my intern asked if my pregnancy was planned, cold-emailing companies about job openings, and more

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

1. My intern asked if my pregnancy was planned

I’m pregnant with my first child. I’m just finishing my first trimester and have been sharing the news with my manager, reports, and coworkers. It’s gone really well — even my sometimes stodgy boss was delighted!

I’m wondering what, if anything, I should do in response to my intern’s reaction, though. Like everyone else I manage, I told her one-on-one behind closed doors. Her response was really odd — she asked if the pregnancy was planned. (For the record, I am in my late 30s.) I was so taken aback in the moment that I didn’t even know how to respond. I think I may have just laughed it off. The more I think about it, though, I’m wondering if I should talk to her about her response and explain how inappropriate that question (or really any question related to a pregnancy!) is. She comes from a pretty sheltered background — religious home schooling followed by a small conservative college experience — so this might just be her genuinely not understanding that this isn’t an appropriate response. Do you think I should say something, or just let it go?

Oh my! I could argue it either way. One one hand, it might have been an awkward remark that she kicked herself for later and it would be a kindness to let it go. On the other hand, maybe she thinks it was fine and doesn’t realize there was anything wrong with what she said and will happily ask it again. But since she’s an intern and part of the reason she’s there is to learn professional norms, I’m coming down on the side of saying something.

It’s always more awkward to bring up something like this after the fact, but you could say, “I want to follow up on something you said the other day. When I told you I was pregnant, you asked if it was planned. I want to make sure you know you should never ask that of a colleague — or really, anyone unless you’re extremely close to them (and maybe not even then!). It’s a very personal question, and it’s information someone will share if they want to, but not something you should ask.” If she seems mortified, you could add, “Please don’t be mortified. I realize you probably don’t have a lot of peers getting pregnant and so may not have much experience with pregnancy announcements. I just wanted you to know going forward.”

2. Should I cold-email companies a second time?

I am a recent college graduate who’s been out of school for three months and is actively looking for a job in my field. My last internship recommended me a few places I can reach out to, and inquire about job openings. Of course, I heeded their advice and sent all of them cold emails. After all of them said they had no openings (or just didn’t respond), I turned to Indeed and other job posting sites instead.

I would still like to work at one of the places that were recommended to me, and I’ve had no contact with them for two and a half months. I’m tempted to try another round of cold emails to re-inquire about openings, but I don’t want to come off as an irritating stalker man and/or hurt my chances of working with them in the future. So in your experience, how often is too often for sending a second cold email? Or, would it be better to not do so at all?

Don’t go back for a second try. The truth is, cold emails rarely work. Sometimes they do! But most of the time they don’t. Most places advertise the openings they have. If they don’t, it’s usually because they plan to hire from their existing network, and the chances of you being the perfect fit for an opening that you haven’t even heard described are slim. Again, this doesn’t mean it never works — occasionally it does. (Although it does, it’s usually with small businesses that don’t have great hiring processes … which are often rife with problems and not an ideal place to start your career.)

It was fine to send the emails originally because, who knows, it could have led to something. But re-inquiring a second time risks being annoying, and there’s little chance of a pay-off. You’re better off putting most of your energy into applying for jobs that you know for sure exist and are hiring (along with things like building your network). I wouldn’t prioritize Indeed though — try to find niche sites for the field you want to work in.

3. Should I write my boss’s performance goals?

My boss, Kenny, is not great. He hides in his office, doesn’t mentor junior team members (I’m senior on my team, junior only to Kenny), is dismissive of groups we work closely with (to the point of emailing us during other teams’ presentations and meetings), and is slow to adopt and quick to reject new methods that would really help our work. I’m frustrated and applying elsewhere. This role would be perfect for me if Kenny wasn’t my boss. I feel like he could be threatened by me, but his role is very secure here. He’s been at my company for 11 years, managing for 6. I’ve been here for 3.5 years but have 6 years of experience in my field.

I brought my frustrations to his boss, Sara, six months ago and again today. I had a list of concerns from my team and had examples for each. (They come to me, not Kenny, because they feel like he doesn’t listen. He doesn’t.) Sara and I discussed the list, and ultimately, I told her today that I will be exploring other opportunities to grow in our company. She was sympathetic and understanding. (She’s an incredibly reasonable and capable supervisor, except for not managing Kenny well.) She tried to say that Kenny just doesn’t have soft skills and is still learning, but he’s been a manager for 6 years.

