I don’t want to tell my boundary-violating boss I’m pregnant

A reader writes:

I work in a pretty small nonprofit organization and I have (for all intents and purposes) four bosses. Two are technically my direct supervisors, and two are their bosses, who also pull me in on their projects.

The thing is, one of my direct supervisor bosses has gotten uncomfortably intrusive about my personal life before. I’m younger than her by a lot and I think when I started she really wanted to mentor me as like a surrogate daughter, but it’s gotten a bit out of hand.

A year ago, for example, my work threw me a really cute surprise bridal shower and about an hour afterwards, she pulls me outside (actually in the parking lot) to ask why my now-husband thinks he can make this work if he didn’t with his ex (who he has a kid with, so she just assumed they were married). I politely told her I didn’t feel comfortable having that conversation.

A bit after that, she called me into her office to cry at me because, in the middle of her divorce, she found out about her husband’s secret bank accounts. And told me I needed to keep my finances separate from my husband’s. I again told her that wasn’t something she needed to worry about or be involved in.

Finally, she called me into her office one day to ask how my relationship was going and if we were doing premarital counseling. I finally told her I would rather keep my personal and professional lives separate and that I didn’t feel comfortable discussing that with her. At which point she started talking casually about how it was her idea to hire me in the first place and my other direct supervisor didn’t want to.

I took that as a threat and went to her boss, the director of the organization, with whom I get along very well. He has been mentoring me about the department he handles, as it is more my career path than what she does (something everyone was very clear on when I was hired). He emphasized that this wasn’t true, everyone who interviewed me wanted to hire me, and he ultimately made any decisions. He didn’t say he would talk to her, he didn’t seem surprised, and we are too small an organization to have a formal complaint process.

After all this, I have been … stiff, let’s say. Professional, always. Courteous, always. But I haven’t elaborated on my personal life at work since the shower. I hate it, because I have friends there who I talk to about surface level aspects of my life, but I don’t feel comfortable when she is in the office.

So, now I’m pregnant. I’m still in the first trimester and never planned on saying anything until it was over anyway. But it means I’ve gone to my fair share of doctor’s appointments lately, and my boss has started asking me what the appointment is for. I tell her not to worry about it, but it really bothers me that she’s asking in the first place. Maybe she thinks they are fake appointments, maybe she’s worried about me. Either way, I don’t legally have to answer that question and she’s pressuring me to.

This is the type of boss who does very little and focuses solely on her projects. My job spans far past her three to four projects a year, but if I’m ever working on something else when she needs something done, it’s a disaster.

My coworker has health issues and is out at times for surgeries, appointments, etc. Our boss will constantly call her out at meetings like, “Oh well, this didn’t get done because SoandSo wasn’t here again.”

Is it any wonder that I don’t want to tell her I’m pregnant, even past the 12 weeks? I get eight weeks off when the baby comes and I can hear her now whine and complain like having a baby is something I’ve done to her. I’m also worried she will go back to being intrusive like she did when I was getting married. And since her inappropriate comments never got addressed last time, I’m even more worried about how they will go over this time.

I’m sorry this is a long letter, there’s just so much to why I don’t want to tell her I’m pregnant. I know I have to, and I know it’s going to be awful for as long as she knows. She will ask about it every day, put me on the spot, and quite possibly start calling me into her office again to make inappropriate comments or ask about my bodily functions. What’s your best advice for how to handle telling her and how to handle the behavior that is very likely to ensue after I do?

Practice saying this: “I prefer not to discuss my pregnancy at work.”

Feel free to wait until the latest possible point to announce your pregnancy. And when you do, you don’t need to do anything special for her; just include her in whatever group announcement you do at work.

Then, if she starts in with inappropriate comments or questions, “I prefer not to discuss my pregnancy at work” is your go-to line. Keep repeating it. You can change it up to “I really don’t want to discuss that” or “please don’t ask me to talk about my pregnancy at work” or “that’s not something I want to talk about at work” — but the point is that you can and should put up firm boundaries with someone like this. Not wanting to talk about your pregnancy at work is perfectly reasonable, and you’re not doing something odd by declining to.

You can also modify this for other nosy intrusions: “I’d rather not discuss my marriage.” … “I prefer not to discuss the details of my medical appointments.” … etc.

Also, since she appears to have tried to threaten your job (!) the last time you didn’t want to talk to her about something personal, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to talk to her boss ahead of time, since you have a good relationship with him and have talked to him about this in the past. When you’re ready to announce your pregnancy, you could tell him privately first and then say something like, “I’m extremely concerned about Jane’s pattern of intrusive questions and how it’s likely to play out during my pregnancy. I don’t want the stress of having to fend off regular comments about my pregnancy from her — would you be willing to talk with her about respecting employees’ privacy and not asking inappropriate medical or personal questions?”

And then whether or not he agrees to do that, if the “I’m not discussing that” strategy ends up not thwarting Jane, at that point you should go back to her boss, explain what’s happening, and say, “I’m not willing to be continually questioned by Jane about my health and my pregnancy. I need her to stop. Since she’s ignored my repeated direct requests that she stop — and even threatened my job once in the past when I declined to talk to her about my marriage — I’m formally requesting that you intervene.”

Normally I’d also be saying that it’s worth taking a look at whether it makes sense to stay in this job much longer. Small organization, two direct bosses, one of whom threatened you when you didn’t want to talk about your marriage and who seems kind of out of control and whose own boss seems willing to protect you but not actually deal with the problem directly … well, I’m willing to bet that nosiness isn’t the only problem there. Changing jobs when you’re pregnant doesn’t always make sense to do, so I’m not pushing it here — but it’s something I’d have in the back of your head to think about at some point.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 283 comments… read them below }

    1. Snark*

      I’m exhausted on her behalf. Jesus Christ, this person sounds like the emotional labor equivalent of the Trials of Hercules.

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I kind of want you to never even admit you’re pregnant. Even if it’s 1000% obvious.

    1. There All Is Aching*

      Yes!! I’m imagining OP responding like Jeffrey Wright in Westworld: “What door?”

        1. Anonymoose*

          ‘I was at an all you can eat burrito bar. It was delish, thanks for asking.’

      1. ket*

        I made it to over 5 months. There was a perfectly timed trip to Italy in the middle — when I came back I could see people wondering if I’d just indulged very thoroughly there… gave me another 2 weeks of cover!

      2. Anonymoose*

        Question: have you heard her behave this way with your other work friends? I kind of doubt she is selectively intrusive. It might be beneficial to casually inquire how the other staff feel about her KBG questioning. If you find out that others feel the same pressure/are also uncomfortable, I think this would really help your director have further proof to finally address it with your boss. And don’t take his previous non-action as proof that he won’t move forward if you came to him a second time with even more evidence of her unprofessional behavior; he might surprise you. He might have been hoping that her defensiveness was a one-time thing. But if you can show that it’s ongoing, it’s all the more obvious that it’s time for him to step in.

        Good luck and congrats!

        1. OPLetterWriter*

          She tends to be awkwardly attempting to be friendly with others, usually in an attempt to be nice or seem interested in their lives. But she doesn’t call them aside like she does me and when I told my coworker about the incidents above, she agreed it was weird and was surprised.

          I am the only person under 30 in an office of people in their 50’s and 60’s. I’m the only person under 40, mind you, so I often get treated like the baby off the office. Her intrusiveness gives off a very weird air of attempting to “mentor” me or “take me under wing”. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for why she does this to me. I had to be nice to her when I first got here, and it was in a way most people aren’t nice to her (found out why later, she’s a headcase). So she kind of got attached to me and I had to put a stop to it when she first called me in, full on bawling about her divorce. It was really uncomfortable and strange. Before that, her questions or comments about my then boyfriend and kids seemed like natural friendliness.


          1. Julia*

            Is it possible that the other people don’t like her a lot, have founds ways to avoid her, and you’re the last one who can’t shake her off? Because I had a boss like that and lots of older co-workers (the only young one was too incompetent to be of much interest to her, it seems), and a very similar thing happened to me, to the point where I’m wondering if you now work for my former boss. In my case, our grandboss told me that she won’t change and I just needed to get better at deflecting her, which is really hard when someone is also prone to threatening your job.

