yet to see an executive wander out of their office to scream at full volume, ALL OF YOU SHUT UP AND GET BACK TO WORK, no matter how richly deserved it was.

    2. Lora*

      Yeah, that’s how it was at LastJob. I could hide in the lab or hide in a break room in a whole other building. Getting work done at my desk wasn’t happening – even with headphones people thought it was cute to try to break my focus. Then they’d piss and moan about having to work loooooong hours to get their stuff done. They never did any fking work during normal hours, all they did was run about socializing and pestering other people, is why!

    3. The Original K.*

      I used to book a conference room for a few hours at my old job when I needed quiet. I sat near a group of VERY loud, chatty people (they were fairly regularly reprimanded for being too loud) and that was sometimes the only way to get anything done. There were smaller rooms that were intended to hold 4 people and I would use one of them. It was annoying but necessary.

    4. Sarah*

      While you shouldn’t have to, before I worked from home I had the naturally loudest co-workers in the world in our cube circle I had Darth Vader that you could hear breathing 3 seats away, Giggles who thought everything email or noise was hilarious, Mr. Personable who knew everyone that walked by and had to say something to each of them every time, and cruncher who could make crunching noises eating pudding. Then my wonderful husband got tired of my complaining and bought me the Boise noise cancelling over the ear headphones, and it was a game changer. No lie they have been the best investment I(we) have ever made. Seriously if I went back in the office tomorrow, tonight I would drop the $250 on these again.

    5. LBK*

      FWIW, socializing doesn’t preclude work. I had a job where my team as a whole spent the first couple hours of the day going through paperwork, which was a low-focus task so we’d often chat while we worked on it.

    6. Happy Lurker*

      It seems like there is some history to this story. Something like, OP has repeatedly asked or complained about coworkers nosiness and was on a time constraint with the project, etc. So, OP left to get the work done. Not perfect, clearly if HR is involved.
      OP get some feedback from your manager about how to handle it next time. Maybe get your desk moved, or find a quiet place you can hide to get your work done.
      Please update us and I wish you well with your chatty coworkers.

  12. Middle School Teacher*

    My reaction in the transition from #1 to #2: “ok, Fergus is icky and NOOOOOOOO WTF!!!” That was NOT what I expected when I saw “I was demoted because my employee did something horrible”. I was thinking like, accidentally sent the boss to Italy instead of Florida horrible, not murder.

    OP 2, your company is a train wreck. Get out.

    1. Myrin*

      You put this into words much better than I ever could. Reading today, I went from :| to O_____O!!!

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        Your emoticons are perfect.

        OP2, please update! We’re all pulling for you

    2. Lily*

      yeah, I supposed it was somewhere between “employee called the CEO names”, “employee threw a desk at someone” or maybe “employee sexually harassed a client”. You know, something that *happened at work* because that’s the only thing how that reaction would have remotely made sense.

  13. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP #2: This is absolutely horrific and makes no sense. The only thing I can think of is that they were looking for an excuse to demote you/push you out of the company anyway, and this is what they used. Document everything you can to protect yourself and see what a lawyer has to say. I hope you can find a better job soon. Wishing you the best.

  14. Caledonia*

    OP3 – Is it possible to move somewhere else? Alternatively/as well as, I would have a frank conversation with the co-worker who was chatting and give an explanation. It’s also quite unreasonable for your co-worker to never talk – but an hr long conversation unless at lunch, is too much.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, I agree with talking with the co-worker or being pretty explicit with the manager that the reason OP can’t concentrate is not just “noise” but these people having long conversations. It doesn’t sound like a one-time problem, so getting this PTO time back seems like a smaller issue in comparison to often not being able to concentrate at her desk. A different space for the OP or the co-workers taking longer conversations to a breakroom seem like decent longer-term solutions than heading home every time they want to chat.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Agree, if I was OP’s manager and the company had no work from home policy, I’d be irked that OP wasn’t either a) more assertive that the talkers need to stop. This isn’t rocket science, I’ve done it at work and no, I didn’t make friends that day but they took their chat elsewhere, or b) moved themselves to a quieter space in the office or got headphones.

    2. LilyP*

      Yeah, for what it’s worth I think you should have said something in the moment after they moved (and going forward if it happens again). “Hey, I appreciate you guys working with me on this, but unfortunately I can still hear you loud and clear from there and it’s really distracting still. Would you mind taking it to the kitchen/on a coffee run for a while so I can get this report done?” Not confrontational or angry just politely asking for what you need to do you work. If they react badly or you don’t feel comfortable saying something like that or the conversations are too frequent for that to be reasonable, you should ask your boss for advice and they can help you figure out the right next steps (different seating, talking to your office mates about noise, working from home, etc)

  15. Wintermute*

    OP #2– this is so outside the norm that it’s unfathomable, but… they’ve made it very clear that this isn’t isn’t a battle you will win without bringing in heavy firepower. However, there’s firepower you can bring in here.

    First, do other managers in the company know? Do they know that if THEIR employees do something wrong they are going to be thrown under the bus? Is there a way to circle the wagons as a management team and say “we are not okay with our livelihood relying on them being psychic and perfect and never hiring anyone who acts criminally. This may seem like an extreme outlier, and it is, but the principle is that you are responsible 100%, and I don’t think they’d be okay with that.

    Second, while *in general* you can be fired or demoted for any reason at any time, that… doesn’t quite capture the full status on the law on the matter. This is worth talking to an employment lawyer and seeing if some of the little minutae like established practice might work in your favor. The law does allow for demotion or firing for any
    reason at any time, however, one potential exception in some cases is in circumstances where the same two people are in similar circumstances and are treated wildly differently Where criminal law intersects civil things also get even more complicated. You’re not a direct victim of a crime so victim rights protections don’t apply but they certainly muddy the waters a bit. Only a lawyer in your local jurisdiction specialized in this area of law can tell you if you have legal rights you can assert here, and a consultation shouldn’t cost more than a hundred dollars or so (and can often be free) so you have little to lose, even if the answer is “crappy, but legal” (and it often is, I’ll be honest). In addition they can also advise you if your demotion would qualify as an effective firing and allow you to quit and still receive unemployment, a condition called constructive discharge– this is also highly fact-dependent, but drastic changes in pay and working conditions MAY allow you to decline their offer of a lower-paying non-management position and collect unemployment.

    Third, I think most people realize the amount of stress and insecurity that would come with being held to account any time an employee commits a crime, whether or not it’s work-related, whether or not you were in a position to stop it, no matter what. As a result, I think you could do a lot of damage to their recruiting by making this fact known– and should. In this day and age of fears of over-reaching consequences and general job insecurity, you might be able to get enough traction for news media coverage, because the situation is entirely bizarre on all levels.

    Fourth, look on the bright side, if you say “I was demoted because their policy is that any manager whose employee is involved in a crime is automatically demoted regardless of said employee’s clear record, background check and the manager being in another state” well… you might get some bugged out eyes but no one’s going to hold that demotion against you! If they do, they’re as loony as your (soon to be “old”) bosses!

    Please, nail these jerks, if you can’t do it legally do it in the media (social and news), if you don’t want to do that do it on glassdoor, if you don’t want to do that, at least warn all your friends. No one should be treated like that.

    1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      This reminds me of a previous letter where the LW’s friends and family were expected to maintain the same moral practices of the employee or else the worker faced penalties. I hope I’m remembering it correctly.

    2. Oxford Coma*

      How to bring this up in interviews…your wording beats around the bush a bit by using professional language, and I wonder if blunt “burn it all down” language might be the way to go. “I was demoted because my employee went on a trip and killed someone” is obviously insane and shocking. (Is TOO professional ever a thing?)

