my boss won’t let me give my staff feedback in case it hurts their feelings, and more

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

1. My boss won’t allow me to give my team constructive criticism in case it hurts their feelings

I have been working at a small company for the last two years, and I’ve been in a management role for the last year. I’m proud of my performance and feel that I’ve helped raise the standards and the quality of work we produce.

My problem is that the CEO rarely lets me actually manage my team. This hasn’t been a huge problem until recently, when a few members of my team began to slack off and the quality of their worked suffered significantly. It has damaged our reputation and relationship with our largest client.

The CEO prefers to skate around these problems so as to not hurt anyone’s feelings. Nothing gets clearly addressed, so nothing gets fixed. It makes it seem that she not only tolerates but also encourages bad work.

This is not my strategy. I think firmly but professionally identifying the unacceptable behavior and correcting it is the way to go. It is best for the business, and it is best for the employees because it sets the proper expectations. But any time I give my team constructive criticism in front of the CEO, she undermines me and tells the employee, “No, no, no, that’s fine, you’re doing a great job.”

What is the point of being a manager if I’m not allowed to manage? Am I way off-base here? I feel like I’m going crazy.

You’re are not off-base and you’re not going crazy. There’s no way to manage if you can’t give any feedback or hold people accountable to any standards. You’ve been told that you’re responsible for doing a job, but you’re not allowed to actually do that job. And your (terrible) boss is actively undermining you. Get out, get out, get out.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Asking for a higher salary after learning more about the job

I am interviewing with a company for a role I would be a great fit for (I have had three interviews and each person has basically said, “wow, it is like we wrote this job description while looking at your resume!”). My first call was with the recruiter and, as is pretty common in my field, we discussed salary. Their range was a bit on the low end of market, but it was something I would consider so I moved forward in the process.

After speaking to the hiring manager and the head of the department where the job is housed, however, it is clear this position entails a lot more responsibility than originally advertised. The job is listed as an individual contributor, but the department head made it clear he expects the person hired for this position to build and manage a small team. Before this team was in place, essentially all the responsibility for one essential function of the department would fall on this position. I have had experience doing exactly this with great success at two previous companies, so I am not concerned with the responsibility. The issue is that I would not do it for even the top of the salary range I spoke to the recruiter about.

The company is now wanting me to come in for a full-day interview with multiple people, but I don’t want to waste anyone’s time if I would not accept any eventual offer. I also don’t want the recruiter to feel like she is the victim of a bait and switch because we had discussed the range before. Can you help me formulate a way to tell this company that although I am interested in the role (and would be a great fit) I can no longer accept the salary I previously indicated I might (which I understand means I may need to withdraw my candidacy) now that I know more about the role?

“I’d love to come in and talk further about the role! Before we set it up, though, I wanted to touch base on salary. Since we originally spoke about salary, I’ve learned more about the job and it sounds like this person will need to hire and manage a small team and, until that happens, will be solely responsible for X. Given that, I’d be looking for a range of $X-$Y. Since we’d earlier talked about a different range, before I learned the position’s full scope of responsibility, I didn’t want to take up your time with the next set of interviews if that’s prohibitive on your end.”

3. Division of labor with my former intern / new coworker

On the same day that I accepted my current job, I found out I was pregnant. A few months after, I hired my intern whom I trained to be able to do my job while I was on maternity leave. I also recommended my boss to hire her as my temporary replacement, which she did.

Fast forward to yesterday, it was announced that the organization is keeping her full-time (in addition to me) and is giving her the same title even though I have many more years of experience and was her supervisor for five months.

I find this to be awkward because there would be no hierarchy and people within the organization wouldn’t know who is responsible for what and who to reach out to for what issues. Furthermore, my boss sends out assignments with both of us CCed in the email without specifying who should be doing it and my replacement responds that she will do it before I get a chance. Also, I would like to attend events and training with my boss because I have seniority and more experience and I’m wondering how that will work if we both have the same title.

I think this is much more than an ego thing. I have worked hard to get to where I am today and completely restructured/improved many of the processes in place today. I am also in charge of higher-level type work like designing materials, writing and reviewing while she does more assistant-type work (the types of things I hated doing when I was alone).

I’m really glad she’s here because we do need an extra staff person, but I’m trying to figure out how the logistics would work and what I should/can ask for without stepping on anyone’s toes. I feel like this should be something my boss thought of but it seems like she’s just happy to have the help and hasn’t thought about how it will affect us. I would love any recommendations on how to make this a smooth and easy transition for everyone involved.

It’s not unreasonable to want some recognition that you’re working at a much more senior level than your new coworker. People care about titles because they matter. It’s possible that your title should be adjusted to reflect the difference in your roles (which could even be as simple as adding “senior” in front of your current title).

But the bigger issue is working out what the division of labor will be between the two of you. Why not sit down with your coworker and propose a division of labor and systems for allocating work? Or, depending on how involved you sense your boss wants to be with this, it might make sense to run a proposal by your boss first. Either way, you’ve got experience and seniority and it makes sense for you to take the initiative and say “here are my thoughts on how this can work.”

4. Should I mention to interviewers that I had a baby during school?

I recently graduated with a master’s degree and certificate from a good university. I earned a 4.0, and during my studies I completed an AmeriCorps internship and worked as a graduate teaching assistant.

I’m currently job searching, and wondered if it would be a bad idea to mention that I had my first baby in the middle of my last semester. Maybe this sounds silly, but I think it really shows that I am hard-working, organized, and motivated. I wouldn’t put it in my resume or cover letter, but should I hide that fact during interviews?

You don’t need to hide it, but don’t make a point of bringing it up. If there’s any hint that you’re mentioning it because you think it will demonstrate work ethic, organization, or motivation, it’s as likely to annoy people as it is to positively impress them — because it’s generally not considered appropriate evidence of those things in an interview context, and some people will worry you don’t realize that. There’s also still plenty of discrimination against women with young children, from interviewers who annoyingly will become convinced (consciously or otherwise) that you’ll want lots of time off, be less inclined to work late when needed, etc. etc. It’s better not to intentionally inject something that risks triggering that bias, at least without sufficient likelihood of payoff in the other direction.

{ 413 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, this situation sounds so crazy-making. I agree with Alison—get out, get out! It’s one thing to dislike giving feedback, but not allowing people to give legitimate work-related feedback “because feelings”?? Is she grown!?

    And in the interim, try to give the feedback when the CEO isn’t around. If you haven’t had a chance to bring it up with her, you could try, but I understand if it’s not worth the political capital/grief.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      And give your CEO feedback when you leave.
      (This may blow up a bridge, but you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth it.)

    2. Rebecca*

      Sadly, this isn’t isolated. I had a manager who didn’t address workplace issues individually, like, someone wasn’t doing a key part of their job…instead, she called all of us together and brought up issues as a group because she didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Result? The people not doing what they were supposed to be doing didn’t change (it can’t be me!!) and the rest of us were miffed to have to stand there and be lectured for something we were not involved with. And we resented our manager. So glad she’s no longer with the company!

      1. London Calling*

        No it isn’t uncommon, sadly. My manager has a team of both high performers and what might be kindly described as low performers. The high performers are held to high standards and the low performers are held to no standards at all – and both sides know it. Result? the skivers are happy because no-one expects anything of them and the hard workers are getting irked because of the double standards. In the long run it’s not doing the team any favours at all

        1. froodle*

          Ah yes, the thing where you give competent employees a dozen balls to juggle while the incapable ones slowly pass a single hacky sack from hand to hand. Then when you drop one of twelve on fire chajnsaws, you’re an idiot, because Beanbag Tosser didnt drop their single task even once!

          The only way I’ve found to deal with this is either the chainsaw jugglers band together and start only juggling their specific chainsaws, and let the hacky sacks fall where they will, or get out. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

          1. pope suburban*

            Oh my god, yes. This is my last workplace to a T. The boss was very resistant to giving people feedback or doing any hands-on management. He was deeply and selectively conflict-averse too, leaving a lot of thorny problems to junior staff because he didn’t want to say no or ask someone to fulfill their end of a contract. Low performers skated by, getting more or less anything they asked for, while high performers burned out and only ever got negative feedback for dropping a flaming chainsaw. It was terrible for morale, and made everything a lot more unpleasant than it would have been if he’d just managed people.

            1. London Calling.*

              And the stupid thing is, the rest of the company can see what is going on – someone said to me today while we were chatting that ‘there are problems in your department, aren’t there?’ (your as in ‘I work there,’ not as in ‘The department you manage’). What’s even stupider is that the *managers* know there is a problem, they just don’t know how to sort it out, and one has admitted as much to me. Which naturally FILLS me with confidence in her ability.

              1. pope suburban*

                This is also relatable. My last workplace is known for dysfunction first, and their product second. Like, everyone who worked there knew it was a nightmare. Most of the people knew that there was something like a caste system in play (It was a fun place to be a skilled chainsaw juggler, let me tell you). It was so obvious. And it’s like, either the boss doesn’t know, in which case he is not competent to tie his own shoes, or he does know, in which case he’s not going to fix it. That’s a lose/lose for every party. That’s also the kind of thing that will eventually lose all the decent employees, but somehow, these managers never seem to get that far in their thought process.

                1. London Calling.*

                  *And it’s like, either the boss doesn’t know, in which case he is not competent to tie his own shoes, or he does know, in which case he’s not going to fix it. That’s a lose/lose for every party. That’s also the kind of thing that will eventually lose all the decent employees, but somehow, these managers never seem to get that far in their thought process*

                  THIS is the conundrum that I can’t resolve. My manager is – or was – intent on making our department known for being effective and professional, and yet all this is being allowed to fester unresolved. Does it not occur to any of the management team to add 2+2 =4 in the form of unhappy high performing employees = people who have options elsewhere and might very soon exploring them therefore we need to start concentrating on ways of keeping them happy? because it doesn’t actually appear that they do think that way. It’s baffling.

                2. froodle*

                  I believe that in the case of my own dysfunctional workplace, there were definitely elements in management that actively tried to force out capable and talented employees, because if they ever rose to a certain point, it would strike a pretty glaring contrast between these employees and those managers.

              2. froodle*

                And when everyone in other departments knows who the underperformers are, they go straight to the chainsaw jugglers for help, often interrupting us in our already overloaded work day, and piling even more tasks directly on top of us.

            2. froodle*


              Like, I try to do a good job,and work at a reasonable pace, but I’m not taking on yet another extra project when a) Underperforming Co-worker does about 40% of what I do in a day and b) the last Reasonable Co-worker to take on a project from Non-Managing Manager made a tiny slip up and got raked over the coals and threatened with termination for it. (And I mean tiny – she was hand-writing address envelopes and the address on this one slanted a bit. It didnt even happen to me and it gave me a deep resentment and contempt towards the Manager Who Wouldn’t Manage).

              1. SusanIvanova*

                On my previous team, one person’s chainsaw was another’s beanbag. It was also common that if you were out of your own beanbags, you’d look at someone who was busy and offer to take some of theirs; even if it would take twice as long for you to do it, that was time they had for their other things.

                Coworker Coffeecup eventually got to the point where the only things assigned to him were beanbags by anyone’s standards, but none of us even considered offering to take any on, until the day after he left when I swooped in and fixed 20 of them in one morning just to prove a point. Little did we know it was intentional; his PIP included fixing one per day. He couldn’t even manage that.

                1. froodle*

                  Oh for sure I’ll take on beanbags (and even chainsaws if I’ve got the capacity) for the people on my team who pull their weight, because I know if they have spare time they’ll return the favour.

                  But the freeloader who spends all day squawking and obfuscating and putting on a whole smoke and mirrors filled performance about how much work she has to do and how complicated it is, when I know full well that it’s a fist sized bag of sand and polystyrene beads? A polite smile and a pleasant, “sorry, I can’t take that on right now.”

                  but like with CoworkerCoffeecup, this only works of all the chainsaw jugglers agree to hold the line in refusing to pick up her hacky sack.

            3. user8246*

              I’m working in an environment like that. I hope to leave soon. In my company the “big boss” told us directly: “Performance is not the most important thing. The most important thing is for me the attitude”. This may sound attractive, but it means that people are evaluated on the basis of totally subjective things – whether the big boss likes them or not. This is how the boss understands “attitude”.

              So my colleagues implement projects partially or not at all, which means I can’t implement mine. I need to finish their projects or accept my projects won’t be successful. Conversations with the boss bring no effects. I’ve been described as “lacking in communication skills” for bringing these problems up (in 1:1 and emails to the boss).

              1. froodle*

                so it’s not attitude, it’s whether your face fits or not? Lovely. What an A+ boss. And your communication issues are literally just, you either refuse to do your slacker colleagues work for him, in which case you’re a bad communicator (!!) or you do his work plus your own, in which case you’re a good communicator, until the point where you have to say “actually no I need to focus my time on my work” and then you’re terrible again. Ugh. I wish you so much good luck with the job search.

              2. Girl friday*

                Well attitude may be the most important thing, but performance has to at least be the second most important thing, or this problem will be pretty self correcting as well. Just work on your attitude, keep your performance high, and be a team player and keep your head down. It may be that you have to do 1000 of Task 1 and 2 of task 2, and your coworker has to do 50 of Task 1 and 2000 of task 2. Not all expectations are the same.

                1. Girl friday*

                  But if you get asked to do 500 of task 2, then it’s okay to say I’m sorry I can’t because I’m full up of Task 1, etc. As long as you have a good attitude about it!

          2. Life is Good*

            Old boss actually gave me this advice when he made me a manager (in name only, BTW), “I always give the busiest employees the most work to do, because I know they’ll do a good job and get it done for me.” What the hell kind of advice is that?

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          I was in a situation like that. The other piece in my situation was that the high performers get burnt out because they’re doing the work of multiple people.

          1. froodle*

            Oh yeah, been there. I was repeatedly told I useless and lazy and incompetent for three years, but when I finally woke up to what was happening and transferred out, it took three people plus a dedicated supervisor and a private office to replace me. I had been literally that department all on my own, and I had constantly been making my case for more staff, but sure, I was the issue, not the fact that I was one person carrying four people’s workload.

      2. AnonandAnon*

        Wow, so there are other managers out there who do this, I thought it was only mine! It’s so aggravating, and to make it worse, after she lectures all of us, she tells us to look at her and nod our heads in agreement, it’s crazy-making!

        1. Rebecca*

          Yes!! Like little children in elementary school. “Billy didn’t pick up his crayons, so everyone has to endure the lecture about crayon control”. Ugh. Then throw in “you know I love you guys and think of you as family”…retching sounds…so very glad I don’t have to endure this any longer.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Ugh, “you know I love you guys and think of you as family” Bitch, my family doesn’t pay me to show up and doesn’t complain if I loaf around in my boxers. You’re my employer – act like it!

            1. froodle*

              “I think of you as family… ” Trust me, in my family if Froodlemum was was having tiny me do all the chores and letting Froodlebrother skate there would have been screaming ructions, but since we’re at work, no screaming.

            2. pcake*

              “Bitch, my family doesn’t pay me to show up and doesn’t complain if I loaf around in my boxers. You’re my employer – act like it!”

              *LOLOL* thanks for that – you made my day :D

        2. froodle*

          She tells you to look at her and nod?! Holy corn that is just… I have no words for now infantalising and not okay that is! Congrats on what I have to assume are some amazingly strong optic nerves, as your eyes didnt immediately roll out of your head and under her desk.

      3. SDSmith82*

        It’s one of the big reasons I left my last job. The boss refused to acknowledge that there was one person causing lots of issues, and would hold staff meetings where all of us were basically told what we already knew, and then this lazy person’s tasks were passed off onto everyone else. The staff member was one of the highest paid at the office, (which we found out cause the HR rep left the pay information open and unattended in the break room one afternoon) and it made it even more aggravating. I realized that nothing was ever going to change- and decided to leave. In my career- it is possibly the best move I’ve ever made.

        1. Nanani*

          Oh I had one of those!
          Until we changed managers and the new one didn’t have a problem with telling Problem Bear that he was a problem. Problem Bear gave the rest of the department a lecture on why he shouldn’t be expected to change the way he did things – he’d been doing it this way for sO ManY YEARS you guys – but new manager didn’t budge and Problem Bear eventually quit.

          I so do not miss working in offices.

      4. Anne (with an “e”)*

        I had a principal who used to do this. During faculty meetings he would tell us that the faculty needed to enforce the rules consistently, that we needed to present a united front, that grades and lesson plans needed to be handed in on time, yadda, yadda, yadda. Annnd, I got so tired of hearing it. The faculty members who were conscientious continued to be conscientious, meanwhile the faculty members who were not never, ever changed.

      5. smoke tree*

        I had a manager once who would just quietly take tasks away from anyone who he didn’t think was doing them up to standard. You could have been doing it perfectly for years, but if you make a mistake a couple of times, instead of telling you about it, he just instructed everyone else to make sure you don’t do it anymore. Of course some lazy employees would game the system and intentionally do a bad job on anything they didn’t want to do anymore.

        1. uranus wars*

          I had a manager similar to this. If someone didn’t submit something to standard she would re-do it, not give feedback to the person or ask them to re-do it correctly, then complain to everyone else in the office about it.

          I do remember one time she let a guy go at the end of his one year probationary period and he had no clue it was coming. The work he helped her with was passed on to another department…she’d thank him, not give him feedback, fix it without telling him and then pass it on without him ever seeing it again. So he continually made the same mistakes, not knowing they were mistakes and thought he was doing good work.

          1. London Calling.*

            I had a manager like that. I had a dreadful appraisal full of things that I wasn’t even aware were problems because, of course, no-one had told me during the year – they just used them to mark me down and pay me peanuts as a pay rise. I was out and into a new job within a couple of months.

          2. selena81*

            That is terrible: telling him in his face he is doing an okay job, withholding his chance to learn from mistakes.

            It is like those terrible talent shows where they send the best _and_ the very worst candidates on to the next round, just so that the latter ones will look like massive fools when they cry ‘but i thought i was good, you told me i was good’

        2. SophieK*

          One of my first retail managers (owner of business with two locations) would take tasks away from the whole team when one person screwed up. Like the time one of my coworkers screwed up checking off and putting away the new inventory–it was my favorite task and I didn’t get to do it anymore!!! Grrrr. Lol

        3. ThatAspie*

          Intentionally doing a bad job on anything they got sick of? Wooowww…there are lots of jobs in most workplaces in which that would be dangerous, and even when it’s not, it’s waaayyy not cool. Think about it. If the security guard intentionally screws up, theft, kidnapping, trafficking, and people getting lost would be way up. If the electrician screws up on purpose, there could be fires, burns, and electrocutions! If the chef messes up on purpose, there could be food poisoning, allergic reactions, burns, fires, and more. If the janitor screws up on purpose, there’d be trips, slips, falls, and disease everywhere! And there’s many other ones, some obvious, some not so much, where the consequences could be quite dire if someone starts to just screw around.

