coworkers keep asking when I’ll have kids, CEO advertises jobs we’re not hiring for, and more

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

1. Colleagues keep asking when I’ll have kids

I work at a nonprofit that serves the needs of children. I am in different classrooms all the time and work with kids who have significant trauma. I love my job and the kids I work with tremendously. I am also in a long-term relationship, and my partner and I are committed to not having children of our own for a variety of personal reasons.

My problem is this: I am often asked by colleagues (ranging from people I see every day to people I see a few times a year) versions of the questions “When will you have one of your own?” or “I bet you just can’t wait to be a mom!” I understand that these people are well-meaning and not trying to make me uncomfortable, but I am always taken a little aback by remarks like these. I never know a way to respond that is both polite and not an outright lie. I plan on staying in my field and at my agency long-term and I’m in my late 20s now, and I assume people aren’t going to become less inquisitive as I get older.

Why do people do this?! You’re right that they generally mean well, but it’s so intrusive and none of their business — and it would be especially painful if you were struggling with infertility or miscarriage. It’s thoughtless.

I’ve always been a big fan of just cheerfully announcing, “Nope, I’m not having any!” and, if questioned further, “Don’t want them!” and changing the subject. If I were around kids during this conversation, I’d soften that up with “I love kids but have never wanted my own.” I figure there’s real benefit in not dancing around it like it’s a weird or shameful thing. I don’t want kids! Let’s normalize it.

But that’s not necessarily the right approach for you (and it may not even be true for you). Another approach is to say something that doesn’t answer the question. For example:

Person: “I bet you just can’t wait to be a mom!”
You: “Kids are great, aren’t they? Hey, have you seen Lucinda’s backpack? I need to grab it for her dad.”

Person: “When will you have one of your own?”
You: “Who can say? Hey, have you seen Lucinda’s pants? She has removed them.”

Another option for people who directly ask about your child-bearing plans is, “That’s quite a question,” followed by a subject change. (I like this one because it should nudge them into realizing they overstepped without making a huge deal about it.)

If it’s someone who you see every day and you think would be open to a little pushback, another option is to say, very seriously, “You know, that can be a really loaded question to ask someone.”

Ultimately, whatever you choose, you’re not obligated to share your private choices with anyone unless you want to. Vagueness and redirection are always acceptable here.

2. My CEO insists on advertising jobs we’re not hiring for

Our CEO insists on posting half a dozen roles that we aren’t actually hiring for. He says it makes us look like we’re growing, and that it’s always good to collect resumes.

While there’s definitely merit to passive recruiting, I don’t like people submitting their resumes into what is essentially a black hole, where nothing will likely happen and no one will ever reach out to them. This to me, isn’t the way to build either a viable candidate pipeline — or a good impression of our company. How do I combat this misguided theory? And is there an auto-response that would be more appropriate for these job posts beyond the standard “thanks for your interest, we’ll be in touch!” one?

What your CEO is doing is crappy. People are spending time crafting cover letters and possibly tailoring their resumes for jobs that don’t exist. Is this the only way you’ve seen him behave unethically, or is he fine with misrepresenting the truth in other circumstances too? That would be my biggest concern.

You can certainly suggest that there are more effective ways to build a pipeline, like actually building relationships with people in your industry, or at least being more transparent with a “we’re not actively hiring but we’re always interested in hearing from people with X background” type message. And you can point out that collecting resumes of people who are actively job searching now means you’re collecting a lot of resumes from people who may not be on the market by the time he decides to contact them. (Although I’m skeptical that anything is really going to happen with those collected resumes; often nothing does.) You can also point out that candidates who find out their time was wasted are less likely to be interested in applying in the future, especially if your company gets a reputation for doing this.

As for the auto-reply, the more truthful the better — but that’s going to be tough when the ad they responded to was a lie.

3. How can I get feedback on my management from an employee before I leave?

I’m a mid-level employee at a nonprofit. When a new assistant, Jane, was brought on, I co-managed her with another colleague; it was the first time I’d ever managed anyone, and I thought I was ready for the responsibility. The other manager left six months later, and I became Jane’s sole manager. Partly due to a lot of upheaval at our organization and partly due to my own inexperience, I have not been a great manager to Jane. (I think she knows that I know this!) I’ll be leaving this organization soon to take on a more senior role at another organization and, in my new role, I will manage two junior employees.

I’d like to take Jane out to lunch and get her feedback so I can learn how to be a better manager in my next job, but I don’t want to make Jane uncomfortable. Do you have any advice as to how I can approach this? (I will also ask my current manager for feedback, but I’m less worried about that conversation because the power dynamics are different.)

The first thing to realize is that you probably won’t get fully candid answers, or even-semi candid answers, because of the power dynamics. Even though you’re leaving, Jane may still want a reference from you in the future or may worry about how much influence you have over how others see her. Or she may just find it awkward to tell you what she really thinks, especially when there aren’t a ton of benefits to her for doing so.

That doesn’t mean you can’t ask, though! You can. You’ll get better answers if you don’t spring it on her with no warning at lunch, but instead tell her ahead of time that you’re hoping to get her feedback so she has some time to think about what she wants to say. Also, the safer you make it for her to be candid, the more likely that is to happen. So instead of open-ended “how was I as a manager?” questions, try asking things like “What one or two things would you change about how we worked together if you could?” or “Did you generally feel like you know where things stood with your performance?” or “Is there anything you wanted more or less of?”

Also! Feedback from Jane on its own is useful, but you should also be doing a lot of reflection on the ways you felt you weren’t a good manager, and seeking out more comprehensive guidance as well. (paid affiliate link)

4. Asked to join an advisory board — by mistake

My wife works in social services for a government agency. She interacts with a lot of other agencies and nonprofits in the area. A few months ago, she received a call asking if she would be interested in joining an advisory board at a local hospital and was told she was highly recommended. She couldn’t figure out who recommended her but it wasn’t out of the question with her resume, so she accepted.

She’s been two meetings and feels like she’s contributed. It’s also a great networking opportunity because there are a lot of big wigs on this board.

But she was angrily confronted this week by a woman with the same first name as her who works at the same agency. The short version is that someone recommended “Jane at the Broomstick Division” for this advisory board. The person meant someone else but my wife was the only Jane they could locate contact info for, so she was asked.

The other person is now furious and feels my wife should resign from the advisory board. My wife thinks she is making good contributions and with her resume it isn’t unrealistic she would be asked to participate in this. Nothing is being hidden here, the hospital knows who my wife is because she provided her bio for their website and press releases. What is proper etiquette here?

If the advisory board wants your wife to step down, they can tell her that. Otherwise she’s perfectly entitled to stay on it. I’d recommend that she tell the other person, “I was invited to join, and I have. If you think an error was made, the best thing to do is to take it up with the board chair.” And if the person continues to push: “This isn’t something I’m going to continue discussing, and I need to ask you to stop raising it with me.”

It might also make sense for her to talk to the board chair herself. It’s possible they’d welcome an opening but think it’s too awkward to bring up themselves. Personally I’d want to know if they secretly wanted me to step down and so would ask directly if it made sense for me to remain on the board — but she’s not obligated to do that if she’d prefer to stay on regardless.

5. I sent a bad follow-up email after an interview

Let’s say you have a good job candidate who is qualified for the position, and after a lengthy wait of 17 days post-interview they send a follow-up email which is a bit desperate, such as begging for the job or poorly worded or they ramble on in the email about whether or not they are being considered for the position or where they stand in the hiring process, or questioning why the candidate’s log-in page doesn’t even show them as interviewing when they actually did. Should this be used against them as a red flag and should they be eliminated from being considered?

Should the quality or effectiveness of a follow-up letter be used to take an otherwise strong candidate out of the running? Meaning if they had never sent the ineffective follow-up email, they may have been hired … and sending a followup email is not even a requirement for getting the position. (Yes, I am the candidate here. I was getting concerned over the delay in hearing back and in retrospect now I wish I would have just waited.)

Yes, it can matter. I think you’re arguing/hoping that since you weren’t required to send that follow-up email, it shouldn’t be considered when they’re assessing your candidacy. But even “extra” communications like this are data about the candidate, and it’s smart for employers to consider all the data they have when hiring.

It’s really going to come down to the tone of your email. If it sounded aggressive or pushy or rude (or accusatory about that log-in page) or was terribly written, that stuff matters. If it was just a little rambly (like five sentences when two would do), that’s probably not a big deal — but again, it comes down to the overall feel of it.

There’s nothing wrong with checking in about where things stand, but you want to keep any frustration or other negative emotion out of it. And if you don’t trust yourself to do that, writing it and letting it sit for a day before you come back to edit it is a good idea.

{ 730 comments… read them below }

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I know Lucinda is probably a stand-in for one of the kids LW#1 works with, but I was totally picturing Lucinda as an adult colleague who’d had one heck of a Monday!

        1. A.N. O'Nyme*

          It gets even worse when you speak British English and the word “pants” immediately makes you think of undies before you remember Allison is American and thus means what you’d call “trousers”.

          1. Chaotic Neutral*

            Now I’m just picturing a proper British matron running around in a Philip Treacy hat and Tweed jacket and no skivvies like a demented Mary Poppins asking when you’re going to have babies for the nursery.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Or Mary Poppins chasing after Calving & Hobbes in Calvin’s nudist phase.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                Fan fiction possibilities, here, if anyone wants the idea run with it. I’m not going to be doing anything with it.

      2. Susana*

        I’d be worried Lucinda’s parents won’t be picking her up from day care!

  1. Engineer Girl*

    #1 you could lovingly point to the kids you’re working with and say “These lovely ones are more than enough!” Then don’t engage further.

    1. LemonLyman*

      +1!

      Or try, “I’m not planning on it!” And give no more details.

      Yes, let’s normalize it. It shouldn’t automatically assumed that all women want or can have children.

      1. Hufflepuffin*

        Let’s not normalise people asking this question though. You don’t have to answer.

        I prefer: “That’s very personal! Anyway…”

        1. valentine*

          I’m not planning on it!
          This could get you a “Those are the best kind!” (Or worse.)

          I like C Average’s cat-person suggestion below.

          1. FairPayFullBenefits*

            There’s also a good chance of “Oh you don’t want them yet, but you will soon!” Ugh.

          2. Blue*

            The response I’ve (repeatedly) gotten to this is, “You’ll change your mind.” Ugh. Now, no matter how I answer, I immediately change the subject to prevent them from responding at all, because, frankly, I don’t care to hear their thoughts about me not planning to have kids, whether positive or negative.

            1. Jen*

              I’ve received the “you’ll change your mind” from people in the past, both in my personal life and at work. My solution at work whenever it came up (and it came up frequently for a time) was to reinforce that I don’t particularly like spending time around children. It’s not necessarily a strategy I’d recommend for all environments/workplace cultures, but in my department my disaffinity for children has become a bit of a joke (given that everyone else has children and live a very different lifestyle than my partner and I do). I’ll take joking around about my “dual income, no kids” lifestyle, over constantly being told I’ll want kids eventually, personally.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                I’m in my 50’s and work with professionals who are doing the American Dream: higher education, career, marriage, babies, house in the suburbs. Like clockwork. Of 20+ there’s only one who hasn’t done this.
                I watch them and I’m so glad I didn’t do that, for oh so many reasons.

              2. Susana*

                I’ve gotten that, too, and it’s annoying way beyond the one-on-one. Really what they are saying is that no matter what else you do in life, whatever career you have or how high you rise at work – what you REALLY want to do is get pregnant and take care of children, ’cause, you know, that’s what women are put on earth to do.

          3. Tisiphone*

            Ugh! I got one of those after someone got super nosy with me about it. This was when I was in my early 20s and not very tactful with the truth. That particular person told me that pregnancy will change everything. She said she didn’t even like children until she got pregnant.

            Hell no! The idea that pregnancy would change my personality is even scarier and I told her that.

            1. LunaLena*

              I’ve never understood people who say things like “you’ll change your mind when you’re pregnant!” What if I don’t? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t, and I know me better than you do. Someone once told me that I would change my mind once I had one of my own because then it becomes all about the kid, so I should have one because “it’s the most unselfish thing a person can do.” So what, I’m supposed to have kids to prove to some random acquaintance that I’m not selfish?

              1. Michaela Westen*

                IMHO having kids for the wrong reasons is the ultimate in selfishness.

              2. Susana*

                There’s a great scene from the movie “Frances Ha,” where her friends are talking sanctimoniously about how they were so selfish until they had a kid and made it about them. And the (child-less/free) Frances says, actually, it’s about th most self-centered thing you could do, right? Creating a little Mini Me that will have your genes and name and carry on your legacy?

                Loved that. I mean, if you want kids, power to you, but those of us who don’t are neither unnatural women or selfish. Also, I pay taxes for other people’s kids’ schooling (happily so! It takes a village, and I’m part of it).

        2. Ess in Tee*

          Agreed. I’ve begun answering gently-but-firmly with “that’s really none of your concern” and changing the subject. “I don’t want them” is a 10000% valid reason, but I find that saying so can open the “why not?!” floodgates, which I have no time or patience for.

          Bottom line, people really need to learn that you can’t just go through life bluntly asking people when they plan to procreate. It isn’t like asking about their opinion of the weather or what was on TV last night.

          1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

            Ahhhhhhh, I went with the vague “not sure I want any” when asked by a nosy colleague (who I’d known all of two weeks!); he responded by trying to *convince me* to have kids. He literally said, “Well, you can only have one then! But you have to have at least one!”

            I don’t like it when my mother asks me this question, and I really REALLY don’t like it when people who aren’t even family ask it. It’s a) asking about my sex life! b) asking about my/my partner’s health and c) asking about a major life decision with serious financial implications. Asking it at work is worse, especially when asking it of a woman (and… does anyone ask men these questions?!) because there can be work-related ramifications for the person who would actually bear the child.

            1. Turtlewings*

              “Well, you can only have one then!” Oh, thanks for your kind permission, good sir. “But you have to have at least one!” Or what, you’ll call the cops on me?! Living the clue-free life, he is, unfettered by even the most basic ideas of appropriateness. Must be liberating.

              1. AshaGreyjoy*

                “Living the clue-free life, he is, unfettered by even the most basic ideas of appropriateness.” omg you are HYSTERICAL, I am absolutely dying laughing

            2. CM*

              I like to answer this by making demands of my own about their life choices. “And you need to adopt a ferret! At least one!” or “And you need to leave your spouse and marry somebody else.” If they’re shocked or offended you can follow up with, “Oh, I thought we were making major life decisions for each other.”

            3. Pebbles*

              My parents tried this with me when I was 21, last year of college, not seeing anyone. “When are you going to give us grandkids? We want at least two: one girl, one boy. But you can have them in whatever order you want.” Well, the sex of the child is not going to be up to me. Besides that little detail, I was able to shut that talk down for a little while by responding, “sure, I can have one ready for you in about 9-10 months if you’re not too picky about formalities.” (See above, “not seeing anyone”, and saying this to my Catholic mother.)

                1. Pebbles*

                  Thank you, but it only worked for a few years. Then I had to resort to other methods (as I was seeing people and later got married):
                  * Me: “I’ve just adopted a kitty. She is your grandkitty.”
                  * Mom: “Your clock is ticking.” Me: “Funny, I don’t hear anything.”
                  * Mom: “You know there’s a greater risk for abnormalities like Down’s as you get older.” Me: “So? That child would still be my child and your grandchild. Your point?” (I was REALLY angry over this one.)

                  I’ve found nothing will ever shut it down completely. I have been trying to find ways to shut this down for the last 19 years (almost 20!). Right now we are thankfully it a period of not asking about my reproduction choices.

                2. Michaela Westen*

                  Pebbles, you are a saint of patience. If anyone was treating me like this I would have stopped talking to them decades ago.

                3. Pebbles*

                  @Michaela, thanks. She does have some good points, and I love my dad, so I still stay in touch. To your other point below, she probably could volunteer to help with other kids, but they wouldn’t be “hers”. I can try redirecting her that way should the grandkid topic come up again.

                4. Michaela Westen*

                  @Pebbles, volunteering could be an example of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” :) I think it’s always good to do something even if it’s not exactly she wanted. She’ll probably find it more satisfying than she thinks.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                My dad used to pull this on me until I reminded him that he already had three grandchildren. He shut up after that.

                I do want kids, have no partner, and it’s very late in the game, and it’s a very painful subject for me, so I’m glad that people have stopped asking for the time being.

                1. Pebbles*

                  I have two brothers: one older, one younger. They may have been asked when they “planned” on getting married, but it hasn’t been as pervasive as my childlessness. I was once told that I was “their best hope for grandkids”. Ick! I think part of it is that both of my aunts have grandkids (one is even a great-grandma) and she’s feeling a little left out. When she first retired it got worse because now she had all.this.time…but no grandkids.

              2. Clumsy Ninja*

                My grandmother started telling me how all her friends were having great grandkids, and how great that sounded. When I was SEVENTEEN! I finally said, “Grandma, do you have time for me to finish school and get married first?” She quieted down a lot after that.

            4. shartheheretic*

              Yeah, when I was in my early thirties, I had a male co-worker in his mid twenties who already had two kids and one on the way. he asked me one day when I was planning on having children, and when I told him “Never, actually”, hesaid “Oh you can’t mean that!” I basically told him “Well, yes I do mean it and it’s really none of your business”. We never spoke about it again. I’m 51 now, still no kids. Lol

              1. Susana*

                And again (this works for so many situations) I love the New Yorker cartoon where the guy is standing behind a desk, on the phone, and saying, “No, Tuesday’s out. How about never? Is never good for you?”

            5. Gazebo Slayer*

              I would ask, very seriously, “Why are you so threatened by the idea of a woman not having children?” Call out the sexism directly and return the awkwardness to sender.

              1. Cats and dogs*

                Love this. I assume truly “threatened” people are really religious and the “you can’t mean it” people are jealous!

          2. boop the first*

            I hate when people ask “why not?”, because it’s such a HUGE and difficult question that was completely unsolicited in the first place. I’d rather turn it around and ask “why yes?”, especially if it’s someone who has always turned to me to complain about how hard and tiring child rearing has been for them.
            (all this social media communication was bound to backfire someday and here it is)

            1. TacocaTRacecaR*

              For people always complaining about kids, one that also works is “Have you ever listened to the way you talk about having them?” Stunned silence ensues.

            2. Rainy*

              I love it when people ask “why not” because my answer always stuns them.

              “I like to sleep, drink, travel, and spend my money on myself.” Looooong silence from the person with kids who just asked, as they are pretty obviously reviewing the last X years of their life and finding them sleepless, sober, stay-at-home, and full of buying a lot of shit for their kids.

              1. LunaLena*

                Jim Gaffigan had a hilarious take on parenting in his book “Dad is Fat”: “Parenting is a cult. And as a cult member, you can try to explain it to other people, but we just appear like lunatics.” He also pointed out that, like cult members, many parents try to get others to join them.

                He also compared parenting to the American Family Foundation’s list of the characteristics of a cult:
                – The group members (parents) display an excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment to an individual (their child).
                – Group members (parents) are preoccupied with bringing in new members (more babies).
                – Group members (parents) are preoccupied with making money.
                – The leadership (the child) induces guilt feelings in members (parents) in order to control them.
                – Members’ (parents’) subservience to the group (their child) causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group.
                – Members (parents) are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time with the group (their child).
                – Members (parents) are encouraged or required to live (in the suburbs) and socialize (play dates) only with other group members (parents).

        3. Washi*

          That’s the thing, not wanting kids is totally normal and people should feel comfortable saying it, but only if they bring up the topic!

          Honestly, “when are you having kids” is uncomfortable for literally everyone. I’m someone who really wants kids but is holding off currently for personal reasons, and I don’t want to explain that at work. It’s awkward for people who don’t want kids at all and get a lot of pushback on that. It’s downright painful for those who struggle with infertility or had miscarriages.

          One day walking back out our cubes after a work baby shower, one of my coworkers turned to me and said “So many baby showers! You aren’t pregnant are you?” And I get that it was meant as a joke but…so awkward! I giggled and said “what a question!” and then pretended I had to go to the restroom so I didn’t have to continue the conversation.

          1. blackcat*

            “Honestly, “when are you having kids” is uncomfortable for literally everyone.”

            I think it’s really awful for people struggling to have kids in particular.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              It’s really awful for people struggling, but there’s no one for whom it isn’t some kind of a loaded question. I mean, what’s a best-case scenario? You are (or your partner is) already expecting but you didn’t want to announce yet? That’s awkward as hell, as we’ve seen from letters in that exact situation. You want to but you can’t afford it yet? No one likes talking about money, especially when it’s not being able to afford things. You don’t want to? See the letter.

              1. blackcat*

                Yeah, I agree it’s a totally messed up question. “Do you have kids?” can be loaded but there’s a large segment of the population for whom it’s a 100% normal, fine question to ask.
                “Are you planning on kids?” is not great for all the reasons above, but I can imagine some people have pretty neutral answers they’d give. (ex: “When we get a house with a yard!” aka what I say when people ask if I have a dog).
                “Why don’t you have any kids?” is pretty darn bad, likely hurtful, and I can’t imagine it going over well but perhaps some childfree people are totally okay saying “Because I don’t want to.”
                “When are you going to have kids?” is the worst, it’s the above with a layer of presumption that everyone *will* have kids.
                Yuck.

                1. Broke Millenial*

                  My plan, if someone starts really pressing me about my reproductive plans, is to cheerfully respond “Oh, I can’t even consider that until my college loans are paid off.” Hopefully that will buy me at least a decade of silence.

                2. Rainy*

                  I have an otherwise very nice coworker who asked me when my husband and I were going to “start our family” and I said cheerfully “Oh we won’t be having kids!” She corrected me “You mean you’re not planning on it” and I gave her a startled look that morphed into a very narrow one and said “No. We will not be having children.”

                  She said, in a very small voice “Oh” and scurried off.

                3. Pebbles*

                  @Rainy: you got married, you already “started” a family. And if you have pets, even larger family! Family does not only mean “one husband, one wife, +kid(s)” and our language needs to start reflecting that.

                4. RabbitRabbit*

                  Talking about financial barriers will usually bring up “oh but there’s never a perfect time to have a child.” No matter that these are probably the types who sneer about parents on welfare, etc.

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I would love to have kids, but I haven’t been able to find the right person to have them with. So this question hits my brain and becomes “Why are you such a failure that you can’t get a man to stick around and have a baby with you?” It sucks. A lot.

              1. Eukomos*

                Right there with you. With a side of “you should spend some time contemplating how you’ll probably die alone.” Gee, thanks.

          2. AKchic*

            I hate the question. I’m blunt about it.
            “Are you asking me if I’ve been having unprotected sex?” It really shuts them up and gets the majority of them to recognize the inappropriateness of their question. Some will backtrack and say “no, I just meant…” Naw fam… you may not want the details, but that’s still what you’re asking. If you’re not my doctor, stay out of my uterus and the pathway leading to it, thanks!

        4. JJ Bittenbinder*

          I like this! Put the discomfort right where it belongs.

          I have kids, I love kids, I highly recommend kids for those who want kids, and I didn’t even ask my sister, with whom I am extremely close. When she wanted to bring it up to me, she did.

          People need these blunt reminders that they’ve asked something rude, but your “That’s very personal!” is in no way rude in return. Very effective.

            1. Sabina*

              I tend to respond “what an interesting question” in a tone that makes it very clear that “interesting” means rude and obnoxious.

          1. starsaphire*

            “Oh, but enough about my sex life! How about yours?” has worked for me several times.

            Mind you, I don’t pull that “are we really talking about what kind of sex I’m having?” card until the conversation has really deteriorated or they have already gotten a Bingo with “but you’ll change your mind/it’s different when they’re your own/sometimes babies just happen!”