      1. fposte*

        I think it risks derailing the interview–people will be more interested in that than in the OP’s qualifications. Wintermute’s language walks the line between dramatic enough to make it clear how out of line this was but not so dramatic as to bring the interview to a screeching halt.

      2. Samiratou*

        I wonder how much the incident made the local news in OP’s state. Will potential employers be familiar with the story? Has the company name been mentioned a lot in coverage of the story? If the company was embarrassed enough to throw OP under the bus, I think their name must have been dragged into it somehow.

        If the interviewer is likely to be familiar with the incident, it makes sense for the OP to mention it directly, as it’s kind of an elephant in the room, but if not, they can be less direct. “I was held accountable, as a face-saving measure, for a direct report’s behavior while he was out of state at a conference, despite having no knowledge of the incident or indication ahead of time that the individual would behave that way.”

      3. Chaordic One*

        I would like to hear opinions on how someone would explain a demotion under these circumstances in a job interview. You can be too honest and you can be terminally professional.

        The demotion really sends a message to the other managers in the company and that message is “Be afraid, be very afraid. You could be let go at any time for things beyond your control and for flimsy reasons.

        While I would like to think that potential employers would recognize that OP#2′ wasn’t really responsible for what happened, potential employers have become irrationally risk-averse and are very likely to hire someone else who has been lucky enough to avoid the taint of scandal. That sucks, too.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I was thinking about this too, they have just put terror in the hearts of all their managers. Who will be next? And it’s not just a subordinate with criminal behavior, what else does this company demote managers for that no logical thinking person would ever think of?

          1. tangerineRose*

            I wonder if the company is going to start experiencing serious turnover from their management.

    3. RVA Cat*

      This would be further down the road once the OP is away from this terrible company, but if the victim’s family is suing the company I would think their attorney would be very interested in what the OP has to say.

      1. Wintermute*

        This is a very good question, if a civil suit is involved. I had considered mentioning the fact that depending on just why they are scapegoating the OP and their statements around it, they might be potentially (again, general disclaimer: law is complex and highly fact-dependent, and varies wildly by jurisdiction) be edging into obstruction of justice territory if their goal is to make it harder for someone to reach the OP for a deposition or otherwise pursue a case. Likewise if they are making statements to a third party in an attempt to show the OP the underside of a bus, they could be stepping into defamation and libel as well.

  16. Crystal*

    OP #1. I’m sorry I can’t bring myself to get as offended as others here. He meant well, it’s a bit clueless but it’s flowers, it was a gesture he intended to be nice and not in an underhanded way. And before the “you’re wrong” responses let’s just say my whole family has MAJOR fertility issues, I can’t have kids and my sister has lost two, one who was born and lived 6 weeks. Flowers make me smile, I have bigger fish to dry than get upset about this.

    1. MK*

      What you personally feel about this is not actually the issue; the OP asked if it was appropriate for the workplace and it’s most certainly not. And if it’s not a big deal, it shouldn’t be a big deal to point out to Fergus that he shouldn’t have done it.

        1. Zillah*

          You disagree that it shouldn’t be a big deal to point it out to Fergus, or you think that it’s appropriate for the workplace? Because whether or not you would personally be offended, I’m a little confused about how either of those are statements that make sense.

            1. CityMouse*

              That’s nice you feel that way but being dismissive to people explaining why this would be hurtful to them is not the right way to approach life.

              For instance, due to my job history I am personally very good and handling angry, yelling phone calls. However, that does not make that okay and when someone screamed at my trainee and that person was upset, I defended my trainee and told the yeller they were acting inappropriately and that if they continued to act like that, I would limit all their communications to email.

              Standard for appropriateness is not “does this personally bother me”.

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                Good analogy. When on customer service, I was fine with letting someone swear at me for a few minutes – but would defend very strongly the right to put down the phone if they started swearing because my colleagues may not be OK with it.

                I’m OK it is OK.

                1. Akcipitrokulo*

                  That should have had a “does not equal” sign … I’m OK != it is OK.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              But Fergus might have people working for him that are not you, who might not find it okay. He needs to know not to do this again.

            3. Zillah*

              I’m just really confused about why you think it would be a big deal to point it out to Fergus.

      1. JamieS*

        Every single person’s response on this issue, including Alison’s, is how they personally feel about it. Why should that make one person’s opinion matter less just because they’re expressing an opinion that differs?

        1. sohalt*

          There’s a difference between saying “Some people mind, for instance me. If you want to be on the safe side don’t do it. There’s just no point in a professional context to risk it” and “I don’t mind, and you don’t need to give a shit about those who would”.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Well, no, Allison is talking about workplace norms. Her answer isn’t “I think it’s icky so Fergus is wrong, QED.”

          1. JamieS*

            No, saying it’s not common is speaking to a workplace norm. Calling it icky and sexist is Alison’s personal feelings.

            1. ArtsNerd*

              “Icky” is a personal feeling, but “sexist” objectively a fact. It’s “benevolent sexism” like most chivalric gestures, and sure, not the worse thing that’s ever happened in a workplace (I don’t think anyone is arguing that it is) but it is indeed sexist.

              I’ve linked to a Scientific American article on benevolent sexism in my username if you want more info on that.

              1. JamieS*

                What is sexist isn’t a universal fact. While there are some things reasonable people universally find sexist, there are many things I could reasonably consider sexist that you reasonably don’t or vice versa. Receiving flowers in response to Mother’s Day falls in the latter category.

                1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Okay, so you think a boss giving flowers to all female employees on Mother’s Day is not sexist, and that this is something on which reasonable people could disagree.

                  So then, if a particular behavior is something a reasonable person could consider sexist, it is really best *not* to engage in that behavior at work. Arguing that “but not everyone thinks it is sexist” isn’t the best standard for work-appropriate behavior, I think.

                2. Specialk9*

                  It’s pretty sexist to tell your female employee “even though you aree not a mother, you were still a wonderful woman and I know that should you ever choose to have kids you would be a great mother”. That’s really hard to argue with. I’m shocked you are doing so.

                3. JamieS*

                  SpecialK9. I didn’t make the argument it’s not sexist. I happen to think it is sexist. What I did say is it’s not something that falls into the category of being universally considered sexist in response to a prior post stating that it’s a fact this was sexist.

      2. Eye of Sauron*

        I’m not sure what my opinion is on the actions of Fergus so I’m not commenting on that aspect.

        That being said, we have posters offer their personal opinion on matters here all the time, that doesn’t make them more or less valid based on whether we agree with them or not. Even the OP didn’t have a problem with this, I think it would be a little weird to tell the OP that that their opinion didn’t count.

    2. JanetInSC*

      Exactly. This is not a hill to die on. (Women have much more serious examples of sexism to fight and overcome. If we make every anthill into a mountain, we will never have the public and collegial support we need to make true changes.)

      1. whingedrinking*

        I don’t think anybody was proposing to make this their own personal Golgotha. I can easily see myself and other women I know saying, “Hey Fergus, I know you were trying to be nice, but not everybody appreciated the roses. Maybe don’t do that any more” and not pushing it further than that whether Fergus said, “Okay, I won’t” or “I don’t see the problem”.

        1. Yorick*

          But Fergus might not only say “I don’t see the problem.” He may want to have a long discussion about it where you eventually believe that it was a super nice thing to do.

          I think he shouldn’t do it, but he has and it’s probably better not to bring it up with him.

          Like the guy who sent flowers for Valentine’s Day, I think we should try to discourage Fergus if we know about his icky roses plan ahead of time.

          1. Lindsay J*

            But now we do know his icky roses plan ahead of time, because we know he’s probably going to do the exact same thing next year, and discouraging it would be the goal of the conversation. We don’t need him to issue an apology for handing out flowers this year, or to feel bad about doing it or anything like that. It would just be nice if he considered the (actual, not his assumed) feelings of the people receiving the flowers before doing it again next year.