          1. Girl friday*

            At least people acting that way are self correcting aren’t they? Plus they risk damage to their reputation, over time it becomes less something the worker does to make a point and becomes just something they do. That’s always a risk whether you’re overworking (getting taken for granted) or under working (peacefully protesting something). It is sometimes helpful to live in countries where people are allowed to strike all the time- assiduous people find it very difficult and lazy people think it’s the best thing ever. But usually it’s self-correcting.

      6. Nanani*

        “Telling EVERYONE IN THE GROUP” never works anyway – either the bad apples are acting badly on purpose, and will use the group to disguise their slacking, or they are clueless that they’ve been doing it wrong and need to be explicitly told.

        100 meetings about using the correct TPS cover sheets won’t have the slightest effect if you never got told that you used the wrong one.

        1. froodle*

          One of the directors at CurrentJob happened to walk into a department one day and spot several employees messing on their phones. When it was passed down the chain, the managers and supervisors declined to manage or supervise and address the problem employees, and just create a blanket ban on having our phones on our desks or in our pockets of basically visible or accessible during the working day. Because I’m a toddler who needs their toys taken off me at the dinner table, otherwise I’ll play with Barbie all day and not eat my peas.

        2. A Nickname for AAM*

          I try to tell everyone in the group when issues come up, because true problem employees will lie.

          “Well you never brought this to my attention before,”
          “Why didn’t you tell me?”
          “That’s not what you said.”
          “That’s not how I was trained.”
          “We never discussed this in the past.”
          “You let Fergus do it last week (something totally different pulled out of context to prove their point) so why did you tell me I can’t do it?”

          That way when I say, “Yes, I allowed Fergus to call out sick 5 minutes before his shift started because he was in the emergency room and his girlfriend called me as soon as she got his phone from the nurse, but I told you last Wednesday that calling out 5 minutes before your shift with an 80s pop earworm was unacceptable, and I also reminded everyone at last week’s staff meeting and sent an email that this was also unacceptable, so you knew and I am not playing favorites with Fergus over you/being sexist/being racist/discriminating against your hearing disability of getting catchy songs stuck in your head.”

          1. A Nickname for AAM*

            whoops part got lost:

            I also have witnesses that I told everyone and had it on the group email or meeting agenda that the topic was discussed.

            I supervise the end of the labor pool where the leaves all accumulate.

        3. selena81*

          We do have a policy of ‘not calling out the one person who messed up’ (we have the kind of job where a small slip-up in coding can cause an avalanche of problems for your co-workers).
          But that is under the understanding that we ALL mess up from time to time.

      7. Life is Good*

        Oh my god! This is exactly what happened at my last, very dysfunctional workplace. The owner/president would do the group lecture all the time whenever there was a screw up. As a manager, I was never allowed to directly tell an employee what they did wrong, he would “fix” it by calling everyone together for a lesson. Ugh! Never accomplished a damn thing.

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      You’d think someone who hates giving feedback as much as this boss would be thrilled that someone else is willing to take on the hard work of actually managing.

      1. selena81*

        Sounds like one of those people who is too much of a fan of ‘give only positive feedback, it will build self-confidence and thus boost performance’. Presumably combined with the crippling insecurity shown in ‘i should only say positive things, it will make people like me’

    4. GJA312*

      Yeah, I’ve definitely tried that, but then the employee gets mixed messages and I end up looking like the big bad wolf. I, too, am getting mixed messages because she is not happy with their respective performances and that it needs to get handled. We’re totally on the same page until she actually gets in front of the employee to address the issues.

    5. Yorick*

      Maybe let the CEO see you giving positive feedback to your employees, and then she’ll feel more comfortable with the criticisms.

      The CEO is probably just crazy, but is it possible that the way you give criticism seems harsh?

      1. GJA312*

        In general, I really think these employees do a great job, so I’ve told her and them that so many times.

        My script is generally: For future reference, let’s handle situation X like Y instead of Z so that we can avoid this situation in the future.

        I’ve emphasized that the quality of the work really needs to get tightened up because we need to do the best job we can for the clients. That’s about it. Nothing personal. Nothing harsh. But just clearly and firmly setting the expectation that we should all do our jobs properly.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Your script is fine. Your CEO sucks. Have you tried asking him directly what’s going on? Like, “When we talked yesterday, I thought we were on the same page that X needs to be done differently, but when I talked to Jane about it, you said it didn’t. Where are our signals crossing?”

          1. GJA312*

            I haven’t tried that specifically (like I said—she’s not great with receiving criticism, either), but
            I have requested that we be a little more specific and direct moving forward. Nothing changed. But I can give your suggestion a shot!

            1. Washi*

              I’ve tried a version of this with a boss who doesn’t like criticism (I have often phrased it as “I was surprised when you said X since in our 1-on-1 I thought we one the same page that Y needs to change.”) and I think the key is a genuinely curious tone. Which I generally don’t find too difficult to pull off because I usually am genuinely confused about what is going on!

      2. KHB*

        Can we possibly stop calling people “crazy” just because they do things that we don’t immediately understand? It feels really disparaging both of people with genuine mental illnesses and of all manner of mentally healthy people (especially women) who act in ways that aren’t always convenient for those around them.

        This CEO is bad at her job, or at least this particular aspect of it. But there’s a rather important difference between being bad at your job and being mentally ill.

        1. Yorick*

          Can we possibly stop nitpicking language? Readers can understand that “she’s crazy” doesn’t mean “she has a DSM-V diagnosis.” This is how languages work.

          I have a diagnosed mental illness myself. Rather than being upset when people use these words, I find it much more exhausting to have so many comments on this site focused on telling others that they can’t use commonly used words.

          1. KHB*

            It’s not the word I have an issue with – it’s the sentiment. It’s very rare that people behave erratically and nonsensically just for the hell of it – they almost always have reasons for doing what they do that at least have an internal logic to them. (That’s not to say that the reasons are always sympathetic – they’re very often not.) But dismissing them as “crazy” does real harm.

            1. Anonymoose*

              The only reason I wouldn’t want this spoken in the workplace is because I normally witness it being used gendered, as in she’s crazy. Rarely do people say men are crazy when they’re total as*holes. They’re just ‘as*holes’ or ‘riled up’, etc. *eyeroll*

              So going forward, I vote we all of them as*holes and move on from this topic. ;)

              1. selena81*

                that i can get behind: we certainly need to get rid of the whole ‘women are obnoxious when they make demands, men are strong’ mindset.

          2. Traffic_Spiral*

            This. “Crazy” is a general, often hyperbolic term that doesn’t specifically mean “has a specific mental illness.” We have actual words for the specific mental illnesses if we want to talk about them.

          3. selena81*

            i’m with you: i have diagnosed autism but i get more upset about people nagging over ‘you should not use that as an insult’ then about people saying ‘he is soooo autistic’ about their quiet friend.

          4. Pomona Sprout*

            I have a diagnosed mental illness, too, plus mental illness runs rampant in my family, and I just scratch my head when people complain about words like “crazy.” Personally, I don’t know any better words in the English language than crazy or loony to desscribe behavior that is totally illogical and divorced from reality and makes no rational sense. I dislike ableism as much as the next person, but to me these words have little or nothing to do with actual mental llness at this point in time, despite their origin.

        2. Is pumpkin a vegetable?*

          This doesn’t resolve either of your points, but I believe the LW said the she, herself, felt like she was “going crazy,” not that the boss was crazy.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I do ask in the site rules that people not nitpick language here because it can be derailing. It’s fine to call something out once, but more than one comment on it does take us off-topic.

          1. Julia*

            Actually, I know sites (e.g. Mark Does Stuff) that ban the word, and it does get called out and deleted. It is hard, but I find it very refreshing.

    6. Pollygrammer*

      I had a manager who was like this. Super positive, never any negative feedback even if feedback was specifically requested.

      Until I’d been at the organization for more than a year and she suddenly exploded with pent-up criticism–fairly minor stuff mostly, and things that could have been addressed or even completely corrected within a day, some stuff I’d already apologized for and she’d brushed it off as nothing. Aall at once it was a deluge–she unloaded a year’s worth of my failings on me in a single one-on-one. It was horrifying and painful and I’ve never felt so small and hated in my life.

      I managed to choke out that it would maybe have been more helpful to have that feedback sooner, and she blandly agreed. I don’t think she was actually trying to chase me out of the job, she was just a really bad manager, frustrated about a lot of things, not only me, and really stupid when it came to…how humans work.

      Afterwards, I hid in an office and cried, and started looking for a new job that afternoon. So now I’m always very unsettled if a manager doesn’t ever offer constructive criticism, because no amount of positivity is worth the fear that something like that will happen again.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        If it helps, IME a person behaves like this because she was in an environment (probably her upbringing) where she wasn’t allowed to honestly express feelings and feedback.
        So the person suppresses their not-positive feelings to get along – and they can only do that for so long before it comes out anyway.
        I’m sorry you had to deal with that! If you ever see that again, remember they are the ones with the problem, and they are probably really miserable.

      2. selena81*

        ….So now I’m always very unsettled if a manager doesn’t ever offer constructive criticism….

        It amazes me how many people in the therapist business seem completely and utterly unaware of that simple fact: that if you never say something negative then people will eventually stop believing the positive stuff you say.
        That behavior often gets sold as ‘building confidence in a patient’, but imo it tends to do the exact opposite: it *causes* self-doubt and looking-for-hidden-messages-in-conversations (‘he did not look me in the eyes, i must ignore everything actually said and assume i made a mistake’)

      3. Apologizing on Behalf of Bad Manager*

        I would like to apologize on behalf of that person and thank you very much for saying this. I have a hard time expressing negative feedback to the people I supervise at work as well as my work peers. I really appreciate seeing the other side because I try really hard to balance the need to say something when it’s not being done according to office protocols and trying to make sure I’m not coming across as mean and cranky. This sometimes leads me to act like it’s less of a big deal than it is, and I have a hard time letting go of the things that have been done incorrectly even if the direct report could not possibly have known better! There is absolutely no excuse for unloading on you at all, and I’m so so sorry that you had to be dumped on like that. I agree with Michaela Westen – I was never allowed to show my frustrations or anger in my abusive, severely dysfunctional household, so now I feel like I have to be 100% sunshine and rainbows all the time or we will all die in a horrible conflagration of everyone being honest with each other. I am very, very sorry and please know that I personally will do all I can to get better at giving not-positive feedback in a way that doesn’t boil over.

    7. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I would stop giving the employees feedback in front of the CEO. If they don’t know you are coaching your employees they will be less likely to undermine you. And it’s not like the CEO will give you bad feedback, ya know it might hurt your feelings!

      But yes, start looking, because this is always going to be a problem and it’s a no win situation for you.

      1. puzzld (I see there's a Puzzled here, I am not that Puzzled)*

        I would agree with all of this. When giving positive feedback I do so publicly, negative is best done one on one.

      2. Formerly Arlington*

        Agree. This is akin to a public shaming. I’ve never been dressed down in front of a CEO by a manager, and if it happened, it would have had a serious impact on my interest in staying with the company. Have also never been critical of a direct report in front of my own manager, though I discuss personnel issues with her in private.

        1. Jadelyn*

          But it A: doesn’t sound like a “dressing down” based on the scripts OP has told us on how they phrase their feedback, and B: if the CEO is involved in the project then they should be involved in the debrief, which is when this stuff is coming up.

          Like, if it’s a pervasive pattern with a particular person (say that ten times fast!), then yes, that’s something that should be addressed in a dedicated and private 1-1 way. But I really don’t see why some people are calling it “public shaming” for a manager to be in a debrief with an employee and the CEO on a project they all were involved with, and the manager to say as part of the wider conversation, “next time let’s make sure we do X instead of Y if Z happens.” That just seems…normal to me?

      3. Girl friday*

        I would keep behavior consistent. If you only give feedback when the CEO isn’t around then your employees won’t respect you. If the CEO tells them not to listen to you, that might be for some reason of their own. If you’ve made a good point, and the employee respects you, then you have been heard. Just make really sure that you’re not undermining anyone or going against any policy. Giving feedback is not currently my job, but receiving it is, and I take it from anyone. It is true that if a manager sticks their neck out they can get criticized, just like lower employees can get fired. You have to show good judgement.

    8. A Nickname for AAM*

      I just left a job where this was a big problem. My boss was a peacemaker. My staff were failing SPECTACULARLY. One would go to her office instead of mine when he was done with his assignment and she wouldn’t kick him back to me. Three were consistently late, grossly violating safety procedures, and openly insubordinate to me , and I couldn’t so much as write anyone up because “they might get upset and quit.”

      It took 2 weeks to go from me correcting their most negligent behaviors to complete, utter chaos because they were so emboldened by her behavior. There was no way for me to get control again without terminating everyone, which she would not allow me to do, so I moved on.

        1. A Nickname for AAM*

          I suspect she was on a PIP of her own, because she was having “personal coaching sessions” in her office, during the workday, which no one could interrupt. She also said “I had my performance evaluation today, ooof eesh.”

          A lot of balls were being dropped: the facility wasn’t meeting its base targets in a number of areas, it was bleeding money and customers, racking up safety violations in one department, racking up regulatory violations in another department (if caught, they will lose their license), and last year there was a violation bad enough that it attracted an ugly lawsuit and and significant media attention.

          I’m going to keep track from afar, but I think she will be either terminated or laterally transferred to a more appropriate role in corporate offices. She’s got a solid skillset, it’s just not well matched to her current position.

      1. Girl friday*

        That’s a hiring problem though. You can’t fix a bad hire with good management. You mentioned 4 behaviors and only one of those is fixable with retraining. :-( If you hired new people, you’d have new problems- but it’s unlikely you would have those problems as long as you’re paying them a fair wage. If you had hired people, even without firing the old people, maybe there would have been a shift. But certainly no one blames you for moving on.

      1. Jadelyn*


        This is literally a deal-breaker for me at a job at this point. I’ve gotten burned by it before, being held responsible for things I had absolutely no control over. Corporate told me exactly how to do the thing, then blamed me when doing it their way didn’t produce the results they wanted. At this point, you either give me an appropriate amount of authority to go with the accountability, or I’m out.

    9. henrietta*

      “CEO, it hurts *my* feelings when you don’t let me correct my staff.” Then pout, loudly.

        1. henrietta*

          Funnily enough, I often use ‘it hurts my feelings’ when correcting staff. “Worker, it hurts my feelings when you fail to properly document [thing you’re supposed to do].” I do it in a mock-sad way. It kind of lightens the criticism, and I’ve been very successful with it. People remember it and it works!

    10. Artemesia*

      If this is the competence level of the CEO it is a fair guess that the company will not prosper so get out while the getting is good and you don’t have to rush. A low key job search is a lot more fun and gets better results than one done in panic. I have watched three small companies that my kids/kids in laws worked for go under because of inept top management; luckily mine could see the handwriting on the wall as the leadership made choices not unlike this one that anyone but them could see would have negative long term consequences. They made their moves before the place went down the drain in most cases. The CEO is incompetent; get out at your leisure and find something better.

    11. Hnl123*

      Sadly, I have been told not to give feedback in order to save peoples’ feelings Before as well. It blows my mind that my bosses actively try to preserve a work culture where feelings > results. I give feedback anyway and sometimes get backlash. Yes, I’m trying to get out.

    12. ThatAspie*

      Yeah. I mean, really, it’s one thing to expect people to respect and care for each other, but making it so they don’t know what they’re doing wrong is another thing all together. I am a very sensitive person, but if I’m screwing up, someone should make sure that I _know_ I’m doing something wrong and teach me the _right_ way to do it. Just today, I got important feedback from my current boss about a certain customer service procedure specific to my current workplace and how it is to be performed, and I was GLAD they told me that I had been doing it wrong because it meant I could start doing it right!

      1. selena81*

        i hear you: i hate getting told i screwed up, and i am a terrible communicator so i am not good at picking up subtle clues, but when i happens i always tell myself ‘better to be told and be the person who made just 1 mistake, then to be the idiot who keeps mucking things up’

  2. Sami*

    OP#1: Can you discuss the performance issues in a 1:1 meeting with the specific employee? Regardless of your boss, that’s probably the best way to handle these things.
    But if you’re still being undermined, Alison is right: get out!

    1. Elemeno P.*

      I was thinking 1:1 might be the way to go. I wondered if the reason the boss was undermining her was because the OP was giving public criticism and it came off as harsh and embarrassing…but if that’s the case, the boss also should have had a 1:1 conversation with the OP, because undermining her in front of her team is also harsh and embarrassing!

      1. Gibby*

        I’m in the same position. I talked privately with the employee about her performance and what was expected of her. She went straight to my boss and he told me to handle her with ‘kid gloves’. Can you freaking believe it! I’ve been job searching ever since.

    2. GJA312*

      Yeah, I try to do that as often as possible, but then they end up getting mixed messages. And some of these issues are so important—like putting a six-figure contract with our largest client at risk due to sloppy work—that the CEO needs to and wants to be involved. She can’t handle any sort of criticism, which is why I think she may be so afraid to give it.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I was going to recommend talking to her one-to-one and outline the problems you’re having but if she can’t handle any sort of criticism, it very much seems like you’re between a rock and a hard place. Maybe try:

        “I feel like there’s been a miscommunication. When you say you want me to handle my team’s performance, how do you want me to go about that? Because at the moment we’re not on the same page and it’s causing problems with our work [cite contract here].”

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I think this is a good approach – you need the CEO to at least acknowledge/realize that nothing is going to improve if you aren’t allowed to tell your staff they need to improve!

    3. Curious Cat*

      One-on-one was my thought, too. If there’s any way OP can set up bi-weekly “touchbase” meetings with their employees, that might help out to be able to keep tabs on what the employees are currently working on & provide feedback on a more regular basis.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, please don’t indicate that having a baby during school shows your organization, motivation or hard work! You no doubt had to hustle to do so well in your program, baby or no. I understand why you’re proud of yourself—you should be! Your accomplishments should speak for themselves.

    But it’s going to come off as naive at best and tone-deaf at worst, and it seriously risks undermining your own application because of the prevalent discrimination against women that Alison noted. You also run the risk of interviewing with people who also had children during crucial periods in their academic or professional lives, and it will come across poorly that you’re claiming “credit” for something that thousands of women navigate in their professional lives. You don’t want to go down that path; it just detracts from your qualifications and refocuses attention on your personal life, which is not where you want employers to go.