            You have all my sympathies, and I do hope that a new job is in the cards for you at some point. If your awful boss hasn’t been sacked yet, she probably never will. :(

            1. Lara*

              “I just needed to get better at deflecting her”

              Grrr at your grandboss. Because god forbid he pull her aside and say “Jane, stop crying at your subordinates.”

              1. Julia*

                Oh, she wouldn’t cry, she would call people stupid or harass them for daring to take sick time. Many quit because of her, which is what I suspect may be the cause for an absence of other young people in OP’s workplace.

      3. AKchic*

        Then never say anything about it. Schedule leave as “Medical Leave” if you wish (letting your actual boss know why, but telling them that you’d like to keep your private life absolutely private due to Jane’s boundary-jumping nosiness and threatening your job once and her whining).

        Then, even if your water breaks at work – you do not give the slightest indication that you are aware of her suspicions.
        Jane: “You must be pregnant!”
        You: “Must I? Oh, surely I must have just indulged in a wonderful lunch.”
        Jane: “You’re huge!”
        You: “What a rude thing to say to a person.”
        Jane: “You’re practically going to deliver right here!”
        You: “You want me to order you a pizza?”

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Haha, good one! However, OP’s other colleagues might like to know and be happy for her.
          Maybe tell others but not Jane? Then Jane will hear it from someone else.. she might get upset, or cry, or maybe it will make an impression that OP really, really doesn’t want to tell her personal things.

      4. Nita*

        You definitely have time. I made it 5 months once, and am at 4 months now and only just about to tell my boss. I just wore baggy clothes and looked like I’ve been over-indulging on donuts for a while. I don’t have a horrible boss, there were just other reasons. Also, really sorry you have to deal with that, and I think Alison’s recommendation to talk to your boss’s boss first is excellent. Maybe he didn’t register the first time just how intrusive and inappropriate her comments were, so be very emphatic that he needs to rein her in for your mental health.

        1. Barbara Latham*

          I was pregnant ( 45 years ago) and never did announce it. I worked with a whole bunch of women who eventually just figured it out. Sometimes with a first baby you don’t even show until month 7 or 8. Wait till somebody has the nerve to ask.

          1. aebhel*

            I never announced either of my pregnancies formally at work, other than requesting maternity leave. I mean, people did eventually figure it out (apparently with my second kid there was a betting pool, once it became obvious, about whether or not I’d ever say anything). And I get along great with all my coworkers, so it wasn’t that; I was perfectly open about it when someone did eventually ask, but it didn’t seem like something I needed to announce.

      5. VioletEMT*

        You can wait a lot longer. I’m 26 weeks today. Still haven’t told anyone other than immediate family. Gonna wait a few more weeks to tell work. Right now I just look like I’ve been eating too much ice cream.

        1. Working Mama*

          lol, I’m 26, almost 27 weeks right now and already have people at work asking, “uh, so… when’s your leave?” and random elderly women at the bus stop giving me the long side-eye and saying, “So, how much of the summer do you have to get through?”

          (This is kid 2, though. I started showing a *lot* sooner than I did with kid 1.)

        2. Kj*

          Maybe? I’m 23 weeks pregnant and the only place I’ve gained weight is my belly- I look pregnant, because the weight is literally all in my belly. I hope the OP can get away with not saying much for a while, but it depends a lot on your body type and how pregnancy sits with you.

          1. VerySleepyNewMom*

            This was me. I dropped 10lbs from a tiny frame to begin with due to morning sickness, and then started to gain around 14 weeks. By 17 weeks or so I was obviously pregnant, because I was still a twig everywhere else. Like, my elbows were thicker than my upper arms and knees thicker than my thighs kinda twig-like. You can’t pull off the “overindulged” look when you otherwise appear to be starving half to death. That, coupled by working from home so much (my boss is awesome and I told him when I was 5 weeks and SO TIRED … which is how I posted here as the VerySleepyPregnantLady), people figured it out really early. No one said anything, though, until I announced.

            When I delivered, I was only 25lbs over my pre-pregnancy weight and I was back at my pre-pregnancy weight when the baby was 2 weeks old. My body is far from back to normal at 4 months post-baby, though, because I lost tons of muscle mass at the start of pregnancy that I haven’t been able to regain. So I’m the same weight as before but very squishy and none of my clothes fit. Womp Womp.

          2. TardyTardis*

            I looked pregnant far sooner than that, because I’m so short. When I was in the Air Force, I was out of the regular uniform in less than four months.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      Yes, be like Beyonce and Jay-Z who never admitted they were even in a relationship–to this day. Just show up with your newborn’s pictures and refuse to acknowledge you were pregnant.

      That hiring comment was next-level passive aggression. I think she got her feelings hurt because she cares about you and thinks you are closer than you are. Not that it’s a justification though.

      1. Snark*

        Right? “You owe me personal details about your marriage because I was the one who decided to hire you.”

        Let me strap on the Jetpack of Nope.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          The Jetpack of Nope has an available expansion piece called the Firehose of None of Your Business. You may additionally enjoy the Hooded Sweatshirt of Leave Me Be or perhaps the Hot Air Balloon of Avoiding Awkward & Unnecessary Conversations.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              I possibly laughed a little too much at my mental image of someone bouncing off into the distance on a pogo stick with arms raised high with middle fingers outstretched. Heh.

      2. Logan*

        I was wondering if the comment was more of an attempt to create a false closeness, rather than a threat. Either way, the behaviour is totally inappropriate. Horribly, totally inappropriate.

        1. Jojobean*

          It sounds to me more like a passive aggressive attempt to remind her of the gratitude the boss feels OP *owes* her for deigning to hire OP.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        “I think she got her feelings hurt because she cares about you and thinks you are closer than you are.”
        Behaving this way is *not* caring about someone. It’s a narcissistic demand for closeness that has no regard for how OP feels or what she wants.

        1. Southern Ladybug*

          Hmm..I’d go with burrito baby. Because that’s what I called my babies when they were all swaddled up like burritos. Stays so true :)

      1. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

        About a year and a half ago I managed to get a seat on the train because I looked like I was about 8 months pregnant. I hadn’t been pregnant for, oh… 18 months or so by that point, but you better believe me and my fat belly took that damn seat.

      1. Katniss*

        Oh crap! I shouldn’t have said it was secret.

        Oh crap! I certainly shouldn’t have said it was illegal.

    3. UndercoverLibrarian*

      Boss: “Are you pregnant?”

      OP: *looks down at baby bump and feigns horror and surprise* “Holy frick! Well, that’s what I get. I was fine yesterday, and then I played poker with the witch . . .”

    4. H.C.*

      I’d sooner say I’m growing a xenomorph (“Somebody get Sigourney Weaver — it’s due anytime soon!”)

    5. A.*

      My sister did that at her job. She did not tell them she was pregnant until she was almost 8 months. She was clearly pregnant. She did that because how her supervisor handled her first pregnancy. She didnt want a repeat so she waited until the last possible moment.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        I had a busybody client corner me at a local store about my boss, who was clearly 6 months pregnant. I denied it straight to clients face. It was none of her damned business and she would have gone straight to my offsite grand boss to tattle.
        I do not miss that client.

    6. I heard it both ways*

      I know someone who said nothing even when she was 8 months and so obvious that we asked about it at book club. at which point her husband said yes and she still didn’t say anything! So go for it.

    7. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      Did anyone else watch Episodes? There was a story line where a character was obviously pregnant but not mentioning it. No one wanted to ask her and eventually it showed her in labor but still never acknowledging to anyone that she was pregnant.

    8. Goya de la Mancha*

      *Water breaks at office*

      Crap, guess I couldn’t wait to pee, now I have to go home to change my clothes!