            1. Michaela Westen*

              The “it’s different when they’re yours/you’ll be happy when you get pregnant” comments are making me seethe.
              My parents got married and had children only because of this social pressure. Neither of them wanted to be parents. They married the wrong person at the wrong time and had children all because of this pressure. Neither of them wanted to be doing this. They wanted to do other things.
              Our home life was a nightmare of resentment and abuse because of this social pressure.

          2. Ophelia*

            YUP. Even with my sister (we are also quite close), the only time I’ve brought it up was with in the context of “hey, I truly don’t care one way or the other, but do you want me to hang onto the nicer/more expensive baby gear that I’m done with?”

        5. MatKnifeNinja*

          I love this answer.

          What if you have fertility issues? What if your first child died and you didn’t overshare that fact at work?

          I’m childfree, and use you above statement. My reproductive status is nobody’s business.

          Noisey ass busy bodies.

      2. On Fire*

        We used “not planning it” a couple of times and got the “well, if it’s meant to be/if God wants you to, it’ll happen regardless.” (We are very religious, but this one really burned me.) We ended up going with some variant of “Oh, I don’t know. Not for a while, at least.” Because saying you don’t like kids is akin to admitting that you kick puppies and torture kittens.

        But OP1, it will decrease as you get older. I’m in the mid-South, in an area where women tend to have children while fairly young. Nobody asked after I turned 30. Now new acquaintances sometimes ask if I have kids (general getting-to-know-you convo) and I say I have X nieces/nephews and start talking about my garden.

        1. YouCanBrewIt!*

          People started asking when I turned 30. But, as you implied, it depends on where you live

          1. Aveline*

            Ummmm. I used to live in California. In both the Bay Area and LA. I was inundated with questions there all the time. It’s not just geographical.

            IMHO: It was far worse in social service agencies/charities as in some major cities/for some charities, the only people who can afford to volunteer or work for lower pay are upper middle class women who were SAHMs who are now back in the workforce. They had a very specific world view and anyone outside of it didn’t register.

            My experience is that the difference isn’t that the South and Midwest ask and other regions don’t, it’s how open the asks can be.

            A friend of mine moved from LA to Kentucky. She gets it in both places. She’s in her 40s and could DIE from being pregnant. Every time she’s back in LA, she gets more subtle questions about having kids. But still questions. In Kentucky, she gets the sympathetic “It’s so bad the good Lord hasn’t blessed you with a child yet. You’d be such a good parent.”

            I don’t know how it is for younger women in their 20s and 30s now, but as someone whose friend day-to-day friend group is women in their 40s, we all still get the “one last kid” b.s. irrespective of whether we are on the coasts or in the hinterland, whether we are in rural areas or cities, and whether we have 1 kid or 20.

            1. ket*

              The geography comment was not about whether people ask, but the age at which the intensity of question is highest.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I’m in my 50s and still get “doesn’t she want a sibling”. Worst part, I come from a line of surprise late arrivals. I would have LOVED a surprise second pregnancy ten years ago. Now it worries me to know someone in my father’s family had a baby at 54…

              1. cmcinnyc*

                Yes. Truly. My hair is gray. I am solidly, undeniably, middle-aged. Please stop insisting I have another child.

                1. cmcinnyc*

                  And I hear you on the fear that it could happen! Hit reply too soon but my go-to answer to “doesn’t she want a brother/he want a son?” is “I’m afraid it would be Thomas Cromwell.”

                2. Kat in VA*

                  I’m asked when I’m going to have more. Not if, when.

                  I just turned 48. I have four kids (planned, and people ask that question all the time too). I even had a miscarriage between #3 and #4. I’ve had four c-sections. I most likely would die from a ruptured uterus were I to try to carry a fifth child to term (lots of scar tissue and other issues).

                  People still say, “But don’t you want another baby?”

                  NO. No, I do not. My youngest is 10, my oldest will be 21 next month, I’m good – I’ve already gone a bit more than double the average, say, how bummed are you that the Caps lost in the playoffs this year?

                  People can be so invasive and intrusive and just plain OBTUSE.

              2. Eukomos*

                Whoa, I didn’t know it was possible at 54. Good news for those of us who want kids but are taking a while to get into the right life situation, I guess?

            3. Great Grey Owl*

              Ten years ago I got a medical condition that almost killed me. While I was recovering, I used a walker and later a cane. It was amazing how many people argued with me about me needing a cane or tried to guilt me for using one. But none of these people would have had to live with the consequences if I fell and could not get up while crossing a busy street.

              This same is true of those idiots who are bugging your friend. It is easy for them because they are not the ones who are facing the potentially deadly consequences.

              And even if it wasn’t dangerous for her, there could be other issues such as infertility or, if she is unmarried, she may have strong religious beliefs against sex outside of marriage.

              So it would be better if people didn’t ask others such prying questions.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          I live in the US South, got my current long-term partner at 27, got the ‘kids?’ question starting at 29 when we moved in together. Since we actually tried for over four years, it sucked a lot.

          But some people got an earful about IVF / shots / moods / yada yada because I was absotootly going to reduce the chance they’d ask anyone else in the future.

        3. Alleycat*

          Ah, I absolutely HATE that comment! We are religious and have an only, on purpose. We knew going into marriage that we wanted one and we knew after having one (almost seven years ago) that it was the right decision for us.

          In the area we live in most families have 3+ so we have a near constant stream of questions about our reproductive choices.

          I’ve turned to excessive sarcasm as a response.

      3. Meg*

        I do this. But then my coworkers say “oh, I hope you do!” and it gets super uncomfortable very quickly because how do you respond to that?

        1. Cringing 24/7*

          Whenever someone tells me about their hopes of my having children, I find saying, “Well, kids aren’t for everyone…” in a semi-slow manner as if I’m explaining to a child that some people don’t like certain flavors of ice cream, then I pause for a moment to show them that they have nothing of substance to actually say, then change the conversation.
          So far, I’ve not found a single person who has a battle-ready response to “kids aren’t for everyone” because OF COURSE they’re not! Everyone – in their heart of hearts – KNOWS this, even if they act like everyone should have kids.

          1. Great Grey Owl*

            I wonder how many of these people are the same people who get super judgmental when they see a struggling single mother and demand to know why she decided to have kids if she couldn’t support them.

              1. Miss Petty and Vindictive*

                My husband once threatened me in front of my mother that he’d give me back (jokingly, for those worried!) and my mother replied that he didn’t ask for a receipt and she wouldn’t accept a return without one.

        2. Legal Beagle*

          Shrug, say “okay” in a neutral tone, and walk away? They can hope whatever they want, but it’s not going to change your personal choices.

          1. Miss Petty and Vindictive*

            I have once said “okay” and walked off and can confirm that it 100% confuses people and they do not know what to respond with.

        3. Pomona Sprout*

          CO-WORKER: I hope you have a baby!

          YOU: Well, I hope I don’t!

          I wonder if that would shut them up. Because what could they say to that?

      4. Susana*

        I’m torn between deflecting when-are-you-procreating question as way too personal, and answering it honestly and unapologetically so people don’t think it’s something that needs to be explained away. (Why is it no one asks you why you are dating some ho-hum person, but when you break up, people ask why?) It’s as if the default assumption is all people want to couple and marry, and all women just really want to have children. What I also hate is being told, “you’d make such a great mother!” So what? I do lots of things well. Doesn’t mean I want to do them full-time or at all.
        I did start saying, when people looked in horror and asked if I even liked kids – “I love other people’s children.”

    2. kewlm0m*

      Years ago, Dear Abby used to recommend a stock answer to intrusive questions:
      “If you’ll forgive me for not answering, I’ll forgive you for asking.”

      1. Anónima*

        Oh that is excellent!
        I wish I had thought of this. This is going in my script toolbox. I’m too old now and they’ve stopped asking why I don’t have kids thank goodness, but it will come in useful.

        Now I just say, “here look at my furbabies” and shove a picture of my 2 cats under their nose until they get bored and walk away.

        I wish I had the balls to answer “do you have any kids?” with “yes” and then just show them the pictures of my cats with no explanation. I think you’d be able to tell a lot about a person from their reaction.

        I just want to point out (although gosh I’m sure women here know this already) how utterly sexist this is.
        We work with a guy who doesn’t have kids I think, and he’s NEVER been asked about it. I on the other hand was asked in my first week if I had kids.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          A long-gone friend did that and showed off her baby goats…. but in her defense she thought they knew she was starting a dairy.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            (Annnd now I’m missing her deeply. Insomnia leaves me prone to wild mood swings anyway but… cancer sucks.)

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              In retrospect she knew that double-entendre and may have carried the joke farther with her “I thought you knew!”

            2. blackcat*

              A friend of mine is a goat breeder and totally does this.
              “Do you have kids?”
              “Yes, twelve right now!”
              *confused look*

          2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            BRB…Currently googling pictures of baby goat to print out wallet sized for future reference…

              1. Anonny*

                I have it, it is the best Christmas album ever. Especially when you sneak it into the family dinner playlist.

                (Although some of the bassier notes are done by sheep. I recognise the bleat samples.)

        2. Cynthia*

          Asking if someone has kids is completely normal. Asking if they want kids, or why they don’t have kids, are out of line questions.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Asking if someone has kids can be a mine field too though. What if they have had miscarriages? What if they have lost children? What if they desperately wanted kids and were infertile? It’s really safer not to broach this topics with people who barely know, especially in a professional context.

            1. TacocaTRacecaR*

              I usually say something along the line of “tell me about your family”, but even that is after I’ve seen pictures of said family in the person’s workspace. I have asked “Do you have any kids?”, but only after the person has asked me first.

              1. TacocaTRacecaR*

                Oh! And I have had an abortion, a miscarriage, and lost a child when she was a teenager, and I have three live children. So, I guess, to be fair, I personally have all of the bases covered for loss too.

              2. vw*

                I like that you only do that after seeing pictures of the family. I am not close to my relatives (note intentional word choice) and I really don’t wish to discuss it at work or in social situations. If someone asks, I tell them I have a . Usually that shuts down the question!

                I really like asking “what keeps you busy” or something like that, which leaves it open for people to tell you about their family (if they want) or about anything else they do!

                1. TacocaTRacecaR*

                  Thank you for your reply! I really try to be mindful of others. I replied below, too, that for someone who doesn’t have or associate with a “traditional” family, I’ve had people tell me about their friends, pets, their roommates, whatever. And I always just say the equivalent of “Oh, wow, that’s awesome!”, and then follow up about my [similar], or else move on to ask about what they like to do, the weather, whatever.

              3. CM*

                Thanks, Tacoca. I’m going to remember “tell me about your family” — I usually will only ask if someone has kids if they’ve expressed an interest in mine, but even then it feels potentially loaded. But saying “Tell me about your family” is a lot more neutral and gives the person more flexibility in how to answer.

                1. TacocaTRacecaR*

                  Thanks for the reply! I’m glad it’s useful for you. I replied in another thread last week about asking questions at the professional social events. Open-ended questions seem to come naturally to me. I have, on rare occasion, come across someone who isn’t very open when starting conversation. So in that case, after I introduce myself, and they do the same, if they don’t seem to take the conversation any farther, I’ll usually give some info about myself (“I work for [company], doing [job]. I have 2 kids at home and 2 dogs. Blah, blah, blah”), and then say “Will you tell me a little about yourself?” to see if that gets things moving. That way they know it’s OK to talk about kids without me asking anything invasive about their own situation.

              1. The Original K.*

                Right – you can’t know and account for all the details of peoples’ lives (especially with people you’re just meeting – that’s the point!).

              2. Aveline*

                There’s a difference between a question being off limits and how you ask a question. Asking people to reframe a question to take out assumptions/put the person asked in the driver’s seat is then taken as a “don’t ask the question” request. They aren’t the same thing.

                I don’t think that’s what you are implying, but please let’s head that off at the pass.

                Tell me about your family is different than “Is your wife here?” Said to a man is (1) heterosexist, (2) assumes partnered, (3) assumes married, and (4) assume monogamous. This is presumptuous. That is, it has a lot of presumptions loaded into the question. It is also dehumanizing if said to a person who is not heterosexual, who doesn’t have a partner/lost their partner, is partnered but not married, or isn’t monogamous. This phrasing also avoids “Do you have kids?” Or “How old are your kids?” Some people don’t want them, some people had them and lost them, some people can’t have them, etc.

                What’s your job/where do you work? VS. What do you do with your time?

                Where are you form? VS. Hav you always lived in our fair city?

                What are you? VS. Tell me about yourself (Particularly if said to a person who isn’t white).

                A friend texted me that she was at the Derby this weekend. She’s from a foreign country and still has a bit of an (lovely) accent. She is, in her own terms, a “born again Kentuckian.” She LOVES living in the state. She had people from out of state who asked “Where are you from?” Others “Did you grow up here in Lousiville?” The latter were answered with the story of why/how she immigrated and how good her life has been since she moved and why she loves Kentucky Refugee Ministries. The former were answered simply “Louisville” in a curt manner.

                Reframing our get-to-know someone questions in a way that strips out presumptions is not only kind, it is far, far more likely to get us what we want – information and interaction with someone we don’t yet know.

                1. Aveline*

                  PS My litigator friends spend a lot of time learning when to ask the open, inviting questions and when to ask a question that will elicit a narrow response and shut down the line of inquiry.

                  So many of us do the latter type of ask when we really want to ask an open-ended question.

                  It’s something we should all think about and be cognizant of when we are getting to know another person.

                2. TacocaTRacecaR*

                  I failed to note above, that I use “family”, but all of the people I know who do not associate with or have any blood/adoptive families have self-made families out of friends. So in that case, they would just tell me about their home life/pets/friend-family. But if anyone out there who doesn’t associate with or have any traditional family would be offended by my asking “tell me about your family”, please let me know!

                3. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  This is such a great comment. Thank you for expanding on the points I was trying to make.

                4. Aveline*

                  To be clear: I don’t think anyone on this site is advocating asking trumps politeness or kindness.

                  I’d love someone to write a blog/book/etc. on how to reframe common questions to be as inclusive as possible, but still get to know others. It is an art.

                5. Shane*

                  And yet it all comes out as sounding forced and unnatural, which is the main reason people don’t ask these kinds of awkward questions.

                6. HarperC*

                  Excellent comment. “Do you have children?” might not be meant by an individual as a loaded question, but it is. When I answer that I don’t, I get either a pitying look or they stand there, seeming to expect some explanation. I get that some people see it as just a question to try to get to know someone, but there is all sorts of baggage that comes with it, especially when you are a woman.

                7. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  This is a great point. ‘Get to know you’ questions that let the askee define the scope of the question are really the best way to go! After all, nothing depends on a specific answer (if I’m telling you about my stepfather instead of my bio father, what’s it to you?) and you get to know someone better from what they want to tell you than from jamming your nose directly into their most unpleasant business.

                8. Busy*

                  Yes, but you really can’t ask questions that strips away presumptions without sounding really dumb some of the time. I am going to be really offended if someone asks me if I grew up in the area when my accent is completely different (making it obvious I did not). I would find it extremely condescending.

                  I have actually watched my boyfriend grow very irate with really dumb questions like this, and still be fine with people assuming he speaks Punjabi when he is Bengali. I mean, really. LOL, I’m not trying to be combative; I am just telling you from experience that crap is irritating.

                  You can’t please everyone – but you can recognize differences respectfully. I would be perfectly OK if you asked me where I was from originally based on my accent. Others may not – its what makes diversity hard at times – but you can’t go around laying down rules like they are 100% solid and set in stone.

                9. TacocaTRacecaR*

                  Busy, in this situation, I would ask something more like “Have you been in the area long?”, which also leaves it up to the other person to disseminate whatever they wish. It’s a perfectly normal question for someone of any race, gender, etc., because every type of person there is has moved before. Then if the answer is “No, not really”, it can get a little dicey, because I’m never sure if I should follow up with “What brought you here”, or if I should change topics. Advice is welcome on that!

                10. TacocaTRacecaR*

                  Aveline, in the next open thread, send me a list and I’ll get to work :)

                11. jcalyst*

                  I usually just lurk here on AAM, but I had to respond to this and tell you how thoughtful and lovely this comment is.

                12. Michaela Westen*

                  I like “what do you do for fun?”
                  I’ve encountered people who don’t want to talk about their jobs, and I’m more interested in their outside-of-work life anyway, to get to know them better.

                13. Former Employee*

                  I am retired now, but if I were asked what I did with my time when I was younger, I would have wondered if the person asking was independently wealthy! Most people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s are working because they need to earn a living.

                  I find it tiresome that people get offended if asked about their work, where they are from, etc. I get the “where are you from” question every so often because some people can detect a slight Northeast accent, but can’t place it.

                  The only time I think it is offensive is if someone looks like they might be from another country and when they say they are from X city, USA, the person asking says, “Yes, but where are you really from?”

            2. Cynthia*

              If those things happened, then the answer won’t be good. But expecting people not to ask that isn’t reasonable.

              We’re not talking about people you barely know – we’re talking about your co-workers, who you see and interact with every day. Knowing if you have a family or not is not only reasonable but expected when it comes to your co-workers.

              1. Washi*

                It is a common question, and the recipient of it probably has gotten that question before. But I think if we’re talking about the asking side of the question, then I think it’s worth remembering how painful that question can be.

                Besides, whenever I’ve met new people at work, 100% of the time they themselves have brought up their kids before I would have felt comfortable enough to ask. Kids are a big part of people’s lives, so usually if they have them, it will come up with no need to ask.

                1. Blue*

                  Yeah, I never ask coworkers about partners or kids unless and until they mention them. Literally never. I have neither, and I don’t enjoy having that conversation because too many people are judgey about it, so I avoid subjecting others to those questions unless they’ve made clear the topic is on the table.

                  I’ve primarily learned about new coworkers’ personal lives by asking neutral things like, “Any fun plans for the weekend?” If they don’t want to share any details, they’ll likely give a vague answer, and I’ll follow their lead and not push. If they want to talk about individuals in their life and say that they’re going to their kid’s soccer game or to see Endgame with their spouse, they will.

              2. Aveline*

                Then you say “tell me about your family” or “I’d love to hear about your family.” There’s never a reason you can’t reframe away from the terms husband/wife or children.

                I don’t think asking people to be more cognizant of framing is a bridge to far.

                1. Busy*

                  Unless they are estranged from their family due to abuse or what not. See? The point of asking people about themselves is TO BE intrusive. The only way to get around never asking a “triggering” question or one that “makes assumptions” is to just say “Tell me about yourself”. And then the recipient can sit there and stare blankly back at you.

                  Yes, some questions are annoying to have to answer and some questions are even microaggressive-like, but not everyone has your same experiences or is even going to know about them (I bet 100% no one here can possibly know my life experiences or even that of my partner’s). And asking people, who literally are natural categorizers, to not make any kind of assumptions is asking quite a bit actually. People will slip up, or maybe are not aware of that one particular thing (my god, I learn new racial slurs alone every day!), or assumed the kids in the photos on your desk are yours, or whatever. Ya just gotta get used to other people being annoying – once you accept that, then life is much easier navigated.

                2. Anonny*

                  Also family is a lot broader than kids. If they don’t have kids, they can talk about their pets, or their favourite sibling, or like, their plans for the future. (“I really want a Maine Coon when I have the space for one!”)

                3. Scarlet2*

                  @Busy
                  I think it’s generally good to try and avoid being rude and annoying. And people definitely should be aware that seemingly innocuous questions can be extremely loaded for quite a lot of people. Not knowing it is one thing, refusing to acknowledge it is another.
                  I, for one, certainly don’t feel that I need to be intrusive to get to know people and I think it’s pretty disturbing to equate the two.

                4. Michaela Westen*

                  I don’t ask intrusive questions because I hate being asked! And I am estranged from both my parents because of abuse. If someone insists on hearing about my family, they will get more than they ever wanted. :D
                  IMHO the best way to get to know people is keeping it in the present. What do you do for fun? What do you do for work? What do you find interesting?
                  None of these is likely to trigger anyone, are they?
                  Also IMHO people who insist on knowing about the family of a coworker or casual acquaintance aren’t being friendly. They’re being nosy and will probably judge and draw incorrect conclusions about me and others who aren’t much for family.

              3. Batman*

                I don’t like this framing that you only have a family if you have a spouse and kids. I don’t have either of those things, but I have parents, a brother, and a few extended family members that I’m in touch with regularly. I have a family! And some people have chosen family that doesn’t fit that mold at all.

            3. boop the first*

              Does anyone actually have to ask about kids though? In my experience, if a coworker has kids, they will bring them up pretty frequently unless maybe the kids were middle aged, and then it would be about grandchildren.

              1. Aveline*

                There’s an old joke that you don’t have to ask about kids, pets, and vegetarianism. People will volunteer it.

              2. Karen from Finance*

                Not necessarily. It was months until I found out a new boss of mine had kids, and then I only found out because the HR lady (who would know because of paperwork, and also probably asked) asked him about them in front of me. There are people who are reserved like that. When he talks about his family, he usually uses the same vague statements as I do when I talk about my partner who I’m not married to: “at home, we….”.

          2. Shell*

            In my experience, when people ask “Do you have kids?” and I say “no,” they are way too prone to follow up with, “Why not?”

              1. Lepidoptera*

                I say “I don’t want any” and then they usually ask why. My favorite response to that is “I can’t prove a negative.”

              2. singularity*

                If it were me, the response depends on the person asking. I tend towards the sarcastic, so I’d probably say, “I like having a life, thanks.” (Speaking as someone /with/ kids.)

              3. Pebbles*

                A friend of mine would have said “Because I don’t have a uterus, that’s why.” She had a hysterectomy, and now her and her husband just enjoy having season tickets to almost everything in town.

            1. Aveline*

              A good friend would die from being pregnant. When she said “No, I don’t have kids,” well over half ask some variation or “why not” and the others express sadness/sympathy in a way that implies she’s somehow defective or missing out.

              When she tells the “why not?” People that she could die, she gets invasive medical questions from a majority of persons. About 15-20% of all people who ask then try and give her medical advice.

              1. Liz*

                I’ve had something similar happen to me. I’m 50-ish, never married, don’t have kids, and never really wanted any. At my last college reunion, I had a classmate ask me if i had any kids, which was fine. But when I said no she said “ohhhh, in such a sad voice, and made a sad face” She’s someone who only ever wanted to get married and have kids, and she has 3. Great! good for her, but its not for everyone. I wasn’t offended and her response, sadly, was more typical than not.

                Same with marriage. I’m not, never have been, and probably never will be. It just never happened. If it does at some point, great, if not? its ok too. But i think society puts such pressure on people to marry, have kids, create the “perfect” family, the whole 9 yards, that those of us who choose a different path are somehow looked upon as “not quite right” or that there’s something wrong with us. No, no there isn’t.

                1. JeanB in NC*

                  And it starts so early too! My friend’s daughter (who was 4 or 5 at the time) heard me say something about not being married and the daughter asked me, have you never been married? When I said no, she said in a sad voice, I’m so sorry! I just told her not everyone gets married and that’s okay.

                2. Important Moi*

                  You don’t have to bear their discomfort.

                  You should have responded along the lines of “You seem upset. Why are you upset?” Only a totally oblivious clod or complete glassbowl won’t realize they were out of line. YMMV.

                3. Michaela Westen*

                  See my post above about what happened when my parents married the wrong person at the wrong time and had children they didn’t really want because of this pressure.

            2. Overeducated*

              Plus, as a woman with kids, I would never ask that as getting-to-know-you conversation in a work setting because I’d worry about being put in the “mom” box forever. Generally it will come up in time, and I don’t try to keep them secret from my coworkers…but I don’t LEAD with it.

            3. Karen from Finance*

              To be fair, I have ocassionally been told “don’t have them!” with a grin and/or wink, too. Not that that’s not weird either.