    1. neverjaunty*

      This. I wouldn’t be thinking the OP was amazingly organized; I’d be thinking she had an easy baby and possibly a lot of help at home.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        A friend’s third child was very easy, up until he learned to crawl and then had the most astonishing sharp object radar. “Steak knives… I sense steak knives above me. What can I climb?”

        Kept baby Fergus out of the ER was a legitimate accomplishment, but she didn’t put it on her resume.

        1. Jesca*

          Haha oh did you write this about my youngest child?

          I put myself through school while being a single parent and graduated with a 3.89 GPA. I actually had no help at all, and it meant mostly sleepless nights. But, it is not something I would put on my resume. Rote learning comes very easy to me, and I didn’t need to spend a lot of time studying. It also required me to have the ability to pay for sitters, so I had to work full time as well. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really say a whole lot about me except that I can handle larges amounts of home stress to some degree (and that I can find sitters), but that doesn’t make me special. Lots of people have lots of different types of home-life stress.

          1. foolofgrace*

            I know the feeling. I went to undergrad school full-time (making dean’s list), worked full-time, and had an infant at home. I was a single mother getting zero child support from the father. Someone said that lots of women go thru this, but until now I’ve never met another woman who went thru what I went through. Congrats to us both!

            1. foolofgrace*

              And in reference to the comment elsewhere that such women “don’t know how birth control works”, three doctors had told me I was sterile and could never have children. Surprise!

              1. Jesca*

                “Women don’t know how birth control works” is really code for, “I will never hold a man responsible for abandoning his children” or “woman are the only ones responsible for their reproductive organs unless, of course, me and misogynistic friends say otherwise” cuz … pregnant women of course only ever ruin men’s lives.

                1. Jules the Third*

                  Not assumptions, experience. Many many many women have had similar conversations with men. Every time I’ve heard a man say something about women being ignorant about birth control, ‘ruin his life’ has been pretty much the next thing out of his mouth. And for the ones I had to continue interacting with (school / work / etc), eventually some version of “woman are the only ones responsible for their reproductive organs unless, of course, me and misogynistic friends say otherwise” came out.

                2. Observer*

                  Let’s put it this way. Maybe it’s not code for that – but it’s either code for something else equally stupid and bigoted or it’s just straight up stupid and bigoted. Because aside from over-sheltered / very young girls and women with developmental disabilities, the idea that women have babies because they “don’t know how birth control works” is stupid, provably untrue and demeaning all on its own.

                3. Specialk9*

                  @Mark132, as a woman I nodded to that as fitting my experience to a T, and it looks like it resonated with others.

                  Your user name seems to indicate you’re a man.

                  Are… You aware how that comes across?

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                Agh. A quick hop to the Planned Parenthood website and its reliability of various forms page should disabuse people of the “all birth control is 100% effective” myth. Yet the pretense must be invoked because otherwise it could happen to you.

                (Also, as a suburban mom it’s pretty common to run across “Yeah, ha ha, wasn’t planning the that one and was on birth control, fate had other plans” when it’s married people who rearranged their intended timing.)

                1. Jesca*

                  Yeah, there are a lot of “hidden truths” about birth control kept out of mainstream dialogue. Like for instance, a ton of woman (like myself) cannot take it or any type of hormone therapy as it causes massive depression and suicidal thoughts. But lets keep telling women how they need to alter their bodies alone to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

                2. Anon for this*

                  Yupppp, my 25yo, who is ridiculously talented in his chosen field, a huge help around the house, a fun person to be around etc etc, is nonetheless a result of a broken condom. We’d planned to start trying for a baby in the fall, I got pregnant in the summer, so, not that huge of a deal. But it did happen.

                3. Parenthetically*

                  I know… SO MANY married people who have a surprise baby somewhere in the mix. Two that I’m close with came at the end of ~ten years of not using birth control and not getting pregnant, and just assuming it wasn’t in the cards. “Haha, hep, he sure caught us off guard” is the end of the conversation if you’re married/committed/whatever IME. It REALLY REALLY ISN’T if you’re not, which really really sucks.

                4. Mark132*

                  After my oldest brother’s girlfriend ( now wife) had a surprise baby, my wife and I decided it was time for me to get a vasectomy. We had already had one child that was a bit of a surprise.

                5. Live and Learn*

                  Agreed. I used a surgical form that is 99.9% effective. Which means it fails 1 in 1000 times. My 7 month old is proof that I’m that 1 in 1000. Sometimes even best laid plans get altered. OP, be proud of your hard work, just don’t mention it professionally.

                6. Lindsay J*

                  My aunt had one kid while on birth control and one kid after my uncle had a vasectomy.

                7. Friday*

                  Jules – my friend’s wonderful surprise son is a result of the copper IUD. Nothing is safe. :)

                8. Artemesia*

                  The most reliable is the condom and men have total control on that one. Properly used they are close to perfect; I never have sympathy for men whining about getting caught. No man should ever have sex with a woman without a condom unless he is comfortable making a permanent commitment to her and to having a child. The ‘failure rate’ for condoms is mostly failure to use them or use them properly which is not rocket science. And for the rare broken condom, there is the morning after pill.

                9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Be careful with copper IUDs! They have a number of severe possible side effects that are irreversible

                10. AKchic*

                  Close to perfect?
                  Tell that to my 18 year old, who is the result of a perfectly utilized condom.
                  My 3rd and 4th kids were thanks to medication interactions while on birth control pills.

                11. Specialk9*

                  @Princess Consuela Banana Hammock, that really needs a study link. I’ve researched cooler IUDs pretty thoroughly and all my findings are “there’s a reason it’s still around”. The only serious complications I found were related to the original very first incarnation using absorbent string which caused infections, but they’re not absorbent now. Could you share why you said this?

                12. sap*

                  My best friend has permanent, painful damage to her reproductive organs because her copper IUD shifted, and her doctors dismissed it as regular woman pain.

                  I’m not going to go do your googling for you, but this is a well-known and long-known risk.

              3. Dust Bunny*

                Gotta confess I don’t understand why anyone would take the risk. I’ve been told I’m sterile, too, but you’d better believe I use BC because there are no guarantees.

                But . . . lots of people have stuff going on in their personal lives. You had a baby. I take care of my parents. Somebody else might be homeless. It’s a personal accomplishment, sure, but it doesn’t belong on your/my resume.

        2. TardyTardis*

          My son had a cat like that (he doesn’t have children, so I had to work with available stuff to get the Mother’s Curse to work). She could teleport into a shack full of power tools, jump into a sink and find the one steak knife the hard way, try to hide inside the microwave and/or refrigerator–let’s just saying expiring at 17 from kidney failure was not on the betting board at the local vet. Nobody expected her to live anywhere near that long.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I may be raising her great niece. My kittens swear “Everyone knows kittens and power tools go together!” is a well-known adage. We first discovered this when they broke into the basement to help my husband with the table saw.

    2. Kate*

      I can see mentioning it to explain bad performance (very low grades or taking a very long time to finish the degree), in the same way you might vaguely mention ‘health problems’ if they affected performance significantly. But OP seems to have done well, so it doesn’t seem relevant.

      1. MicroManagered*

        I “took a very long time to finish a degree” and I’ve never had to explain it in a job interview, just sayin’. I got one off-hand question from a (very toxic, inappropriate) manager one time about why I graduated from college so late, but it was on our way to a meeting long after I had the job, not during the interview.

    3. Lexi*

      I agree PCBH, having a baby and being able to accomplish so much with no gap in time to someone without kids may seem like a spectacular feat but to parents of children (especially working parents who had 6 weeks and are still in a fog) it looks like you had a lot of help and clearly were not doing it all yourself. So most people will be thinking how long will she have that kind of help and what will that look like. Also having a baby during school looks like you were careless or uninformed of how birth control works, so if there are a lot of people your age they may see this as a liability of others thinking it will be that easy(pregnancy is contagious in a office). What you have accomplished is great in itself, don’t tote the baby as an extra trophy, it’s not going to show like you are thinking.

      1. Whitewater Rapids*

        “Having a baby during school shows you were careless or uninformed about how birth control works”

        I’m shocked at the judgemental tone of this phrase. Is this your opinion, or others’ opinions that you parroting? If the former, you should realize that plenty of people purposely choose to have kids during school – there’s even a case to be made that it’s easier to have kids while in school than once you’re working. You should not be deciding that other people should have been on birth control; other people’s reproductive decisions are absolutely none of your business.

        1. Kate*

          Everyone’s reproductive decision is their own, it is also everyone’s own opinion on how that is perceived. I’ts also not crazy to think that someone within the age 18-22 is uninformed about birth control, and while this may be “plenty of people” that are choosing to have kids during school I would argue that the majority of people are trying to avoid it all costs during this time.

          1. Anon for now*

            It depends on what degree. I don’t think that holds true for graduate school.

            1. Guacamole Bob*


              I had my twins when I was halfway through a 3-year double masters program, in my early 30’s. We’d decided that it was better for me to take a long leave by taking a semester off than to navigate having a baby in my first year at a new job post-degree or to wait until I was more established in my new career. I’d been married for a few years by that time, but it was to another woman so it was obviously extremely intentional that I got pregnant when I did.

              One thing that I realized is that having a baby when you’re in school only really affects you – maybe some other students on a group project, but basically it’s all you and you get to manage your own schedule. In the work world you may be juggling client relationships, coworkers picking up your work on leave or covering for your medical appointments, etc. So it’s not always harder to have a baby while you’re in school, depending on your job and field.

              When job searching it worked out well for me – I didn’t mention anything family-related in my interviews, but then one of my references mentioned to at least one employer that I’d been one of his best students while I had infant twins at home and used it as the kind of selling point that OP has in mind.

            2. Artemesia*

              My niece had two babies while she and her husband were in med school; they decided this was the best window to manage the process since in worst case scenario she could drop out for a year and re-enter if necessary. (it wasn’t) They figure being pregnant and having babies and toddlers would be harder during early establishment of their practices than during medical school and internship. So far so good, they are in residencies now and the kids are close to ready for kindergarten.

          2. Observer*

            It’s a totally misinformed (to put it kindly) conclusion to reach even when dealing with a BA, which is the age group you are describing. It’s quite rare for college students to actually be that naive about BC. And, it’s a whole lot more common for birth control measures to fail than people would like to acknowledge. Which means that even when someone IS actually trying to avoid having children, it can still happen without being “careless or ignorant”.

            Given that the OP is talking about a Masters, it’s clear that she didn’t have her baby at 18, either. So that makes it worse.

            What IS “careless and ignorant” is making assumptions about people based on myths that could be easily cleared up in about 3 minutes.

          3. Jadelyn*

            You do know that not all college students – not even all undergrads – are necessarily 18-22, yes?

            Signed, someone who got their B.S. when they were 31.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yikes, that’s really not true! I have a number of friends who had (planned) babies in college and grad school, and they’re all amazing and wonderful and great at what they do. Let’s not police people’s choices around procreation or make judgmental and unhelpful assumptions. Women have enough bs to deal with without having to navigate other women’s judgment about whether they should have children and when.

        2. PB*

          Yes, this. I know a woman who intentionally had two children while completing her master’s degree. In addition, it implies that unplanned pregnancy is the mother’s fault. Birth control, even when used correctly, doesn’t work 100% of the time. A classmate in college had an unexpected pregnancy in her junior year, and she is one of the most competent and responsible people I know. An unplanned pregnancy (which, again, we don’t know this was) doesn’t make a person irresponsible or careless.

        3. Antilles*

          It certainly is judgmental (and awful), but that mindset is out there. I have a close friend who had a kid in high school. I can 100% assure you that you can (visibly!) see the mental math going on about “…wait, she looks like she’s late 20’s/early 30’s…and her kid is clearly like 14…so…”. And some people will then treat her a little different.
          It sucks, but that mindset *absolutely* exists and is something that OP should take into account when thinking about whether to discuss “had a baby during college”.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yep. It’s awful that some people will think “she had a baby in college? not good at planning, is she?” but you have to accept that the mindset is out there.

          2. Jackers*

            Totally this. I had my son in college at the age of 20. He is now 22 and has his own son, so I am a grandmother at 42. To make it slightly “worse”, I look 10 years younger, and you totally see the looks on their face while they try and figure out if you had a baby while in junior high.

            I made the mistake early on in my career of talking about having a child in college in an interview thinking it made me sound responsible. It didn’t. It wasn’t relevant, the interviewer totally disengaged after that and I most certainly did not get a call back.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I apparently look a lot younger too, and there was one incident at an OldJob when a coworker said to me matter-of-factly in the middle of a conversation: “since you had kids in high school…” That was news to me. I had my kids when I was in my late 20s. She and I had worked together for five years and she never bothered to ask me. She just assumed. I have no idea what else she had assumed about me based on that, or how many people she had told over five years. At least she was not in any supervisory position or any other position of power over me. I stared at her kind of speechless and she was, “well I figured, since your kids are older than mine, and you are so much younger than I am…” I was older than she was. Eh, whatever, I don’t work there anymore! My take on it is that people had their kids when they had their kids, it is not a character flaw or virtue to have them early, late, or in between. Hopefully, HOPEFULLY this coworker was on the same page! She’d certainly put a lot of thought into when her random coworker had had her kids!

              I’ve seen so much workplace sexism in my life that I would not mention my kids or marital status or anything of that nature in an interview, just to avoid bringing gender into the picture.

              1. Specialk9*

                I’m so babyfaced, and I stopped being able to gauge women’s ages after I moved North* so I don’t bother thinking too hard about ‘you seem 35 max but your kid is in college’. Hey, another babyface, or else you started early, dunno.

                *women there don’t wear as much makeup as in the South, so I’m like 30s? 50s? I thought makeup made one look younger, but apparently not.

        4. MamaGanoush*

          Hey, peeps, she said it LOOKS LIKE it, not that it is. The rest of the message is supportive of the OP and talks about what other people may think. Why not give Lexi the benefit of the doubt?

        5. EddieSherbert*

          I’m assuming Lexi didn’t mean anything offensive, but meant that some people do assume/make judgements about that kind of thing.

          My thought is that an interviewer – especially one who thinks OP is naive for mentioning the ‘baby while in school’ as an accomplishment! – might also think she was naive about contraceptives or something like that.

      2. foolofgrace*

        I take offense at the comment about not knowing how birth control works. I knew just fine, I wasn’t on it because doctors had told me I was sterile and could never have children. And I’m being judged for that? How harsh.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think it’s the same instinct that leads people to respond to news of a death, or illness, or robbery, with “Oh how terrible–They definitely did something that brought that on, right? Something I’m not doing, so this can’t happen to me? Let’s figure out what they messed up on, so I can know that I’m safe.”

          1. Specialk9*

            I read an article once about Bosnia during the awful war. Nobody knew when the bombing and sniping would happen next, so people would take a gamble every time they raced out of shelter. It was totally random but people made up elaborate rules to feel safe, ‘oh, well of course that fool got killed, he didn’t…’ (wait 3 minutes first / sprint out as soon as it stopped / zigzag / run straight, etc). It made them feel like it wasn’t random and they could outwit the shells and bullets by being clever.

            All to say, we humans often use arbitrary blame to feel safe. Compassion is hard for people who deep-down feel unsafe.

        2. Jules the Third*

          I agree that the attitude (child at awkward time = incompetent woman) is misogynistic and wrong, but: Lexi’s not wrong that there are misogynistic people out there. A job interview is not the time to trigger latent misogyny.

          I like Alison’s take – mention if it comes up, but don’t discuss it like you think it demonstrates your professional skills.

      3. Jesca*

        And the misogynistic post of the day goes to …

        OMG OP ignore this. This is not why you don’t mention it. It may be a reason a misogynistic hiring manager may give to overlook you, but not most people.

        You just don’t include it, because we just don’t include what we do at home as job skills. It just makes you sound out of touch with hiring practices, that is all.

        1. Loose Seal*

          It doesn’t help to ask the OP to ignore it because there will always be a portion of the population that will think it. Don’t you think it’s best for OP to have a realistic picture of what people might be thinking if she chooses to reveal this information in an interview?

          1. Jesca*

            When it is presented in way that says “People like Lexi exist in the world, so avoid that dialogue altogether” like AAM pointed out by stating that misogynistic people exist in the world. But it is also OK to call out comments like Lexi’s as wrong who are the ones who think this way as well. Its not even remotely appropriate.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              Lexi did not say she believes this, she said it LOOKS LIKE IT (to some people.) and many other people have said similar things.

              Even if the opinion is wrong and evil, it’s an opinion people do have, so telling Op to bury her head in the sand is about as useful as the boss who doesn’t want negative criticism.

              1. Elsajeni*

                Maybe, but I think this is stretching to give someone the benefit of the doubt for a nasty comment, since Lexi didn’t actually say anything resembling your parenthetical (to some people). When I say “it looks like it’s going to rain,” I don’t mean “I’m pretty sure it’s going to stay sunny, but I heard some people think it might rain.”

              1. Jules the Third*

                Also, I think I recall her comments before, and she certainly doesn’t stick out for any misogyny. It’s not like she’s Steve…

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            A portion of the population will always be thinking things about us, our friends, or our families, based on our gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, family situation (eg “had a kid while in grad school”), and so on, that I would not want to even mention on this blog. Some of these people might end up interviewing us for a job, and decline to hire us based on their inane assumptions. I honestly don’t think that we can or should plan our lives around them, for two reasons that a) that’s not possible, we cannot get on their good side no matter what we do, and b) they are in the minority anyway.

        2. RWD*

          The OP interprets having a baby and doing well at school as evidence of certain good qualities. That is her interpretation, and not a fact. It is entirely reasonable to consider that someone else may interpret that otherwise.

          Since the OP had the baby during the last semester, and most of the accomplishments likely occurred before the baby was born, is it really that impressive anyway?

      4. I heart Paul Buchman*

        You may find information on the practical effectiveness of birth control very instructive. The world health organisation has some good statistics on the number of actual pregnancies that eventuate with different methods. For this reason and many others it really isn’t ok to assume that women who have children at a time you consider inappropriate are careless.

      5. michelenyc*

        I am going to assume you hadn’t had any coffee when you made this comment. So offensive

      6. CM*

        I totally understand the offense at Lexi’s comment because it IS offensive that people seeing a recently graduated woman with a baby would assume that the baby was a “mistake” and make all sorts of judgments about the woman as a result. But as somebody who had a baby during grad school, I can say that people definitely do make that assumption and judgment!

        I agree with Alison 100%. In my experience, if somebody gets to see you being really competent and THEN hears about how you had a baby during school, they will be impressed. If you start off with the baby story, it colors the way they see you and turns you into a struggling/less dedicated mom in their eyes even if you’re also a rockstar at work.

