having my baby on video conferences, bumper stickers when you drive clients in your car, and more

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

1. Is it unprofessional to have my baby on video conferences?

I work from home, and my five-month-old son goes to day care twice a week. On the other days, my husband cares for him and brings him to me when he’s hungry to nurse. He’s a super chill, happy baby, so sometimes when we’re done I hold him while I do work. I especially do this if I’m on a conference call because I know that I can listen and be fully engaged in the conversation and hold my son at the same time. If he needs something (most often a diaper change or a nap), I hand him back to my husband.

My workplace is very family friendly, and encourages us to “bring our whole selves to work.” No one has every said anything negative to me when my son shows up in a video conference, though occasionally they do send me personal chats about how much he’s grown or how cute he is.

I think of it as bringing the “mama” part of me to work, because there are definitely ways that being a mom has made me a better worker. I’m interested in your opinion though — could this be seen as unprofessional? Should I turn my camera off when I hold him so that people can’t see him?

It really depends on your office. In some offices this would be fine, and in other offices (probably more of them) it would be seen as unprofessional. And some offices would be mixed; some people there might think it’s fine and others might be annoyed by it. (I’ll be honest — I wouldn’t love it and would find it distracting, and I like babies.) But the question is really just how it goes over in your office.

Unfortunately, one of the problems with the “no one has ever said anything negative to me” method of determining how something is going over is that people won’t always say something directly to you. But you can always do a reality check by privately asking your manager, “Hey, would it be better for me not to hold Falcon during conference calls when people can see me, or even just to turn my camera off if I have him?”

One thing I’d say either way, though: if “when he needs a diaper change or a nap, I hand him back to my husband” means that he’s doing any crying on the call that can be heard by others (assuming that’s what causes you to hand him over), be more cautious there. A crying baby on a conference call is disruptive in a way that a sleeping baby is not, even if it’s just for a minute before you hand him over.

2. Bumper stickers when you drive clients in your car

I work in a social services field where the majority of the employees work directly with low-income families in the surrounding communities. One of the staff at my location pointed out that an employee at another location in the agency — someone who sometimes shares clients with us — has an anti-abortion bumper sticker on her car. It would be one thing if she were just parking in the lot at work, but she uses her car to transport clients frequently. Our clients come from all kinds of circumstances and have been through a variety of hardships, and the concern our staff member raised was that seeing this sticker could be really alienating for the families we work with.

I guess my two question are:
a) Is there anything I can do to address this, and if so, what? I think there’s probably very little, as she’s not someone who reports to me, but it really worries me, ethically, that families might be impacted by this.
b) What would your recommend in a situation like this if I was her supervisor? Would it be a different answer based on whether or not families or staff had raised concerns?

If your staff are expected to use their cars to transport clients, it’s reasonable to require that they not have stickers on their cars that promote political viewpoints or viewpoints that might reasonably be believed to be alienating to some of the people you serve. That’s not about targeting this employee in particular; it’s a good policy across the board, because you also shouldn’t have people transporting clients in cars with bumper sticking promoting, say, a political candidate or an immigration policy that might be counter to your clients’ interests.

How well-positioned you have to make that suggestion will depend on what your job is there and how much influence you have, but it’s certainly something you could suggest (and when you do, you could use this particular bumper sticker as an example of what concerns you).

3. Is this rejection cruel?

I applied for a job knowing that I was under experienced. It was a one click Indeed post. I still crossed my fingers and hoped they would look at my resume but they wrote this. I felt it was a little cruel. Is this rude or am I overthinking it? See his message below.

“I’m afraid we’re looking for experienced hard news reporters. You may want to have someone copyedit your cover letter. I have put in bold some mistakes.”

It’s brusque, but news rooms are pretty known for being brusque. And tone aside, he’s actually doing you a favor if there are indeed mistakes in your cover letter, since that’s something that you want to be really polished if you’re applying for writing jobs. He didn’t have to take the time to flag that for you, and it’s actually kind that he did, even if the delivery isn’t ideal.

4. My instructor asked some of us to hang back because others needed practice more

I just finished attending a continuing ed certification workshop. I run a farm, and this was an agriculture related training. The class covered information (A) and skills built on understanding that information (B). I went into the class much more interested in A, but still pleased to gain the skill & certification at B. When asked about my motivation in taking the class, I was honest about this, and the instructor teaching B went on to the lecture the class at length about how, if we weren’t there primarily to learn B, we should step aside during general practice sessions for those who were planning use B after finishing the course.

This was an expensive training, paid for out of pocket, and to ask me to intentionally get less out of it seemed inappropriate. If there was inadequate practice material, that’s a problem that belongs to the course instructor/facility, not mine as a participant, and I didn’t feel it was my job to watch the group for participation levels, understand everyone else’s intention for use of material, etc. I decided to just keep on participating during hands-on portions as I would have otherwise, and went on to successfully learn B. I do plan to continue using B, now that I know I’m suited to that work. I waffled a little about asking the instructor for clarification or pushing back a little on his instruction during the class, or giving feedback to the hosting institution after, but eventually just let it slide off. Would you have spoken up or given feedback in some way?

Thanks for your time and all you do, it’s been immensely helpful to me! I’ll attach a cute cow photo, in gratitude.

I think you handled it well — you went ahead and participated the way you wanted to, and which you had paid for. Sometimes just taking the action you want to take is in itself an assertive way of handling something like this. But if you’d gotten any push-back, at that point you could have said, “Actually, I really want to learn this as well and it’s one of the reasons I paid to take the class.” It also would have been fine for you to give feedback afterwards, explaining that you were put off at being asked to hold back on part of the skill-building that you’d thought you were paying for, just because others were judged to have a higher need for it than you. (But it’s also fine that you didn’t do that. You’re not required to expend energy setting people straight if you don’t feel like dealing with. Either way was fine as long as you got what you needed, which you did.)

5. Who should I ask to nominate me for an industry award?

My field has industry awards for which candidates must be nominated by two people (self-nomination is not permitted). The primary nominator must write a letter of recommendation for the awards committee to review. I believe I would be a worthy recipient of a certain award, but I am hesitant to ask anyone to nominate me. It feels like gauche self-promotion in a way that asking for a job reference does not. However, it is quite rare in my workplace that anyone decides to submit an award nomination of their own accord, so I think prompting someone may be necessary.

I am also unsure whom I could ask. Obviously, asking a direct report would be inappropriate, but would it be better to ask a peer versus a supervisor? I know that a manager would have a better sense of an employee’s work quality than a coworker might. I have a good relationship with my boss, but I worry about expending capital by asking a favor that is not related to the workplace, especially since my boss is always busy.

Ask your boss! This is something most good (or even slightly good) managers would be happy to do for you if you’re a great employee — and keep in mind that if you get the award, it’ll reflect well on her. The fact that she’s busy doesn’t mean she wouldn’t be up for doing that (just like she’s probably happy to take the time to give references for strong former employees, etc.).

(Of course, the important caveat here is that you’d want to be sure that you’re a strong candidate for the award and that your boss is happy with your work. If your boss has been giving you a lot of criticism, especially in the area this award recognizes, this could come across as tone-deaf and make her worry you’re not processing her feedback.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 700 comments… read them below }

  1. Just Employed Here*

    OK, it’s early here, but I read “having my baby on video conferences” way different from what it turned out to be about… The kind of “having my baby” that you definitely don’t want your colleagues to see.

    1. Aphrodite*

      That was exactly my first thought too and I admit I gagged at it. Then, thank god, I read the first line of the post.

    2. valentine*

      “We don’t do leave and you can’t turn off your camera. Indigo gave birth during our last call. That’s the Acme way. Or shall I say Acwe?”

      OP1: Be alone in the room during calls. Your baby’s presence does mean you’re not fully engaged. The spousal summoning and handover are probably distracting and annoying to your colleagues, and the same applies if the chats are happening during the call.

      1. Mommy MD*

        Agreed. Leave baby out of audio or video conference. I bet there’s at least one person who is annoyed. It’s work.

        1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

          While I agree that it’s likely at least one person could be annoyed, I also think they’d be sensible enough to realise they’re being silly to be bothered by a baby who’s being quiet, not disturbing the work flow of people in general, and who’s parent is obviously engaged and not distracted.
          This of course hinges on the baby being as good as OP says, AND that his signals of needing to be changed etc. are silent! One (out of 3) of my nephews was like this, so it can happen, but in general I agree that a vocally fussing baby, even if not actively crying, is an unreasonable distraction in a video conference call.

        2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          I think it really depends on the office culture. My office allows parents to bring infants to work for the first 6 months. I haven’t had a meeting without a baby in it in at least a year. Having a baby on a conference or video call would be no big deal here.

        3. Hills to Die on*

          Definitely. I would be seriously put off by this. It’s not necessary that you have the baby on your lap at that exact moment, and I would be thinking you don’t actually work when you are at home.

      2. Oxford Comma*

        If this happened once or twice due to emergencies, I think most people would be okay with it, but as a general practice, no.

        I would find this all incredibly distracting. There’s a reason people close doors when they do conference calls, particularly video ones. There’s a reason why people go off cam or mute their mikes if they’re eating or drinking or coughing.

      1. babblemouth*

        I’m now picturing the best/most horrifying protest for paid maternity leave ever. That would drive the message home.

        1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

          Ih my goodness, I’m absolutely CRYING ! It sounds like something that would be planned in the Dunder Mifflin universe…

    3. Sara without an H*

      “Huff, huff…Last quarters figures…huff, huff…for our new Platinum Cocktail Shaker line…huff, huff, huff…SCREAM!”

      Do it once — just once — and C Suite will run shrieking to HR, “We need to do something about maternity leave!”

    4. NewMom*

      I experienced something rather unpleasant: prodromal labor. It’s not the same as braxton hicks contractions, it’s actual, real contractions in a steady pattern. For days. Or weeks. For me, it was weeks.
      When I spent days not sleeping (like, hallucinating-level sleep deprivation), I took sick leave. But, for a good deal of the time, I was working from home (thanks, understanding workplace), and every 15 minutes, I would need a 90 second pause to breathe through a contraction.
      So…. yeah. Been on video conferences in labor. Don’t recommend, but every day I spent working while I had contractions was an extra day I got to have post-baby. I don’t regret the choice to keep working through that, though I had to spend the time working while bouncing on a ball, swaying, etc to deal with the pain.

      1. NewMom*

        I worked a half day before giving birth, but I was similarly unsure if it was the real deal until roughly 7pm. I had had an appointment at 1pm, so I took the afternoon off. My baby was also born around 11pm! My husband worked a full day and was so. tired. by the time he got to sleep around 2am. I was like “Dude, welcome to the club!”

  2. Greg NY*

    #3: This can be broken down into two parts, one for each of the two sentences. The first one was a blunt rejection with an honest, upfront reason, and you should not only be put off by it, but you should be thankful for the honesty. There was no doubt or fluff about why you were turned down, and in fact you knew it going in. You didn’t have the necessary skill or experience. The second one was also honest and you should be thankful for it. It could have been said more politely, but the meaning behind it would’ve been the same. You could have avoided the second part by having someone proofread your cover letter, but the first part would’ve still been there. The good news here? No harm, no foul. You stood absolutely zero chance of getting this job, and you can move on to other opportunities.

    1. Aphrodite*

      OP #3, I think you got an amazing response. You got a glimpse of how some (many) editors can be to work with, but you also should appreciate how unusual it is that this editor took valuable time to give you tremendous feedback. Savor it; it is priceless at this stage of your learning.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Definitely. It was brusque/curt, but it wasn’t cruel. It was extremely helpful to OP, especially since OP knew that the position was a bit of a stretch.

          1. Airy*

            A lot of people are so accustomed to using softening language in every sentence that a plain ordinary sentence will read as curt to them. It’s a matter of habit and the norms in your milieu.

          2. Airy*

            And I just noticed on rereading it that there were two bits of softening language in it, “I’m afraid” before a rejection and “you may want to” instead of a blunt “you should” or “you need to.”

            1. TootsNYC*

              Also, the thought, “you are allowed to have someone help you” is softening in itself.

              It could have been, “you need to learn how to use the English language.”

            2. Anna*

              This can also be read as condescending and not softening. I think in reading the whole thing, I’d be more inclined to see it as condescending, but it was helpful none the less.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Yeah, that definitely read as condescending rather than softening to me.

                Personally, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was “cruel”, but I do think it was not only brusque, but curt to the point of rudeness.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            I found it brusque, in a way that is very in-line with what it would be like to work for this person (and I imagine most hard news editors) in a newsroom doing hard news reporting on deadline. No praise sandwiches, no softening language, just a quick point to the things that need to be fixed before it can go to press.

            1. Collarbone High*

              One of my colleagues uses the phrase “deadline short” to describe exactly this – in the last couple of hours before deadline, the niceties go out the window, because you literally don’t have time for extraneous conversations. Everyone’s short with each other, it’s fine, we’ll be friendly again once the edition is done.

        1. Liet-Kinda*

          And, frankly, a brusque correction on a fundamental error for a journalist….well, honestly, that’s something to be a little chagrined about, and if OP is reading anything more than brusqueness in that reply, maybe there’s a little of the old subconscious speaking.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I don’t even think it was brusque or curt. It was factual and straight-forward. And it wasn’t mean in the slightest.

          The fact that he spent a little time pointing out some errors was actually a generosity. It may not seem like it, but it was.

        3. Kathleen_A*

          I actually got a very similar message back when I was looking for jobs just after getting my journalism degree. I had an actual misspelling in the cover letter – I had just never seen that word written out – and yes, the message about the misspelling hurt, but was also useful. I had to kind of force myself to be grateful for it at first, but eventually, I truly was grateful because it was something that I needed to know.

          So, assuming you actually do have some typos in your letter, OP, this is really good information to have. Try to remember that – and act on it – instead of the tone.

        4. RUKiddingMe*

          Exactly. Also if this type of feedback isn’t something OP could work with in the day to day office scene, it’s good she found out now. I’d say the editor did her an extra “solid” right there.

      2. NotoriousMCG*

        I am currently in a graduate business writing course with an extremely high-level newsroom expert who has run top newsrooms around the country. She cares deeply about our writing and is one of the nicest, warmest people I’ve ever met.

        After our cohort first met her at a department brunch where she had talked about living in a particular city with one of my classmates, he sent her an email saying it was great to meet her and he looked forward to talking more about that city with her in future. She responded:

        ‘Dear George,

        Thank you. There is a lot to talk about regarding *city*.


        Newspeople’s communication styles can definitely be an adjustment for those not used to them, and they care a lot about writing. If you plan to be in the business I would take this as a person taking time to be helpful to you.

      3. Mommy MD*

        Yes. If OP is applying for work in the journalism field, having a cover letter with mistakes is amateurish at best. Be happy it was pointed out.

      4. Mommy MD*

        Having worked journalism as my first career I don’t know if OP has the right temperament for the field. It’s a very blunt field and needs to be. You have to be a duck.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          It takes many people a while to adjust to that bluntness, though. Yes, the OP needs to adjust, but I don’t think we can read too much into the fact that he/she hasn’t adjusted yet.

        2. Anna*

          How about we not assess a person’s entire career choice from a tiny snippet of information gleaned from a letter asking for advice?

          1. church lady*

            Working as a daily newspaper reporter was my first career too and although I’m sure the OP’s feelings were hurt, if you want to succeed in the field you cannot have ANY mistakes in your resume or cover letter. The same way a graphic designer would be judged on the layout and design of their resume and business card. The job is about words and accuracy.

        3. ZK*

          I love this editor! He’s doing the OP a big favor.

          I had a j school teacher who was absolutely passionate about teaching news writing, in a very short, blunt way. I loved his classes because of this. Most of my classmates hated him and considered him rude and overly tough. He’d been a hard news reporter for years before burning out and going back to school to teach. He was literally trying to prepare us for a real newsroom, not school.

          I still wonder just how many of them went on to be amazed at how high pressured and blunt real life journalism was. And with so many cutbacks nowadays, most journalists are doing their own on the fly copy editing (or relying on spell check, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant), unless they learn to ask someone else to read for them.

      5. chickaletta*

        Hey, they got a response! I don’t know how newsrooms work today, but when I had a summer college job working in the HR dept of a newsroom, the standard procedure was to have me file all the news anchor applications away in a filing cabinet, never to see the light of day again. Seems like we got at least a dozen a week even when there weren’t any positions open. The person in charge of hiring news anchors pretty much had a handle on who was available around the country. It was a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” kind of situation. If you got a response from them, bravo!

    2. Screenwriter Mom*

      I’d also add, if the LW thinks this directness, and unusually kind helpfulness, is “cruel” or “rude” he or she may want to reconsider the whole idea of working in a newsroom!

      1. Langerhan*

        Exactly this. I work in a news room and that is perfectly normal, day-to-day feedback I wouldn’t blink at.

        …Except for the fact that feedback would mean I’d handed in something with spelling or grammatical errors, which would suggest I’d been working way too many night shifts and really needed some rest. If that’s not the case, and the editor has just highlighted stylistic errors, the OP should consider themselves very lucky since not many editors would take the time like that.

          1. Liet-Kinda*

            Yeah, the editor will lose all patience and helpfulness with the quickness if you hand in bad copy regularly.

      2. Anon for Today*

        Yes, I spent several years in a newsroom and read the letter thinking, “What’s wrong with this? Great feedback!”

      3. Kat A.*

        Exactly. The OP was fortunate to get such feedback that didn’t leave them wondering why they didn’t get the job. And if OP wants to work in the news field, they’d better grow some thicker skin.

      4. Clisby Williams*

        Absolutely. I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for almost 12 years, and there’s nothing out of the way, much less cruel, about this. Especially if the job involves daily deadlines, editors don’t have time to sit around crafting artful comments. They shouldn’t be rude, but short and direct is the norm.

      5. Les G*

        Whoa, okay, no need to jump to this conclusion. The editor’s response would be well outside the norm in every industry I can think of besides news, so it’s fair if the OP needs to adjust (and doesn’t mean they wouldn’t do well once they did). Let’s not with proving how much better we are than OP.

        1. Mommy MD*

          Isn’t it assumed OP has a degree in journalism? As do I. You don’t get there without seeing this type of thing. It’s the norm.

        2. boo bot*

          I’m with Les G on this. It’s not fair to say that the OP shouldn’t be in the field, most people aren’t accustomed to hearing blunt critical feedback like that, and it’s jarring to hear for the first time.

          I think there are three useful takeaways for her to consider: (1) this kind of feedback is normal in journalism, (2) it was intended kindly, or the editor wouldn’t have bothered with it at all, and (3) this is the norm for the field, do you want to/can you learn to work in an environment where that’s the case?

        3. Kathleen_A*

          I agree with Les as well. Yes, the OP needs to learn to take that sort of feedback, but not all journalism schools are alike and God knows not all editors and/or journalism professors are alike either, so it I don’t think it’s fair to assume that if the OP doesn’t have a thick skin now, he/she never will. I agree that this feedback was not cruel at all and is in fact very useful for the OP, and he needs to take it to heart and learn from it. But it’s perfectly normal for him to still be a little thin-skinned at this very early stage of his career.

        4. Jadelyn*

          Thank you. A lot of people are jumping to some very smug- and condescending-sounding conclusions about OP’s “fitness” for the entire field based on a single question from an inexperienced applicant who’s new to the field. I’m glad you’ve all got skin that’s meters-thick but that strikes me as the sort of thing that takes time to develop, and I fail to see how it’s helpful to the OP to pile on with judging their presumed shortcomings for this line of work (especially in contrast to how gracefully you would have handled that feedback – we get it, you’re perfect, move on please).

      6. Anna*

        Again, let’s not assess a person’s suitability for a career choice based off this one tiny snippet of information.

    3. Doctor Schmoctor*

      I agree. I would like to get a response like this. Honest and direct. I wouldn’t like the part about mistakes, but that’s because I always double check anything I write, and I hate making mistakes.

      1. Restiva*

        I didn’t find the message rude at all, just direct (a plus!!).

        I guess everyone has different styles.

      2. Birch*

        It’s better than no response at all, at least! And the point Alison made is a good one–there’s no excuse for mistakes in your application if you’re applying for a writing job so on all fronts the rejection was both appropriate and useful.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        When I was “finished” with my dissertation I printed, reprinted, printed again… several copies for various people to proof for me. My eyes were refusing to work at that point.

        After about 1000+ edits/revisions/reprints/rereads…it was done. Perfect.

        Except…one teeny tiny incredibly minute mistake in one, and only one of my indexes. One letter…just one.

        $50.000.00 in ink and paper, and a few less friends willing to do “anything at all to help, just ask…” later and it was actually ready.

        I sweated bullets all the way through my defense just waiting for someone to point out something (else) I’d missed.

        Blunt, to the point editing? Bring it!

    4. Elemeno P.*

      My supervisor did this with an intern who applied. We’re technical writers, so there is a high focus on proofreading and structure, and the kid’s resume was a train wreck. In an attempt to help this kid in future applications, he met with the kid in person and went over all the problems in his resume and how to fix them to be more appealing to other technical writing positions.

      The kid didn’t take notes and sent the resume back to my supervisor with a grand total of one change, asking if it looked better. My supervisor decided to do one last act of kindness and revise it himself, with notes on why. The entire thing was red lines and comments.

      LW, the person isn’t being rude. They’re trying to help you.

      1. Artemesia*

        Back when I was walking uphill in the snow both ways to school, when you revised something you had to retype it. Now with computers you just fiddle with what is there. This means that it is extraordinarily difficult to get students to really revise their work. You give global feedback and then a few specific points and they go in and insert one sentence where you indicated, or correct one error etc, but they rarely rethink or re-organize even when the feedback calls for that. These newfangled computers have greatly reduced writing skill for many as a result of their never really re-writing anything.

        1. TootsNYC*

          this is funny, because I find that being able to move things around so easily actually encourages me to change things more.

          1. ToodieCat*

            Exactly. I can’t remember how many times I helped friends with their papers. (This was pre-computers.) Usually they brought pages of handwritten stuff. Step one: get an outline. Step two: get scissors and tape.

          2. boo bot*

            Same here, I’m really surprised to learn that it has the opposite effect! Although having read Artemesia’s explanation of why it has that effect, it makes total sense. If you’re re-typing from scratch, then you’re forced to reconsider the whole document; if you’re on the computer you can just fix the typos and be done with it.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I’d be cautious about just taking it as gospel that it’s had the opposite effect, based on one’s person’s comment on the internet. I edit more now than I ever did before I had the ability to rearrange whole pages with a few clicks – especially cause I know I can put it all back if I don’t like it that way.

              Youngsters not editing sufficiently based on feedback is a listening/integrating problem, not a “technology has made them dumber/less effective/whatever” problem.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                Yeah, I’m with Jadelyn on this. I also worked on a typewriter, and then computers. I do a lot more structural revising now. Even in the early days with line editors, the simple ability to save a different version meant I could experiment more easily.

              2. Kathleen_A*

                I too edit now more than I ever have, but it is true that the simple act of retyping the entire thing from scratch can – it doesn’t always but it *can* – make it a little easier to get into the “If I’ve got to redo it anyway, I may as well be thorough about it at the same time” mindset. As I said, it doesn’t always but it definitely can.

                In fact, I’ve read advice from published authors that suggest doing this very thing: Taking your first draft and completely rewriting it comma by comma and word by word.

        2. Elemeno P.*

          It could partially be due to making it easier to avoid killing your darlings, but my supervisor and I are both millennials so it’s not entirely a technology thing. My supervisor in particular is a huge fan of Word templates to ensure consistent styles and spacing, so he walked the applicant through all the things he could do to make his resume look better (and bring it down to one page) and it seemed like all the kid heard was “delete a line at the top,” which was…not productive for an hour-long meeting.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I wonder if some of this effect may be more due to the plethora of conflicting advice that’s available to people nowadays. When you’ve read 10 articles on how to format your resume, and they’ve recommended 12 different methods between them, I can see how someone might develop a sort of “decision paralysis” or reach a point where they’re filtering out all advice that they don’t immediately agree with, because the alternative is editing a million times and still having someone telling you it’s wrong.

            1. Elemeno P.*

              That’s a very good point. This particular resume was awful by every standard I’ve heard, but I can definitely see how it could have gotten to that point with all the inconsistent advice out there. The thing that was confusing was that the kid resisted even after being told, “I am a person who works in the field you would like to work in. I am not hiring you because your resume is terrible. Here is how to fix your resume to make people like me hire you.”

              1. Jadelyn*

                That, I think, is more indicative of the arrogance of youth than anything else. Gods know we’ve all been That Kid at least once in our lives. What’s that joke, “better move out on your own now, while you still know everything!”

      2. CM*

        That is REALLY generous of your supervisor!
        This is a great lesson for this OP: negative feedback is a gift. It’s OK to feel a little hurt by it — nobody likes to be reminded of their imperfections — but recognize that somebody took time out of their busy schedule to help you. Whenever you get negative feedback that helps you do better next time, force yourself to say “Thank you” even if your initial response is “That’s so mean!”

    5. Marthooh*

      Pointing out grammatical or spelling mistakes is rude in most circumstances, but not from a teacher to a student or a manager to a job applicant or employee. In this case, it was embarrassing but useful information, like being told, “Hey, your fly is unzipped.”

      1. Mommy MD*

        Grammatical error are death in a cover letter/CV. Spelling errors should not even exist with computer software today. Especially if you are applying for a writing job.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            It will at least red-underline egregious errors. I saw (and rejected) a resume where the applicant’s current job title was “poofreader” … ouch.

        1. Antilles*

          Not to nitpick, but computer software definitely doesn’t make spelling errors “not even exist”. You’re right that truly misspelled words like “dificult” or “Thurday” get automatically red-flagged by basically every software on the planet (including my web browser!).
          But there are still spelling errors, just ones where your typo results in a real-but-incorrect word – so OP’s experience in “Courtroom Reporter – wrote summaries for legal trails” doesn’t get flagged by computer software but is clearly a spelling mistake.

          1. Elemeno P.*

            I have read many an interesting anecdote about the papers out there about “Neuroscience and the Inner Workings of the Brian.”

            1. Pickwick*

              On the flipside, I can’t count how many emails I’ve sent to a particular coworker starting with “Hi Brain,”

            2. An anonymous librarian*

              Well, when my brother goes to the neurologist, they really are talking about the Inner Workings of the Brian…

          2. Jadelyn*

            I’ve seen probably a few dozen resumes that cited “costumer service” – same kind of thing. “Costumer” is a legit word, so spellcheck won’t flag it, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              I live in fear of the public-pubic typo. I have some other chronic typo fears, too – e.g., “diary” for “dairy” and “Indian” for “Indiana” – but “pubic” used in place of “public” is the one that makes me shudder.

          3. Humble Schoolmarm*

            I had a prof who kindly pointed out that I had spent a good chunk of my term paper discussing the social implications of pensions for windows.

        2. Dance-y Reagan*

          Homonyms/graphs/phones are going to stand out, since they aren’t picked up by spell-check software. Those spelling errors (which are technically also usage errors) need a human eye.