            And you don’t have to be drawn into the long discussion. You can extract yourself with an, “Okay, I just thought you might want to be aware of how other people were looking at it,” or an, “Well I guess we’ll just have to disagree,” or an, “Okay, if that’s the way you feel about it it’s totally up to you,” or, “I’ve told you how I feel and I don’t really want to discuss this any further,” or whatever.

      2. Quoth the Raven*

        Yeah, but a lot of the time it’s the small things, too.

        In this case, for example, it wouldn’t be the roses as much as being told “how even though I am not a mother, I am still a wonderful woman and he knows that should I ever choose to have kids I would be a great mother” that would completely rub me the wrong way. It’s just words, really, and the intention is probably nice — but I’ve also been on the receiving end of similar comments that do imply the speaker considers me lesser or doesn’t take me as seriously because I don’t have and I don’t want kids, and it’s usually in a very “you, poor little thing” tone. My value as a person is not related to whether or not I’m a mother (“you’re still a wonderful woman”).

        1. anon for this*

          I’m infertile and look pretty young. Most of the time I cope with infertility ok, but mother’s day is a bit tough and if a male workmate told me that “I am still a wonderful woman and he knows that should I ever choose to have kids I would be a great mother”, I’d be very upset.

          1. Julia*

            I’m really sorry. :( I don’t understand why people feel the need to comment on others’ life choices, especially at work.

          2. Sylvan*

            I’m sorry. I’m not infertile, but not having kids for medical reasons. Not sure if I will be able to adopt eventually. A good Mother’s Day is all about my mom, and hopefully not about me and my stuff that doesn’t need to be dredged up.

          3. Environmental Compliance*

            This. There’s a lot of emotional baggage that I personally carry on the topic of having children. I look pretty young, and there’s a huge societal expectation that Husband and I will *of course* have kids, isn’t that why you got married?

            The flowers didn’t bother me personally one bit. I love me some flowers. But the statement afterwards of “oh you’ll make a lovely mother someday! you’re still a wonderful woman” Well, you have no idea if I can or not. You have no idea if this is a hurtful topic to me. You have no idea apparently how to assign value to me as a person, not just a walking womb, because my ability/inability/desire/lack of desire to have children really should not be brought up willy-nilly in my workplace.

        2. CityMouse*

          It can be a fraught situation for many reasons. I married young and my in laws have put a huge amount of pressure on me to have children, even though I was still in school and then working hard to get settled in my job. The constant baby push from my mother in law caused me and spouse to limit contact when our boundaries got steam rolled and we received nudging gifts and similar. Getting that at work would be so very very frustrating.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            About 5 minutes after we announced our engagement to the in-laws, MIL asked when we were having kids. *throws hands in air* Maybe when we’ve graduated? When we’re vaguely ready? When we’re not living in a one bedroom apartment downtown? When we have steady jobs? Maybe never?

            She still brings it up whenever I see her after I’ve flat out said I’d rather not have a constant discussion about my uterus, and if we do end up making a tiny human, I’ll let them know, so we also limit contact.

            1. Eye of Sauron*

              Heh… When my MIL asked me the same thing in a similar time frame I responded with “Well I guess we could get started right away, but I might look a little funny in the big white dress”.

              Oddly that was the last time she brought it up, could also be that I became the devil’s spawn in her eyes…

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                I’ve told MIL after some of her but grandbabies!! outbursts if that if it’s that important to her, we’ll need the use the extra bedroom upstairs for a few minutes, I’ll even wash the sheets after. You could almost hear the whistling sound as it flew right over her head. FIL though couldn’t stop laughing and had to leave the room. He tries to rein her in but she’s like a bulldog when she gets a thought in her brain.

                She’s also pretty convinced that when (never if) we do have children, she’ll be involved in every appointment, she’ll be there in the room…..I’m like, aight, let’s be real here, I won’t even be involving *my* mother to that extent, we’re nearly 4 hours away from you, no, I won’t schedule appointments around *your* schedule, and oh hell no you won’t be in the room. I am not interested in the slightest to put on a theater show for anyone but the medical staff and the person who helped make the tiny human, thanks!

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  The second paragraph sounds like every parent’s nightmare! A grandma who’s turning up at appointments and shoving the parents aside because she knows better! Four hours away is a good thing, if you ever do have children. That, and constant boundary reinforcement.

                  (chuckling about the sheets)

                2. Environmental Compliance*

                  @I Wrote This in the Bathroom – she has serious boundary issues. She tap dances laughing on SIL’s very basic, reasonable requests, like please have the two year old in bed by 8:30P, and instead keeps him up doing very hyper loud things until 11P. Constantly. And it’s exactly that she thinks she knows better than the actual mom. A small part of my reluctance towards kids is having to deal with MIL constantly, because it’s going to cause issues aplenty. MIL already pushes a lot of things with us, and watching her with SIL’s babies makes me very worried. She’s getting worse with what comes out of her mouth as she gets older.

                  Unfortunately, SIL lives also 4 hours away (opposite directions) and MIL is there visiting constantly. I have already warned Hubs that I am not by any means as patient as SIL (who is a lovely, lovely woman, and I can only hope to be as great a mom as she really is), and I will in no uncertain terms let MIL know when she is overstepping.

        3. Nonnon*

          I’m a trans man, but I’ve suffered from tokophobia (fear of pregnancy and childbirth) my entire life. If, before I came out, someone had made a comment like that to me, it could have set me off so badly I would be unable to function for at least a day. Possibly more, back when my mental health was really bad. I’m unusual in this regard, but still.

          (I’d hope no-one would include me in a women-only activity now that I’m out.)

      3. CityMouse*

        I think it is a hill to die on. During the 70s my mom was explicitly told she wasn’t getting promoted because they thought she was going to have babies and quit. Employers now don’t explicitly say this because lawsuit, but they still use this as a reason to hold women back. Giving women flowers and making comments like this reinforce this attitude. So much nope.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think anyone’s advocating for making this a Big Deal? They’re simply affirming that yes, OP’s coworkers are right, this was sexist and irritating.

      5. Lara*

        Problem is, you can say that about anything. I’ve had feminists tell me I shouldn’t be striving to succeed at work because doing so is participating in an inherently patriarchal capitalist system. Whereas for me, success at work is part of my feminism. Or for a more prosaic example, people often tell girls to stop focusing on school dress codes and worry about their education. But just 20 years ago, as a little girl I had to wear a skirt to school in winter. I had to be cold and miserable because ‘trousers were for boys’. These little things can matter.

        1. JamieS*

          Wait, what? So those feminists were advocating for you to be reliant on men to financially support you?

          1. Eliza*

            If they’re anything like the people I know who’ve expressed similar sentiments, the idea is less “reliant on men” and more “reliant on dumpster-diving”. It’s a viewpoint that tends to go with a very particular kind of lifestyle anarchism.

          2. Lara*

            I’m not really sure what their alternative was? Setting up a co-op, I think, with a dose of relying on the state. Plus, yeah, some dumpster diving and freegling. In my view, succeeding at work is important to me and the welfare state – while being an inalienable human right – is there for hard times and emergencies, not as a lifestyle choice.

            1. Emi.*

              Looking at the makeup of most governments, I don’t see a huge difference between “relying on men” and “relying on the state,” tbh.

              1. Lara*

                I get what you mean, but the welfare state is funded by taxes paid by people of all genders. Regardless, I find that sort of wilful misuse by people with options far more offensive than the ‘lazy scrounger’ stereotype.