      7. Phoenix Programmer*

        Also pregnancy is not contagious in an office? People choose to have kids when they want to and more and more these days it ends up taking longer than expected to get pregnant!

        1. JeanB in NC*

          It sure seems like pregnancy is contagious sometimes! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked in offices where there was a cluster of pregnancies. Of course, that was basically because the women were generally in their 20s and early 30s and that’s when it happens for the most part, but I can remember more than one comment about “something in the water”!

          1. Jadelyn*

            I’m in HR at my org and yeah, I’ve definitely noticed that maternity leaves tend to come in waves. I have to imagine it’s some independent variable at work – especially as our offices span 5 states, so it’s not like many of these people have ever met each other – but I have definitely noticed the trend.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            The group of women I was, for a brief period in my life, friends with when we all had our first kids at around the same time, all had their second kids at around the same time (myself included). But we’d all been planning on two children 2-3 years apart to begin with. It’s not like I only wanted one kid and then had another to keep my friends company. Or a friend wanted her kids to be ten years apart and had them two years apart because everyone else did. I’d say it’s got to be a coincidence. Especially in a place like an office, where people come and go, and maybe work together for a few years and then never see each other again.

          3. CMart*

            I’m currently one member of my office who “drank the water on the third floor” and got pregnant/got their wife pregnant, haha.

            I’ve only been here a year, but my understanding is the last person to have a baby (man or woman) did so nearly two years ago. Now within a six month span my department will have had six babies! Plus we joked in a meeting with a group we work closely when informing them of the impending maternity leaves “don’t drink the water on this floor!” and were met with “…too late. Tangerina’s due in November and I’m due early December!”

          4. PhyllisB*

            Ha Ha!!! I used to work for the phone company (operator) and there were so many women pregnant at one time (eight of us, I think?) Someone put a note on the water fountain: “DO NOT DRINK THE WATER. WILL CAUSE PREGNANCY.”

            1. TardyTardis*

              The water fountain in our office when I was in the Air Force seemed to work like that–in fact, we had a new guy come in laugh when we told him about it, since he and his wife had been trying. Guess what, it only took two months of him drinking from that fountain for his wife to become pregnant…

      8. Observer*

        Also having a baby during school looks like you were careless or uninformed of how birth control works,

        Good grief. Sorry, anyone THIS ignorant and judgemental is not someone I would want work with if I had any level of choice.

        Other than major and irreversible surgery, there is no form of BC that is 100% effective.

        1. Observer*

          Just to be clear, my point is not “pretend that this idea doesn’t exist.” My point is that if you have options, it’s worth avoiding putting yourself in a position to work for someone with such awful ideas.

          That said, OP, you still don’t want to bring it up the way you mentioned.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Agree, that’s the point I was trying to make in a comment above too. If anyone does not want me working for them because of how old or where in life I was when I had my kids, who are now adults? The feeling is mutual. I would not want to work for them, either. And yeah, I still would not bring it up because it’s not relevant.

        2. selena81*

          lol, don’t come to europe then: why do you think we have so few teen-moms? why do you think we come to the USA to find babies to adopt?
          hint: it is NOT because we celebrate and find excuses for people who make irresponsible decisions, i can tell you that.

          I find it weird that the USA appears to celebrate motherhood to the point of encouraging unwanted babies to be born. BOTH the religious (‘family values’) and non-religious (‘do not say anything negative about a woman and her choices, ever!!’) side.

          1. Grapey*

            +1, kind of.

            Teen pregnancy is bad and decent society celebrates when those numbers go down but people shouldn’t put that on an individual’s shoulders if they find out. Personally I would choose the other option between “oops, BC fail, made a new life, oh well” and “birth”, especially if the sperm donor wasn’t enthused, but it really is down to the woman’s choice.

      9. Delphine*

        Also having a baby during school looks like you were careless or uninformed of how birth control works

        Wow. This is deeply offensive. This entire comment is a mess, but I think this bit takes the cake.

        1. ket*

          Agree with all the comments saying this is pretty offensive — but this is a definite strain of thought in America. We are very judgmental about sex as a society, and “family values” notwithstanding I felt judged when pregnant (despite being married 10 yrs, etc). With all the conversation about motherhood in America, you start to wonder, am I the irresponsible slut (esp if it involved a birth control failure)? or am I the devoted mother shepherding forward the future of the nation? or am I cold mother handing off her children to be raised by someone else? or am I the obsessive helicopter mom raising over-sheltered privileged children?

          Guess it depends on the day.

    4. selena81*

      sorry, but i am thinking it is bad mark to even have a baby at an inappropriate time in your life (you should have waited for the financial security of a real job)

      1. Kat M2*

        A) Every job is a real job.

        B) You could lose your “real job” while you’re pregnant.

        C) Maybe we could help people who have kids rather than judge them? Also… do realize that the kid is here, now?

  4. voyager1*

    LW1: Nowhere in your letter do you mention your manager saying not to give feedback that will hurt a team member and their feelings. Actually to me your CEO is doing you a favor by shutting you down because it sounds like your are giving your team members feedback in public setting which frankly is unprofessional on your part. A good manager praises in public and doesn’t try to give feedback in public unless they just want to humiliate someone. Sorry but you are in the wrong here IMHO.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nowhere in your letter do you mention your manager saying not to give feedback that will hurt a team member and their feelings.

      The subject line of her email to me was “My boss won’t allow me to give my team constructive criticism in case it hurts their feelings.” She also says in the letter, “The CEO prefers to skate around these problems so as to not hurt anyone’s feelings.” We should take her at her word.

      She also doesn’t indicate she’s giving criticism in public. It’s happening in front of the CEO, not necessarily in front of anyone else. If the CEO is meeting with the OP and her team member to talk about ways to improve a project, debriefing how something went, discussing how to resolve a problem, etc., it’s not inappropriate for the OP to talk about how she’d like things done differently. That’s not unprofessional or designed to humiliate; it’s talking about what needs to be done differently with relevant people. (If I’m wrong about that and the OP is for some reason having routine feedback sessions with the CEO sitting right there, that would indeed be weird — but even then, the solution would be for the CEO to speak with her privately about not doing that, not to undermine her by saying, “No, no, that’s fine, you’re doing a great job.”)

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        It is possible the CEO sees it as undermining team members by doing it in public – and from letter happens more than once, and referring to team gave me impression was in with other tram members present. Also letter writer says ” it seems like” and it’s not clear if the boss’s preferring is being inferred by letter writer?

        In any event, boss should deal with issues in private. I wonder what changed as they’ve been successful for a year? Maybe boss became aware of something they didn’t like (possibly public feedback) and is being really shit by not dealing with it directly? Either way, boss isn’t handling it right.

        I agree boss is probably awful and LW should probably get out… but may be worth a conversation first.

        1. WellRed*

          But then isnt the CEO underming the LW when the LW tries to give feedback and the CEO steps in and says, “no, no, no, it’s all fine”?

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            That’s why I said “In any event, boss should deal with issues in private.” :)

        2. GJA312*

          Hi, it’s me! I didn’t say I was berating my employees in front of the entire company. I was giving feedback in front of the CEO behind closed doors. And to be clear, my CEO is not happy at all with their performance when we speak one on one. But when we go to address the employee, it’s all, “You’re doing so great.” and never actually addresses the issue at hand. I recently suggested that an employee make tweaks to a report (because it was done incorrectly) and the CEO (who never saw the report and is not involved on the project) jumped in immediately to undermine me. I promise my feedback is being handled professionally.

          1. Jesca*

            Oh no!

            I have a feeling how this is going to go, so get out now!!!

            You start having those feedback discussions without CEO, then your employees start running to CEO to complain, the CEO, to avoid any conflict, pats them on the head, and now you have lost any authority and respect that you deserve as their manager. And THEN the CEO will hound you about not managing them appropriately while he just handed them the entitlement to do as they pleased. It will be all your fault! RUN, and now. I know it can be hard to find jobs, but you will likely be in a stressful situation here in a couple months that will be totally unmanageable for you. 1) Either you drop it, they continue to make mistakes, and you take the blame, or 2) You approach it privately and the above happens. The CEO is already undermining you.

            Not that I haven’t witnessed that happen first hand …

            I’m sorry this is happening. It must be so stressful.

              1. Jesca*

                Eventually those customers will stop coming, and that CEO will need someone to blame. And since the CEO is showing that YOU are the only one he feels comfortable having feedback given to, then you can pretty much surmise whose shoulders this is going to fall on.

              2. Foreign Octopus*

                This might be a hill you need to decide whether you want to die on or not.

                I would say it’s worth pushing back hard on the CEO and making sure that there are detailed examples of what she’s told you to do and then what happened. This depends on your own circumstances though – financial et al. For me, I couldn’t work like this and I would die on this hill but I would also start job searching today.

                It’s the perfect reason for why you left the job as well – “the CEO wouldn’t let me manage”.

          2. BRR*

            Ack! I’m sorry that your CEO has decided to prevent you from being able to do your job. I have a feeling your only option is going to be looking for a new job and either continue doing what you should be doing while being undermined or not do what you’re supposed to do and watching things burn. I’m stressed just hearing about this.

            Have you talked to the CEO about this? Either saying (in different words) that you need to be able to deliver constructive feedback or asking how would he like you to handle delivering feedback?

            1. GJA312*

              I have. I recently told them that I thought we/the CEO should be more direct because the employees weren’t understanding what they were doing wrong. And the CEO agreed.

              And then went right back to the same old pattern. Like, the next day.

              1. Anne (with an “e”)*

                Does your CEO want happy clients or happy workers? It sounds like those are the two choices. Have you explicitly pointed that out to your CEO?

                To me, it does not make sense to coddle the mistake-making employees. Surely, if these mistake-makers are mature adults, they can and will learn from their mistakes and move on.

              2. Jennifer Thneed*

                That’s when you deploy “This is the kind of thing we were talking about yesterday”.

              3. ronda*

                it sound like you need to be more direct with the ceo. your statement above sounds a bit waffely.
                be very clear with an example.

                maybe something like I thought we decided to say X to employee, but when I did you said Y, can you fill me in on the reason for that?

          3. Akcipitrokulo*

            Ow, that is bad!

            Is it worth saying during your chats with him “OK, what I’ll say to them is…” (and confirm with an email!) and then do the feedback with them alone? (Probably looks good for your authority too to do it yourself without CEO hanging around!)

            Otherwise – yeah, get out.

      2. Jamies*

        I disagree feedback should be given in front of the CEO unless the feedback is extremely project specific and the CEO is fairly heavily involved in the project or the problems raise to the level of needing to get the CEO/higher upper management involved which in my mind that means step before termination but that may vary. Other than that giving feedback in front of the CEO seems like an inefficient use of the CEO’s time and inconsiderate to the employee.

        I think it’s worth pointing out why the CEO may be cutting her off so she can take that into consideration when talking to the CEO as opposed to her just assuming why the CEO is cutting her off. If the CEO really doesn’t want her to manage then yes she should get out sooner than later but if the issue is how/when she’s giving feedback (the letter does give the impression giving feedback in front of the CEO aren’t rare one-off occurrences) then that’s something worth addressing.

        1. GJA312*

          We’re a very small company, so the CEO is heavily involved and often, the purpose of the meetings is to give feedback.

        2. A Nickname for AAM*

          You do not know the rules of their office. I have worked places where feedback had to be pre-approved by HR in writing before it was given, done with multiple witnesses, or done with certain people in certain roles present in the meeting (ex: HR, the boss, the boss’s boss.)

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s a pretty big misstep, and it sounds like CEO has asked to be present for feedback. Could we give OP the benefit of the doubt that they understand their office’s norms re: giving feedback?

        4. ket*

          I don’t understand why the LW needs to eliminate all discussions of the work product, employee performance, and how the work should be done if the CEO is in the room. That seems really inefficient.

          “Hmmm… I need to tell Jane that the brand colors changed to red and orange and that Stoplight should be written StopLight… and section 3 is unclear & needs an edit… but I have to wait until CEO leaves the room….”

      3. PB*

        Reading the letter, I interpreted it as the LW giving feedback in the moment. For example, if she and the CEO were passing through the workplace and overheard her reports gossiping instead of working, then quickly calling it out in the moment would be the right thing to do. I agree that negative feedback should be given in private, but it isn’t clear to me that the LW is only giving negative feedback in a group setting.

        1. GJA312*

          I’m not being super negative when I give feedback, even though it’s almost always behind closed doors. I usually say, “For future reference, let’s handle situation X like Y instead of Z in order to avoid this situation in the future.” But then CEO jumps in and says, “Oh no, no, no, Z is great! Z is just fine!” even though Z is low-quality work.

    2. Mom MD*

      Voyager1, you must have read a different letter than I read. I don’t see where these suppositions are coming from.

    3. A*

      I, too, was a little confused how the CEO was managing to directly interfere with the process of giving feedback. Is this some kind of open office plan where all the workers are always together? It seems like a manager could address these directly 1:1 without the CEO knowing at all. (but maybe I’m wrong!)
      Yes the CEO should also privately clarify with LW1 rather than just shutting them down but it seems like possibly this is a case of “Devil’s in the details”. Or, of course, really bad CEO is a possibility, just seems reasonable to know more before telling LW to abandon ship.

      1. WFH Lurker*

        I laughed out loud when I read your comment, but then I went back and re-read voyager1’s comment…I think you might be onto something…

    4. Susan Calvin*


      In principle, I agree with your approach, but is it possible that your thinking here is influenced by some bad bosses of your past (hopefully not present)? Because constructive criticism (that deserves this adjective) is rarely humiliating. Sure, if I screwed something up in a major way I’d like to hear it in private first, but most minor things I’d just be grateful to know asap. He could yell “Hey Susan, you used the old project code for Llamas International on your time sheet – did you get the new one?” across the office for all I care. Heck, we regularly do internal presentation dry-runs specifically to solicit feedback, from bosses, team leads and colleagues alike, in a group setting.

      1. voyager1*

        Hi Susan,

        Last night when I read this post I frankly found the tone of LW to be pretty smug/jerkish considering the tone and word choice. After seeing some of their comments in the thread it seems the LW isn’t really smug or a jerk but frustrated. I think folks are reading a couple of different tones to this letter and also the “in front of CEO” is probably being perceived by folks differently based on their experiences.

  5. YB*

    LW #3, I’m actually in a *very* similar situation to the one you describe…but in the intern’s role. This may bias me unfairly and you can feel free to take my comments with a grain of salt or just dismiss them as unhelpful.

    “Fast forward to yesterday”

    This is what jumps out to me from your letter. Sometimes these dynamics take a little while to sort out – if this all came up *yesterday*, maybe let it play out for a while. It was odd for everyone involved when I started my job and was technically on the same level as my much more senior colleague, but we’ve gradually figured out what I should do and what he should do. If there are practical problems once you’re actually in the thick of working with this person as peers, and if you can’t work them out amongst yourselves, then take those to your boss, but if this was just announced yesterday, I would suggest giving it some time to develop.

    “I find this to be awkward because there would be no hierarchy and people within the organization wouldn’t know who is responsible for what and who to reach out to for what issues.”

    Yes, this happens sometimes in my workplace. But the “who to reach out to for what issues” thing would still happen if there were a clearer hierarchy – calling you “senior” doesn’t necessarily tell people which of you does which tasks. It’s as simple as you and your former intern having very clear and close communication with each other. If somebody reaches out to me for something that my colleague would be more suited to, I just forward him the e-mail and then tell the person, “This is more in X’s area.”

    “Furthermore, my boss sends out assignments with both of us CCed in the email without specifying who should be doing it”

    Yup. Happens in my workplace all the time. My boss just wants stuff done – he doesn’t care which of us does it. Over time, he’s very gradually figured out that I’m especially good at X and that my colleague is especially good at Y, and 10% of the time, he’ll send stuff to us individually if it’s about X or Y…but usually, he’ll just send it to both of us and expect us to divide it up amongst ourselves based on our workloads and on who’s good at what.

    “and my replacement responds that she will do it before I get a chance.”

    What’s your concern with this? Are you worried your boss will think you’re not doing any work? Are you worried your replacement is getting relevant professional opportunities that you’re missing out on? For me, if my boss sends out something to my colleague and me, I jump on it as quickly as I can, if it’s something that I can do…not because I’m trying to steal my colleague’s work, but because if there’s something that either one of us could do, I think it’s better if I do it and leave him free for more senior-level stuff. If your former intern is just trying to help and isn’t actually trying to steal your opportunities, this can be solved with a simple conversation with her. “I’m glad you jump right on requests like X and Y, but I usually take on things like Z.”

    One concern could be if your colleague is taking on stuff that she’s actually too junior to do, and then does it poorly, whereas you’d have done it well, and then your boss blames it on you. This can be solved by communicating with your colleague and framing it not as, “You did it BADLY and I would do it WELL,” but instead as, “The boss has his own quirks about how he likes X done, so if you’re going to be doing something like X, maybe run it by me and we can make sure it’s done the way he likes it.”

    In terms of things like training and professional development opportunities, those are their own things, and you can ask for those independently of whether there’s someone else in the organization who is being treated as your peer.

    More broadly, it’s worth asking yourself what you’re looking for here—what need you’re trying to meet by establishing a hierarchy. To use your words, it doesn’t sound like it’s “just an ego thing” to me, per se, but I do wonder what you think will go wrong for you or for the organization if this person is on the same level as you. If it’s just about making sure people respect you, that’s rarely about titles. Believe me—at my job, everyone (especially my boss) is keenly aware that while we have the same title, my colleague is drastically senior to me and that I’m just some kid who backs him up on stuff. The hierarchy (not in the sense of reporting relationships, but in the sense of who’s seen as valuable) is informal, but real. I’m sure it’s the same at your work. If the issue is that you feel having the same title as your former intern somehow devalues you, it definitely doesn’t. In my opinion, you both having the same title serves to lift your former intern up without dragging you down in any way.

    If my boss promoted my colleague to “Senior ___”, and if it came from the boss, I’d be fine with that and feel like he deserved it…but if I knew my colleague was very concerned about making sure people knew he was senior to me, I’d wonder what I was doing wrong to make him feel like he needed that status bump. I’d want to know what I could do to make my colleague feel more supported, and like I respected his seniority, and like me being officially on the same level as him wasn’t a threat. These relationships work best if we’re cheering for each other and supporting each other. Regardless of what your title ends up being, I hope that you and your former intern get to that place. I really want my colleague and I to both succeed, and I hope he gets the credit he deserves for being senior to me – but that credit can come from people appreciating and respecting him, his work, and the way he manages our shared workload, and doesn’t have to come from his title.