    9. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

      IME, it could actually be possible to play this out for a long while. Coworker didn’t even know she was pregnant and didn’t realize until she was a month out from delivery because she generally wore loose fitting clothes and just assumed she felt ill because she had bronchitis. She did. But she also had a baby going on.

      1. Bea*

        My cousin had this happen. Then didn’t tell any family because she opted for adoption. She eventually told me (duh lol) .

        I used to have nightmares as a kid that I was pregnant. Before I really could comprehend how babies are made. I would go through phases thinking I was magically pregnant and panic internally as well. Fml what a screwed up thing for a kid to fixate on. My mom was never pregnant after me, idk how I had these ideas even.

        1. Chinook*

          You aren’t alone. I had a 10 year-old student who had a mother who just forgot to give her daughter the talk about how babies were made when talking about getting her period. Then the student hung out with cousins, one of whom joked about having mermaid babies because they were swimming with dolphins. Being a young girl, her period was later than usual and her mother found her crying. Why? She thought she was pregnant with a mermaid. Mom then had to explain, without laughter, the truth. Mom later told us adults the story and we joined her daughter in gently mocking Mom in her “horrible parenting skills” that led to her daughter thinking she would be single mer-mom.

          As for OP, I am on the team of not telling nosey-Nancy until after the baby is born and you are updating your beneficiary paperwork.

          1. ket*

            This is my favorite story here — it so perfectly illustrates the traumas of childhood…

          2. SarcasticFringehead*

            I used to get really bad PMS anxiety, and the later my period was, the worse it got. My period was usually regular, but would get delayed if I traveled. We went on a road trip to visit colleges, and I ended up about two weeks late; eventually, the anxiety got so bad that I convinced myself I must have gotten pregnant from taking a shower at one of the campgrounds we stayed at.

        2. Julia*

          I still sometimes wonder if I could be pregnant, and I’m on a pill (which I take very correctly) for endometriosis, so the chances are very slim. But since I don’t menstruate due to the pill, I take a test every month just to be safe. Yeah, I’m a little paranoid.

          1. NoPregnancyPlease*

            I have nexplanon (failure rate of 0.05%) *and* my husband has been told it’s unlikely he’ll ever be able to biologically father a child… and I still take a home pregnancy test in the first week or two of every month. You’re not alone, Julia. You’re not alone.

        3. Rebecca in Dallas*

          I definitely went through a phase of thinking I was pregnant! I hadn’t even gotten a period yet, kids are weird.

      2. mrs__peel*

        My mother used to be a labor and delivery nurse, and said that this scenario played out more often than you might think. (Although she did say that she thought it took “a special kind of denial”).

    10. Logan*

      I am a big fan of not admitting things. My parent thought that I had a room-mate for two years. I didn’t even mention that I had someone living with me the previous two years. We live in the same city, but I don’t trust that parent so they never visited my place. I only ended up telling them that the room-mate was essentially permanent because one of my siblings felt weird about the bending of the truth.

      I laughed with friends about the possibility that I might get married before telling parent about the relationship – I’m not the marrying type so it never happened, but it was quite funny to contemplate!

    11. CatCat*

      Haha! I love this!

      I’m imagining “What bump?” a la Igor in Young Frankenstein, “What hump?”

  2. l8rg8r*

    Wednesday June 6th, the day of coworkers who need to STFU about other people’s private lives.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      These should have been posted on Monday. We could make it MYOB Monday.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I wrote these on separate days and then realized, hmmm there’s a theme here, but then thought what the hell, they can all go together.

    3. Clorinda*

      I really want this one and the others to be locked in a room together so they can interrogate each other to death (not the phone person, but the others).

  3. not really a lurker anymore*

    Boss sounds like she’ll be one of the ones who MUST touch/rub the baby bump. Be prepared for that too.

    1. OPLetterWriter*

      LW here! Oh my goodness I know right! I’ve already been thinking about ways to avoid her touching my baby bump. It seems so obvious that people should just not have to say “Hey, please don’t touch me!”

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Get one of those buttoms that reads ‘Stop! Do not touch!’ and wear it every day. It didn’t work on my MIL so I doubt it will work on your boss but you could try…

        1. ExcitedAndTerrified*

          I worked with a coworker once who had a custom baseball cap made that said “Touching me is worth two assault charges.”

          I’m not sure if it was the cap or the openly carried taser that kept people at bay, but I never did see anyone touch her.

      2. Ann Perkins*

        Unfortunately a lot of people think a pregnant person’s body is suddenly public property. It’s so awful. Be mentally prepared to move an arm in the way or hunch your shoulder and turn. It’ll likely happen at least once or twice in stores as well, sadly.

        1. Sargjo*

          My favorite technique was to touch the toucher’s belly when s/he touches mine. She’d recoil and look shocked and I’d smile sweetly and say “See?”

          1. many bells down*

            I had resolved to gently pat people on the butt who did this to me by the 7th month, but I must have been giving off “NO” vibes at that point because no one touched me after that.

            1. Not Who I Think I Am*

              This is disappointing. Would love a full report on the effectiveness of this strategy.

            1. Future Homesteader*

              That’s also what I’m going to tell the first person who managed to touch my belly without permission. “Reflex.” ;-)

              If I see someone moving toward me with their hand out, I just stop dead about four feet from them and say “don’t even think about it.” It’s worked so far!

              1. AKchic*

                Better than my go-to, which was always “touch me and die”. I let my RBF work for me. During my first three kids I worked customer service and man, everyone under the sun wanted to touch the short pregnant woman. Short pregnant woman had short fuse. Threatening to disembowel them worked.

          2. Harper the Other One*

            There was a maternity shirt I saw when I was pregnant that said “You can rub my belly if I can punch your face. I’ll go first.” Weirdly, I did not run into any touchers but my mom wanted to invent a time machine so she could go back and give it to herself.

          3. WillyNilly*

            I would reach to touch their face, but same idea. “Oh, I thought we were touching people inappropriately? No? Then why did you touch me?”

      3. OlympiasEpiriot*

        She will. And there will be lots of other people. Be prepared. You might want to get a maternity-cut leather studded blazer for that period. Looking back, I should have done so. I got “stealth” patted by STRANGERS even.

        It is the most horrible thing…my body was already turned into a vessel in so many people’s eyes, I was addressed as “mom” by far too many and I absolutely sympathize with the main character in Prevenge.

        Kiddo is almost old enough to vote now, and remembering that time STILL gives me an adrenaline rush that makes me want to put my fist through a wall.

        1. tink*

          Now I’m envisioning a loose-but-tight–enough-to-stay on spiked belt wrapped around OP’s midsection.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            If I get pregnant again (unlikely, to be sure!), I want all my clothes to be maternity versions of the link in my name!

            After my previous experiences, I’m not kidding. I will spend months bench-pressing to make sure I can.

        2. Proton Neutron Futon*

          And, it’s a good practice to stop inconsiderate people during pregnancy – I had so many people touch my baby/toddler without any permission as if he was a “thing”. I am talking a baby in carrier right on my body… with their germy hands… before I could even react….urgh, it’s been a while now, and I am still so mad about it. (Sorry for the rant!)

        3. Yaffa*

          I was the exact OPPOSITE. With my first I didn’t show even at 8 months. I’m tall and carry my weight well. I was also an IVF mom & in a hugely child-centric country. (Israel) I was thrilled to pieces that our “10% chance” of getting pregnant happened. I also loved the warm, Middle-Eastern loving attention. Does that make me weird? ;)

      4. Environmental Compliance*

        On speaking with my grandmother about dumb things people do to women in their child-bearing age (since right now everyone and their mother and aunt and second cousin twice removed are asking me when I’m going to pop out a tiny human), she told me that when she was pregnant with my uncle, a distant family member just up and rubbed her bump with no asking or even anything said, to which she loudly yelped in pain and looked at him absolutely horrified while asking him why he’d ever do such a thing. Apparently no one ever touched her baby bumps again.

        (not necessarily recommended in the workplace)

        1. sometimeswhy*

          I’ve used an exaggerated startle reflex at work to some success. Not a howl in pain but definitely enough to draw attention to the fact that someone’s hand was on me.