              1. Cynthia*

                That response is just people with kids trying to make you feel better and easing out of the response semi-gracefully.

          3. Anónima*

            I agree with you in general and if it’s already a topic of conversation – anyway, I think most people would say they had kids if they wanted to talk about them, so I tend to not ask if someone isn’t mentioning kids and wish others would just observe that nicety too – but I was referring to the odd out of the blue question, and why not ask men that same question too?

            And the responses to “no, I have no kids” can be super weird! Apart from the “why not?” reply, I’ve had someone faux-cheerily reply with “Oh never mind, you’ve got plenty of time hey!” and then lightly punch me in the arm. This was not someone I knew!

            Asking do you have kids *can* be normal but it requires sensitivity.

      2. AshaGreyjoy*

        BEAUTIFUL! This is AMAZING. Dear Prudence also (for a totally different situation) recommended feigning mild shock and saying “You must be so embarrassed to have asked/said that” which I also love

    3. JSPA*

      “We’re not feeling at all parental, but if that changes in a few years, we’d be looking at adopting.”

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Ha! A coworker who I know has a kind of frantic homelife asked me one time when I have time to get my hair cut, etc., and my answer to THAT was “I don’t have kids.” But I would still be taken aback if someone asked me why not.

      2. Two Tin Cans and a String*

        It’s true too. I love kids and love being around them (almost became a kindergarten teacher in fact) but at the end of the day I like silence, reading and traveling a HELL of a lot more.

      3. boop the first*

        Ugh, yes. If I start getting paranoid about pregnancy, the first thought that comes to mind is how to raise a kid in a 1-bedroom apartment. Do the adults sleep in the living room? A 2-bedroom anything is over half a million dollars here, so no go.

      4. Pebbles*

        I get kidded by some coworkers about how my husband and I are DINKs (Double Income, No Kids). I get 5 weeks of vacation a year and I make sure to use all of it because we love to travel. So I get questions like “are you going anywhere this summer? Didn’t you just get back from somewhere? Wow, must be nice to be able to get away like that.” But then I shoot back with “well you could be doing that too, but you decided to have kids”. Now, we’ve all worked with each other for a very long time, we like each other, so we’re just joking, but I could see how if all of that was said in a different tone that it would come off much differently.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Ironically enough, my coworkers with children travel far more often than I do! They’re always going on weekend trips, spring break, trips to visit family members who are out of state. When I travel, I have to make sure the cats have their shots updated, hire the cat sitter, etc. which is hundreds of dollars before I even leave the house. It might still be cheaper than bringing a kid or two along, but not *a lot* cheaper.

        2. Cynthia*

          I get that you and your co-workers are kidding. That’s just the kind of thing that people say to make people without kids feel like they have some advantage over people with kids. Parents create human life – I really hope there aren’t people out there who believe that they’re actually envious of some fleeting vacation time.

        1. bleh*

          We are DINKs who travel a lot and get this wistful “wow you travel a lot. must be nice to be able to do that” or even “we would travel more if it weren’t for the kids.” I like to answer, “it is nice; I planned my life well.”

      5. Miss Petty and Vindictive*

        “Hey, kids are great! You know what else is great? Time and disposable income.” – actual response my husband gave to someone who kept asking us repeatedly if/when we were having kids. Funnily enough they stopped asking.

    4. singularity*

      Sometimes people need a firm response that doesn’t open it up to further discussion, like. “I’m not going to talk about that.” It may sound harsh, but some particularly clueless people will press forward with the conversation if they think they can insert their opinions and assumptions into it (as evidenced by all the commenters examples). You want something that doesn’t invite further discussion or a debate on the benefits of motherhood or a dissertation on why the LW should change their mind. I just don’t understand people’s obsession with forcing children upon unwilling people.

    5. Federal Employee 167590*

      I don’t understand why this is controversial. Jane should not have approached OP “angrily.” However, if Jane is telling the truth, then the mature, adult thing to do is go to the Chair and say, “Hey, it’s come to my attention that there might have been a miscommunication when I was invited to join, and the original recommendation was for a different Jane. I think I’m qualified for this role and believe I’ve contributed in our past meetings, and I’d love to stay on, but I wanted to bring this to bring this up in case you felt differently.” I don’t understand why there is such an urge to cling to this position. I would be really put off by someone who just said, “It’s your mistake and now I’m here. Too bad.” Even if they’re doing a fine job, it really speak poorly to their integrity.

    6. AshaGreyjoy*

      Hi I’m the letter writer and this is my FAVORITE response!! It exactly shows how I feel about the kids I work with, it’s polite and cheerful, and it doesn’t really allow a lot of room for follow up questions. Thank you so much for this!

      1. Lynn*

        My husband (a high school teacher) usually goes with “I have 150 kids a year, how many more could I possibly need.”

    7. Hope*

      That was essentially my approach when I worked with kids. “These are all the children I need, trust me.”

    8. Cringing 24/7*

      +1,000!!!
      That’s what my wife, who works in education, does, since we’re fully committed to not having children.
      Rando1: “How many kids do you have?” (SO presumptuous)
      Mrs. Cringing: *gestures all around her* “About 200.”

      Rando2: “When are you going to start having kids?”
      Mrs. Cringing: “Oh, I’ve already got a couple of hundred – I’m at my max for right now.”

    9. Moo*

      A woman who used to go to our church asked me once after another woman had just had a baby, “Have you ever thought about having kids?” I just responded, “Why yes, I have.” And when she looked at me like she expected more, I walked away and talked to someone else.

      Miss Manners has a similar response to one of Allison’s above: “What a strange question,” with a quizzical look, and then change the subject.

    10. starzzy*

      When you’re around other little kids, I can see this answer being a great option.

      Personally, as a woman who just turned 40 (and is only around adults all day) and was asked this a number of times throughout my life, I found that a simple “No,” when coupled with context in which the question was asked goes a long way.

      Someone in a work or social environment trying to be nice and get to know me:
      Them: “Any kids?”
      Me: “No, but I have 2 dogs! These are their pictures aren’t they cute?! Do YOU have kids?”

      Answering the question somewhat equating children with dogs tends to signal to people that I Don’t Get It when it comes to babies and/or that I’m too obsessed with dogs to be trusted with actual children and shuts down that part of the conversation. Also, I do find that most people, when asking this, are looking for an opportunity to talk about their own children, which I’m happy to listen to.

      Someone in a non-social situation just being nosy:
      Them: “Any kids?”
      Me: “No.” *answered in a non-friendly, non-apologetic manner that doesn’t invite follow-up questions*

      I’m also at the point in my life where I’m not afraid to answer a rude question with a blunt answer.
      Them: “Are you ever planning to have kids?”
      Me: “Um, no?” *answered in a tone that asks how they could conceive this is at all their business*

    11. Ama*

      My sister-in-law is a high school teacher and my brother volunteers as a youth sports coach. They do not plan on having kids ever (and they’ve said this since they got married more than a decade ago) — they love working with kids, but they also like that there are set times when they interact with them, and then they hand them off to their parents.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        I taught karate and while I never got the “so are you going to have kids of your own?”, I did joke around with the parents with “and the great thing is, when I’ve had enough of them, I send them home with you.”

    12. Ellex*

      People have stopped asking me about kids (one of the benefits of getting older). But they ask my mother frequently if she has grandkids, if she’s expecting grandkids, or if she’s sad she doesn’t have any grandkids.

      Mom says she knew very early she wouldn’t get any grandkids from me. She may yet get them from my brother. Regardless, she says that she raised her own children and as a retired preschool teacher, she’s had enough of other peoples’ children, and isn’t particularly eager to get any grandkids.

      As for a response to people asking if you’re going to have kids…I’ve never found anything that worked for all inquiries. Some people will push that subject no matter what you say.

      1. Miss Petty and Vindictive*

        I loved how my mum broached the kids topic with me when my husband and I had been together for a while (and she had the suspicion it would stick, she was right).
        She was going through old ‘stuff’ in the cupboards and found some baby dresses she sewed when my sister and I were babies, and said “are you and husband thinking you might want to have kids? If not I might pass these on to ‘family friend who is currently pregnant'” I said no, we really weren’t thinking we would, so she gave away most of the dresses bar her favourite, and said “Totally understand not having any. Do you think you could get another cat or something? Or a dog? I’d like that”.
        She is very proud grandma to our cantankerous cat, with plans for a second in the works. Mum is most excited at the prospect of second grandchild. Given grandchild number one somewhat hates her….

    13. Flower*

      Use my answer! “I really love kids, but I also like eventually giving them back to their parents/guardians.”

    14. Preschool Teacher*

      My go-to is “I already have (number of kids in my class), that’s plenty!” It’s always been well received and tends to cut off any follow up questions.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, in addition to this idea being terrible for prospective applicants and staff morale, I suspect there’s a lot of folks who see all of those postings and think there’s high turnover. I don’t know folks who think posting lots of positions means the organization is growing (which is also dishonest if it isn’t growing), unless the announcements literally say they’re new lines being added because of growth or are seasonal/temp positions.

    1. Kat A.*

      I always think there’s high turnover when I see nearly continuous job postings from the same place. It’s a red flag for me.

      1. Fergus*

        It’s not just a red flag it’s red fire engines with fireman carrying red banners on fire.

          1. DerJungerLudendorff*

            Irish firemen with fiery tempers and blazing passion, riding bare-chested on their fire engines wearing naught but red body-paint and red firemen helmets from the waist up, still eating their lunch from red mc-donalds bags. With extra ketchup.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And apparently you are both right, just for s really unexpected reason!
        Now that I know the reason I’ll borrow a phrase from a past commenter: it’s enough red flags for a Communist parade.

      3. All monkeys are French*

        Absolutely. I recently passed on applying for an appealing job because the company is perpetually hiring. Their postings even say something about how they’re growing, and therefore hiring for such-and-such. But it’s obvious to me that’s not what’s going on there.

    2. Artemesia*

      And if they want to project that they can post a ‘we often have positions for llama groomers and trainers so if you are interested contact us at’. This way there is not a specific job and the applicant can be told ‘we are not hiring at the moment but will keep your resume blah blah blah’. Not as discouraging as ‘here’s a job’ then dead air.

      1. Ali A*

        We do have a statement on our Careers Page that says something similar – but it does not actually notate which positions are open and which are just…there.

        Both my CEO and direct supervisor take the “this is actually standard for our industry/a lot of my colleagues do it this way” approach to some of these issues I bring up.

        What makes it more odd is that we have very low turnover for our industry!

      2. Ophelia*

        Agreed – I think there is a way to do a call for resumes and make it clear that you aren’t hiring for a specific posted position, but that you’re looking, consistently, for X skill sets and want to build up your network (I work in an industry that does engage a lot of short-term consultants for specific gigs), but it’s really crucial to be clear about the fact that it’s not an open, concrete job.

    3. Sorrel*

      Came here to say this, I have decided not to apply to places before for this reason.

    4. Rebecca*

      There’s a company in my area that advertised for 6 full time positions in one department. 6 people were hired, and each one had resigned from current jobs as these were not entry level positions. Keep in mind, in my rural area, decent paying jobs with good benefits are hard to come by. 6 weeks after all 6 were hired, 4 were fired because the manager of that department never intended to have 6 new workers. She couldn’t decide who to hire, so she hired everyone and fired 4. 4 people had left other jobs in good faith and ended up unemployed. This was 10 years ago, and is still a topic of discussion whenever this company posts jobs now. This manager was left go some time ago (this was not the only mess she caused) but to this day, and I suspect for years to come, this company is now equated with this issue.

      The OP’s CEO is going to obtain a similar reputation with his company – apply for jobs, never hear anything, or even if there is an interview, no call backs, and word will get around. Instead of increasing the pool of applicants, it will limit it instead.

      1. Lance*

        Right… does he think people aren’t going to talk? That they’re not going to catch on to something? Because people network, people talk… applicants might know someone on the inside who might in fact tell them that there are no job openings, and there never were, and then how does the company look when that word inevitably starts to spread?

        1. Works in IT*

          Even as someone with minimal networking ability, I’ve run into scam “recruiters” that want to tell people you’ve worked for them for five years enough times that this wouldn’t read as “high turnover” to me, it would read “scam”. The fact that scammers were infesting my college’s career center’s job listings board may have made me slightly trigger happy to call them scams… and I would be right in this case!

        2. dumblewald*

          I’m actually astounded by how employers underestimate the damage employees can do to their reputation. The egotism really gets to their heads. Every employee had an average of 5 people they talk to candidly about their jobs. Think 1-2 friends, significant other(s?), parents and relatives, and roommates. If they hate their job, you can bet those 5 people will never want to work there. And multiply that by the number of unhappy employees! (I took math once upon a time.)

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I had such a physical reaction to this…my stomach is churning, I want to throw up. And the company let it happen. I’m sick.

      3. Rhymes with Mitochondria*

        Similar thing happened to someone I know. She was hired, on her first day she was introduced to another new hire starting the same day, and they were both told that they were on 90 day probation, and at the end of the 90 days, one of them would get the job permanently and one would be let go.
        My friend started job hunting that day, as did the other new hire, and both quit within 2 weeks.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          Hi five to them. Here’s your desk and ID badge. The bathroom is down the hall. Welcome to the Hunger Games.

    5. Ammonite*

      Yep, I’d definitely see this as a red flag.
      That many jobs posted that often sounds like the company in my area that has a reputation for being the first professional job on everyone’s resume. It’s a fairly competitive field but they have horrible pay and benefits so the only people who will work there are new grads who are desperate for the work or people who have left their previous positions in sketchy circumstances. People work there just long enough to count the experience on their resume and then move on ASAP. It’s kind of a running joke that if something doesn’t pan out, you can always go work at [company] because they’re literally always hiring.

    6. Emmie*

      I came to make the high turnover point. People with industry experience generally know the size of the business. They know if you are Kroger (large scale), Central Market (regional, higher-end, mid-size), Aldi (low cost, mid size), or Royal Blue Grocery (one store, niche market.) You cannot fool people long-term into inaccurately guessing your market size, or growth potential through deceptive tactics.

    7. sofar*

      Yep, this is what I assume, too. Or, I assume they haven’t updated their job listings in a long time and are therefore disorganized.

      What OP #2’s boss also fails to take in to account is that people may apply and reach out to the company’s current employees they know for a reference/good word/to learn more about the position. And that these employees then either have to waste work hours communicating with these people OR be truthful and confess the job postings are fake or “not updated,” which makes the company look bad.

    8. dumblewald*

      I stopped applying to a couple of companies because I keep seeing the same positions turn up repeatedly in job postings, plus they have bad Glassdoor reviews.

    9. OrigCassandra*

      I definitely have a mental list of places that are Always Hiring, so I can warn my students about them in career-counseling sessions. I don’t go as far as “don’t apply,” much less “don’t take the job if it’s offered to you,” but I absolutely do say “do your best to figure out in the interview what you’d be walking into” and “maybe don’t plan to stay long.”

    10. Autumnheart*

      Totally. If the CEO wants to cultivate relationships with industry members, that’s what LinkedIn is for. He would get a lot farther if he made efforts in developing his social media presence than he ever would with these fake job listings.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, this sounds like some misplaced rage on Other Jane’s part. Is the advisory board limited in its total number of members? If not, it sounds like both could serve, making it a win-win for all and minimizing rage?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Recommender just learned a lesson about providing better contact info didn’t he. I wonder how many women are/have been on this advisory board…. and whether recommender just didnt know of 2 women working in the same department.
      Now I’m speculating wildly… if Jane or Other Jane is an underrepresented minority, the dynamic get different overtones.

      1. Ico*

        Yes, assuming that the complete cipher of a recommender is a racist and/or sexist bigot is very wild speculation. There is zero basis in the letter to say this.

    2. Annie*

      Proper Jane is completely in the right, though. The job belonged to her and was given to someone else completely by accident, solely because they thought the other person was her.

      I’m really surprised this is even an issue. The job offer was never intended for the LW’s Jane. It’s the same as keeping a parcel that’s delivered to your house by mistake.

      1. Asenath*

        Well, it’s not exactly the same. It’s more as though, having looked up the wrong widget on Amazon by mistake, you checked out the specifications, read the reviews, decided it was acceptable, and ordered it. Being given a suggestion as to something to buy (or someone to hire or give a place on an advisory board) doesn’t guarantee that the final deal will go through.

        I think I’d bring it up with the board chair just to clear the air, but I know that could be an awkward conversation some people (both Janes and the chair) might like to avoid.

        1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          +1

          It’s not the same as keeping a parcel someone else paid for; the board knew who she was when they made the offer, they just thought she was recommended by someone when she wasn’t. It’s awkward, for sure, but it’s not fraudulent by any means.

          1. Washi*

            Agreed, it would be different if they had called her and offered her the position on the spot, based on Other Jane’s info. But they saw her real resume and bio and decided it would be a good match.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              It sounds like they invited her to join based on that recommendation, and *then* she gave them her resume and bio for the website. Now, hopefully if they realized she wasn’t qualified at that point, they would have politely asked her to leave. But it’s entirely possible that they’re all saying “wow, I wish we’d ended up with the Jane we thought we had, but now it’s too awkward to say anything.”

              1. Kat A.*

                But, Rusty, she IS qualified. Whether she’s not the correct Jane or she is, the one who’s on the advisory board now is qualified. That makes a big difference.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  I didn’t say she’s not qualified. I said there’s no reason to assume the board looked at her resume and bio *before* they offered her the position. The fact that she did happen to be qualified is a lucky accident. But if she hadn’t been qualified, or if she is in fact less qualified than the Jane they thought they had contacted, there’s every possibility they wouldn’t have realized that until she was actually a member.

                2. Sandman*

                  It seems to me that there’s every reason to believe that the Board looked at her bona fides before appointing her. It would show an incredible lack of due diligence on their part not to do any vetting at all – I can’t imagine inviting anyone to join the Board I lead without making sure it was a good fit.

              2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

                But since the recommend-er presumably didn’t give them LW Jane’s contact information, they must have found it somewhere, and it’s highly likely that they’ll have learned other things about her by whatever means they used to find her contact info, even if it was just looking her up on the agency website and reading whatever biographical information/work history was there. I think it’s a stretch to say she’s not qualified; all we know is that she wasn’t recommended by the person they thought recommended her.

                And since Original Jane confronted LW Jane about it, I’d bet that there’s been other conversations about the mix-up going on in the background, and that the board is aware of what happened.

              3. Iris Eyes*

                Well if keeping Jane is the lesser of the two “evils” in this case then that’s the board’s prerogative. It’s certainly none of Jane’s responsibility to resign over a rumor.

        2. Jaydee*

          Continuing with the online purchase analogy, this is like telling your coworker Wakeen that you need a new llama braiding tool and he recommends the ‘Llama-something 3000.’ “Just go on Etsy and look for it. I know the shop owner. It’s a great little tool,” he says. So you go on Etsy and search for “llama 3000” and find the ‘Llama Fabulous 3000’ which looks promising. The reviews are good. It has the features you want. You order it. Later you get a call from someone named Sansa who is upset you didn’t purchase the ‘Llama-Beautiful 3000’ she makes because Wakeen told her you were going to order one. I mean, it sucks that Wakeen didn’t remember the name of the tool and you ended up with a different one inadvertently. But if the Llama Fabulous 3000 works fine, you shouldn’t feel like you bought the “wrong” thing.

      2. Kettles*

        If Other Jane is correct, and telling the truth. She could be misrepresenting the situation due to bitterness.

        1. Jedao*

          +1
          This was actually my first thought. How do we know the board really chose the “wrong” Jane? If the Other Jane is the only source of this information…

        2. Ralph Wiggum*

          And even if Other Jane isn’t misrepresenting the situation, the way she’s behaving reflects poorly on her.

          If I was on the board, made a mistake, and saw the overlooked individual get upset with someone not involved with the decision, it would give me pause about whether I actually wanted her on the board after all.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Your analogy doesn’t work.

        It’s more like you have two friends named John. One of them loves baseball and the other is a fan, but it’s not his passion. You win tickets to a game and decide to text John and ask him to go along. You meant to text the one who absolutely loves baseball, but you mistakenly text the other John instead, who agrees to go. You wouldn’t uninvite him and say “oops, sorry, wrong John”.

        1. Grace*

          And not even quite that, add another layer, since the recommendation was to the board – you win tickets and you ask a friend to ask John if he wants one next time she sees him, but you don’t clarify which John, and then you blame John X for accepting the invitation even though your friend asked him instead of John Y.

          It wasn’t even that the recommender contacted the wrong person – the recommender gave inadequate information, and now apparently both they and other-Jane are blaming wife-Jane for accepting! The only person who made a mistake here, imo, is the person who recommended other-Jane and didn’t think to give her full name. The board presumed that the only Jane with contact information was the intended Jane, because why else would only her first name and department have been given, and wife-Jane certainly isn’t in the wrong for accepting.

        2. Aveline*

          But if lukewarm John knows your mistake and doesn’t offer to correct it, that’s on him as well.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            No, it’s really not.

            It sounds like OP’s wife has the credentials to be on the advisory board. She was fully vetted and selected.

            1. Aveline*

              “Credentials” are not the only reason to be on the board.

              There are lot of hidden requirements that we can’t get from resumes.

              We have ZERO way of knowing if the recommender was told “we need someone from X industry who gets us Y diversity point.” Those matter to boards. A LOT.

              We don’t know for sure.

              Vetting for work credentials/resume is not the same thing as being the person they wanted.

              If the board was told, we want Jane because she’s in X industry and fills these gaps, then they trusted the recommender and likely didn’t read that resume/vet her in the way you would if it were an employment background check.

              On every board I’ve ever served on, the recommendations counted far, far more than the resume/other vetting. The latter was a formality. It’s all on the recommendation.

              So, no, I don’t agree that the board vetting her excuses this if the recommender meant someone else since we have no idea why the Other Jane was recommended.

              If all the board cared about was “woman from X company or Y industry” and the two Janes are equivalent on that, then the board likely is ok with LW Jane on the board. But the reason for the recommendation might have been “we need a woman from X company and Y industry with Z diversity point” because it’s required by our government contract/grant request/bylaws.

              Please don’t assume that the only reason they want here there is her ability to contribute to conversations. There are lots of other reasons specific people are asked.

              My husband is asked to be on board both for his contributions and his demographics. He’s a minority so having him on the board for a charity means they are now eligible for money they would’ve not otherwise receive.

              1. What's with Today, today?*

                I’m the chair of a Chamber of Commerce board and am a member of two other boards, and I agree. Jane has to at least talk to the Board Chair. We just got a new member specifically because he can write grants, something not in his bio or resume, but known by the recommender. Hopefully, we’d never have this type of communication breakdown (and I as chair would go to Jane), but this could be a BIG DEAL for the board.

                1. CM*

                  Regardless, isn’t it still the Board’s problem, not Jane’s?

                  The Board recruited her and brought her on. If the Board made a mistake, their carelessness is on them. They should ask her to leave if necessary. Jane is qualified, happy to be on the board, and feels she is contributing. She’s under no obligation to do anything here.

                2. Observer*

                  Why? Why is it Jane’s job to deal with the mistake the Board MAY have made?

                  The Board is fully within it’s rights to ask her to resign – and if she is indeed keeping someone more necessary from having a spot, they SHOULD. But it is TOTALLY on them.

                3. Aveline*

                  @CM and Observer

                  You may or may not be correct morally.

                  Practically speaking? I have never been on a board where they would say “oh, totally our fault.” In reality, if LW Jane isn’t “meant to be there” and she doesn’t speak up, she will be punished.

                  I don’t think the board would say “our bad” in this type of situation.