    1. JanetInSC*

      I like your ideas about working together cooperatively, but I can understand the senior person’s concerns. She may be worried that the junior person is being groomed to replace her, and at a cheaper salary. Titles matter. She came back from you pregnancy only to feel demoted.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        Yeah, my take is OP is very concerned about being pregnancy-tracked. Maybe there’s a way the intern can support this, just in case she someday finds herself in the same position.

      2. sacados*

        That’s definitely true, that the recent maternity leave could be adding another layer of anxiety to OP’s situation.
        But regardless, I think YB’s advice is spot on. Even it is the case that the OP’s boss is (consciously or not) side-lining her a bit or thinking of the new person as a replacement, I think OP can still head off much of the trouble by ignoring any potential subtext and taking the lead to hash out an informal hierarchy/communication flow with the coworker.
        And if she can get a title bump to go along with it, all the better. But in the meantime, the best way to go about things is to treat the situation as if “yes we have the same title but as the more experienced person, it goes without saying that I would help smooth our workflow by taking an informal leadership position.”

      3. Anon for this*

        Yep. One can stay in a role too long–and hiring an intern with the same title is a good way to indicate that to the senior person.

      4. DArcy*

        Except OP #3 *isn’t really* significantly senior to the new coworker. Per her own letter, she had only been at this job “a few months” before the intern, and since she’s been out for maternity leave since then, the intern probably has equal or greater actual time on the job than she does at this point.

        The bottom line here is that OP no longer “outranks” the coworker; they are now equals, and having greater experience *in other jobs* does not entitle her to treat her coworker as a subordinate.

    2. Huh*

      “Fast forward to yesterday”

      I think this is key…. I can understand OP’s unease, but this hasn’t been even a day yet. I suspect thinks will sort out somewhat, and I honestly can’t imagine how much chaos has happened in the course of a day? I missed that on the first read through, and had assumed it had been a while since she already had so many concerns. How much could this possibly have been an issue at this point?

      I honestly think this IS an ego thing, at least a bit – which is fine, that’s normal! I (and many others) would also feel that. But I’m not sure if overreacting after a day is quite warranted…

      1. BRR*

        I completely didn’t process the fact that all of this really only happened yesterday. I’m inclined to say give it a little time to see what happens.

      2. MamaGanoush*

        I disagree. What happened “yesterday” was that the former intern was promoted and the announcement was made publicly. The OP seems not to have known this was coming, either — she doesn’t remark on that, but that’s concerning, too. Apparently her boss didn’t think it was important to keep her in the loop about a change that makes a difference to how she works, how she relates to others throughout the company, how it looks to *everyone* that a recent intern was promoted to the OP’s level. OP, perhaps your boss didn’t think this through and there’s nothing bad going on, but I would definitely follow up now, while it’s new and it’s relatively easy to get changes in place, rather than later when things may have settled into a routine and are harder to change. Title, workflow, etc.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            But OP was the colleague’s supervisor. I would feel kind of undermined if a person reporting to me were promoted to the same level as me and no one did so much as mentioned it to me. At least pull OP aside and say “Bob has been doing really well, and I’m going to promote him,” even if Boss is not going to listen to OP saying “no that’s a bad idea” or knows OP won’t have a problem with it. If they were colleagues to begin with then fine, but as CW’s now-former supervisor I don’t think it’s outrageous for OP to expect a little bit of a heads up.

        1. Ali G*

          I’m with you here. Maybe it’s my pessimism from being usurped in the past (not due to pregnancy, just poor management), so I do think the OP has reason to be worried, especially if she was blindsided by this.
          I think she needs to check in with her boss a la Alison’s advice and while doing so lay out exactly how she sees the distribution of work, and also suggest she be the main point of contact for work coming the boss so she can choose to allocate it to the new staff or take it on herself, as she knows the workflow best/avoid confusion or dropped balls.

        2. Curlz Curlz McGee*

          I have my yearly performance review coming up in the next couple of weeks. Do you all think that this would be an appropriate time to discuss our new roles and ask for a title bump?

          1. Willis*

            I think that sounds ideal. It provides a natural opening for the conversation and it’ll give you a couple weeks to see how stuff is shaking out with your colleague. It could be that she’s been trying really hard to prove herself in order to stay on, and the assignment-grabbing will calm down or settle into more of a routine about who does what as she acclimates to having the long-term role. And for the performance review, I’d probably try to be prepared with wording/reasons for the title bump beyond “so people know I have more experience than Jane.”

      3. Curlz Curlz McGee*

        We had been working together in this new dynamic for over a month, with the expectation that she would be leaving on a certain date. But it was announced that the organization had decided to bring her on full-time rather than end her contract.

    3. Blue*

      I’ve had a similar experience, and I agree with much of what you’re saying here. The lack of expectations about who-does-what was addressed by a high level of communication among ourselves until we figured out a reasonable division of responsibilities. That division was formalized and announced to our colleagues, but people rarely remembered (they’d usually just sent everything to me, since most people saw me as senior, which is something I’ll get to in a sec). We handled that like you do – replying to say, “This is something Bob can help you with,” while cc’ing Bob.

      For now, OP should have a conversation with the ex-intern about her tendency to jump in and volunteer for things before giving OP a chance. This happened to me with Bob, and it turns out he thought I was already slammed (which was true), so he was jumping on everything he thought he could do to make life a bit easier on me. Which is great, but it did have the effect of seeming like he was always willing to immediately drop everything and do what was asked. In reality, he just didn’t have enough to do and therefore could instantly reply to emails and get started on the requests. We solved this by shuffling some more of the admin work off me to him.

      I think it’s reasonable for OP to have some anxiety about this right now. It’s the unknowns and all the things that *could* go wrong that are at the forefront of your thoughts. The key thing is to try to keep an open mind despite the concerns while you’re working this out.

      The last thing I’ll say is that while this is a nice thought: “I hope he gets the credit he deserves for being senior to me – but that credit can come from people appreciating and respecting him, his work, and the way he manages our shared workload, and doesn’t have to come from his title,” in reality, that’s not always enough. Bob and I had the same title and started in those roles at exactly the same time, but as we sorted out our responsibilities, it became clear to us and to our boss that higher-level tasks and projects were best given to me. He did fine in a support role, but he lacked the vision, attention to detail, and follow-through needed to take on the significant projects. In fairly short order, there was a clear hierarchy in our little team, and it was clear that I was senior to him to everything but title and tenure in the office. My boss and coworkers acknowledged this difference, but after a while, it really started to grate on me that there was no formal recognition of the fact that I was objectively much more valuable to the office. On paper, we looked interchangeable. In reality, we really, really weren’t. And maybe it’s ego to be frustrated by that, but so be it. Regardless, it was one of the things that made me feel under-appreciated and one of the reasons I’ve just accepted a new job.

      1. Kir Royale*

        Did Bob agree with this assessment, that he was better in and preferred a support role? Or was he resentful, adding to the tension?

        1. Blue*

          He felt underappreciated for the work he *did* do and was resentful about that, but he also freely recognized that he and I were operating on different levels. You honestly couldn’t have paid him enough to take on the kind of projects I dealt with!

      2. MamaGanoush*

        It’s not just ego, Blue. It makes a difference to promotion and can affect how you look to other employers, too. And depending on how your employer handles it, it may make a difference to pay, raises, benefits. BTDT. You are quite right to feel frustrated. Congrats on the new job!

      3. Girl friday*

        Titles and rankings, promotions and salaries can really rankle people unless you have a good perspective on things. If one is the kind of person that puts emphasis on those things, then every promotional season will bring pain except the one every once in awhile that brings you joy. Where I work, people get promoted right and left, so it’s no big deal, just a happy thing. Every month someone’s either moving up or moving away

    4. sunshyne84*

      They seemed most bothered that they had to work hard to get to where they are and the intern didn’t. They expected for them to do their job while they were gone and then go back to being an assistant. If they can do your job as well as you then it makes sense for them to just be hired on the same level. I think it’s definitely an ego thing and they are trying to lie to themselves and make it seem like their coworkers are going to be so confused. People work with teams all the time and it will work out. Like you said, they just need to have a conversation on how they will handle things and go from there and everything else will fall in line.

    5. Curlz Curlz McGee*

      OP here–thanks so much for your perspective. I submitted this question a little over a week ago so we’ve had some time to work together. The job division is getting easier as we work together and I brought this up in a recent meeting with our supervisor. Since the situation is still so new, I’m trying to not get anxious about it and give everyone some time and grace to settle into a work flow. I think a lot of this does stem from my anxieties of seeming incompetent since returning from maternity leave–I don’t want my colleagues to think I’m doing a bad job. I know that my old intern/new coworker looks up to me as a mentor and we do get along very well so I think it’s just a matter of giving the entire team some time to navigate this new dynamic.

      1. Huh*

        > I think a lot of this does stem from my anxieties of seeming incompetent since returning from maternity leave–I don’t want my colleagues to think I’m doing a bad job.

        Oh no! I’m sorry you have those anxieties! That’s completely understandable, especially considering how sexism is in the work place. Is it possible you could address this with your supervisor? (probably during the performance review you mentioned in another comment)

        “Boss, I know I’ve been out for a while, but I’m really determined to hit the ground running (or excel, whatever verb you dig) now that I’m back. Have you noticed any changes from when I was working before? I’d like to improve as much as possible.” or possibly some other question similar, depending how much that comes up during your performance review. But at least for me, addressing things head on gives reassurance (either with boss saying you’re doing well, or giving you advice so you know you’re taking action!)

        I think whether or not the titles are relevant is really a thing of culture… if it’s normal for people with different levels of experience to have the same title, it might come across as tone death. My field never cares about titles, so arguing about it would come across as really odd, but if it’s a normal thing to be concerned about in your field, I think bringing it up might not be a bad move. But I can’t think of a non-awkward way to do it… but as said, in my field it would come across weird to be concerned about a title at all, so I’m not an expert here (like, we barely have titles, I kind of just take what my job is and call it my title and no one cares). Still, it seems like they are aware of the titles, considering they just gave intern that title.

        Also, this isn’t meant as arm chair diagnosing of any kind, but I believe all anxieties are infinitely easier to deal with via a therapist, even if they’re small like this (I just love therapy, it’s not only for when things are really bad!)

  6. MsChanandlerBong*

    OP #1’s situation sounds like mine. My boss is a nice guy, but I find his management style to be terrible. The rest of us want to run a professional outfit that has professional standards. He acts like he wants everyone to sit around singing Kumbaya. I am not prohibited from giving feedback, but my boss will often review the messages I send and then nitpick them at a later date. He tolerates mediocrity and gives people chance after chance after chance, even after they have demonstrated that they are not going to improve. I am all for giving people second chances, but after a while, it gets a little ridiculous. It does a disservice to our clients and the rest of our staff to tolerate poor work.

    1. GJA312*

      Hi, OP#1 here! I totally feel your pain. It’s frustrating because I CARE about the business. I want it to do well. I wish the CEO wanted the same. I think it’s because she doesn’t handle criticism well (understatement), so she feels like other people can’t handle it. I think she’s afraid we’ll lose people if we give them anything less than glowing feedback. And I don’t want to lose these people either—overall, they’re good at what they do. But the laziness and sloppiness has to get addressed before it gets worse or a client dumps us.

      1. NotaPirate*

        If they’re good employees they’re going to want feedback. I hate not knowing how to improve in a role and I hate the feeling of stagnating, where years of a job don’t net me any development of skills, or improvement of things I can already do. Sure I can now say I had X years experience in field, but that’s not enough.

      2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        hmm… I’d be tempted to ask the CEO how they will feel when you lose all your clients and have to shut the door , thereby losing people.

      3. MsChanandlerBong*

        My situation is a bit different, as I am dealing with a team of freelancers and not full-time/part-time staff. We COULD stand to lose a few of them. I asked one guy to fix something because he didn’t follow the client’s instructions, and he wrote back and said something like, “If you don’t like it, why don’t YOU fix it?” Instead of reminding the guy that writers are expected to revise work when requested, my boss sent him a message that was all, “Jim: You must feel like we’re picking on you.” Way to throw me under the boss by insinuating that asking a freelancer to follow instructions is the equivalent of picking on him!

  7. Greg Ruxpin*

    I find the most jobs are a bait and switch sort of situation. I’ve never worked at a job and its what they described LOL.

  8. Rosemary7391*

    #1… CEO seems happy enough to give OP1 feedback – feelings notwithstanding there apparently ! This sort of thing always seems to come with some sort of double standard.

    1. Julia*

      I may be projecting, but I had a boss like that once. He would let everyone else run rampant (example: one employee did nothing but lawn-mowing for days, and even though people complained about the noise and the lawn was already short enough, boss prevented me from telling the guy to stop “because he loves it”), but when I brought up a problem, like a co-worker telling people who called for me that I didn’t work there (!), he’d tell me I “needed to work on my communication skills”.

      I think some bosses just really hate conflict and see whoever alludes to any problem existing as the problem.

      1. Jesca*

        Haha yeah right now I was placed into a position where I am responsible for other people’s work without having any authority over them. My boss has no problem criticizing me, but seems adverse to the idea that one of his reports is never prepared, never has his work done, poorly manages his people, skirts the rules regularly, tries to treat me like his subordinate, and is combatant anytime he is asked for updates on what he is responsible for. I get “yeah, I know, but he is so good with suppliers” which is like 10% of what a person in that position actually needs to be good at (more like 0%). There is real actual work to be done that doesn’t involve being charismatic to suppliers.

        So, he will lose me who does do work in order to not have to confront this dude who doesn’t like to take a “no” from women in general. And that is pretty much all his problem. CEO will lose OP, and be the worse for it.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Perfect. “You know, boss, it really hurts my feelings when you undermine me like that.”

        1. only acting normal*

          It actually might work. You’re being professional but CEO is all about the feelings. The CEO doesn’t think they’re hurting *your* feelings because I’m guessing you don’t frame it like that to them when you discuss the undermining.
          Talk their language!
          (Also job search).

    3. Someone*

      Well, these people only ever seem to consider the conflict and hurt feelings that are caused by their own direct intervention, but NEVER the conflict and hurt feeling that *already exist*.

      Their equation is basically just “conflict that arises when I address this problem = conflict (bad!)”, when the equation employed by people with a less self-centered line of thinking is “‘conflict that arises when I address this problem’ < (?) 'conflict that arouse because of this problem' +'conflict that's going to arise if this problem is going to stay unresolved'".
      But the latter equation requires some actual calculation AND might call for your *actual intervention*, so plenty of people will happily go for the simple "solution".

  9. Huh*

    #3 – I suppose I’ve never been on either side of this situation, so I’m not sure… but I mean, if the intern was covering OP’s job for months when she’s on maternity leave, isn’t she effectively worthy of OP’s title? She obviously has less experience, but it seems odd to “demote” her when she was already doing the work. I understand how OP feels she is more senior, but I feel this is more complicated than I understand… for a few months the other person WAS OP’s title, effectively. Sure, a less experience version, but sometimes people have the same title but one person is vastly more experienced. I’m not saying anything definitively here, just my “my field barely cares about titles anyway” thoughts.

    1. Huh*

      And to add, I think it’s important that it’s only been a day! I think that’s a lot of reaction and nitpicking from OP about problems when there hasn’t even been a week to accumulate problems! Things could certainly shake out a bit, though I understand how it would be an ego deflater to have it happen (I would feel that way). I think if she was instantly being paid as much that’d be one thing, but a title means a lot less.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I thought this that if OP has only just recently returned from Maternity leave, the coworker has presumably got used to doing the role and responding to requests, without needing to consult another person.
      I think it is reasonable to sitdown with the coworker and discuss how to manage the work load.

      I don’t think it would be out of place to speak to the boss about differentiating between you, at least internally.

      1. Kate*

        “I don’t think it would be out of place to speak to the boss about differentiating between you, at least internally.”

        Completely agree. I think this is less about the titles (though titles matter) and more that the boss is emailing both of them with tasks rather than differentiating between them, which makes them seem more like equals. It occurred to me that the boss may assume that OP will be the one deciding the differentiating she since is senior in years. I had a boss like that who used to give me all the work and tell me to get my coworker to help me even though the nature of the position was such that though I had been there longer, we really were equals, and he was supposed to have his own projects, not just helping me, which was awkward for me.

        So, I think it would be great if OP feels comfortable working out a division of labor with her coworker, but I also think sitting down with the boss and figuring out how he sees all this would have some value.

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            Exactly! I wonder if the OP were to frame this a different way. There are many jobs where people share the exact same title and roles. People within those shared roles have different tenure and levels of expertise, this really isn’t any different than that.

            1. McWhadden*

              Yes, I’ve been at my job almost five years and currently have the same job title as a co-worker who has been here thirty years. Another who has been here fifteen years. Another who has been here one year. We all have the same job. I’m not junior to the ones who have been here longer or supervisor to the one who has been here less time.

              It’s not that crazy. It happens all the time.

              1. Kate*

                The OP also says that she is in charge of more high-level work, and the coworker does more assistant-type stuff, which is a division of labor that does indicate some seniority. It’s not really about titles or longevity at the company. If the OP trained the intern to cover her assistant-type work while she was on maternity leave, I can see her being confused as to why her now coworker got hired to handle the high-level work she wasn’t trained to do. Or, if she’s still only doing assistant-type work, I can understand the OP wondering why they share the same title. It could also be that the OP is just really not handling having an employee whom she formerly managed now be at the same level as her, but it was unclear to me from her details whether they are or aren’t equals. My company has internal titles to indicate pay range rather than responsibility, so having the same title does not indicate equality in seniority.

    3. NW Cat Lady*

      But how many times has Alison answered letters that go something like, “I am covering for my boss while she’s out for 3 months on maternity leave, why am I not getting her title and pay?” Invariably the answer falls along the lines of “you might not be covering everything,” or “just because you’re covering for her doesn’t mean you have exactly the same skill set.” (Also: see letters regarding “I filled in for 6 months after my boss left, but my company won’t hire me for her job and is looking at other people.”)

      This intern was hired to be an admin and fill in for the OP while she was on maternity leave. I’d be upset if someone who filled in for me for a few months suddenly had the exact same title with significantly less experience.

      1. Jamies*

        There are plenty of times titles can be the same when there’s a large discrepancy in experience. That doesn’t mean someone is being undermined or people aren’t aware who’s more experienced/has seniority.

        1. New hiring manager*

          Well exactly. At my level in my company, some have been in the field for 3 years, and some have been in it for 15. Doesn’t make one more senior than the other.