          1. Feministbookworm*

            Our communications department has a list of words that are dangerously close to words we use frequently in our line of work. Before anything gets published or printed they do a quick document search to make sure they aren’t present. Finding that “pubic” somehow snuck in instead of “public” (again) is worth a good laugh if you catch it BEFORE the document goes to print…

            1. Tertia*

              Someone once told me about their spouse’s law firm spending thousands of dollars to remove the word ‘pubic’ from the dictionary of every computer they owned. It made sense.

              1. Kathleen_A*

                I wish someone would teach me this trick. I’ve talked to many a talented computer geek, and they all – all – have started out by saying “Oh, that shouldn’t be too hard” only to give up, baffled, many minutes or a couple of hours later.

        3. the gold digger*

          Unless you are my boss, and hire someone who had horrible grammatical and spelling errors (that any spell- and grammar-checker would have caught) in his resume and his online portfolio. Even though I said, “Please do not hire this person. I do not want to spend my time fixing his writing.”

          BTW – it’s for a job that requires a lot of writing.

          And now I am dealing with the fallout.

          He. Is. Awful.

        4. Le Sigh*

          Not necessarily. I felt really bad for the person who sent me a resume with something like “Pubic Service Department” when they meant to say “Public Service Department.” Both spelled right and spell check didn’t catch it, but oooof.

          And that’s tiny enough that you could still miss it even when proofing it yourself. It’s why I like to get a second set of eyeballs on it or print it out and read it carefully. Computers are great but they aren’t perfect.

    6. Anon Anon Anon*

      I’ve worked in places where this is a normal communication style. The idea is to be straight to the point in order to save time. I found it to be very helpful and good for productivity. But I’m a blunt sort of person myself so it was a natural fit for my personality.

      Anyway, I would read the tone as helpful, give this person the benefit of the doubt, and assume this is how people communicate where they work.

      If the bolded parts were not mistakes that needed to be corrected, I would guess that maybe they were a jerk or just odd and I would try to forget about the whole thing.

  3. all aboard the anon train*

    #1: I would never say anything, but I’d be put off by a coworker holding their baby during a conference call. It’s the same annoyance I get when someone’s cat steps on the computer and blocks the camera or someone’s dog is nudging them during the call or barking in the background whenever we have a conference call. It gives the impression that you’re not fully paying attention and it is distracting to people who can see you.

    The way I look at it is if you wouldn’t do this in the office, it’s not okay to do on a remote conference call. A one time thing or occasional occurrence is one thing, but it’s another thing entirely if it happened during every conference call, and I’d definitely be annoyed.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      If there is a cat in the cameras view I will be focusing on the cat – not on what you are saying. The same for dogs, babies, kids.
      I think a lot of us are wired that way.

      1. Jasnah*

        True. Honestly I would not assume that a person holding a baby can 100% focus on work, and even if they could, I would be distracted as now I would be watching the baby too.

        I also would like to push back on this: ‘I think of it as bringing the “mama” part of me to work’. Surely there are ways that being a parent has made you a better worker and added richness to your life and character, but I’m not so sure it’s a good idea to project that at work. It could be damaging to your career as a woman for your coworkers and bosses to see you as “employee and mom” instead of “employee”.

        1. Yay*

          +1000, the idea of bringing mama to work is almost certainly doing get a disservice. And I know some people think it helps them, but few people will actually see you with your baby and see the new skills you have… They aren’t work skills, ultimately, and I would never believe someone with a baby is getting as much work done.

            1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

              Of course :)

              And decorating an office with baby pics or fingerpaintings is a great way to celebrate parenthood at work. But it’s not the same as making parenthood a part of your work identity and thinking it’s relevant to who you are as an employee.

          1. Liet-Kinda*

            And at the risk of offending people who identify with and like the word “mama,” that’s also kind of an odd persona to mix with one’s professional life. At least on social media (and among many affluent white social media users who self-identify as such) “mama” can carry a connotation of centering motherhood in a hip, driven, somewhat earthy, capable but weary, wine-and-yoga, veteran-of-many-diaper-blowouts kind of way that is also a little self-conscious and a little bit of a performance. That’s a lot of things to a lot of people, but it’s not a persona that I would think meshes well with one’s professional one, and not one my spouse and other professional women I know eagerly bring to to the office with them.

            1. Liet-Kinda*

              And to head off what I suspect could be a Greg NY-style pile-on, I don’t say that because that persona is a negative thing or because I don’t think women should center motherhood in their lives in whatever way makes sense to them! It’s just putting a lot of emphasis on aspects of one’s identity that is not terribly relevant in most workplaces. I don’t make a point of bringing the rock climber, beer drinker, angrily passionate public lands advocate, or cook parts of me to work in an intentional kind of way, either, because outside casual conversation where those topics might come up, those are not particularly connected to what I do.

              1. Lissa*

                I got exactly what you mean by the “mama” thing. I mean yes, it can just be a thing somebody’s kids say, but it’s used a LOT more and differently now on social media than say, 20 years ago. It’s not that nobody said “mama” back then but I really do think the self-describing oneself that way thing to people other than one’s children is part of a particular trend.

            2. seller of teapots*

              My 2 year old calls me “Mama” rather than “Mommy” or “Mom,” so for me (and I suspect a bunch of other woman) that term is simply a reference to motherhood, not an Instragram personality.

              1. Liet-Kinda*

                Granted! All I suggest is that’s a connotation that word can carry. Of course many mothers, and most toddlers, use that word exactly as you describe.

              2. Anna*

                I know exactly what Liet-Kinda means. Your two-year old calls you that because that’s what 2 year olds do. To then take that and make it what You Are About in your professional life is a bit odd. I’m willing to bet a lot of women who are mothers also know exactly what it means culturally. It carries a lot of unspoken meaning in mommy circles, I think.

                1. Liet-Kinda*

                  It’s common in just about every culture. But there is kind of a lifestyle trend where women who self-describe as “mamas” embrace a certain image and persona.

            3. Marthooh*

              Mmmmmmaybe? But OP didn’t ask which word to use, only about videoconferencing with a baby onscreen. There’s no indication she wants to swill wine in downward dog position.

              (For the record, OP, that would definitely look unprofessional.)

            4. Properlike*

              Disclaimer: mother of two here, feminist, will occasionally take my kids to an office/class (not one that I’m teaching, only with prior permission) because they’re well-behaved. Big believer in the idea that, if you want something done, you get a mother with small children on the task. My adult college students who are also parents are almost universally the highest-achieving people in the class because they know they don’t have time to screw around. I am known as a Baby Whisperer to friends and family because I love babies so much.

              And yet, “mama” holds exactly the same granola-y/attachment parenting connotation for me, as well as a class privilege one. Plenty of working-class women would like to bring their “mama” selves to work and can’t. Baby on a conference call lands in the same space as “you keep bringing your dog to work convinced everyone will love it as much as you do.” We’ve had enough letters on that topic here to know how well that works out.

              1. Rumbakalao*

                I like this comment. There’s a part of me (admittedly as a childless young adult) that wants to stand behind OP and say yes you should be able to hold your child on camera if you’re home and you want more bonding time. The state of maternity policies in the US is so abhorrent that I am automatically extremely sympathetic to new parents who are clearly struggling with trying to balance their work life and “mama” life.

                However your second paragraph is right on target. I have a coworker who I am convinced does not have a personality because I’ve never- not once- heard her talk about anything other than her children or her current pregnancy. She will always find a way to bring it into existing conversations and I’m told she has previously brought her very young daughter to work. I can only assume it’s easy to think that your children are interesting or even neutral to other people, but in a workplace context at best it just doesn’t belong and in the worst cases it’s actively distracting.

                1. Jen S. 2.0*

                  Agree. No one is saying you have to erase your children from existence as far as your office is concerned. It’s not like hearing them in the background occasionally or seeing them behind you on screen once in a while is the end of the world. Mentioning them when warranted is obviously fine. Having a kid with you at work during a child care emergency absolutely happens and should be accommodated. But this situation, where you are seeking out opportunities to have the baby with you while trying to work, in non-emergency situations, seems like making a habit of bringing someone to an event where s/he wasn’t invited. Then you are expecting someone to tell you if it’s a problem … when you and the kid are already there and your presence is, apparently, necessary. It’s too late to solve it if it’s a problem.

                  Your baby doesn’t work there and doesn’t belong at this meeting, and then on top of that his presence gives the impression that you aren’t fully focused (especially considering that any other parents on the calls manage not to have their kids there). Assuming the baby is as quiet as she says, the baby’s presence is neutral at best, but more likely is a distraction or a problem. I think OP is hoping someone sees it as a positive, and clearly most of the commentariat here does not.

            5. Pomona Sprout*

              It depends on what part of the country you’re in. In at least some parts of the southeastern states, “mama” is THE word for mother. When I lived and worked in eastern NC for 3 years, everyone, adult or child, referred to their own mother as their mama. (In case anyone wonders, the term for father was “daddy.” No matter HOW old uou were, your parents were your mama and your daddy.) If that op is from the south, she may just be using the nomenclature that comes naturally to her.

              1. EKB*

                Yep! I was just about to comment this. No matter how old I get, my parents have always been Mama and Daddy. My dad still refers to his parents as Mama and Daddy. Maybe in certain parts of the US ‘mama’ has that granola Instagram mom connotation, but it doesn’t make sense to assume that without knowing where OP is from.

                1. Liet-Kinda*

                  Would either of your parents use a phrase like “bringing the mama part of me to work” or prioritize that?

            6. Vicky Austin*

              The word “mama” is often used in the Black community as well, but it doesn’t mean a hippie yoga loving earthy mother. It just means a mother in general.

        2. Mookie*

          That line is interesting. I trust that the LW is correctly characterizing the “bring[ing] our whole selves to work” proclamation as a signal of “family friendliness,” and I also take it as read that parenthood may have improved her professional performance, but I fail to see how holding her son on video is a substantive demonstration of that. It’s more a reminder that she has a young child; that, in itself, seems benign and ordinary to me, rather than something that enhances her standing, which tracks with her colleagues’s conventional remarks about how big he’s getting. I wouldn’t object in any way to seeing the baby at a video conference nor would I find him distracting, but I certainly wouldn’t interpret his putting in the occasional appearance the way the LW might like me to.

          If the aim is simply to humanize oneself or share something from one’s personal life, so long as it’s in keeping with the office culture, as it is here, the practice seems fine to me. Not that I find living, breathing human beings mere wallpaper, but I’d regard realizing my interlocutor is holding a baby the same way I’d experience a flash of recognition when I notice an interesting book on someone’s bookshelf in the background. “Ah, [co-worker] reads Gladys Mitchell, too. Cool! Must ask her later what her favorite Mitchell novel is” kind of thing.

          1. Clare*

            To humanize oneself at work is usually fine, but I think LW is totally misinterpreting what that means. To me it means talking about your “human” side at the water cooler, at lunch or happy hour with coworkers, and having a boss that gives you the schedule flexibility to have a good work life balance . i dont really want to have a coworkers human side thrust upon me while participating in a mandatory work conference call.

            1. Washi*

              Right, bringing your whole self to work usually means that you don’t have to pretend you don’t have kids or responsibilities outside of work. It doesn’t mean that you should literally bring your child to work or on camera.

              Once or twice would be ok – I love babies! – but I would find it off-putting on a regular basis.

              1. Psyche*

                I think it is especially important because not all her coworkers necessarily know that she has childcare for the baby. They may think that she is working and watching the baby at the same time.

                1. Bunny Girl*

                  That was going to be my comment about this. I wouldn’t find this very professional at all, no matter the office culture. But my main concern would be if others know that the LW has other childcare for her baby and isn’t taking advantage of working from home. I also am concerned that she is waiting until the baby is acting fussy before she hands him back to her husband, which would not only be unprofessional, but annoying.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  Yes – that would be my assumption if I saw that. I’d assume that her “working from home” is actually “watching the baby with my laptop nearby and calling it working time so I don’t have to charge my PTO”.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I wouldn’t object in any way to seeing the baby at a video conference nor would I find him distracting, but I certainly wouldn’t interpret his putting in the occasional appearance the way the LW might like me to.

            This is about where I land. I like babies, and I’m taking her at her word that he is a chill baby who hangs out and examines his toes (Look! At the end of my legs! They’re back!) while she video confers and her office is the relatively rare one where this is not a big deal. But I’m not seeing it as a ‘my whole self’ trait the way finger-paint art or leaving early to get a parent from eldercare are. I think it’s closer to having a baby goat video playing in the corner of your screen when you screen share–cute, not technically hiding the Wurlitzer spreadsheet, but distracting. At the other end is that if there’s one thing I know about parents it’s NOT to criticize their childrearing choices, so I don’t think the lack of negative feedback means much.

            As a parent, my experience with super chill babies is that sometimes they’re just saving up energy for when they learn how to crawl, at which point they will never need to nap again.

            1. Rumbakalao*

              You’re probably right in assuming no news does not mean good news. It’s hard for us to really say for sure because we aren’t her coworkers, but it’s definitely possible that someone out there is formulating their own letter to address this from the other side!

        3. londonedit*

          Yeah…as someone who is happily childfree and intending to stay that way, I definitely wouldn’t be thrilled if a colleague decided to let it be known that they believe they’re a better worker because they’re a parent. I’m not the sort of person who gets offended at the drop of a hat, but I would be pretty annoyed by the idea that someone who chooses to have kids thinks they’ve automatically become better at their job than someone who doesn’t. It’s great if the OP believes that having a child has given them extra skills, but I don’t think it’s great to advertise that to colleagues.

          1. Les G*

            Are you sure you’re not easily offended? Because OP isn’t having children *at* you. A lot of folks feel that having children made them better people. It doesn’t mean they think you’re a bad person or even a worse person than they are.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Usually the outside work things that make us better workers don’t take part in video conferences, though.

            2. AES*

              Trust: there are plenty of child-having people who definitely think those who are child-free are inferior in some undefinable way (the most recent example I have: a coworker [in academia] who said that I would understand my students better if I had kids of my own. Definite implication there that not having kids makes me an inferior teacher, right?).

              1. Properlike*

                Fellow academe: My non-scientific sampling indicates that non-parents make some of the best teachers. Maybe because they don’t have to go home and do the exact same thing for another fourteen hours x 18-26 years? I would certainly have more patience for students if they didn’t act like my kids do.

              2. JulieCanCan*

                Or they could say what my former associate said to me when discussing who’s more important in general, a parent vs a non-parent (no exaggeration or joke – she said this to me, but keep in mind we were more like sisters than coworkers sometimes): “Jules, I’m sorry, but people with kids are just more important in the scheme of things. I know you don’t like me saying that, but I truly feel I’m more important than you because I have kids.” Me: “Actually, you’re not more important than me and I’m no more important than the mailman who is no more important than a homeless person who is no more important than a child in China. No one on the planet is of lesser or greater value or importance than the person next to them. Please stop talking.”

                Of course, in their heads and hearts, parents feel they have a more important *role* now that they have another human to care for. But believe me, my mom doesn’t think my associate is more important than me – it’s a completely subjective issue and the “importance” of others depends on who you ask.

                She was actually trying to tell me her life was more important than mine because she had a kid. And she wasn’t embarrassed or kid-gloving it – she really thinks that. I mean, what if the person who cures cancer needs a liver transplant and it’s my liver she’s getting, then 2 months after the operation she comes up with the cure? Who’s more important *now*?! ;)

            3. Quackeen*

              Because OP isn’t having children *at* you.

              Unless you’re one of the people in the top comment who thought LW meant going through labor and birth on a video call!

              I definitely feel like having children changed me, in much the same way that someone else might feel that spending 6 months on a kibbutz changed them, and still someone else might feel that growing up in abject poverty changed them. it’s not an indictment on other people’s experiences or a contest to determine which are “most worthy.”

              1. Parenthetically*

                This. I’m different (and hopefully stronger and better) because of my upbringing in a free-lunch/food stamps/government cheese setting, my past trauma, my 35 years of singleness, my marriage, my kid… and none of those things is an indictment on others. Those things have helped me be more empathetic, more aware of others’ trauma, less selfish, less controlling… that doesn’t mean others who haven’t had those experiences are selfish, controlling jerks, just that their lives have shaped and bettered them in different ways.

                That said, I know there are PLENTY of people who insinuate that because (growing up X, marriage, having kids) made them, say, less selfish, that people without those experiences are “still” selfish. That’s a sh*tty attitude and should be condemned. But it’s also sh*tty to hear “having kids has made me less selfish as a person” and infer that that person must mean everyone without kids is selfish. I’m not having personal growth AT you.

            4. Gaia*

              There is a difference between “this thing made me better than I was yesterday” and “this thing made me better than YOU.”

              A lot of people who claim becoming a parent made them better workers are aiming for the latter, not the former.

              1. MCsAngel2*

                And I think the LW is one of them. LW, you are the only one thinking that when you have your son as a visible reminder of who your who self is. Your coworkers aren’t. Every time they see him, they are wondering how much work you are getting done.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  “Every time they see him, they are wondering how much work you are getting done.”

                  There’s just no way you can know this. This kind of speculation — not even speculation, just assuming your way of thinking is everyone’s way of thinking — is SO unhelpful to the LW.

                2. Indigo a la mode*

                  @Parenthetically – I make a point to give people the benefit of the doubt (for instance, I think the suggesting that the OP thinks she’s better than non-parents is uncalled for and extraordinarily unhelpful), but if I saw someone holding her baby while working more than once in a blue moon, I would also have the impression that Artemesia stated: that she’s using her work time to be Mom while I am using mine to be productive.

                  Having the baby brought to her to nurse is one thing. Working and baby-holding is quite another. At the very least, it’s necessarily divided attention.

                3. Parenthetically*

                  @Indigo Yes, and that’s also YOUR opinion, which still is not all LW’s coworkers’ opinions. If the kid is chill and non-disruptive (as the LW says; and we are supposed to take them at their word), I wouldn’t think a thing of it, which is ALSO not the point.

                  I’m not arguing that it may be a common opinion, I’m trying to push back against this insistence from some commenters that all coworkers will always, definitely see things in a particular way.

              2. Engineer Woman*

                Are you sure? That said: it is possible being one “better than before” does then correlate to “better than YOU” (assuming same level previously).

            5. Artemesia*

              If she is caring for a baby while working — and that is what this projects — then she is having a baby at me or at least using her work time to be Mom while I am using mine to be productive. I don’t believe anyone can care for a baby at home and be actually work productive at the same time (and even if there is a caregiver at home, it doesn’t look this way.). My daughter works from home and until recently had a nanny for her baby; she would never have taken conference calls with the baby on her lap although she took work breaks to nurse. It just seems really unprofessional to me to project the image of someone who is not serious about what it takes to work from home.

          2. Emily K*

            I’m not 100% sure that’s how the LW intended that statement. I read it more like she was reckoning whether her employer’s philosophy of “bringing the whole person to work” might cover “evidence of the fact that I’m a mama” which might not be as welcome in a company that doesn’t make as big a point of “valuing the whole person.” Not that being a mama was fulfilling an edict to bring her whole self to work, but rather than being a mama would fall under the permissible umbrella of bringing her whole self to work.

            LW, for what it’s worth, I am also child-free by choice and I frequently work with my chihuahua napping in my lap or on a pillow next to my keyboard. I don’t know if what you’re doing is alright in your particular office, but just in case the comments here were starting to make you feel like you’ve offended or damaged your reputation with everyone you’ve ever been vcon with your baby in your lap, a quiet baby/dog/cat barely even catches my attention. I do have colleagues who have had dogs going nuts barking or a baby crying in the background, and yes, it’s super annoying, but it happens infrequently enough that I can’t say I really think less of them. I would hope they would take additional steps to prevent that disruption on calls with important clients or management executives, but on internal team meetings we’re all pretty casual and informal with each other anyway.

          3. WellRed*

            Also child free and I read that as it made her, herself, a better worker, not that she is a better worker than all those who don’t have kids.

          4. Liet-Kinda*

            It’s interesting that you go from “I’m a better worker because I’m a parent” to “I am a better worker than you because, categorically, I am a parent.” I would tend to challenge the assumption that it’s about you.

          5. seller of teapots*

            FWIW, I don’t think she’s saying she’s a better worker as a parent than someone who is a non-parent! I interpreted that sentence to mean parenthood has made *her* better at certain aspects of her work, in the way that any transformational experience will make you better at certain things….i.e my master’s degree made me better at my job, getting over that one really shitty boss made me better at my job, and parenthood also made me better at my job. I don’t think people without masters degrees or previous shitty bosses are less good *than me* at work…just that these are some of the ingredients that have helped me grow and improve as an employee.

          6. Database Developer Dude*

            I’m also happily childfree and intending to stay that way. It’s not that the colleague says they’re a better worker *THAN YOU* because they’re a parent, it’s that they’re a better worker *THAN THEY WERE BEFORE* because they’re a parent. They’ve improved themselves…it’s not about you, so feeling insulted if that’s the way they put it might be a bit overboard.

            Having said that, I can completely understand the sensitivity, as someone who was half my age, because she was government and I was a contractor, got away with telling me I wasn’t a mature adult yet because I didn’t have kids. I got in trouble for getting offended (I’m 51, was 50 at the time, and she was 25, and I got in trouble for getting offended, and got charges of sexism thrown at me…I left that contract).

            1. NewMom*

              “it’s that they’re a better worker *THAN THEY WERE BEFORE* because they’re a parent.”
              When I’ve actually slept a reasonable about, I’m much better at time management now. I prioritize not working when I’m around my son, whereas before I’d dally on stuff and finish it up at night.
              Some days I’m in a bit of a fog (thanks, daycare germs and sick baby!), but if I’ve got 6+ hours of sleep under my belt, I’m better at my job now than I was before.

              1. Emily K*

                Yeah, I think it’s similar to, “My degree doesn’t make me categorically superior to someone without a degree, but obviously I think it made me better at my job or I wouldn’t have invested thousands of dollars and hours in obtaining it.”

                There are sometimes multiple ways to learn a skill, so I might have done X to gain the skill, and that’s a bona fide improvement, but it doesn’t mean everyone who didn’t do X lacks that skill, as they may have picked it up by other means.

          7. (another) b*

            Agreed. Seemed like a smug thing to say. And there is no way that OP can be 100% fully focused on a conference call with her kid in her lap. Nope.

            1. Engineer Woman*

              As a parent: I completely agree. No matter how well-behaved the baby, carrying her will also distract some from your attention to the call/work.

              Whether or not it distracts more than any other thing (I’m sure we all know people on telecons doing other stuff!) is hard to say but I wouldn’t be on video calls while holding a baby and claim you’re 100% focused on the call.

            2. Alienor*

              It does sound a bit smug. Re: the focus thing though, I’m almost never 100 percent focused on conference calls unless I’m the one speaking or preparing to speak–even if I’m physically in the office and at my desk, I’m probably answering email or doing something else while I listen. I don’t think holding a sleeping baby is any more distracting than that (mind you it’s been a while since I’ve held a baby as my only child is 20, but still).

            3. Jules the 3rd*

              Actually, if you’ve got the right baby-carrying equipment (bjorn or sling or the like) and a sleeping baby, you can be 100% focused on something else. I totally forgot I was carrying mine sometimes, until I reached for something or turned and wondered why my balance was off.

              That said, I would not have my kid visible on a conference call. Ever. Sexism is too subtle and culturally ingrained – everyone may give lip service, may even think they’re not judging, but someone on that call is totally assuming you’re not as productive at your job.

        4. Ophelia*

          Yeah, I agree. I don’t bring the actual mothering part of myself to work, but what I DO focus on is not hiding the fact that I have kids, or expecting people I work with to hide it either. I try to demonstrate that I can get good work done in a way that (generally) works with the flexibility needed to be a parent (for example, giving myself an earlier deadline if I need to take a kid to a doctor’s appt. or whatever), and acknowledging that in others I work with (whether it’s kids, or taking care of an elder relative, etc). I also work for a company that I would consider to be very family-friendly, and I try very hard not to have kids on video or phone conference unless there is a big snafu, and if they’re around, I’m muted whenever possible.

        5. KC without the sunshine band*

          If people are sending you private messages about the baby, that tells you the baby is distracting. And “mama” to work? If I worked with you and heard you say this, it would be all I could do not to make a face or roll my eyes. I think we’ve all had run-ins with people who are self-important because of their kids. You don’t want your co-workers (or worse, clients or higher-ups) to think you are one of those people.

      2. MatKnifeNinja*

        A cat batting at computer wires/web cam is 100% more interesting than anything job related.

        So a big no to the fabulous kitteh in canera range too.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, if your cat shows up on screen I will definitely pay all the attention to the cat and none to what you are saying because cats are adorable and I have no self-control when they’re in sight. Which is why mine will never be allowed in the room if I ever have to do a video or conference call.

      3. Anon Anon Anon*

        Right. But if OP’s team is pretty good with open communication, she could ask for feedback. It’s probably the kind of thing that people would react to in different ways.

    2. Artemesia*

      Me too. People do not ‘say anything’ even if asked in most cases. ‘Do you think the dollar dance at my wedding was tacky?’ — is anyone going to say yes to that. Yet people are highly annoyed by all sorts of boundary violations or oversteps. Showing off the baby during a video conference is really unprofessional and unless there are other people doing it i.e. it is kind of the norm in your company, don’t.

      1. Antilles*

        Agreed, and that goes double with kids because there’s a huge percentage of parents who are really touchy about anything related to their kids that isn’t 100% unquestionably positive and take it as personal criticism of either the kid or their ability to be a parent. People get immediately defensive in a way relating to their kids that they just don’t with other things.

      2. Quackeen*

        ‘Do you think the dollar dance at my wedding was tacky?’ — is anyone going to say yes to that.

        I’d definitely say yes, the dollar dance is tacky to anyone who asked! OTOH, you’re correct that I probably wouldn’t say anything about the baby.

        1. Artemesia*

          Most people don’t though. It is like ‘does this make me look fat?’ People are not honest and especially after the fact. I might tell a friend BEFORE her wedding that I don’t think she should have a dollar dance, but I am not going to tell her that AFTER the wedding.

    3. Screenwriter Mom*

      I 100% kept my son as a baby or toddler out of the workplace entirely, and I would recommend that she not continue with that. On the other hand, a CAT is a mommy’s GOOD BOY and I WOULD TOTALLY BE HAPPY TO SEE ALL THE CATS :)

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I have weekly meetings with a coworker whose cat shoves itself in front of the camera EVERY SINGLE TIME and the coworker always laughs and says “can’t control cats”. It always derails the meeting and it’s frankly kind of exhausting and ridiculous. Everyone is 5000% done with it (not looking for advice on how to handle this btw, just posting my weekly conference call agonies)

        1. Lissa*

          yeah I think often these conversations can turn into whether a specific person prefers/likes babies, cats or dogs which is derailing and not the point. I liked the point that it’s distracting whether it’s animal, human or sentient robot!

          1. Just Employed Here*

            If you have a sentient robot running around in the background, I’ll be very pleased to be distracted by it during our call! The first time it happens.

