update: my boss talks about her kids non-stop

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss talked about her kids non-stop and sometimes made judgmental comments about their colleagues’ parenting? Here’s the update.

I took seriously your advice (and the commenters’) to stop the undermining comments and jokes about Lizzie’s child-focused chatter. I found that stopping it myself stopped others doing it, so I didn’t need to have an explicit conversation.

However, I haven’t felt able to have a direct conversation with Lizzie. I had been trying to find a comfortable moment to sit down with her, but our one-on-ones have been cancelled repeatedly, and when we’ve had them we’ve had to deal with issues of the moment rather than having the time to talk more broadly. I had my performance review with Lizzie which went well, but somehow I couldn’t raise the child-chatter issue there, as it would have seemed a bit defensive or reactionary.

Unfortunately, since I wrote to you, our team has been the recipient of a few organizational barbs; one staff member was poached by a senior manager, and their transfer processed by HR without even letting Lizzie know. We also moved desks to a more coveted spot, and people who ended up in our previous ill-lit noisy area have protested by obstructing our work. As well, Lizzie has been dealing with a performance issue, and it looks like the staff member isn’t going down without a fight. So, all in all, she has enough on her plate at present.

But there’s hope on the horizon; as we head into the holiday season, Lizzie has expressed her disapproval of parents who give their kids “plastic rubbish.” When another team member shopped at lunch for little stocking stuffers for her children, Lizzie said in my hearing “MORE presents for your kids!?!” I think this gives me a legitimate ‘in’ to raising the issue, and I will do so when we next have a catch-up.

{ 155 comments… read them below }

  1. rldk

    Good on you, OP, for not giving up even when it’s likely going to be awkward. I hope the conversation goes well – it sounds like the kids-talk could be brought up as a part of a morale issue at this point. With everything else happening, it’s likely that Parenting Judgment isn’t helping the team as a whole.

    (And the stocking stuffers comment is just plain rude!)

    1. Hills to Die on

      It is rude. Lizzie sounds like a Sanctimommy and I can’t believe nobody has told her to shut up yet. You are very nice for not making fun of her and opting out of playing bingo.

      1. 2 Cents

        OT but there is a fantastic Instagram account called Santimonious Mommy that this Uber-boss would probably think was real advice.

        1. Gumby

          I *love* the Los Feliz Daycare twitter account. There is definitely a certain group that might take some of their tweets seriously.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Upper West Side Moms Facebook group is pure gold. (And sadly not satiric, but it could be.)

        2. Avalon Angel

          There’s also STFU Parents, but it hasn’t been updated in awhile. Still worth a look in the archives, especially the Facebook moms entries!

    2. GreenDoor

      I read that part through the lense of being a mom myself – where you just want to do your best to make the holidays happy and you’re looking forward to the smiles and the shrieks of delight and the super excited “Look what Santa brought!!!”…and then you come in to work and your co-worker, who makes way more money than you and who can probably afford to do a lot of things for her kids that you’ll never be able to do for yours, just goes and whizzes all over it. I feel so bad for that employee and I really hope the OP takes the next available opportunity to address this!

      1. Artemesia

        Nice point. It is like people being condescending about those who live in mobile homes as if people whose housing options are mobile homes wouldn’t love to have tons of money to be able to buy a McMansion or a fancy condo in a nice area. It is always icky to be judgmental about others’ parenting choices, but doubly so when there is this classist tinge.

        1. hayling

          Yes! It’s expensive to only eat organic, only give your kids wooden toys, only use nannies, etc.! Lizzie is coming from a point of extreme privilege.

        2. DArcy

          Yeah. I have the privilege of a fancy condo downtown and I would NEVER rub my coworkers’ faces in it. That’s just rude.

    3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

      I’m not sure I would have been able to stop myself telling her to take a flying leap. That’s incredibly rude and sanctimonious.

  2. Foreign Octopus

    Hey, OP. Thanks for the update!

    I think that by waiting for the perfect moment, you’re just delaying the inevitable and making it more awkward when the time comes. There’s never going to be a perfect moments. The best thing to do is to dip into her office, or go get a coffee with her, and bring it up as soon as possible.

    1. Laika

      If I’m reading the last paragraph right, it sounds like OP had found her moment and is getting ready to address it ASAP. Hopefully it all goes smoothly!!

  3. Rectilinear Propagation

    When another team member shopped at lunch for little stocking stuffers for her children, Lizzie said in my hearing “MORE presents for your kids!?!”

    Why do you care, Lizze? Why do you care?

    The indirect disapproval of a comment like, “I’d never give my kids sugar” is one thing. That’s a blanket disapproval of the idea and more about bragging about her own parenting anyway. But complaining about a specific co-worker’s parenting choices? Not at all OK.

    I hope what you said earlier about her being big on self-improvement does apply to this situation too.

    1. irene adler

      Wanting to comment to Lizzie: “Yes! More presents for my kids! I sure enjoy treating my kids when I can. Don’t want to be a grinch about Christmas!”

      Yeah, not a kind thing to say-even indirectly.

    2. Mimi Me

      “I’d never give my kids sugar” is not okay. Unless the moment it was said involved someone trying to give Lizzie’s kid a sugary treat, it’s a judgement. I’ve worked with many “Lizzie” types and they’re usually not open to any criticism despite the ease at which they deliver it. Good Luck LW! Keep us posted on how she takes it.

      1. Oranges

        It’s totally about the tone and context of the convo. Usually though it’s a way to say “I’m a better parent than you”. Which…. makes me want to break out the duct tape.

      2. Treecat

        My husband’s mom was one of those “I’d never give my kids sugar” parents when he was growing up, and he and his siblings still make fun of her for it. He’s pushing 40. They do not have fond memories of this particular aspect of her parenting, and think it was completely ridiculous.

        1. Janie

          My friend’s mom was like that until she caught him at age 8 hiding in a cupboard eating straight sugar out of its container. She thought it better to give him a few treats here and there rather than create a Sugar Smeagol.