      5. Totally Minnie*

        I’ve employed the “You don’t have permission to touch me” move with customers before, but never with a boss. Best of luck to you, OP

      6. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

        A firm hand on her forehead when she tries should get the message across. I would think…

      7. TheyCanAlwaysSurpriseYou*

        I know that this lady is a special case, but FWIW I never had a stranger try to touch my baby bump. I think people by and large have gotten better about respecting boundaries. Or my RBF game is stronger than I know.

      8. Can’t put my real name here*

        Rub her belly right back! I did that with my co-workers (caveat that I worked in healthcare) and it worked like a charm. No one said a word about it but it never happened more than once.

        Congrats on the baby! Also be ready for the question of whether the baby was planned or not. I got that one a few times. Never mind that we’d been married 3 years, bought a house 2 years prior… one would think people could figure it out.

        1. No Green No Haze*

          “be ready for the question of whether the baby was planned or not. I got that one a few times.”

          What is WRONG with people???

        2. Just keep swimming*

          I got this too! WTF! We’d been married for YEARS…then came the questions of HOW we made the baby. OP I recommend carrying a binder or thin book or something to block hands with. By my second trimester I carried an empty 3-ring binder everywhere. (I don’t like being touched or touching others so it was a good way to block and move them back.)

          On another note – All the best with your little one! Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to get angry with people intruding your space or that of your kiddo.

          1. Anyone up for tennis?*

            I thought you mentioned carrying the binder so you could have illustrations to explain the birds and the bees to people who ask how you made the baby.

        3. Jess*

          Yep, reverse-tummy-rub worked for me! It was with a co-worker who I had a lovely relationship with, and it happily resolved the situation with a laugh…but she got the point.

        4. Michaela Westen*

          I once read a whole thread about the disrespectful questions parents get from “friends” or total strangers.
          IIRC it was started by the father of a biracial baby. They were always getting questions about the baby’s color… he was white and the mother brown, and the baby looked white…
          Then a woman said she and her husband were both white with dark brown hair and blue eyes, and both their children had red hair. She said people would make “jokes” to her husband “are you sure they’re yours?” right in front of her!
          It seems there’s no limit on how low people can go with this. So yes, it’s good to be prepared!
          I’m not a parent but my go-to’s for rudeness are:
          1. Give them a look and walk on by
          2. Ask gently and helpfully, “you know it’s not cool to do that, right?”
          3. Be as rude as they are/call them out and tell them they’re rude. They usually don’t respond well to that, but I don’t care. :D

      9. Lizzy*

        Grab her boob the first time she tries to rub your belly. “What? I thought we were touching.”

      10. Mb13*

        The passive aggressive response is to start petting hers and talk about how big she’s getting and isn’t she happy she’ll be a mom soon, knowing fully well that she’s not. But that’s the passive aggressive fantasy.

    2. CustServGirl*

      If I ever have children (or if my BFF does) I will buy myself or her a “DON’T TOUCH ME” shirt.

      I get excited about babies, sure, but don’t touch people without their permission!! Yikes!

      1. kristinyc*

        I was just thinking… I would want an orange shirt that was Arrested Development fonts/branded, and just had “No touching!” over the belly area. I would wear it a lot.

    3. Free Meerkats*

      I’m thinking there would be a market for maternity wear with built in Scat Mat technology. No one would do it twice.

      How does one get on Shark Tank?

    4. Dr. Doll*

      It has never occurred to me once in my whole life to touch someone’s pregnant tummy (or someone’s interesting hair) and I do not understand people who WANT to do this. Let alone without permission.

    5. Jemima Bond*

      Ooooh, if you’re a Walking Dead fan you could wrap your tummy in barbed wire and say you’re having a little girl to be named Lucille.
      Or maybe an apron coated with a layer of that anti-climb paint that councils put on fences etc.
      Or I bet someone could wire up a top with a touch-sensitive alarm system so a klaxon goes off when your bump is touched.

    6. VerySleepyNewMom*

      What got me about the belly-touchers is that they always touched the top. Until very late in pregnancy, there was no baby on the top! Those were all of my displaced internal organs. Thank you for rubbing my intestines!

  4. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Christ on a cracker.

    I don’t understand why people feel it is their right to know what is going on with a coworker’s body. I understand the curiosity but not the incessant badgering and need to know. It’s bonkers.

    LW – you’ve already stood firm on other boundaries with Lady Bananas here. Just use the same technique with your pregnancy. If that fails to stop her, go to her boss as Alison suggested. (And perhaps start polishing up your resume…)

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      +1 just for Lady Bananas! (I may have to steal that as a screen name elsewhere!)

  5. HadThisSameConvo*

    I have a boss who has some more similarly threatening behaviors and attitudes. I manage a team and have 4 reports. I waited until I was five months pregnant before telling him and publicly announcing at work. (I didn’t really start showing until then.)

    Before I told my boss, I got information from HR and studied the maternity leave and FMLA-related policies. I planned how long I would be out and the type of transition back to work I would need (e.g. working from home to start building up to coming into work full-time).

    When I told me boss that I was pregnant, I walked in with a written plan documenting how I would be managing my team and workload during my maternity leave, as well as my decisions about leave and all of the timing of all of my projects during leave. I made the conversation entirely about the plan and how I’d be managing the transition – leaving no room for intrusive personal conversations.

    Good luck!

    1. OPLetterWriter*

      LW here! That is actually some of the best advice I’ve gotten so far. I have been planning to announce at an all staff meeting and having that kind of plan is actually going to be my best bet! Thank you!

      1. Hills to Die on*

        About 2 or so years ago, I had a job where I wouldn’t stop talking to someone about their baby (not intrusive stuff, just names, etc. but she didn’t want to discuss it at work so it still fits) and she just kept cutting me off and changing the subject. Multiple times in a row. Until I fianlly got it. Faceplam. It was effective once it finally stuck.

      2. Close Bracket*

        That might be too many details for an all staff meeting. You might want two versions of the talk, one for the all staff meeting and one for your boss. Could you have a meeting with all your bosses before the all staff meeting? You could give them the full plan then. Having all four of them they’re not only means you only have to have one meeting with them instead of four, but it means you don’t have to be alone with Ms Nosy Pants

        1. TiffanyAching*

          Totally seconding laying out the plan with the bosses before the meeting — perhaps a first meeting with Nosey’s boss to announce, lay out the plan, and ask him to tell her to lay off the questions. Then either meeting with the direct bosses to talk about the plan, or announce at the staff meeting with a brief overview of said plan with follow-up meeting with the direct bosses for more details.

    2. LBK*

      I like this a lot – flood the conversation with professionally-focused items, then high-tail it out of there as soon as you have everything covered so you don’t leave room for personal intrusions. And if she does try to interject with probing questions, you’ll be armed with a list of topics to redirect the conversation back to.

    3. CDM*

      That paves the way for a great professional redirect of all questions. Anything boss asks, no matter how inappropriate or intrusive, LW can respond with: “Shoot me an email with your questions, and I’ll update the transition plan as necessary before I go on leave.”

  6. Outrageous*

    I’m outraged at this “boss.” I’m more of the cynical type and in education (where it’s pretty hard to get terminated) and I would fight fire with fire. When asked about my relationship, I’d throw out, “Yeah, I’d rather not take advice from someone who hates her ex and is divorced!” very, very, loudly.

    Or, “No, I don’t want parenting advice from you, because I don’t want my kid to end up insane.” Y’know, snarky enough to shut her down. Insulting enough to send her running.

    1. OPLetterWriter*

      LW here!

      Is it wrong that I kind of want someone to overhear her saying or doing something that way crosses the line?

      Cuz I would get fired if I yelled that stuff, but I’m pretty sure she would get fired if someone caught her actually harrassing me.

      That’s the tough part. That’s how I know she knows what she is doing is wrong; she is very careful to pull me aside for all of her bs comments and close the door or go to the parking lot. I plan to announce at a staff meeting so I’m at least isolated from inappropriate comments in the beginning, but I know she’s going to pull me aside afterwards to say something.