            After that, it’ll just be slightly annoying, just like the other versions of distraction you mentioned.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I thought dogs barking was an interesting one to list, because I think of that as being pretty routine on conference calls and akin to street noise (jack hammer, sirens) for the person in the office where those are going on in the background. Constant barking of one’s own dog would be a problem; constant barking of the neighbor’s dog is something you explain and apologize for once, and try to avoid in future. (Kinda like the person on a conference call when their roommates started loudly having sex on the other side of the wall, and coworkers thought they were watching porn.) Rare barking is what happens when the people on the conference call share their space with companions who see a Fed Ex truck.

              1. Dragoning*

                I’m going to be honest “my roommate is having loud sex on the other side of the wall” is not something I want them apologizing for. I want that conference call ended pronto.

              2. Anonymous Lady Story*

                My apartment complex has a dog run, and I live on the path that leads to it. There’s constantly dogs barking outside my window, and downstairs, and across the hall…

              3. Dust Bunny*

                My neighbor’s dogs barking in the distance is one thing. I can’t control that; it’s routine outside noise. My own dog barking in the house or pestering me for attention is quite another–that’s something I can and should deal with.

          2. all aboard the anon train*

            Yes. And whatever the distraction may be is fine once or twice – because sometimes those things are accidents and can’t be helped – but it becomes an issue when it happens every meeting. It ends up making someone look unprofessional.

            1. Artemesia*

              This. Toddler walks in during the call, once? You laugh and say ‘she seems to have gotten away from the nanny (or Dad or whatever)’ and escort her out. Holding the baby during the call sends a different message.

        2. PizzaSquared*

          I have a cat, and I have found a foolproof way to control him enough to prevent him from walking in front of the camera when I’m doing a video conference from home: I CLOSE THE FRIGGIN’ DOOR TO MY OFFICE! lol

          1. JulieCanCan*

            I put my dog in my bedroom then shut the bedroom door, close the hallway door at both ends, and then close the pocket doors to the dining room (where laptop sits on the dining table). Even with this quadruple buffer soundproofing system in place, I can still hear him if he barks. Although it’s barely perceptible, my ears are fine-tuned to hear it. I try to be ultra-conscientious because I know I’d be annoyed if I had to listen to my coworkers’ dogs barking during our meeting.

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          This is what ‘no camera’ is for unless they’re presenting. In which case, that’s what the office door is for.

      2. Ehhhh*

        Tonight I was recording audio for school presentation when my boy cat somehow startled himself, fell off a bench, and then tore across the couch where I was sitting with my laptop. I’m thankful it wasn’t a live call and there wasn’t video. But I did have a moment of “ok, working at home is never going to be a thing.” He sure isn’t a subtle kitty.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          This is why, when I used to do phone interviews whilst working from home and tape them on my webcam (so you could hear the audio of the other person and see/hear me talking to them), my cats got turfed out of the room. Occasionally there’d be a little meow of protest on the recording, but that was a lot better than the risk of one of them plonking himself on the keyboard and accidentally switching things off!

          1. Nonsensical*

            I always put my most chatty cat in the other room when I work from home or have to do a conference call after a co worker remarked if I had a cat. I didn’t realize she was loud enough to be heard on the phone, so after that, she was banished to the other room during WFH days.

        2. Dance-y Reagan*

          Cats have a sixth sense wherein any camera-like object pointing towards them will trigger an involuntary muscle reaction that involves rolling over and licking R-rated places.

      3. KR*

        I agree. I have a coworker who works almost 100% from home. One of her cats loves the sound of mine and a coworkers voice over the phone and meows a lot when we call her. It makes me so happy and once we’re done talking about business it’s nice to touch on what her cats are doing for the day. Now we never do video chat in our organization, just Skype screen sharing sessions, and everyone is made aware of the importance of the mute button on calls, but if I were to see a cat I think it would brighten my day. A baby.. I’d just accept that it’s what the coworker has to do, they’re either working from home or out sick for the most part and just called in for this call. No big unless baby is being noisy.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Until FergusKitty walks on the keyboard and adds the CEO to the conference call… ;)

    4. Willis*

      Yeah, I think the thing about those types of things are that it can be difficult to honestly judge whether it’s really a distraction, to you or to others. I’d probably err on the side of not having the baby on screen, particularly if it’s a large group and definitely not if there’s any external folks on the call. Maaaybe if it was just with a couple co-workers I worked with very regularly and had a really friendly relationship with.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Good point about context. The more people on the call, the more chance that you are missing cues from one of them. And how you present to coworkers vs outside clients matters.

      2. Marthooh*

        And the other thing is, OP wants the baby to send a message, but she can’t control the message her coworkers actualy get.

        And I picture the superchill baby wearing sunglasses and tiny little vintage Jordan Airs.

    5. AcademiaNut*

      This is where I sit – I like babies, but they’re distracting on conference calls, and give the impression that the other person is not paying full attention.

      My general view of conference calls from home is that if you work from home during your normal workday, you need a working environment that does not involve cuddling babies or cats on they keyboard, and keeps kid, spouse and pet noise to at the very least a different room with a closed door. If you’re taking conference calls outside of work hours (early morning or evening/night calls for international meetings, for example), then the standards are more relaxed – do your best, but you aren’t expected to maintain a home office for 6am telecons.

      I don’t think the OP should ask other participants about this issue – “Is my baby annoying you” can be a very difficult question to answer honestly. But she could ask her supervisor to see if anyone objects to it. Ultimately, though, it’s best to keep distractions out of the conference calls.

      1. BetsyTacy*

        Same understanding here of the difference in expectations for various work hours. If I have a work from home day during normal business hours (say 8:30-5, M-F on a non-snow day), I 100% keep my kiddo AWAY.

        If we’re on a last minute conference call at 7PM though, I almost expect to hear kids and pets in the background. Also, AGREED that this is what happens when you don’t give maternity leave.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I can happen if you do give maternity leave, too, if people are working from home after maternity leave is over.

    6. gladfe*

      Holding a mostly quiet baby during a conference call would be 100% OK in my current office. Holding a mostly quiet baby during an in-office meeting is fine, too, as long as there’s another caretaker ready to step in if necessary. At my last job, having a baby on a call might’ve gotten you fired. But none of that answers OP#1’s question! Even if we could come to some comment-section consensus about the Most Correct way to think about babies on conference calls, it still wouldn’t tell OP#1 anything useful about her company’s culture. Alison’s advice to check in with the boss is really the best way to go.

    7. LG*

      This is such a good way to look at it! “If you wouldn’t do this in an office, it’s not okay to do on a remote conference call.” I like babies (and animals) but would personally find it distracting (because even if you can concentrate well on work, I’d be distracted by how cute your baby is) on a video conference.

      I would be equally excited to see AND distracted by a cat walking around, and sympathize with the replier down-thread who is in a conference with someone whose cat walks across the screen every time. I mean, yes, you can’t control cats, but they don’t have thumbs, so maybe tuck them in another room?

      1. Jasnah*

        +1 I watch an internet streamer and I swear, every episode his cat gets caught in the wires, or walks in front of the camera, or does a thing and is so irresistible that it now needs to be picked up and pet and everything screeches to a halt… I get that he loves the cat, and I get that everyone jokes about how cats are really in charge, but like… human up and figure it out!

      2. Someone Else*

        “If you wouldn’t do this in an office, it’s not okay to do on a remote conference call.” is also where I land. Where I’ve worked remotely there was always a very clear “you must have childcare for children under age N” policy*. So holding even a completely quiet, not fidgeting baby would be a no go during a meeting. But I recognize not all workplaces have the same rules or culture mine does. So I think, if your office in general would be cool with a baby on your lap during an in person meeting, then you’re probably OK doing same when working remotely. If they would not, then it is not safe to assume this is OK.

        * I realize husband is there and ready to take over at any second, which then begs the question, why not just make sure he’s always done so during any scheduled meetings? If the primary reason she ends up with baby in lap is nursing during the day, the in-office analog is taking pumping breaks or if the baby were in on-site daycare, going to the daycare and getting him and feeding him. Those moments would generally not happen during meetings the LW had to be present in. You’d schedule your meeting around it, or decline to attend.

      3. Genny*

        Agreed. If you wouldn’t eat a full meal during a conference in the office, you shouldn’t be having lunch during a remote call. If you wouldn’t crack open a beer at the office during a meeting, you shouldn’t crack one open during a remote call. If you wouldn’t bring a baby to a video conference in the office, you shouldn’t bring a baby to video conference at home.

    8. Jen S. 2.0*

      This: I like babies, but they’re distracting on conference calls, and give the impression that the other person is not paying full attention.

      Why are you needing to hold the baby at all if you are giving full attention to the call? Those things seem mutually exclusive. The baby is not getting your attention if you are on a call. The call is not getting your attention if you have your baby. And note, I have many dull conference calls that frankly do not need my full attention, but neither do I go out of my way to *advertise* when the call does not have my full attention. That would not be a great look.

      I also agree that no one is likely to comment unless they are really exasperated, and you don’t want anyone to have to get to that point. We all put up with annoyances and distractions at work before commenting, and it’s really hard to tell someone that their baby is an annoyance. “No one has commented” is different from “no one is bothered.” They well could be muttering among themselves about why on earth it seems the kid is constantly with you during work hours. I share plenty of sidelong glances and private emails and muttered conversations with colleagues about annoying things that are not worth spending capital to resolve.

      (Note: I’m a little annoyed by a colleague who mentions her kids in every single email. She worked hard to become a single mother by choice, and I’m happy for her, but … what does that have to do with work?)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Neither do I go out of my way to *advertise* when the call does not have my full attention.

        It’s the distinction between gazing thoughtfully at the notes you’re making off to one side, and asking the other conferees if anyone knows a seven-letter word for ‘succulent.’

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Why are you needing to hold the baby at all if you are giving full attention to the call? Those things seem mutually exclusive. The baby is not getting your attention if you are on a call. The call is not getting your attention if you have your baby.

        Good point. I have to confess I was one of those misguided parents who held their baby to put it to sleep, rather than putting the baby in bed to fall asleep (BAD MOVE. DO NOT DO.) and it’s very likely I could be sitting in a conference call, giving it my complete attention, while holding a completely conked-out baby. But if that’s not what’s happening, then both the baby and the call need more attention than they’re getting.

      3. KR*

        I would agree with this but I often think people place too much weight on “full attention “. People are capable of focusing on many different things at the same time and when you’re a parent you become even greater at Multitasking While Baby is Quiet and Occupied and particularly if the subject matter is not something they need to be hanging on every word for, there’s no reason they shouldn’t hold a small quiet baby in their lap just for appearances.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          All the recent work on multitasking has been that people aren’t nearly as good at it as they think, though. Trying to multitask during a call just makes you look clueless.

          Unless you’re on deadline and not needed for most of the call–I’ve known people to say “Okay I’ll be on headphones, say my name if you need me to tune back in” but it’s rare and it’s someone whose expertise is in high demand from a lot of different coworkers. The message is clearly “I’m going to ignore you now and focus on something else” and it’s just the unusual context that makes that “Okay, cool.”

        2. Washi*

          We can argue about the fairness of this, but I do think it’s an expectation that when you are at work, you at least *appear* to be giving your work your full attention. Like yes, the baby can be sleeping on your lap, but what if you suddenly need to type something or write something down – is that not awkward with a baby in your arms? What if there is a loud noise that wakes the baby up (phone ringing, etc) and that conked out baby is suddenly very much awake?

          I believe that there maybe workplaces that are cool with all this, but I do think you risk some silent side-eye where no one is saying anything but still judging and maybe hurting your reputation.

    9. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I think most people have a far higher bar for making a complaint or raising an issue with the person concerned, than for being annoyed or thinking that someone is being unprofessional.

      I think you are likely coming across as unprofessional to at least some of the other people on the call, particularly if it involves external people as well as direct colleagues, even if no one has said anything to you directly.

      Its also possible that your employers may be less accommodating to the next person who asks about working from home, if they are left feeling that it hasn’t been ideal with you.

      Obviously if it is something which is very common for people in your office or industry then it may not be seen in a negative way, but I suspect that you probably would not be asking the question in that situation.

      1. Julia*

        Yeah, I’d be worried about giving off the impression that you’re doing childcare instead of work. I get that skin contact with a baby is probably important, but maybe not right then?

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          This is also what I would be worried about. Usually during a conference call I’m looking up relevant information on my computer and jotting down notes. If I saw someone was holding a baby I would think they were not as engaged as I was if only because they would be down an arm or two.

        2. Dance-y Reagan*

          It definitely looks like she’s providing childcare. Remote workers at my company are required to provide proof of childcare, and it’s rather exhaustive. If she worked here, LW would get audited and put through the ringer for having a baby on a conference call, and might lose remote privileges.

          1. Lucy*

            Well, I’m not sure that’s useful for the OP to take into consideration. I think their workplace is probably culturally very different from yours.

          2. PizzaSquared*

            While I agree that having a baby on a conference call isn’t professional, this sounds rather awful and not somewhere I’d want to work. I like employers who trust their employees and judge them on whether they’re getting their work done, not on the result of “audits….”

    10. Just a guy in a cubicle*

      Interesting. I try to err on the assumption that we’re all professionals who can be trusted to do our jobs, until someone shows otherwise.
      Granted my job usually have conference calls rather than video chats (and yes, occasional pet interruptions), but if I was on a video chat with a parent and baby, I’d assume we were going to acknowledge the baby during introductory chitchat, and then do our jobs, and if baby was disruptive, the parent would manage that.
      If the disruption is that Joe can’t stop babbling at the baby or gasping in fear that baby will fall every 2 minutes, my annoyance would be with Joe, not the parent. And my guess is that Joe’s kryptonite is actually meetings and not babies, and Joe is probably frustrating to have meetings with whether there’s a baby or not.

    11. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      Does everyone at the office KNOW that baby spends most of his time with dad and at preschool?

      Because if half the time they see her face-to-face she’s holding the baby, it’s going to look like baby spends way more time with her than he actually does, and that would mean waking hours as well–and I don’t think that looks great.

      1. Milk coma babies are my favorite*

        It doesn’t matter, they see the baby so everyone is most likely thinking she is the childcare because when they see her she has the baby all the time. The reason no one is saying anything is because you can’t say anything about not wanting someone to breastfeed without being hung in the town square, and your office is no different even if you aren’t breastfeeding on the call (and please don’t). The reality is your not fully engaged, and you can’t do the same work you would do with your baby with you as you do without the baby. The handoff thing is odd is your husband standing next to you during the call waiting to take him back, is there a bell I can’t imagine how much noise that isn’t work is coming off of your end of the phone.

        Part of me would have given anything to be with my baby all the time when they were babies, I don’t know if I could have said no. My baby is 5 now and to this day when I smell another newborn it still brings back a feeling in me that is better and sweeter than any other feeling I have ever had. I can remember him in detail as a chubby 6 week old in my lap in a milk coma, I can only imagine that is how people feel who get high on heroin.

        1. Emily K*

          I can’t imagine how much noise that isn’t work is coming off of your end of the phone.

          In my office it’s standard practice for everyone on vcon to remain muted unless they’re speaking. A baby has to be crying at the exact moment that the parent unmutes to offer a comment for us to hear the crying. And once you’ve got 6 or 8 people on the call, particularly if the parent is more periphery than central to the call as about half the people on the call usually are, they’re going to be muted for the great majority of the call.

          1. Milk coma babies are my favorite*

            It really depends on her position and what the calls are about. As a WFH person I am on a lot of video conferences usually 3 a day where I am part of the discussion so I am not on mute. So it really depends on what type of calls these are and what her position is.

          2. iglwif*

            Yeah, my office is the same: mute unless you’re talking. A lot of us work remotely either full- or part time, almost all of us have kids and/or pets, and many of us live in flats rather than houses, which makes the ambient-noise potential greater. (I personally live a block away from a fire station. You never know when there will be surprise sirens!) Although actually the ambient noise on calls is often greatest from the folks in the office — it’s open plan and a wee bit crowded, as we’ve expanded a lot recently.

            That said, we also don’t videoconference a lot; we mostly just use audio. It’s not a big group and we all know each other’s voices. I often knit during meetings, and while in reality it helps me engage better by keeping my hands busy so my brain can focus on the meeting, I understand that not everybody sees it that way. I wonder if nursing babies on conference calls might be a similar situation (nobody will know or care if you’re nursing a baby on audio, but it might be different on video).

            1. Arya Snark*

              I work from home FT and do many, many conference/Skype calls. Ambient noise is amplified, especially if your audio is being sent through a computer or speaker phone.
              I live on a busy street, a couple of blocks from a fire station. The noise from the street, the airport s few miles away, my dog/Amazon prime habit, my cat meowing to go outside, the toilet flushing down the hall, the fan on my laptop etc are all picked up on my calls and sound much louder than they truly are. I can’t always be muted so I do my best to reduce the noise as much as possible by keeping the door/window shut if I’m on a call. Unless that baby is completely silent, all the usual babbling/cooing is going to be picked up as well.

              1. iglwif*

                I don’t have the luxury of an office with a door I can shut (either on-site, the rare times I’m there, or at home the rest of the time), so I use a headset and keep myself muted as much as possible.

                (Would I love to have an extra bedroom I could turn into an office? Hells yeah. Do we have the $800k+ homebuying budget to make that possible? Alas, nope)

        2. Jen S. 2.0*

          This clarifies a point I was trying to make. Because OP works from home, she only has a limited amount of face-to-face time with her coworkers, most of it on video. The baby does not spend most of his time with OP, BUT if she insists on holding him during calls, her coworkers see him a disproportionate amount of the time. He may only be nearby for 30% of her work time, but the coworkers see him 80% of the time they see OP. They may well have the impression that Baby is there, distracting OP, much more than he is. That’s not the impression she wants to be giving.

      2. Collarbone High*

        I was wondering this too. My entire team works from home, and my boss likes to send pictures of his twins being cute. I like the occasional photo, but collectively, it gives the impression that he’s distracted by the kids and not giving work his full attention.

        The upshot is that people don’t give him the benefit of the doubt anymore – if anyone else is unreachable for a few minutes, it’s assumed they’re heating up lunch or something, but with him, everyone goes right to, is he playing with his kids? So I’d be concerned that LW’s co-workers will blame the baby any time she seems less than fully present.

      1. Midlife Tattoos*

        This! x1000!
        I have a colleague who has her toddler (!!!) at home when she works from home. Aside from the fact that her child seems to scream non-stop, nobody seems to want to say anything about it because we assume her manager will address it. But he doesn’t, and everyone just harbors resentment against this colleague because it looks like 1. she’s taking advantage of working from home so she doesn’t have to pay for child care, and 2. other parents feeling this is unfair because they do pay for child care.

    12. Catleesi*

      I think you may also want to consider, OP #1, that it isn’t just that coworkers may think you are distracted by baby but that they are being distracted. If they are messaging you about him, it really is taking their attention away from the conference call. Even if it’s just a short little message it shows there is focus being taken away from the work topic, to the baby. In addition to this, the perception that you may be focusing more on childcare than work (whether or not that may be true or to what extent) probably means you should let the dad keep him during the calls.

        1. Catleesi*

          The letter says they send her personal chats about how cute he is or how much he has grown. I took that to mean their attention was on this during the call.

          1. Bea*

            Oh please. I get messages like “love that new lamp in your home office” or “nice haircut!” on slack when i’m on calls with coworkers I don’t talk to every day, and it takes no time at all and is usually when we’re waiting for everyone to join. You cannot assume that people are not paying attention to an entire meeting because they took 4.2 seconds to send off a small talk message. That’s absolutely ridiculous to come to the conclusion that people aren’t paying attention during the call because they made an observation.

    13. IndoorCat*

      I think I would be distracted by someone else’s baby *because* I like babies!

      Also if a baby seems even slightly distressed it puts me a bit on edge. I feel like if I were ever a parent I’d be way too overprotective, because my little anxiety voice goes into overdrive around babies and toddlers.

      So, er, not a great way to feel at work.

    14. Silicon Valley Girl*

      ” if you wouldn’t do this in the office, it’s not okay to do on a remote conference call.”

      This right here. For example, just bec. I do work from home in PJs & with my hair in a ratty mess, doesn’t mean you’re going to see that on a video conference call or in the office. I’ll turn the video off or if video is required, I’ll dress office-appropriately & brush my hair.

      Likewise, at my office, children are only rarely allowed onsite & even then, not in meetings. It’s usually a brief visit, official kids day, or daycare fell thru & kid will be present quietly at parent’s desk for an hour or so thing.

  4. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – there’s a basic logic flaw in the instructors attitude. As a teacher, he should know that you (as a student) can’t possibly know what you need or like until AFTER you’ve been exposed to it. When you said you preferred A over B it was done in ignorance of A or B (That’s why you were there, after all). As you found out in class, you liked B!
    Asking you to commit to something before you know about it is just wrong. And you had every right to access the practicum as it was part of your class fees.
    The instructor was out of line to and you would be within full rights to comment about it in the feedback.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      By the way, the instructor should have knowledge of the four adult learning styles. One of them is tactile learner, which means that you won’t fully understand A until you’ve done B. The instructor really failed by asking people to not do B. It’s pretty egregious.

        1. Marty*

          Correct. We’ve now moved onto universal design for learning (UDL). I can’t wait to find out what methodology I’m forced to use in 2028.

          1. Artemesia*

            When I taught I always laughed at how every old thing was new again about every 10 years. And such enthusiasm for the same old same old with yet another label and new forms to use.

            1. Cardamom*

              Unfortunately the “learning styles” thing has never gone away enough to be new again!
              It just lingers and lingers.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          Yet practicum is still incorporated into learning. The instructor was wrong to actively dissuade someone from participating. This is especially true in a certificate program. These almost always focus on gaining skills, not mere knowledge.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Maybe one particular labeling has been debunked, but there are people who learn better tactilely or from audio or from reading. There are subjects that are easier to teach or learn through different tactics / pathways.

        1. Properlike*

          Yes and no. While we do have our preferences, the differences between them are so minimal that it’s not effective to teach to one (and does students a disservice when they want only to learn “in my learning style.”) Universal Design for Learning, as I understand it, gives multiple access points simultaneously. For instance: providing a transcript for a podcast, so that someone with audio processing difficulties is able to access the material a different way (and vice-versa, for someone who’s dyslexic.)

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            I don’t understand why ALL podcasts don’t have transcripts! I’m not HH/Deaf, but neither do I want to dedicate half an hour listening to a podcast when I could read it in a couple of minutes.

            1. Cardamom*

              Because creating a transcript is an expensive and time-consuming process.

              But I agree with your sentiment. Although I do love listening to podcasts more than reading a transcript, having the transcript makes the podcast searchable when I later want to go back and pinpoint one certain part. The transcript being online also means if I’m looking for “that podcast that happened to mention an incident about worms and green Halloween teapots” a Google search can find that info in the transcript (but not in the audio podcast).

            2. Ophelia*

              Seriously! I really dislike audio-only media, both for the TIME it takes up, and because I miss about 30% of whatever it was, but don’t realize I’ve missed it until I suddenly don’t quite know what they’re talking about. It takes me 1/3 time time, at much higher comprehension, to read something. (I joke that the reason I learned to read weirdly early was so I could stop going to story time, hah.)

              1. JulieCanCan*

                Yes!! Often I’ll be listening to a podcast my mind drifts and suddenly they’re talking about something completely new. I’ve spaced out or just re-lived in my head some minorly frustrating event that occurred yesterday. It always feels to me like the 2-3 minutes of the podcast I missed must have contained crucial element that tie it all together or a major event in the story so I have to go back and figure out exactly where I began spacing out/daydreaming/etc. Then 9 times out of 10, what I missed wasn’t that important after all once I’ve listened to it.

    2. JamieS*

      I don’t think the instructor was necessarily out of line. I interpreted it more as him saying people don’t have to stay and participate if they’re not going to be engaged in the activity. Not the best thing in the world to say but I don’t think it’s all that bad.

      1. Victoria, Please*

        But it sounds like he had a bit of a harangue that if you weren’t *primarily* interested in B, please stand back. Which means, to me, that he was de-valuing the people who were primarily interested in A, not that he was saying hey, it’s okay to slip off if you’re not interested.

        I can see this happening in a hands-on field like agriculture. There’s a huge emphasis on HANDS ON to the point that if you want *information* you need to prove your hands-on bona fides first.

        1. Washi*

          Agreed, it sounded almost like the instructor was shaming those who had the temerity to not be primarily interested in B, or that she took the OP’s statement weirdly personally. Anyway, I think the OP handled it well and did the right thing by going ahead and participating fully in a class that she paid good money for for!

      2. Psyche*

        Saying people “should step aside” and saying that they “don’t have to participate” are two very different statements. I think that if they want a smaller class for the hands on portion they should offer two different rates, one that includes the hands on portion and one that does not. That would be fair. But charging everyone the same and then pressuring people to step aside is wrong.

        1. TooTiredToThink*

          Exactly. I was like – wait, so are you telling me that you don’t have the resources to train everyone in the class? That’s what the instructor’s response was telling me.

    3. Victoria, Please*

      I see you were learning about rotational grazing management. Very nice setup, good fall flush, pretty mix with forbs thrown in, well-trained animals.

      The instructor definitely should not have said what he did. He should have said, “Well, when we get to B, I hope you find that it really makes A come alive, so please participate fully.”

      1. Chouchenn*

        That’s my farm! We are religious about pasture management. The class was on cow reproduction & AI, up at one of our tech colleges, and the cow situation there was less than bucolic.

        1. Victoria, Please*

          You have a beautiful place! Very best wishes for a long and productive stewardship.

          I won’t start on attitudes I’ve seen from some hard core cowguys. ‘Swhy I quit animal science back in the day.

        2. [insert witty username here]*

          I want to be where those moo moos are!!! That is such a beautiful, serene picture. Thank you for sharing!

      2. Chouchenn*

        And I agree about the instructor! I have a teaching background, and I thought the same, but wanted to check myself in case I was being overly sensitive.

      3. Secretary*

        I’ve been scouring the comments trying to understand the cow picture! Is that what you’re referencing here?

    4. Ehhhh*

      If I’m the instructor, I think to myself “challenge accepted” and aim to convince you that B is the thing you’ve needed your whole life. I mean why the hell did they ask if there were wrong answers?

      1. Mookie*

        This is, in fact, how my experiences in ag- and horticulture-related continuing education courses have panned out. “You’ll get in that rig and you’ll love it!”

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      OP4 you did the right thing. If it helps for your own framing, I wondered if the instructor had previously had a really slow student who just sat there fiddling (in my head canon, the work station is a cow), and when asked if they needed help alternated between they didn’t expect to use this part so it wasn’t important, and they wanted to figure it out themselves and have more time at the station slowly poking things. So the instructor was trying to preemptively forestall this student’s doppelganger. They were wrong, but often weird policies arise after one particularly innovative Fergus.

      Absolutely agree with Engineer Girl that a well-designed course is probably going to have parts that people didn’t realize would be important or applicable until afterward.