    3. I'm just here for the comments

      I got the “sugar is bad” comment from an older lady at Walmart in the checkout line after she heard me bargaining with my 4 yr-old who was starting to melt-down (he was tired and hungry). My cheerful response: “well, our Halloween candy has to get eaten at some point!” Yes, her comment was rude (and she went on to make other not-necessary childcare comments) and judgy, and I did not appreciate it all. I’m also not going to stand there and give her my full educational and parenting credentials and explain that I know excessive sugar is bad and my son is a healthy eater and I home- cook a majority of our meals, because honestly it’s none of her business. I think my snark threw her off because she backtracked a little and tried to explain herself. I understand her comment is more about her life than it is about my parenting, but that still doesn’t give her or anyone license to vomit advice or comments over me (and this has happened more than once). The time to catch Lizzie is in the moment, with a “why do you care so much about X buying gifts?” or “it’s X’s choice to buy her kids gifts and I’m sure she knows what she’s doing and we’re not going to judge her for it.” So yes, indirect comments are just as obnoxious as direct ones and neither needs to be made out-loud.

      1. thakkali

        I think the “drive-by parenting” comments come from a very weird place: this feeling that babies and children are somehow a common good. That is, they will eventually grow up to be adults and participate in society. Because of that, everyone has a say in how they are raised.

        (I don’t actually believe this, but it’s what I’ve come up with regarding all the comments I’ve heard from strangers/virtual strangers about what to eat/not eat during pregnancy, how long a person should breastfeed, sugar/no sugar, co-sleeping, tv/screen time etc.)

    4. Working Mom Having It All

      Also, FOR REAL how does it hurt anyone if Random Coworker buys her kid presents, or what kind of presents/what materials the presents are made of?

  4. Hey Karma, Over here.

    “Lizzie has expressed her disapproval of parents who give their kids “plastic rubbish.” When another team member shopped at lunch for little stocking stuffers for her children, Lizzie said in my hearing “MORE presents for your kids!?!”

    In the first letter, OP states that she asked “Beatrice” to discuss this with Lizzy, but determined that no conversation took place because Lizzie would have self corrected. This new attack goes outside the self absorbed, I only give my gifted kids X and Y” and “I would never to A and B to/for my kids.” So I think she got a talk, but doesn’t care.

    1. Sloan Kittering

      It’s a little weird to me that OP describes Lizzie as self aware and a good manager, because this kind of thoughtless comment seems really rude and over the line. But perhaps I’m not picturing the tone correctly – maybe it was raised laughingly, like teasing the coworker.

      1. MLB

        It’s still not okay, regardless of her tone. Saying it in a joking way is just as judgmental and condescending as saying it with a different tone. She needs to be spoken to, or it’s going to build up and build up and someone is going to snap at her.

      2. myswtghst

        It’s definitely not an okay thing to say, regardless of tone or intent, but I will say that I’ve noticed a bit of a blind spot some people have about these things, where it’s almost like they don’t even realize how judgmental what they’re saying is, even if they are otherwise generally self aware and decent people. I think a lot of people (and mothers in particular) have been judged really harshly for their parenting choices, and seem to have a knee-jerk reaction to seek approval for their parenting methods, which thenends up continuing the cycle of judgement.

        I have a 5 month old, and I recently came back to work after 3 months of maternity leave, so I’m seeing this A LOT right now. It seems like everyone “knows” what’s best for babies, and is happy to tell me what’s best for my baby, even though the vast majority of people are referencing outdated standards and debunked research that I’ve spent months reviewing because I have anxiety and a background in science.

    2. Michaela Westen

      The times I’ve been around people like this I kept quiet about my personal business and shared nothing. That’s the only way I’ve found to avoid their abuse.

    3. AKchic

      That is my thought too. She probably did get spoken to, but it was in such soft-language non-speak that it didn’t even cross Lizzie’s mind that she was being told she needed to actually stop doing it. More of a “hey, someone mentioned that you’re saying this, so I now know you’re saying this, but whatever, k?”

      It is judgmental, it is mean-spirited, and it does need to stop. If the original person didn’t make that clear before, someone needs to do so.

  5. animaniactoo

    OP, you’re probably not going to get a better moment than one of those last two comments you mentioned. Either of those would be a good moment to say “Hey Lizzie, can I talk to you about something?” and pull her aside for “That comment comes off as pretty judgmental and people have enough on their plates trying to make choices as parents, as I’m sure you realize, without hearing stuff like that. I understand that you have strong opinions about this, but you do it more often than I think you realize and some people have expressed frustration about it. Their choices may be ones that you wouldn’t make, but most people are making choices based on what they can do or believe themselves is best and it’s good for them to be able to do that without getting disapproval on a non-work related issue from their boss.”

    Honestly, I would say those are your perfect moments – because you said that you’d raise it when you next have a catch-up… but you just described having had a problem in getting to a catch-up or raising it when you’ve had one due to other factors and I think you need to look at that history and grab a different plan for addressing this. One that you can enact much more quickly.

    1. pegster

      Completely agree. When I’m having a hard time bringing something up, I find the best way to do it is to have it on my radar to look for a moment when it’s the most relevant. Then it doesn’t seem like it’s coming from left-field and the person I’m talking to doesn’t have to remember all that far back to an example of what I’m talking about.

      It’s hard to say given just a snapshot, but it seems that the OP is making a bigger deal of it than it is (although I would never recommend bringing this up in their own performance review) and the quicker dealt with the better for everyone.

      I think if the OP frames this as giving Lizzie some feedback that might help (which I think it will) as opposed to adding one more to her plate, they’ll be faster to bring it up.

    2. Sloan Kittering

      I think you’re right to catch it in the moment, but I think the script is a little longer than I’d go with. “I think people are hoping we can keep parenting decisions out of the workplace, and I know you’d never want to make people feel like you’re judging them.” I think I might separate out the fact that Lizzie humblebrags about her own kids too much, from this issue of weighing in on other people’s parenting. The latter is going to be easier to tackle.

      1. animaniactoo

        Yeah, the word “concise” and I are not friends… more like a nodding acquaintance. Maybe someday we’ll manage it. I think shorter is better, but whatever it is also has to hit the base that people are frustrated by hearing those kinds of comments.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Strong agree. I suspect I would have lost my temper and yelled at Lizzie at this point.

      There will be no perfect time, so you have to try to make the opportunity/time, even though things are particularly difficult right now.

    4. Augusta Sugarbean

      I also think the OP is trying to be nice at the expense of being direct. The original letter described Lizzie in glowing terms and said there’s one “tiny” problem. And then when feedback was given to Lizzie’s manager “I said there was one tiny thing she could change, and that I wouldn’t bother raising it with any other manager…”. Everything in both letters makes it sound like it’s only a small and insignificant matter so it’s not surprising that it’s still going on. But it is enough of an issue to write in and then write another update. Lizzie is clearly oblivious to how her comments are being received. She (and her manager if it goes that far again) is going to need pretty explicit language for her to get it.