Anyway, at the end of the meeting, Sara said the annual goal setting is coming up and she would consider my concerns. All employees at my company write performance goals, and generally, I like the process. Sara asked me to look at my list of “Kenny doesn’t…” items and rewrite them as goals for him to use in 2020. This sounds crazy, right?! I would love you to provide some context or maybe language to push back. Sara could easily rewrite my list as “I will…” goals for Kenny. I don’t want to do any more of his work than I’m already doing (managing temps, mentoring interns, writing role descriptions, etc.) and writing his goals feels crazy.

Sara said Kenny’s job is secure until he screws up. I (politely) pointed out that Kenny lacks management skills, but Sara’s hands are probably tied. I’m ready to move up and use my skills in a better department or company regardless.

Yeah, Sara shouldn’t have asked you to do that. Kenny should be writing his own goals, and he’s not capable of doing that, Sara should be the one working on it with him, not you.

That said, it’s possible that this is an opportunity to get some pressure put on Kenny to operate differently. It’s not right that Sara is putting this on you, but if she’s basically saying “write down what you think Kenny should be achieving in the next year,” I’d take her up on that.

4. Can ask my coworker to recycle?

My company has been going through massive growth in the past year and a half (growing from 25ish to almost 50 employees!) and the precious space we had is being filled. A month ago, another new coworker started and now sits at the (previously empty) desk next to me, and I’ve been trying to make her feel welcome.

She’s also now sharing my very small trash can. I’m not sure if the company just didn’t realize they forgot to give her one, or if one is on back-order, but even though it still lives under my desk, she’s started using it as well. I don’t care about that; there’s usually enough room for both of us.

However, she’s taken to throwing away a LOT of recyclables even though we have very clearly marked recycling in the kitchen, and it makes me feel awful! We go through a lot of 11″x17″ paper in the nature of our work, so it’s very obvious when 25 sheets of large paper are sticking out of the small trash can. I’ve been waiting until she’s not around and then taking the large/obvious recyclables to the kitchen to recycle on my own (large papers, plastic water bottles, etc).

I really don’t mean to be passive aggressive in my behaviors, and I hope she’s never noticed (it’s usually after she leaves for the day). I just feel awkward telling her to recycle something when it’s not my business to tell her what to do. But she’s new — what if she didn’t see the recycling in the kitchen? Should I mind my own business and keep acting as recycling police after she leaves, or should I speak up, potentially making her feel ashamed, or coming across as overly nosy?

Say something! It’s not about giving her orders, it’s about explaining there’s a better way to handle that trash. Because she’s new, it’s reasonable to assume she simply might not realize it. And you even have a bit of extra standing to say something because she’s filling up your trash can (now apparently your co-owned trash can, but still one you have an interest in).

You can just say, “I noticed you’re putting a lot of paper in the trash can. It should actually go in the recycling bin in the kitchen.”

Obviously, don’t turn it into a war like this one, but a simple comment like this is fine.

5. What does “entrepreneurial” mean in a job posting?

What does “entrepreneurial” mean in a job description? I think it means proactive, innovative in developing solutions, and passionate but I’m not quite sure. Does it literally mean you have to have started your own business or nonprofit or side project? Do I have to work outside of work (in my spare time) to be a viable candidate? I prefer not to. FYI, I am a product manager though I have seen “entrepreneurial” in descriptions for other roles.

No, it doesn’t mean you need to have started your own business. “Entrepreneurial” in a job posting is referring to character traits — it means that you’re able to take a project and run with it on your own, without being told what to do every step of the way, and that you’ll have a drive to build or grow something. It’s about being proactive and innovative, as you mentioned. Someone who likes a lot of structure and existing systems and policies to guide what they do might not thrive in that job. Someone who’s willing to figure things out on their own and take some risks might.

{ 475 comments… read them below }

  1. PollyQ

    LW#1 — I vote “Yes” on telling your intern how inappropriate that question was, especially since you’re not sure exactly how you responded in the moment. You’d be doing her (and the rest of us) a big favor.