        2. Millennial Lawyer*

          I’m surprised you’ve been getting that from modern feminist discourse – what you’re saying doesn’t appear to be mainstream (or is a misinterpretation?) For instance anytime a protest about school dress codes goes viral there’s a lot of mainstream feminist support.

          1. Lara*

            The latter example was less about feminism and more about how a lot of folk see dress codes as a trivial issue.

            1. Emi.*

              “Well, if it’s trivial, then it should be no problem to change the policy, eh?” *tense smile*

              1. Lara*

                Eh, I don’t think it’s trivial at all. Far too many people dismiss it at being about ‘appropriate’ dress or ‘fashion’. I think it’s actually a very serious issue. Telling Jane to wear a sweater because Jack is ‘distracted’ by her bare arms teaches both kids that Jack has no responsibility to control himself. And if a teacher is getting ‘distracted’ they need a new job.

      6. Akcipitrokulo*

        There are always more serious examples of sexism to fight and overcome. We shouldn’t want expressing rooms for BF mums when there’s a lack of maternity leave. We shouldn’t insist on maternity leave when there’s a pay gap. We shouldn’t fight the pay gap when some employers (illegally) don’t hire women of child-bearing age. We shouldn’t object to any benefit deficit when there’s sexual harassment in an office. We can’t complain about a calandar when the guy in next office gropes people. And why are you complaining about groping when people get raped?

        Thing is – if you decide to go for only the worst, you never tackle anything.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          Exactly. It can almost always be worse especially if you look outside the workplace or in particular countries.

        2. Julia*

          This. No one’s saying “ignore all rape victims in favor of telling Fergus off”, but life isn’t a zero sum game either. Like, I can care about animals AND children.

        3. Workerbee*

          I always see that as a silencing tactic. “How can you possibly talk about X when Y is happening?”

          They seem to want to shut down the discussion either for their own gain–to throw attention to a cause they believe outweighs all–or because they just simply want attention, period–and the concept of the multifaceted person who can think and feel about more than one thing at one time oddly doesn’t come up.

          Then again, we tend to attribute our own characteristics to others… :P

      7. Julia*

        Their boss made it clear that he considers all women potential mothers. What do many companies do with potential mothers? Not promote them because they might need maternity leave at some point.

        Do you still think this isn’t an issue?

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          About 13 years ago I was looking for a job while I started university and I applied to a small book store, only for the owner to tell me he wasn’t interested in hiring me because I was young and would probably get married and have kids *soon* and quit, and he was looking for someone committed to the job. And that was one person who freely admitted it — I wonder how many since then have made the same assumption?

          1. whingedrinking*

            Maybe this is just a product of where I live, but even a whole decade and a half ago, the expectation that an undergrad was likely to be married and having kids before she graduated was laughably old-fashioned. It would have been more realistic to expect you to quit once you got your degree, but then sexism is remarkably resistant to incursions by reality.

          2. MattKnifeNinja*

            It still goes on, but not to your face.

            The worse was one female boss who LOATHED to hire a woman between 21-30ish, because they are all either wedding drama, baby rabies, nursing/baby whining, and dragging partner issues to work.

            She made tons of cash for the company, so no one ever called her on it.

            On the plus side, you’d never have to worry about Mother’s Day flowers, because she didn’t give a crap about your personal life.

        2. Oxford Coma*

          When I applied for a weekend serving job to save money for grad school, the hiring manager asked if my husband was okay with me working on weekends. This was less than ten years ago; I was in my thirties.

          1. Julia*

            I mean, someone I know was asked whether her husband was okay with her working AT ALL less than five years ago. In Japan, though.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Very recently (i.e., about 2 months ago), my husband was talking to his (male) boss and mentioned I had got a new job. Boss was congratulatory, and asked if it was a promotion. Hubs confirmed and in a joking manner said it was a pretty big jump for me, I would now be making more than Hubs does. Boss quite seriously asked him how a woman could possibly make more, and how Hubs feels about his wife making more, because *he’d* never be able to accept that.

              1. Julia*

                The “how” I get, because I want to know how I as a woman can finally make more than the men. The rest is just ew.

                1. Environmental Compliance*

                  Hubs apparently asked him how many times Boss has been divorced.

                  (The answer is three.)

              2. Specialk9*

                I was pretty worried about that conversation, and how cool my then-boyfriend was with my much-higher salary was a factor in deciding to marry him.

          2. Case of the Mondays*

            In 2009 at attorney during a job interview asked me if my husband would be okay with me traveling out of the country for the job. I was pretty offended but later learned that he had also asked a male associate that was hired with me if his wife would mind him being away from home for a week. So I guess it was more familial status discrimination than sexism. I would prefer it worded “this job may require some travel that would have you away from home for a week at a time. Would that pose a problem for you?”

      8. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Something doesn’t have to be a “hill to die on” to be objectionable.

        Nobody is arguing that the LW should quit her job over this. But fortunately she has a lot of options before getting to that point: say nothing but quietly decide to pay extra attention to whether Fergus treats women differently than he does men; pull Fergus aside to tell him that while you’re sure he meant his gesture kindly it felt uncomfortable to you; talk to the other women in the office to hear how it made them feel and decide what to do based on that; tell HR that it made you uncomfortable; and so on.

        1. Allison*

          Sometimes it’s worthwhile just to assure a woman that the thing she found sexist and creepy is, in fact, sexist and creepy, and that she is not crazy or a b!tch for feeling that way.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t mean this in an attacking way, but several of your responses to responses are dismissive or vague in a way that doesn’t clarify your position and reads as antagonistic. Are you contending that the behavior wasn’t sexist and inappropriate, or are you saying that OP’s situation was not sexist/inappropriate enough for you to feel compelled to say something if you were in OP’s shoes?

        2. Snark*

          If you expect people to respond constructively and take your point as a valid and considered one, maybe act like it.

        3. LBK*

          What’s the point of even commenting here if you’re just gonna be a dismissive asshat? Take that shit to Twitter where it belongs.

          1. Crystal*

            If someone is unkind (and saying “good for you” is snarky and uncalled for especially if you actually read the words I posted) I have no need to be kind in return.

            1. LBK*

              Exactly, that’s why people replied in snarky ways to the rude, condescending and dismissive comment you started the thread with.

        1. nonegiven*

          It may be delightful in the same way people around here say “Bless your heart.”

            1. LBK*

              Oh come off it, you literally started this whole thread with a sentence dripping in sarcasm: “I’m sorry I can’t bring myself to get as offended as others here.” You can’t suddenly clutch your pearls when people respond in kind, it’s intellectually dishonest and debating in bad faith. If you just wanted to drive-by your opinion and blow off anyone who tries to explain their perspective, go do it somewhere else that’s not a discussion forum.

              1. Crystal*

                I was not being sarcastic at all, I was being genuine. I was saying I was sorry I couldn’t see others’ POV on this issue, and here was my POV. Jeez Louise.

                1. Louise*

                  You seem to be putting in literally zero effort to read or hear people explaining their point of view and are instead snarkily responding to anyone who disagrees with you, so I’m surprised to hear that you’re genuinely sorry for not understanding.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      It’s great that it doesn’t upset you – no sarcasm, really good – but some empathy for people who could be devastated – or even merely uncomfortable – is appropriate here.

      “I’m OK with it therefore it isn’t a problem” is not a kind attitude.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        People aren’t being particularly kind to Crystal. She was told above that she’s not approaching life the right way, that her opinion doesn’t matter, that her opinion is wrong in any case, and being sarcastic at her – “Good for you.” “How delightful for you.” Why should she worry about being kind?

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          First, I made it clear that I wasn’t being sarcastic.

          “I’m alright, Jack” attitude is harmful, and should be called out.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Because the systematic oppression of women is a bigger issue than just Crystal.