      1. Ms. Ann Thropy

        Yes. The way to address her (ideally in the moment)is,
        “Your judgmental comments about colleagues’ childraising choices are unwelcome and inappropriate. Please stop.”

  6. Parenthetically

    Just on a practical “how to approach this” level, I really think it can be a good wake-up call to well-intentioned Judgy Judgersons to remind them that the largest polluter in the world is the US Military, and that if they want to take on “plastic rubbish” they can write their senators and congress members rather than guilt-trip their employees. She can take that zeal and shove it up her… I mean redirect it.

    1. Edianter

      You’re definitely not wrong, but I take the “plastic rubbish” comment not to mean that OP’s boss has environmental concerns, but rather doesn’t want her kids playing with toys that aren’t of high enough quality. (Same vein as “My kids only watch *educational* television, none of that *cartoon rubbish*”)

      1. Archaeopteryx

        Yes the comment makes me picture a Portlandia-esque mom who only gets her kid vintage- inspired hand-carved wooden toys from local artisans. Which, sure, is probably nice if you can swing it, but if someone’s kid had their heart set on a specific plastic action figure, it’s okay to get it for them! It is FINE.

        1. A tester, not a developer

          Well, the children wouldn’t even WANT plastic action figures if their parents only allowed them to watch nature documentaries and French New Wave cinema like Lizzie does with her kids.*
          (I suspect the Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut action figures come in disjointed pieces and have to be hand assembled).
          */sarcasm

      2. Parenthetically

        I totally agree, but I think it’s still a good redirect. She has Lots Of Opinions, so point those Opinions away from her beleaguered employees and toward literally anything else.

  7. LawBee

    For what it’s worth, I grew up with, baby sat, and now are friends of parents of kids who were no-sugar, no-screens, no-tv.

    I have never seen such candy and television obsessed children in my life. I had a friend who came over solely to eat our cereal and watch television. A parent friend of mine has no idea how much time her son spends on the internet because it’s all on his friends’ cell phones when they’re over. Basically, bon chance Lizzy! Your kids are going to do what they want. :D

    1. No one you know

      Omg, yes. The kids I babysat who weren’t allowed or strictly restricted sweets, tv, and video games were the ones who were absolutely devious when it came to obtaining those things. Sneaking out of bead, lying, etc. They were also a pain to watch since I had to monitor which ones had earned screen time or sweets that day, how much, and what type (video games? TV? Internet?) and then deal with the bitter siblings who had to stay in another room, out of view of said screen, and play board games with me.

    2. spek

      We call it the “Todd Marinovich Effect”. It’s a sports reference. Basically, a lot of kids brought up this way crash and burn.

    3. Dust Bunny

      This. My parents were vehemently anti-video game (in the days when home computers were very rare and game consoles were still pretty novel) and my brother would go over to friends’ houses and play obsessively. My mom actually stopped letting him play at certain kids’ houses (insisting that they come to ours instead) because she was embarrassed by how rude he was to ignore his friends while he used their Atari. She was fine with the friends and their parents, just annoyed by my brother.

      I think that, mostly, he outgrew this because kids do, but it actually got better once we had a computer and a few basic games.

    4. Temperance

      YEP. My parents were/are conservative evangelical Christians. I wasn’t allowed to do many normal kid/teen things. I just did them, and worse, behind their backs instead.

    5. Lily in NYC

      I also babysat for a similar family (but they were allowed to watch tv). When they were young, they never wanted sugar and would always choose the less sweet option when given a choice (non-frozen yogurt over ice cream, etc). I have a major sweet tooth and it always amazed me. However, as they got older they rebelled a bit, especially the younger daughter. They were not allowed to wear makeup, and that bugged them both way more than the food restrictions (hey, it was the late 1980s on Long Island; we really caked it on back then).

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      I was the kid that did not do most of the things I was not allowed to do when I lived at home.

      At 17, I graduated high school and came to a big city for college. One of the first people I met in BigCity was a 28-year-old man who immediately got me drunk. And so on. I did not know how to go about life without my parents watching my every step and telling me what to do. One positive outcome of it, as a 17-year-old I already knew that I would not raise my children the way my parents raised me, and why. Pretty happy with the results of my parenting now. My mom (who is my one living parent now) still believes that my kids turned out the way they did by some combination of nature and lucky accident, because, to her, I did nothing to parent them. Because as we all know, if you are not hovering over your kids every minute of every day and making them second-guess everything they do, then you are not parenting.

      1. Recent Anon Lurker

        I had two college roommates that were the product of very protective parents. I considered them “helicoptered into helplessness.”
        (Number 2 literally made it to 20 yo before she was made to do her first load of laundry – because I refused to do it for her. Number one had no idea how to grocery shop, cook, do dishes, make any major decision (and also couldn’t do laundry – but paid the girl down the hall that charged by the pound). I tried to help both of them, but they had 18 or 19 years of mommy doing everything and making every decision. Those habits were hard to break out of.)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          We had a roommate from hell in my second year or college, who never cleaned up, left her dirty clothes all over the floor, and apparently her idea of doing laundry was soaking the clothes in a tub and leaving them there for a few weeks. I recall the one time when she did it, and the load started smelling really bad; the rest of didn’t say anything to her, because we lived in a two-room suite and thought it was the guy in the other room that had done this, and he thought it was one of us. I finally talked to the guy and the truth came out. She still denied that it was her load! I was like, “okay, if no one claims it by the end of today, I’ll pour it down the garbage chute, because I’m just about done with this smell”, lo and behold, the load magically disappeared a few hours later. It was mind-boggling, because she’d grown up with a younger twin brother and sister and you’d think she had to have chores around the house to help her parents raise the three kids. As sheltered as I was, I had chores when I lived with my parents. “Didn’t know how to make any major decision” was definitely me, though. My mom had it drilled into my head that I would make the wrong choice, no matter what I decided on any issue, so I was always afraid to try.

      2. Jennifer Juniper

        Oh dear. I hope that 28-year-old man didn’t take advantage of you when he got you drunk! I’m rather worried after reading that.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          Thank you. He tried really hard! As in, we were going to go sightseeing, but somehow when I sobered up, I was in bed next to him with both our clothes off. I begged him to let me go and he did. It was a scary experience, but one that really opened my eyes to the fact that maybe I should do some things differently with my children than my parents had done with me, if and when I am a parent.

    7. iglwif

      THIS THIS THIS.