  5. Greg NY*

    #5: If someone other than your manager is more well-known for their accomplishments in your field or has won an award before, I’d ask them. They may know the ins and outs of the nomination process and it won’t be awkward for them to happily accept or to politely explain that it wouldn’t be appropriate (and if they previously won an award, can explain how they were nominated).

      1. Blue Eagle*

        Another idea if you are worried about the time it would take your boss to write the nomination is to ask if she would prefer that you draft something up that she can use. Some bosses prefer to do all the wording in a recommendation themselves, other prefer that you do the initial work to save them time and they can edit/change as they see fit.

    1. Ophelia*

      Also, if you think you’re a good candidate, your organization may be interested in helping to put together the nomination materials (I did this for a few people once upon a time – I wasn’t the official one the nominate them, but as part of a comms team, it was my role to make the nomination package stand out). Talking to others will help you suss out what’s possible, and may help bolster your chances.

    2. Brett*

      This is an excellent idea and a good answer to the #5 related question I asked below. (What to do when your boss is not eligible to nominate you.)

  6. Serendipity*

    I have 1-year-old and work from home most days, and she is in the care of her stay-at-home-dad. I have regular webex meetings with work.

    As cute as I find my own child (and my bias tells me she’s pretty darn cute), I don’t let her show on camera.

    Any on-screen movement is distracting, and even just seeing her silently open the door and wander into the room can pull attention away from the discussion at hand – let alone any noise she might make. Office cultures may differ among workplaces, but in mine it’s basic courtesy to not derail the attention of meeting attendees for any reason. I don’t allow my child into video meetings for the same reasons I mute my mic in a coughing fit and do my hair/change out of my pyjamas. I can’t guarantee I can keep her out of the room now (door doesn’t lock), so I turn off my camera instead.

    People know that I don’t like to be on camera when having larger video conferences or training sessions (1 on 1 if different), and it’s my normal so it’s never been a big deal.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      This is reminiscent of the time a couple years back where a dad was live on TV talking very seriously about South Korean politics, and suddenly his very young kids came bopping into the room, followed a moment later by their frantic mom, who spotted them on TV from the living room, and hauled them out the door. It was awesome and hilarious … but there’s a reason that episode made the news.

      Ah, here we go: https://www.cnn.com/2017/03/10/asia/bbc-interview-robert-kelly-children-trnd/index.html

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        The poor guy was mortified and thought he had done irrepairable damage to his career because of that. (To be honest, the kids were a mild interruption, the mum was the wild distraction for me!)
        It took a second interview with the BBC to reassure him that, yes, he did have a job to go back to on Monday.

        1. Cat wrangler*

          I think he was saved as he kept going with his interview and the children were extracted rapidly. I must admit it appeared funny but I bet he locks his office door now.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I found that adorable, but there was also a lot of nastiness directed at him and the “nanny” and the child. Also, he was apparently casually dressed from the waist down which was one reason he didn’t leap up to capture the caroming toddler.

      2. Constanze*

        Yes, this was very funny, but it was also just one time and unintentional. Everybody can undertsand that once in a while, s*it happens, and you’re going to have a wild cat or a toddler barging into the room during a conference call. But not every time and not voluntarily !

        1. Psyche*

          Yep. There is a difference between an enthusiastic toddler getting ideas and a parent deciding it is ok. It was distracting but unintentional and unlikely to happen again.

      3. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Yes, and that guy will always be “the guy whose kids barged in during a live interview,” I couldn’t even tell you what he was talking about at the time.

        It was pretty funny, especially the mom trying to stay low to the ground as she pulled them out!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Any on-screen movement is distracting.

      This is a good point. There’s evolutionary hard-wiring to look at movement that isn’t being overcome by some top-brain “That’s just baby Fibula” or “That’s just Spot the Cat batting at a dust speck.”

    3. nonymous*

      I have a coworker who has two kids and works from home (she works a very early shift so childcare is split between Dad and nanny). I think we see the kids on screen 2 -3 times per year, and it definitely stops the meeting. However it’s usually at the end of the meeting period, on a day we know coworker is leaving right-on-time for something else. The disruption is far less than when people bring their kids into the building to visit Mom/Dad for work, and it helps that they’re pretty shy on camera. It probably helps that my coworker is a combination of not on the super-cuddly end of the spectrum and is very disciplined about scheduling, so I think her kids are trained early on that they can’t demand attention willy-nilly while still getting all their needs met.

  7. Greg NY*

    #2: It’s pretty much like having a tattoo or piercing. It’s a form of expression, and it’s best to cover it up (you may be required to cover it up) if it isn’t a good fit for those you work with or for. The difference between being a supervisor and not is merely that you can’t require her to cover the bumper sticker, whereas as her supervisor you could. But it doesn’t stop you from explaining to her that it’s not a good idea to have it on display when transporting these clients. I’m not sure it’s going to be that feasible given that she works at a different location and you don’t work directly with her.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think it’s different from a tattoo or piercing, in that a piercing generally doesn’t convey a political opinion. A tattoo could, but in most cases, both indicate that you are ok or like tattoos and piercings (but not anything else).

      I worked in a fed branch where we weren’t allowed to sign petitions, post political signs at our houses (partisan or nonpartisan), or have bumper stickers on our cars. The rationale had to do with the division of powers / appearance of bias issues.

      I think the appearance of bias issue same applies to agencies who work with vulnerable populations. Generally speaking, it would be best if employees who use their cars to transport clients are not placing stickers that would discourage people from availing themselves of services.

      1. Likeaboss*

        I work for a state government in a social services field. I, mercifully, am not allowed to transport clients.

        But we’ve been told that because we do home visits we should do everything possible to make our car as unidentifiable as possible. Including limiting bumper stickers. Not using those ” My kids is an honor student at “X” middle school, or politically based ones. It’s a safety issue and you don’t want people to have more info about you than you want them to. Also even though it’s your car, the services are non partisan and it’s important to remember that.

        We can sign petitions, and put up lawn signs. We can donate to campaigns, but I can’t host a candidate ( my husband could under my ethics guidelines- but he’s a fed employee so he can’t under his ethics guidelines), or collect or handle money for candidates

        1. kittymommy*

          This is what I thought of as well. As a government worker so much of my information (full name, address, phone, salary, almost everything except social security number) is public record I try to keep anything I can as unidentifiable as possible. People be crazy y’all.

      2. fposte*

        Is there a concrete solution for an employee in this position? Like are there bumper-sticker-shaped car magnets that you could use to put over them, and would that be sufficient?

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Depends on where the sticker is. If it’s on a metal bit then yes, a magnet would probably work. If it’s on a plastic bumper, probably not a lot of options for temporary cover. (The temp cover thing might just end up being a bigger PITA, mostly I could see myself either forgetting to cover or forgetting to uncover it on a regular basis)

          I think the only real solution for the OP is to suggest that all cars that are driven for work purposes be bumper sticker free. It sort of falls into the ‘This is why we can’t have nice things’ category, but let’s be honest any bumper sticker has the same the opportunity to offend or make someone feel uncomfortable.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, true about the plastic bumpers. I confess I’m just lazy and would dread the idea of peeling off a sticker–it’s PITA enough with my car registrations. I suppose you could also recommend the person put a different bumper sticker over it if they didn’t want to peel.

            1. kitryan*

              If a magnet won’t stick, maybe some clingfilm decal material would work for a temp cover in the same way as a magnet. Light Dims sells cling film sticker sheets and solid pieces that are intended to cover annoying lights in the bedroom but I imagine that the opaque solid sheet version of that product or something similar would cling over the sticker.
              I don’t have a car now but I never put bumper stickers on when I did, because I was a bit afraid someone would object strenuously and follow me home, road rage style. I never wanted to display a particular bumper sticker enough to take that (rather small) risk.

        2. Phony Genius*

          They exist, but they will only work if the sticker was applied to a magnetic surface, like steel. Some bumpers have a carbon-compound surface, and are non-magnetic.

    2. Sara without an H*

      A blanket policy is probably the best remedy. You really don’t want to get into a situation where the manager has to rule on a case-by-case basis which bumper stickers are acceptable.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This. I can see any political sticker coming down to “But Zurg wants to help people like my clients!” vs “I am more than one issue wide, and I oppose Zurg for their stance on other issues.” Or just disagreeing on what “help” is. Better to preempt that argument.

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          100% accurate. The last thing you want is to end up policing why someone approves/disapproves of X or Y. A blanket policy is best, or if you can’t effect change there, a blanket “please don’t do this” request to folks.

    3. Lia*

      Not at all like a tattoo or piercing. It’s a political statement. My piercings and tats are not political statements of any kind.

      Former government employee here and we had a blanket ban on *any* bumper stickers/signs on vehicles. It started off as “nothing endorsing a candidate/party” but then due to people violating that, turned into just banning anything. It actually made things easier that way.

      My mom worked for a home health care agency and was requested to not have any bumper stickers on her car: as she does not put them on anyway, it was no hardship to her.

      1. IndoorCat*

        Yeah, it’s a less than ideal analogy. But, I can see how for a government agency, a no sticker policy might be a good bet– even those “honors student” or marathon milage stickers. It just saves time from arguing.

        Plus, I have a friend who has twelve hippie-type bumper stickers: peace signs, PETA, “make art not war,” rainbows, etc. Nothing about Democrats or pro-choice, but even the hippie stuff is enough to be considered controversial.

      2. LJay*

        Yeah, I was just reading last night about some of the concerns that come along with policing people’s clothing and accessories inside of polling places, and this strikes me as similar because “politics” casts a wide net.

        Like, if you have the “My kid is an honors student at X School” and X School is an expensive private school that would not be attainable to most of the client base, or is a religious school of a religion dissimilar to your client base, or is a charter school in an area where charter vs general public school is controversial and one candidate running is very pro charter school and one is very anti charter school, is that political?

        NRA sticker? Gay rights sticker? Pepe the frog sticker? Kanye West sticker? Chick-fil-A sticker? Ruth Bader Ginsberg sticker? ACLU sticker? Abraham Lincoln sticker? Taylor Swift sticker? 1984 sticker? Handmaid’s Tale sticker? Papa John’s sticker? Dip n Dots sticker? Vegan sticker? Hamilton sticker? Fight for $15 sticker? Occupy Wall Street sticker? Police shield? Thin blue line sticker? Pro police and firefighter union sticker?

        1. IndoorCat*

          I think part of it, too, is, I wouldn’t be comfortable asking an employee to remove a bumper sticker that they feel expresses an important element of their identity or beliefs. But, I suppose I would feel comfortable asking them to temporarily cover it– maybe with that electric tape / art tape stuff? I’ve used art tape for painting and it won’t remove paint, although I’m not sure if it’s strong enough to stay on moving car?

          1. Likeaboss*

            I think you can ask if you reframe it from a safety perspective. As I said above, and as kittymommy said ” people be crazy” telling employees that for their personal safety as well as that of their family, there is a no bumper sticker policy. Some individuals or their family members have lots of free time and access to google.

            At my last job, I had a family member of a client show up at my house at 11 PM on a Friday to give me something that needed to be faxed in. She drove 25 miles to my house. She found my street name on google and then drove around looking for a house with a prius and kids stuff in the yard.

  8. Maple*

    I’m Canadian, so I’m just curious about this because it wouldn’t be in Canada: In America, is a rainbow flag considered political and if so, would you have an employee remove it?

    1. Middle School Teacher*

      Gotta say, I disagree with you. I live in Alberta and in some parts of the province, not only would a rainbow flag be considered political, it would be like waving a red flag at a bull. I think your example would be a case of knowing your audience, and your environment.

      1. Sunshine*

        In my opinion the difference is between showing support and not. For me, a rainbow flag falls into the same bracket as say a crucifix, or a Christian fish, or a Koranic symbol. They’re not *against* anything. Whereas something like an Iron Cross, or a homophobic sticker, or heck, even a Flying Spaghetti Monster (i’m an atheist) could be perceived as hostile. This feels a bit like a false equivalence to me.

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          You should tell that to the people here who have been gay bashed. Maybe look up the small towns in Canada (not just alberta) that have installed rainbow crosswalks, only to see them defaced by skid marks or paint within a couple of days.

          1. Sunshine*

            The solution isn’t to let homophobes have it their way. If they happen to consider gay rights a problem, that’s on them. An anti-abortion sticker is one that criticises your clients. A rainbow flag is a symbol that shows inclusiveness. If people choose to hate gay people, that doesn’t invalidate the fact that one symbol is positive and the other negative.

            1. Middle School Teacher*

              Your sentiment is admirable but I’m not going to expect people to literally put their lives at risk so the haters don’t win.

              1. lawyer*

                …no one is arguing that people should be *obligated* to put rainbow stickers on their cars, so I’m not sure I understand this response. Sunshine is explaining why s/he wouldn’t require an employee to take a rainbow sticker off the car if the employee affirmatively chose to put it there.

                1. IndoorCat*

                  I think Middle School Teacher might mean that the clients riding in the cars may be putting their lives at risk.

                  Which, it depends on how violently anti-gay your area is, unfortunately. If it is a genuine risk that being openly LGBT and having a rainbow flag sticker on your car means your car is more likely to be a target of vandalism in your region, or even vehicular assault, I can see how someone might say, “Don’t have LGBT symbols on your car when transporting clients; it increases the risk of vandalism and assault, which can be traumatizing for clients and is a risk they did not choose to take on.”

                  That would be very frustrating, because it is essentially letting bigots win– but it might be a case of, “lose this battle, keep your eye on the horizon,” kind of thing.

                  Where I live, that would be a non-issue, but if it is a viable issue in some places, it’s reasonable to at least have that conversation. It’s brave to declare yourself a member of an oppressed group and organization to fight for your rights– whether it’s with a PRIDE rainbow flag sticker, a Hillel sticker, Alpha Kappa Alpha (black women’s sorority; can you tell I’m in a college town?), or something similar.

                  But the conversation surrounding, like, “Hey, so, there are tons of white supremacists / violent bigots around here, and we gotta prioritize everyone’s short-term safety over fighting the good fight right now. So if you’re transporting clients, it’s unsafe to attract the attention of potentially violent bigots with minority group bumper stickers.”

                  I don’t know what I’d do in that situation, personally. But, it might be something that would be relevant in Alberta, if I’m reading Middle School Teacher correctly?

              2. Lissa*

                Nobody is expecting anyone to do that at all, though. Some people don’t feel that putting rainbow stickers on their car or themselves is materially putting their lives at risk, and they should be allowed to keep doing so. If someone does feel that it is, then they don’t have to do so.

              3. Sunshine*

                Woah! I’m not suggesting anyone risk their lives / safety. My point was simply about the difference between affirmative and negative symbols. The fact that bigots exist doesn’t automatically make the rainbow flag a negative symbol. Whereas an anti abortion sticker is inherently critical and negative, in that it’s specifically against something.

          2. ThankYouRoman*

            That’s why likening it to religion is correct. Defacing the sidewalks is like the vandalism to churches of meeting halls.

              1. Midlife Tattoos*

                To you it’s an affirmative symbol (as it is to me) but if one of the clients being transported is vehemently homophobic, it could have the same impact as a political sticker. I understand about haters-gonna-hate, but speaking specifically about working with a fragile population, the social worker doesn’t want to alienate any of her clients because she needs them to feel safe coming to her for help.

        2. Pomona Sprout*

          Unfortunately, there are a lot of narrow-minded people who would interepret (for example) an Islamic sticker as being “against” Christianity or even “against” America, a rainbow flag as being “against” their religious beliefs that forbid homosexuality, etc. etc. — in much the same way the “Black Lives Matter movement is regarded by some as anti-white. It sucks that there are people like that, but they DO exist, and in some areas they are plentiful and vociferous. I live in a place where I don’t have to worry about that sort of thing very much, but in some places it’s a very real problem.

          1. Sunshine*

            I guess I’m interpreting this through the lens of a fairly laid back area. To be clear I wasn’t thinking in terms of potential smashed windows etc. More in terms of positive versus negative and that despite what bigots think, being gay or Muslim isn’t, in objective fact, a bad thing. Whereas choosing to criticise your clients for their actions is, imo, objectively wrong.

    2. JamieS*

      Depends on who you ask but in general I think it would be considered political. In most circumstances, I don’t think someone would be asked to remove it since it’s not as divisive as a bumper sticker with an anti-abortion message on it.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          I agree, Furthermore, depending on who “Voltron” actually is, I might regard it as more than just a harmless quirk. I can think of at least one case where I would have a hard time even carrying on a superficial conversation with someone sporting a button, sticker, hat, etc. expressing support for a certain politician.

    3. Anne (with an “e”)*

      1. A rainbow flag is political. 2. I would never dream of asking anyone to remove it.

      1. PABJ*

        I think that’s a little bit of a double standard if you’re comfortable with asking someone to remove an anti-abortion sticker honestly.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think it’s a double standard if your goal is to ensure clients feel comfortable accessing services. For the most part, a rainbow flag would only dissuade someone who harbors animus toward LGBT folks, whereas an anti-choice sticker may make someone feel marginalized by the service provider.

          1. Asenath*

            But is this an abortion provider or some organization in which it can be assumed that all clients are pro-abortion? The letter-writer thinks the bumper-sticker will be “alienating” to the clients, which seems to assume that the clients are uniformly pro-abortion. And yet, the rest of the post implies that the clients are undergoing a variety of hardships and are low-income – nothing to indicate that they’re all pro-abortion and therefore are going to be alienated by an anti-abortion sticker. In general, there are many situations in which people need to avoid expressing divisive or controversial opinions while on the job, and this may well be one of them, but it does sound like the writer is the one who is alienated by the sticker, which weakens her argument regarding the clients.

            I think it matters if the employee is paid for the use of her car, too. That would increase the level of control the employer should have over bumper-stickers.

              1. Slartibartfast*

                I don’t like anti choice either fwiw. Negative language invites argument over discussion, and especially in a thread discussing how all politics are divisive by nature, I think all terms should be paired positive/positive or negative/negative for fairness’s sake.

              2. sourgold*

                The problem with that approach, though, is that pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion in every case (ie, “I wouldn’t have an abortion myself but I support women’s right to choose”), and it certainly does not mean anti-life. Framing it in that way suggests that abortion equals death.

                On the other hand, this is also why many are reluctant to use pro-choice to refer to people who do not want women to have that reproductive right: because the term itself situates them on the inherently moral and ‘right’ side of the debate, which pro-choicers do not believe they should be.

              3. MK*

                If people are allowed to refer to pro-lifers as “anti-abortion” and “anti-choice”, then people are allowed to refer to pro-choicers as “pro-abortion”, or “anti-life”.

                No. If you decribe yourself as “pro-life”, you are by definition anti-abortion. If you describe yourself as “pro-choice”, that does not mean you are not pro-abortion, because you can be as against abortions as anyone and still believe that it is not the goverment’s right to make that moral decision for everyone. Using the terms pro- or anti-life, well, I consider it disingenuous propaganda, as I doubt people who are anti-abortion actually have the all-encompassing respect for all life that the term implies; but, ok, “pro-life” is so widely used in this specific meaning that at least it is unlikely to cause confusion. Labelling someone as “anti-life” is frankly an attempt to demonise people who disagree with you.

              4. Warren*

                Of course pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion in every case. Likewise being pro-gay marriage doesn’t mean everybody needs to get one. Being pro-death penalty does not mean you want every convict to be executed. You can be pro-immigration without planning to immigrate or emigrate anywhere. And you can be pro-gun without owning or planning to own a gun.

                Pro-choice people are “pro-abortion” in the sense that they support abortion as an institution. They want places that provide it, laws that support it, and they want it to be available to certain people. Whether you want to hedge and say that you don’t think the procedure is appropriate all the time is irrelevant. As long as you support its availability you are pro-abortion. Still, I would use the term pro-choice because it is generally the way to allow political groups in the United States to decide what to call themselves.

                The term anti-choice is both unfair and extremely inflammatory. It implies that pro-lifers don’t actually care for or want to protect unborn children, but that they are acting out of a desire to control and dominate women. It isn’t just about characterizing pro-lifers’ position, it is an attack on pro-lifers as people. It is a viscous and poisonous caricature, which is of course why people use it.

              5. iglwif*

                The reason that doesn’t work is that “pro-choice” doesn’t mean “pro-abortion” (although it does mean “pro the availability of legal, safe abortion services for those who choose that option”) — it literally means “pro-choice”. As in, pro letting each person decide for themselves whether or not an abortion is what they want, and supporting them in that choice, whatever it is.

                Whereas those who identify themselves as “pro-life” almost always seem to be, in reality, very narrowly focused on preventing access to abortion services (via misinformation, intimidation, legislation, and/or violence).

              6. Michaela Westen*

                “It implies that pro-lifers don’t actually care for or want to protect unborn children, but that they are acting out of a desire to control and dominate women.”
                IME with fundamentalists and politics this is exactly what it is.

            1. Loose Seal*

              I think the OP meant that it’s possible some of the clients might have had abortions in their lifetimes and don’t need to be transported by a provider who is so obviously against them that they need to say that with a bumper sticker.

              So the judgment is against actual choices the clients might have made rather than nebulous opinions they might hold.

              1. Emily K*

                Yes, they don’t have the be uniformly pro-choice. In this context, as a service provider working with vulnerable populations, it is not acceptable to alienate any clients in an easily avoidable way like this.

                1. Psyche*

                  Yes. It would be better to avoid bumper stickers on either side of the issue because it is so divisive and could alienate clients either way.

                2. fposte*

                  Right. No client is going to be offended by the car’s *not* having an anti-abortion sticker on it.

              2. Sunshine*

                It’s probable, rather than possible. 1 / 4 women in the US have had an abortion. And the highest rate is among poor women. It’s almost certain this person will be perceived as criticising their clients – and I think that’s completely unacceptable.

              3. Nita*

                Yes, that’s what I’m thinking too. And regardless of my own feelings on the topic, I think the sticker has to go from a car that’s used to transport clients. It might be a kick to someone who’s already down. Possibly a small and not very noticeable kick, but still…

                1. Pomona Sprout*

                  I think that’s what’s called a micro aggression, and yes, those can be tiny (hence the use of “micro”) but nonetheless painful.

            2. Sunshine*

              The majority of people in the UK and USA *are* pro choice though. And given that the most common motivator for abortion is poverty, and (in the UK at least) 1 in 3 women will have had an abortion, statistically at least some of their clients will have had an abortion.

            3. Alton*

              I don’t think it really matters, because the OP isn’t proposing that a pro-choice sticker would necessarily be better. I’m sure not all of the clients are alienated by the sticker, but it’s not like they would be alienated if the sticker wasn’t there.

            4. OP #2*

              Hi, I’m the OP! As others have said, it’s not really about the clients’ stance on abortion. It’s about the fact that many, many of them have had abortions, and that’s why I worry that it reads as judgmental. It’s not really about my stance, either. A coworker brought it up to be me because she was worried about how it would read to clients, and I think she’s right to be concerned. If you’re taking a hard stance against something many, many of your clients have experienced (and they have–both statistically and because I share some of these clients), it’s worth examining. And who knows, if someone were expressing strong views on the other side of things, I might be writing in too, but they’re not, so it’s sort of irrelevant. But I also agree with what others are saying that there’s a different between statements of support and statements of condemnation.

              1. Jadelyn*

                I gotta say, as someone who’s had an abortion, I’d be really disinclined to access services from someone who was overtly anti-abortion. I wouldn’t feel like I could trust them.

                Which is the part you should probably lean on in any conversations about this. It’s not the issue of the person’s beliefs, it’s about their effectiveness in their job and the effect this can have on not only their relationship with clients, but the overall relationship the agency has with clients and the community.

                1. Pomona Sprout*

                  I’ve also had an abortion. It was the only workable choice for me at the time, and I was not harmed by it in any way. When I see an anti-choice bumper sticker on a car, I can’t help but assume thst the person driving it would judge me very harshly if they kbew my history, especially since I’m not riddled with regrets or guilt, like they think I should be. I DEFINITELY wouldn’t want to access services from someonewith thst mindset, and I absolutely agree with your second paragraph .

            5. Michaela Westen*

              Asenath, you are splitting hairs and nitpicking this argument. It’s not about whether you are pro- or anti-choice.
              It’s about not making the clients feel like they will be denied or dissuaded from getting services they might need.
              Some of the clients might need an abortion at some time. This doesn’t mean they are all pro- or anti- anything. That you assume that makes you one of the oppressors.

          2. Ender Wiggin*

            I don’t see anything in OPs letter to indicate that none of her clients “harbor animus towards LGBT folks”. If you personally think that it’s OK to exclude people who “harbor animus towards LGBT folks” but it’s not OK to exclude people who support abortion, then you are of course entitled to your opinion. However OPs employers may disagree. The question is do they want to provide their services to everyone who needs them regardless of politics or do they only want to provide them to people whose politics they agree with. We don’t know OPs organisation and what their goal is. It’s entirely possible that they would be happy with excluding people who “harbor animus to LGBT folk”, in which case they should probably go all out and stick rainbow stickers everywhere. But if they do not intend to exclude people who “harbor animus to LGBT folk” then they shouldn’t put up rainbow stickers.

            I personally support gay rights wholeheartedly but I’m really opposed to this idea that a rainbow flag is somehow excluded from being divisive. It is divisive. The same way a cross is divisive, or a sticker supporting the rights of unborn children is divisive. Or a sticker supporting the rights of post-abortive women is divisive. Or a “support our troops” sticker is divisive. Or wearing a poppy or a lily is divisive. Anything that expresses an opinion on a political hot topic is divisive, and I really think it is disgraceful that people are arguing that political statements they agree with are not divisive, whereas political opinions they oppose are divisive. No. All political statements are divisive and exclusionary to people who disagree with them.

            If your intention is to alienate people you disagree with, then display political symbols. If your intention is not to exclude people, then don’t. But please don’t display political opinions and then try to claim that they are not divisive just because you agree with them.

            1. all aboard the anon train*

              But the difference between a rainbow flag is that it represents a marginalized group, not a political opinion. If I have a rainbow flag, it’s me saying, “I’m queer and this is my representation” which is no different than someone having a cross to show their Christian identity. The only time that becomes divisive is when someone’s a bigot against that part of your identity.

              My sexuality and the physical representation of that is not a political symbol the same way an abortion sticker or a support the troops sticker is, and I resent the idea that I should have to hide a marker of my identity because someone doesn’t want that visible or because it might alienate someone. Alienating someone because of a stance on abortion is one thing because that is a political statement, but alienating someone because of your actual identity is crossing the line into bigotry.

              You can’t say that you support gay rights wholeheartedly and then imply that someone having a rainbow flag is exclusionary to people who don’t support gay rights. That’s disgraceful and frankly, ridiculous. I’m an athiest, but I can’t go around telling people to stop wearing cross necklaces because I might feel excluded just because I’m not part of that religion.

              1. Ender Wiggin*

                Prolifers believe that unborn children are a marginalised group. How is it divisive to believe that one group of humans (unborn children) deserve basic human rights, but not divisive to believe that another group of humans (gay people) deserve basic human rights? Either both are divisive or neither are divisive. You can’t pick and choose and say that supporting one set of human rights is a political statement but supporting another set of human rights is not. Especially when the criteria you are using to decide what is and isn’t divisive is “what do I personally believe is moral”. Most politics IS arguing about who deserves human rights and what those rights should be. Any statement in human rights is a political statement.