        3. The Winter Rose*

          I was not being sarcastic when I said “How delightful for you.” I am genuinely happy for Crystal that they do not feel hurt, anger, fear, loss or anxiety when treated in a sexist way. I would go so far as to say I am envious of their ability to not care. It must make life considerably more pleasant!

          I was simply noting that Crystal’s remarkable personal sangfroid doesn’t change the fact that the situation is indeed sexist.

        4. Strawmeatloaf*

          The problem with what Crystal said is like this.

          Problem 1: There are children starving in the U.S. because they are too poor to get food.
          Problem 2: There are children starving in Africa because they are in a warring country and their parents have been killed and they are mostly orphans.

          So, because Problem 2 is “worse” we then shouldn’t focus on Problem 1, because it is the less bad of the two, and apparently we as human beings can only focus on one Problem at a time.

          Aka, yes, this instance may not be that big of a deal and the boss may not know the message that he’s really sending out, but that doesn’t mean we just dismiss it because there are bigger concerns. If you don’t get rid of the small problems, how are you going to get rid of the big ones. And that’s what Crystal’s comment came out as, and people are just pointing out that while it may not be a big deal to Crystal, it is to other people, and Crystal has been essentially responding to those saying “no it isn’t.”

        5. LBK*

          She was told above that she’s not approaching life the right way, that her opinion doesn’t matter, that her opinion is wrong in any case

          She started the thread off by doing exactly all of those things to everyone else who commented here. She effectively said “ignore all these babies, OP, I am the only person here who is correct because this doesn’t personally bother me and there are other, more serious things that could have happened.” What about that did she think was going to engender measured responses?

            1. LBK*

              The babies being the other commenters here that Crystal has judged to be overly sensitive about the idea of receiving a blanket Mother’s Day gift.

    4. Mookie*

      He meant well, it’s a bit clueless but it’s flowers, it was a gesture he intended to be nice and not in an underhanded way

      If he means well, and I agree it’s likely he does, he sounds like a conscientious person who doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. So why wouldn’t he want to know how his thoughtful gift could come across? I don’t like letting people walk around with their flies unintentionally undone, so I notify them in some discreet way. I don’t understand why this is so controversial. Asking one person to consider the implications of his actions, measured against demanding that all people everywhere smother their reactions because they might be (shock and horror and gasp) “offended,” is not really much more than a two-minute conversation or a short, friendly email. I, too, have bigger fish to fry and I know which choice is the easier and more efficient and makes for a better, more welcoming world. Fergus can probably handle this, even if some people here can’t.

      1. neverjaunty*


        It’s really tiresome to see people trot out a bunch of the same old tropes that have been used to dismiss complaints about sexist behavior forever (is this your worst problem, hills to die on, equality means ignoring this stuff, etc., ad nauseam).

      2. grace*

        This is where I come down on it, too. I’m sure he meant well — plenty of people do this, too, so I don’t think he’d even consider it out of the norm. I wouldn’t be thrilled by it, I would probably say something, but unless this is indicative of a larger issue, I wouldn’t constantly push it, either.

        But if he wants to be a kind boss, I imagine he’d want to hear that this didn’t go the way he wanted it to. I know I’d want to know that.

      3. LBK*

        Completely agreed. Someone who genuinely has an interest in doing the right thing is not going to be angry if you point out to them that their intended nice gesture doesn’t read the way they might have meant it. If Fergus freaks out when this is pointed out to him, then he wasn’t trying to do something nice, he was trying to do something that he thought would make him look good.

        1. LBK*

          A personal example of this: when I was fairly new at my current job, my boss wanted to do something special for me in recognition of my work, so she signed me up to participate in an invite-only baseball game at Fenway Park. I am possibly the least athletic person alive, so being made to play baseball in front of a bunch of other people from my company at one of the world’s most famous baseball stadiums was less like a special treat and more like my personal hell.

          Fortunately she could sense my trepidation and found another special activity for me, because the whole point was to try to do something nice that I would actually appreciate, not something that would make her feel good about doing something for me whether I actually enjoyed that thing or not.

    5. Randy*

      I agree. Some claim he “reduced all women to their fertility” by this gesture…. What in the world? He was trying to be nice. Some people just cant win.

      He hold OP#1 if she chose to have children she would be a great mother. I think that is nice. He didnt say she should have children. He didn’t weigh her success in life on her ability or choice to have children. He said hey, here’s a flower, I appreciate you on this day for mothers, which you may or may not be one day.

      I also know folks who are not mothers that appreciate being recognized on this day because it is a day that they otherwise feel left out on. Everyone is different. His intention was good.

      1. Strawmeatloaf*

        And that’s reasonable. Someone can have good intentions, but still mess it up.

        You can have a good intention by helping a handicapped person across the street while they are in a wheel chair. The problem? The person didn’t need or want your help and you have now created more problems for them.

        All I’m saying is perhaps they should just talk with the boss. You can always have internalized -isms whether you actively know they are or aren’t. As someone else said, don’t give your female employees flowers because they could be moms, but celebrate them as good employees instead or something. I’m child-free by choice and remain that way and while I’d go “meh” at the flower, I’d be slightly annoyed that my boss still thought that my role as a woman was to be a mother because I’d be “great” at it (P.S. I would not. I know my limits.)

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        What if OP #1 had tried to have children and was infertile? What if OP #1 lost a child in a tragedy? In those contexts, what he said is not so nice.

      3. Tardigrade*

        If I give you a flower that’s unexpectedly full of bees, knowing my gesture was well-meant doesn’t protect you from the sting. And I’d still owe you an apology, realizing my good intentions backfired.

      4. Frankie*

        Randy, what he said was “even though I am not a mother, I am still a wonderful woman.” That seems indicative of a mindset that the highest aspiration of any woman is motherhood.

        Maybe you are not aware of the ways in which fertility and childbearing are a double-edged sword for women. Many women who do not have children, whether they want them or not, are seen as incomplete or not having achieved their purpose. Many women who do not have children BY CHOICE are seen as strange, unnatural, heartless, or somehow wrong. Many women who state they don’t want children are argued with by default. For instance, I have a friend who NEVER wanted kids and was denied coverage for getting her tubes tied as she attempted to do so for about a decade. Doctors refused her treatment purely on the assumption that she’d “change her mind.”

        These same women are also presumed by employers to have secret designs on having children, and can be passed over for promotions or leadership roles because it’s assumed, without any basis, that they’ll only be focused on their children or they’ll leave their jobs. They’ll be asked about it directly or indirectly by men and women alike, people who’ve decided everyone should have children or people who’ve decided no one should have children. My own nurse practitioner tried to persuade me to have children (completely inappropriately!!) when I expressed that my partner and I were unsure about it.

        Women who DO have children are expected to find constant joy in their childrens’ lives to the point where it completely mitigates all the stress and potential heartbreak that also goes with raising children. They aren’t supposed to think about how dangerous it is to bear children, even with exceptional medical care, or the permanent and sometimes devastating physical effects pregnancy and birth have on the body. They’re supposed to want and raise children regardless of their financial stability. They are supposed to quit their jobs and raise their children at home rather than entrusting their children to day care. They are supposed to deal with the grueling, thankless tasks of motherhood and the often disproportionate burdens they take on in care and household management, without complaint. For all this, there is a holiday for which they should get flowers and mostly empty or hollow praise. Honestly I think the holiday sometimes guilts mothers out of the negative and stressful feelings of parenthood that are extremely normal and just part of the package. You’re supposed to smile and nod about the “magic” of motherhood. And if you don’t, then you’re back in that boat of strange, unnatural heartlessness.