      And I observed a very similar phenomenon among people I knew in high school: the kids whose parents were strictest and least approachable about curfews, birth control, and alcohol were sneaking around more, having more sex, and drinking more than the kids like me, whose parents were big on behaving responsibly but not so big on actually forbidding things.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        I saw this in my first year of college. I lived in a dorm, it was a fairly strong school, meaning most people in my year had 1) moved across country for this school and had no family within a day train ride radius or more; 2) had been straight-A students and on their best behavior when they lived at home with their parents and went to high school. Some of these kids really went off the deep end when they realized their parents were not there to tell them to stop, I don’t know, drinking in the morning and whatnot. A few people flunked out at the end of the year. Which was sad, because my home country had mandatory draft for men, and the guys that failed out of college immediately ended up in the army for two years.

        1. Jennifer Juniper

          I was that kid, except I went off the deep end post-college and dated a whole bunch of people who would scare Steven King.

      2. Bubble Witch

        My sibling ended up in the ER at 16 from alcohol poisoning. My parents figured out which kid brought it to our house (yes, our house!). My mom called their mom and surprise surprise! “We have a zero tolerance policy on alcohol in this house.”

        I’m sure you do, lady.

    8. irene adler

      Too bad that some parents can’t model and impart the concept of moderation with all things.

      (except strawberry ice cream -**wink!**)

    9. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw

      We had sugar, but no video games or cable TV, and of the free channels, no “trashy” shows, which mostly meant no sitcoms, reality TV, or the CSI franchise. The rare times I went to friend’s houses (I didn’t really have friends growing up), it was nonstop The Sims and cartoons.

    10. learnedthehardway

      Oh, exactly! My mother did not believe in anything but nature and educational shows on TV for children. The fact that I can watch “The Nature of Things” now on TV says a LOT about how much I have matured, lol. (There was a time I would have cheerfully fed David Suzuki to grizzlies.)

      My mother had no idea how much TV we really watched, I don’t think.

    11. Liz

      My parents were very strict about limiting screentime (not that it was called that in the ’80s and ’90s), limiting the TV we were allowed to watch, banning video games outright, and rationing the amount of popular fiction we were allowed to read.

      Now I’m an adult who watches a lot of TV, still reads popular YA fiction, and just bought herself an XBox. (I also spent my own money on the Barbie I wasn’t allowed to get when I was six.)

      Sometimes, you know, you try your best, your kids still grow up and make their own choices.

      1. Loud Noises

        Can confirm. I myself am an example of strict parents raising a sneaky kid. And boy, was I good at it too. I’m still slightly impressed by the level of determination and persistence that led to some very creative work-arounds for my parent’s edicts.

    12. Glitsy Gus

      Yuuup. My aunt and uncle were extremely “no sugar” when my cousins were little. When they would stay at our house they would et ALL the sugar cereal because they knew it was now or never. At one point, when she was about 5, one of my cousins picked up a piece of candy she saw on the street and ate it because there was NO WAY she was passing up candy, even if it was Street Candy.

      Now when someone says they don’t ever let their kids eat sugar I automatically think, “They’re gonna eat Street Candy!!!!”

    13. TardyTardis

      This sounds like my child who went over to her friend’s house because the mom always had potato chips with lunch and paid no attention to her child and mine sneak-watching the Wrong Channels on the TV the child had in her bedroom (R-rated movies from the San Francisco channel our cable used to get, this was pre-HBO and Showtime). Then again, the two had an act called “The Funny Dummies” they used to perform at our house to the applause of the five-year-olds jammed onto our couch–much later on I found out the little darlings had paid a quarter each for the privilege).

  8. Bigintodogs

    I just finished Big Little Lies, and Lizzie sounds kind of like Renata and the other moms who have gifted kids. I wonder what her kids are like.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      Both of my sons were in gifted programs, so through them I knew other kids that were also in gifted programs… they were all kids like any other kids. Some good, some bad. Maybe in the preteen and early teenage years some of their parents’ attitude rubbed off on them (my son used to come home in 10th grade saying he was exhausted from dealing with all the “overachiever kids” and the way they talked about the other, not-gifted kids in their classes), but in their teens and early 20s they all went on to be different people, just like the rest of us.

      Sometimes I wish our kids came with a preview of what they and their friends would be like as young adults. Otherwise people like Lizzie end up getting the wrong ideas that their children can walk on water, and will with a 100% certainty grow up to be managers of everyone else’s children; which may or may not happen. Life works in strange ways. One of the most promising kids in one of my son’s elementary-school gifted classes is now dead of a heroin overdose. From being a parent and interacting with the other parents of gifted kids, I did get the impression that a lot of us thought our children were invincible; that they would not make bad or dangerous choices, like those other, “regular kids”. I suspect a lot of parents like Lizzie arrive at their children’s teenage years and young adulthood completely unprepared. Also, I hate mommy wars so much. I really cannot stand it when people use their children as a weapon or a status symbol. Will have to add Big Little Lies to my list of things to watch.

      1. Lily in NYC

        I really wish they would stop using the term “gifted” and use something like “1st level” or something else with less of a loaded meaning.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          Yeah, it is an unfortunate term. Honestly everyone is more talented than most of the other people at something. Therefore, everyone is gifted. To get into a “gifted” program, you had to get a good score on a IQ-like test. So call it that. “Kids who test well”.

          It comes back to me now that, in my kids’ school, the program was actually called AEP, Advanced Educational Program, and that it all but ceased to exist in high school, because by that point, the kids were expected to fulfill their needs for challenging education in the honor and AP classes (that you did not need the test results to get into, just good grades and a teacher’s recommendation, or even, in some cases, a parent could sign a form and you were in).

          1. Totally Minnie

            “Kids who test well” is a good term for it. I’m not any smarter than my siblings. I’m better at taking standardized tests than they are.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          FWIW, when my kids were in school, “uniquely gifted” meant a kid who was both in the advanced program and had a learning disability (and sometimes an IEP to go with it). Mine graduated in the early 2010s. Don’t know what the terminology is now.

              1. learnedthehardway

                Twice exceptional means the child has multiple exceptionalities – eg. gifted and learning disabled (yes, that does exist), gifted and autistic, etc. Or, it can mean learning disabled and another disability / challenge as well.

                Gifted is a specific exceptionality, but about a third of children who are gifted have another exceptionality as well.

                There are many kinds of giftedness, as well – from musical ability to overall intelligence, etc. etc. etc.