          If OP’s company has decided they need 2 people at that level, doing that job, OP doesn’t just get to decide that she is more senior, needs a new title, and should give her (now equal) coworker the admin duties. I know it sucks when you feel like you’ve “earned” something more than someone else, but the reality is that this new person is now at the same job title as you and you need to work on finding a new dynamic going forward.

      2. Birch*

        Yeah, I think this is really field dependent, but being able to hold the fort down is not the same thing as growing and progressing the work/team, and typically more experience will equal better quality work over the longer timescale. Especially if it’s not an entry level position.

      3. McWhadden*

        But, in this case, the boss believes the intern DOES have the right skill set and that everything was covered well.

        They are in a position to know that.

        1. Specialk9*

          Except the intern is doing admin work and OP more strategic work. That’s a big difference.

    4. Mongrel*

      Depends on the job, the new person may be perfectly capable of doing the day-to-day stuff but may have problems with the out of the ordinary, outlier issues that do turn up from time to time in every job

    5. Kate*

      Well, I doubt anyone’s fix would be to suddenly ‘demote’ the intern. Presumably they’d slightly promote OP, if anything (e.g. adding ‘senior’ like AAM suggests, or similar).

    6. Curlz Curlz McGee*

      I trained her to keep things afloat while I was away and was able to prepare her and our work for months before I left. My job is more complicated and I did a lot of extra work before leaving to make sure she was able to take care of things while I was away.

      1. Huh*

        I imagine your company is aware of that? It seems like it would be obvious how capable she was to them. I commented somewhere else longer, so I’ll keep it short here, but I suspect it’s not that they’re unaware of how capable intern is – they are, she’s been working there – they just decided the same title was suitable anyway. Who knows why, but they decided that. Unless your company is disorganized or incompetent on a regular basis, I’d assume they made the decision being fully aware of the situation. Lots of places use the same title for people with different experiences or tenures, your company might be one of them.

        That doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for yourself, but there’s a chance they won’t want to change their mind. You don’t get to decide a title change, who gets what duties, or whether or not your coworker is your equal – they do. It sucks, but it’s life – I’d say if it really bothers you, and you want a workplace where you feel as if hierarchy is a big deal, you might be a better fit somewhere else.

        But as I said before, I’m sorry you’re having anxieties coming back from maternity leave! I hope all of this improves soon. Ultimately, remember a title doesn’t change who you are – you are your wonderful self regardless of someone else having the same title!

    7. Girl friday*

      I would say, not necessarily, it may be a fallacy that someone covering for someone is capable of doing a job year round-at least not without extra training. But I am with you on that last part!

  10. blaise zamboni*

    OP #3 —

    I was in a similar position, but in your intern’s shoes. I was hired to basically fill the gaps for my colleague when her work started to overwhelm her. I was hired with the same title, but in practice she supervised my work and delegated tasks to me, because she had much more experience and my boss was sorta clueless about our daily job duties.

    I think this likely feels awkward because you didn’t have much time to put roots down and establish relationships before you took your leave, and I can really empathize with that. However, I encourage you to not view your role or the relationships involved in your role as a zero-sum game with your new coworker. There are tasks that you are clearly more suited to handling because of your experience, and there are tasks that you hate doing which she has picked up, and likely there are some intermediate tasks that you could both handle at different speeds and with different amounts of guidance. Think about what all of those responsibilities are, and then sit down with her to hash out what you both are expected to normally handle. You don’t have to be her supervisor to do that, and it’s not uncommon (at least ime) for people with the same title to function at different levels within that role. However, I highly recommend that you split up the intermediate tasks so she has an opportunity for development, and if it makes sense, give her one or two of the high-level tasks too–or keep them in mind for when she has enough knowledge to tackle them.

    Once you’ve established who usually handles what, the rest of your concerns should sort themselves out somewhat naturally. If Tangerina is normally in charge of llama media appearances, then any emails you get from the llama PR people should be forwarded to her. If you’re normally in charge of alpaca trail maintenance, then she should take a message for any of the calls she gets from the Andean parks department. Etc.

    As far as your boss goes: Your boss will likely favor you for trainings and events due to your experience anyway, but if you don’t see that happening, you can make a strong case for yourself and see what she says. If your boss doesn’t value your professional development now, she would not have valued your professional development before she hired your coworker either. Assuming you have a good relationship with your boss, you should be able to bring up your concerns with your own development, and with how you divvy up responsibilities between yourself and your coworker, and get some useful feedback from her.

    Bottom line is that you can preserve the reputation that your hard work and experience earned you while still sharing your role with another person. Talk to her and find out what her strengths and areas of interest are, and try to fairly assign responsibilities. Draw your manager in if you have trouble. And appreciate that you have someone to help shoulder the burden, especially as your life changes after your maternity leave.

    Good luck and best wishes!

  11. Zip Silver*

    I disagree on #4 – it seems to me to be along the same lines as mentioning you graduated cum laude or better while juggling a full time job and school (it certainly helped me). Being able to handle life and school/work already puts you ahead of a lot of new grads.

    1. sacados*

      I think, in practice that very well may be true. But in the end it falls under the umbrella of “professional norms.” Whether you think those norms are silly or arbitrary is a separate issue, but the fact remains that talking about parental experience in a work context is Not Done — in the same way that someone who had been a stay at home parent for a number of years shouldn’t list those skills on a resume.
      It’s far more likely to end up hurting the OP in her job hunt than helping.

    2. Birch*

      It’s just not relevant to use non-work life events to try and say you are a better professional fit. Everyone has stuff going on in their lives that makes work and school hard, and there’s no way to quantify the effect of the life thing on the school/work. As someone else mentioned, OP could have had full time free child care from a relative and a partner who cooked and cleaned, or they could have done it all on their own while struggling with postpartum depression. There’s just no possible way to know the details and how they all got together. Plus, bringing it up in an interview makes it sound like OP doesn’t have any relevant professional examples, so it’s more of a ‘character reference’ point anyway. It makes a better impression if you can *show* your ability to juggle life and work, rather than pointing it out as extraordinary, because it’s not, it’s a prerequisite. It’s one of those things like computer skills that should come as standard these days.

      1. Arjay*

        And honestly, it can lead to people wondering why their timing was so bad to have a child during their final semester. You just don’t want people speculating about your reproductive choices and how you handle them.

        1. Bea*

          LOL people who still think you plan for babies. Op confirmed it was failed BC…most children are unplanned ffs.

          1. Huh*

            Yeah, but the reality is people are going to judge. Though it is not the only cause, as birth control fails, bad decision making is one way to have an unplanned pregnancy.

            And most children are not unplanned. A study by the Guttmacher institute, considered reputable enough to report in the Washington post, indicated that only 45% of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. While that is nearly half, I would say that it is certainly not *most*.

            So considering that statistic, and the reality that most people would WANT to plan for a baby, I’d say your view probably isn’t accurate.

            1. PhyllisB*

              I always called my second and third child “planned accidents.” (Not to them, of course.) I planned to have child 2 and 3, but they came about a little earlier than I had planned.

              1. Huh*

                Don’t all kids make their parents feel like they were an accident at some point? Haha. :)

                To be clear, I’m not judging people getting pregnant by accident, but the reality of the world is that’s definitely a thing people judge for. I think they judge *less* depending on the risk at the time… say, people judge a 16 year old for getting pregnant more than someone in a successful marriage who’ve got money. (there’s a ton of interesting socioeconomic culture arguments there, but I digress) So I guess my point is “I got pregnant when it was inconvenient and dealt with it” would really turn off some people.

    3. BRR*

      The difference between your situation and the LW’s situation is that you were talking about professional experiences while the LW’s is a personal experience. I don’t disagree that having and raising a child requires a high degree of organization, but it’s like anybody mention having a child as an accomplishment. A lot of people have a child while working or in school and it doesn’t really separate the LW from other candidates.

      1. smoke tree*

        Yeah it’s probably a good rule of thumb that it’s not going to be helpful to treat raising your kids like the equivalent of a professional accomplishment. There are kid-adjacent activities that would be fine to mention (volunteering at their school, etc) but I don’t think there’s any situation where it’s going to be impressive to mention parenting and it will generally come off as naive.

    4. Yorick*

      Each of my students has some life thing they have to handle while in school. They have FT jobs, or several PT jobs, or kids, or sick family members, or they are sick themselves, or they go through some difficult thing, etc. So it doesn’t really set you apart to say that you did well in school even though you had a baby.

      What’s more, people are expected to deal with their lives and still perform reasonably well at work, so this information is actually pretty neutral. Bringing it up like it should be impressive will seem naive.

      This isn’t to say that OP shouldn’t be proud of herself – she should! But that personal triumph doesn’t translate to job searching.

      1. oldbiddy*

        This. OP runs the risk of putting herself at a disadvantage for a whole variety of possible reasons – people being judgy about birth control, other people being triggered since they are having trouble getting pregnant, others thinking she shouldn’t have put it in her resume, etc. This offsets any advantage she might get from people who will view it positively. She’s got a great GPA and it’s just a lot safer to go with conventional protocol and leave it out.

    5. Delphine*

      In addition to the other comments, there is no recognition in our society for the labor of having and caring for a child if you’re a woman, like there is for working during school or caring for sick family members, or the other examples given in previous comments. So while I can see someone being impressed that a person maintained a perfect GPA while ill or while working full-time or while caring for family members (even if that might not hold sway during an interview), I don’t think most people would be similarly impressed if you switched out “worked full-time” with “had and cared for a child full-time”. The lack of recognition around women’s labor in this area is also tied to the idea that somehow the default status of women is to be having/caring for children, and so it’s no extra work to be doing that while going to school–and if you’re so ungrateful to think it’s extra work then you shouldn’t have been “irresponsible” enough to have a child while other/”more important” things were happening in your life. It’s a gross undervaluing of what is commonly seen as “women’s work” (and fathers are regularly treated with much more respect and lauded for the value of their childcare work), but it’s the unfortunate reality we live in.

      I think it’s impressive to maintain a perfect GPA while caring for a baby. Most people can’t do that when the only thing they’ve got on their plates is school. But bringing it up risks dealing with the very real bias that most people have about women and women having children.

      1. smoke tree*

        Apart from this, I just don’t think there’s any way for an employer to reasonably draw conclusions about your professional work based on some general information about the existence of your kids. They don’t know what’s going on in your life that would make it easier or harder to raise your kids, they don’t know what kind of parent you are, and you really don’t want to lay your personal life out for criticism in that way. I also think it’s impressive to maintain a perfect GPA while caring for a baby, but there are plenty of impressive and meaningful accomplishments that also don’t make sense to mention in an interview.

  12. Bagpuss*

    LW4 : I think it is fair that you are proud of your achievements but don’t mention your baby on your applications.
    Quite apart from anything else, it’s a bit too close to listing parenting skills business accomplishments.

  13. Kir Royale*

    OP4. You experienced personal growth when becoming a parent, but so did the millions of other parents in the work force. This doesn’t set you apart as a candidate and might come across as self-congratulatory. Leave it out.

  14. Church Lady*

    OP4. I went to law school, on the weekends, while working full time. With a family. Of two kids, a husband, and multiple pets.

    Not going to put that on my resume.

    1. Red Reader*

      Yup. I just finished two masters degrees at the same time while working 50+ hours a week and maintaining my family of four people and six animals. The only part of that what belongs on my resume are the masterses.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I went to law school in an analogous non-traditional student (read: OLDER) situation. My view: (1) LW is not the first person to birth or be raising a child during school. Also, (2) job applicants, and women in particular, kind of never, ever want to mention their family situation in a job interview (never mind on their resume). Doing so only helps to open the door to being passed over for the job — for a stupid, sexist reason, to be sure, but one you know will just be couched as “not a good fit.”

  15. Myrin*

    I’m a bit surprised by the answer to #1 – I actually would’ve thought the first advice would be to try and talk to the boss, see what she says and how she views the situation (especially since OP mentions it’s a small company, she has been promoted to a management role (i. e., the boss must at least in some way recognise her competence) and it seems like she directly reports to the CEO).

    Maybe the CEO is not generally unreasonable but just hugely conflict-averse (I’ve known several people like that; intelligent, lovely people, but as soon as you say one thing they perceive as “critical”, all their rationality seems to be flying out the window at full speed) and would actually be receptive to your pointing out this pattern, especially when you point out the issue about your reputation and the large client.

    Also, is it necessary to give feedback to your reports in front of the CEO? I’m not quite sure of the structure here – did she just happen to walk by while you were correcting one of your employees? Does she like to sit in on your meetings with your reports but you could also do rounds of feedback without her? Or is this a model of giving feedback that she insists on and there’s absolutely no way for you to get out of out? Depending on which is the case, my advice would be different, but generally, can you just make it so that she simply isn’t part of your critical feedback at all? Or are your reports likely to then go to her and complain?

    In any case, you know your boss and the company culture best. If you feel like she’s actually a reasonable person who you have good rapport with, I’d encourage you to try and talk to her and see what comes of it. However, if she’s completely unreasonable and you don’t feel like there’s any talking to her about this at all or if there’s simply now way for you to “secretly” criticise your reports,, I agree with Alison’s advice that you might need to start looking for work elsewhere.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yeah – imagining letter:

      “I’ve recently become aware that one of my managers is shaming their team in public. I’m not sure how to approach this because since they were promoted a couple of years ago, I haven’t picked up on it, and worried I’m changing the expectations now. I’ve intervened a couple of times but they haven’t taken the hint. How do I tell a manager that what they’ve been doing for 2 years without being told not to is actually an issue?”

      Now this is NOT necessarily what is happening, and CEO could just be really shit… and if that is what is happening, they are not doing well and need to get their act together – basically, they need to manage right, which it sounds like they’re not doing.

      But it may be how they PERCEIVE the issue – so yes, please talk to them!

      And if they are as bad as you think – run away!!!!

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        From the additional info from OP – this isn’t the situation! Was going by published letter only and it’s not that good!

    2. GJA312*

      Hi! Yes, I would agree that she is definitely conflict averse. She doesn’t handle any sort of criticism well, so I think she believes no one else can either. I also believe that she is very afraid that the employees will quit if they get the slightest negative feedback.

      But I promise I’m handling it professionally. Behind closed doors. The CEO is there because things have gotten SO BAD that she needed to be there. When she and I talk one on one, she talks about how it needs to get addressed and back on track now, but the second she’s in front of the employee, she says vaguely that some things need to change but that they’re doing SUCH A GREAT JOB and never actually says what the problem is.

      I have given feedback just to the employee, but then they get mixed messages and I end up looking like the bad guy.

      I recently told her that things needed to be addressed more directly because the employees had no idea what they had done wrong or the severity of the situation, and she agreed. But then it was right back to the same old pattern immediately.

      1. McWhadden*

        Do you think it would be possible to have the CEO not involved but back up what you say after the fact. So she doesn’t have to sit through the criticism (which seems to make her very uncomfortable and want to mitigate). She acknowledges the issues one on one so could she just send an email saying “I stand by any feedback you receive from GJA312.”

        I agree that GET OUT might be the only solution. But for the time you are there maybe there are ways to work around?

        Sorry you are going through this.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, she could try to talk to the boss about it and I suggested some wording for that above, but this kind of boss is very, very hard to reform. They’re not willing to do — no, they’re not willing to even watch someone else do — one of the most fundamental parts of managing. I do not have high hopes.

  16. RW*

    While raising a baby is hard work, it’s not a rare or relevant trait(assuming you’re not working in childcare). Lots of other candidates are probably parents or have other life experiences that made them “hard-working, organized, and motivated”. And unfortunately, I think some people may see it more as irresponsible to have had a child during an inopportune time rather than a net positive that you overcame it. People shouldn’t judge, but they do.

    I’d focus more on other skills or experiences that show your hard work/organization/motivation, especially those specific to work related activities. Using life events can influence our work lives, however every employee has had life events and you can’t really know how companies will view that information.

    1. Kj*

      Yeah, I would say in my profession having a child in grad school is considered to be a bad idea and a mark of poor judgement. Not saying that is fair, but it is real. Sure, you can have a child and do really well despite it, but trying to pass your having a child in grad school as a mark of being great at organization is going to fail and cause you more harm than good OP.

  17. Arts Marketer*


    I’m confused at the assertion that OP is more senior to the promoted intern? Unless seniority in this context simply means length on service? If they are now both at the same level due to intern’s promotion then, while it is true OP is vastly more experienced, neither is senior to the other?

    I’ve been in a situation before where the two people at the level above me had the same title and pay grade while one more experienced and more experienced colleague often felt frustrated that less experienced colleague would defer to her when there was no difference in their job titles and responsibilities. I actually left that job because I felt that, even if I got promoted on my own merits, I would only ever be seen as the assistant in my department and that was hindering my development.

    Similarly to YB above, my comment is coloured by my own experiences so I understand OP’s feelings but I do have a lot of sympathy for former intern who has been promoted presumably based on the quality of her work, but is still being seen as though she’s in a much more junior role.

    1. MLB*

      She’s hasn’t been with the company long, but based on what she says I’m guessing she’s been working in the field longer and earned the seniority, over someone who was initially an intern and then hired full time. So yes she has more seniority in her current position. I would be pissed too. It’s great that they found someone to fill in while she was on maternity leave, but it sounds to me like their boss doesn’t want to rock the boat given that the intern turned FTE covered for LW. That’s BS. There needs to be division in their responsibilities. Now if after some time, the intern turned FTE starts outperforming LW that’s completely different. But right now boss needs to do their job and define their roles more clearly. Right now boss is just throwing work to both of them and whoever catches it first does it.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        ” I’m guessing she’s been working in the field longer and earned the seniority, over someone who was initially an intern and then hired full time. ”

        I’m not so sure I agree with this. The LW might have more experience, but seniority is often synonymous with both tenure (which the OP doesn’t have a lot of) and/or job duties. It doesn’t sound like either are the case here base on the LW’s comments about the boss sending them both a task/project.

        In other words, if a person is hired into a team of teapot designers who has 5 years of experience at another company they aren’t automatically senior to a same ranked designer who only has 1 year experience at the company.

        1. MLB*

          She states in her letter that she has “several more years of experience”. And intern generally means having little to no experience so I stand by what I said.

          1. DArcy*

            Several years more experience *at other jobs*. Her tenure at the current employer is only “a few months” before the intern started, and given that she’s been out on maternity leave, the intern now has approximately equal (if not slightly more) time on the job.

      2. Specialk9*

        Seniority means years in career, in my industries. We sort people by rank/title/grade, then by seniority/years of service. So she’s definitely more senior than a new hire, she shares a title, but she may be on a different payband. (She better be making more, or that’s some bullshort.)