                4. AKchic*

                  @Observer: It is in LW’s Jane’s best interest to speak to the chair because she *knows* about this issue, and by bringing it up, she at least absolves herself of any potential future accusation that she was unaware of the mix-up or confusion down the line if the “real” Jane does in fact speak to the chair or the recommender or the committee itself and presents herself as the Real Jane and labels LW’s Jane as the “Imposter” who had already been confronted.
                  It doesn’t benefit LW’s Jane to stay silent. While LW’s Jane has contributed to the group, she can also contribute by helping to work towards an amicable solution for this mix-up that was in no way her fault. I am not saying she should resign. No, her credentials and experiences have earned her a spot, and she is contributing; however, she can bring this to the attention of the chair and then the chair can discuss it with the recommender and the other Jane and decide if the other Jane has other skills that would still be beneficial to the group that nobody else is bringing to the table and is needed. There is probably still room in the group for her, and both Janes can work in this group. However, Real Jane would have to let go of her misplaced anger towards LW’s Jane at being contacted, when the recommender is the one who didn’t give the contact details and could have avoided all of this in the first place.

              2. Name Required*

                Then the Board Chair needs to correct this, and Other Jane needs to stop harassing Jane.

              3. Observer*

                NONE of these things is the problem of OP Jane. It’s not like someone said “you’ve been highly recommended, but we need to confirm a, b and ” and then she lied about it. As far as she knew she was perfectly well qualified for the job.

                If neither the recommender nor the Board recruitment folks bothered to do their jobs properly, that is TOTALLY not OP Jane’s fault. And the idea that the owes Other Jane anything is ludicrous.

              4. Lora*

                ^This^ +100.

                Actually happened to me, and my name (with spelling) is fairly uncommon, but I happened to be working someplace where there was another Lora who was about the same age, identical education but at different universities, highly similar work experience – she was in another state, in the main office, and I was in a satellite office. She was recommended for a fast-track senior management program by her previous boss at the company, I was not. The recommendations were kept confidential, so when I started getting notifications about being chosen for this senior management program, I showed it to my boss and asked if he knew anything about it. He didn’t, just said to reply to the organizer and follow her instructions, he guessed – he was very new to the company himself.

                So I did. Organizer sent me more information, but only sporadically. Sometimes I was invited to an event or training session, sometimes not. Finally bumped into Other Lora and we compared notes, because we had both been scolded for not making time for Important Event, and our explanations of “I didn’t know about it! Are you sure you’ve sent it correctly? Are you sure you got the right Lora?” were roundly ignored. This went on for over a year, and I had turned down recruiters for jobs I would have otherwise been interested in, because I was supposedly in this great career growth program.

                Finally after one particularly insistent, “you need to register for (program event)! Why haven’t you registered?” email when I in fact HAD registered, we both contacted the organizer and asked again with senior management CC’ed, which of us she had MEANT to contact. After a few weeks of radio silence, the organizer bluntly informed me that I was dis-invited because they meant the other one. She was pretty rude in her email, as if OBVIOUSLY we should have known it was a mistake and who was meant even though we had both questioned her repeatedly and been assured otherwise, and we were both similarly qualified for the program but for the recommendation.

                It was unfortunate that the organizer was 1) not organized 2) rude 3) let it go on a whole YEAR before double checking when we had both told her to please check, but what was really upsetting to me was that I was miserable in that job and NEVER would have stuck around but for being in that program, which promised to rotate me to a new job within a year. I missed out on some great opportunities and put up with an insane amount of crap because it was supposedly all going to be gravy within a couple of years. I stepped up my job search pretty quickly and was quite clear with my boss about why.

                So, I get why Proper Jane is upset. These opportunities do not fall from the sky, aren’t exactly open to the public, and are not often extended to people who aren’t in the Right Group. It opens a lot of doors – I made a LOT of connections which were definitely salutary to my career for that brief time. It’s incredibly embarrassing to have to explain, when you’re asked, “yeah, turns out they didn’t mean ME” to friends and colleagues, even though it’s not your fault and you’re not the one who screwed up. It’s like the Cool Kids have just told you, “you can’t sit with us,” and now you have to go around telling everyone who asks, “Heather said I can’t play croquet with them anymore.”

                1. Observer*

                  Nope. What you describe is exactly why I believe that OP Jane is not the one who has any responsibility here. If the person who made the mistake is unreasonable, then it doesn’t matter what you do, that person is going to be a jerk. I mean you DID let the organizer know about the problem. You didn’t just “bring it up”, you repeatedly questioned the organizer. You even had to force the issue by bringing in your bosses. And even then the organizer tried to blame you! Does that make any sense?

                  Now, I can situations where it’s in someone’s best interest to find out what’s going – as in your case. But in terms of who was responsible? TOTALLY not you. And nothing you would have done would have made a real difference to the organizer. Because she was a jerk.

                  Now, I understand why Other Jane is upset. But she’s upset with the wrong person. Just like it wasn’t your fault or Other Lora’s fault, and you weren’t upset *with each other*.

                1. BigTenProfessor*

                  Advisory boards are not the same as voting board members and not selected in the same way.

                2. Aveline*

                  I’m talking about advisory and charitable boards. We are expressly told that.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Hey, we can disagree without attacking Aveline’s knowledge or professional experience. I agree with you that it’s speculative to assume the advisory board has diversity criteria. I also disagree with Aveline’s interpretation. But that doesn’t mean she has a deficient understanding of the legal and political issues that may be at play (she’s been focusing mostly on the politics and optics, which aren’t legal questions).

                4. Aveline*

                  @PCHB

                  Also, I never once state on this page I’m an attorney. So this is suspicious.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            This is 100% on the Board. And because this is an advisory position (which is usually not the same as being on the Board of Directors), I suspect there’s greater flexibility about how to make this right.

      4. Aveline*

        LW’s spouse needs to offer to recuse herself ASAP on the grounds of mistaken ask. Why?

        First, it puts control of the membership where it should be: with the board. They may thank her for pointing it out and have both Janes on the board. It will look like she’s proactive and trying to make sure everyone is taken care of. To not do so might be interpreted as selfishness/callousness or cluelessness.

        Second, people are asked to be on boards for reasons other than their contributions in meetings. There are all sorts of considerations that go into whom to ask. There may be reasons they wanted the “Other Jane” that aren’t obvious to her.

        It’s great that LW’s Jane is contributing, but that’s not enough to warrant her remaining and not saying anything. That’s a bare minimum requirement.

        For example, one of the boards my husband is on is trying to achieve racial, class, gender, regional, urban-rural, etc. diversity. If Other Jane was from a “targeted group” and LW’s Jane is not, she might not be aware of that fact. But it might impact grants and other real world matters that LW Jane is not aware of. Every single board I’ve ever served on collected demographic data and used it to secure grants or do other similar work.

        Third, Other Jane is obviously upset. If she’s right and she was meant to be asked, that can have consequences for LW Jane at work and in her profession. Is this board seat worth that?

        It could also mean LW Jane isn’t asked to be on boards in the future. Unless you are in NYC or LA or a city of that size, boards talk. Even in smaller cities, they talk. Once you are on Board A, someone from Board B will call you and ask you to serve. If you are on Board A and a jerk, people on Board B will not want you serving.

        Finally, when the board members find out – and they will – some are not going to take her presence there after her finding out the mistake kindly. There can be professional and personal blow-back.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I disagree — we know that OtherJane was recommended. We do NOT know that LW’sJane is unrecommended by someone else and unqualified.
          I’ll go further to state that OtherJane is more than “obviously upset” – it’s sounding like an unprofessional reaction that red flags her in my book.
          I will however agree with those who have said LW’sJane should bring up the confusion to the board and *ask* if it’s something that needs to be addressed. Because if OtherJane swings the balance to a required minority %, yes that might be required.
          But do realize it could be the other direction. I haven’t seen anything from LW clarifying so I’m just pointing out the other possibility…that maybe LW’sJane is a targeted minority and OtherJane&Recommender are bigoted. I’d hate that to be the case of course, but it’s possible.
          And it’s why LW’s Jane would *ASK* instead of withdrawing.

          1. Aveline*

            That’s why I said OFFER to recuse herself.

            I don’t see how we are disagreeing.

            She shouldn’t stay, she shouldn’t just quit. She should tell them what she knows and let them sort it out.

            Where’s the disagreement?

            1. Observer*

              Why does she have ANY obligation here? I’m not saying that she must not offer to recuse herself.

              On the one hand, the Board should be aware of whether OP Jane fits the needs of the Board since they were given (or should have asked for) all relevant information. On the other hand, given how blatant Other Jane is being, and the fact that SOMEONE told her what happened, it doesn’t seem possible that the Board is unaware of the mix up.

              1. Aveline*

                Irrespective of what any of us think morally or practically, I can tell you that if Other Jane is meant to bet there, the board will find out, and they aren’t going to blame themselves for it.

                I have never, ever, seen the type of people on these types of board say “LW Jane wasn’t at fault, we screwed up.”

                That’s why she needs to speak up. It’s does not matter who is at fault. She will be blamed for not bringing it to their attention.

                If the community is small enough, this will be a big deal.

                Personally, I hope she goes to them and they say “oh, you’ve done so well, we want you to stay” irrespective of whether it was a mistaken placement.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I think this may just be a significant difference in Board experiences. I’ve served on several boards and advise many more, and if they failed to vet properly (which is 100% the Board’s fault), they’ll often accept their culpability for creating the snafu.

                  You’ve also noted that folks don’t vet as vigorously if someone comes highly recommended. That’s true, but it’s still the Board’s fault, and it’s on the Board to fix it (and honestly is a bit of a dereliction of their duty, even though it’s a common problem).

                2. Ethyl*

                  I think where people are disagreeing is this idea that other Jane is “meant” to be there. You seem to be assuming that the board completely just brought in the wrong person and that new Jane isn’t qualified, but according to the LW, she definitely is. You seem to be making this about New Jane having stolen or taken something from OG Jane and it just isn’t clear that that happened like, at all.

        2. Susquhanna*

          OP’s Jane was invited, they received her bio and materials and chose to continue with putting her on the board. She did nothing wrong, and viewing that as equivalent in any way to being a “jerk” is decidedly unkind.

          If the Board wanted a Jane of a targeted group, they really ought to have noticed when the Jane who showed upo and whose bio they received did not fit that demographic expectation. The onus here is on them, not on Jane.

        3. Observer*

          Wait, you mean that the Board can only take action if OP Jane offers to resign? Talk about not having control of your membership?

          As for the rest, NONE of this is OP Jane’s problem. If demographics are relevant here, the Board actually know what OP Jane’s demographics are since she provided that information. So obviously her demographics work for them.

          If anyone ever told me that the Board misrepresented information about their membership because they made assumptions about said membership and never bothered to actually confirm it I would NOT blame the “incorrect” members, I would TOTALLY blame the leadership that fell down on it’s job. If it turns out that the board actually HAD THE INFORMATION, but NEVER BOTHERED TO CHECK that would be the end for that Board as far as were concerned. Of anyone actually blamed the “wrong” member for the THEIR incompetence, it would be almost impossible for that person to come back from it.

          1. Aveline*

            LW Jane’s fault v. Her getting the blame are two separate things.

            She has no reason to feel any guilt. That won’t matter. The board may still blame her for not speaking up.

            It is her problem b/c she’s aware of it now. Either Other Jane was meant to get the offer or LW Jane was. If it’s the former and she doesn’t speak up, she will get blame even if she’s not morally or practically responsible. If it’s either LW Jane or the board didn’t care, there’s no harm.

            There’s much, much more downside of not speaking up than there is just raising the point with a trusted board member who is senior to her.

            It isn’t about fault or guilt. It’s about the practical politics of board membership.

            1. Mike C.*

              If the board blames her, they’re acting unreasonably.

              Again, Jane isn’t aware of anything other than some rando telling her that she doesn’t belong. That’s not something that needs to be taken seriously. The rest of your argument simply doesn’t make any sense.

          2. Aveline*

            PS I’ve done a lot of board vetting and can tell you there is very little chance they asked her about X, Y, and Z if the person recommending “Jane” said “Jane lives in an underserved area and is a Wiccan.”

            1. Beanie*

              That’s still on the board though to verify the recommenders statements though. The recommender might have said “Jane is Wiccan and lives in an undeserved area.” and meant it, but didn’t realize that Original Jane has moved into an upscale neighbourhood and has coverted to Catholicism, per your example.

              I would imagine if those were such crucial factors, they’d need to do at least a cursory check to make sure that’s the case before moving forward. If they did, then clearly OP Jane meets those needs. If they didn’t, that’s still on them.

              I’ve served on boards too (though I’m in Canada), and mistakes made by the boards I’ve worked with were owned by the board, the situations dealt with in good faith. Yes, I agree she may as well raise the point, but there’s no super compelling reason why she absolutely has to.

            2. Observer*

              If that’s the case then the Boards you’ve worked with are inexcusably lax. I’ve worked with a lot of organizations and have learned a lot about how boards work vs how they are SUPPOSED to work. I’ve yet to see a Board that’s otherwise functional where a no one is going to verify information about whatever factors they are looking for just because the recommender said that the candidate has the necessary qualifications.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Co-signed.

                It’s entirely possible that the board was being overy lax. It’s also possible they really did mean LW Jane the whole time. And it’s possible that they made a mistake, but upon fully vetting LW Jane, decided to go with her despite an original mix-up.

                If the Board failed to properly vet LW Jane, then it’s failing to uphold a core legal duty (which, of course, happens all the time on nonprofit boards). But regardless of the scenario, the buck stops with the Board, not LW Jane. The Board has to identify and address what’s happening—not LW Jane, who appears to be collateral damage in Other Jane’s warpath.

            3. Eukomos*

              Without even checking her last name, though? They can’t have taken this recommendation that seriously if they were able to make a mistake of this magnitude.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I disagree. All LW Jane is required to do from a moral, ethical and professional standpoint is to flag the issue for the Board Chair and to graciously state that her hope is to achieve a solution that is in the organization’s best interest.

          We have no idea if this Board, which appears to be advisory and not the Board of Directors, has diversity goals or requirements with respect to its composition. We don’t know if it has a fixed number of seats that cannot be increased. We don’t know if there’s anything that limits having the two Janes serve. All we know is that both Janes are qualified and someone from the Board (or acting on behalf of the Board) created the mix up.

          So now finding the solution is on the Board. LW Jane can certainly express her interest in continuing to serve, but she should be gracious if asked to step down for Other Jane. In the interim, she shouldn’t recuse herself as there’s no conflict of interest and she appears to contribute meaningfully. That’s all that’s required of LW Jane.

          1. Mike C.*

            Nope. She doesn’t have to flag anything and we don’t know that a mix up even exists.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It’s true that we don’t know if a mix-up exists. But I think it would be in LW Jane’s and the organization’s best interest to let the Chair of the Board of Directors know that Other Jane has been harassing and yelling at LW Jane for “stealing” her spot.

              If I were Board Chair, I would want to know this was happening and would want to squash it. No volunteer should be subjected to Other Jane’s rage, period. If there truly were a mix-up, I would be disinclined to invite Other Jane on, anyway, because of her hectoring behavior toward LW Jane.

              1. Mike C.*

                Now you’re moving the goalposts. There’s a massive difference between your previous views that the OP should offer to bow out in various ways and just letting the board know something strange is going on.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I’m not moving the goalposts or saying something different from my prior comments. I never said OP should offer to bow out. I said explicitly that LW Jane should not recuse herself or resign. The only “onus is on LW Jane” suggestion I made is that LW Jane should flag the issue for the Board Chair, and if the Board ultimately asks her to step down, she should be gracious about it.

                  Is it possible you’re confusing what I wrote with Aveline’s posts?

                2. Pomona Sprout*

                  I think you are mixing up Princess Consuela Banana Hammock’s comments with Aveline’s. It’s eady to do when a tbread gets as long and convoluted as this one has.

                  Also, I agree with the Princess’ recommendation to flag this situation from the Board Chair. That could prevent potential awkwardness for all concerned, and does NOT require or even imply any admission of wrongdoing on LW-Jane’s part (because there hasn’t been any).

          2. Observer*

            I don’t think she even needs to flag the issue.

            If the Board does conclude that they need her to step down, OF COURSE she should be gracious. But that’s not the question on the table.

      5. Tigger*

        I actually got a temp job like this. They thought hired Tigger A with a degree in art and I was Tigger A with the psych degree. That was a fun first day.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I have to play with the analogies we use. You thought you were being hired to sooth the llamas during grooming, and they expected someone who could design new llama braiding patterns?
          You thought you were being hired to market new teapots and they wanted someone to paint new teapots?
          At least it was a temp job — I can’t imagine if it was full-time permanent and I’d resigned or withdrawn applications elsewhere because of it.
          (And it could have happened –I grew up with a Very Common Name.)

          1. Tigger*

            Basically thats what happened. On the first day, they asked me if I was still working my restaurant job and I told them that I never worked in a restaurant and they realized their mess up.

        2. Grace*

          And such an uncommon name, too! /s

          (At least that’ll never happen to me. Grace is my middle name – my first name is shared with fewer than 500 people in the UK and I think fewer than 1500 in the US, and as far as I know there’s only one other person with a combination of both my first and surname. No-one’s going to mix up a random twenty-something with a semi-well-known middle-aged Scottish folk singer.)

      6. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I got from the letter that the confusion was never confirmed.
        Second Jane states that the person recommending Jane meant herself, Second Jane. OK then, why isn’t that person speaking up? “I’m sorry, there was a mix up, but I meant Second Jane, not LW’s Jane.”
        This isn’t happening. Second Jane simply went to LW’s Jane and said, “LW’s Jane, they meant me. You need to resign.”
        I don’t think that LW’s Jane should resign based on someone who is not on the board. Second Jane should speak to her contact and s/he should speak to the board.

        1. Greg*

          Yup, this is exactly what I understood. The only person saying the OP Jane is the wrong one is the Angry Jane. I would bet $5 that Angry Jane has already went to the board and they either refused to do anything or said we have the right Jane. Angry Jane wanted the job but is angry because she didn’t get it and I said trying to sabotage OP Jane’s spot.

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            I think this is completely plausible. And LW’s Jane is giving it credence because she feels intimidated by the position. I’m sure there are a lot of people who, in that position, would tell Second Jane to kick rocks.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            agreed This fact pattern is odd, and Jane 2 is handling this in an incredibly inappropriate way… which makes me doubt her story to LW Jane.

      7. TootsNYC*

        It didn’t “belong” to her.

        And if she has a beef, it’s with the board and the recommender.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          True, and perhaps the way the board got the contact info was through someone at the company who recommended OP Jane over other Jane.

          “oh you are looking for someone to serve on X board? I think Jane A would be a great fit.”

      8. Observer*

        This is totally not correct, though. The comparison is totally not apt for a number of reasons. The most fundamental is that no one has property rights in the position, unlike a package that someone has paid for.

        To the extent that “Right Jane” has a complaint, it’s to the idiot who couldn’t be bothered to provide correct and complete information to the person doing the invitations.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          We missed a golden opportunity here to use Eleanor and Fake Eleanor as code names.

      9. Engineer Girl*

        Proper Jane is totally in the wrong. The job NEVER belonged to her.

        First off, a recommendation is not an offer. The board was under no requirement to add someone just on the basis of a recommendation.

        Second, you don’t “own” positions until they are offered to you.

        Third, there may have been other candidates for the position. So again, Proper Jane didn’t own it.

        Fourth, “Proper” Janes behavior was so unprofessional and outrageous that it should disqualify her from consideration. Instead of working this with the board chair she verbally assaulted OP Jane. That kind of behavior should immediately disqualify someone in an advisory position. An advisor is meant to influence. You don’t do that by rage assaulting someone.

        Certainly OP Jane needs to approach the Chair and let them know about this. But that completes her obligation.

        1. e271828*

          I would like to highlight that if “Proper Jane” has approached the problem this way, the board should know as part of “OP Jane” bringing this up with them. A combative or confrontational personality is something that can affect board meetings for the worse. I kind of feel the board may have unknowingly dodged a bullet.

          I am mystified as to why she accused OP Jane, the sitting board member, instead of going to the chair directly. “I was told that X had recommended me to you for an open seat on your board due to my experience with X and Y, but I haven’t heard from you. I would love to meet with you and discuss the work the organization does and how I could enrich the board’s guidance…” or such and so would be a professional response and also a nudge if they actually have sent out feelers toward her and then (perhaps) silently dropped her. A confusion like this is a big deal.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Exactly. And the fact that she’s going after LW Jane suggests to me that she was turned down by the Board Chair, who may have said, “Whoops—next time,” which Other Jane may have interpreted as “I must force LW Jane to resign so I can have **my** spot back.” Or, Other Jane is flat-out lying.

            Either way, Other Jane’s behavior is eyebrow-raising, and as you both note, a huge red flag / dodged bullet.

  4. Troutwaxer*

    OP # 3, you might begin by being very explicit, “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I’m an inexperienced manager, and I have no doubt that I’ve made a couple mistakes in managing you. I’m leaving for a new job in two weeks, and this time I’ll be managing two people and I’m worried about my management abilities. Do you have any feedback which would be helpful? What would you recommend that I change?”

    1. LemonLyman*

      Instead of general open-ended questions, how about starting the conversation by bringing up specific examples. If OP understands she has areas she can work on, she can bring up 3 or 4 at lunch and ask, “When it comes to ___, how could I improve?” Communication, for example. Or maybe it’s bringing up past situations and saying, “Reflecting on how I handled ____ situation, I’m realizing I could have done better. What feedback do you have for me?” Or “What are ways I could have made that situation better for you/supported you better?”

      I think the key to putting the employee at ease is owning up to specific situations and showing you’re interested in knowing what you could have done differently. If you’re open and receptive to this, then, maybe, the conversation can become more general and open-ended.

      Kudos to OP for wanting this feedback!

      1. BRR*

        Ooh I like the specific examples approach. In a past performance review we had to review our managers. There were core copentencies to pick from and it was much easier to feel like you had to put something.

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I like this as well. I had my review recently and asked my boss if there was anything I really should work on changing (after 20 years). She said, “oh, hadn’t expected that question. I’m not sure how to answer.”
        So, I took a minute and said, “OK, I’ll put it on the table. Is the way I do X and Y ok with you?”

      3. Canadian Public Servant*

        I’m a big fan of “start, stop, continue” as a framing device for conversations like this. You can ask it around specific subject areas (like communications), or give the person free range to think up a few things in each area around your management all together.

        So, it could look like: “I really liked how clear your tasking emails were – you should continue to use subject lines that flag the action, subject and deadline. I found we didn’t have enough time to really discuss projects or to get into my questions – you may want to start to have bilateral meetings every week with your direct reports. And I didn’t find our team meetings useful – they were just debriefs and round tables. I think you could stop those, and replace them with a quick standup.”

        Definitely agree: don’t spring this conversation on people without notice. Don’t be too self-deprecating. Don’t expect too much in terms of feedback – your self-reflection is more important. And don’t get hung up on the past – as long as you are learning and growing, you’ll be okay.

    2. Weekday Warrior*

      I think this approach would make the employee very uneasy. No need for the manager to put themselves down in this way. Alison’s script is good.

    3. Me*

      That seems overly needy and self-deprecating. While I’m sure OP is right on their assessment they could have been better, I don’t think they need to paint them selves as the world worst boss.

      If a boss said that, I would be very very uncomfortable.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Agreed. I’m afraid this wording is way too much for a workplace setting.

    4. Emily K*

      Hmm. This unintentionally comes across a little bit like, “I know I haven’t been a good manager to you, but only now that I’m leaving to manage two other people at a new job have I become worried about it and decided I should do something about it.”

      I would want to stick to either, “It’s recently come to my attention that my management left something to be desired, and I wanted to ask you more about that,” or “You were my first direct report, and I’ve been doing my best and learning as I go. Would you mind answering a few questions about my management so I can get a sense for my strengths and weaknesses in your experience?” Something that conveys that the manager has been doing their best all along and the request for feedback is part of a continuous process of learning and improvement, or that if they haven’t been trying to learn and improve all along it’s only because they were clueless until recently that they needed the improvement, and they’ve raised the issue with you as soon as they were made aware of it.