          1. Recent Anon Lurker

            My brother and ingratiated from HS in 2000 and 2004, and both of us had qualified for the “Unique Talents” program in our school district. All kids in this program had an IEP (Individualized Educational Program) packet, and it covered both ends of the spectrum. My brother opted to join the program, I opted not to (yes, our parents gave us a say in our educations – and I think it made both of us more involved students). Both of us took heavy loads of honors and AP classes. In the end we took up 18(me) and 21(him) credit hours for college. But the person we knew who took the most AP classes, and transferred up the most credit was a kid who was an “average” student according to the school district.

            1. Recent Anon Lurker

              Ughh – that was supposed to read: my brother and I graduated.
              An edit feature would be so nice.

        3. A New Level of Anon

          Where I grew up, “gifted” programs had the code names of Mode 3 (full-time gifted, going to school with only other gifted kids) or Mode 2 (pull-out enrichment for a subject or two while you otherwise attended a regular school/class). Different terms, but still ended up being pretty loaded to those in the know.

        4. All Stitched Up

          I get this sentiment. For a while, I hated the whole concept of intelligence; it’s always seemed nebulously defined and is so often used to put people down for being different in one direction or another. On the other hand, I think any word we substitute for “gifted” in this context is going to end up as a loaded term as long as our society treats people as more or less worthy based on their perceived “intelligence”. I fall in the “twice exceptional” category (gifted, adhd, and started having arthritis symptoms at 24 to boot; ended up excelling in college without looking like I was working very hard, which is… not always great interpersonally) and have gotten somewhat involved in disability justice, and I see this play out REAL hard with the word “disabled”—a lot of people try to destigmatize disability by using different words for it, and many actually-disabled disability rights activists make the argument that acting as if disability is something we have to euphemize actually increases stigma. That’s recently been supported by a sociological study examining the effects of describing someone as “is disabled”, “has special needs”, naming a specific disability, or a control case with no disability listed. The methodology seemed really strong to me (not a sociologist, but trained in information literacy) and they found that “special needs” made a worse impression on the general population than either of the less “euphemistic” alternatives.

      2. Cassandra

        I was a so-called gifted kid in the ’80s, and when I look at my own cohort… yeah, this rings true. Some of us are everything one would wish a gifted kid to turn into. A few of us are dead for pretty sad and/or appalling reasons. A few of us are in jail, ditto.

        And a fair few are like me — an up-and-down history containing both successes and failures.

        1. Delta Delta

          I was a so-called gifted kid in the 80s, also. I turned out ok, but I find that I have a little bit of an untamed streak that feels very inconsistent with my goody-goody gifted past. I also wonder if some of the paths I’ve chosen have been in rebellion of that.

          I didn’t expect that this letter update would lead to this level of self-examination. *smile *

      3. Totally Minnie

        I grew up in a program for gifted kids. To get into the program, you needed to achieve a certain score on an IQ test. I have no blooming idea what my IQ is or what the minimum requirement was for admission, because my parents never told me. They didn’t want me to think I was better than any of my classmates, or to use my status to hurt people.

        1. Maria Lopez

          I accidentally found out my IQ score when I was in third or fourth grade, but I also knew, even at that early age, that other kids who weren’t in the “advanced class” (that’s what it was called sixty years ago) were really creative musically or artistically. One friend was drawing real people with real people features while the rest of us were drawing stick figures.
          So I never had much use for IQ scores other than as doing well on a test.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

            That is a good point. There was a kid in one son’s high school classes who was incredibly good at arts; taking all the prizes at the annual metro-area-wide art shows, and so on. He is now 23, graduated from a local state school, and has a paying job with a group of artists in Brooklyn, creating art for a living, which in this job market is nothing short of mindblowing. I guarantee that, at their reunion, if a question of “who’s the most gifted/talented in our class” comes up, his name will be top of the list. But he was not in the gifted program or in any of the gifted classes, which just goes to show how narrow the schools’ definition of “gifted” is.

            I did end up using my IQ score a lot later in life, but it was to find friends and have fun. It played no role in my career or in my college education. Admittedly, we were not tested for IQ or placed in gifted programs when I was growing up, in the 70s-80s on the opposite side of the world.

  9. nnn

    When another team member shopped at lunch for little stocking stuffers for her children, Lizzie said in my hearing “MORE presents for your kids!?!”

    Not for OP, but for anyone on the receiving end of this kind of comment:

    A useful way to defuse this sort of judgement is to agree enthusiastically, without elaborating further. “MORE presents for your kids!?!” “YEAH!”

    The tone and delivery of the “YEAH!” is same as you would use if they were expressing delight about something delightful. (e.g. “You found the coveted toy of the season that everyone’s been looking for!” “You got front-row centre seats!” “Your baby just started walking!”)

    1. iglwif

      I like this approach :D

      Shutting down judgey people by pretending they share your enthusiasm is so great.

  10. heatskitchen

    Two things:
    1. Agree with others that this is the perfect moment. Also, why not just call her out in the moment? “MORE presents…?” respond with, “Hey, everyone gets to choose how they celebrate the holidays.” then maybe pull her aside right then/after you finish the conversation and explain in more detail how it comes across. This shows you value your other employees while not undermining her.
    2. “people who ended up in our previous ill-lit noisy area have protested by obstructing our work” WHAT?! It likely wasn’t your fault you got moved and this just screams dysfunctional workplace to me.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        Ha I totally chuckled in recognition of that issue, it’s exactly what what have happened in my last office. People were extremely territorial about windows and personal space.

          1. A tester, not a developer

            If it involves covering over windows so people who weren’t ‘allowed’ couldn’t see out of them, then I was there too!

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      Right? “Let’s hurt our employer’s bottom line just so we can stick it to those guys who used to sit in the seats we are now in” WHAT?! This makes no sense. I can see one person with the extreme lack of social skills and business sense doing this, but a whole team as a concerted effort?

      1. Recent Anon Lurker

        I’ve worked in a few schools that were like that too. Stupidity doesn’t vanish just because you are now a working adult – or in a supposedly “helping field.”

    2. That girl from Quinn's house

      I’ve worked (horribly dysfunctional) places where “in the moment” correction was not allowed because someone else might overhear. All correction had to be done privately, in a 1:1 office meeting.

      Needless to say this wasn’t doable, I couldn’t say, “Hey could you please walk 100 yards out of my way to your office, leaving your supervisory area uncovered opening us up to negligence claims, just so I can tell you that you that you have to wear your staff shirt and not a regular shirt?” So I was unable to give simple feedback, and thus had no control of my employees.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        Good god, if a manager asked me to go to his office for a talk with the door closed, I’d be 99% sure that I was being fired, or at least, put on probation.