      1. Keyboard Cowboy*

        Is it too over the top to record audio on your phone if you’re sure she’ll harass you about it? Maybe with a small org you don’t want to make those kinds of waves. I suppose if it gets to that point it’s better to just get out…

          1. fposte*

            It’s also fireable in almost every state (and maybe even meets the standard for for firing with cause in Montana); legal doesn’t mean they have to let you keep your job.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Nobody is doubting that the boss does this though, and recording someone without their knowledge is a defcon-5 move that doesn’t gain the OP anything (and may be illegal depending on the state). Reaffirmation that this needs to be addressed is a good plan IMO.

        2. Marthooh*

          Don’t record her, but do document. Get a little notebook, carry it with you, write down what she says with the date and time. Make sure she sees you doing it; she may back off without you having to drag anyone else into it.

      2. Mrs. Carmen Sandiego*

        Re: the “pulling aside” bit–this is how my mom was too–she’d pull you aside and insult/demean, then put on a pretty face in front of everyone else and gaslight and pretend nothing happened and that it was “for my own good.”

        What helped: documenting her words line by line precisely, then text (or here) emailing her, cc’ing the rest of my cousins/family to show everyone was on the same page and any attempt to mess up nuptials/be overbearing would not be tolerated. After a few of those cc’all messages, her shenanigans have been at an all-time low. Also, we minimized the amount of time we’d be in a room with her, and I warned everyone not to leave me in a room alone with her.

      3. Hope*

        Is there any way you can NOT go with her to wherever she tries to pull you aside? Or bring someone with you?

        1. Amber T*

          Yeah, if she tries to pull you aside, I’d say “I think we can have this conversation here” (here meaning surrounded by people, or at least in front of someone else). There’s no room for peeeeeeerrrrrrrsooonnallll talk at work (unless you want it, and you don’t).

          1. Hills to Die on*

            That’s good too. Nobody is forcing you to actually go with her, OP. Unless she tried to have a work-related discussion and then ambushes you with baby stuff. That would be harder to avoid.

      4. Andy*

        Is there any way to enlist an ally? someone who can discreetly shadow you when she tries to pull you aside but then there they are by your side, with a totally legitimate (pre-arranged) reason why they’re waiting for you. I HATE that you need to do anti-creeper-at-the-disco moves, but maybe it will keep her crazy mouth shut

      5. Blue Cupcake*

        If she tries to pull you into her office, ask her if what she has to say is regarding work. If she says yes, then tell her you’d prefer if the door is kept open or that you want another supervisor in there for the “work” discussion. There is zero reason she can deny you those two options if it’s really about work. Even private work discussions shouldn’t be a problem as long as the 2nd person is another supervisor.
        You can ask if a coworker who get off the same time if they mind walking you to your car.
        Any yes, ask *her* boss to intervene. Document everything.

      6. animaniactoo*

        Two-prong approach:

        1) If she tries to get you to go to the parking lot with her: refuse to go.

        Seriously. Just – you’re not up for having a private conversation with her in the parking lot. She tries to harass you further? Stonewall the hell out of her. Yes, it will be uncomfortable and awful. But probably shorter term than longer term continuing to go out to the parking lot and hear her b.s.

        2) She wants to talk in her office with the door closed? No problem. BUT. If she makes any comment that is not work related AND is “blaming” you for the time you’ll be gone? Stonewall her again. “Excuse me. Unless this is work related, I’m going to leave now.” “Excuse me, this is extremely inappropriate. Unless you want to discuss something about the current project, I’m going to leave now.”

        And if she continues, get up and leave. “Alright, please let me know if you need to talk to me about [current project]”

        Her success so far has been in isolating you and making you feel like you are trapped by her. Spring the trap. Civilly – but completely. Walking out of the discussion is much less fulfilling for her than her “letting you go” when she’s exercising her authority inappropriately to have a private conversation with you about your personal life.

        Talk to the boss you did before so that they know this is your plan for how you are going to handle her inappropriate comments and behavior, so that you’ll have backup if she heads for them to tell them how insubordinate/inappropriate you are and they’ll be ready to at least take her with a grain of salt when she reports that.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          I support this plan. But if you do get up and leave a meeting, walk directly to her boss’s office and explain what just happened. She’s probably not going to handle it well, and you want to be out in front of it if she tries to level any kind of insubordination charge against you. If her boss is not available to meet with you in the moment, send him an email with all the pertinent details.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          Yes! If she wants to pull you aside, ask first “is this about work?” Either she’ll say it is and during the conversation, she gets personal, then go with animaniactoo’s wording of “Unless this is work related, I’m going to leave now.” Or she’ll admit it isn’t, at which point you can say “Sorry, I need to get back to work” and walk quickly away.

          But I definitely wouldn’t go out to the parking lot again, it’s a trap. There’s no work related conversation that needs to happen outside the office, therefore no need to go. If she attempts to pull you outside, “Oh I don’t need anything from my car, let’s talk here if it’s about work, otherwise I need to get back to it.”

        3. leslie knope*

          i don’t see this working. then she’d have to explain why she walked out of a meeting with her boss.

          1. Alli525*

            I think Totally Minnie’s advice makes sense here – go straight from that meeting to her boss’ office and explain the situation… or at the very least formally document it somehow.

      7. Ann Perkins*

        Do you have the type of office setup where your space is fairly public? You could redirect those pull-aside moments to “I’m good right here, what’s up?” How does she get you to the parking lot?

        1. Legal Beagle*

          Yes, this! It’s friendly and non-confrontational, but should still get you the result you want. Don’t let her pull you away to talk privately, and if she tries to pigeonhole you when you’re walking to your car or something, you can use the “I’d rather not discuss this” line and keep walking.

      8. ElspethGC*

        If she does turn out to be a touch-the-bump kind of person, that honestly might do it. She’s not going to pull you into her office just to touch your stomach, right? (Right? Please say right. Oh god, please say right.) First one or two times, tell her loudly enough for others to hear that you want her to stop touching you. Make it very clear when people are around the two of you that you’ve told her to not touch your bump, why is she still trying to do that? I’m no good at scripts, and maybe your boss is public-shaming-proof, but people tend to stand up for pregnant women as far as I can tell. (I’ve never been pregnant; maybe they don’t.)

      9. LCH*

        like with any meeting followup, thoughts on emailing after with a summary of things said?

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Or “You know, I’d be more comfortable if you emailed me any questions you have about my pregnancy. I don’t like discussing it where people might overhear.”

          1. Jules the 3rd*


            Documenting, and blandly asking her to email any requests so that you can modify the plan, seem better than the more confrontational reactions.

      10. Sarah*

        My old boss was like that – he was terrible, but smart enough about it that he was mostly only terrible to me when nobody else could hear. I’m so sorry and I wish I had better advice, but really the only thing that worked for me was getting him over to my desk for conversations about my work – he’d either have to act professionally or belittle me where there were witnesses.

        I wonder if once she knows you’re pregnant, you could use some kind of *waves hands* pregnancy-related aversion to avoid being pulled into her office. “Oh, so sorry, this sensitivity to light/smell/whatever is REAL. There’s just something that triggers it in your office, so weird, maybe it’s something about the vents? Anyways, I’ve got this to work on, but if you need to stop by my desk for business-related-thing, I should be able to free up a few minutes.” I just know I ended up avoiding every possible “meeting” in his office to reduce the number of times I cried per week, so I’m all about you avoiding being isolated with her.

      11. Julia*

        “Is it wrong that I kind of want someone to overhear her saying or doing something that way crosses the line?”

        I think that’s actually a very normal reaction. When I was in my awful job with the awful boss (I replied to you somewhere else) and an even worse co-worker, I was constantly hoping boss or co-worker would do or say something extremely egregious just so someone would finally see what I was going through. Don’t get me wrong, both were saying and doing terrible things all the time, but nothing ever got them fired or even punished.