                I dearly wish we lived in a world where belief in human rights was not politically divisive. But unfortunately we don’t. Belief in human rights, much as I support it, is demonstrably a divisive issue. Look at this thread. A simple question about whether a rainbow flag is divisive or not has generated 34 comments so far, arguing on both sides. That pretty clear evidence that it IS divisive. Even though I personally agree with human rights for all humans including lgbtqa+ humans, i can’t delude myself into ignoring the fact that it is a divisive issue.

                1. Sunshine*

                  “Prolifers believe that unborn children are a marginalised group”

                  Sure. But they’re wrong, especially under law. Plus there really is a huge difference between being a minority and having a controversial political opinion. People keep conflating the two. But being a bigot is not a protected characteristic. Being gay is.

                  A person has the right to be homophobic. But that’s a choice they’re making and they should be aware that their choice may cause other people to think badly of them, or indeed deny them services.

                  Choosing to be a bigot is not remotely the same as being born gay.

                2. Alton*

                  “Prolifers believe that unborn children are a marginalised group.”

                  They are not, however, unborn children themselves.

                  If you’re drawing a comparison to LGBT rights, a better comparison would be an “ally” sticker or a sticker specifically supporting a political issue like gay marriage.

                  When I wear pride jewelry and buttons, I’m identifying myself as LGBT, not making a statement about politics. There’s no direct comparison here because believing that abortion is wrong is an opinion, not an identity.

                3. all aboard the anon train*

                  You’re basically trying to arguing that me being queer is a political statement, and I take a huge amount of offense that someone can boil down my identity to “you’re making a political statement by existing as you were born”. Shame on you.

                  I’m not going to continue this conversation because clearly you’re not going to change your mind and I don’t want to argue with someone who claims to be allied to my cause but keeps perpetuating harmful ideology and comparisons about my community under the guise of “equality”.

                4. Ender Wiggin*

                  Sunshine: “prolifers are wrong under the law”.

                  Why is that relevant to the display of bumper stickers? If you think that people should only display bumper stickers that the law agrees with, then that’s a pretty scary opinion. That would mean you think people in Northern Ireland shouldn’t display prochoice bumper stickers, or pro gay marriage bumper stickers, because both of those things are currently illegal there, but that people in the rest of the UK should be allowed to display such stickers.

                  Or do you only have the opinion that the law is relevant when it’s a law you happen to agree with?

                5. Ender Wiggin*

                  Both sunshine and Anon train: you’ve both made statements along the lines that displaying a rainbow flag equates to being gay. It doesn’t.

                  Being gay is not a political statement. Being a woman is not a political statement. Displaying a sticker that means you support gay rights is a political statement. Displaying a feminist sticker is also a political statement.

                  I am both pro gay rights and pro women’s rights. However I acknowledge that both of those opinions are political in nature. And I acknowledge that there is a difference between being a woman and choosing to display a feminist message, and that displaying a feminist message could be alienating to some people. And I acknowledge that there is a difference between being gay and choosing to display a message of support for lgbtqia+ rights, and that the latter could be alienating to some people.

                  If you want to think that that makes me a homophobe then I’m not going to lose any sleep over that. I know I’m not a homophobe and im not going to suddenly become one just because I acknowledge that supporting human rights for anyone is a political act and is often divisive.

                6. Sunshine*

                  That’s… not remotely what I meant. Although it’s telling that you picked out that one line to critique. I don’t see supporting human rights as political. I see it as common decency. And right now I’m extremely fed up with moral equivalency arguments of this stripe. Being pro gay rights and being against gay rights are not morally equivalent positions. They are not political positions. And I wasn’t calling you a homophobe, I was lamenting that in society we appear to be treating bigots as though their views are equally important to those of the minorities they want to hurt. Overall I’d keep bumper stickers off work related cars altogether, but I’d be a lot more sympathetic toward Jane being gay and displaying a rainbow sticker than if Jane was displaying a sticker designed to hurt her client’s feelings. And yes, I get that some bigots may well have their feelings hurt by Jane being born gay. So what? That really isn’t equivalent to women who have accessed a safe and legal procedure feeling unsafe around their social worker.

              2. Alton*

                I agree. The rainbow flag is only political because people have decided that my mere existence is political. I didn’t make it so.

              3. Database Developer Dude*

                And if I’ve got a rainbow flag sticker on my car, as a cis-het male, this is me saying “I don’t have any issue with LBGTQ+ folk, and if you do, keep it to yourself, because I’m not trying to hear it”. That is definitely political.

                Having said that, you can’t tell someone’s sexual orientation just by looking at them. The only reason you know I’m straight is because I’m telling you, and the only reason I know you’re queer is because you told me.

                The point is that a bumper sticker may or may not be interpreted in the way the person having it means it.

                1. Alton*

                  Honestly, perhaps this is just my experience, but I’ve never known a straight/cis ally who displayed pride symbols as a form of allyship. Symbols and logos associated with specific organizations and causes, yes, but not generic pride symbols. I don’t find it inappropriate, but I’d definitely assume they were LGBT.

                  I would see it like a non-Christian wearing a cross to show support of Christians or something.

                2. all aboard the anon train*

                  Yes, but the difference is I’m in a marginalized group and you’re not. Your decision to support my community can be deemed political, but my sexuality is not a political statement. It’s like saying someone who is Jewish is making a political statement just because they’re Jewish and that might offend someone who isn’t Jewish. It’s taking someone’s identity and Othering them, and you’re crossing a fine line when you start implying that a person of a certain marginalized group cannot display an icon of their identity without being political.

                3. Temperance*

                  @Alton, I’m a straight person who is very open about my support of the queer community, and I do have a giant rainbow LOVE sticker on my office window.

                4. Properlike*

                  @Alton – cis-het couple here, wrote into our house purchase contract that the rainbow stained glass pride flag stayed in the front window. :) We’re an extremely progressive town in the Midwest, so this is actually not unusual. Many white folks also have BLM signs in their yards.

                5. Humble Schoolmarm*

                  I’m cis-het and I have a rainbow flag in my classroom. I want to make sure my students know that LGBT+ kids are welcome. I suppose I should have an Ally symbol instead, but I teach 12-year-olds and the flag is a recognizable symbol. I’m also Canadian, and that might make a difference.

              4. Anon4*

                When you your job is to help low income people you don’t get to decide that they have to be good people (by whatever standards you have-and I suspect your standards would be similar to mine) in order to be comfortable with and not feel alienated by you. A doctor doesn’t get to not treat a racist either. Now, *ideally* if there really was somebody you couldn’t stand to be around (because, say, they were spouting their bigoted views unprompted) you could ask someone else to take over. But if bumper stickers that proclaim an opinion on a divisive topic are out you don’t get a pass because the only people who would have a problem are bigots.

                1. Ender Wiggin*

                  Exactly. If you are trying to provide services to marginalised poor people you don’t get to decide for example I’m going to provide services only to prochoice homeless people, or only to pro gay rights homeless people. OP had said above that this is not a prochoice organisation and it doesn’t appear to be a political organisation at all. Therefore the rule should be either “no policital displays at all” or “all political displays (excluding incitement to violence) are welcome”.

                  I am politically very similar to the majority of people on this board on most topics but I am continually angered by the group think here and the absolute certainty some posters have that their beliefs are the only ones that should he respected and anyone who believes differently on any topic is inferior to them and usually a bigot to boot. People far to quick to throw around accusations of bigotry on here, though that’s par for the course on most of the Internet in fairness.

                2. bonkerballs*

                  Mmmm…yes and no. I have only ever worked in non profits and social services and while we certainly served clients who were racist and homophobic, we absolutely had behavioral standards our clients had to follow. For example, certain clients could hate black people all they wanted, but while they were in program space, they would not use language such as the n word, they would treat black clients using the same space with respect, and they could not make our program space unsafe or uncomfortable for our black clients. And if they couldn’t do that, they could leave. And if they wouldn’t do that I would have them removed. Substitute black people for women, trans people, gay people, disabled people, other people of color, whatever. I won’t police your opinions, but you don’t just get to be a dick.

              5. Pomona Sprout*

                “You can’t say that you support gay rights wholeheartedly and then imply that someone having a rainbow flag is exclusionary to people who don’t support gay rights.”

                Sadly, many of the people who oppose those rights find the rainbow flag to be an affront to their beliefs. :-/ For example: religious fundamentalists who strongly oppose things like the legalization of same sex marriage and believe that trans people should be required to use the public restroom that corresponds to their chromosomes rather than their gender identity and who feel the lgbtq community “stole” the rainbow for their own use (to these folks, the rainbow is “supposed” to stand for the promises God made to Noah and NOTHING else). These people DO exist, unfortunately, and TO THEM, the rainbow flag IS political and exclusionary. In some geographic areas, they make up a sizeable percentage of the population.

            2. PennyParker*

              In full agreement. There is a lot of hypocrisy in the stance that “my beliefs are not political, but yours are!” ALL political beliefs belong out of the workplace. Also, if it is a federal agency it is government discrimination to force people to deal with your beliefs, even if simply a bumper sticker. Once you are working a job for the government you are representing the government!

                1. Observer*

                  Are you trying to suggest that everyone with a rainbow sticker is gay and that all gay people must have rainbow stickers?

                2. Ender Wiggin*

                  Being gay is not a political statement. Displaying a pro gay rights sticker is. Being a woman is not a political statement. Displaying a feminist sticker is. Being adopted or being a post abortive woman is not a political statement. Displaying a prolife or prochoice sticker is.

                  See the difference? No one here is saying we oppose gay rights, we are simply acknowledging the simple fact that displaying a gay rights sticker is a political statement and can be divisive and alienating to some people. The same as displaying any other sticker supporting human rights such as a prolife sticker or an anti death penalty sticker or an antiwar sticker is. All statements of support for human rights are political statements, and most are divisive.

                  If no one opposed those rights there simply wouldn’t be a market for the bumper stickers in the first place. There’s no such thing as a bumper sticker for a non-divisive issue.

              1. Kasia*

                I’m a further restricted employee under the Hatch Act, and while partisan politics are forbidden, we are generally free to express non-partisan beliefs, even if those beliefs are strongly associated with a political party. So a MAGA hat or that Obama HOPE poster wouldn’t be allowed, but anti-abortion or pro gay rights stuff would both be OK. I’m surprised to hear that another agency would be stricter, I thought the further restricted Hatch Act was as strict as it got.

                To give others an idea of the strictness of the further restricted Hatch Act, liking a partisan politician on your personal facebook or instagram is considered distributing campaign materials and is not allowed.

            3. Temperance*

              No. A rainbow sticker signifies that LGBT folks are welcome. An anti-abortion sticker can very well stigmatize your client base, and is a valueless political statement.

              1. LJay*

                What if it were a cross or a Jesus fish instead? Then it is a statement of their values and an indication that people of the Christian faith are welcome. However, it could also be off-putting to the clients of their values don’t align with mainstream Christian values (whether the person displaying the bumper sticker shares all of those values or not).

                What if the main client base is a population that tends to be homophobic? Is the rainbow flag still okay when it’s known that at least some of the clients will find it off-putting or misaligned with their values?

                1. Ender Wiggin*

                  This a million times this.

                  Also, where I live a rainbow sticker is not usually interpreted to mean “gay people are welcome” and so is anyone else. It’s usually interpreted to mean “I believe gay people should be allowed get married and adopt children”. And by extension “if you don’t support gay marriage you are never t welcome”. I personally agree with and voted for the rights of lgbtqia+ people to get married and adopt children, but I don’t see how anyone can delude themselves that this is not a divisive and political opinion.

                  If you are OK with alienating people who oppose gay marriage by all means stick up rainbow flags all over your car, house, business. But it sounds like OPs organisation is not intended to select clients based on their political beliefs, but on their need for services. So in that case I don’t think it would be appropriate. No one is alienated by not having any bumper stickers at all.

                  Of course if OPs organisation does want to alienate homophobes or prolifers then they absolutely should stick up gay rights flags. The homophobes will self-select out. It really depends on the goal of the organisation.

                2. Ender Wiggin*

                  Oops the “prolifers” wasn’t supposed to be in there. I started to make a point about how you could exclude anyone by putting up stickers that alienate them like excluding prolifers by putting up prochoice stickers but it got confusing and long so I deleted that. Accidentally left in a “prolifers” where it didn’t belong. Sorry for confusion.

                3. Temperance*

                  Not really comparable since Christians aren’t an oppressed minority in the US, so there’s no need to signal that you support Christians.

                  I don’t think we need to cater to homophobes. Just like we don’t need to cater to racists or sexists.

            4. Emily K*

              I think it’s acceptable to tell an employee, “You cannot have bumper stickers that indicate you harbor hostility towards groups who may be represented among our clientele.”

              That’s different from telling an employee, “You cannot have bumper stickers that indicate you’re a member of a group our clientele may harbor hostility towards.”

              Both might be done, but they aren’t the same situation. Asking someone to conceal who they are from potential bigots is a sad but sometimes necessary practicality. Asking someone to conceal their hostility is workplace manners.

        2. Eliza*

          I do think there’s a difference between a political message expressing general support for a group of people and one expressing opposition to something specific that people do, and that the latter has more potential to be alienating.

          1. Ender Wiggin*

            I think this comment thread and this comment in particular is a really good example of differences in perception. People who oppose abortion do so because they support a group of people (unborn children) that they feel are being poorly treated. That’s why they use the term prolife rather than antichoice or anti abortion. You may perceive them as opposing women’s choices, but they do not perceive themselves that way. Would you feel the same way about an anti-death-penalty sticker? That is opposing “something specific people” do in the same way that a prolife sticker is. You could even say that a sticker saying gay sex is wrong is opposing “something specific people do”. You could even say a rainbow flag is opposing something specific people do, in that fighting against gay rights is a specific thing people do. The point is that lots of political opinions oppose things people do, you can’t say that in itself makes the opinion more divisive than any other political opinion.

            I think this is a good example of how different people can see the same sticker and interpret it in completely different ways.

            I personally know people who would be alienated by a prolife sticker, people who would be alienated by a prochoice sticker, people who would be alienated by a rainbow flag, and people who would be alienated by a Christian symbol.

            If the goal is not to alienate people then I think ALL political, religious or potentially divisive stickers should be banned, not just the ones that you or OP happen to disagree with. There are plenty of prolifers who meet the description OP gave of her clients, so it would be very strange to ban prolife stickers and not prochoice stickers. Also I imagine that OPs clients include both people who support lgbtqia+ rights, and people who don’t. Once you start arguing that expressing support for one group of people (lgbtqia+) is acceptable but expressing support for another group of people (unborn children) is not, then you are bringing your own personal opinion into it. Either all divisive displays are banned or none. Can’t have it both ways.

            However I think the bigger issue is the fact that employees are being required to use their own cars, so it’s not really fair to put limits on what they display on their car. If the organisation wants to police what the cars look like, they really need to provide the cars to the employees or at least make a significant enough contribution to the cost of owning a car that they would have some legitimate claim over the appearance of the car. OP doesn’t say how well compensated the staff are for using their own cars. That’s the key issue I think.

            1. Constanze*

              1) Please stop referring to foetuses as people or children.
              2) This is really derailing.
              3) Could we not have anti-choice speeches here ? Thanks.

              1. Harper the Other One*

                I don’t think this was an anti-choice speech – Ender Wiggin didn’t give any sense of their personal beliefs, just illuminated how two opposing viewpoints can both consider their positions/perspectives the valid one.

                The key point in that comment is that it would be very difficult to create a policy that excludes certain stickers but not other stickers without creating appearance of bias or alienating some of the clients. I personally would disagree with that stance. I think having a rainbow flag sticker, for example, indicates a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people; there may be those with will disagree with that sticker but that doesn’t make them feel unsafe in the car. Similarly, I think a pro-choice sticker would be acceptable, but an anti-abortion sticker would quite likely make many clients feel unsafe or judged.

                But also an important point is the question of how much an employer can/should control a personal vehicles being used for operations. Maybe this employer should consider a small vehicle fleet for driving clients, if it’s feasible.

                1. Katniss*

                  Just my opinion, people claiming to be pro-life have murdered people who have had abortions and abortion providers. There’s also plenty of reason for a person who has had an abortion to worry that a caseworker with an anti-choice sticker will judge them.

                2. Observer*

                  You are factually wrong about one thing- lots of people would NOT feel safe with someone with a “pro-choice” sticker. Because you can say what you want, but for a lot of people is most definitely DOES mean “pro abortion”, and people who in a vulnerable situation who do not want an abortion are going to worry about the implications of the pro-abortion sticker.

                  Please don’t tell me that this has not been your experience, etc. This is most definitely the way that many people feel. And it’s often tied to real experiences that people have had.

                  If abortion is common in the community you serve, there should not ANY stickers – not pro, not against.

                3. Ender Wiggin*

                  People claiming to be pro-choice have murdered plenty of people too. Kermit gosnell is americas biggest serial killer – and that’s only if you count the babies that it was proved he murdered after they were delivered. He probably illegally murdered many many more that he wasn’t convicted of. And please note I’m not in any way including the late term foetuses he illegally and legally aborted, I’m only counting the babies he illegally murdered after delivery. If “prolifers have committed murders and therefore a prolife sticker is scarier than a prochoice sticker” is your argument then youre on pretty shaky ground.

                4. Nita*

                  I think it’s not just about feeling unsafe in the car. It’s also about creating preconceptions of how the social worker will view the client and whether they’ll judge them, or even put less effort into helping them, if their beliefs differ big time. That sort of thing can happen whether the sticker in question is liberal or conservative. Probably better to avoid stickers altogether for that reason. Of course people are different, and not everyone will be able to distance themselves from that at work, but there should be more effort to put distance between one’s beliefs and the client’s needs when serving an already vulnerable population.

                5. Anon4*

                  “there may be those with will disagree with that sticker but that doesn’t make them feel unsafe in the car”
                  Yes… some of them would. They think you are the kind of person that wants to “force your views down their throat” and will be worried that you think their lack of acceptance is intolerable and that if you sense they disagree with you you will violently try to bring them around to your worldview.
                  ^not something I agree with, but something I’m all too familiar with.

                6. Katniss*

                  Ender, pro-choice people haven’t murdered other people SPECIFICALLY for being forced birthers, but forced birthers have murdered people SPECIFICALLY for having, providing, or supporting abortions.

                7. sourgold*

                  @Observer: are you serious? What could pro-choice people with stickers on their cars even do to people who don’t want an abortion? Do you imagine they might abduct them and force them to terminate a wished-for pregnancy, or what.

                  What are the implications of a pro-choice sticker apart from ‘I will respect your choice’?

                8. Warren*

                  Look I’ve got to be honest here. The very thought of abortion fills me with disgust and horror. If I find out someone’s openly advocating for it it’s going to be a sticking point for me. If I find out someone’s directly involved in providing it (in any capacity) I’ll want nothing to do with that person. Not because I think they’re going to attack me, but because of the thought of what they’ve done to others. So, yes a pro-choice sticker can cause offense, maybe even fear. I know it might offend some people for me to say that, but you asked, so…

                  If you want to avoid offending people at work then just ban *all* controversial expressions, not just the ones you disagree with, instead of engaging in an exercise in special pleading.

                9. Nita*

                  @sourgold – of course that’s not going to happen! But I’ve seen pro-choice play out as, well, not exactly ‘I will respect your choice’ recently. Granted, it was on an online forum, not in real life – but there were a couple of posts by women who were struggling with the decision of whether to have an abortion, and the responses were overwhelmingly in favor of that. Anyone who suggested they may be able to make things work should they choose to have the child was responded to very harshly, and it basically felt like there was an unspoken assumption that abortion is the way to go. Incidentally, in both cases the OPs were very torn about what to do – they were not really leaning one way or the other, and their life circumstances didn’t make either decision the clearly right one.

                  I suppose a social services provider with very strong pro-choice feelings could put spoken, or unspoken pressure not to have the baby on a client who is struggling to make ends meet. That’s not really any better than putting pressure to have the baby on someone who’s decided to have an abortion. Either way, they’re in a very difficult and vulnerable position and really don’t need to be pressured by the person who’s supposed to be helping them.

                10. Observer*

                  @Sourgold, is that a serious question?

                  If you are someone who is dependent on SocialWorker to deal with a difficult situation, that social worker’s disapproval can literally be life threatening to you. And even when it is not that extreme, it can make a HUGE difference. Just like the person who is getting / had an abortion may worry that the social worker is going to put less effort into helping, the person who doesn’t want the abortion is going to worry (and with good reason!) that the social worker is going to put less effort – or even stymie – their efforts because of their views on abortion.

                  I’ve seen this type of thing play out, not just around abortion. For instance, I know of a number of child welfare cases that were opened primarily because the person doing the initial assessment (eg at a hospital ER) didn’t “approve” of “those people” who have “too many children”. In one case that I know of the social worker actually brought family size up as a reason for scolding a parent – even though they actually only had 2 children. The social worked also make a number of factual mis-statements in the intake report, as well.

                  So, yeah, people have legitimate reason to worry about “liberal” people when they are vulnerable and in need of someone’s help and / or approval.

                11. sourgold*

                  @Observer here’s the thing, though. If those persons you describe are trying to force a decision on anyone, then they are not, by definition, pro-choice. Their behaviour is reprehensible. But if they attempt to shame or punish vulnerable families for having children, what they are advocating is the exact opposite of choice.

                12. Ender Wiggin*

                  Alison the comment of mine you removed was solely about kernit gosnells illegal murder of many innocent babies after they were born. I very specifically and intentionally did NOT include the abotions he performed in my claim that he was far more bloodthirsty than any prolifer. You did not remove the comment above about how prolifers are murderers, yet you removed my comment about a convicted prochoice mass murderer, which was a direct response to the comment that prolifers are murderers.

                  If you are going to post letters mentioning abortion but not allow abortion debate (!) then can I ask that you also remove the comment above about prolifers being murderers, instead of only policing one side of the debate?

                13. Observer*

                  @Sourgold, could we stop pretending here? Of course this is reprehensible. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. It happens ALL THE TIME.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Y’all, I am not going to host an abortion debate here, so please stop submitting comments that attempt to do that. Some that went to moderation are going to stay there, and I’ve removed this particularly inflammatory one.

                2. Cheesehead*

                  As someone who was once the unwanted foetus in a teenage pregnancy, I actually find pro-choice stickers feel somewhat hostile to me. It’s not entirely rational, but my perception is that most people who feel strongly enough about abortion to slap a bumper sticker on their car would probably have advised my mother to terminate her pregnancy if she asked their opinion, which ends up feeling like that person thinks I shouldn’t exist. Guessing this vulnerable population could include a few people like me who were born from unwanted pregnancies, so that’s my two cents on how a prochoice sticker could be alienating to some.

              2. Roscoe*

                I disagree with everything you are saying here, and I’m pro choice. Its not derailing, its making a very valid point that one can’t just say “X political issue is divisive because I don’t agree with it, but Y political issue isn’t because its supporting a group”. They are both divisive, some people just want to chose when its ok to be divisive

            2. Recovering Journalist...*

              Well worded, Ender-Wiggin!

              Constanze — it seems to me your comments prove Ender-Wiggin’s point.

            3. Alton*

              I’m about as liberal as you can get, and yes, I see a difference between a pro-choice sticker or an anti-death penalty sticker and the rainbow flag. Those first two things are beliefs that I have, and I don’t necessarily need to share those at work unprompted. Being queer is a basic part of who I am. It’s not a political stance or opinion and it’s not something I should have to hide.

              It’s like the difference between someone wearing a cross necklace (a statement that they’re Christian) vs. putting a proselytizing sign on their desk (a statement of a particular opinion that others might be uncomfortable with). The former is fine at work. The latter, not so much.

              1. Genny*

                I agree with the distinction you made, but I think the question then becomes is the rainbow flag a symbol of who you are or a statement of a particular opinion. Does that change when a non-LGBT person displays the rainbow flag? I haven’t really thought much about it, but I can see both sides of that argument.

            4. Lance*

              ‘However I think the bigger issue is the fact that employees are being required to use their own cars, so it’s not really fair to put limits on what they display on their car.’

              To be honest, I don’t really agree with this. Yes, the best case may be to provide company-owned vehicles for transportation uses, but as they are not at this time, they’re representing their company, to a degree, with their own vehicles… which means potentially inflammatory messages should be kept off (and it’s not as though they’re asking to change the vehicle in any significant way; removing or covering a bumper sticker, at least while on the job, isn’t terribly difficult). See for example, the fat-shaming sticker on someone’s truck in a letter some time ago.

            5. Bostonian*

              It doesn’t seem like the goal is to not alienate anyone, but rather not to alienate the clients they are serving (e.g., anti-immigration sticker has a high chance of alienating people seeking ESL or naturalization support). It’s about knowing the population.

        3. Kate Kane*

          Not really. The fact someone with a rainbow sticker is likely in a group of people who encounters genuine oppression puts a whole other spin on asking them to remove that sticker. Someone with an anti-abortion bumper sticker isn’t oppressed, they have a divisive opinion, so asking them to remove it isn’t a double standard.

        4. Lissa*

          Hmm….I think that a rainbow sticker on its own isn’t equivalent to an anti-abortion bumper sticker. There are pro-LGBT stickers I think that would be overtly political and that’s more of a grey area I guess, but I think an agency/business etc gets to say “We are OK alienating anti-gay people, but we don’t want to alienate people who might’ve had abortions.”

          I don’t think it’s ever really clear cut what counts as “political/controversial” though. It isn’t always an easy call – sometimes it is, like if I say “I don’t want to see pro-Candidate I hate shirts, then I also need to ban Candiate I like shirts”, I think that’s pretty obvious even if you are really really sure you’re right and they’re wrong. But is having a rainbow sticker any more political than someone say, having a picture of them with their partner on the desk/dashboard?

          1. Jasnah*

            This is where I come down on it. I think there’s a difference between saying “yay thing” and “boo thing” especially when one is in the direction of expanding choices and one is in the direction of restricting choices. So I would be ok with “yay skirts for everyone!” but not with “boo pants are for squares!” even though those are the same message.

            1. Myrin*

              Yeah, this is a very concise way of putting it. I’m reminded of my sixth grade math teacher; we had to come up with some kind of questionnaire/survey thing to ask other pupils and he said it’s okay to have “Who’s your favourite teacher?” as a question, but not “Who’s your least favourite teacher?”.

                1. Myrin*

                  I mean, this was supposed to be a fun little thing to help our teacher show us how to analyse data which we then made posters out of to hang up at school during the last few days of the school year, not some highly regulated survey initiated by the principal to weed out bad teachers – I don’t really think a poster publicly proclaiming “80% of students think Mr. Bumblebee is just the worst” would have been in the right spirit of this particular exercise.

                  (Also, we were twelve – in hindsight, I can see that while some some teachers were disliked for entirely justifiable reasons, some were definitely lumped in with those because they were strict or because you actually had to do work, so I don’t know how objectively useful something like this would’ve been anyway.)