      2. Jennifer Juniper

        How about sending the feedback via e-mail/IM? No one can overhear that.

        Please ignore if all this nonsense took place pre-internet.

      3. OP

        Yep this is exactly the problem I’m having with correcting Lizzie ‘in the moment’. We have an office where it’s just not done. I’m in New Zealand, and the culture here is unbelievably conflict-averse, so lots of the very well-intentioned script suggestions would go down like a cup of cold sick here. One of the benefits of being an immigrant is I can sometimes ‘call it as I see it’, but it’s a pretty delicate judgement.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          “would go down like a cup of cold sick”

          That’s pretty poetic! I haven’t heard this expression before.

  11. Aspiring Chicken Lady

    Sometimes a wet-blanket, slightly off-center response can help in the moment without creating conflict, if that’s what we’re trying to avoid.
    “There’s so many different ways to celebrate family traditions. I love this time of year.”
    “It’s fun to find simple things that bring a little joy.”

    It acknowledges the first person’s autonomy, and would mean that she’d have to double down on explaining the terrible parenting choices, at which point everyone can just quietly stare at her with mild confusion, at which point the subject can get changed.

    It’s sounds so exhausting though.

    1. Mimi Me

      I think it’s important for the LW to point out to Lizzie that she has no way of knowing what challenges another parent has had to face while learning to parent their child and to keep that in mind before offering a humble brag / poorly concealed judgment. I have been judged for some of my parenting choices based on how things look on the surface. EX: My son is an extremely picky eater and on the surface it looks like my husband and I are indulging him when we let him skip certain foods or don’t enforce the one bite rule like we do with our daughter. What you’re not seeing is the fact that he’s had a chewing/swallowing disorder since birth and literally had to see someone for years who trained him how to eat. The result is he has issues with a lot of food flavor / texture combos that we work on all the damn time! He’s 12. He knows it’s weird that he won’t eat mac & cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich. But I am not about to hash that out with the judgemental mom who rolls her eyes and tells me that she would never let her kid step away from the table without taking a bite of everything or that her kid has never tasted sugar or what have you. She doesn’t know my struggle, she chose to say something anyway, I’ve now judged her correctly as a person to avoid.

      1. iglwif

        Having a picky eater is EXHAUSTING. Like, it’s exhausting at home because you worry about your kid getting adequate nutrition, and then it’s twice as exhausting when you go literally anywhere and people judge you and make suggestions for how to “fix” your child, all of which you have already tried and none of which worked.

      2. CatMintCat

        I have always been in awe of parents who can enforce the “one bite” rule. Once my daughter had decided that something was inedible, there was no way any taste of it was passing her lips (this was the child who declared plain boiled rice “too spicy”). She is 31 now, and still a very limited eater. However, she is healthy and her eating is no longer my direct concern.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          My mom still talks about how hard she had to work to get me to eat ANYTHING. What a nightmare it was when I would not eat. And I am still puzzled about why it had to be a nightmare. I was really and truly not hungry. I ate small portions of some foods and had a sensory dislike of the others. I am now 51 and believe me, I do not in any shape or form look like I’m starving. I will happily eat anything that my body doesn’t have a bad reaction to. There are still a few things that I dislike and will not eat, but they are things like lard and fat and such, that are probably not great for me to begin with. When my own children were born, I was hellbent on it that I would never force them to eat. But life can be extremely ironic sometimes and they both had healthy appetites and ate everything in their way; too much so in fact. I was so mentally prepared to be okay with my kids not eating that it took me years to realize I should’ve been limiting portions and removing junk food from the house. But that worked out too, they are now in their 20s and both in a healthy weight.

          Re: the comment that started this (from Mimi Me), I found it really helped that I had two children that were close in age, spent a lot of time together, but were extremely different people in a lot of ways. No one could point at me and say my older son’s doing X was my fault, because my younger would not be caught dead doing X; and vice versa.

          I kind of miss the years when they were young and I spent a lot of time with them, but the one thing I don’t miss is the constant stream of judgment from other parents (including sometimes my own!!) The parents of young kids have all of my sympathy, because apparently there are still enough people who think that parenting is a competitive sport. At least, I guess, they can be used for practicing not giving a hoot what other people say!

        2. Nursey Nurse

          Exactly! My daughter is a decent eater but there are a few things (Brussels sprouts and chocolate pudding, to name two) she won’t touch. What am I supposed to do, pry her mouth open and shove it down her throat?

          1. Recent Anon Lurker

            My older child loves Brussels sprouts and the younger hates them. I don’t worry because she at three will eat a full bowl of salad and is getting plenty of veggies. Both prefer veggies to fruits, and other moms ask me how I tricked them. Everybody’s taste buds are different, and as long as the dr says they are healthy why quibble?

            1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

              I am almost 52 and still detest Brussels Sprouts. But I have otherwise always loved my veggies, even as a really little kid.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

                I like to think of myself as a decent cook, and I haven’t been able to prepare Brussels Sprouts in a way that I liked and wanted to make again. Neither has anyone I know. It’s just a tough vegetable to learn to enjoy, and I love vegetables.

                I finally found a restaurant last year that made Brussels Sprouts that everyone enjoyed. They take them apart leaf by leaf and flash-fry the leaves individually. I’m not going to do that at home.

      3. Observer

        I don’t think it’s on the OP to explain any of this to Lizzie. There are a number of reasons for this, but I think the most important (outside of the workplace issues) is that it still kind of gives people like this the standing in their own minds to judge – and comment. /sarc on/ After all, you probably did something wrong during you pregnancy, or when the baby was born. And SURELY you didn’t catch the problem soon enough and didn’t get the BEST help. /sarc off

        You are wise to not get into this stuff with the judgemental people who say this stuff, because either they don’t get it, or they are convinced that if you only did this, that, or the other SURE FIRE way of handling the situation, you would not be dealing with the problem.

        What Lizzie needs to hear is “You have no standing to weigh in on anyone else’s parenting choices. That’s especially true when you have absolutely no clue about what’s going on in their lives outside of work. But even if you you, you STILL need to keep it to yourself!

        Because sometimes parent really do make choices that other parents would call differently in the same circumstances. And sometimes parents really do make poor choices. But unless a child is being truly abused or endangered, people need to keep their mouths shut.