        So you pick which end you want to be impaled on and you do it. And no matter which one you do, strangers, acquaintances, and bosses will continue to bring up your fertility as central to your identity throughout your life, and if you don’t give the right answer, you’re judged in a way that simply does not happen to men.

      5. Lindsay J*

        And also, telling her that if she chose to have children she would be a great mother can show that someone is not treating you as an individual human being, but seeing what he wants to see because of his gender.

        I would be a terrible mother. I think, now that I’m in my 30s and I’m working on getting my mental illnesses under control, that I might be able to be an adequate one *someday*.

        But up until a couple years ago I couldn’t even competently take care of myself. I’m not a particularly warm or kind person in general. I don’t know what to do with children, and up until recently generally actively disliked them and tolerated them at best. I never liked playing with dolls. Never babysat. I didn’t really like kids even when I was a kid – I preferred the company of adults. And I had a pretty big phobia of being pregnant – like the idea actually nauseated me and freaked me out.

        Someone telling me I would make a great mother someday when I was in my 20s would have make it laughably obvious that they didn’t know me at all.

      6. Lindsay J*

        And as for feeling left out, why feel left out on a day that is not meant for you? Do they feel left out on Father’s day? Veteran’s Day? Other people’s birthdays?

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          Some women do feel left out because they do some level of mothering- they’re aunts, raised younger siblings, are mother-like to their friends’ kids. Heck, some women wanted to be acknowledged as mothers to their pets.

          I don’t feel this way about my role in life, but I do know a sizable number of women who do and feel that those roles should be included in Mother’s Day. However, I feel like it’s one of those things where you’d have to know the person well enough.

      7. Pollygrammer*

        I was “trying to be nice” when I cheerfully asked a recently-returned coworker how his vacation was before he explained that he had actually been with a dying parent.

        “Trying to be nice” doesn’t mean that I didn’t so something awful that I will never forget. By all means, try to be nice. But also, try not to be an insensitive idiot.

      8. Kimberlee, no longer Esq*

        The problem is what he, as the *boss*, the person who controls folks’ hours and pay, is normalizing.

        He could have just said “Happy Mothers Day!” to mothers, which is fine. He went a step further and decided that It Is Normal for all women to be impacted by mother’s day, regardless of their status as mothers. He decided it’s Normal to talk to his employees about their value *as women,* which is not even close to a thing he should be judging at work, in relation to their uterus or their desire to have kids, which is also super not a thing bosses should be talking about.

        He’s normalizing the idea that it’s OK for him, as the boss, to reduce all women to whatever their motherhood status is, and talking about it publicly. It’s gross. You can have hella noble intentions but that doesn’t erase the actual impact of what you’re doing. Unintended consequences are real, and you’re not doing anyone any favors by shielding them from knowing about the consequences of their behaviors.

        He’s normalizing a lot of gross sexist ideas *at work* where he has power over these women. If nobody objects, then that behavior will never change. How you personally feel about it isn’t the question, it’s what this man, as a person of power in the organization, should or shouldn’t do to the women he has power over. Nobody is saying you can’t wish mothers a Happy Mother’s Day, but if you have this many people on a thread objecting, you’d be a pretty dumb (and, tbh, mean) boss to decide that your Good Intentions matter more.

      9. Branzino*

        I’ve been told by countless coworkers what a great mother I’d make. I think the fact that I absolutely have zero desire to be a parent actually means that I’d be a terrible mother because I’d be raising unwanted children. It’s one of those stupid “pleasantries” people say without thinking, because of course every woman wants to hear that she’d be a great mom! /sarcasm

      10. mrs__peel*

        “He hold OP#1 if she chose to have children she would be a great mother. I think that is nice”.

        You have the luxury of thinking it’s “nice” because (I’m presuming) you’re not a woman. You don’t have to worry about being thought of as a walking uterus rather than a valuable employee, or having your career derailed/mommy-tracked by a boss who assumes that all women are going to have children.

        As a few hundred people have already pointed out to you, his intentions are beside the point. The fact that he didn’t take the time to think about how this might affect people means it was NOT a thoughtful gesture.

    6. ArtsNerd*

      Benevolent sexism is still sexism (linked to info on that in my username). No one is saying this is the worst thing that’s ever happened in a workplace, but the OP’s question was whether it was inappropriate and sexist and the answer is “yes.” If OP’s coworkers want to raise an objection, what does that matter?

    7. Rika*

      Hey Crystal, I know this is a relatively old thread, but I kept scrolling down through the comments, not being able to believe I was the only one who thought this and there you were. I completely agree with you. My husband and I can’t have children either, but if that fact will ever cause me to get offended by a guy trying to be nice by handing out flowers I really need to get my priorities straight.

      Having said that, considering the majority of opinions I read here, things like this could potentially land Fergus in trouble with HR, so it might still be a good idea that he be talked to about this.

  17. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP #1: I’d rather have cash. I’ve got flowers at home.

    I’m being sincere when I say that I’m glad you saw it as a nice gesture because it means your relationship with Fergus isn’t soured. I would see it as patronising at best and downright insulting at worst. Why not appreciate the women in the office for their jobs? Make sure they’re getting equal pay? Stop harassment in the workplace? If he cares about mothers, then he can help give parents flexible schedules so they can take care of their kids.

    He might already being doing these things, but I’m guessing then others wouldn’t have such an issue with the roses. It’s a ‘nice’ gesture but ulimately meaningless. And as Alison said, is he planning on giving roses to the men?

    1. Circus peanuts*

      Your comment made me wonder if this boss differentiates like this between the men and women in his office, does he differentiate with their paychecks as well? How deep does the ‘benign sexism go?

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Exactly. That’s why this kind of thing bothers me, no matter how well-intentioned. It’s nice that he thinks the women would make great mothers, but is he interested in actually working to make their lives better? He took time out of his day and, presumably, spent his own money on this. But would he spend that same time and energy on making sure the pay is equal, and that there’s no harassment? I’m not saying he doesn’t, because maybe he does. I have no idea. But this is why these gestures are worrying to me, on top of being inappropriate. They’re usually made by someone who wants to look like they’re doing something nice, but isn’t interested in doing anything substantial. (Again, I say usually, it’s definitely not always the case!)

  18. Magenta Sky*

    OP #2 say “My (former) boss, HR, and the company say they had to do it to send a message.”

    They sent a message, all right. I wonder if they’ll ever figure out it wasn’t the message they intended.

    I can’t imaging willingly continuing to work for such inept people for one minute longer than necessary.

      1. New Commenter*

        Just explain to HR that you have to do it.

        To send a message…

        But probably not a wise move…

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Office memo:
      If your subordinate commits a crime and you have no way of preventing it we will demote you. Just an FYI. Don’t forget the company picnic next week and be sure to bring your family.

  19. Jemima Bond*

    #1 strikes me as weird (and annoying because no kids = not a proper person ticks me off) but then there may be a cultural influence for me because I gather in the USA compared to here that says mile Mothers’ Day and St Valentine’s Day are…less specific? I mean to say over here only mothers (or stepmums or mother figures) get cards/flowers etc from their own offspring. And valentine cards etc only flow between actual or hoped-for romantic partners. But in the USA it seems that any mother might get a card from anyone, and schoolchildren send multiple valentines around between friends (this is from watching tv films etc so I may be wrong!). So to me it is both weird because all the people in your office are not you boss’s Mum so why is he giving anyone flowers? He’d be better off concentrating on his own Mum. This would solve what may be his perceived issue i.e. that it would look bad to give flowers to some but not all.

    1. Zillah*

      Some people (more girls/women than boys/men, IME) definitely send valentines to their friends, but at least that I’ve seen, people generally focus primarily on mothers in their families, not mothers in general. There might be something to cultural differences (this could certainly be a regional thing! I’m from the northeast), but since the OP mentions multiple people being offended, I’m guessing that it’s mostly Fergus being weird.