        1. DArcy*

          I’m not aware of any job that puts you on a higher pay band for being just a few months ahead — everywhere I’ve seen seniority pay being a thing, it’s applied at either six month or one year intervals. And it’s often normalized to the fiscal year, so everyone hired in the same half or quarter would be considered the same seniority step even if some of them have 2-3 months more time at the company.

    2. Denise*

      Regarding #3, I think that seniority/tenure is a separate issue from skills and job level. I think that what is really rankling the op is the idea or possibility that the intern could be perceived to be (or perhaps actually is) just as good at the role as the op is, despite having less experience doing it. If someone can do the job, they can do the job. And being trained for one set of tasks doesn’t mean that this former intern isn’t also capable of handling higher level ones.

      This raises the whole 5 years of progressively responsible experience vs. 1 year of experience repeated 5 times question . Not all jobs require years to master, and we haven’t heard what other experience or transferable skills the intern brought to her role despite having the title of “intern.”

      If it were me, I would focus less on maintaining my current turf and more on developing and sharpening higher level skills, and look toward taking on higher level responsibilities.

      1. Specialk9*

        That’s not what’s happening though. Their title is the same, but one’s doing advanced strategic work (what my industry calls senior work) and the other’s doing admin work (what my industry calls junior work, though there are separate admin asst tracks). I’d be annoyed if we were doing such different skilled work but lumped together. Granted though I’m used to highly differentiated roles.

        1. DArcy*

          That’s how the OP is framing the situation, but I don’t think it’s actually accurate. The OP admits that the “assistant type work” is also part of their current job — *they* are the one that thinks their new coworker should do all the low end work and not get any of the professional development opportunities, whereas the boss is not making that differentiation.

          If you read between the lines that way, what we have is actually someone who has *barely a couple of months* more experience at this company trying to argue that since their coworker was previously an intern and was “supposed to” only be a temp, they should be treated as an assistant instead of a peer.

          1. Curlz Curlz Mcgee*

            This is not true. I am not the one assigning duties but am the one strategizing and coming up with new projects and working on those. Yes, the lower level type stuff and higher level responsibilities were both part of my job before I went on maternity leave because our team consisted of only two staff members-the director and myself (a coordinator). I was doing everything by myself plus managing three interns. One of those interns had slightly more experience and more attention to detail than the others and I trained her to be able to fill in for me on a very basic level. Not grow the company or conceptualize new projects—just make sure everything I had planned for the three months that I would be out was properly executed. She did a great job and with her on the team, we were able to do more because I had more free time to focus on growth. This is her first paid position after receiving her masters and I have been working in my field for seven years. I do more advanced work not because I’m being an asshole and withholding these opportunities from her but because she doesn’t have the experience or skills. Now I am able to work on these more strategic, intensive projects because we have the extra man-power that we didn’t have before.

  18. Doc in a Box*

    OP 4: A 4.0 GPA, an Americorps internship, and being a TA are all wonderful evidence that you are hardworking, organized, and motivated. Having a baby is evidence that your uterus is functional. Unless your uterus is somehow of interest to your employer, I wouldn’t bring it up in an interview.

    The only way I can see it playing in your favor is if the interviewer asks you to talk about a time when you struggled with work-life balance or something. On the other hand, that sort of question would raise bright red flags for me that the interviewer may discriminate against women (because “finding work-life balance” is a such consistent theme among women in a way it just isn’t for men).

    1. Vin Packer*

      Surely we can tell this letter writer that putting having a baby in her cover letter isn’t appropriate without telling her that having a baby is nothing.

      1. Delphine*

        Unfortunately, these are the little ways in which we can see that the devaluing of the work women do in having/caring for children results in bias in almost all of us. Of course having a baby is evidence that your uterus “is functional”–having/caring for that baby *while* maintaining a 4.0 GPA, an Americorps internship, and being a TA is still very impressive.

        1. CMart*

          Thanks Delphine, comments like that get my hackles up something fierce and I personally never know how to respond without sounding oversensitive.

          I managed to get lucky and had my baby four days after graduating with my Master’s, but being pregnant (horrible morning sickness during finals of my second-to-last semester, being enormous and in pain during my actual last semester) while finishing a graduate degree, working full time etc… and still managing to do well at the work/school thing is something I’m proud of.

          And then having an infant and studying for/passing professional certification exams while on 12 week “maternity leave” (aka, waiting to start my full time job) is also something I’m proud of because it was really hard. My priority was my baby, and I still managed to study/pass difficult exams as tertiary concerns.

          Does it belong on a resume? No. It’s not a professional accomplishment.

          Does it belong in a cover letter? Nah, it doesn’t highlight anything about my professional achievement or my fit for a role.

          Is it something to bring up during interviews? Maaaaybe, depending on the circumstances (people at my current company always seem very impressed with me whenever they start attempting to do the date-math on “Graduated… CPA license… started here… wait isn’t your daughter only X-old??”). MAYBE. Probably not.

          But it’s not nothing. It’s just not “professional”.

          1. Specialk9*

            I felt like their statement was clear and judgment free, you’re adding the ‘it’s nothing’ part.

            “Unless your uterus is somehow of interest to your employer, I wouldn’t bring it up in an interview.”

            And yeah, one’s uterus is NOT relevant to an employer. I don’t think anyone would say your child is worthless and you are too and you can’t be proud of either. Yeesh.

      2. Doc in a Box*

        Never meant to imply that having a baby is nothing, and I’m sorry if my comment could be taken that way. But it’s not a professional accomplishment (unless you’re a professional surrogate, I guess) so it’s not something you should highlight to a potential employer as a reason for them to hire you.

  19. drpuma*

    I love Alison’s script for OP2, but I’m curious who OP2 should have the conversation with. The external recruiter? Someone at the company’s internal HR/recruiting? Their potential boss? If it were me I would contact the external recruiter, as it’s been my experience that that person still handles the salary negotiations after the full interview cycle.

  20. Self employed*

    Baby lady: I think you’re more likely to incur unintentional (or intentional bias) by including this info than you are to raise the level of your resume.

  21. MuseumChick*

    OP 4, think about this from the interviewer perspective. You had a baby during school, without a lot more information that would be inappropriate to ask about, the interviewer has no way of know if this is an indication of you being “hard-working, organized, and motivated”. It could be. But it could also be for example, that it’s really grandma raising the baby while you were in school. Or maybe you have a spouse who makes enough money to hire nannies so you could focus on school. Or any number of other possibilities.

    There are also those who will think “Gee, why would she plan to have a baby in the middle of school?” and have a super judge-y attitude about that.

    It’s better to not bring it up especially as evidence of such qualities as you listed.

  22. Dan*

    Re Q#1: “…But any time I give my team constructive criticism in front of the CEO…”

    There is your problem right there. *Never* offer criticism of any kind, even constructive criticism, in front of your boss. I think that is a much bigger problem here. Feedback should only ever be given one on one and especially not in front of superiors. You are undermining your employees when you do this and they may even resent you for it. Your boss may be oblivious to the reality, or may be trying to hint that you shouldn’t be saying these things to your employees in a public setting.

    1. Observer*

      While feedback should GENERALLY be given in private “never” goes way too far. And, regardless, if the CEO sees this as a problem he should be choaching the OP. Refusing to acknowledge the correctness of the feedback and not giving any themselves is waaay worse than giving feedback in front of others.

    2. GJA312*

      The feedback — handled professionally at all times, I promise — is done in front of the CEO because she specifically requested to be there to help handle it because the behavior is literally putting the business at risk. But she is so conflict averse that she immediately backtracks on any sort of criticism. My script is generally: For future reference, let’s handle situation X like Y instead of Z next time so we can prevent this from happening. I’m not getting personal or even overly critical. I’m just giving direction, and apparently that’s too close to hurting someone’s feelings in my CEO’s eyes.

      1. Libby*

        Am I correct in understanding the situation as:
        -CEO wants to meet and figure out what went wrong
        -You, the CEO, and your reports involved meet to discuss
        -You say next time let’s handle X like Y instead of Z to keep this from happening again
        -CEO says, no everything is fine you’re all doing great! (or something similar)

    3. Foreign Octopus*

      I would argue that it depends on the severity of the mistake that requires feedback.

      OP1 states that this mistake has affected a six-figure contract in the company, which therefore necessitates CEO involvement. In the comments, they’ve also stated that it’s a small company so CEO involvement probably isn’t unusual in feedback scenarios.

      I agree that feedback should be given one-to-one but I think we should take OP at her word that she’s doing it professionally. Besides, we can’t become so sensitive that we can’t even accept constructive criticism in public as long as it’s polite and helpful i.e. Jane, I just saw that you did X this way. I’ve found that doing it another way is more helpful and gets better results. Can you try that next time?

  23. Roscoe*

    #4 While I do agree that the division of labor could be an issue, it does sound like a lot of this is ego. I’ve been at jobs and trained new people who came in for the same role, and we had the same title. Yes, because I was there longer I may have gotten some of the more challenging assignments, but at the heart of it, our job was still the same. It sounds like the new person was good enough to handle all of these tasks while you were gone, so its not fair to expect her to just do the grunt work you don’t like now. Its fine to ask your boss about a division of labor, however if she is qualified to do the same tasks that you are (even if you have more experience) then maybe you should share the load. Which means you still do some of the admin tasks you don’t like, and she gets more of the advanced tasks. The boss decided to hire her on. If there isn’t enough work for the 2 of you, I’d say you should ALL meet with your boss to figure out how things should go. But don’t just throw your wait around to make her do all the crappy tasks.

  24. Kate*

    OP#3 I was surprised at the answer for this one. Your new coworker is getting ready to take over all of your responsibilities for at least 6 weeks. So right now she needs to be doing everything like she would when your gone, the division of work will come when you return or it may change when you return now that there are 2 people in the position and the boss most likely doesn’t want to overwhelm the new girl. I know we all want to believe that we are the best at our jobs and that working them has given us knowledge that no one else can have unless they have been in the role the same length of time and to a degree that is true but that’s not the real world, the working knowledge helps but isn’t essential or we could never hire new people. You need to wait until you are back from maternity leave and have your bearings back (because day one or week one will not be that time). Then you can talk to your manager and see how your workload is changing and then you and your new co-worker can work together to divide up responsibilities.

    1. Nonsensical*

      She is returning from maternity leave. You can see that in how she refers to it in past tense.

  25. Observer*

    #4 I have a “brood” of my own, all of them while working full time and finishing my BA. I know a number of other women who did the same, post grad degrees / certifications (eg bar and CPA). All of us would be dumbfounded at the idea that you would bring up having a baby during school as some sort of proof that you are hardworking, responsible and organized.

    Please don’t even consider it. It’s likely to annoy people, and it will CERTAINLY not make you look good.

    1. Delphine*

      Whether a million women have done it before or none, it doesn’t take away from the fact that having/caring for a baby during school and doing wonderfully at school at the same time *are* proof of being hardworking, responsible, and organized. We can value that work and that effort, while acknowledging that it won’t be helpful in a job interview.

      1. Observer*

        That’s actually not necessarily true. And, it is DEFINITELY not more true than managing well under other difficult situations.

        The bottom line is that even women who have no illusions about what it takes to have and raise kids are not necessarily going to be super impressed. Because we also know that you don’t know what that person has in terms of support, on the one hand. And we also know that having a kid is not the only thing that can make it really hard to do great work in school.

        Which, btw, I wouldn’t bring up any of those other things either absent a larger conversation about handling life and work.

      2. Specialk9*

        This is a work blog, and a letter about a work situation, and we’re answering related to work. I wish people would stop conflating work advice with judging women as useless and devaluing unpaid household labor. We’re saying don’t put it in the stinking cover letter or mention it in the interview.

    2. CMart*

      Well, as someone who is part of that number of women who did a post grad degree/CPA with a little infant I’d like to opt out of your blanket statement about being dumbfounded.

      I’d definitely cringe if I saw it on a resume or a cover letter, and it would depend heavily on context if it were brought up in an interview whether or not I’d still be cringing. But if I found out that detail about someone (baby during their last part of grad school, while working/passing certifications etc…) in an otherwise normal course of conversation? I’d likely mentally put a little asterisk next to that person’s name in my mind as “probably hardworking, responsible, and organized.”

      1. Observer*

        If it came up in a normal conversation, sure. If someone brought it up to prove how great she is that is a VERY different thing.

  26. boop the first*

    1. CEO is so worried about employee’s feelings, but what’s up with employees who slack off just because they can get away with it now? Don’t they care about their integrity?

    1. boop the first*

      Oh I guess my point is, why care about their feelings at all when they are so careless (assuming that’s the case here)?

      1. GJA312*

        That’s kind of my stance, as well. They’re putting the business at risk, so I feel that should be the priority. And I truly believe that I can/am handling it in such a way that isn’t hurting their feelings.

        1. Specialk9*

          And even if you were hurting their feelings, f#@$ that. You’re not their mom or therapist, you’re their manager and they’re risking a major account.

    2. pcake*

      too bad the CEO isn’t worried about the more productive employees’ feelings.

      “Bitch, my family doesn’t pay me to show up and doesn’t complain if I loaf around in my boxers. You’re my employer – act like it!”

      *LOLOL* thanks for that – you made my day :D

  27. BRR*

    #3 I don’t think the logistical issues you mentioned are really what you’re worried about. They sound very typical for when someone new joins the team. It seems like your manager didn’t really do much planning or give any guidance considering your team has now expanded in size. Getting some clarity on the things you mentioned would be a good idea, whether you take the lead or ask your manager to make some decisions will depend on your workplace.

    What I can’t tell from your letter is are your responsibilities different enough that your roles are drastically different or do you feel like she is stomping on your turf a little? Would you feel differently if you didn’t previously manage this person? Would you feel differently if this person wasn’t covering for you when you were on parental leave? There are certain situations where people have different levels of experience but have the same title.

    If you’re handling far more complex tasks, I think you would be in a good position to ask your manager for a better title. Based on your letter thoguh, I’m not sure your roles are drastically different.

    1. Roscoe*

      I got that same idea as well. Like if this person were initially hired on as the same position, I feel like OP wouldn’t have the same issue. But because she was an intern/temp and then got promoted, it seems that is where some of this resentment is coming from

  28. CM*

    OP#1: Have you already talked with your CEO about this 1-on-1? “We agreed that Dave’s performance is a problem, but when I try to address it, you tell Dave that his performance is fine. As a result, the performance issues continue and they are negatively affecting projects for our most important clients. Can I get your agreement that you’ll allow me to handle these issues by requiring people to improve and firing them if they don’t improve?” It seems like “get out” might end up being your best option, but it’s not clear to me from your letter whether you’ve already been candid with your CEO about how they are causing a problem. If you’re thinking of leaving anyway, it’s worth a try. In the moment, after CEO says, “Don’t worry, Dave, it’s fine,” I would even say something in front of Dave like, “CEO, when we talked earlier, I thought we agreed that this issue was a problem and could not be allowed to happen again. Did I misunderstand?” (This is aggressive, I know.)

  29. Martine*

    I have a 5 year old, a 4 year old and a 3 year old. I put myself through school while also working full-time after being widowed. I had 3 under 3 at that time. I’m not special and it’s not some kind of achievement. I worked hard and did what I had to do. I would never mention it in an interview or at work in a way that makes it seem like an achievement. It was hard at that time but other people have things going on too. Having a baby is great for the parent(s) but it is not an achievement. Billions of women have done it. Coming back from maternity leave is not an achievement either.

    Mentioning a baby in an interview or coming back from maternity leave and thinking an intern doesn’t deserve the same title do nothing to help women look professional. Women are held back so much as it is. I understand how hard it can be for OP 3 and OP 4 because I have been there but I would strongly advise them to rethink their positions.

    1. Delphine*

      You may not be special but it’s certainly an achievement to put yourself through school while working full time as a single parent of three under three.

      1. Bea*

        Yeah…if everyone could do it, more would. I don’t like the hard swerve to “not special, not an achievement” for women who balance work and life. And I’m not a mother, I don’t want to juggle both…so yeah.

    2. CMart*

      I’m honestly a little sad that you don’t consider being a widowed, full time working mother of 3-under-3 while pursing a degree to be anything special and not an achievement.

      It is definitely an achievement, and I hope you realize that it’s okay to be proud of working hard and continuing on a path you set for yourself. Just because it doesn’t belong on a resume doesn’t mean you have to downplay how exhausting and logistically difficult that kind of life can be.

      I don’t mean to rah-rah Girl Power you if you don’t want or need it, but I also think this trend of women (and of course men) acting like raising children isn’t something worth valuing is exactly why women continue to be held back. “Oh, you had a baby? Who cares, get back to work. Oh, you can’t because you need time to heal/get used to this huge life change? You must not be a very worthwhile employee/person, because having a baby isn’t special.”

    3. Specialk9*

      I actually do think this is an achievement. But you’re right not to bring it up in a job hunt.

  30. Also a new mom*

    Speaking as someone who returned to work from maternity leave this week, LW 3 needs to dial back the entitlement.

  31. McWhadden*

    For Number 3. The former intern both has the same job title but has also been present in the company (so people got to know her) for almost as long as the OP. There isn’t any way of viewing this where the OP has seniority over her co-worker at this point. Very few places count time worked in other officers toward seniority (if the office even has a system where years=higher position, which many don’t.) And if that’s the case it has to be negotiated. She can ask for a promotion. But there is no justification for thinking she is in a senior position and entitled to more perks or authority at this time.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t mean seniority in the sense of “you’ve been here X amount of time so now you get Y vacation time.” I mean she has the experience and skills to put her at a more senior level of the role.

      1. McWhadden*

        But it’s also not unusual to have people with different levels of experience in the same role.

        She has the experience to ask for a promotion. But, as of now, they are equals. Even if it’s unfair I think it’s the way she has to see it in order to not look like she’s overstepping. How many letters have there been with “X thinks she’s my boss but she isn’t”?

    2. Mostly just a reader*

      I agree. I was getting all confused by the comments above referring to “vast” experience, so much so that I had to go back and re-read the first few lines of the letter! By my count, the intern and the OP3 were hired within just a couple months of one another (which is almost no time in the scheme of things), and accounting for maternity leave, have now accumulated essentially the same amount of time in the office doing the job. It doesn’t sound at all the same as a situation where someone who had been there for tons of years was suddenly being usurped to me!

  32. Jule*

    Please don’t bring up your baby. Why encourage hiring managers to believe that anyone’s reproductive choices should have weight in their hiring decisions?