                2. Julia*

                  But the items on the survey were actual people. Imagine asking “favorite classmate” and “least favorite classmate” and then making those results public. Don’t you think whoever gets voted least favorite would go home in tears?

            2. Psyche*

              I don’t think that that really works as the standard though. If someone were saying “yay thing” for something clearly offensive, it would not really be ok even though it is framed as a positive. There are areas that are difficult to say whether it counts as political, but avoiding clearly political statements its probably best in this scenario. No one is going to argue that pro-life or pro-choice bumper stickers are not political.

            3. Michaela Westen*

              “So I would be ok with “yay skirts for everyone!”
              If someone *loved* wearing pants and was *very* uncomfortable in skirts, this could be a scary and discouraging message. Wondering if they’d be forced to wear skirts, wondering if they’d be judged and punished…

          2. Harper the Other One*

            I mentioned this in a comment above, but to me a rainbow sticker indicates a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people; some may disagree with the sticker but they don’t feel unsafe in the car because of it. To me there is a big difference between “clients could take issue with your stance” and “clients will not feel safe/comfortable engaging with you.”

            But political parties/individual candidates? That would be a lot thornier, I think.

            1. Julia*

              I agree. A rainbow flag indicates that you think peoples’ sexualities (which are not choices) belong to them, nothing more.
              With abortion, I can maybe see both sides (although I am heavily on one side), but with homosexuality, that’s just peoples’ lives.

            2. MarieAlice*

              To be honest, I think it might not be so simple.

              By displaying a rainbow flag you’re not merely supporting the LGBTQ community, you’re explicitely communicating that you are supporting them. And to many people that feels like you’re against heterosexuals and the traditional family. It’s almost like opposing sports teams, if you’re for one, you are against the others. Many people might also read other things into a rainbow flag. Like you’re being a feminist, a liberal, an activist, pro-choice, an atheist or at least someone who doesn’t want to follow the ‘right path’. And maybe that’s not too big a deal if you are the gardener, but if you are a social worker, whom people share their problems with, it might be a problem, and people might not feel safe engaging with you, even if you only intend to say ‘everyone’s sexuality belongs to them and them only’.

              The other way round, I wouldn’t be bothered too much if my gardener had a pro-life bumpersticker on their car (I mean, it’s not my view, but they’re here to mow the lawn, not to engage in deep personal conversations or to advice me on my pregnancy), but if my social worker or psychologist were to have one, it would bother me, as would a pro-choice sticker. (But I live in a country where stickers usually say ‘baby on board’, or ‘I drove at Nürburgring/Francorchamps’ or advertise something, we don’t typically use our cars to talk politics).

              I’m not saying this is a correct way of interpreting a rainbow flag (it often isn’t) but I’ve experienced this many times during crisis counselling. Many people told me things like ‘I’m glad I’m talking to you now, because your colleague seems to be a lesbian and she will not understand this. Nothing against gay people, but…’ or about a coworker who wears a cross ‘I’m afraid to speak to her about xyz, because she might get offended, you know, being catholic’. (She wears it under her sweater or shirt, it’s on a long necklace, but sometimes when she bends over, it falls out.) People communicate more than they think they do.

              So, I think I would argue for, well, no bumperstickers if you need your car for work.

              1. Julia*

                “And to many people that feels like you’re against heterosexuals and the traditional family.”

                That’s pure conjecture, though. I understand that on the abortion spectrum, the views are by definition not compatible, but someone supporting LGBTQ+ rights can support everyone’s rights at the same time. (Being a bigot isn’t a right.)

                I also think that if someone refuses to get help from a social worker because that social worker “appears to be a lesbian”, that’s on them. (Religious symbols are banned when in office where I’m from.) How about “I don’t want her help, she’s not white”?

                1. Middle School Teacher*

                  But it’s not. Again, I love in a very conservative area. I know a lot of places where support of the LGBTQ+ community will be interpreted as a direct attack against the heterosexual population and the “traditional family”. For you it’s conjecture. For me it’s not because I have seen it in action. That’s what I was trying to say in my comments above. One commenter said having a rainbow sticker on a car would be indicating this is a safe space. It so so depends on where you are. In some places, it’s like having a target on your back.

                2. Julia*

                  Sorry, I’m not saying your statement is conjecture, I’m saying that people who choose to interpret a rainbow flag as an attack on heterosexuality (wtf) are doing so without any rhyme or reason.
                  LGBTQ+ people still need safe spaces, and even more so when the rest of the population apparently thinks they have an “agenda”.

                3. Database Developer Dude*

                  While to you it may be pure conjecture that supporting LBGTQA+ means that, the mindset is still there.

                  I don’t agree with it, but it’s there, and has to be dealt with.

                4. Michaela Westen*

                  “interpret a rainbow flag as an attack on heterosexuality (wtf) ”
                  this is part of the Christian fascist fundamentalist mindset. They see themselves as being the good ones who follow the bible, and anyone who doesn’t agree with them and follow their rules is, by definition, against them and trying to destroy them.
                  Creating this us-against-them and under-siege mentality is one of the ways fascists control their followers.

              2. Sunshine*

                I agree overall that no bumper stickers would be safest but there really is a qualitative difference between:

                “I support a marginalised group.”


                “I disapprove of a political position.”

              3. Neptune*

                I think this is a key point: “Many people might also read other things into a rainbow flag.“ I think this is also a huge part of the problem with the anti-abortion sticker – rightly or wrongly, a sticker like that won’t just be taken as an opinion about that specific issue, but as a proxy for a huge number of other, equally divisive issues. A client who has never had an abortion might still be made to feel unsafe by such a sticker, because it raises a lot of questions about what other opinions the car-owner holds – what do they think about gay people? Non-Christians? Single mothers? Transgender people? Immigrants? Even if those fears are completely unfounded, the question has still been raised and that might be enough to prevent that person from accessing a valuable service. So yes, I think that should be a no to any such stickers if the car is being used for work.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  Or if the client might need an abortion in the future and wants to be sure of receiving unbiased counseling.

              4. Nita*

                That’s kind of where I come down. It’s not political to live a certain set of beliefs, but when you turn them into a bumper sticker/pin/flag, things get more complicated. And yes, it’s possible for someone to interpret even a rainbow flag as “you’re not welcome” It’s not the same level of “not welcome” as the anti-abortion sticker, but there are people in every group who will jump to extremes, and bite the head off anyone who doesn’t think like them.

              5. Database Developer Dude*

                Bumper stickers –
                If the worker is required to use their personal car for work, then yes, I can see asking that bumper stickers be removed. It has to be across the board, *all* political views, though, and don’t play favorites.
                Using your personal car for work is highly dependent on the work. I’m a software and database engineer, and even when I’m on the client site, my car is not used to transport clients, ever. It’s only used to get me from place to place, so I would look very askance at a demand or even a request that I remove something….and that’s happened. I’m a Mason, and a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, and I have the car decals on either side of my license plate. Someone whose child is the taekwondo class where I’m an assistant instructor objected. Of course, I ignored them. We’re teaching their kids taekwondo, not indoctrinating them into anything.

            3. iglwif*

              ” to me a rainbow sticker indicates a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people”

              Yes. And because many spaces are *not* safe for LGBTQIA+ people, who in many places constitute a marginalized and at-risk group, that’s a positive message in a way that an anti-abortion bumper sticker really, really isn’t.

              That goes quintuple if your agency happens to work with homeless youth, because SO MANY of them are homeless as a direct result of their family’s reaction to their sexuality and/or gender identity.

            1. Ender Wiggin*

              Need to remove this one too Alison if you’re really intending to remove all abortion debate.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Honestly, I feel that a “no bumper stickers on your car at all” rule would be the best way to handle it. That way you wouldn’t have to get into what bumper stickers are ok and not ok. I don’t think it’s an unusual rule for companies where you use your car for company business either. In this case your car is a representation of the company in some way and the company doesn’t want to get into any unnecessary opinions, even if that opinion is that my child is an honor student.
        When I interact with customers at my work they don’t go into it knowing that I have a Darwin fish on my car, or any of my political stances or that I really like dragons and I think it is easier to get a professional relationship started without them knowing any of that. So I think that this place should start with the same starting point most of us get to work with.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, I work in social services and am not even allowed to have pictures of my family on my desk, so it seems pretty reasonable to not have bumper stickers on my car. It does feel a little different since the car is my personal property in a way that my desk isn’t, but I think most people in social services understand that one of the downsides of our job is being a little more careful about our public personas – locking down our FB pages, etc.

        2. SadieMae*

          I agree “no bumper stickers” makes the most sense when driving clients in your personal car.

          I use magnetic strips to affix bumper stickers to my car so that they can be easily removed when necessary. (They stay on just fine – haven’t lost one yet!) Employees could use those – or, if they want to stick bumper stickers directly on their cars, they could obscure them as needed by putting a blank magnetic strip on top.

        3. Genny*

          After reading this really interesting thread, this is where I land on the topic too. If your goal is not to alienate your clients, you’re best bet is to ban all bumper stickers since you can’t possibly know where your clients stand on every issue.

          1. Ender Wiggin*

            This is where I stand too. Either all are banned or none are banned. I do think though that if its your own personal car and they are going to control what you can put on it, they need to reimburse you more than just paying for gas!

    4. Daffy Duck*

      In the rural mid-west where I live a rainbow flag would be considered very political. It would probably be least welcome among the population in need of social services. A very high-end real estate professional (more likely to work with liberal clients) or a medical specialist (extremely short supply) could probably get away with a minor loss of business although the general feeling is your vehicle will be more likely to be keyed.
      Personally, I think this area needs to see MORE of this sort of thing (non-aggressive, non-hateful expression).

      1. Sunshine*

        The problem I have with this stance is that I’d bet dollars to donuts that a lot of people who need social services are, in fact, LGBTQA. While white, masculine appearing gay men have achieved some economic prosperity, figures show that marginalised groups are the most likely to be homeless or in need of help (due to discrimination).

        1. Warren*

          I’m not trying to be inflammatory here but I think this is wrong. Statistically LGBTQ folks are actually BETTER off economically than the national average. That doesn’t mean none of them are ever in need of help, and I know homelessness is often a problem for LGBTQ youths. But I wouldstill bet that social workers in the mid-west are a lot more likely to find clients flying a Confederate flag then a rainbow flag. Of course I don’t know this for a fact, and if anyone has any experience please enlighten me.

          Does that mean no one working there should have a rainbow sticker? I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t say that a rainbow is bad while “Build the Wall” is okay. Maybe it’s better to err on the side of discretion and ban all bumper stickers.

          1. Sunshine*

            Certain *types* of LGBTQ folks are better off. As I said, it’s most white, gender conforming gay men that are doing well economically; their poverty rates are roughly equivalent to white straight men. But 24% of gay / bisexual women live in poverty (compared to 19% heterosexual women). An African-American same-sex couple is 3 x more likely to live in poverty than a white same sex couple. And trans people are twice as likely to be unemployed. Three times in some areas.

            On top of that more than 60% of LGBT Americans live in the South, Mid West or Mountain states; i.e. places where they are politically and socially disenfranchised.

            1. DaffyDuck*

              Sunshine, I am not disagreeing with your statistics, but in my experience, the great majority of LGBTQ folks here move away from rural areas and to the “big city” which is perceived as safer. E.g., there is a huge difference between living in Austin, TX or Denver, CO and a town of 300 people out in the sticks. Rural communities are disappearing rapidly and the majority of all young people are leaving, teasing out movement due to lack of jobs vs social pressures and the interactions between the two is fairly complicated.
              I am not sure what problem you have with the idea that if MORE people were willing to have flag bumper stickers in my area (despite the chance of vandalism from hateful folks) we would have a better chance to change the culture.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                You don’t have to be LGBTQ to not want to live in an area with few jobs, almost no good jobs, and an intolerant hateful culture. This is why young people leave.

                1. TL -*

                  Woah. I grew up in one of those small towns that didn’t support gay marriage but we absolutely did love and support the few out people in our high school. We weren’t hateful on a personal level (structural, sure) but comments like that are why the rainbow flag would be a turn off.

                2. Galatea*

                  @tl – so on the one hand you literally don’t think gay couples should have the same rights as you, but you really ~support LGBTQ people, unless we’re too strident about our rights or being afraid, in which case seeing the tamest possible expression of pride is a “turn off”? I mean — WOW.

                3. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

                  @tl – I’d be interested to hear from the “few out people in your high school” about how un-hateful you were. I hope they had the resources to move far, far away.

                4. Michaela Westen*

                  @TL, even if you’re correct that gays were/are not personally discriminated against, who would want to stay in a place where the structure is against them?

              2. Sunshine*

                Eh? The stats disagree with you. I think you’ve misinterpreted entirely what I was saying. My point was that pandering to homophobes when you’re working with low income populations is likely to have a negative affect on LGBT people, many of whom are poor.

    5. Bobstinacy*

      In Canada it’s still very political in most places. See all the news stories about people intentionally defacing pride flags and crosswalks in the last year alone.

      Also as a queer Canadian woman my ex girlfriend and I were called slurs on a regular basis walking around holding hands in Vancouver. We’re not a utopia and pretending we are holds back progress.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        Canada is a big place, and I imagine it varies depending on where you are (though I’m surprised you experienced blowback in Vancouver).

        I live in Ontario, and I believe I’ve seen rainbows and the like on assorted social services buildings (which I have used). For those looking to access those services (food banks, low-cost counseling, etc), I suppose the choice would be to either access the services anyway, or choose not to – and likely pay a higher price elsewhere – if you do not want to access services that also provide services for LGBT+ people. I’ve been lucky enough never to encounter someone sufficiently bigoted that they would refuse services for themselves for that reason, but I do imagine they exist.

        That said, if it’s a government-provided service, as opposed to a charity, I could see it being an issue, if for no other reason than it’s superfluous. It’s assumed that government services are provided to all citizens, they don’t need to advertise themselves as “LGBT+ friendly”, and I could see it being interpreted in that light as more of a political/”liberal” stance if someone displayed a rainbow or similar.

        1. fieldpoppy*

          As a queer person, what I assume when I see a rainbow sticker about safe space for services, I assume it means “we are not going to police which bathroom you use based on the length of your hair and your M/F of centre appearance, and if I mention my partner or someone uses a they pronoun, no one is going to bat an eye.” I assume it means the people providing the services have some cultural competency about queer people, which I do not assume everywhere. There is a difference.

    6. Tardigrade*

      I think it’s easiest to suggest that cars used to drive clients should have no stickers of any kind. That removes the debate about which stickers are acceptable.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        It also would help start the relationship off without any preconceptions, which I think would be equally helpful. Even something like “Oh they like that sports team who is the enemy of my better sports team” can be better left out of a delicate relationship with someone who is vulnerable and will need to trust you. A no bumper sticker rule is better all around.

      2. TheBeetsMotel*

        What about less-than-steller license plates?

        I had a co-worker once whose plates were “BIYYOTCH” or something close. I must admit, I always thought “You’re a professional in your 40’s… really?”

    7. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Very tongue-in-cheek, but if it’s rainbow with a Care Bear or a My Little Pony attached, you’re probably fine, if gonna get a raised eyebrow for appearing to live in the 80s.

      Otherwise, in many places (if not most), yes it’s at least semi-political. And you’ll be judged, either positively or negatively.

    8. pleaset*

      Yes, in the United States, asking for the same rights as everyone else is considered political.

      Asking to be able to marry the person you love is considered political.

  9. nnn*

    The thing about bringing a baby into a work situation is, in the eyes of people who like babies, the baby becomes the star. He’s WAY more interesting than whatever boring grownup stuff the meeting is talking about! If it’s important to keep people focused, keeping the baby off-screen is probably a better idea.

    But another factor might be the formality/informality of that particular meeting. You know how some meetings, you can be like “Ugh, Mondays, I need coffee,” whereas other meetings you need to be more polished. The baby might be okay in the less-polished videoconferences (“backstage” in the Goffman sense of the concept) but not in the more polished contexts.

  10. Greg NY*

    #1: Because your workplace is family friendly, your best bet is just to ask the people who are regularly on the conference call with you whether they mind your son being there, whether it distracts them. In a family friendly workplace, I doubt it would be considered unprofessional, but distractions can be a problem, just like there is a difference in pet-friendly workplaces between well-behaved dogs and dogs that bark or lick everyone. You may find that the occasional cry just before you hand him off may be well tolerated by those on the calls, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are given that you get compliments about your son.

    You shouldn’t *have to* do this, and it would probably be fine to assume that it’s OK in a family-friendly workplace, but this would help you get rid of any doubt.

    1. Weekday Warrior*

      Well, I’d go back to Alison’s advice. Not good to assume it’s OK. It really depends on the office culture and “family friendly” can mean many different things. My workplace is female majority AND family friendly and I’d say that a baby on videoconference on a regular basis would be seen as distracting and even unprofessional in most meetings.

      Asking others if they mind is just not a good idea as Alison points out. Some people will be uncomfortable both with the baby and with having to tell a mom that their baby makes them uncomfortable. Not going to happen and unfair to put that pressure on colleagues. OP#1 needs to check this with their manager. Speaking as a manager, this is a conversation I’d be glad to have with OP#1. I wouldn’t be glad to hear that the group has already been canvassed and has arrived at X conclusion for the peer pressure concerns stated above and because I might have a different take as the manager.

      Still love that video last year of the kids interrupting the Korean expert’s TV interview. One off breaks from regular business are always welcome!

      1. Lilo*

        I work in a very family friendly workplace (my daycare is on site and I could go down to feed my kid or take pumping breaks as I chose) but they were very clear that when I was actually doing work, my son was to have other care. I don’t think that was unreasonable.

      2. MatKnifeNinja*

        I wouldn’t say boo about seeing an infant on the vid conference. It’s not worth the butt hurt and drama. If a vid conference is worth having, it’s worth having without distractions. Baby needs skin to skin time? Cool. We’ll reschedule because you can’t be present to doing to important things at once. Be present for your infant, When you can hand off, get back to me.

        If the baby is in conference vids more than one or two non emergency situations, it looks like she’s has no/minimal childcare at home.

        I’m the most pro breast feeding, get all maternity leave you can person on the planet. But work is still work. Seeing a cute infant is a huge distraction for me. I’m much more interested in said infant, than anything coming out of the handler’s mouth. I’m looking at the jammies. How much hair does the kid got? Wondering how much no sleep mom got? Was it the two hours of sleep and now she’s tasting colors? All that is more interesting than TPS report questions in my I hate boring stuff adult brain.

        OP if your work place has women working with infants in baby slings and play pens in the office, no harm no foul. Your baby on the vid conference probably isn’t a big deal. I wouldn’t ask “is the baby distracting”, because so few people want to tangle with a new mom. It takes a real no f*cks to give person to say, “Yeah, it’s distracting as hell, and makes me take you less seriously.” to your face.

        Congrats on the little one! Where I’ve worked/work, the little bundle of sweetness would totally not be appreciated in the vid conference.

    2. NotoriousMCG*

      Ehhh I don’t know how I feel about putting the onus on the coworkers to yay or nay it. Even when directly asked some coworkers will feel unconscious pressure to say ‘oh yes it’s fine no worries!’ because nobody wants to be *the* reason for something going away, even if they would appreciate that thing being gone.

      I’d go with the overall assumption that when one is at work one is expected to have their full attention on work, and OP already does a really great job doing that by having daycare and dad take care of the baby. OP can definitely still hold the baby when they’re not on a video conference, but when they are on one they can assume that it would be a distraction for some percentage of other participants and they should err on the side of not having the baby around when calls are happening.

      1. BRR*

        I do a lot of video calls for my job and would feel incredibly uncomfortable saying that I minded a baby on the call. I would be worried about potential fallout both from the parent as well as other coworkers who think it’s fine.

        1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

          Yep, same. At best I would waffle.

          And any one person asked would feel like they were being asked to represent everyone rather than give a personal “I’m fine with it” or “I’m not fine with it” opinion.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I would too. That would be really uncomfortable, especially if the parent were my peer or my superior.

        3. Les G*

          This. Me? I would say what I’m thinking (which, in this case, would be “hell YES this is distracting, the f!ck did you think?!?”) but most of my coworkers would not. Them’s the breaks. You can’t count on an honest answer to everything.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        This does seem like asking your coworkers “Do I look fat in this?” In most situations they will say “Nooooo” assuming you want reassurance rather than honest feedback about your hips or your parenting choices.

        In some fields, it’s a practical “Am I camera ready?” question that will generate an honest response. But not in most.

    3. Rez123*

      Co-woekers are not going to be honest. Nobody is going to be *that* person that says no to a baby. That automatically labels you a babyhater. Also it’s not a topic I’d use my co-worker favour capital on.

      The funny thing is that I’m not particularly against babies in conference call, but I just find the concept of bringng “mama part” to work a bit strange.

      1. fieldpoppy*

        That was what struck me too. I spend about 30% of my life in conference calls, and babies or cats here and there, I’m fine with (and I’m the cat offender, I confess). But I am confused about what it means to bring your mama self to work — and bringing mama self (organized? compassionate?) is different than bringing actual baby (not your self! lol).

      2. MatKnifeNinja*

        I have never read a man write, “I bring the daddy part of me to work.” Like to believe becoming a father also enhances one’s life, but men rarely hype that up in the work place.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I recall a debate about a man using a picture of his three kids as his linked-in profile, on the theory that it conveyed that he loved his kids more than people who wouldn’t do that. So men are not fully immune.

        2. Delphine*

          I think the reason the LW said that is because she also noted her workplace encourages them to bring their whole “selves”–which, for the LW, includes being a mother. It’s not a random, motherhood-obsessed term the LW has added here to show how superior she is to everyone and it’d be cool if we could stop framing it like that.

          1. Genny*

            I don’t think that’s the point MatKnifeNinja’s post. I think they were pointing out how this particular thing isn’t something you hear from men, and that LW may want to consider what kind of unintentional gendered message it could send.

      3. Name Required*

        Every young mother I know talks about being a sleep-deprived zombie with a messy house who can barely keep it together. Not what I want to be projecting at work.

    4. Loose Seal*

      The thing is, if OP asks and I say I don’t like the baby being present, then I’m the baby-hating coworker for eternity. Not just in OP’s mind but in all the other coworkers’ minds that didn’t have a problem with the baby. I’d much rather the supervisor take an informal vote and not pass along specifics of how many people preferred not to have the baby on the video call.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        I’m rolling my eyes at the supervisor taking an informal vote. This is too much work energy being spent on OP’s baby. That goes double because OP very likely is not the only parent on the team. Why would her specific baby be getting this much of people’s time?

        1. Loose Seal*

          Well, I’d prefer if the baby was just no longer on the video call. But if OP feels the need to poll the coworkers, if I were one of them, I’d rather be polled by the supervisor and my ‘vote’ kept confidential.

          Or the supervisor could just tell her to keep the baby off the call. That would work too.

    5. Valancy Snaith*

      Nah. It would bother the hell out of me but I’m not going to speak up and be the Baby Hater of the Office. I would think of it is as incredibly unprofessional and very distracting, but it’s not worth the fallout and drama of saying so. It’s like asking your coworkers if your new dress makes you look fat–you’re not going to get an honest selection of answers.

  11. It’s all good*

    When I had my 2nd child I was a remote worker. Once I went back to work, the first year I had a nanny take care of her at home during working hours. For my lunch time I gave my nanny her lunch break. My baby never came into my home office once. I don’t think my co-workers had any idea that that she was at home with me. I think it’s the respectful thing to do.

    1. Lexi Kate*

      When I went to working at home we got a Nanny and I didnt go where they were until I was on lunch. I can’t imagine having them in the room.

  12. tra la la*

    OP #4: I think you handled the situation just fine. If it really were a matter of them not having enough practice materials, I might have said something in my evaluation about that. I’d think that the default should be to bring enough materials for everyone rather than assuming that some people will self-select out.

    1. Psyche*

      Yep. If they didn’t have enough materials and would not let me participate because of it I would demand a refund.

  13. Observer*

    #2, it’s an issue alright. Just be careful that you don’t favor “liberal” vs “conservative” stickers. Or any other grouping.

        1. LilyP*

          It’s interesting because this reminds me a lot of the “bring your own device” policies the comment section recently came down so hard on (and rightfully so!). It seems unfair in general for a company to ask you to use your X for work and then put restrictions on your X because now it’s work related. Is this just different because it’s a more established practice?

          1. Observer*

            It is unfair. Nevertheless, if you accept that position, you need to keep your opinions to yourself. You simply cannot do this kind of work if you need to publicize your opinion.

          2. Totally Minnie*

            I mean, a car costs significantly more than a cell phone. I can imagine that quite a few social service organizations don’t just happen to have $20,000 lying around in their budget for a company car.

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        She’s probably being reimbursed for mileage and paid for the time she’s in the car–I think that allows the company some input.

        They can also tell her not to have…I dunno, rotting food or crated pets in the car while she’s transporting clients.

      2. LK*

        That’s not true in the social services field! First, there are rarely company cars available, and you need to do everything you can to remain neutral to your clients in order to earn their trust and build a relationship. A political sticker (of any kind) could severely impact that.

        1. IndoorCat*

          I think what’s throwing me (and potentially others?) for a loop is that someone is being asked to take clients in their own, personal car.

          Like…man, that would not fly in my field. Or most fields. Company car, rented transport van you have to sign out, company Lyft / Uber account, anything other than asking an employee to use their personal vehicle to pick up clients.

          It already seems like such a friggin’ huge imposition to me. The employee might have to keep her car much cleaner than she ordinarily would, which takes time and money. The employee has to keep her car more reliable than she might have to in other circumstances (no optional bike-to-work days!). Plus, a car is part of my personal space– I’d feel just as off-put if someone was asking me to regularly feed clients in my own kitchen instead of a restaurant.

          I will be the first to admit I know nothing about the social services field. So, probably my gut reaction is way off base. But my gut reaction is, “You already are asking her to do this above-and-beyond thing; now you want to dictate her bumper stickers too? How about a little gratitude on the employer’s part that she lets you use her personal car at all?”

          I mean, obviously I can see someone being so offended by a bumper sticker that they don’t use services again, and that’s a serious issue, but good heck. Why. Why can’t y’all rent a van?

          1. OP #2*

            OP here. I think probably knowing the norms of the field is helpful! It’s not an above-and-beyond thing in my field. It’s very, very, very normal, especially in this employee’s role. It’s a large part of her job. Nobody would take that job without the understanding that that’s a part of it. And right or wrong (and I’m sure you could make a case either way) it’s very much a norm. It’s easy to say “rent a van” but when you’re talking about social work non-profits with a tight budget, that isn’t always the most efficient or reasonable way of getting things done.

          2. Ender Wiggin*

            This. You said it better than me. It’s her car she can express herself how she wants to. If they want to force her to hide her political opinions they darn well better be compensating her for that!

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        This has come up with real estate. If you take clients in your car, then your firm may look askance at stickers on your car. Sort of like a sea of junk in the back seat–you, your home office visible in video conferences, and your car used for work all need to work appropriate.