      1. Luna*

        I have never given a Mother’s Day card to anyone other than a family member. To receive any kind of token for Mother’s Day from someone outside my immediate family would be completely bizarre, even if I was a mother.

    2. nonegiven*

      We were forced to give cards to everyone in the class for Valentine’s Day, not just friends, even our enemies.

        1. Strawmeatloaf*

          You need to see the sketch with Liam Neeson dressed up as cupid and talking about how great a shot Cupid is… at being an assassin.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think it’s weird too. I don’t remember Mother’s Day being quite as… pervasive, maybe, when I was a kid. Valentine’s Day was. Had to give little Snoopy valentines to every kid in my class. I wish a lot of holidays would remain more private.

      Except Galentine’s Day. That should be for big groups.

    4. Tuxedo Cat*

      Among some people (don’t know how many), there are movements of sorts to redefine these things. With Mother’s Day, I know some women would like to be included because they feel that they have or had a maternal role in someone’s life. I don’t feel that way, but I know enough women who do.

      With Valentine’s Day, I know I have organized dinners or outings with my friends.

      The thing is that people probably be careful about mixing personal and professional in these situations.

      1. Lehigh*

        Re: your first paragraph–I hate that. I also hate when other women decide they are “like a mom” for me.

        My own mother worked hard, fought for my best interests, and made significant sacrifices to raise me and provide for my child-self, and I don’t appreciate somebody waltzing in after the work is done and claiming parity with her.

        BUT! Those kinds of disagreements are why your third paragraph is so true.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        With Mother’s Day, I know some women would like to be included because they feel that they have or had a maternal role in someone’s life.

        That is something they should be discussing with the person for whom they had a maternal role and not expect it from society at large.

  20. Jemima Bond*

    #2 your bosses are horrible. And I don’t really agree with the public perception thing – why would it make them look better after an employee commits crimes, to punish an uninvolved other employee! Unfair treatment just makes them look worse.

    #3 It seems to me that the issue is that you didn’t ask/check if it was ok to WFH. Usually requests to do so would be authorised unless part of a standing arrangement – so your manager knows where you are. If you have to do it again, ask your manager before you go and they may well agree.

    1. Lara*

      It also falsely implies the op was responsible somehow. As though they’d given Fergus the drugs / weapon and told him to go play IRL GTA.

      1. Buu*

        Yeah, by demoting someone it feels like they are admitting the company needs to ‘do’ something. I wonder if someone else knew that the employee did drugs or had problems? and they are worried it will come out in the trial?

        OP if you have they response where they told you this stuff as an e-mail, then please back it the heck up!

      2. fposte*

        That’s that part that worries me, and that I think would definitely be worth discussing with a lawyer if there’s a consultation happening. The action strongly suggests culpability–and that’s presumably what it’s meant to do, so that the OP’s employer can say “all clear now–we removed the problem!”

      3. Susan Sto Helit*

        Like, did you specifically tell him NOT to commit murder while on the conference? Because if you failed to tell him not to, and then he did it…

        1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          My boss gives us a list of things not to do before conferences, all of which are based on actual events. They’re more like “no streaking” than “no murder” but even that is a little “are you serious that we need to be told this?” Apparently so.

          1. Pollygrammer*

            I had a pre-conference meeting that included “it is now company policy not to post bail for any employees.”

              1. Pollygrammer*

                They were actually pretty discreet about who it was, although we all had some guesses.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            It’s like when you see warning tags on products that are ‘common sense’. Clearly they are there for a reason…

            1. mrs__peel*

              Yeah, whenever I see those, I assume there was An Incident.

              Like the heat gun my grandmother had (one that reached several hundred degrees) that said “DO NOT USE AS A HAIRDRYER”. I shudder to think…

      4. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah… I am not a lawyer, llama, or llama’s mama, but I rather wonder if this might be considered slander.

  21. Zillah*

    OP#1 – I’m glad that you weren’t offended and saw it as a nice gesture.

    Beyond what others have said about why this is sexist (which I agree with), I think something to keep in mind is that people have different boundaries that are informed by different experiences. The more you’re deviating from a setting’s overall norms, the more you want to think about your audience – that’s true of profanity and pranks at work, and it’s also true of giving people flowers based on their motherhood at work. If multiple people are bothered/offended, Fergus missed the mark – and that’s on him for not taking to time to properly consider his audience, not on his audience for not liking a gesture that they didn’t ask for in the first place.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This is a good take. Gestures don’t exist in a Platonic abstraction divorced from the audience or culture. If most of the office finds something off-putting then it’s off-putting in that context.

  22. oh my...*

    #2 – I am so sorry that you are dealing with this. What an awful situation all around. The only scenario that makes sense (if you can even call it that?!) is that one of the other managers was involved in obtaining the illegal drugs and that person is protected due to a relationship with someone higher up. In an effort to distract from their involvement, they are trying to blame you.

    Regardless of the legal actions proposed above, please seek out counseling for this. This is just so not normal on any level.

  23. Lara*

    Op2 – I’m sorry this happened to you. Your bosses are absurd. Demoting you because an employee (one you did not choose) turned out to be a drug addled murderer is ridiculous. There is nothing you could have done to prevent it. Saying “Fergus killed someone so we demoted Lucinda,” is going to sound bizarre. It’s like firing Wakeen because Jane lost an account. There’s no logic to it.

    1. Close Bracket*

      No, it’s not like firing Wakeen bc Jane lost an account. If Jane reports to Wakeen and she loses an account due to poor professional practices, that reflects on Wakeen. He could well be fired or demoted or something bc he wasn’t properly managing her. That’s why this is so nuts. What an employee does away from work and coworkers on their own time shouldn’t reflect on their managers, but OPs company is acting as though it does.

      1. Lara*

        Yes, but you’ll note I didn’t say one reported to the other. I meant to illustrate that they’re essentially demoting op at random, as a scapegoat.

        (Should have stuck with my original mailman / llama wrangler example).

      2. Eplawyer*

        Piggybacking on yesterday’s letter, if hebhad saved a life on the trip would she have been promoted?

        Employers dont get credit for things done on employees own time not related to work. Good or bad.

        This is beyond absurd to demote the person not there for work related reasons and not the managers who were work related attendees. If the company is taking responsibility then it takes responsibility through work.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          And even in jobs where my behaviour out of work was subject to some scrutiny (for example, I worked as a teacher in a private school and wore a uniform, and I was advised not to go to a bar and get wasted while wearing it), the consequences would have been mine and mine alone, not my supervisor’s/manager’s/etc.

  24. Tallulah In The Sky*

    Op #1 : “he did give one to me, and made a nice comment about how even though I am not a mother, I am still a wonderful woman and he knows that should I ever choose to have kids I would be a great mother”.

    On one hand, kudos to Fergus for saying “should you ever choose to have kids” and not “when you’ll have kids”. On the other, do you really want to hear from your boss he thinks you’ll make a great mom ? So yeah, Fergus’s intentions were probably good, but it’s better if the boss doesn’t comment on the womanhood/motherhood of his employees…

  25. Mookie*

    The demotion feels like a hollow gesture, unless the company is also planning to admit that they were in some way negligent here. And if they want to insinuate that, they should be clear about what they did wrong. It’s not beyond the bounds of reason to conclude, after an internal investigation into this kind of incident, that a manager somehow neglected their duties and their company’s policies and, therefore, ought to be demoted as a result, but they should show their work and not just handwave by way of scapegoating. It sounds like the LW did nothing wrong here, however.