      4. AdminX2

        So similar to my story, it wasn’t a disorder but just blockages for years that took surgeries to remove. You don’t just suddenly bounce back and want to eat everything by then, and we were poor so the idea of wasting food on something you ordered and didn’t like was awful.
        All my food problems came from OTHER PEOPLE who just couldn’t shut their mouths and let me enjoy what I did enjoy in peace. Please tell your young man to eat how he wants when he wants. Likely he will have many great food adventures ahead, but on his terms in his time. Anything anyone else says is poppycock.

  12. misplacedmidwesterner

    The thing I remember about this original letter is how much it made me think about do I talk too much about my kids at work. For me there are three ways to send an out of office email.
    Barebones: “I’m going to be leaving today at 3pm.”
    Lizzie way: “I’m going to be leaving today at 3pm because i need to volunteer at my child’s play center, long babble about play center philosophy”
    What I usually do: email barebones and maybe mention in passing to a staff member that I was leaving for a thing at my kids school.

    I like this update because it is a good reminder to me to keep my super enthusiastic mom chatter contained. Can we do an update every six months? You know for my development.

    1. Guacamole Bob

      I think most people who are conscious of the issue manage to be fine about it. Like, if 1 is bare bones and 10 is Lizzie, I usually shoot for around a 3. Even when I do get the balance a bit off, I’m still at maybe a 5, and then I catch myself and dial it back.

      I’m not a robot and I don’t work with robots, so the occasional “ugh I just got a notice that 25% of my kid’s class has been diagnosed with strep in the last week I hope they don’t get it” (true story from my week!), or the fact that my coworker made a comment about how he was off to watch 4 year olds do karate as he left earlier this afternoon, is likely not going to ruffle too many feathers. It’s the sanctimoniousness of Lizzie’s comments that’s truly grating – the judgment implied by her comments and the eyeroll-worthy inflation of her own kids’ specialness.

    2. Antilles

      I think your way is fine. A short comment in passing as a natural part of conversation (just wanted to remind you I’m leaving early because my kid has a recital tonight) seems perfectly reasonable; the line is when you bring it up too much and/or force it into conversations even when it’s not relevant.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        I’ve even heard that, when you’re senior and well established, it’s kind of an act of kindness to say, “I have to go pick up my kids from daycare” openly – because you’re establishing norms for the rest of the office that it’s okay to have a parenting life outside of work. If you lie and say you’re sick, people are going to assume it’s shameful to need to pick up kids from daycare. (However, one sentence is sufficient, nobody wants the Lizzie followup about how special her kids are and all of the high faluntin’ enrichments they’re involved in, etc.)

        1. Higher ed

          This is how I try to do it. I don’t launch into long descriptions or share anything overly personal, but I did tell my team members that I was leaving at 4:00 on Tuesday for my daughter’s Christmas program. There is a risk in seeming overly kid-centric, I suppose, and I do question how it comes across to the single guy who doesn’t have kids. But there are other parents of young kids on my team, and their kids are younger than mine, so I feel a greater responsibility to be a good example of having a life while still getting my work done.

          I don’t know; it’s a hard balance. I do have a direct report who has occasionally asked for parenting advice, and even when it’s explicitly asked for, I’m hesitant to share much because I’d never want her to feel judged if we do things differently.

          1. OfOtherWorlds

            As a single guy without kids, I wouldn’t care. At all. Some people have kids. I might have kids someday. As long as you don’t lay on the Lizzie-style sanctimony and can make some conversation on non-kid topics, bringing up your kids is fine.

            1. Jennifer Juniper

              I’m childfree. I actively ask parents to show me pictures of their children as a way to get to know them and make conversation with them. However, stories of diaper blowouts or anything else disgusting would just make me go, “EEEEEEWWWWWW!”

          2. misplacedmidwesterner

            The single guy no kids on my team is the most sympathetic when I leave for kid stuff, and he has said several times he is sympathetic because he was raised by a single mom. (FWIW I am not a single mom, but it has given him empathy on how much time kid stuff takes.)

            I hadn’t thought it was a way to “lean in” and make it easier for the next batch of people coming up with kids. I am senior management and will definitely be taking that into account.

            1. Ginger

              ^It’s absolutely a way to lead by example, and when I see/hear men do it in my office I am even more ecstatic (because until men also take time off for parenting, women will continue to be penalized for it while also being weighted with the expectation that they are THE [sole] caregivers).

              1. Recent Anon Lurker

                My husband takes off more sick days than I do. I know I am blessed because I have a husband who is just as involved as I am – actually more when it comes to the sick days.

            2. jack

              I don’t have children but both my reports do. That’s sort of how I phrased it with one employee yesterday. Something like, “my parents could never come to my softball games, you should definitely go”. We’re in California though, so we have the School Activities Act.

              1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager

                My boss is single and childless, but she is very supportive of flexible schedules to allow her direct reports to be involved with our kids. She still manages to lead by example- “I’m leaving early because my bocce team made the finals. I’ll log back in after the tournament is over to see if any emails can’t wait until I get in tomorrow morning.”

            3. A New Level of Anon

              I was raised by a single parent who wasn’t around for a lot of my stuff due to logistics and told me that that’s the way things had to be because jobs are important and transportation is difficult. It’s left me with a kneejerk reaction towards my colleagues (none of whom are single parents) who make it a priority to be there for every single school concert or recital or soccer game. On the one hand, I think “now that’s an involved parent!” but on the other hand my other reaction is “your kids will never learn that one can grow up to be an okay person even if they don’t have a cheering section for every single thing they do”.

              1. Observer

                That’s an incredibly judgemental and unfair thing to say. Unless you know about every aspect of these families’ lives, you simply don’t know if what they are doing is too little, too much or just right, given the totality of their circumstances. Sure, it’s very different from what your parent did, and it worked out for you. But that doesn’t make these other parents wrong!

                1. AdminX2

                  Anon clearly explained that understanding in their post and clearly expressed the why and acknowledgement of the illogic conflicting thought lines.

  13. Coder von Frankenstein

    Whoa. Transferring an employee without giving that employee’s manager so much as a heads-up? People responding to a desk shuffle by obstructing other people’s work? That’s… not good.

    I mean, good on you for addressing the judgmental child talk with Lizzie, but am I the only one who feels like this workplace has much more serious issues?

    1. Observer

      Yeah, either there are general workplace problems here, or Lizzie’s antics are catching up to her in a big way – or both, of course.

      1. OP

        Oh it’s definitely not Lizzie that’s the problem. She stood up for herself about the employee transfer and got a grudging apology from the (more senior) manager involved. The best part is; we weren’t huge fans of the transferred employee, and Lizzie was able to parlay HR’s mistake into being allowed to hire a permanent replacement in 2019 *WINNING*.