    1. Labradoodle Daddy*

      In all seriousness, would there be as many objectionable “liberal” sentiments? Pro-gay, anti-racism etc? Not trying to start a political wank, honest, wanted to know what would be equivalently problematic on the other side.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        If people need social services–because they are poor, or sick, or otherwise disadvantaged–that doesn’t mean they are going to feel comfortable with all liberal bumper sticker sentiments.

        And I’m quite liberal, just very cautious of any “of course all GOOD people agree with my sentiments, and the bumper sticker is such a valuable education tool for educating the unenlightened.”

      2. Nita*

        Sure, for example some people might find a sticker supporting illegal immigration objectionable. I can think of a few other examples, but I’m not coherent enough this morning to go into when these sentiments start to shade from “inclusive” to “exclusive.”

      3. Dankar*

        Anti-religion? Bill Maher is certainly the poster-child for objectionable liberal views.

        That being said, I agree that the largely inclusive liberal platform isn’t anywhere near as problematic as others. And most of the anti-stuff is either pushing back against the -isms or punching up.

        As a side note, I think a lot of people are missing the fact that OP doesn’t actually supervise the anti-abortionist from her question. The person she’s writing in about shares clients, but comes from a different org. In that case, I think she’s well within her rights to suggest that displaying it might negatively impact that person’s outreach in the community, and that the bumper sticker could be alienating. In her own org, I agree that a blanket “no overt political statements” would be the best way to go, though I too am wary about banning things like the LQBTQ+ flag, which is more about advertising acceptance than resistance or disapproval.

        1. CanadaTag*

          Actually, the other person does work at the same organization, just a different location and OP does not supervise them.

          That said, while I personally tend to support the more “liberal” side of things, I think it would be most appropriate to ban all bumper stickers/window decals/etc., simply in terms of professionalism.

      4. Name Required*

        I live in the deep south in the US. The deeply conservative people I know would be alienated by any bumper sticker with a liberal viewpoint and they would feel like their interests wouldn’t be accurately represented.

      5. Observer*

        As others have said, most definitely. And the fact that this is so often unrecognized makes it all the more important to be cautious.

        If you’re in the social services filed serving people with limited access to resources and services, just skip the political (and religious) statements. And define political statements the same way, whether they are “conservative” or “liberal”.

      6. Holly*

        Yes – if you’re in an organization that provides social services, you provide social services even if the recipient is someone who would have a problem with anti-racism, pro-LGBTQ messages. Any slogan is inappropriate IMO, because that just shouldn’t be on the table as a matter of discussion with clients.

      7. Warren*

        I think that in a sense conservative points of view are more likely to cause offense. Conservative views tend to go against the grain of the prevailing culture, and I’m not saying that that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I’m just saying it’s the truth. There’s a reason there’s a “shy Tory” effect and no countervailing “shy liberal” effect.

        But I’m not saying this as a reason to ban conservative sentiments while allowing liberal sentiments. In fact I think it’s the opposite. It’s all too easy to assume that the culturally supported view is one that all people of good will can agree on, which isn’t always the case. I think this is why Conservatives tend to have a knee-jerk response against civil workplace policies, thinking the people promoting those policies are out to get them. That’s why its important that policies be evenhanded.

      8. lazuli*

        I work in mental healthcare for people generally on government assistance (public insurance, disability, etc.). I live in super-liberal northern California. In my daily life, the only people I hear in person making racist, homophobic, sexist, Islamophobic, etc. statements are my clients, and they do so regularly. Not all of them, but a significant minority of them.

        It’s hard, because I also want to make sure my office indicates that I am a safe person for oppressed people to bring up their own issues of oppression, and I’m supportive of LGBTQ “safe place” placards or “All are welcome here” signs in offices, but an office feels like more of an “official” space than my personal car, even if I were using the personal car for official business, and a bumper sticker there reads to me like the owner’s personal views rather than a statement about their work. Therapists talk about being thoughtful about “self-disclosure” — basically, anything about yourself that might turn the conversation to you or make the client double-think whether they should share something about themselves — and I realize this worker’s not a therapist, but I think some of the same thoughtfulness should apply.

      9. Genny*

        Potentially objectionable liberal positions (or what generally gets defined as “liberal” in U.S. politics):
        -Level of taxation
        -The role the government should have in health care/single payer healthcare (see birth control and Hobby Lobby or Little Sisters of the Poor)
        -Views on religion/conservative religious denominations/practices
        -Views on the military
        -Affirmative action
        -Globalization/free trade
        -Identity politics (mostly using this as a catchall, not an actual position)
        -Welfare/social safety nets

        Most of these touch on some combination of my beliefs or my pocketbook, both of which people are deeply sensitive about and likely to view as personal attacks. That’s not to say that any one of these are in and of themselves offensive. Then again, I don’t think the conservative side would say their positions are objectionable. Very few people say they’re pro-racism or anti-gay. It’s more an issue of how a belief works out in practice/how one frames the issue.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            The pro-racist formulation is “I’m not racist, but…” Which fits on a bumper sticker!

      10. Michaela Westen*

        Having grown up in a fundamentalist area, I know there are people who aren’t comfortable with gays. They’re not specifically anti-gay, they aren’t trying to hurt gays, but they’re not comfortable.
        So a pro-gay sticker would probably make them uncomfortable.

    1. Teapot librarian*

      I literally just searched this post for “cow” (not the best search term, since it’s i the word “coworker”) to make sure that I wouldn’t gush about the cow pic in a new comment if there was already a thread for it. OP #4, thank you for the cows!

      1. Lisa Babs*

        I literally did the same thing to find this post (searching cow and then after realizing that was a bad idea since it is the first part of coworker, switching it to cow followed by a space).

        Shout out for the Cow picture. It made my Monday morning.

  14. Space Turtle*

    #1 If I regularly saw a baby on video calls I’m afraid for me it would raise questions about whether the person was actually focusing on work or attempting to look after a child at the same time. Some people may be thinking this and just not have said.

    1. Jemima Bond*

      Well me too really. Alison has often emphasised that if you are wfh you also need to have childcare – although the LW had childcare, if she is literally holding the baby regularly on conference calls it looks like she doesn’t have childcare, she is trying to do both at the same time. So as another participant in the call I would be fine with the occasional one-off for a particular reason (sorry, I’ve got my baby on my shoulder just this once; she has been so ill and she’s just finally fallen asleep, I’ll pass her to my husband the second she wakes) but if it was regular I’d perceive it as someone “taking the mickey” – saying they are wfh when really they are looking after their baby – and assume they are barely getting anything done.

    2. Almond Butter and Jelly*

      I think if I ever saw a baby on a video conference or in an office conference that wasn’t a “Hey wanted to show you all our baby” then I would think that I needed to check what they were sending out because they were not really working.

    3. Boo Hoo*

      Most workplaces, if you work from home, expect you to have child care. I get that she does but how much time is she on conference calls that she can’t have the baby away from her for that hour.

    4. Ender Wiggin*

      That was where my mind went too. No problem with the baby per sé but it raises questions about how much work they are getting done away from the camera.

  15. Space Turtle*

    #3 Write and thank them for taking the time to point out the mistakes. Seriously – it will reflect well on you.

    This was a kind and honest rejection AND they took the time to help you! Also, as has been said above you need a thick skin to go into news reporting so if you found this really harsh it may not be the field for you in any case.

  16. Be Positive*

    #1 – this reminds me the viral video of the father who was trying to do a news interview as an industry expert. His toddler opened the door and walked into the room, the baby sister followed him and then the horified mother sliding in the room and gently dragging them out when she realized the consequence of taking her eyes off them for that 10 seconds

    Btw I found it hilarious but if I was the boss I’d be annoyed

    1. Observer*

      It was hilarious. And I don’t think I would be annoyed at all. Both for the same reason. It was quite clear that dad had made what SHOULD have been reasonable arrangements to keep the kids OUT of the conference call, but kids being kids… And the attempt to make the kids disappear while pretty much pretending that nothing strange was going on was pretty good. It was funny but it helped keep the meeting from being derailed by the intrusion.

        1. KRM*

          He said he usually does (and it was why mom wasn’t concerned when the daughter wandered off towards his office when she saw him on TV), but of course the ONE TIME it’s not locked…
          He said he absolutely double checks now!

      1. Lucy*

        Yeah, I think there’s a big difference between arrangements that usually work well going awry (he clearly had childcare arranged) and a regular thing that may or may not be disruptive (depending on a lot of things).

    2. Carlie*

      What really made that video was that it so perfectly followed the comedy “rule of three”. A three-part is funnier than one, and it often has a third part significantly different than the first two. And it featured escalating stakes with each part. Plus a “straight man” struggling to keep it all together. Couldn’t have been scripted any better than what happened naturally!

    3. Turquoisecow*

      I think if I was a coworker or boss in that situation I’d be kind of amused, and maybe slightly annoyed depending on what we were talking about and how much it distracted us from the topic.

      For one thing, that incident was clearly a one time only thing, and I highly doubt it happened before or after that. However, if that guy was regularly interrupted by his kids barging into the room, that would be another story.

      If OP is truly just talking on the video conference while holding a sleeping baby, that’s fine. Glancing down at it once or twice, whatever, I wouldn’t mind as long as it was clear she was paying attention to what was being said and responding when she was required to (no, “Jane, what do you think? …Jane? Earth to Jane?”). If she afterward seemed not to remember clearly what was discussed in the meeting or what conclusions were drawn, it would be clear she wasn’t fully engaged. OP’s coworkers can probably tell if she’s not fully engaged.

      A fussing, squirming, giggling baby would be a big distraction to me and OP, but if he’s literally soundly sleeping through the call, sure.

    4. Ruthie*

      Something accidental like a kid barging in would never annoy me, but what LW1 is describing isn’t unintended. I still watch that video all the time. So. Darn. Funny.

      I’ve worked in children’s advocacy most of my career, including early childhood. A lot of that work has been on paid family leave. You could not meet a more pro-baby and child and family group of people than my colleagues over the years. I have seen a baby on camera twice. Both times was the short period of time I worked in a different industry. The first was when I was being interviewed because my supervisor was on maternity leave and it was the only way she could be available for the interview. The second time we had a conversation with the employee about it not being an option to provide child care while she was working. I have never seen this in my unusually family friendly office.

      I believe you are either providing child care or you are working. And that while workplaces should be flexible about giving parents opportunities to arrange childcare and accommodate family needs, allowing parents to do both at the same time isn’t good practice.

  17. namelesscommentator*

    OP1, This would be really off-putting if you were back at work full time and these are scheduled calls that you are expected to be present for.

    I have had coworkers call in from mat leave/doctors appointments/while cooking with those distractions in the background. We prioritized their presence over the professionalism of the call, and the understanding was “if the distraction isn’t okay I’ll either miss it or delay it.”

  18. Akcipitrokulo*

    Nursing a baby is fine. They need to eat!

    It’s also something that people DO do in person… they even make laws while nursing ;)

    Playing with a baby or allowing them to play in background isn’t good. Nursing is fine. (And depending on where you live, possibly legally protected.)

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        She said nursing at first – which is fine – but if able to move after, I agree that’s best.

      1. misspiggy*

        That’s interesting – I’d be completely OK with a nursing baby on a conference call. It’s necessary and it’s quiet (and it’s normal in many of the places where I work).

        An optional baby in the lap, who doesn’t need to be there and is more likely to be noisy, is what sends an unprofessional message in my book.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Quiet really depends on the baby, and whether today is the day they get into a fight with the breast.

          1. Nita*

            Ouch. Or that’s the day when in the middle of nursing, you hear the dreaded “pfffffftsquirt” sound, and realize that they got all of their clothes, and all of your clothes, and there’s still half an hour of conference call left. Yeah, nursing on a call has so much potential to go wrong.

        1. Blue Eagle*

          Please no nursing on a video call. It is OK to block your feed from view during the time that you have to nurse.

      2. The Original K.*

        I agree. The nursing mothers I have been physically present in offices with do not nurse or pump during meetings or at their desks (unless they have private offices with doors that close and lock, in which case they do so behind closed doors); I don’t think a nursing mother should do so on a video call either.

        1. Boo Hoo*

          Baby can take milk from the bottle if he MUST eat during that conference call. If she was at work this is what he would be doing anyway.

          1. NewMom*

            When folks roped me into conference calls while I was on leave, kiddo would not take a bottle At. All.

            So, no. And a newborn needs to eat when a newborn needs to eat. There’s no rhyme or reason or schedule.

            If you want a very new mom on a conference call/web conference (which you shouldn’t! Leave should be respected!), you’ve got to accept that nursing might happen.

            1. Boo Hoo*

              I am aware of how kids are when needing to be nursed but if she is working from home that is how it goes. If the kid was in daycare they would find a way to the baby. My husband has had to feed the baby before when I couldn’t and she really didn’t want a bottle. That is how it worked when you are working. She isn’t on maternity leave, she is being the ability to work from home. Work comes first when you work from home with obvious exceptions of something being wrong. If she doesn’t treat it that way she will lose that ability to work from home.

              1. NewMom*

                I’m taking objection to the “No, never nurse on a webconference.”
                I agree that with a 5 month old, it shouldn’t happen.
                But for folks who HAVE to work with a very tiny infant (2 weeks in my case), I don’t think people can really complain. I mean, my employer was the one breaking the law (FMLA interference).

                1. Observer*

                  Well, it’s still unprofessional and inappropriate. But it’s your boss who is being inappropriate!

            2. Almond Butter and Jelly*

              No, She is not on leave she is at work daily. If she was at the office and the kid was in daycare there would be another option for feeding the kid same here.

      3. iglwif*

        Why wouldn’t it be?

        I mean, unless the nursing mum is for some reason STARK NEKKID.

        I nursed my kiddo in an awful lot of places much more public than a videoconference call (I never actually did *that* because 1. I was on mat leave for 13 months, because I live in Canada, and 2. videoconferencing wasn’t a thing my office did much at that job, 15 years ago) and I promise nobody ever saw my boobs.

        1. Observer*

          It’s not the physical location that’s the problem. It’s the fact that you are engaging in an activity that really often requires your attention.

          1. iglwif*

            YMMV, I guess. My experience of nursing, after the first 6 weeks or so, was definitely not that it required a lot of my attention. As in, I could literally do it in my sleep, and frequently did.

            That said, and not to derail, switching off the video feed while nursing seems like a pretty easy fix here.

            1. NewMom*


              It required my attention in the first week-ish. Then not really until he turned 3 months and suddenly became so distractible. If I’m nursing him anywhere other than a dark room with white noise, I need to pay attention to prevent him from taking a dive off of my lap.

            2. Observer*

              It’s actually a lot easier in some ways to nurse half asleep in bed at night than when you are sitting up in front of a computer on a conference call. For one thing, when you’re laying down, a lot of the adjustments and position are pretty much automatic. And you, don’t have to worry about any noises the kid makes etc.

              I nursed several children, and I know a LOT of women who nursed. And I don’t think I know ONE woman who never had to pay attention to what she was doing for at least some part of the process when nursing. Latch on, latch off, the occasional milk spray, the occasional bite (which is surprisingly common at 5 months), wigglers, etc. No one really cares about that at two in the morning. But when you’re on conference? Yeesh.

      1. EM*

        Genuinely asking why? Nursing is a protected activity where I am from, I can’t imagine anyone objecting as long as it’s silent.

    1. Lilo*

      Taking breaks to nurse is legally protected, but nursing while actually conducting work is not. I would also find it less distracting than holding a noisy baby but I think it’s a terrible idea generally. Stuff happens, but asking for breaks and trying to time meetings (or pumping so the non lactating adult can feed the baby) are better here.

      1. Washi*

        Right, I would happily time a meeting around my coworker’s nursing schedule. And if a coworker were nursing while working remotely on a conference call while on mute and no video….what I don’t know won’t hurt me. But nursing on video seems like a big no, just like someone giving their baby a bottle while participating in a video conference would be a no from me.

    2. Myrin*

      I think you might have misread – OP says “so sometimes when we’re done [nursing] I hold him while I do work”, so the nursing happens before OP turns back to her work.

    3. NewMom*

      I’m actually with you if the camera is pointed at a face-only. I’ve done it with a newborn and I’m quite sure no one knew. But that was also the side effect of people demanding my input when I had a two week old.
      I’ve also pumped on voice calls and view that as quite normal.

  19. Torrance*

    #2– Even though I have serious moral & ethical issues with the anti-abortion movement, I think asking her to remove the bumper sticker would probably be unwise. Primarily because it would introduce a whole line of whataboutism that will lead nowhere useful. I do think, however, that the management does need to get involved. A discussion should take place about what role her politics potentially play in the service she provides clients.

    As a client, I’ve had two pretty bad experience with service providers who couldn’t separate their religious and political beliefs from their professional obligations, including the time I was encouraged to pray my anxiety away. :| It’s prudent of your organisation to make sure that this woman will not be an added obstacle in the lives of your clients.

    1. Warren*

      This is extremely unfair. Your assuming a whole line of reasons that a pro-life woman must be unfit for her job, reasons that were not even hinted at in the letter.

      1. fposte*

        I think she’s talking about the concerns that clients might have about that bumper sticker, though. The OP is worrying similar things–that their clients will extrapolate in ways that make it difficult for their organization to do their work.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It reflects a larger problem with bumper stickers and sentiments similarly expressed, on T-shirts or lapel pins. There’s no nuance or context, just “Hi I’m Janeane I support Candidate Voltron!!!! Go Voltron!” Maybe if I knew Janeane well I’d have some context to consider her good at the parts of the job that affect me and put the support for Voltron as a personal quirk. But when you put it on a bumper sticker, literally or metaphorically, it strikes people as something you just loudly proclaimed at them out of nowhere. It’s the opposite of social lubricant.

    2. Psyche*

      I don’t think that talking to her about her politics is warranted. There is no evidence that she is mixing religion with work. It is her personal vehicle and she likely did not think it though. I think if they have an unbiased policy (no political bumper stickers) it is fair to ask her to remove it. I don’t think that they could easily target only pro-life bumper stickers because then they get into deciding which political opinions are ok and which are not which is not a road any business should go down.

    3. Observer*

      Actually, the reverse is true. Telling her the bumper sticker needs to go? Simple and straightforward. If she points out that others have bumper stickers, then those should be addressed, too.

      Comments about her *politics*?! No, no and NO! Unless you actually have any reason as a supervisor to think that she’s going to let her beliefs interfere with service provision, it’s totally inappropriate.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Is the bumper sticker reason enough to think that? OP says many of their clients have had abortions. Is someone who is biased enough to have the bumper sticker in the first place too biased to work with this client population/in this field?
        Food for thought…

        1. Observer*

          I don’t think so. Maybe it’s a shared car. Maybe someone else put it on there and she didn’t want to get into an argument or she just didn’t think about it. Maybe a lot of things. Enough that you really can’t make judgements.

          Now, if someone pushes back and insists that it’s their right to express their opinion, that’s a whole different kettle of fish. It’s NOT your “right” to make your constituents uncomfortable while keeping your job. If someone doesn’t understand that, you’ve got an issue on your hands.

  20. Amelia*

    I’m a pregnant mom to a toddler and I would find the presence of a baby on a conference call extremely distracting.

    Baby cries currently produce a biological response in me. It’s almost like creating “tunnel hearing” – my entire body and brain become focused on the baby, even someone else’s baby. I see work as a lovely respite from this uncontrolled automatic response.

    And it’ll be worse in a few months with breastfeeding! I can’t think of anything I’d like less on a conference call than to hear your baby cry and look down at my own wet shirt.

    Frankly, my “mama” self is the last person I want at work.

  21. Lilo*

    I am a mom, but I lean to “no babies in the video conference”. I love kids, but I would also find this distracting, particularly the crying. My workplace has a clear “no providing childcare during telework” rule and I do find myself distracted when my kid is around. If I am giving you my full attention, I would feel frustrated if it wasn’t mutual. I was one working in a video call with a mom whose son was home sick and even with him crying from another room (Another adult was caring for him), it was very hard to do what we needed to do. Work with your spouse so he doesn’t interrupt you during these crucial times.

    1. Cosette*

      My work has that rule too… remote work means no childcare while you’re working. Breaking that rule can mean having the privilege taken away.

  22. Labradoodle Daddy*

    Ask her to remove the sticker. I’m someone who has had an abortion and I am IMMEDIATELY uncomfortable around someone whenever I learn they’re anti-choice, regardless of the scenario.

    1. Sunshine*

      I haven’t had an abortion and they still make me uncomfortable. I’d probably request a different social worker.

    2. Katniss*

      +1. If I had any say in the matter I would not work with or have a caseworker that was a forced birther/anti-choice.

    3. fieldpoppy*

      Me too. I can usually shove it to that place in my mind of compartmentalization in work, but I’m queer AND I’ve had a termination AND I’ve arranged terminations for friends, and if I was actually trying to get services from someone who I felt thought I was going to hell for any of those aspects of my life, I would be super uncomfortable. Maybe a podiatrist but no one who looked at, touched or talked about any other parts of my body or emotional life.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*


      If this is a social services situation, then I guarantee you have clientele who have had abortions, whether by choice or through coercion, and they deserve compassionate care and not feeling judged.

  23. Blue Eagle*

    Don’t ask him to remove the sticker. He paid for the car and if forced to use his car for work, should be able to put on his car what he wants. If you don’t like the sticker on his car, then advocate for the nonprofit to lease their own car that employees can use to transport clients or pay for a rental for the days that he needs to transport clients.

    I may not agree with what his bumper sticker says, but unless there is a “no bumper sticker” policy that is a condition of employment, then staff should be able to have items in their car (refers to a prior letter where one staff person was disciplined for having items in the car that another staff took exception to) or on their car that they want.

    1. Les G*

      So unless there’s a specific rule against a behavior, in the contact, at the time of hiring, folks can never be asked to change anything at work? This makes no sense to me at all.

      Folks are asking like the OP is contemplating telling her coworker to drive this car out to the scrap yard and buy a new one. Not so. It’s a freakin’ bumper sticker. That ish peels off.

    2. Sunshine*

      In the UK, 1 in 3 women have likely had an abortion. Most are in the lower income brackets. Letting a social worker display a sticker that *will definitely* be insulting your clients is not on in my opinion.

      1. Labradoodle Daddy*

        Also in the US and I agree, plus I really don’t want to see any kind of politicizing in aid/medical treatments. When I had to give my manager a doctor’s note from Planned Parenthood I was WAY more nervous than I should have had to be.

    3. ThankYouRoman*

      Everyone who keeps on about the injustice of using their own car needs to stop. Everyone who signs up to be a social worker knows it’s a resource they need to provide.

      Shall we only allow employer issues uniforms? What if the only clothes I own are constructed outta Confederate flags?

      You choose to decorate your car with controversial political views, there may be consequences. Same as if you choose to get a tattoo, political or not.

      1. Washi*

        Yes, re: car. I’m in social services and get generous mileage reimbursements for using my own car. So while I do feel social work is undervalued and underpaid, having to use my own car is not on my list of professional injustices! It is totally fair for the employer to ask social workers to remove overtly political bumper stickers.

    4. Effective Immediately*

      If the car is used for work (and presumably work use of the vehicle, along with mileage payments made by the company, was a condition of employment) then it makes sense to me that an employer would have some say over the condition of the vehicle–much like they could say, “Arya, please remove [divisive political thing] from your office space” or “Joffrey, you can’t transport clients in a car full of old McDonald’s bags”.

      In the field of direct client services, this isn’t unlike having a bumper sticker that calls welfare recipients leeches, or mocks the mentally ill or contains anti-immigrant sentiment: the likelihood that you’re going to encounter women as clients (or adjacent to clients) who have had an abortion (or might need one, and it’s your job to link them to resources!) is exceptionally high. If you work in a human services/nonprofit setting, broadcasting beliefs that are anathema to the work/mission in your professional capacity is certainly something the org would have some say over.

    5. Almond Butter and Jelly*

      Nope, this job requires the use of your car and you are most likely using it on your taxes or asking for reimbursement from your employer. You know going in as a social worker you are going to have to use your car, you know in this type of job what you are getting. Remove the sticker.

    6. Could be Anyone*

      If someone is that intent on advertising their political ideologies on their car (which is a thing I have never understood but not really the point here) I think it would be perfectly reasonable to ask them to AT LEAST cover the sticker with a plain magnet or something while they are using the car for work.

    7. Away Team Redshirt*

      Well Blue Eagle, that doesn’t quite work in the social services industry. We have a responsibility to put our clients first, regardless of our political/religious views. This means that we cannot do or say anything that would get in the way of clients accessing services. To use the bumper sticker for example, it could make the client feel uncomfortable, and they’d possibly terminate their file with our organisation.
      Though it would be great to have company cars, it isn’t an option in most cases. Funding sources (like the provincial government) do not allow agencies to use money that way. It’s challenging enough to get funding approved for essential client services.

  24. Roscoe*

    For #2 I think you need to REALLY be careful with this. While I get your point, I also think it needs to be framed that there should be NO political or hot button statements, not just ones you don’t agree with. Based on how you describe it, its sounds like overall I’d be more aligned with your views than the other employee. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if this impacted people you agree with as well.

    Also, how much is the transporting clients in their personal vehicle something that they HAVE to do, vs. something they do because its encouraged, but they could still do their job without it. If its just that it needs to get done, but could be shifted to someone else, its very possible that that person will just say “fine, I won’t drive people in my car now, someone else can do it”

  25. What’s with Today, today?*

    To the OP that applied to the news desk…My mentor used to take any news reports with typos and hand them back marked up in red sharpie marker. And we were radio news, so there was no risk they’d be printed. It seems rude, but this editor did you a kindness, and the tone just reflects a busy newsroom.

    1. Izzy*

      Yeah, I was thinking that if there was ANY role that you’d want to proofread your application for, it would be a reporter.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Heh. I remember Ira Glass interviewing Peter Segal, and the latter opening with “Of course any grammatical error, no matter how minor…” and the former immediately identifying.

  26. MLB*

    LW1 – you say you’re fully focused while working and holding your child, but believe me, you’re really NOT. It doesn’t matter how flexible and casual your office is, taking care of babies (and small children who aren’t able to take care of themselves) while you’re trying to work is never okay. You will never be 100% focused on your work because the second that child needs something, your attention is elsewhere. If you have an older child who’s home sick and needs nothing more than a fever check or a glass of water and some meds, that’s different because it’s not every day and the child is mostly self sufficient.

    I have a co-worker who has a baby under 2. When we have conference calls, the baby is always making noise and it is VERY distracting. I don’t know what his situation is (he’s full time remote), but it leads me to believe that he is the full time care taker and he’s never fully focused on work, because if his wife were a SAHM, common sense would say to take the baby somewhere far from where he’s working when he’s on a call.

      1. MLB*

        It’s a daily check-in call with my whole team so it can’t be rescheduled. It’s also generally less than 10 minutes. Outside of last minute situation, he should have it handled when he knows he’s going to be on a call.

    1. M. Albertine*

      “You say you’re fully focused while working and holding your child, but believe me, you’re really NOT.”