  5. Anono-me*

    OP #4
    Did your wife find out about the mix up from the Other Jane or from someone on the board? Because I’m wondering if Other Jane is wishfully thinking this scenario into existence or if Other Jane was told this story by someone on the board who wanted her to leave them alone?

    1. Hufflepuffin*

      This was my thinking too. Is it definitely a mistake? Or is that just a fantasy?

    2. Sherm*

      Other Jane does seem to have an inflated view of her importance. If they wanted her so badly she would be sitting on the board now.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah , and Other Jane sounds like she’d be a delight to be on a board with, too!

        More seriously, though, it seems like if Wife Jane’s background fits the bill, she brings relevant perspective, and she’s been contributing at meetings, they may be just as happy to have her as they would be to have Other Jane, even if it was originally a mix up. Especially if the recommendation was more along the lines of “we’d like someone from XYZ Agency and happen to know Jane” versus “Jane’s amazing and will bring so many additional connections/resources!”

        If I was getting any less-than-welcoming vibes from anyone, I’d probably check with the chair. If everything seemed to be going normally, I may just leave it alone.

        1. Aveline*

          You have no way of knowing if LW Jane fits the bill or not. You are assuming it was only based on professional qualifications.

          Often, they are not.

          It’s not on us or even LW Jane to decide if she should be on the board, it’s up to the board. She needs to bring this to their attention.

          For example, LW Jane is an upper-class suburban white woman v. Other Jane is a rural WOC. The board may have wanted Other Jane for that reason. Now, if the reason for asking was “we need someone who works in X industry,” then the Janes may be interchangeable.

          Professional qualifications aren’t the only reason for asking people.

          We have no way of knowing what the board was looking for in asking Other Jane.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Pretty sure if it was diversoty they were looking for ot would have been obvious on meeting Jane.

            Who knows maybe LW Jane ticks the boxes and Other Jane does not. If we are making assumptions.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Not if it was urban vs rural or upper class vs lower-or-middle class.

              1. Name Required*

                I feel like this would probably have come up at some point … “So looking forward to learning from your experience with rural communities! Welcome to the board!” or whatever.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Yes, but there’s a big difference between “would have been obvious on meeting Jane,” which is what I was responding to, and “would have come up at some point.”

          2. Observer*

            It’s not on us or even LW Jane to decide if she should be on the board, it’s up to the board.

            It’s also not her **responsibility** to make that determination.

            She needs to bring this to their attention.

            Why? In the example you bring, the Broad would have to be both incompetent and literally blind to not realize that they had the wrong Jane. I simply CANNOT think of a single example where the Board would not have the information the need ALREADY to make the determination of whether she meets their needs for things like various sorts of diversity.

            1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

              Yes. LW Jane was told by a woman who shares her name that a mistake was made. This does not require any action on LW Jane’s part. She is not the one with the problem. She is the one feeling a little out of depth in her new position. That’s all. If any action needs to be taken, Second Jane needs to do it.
              Imagine LW’s Jane’s conversation. “I am resigning from the board because someone with whom I’ve never worked and who is not on the board said I was not supposed to be here. So you can take her on now.”
              Flake much?
              LW Jane doesn’t have to give this any credence, much less action. She can be aware of it and if Second Jane does prove to be the one true heir to the board, they can tell her, sorry it was a mistake. And she can say, Ok, it was nice working with you.

          3. Cat Fan*

            I wonder if Other Jane has already brought it to the board’s attention and they told her they’re staying with Jane. If not, I’d be surprised since she is now coming after Jane to quit. Other Jane should notify the board if she hasn’t already and let them make the final decision.

      2. Aveline*

        Not necessarily. It’s not just about “importance.”

        A lot of boards now want diversity.

        One of my husband’s boards want’s people on it who are not socially or professionally high-rollers because they want the input from a diversity of sources.

        It doesn’t matter if Other Jane is important or not. She was asked for a reason.

        The ONLY way to clear this up and protect LW Jane is for her to bring it to the attention of the board recruitment point person. Let them sort it out.

        1. Yorick*

          But if the board wanted Other Jane because she is a minority that Our Jane is not, the board would have realized that by now (and probably been more careful about finding the right person in the first place).

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Diversity isn’t limited to race and gender.

            And there is a chance the board *does* realize they don’t have the Jane they intended to ask, but just feels too awkward to do anything about it.

            1. DerJungerLudendorff*

              Even if you can’t tell their minority by looking at them, it should have been obvious during the hiring process.
              If they wanted a minority, but didn’t bother asking about the experiences and knowledge that her minority status would provide, that’s on them.

              1. Yorick*

                Right, if they specifically wanted Other Jane because she’s a minority (of any kind), they would have discovered that Our Jane is not a member of whatever group.

        2. Sandman*

          But she wasn’t asked. I not at all clear why you’re so insistent that it is on LW Jane to clean up this (rumored!) mess.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            It’s not on her to clean up anyone else’s mess, but if I were in her shoes, I’d want to clear the air for my own sake. Maybe it’s just insecurity/impostor syndrome/whatever, but I’d be concerned that they really didn’t want ME on the board but couldn’t think of a way to gracefully ask me to leave.

            1. Mike C.*

              But the fact you haven’t been kicked off is pretty clear evidence that you belong!

              1. DerJungerLudendorff*

                Possibly. Hopefully.
                I know I would personally take any excuse to worry about my position, so I’d appreciate a confirmation that yes, I do indeed belong here.

                Also, pulling in the board head can get Other Jane to back off or redirect her attention away from the LW.

    3. Emily K*

      Yeah, I keep finding myself wondering how the board wouldn’t have figured out what happened by now. They’ve had multiple meetings. Other Jane has heard about it.

      Surely the recommender has realized that the person he recommended didn’t get an invitation, and surely his solution upon learning this was not to put the burden on Other Jane to pressure LW Jane to resign? Why wouldn’t the recommender have notified the appropriate people on the board himself?

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Yes, it would seem odd that the Recommending Person’s suggested solution would be “Go yell at LW Jane to quit,” rather than informing the board about the mix-up. I would consider it more likely that either Original Jane is mistaken in some way, or the board has been informed of the mix-up and has decided they’re happy with LW Jane anyway.

    4. time for lunch*

      My guess is Other Jane was being thrown a bone by a Highly-Placed Recommender. It may well have been something HP Recommender had discussed for a while, as an eventual outcome of a networking relationship. The board might just want a competent body, which they found in Jane, and are fine to trust HPR with this decision, do their board business, and if it happens to be a bit of largesse that HPR can extend to someone in their network, so be it. The slot gets filled.

      Or it may be that Other Jane didn’t expect it, but at her seasonal networking meeting with HPR, HPR was expecting a thank-you, and she learned a perk meant for her (based on their relationship) was misdirected.

    5. Brandy*

      My thought is that she should have confronted the board, not LWs wife. Tell her to quit?? If you think you should have the position, you go talk to the board about it, not me. If they want LWs wife to go, they can tell her. Someone else could have recommended LWs wife.

      1. Emarellelle*

        I think the recommender needs to be the confronter. Him and his, “Call Jane at that teapot place!” recommendation are the reason this whole thing started. There is no reason The Janes should be handling this.

        1. Brandy*

          I agree. I just cannot believe the other Jane confronted LWs wife Jane about this. She didnt do anything wrong. Its not on the LWs wife, shes an innocent party. If Bitter Jane has issues, take it up with the board.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        Another thing on the spectrum of possibilities: they knew about both Janes and decided on LW Jane. Now Other Jane is gaslighting LW Jane, because if she quits then the board might go with their second choice.

  6. JobHunter*

    #5: a number of us can recall a cringy follow up letter. I think it is best to stick to topics from the interview for the follow-up with the interviewer (e.g., “I was most interested by the X testing room, as I had not expected to see this in a Y testing laboratory.”) and send questions about the process in a separate communication to HR.

  7. C Average*

    I’ve hit in a very satisfying response to the kid question, which I occasionally get: “Actually, I’m more of a cat person.”

    Nine times out of ten, the conversation then pivots to cats. Win!

    1. Mookie*

      This navigates the minefield that beckons all comers to such enforced pleasantries perfectly.

      1. Anonforthis*

        … if you like cats :p

        The honest answer to ‘do you want kids’ is pretty complicated for me so I, tbh, absolutely dread anyone asking. Though if I look like I’m about to break down maybe they’ll not bother asking the next person :D

        (Potentially unusually I haven’t had many people ask me this – though I did spend some time at work talking about/asking for better maternity/paternity rights so my bosses probably assume I will have kids)

        1. Mookie*

          I’d sub out rats for cats, myself. I like cats, mine included, but they are my boss, not my child.

          1. embertine*

            As they say, dogs have owners, cats have staff. Personally, if anyone asks me if I have kids, I’m going to get my phone out and show them five million pictures of my pet snake. AND THEY SHALL NEVER ASK ANYONE EVER AGAIN

            1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

              I wouldn’t ask about kids in the first place (childfree here) but I would be SO EXCITED to be able to see snek babby!

        2. The Original K.*

          Yeah, I don’t like cats, which has actually gotten me more grief than not having kids! (This is probably because the kid thing isn’t really a conscious choice – I’m single, don’t want to do it alone, and have an age window past which I do not want kids, so I still might have kids. I actively dislike cats.)

          1. Lepidoptera*

            I actively dislike dogs, which I think gets you added to lists. So, I feel you.

            1. Snarktini*

              People literally say they don’t trust anyone who doesn’t love dogs. It’s some sort of sign of evil. Sigh.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I love both cats and dogs, just not to live with. So as an ambassador I’d like to say it’s ok not to like cats or dogs. Just don’t hurt them. Accept that they share our world and respect them.

            I tighten up when I hear “I hate cats/dogs” because I’m afraid what’s coming next is they will say they’ve abused them. Unfortunately we’ve all heard about this and I think that’s why people react so strongly to this.

            1. The Original K.*

              Oh, I know it’s OK not to like cats – I actually don’t feel any guilt about it at all. And of course I’d never hurt a cat. My stance is this: I will never harm a cat; I will also never own a cat. I also don’t want to engage much with cats if I’m in spaces with them.

        3. Squid*

          When we lived in a no-pets apartment I would answer the kids question with a cheerful, “we have a rosemary bush and basil on the balcony!” It mostly just confused the asker long enough for me to take control of the conversation but no one ever followed up so I counted it a win.

          1. Snarktini*

            I love this! The absurdity is perfect (especially if you don’t have pets to pivot to). I never minded simply saying I didn’t have/want kids — it wasn’t a complicated or emotional thing — but I also didn’t welcome that conversation so having a confusing redirection is awesome. And, TBH, plants ARE pretty much my caretaking limit, so that totally counts.

    2. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

      Yes, it works! My version of it is: “Yes! As soon as my life will be more stable I’m going to have many, many cats!”
      But with total strangers it can become quite awkward, unfortunately :/

    3. Sc@rlettNZ*

      Ha, that’s what I’ve taken to doing as well. I don’t have kids – I don’t like them and, frankly, couldn’t think of anything worse than being a parent. But if you answer the question with a straight up nope, no kids then you have to deal with all the puppy dog eyes and sad faces as though it’s some great tragedy.

      So my standard response is usually the same as C Average, or else I say ‘hell no, I’m allergic to babies” and then change the subject.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        A girl I knew in college used to say she only liked children if they were well done. I was never present when she actually said that to someone, but I’m sure it must have thrown some people for a loop!

  8. Engineer Girl*

    #5

    questioning why the candidate’s log-in page doesn’t even show them as interviewing when they actually did.

    How did you word this? Questioning or accusingly?
    I would be alarmed at someone that makes assumptions first and asks questions later. And yes, that would be enough to trash the job. That kind of insecurity causes drama.

    a lengthy wait of 17 days post-interview

    Um, that’s not lengthy for some companies, especially big ones. It looks like you’re trying to justify your actions.

    Like it or not, you’ll find out sooner or later if it hurt you.

    1. Hufflepuffin*

      17 days is long in my experience – I’m sure this varies a lot but I’ve never waited that long – but that doesn’t mean it’s wise to send a follow-up email like this. It would be weird if they didn’t take this into account because it’s still information about you.

      It’s understandable that you cracked and sent it. Don’t beat yourself up. But don’t beat the company up, either. They have every right to consider everything they know about you, and the fact that a follow-up isn’t required is not really the point. It would serve you well to try to be reflective about this, not indignant.

      1. valentine*

        Seventeen days is very little if they are total and not days the business was open. (And maybe the company doesn’t notify candidates they’ve passed on.) We’ve had comments here from people who haven’t heard back after two months or more.

        1. Emily K*

          From application date, yes. I do think it’s longer than usual to go that long without at minimum sending an update to someone you interviewed in person. At my employer we try to follow-up by the end of two weeks even if only to say that the process is still moving along but there’s no news yet.

      2. Washi*

        That’s only a little over two weeks! That seems completely normal to me. I mean, that’s a reasonable point at which to send a politely inquisitive follow up email, but it’s really common to have all the interviews scheduled over the course of a couple weeks, which means that the first candidate ends up waiting a bit for an answer.

        1. Yorick*

          Even in business days, it’s only about 3 weeks. Some companies take much longer.

    2. On Fire*

      “How did you word this? Questioning or accusingly? I would be alarmed at someone that makes assumptions first and asks questions later.”

      This. There’s a huge difference between “I noticed that the candidate portal didn’t reflect that I have interviewed, so I wanted to follow up and reiterate that I am very interested in this job” versus “I need this job! You must hire me; I’m the best candidate, but you haven’t even updated the candidate portal to show that I’ve interviewed!”

      I think most places would be okay with the first; the second … not so much.

      1. Antilles*

        Yeah, I don’t think the first would raise the slightest bit of eyebrows – it’s basically just that you noticed a technical glitch and wanted to make sure they realized that you hadn’t withdrawn your candidacy. If you were still under consideration, the response you’d likely get would be some kind of “oh huh, that’s weird, I’ll talk to IT and get that fixed” or “oh, I hadn’t noticed because I honestly don’t even check that after the initial contact” or some similarly innocuous reason that neither you nor the interviewer think much about.
        The second phrasing very well might make me drop you from consideration on the spot.

    3. Triplestep*

      I once moved from phone screen to finalist in about three weeks … and then got ghosted. So even the same organization can move very quickly and then just drop you with no word. And if it matters, this was at an Ivy League University; not a small family business with no HR. (After I had accepted another role, I would occasionally log on to see if I was still active in their system and I was. I was just curious how long this would go on. After about 8 months I saw that my status had changed to “not selected” without even so much as an automated e-mail. This was after multiple quickly scheduled panel interviews.)

      LW#5, I’m sorry you’re feeling bad about the possibility you’ve shot yourself in the foot here. Try to stop the negative self-talk, though. As you no doubt know just by reading this blog, there are all kinds of reasons people don’t get jobs and many of them defy explanation (See my example above. They loved me enough to whisk me into PANEL interviews, once a week, three weeks in a row. And then they didn’t love me enough to even give me a “yes” or “no”.) So if you don’t end up getting this job, it might not have been your follow-up that was to blame.

      1. CM*

        And if OP#5 did shoot herself in the foot… lesson learned. The only email followup you should really do is a quick check-in, no more than three sentences, one time only, asking very politely about whether they have a timeframe they can share with you.

    4. DrAtos*

      I had a job interview three weeks ago and I still haven’t heard a response. It’s driving me mad! Thank goodness I still have a good job because it feels a million times worse when you’re unemployed and made to wait more than two weeks after an interview. I think OP is justified in sending a follow-up 17 days post-interview, but it’s the wording of his email that concerns me. And yes, everything matters from how you interact with the receptionist pre-interview to any communication sent post-interview up until a decision is made.

  9. Not A Manager*

    OP #3 – I’m sure you know this, but a super important part of receiving this kind of feedback is not pushing back at all. Of course you won’t argue or contradict, but the urge to explain yourself or try to mitigate can be really hard to resist. If you’re going to have this conversation with Jane, try not to engage at all with the content of what she says. The only feedback you should be giving her is to thank her for the insight and for being willing to share with you.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      Agreed. My most successful conversations on things like this have taken place over email, so I can think before I reflexively say “But I meant-” Make it a point to ask questions about the other person’s point of view rather than defend yourself.

    2. Hufflepuffin*

      Yes! If this conversation happens, you should listen, ask questions, and thank her for anything she shares. Don’t defend yourself, because that won’t benefit either of you.

      1. Bee Eye Ill*

        Agreed! Last time I did an exit interview, it almost turned into an argument where the boss started defending against things I was saying – as suggestions to improve company morale – a telltale reason why I was leaving in the first place. After the first couple of questions I just breezed through it and left. No point.

    3. Antilles*

      Exactly. The *instant* OP starts responding in any way other than a genuinely accepting “I appreciate your views and thanks for the information”, Jane will immediately shut down and start giving you uselessly generic answers.

    4. Name Required*

      It might even help to tell her upfront, “I might look uncomfortable as we speak; no matter how uncomfortable I look, it’s still important for me to hear this information, and my discomfort is not a reflection on you.”

    5. OP#3*

      Absolutely! I plan to tell her – in an email, so she can respond when she’s comfortable – why I’d like to take her to lunch, and I am fully aware that this is an opportunity to listen and learn.

  10. Desert Solitaire*

    #2: If you can’t get your CEO to change the practice, you could set an auto-response to go out like one week after the application is received (or, batch reply every one or two weeks) saying you’ve reviewed their materials and won’t be moving forward with their candidacy, but you’ll keep their resume on file. It’s still a little deceptive, but at least they get closure and can mark it off as a no on their job-tracking spreadsheets or whatever. Plus, for organizations that review their applicants on a rolling basis, it’s a plausible email to receive anyway.

    Obviously, getting your CEO to stop the practice in the first place is preferable, but if you can’t do that, anything is better than the current black hole.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Argh. This practice was actually pretty common in the 80s, but has fallen out of use for all the obvious reasons. It’s a lousy thing to do to people.

      OP, there are all kinds of articles that outline creating a talent community or network, and not once will you read about advertising for jobs that don’t exist. Maybe you can help your CEO find a new way to accomplish his goal without deceit.

  11. Nemo*

    #2: Oh dear, has one of my coworkers written in? My boss also likes to leave job posts perpetually up whether or not we’re hiring. I think it’s a combination of wanting a pool of candidates ready in case we ever want a llama wrangler on short notice, and FOMO lest a perfect unicorn candidate wander by and not see a job opening they’d qualify for.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      This seems to be a relatively common practice, but I also feel like it’s a terrible practice – between an early-career experience at a place that actually *was* constantly hiring (because turnover was so high that four months in, I was considered a ‘senior’ person; worst job I ever had) and far too many frustrating job-hunting experiences where this was clearly happening (like responding to a job ad posted that day/the day before, and getting an email response within 48 hours informing me that the job had already been filled for some time now…), I now have a pretty knee-jerk reaction to avoid any company that seems to be doing this.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Yup, and as Allison says, the application materials of those in the alleged pipeline are rarely current or followed-up on when an opening does become available. “Oh, it’s been 4 months; we might as well just repost it and see if we get better candidates!” is something I heard a lot at a job that had this as a practice.

        Infuriating for all but the oblivious boss, who didn’t have to sort through the faux applications, field phone calls from those who’d applied for faux jobs and were “following up”, or contact candidates and ask, “Are you still interested in this job you applied to 5 months ago?”

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          #2 I’ve never had a job search take more than three months. I feel like there’s very little point in having a collection of resumes. By the time the boss actually wants to hire for a position, these people will be like “Oh, I just started a new job.”

          The best way to get applicants is to… just post the job when its actually open. Duh!

    2. Ali A*

      Yes! That really seems to be his theory but what a waste – those applicants likely were hired elsewhere by now (it’s a buyer’s market in my industry right now) and regardless, I’m sure they’re not thrilled they were sent to limbo the last time they were interested.

      1. Nemo*

        Yes–and in practice on the employer side, it’s a huge waste of time to review a lot of resumes when we’re not actively hiring, so even if that perfect unicorn did apply, we might easily miss it!

  12. Budgie Buddy*

    #3 Do not lunch. Do not lunch with this person before, after, or during feedback. Offering this person a gift card as a going away gift may be a good substitute if you just want to do something nice, but no one wants to lunch with a supervisor with whom they’ve had strained relations in the past.

    1. Ladies who lunch*

      but no one wants to lunch with a supervisor with whom they’ve had strained relations in the past.

      Speak for yourself. If it’s that you absolutely can’t stand the manager, perhaps. But “strained relations”? A social gathering can be a way to clear the air.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        I’m on team NO for the awkward lunch.
        I don’t want to be trapped in an hour long lunch giving feedback that might not be well received.

        I’d prefer a work meeting that I can walk away from if it gets awkward.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, I missed the lunch aspect of this and agree completely! I think going for coffee at a nearby spot could be a good compromise. It’s a nice little gesture to get a fancy coffee for the employee, and then you can either nurse the coffee if it’s going well or cut things short if it’s awkward.

          1. Blue Eagle*

            I agree that a coffee shop meeting is better than a lunch where you want that person to talk. Talking and eating where you are on the hook for the meaningful talking is never a happy thing.

            Lunch as a social occasion, even with someone with whom you are awkward is a totally different thing.

            1. Budgie Buddy*

              Exactly! For some people, eating just is not the time they want to talk about anything deep or potentially awkward. Especially in a public place.

              This image keeps floating in my head….

              “After waiting in line for five minutes making awkward small talk we are sitting at a tiny round table (the only free spot) clutching out lattes. Behind us a group of students loudly discuss Avengers. To our right, several seniors are talking about their dog/cat/cockatoo’s health.
              “My soon-to-be-former supervisor jots down a note and smiles brightly. ‘So in addition to unclear communication and sporadic time management, is there anything else I could have improved on? Be honest! This is very useful to me.’
              I hope she is sincere. But her smile has gotten more strained since I brought up last year’s infamous project X, that kept us working late three Fridays in a row. I wonder if she can do anything to me in her last two weeks. Even if she could, she wouldn’t, right?
              I wonder how fast I can drink a medium latte.”

              1. Ladies who lunch*

                For some people, eating just is not the time they want to talk about anything deep or potentially awkward. Especially in a public place.

                I’m going to give you some very blunt advice: get over it. In the real world, lunch is where *tons* of business gets done. It’s where tons of networking gets done. The term “power lunch” exists for a reason. In some countries, “business lunch” menus are common to mean a set menu served quickly. If you want to get asked to serve on boards (like the other LW), you should go to lunch.

                This is *particularly* true for women and POC who want a seat at the table. If you’re asked to lunch, you’re literally being offered a seat.

                And yes, sometimes the topic under discussion will be weightier than today’s weather, or the other people at the table will be senior to you.

                Now, if you don’t care about getting promoted or networking, or you take the view that “introverts gonna introvert,” decline lunch. But don’t be surprised when you’re not in the inner circle.

                1. SusanIvanova*

                  Sure, business gets done at lunch. Awkward conversations with your soon-to-be-ex bad manager, however, are just made even more awkward in a situation where you can’t easily walk out.

                2. Phoenix Wright*

                  The question isn’t about getting business done or getting a promotion, though. It’s about a manager asking for feedback from her employee. What’s usual for the former scenarios isn’t relevant here, and criticizing the latter doesn’t speak about Budgie Buddy’s career prospects in any way.

                3. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Wow, you’re condescending.

                  Also – many people are not looking to climb into any inner circles; either it doesn’t appeal to us, or we know we will never be able to for whatever reason and are well aware trying would be a waste of time.