        While it sounds odd to wish for someone to really mistreat you, I think it’s actually a cry for help, a wish to be understood. I’m so sorry you have to deal with all this, especially right now.

      12. Michaela Westen*

        Can you not let her pull you aside? When she tries say “sorry, I have to go work on this deadline!” Repeat as necessary.

      13. Jennifer Thneed*

        Don’t be pulled aside. Just don’t. You’re not working on anything confidential, right (?), so you never need to be private with her to talk. Walk away. If she actually puts her hand on your arm, stop dead and stare at the hand. And then pull your arm away and walk away.

  7. Observer*

    I’m going to echo Alison. I realize that this is not likely to be something you can do at the moment, but an exit strategy is something you really want to think about.

    She’s already tried to get into your marriage. What makes you think she’s not going to try to get into your child raising?

  8. Richard*

    She could also maybe ask her manager’s boss about switching roles and working directly under him once she comes back from maternity: He’s apparently already been mentoring her for another role, and they get on well – maybe this could be a good opportunity to make that change?

    It also serves to defuse the situation, since you’re no longer working under a manager who passive aggressively threatens your job just because you don’t want to be best girlfriends who share everything, and projects her own relationship insecurities onto you. I’m not generally a fan of companies transferring staff away from a bad manager just to “solve” the issue, rather than deal with the bad manager properly – but if it could work in your favour, maybe it’s worth a shot?

  9. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

    ….annnnnnd today’s theme is apparently boundary violations…

  10. Higher Ed Database Dork*

    Ugh, I’m sorry you have to deal with this boss. I had a similar boss when I first started at my current university – nosy, judgemental, would often pull me into her office to talk at length about her personal life (and it’s many problems). I also had higher up bosses who were sympathetic to me, but did nothing.

    I second Alison’s advice to just become a boring, broken record of “I’m not going to talk about that,” and then physically leave the space. Also keep pestering the top boss about her rude behavior, and maybe he will eventually do something about it, if only to get you to stop.

    Unfortunately I think you may need to think about another job at some point, because like Alison said, it sounds like there could be other issues. My former department was just like this. I had two bosses, which was one too many; the top bosses were friendly and helpful to an extent but very conflict avoidant; the atmosphere just got worse and worse as time went on, and I found myself really frustrated and burned out. I got a new job in another department on campus last year and I”m soooo happy (one big reason is that I only have one boss! and he’s great!).

    I’m working on my second pregnancy right now, and some tricks I employ to ward off nosy/intrusive/touchy people:
    – be deadpan in your delivery of “don’t touch me” or “not discussing that”
    – utilize awkward silence – after telling someone to stop, just stare at them and let them sputter
    – if someone tries to touch your belly, throw up an arm and back away
    – don’t give people reasons why you don’t want to be touched or talk about your pregnancy because they see that as negotiation

    Lots of people will be offended and get their feelings hurt and that’s okay. It’s your body and your health and no one is allowed to comment and/or touch it without your permission. Congrats on your baby and I hope it all goes well for you!

  11. MuseumChick*

    I am so sorry you have to deal with this. I’m going to give some “much easier said than done” advice.

    When she calls you into her office or pulls you aside for one of these personal chat, cut it off right away:

    Her: “I’m deeply concerned about you and your husba-”
    You: “Jane, I prefer to not discuss my personal life at work.”
    Her: “Well I really think your husba-”
    You: “Is there anything work related you need from me?”
    Her: *huffy* “You know I was the only one who wanted to hire you.”
    You: “Well, if there isn’t anything you need I should get back to *insert project*

    Same with anything pregnancy related:

    Her: “I’m deeply concerned about your preg-”
    You: “Jane, I prefer to not discuss my personal life at work.”
    Her: “Well I really think your preg-”
    You: “Is there anything work related you need from me?”
    Her: *huffy* “You know I was the only one who wanted to hire you.”
    You: “Well, if there isn’t anything you need I should get back to *insert project*

    I would also keep your grand boss in the lop. “Jane has asked me three times about deeply personal issues. I have made it clear I don’t want to have these discussion but it keeps happening.”

    1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      Oh definitely do the “is there anything work related you need?” thing. I had a very intrusive/boundary violating coworker for a while, and I was a broken record with that line. It made me super boring and he eventually left me alone.

  12. Amber T*

    To go off of Alison’s “I don’t want to discuss my pregnancy at work,” I think it’s also fine saying “I don’t want discuss my pregnancy with you” or “I don’t want to talk about my pregnancy” if there are friendly coworkers you do want to chat with. The “with you” might sounds rude and it might be awkward since she’s your boss, but if you do it pleasant enough followed by a deflect, I think it’ll work out okay.

    If you’re mid pregnancy chat with a coworker and she comes barging in, a quick change of subject is good too – either work related or not, depending on if you want to have ANY personal conversations with (there are some coworkers where I don’t even want to chat about what movies they saw or even the weather… it’s work or nothing).

    1. iwouldlikeacookie*

      I agree! I was just thinking that “I don’t want to discuss my pregnancy AT WORK” means that it will be very difficult to talk about it with other people in the office (who you may actually want to speak with about your pregnancy).

    2. As Close As Breakfast*

      I wondered about this exact thing! “I don’t want to discuss my pregnancy at work” is great, right up until I’m talking to other coworkers about it because I want to talk to them about it. Obviously a reasonable person wouldn’t call you out on this, but OP’s boss doesn’t sound like a reasonable person.

      1. TiffanyAching*

        I think a way to get around this would be by asking individual coworkers to go to lunch or take a walk, etc. That way OP can discuss the pregnancy with specific, non-boundary-violating coworkers if she wishes, but still maintain the “I don’t talk about my pregnancy at work” piece.

  13. Duffman*

    Having never given birth due to my lack of a uterus, part of me would be tempted to do the exact opposite and go into graphic, way overly detailed overshare of the absolute grossest parts of my pregnancy.

    1. Ophelia*

      I was going to say, first trimester is almost over, but have you considered puking on her?

    2. Future Homesteader*

      I do that to anyone who tries to give me advice about morning sickness. Oh, does ginger help, you say? Let me tell you about every time I’ve thrown ginger up in the last two weeks. Ginger candy, ginger soda, ginger capsules…

      Exception: people who actually suffered morning sickness who were genuinely trying to be helpful, because they understood that for the most part there’s nothing to be done.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I tried every single nausea relief product out there, even the weird pressure point bracelets. Each would work for a short time (3 – 5 days) then the nausea came back. Through month five. You have my uttermost sympathy.

        One week I ate nothing but watermelon, because at least it didn’t hurt much coming back up.

      2. VerySleepyNewMom*

        My advice to morning sickness sufferers (if it sounds bad) will always be “Have you talked to your doctor? There are drugs for that, you know. Yes, there are risks, but not eating anything is also risky for the fetus. Yes, the drugs all make you sleepy, but so does starving.”

        Because when it gets bad OMG THE DRUGS ARE MIRACULOUS. I didn’t get on them until 8 weeks, after my first appointment, and I had already shed 10% of my body mass by then. In the future, I know to get a PCP to give me the drugs if I haven’t seen an OB/midwife yet.

    3. Lizzy*

      “omg my boobs already hurt like crazy and I’ve had to go up 3 bra sizes. I also already pee a bit when I sneeze – know any good leak-proof underwear? Don’t even get me started on hemorrhoids. How do I avoid those???”

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Indeed it does! “My marriage crashed and burned, so yours is probably on its way there, too, you just don’t know it because you are so young and naive, but luckily, I’m here to tell you.”

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

        People like that are why I don’t go the “disgust them with all the gory details” route, because they see that as bonding and will just share more.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          And then you end up somehow ensconced in a graphic discussion about uterine prolapse while trapped in a conference room after your coworker tries to shut-up-via-gory-details the boss, who has NO boundaries.

      2. Bea*

        This POV always exhausts me. It’s right next to the doomsdayers and generally negative people.