    1. Uncle Bob

      I’m guessing that since the internal is likely 20ish that’s a response that he/she would have with friend their own age if a pregnancy was announced… And it just didn’t occur to them to speak otherwise.

      1. Marmaduke

        While it’s not OP1’s place to teach the intern this, that’s not really an appropriate question to ask any but the closest friends and relatives anyway. It just isn’t anyone’s business, and there’s no need for most people to know.

        1. Engineer Girl

          Yet boundaries are learned. Someone that young may not have learned them yet.
          I can remember asking all sorts of inappropriate questions when I was young and had less experience in the world. That’s what kids do.
          It’s also culturally dependent. Not everyone grows up in a white collar professional world.

          1. Marmaduke

            I’m from a blue collar background, and this question seemed wildly out of line to me by the time I was in my late teens. I guess I just find it jarring that some people ask about others’ reproductive lives so freely.

            1. Avasarala

              OP says the intern is from a relatively sheltered background, so we don’t know what background she is coming from where that might be an acceptable (or a tolerated) question. All we know is here is a lesson she hasn’t learned yet, and it would be a kindness for OP to teach it to her before it gets her in real trouble.

              1. Observer

                Eh, I’m from a fairly sheltered background, too. In general, in communities like that asking if someone’s pregnancy was planned would be considered WILDLY inappropriate – and so would discussing that with anyone but your doctor, clergy person or CLOSEST family / friends. It would be considered on par with asking if the baby was conceived when you went of vacation or the like.

                1. Lynn Marie

                  I think everyone agrees it’s inappropriate. And yet, people say inappropriate things every day . . . How to approach it helpfully and kindly with the intern is the question at hand.

                2. Observer

                  I agree that the important question to answer is how to provide the intern with good information. My point only is that it’s not a good idea to conclude that this mistake was likely caused by her sheltered and conservative background.

              2. Working Mom Having It All

                It’s baffling to me because, on the one hand, when I was internship age, I had basically no friends my age having planned pregnancy. On the other hand… that’s precisely because I grew up in mainstream middle class white America, where childbearing is usually put off till one’s mid 20s at least. Being from the Bible Belt and knowing a few people who grew up in sheltered religious families, I know that a lot of those folks are brought up to expect marriage around 18-20 and children to follow immediately, with no “planning” of any kind. So this seems like both an understandable (if inappropriate) thing to have happen, and also jarring. Like WHY would someone ask that?

            2. Liza

              I don’t think its always necessarily about culture. For me it’s just a very limited experience of people around me having babies and not knowing how to respond. I try to moderate my responses so as to not wander into inappropriate territory, but I could see me saying something along similar lines as a way of asking “please give me a clue as to what type of news this is so I can respond accordingly”. And I’m 34, so way beyond teenage years. In a workplace, I might default to “okay” or “oh right” in an attempt to avoid being too personal but I’ve never experienced that so I can’t tell how I’d react.

              1. Agnodike

                “Wow! How are you feeling?” is a helpful response. Empathetic, doesn’t congratulate someone who doesn’t want to be congratulated, leaves room for the response “excited!” so you know who does want to be congratulated.

                1. Charlotte

                  Ugh no. I hated being asked how I was feeling multiple times of day for the whole 6 months of my pregnancy.

                2. Emi.

                  I actually really hate this for the workplace. “How are you feeling?” is a personal question, and pregnancy is nine long months of personal questions from people you don’t have a personal relationship with. Later in pregnancy it sounds like “Are you nauseated? Are you tired? Got that round ligament pain yet?” which is annoying enough, but as a response to an announcement it just seems like a very slightly oblique version of “So are you happy about this?”

                  Just say congratulations, and if she’s not happy about pregnancy she’s still unlikely to be put out, because it’s the generic/default response.

                3. Ann Perkins

                  Echoing that “how are you feeling” gets to be an annoying question quickly during pregnancy. And if they’re not excited, it’s doubtful she would share that with an intern. “Congratulations!” is the appropriate response.

                4. Quickbeam

                  I say nothing to anyone re: reproduction even if they are crowning in front of me. Not my business. Sometimes people get hurt that I don’t show more interest (I am an nurse in a non-clinical role) but I’m ok with that.