                4. Budgie Buddy*

                  Ladies who lunch, you seem to be talking about business lunches in general, whereas OP 3 was writing in about a situation where she wanted feedback from a junior who probably had some negative feedback to give her, which is a different situation. Other people have replied with examples of this type of scenario where the result was bad and the situation could have been handled better over email.

                  Not sure how this became about introverts either.

      2. BRR*

        It all depends on the relationship and I think lunch could be fine as a thank you. But for upwards feedback it is establishing a minimum amount of time that will be spent on this and I’d stay away from that.

      3. OP#3*

        We actually have a really good relationship, but I take your point and will offer a meeting as an alternative to lunch or coffee. My thought was that I wanted the conversation to be less formal – hence not framing it as a meeting – so she’d feel more comfortable being candid, but maybe that’s naive.

        1. Budgie Buddy*

          OP 3, my reference to a “strained relationship” I meant that the time in the past where you hadn’t been an optimal manager, not that the working relationship was strained now. This was probably a frustrating time for her too.

        2. Important Moi*

          I hope you get what you’re looking for as you sound sincere. I however, would either decline your invite or not tell you “bad” things if I went. Why? The power dynamic would be too much for me to overcome. You could damage me professionally. You’d want to “explain” your side. etc. etc. No. Nope. NO.

          The answer may be you don’t get an answer.

          Have you asked the person who was your co-manager what they thought?

        3. Close Bracket*

          Frame it as a sort of exit interview, including doing it on your last day! It’s kind of reversed from the usual exit interview, where the employer collects feedback on what they could have done better, but it’s the same spirit. By doing it on the last day, you only have to avoid making eye contact for a few hours instead of a few weeks (jk).

      4. Observer*

        This may not be universal. But it’s EXTREMELY common, which means that it’s quite iffy. Especially since there are still power dynamics at play that may make it hard for the Junior to say no.

    2. Name Required*

      I worked for a manager once that I respected, but was a huge micromanager and her style of managing was one of big reasons I left. She was an excellent individual contributor and shadowing her as she did her thing really helped me learn. She was very good at what she did. The downside is that as a manager she wasn’t great at advocating for our team, and had a habit of hiring people she knew, whom she favored (though I don’t think she could see that). She also was really, really hard on herself for any failures or perceived failures, and responded to that by micromanaging us or limiting us even further.

      She took me out to lunch, and it ended up being a 45 minutes dance of me trying to awkwardly get out of being honest with her … I needed her recommendation moving forward, and despite her saying she wanted to hear that feedback, she had shown in the past she wasn’t good at taking it or implementing any change with it. It seemed like being honest would have only hurt me and made my last two weeks working with her more awkward. I really wish I could have been honest with her, because she often complained that while our team was great, we were inexperienced and it would help for her and us for her to be able to hire more experienced people if the CEO would give her the budget to do so. She very clearly felt like she need to do all of our jobs for us for them to be done “right” aka at her highly experienced level. … but we could have gotten there if she mentored us instead of micromanaged us, and let us take the occasional risk. What a shame. She was shooting herself in the foot the whole time.

      1. Budgie Buddy*

        Ouch. Sometimes the people who are more willing to schedule “feedback” are not the ones who are ready to hear it.

  13. Bigglesworth*

    LW #1 – Ugh. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this right now. I got this a lot from at a former workplace where people in my position frequently left to start families. One older man from India was the worst culprit. I know that his cultural background made asking this question non-offensive (at least, I tried to assume the best) but I snapped at him one day after he asked when i was having kids for the umpteenth time. I said something to the effect of, “Well, that’s assuming I can have any,” and said in a very snarky tone. He stopped asking me-and every other woman in the office-after that. I don’t recommend this approach, but it was very effective-especially since it was done away from my colleagues who were (and still are) genuinely struggled with infertility. I think a I got to the point where my thought process was, “This is a rude question deserving a rude answer.”

    As a side note, my husband works in construction and is currently getting a lot of flack for being 30 and not having any kids yet. Between my autoimmune issues and his mental illnesses, we’re really questioning if we ever want kids anyway. I always felt that women received all the pressure to have kids, so it’s interesting to see him deal with the questions.

    1. Chaotic Neutral*

      As someone who has kids, I HATE questions about children. I’m significantly younger than my husband and I look younger than I am, so people constantly ask/hint about us having more. I cannot even imagine how much more freaking annoying it would be if I didn’t want any or couldn’t have any. (Also my favorite answer to are you having any more is a very shocked and scandalized, “Omg, no!” like they’ve just suggested I roast a puppy or something vile. There are NEVER follow up questions.)

      1. Bigglesworth*

        Ha! I like your answer. My cousin has two kids and that’s more or less her reaction whenever anyone asks her if she’s having more. And I understand the younger looking = more questions issue. I’m not that much younger than my husband, but apparently I have a youthful demeanor that makes people think I’m in my late teens/early twenties instead of turning thirty next year. Perhaps people think that younger looking women are less likely to push back on inappropriate questions.

      2. valentine*

        I know that his cultural background made asking this question non-offensive
        If it offends you, it’s offensive. Where are you getting that it’s okay for Indian men to ask colleagues they’ve assigned both female and in possession of particular organs about their DIY projects for same?

        1. Bigglesworth*

          I have several Indian friends who have told me that this is an acceptable topic of conversation. That’s all I was trying to get at. I try to respect other cultures and learn more about what is acceptable and what is not. If something is offensive to me and not offensive to them because of their culture, I try to use it as a teaching or educational opportunity instead of instantly getting angry because I assume everyone thinks or believes as I do. This particular man wasn’t picking up the hints from various women in the office and I’m pretty blunt as is-hence the more abrupt way of telling him to knock it off.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It may have been said in frustration but it was actually quite politely frustrated.
      And I I suspect it was memorable.
      I had enough trouble having my one that I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that reply. (I kept getting “aren’t you having more” and I had to practice saying “were lucky to get one, and now I’m over 40 so I ts even less likely.”)

      1. Bigglesworth*

        You are very welcome and I really hope he never asks anyone that question ever again! I have so many friends who were only children and it’s wasn’t by the parents’ choice and other friends who would love to have just one. This is such a hard issue that so many people either refuse to think about or have never faced before.

    3. Green great dragon*

      Women around the world thank you for this response.

      My own response to a similar but not identical situation is to answer fully. I’m never sure though how many are quietly thinking ‘Oh god I did just ask about her private medical history I will not ask that question again’ and how many consider it a nice chat about my medical history.

      1. Bigglesworth*

        I never felt that I could share my medical history since I actually don’t know if I could have a kid. I assume so, but I’ve never tried to have children and my husband and I may be those people that choose to never try. For some reason, though, I feel like a lot of people don’t mind talking medical stuff, which may not turn them away. When I tell people about my autoimmune issues, most of them try to offer remedies or whatnot instead of running away while silently screaming with the horror of the can of worms they just opened.

    4. Lonely Aussie*

      Following on from that, I’ve made the cheery response of “not without a lot of IVF.” and that’s usually enough to scare people off and remind them that it’s actually a fairly sensitive topic.

      1. Bigglesworth*

        Wow! That’s a very effective response, but wish it wasn’t necessary.

    5. MistOrMister*

      I have actively not wanted kids for 10+ years. I would be open to fostering, adopting or being with someone who had children, but I don’t want to be pregnant or have to raise newborns or toddlers. Nothing against them, it’s just not for me. I’ve been very clear about this. I have lately had some (non-life threatening) health issues come to light that make it clear that getting and then possibly staying pregnant would be QUITE a task. In addition to the fact that any children I carry have a higher risk of birth defects due to one of these issues. Amazingly some people who have known for years that I don’t want kids are upset over the medical issue because now I can’t have kids. I cannot imagine how much worse those sentiments would make someone in my position feel if I did want children. I have nothing at all against people having children, but dear lord, having them is not the only way one can contribute positively to society or be a worthwhile and accomplished person!!

      I think a lot of people believe they’re just making conversation when they ask when someone plans to have kids but there are just so many stories of hurt coming from the question that you’d think people would stop unless the other party brought it up first!

    6. MicroManagered*

      I said something to the effect of, “Well, that’s assuming I can have any,” and said in a very snarky tone. He stopped asking me-and every other woman in the office-after that. I don’t recommend this approach,

      I don’t think there’s anything to not-recommend about this approach. Shame actually serves an important social function. Of course, you don’t want to be mean to someone who was being unintentionally rude, but shame and social pressure is also what keeps us from oh, walking into work in our underwear! I think you could argue that it’d be a disservice to him to just smile and nod when he’s being very offensive by the cultural standards of his workplace!

    7. singularity*

      I still get asked when I’m going to have more children, and I had twins less than two years ago. My go-to response lately has been to say that I wouldn’t just have “one” more and that, “I’d probably end up with twins again and I’m not prepared for that!” in a sort of good-humored tone. Most people end the questioning there, but since both twins were boys I get the, “Are you going to try for a girl?” as if to be a real family I need to have boys and girls? (Why?!) My response to this is, “That’s not how any of that works.” I haven’t had any more intrusive questions after that.

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        This happens so often at work – “When are you going to have another?” – and I find that I have a hard time responding because it instantly gets emotional for me. Giving birth was really hard. I shouldn’t have come back to work as soon as I did and I still struggle with the whole experience, so I’m immediately thrown into that headspace when someone asks. It still catches me so off guard and even though I do just laugh it off “We’re waiting to see” I find I can’t really get myself out of the funk for a bit.

    8. iglwif*

      I’m from a religious/cultural community where many people have a bunch of kids and most people who have any kids have at least two. I love babies, always have–from the time I was very small, I wanted to have lots of babies one day–I’m always the first to volunteer to cuddle someone else’s baby, and when Spouse and I first got together, we agreed we wanted 3 kids. (We are both from families of 4; he’s the youngest, I’m number 3 of 4.)

      What we in fact have is one (1) child, now a teenager, who was conceived through a lot of very expensive medical intervention. Because f*** cancer, that’s why :P

      If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked some variation of “When will it be your turn?” or “When are you two going to start a family?” or “Isn’t it time [kiddo] had a baby brother or sister?” or “Have you thought about having more kids?” I would be in a lot less debt right now. Over the years I’ve developed a repertoire of replies like “Just the one! Isn’t she great?” and “Yeah, well, we originally planned for more, but biology ::shrug::” but early on, when we were still desperately trying to get pregnant or, later, to get pregnant *again*, I did occasionally just … snap at someone. I’m not proud of it? But at the same time, DON’T ASK PEOPLE QUESTIONS LIKE THAT, FFS.

      Honestly I think one of our greatest scientific achievements as a society is making it possible for people who don’t want to have kids–for whatever reason, I don’t care and neither should anyone else–to NOT HAVE KIDS. Reliable birth control is an amazing thing and I wish it were easier for everyone who wants it to access it.

      1. Observer*

        No one told you that your child DESERVES a sibling, you are being selfish for not “giving” him one? >rolling eyes<

        I'm from a similar community in terms of family. But, for crying out loud, keep your mouth shut, folks! You really, really don't know as much as you think you do!

        1. iglwif*

          Well, I’ve certainly been told she “should” have a sibling! ::rolls eyes::

          And tbh yeah, we’d have loved for her to have a sibling and she would definitely have liked one! But guess what, she got to do a lot of stuff (dance classes, summer camp) that we couldn’t have afforded for two kids, and she gets her fill of little kids through her babysitting jobs, and it’s all good. Just took us a while to get to that … emotional equilibrium, I guess? … about it.

    9. Manders*

      Yes, I don’t recommend this course of action, but the only way I got a pushy coworker to stop pressuring me about pregnancy was by describing the symptoms of the brutal genetic disease that runs in my family. Some people assume everyone wants kids and will have no problem having kids–it genuinely does not occur to them how fraught the question is until someone snaps at them.

      I like Alison’s “loaded question” script and I wish I’d seen that at the time, because that also could have worked. Fortunately, my current workplace is very different culturally and it’s not assumed that everyone wants or will have kids.

    10. Goya de la Mancha*

      “Well, that’s assuming I can have any,” and said in a very snarky tone.”

      Definitely thrown this one out a few times!

  14. Cambridge Comma*

    My employer has permanent vacancies posted for all our main areas, in the form ‘Llama groomer pipeline’. The text makes it clear that these are likely future vacancies rather than current ones. I imagine they attract people who are fairly happy where they are but would consider a move for the right opportunity. Perhaps an alternative OP2 could suggest?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yes! I’ve seen (& applied to) “We have no specific openings but are always interested in hearing from people who…”

    2. Bugpuss*

      Yes – we have a vacancies section on our website, and when we are not actively recruiting it says ‘no currentvanncies’ then undernath say that you are welcome to provide your details and we will hold them for consideratrion if a suitable post comes up. (I don’t recal tthe exact wording)

      And we do, and have taken on oneperson through that route.

      If I saw lots of posts advertised for the same company, I wouldn’t think it was growing, I woul think it couldn’t keep staff, so I would be far less likely to apply there!

      In fact, when we recently would up advertising twice for the same position, I explicitly amended the wording of the adthe second time to state that it was due to an internal promotion, to avoid people thinking that we couldn’t get anyone to stay! (That was the reason – to be clear, we didnt just claim it was so people were lured in ;) )

    3. Ali A*

      Interesting – so those roles are almost listed separately from true vacant ones? Or is there a general way to submit for potential future needs?

  15. sdmfs*

    #1 “Kids are great, aren’t they? Hey, have you seen Lucinda’s backpack? I need to grab it for her dad.”
    I’m going to disagree with that advice. Nosy people usually don’t get the hint, and they will think you’re “hiding” something. And being nosy, they will keep on prying. Just be honest. Say “actually, we decided not to have children.” That’s all they need to know. If they keep asking “but why”, you say “because that’s what we decided.” You don’t owe them an explanation, but you have to shut them down.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, and that was my first suggestion, if the OP wants to share that. But she might not choose to share that, in which case she needs one of the other options.

    2. ENFP in Texas*

      +1

      Also, if you refuse to engage in the back-and-forth, they eventually get bored and go pester someone else.

      1. Mongrel*

        Maybe, some people take it as a challenge or that you must be hiding something ‘juicy’

    3. Batgirl*

      It can be a very persistent topic when you work with kids and people feel they’re professionally complimenting you.
      You’ve either got to be really comfortable with the resulting interrogation or willing to shut them down with a further ‘actually I think this is a rude/inappropriate question’.
      One of our male TAs decided to go with ‘I just don’t want them’ and the resulting “Oh you’re just young/will change your mind/just don’t know what it’s like to be a parent ” went on for ages and was excruciating.
      Those of us who tried to shut it down on his behalf with “that’s rude/too personal ” were handwaved away “He’s fine we’re just talking”

      1. Rebecca*

        They can be so persistent, you’re right. I work in elementary education and use to do kindergarten, and people assume that because I’m good at my job it follows that I’ll be good at being a mother. No script I’ve ever used has shut down the personal, invasive, and sometimes incredibly offensive comments (my stepson ‘doesn’t count’. I’ll never feel ‘like a real woman’. I haven’t ‘given’ my partner a baby.) Depending on my mood, I can laugh it off, ignore it, or be pretty snarky.

        At least, if I ever decide to go into stand up comedy, I have a gold mine of material. My best story (so far) is a colleague who told me that I was wasting my man, because so many women want babies but can’t have them because they can’t find good men, and here I was with a good man and not having babies. She told me I was being selfish and unfair. It had a very ‘children are starving in Africa’ vibe.

        I told her I’d let him go to a good stud farm.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          IF I DIE FROM HOLDING IN MY BURST OF LAUGHTER, I WILL HAVE DIED HAPPY>.

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          I’m going to steal your line of “letting him go to a good stud farm”. It’s perfect for when someone jumps down my throat of “but you two would make beautiful babies!!!1!” or “you’re wasting good genes!!1!” etc, etc, etc. And I can’t say it without picturing it and it’s hilarious.

          1. only acting normal*

            Oh god the beautiful babies line. Actually my husband and I were both quite weird looking babies, although we turned out reasonably attractive. So our hypothetical, not happening, babies would probably be real ugly ducklings! I’m over 40 now so most people have stopped hassling.

        3. All monkeys are French*

          That would have been a good one to use on my mom. She once told me, after my husband had been playing sweetly with my niece, “you OWE that man a baby!”

      2. AnonymousArts*

        Currently dealing with this right now with a new colleague. Last Thursday she asked, “How are you so sure you don’t want kids when you love them so much?” after she heard me talking about my nephew. I tried to shut it down and go back to work, but my next approach is shaming her and saying, “I don’t want to talk about this at work,” or “That’s an inappropriate thing to ask me.” And then walking away.

        1. Autumnheart*

          How does your colleague know she does want kids? Maybe she’ll change her mind!

    4. Chaotic Neutral*

      I initially read this as “actually we decided not to keep the children” and that would probably surprise a few people into shutting up.

    5. Julia*

      I guess that works, but it’s also really none of the co-workers’ business whether anyone has kids or not or wants them or not.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But saying that is not 100% true in this case. It doesn’t matter if people like this are well meaning, they need to realize that these questions are invasive and rude. I’d go with “That’s a decision between my husband and I” and then change the subject or walk away.

  16. Quite Anon for This*

    My team has had some job postings up for over a year. It’s a combination of new headcount, slight and non-worrisome turnover, and extreme pickiness. But I did get an inquiry as to whether these constant job postings meant there was enormous turnover in the team. From that standpoint, it’s a little embarrassing.

  17. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #1: I’ve never wanted kids. Ever. And now I’m on teratogenic medication, so it’s impossible anyway.

    I’ve got most people to shut up about it with simple one word sentences.

    When are you having kids? – Never.
    Do you plan on having kids? – No.

    If they do follow up they get a raised eye brow or a blank stare.

    This makes most people uncomfortable. That’s the point.

    The only person who doesn’t get the point is my gran. She’s boundary challanged. And wonders why I don’t visit…

    1. it's-a-me*

      “You’re acting childishly enough for me to get my fill, so I’ll pass.”

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Anpther one-word response if they don’t drop it… why?

      Start with why do you want to know and keep answering each response with “why?” until they go away.

      (Not suggesting as the first choice :) only for the ones that keep on after the no/never responses.)

      1. Lyman Zerga*

        This is actually sort of brilliant. It’s a variation on “Huh, I wonder why you would ask that?” (meaning, “That’s an inappropriate thing to ask!”) But it’s multi-use! It keeps on giving!

    3. krysb*

      Same. I’ve never wanted kids, have pretty bad PCOS that would require fertility treatments to have kids, and I take methotrexate for autoimmune issues, which would make it horribly irresponsible of me (if you disregard points one and two) if I got pregnant.

  18. Chaotic Neutral*

    LW #3: Also, remember that whatever feedback you get is going to be pretty specific to Jane, and that each employee you manage will need/want different things! I think it’s great that you are recognizing that you had weaknesses and seeking to improve and you’re open to feedback. I think those are the kind of people who do end up becoming good managers.

  19. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2 – if anyone is paying attention enough attention to notice, it doesn’t communicate “we’re growing!” – and therefore look successful. It communicates “we have a high turnover and something here is so toxic we need to advertise the same jobs every couple of months.” – and therefore look desperate and on the out. Maybe pointing this out could help?

    1. Lyonite*

      That’s what I was thinking. Like a lot of people, I’ve got keyword searches set on the major job sites for terms related to my specialty, and I keep an eye on them whether or not I’m actively looking. And if I saw the same job show up over and over, that would definitely not be a company I would be eager to apply to, because I would assume they either had super high turnover, or there was something wrong with the job.

    2. Ali A*

      I very much agree – the cons far outweigh the pros here. It can be very challenging to get around the “this is actually very common practice” response I get when I explain how counteractive posting these roles is.

  20. Rez123*

    #1 I just had a conversation with my bestfriend about this. She is a teacher and there really seems to be commuity who believes this will is totally appropriate discussion. She got a permanent job and within 10 minutes of walking to her shared office she was asked if she was going to have a baby. She got married a few weeks ago (hadn’t told anyone) she was immediately asked if it was because she was pregnant. Then last week one of her colleagues got her PhD so they drank some sparkling. One colleague asked loudly if my friend is allowed to drink. So we thought of good comebacks and I think my favorite was (sorry, it’s a bit crude) “When my husband f*cks me without a condom, you’ll be my first call. ¨How ’bout you, do you use protection or are you just barebacking?”

    I work in an office where where majority of employees don’t have kids so thankfully people don’t ask. I really dislike the question. If we are talking about kids etc. on more deeper level then I can see “are you planning on having kids?” as an ok question. Not an assumption of “when”. But this is only if there is really a good conversation on the topic which I’m not sure that can happen in the work place amongs “just” colleagues.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Are you allowed to drink sounds like a jerk saying she looks under 21…which is a whole other red flag. What is WITH some people!?

      1. Rez123*

        She just had brought cakes for her 30th so in this case it was a not so subtle “are you pregnant?” question. People are the worst.

        1. Julia*

          I told a friend all about my various medications, one of them for endometriosis, and the next time I declined a drink from her, she still asked, “oh my gosh, are you pregnant?” Um, thanks…

    2. blackcat*

      I got this question A TON when I was a high school teacher. People assume female teacher/carer for kids wants kids of their own.
      I’d sometimes say things like “I get my fill of kids at work!” “If I could give birth to a 13 year old, I’d be all set!”(They’d comment on how I was so good with kids… and yeah, I’m great with teenagers! Not little kids!)
      In the cases where parents of kids at the school pried a bit more, I’d often go with a “You know I’m only X years older than your kid, right?” since I was young (21-25), teaching in a community where most of the parents were older. I was far closer in age to my students than their parents–many of my students had parents the same age or older than my parents, and my parents didn’t have me until their mid 30s.

    3. Environmental Compliance*

      My husband’s aunts were notorious for not. dropping. the. subject when we had just gotten married. (To be fair, the MIL had asked the night we told them we were engaged when we were going to have kids.)

      At one point I got irritated enough during one of the aunt’s family parties at their house that I said “Oh! Well, if you really must force the issue, don’t you have an extra guest bedroom upstairs we could borrow? We’d only need a few minutes!”

      And now none of them want to force those conversations. *sorry not sorry*

    4. Working Mom Having It All*

      I definitely feel like this is more of a problem with people who work around kids, parents, pregnancy, etc. Like when I was pregnant, my midwife was NOT PREPARED for me to say that I only want one kid. She kept being like “oh, you’re not too old” or “you could make it happen” in an intrusive way that I found off-putting. As a midwife I guess she doesn’t see a lot of patients who are adamantly child-free, and I see that there are thinner boundaries about reproductive talk in general there since she, like, knows what my cervix looks like. But, still… yikes.

      1. Observer*

        That actually surprises me. Plenty of midwives are perfectly comfortable with women who want only X number of kids (1, 2 whatever.) In fact I’ve had more than one experience with the midwife being the one pushing BC.

  21. Mary Richards*

    Ok, #4 almost exactly happened to my dad! His boss was named Stuart Alberts and there was another guy in the industry named Stuart Talberts (I’m making these up, of course). My dad recommended his boss for a prestigious industry-specific committee and, because this was a handwritten form and my dad has awful handwriting, whoever read the form appointed Talberts, not Alberts. :/

    It took a few months for my dad to figure out what happened. Someone introduced him to the other guy, who was honored but totally surprised to have been selected for the committee, and luckily, my dad’s boss had a pretty good sense of humor once he discovered why he hadn’t been offered a spot. I believe there was an industry-wide conference where both guys met and it became something of a running gag throughout the industry. It’s especially hilarious because the two names aren’t that common and the odds of such a random thing happening are insanely low.*

    Sorry Jane is not able to appreciate the fact that mistakes happen.

    *now that I think about it, I know someone else who had this same experience, but he has a much more common name and there were other weird coincidences (think two John Smiths who went to the same high school and worked in the same field and got mixed up years later, with embarrassing results for one of them).