        I just blink at them because whereas I know the divorce rate my dad’s second marriage is 35 years and still going. Yeah go figure that the one he entered into at 20 years old didn’t work out. Whomp whomp whomp.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      YES. This boss sounds EXACTLY like my last boss, who was just bursting with insecurities and desperately needing to foist them off upon someone else under the guise of being “so helpful”. She even decreed herself “basically [my] mom”. Uh, no thanks?

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      The most marriage advice I ever got from a boss was from the one who’d divorced her husband for infidelity, and then re-married him because she missed the money.

  14. mark132*

    LW, somedays I would love to have you as a coworker. I have some coworkers who never stop talking about their personal life. (Seriously, I don’t need a blow by blow account of your argument with your spouse)

    1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

      Dude. I know more about my employees than I ever wanted to know just by walking through the hallway. (One of my dreams is to have a dedicated room employees can use for personal calls. That is never going to happen, but a guy can dream.)

  15. OPLetterWriter*

    LW here! I just want to say thank you for the outpouring of empathy and support from the comments on here as well as thoughtful and helpful advice. Among my favorite are:

    – What bump?
    – Come in with a kickass plan about the work stuff and then peace out
    – “Is there anything work related you need?”
    – And finally, the reminder that I am not obligated to let her “pull me aside.” That was genuinely something I hadn’t given much thought to preventing and I don’t know why. “I’m fine right here” or “Is this work related” at this point is entirely appropriate and I am in an office space open enough that if she accosted me at my desk, people would hear it.

    Thank you again to everyone (Alison included) and I am still avidly reading the comments for advice!

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      I’m just here to say congrats!!! You’re clearly awesome and will make a fabulous mom. Enjoy! :)

    2. MuseumChick*

      Hi OP,

      I hope that, upon applying so of the advice here, she backs off from bothering you so much. Please send us an updated to let us know how things turned out!

    3. ElspethGC*

      If you do go the “What bump?” route, just…keep it up forever. Even at nine months pregnant. Even after maternity leave is over.

      “How’s the baby?”
      “What baby?”

      “How’s your marriage?”
      “What marriage?”

      Plausible deniability – “I didn’t see how my marriage was in any way related to work, so I thought you must have been talking about something work-related. Why are you asking about my marriage? How is that relevant to XYZ project?”

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Put on your Zoe from Firefly mask…

        “You fought with Captain Reynolds in the war?”
        “I fight with a lot of people.”
        “And you husband?”
        “Fight with him sometimes too.”

        1. ElspethGC*

          I need a WWZD pin for when I’m in a bad mood. Deadpan deniability is the way to go.

        2. Emily*

          Zoe was great! I loved her toughness and confidence.

          Actually, I really liked Inara and Kaylee too – the adult women of Firefly were by far my favorites.

    4. C in the Hood*

      If I were you, OP, I’d document EVERYTHING that’s going on. You may need it in the future.

    5. Lizzy*

      “I have a bump????? I just thought it was a convenient food-shelf.” (which it totally is)

    6. Free Meerkats*

      Alison’s advice is almost dead on, there’s only one change I’d suggest. “Keep repeating it. You can change it up …” Don’t change it up. Gray Rock her. Every time it comes up, give exactly the same response, in the same tone of voice. She’ll tire of bringing it up.

    7. Christmas Carol*

      The phrase “I’m not going to discuss it any further” will also come come in handy when the baby reaches her teens, if not sooner.

      1. Observer*


        This is true. But, tbh, most teens are a lot more reasonable that this lady.

    8. Ann Perkins*

      Yay! Please do update with how it goes. And congratulations! Having a child is worth all the annoying comments from strangers and intrusive bosses.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        That’s what I forgot to say! When you come up with your scripts for various situations, practice them with someone else first. That will help you get more comfortable with saying the actual words, and it will help you remember them.

  16. Primrose*

    I had a similar situation with an old boss. I knew I would never hear the end of her negative and instrusive comments so I waited until I was 6 months along to spill the beans. I was also job hunting and terrified she would “accidentally” tell employers who called for references that I was pregnant. But 6 months was too late because it was all kinds of awkward with my boss and the larger staff, although no one came out and asked why I waited so long to announce. If I it weren’t for the job hunting piece, I probably would have talked at 4-5 months.

  17. High Score*

    Congratulations! Remember, your body is your body, no one has a right to touch any part of you pregnant or not. It’s ok to correct those who do by shoving away hands, using a loud voice “I did give you permission to touch me!” And, IMHO, I world but judge a pregnant woman who punched, kicked or screamed bc the whole belly touching thing is patronizing and it is assault. I feel annoyed for you.

    1. Elaine*

      Miss Manners once suggested you scream loudly in such situations. Then pant/gasp a little as if getting yourself under control and apologize, “I’m so sorry. You startled me!” I’d love to know if it actually works. If you try it, please let us know.

      Best of luck to you!

  18. Amelia*

    As annoying as it is to need to read your employer into your personal health issues, I do think there are some reasons to do it at 12 weeks. Mostly due to job protection.

    I’m 12 weeks pregnant and there are simply some things I can’t easily do right now – mostly involving early AM meetings (morning sickness) and group lunches that involve being in a room tuna fish (again morning sickness.) I’m also not super keen do lift heavy boxes since I’m high risk. And I have a ton of doctor appointments.

    By alerting my boss, it’s allowed some increased flexibility. And as a large company, my employer is very concerned with compliance on things like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. I’m happy for a little CYA.

    1. Observer*

      Well, your employer is being reasonable. This employer has shown that they are NOT going going to be reasonable – at least not this particular supervisor.

  19. Adereterial*

    I know America offers far less in terms of employment protection than Europe but I can’t believe this is legal. It’s definitely harassment, and harassment due to what would be protected characteristics here: marital status, gender, health and pregnancy, possibly, once that’s disclosed.

  20. MF*

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I had a boundary-crossing boss, and this is what worked for me.

    -Never, EVER offer up ANY personal information. When she asks, “How was your weekend?” You say, “Fine” and walk away. She will push harder for personal information when she realizes she’s being stonewalled. Don’t give her an inch–she’ll try to take a mile.

    -When she brings up your pregnancy, use Allison’s “I prefer not to” script and then aggressively change the subject to something work-related.

    -If she catches you off guard and you forget what script you meant to use, try to delay the conversation. “I’m actually in the middle of X report. Can we discuss this later?” Then, when later rolls around: “Earlier you were asking about my pregnancy. I’d prefer not to discuss it at work and would appreciate it if you’d stop asking about it.”

    -After a couple of instances of using the “prefer not to” script, send her email to document it and note that you’ve asked her multiple to stop. This is to CYA in case you need to pull in HR or the higher-ups.

  21. Arbynka*

    This thread has reminded me of one of my favorite movies.

    “You know, I am rather brilliant surgeon. Perhaps I can help you with that hump”
    “What hump ?”

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      Good man. Didn’t you, didn’t you use to have that on the other side?

    2. Mad Baggins*

      And my other favorite:
      “Wasn’t your mole… on the other side?”
      “I have a MOLE?”

  22. Granny K*

    This boss seems to have boundary issues going both ways. Talking to her EMPLOYEE about her failing marriage and her Ex’s hidden accounts? Who does that?

  23. A Nickname for AAM*

    You know what requires a ton of medical appointments in a row?

    Dental work. Cleaning/exam, then filling, then other filling, then third filling. Oral infection, infection follow up, endodontist consult, root canal, root canal follow up, crown prep, crown fitting.

    Dental work is probably the most boring of all medical procedures to talk about, too. So if someone is like “Oh wow you’re at the doctor again?” You can say, “Oh yes! I had a dental cleaning and when I was there they found my old filling from when I had my braces in high school went bad and it’s causing this weird pain, so two Tuesdays ago they drilled it out to redo it but then it turned out I needed a root canal, so then last Wednesday they fitted me for a crown instead and sent me to the endodontist. But when I got to the endodontist on Friday, it turned out I didn’t need a root canal, I needed this surgery where they cut your gum open and slice at the roots of your teeth from the side? So I had a consult for that and I’m going for the surgery next Monday, and then a follow up the next Monday and then they’ll fit me with the new crown in a month.”