  33. Bea*

    Please #4 don’t use being a mother as backing to your hard work. This doesn’t stop at motherhood either, I had the longest flowery cover letter about how being a dedicated runner could tie in and illustrate their work ethic and never give up can do spirit etc. It was the worst, isn’t helpful and they weren’t qualified despite trying so hard to sell themselves as such.

    Your grades and school accomplishments are what shows all this! Don’t dilute it with your personal greatness!

    1. oldbiddy*

      As someone who exercises more when things are calm at work and less when things get busy, I would side-eye that applicant so hard I’d pull a muscle.

      1. Bea*

        I’m getting deep into my own fitness and keep yacking at my friends about my obsession with DDP Yoga.

        I’ll ask each one to kick my ass if I ever try to tie that into work unless I start working at a studio! It’s so juvenile and a streeeeeetch to override inexperienced IMO.

        So yeah, I’m thrilled to hear about these things after I’ve hired someone and I see them work.

  34. Anonie*

    #2 Is there a possibility the intern just really rocked out the job, and they want her on equal footing as you?

    In my first job out of broadcasting school, I filled in for the morning show host after he had a heart surgery that kept him sidelined for about six weeks. In that time, our bosses decided I was “less experienced, but the better talent,” and they gave me the morning show full time. The other guy was sent to afternoons. (He was upset by the change in hours and quit a few months later). I know that isn’t comfortable to think about, but it is possible?

    1. Roscoe*

      This is something I was thinking. Maybe Intern was just great at whatever the job was and deserves to be on equal footing. That may not be what the OP wants to hear, but could very well be true.

    2. Anonie*

      Let me add too, this guy wasn’t getting pushed out b/c of heart surgery or anything, they just switched him from the morning show (which is most desirable in radio) to the afternoon shift. We have two other employees that have missed the same amount of time due to medical, and I took three months for maternity with no shifting/changing. It was all about talent, and, probably above all else, work ethic and preparation.

    3. BRR*

      I’m happy you were able to articulate this because I was having difficulty phrasing it. This definitely crossed my mind as well.

  35. Ro*

    #4 Definitely don’t mention it at all. Alison is right. AND, as if that’s not enough incentive, I just saw this article this morning-

    It sucks that people (consciously or not) discriminate, but since they often do, don’t reveal anything that has the chance to weaken your candidacy. Good Luck!

  36. IamLW4*

    I now understand the difference between a personal achievement, and a professional one. I understand why they are separate and it would be inappropriate to discuss it. I’m glad I decided to put myself out there and ask!

    Thank you all for the advice. I worked incredibly hard to succeed in school with my newborn. I wasn’t able to take any type of “maternity leave”, but I powered through and did what needed to be done. I am proud of myself, but I see how it does not translate well to others, at least in a professional setting.

    Also, birth control. Not as effective as promised. Not that it’s anyone’s business! See how easy it is so overshare when you bring up babies? Another reason to keep it to myself.

    Thanks again!

    1. BRR*

      I’m happy to see that you replied. As Doc in a Box wrote upthread, you have a lot of professional achievements to cite. I can’t imagine how difficult it is juggle everything between school and a newborn (with no type of maternity leave as you said), but you should definitely be proud of your accomplishments. Good luck in your job hunt!

    2. Famous Blue Raincoat*

      To me you sound awesome and I have so much respect for you handling pregnancy/childbirth/parenting at the same time as literally anything else. I’m not a parent myself but life is hard enough trying to care for yourself, let alone another (tiny, vulnerable) human.

      I think you’re making the right call on leaving this out of professional conversations, but still–mad props to you! You should definitely be proud of your accomplishments.

    3. Bea*

      I’m thrilled you came away with this understanding and the advice has helped you. That also shows your strengths and you’ll do well in the professional world having the ability and desire to constantly learn and evolve with your surroundings.

      Motherhood is hard AF and I’ve known women who gave birth during even earlier stages in education who thankfully were able to flourish as well. It’s an admirable accomplishment and most of all your child will learn this from you which is even more valuable over all!

    4. Observer*

      See how easy it is so overshare when you bring up babies? Another reason to keep it to myself.

      Oh, yes indeed!

      And I shudder to think of the twists and turns a conversation like this could take in the context of an interview.

      Where I could see this being relevant is if there were a general conversation about balancing the curveballs life can throw with work. Then I could see “yeah this one was hard.” Because, it IS hard.

    5. Hmmm*

      I can understand that you worked hard, but by bringing something up that’s not relevant to your candidacy, you aren’t really giving a fair comparison… Since no one else is volunteering personal life struggles, a hiring manager can’t say “oh while Suzy raised a kid but John was taking care of his sick Aunt so they’re equal”… Which would be weird even if they could! Sounds like you’ve realized this as well :)

      And frankly, a person with fertility problems or who is child free could really be rubbed the wrong way. And things like having a kid at a difficult time aren’t uncommon, so it could also come across wrong that way.

      But ultimately, you don’t want to be seen “as a mother” because that’s not your job title. It’s not your work experience. It opens you to sexism of course, but ultimately it isn’t about you or your qualifications, and that’s what you want people to remember!

    6. H.C.*

      Glad you replied and took the advice & comments in stride, even the ones that are more abrasive than they need to be. Good luck interviewing & congratulations on your baby!

    7. Let's calm down*

      I’m very impressed with your work ethic OP! While I do agree with the advice overall, some of commenters seemed overly harsh or tried to diminsh your accomplishments by comparing them to their own personal situations. **grumble, grumble when I was in grad school I had to walk to class uphill both ways in a snowstorm! And then work every night in the coal mines so we wouldn’t lose the family farm AND had feed my family of 20 (plus 8 cats and 100 dogs)! Grumble, grumble**
      People can be weird. Best of luck!

    8. LAMB*

      I’m so glad to see that you came to this conclusion because there’s another issue that I didn’t see anyone mention.
      I’m doing grad school with two kids at home. If you brought up your baby as a selling point in an interview, it would sound to me like the baby was planned, and honestly? My knee-jerk reaction would be to wonder if maybe your program was much easier than mine if you decided to intentionally have a baby during it AND didn’t now look back and go “what was I thinking?”. Like, yeah then I would remind myself that I oughtn’t judge people’s childbearing decisions, (and maybe your field is not one that has an expectation that grad students will pull all-nighters and practically live in their workspace), but I still would have had that spark of doubt *about your quality as a candidate*.

      To be clear: you worked your butt off and given the context of birth control failed/life threw you a curveball, I am very impressed that you kept on top of everything, but I had the whole column and comments to go from that first “what were you thinking?” impulse to “look at LW4, conquering the world!” and an interviewer/hiring manager can get off that thought-train anywhere along the way, so don’t let them get on board to begin with.

  37. Libby*

    At my previous job, my manager was like the CEO in #1 and didn’t give any negative constructive criticism for the same reason. I strongly believe it ended up hurting me professionally and kept me from growing in my career, and I was definitely stagnant for a few years.

  38. Massmatt*

    #2 it sounds as though either the company is trying to get someone to work as a manager for a pay rate that is on the low end even for an individual contributor, or the recruiter and hiring manager have not really communicated well about the job description. To me these are warning signs, but who knows maybe it’s fixable.

    I knew a manager in another department once that would post jobs with entry level qualifications (and pay) and then add on tons of things he needed during the interview. He always seemed surprised to only be getting entry-level type applicants and would complain about HR not screening the candidates. It was a bizarre disconnect.

  39. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*


    Although you say that you aren’t coming from a bruised ego place (and I believe you), it does come off that you are more than a little insecure with this new setup. A little bit of advice. Don’t get hung up on the fact that you supervised the intern before they converted to your coworker. Had things been only slightly different it’s very reasonable to think they could have been hired into the position as a direct coworker and you would have never supervised them.

    It’s also really good advice (that was given to me and I’ve seen in action) never get too invested in your place in a reporting structure. I’ve seen, shall we say, interesting results when tables turn and a former reporting relationship gets flipped with the former employee now managing the former boss. I myself have been in a situation where a less tenured peer was promoted to my boss, he was honestly one of the best boss’s I’ve had. Sure there were moments when I had uncharitable thoughts about the situation, but I owned them for what they were, in my case a bit of ego, and got over it.

    Embrace your new coworker and between you two figure out how you want your department to work and how you both want to divide the work, definitely get your shared boss’s buy in and support. Instead of focusing on the any perceived unfairness or insecurity (if this is the case), focus on how you can reach your career goals, whatever they are.

    It seems to me that have an aptitude for managing people if you were able to get an intern up to speed and self-reliant in such a short time.

  40. Gotham Bus Company*

    In Letter 2, does anyone else see parallels to the 1950 film “All About Eve”? Eve starts out as an adoring fan of stage actress Margo and manipulates others so that she can become Margo’s assistant, then understudy, then replacement.

    Intern started off as LW’s assistant, then replaced her during maternity leave, and is now gunning to replace her permanently. LW should update her resume NOW.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Hmm… I’m not sure I agree this is the case. The LW there’s plenty of work for the both of them and I guess I didn’t see any evidence of nefarious scheming on the part of the former intern.

    2. Anonie*

      No. Not at all. It appears that the intern did an excellent job handling things while OP was out on leave, and has been rewarded.

  41. Observer*

    #4, I haven’t read all of the responses, but you probably see how your idea is likely to go down. Let me spell out what’s likely to go through the minds of people who hear this.

    First “oh, speshul SNOWflake!” Then “Is she going to expect special recognition every time there is a crunch?” and “whose toes is she gong to step on by saying ‘You just don’t understand what it’s like to have a kid’?”

  42. Anon for this*

    LW3: It may be time to either seek a promotion or a new job. They hired an intern, probably for a lower salary, to do what you do without ever offering you a move up. It’s not a good sign, in my limited experience of a long-ish tenure in a job that included my taking two maternity leaves.

  43. Sue Wilson*

    #1: I know your boss doesn’t take feedback well so I would do two things:
    1) If your boss privately gives you instructions that it is your responsibility to up performance, then I would either go over what happened, and then ask her (with a tone that indicates you’re looking for her expertise, to have feel less like this is a criticism) how she would have handled it, or ask her to give you specific wording that you can use.

    This may not stop her from underminding you, but it will give you something to say “we agreed on doing this X way” and follow that up with 2)

    2) Ask her why she doing that (again, this should be said in a tone that you want to understand her ~brilliant~ strategy, so make sure this isn’t sarcastic). What does she think the outcome is?

    The point of all of this is to get your boss professionally invested in the consequences that she’s putting as your responsibility. It may be easier to to get her to reflect and it will help connect your reports performance with her own actions. People are very good at avoiding self-reflection, so I would definitely start to look for other jobs.

  44. DJ*

    #4: I’m about to get my PhD in a science field and it will have taken me 8 years because I had three kids. I’m kind of dreading the “why did it take you so long” question when interviewing. I do worry about the things that Alison mentioned, because fundamentally there is some truth to those employers worries (women as a whole tend to be the primary caregiver); but they cannot ask about that directly without being sexist. Not saying that it is right to do, but you cannot ignore how some people will react. Doesn’t help that I can’t think of a good way to mention that there is a solid chance that my husband will end up being the primary caregiver.

    Good luck!

    1. Piled higher, but not deeper*

      Many people won’t ask you why it took so long. You can also talk about a professional (read: PhD-related, not personal like kids) delay in your program instead of the (yes, bigger, but none of their business) delay due to children.

      I took 7 years. At the end of year 4, a post-doc assaulted me and my advisor backed the post-doc. So I changed advisors, and took another 3 years. When somebody asks, I can list off at least 3 major other things that also slowed me down – an experiment didn’t happen to schedule, a project plan had to change abruptly due to funding, etc. When it comes up, I mention those other things. I do not mention the crotch-grabber post doc or the professor who said I had to treat the post-doc more respectfully so he wouldn’t feel a need to grab my crotch at work.

      1. CM*

        That sucks. I’m really sorry that happened to you, Piled higher.

        I agree, I think most people won’t ask why it took so long — maybe if it was 10+ years. And if they do, coming up with non-family reasons would be good, but if that’s not possible you could always say you had some personal/family commitments you were taking care of at the same time without being specific about 3 kids.

    2. Girl friday*

      I don’t think that’s abnormal. Probably, you had to do some significant research or compile some data that would be a significant reason for it taking so long. Right? I celebrate the three kids with you though.

  45. Anon a mouse*

    OP#4, both of my parents died when I was in grad school. They lived several hundred miles away and I made countless trips to see them then later deal the house and other things (had help from a sibling) with for almost my entire grad school time. I read countless books in airports and wrote drafts of papers in hospitals, and I graduated.

    Other grad students had children, another lost his father, one was a full-time lawyer, two had babies, one was diagnosed with cancer, and they all graduated. I have a friend who’s going to law school part time and has both a full and part-time job, and she’s on target to graduate next year.

    If someone included the fact they had a baby while in grad school as an accomplishment, I’d roll my eyes and mentally toss their application.

    1. Delphine*

      It’s not a competition about who had it tougher…multiple people can go through extremely difficult situations that would make it more difficult to graduate and when come out the other end shining, that’s wonderful. They’ve all accomplished something and proven their dedication.

      1. Observer*

        Of course it’s not a competition. But it IS to say that unless everyone is talking about how to handle the really difficult stuff life throws at you while keeping up with school and / or work, bringing up the baby is out of place. Because it’s not fundamentally harder (or easier) than the other stuff.

      2. Anon a mouse*

        It’s not a competition, and that’s the point–lots of people in grad school face massive challenges, and to say that having a baby somehow shows that someone is extra dedicated turns it into a competition, and one the OP will lose.

  46. saminrva*

    #4 – I had a slightly different reaction to this, although I still agree with Alison’s advice. Even if it’s not intended, I can’t help but hear a tone of “I did this without even taking parental leave, which makes it more of an accomplishment,” which to me sounds a little bit like people saying “hire me and I’ll work extra hours for no more pay!” or in this case, the implication of “if I decide to have another baby, you won’t have to worry about me needing accommodations!” — none of these are good for anyone. I know it must’ve been incredibly hard to have a baby with no leave time, but instead of touting that as an accomplishment, let’s work to make parental leave normal and expected for everyone. Good luck with your job search, OP4!

  47. Bookworm*

    #1: Your boss is ridiculous. I’ve been on the other side of this: I was blindsided by not being hired after serving in an internship for 6 months. They told me I was too slow and too sloppy but admitted I was right when I responded that I was NEVER given constructive feedback, that my training had been immensely haphazard (very much learn as you go), and that I was *always* told “it’s fine” when I asked, so I no clue anything was wrong. The manager admitted that they had to be better about giving feedback and were also not going to extend my internship beyond an extra month for me to find something else. In retrospect it was for the better because the company underwent a major shift and something like 8 of the 10 people I worked with left in like 3 years.

    A few months ago I also left a somewhat similar situation (things were great for the first 6 months and then it seemed like everything I did was wrong but they didn’t understand *how* to be constructive about their criticism and *what* constructive criticism looks like). I left because it was starting to affect my health. The head of the firm admitted that there were mistakes in regarding how to handle re-training, feedback, etc. but as others say: it’s not a good situation. Looking back I think it’s now clear that the firm isn’t going to be able to expand because the guy doesn’t know how to manager and wasn’t interested in my feedback (no exit interview, they didn’t ask me what I was working on to transfer knowledge, etc.).

    Criticism can be tough but having a conversation/providing constructive criticism is only good for everyone. Please find a place that will better appreciate your willingness to have the occasionally uncomfortable conversation. Good luck.

  48. Denise*

    Regarding #3, I think that seniority/tenure is a separate issue from skills and job level. I think that what is really rankling the op is the idea or possibility that the intern could be perceived to be (or perhaps actually is) just as good at the role as the op is, despite having less experience doing it. If someone can do the job, they can do the job. And being trained for one set of tasks doesn’t mean that this former intern isn’t also capable of handling higher level ones.

    This raises the whole 5 years of progressively responsible experience vs. 1 year of experience repeated 5 times question . Not all jobs require years to master, and we haven’t heard what other experience or transferable skills the intern brought to her role despite having the title of “intern.”

    If it were me, I would focus less on maintaining my current turf and more on developing and sharpening higher level skills, and look toward taking on higher level responsibilities.

  49. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#3: (I read your other follow-up comments, where you mentioned that you were a coordinator.) I have to wonder about your situation there, versus your co-worker with the same title, who perhaps has a lower salary but may be viewed as your equivalent? Regarding the timing of your pregnancy: Maybe your employer did not think you would return to work? Some employers would frown on a brand new employee announcing their pregnancy. I assume you know that may be perceived as intentional deception. I am *not* saying that is the case, just that these perceptions were possible, and maybe contributed to the former intern being hired for the same job. I am speculating on the psychology of the involved parties, which is always fraught with peril! Hopefully you have a better read on the personal dynamics going on here. Most companies don’t hire full time employees unexpectedly (due to budget constraints and other formalities), so the situation seems odd to me. I don’t think you mentioned your manager’s perception of your skill level versus your co-worker’s, only your own perception. If I was in this situation, I would want more clarity on that front. It’s totally reasonable, if you and your co-worker have the same manager, to expect that manager to actually set expectations of how the job duties are to be divided between the two of you. Sounds like he/she is not doing that, unfortunately. I wish you luck on sorting this out and creating a successfully collaboration with your co-worker.

  50. Persephoneunderground*

    Seems the commentary is being a bit harsh on OP #3. She returns from maternity leave to find someone else more junior to her who was supposed to be just filling in continuing to officially “do her job” at least in title, and taking assignments she would have done before she has a chance to herself. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to worry when your temporary replacement doesn’t leave your position when you return from leave. It would definitely make me worry that my position isn’t secure, and that’s not an unreasonable worry in US work culture especially regarding maternity leave.

    It’s not ego to be worried you might be “mommy tracked” or permanently replaced by your temporary replacement. She didn’t articulate it quite that way, but it seems a reasonable concern that she shouldn’t be dismissed for having. I can see at least having different titles being reassurance that the higher ups know the former intern wouldn’t be a true replacement for OP. Just because there are alternative reasons this could be happening, or even when she is happy to have the help, it doesn’t mean that nothing concerning is going on or that she’s unreasonable for being concerned when this quacks a lot like a duck (no, not that kind of duck! :P ).

    It might be that the title question on its own is a bit of a red herring, because to me the real question is about her job security and how to redistribute responsibilities (as well as titles) in the new setup so she doesn’t have to worry she could be replaced – her boss appears to be treating OP and her former intern as interchangeable in the role. Maybe she is coming across a little territorial, but can you blame her? New moms *do* get pushed out in lots of ways in America, subtle and not so subtle. Some posts above are telling her to job hunt for just this reason, because this setup looks like a bad sign.

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