    1. CM*

      Yes, Other Jane has a healthy sense of entitlement here… and it’s a good thing for your dad that his boss laughed it off!

      1. Mary Richards*

        Extremely lucky, but at a certain point, he realized that my dad’s greatest sin was poor penmanship—and boss became very popular once everyone around him heard the story!

  22. PurpleMonster*

    I had the flip side, where we Wrekin a customer-facing role with quite a bit of interaction with children. I’m not a child person. I don’t dislike them, but I don’t seek out interaction with them and I generally tried to steer those aspects to others if possible.

    So when I announced my pregnancy, the first question everyone had was, ‘was it planned’? For the record, yes, but I was astonished that anyone would ask. You don’t have to love all children to want your own! (And even now, I love my daughter fiercely, but I’m pretty uninterested in kids I don’t know well).

    What is with people’s interest in other people’s reproductive choices?

      1. Autumnheart*

        I occasionally joke that only 2 of my 4 cats were planned, and the other two were an accident. (I took in a litter of stray kittens thinking I’d only keep one to go with my older cat, but wound up keeping all 3.)

    1. Rez123*

      my own mother (3 kids, 2 grandkids) on the dinner table last weekend said how she dislikes dogs and babies and avoids being in contact with them whenever possible :D

      Was it planned is suh a rude question. Maybe add an “do you know who the father is?” to the list to really bring it home.

      1. Chaotic Neutral*

        My friend with six kids frequently gets asked if they all have the same father. (Not that it matters but the answer is yes.)

        1. Rez123*

          I have a significant ag difference with my siblings. When I was little people used to ask if we had the same parents. As a child Icoldn’t understand the question cause duh obviously we did. As I got older I understood that full siblings don’t usually have 15+ year age difference. But what adults asks this from a kid when they talk about their family?

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          I dunno, that one seems fair. I mean, who your parents are is generally not considered a private question.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Yes it is. The timing of when parents have kids or their arrangements for having kids are nobody’s business. Asking someone if they all have the same father has some very nasty implications. You definitely don’t ask small kids that question. Unless the kid is lost and you are trying to locate the parents, personal questions about family are OFF LIMITS.

          2. hbc*

            It’s not really private information, but the fact that certain kinds of families get questioned about it makes it intrusive. I mean, it’s fine to have the thought “that’s unusual” when you get an 18 year old and a 3 year old introduced to you as siblings, but you don’t need to basically announce (through a question you aren’t asking the 8 and 11 year old siblings) “You guys do not seem like a normal nuclear family, explain yourselves.”

          3. Kate R*

            ” I mean, who your parents are is generally not considered a private question.”

            Well, this wasn’t really the question. It was “do they have the same parents?” It’s inquiring about the children’s conception, not their family dynamic. It doesn’t matter if someone has 6 kids or 1, how they were conceived is private, so you shouldn’t ask. People can offer to share whatever they want to share. The fact that this is asked of large families or families with an age gape more frequently though adds the extra layer of rudeness in the implicit “you can’t have possibly meant to plan it this way” assumption.

          4. Seeking Second Childhood*

            My sibs were 19 & 16 when I was born…and I lost my tolerance for that question after I was asked it *FOLLOWING* a conversation about people who get married young and STAY married … and I clearly spoke about MY parents being stupid-cute until he died when I was a kid.
            She might has well have flat-out asked if my mom had an affair. [expletive deleted]

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Oh, and if you feel the need to say anything, try asking what it was like to grow up with such a big age gap in the family. That at least focuses on my actual experiences that form my point of view.

          5. Bugpuss*

            I think it is rude. I mean, yes, who your parents are isn’t generally a secret, but it isn’t really a public bit of information either.
            and when you think a bit more deply about it, it’s worth thinking about “Why would ask” but aslo “why might someone be framing things that way, if they don’t have exactly the same parents?” , at ehich point many of the potenatial reasons fall squarely into private territory.
            (e.g. late, unplanned child, child born from an affair where the family have decided to include them and move on, child being cared for by grandparetns / other family where they have determined it is importnat for the child to feel fully a part of the family, step child where being a sister / brother is an importnat step in sucessfully blending the family etc.

            I have a firned who has a lotof siblings. I know her very well and have done for over 20 years, and I know that echnically, some of them are her half-siblings, and some are step siblings, but I don’t, in most cases, know which and mostly, it is totally irrelvent.
            Ovcassionally it is mildly confusing, but mostly she makes it clear where it would make a differnece (e.g. such as telling me “My sister Jane’s dad died”, rather than ‘my dad / step dad died’)

          6. Observer*

            Well the question wasn’t who someone’s parents are, but whether one person had multiple partners in order to have multiple children. That is GROSS.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        I’d been with partner (call him Ben) in monogamous relationship for a few years when I got pregnant. One of my best friends responded to the news with

        “Congratulations! Is it Ben’s?”

        1. Not Australian*

          Some people just have foot-in-mouth disease, though; recently met an ex-work colleague again after 30 years and she took one look at me and my OH and exclaimed “OMG you’re still together!”

          1. Linguist*

            If this was said in delighted tones, it’s still awkward but can be kind of cute, I suppose? :)

        2. Hope*

          That reminds me of my grandmother’s response when I called to tell her I’d gotten engaged.

          “To *boyfriend*?”

          Um, yeah, who else but the guy I’d been dating for over a year?

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      For real!
      I can’t imagine what I’d say after a shocked “I beg your pardon!???”

    3. iglwif*

      When my sister phoned up our father to tell him she was pregnant for the first time, literally the first thing he said was “Did you plan this?”

      They had been trying to conceive for TEN. YEARS. He knew that.

      In the course of that same conversation he inadvertently revealed that my sister wasn’t planned. That was not something she enjoyed hearing.

    4. PB*

      This reminds me of when my husband started his last job. A new coworker asked if he was married. When he said he had a girlfriend (we were not married yet), she told him to “fill her with babies.” Ergh.

    5. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      This is a big issue with announcing that you don’t want children, though. Some friends of mine were very open and transparent about how they did not want children and were planning on being child free, but eventually had a surprise pregnancy and, after much thought, decided to have the baby.

      When she announced this on Facebook, all of the comments were along the lines of, “Oh but you never wanted kids! What a surprise!”

      Now, rational adults know that things don’t always go as planned and people make choices based on the options immediately ahead of them. But as this kid grows up, “your parents never wanted children!” will be on the tips of everyone’s tongues and in the back of their minds. That doesn’t sound like a healthy dynamic to me.

      1. Autumnheart*

        Or else, “See, I told you that you’d change your mind! Ha ha, I was right all along!” as if your friends aren’t capable of assessing the prospect themselves. People are gross. Although if anyone were crass enough to actually say, “Your parents never wanted kids,” it would be just as accurate to say that they definitely decided they wanted *that* kid, because that’s what they chose.

  23. Batgirl*

    OP1 what about an abbreviated version of what you’ve written? “Oh I’m never sure of how to answer that question. I’m always so taken aback when people assume that!” Or “I think it’s oversharing to go into the reasons why that’s not for me and I don’t want to be rude since I think you actually mean well.”
    I kind of treat it the same way as ‘Oh no one told you this isn’t done…?’

    1. Batgirl*

      As someone who works with kids I also think it’s appropriate to say “You know sometimes we come across parents who are very unhappy and were clearly pressured into it. I think it’s time we stop assuming it’s everyone’s thing.”
      You’ve got to be careful with who you use that one though.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      I love this suggestion by Batgirl!
      I am one who has fertility problems and while I feel very lucky to have one son, I never got pregnant again and it was very painful for me during those years when I was still hoping.

      I am so thankful when folks point out the fertility issues reason (in addition to the privacy side) that this is not an ok question when it is unsolicited/out of context.

      How about, “oh, I’m never sure how to answer that question. I’m always taken aback as this is such a private topic.” You can add things like not everyone wants or can have kids and asking can seem like prying to some.

  24. Audrey Puffins*

    Re #1, I’m a fan of the breezy “oh, I can’t have any”. Most people take the hint and stop asking (but if anyone pushes for further info, you can clarify with “because I don’t want any”). There’s also the calm smile and the polite “that’s a bit personal, isn’t it?”, but I am absolutely going to try the “actually I’m more of a cat person” response up-thread in the future!

    (And no, I don’t feel bad about going with an answer that suggests infertility and potentially makes the asker feel mortified, because if they don’t learn from me that it’s not such a simple question, then one day they’re going to ask it of someone who is really suffering in their childlessness and that would really suck.)

    1. Two Tin Cans and a String*

      (And no, I don’t feel bad about going with an answer that suggests infertility and potentially makes the asker feel mortified, because if they don’t learn from me that it’s not such a simple question, then one day they’re going to ask it of someone who is really suffering in their childlessness and that would really suck.)

      I understand the logic, but I would seriously NOT recommend this. And I’ve got a cautionary tale to back that up. I used to do this in my twenties when the question haunted me everywhere I went and I’d just had enough. A good friend overheard me saying it. She found me later and confided in me about her struggles with infertility. She was so relieved to find someone in her social circle who knew what she was going through. I had to cut her off mid-confession and say I had just said that to get people to back off. She was PISSED, and rightly so. We’re not friends anymore for a lot of reasons, but that didn’t help.

      Don’t put yourself and others in this position. There’s plenty of other answers you can try without appropriating this particular struggle.

      1. Mockingbird 2*

        Yeah, I don’t think this is a good idea if it’s not actually true. (I’m sorry you had to learn that first hand!)

        I can’t have kids (well, most likely) but it doesn’t particularly bother me. I don’t want kids now but if I did, I would be comfortable adopting. So I don’t bring that up with people I don’t know well because they assume it bothers me A LOT and have to have all the sympathy talk about it. For me I find that it invites more conversation when I really wanted to end that line of conversation. I’m a fan of the non-committal answer plus redirect, or saying I don’t want kids (because people who ask about it tend to find this awkward). But it may work for someone else who can’t have kids.

      2. Works in IT*

        Yeah, the real answer for me is a combination of don’t want and shouldn’t have. I do not get along with little kids, at all (genetic condition that makes shrieks intensely painful like a sledgehammer to the head, I cannot be around any child who is not old enough to know not to shriek), and the same condition that makes being around them hard would have a 50% chance of being passed to my kids, and that’s not fair. But when I say I don’t want them, people say that will change some day, and when I say I should not have them, they say oh, that’s not a reason to not have children, children will love you no matter what” which I find… all kinds of messed up.

      3. Koala dreams*

        I’m sorry your friendship was ruined, but your ex-friend was actually quite rude, assuming that you would automatically share her wishes and her struggles and not caring about you as a person of your own, with your own struggles. Not saying that you were necessarily in that situation, but many people struggle to not be pregnant, and that can be just as much of a toll on someone as infertility. It’s very rude to assume that everbody feel the same when it comes to fertility and infertility.

        Back on topic, I think it’s sometimes worth it to take the high road and be polite to the rude people, but sometimes it’s worth it to answer rudeness with some rudeness of your own.

    2. quirkypants*

      The answer “I can’t have any” does more than suggest infertility.

      If you to get the same point across without co-opting someone else’s struggle, you could just say, “Have you ever thought about how that question would make someone feel if they are struggling with infertility or just had a miscarriage?” That way, it also leaves nothing to up to the imagination but might actually suggest it without lying about it.

      Personally, I am a fan of answering this honestly. “I love kids but don’t have any plans to have any of my own”. I think there’s real value in pointing out that not everyone wants kids, it’s not like a woman’s choice is have kids vs infertility. I can just choose not to have any! I do have some health problems that would make it difficult to conceive but even if I didn’t, I still don’t want kids. It’s valuable for people to recognize that.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Not only is suggesting infertility a blatant co-opting of someone else’s struggle, but if it actually works for you, you’re a lucky little unicorn.

      1. iglwif*

        Was coming here to say this.

        A lot of infertility is “unexplained”–you treat it via IVF because nothing else has worked, but nobody actually knows what the issue is. This has led to an enormous amount of woo about How To Get Pregnant.

        I was subjected to SO MUCH OF THIS when we were trying to get pregnant (go on vacation! quit your job to reduce your stress level! eat this, don’t eat that! quit caffeine! take this, don’t take that! eat right for your blood type! and on and on and on and on), and while most people backed off when I explained that, no, my infertility is extremely well explained and there’s zero chance any of that would have any effect, a surprising number of people kept on lecturing me. Even ten years on it still makes me mad.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          My favorite was the coworker who announced, with a great deal of pomp and self-importance, that most people who adopt end up getting pregnant later, and she thought it was because they just stopped trying and relaxed, and that was all they needed! As if (1) no one had EVER THOUGHT OF THAT BEFORE, and (b) adoption was relaxing. :-/ I took great joy in pointing out to her that, statistically, the number of couples who spontaneously conceive after adopting is the same as the number of couples who spontaneously conceive after stopping treatment but without adopting.

          1. iglwif*

            OH G-D. THE ADOPTION THING. The “why don’t you just adopt?” thing. The “just relax and stop trying, and it’ll happen!” thing. JUST STOP, PEOPLE.

            Good for you for calling her out!!

            I say this as someone who *adores* her (now adult) adopted niece:
            – adoption is not for everyone.
            – adoption is not easy.
            – there is no “just adopt”.
            – adoption doesn’t always work out well for all or any of the parties involved.
            – trying to adopt a newborn can be hella expensive, exhausting, and heartbreaking.
            – adoption is not necessarily less costly than assisted reproduction.
            – the only reason you should adopt a child is that *you want to adopt a child* (i.e., not because you couldn’t get pregnant and are still sad about it! finish your mourning before you start your adoption journey.)
            – adoption is not easy.
            – adoption is a wonderful thing! especially if you would honestly prefer to skip the baby stage and adopt an older child, and are honestly prepared to (a) deal with a bunch of bureaucratic shit, (b) accept a lot of invasion of your privacy, and (c) put in the work to parent a kid who has had a shitty start in life in some way and might still really just want their bio parent/s back, not selfishly for the props but because you want the best for this kid.
            – all of which is another way of saying: adoption is not easy AND adoption is not for everyone.

            And finally: If you wouldn’t say “why didn’t you adopt instead of getting pregnant?” to someone who got pregnant by having sex, then don’t say it to someone who needs help getting pregnant.

            /rant

    4. Goya de la Mancha*

      I usually stick with “I’m not sure if I’m able” which is 100% true as I don’t know because I have not and will not try.

    5. Autumnheart*

      I’m a childfree person who is naturally infertile, and I will definitely respond with, “I’m infertile,” and allow those people to feel as terrible as they may for asking such an intrusive question. It’s no skin off my nose because for me, infertility is a positive instead of a negative. And maybe they’ll learn not to be so nosy before they cause real pain for someone else.

  25. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I’m in my early 40s now, so thankfully almost at the point where people will stop asking me when / if I’m going to have children. But as a committed CFC (child-free by choice), my stock answer is usually a friendly ‘oh, I hate kids!’

    1. London Calling*

      Oh you wait. It changes from ‘do you have children?’ to ‘why did you never have children?’

      1. Linguist*

        Hahaha, OMFG that is SO much worse. Yes, let’s (potentially!) rip open old wounds!

      2. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

        So when I’m old and grey I’ll revert to ‘because I hated kids all my life and still do!’ :)

        (Totally true. Can’t stand ’em!)

        1. London Calling*

          Ditto. Didn’t even like them when I was one.

          I did see a pretty good riposte on another site – someone suggested quietly saying ‘Look, I don’t have children, that was my choice and I’m happy with it. Please realise that the next woman you ask may be struggling with infertility or had multiple miscarriages and may be very upset by such an intrusive question.’

      3. Lora*

        In my experience, it continues until you’re well into your 50s. With many lectures about how Science Can Fix Everything! My go-to for a while was, “I don’t have a uterus, so no,” and then last year researchers in Brazil did a uterus transplant.

        The main benefit of getting older is that you stop caring about the stupid opinions of nosy busybodies, so it’s easy to tell them they’re being rude and change the subject RIGHT NOW.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I got married at 42 so we decided we didn’t want kids. Most people never asked, and the few who did (closer friends) just asked “IF” we wanted to have another baby (my husband has a son). But my closest friend would not let it go. And I had to get mean to get her to stop.

    3. Menopausal*

      I had a miscarriage when I was 43. Ever since, I have a friend who always ask if I’m pregnant whenver we talk. I’m 50 now. I keep hoping she’ll give it up one of these days! :-)

  26. Green great dragon*

    For #4 I like the idea of talking to the board Chair. Then if Jane asks again she can say ‘Oh, I talked to the board about hat and they’re fine about it.’ Or they’re looking at whether there’s room for both Janes, or whatever.

    1. Young and proud*

      OP should not be the person who raises this with the board chair. Your script implies OP has something to justify to Jane. OP does not.

      1. Annie*

        I wouldn’t want to keep a job knowing I only got it because I accidentally intercepted an offer intended for someone else.

        1. Anon for this*

          It’s not a job, though, it’s a spot on an advisory board. It’s not really the same thing.

        2. EPLawyer*

          it wasn’t “intercepted.” She didn’t see the offer to Other Jane and take it herself. She got the call, she answered in good faith. She went through the process of joining the board. She went to the meetings. It’s her spot of the board.

          Other Jane is no more entitled to the spot on the board than you or I. A recommendation was made, that is all. There is no guarantee that after meeting OJ they would have gone ahead with putting her on the board.

      2. Holly*

        I’d be concerned by not talking to the board chair about this, and then it comes out, it seems like OP was hiding it so she could “get away with it.” I honestly think being straightforward and wondering what is going on is the way to handle it.

  27. aepyornis*

    For LW#1, one way to express it that I find efficient is to say “I actually don’t plan on becoming a parent” or a slightly firmer “I will actually not become a parent”. It implies that it is not about not liking/hating kids (which can be tricky, especially in a working environment that involves child care/education, where people can interpret “not wanting kid” as “not liking kids” – fully unrelated things but that a lot of people confuse) but about not seeing oneself as parent (or not being able to become one). It leaves it sufficiently open whether it is voluntary or not so that this answer usually avoids me the follow up question of why I don’t want/like children.

    1. Thursday Next*

      I like this way of putting it. I think the first is good, because if someone asks “why,” you can just repeat, “It’s just not my plan.”

  28. Wintermute*

    #2– this is definitely a sign. This person is telling you they value the appearance of success over success itself, and are big believers in “fake it until you make it”. They’re also telling you they have no problem lying to people, and low ethics.

    If you think they’d be at all open to feedback, in addition to the ones pointed out, I would point out a few things:

    First, I’d be more detailed about “people may not be on the market”– at best they’re only increasing the signal-to-noise ratio of their recruiting efforts when the time comes and wasting their own time with dozens of “oh I already took a position with GoodJob, sorry”, at worst if they go back to the resume file in several months, most of their favorite candidates will be employed elsewhere. What does that leave? It leaves people having trouble finding a job, people that are very particular in what they would leave their current position for, or people who find themselves job-seeking frequently. Are those the people you really want to be focusing your recruiting on? Like any other really bad recruiting practice that’s a good way to end up with a bad case of “grease trap syndrome” where you end up with people without options, because people who have options go elsewhere, and over time you keep hiring bad employees and that leads to the good ones you do get leaving because… they have better options. Pretty soon you end up with the worst employees in the industry and can’t retain anyone better.

    Second, when I see someone always recruiting, I don’t assume they’re fast-growing. A fast growing company has a wide range of job offerings and they cycle fairly quickly. They need 10 salespeople today, two months from now they need an automation engineer because their IT is growing rapidly enough they need to make it more efficient, then two weeks later they need mid-level managers to handle their growing workforce, two months later they need to upsize their HR to aa full department and have a wide range of openings, etc. When I see the SAME positions over and over I assume that people can’t get out fast enough, or if they’re entry-level positions that they’re a churn-and-burn outfit that hires 40 people (my training class at a call center early in my career) has 35 make it through training, 15 quit and 15 get fired in the first few months (literally my training class at a call center, numbers rounded slightly) and so they’re hiring 40 people to get five that can actually tolerate the working conditions and meet their insane standards.

    Third, like many people in this day and age of employers ghosting on candidates, if I don’t hear back from a company I presume they dismissed me early in the process and I don’t try again for the same position. Unless they actually go back to the resume file (and because of its high noise-to-signal they’re not likely to persist at that long) then many candidates they’d love to hire will presume they were disregarded before and they’re not going to bother applying. They may really be hurting their chances of filling positions in the future.

    And that is all above and beyond what this is telling you about their ethics and morals…

    1. Emmie*

      Good points. Current employees of the company may also get upset when they see open requisitions for jobs with similar duties, or taking a piece of their duties. It has to impact employee morale. It would also be difficult to groom employees for higher level or lateral positions since those employees may not have faith that positions are truly open. That’s a lot of lost institutional knowledge.

  29. Paperdill*

    OP1: I would steer away from the more vague answers like “Who can say?” or “That’s quite a question”. I am a nurse who works in an exclusively female workforce, providing services to women and children (ie people who loooooooooove kids and babies and pregnancy and knowing aaaaaaaaall about other people’s kids and babies and plans for the same) and I can tell you that those kind of answers, with that kind of crowd will almost certainly result in the questioner then having a wee gossip behind your back speculating that you are already pregnant and waiting to announce it all. Because surely you wouldn’t have any other reason for being vague, right? Right????/s.
    I would be straightforward “I love working with these guys, but we don’t want to have any ourselves”, “We aren’t planning to have kids”, “I get my fill of kids here – I don’t need anymore in my life”.

  30. hbc*

    OP1) In a cheerful way, “Oh, I have a personal policy to never answer that question.”

    If they press, then you can say, “There’s no winning. If I say I’m having kids and there’s trouble conceiving, I get everyone watching the clock and wondering what went wrong. If I say I don’t want kids and change my mind, I get everyone thinking I had a birth control failure and I don’t really want the kid.” I’ve cured a few people from asking that way without having to get into my personal choices.

    1. Wintermute*

      I really like this. It’s a lot more involved but I think to some degree a good answer to an innocent comment that is actually heavily fraught is going to have an educational component. I wouldn’t use it with everyone, but if you’re close to someone I really like the idea of trying to change the behavior and just inject the idea into the cultural conversation that what they see as innocent chit-chat can be a real problem.

    2. Bugpuss*

      I like it too. Also if people press it allows you to say ;
      “I feel it’s an inapppropriate question to ask anyone, it’s a subject where people canfeel very judged, plus for anyone dealing with issues such as infertility or miscarriage it could be incredibly painful, so I do my bit by not asking or answering it. Plus, there’;s no winning … (and add on what you already put)”,
      That lets you get your point point across, but also does flag up that that there are good reasons why it’s not a nice thing to ask, without claiming any of the reasons specifcally for yourself.

    3. Batgirl*

      I like your version of what I call ‘the fence’ because yours has some real teachable examples in there. My version of ‘well who knows?’ is treating it like they’ve just recommended x as a vacation spot, which isn’t my thing but I’ll play along. “Oh is it good? I dunno if I’d like it. How do you find it?”

      It’s not a bad one because most people just take the invitation to talk about themselves (you will be inviting kid talk though). And there is no traction to be had in lecturing in you to have kids if you’re just eternally shrugging. “Oh it’s wonderful you say? I didn’t know that. I think I might some days and others I think I’d rather have a new car.”

  31. Hiptobesquared*

    Re #1, don’t be afraid to shit it down with frequent offenders. I have a co-worker that WOULD NOT STOP and I finally, reasonably politely, directly told her that that I seriously needed her to stop. She protested once and I just repeated myself. It did the trick!

    1. Two Tin Cans and a String*

      I know that’s probably a typo but I sincerely hope it’s not. That’s a good response. Just pop a squat and maintain silent eye contact.