        1. Recent Anon Lurker

          Nice on the standing up by Boss. Sounds like there are some “culture elements” of the company that may be dysfunctional on the whole.
          Maybe just letting boss know that everybody handles holidays and traditions different would help. I know that some people feel my hubby and I go overboard with presents at Christmas- but we do very little at birthdays, and almost nothing the rest of the year. So yes, they get more at Christmas. It’s just the way our family is.

  14. Noah

    There must be something notable in the fact that when OP stopped gossiping the gossip stopped entirely. I suspect OP is more bothered by this than the other employees and that’s something she should consider in talking to Lizzie.

    1. Recent Anon Lurker

      I have two thoughts on that one:
      1) OP was unknowingly the ringleader of the gossip.
      2) OP is now being left out of the gossip circle.

    2. OP

      I think I had been too focused on the gossip. Maybe not the ringleader, but definitely modelling better behaviour seems to be helping. I know I’m not as bothered by the comments as at least one other staff member (perhaps because my children are older so I know Lizzie has a long road ahead).

  15. MLB

    The perfect moment to talk to her is immediately after she makes a snide and judgy comment. It doesn’t need to be an hour long conversation. Just a “hey can I talk to you for a minute?” and address it in the moment. I don’t enjoy conflict, or confronting people about uncomfortable subjects, but I hate judgy assholes even more.

  16. A tester, not a developer

    Someone should drop off beautifully wrapped boxes to her home containing the hottest toy of the season: Yellies. They are little plush spiders that move towards whoever is yelling the loudest.
    I think they may have been designed as some sort of hellish social experiment to determine parental breaking points.

    1. animaniactoo

      No need. It will always be me. I’m 45 and have still not managed to live down failing “whispering homework” in the 2nd grade.

      1. animaniactoo

        I snarked about this the other day. My mother commented on it again on Saturday. Never. Ever. Live. It. Down.

    2. nnn

      As an arachnophobic about to go to a family christmas where there will be lots of children and lots of people buying them toys, I am so glad I saw this comment! Otherwise, I’d see one, scream, and then completely freak out when it starts CHASING ME!

    3. CaliUKExpat

      What.

      If anyone ever buys my child this, it is getting smashed with a hammer. Seriously, who tf thought this was a good idea

  17. Nursey Nurse

    Me before kids: walks by tiny human who is writhing and screaming on the floor of the entryway To PetSmart. Gives pursed-lip smile to his mother. Thinks “wow, that kid is annoying. Can’t his mother keep him quiet? My kids will never act like that.”
    Me now: stares at tiny human who is writhing and screaming on the floor of the entryway to PetSmart. Mother with toddler walks by with raised eyebrows. I say “I forgot to let her push the lock button on the car key.” Mother with toddler nods in sympathy. We bump fists.

    Which is to say that becoming a parent made me WAY LESS JUDGY of other parents. I can’t really understand people who move in the opposite direction and get more judgy. Are their kids perfect all the time?

    1. DArcy

      The degree to which little kids value quirky little routines is REALLY hard to appreciate unless you’re a parent, a regular babysitter, or still remember yours from when you were a kid.

      1. Recent Anon Lurker

        Oh yes – my youngest is totally a creature of her routine, the only things allowed to disrupt that routine are making tuna salad (my kids eat some very adult foods) or books with dragons.
        Legos get a probationary disrupt once only in a week.

  18. Maria Lopez

    I accidentally found out my IQ score when I was in third or fourth grade, but I also knew, even at that early age, that other kids who weren’t in the “advanced class” (that’s what it was called sixty years ago) were really creative musically or artistically. One friend was drawing real people with real people features while the rest of us were drawing stick figures.
    So I never had much use for IQ scores other than as doing well on a test.

  19. Fluff

    I had an extremely sarcastic co-worker John who won this debate. This was like 10 years ago. Our Lizzie was doing the judgmental parent thing, dropping perfect parent comments. A few days later, Lizzie handed John a folder of some project we were working on as a team. He threw himself on the floor, writhing, crying, and had a tantrum because it wasn’t purple. It. was. epic.

    Then he calmly got up, brushed the dust off his clothes and explained in all seriousness “that human children are normally little sh*ts” and she might want to remember that before being Sanctimommy on this planet. I swear the entire department heard that category 5 tantrum. It worked, and the snarky kid comments stopped.

    I am envious on John. I wish I had the courage to do that.

    1. Jennifer Juniper

      I’m really surprised Lizzie didn’t write up John, put him on a PIP, or had him fired. That could easily have not ended well.

  20. Observer

    OP – I haven’t read all of the comments, but I’d like to toss in my own anyway…

    1. I think people are right. Just DO IT. Talk to her either then next time she does something like this, you next 1-on-1 or WALK INTO HER OFFICE, within the next week, if nothing comes up.

    Be direct and clear. This is not about her parenting – you have absolutely no standing to have an opinion. Sure, we all have opinions (including me), but that’s for inside our heads, not to be expressed. That’s extremely important here, because YOUR argument is that her staff does not want HER opinions of their parenting and it’s utterly inappropriate of her to express her opinions, unless we’re talking about “get the child welfare people involved” issues.

    I also wonder if this is not affecting how others perceive her. It’s not just that she talks about her kids so much – that alone is going to make her look less professional and competent. (And before anyone jumps down my throat, I’m NOT talking about never mentioning that you are a parent, or never adjusting you schedule etc. What the OP described in the original letter really was way over the top.) But, her constant comments about other people’s parenting are likely to lead people to question her judgement and boundaries. And they WILL lead to people looking to get away from her – either by transferring to different departments or by finding a different job elsewhere.

    It would be interesting to know why HR handled the transfer the way they did? It’s one thing to not let a manager block a transfer – that’s as it should be. But it’s another to not even let the manager know till it’s a done deal. If HR is competent and decent people, then it says to me that either this aspect of Lizzie’s behavior is already blowing in her face and she just doesn’t know it OR the OP has a bit of a rose colored filter on about her and Lizzie is not as good a manager in other ways as the OP thinks.

    1. OP

      I wish she had an office I could walk into! We are all open plan (even the CE). It does make it harder, because you can’t say something in front of everyone in the moment, and if you ask to go have a chat, by the time you’ve found an empty breakout room it’s starting to feel like a big deal…I’m probably over-thinking this!!!
      The employee who transferred is a bit full of himself and always thought he should get ‘more recognition’, so when the senior manager poached him he went. HR were in the wrong and apologised.

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