    Bad publicity is not the same as culpability. Companies don’t have a right to not be criticized in public, provided that criticism is based on truth or opinion marketed as opinion. The LW did not sic an angry public or grieving family on her employer. It might make this organization feel uncomfortable to be in this particular spotlight at this particular time, but it’s fleeting, a lot of organizations feel this kind of heat and weather it just fine, and they need to roll with the punches and not throw one of their employees under the bus. That doesn’t look responsible but profoundly cynical and lazy. You can’t mitigate this kind of situation, where an employee, whom nobody suspects of being dangerous and who apparently has a decent record at work, commits a crime off-duty. Demoting an unrelated party is not going to prevent this from happening again and is unlikely to assuage any anger that is being directed the employer’s way.

    Now, if the “message” this employer intends to send is directed not externally but at other employees and managers, again, they need to substantiate the criticism, explain the demotion, and provide details, and then comprehensively overhaul their policies and training so that whatever mistakes they’re claiming as the LW’s aren’t repeated.

    And if this demotion is purely about mismanaging this employee in such a way that the “incident” at the conference that preceded the violence was a consequence of that mismanagement, they need to be clear about that, too.

    But as the LW tells it, this just screams of bad faith. If I were one of her colleagues I’d be preparing my exit.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I don’t even understand why the company feels like they have to do anything at all. From the way I’m reading the letter, this happened off hours, on the employee’s own time. Just because he was in town for a conference doesn’t mean that his actions are a reflection on the company. I can’t think of any examples where a random person did a bad thing and their employer was blamed when the bad thing was not remotely connected to their job.

      1. Lynca*

        It’s probably a skewed view of the conference being considered ‘at work’ even after hours and how bad what happened looks in the media. I can see a really badly run company/HR just having a knee-jerk reaction that they have to do something. Anything, even if it doesn’t make sense just to show they are serious about what happened.

        I’d bet dollars to donuts they really didn’t gather any legal advice before implementing the demotion either.

        1. Naptime Enthusiast*

          I made a similar comment in another thread, but yes. If I’m traveling for work I’m on my absolute best behavior in and out of working hours. I have fewer drinks while out, tip more frequently, and am the politest version of myself, not because I’ve been told I have to but because my behavior is a reflection on the company that paid to send me there. If I’m perfectly behaved then nobody will remember, but if I’m falling over myself or show up to meetings late because I was out the night before, then the colleagues I’m with will remember that.

          That said, the company doesn’t have any responsibility other than holding the employee accountable for their individual behavior. If there were others partaking in illegal substances with said employee or knew about it but didn’t follow their employee handbook (reporting it most likely, or whatever they’re required to do), then yes the company could throw the book at them as well. Whether they should or not is an entirely different debate but there is a level of responsibility on the other employees present. But OP had nothing to do with the situation or the employee’s hiring and is a scapegoat.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Interesting question, isn’t it? I can’t help but wonder if somebody closer to the events at hand screwed up and they’re throwing OP under the bus.

        1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

          Totally agree with this. I commented upthread that I’d be seriously wondering whether this guy’s problems were really unknown to everybody at this company. I’d also be wondering if any colleagues joined him in the illegal partaking of drugs prior to the tragedy. I’d document the demotion and subsequent conversations like crazy, OP, including via work emails. I think the situation is likely unsalvageable for you, and I’m sorry. But at least your emails will be “discoverable” if events take a different turn later.

      3. Irene Adler*

        I agree.

        Reminds me of the lady who flipped off the President whilst wearing an Akima tee-shirt. She was fired. Now she’s suing.
        They fired her because they didn’t think her gesture was becoming to the company. Yet, I don’t think I saw any comments attributing her gesture to Akima.

        What is it about businesses that they need to take such actions?
        And, in regards to the OP, why not demote the OP’s boss, and his or her boss as well?

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          I can understand why these companies come down hard – the higher-ups don’t want off-brand publicity, so they don’t want to be seen tolerating people who generate said publicity. If I made national news while wearing a company t-shirt, for any reason (short of saving a busload of orphans by the clever use of company products), I’d be astonished if I kept my job.

          My suspicion is that the OP’s company wants to make an example of someone, just in case there are other managers on the fence about reporting / managing out employees with addiction or mental health issues. Not sure that’s actually going to work – but in OP’s shoes, I’d be job hunting.

    2. President Porpoise*

      **potential trigger**
      Once upon a time, a coworker (who I worked with on occasion, but we weren’t close or anything) got into an argument with his estranged wife about a guy she was dating. They were in the process of divorce. He had his two lovely daughters. There was a horrible murder-suicide over Christmas.

      Our group at work mourned the lives of those little girls, and we all second-guessed ourselves to see whether there were any warning signs that we could have caught. And, you know, there actually were a few. But even so, none of our managers were fired or demoted. We all recognized that this was so, so far out of the norm that nobody could or should have seen it coming.

      OP2, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. Please seek the advice of an employment attorney.

    1. whingedrinking*

      So true! Man, wouldn’t it be great if people could respond to women reporting their concerns with good faith and an open mind, instead of getting huffy and calling them oversensitive?

    2. strawberries and raspberries*

      Is this how you treat your patients when they come in really anxious about things that turn out to be benign?

    3. Anononon*

      What are you even doing? You’ve commented like this on dozens of threads, and you just never listen when countless women tell you in these threads that just because they’re calling out a problem, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re outraged or besides themselves or whatever. I feel like you see yourself as the voice of reason and logic, but it’s really nonsensical.

    4. mrs__peel*

      What do you think this comment adds to the discussion? I’m seriously asking.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      You seem unhappy here on this blog. People post here to try to help each other to get to a better place in life. Is there something we can help you with? Life does not have to be this hard and this unhappy.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        I love your comments. You’re always so compassionate and kind. To be honest, the medical professionals I’ve dealt with have overwhelmingly been similarly unsympathetic and brusque, and even cruel. I avoid going to doctors now because of this. I’m wondering they’re dealing with burnout or overwhelming stress and they also can’t get the help they need.

  26. Sylvan*

    I know what people will probably say to this, but some letters are getting hard to believe lately.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I’ll say it anyhow: The discussion of whether X is made up is never, ever, remotely interesting. And there is no letter so mundane that no one would comment on it.

      Today we have:
      • Person whom some find annoying and some benign did something people found annoying or benign.
      • Company in news in negative light seeks to show they are Totes Doing Something.
      • Person annoyed by loud office left to work from home, but didn’t clear it with manager first.
      • How long to hear back about a raise?
      • How long to hear back about an internship?

      Of those I find the third least likely, but hardly impossible to believe. “X was clearly the logical choice; do I really have to clear it with people first?” is a pretty common line of reasoning, one that is even often true.

      1. serenity*

        Agreed. These comments questioning the validity of letters are getting more and more frequent, and less and less interesting. We’ve all seen things in our lives that are stranger than fiction – this site, in some ways, is a testament to the banal or common stories, and the more outrageous ones. Do people who chime in every now and then with a variation on “I’m not believing this” think they sound more rational/smart/whatever?

        1. Sylvan*

          I’m definitely not smarter than anyone else here. Not trying to come off as arrogant or insulting. If that’s how I’m coming off when I say that, I’ll back off.

        2. Audrey Puffins*

          Also, does it *matter* if the stories are made up? Someone else reading who is experiencing a similar situation may find Alison’s advice helpful, even if their reality is significantly more mundane, or someone who experiences something COMPLETELY beyond the pale will remember that Alison has offered good advice to other unlikely-sounding stories and know who to come to for help. It’s like the Samaritans – it hurts no one to proceed as though every story is true, whereas it could cause serious damage to incorrectly call even one out as false.

        3. mrs__peel*

          I’ve seen enough Weird Shit in the Workplace firsthand to believe pretty much any letter…