    2. Kasia*

      I had two coworkers so CONSTANTLY asked if I was going to have kids/if I was currently pregnant/made all the comments about children. My dream response was to get really biological with them “did you want me to update you when I have unprotected sex with my husband?”

      I don’t recommend that in the workplace but I still dream of using it on my in laws :)

  32. Two Tin Cans and a String*

    #1 It doesn’t slow down as you get older, but the good news is that people do become less likely to argue with you, interrogate you or do the whole smirking “oh sweetie you’ll change your silly little mind” thing. For me it didn’t completely stop until my husband straight up died, but I don’t recommend going that route.

    Stock reply + subject change does the job fine in my experience, but I do reserve a lot of venom for people who want to argue with me about it or imply that I must hate children then. Like, okay, it’s an intrusive and rude and loaded question to begin with, but somehow it’s also socially accepted, so I can play along with the social contract for one round. But if they start arguing with me about my answer, I do explain how thoughtless and rude they are and why. Consider it a public service.

    1. PhyllisB*

      Then they start asking if you have grand-children. I do, (six!!) and I love talking about them to people who are interested, but when people say no, then others will say how sad, or something else offensive.
      I have three children, and when we were expecting #3 I got a lot of “Was it planned?” so I feel others’ pain.

  33. Auntie*

    #1 – I’m passed the age where anyone asks if I’m going to have kids, but I still am asked occasionally if I have them. Usually I just say no and that is that. Occasionally I say my brother had my quota since he has four kids. I love being an aunt. It’s all the fun without the daily stress.

  34. Checkert*

    Be prepared: if, as a woman, you say you don’t want children, steel yourself for a lengthy, weird, intrusive conversation around why. The general assumption is women without clanging biological clocks are broken and can be convinced they are wrong. Speaking from experience…. I generally just say I would but I ate the last one, but I use humor quite often in my day to day life. It’ll startle the strangers and amuse those who know me but draws a firm, obvious line that I’m shutting down the convo.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Or you could say, “Well, I had to abandon the last one in the woods because of a prophecy that he would murder his father and marry me.”

    2. Lepidoptera*

      The more intrusive people get, the more ridiculous my answers get. (I’ve been fielding this nonsense for over 20 years, so, lots of experience.)

      My favorite: “I wouldn’t be able to keep it anyway, since I promised my firstborn to a witch.”

    3. embertine*

      I have replied to this question with “my species eat their own young” and the nervous laughter that results is always fun.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m in my 40s and people routinely think I’m in my late 20s/early 30s so I foresee a lot of this in my future.

      Luckily, I’m also an asshole and give no f*cks because I say “Oh, I’m too selfish to be a parent.” Let them judge me. I know myself and my life.

      1. TacocaTRacecaR*

        I asked my brother (my family is close, this was not boundary-crossing, I promise you) if he was thinking of having kids. He said “No time soon, I’m too selfish for that.” And it was, IMO, the PERFECT response. But I would NEVER ask someone outside of my very, very close circle (siblings and kids are the only ones that come to mind) if they were planning to/trying to/going to/wanting to have kids.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          My sister and her husband have made some vague “when we have kids” comments so it’s sometimes a topic of conversation among our immediate family without being boundary crossing. It all depends on your relationship with a person.

        2. Bunny Girl*

          The only reason I don’t like this answer is that is just furthers the stereotype that people who don’t want children are selfish for not wanting children. There’s nothing wrong with being a little selfish but at the same time it’s really viewed in kind of a negative light. I don’t think people are selfish for not wanting children. I don’t want children at all and I don’t think of myself that way and I’m not that way with my family and friends.

          1. TacocaTRacecaR*

            I apologize, Bunny Girl, I didn’t clarify that I meant it was perfect *for him*. I failed to see that I was implying that it was a perfect response across the board, and I completely agree with you that that’s not the case. Thank you for pointing this out!

          2. Clisby*

            I also don’t see why not having children is any more selfish than having them. I have 2 kids, and there was not an ounce of altruism in my decision to have them. I wanted them, I was lucky enough to be able to have them in my 40s, and here they are. They’re the joy of my life, not charity cases.

          3. Batgirl*

            I honestly don’t see what’s wrong with making ‘selfish’ decisions for your, y’know self? I mean I won’t be selfish at your birthday party or as your wedding guest or when you’re having a horrible day and need a helpful human.

            But when I am making my own life decisions, then yeah, selfishness is kinda a foregone conclusion.

            No one has kids to better develop selflessness and personal sacrifice and if they do, someone please rescue the poor blighter.

          4. Autumnheart*

            Plus the corollary is that people are “unselfish” for having children. Even though both groups are doing what suits their personal preference.

    5. Great Grey Owl*

      A car dealer gave my mother a hard time because I don’t have children. She told him to mind his own business. Strange that someone who relies on commissions would risk alienating a paying customer.

      1. TacocaTRacecaR*

        Just…what? This is what finally caused my brain to shut down. A car dealership employee gave your *mother* a hard time because *you* don’t have kids?

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        I had the owner of a shop ask rude personal questions and insult my hair without apparent provocation. I never went back. Some people just can’t resist the urge to blurt out everything that pops into their heads, even when it costs them money.

  35. YouCanBrewIt!*

    #1- I’m currently 41 and have no children (and will not be having any). I move around a lot and only in the last state I lived before here did I get the kid question all the time a from coworkers, hair dressers, waitresses, etc everyone everywhere. It was truly bizarre. Once when I politely mentioned that we had decided not to have children, they replied back saying that it was good of me to identify that I wouldn’t be cut out for parenting (wtf??)

    1. Triplestep*

      WTF indeed! I chalk this up to people thinking they have to have an answer for everything; often they want to put a positive spin on something they think is not positive.

      I actually would go further with the advice Alison gave – I’d start out nicely (as she recommends) but by the second or third time, I’d employ the cold icy glare of death and some kind of response that puts the question back on the asker and teaches them to stop asking inappropriate personal questions. “I’m not sure why you keep asking.” or “Why would you think that’s a question you should ask repeatedly?” I think it’s a service to the person asking, honestly – they need to learn so they don’t keep doing this to more people. (Said as someone who has kids, FWIW.)

    2. London Calling*

      Once when I politely mentioned that we had decided not to have children, they replied back saying that it was good of me to identify that I wouldn’t be cut out for parenting (wtf??)

      That’s a standard jibe. ‘Oh, if people are too selfish and can’t hack the hard work and sacrifice it’s probably just was well they don’t have children. SOME PEOPLE (then they look you up and down) just aren’t cut out for it.’ Usually from parents and a very handy asshole filter.

      1. TacocaTRacecaR*

        “Thank you so much. And what, exactly, was it that made you decide that you were/are cut out for parenting…?”

        1. Hope*

          Or “Thanks. So how long did it take you to realize you weren’t cut out for parenting?”

      2. Batgirl*

        I would like to say ‘Oh I actually think I would be slightly too good at it because I have so much tact and compassion. No one likes a show off though’

  36. Valancy Snaith*

    My stock response to anything I don’t want to answer is “oh, what a personal question!” Which usually gets the message across. If, God forbid, someone is prying into territory about why’s and wherefores, I say “we would love to have kids but not everyone gets what they want.” Which has stopped more than a few people from further questions.

  37. Vixy*

    #1: I’m always gone with the standard, “not for me” variation. “Not in the cards.” “Just not interested.” etc. Depending on how well I know some people, I will come up with more glib bordering on inappropriate answers, like “I like my time and my money.” “My dogs will listen better.” Weird stuff.

    Only one time, in a professional setting, have I had to respond with “You’re weirdly interested in my sex life.” That shut my coworker up because many people don’t think about how asking about babies also leads into how babies are actually conceived.

  38. Asenath*

    I can’t say I’ve ever been bothered much about questions about why I didn’t have children, or back when that might have been an option without major medical intervention, when I would have children. One of my friends, who was married, did get questions for a while, apparently on the assumption that all married couples had children, but they died out – she said she thought everyone tactfully assumed they were infertile, which meant some of their friends were surprised when it turned out that they weren’t. They’d just been waiting until they were ready.

    When I do get questions I don’t want to answer, I try either a straightforward literal short answer (“No”) or a vague evasive one, followed by an immediate subject change.

    That’s when I can think fast enough. Sometimes I can’t, like the time a co-worker cornered me in a store while I was on sick leave, and said she was glad to see I was out of hospital – what exactly was it I was in for? And I just mumbled something incoherent, and probably looked like a cornered rat. It’s always easier to think of the smart answers later, so I’ve simplified my approach to the short (and probably vague) response and topic change.

    1. Will there be a life-size statue of the Taj Mahal made out of cheese straws?*

      >>That’s when I can think fast enough. Sometimes I can’t

      To this day, one of my greatest regrets is not coming up with a stinging in-the-moment reply to a family member who told me and my spouse that we should have a baby “because I think it would be the best thing for you.” She knocked the wind out of me with that comment and I so dearly wish I could have responded with something to knock it out of her right back. It still makes me furious and it happened years ago.

  39. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#3, I hate to say this, but your employee has no incentive to give you candid feedback. People are punished so often for giving feedback in such situations that the smart ones just don’t. Even with you in another organization, she still is dependent on you for recommendations. You also likely hold some level of influence in the industry.

    Also, this may sound a bit harsh and I apologize if it comes across that way, but if you’re open and receptive to feedback, why are you only asking now?

    1. OP#3*

      We’ve been making regular adjustments since the other manager left – tweaking how often we meet, what systems we put in place so she feels supported, etc – but my hope was it to address this with a holistic view of everything behind us.

      1. Workerbee*

        Well, in the event that you aren’t able to or decide not to have this feedback session, I hope you can take your own holistic view of all the adjustments you’ve been making, including any related nonverbal cues you’ve noticed (positive or negative) from your employee. If you haven’t already, sometimes writing it all out so it’s in front of your eyeballs can really help.

  40. Quickbeam*

    Re #1: It doesn’t stop at menopause! I am in a 35 year child free marriage and now I get: “why didn’t you have children?”. My response depends on the person and where this is coming from. I can be strident on the issue so if it is coming from a genuine place, I just explain my child free lifestyle. However if I am being bullied I can, at the drop of a hat, launch into a 10 minute mini lecture on the struggle for women to control their fertility and that “I am a successful byproduct of those many years of revolution”.

    Many times people are stunned, assuming I am LDS because I drink no caffeine. Yeah, don’t assume.

  41. Quickbeam*

    #1 wanted to add that in 35 years no one has ever asked my husband these things other than to say “way to go sport” when they find out he has no kids.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Ah. I’ve seen men who announce their engagement taunted with “oh so she’s pregnant then?” and “then why would you be getting married?” when they respond with a “uh no.”. Or badgered about when they’re going to start a family.

      This is a problem for both genders but women get it more frequently due to false belief in every woman wants to be a mom.

      1. Liz*

        so much this. I’ve had friends, who literally as soon as they walked down the aisle, were being asked “when are you having kids? when are you going to give me a grandchild?” and then once they eventually do have kids, they’re asked when they’re having another!

  42. Me*

    OP1 -I appreciate the impulse to be polite, but remember personal questions are rude as heck and there’s no need to soften the response. When we desire to be polite in those situations, it often means we don’t want to offend them despite the fact that they were in fact offensive. Protecting people from being offended because of not getting a desired response to a question they should not have asked falls firmly in the not your responsibility column. Alison gave good options.

    Having more than one friend with fertility issues, when nosy people inquired about them I let them know I failed to see how anyone’s reproductive system was their business. Sure the were miffed but that is what happens when you are rude and someone doesn’t just take it. This doesn’t have to be the hill you die on of course, but if you find your self comfortable with a firm variation of that is very much not your business, you are well with in your rights and it’s not impolite. No matter how the recipient takes it.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Yes, there’s definitely something to be said for Return Awkwardness to Sender.

      That said, in an office environment it may be more important to be seen as The Polite One; this will vary by office, of course, but if there’s already an atmosphere of ‘women’s bodies are everyone’s business!’ it might be more of a problem.

  43. Rusty Shackelford*

    Hey, have you seen Lucinda’s pants? She has removed them.

    I think this needs to be the default for any abrupt subject change from now on. Forget about bean-dipping or “hey, how about that local sports team?” Nope, I’m going with “Have you seen Lucinda’s pants? She has removed them.”

    1. Anonymouse*

      “Who is Lucinda?”
      “Does it matter? She’s not wearing pants. Come on, focus!”

  44. Art3mis*

    OP #1
    Them: Hey, when are you going to have kids?
    You: Thanks, but I’m still full from lunch.

    1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      OP #1: Eventually, they do stop asking The Kid Question somewhere in your 40s! I am childfree by choice, and I didn’t get asked that question a lot, but when it happened, I shut it down bluntly and honestly–“I don’t want kids.” Since I have a domestic partner (20+ years), I also got asked The Marriage Question, which I also shut down bluntly “I don’t believe in marriage.” Being able to shut down these questions comes easily to me, given my personality and the fact that I am comfortable answering BECAUSE I am comfortable with my decisions and my beliefs. Getting that comfort level may take some mental re-alignment. It’s okay that you don’t have kids. It’s okay if you don’t ever want to have kids. It’s all good.

      1. Art3mis*

        I’m 42 and don’t get asked nearly as often as I used to, but it still happens. My dad asked me the other day. He should know better.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Art3mis: LOL! Sorry, I stopped to laugh and then accidentally piggybacked on your comment.

    3. Grace*

      My favourite two responses to something like that would have to be either “Thanks, I’m not hungry” or “I don’t know, maybe we’re doing something wrong, if I skype you tonight will you walk us through the steps on video so you can check our technique?” To be fair, I’ve heard of the second one working best on mothers and MiLs – maybe a bit much for a coworker…

    4. Close Bracket*

      “I love kids, but I could never finish a whole one.”

      I think that was W. C. Fields.

    5. Lana Kane*

      A friend of my mom was childfree by choice – this was back in the 80s, when that was even more “scandalous”, and the question wasn’t as widely considered to be rude. Her usual reply was (I, uh, softened the language a bit!):

      Them: Hey, when are you going to have kids?
      Her: When I unexpectedly stop having my period.

  45. Yvonne*

    Honestly I’ve never understood the need to try to be polite when someone asks intrusive questions about women having children. I never wanted kids and would simply say that if asked. Not rudely, but directly. No dancing around trying to be polite. My feeling is, if you ask a question then you need to be able handle an unexpected answer. People can be really weird and defensive about it for some reason, but I always just decided that’s their problem, not mine. And if you go that route (it doesn’t even have to be true, but your reasons are, as you say, personal and no one else’s business), be prepared for knowing smiles and “oh, you will change your mind.”

    1. Ali G*

      One of the great benefits of being 40 and looking much younger, is that I can answer “oh you will change your mind” with: “well I’m 40 years old so I am pretty sure if I was going to change m mind I would have done it by now!”
      So satisfying.

    2. Lepidoptera*

      be prepared for knowing smiles and “oh, you will change your mind.”

      “So will you, but kids are non-refundable.”

      (If they crack up, they’re my kind of people. If they get pissy, we probably won’t get on.)

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I should share that with a few childfree friends who are getting tired of it as a conversation topic.

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘…be prepared for knowing smiles and “oh, you will change your mind.” ‘

      For years I got that comment and those smiles from, well, everyone. That bothered me so much more than the nosy question.

  46. Elizabeth Proctor*

    OP #5, if it was 17 days post-interview and you hadn’t heard anything you probably weren’t moving forward in the process anyway…

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This depends on when you interviewed and you don’t always know. If you’re first up, my next 2 or 3 may not be until a week later depending on scheduling. So it can easily drag out 15-20 days for the first interviewee.

      You should feel free to reach out and see if you’re still being considered but do so with understanding and curiosity, not contempt and accusations.

  47. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #5 Yes, it blows your chances if you’re accusatory or aggressive sounding. It shows lack of patience and understanding that these things take time, we pitch a candidacy in the trash for signs of aggression or snappiness.

    I’ve literally gotten an email with a poor tone and immediately pulled out the “Our apologies for the lengthy wait, we have gone in a different direction with this position. Best of luck.” response. We don’t want to bring that energy into our organization.

    1. Heidi*

      Agree to all of this. It’s similar to how an applicant’s interactions with the front desk on the day of an interview matter. The information outside of the formal application requirements can tell you a lot about whether this is someone you want to work with long term. The description of this email makes it sounds like went from desperation to accusation and was too long, and those are not features I tend to value in my coworkers. However, not having read the email itself, it’s possible that it’s not nearly as damaging as OP5 thinks it is. I sense a lot of anxiety here, and anxiety can make small problems seem magnified.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      On the flip side, 17 days of ghosting by the company after an interview is rude af.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          17 days isn’t a long time for a hiring process. But it is a long time to leave someone hanging. Especially if you’re going to tone-police their inquiries. It takes 30 seconds to write an e-mail giving a timeline or next steps.

          This is also why I always explain to the candidates what the next step is and estimated timeline.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It is rude, that’s for sure! We try to make it very clear how long the wait may be for a decision and if someone gets ghosted, I would be understanding of a heated “You know what, you guys stink and you’re rude, eat a sack of turds, you shady jerks!”

        But if you want the job, if you want to work here, you have to play nice. Burn the bridge or don’t, you can’t just kick out a few supports and see if it wobbles.

    3. DrAtos*

      #5 should also look at some of the older posts here at Ask A Manager. I believe there have been sample sentences of what to put in a follow-up email that I have used with just a little tweaking. Next time, when in doubt, search for a solution here, then take a breather before sending an email you may regret. And as someone also waiting for news from an employer I interviewed with three weeks ago (government employer so I’m expecting a longer wait) I completely understand the frustration. I have not received a response to my thank you or follow up emails and it is infuriating. I would love to send an email telling them off for being rude and unprofessional, but I can’t.

  48. Snickerdoodle*

    OP#4, I think it sounds like the other Jane is probably not cut out for the board position if she’s “angrily confronting” strangers and “furious” at the wrong person. I think it would be appropriate for your wife to talk to the board about the mixup and offer to step down if desired, but I definitely think the board also needs to know how the person who was recommended is treating your wife. I wouldn’t want to hire somebody who lashed out at an innocent party like that.

  49. Polaris*

    A possible response for #1: “You know, I’m pretty happy with the ones I have already!” e.g. the kids you work with every day. Or just “I find the work I do plenty fulfilling.”

    I’ll save my screed against why I hate the “when are you having kids” question, because it’s been covered many times, but damn, I hate it.

  50. Bunny Girl*

    #1 – I’m petty but I love making it awkward for the asker. That’s such a personal question and I don’t know why anyone who isn’t in a romantic relationship with you would even bring it up. I had a hysterectomy at a young age (medical reasons) but I never wanted to have children so I was really cool with it. Like really cool with it. So people get once chance to ask if I’m having kids and I just reply with “Oh no they’re not for us.” And then if they push it I straight face tell them I had a hysterectomy. I’m still fairly young so it makes people really, really uncomfortable and it’s so great and hopefully teaches them to keep themselves out of others business going forward.

    1. AshaGreyjoy*

      I saw a post on reddit about responses to people asking why you don’t have kids and answering “Because I promised my firstborn to a witch and I really don’t want to make good on that promise,” which I don’t think I could every actually say, but I think it’s hysterical

      1. Bunny Girl*

        That’s hilarious. Part of my problem is I had a lot of trouble getting medical treatment for my issues because it would impact my fertility and it’s just made me a really salty person about the whole thing. So while I definitely have the stones to stand up for myself, I really really lack the tact.

        1. Politely - I don't answer deeply personal questions...*

          Say, “I don’t answer deeply personal questions, especially in the workplace.” Politely change the subject. The question is too personal, and nothing about the answer or lack thereof is anyone’s business. All people, in MY experience, have apologized and gladly moved on to the topic change (a courtesy out) I gave them.

  51. PhyllisB*

    Then they start asking if you have grand-children. I do, (six!!) and I love talking about them to people who are interested, but when people say no, then others will say how sad, or something else offensive.
    I have three children, and when we were expecting #3 I got a lot of “Was it planned?” so I feel others’ pain.

  52. Jennifer*

    I don’t know why it’s so hard to understand that you can love kids but not want any of your own. People assume that if you don’t want kids you must hate them or if you work with kids you must want them. People are just more complicated than that.

  53. Smuckers*

    A company pulled a bait-and-switch like #2 on me once, back in the depths of the recession in 2008. I went through a whole back and forth with them about a position that was advertised in my city (they had jobs listed for maybe 6-8 different locations). Eventually, the person I’d been messaging with fessed up that they were only hiring on the opposite side of the US. He asked if I’d be willing to relocate! :-O

    I’d been pretty desperate to get out of a toxic job, so it really pulled the rug out from under me that I’d been speaking with them in good faith, but they were talking to me under false pretenses. I know you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket, but jobs in my field were almost impossible to come by back then, and this had been a ray of hope that I could actually find a new job.

    I’m about 10 years further on in my career now and that same company has tried to recruit me a time or two. I let them know in no uncertain terms that I have no interest in working for a company that would lie to candidates like that.

    OP#2, your CEO is shooting themselves in the foot. It sucks to find out you’ve been lied to. If people find out it’s a bad-faith posting, they will remember it.

  54. LaDeeDa*

    I am in my early 40s and I still hear “It’s not too late! Janet Jackson had her baby at 50!!” UGGG people!!
    It always pisses me off that someone in passing may ask my husband if he has kids, and when he says no, no one ever tries to convince him to have children or questions him as to why not.
    I have always done what Alison suggested and diverted the questions “no, I don’t have kids. How about you?”
    “We don’t have a kid plan right now, how about you?”
    While that usually works, I did snap a few times over the last 20 yrs at those who were utterly clueless and wouldn’t STFU- one, in particular, was this pompous ass that was literally shoving his baby in my face and going on and on loudly that “you’re next! don’t you want one! You two got married after us, so you’re next in line” while my husband’s huge family was staring at me (always the woman, never the man). I tried to divert multiple times and to be polite but he wasn’t taking the very obvious social cues I was throwing back at him, finally I snapped and said: “We can’t have children, so would you give it a rest already!”
    One thing I like about being over 40 is I am much more confident now to stand up for myself. For years and years I put up with people being rude or obtuse or pushy with me to prevent making them feel bad, I don’t do that anymore. If they are too clueless to know what is socially acceptable or not, it isn’t my place to protect them, I have to protect myself. That is the one lesson I wish I could teach all young women– you don’t have to be the social fixer or to protect people from their own stupidity, so if someone is making you feel uncomfortable or bad – then tell them so.

    1. Ginger*

      “always the woman, never the man”

      Ain’t that the trust. I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

    2. Pebbles*

      “I’d rather not be making college payments during my retirement years, thank you!”

  55. Alice*

    OP#1, I feel you. I’m a woman in my 30s working in a mostly female office and the only way I could get people to ask me when I was having children was by being extremely rude. I did the whole routine, tried deflection, tried evasion, tried not answering questions, flat out told them I’m not having children because I don’t want any. It was useless. A couple of my coworkers even started telling me stuff like “when you have children of your own you’ll understand” or “it’s different after you become a mom” which I found extremely patronizing. One day I was having another rehash of this conversation and I said as usual “I don’t want children” in what I hope was a firm, matter-of-fact way. A coworker told me”oh well you’ll change your mind, accidents happen” and I was so galled by her tone that I lost my temper and replied “abortions happen too” and she looked absolutely appalled and shut up. I usually try to steer away from controversial topics but that time I absolutely lost it. Would not recommend doing this on purpose but I have to say it was effective, it’s been months and hardly anybody is asking me about children.

    1. Alice*

      * the only way I could STOP people, or, the only way I could get people to STOP ASKING me

      Do you ever have two versions of the same sentence in your head, both good and correct, and manage to type an incorrect mix of both? :/ Asking for a friend.