      +1 – any co-sleeper knows this. Even when you’re *sleeping*, if your child is next to you, you are not even fully focused on SLEEPING. Part of you is focused on that child.

    2. Delphine*

      Why not take the LW at her word that she is focused…especially considering she made it clear that she’s not caring for the baby, just holding him occasionally post-nursing.

      1. Lexi Kate*

        Only people who have had a baby know that holding them after they have a full belly is like the strongest drug on earth. There is no way you are fully focused on anything but that baby.

      2. Genny*

        Because people often overestimate their own skills and abilities. LW may not be the best judge of how focused she is, which is why Allison suggested checking in with the supervisor for an honest assessment.

      3. MLB*

        Because common sense says she’s not fully focused. If you’re a salaried employee, there should be flexibility in the time you put in – some weeks you may work more than 40 hours, and at other times you may work less. As long as your work is getting done on time and well, you should be treated as an adult and your time doesn’t need to be micro-managed. But meetings are different. Everyone needs to be engaged, and taking care of a baby (even if that baby is quiet or asleep) while on a conference call is unprofessional and shouldn’t be done. I’m willing to bet that one or more people have an issue with it, but don’t want to say anything.

      4. Gloucesterina*

        Besides, LW may not be in a role that demands laser focus and/or the performance of laser focus, 8 hours straight or however many hours per day. Maybe it’s a role where it’s expected that people can take breaks to look at their personal email or non-work site as long as they produce work at a certain pace.

        1. Gloucesterina*

          But this is of course separate from the question of whether it’s acceptable within the LW’s workplace culture to hold a baby on a call. There are lots of ways to be mentally disengaged from a conversation while staring intently at everyone on the call, but if some level of performance of professionalism is valued in her context, that’s very worth getting explicit instruction on!

  27. Dave*

    OP#4. A little different take:

    It sounds like the instructor may been a little too hung up on this. But I also see it that he’s trying to say if you don’t seem that into it, there’s no need to be super involved. And maybe time is allotted for two tries, but he knows from experience, there’s often people who get it in one. And I think there are people who are participation-averted/apathetic to hands on education, and I read that the instructor is trying to mitigate that.

    For example, let’s say there’s time/equipment allotted for 2 practices of a skill. The instructor says: “hey, if you think you got enough practice for your needs in 1 [or just don’t care about going twice], you don’t HAVE to go twice. And gives others a chance to go again/take their time.”

  28. Imaginary Number*

    Who knew that all is took to get a free edit of your cover letter was to send it to news room postings. Do you think they’d mind getting an engineer resume?

    1. Marthooh*

      You’re not going to get a full edit, though, just a teaser. It says, “I have put in bold some mistakes.”

  29. Epsilon Delta*

    Op1, there’s like a 99% at least one of your coworkers is distracted by your quiet baby. When the baby starts indicating they need a diaper change it’s a distraction for everyone. The sound of a baby crying or fussing is really hard to tune out. Please reconsider holding the baby during conference calls.

  30. Madeleine Matilda*

    OP1 – Does your work place have any rules about what you can and can’t do while you telework? I work for the Fed and our telework policy is pretty clear that you cannot take care of another person while working. A nursing mom could nurse under our rules by taking a break to nurse, just as nursing moms in the office can take a break to pump, but once you are done nursing, the expectation is that you are working, not taking care of your child. And holding your child while on a conference call would be care taking. Even if your work place is more relaxed about the line between working and child care, I think you should avoid it as it may give the appearance that you are less focused on your work during your work hours.

  31. Sherri*

    For LW#1 – be forewarned that the option for having your baby close at hand while you work will only be viable for a couple more months, if that. At five months, babies don’t move much and still sleep often. He will be more mobile soon, and won’t be able to keep his hands off your keyboard while you’re working. Trust me, I’ve been there. I even tried separate keyboards – my “real” one and a fake one for my son. He figured that one out pretty quick and only wanted to bang on mine.

    Enjoy the “chill” while you can. Toddlers are wonderful, but they rarely, if ever, “chill” during a video conference.

    1. M. Albertine*

      My last 2 jobs have been very flexible about work from home, but after my oldest got to a certain age, it became an impossibility and I have to be at the office in order to get anything done. I assume once they’re in school, I might be able to work from home more!

    2. Parenthetically*

      This is THE TRUTH, LW1. I literally brought my son to work every day for the first 9 months of his life, and let me tell you, it was many orders of magnitude harder once he could sit up and wasn’t just content to be held or nursed or sleep in his little bassinet by my desk. Once he was on the go, forget it.

    3. Lia*

      And — it’s a heck of a lot easier to get into the routine of “no baby time while i am working” NOW rather than later.

      I worked remotely for 6 years for two different companies, and both had an ironclad policy that childcare had to be used if you were on the clock. We had to to document our providers as well.

  32. Sara without an H*

    OP#2 Re Bumper Stickers: I decided to reply separately, rather than join the many promising rabbit holes this questions has generated upstream. While I agree that you don’t have standing to raise this issue with the individual concerned, you should raise it with your manager. If employees are using their personal vehicles to transport clients (which is a bad idea, but your agency may have no viable alternatives), then the vehicles need to be made as neutral as possible. That means no bumper stickers of any kind, political, social, or whimsical.

    I say this as someone who has never defaced my car with a bumper sticker of any kind. If you want to know what I think about an issue, you’ll just have to ask me.

  33. Met*


    I would not love seeing a baby during a conference call and I’m a mom! I also think most offices allow you to work remote as a perk but it’s not to watch your child during work hours. It sounds like your husband watches the baby, but I would treat it like if you had daycare at work, see your child during your breaks or if you need to feed them for the time then go back to work. Once the baby gets fed hand the baby back to your husband. Watching or holding a baby while working is distracting and I have found impacts work from my team who work remote and have their children at home with them. That is why I ask them to have child care for their children or they can’t work remotely. I even had to take back the perk for some. I feel I am a better worker as a parent but I also know and understand first hand that it looks unprofessional to have the baby on a video call. You wouldn’t do it at the office so don’t do it while working remotely.

    They also may be mentioning the baby looking bigger as a way of saying that since the baby is older maybe he/ she shouldn’t be on your lap all the time. I don’t know. If I were your manager I would probably talk with you about it, but I’m also a female boss. I know some of my male colleagues have had similar situations but have mentioned they are unsure how to bring it up with team members. I also work in a more casual office if that helps at all.

    I think this is why so many offices are unsure parents working from home. I think it helps both home and work life if done correctly.

  34. Who Knows*

    OP #1, I think it all depends on who is on the other end of the conference call. If they’re coworkers you are close with, I think it would be fine, but if it’s higher-ups more than your immediate supervisor, I would ask your husband to watch the baby. Personally, I wouldn’t mind it as I like babies, but as others have said, I’m then going to be all about the baby. Forget whatever we’re talking about, I’m going to want to just stare at this cute and cuddly baby in your lap.

    My boss at my first full-time job out of college brought her baby with her to my job interview. She wasn’t back from maternity leave yet but came in to interview me, and her childcare fell through at the last second. She apologized profusely to me, but the baby was super calm and sweet and it was certainly a memorable experience!

  35. Met*

    Lw1 you also don’t want to be not thought about for promotions based on your colleagues thinking you don’t have good judgement. This will impact that.

  36. Jenn*

    OP #1 – I read a study a while ago that women who leave early/right on time to pick up theirkidsare perceived as less dedicated to their work while men who do the same are perceived as ultra responsible.*

    So if your long-term goal is to build a career and a solid reputation in your company I would be really cautious about putting your baby on camera. Unfortunately there’s still a lot of bias in the workplace about mums and their ability to stay professionally committed. I do think this is changing but you may not want your career to become the collateral damage along the way. I don’t know what kind of calls these are but you probably want people to think of your ideas or stellar reports rather than as the woman with the baby. “Bring your whole self to work” is great rhetoric but I’m not sure it will stand up later when great accounts/projects/promotions are coming up. If people are remembering your baby and not your work, you could get passed over.

    * This is why my husband and I split the day care pickups with him doing 3-4x a week and me doing the drop offs and 1-2 pickups.

    1. Lexi Kate*

      I read a book before I had a baby “I don’t know how she does it” and then again about 3 weeks back in the office and it was so true then and still now. Maybe it’s because we are both in finance but its a good read that is all too true even today.


  37. Spider*

    OP #1 — Your phrase, “I think of it as bringing the “mama” part of me to work,” is kinda bugging me. You can bring all the skills you’ve learned as a parent to work without, you know, bringing your actual child to work (even virtually).

    1. Spider*

      Well, that came out harsher than I’d intended — please imagine my post above spoken in a friendly tone of voice!

    2. Nonsensical*

      Yeah there are certain things you just leave at home. You don’t bring the “mama” part of you to work and most companies I’ve worked at have rules about this.

    3. Reese Cups or Kit Kat*

      This is on the same line as a few months ago the grad student who wanted to put having a baby on her resume and to bring it up in interviews. They both really put me off on the context of how they are doing what most people do.

      1. Observer*

        That was a LOT worse than this OP. Not that I think that you want to talk about bringing you “mama self” to work – it sounds juvenile, at best. But putting it on a resume!? There is a reason why the reaction there was so uniformly aghast.

  38. Hush42*

    OP #2 I think it’s okay to ask the employee to remove the Pro-Life bumper sticker but only if that rule applies across the board. This means that if Jane has to remove her Pro-Life Bumper sticker then Linda has to remove her Pro-choice bumper sticker. Anything political, on BOTH sides of the spectrum should be removed. But you have to make sure that the rules, whatever they are, are enforced evenly across the board. It’s very easy to unintentionally overlook signs or stickers that support your viewpoints and focus on the ones that don’t. This is true of everyone with any opinion of any kind ever. As a social services provider you need to be a neutral. As others have said 1 in 4 women have had an abortion and you don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable but you also don’t want to make anyone who is strongly pro-life uncomfortable either. It’s best to keep politics out of it all together.

    1. Observer*

      In the case of abortion, there are women who have been coerced or pressured to have an abortion they didn’t want, and women who have had what they see as necessary abortions which still leave emotional scars. For a lot of these women pro-choice stickers might be uncomfortable as well.

      In this context, the topic of abortion should only come up if the client needs information or resources related to the matter.

  39. seller of teapots*

    I seem to be in the minority here, but I really don’t see the problem with holding a chill baby while you work. Chill baby, sleeping cat, calm dog….these are all lovely to catch a glimpse of on a conference call. I might briefly brighten and think “how cute!” Before retuning to the topic at hand, but I’m a grown up who can concentrate on work. And I assume that the parent/pet owner similarly can pet a cat or hold a baby who’s playing quietly with their toes while concentrating on the task at hand. I think my kid is really, really cute, but even I do not think he’s so cute everything else recedes into the background.

    Crying baby, cat who won’t get of the keyboard, barking dog….those are different. But that isn’t what the letter writer is talking about.

    You know your baby, your work environment, your work-style best, so I think you should feel comfortable trusting that. If you’re having doubts, maybe reach out to a close, honest co-worker and get their opinion.

    1. Where’s my coffee?*

      Yeah I don’t love the thought of a toddler running wild, but a quiet infant doesn’t really seem like a big deal. I’ve seen cats, dogs, spouses etc on calls and I don’t mind if it’s minor and not distracting. I’d probably feel different if the call was formal in nature (ie a company announcement or something) or if clients were somehow involved.

    2. Redshirt*

      It seems clear that a significant portion of individuals do find holding a baby during a conference call off-putting. It’s probable that some of OPs coworkers feel the same way. Based on that likelihood, it’s safest professionally not to continue the action.

      1. ThankYouRoman*

        We’re too small of a sample size with clearly slanted views on professionalism, so no, just because the commentary section weighs heavy one way it’s not probable that in a true mix of humans in the entire world anyone will have an issue with a person holding their baby.

        That’s not how statistics work.

  40. VAkid*

    Sen. Larissa Waters of Australia had an article published about her in 2017 because she was nursing on the Senate floor. I think I have seen a couple of other high profile cases where a woman is not just holding a baby, but actually nursing them in a work environment. Just throwing that out there into the mix!

    1. Delphine*

      There’s also ex-Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli who had her daughter with her during chamber sessions for quite some time. You could basically watch her grow up.

    2. Liz*

      Yes! I was waiting for someone to bring this up, because I feel like this might be a rare occasion where politics is advancing faster than mainstream workplace norms. A lot of the comments here feel like they could have come from an Australian tabloid newspaper around that time.

  41. boo bot*

    There was some comment above about the OP in #3 needing to get tougher if she wants to work in journalism – I think that’s somewhat fair, although I don’t think “get tougher” is really the right mentality. Receiving and responding well to blunt criticism is a learned skill, not a virtue, and as such there are techniques for getting better at it.

    So, here are a few techniques for receiving blunt criticism:

    (1) Whatever your impulse – whether it’s to argue, to apologize, or to explain yourself, just swallow it and listen in the moment. Say “thank you,” when you want to say “I’m sorry,” or “You’re an idiot.” Argue and explain later, to your friends, possibly at a bar (or other social gathering place of your choice).

    (2) Ideally, you want to be able to detach yourself from your work when you’re discussing it with an editor – the work is not an extension of you as a person, but a separate, existing object that you are seeking to improve together.

    (3) Keep in mind that your editor isn’t there to argue with you or stifle your creativity (even if that’s what they are doing! Sometimes creativity needs to be locked down for a while). Editors are your safety net – you don’t want to publish something that’s misspelled, poorly sourced, or overwritten. It may not always be comfortable, but that blunt criticism is what helps you avoid sharp, public criticism later on.

    (4) Be sparing with your arguments – pick your battles (and in the very beginning your battles should be limited to, “the fact is X so we should say X”).

    Worth it:
    “We’ve got to run this story, we’ve got the sources to back it up. The Squirrel Affair goes all the way to the top and the people deserve to know!”
    “That dialogue doesn’t actually sound like something the character would say, can we change it to this instead?”
    “If we say that here, it’s going to ruin the plot to the next three books. Can we say this instead?”

    Not worth it:
    “But this sentence/paragraph/metaphor is so clever! If you take it out, how will the readers know I am so clever?!”
    “The source didn’t exactly say that, but I know it’s what she meant.”
    “But I need ALL of those adverbs.”

    1. fposte*

      Oh, this is really good, and I like your differentiations. You can argue based on logic, but no hoarding out of sheer love.

      1. boo bot*

        “No hoarding out of sheer love” – I love that. A rule I try to live by is, if I find myself disproportionately attempting to rearrange everything else around one element (a scene, paragraph, plot, etc) then the element probably needs to go – I think that phrase sums up the principle behind the rule beautifully.

    2. iglwif*

      Oh gosh this is so well articulated!

      I no longer have to do this except for major, major creative projects, but here’s my technique:

      1. Read everything through once.
      2. Go out for dinner with my family. Have an alcoholic drink. Rant.
      3. Sleep on it.
      4. Read everything through again.
      5. Copy-paste into a file and start responding, in a different colour, to every point the editor makes.
      6. Sleep on it.
      7. Read their comments and your replies over again. Start deciding which are the hills I want to die on.
      8. Repeat step 7 until I’m down to the for-real essentials, and have good, solid, reason-based arguments for them.
      9. Schedule a call with the editor to talk those things through.
      10. Have the call. On average, I’d say I get to keep probably 90% of the things I decide to really fight for … which is probably, like, 25% of the original list of things I was mad about ;) The call will generate a bunch of new ways of looking at the issues, and maybe some new solutions to the problems that hadn’t previously occurred to either party.
      11. Make a pot of tea and get started.

      1. boo bot*

        Yeah, all of this! Except 11, for some reason I have a defect where I don’t really like tea. (Probably I’ve never met the right tea, but until that happens I shall keep hope alive and drink seltzer.)

        Step 8 – reason-based arguments – is so important, not only because it’s good to be able to back up your arguments, but also because I’ve found it has made me so much better at what I do.

        There was a time when I was a reasonably competent writer, but I couldn’t really explain why I was doing what I was doing, it just “felt right.” And often it was, but because I was going on gut feeling, it was harder to know why something worked, and therefore how to create something different that worked for the same reason.

        Now I remain a reasonably competent writer, but I know why I do things. Not always in the moment as I’m writing it, but if you point to a word and ask why I used it instead of a different word, I’ll either give you six different reasons or I’ll say, “Oh, yeah – your word is better!” (And here are six reasons why.)

      1. boo bot*

        You won’t be able to read it if it’s tattooed on your face! My advice is, get it tattooed on your favorite friend’s face instead.

  42. Bend & Snap*

    #1 I’m saying this as a mother…nobody thinks your child is as cute as you do.

    So people might tolerate the baby on the video call but I doubt anyone looks forward to it.

    You can show up as your whole self at work without bringing your child on the regular. We all get stuck sometimes and HAVE to bring our kids to calls/to the video conference/whatever, but it’s wise to save that capital for when you need it vs. using it up as a matter of routine.

    1. CR*

      Yes, and don’t talk about being a “mama” at work or how being a “mama” helps you do your job. Just no.

  43. Rachael*

    OP #1: To answer your question. Statistically there are some people on the call who are annoyed and some people who aren’t. Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone. You are going to have to decide if it is worth irritating the people who are not excited about seeing your baby. I’m one of the people in the camp “as long as there isn’t a disruption” and even if there is, having a disruption only a couple of times is okay. Of course, I am biased. I’ve have led calls (non video) and thought I was on mute only to hear laughter when I said “just eat your sandwich” in a frustrated tone to my child. Sometimes, those things give people a chuckle and sometimes others roll their eyes.

    If it were me, make sure you have buy-in from your boss, or senior coworkers of whose opinion you value. Then, ignore the others if you feel that there is a minority of people who are irritated. I, myself, think it a bit ridiculous for people to be annoyed just by *seeing* a baby. Now, if the baby was fussing or making noise, yes. Please give the baby to your husband.

    1. Lehigh*

      I like this.

      I agree, some people will be annoyed. Determine if those people are the ones whose opinion you care about, and proceed accordingly.

  44. Dr. Pepper*

    #4: I think you handled that perfectly. If the instructor had made a bigger deal about it, you should have pushed back and argued for your rightful place as a paying student to practice the material. But as it is, you did it right. Very often simply doing exactly what you wanted to do in the first place and not making a fuss about it is the best way to handle things like that. I do it frequently and rarely do people even say something, let alone push back on me. Doing your own thing quietly yet purposefully is often the most powerful statement you can make. If they didn’t have enough course material for everyone or hadn’t thought through how to organize it so everyone got a turn, that’s not your problem.

    Also, your cows are adorable! I love cows.

  45. Leela*

    OP #1 for what it’s worth, I wish we lived in a world where you wouldn’t even have to ask this question! I think we’re just barely coming around to the idea that we’re living a little wrong, expecting to shutter children out of the adult world because adults find children inconvenient/distracting, including work, which obviously causes a huge amount of time that parents are completely unable to care for or even be with their children.

    As for whether or not you should be able to have your baby on the conference I can’t say, I’ve worked for a variety of workplaces and can guarantee you it would be A Problem at some places and not a problem at all at others, and others where it would not only be a problem but the distraction was welcome because our culture was more like a community. Whatever your office culture I wish you the best of luck with this, and I wish that our society didn’t force us to put huge, important parts of human life on the backburner for looks.

  46. Sunshine*

    #4 – I can’t help but wonder if this was the instructor’s poor attempt at addressing a situation that had arisen in a previous semester. People take continuing ed classes for a variety of reasons, and sometimes overly vocal students can derail a class if they aren’t there for the primary purpose of the class. In my opinion, the personality of the student is a larger contributing factor for derailment rather than the reason for taking the class though.

    And if it’s a question of not having enough materials or hands-on time for everyone, then that’s the instructor’s and the college’s problem. They have the option of making the classes smaller or adding a separate lab.

  47. iglwif*

    OP#3, not only is that not cruel, it’s unusually helpful, and constitutes vastly more feedback than most people get on rejected job applications.

    This person has explained why you aren’t getting an interview (which most employers don’t do) AND helped you identify a serious problem with your materials. You applied to a long-shot job and actually got helpful, usable feedback that will, if you take it on board, give you a better shot at an interview for the next job you apply for. Rejoice!

    Are you hoping to work in any profession involving writing? If so, I’m telling you from decades of experience, learning to take feedback on board, adapt your writing to the needs of specific audiences, not taking critiques of your work as criticism of you as a person, and working collaboratively is *essential* to both your career success and your mental health. Writing, and especially writing for media outlets, is not a solo-genius-banging-a-typewritter-in-a-garret job; it requires flexibility, collaboration, creativity of many different kinds, multitasking, and resilience.

  48. Brett*

    Since I had this come up at last job, how do you deal with this if your boss is not eligible to nominate you, and the eligible people are peers in the same organization or colleagues in other organizations?

    (Background: I was a specialist in one area inside a department that was mostly unrelated. So while I was a member of the professional organizations relevant to my department, only 2 other people in my 1000+ employee department were in any of the professional organizations for my specialty. Only members of the professional organizations could nominate.)

  49. Fabulous*

    No real comment other than to say im super grateful that we don’t do video conferences at my job! Voice only calls FTW.

  50. spinetingler*

    My car, my opinions.

    Want no opinions? Provide a company vehicle, or take over the payments on mine.

    Some folks are granting company control over their private lives way too easily.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Realtor also leaps to mind. My exec spouse sometimes gives visiting clients a ride in his car–political stickers might be problematic. (It’s a new car and I think has zero stickers.)

        Lots of jobs, your car is just how you get to work and no one ever sees it, and as long as it isn’t a mobile billboard for your company’s chief competitor then probably no one cares. But some jobs, people look at your car and will adjust their interactions with you based on what you’re yelling, just like they would if it was on a T-shirt or protest sign.

    1. DreamingInPurple*

      Eh, not really. If they’re paying you mileage reimbursement as part of your job, and you’re writing that off on your taxes (and both of these should be happening if they are being asked to drive clients around), then your car is being used on behalf of your job for those times. Like it or not, mileage reimbursement is considered a viable alternative to providing company vehicles for many companies/agencies.

  51. Leslie*

    For what it’s worth, I work from home and periodically do videoconference meetings. I would say that when it comes to family friendliness, there’s a big range in what people mean when they say that. I am certain that every individual with which I work would say that he or she is family friendly. But the bulk of them also have no patience for anything that distracts from actually getting things done. They love their own families, they’re happy to chit-chat about family stuff when there’s some idle time before everyone’s joined a meeting. Some even ask for photos periodically. But when it’s time for the meeting to actually happen, they don’t want people’s personal lives to be present at all. If the people in your workplace are at all like the ones in mine, you may be being judged VERY harshly the longer you continue this, and it may follow you for a long time, even after you aren’t doing it anymore.

    (And I’m saying this in a “save yourself” sort of way, because I work from home. My husband had a sustained health crisis when my daughter was small, and between dealing with the two of them plus an inadequate childcare situation plus work… I slipped up at work several times, and my reputation took a huge hit. It was a hard situation. My husband is better, my childcare situation has stabilized, and I’m still trying to regain respect and trust from my coworkers. I think if people saw too much of my daughter before everything went down, they would have been even less sympathetic, because they would have felt that as a baseline, I wasn’t prioritizing work in the right way. Don’t spend your personal capital in this area on a nice-to-have– you don’t know when you’re going to need it for a crisis.)

  52. Laura*

    As far as the political bumper stickers go…This is the problem with companies socializing their costs ie. having employees use their own cars to transport or otherwise use their own assets to help the company make money or save money or both. Regardless of how anyone feels about the possible alienation of clients, this is an employee private vehicle it should not be regulated except for safety issues and vehicle functioning. We are not slaves to the company nor should the company (or other busybodies) tell us what to do with our private vehicle within reason regarding safety of said vehicle. Get a company car or 3 if you want to control political content.

    1. DreamingInPurple*

      When you accept mileage reimbursement and claim that on your taxes (both of which should be happening if you are asked to drive clients around in your own car as part of your job), that use of your car becomes a work expense and it does, in fact, become your employer’s business what your car looks like.

  53. RUKiddingMe*

    “Is it unprofessional to have my baby on video conferences?”

    Did anyone else read this an entirely different way?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      First comment. And the rare case when you can say your coworker is having a baby AT you.

  54. ThankYouRoman*

    Oh? So you’re all for abolishing the death penalty too, right? Since you’re all about life and anti-murder.

  55. Fred*

    I would feel uncomfortable with a colleague having her baby while we are working. It’s distracting and I feel pressure to ooh and ahh over the baby when really I don’t like them.

  56. Courageous cat*

    Restricting people’s rights is worse than supporting people’s rights. Sorry, it’s not the same, nor will it ever be. Bad things are worse than good things, they’re not equal.

    And I don’t think it needs to be said but this obviously loaded comment doesn’t belong here. Everyone on this site leans pretty liberal so I don’t know what you think you’re going to accomplish.

  57. Bookworm*

    1. I personally don’t mind babies and do like seeing them but it can vary from person to person and workplace to workplace. I worked at a telecommute position so it wasn’t unusual to hear or see small children, although my co-workers did try to keep it to a minimum.

    If you’re really concerned about it, I’d suggest trying to schedule the calls when your kid is at daycare/asleep/etc. or to have your husband keep the baby.

  58. LittleLove*

    As a former reporter, I can tell the person who applied for the reporter’s job with typos and/or mistakes in the cover lever, that person was lucky. Most editors would just have passed the badly-written cover letter around the office for laughs and never responded. I have laughed over some bad cover letters myself. Newsrooms need a laugh and a bad job application is one of the best.
    Seriously, if you apply for a writing job, being actually able to write really helps. And proofread.

  59. Oilpress*

    #1 – Holding a baby is going to affect your ability to do just about any job. That is the main reason I would advise against trying to pull simultaneous baby and work duty.

  60. ZucchiniBikini*

    I think whether or not holding a baby on conference calls is perceived as distracting or detrimental comes down to organisational norms and expectations.

    I do agree, of course, that if the baby is fussing, it would be distracting in the same way that a barking dog or the sound of background conversations by other household members would be. Anything that introduces extra noise to the already challenging auditory environment of a conference call is not ideal.

    That said, I have done many a conference call with a sleeping baby strapped to my chest in a sling (although as they were mostly not videoconferences, it’s doubtful that my meeting partners actually realised this was the case). I have also attended in-person meetings doing the same, and indeed, have nursed a tiny bub while sitting at the back in an informational meeting (where I was expected to listen and learn, not speak). In the public sector in Australia, where I live, this is very normal, and anyone objecting to it would be seen as the one out of step. The key question here seems to be, “Is this additional factor (baby, dog, household, whatever) making noise or otherwise creating a disturbance that makes it harder to speak or be heard?” The mere existence of a quiet baby (or dog, etc) is not considered to be an impediment to conducting business.

  61. Big Biscuit*

    I’m probably old school, but in general, NO. If I understood correctly, the spouse is there anyway, so there’s no reason (unless some sort of emergency). I work for a company, where my peers can work from home and probably once a month there is some sort of distraction in the background during a call. I drive 35 minutes to my office just so it cannot happen to me (cats, kids and a dog)!

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