    And now Ms. Medical Noseypants is asleep because that is the most boring-ass story on the planet.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Unless she’s so Bananacrackers that she will pry open the LW’s mouth to have a look-see. (At least it’s not a speculum….)

    2. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      Good lord yes. My boss just had some dental work done and he was out like 2 mornings every week for the past few weeks!

  24. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    Is the theme of this week’s letters “Bosses That Make LGC Want To Take A Shower?” Because between Creepshot Boss, Tupperware Boss, and this lady…

    Anyway. First of all, LW, congratulations on the new addition to your family! I’m hoping your boss doesn’t show up in the delivery room shrieking about how you’ve made a grave mistake by attaching yourself to your husband with a child. (I’m also hoping your boss isn’t reading because I might have given her ideas if she is.)

    But…man, I feel for you. And this really sucks – it seems like you want to be able to share in your happiness, but you can’t because Jan will just stick her nose into your business.

    It also seems like you’re not her first victim, and your director is kind of accepting that your boss from hell is Just That Way. Which…sucks. She’s way out of line – at this point, she’d need a speculum to be more intrusive, and he should be stepping in – especially if it’s not the first time this has happened with her.

    Actually…Have you heard anything from your coworkers about her, though? If she’s like this with you, I can’t imagine how she is with your sick coworker. I’d definitely check in with her as a first step if you have a good rapport with her.

    1. Drew*

      More likely it’ll be “I need you to stop pushing for a minute so I can ring you in on this conference call.”

      1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

        Boss seems like more of the type to just sigh and resign herself to the fact that LW can’t make a conference call when she’s 4cm dilated, and then turn around and tell her about the gnarly tear she got with her first child and all the details of her recovery. And why no one is allowed to make her laugh to this day.

        Her ex-husband did that to her, by the way. The jerk.

  25. Snickelfritz*

    I have never had the slightest desire to touch a pregnant belly — not even when invited to do so (“ooh, he’s kicking; wanna feel?” … “Nope to the hell-no!” .

    1. Mrs. Fenris*

      Me either. Oddly, I never had anyone touch my pregnant belly, or even ask if they could. I don’t know whether it was because I live in a very family-friendly suburb and pregnant women are not very uncommon, or more likely because of the slight “don’t eff with me” vibe I seem to give off.

  26. DaffyDuck*

    I am a big fan of not announcing a pregnancy early. I was 5+ months along before we told anyone (including my mother). My boss was very surprised. Large sweatshirts and loose tops can hide a lot.

  27. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

    I’m here to try to offer some hope. As someone closer in age to crazy boss than LW, and as a divorcée who has worked with a lot of divorcing people, sometimes (usually) the throes of divorce cause irrational behavior. It’s possible that the pregnancy won’t push her buttons the same way, so this may go better than you fear. Please protect your physical and mental health, but hold on to a ray of hope. Good luck!

  28. Elan Morin Tedronai*

    No advice here, but… What is it with this sudden infestation of boundary-violators?!

  29. Lesley*

    You only get eight weeks off? How do you even have time to recover from what is a sizable physical change – not a disability, not an illness but a change for sure – and have a chance to bond with your baby? That is just so not cool!

    1. aebhel*

      Eh, I took seven weeks off with both my kids and it was fine. Honestly, by the end of both leaves I was climbing the walls, so it was good to get back to work and spend a few hours a day without an infant attached to me (then again, my job is low-stress and extremely flexible, so that helps a lot).

  30. Blueberry*

    LW, all good luck with both the pregnancy and Boundary-Lacking Boss! Also, having. dealt with some boundary-violators in my time I’m definitely taking notes on the great advice you’ve gotten here should I run into another.

  31. Benedium*

    By being concerned for her subordinate, the boss was probably hoping to get the same concern from the subordinate. Yes it’s not cool and even pathetic, but it might be how older people did it in their community back in the day.
    They forget they are dealing with a bunch of more individualistic and selfish millennials. Well, if it makes you feel better, you can gang up with everyone to sabotage and punish her.

    1. Not A Manager*

      You think the boss secretly wants the LW to be all up in her business, pulling her aside to give her pointers and advice? “Hey Boss, I couldn’t help but notice that you’re in the bathroom a lot. Fiber is very important at your age. Have you considered adding some Metamucil?” Really, the possibilities here are endless.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yup. In our parents’ day it wasn’t unusual for your boss to double as your gyno or prostate examiner – saved loads on health bills, I tell ya.

    2. Lehigh*


      You say it’s not cool and is pathetic (perhaps based on the fact that it’s a boss and subordinate rather than just community members or friends?) But then you call people who aren’t into this boundary-crossing selfish. So I’m really confused about what your point is?

    3. Observer*

      Either you forgot the sarcasm tag, or you’re fairly delusional about current and past norms.

  32. Dogmama*

    Like everyone here, I sympathize and hope you’ll be able to get around this uncomfortable situation that your boss has put you in. But also, congrats!

  33. Hildegard Vonbingen*

    I’m in my 60s, and believe me this is not the way people bonded or sought emotional support when I was young, nor is it how people I know who are my age seek it now. My family referred to folks like this supervisor as buttinskis. It wasn’t a compliment. I don’t think the supervisor’s behavior is due to her belonging to a particular age group. And I don’t view younger people as being “more individualistic and selfish.” Seriously, do you? And what’s selfish about not wanting people pawing through your private life as if it were a table full of second-hand clothing at a rummage sale?

    1. Observer*

      not wanting people pawing through your private life as if it were a table full of second-hand clothing at a rummage sale?

      That’s a GREAT line. I’m borrowing it.

    2. Michaela Westen*

      I behaved like this when I was young… I hope not as bad! It’s not an age thing. I was like that because my parents and many of the grown-ups I knew were like this.
      Children follow the examples of parents and others such as teachers – so if the grown-ups are disrespectful boundary-ignoring jerks, the child will behave that way.
      That may be how Jane learned this. The bad thing is that as an adult she apparently hasn’t realized it’s not cool and she needs to work on it.

  34. Kj*

    Alison, have you ever done a pregnancy at work stories thread? I’d love to read other’s experiences with this!

  35. Michaela Westen*

    If you are thinking of changing jobs, OP, you might want to wait and see how you feel after the baby’s born.
    One of my friends was working full time until after she had her baby, then she decided to work part-time, partly from home, so she could be with him.
    So you could wait and see how you feel before going through the trouble of changing your work life. :)

  36. Michaela Westen*

    Reading this thread helped me today! :) I put in a call to my allergist because she hadn’t answered the latest in an email about my meds.
    A different doctor called back and said she’s out of town. After I mentioned what my call was about, she started trying to help – with no knowledge of my history.
    I stopped her from wasting her time and mine by saying I’d rather discuss with my allergist. If I hadn’t been reading this thread, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been as fast and composed in my response! :)

  37. It's accrual world*

    Oh my, i felt I stumbled into something from The Toast, Rip. Thanks for the lovely sense of community!

  38. OPLetterWriter*

    LW here with an update

    We had our meeting not too long ago. She rolled her eyes and pursed her lips and later told one of our other coworkers (who told me) that it was inapropriate of me to announce that at a staff meeting (the whole point of my other boss calling the staff meeting at that time was to announce) and that I stole the thunder of another coworker who talked about his daughter getting married next month (which he announced in december, when she got engaged).

    Another coworker told me she was upset I didn’t tell her first and that she deserved to know before everyone else as my supervisor.

    She hasn’t “pulled me aside” yet, but she will come into my cubicle and whisper yell at me for “not meeting deadlines” on projects she gave me literally the day before and did not designate a deadline for. She only started doing this after the meeting. I had to talk to head boss about it cuz it sounded like she was trying to find documented reasons to fire me (aka, not meeting deadlines). He assured me that would not happen and if she wanted me out of her department, he would simply move me to another.

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