                5. Jane

                  Currently pregnant: ‘oh! How are you feeling?’ has been one of the best responses I’ve had so far and is a great way to reply if you’re not sure what else to say/how to approach it. It gave me the opportunity to say ‘excited!’ or ‘very nervous’ or whatever. I recommend wholeheartedly.

                1. Liza

                  See, that’s what I’m specifically avoiding because it feels so presumptuous it makes me squirm! I’d rather avoid bringing any emotion into it at all unless I feel confident that it’s welcome. I understand why it’s the default, but it feels totally alien to me. When other people say it I just figure they know something I don’t and I’ll follow their lead, but if it was a one to one, I think I’d hold off until I knew the sentiment was going to be received well. Especially if I wasn’t friends with the person.

                2. MK

                  Lisa, I think that’s a bit over-the-top cautious, especially for a coworker, who wouldn’t be telling you about it if they hadn’t at least decided to keep the child. And, yes, congradulations is assuming the pregnancy is a positive thing, but it’s hardly an outpouring of emotion.

                3. Justme, The OG

                  I once congratulated a coworker on her pregnancy and it was definitely not a good thing (there were medical issues that made the pregnancy not viable to term).

                4. Joielle

                  Yeah, I agree – Congratulations is always appropriate. If the coworker is telling you, you know they’re at least planning to keep the child, so even if it wasn’t welcome news to begin with, they’re probably trying to see it in a positive light.

                5. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Yes, in a work context “congratulations” is the appropriate response. If they’re not happy about the situation and want to share that, they will, but otherwise in a work context you should be defaulting to congratulations, period.

                6. CMart

                  @ Liza – I think you’re in the clear with “congrats” with the people you’re worried about :)

                  People you aren’t close with? Aren’t going to be telling you about a pregnancy they’re feeling conflicted about. Maybe they were at first, but by the time they’re telling you they’ve made peace with that choice and a “congratulations” is more than appropriate.

                7. Poppy

                  Agreed. Someone at work told me that she was pregnant. Took me aback because I was busy with a customer query. I probably responded incorrectly with an “oh yes?” and a mildly tell me more expression. Turns out she was not happy about it.

                  Responses to news of a pregnancy are sometimes going to feel off, especially if you’re looking for specific responses. Sometimes people don’t say what you want them to, especially if they’re fresh out of college and new to such situations.

                  OP, please don’t let her think she Did It Rong and it’s All Her Fault. Please think about what signals you’re sending – smiles, body language, a preamble of “I’ve got good news,” etc. Please think about what else she might have on her mind at the time. A friend once came out to me while I was worrying myself sick about a very recent cancer scare. I’m sure my response seemed a bit distracted to her.

              2. Anna

                I think this is why it is wise of the pregnant person telling the news to give the other person some clue on their feelings, either with their facial expression or with words: ‘I have exciting news: I’m pregnant!!!’ or ‘Yeah, something rather weird happened… I’m pregnant…’ We all want to congratulate a happy pregnant person on their future kid asap and we all would hate to congratulate an unhappily pregnant person because that sucks.

                1. Sunflower

                  ‘Yeah, something rather weird happened… I’m pregnant…’ isn’t appropriate for the work place. If someone said that to me who wasn’t one of my close friends, let alone a boss/coworker, I’d be at a loss for how to respond and assume they want me to console them/talk about it? If you are pregnant and don’t want to discuss it, just keep it logistical. ‘I wanted to let you know I’m pregnant and will be going on Mat leave around X date. This person will be taking over (or just say logistics haven’t been determined yet) but feel free to let me know any questions/concerns you have about the Mat leave’

                2. Anna - Different One

                  The point Anna was making is that it’s up to the person conveying the information to give context clues, not that they have to specifically say “This weird thing happened with my birth control and now I’m pregnant *shrug*.”

                3. Michaela Westen

                  This reminds me of when Murphy Brown learned she was pregnant. She went through the whole day with her friends/colleagues (they were the same people) saying things like “what! how did that happen? Oh my God!” and then when she got home and told her house painter he said “That’s wonderful! Congratulations!” and hugged her. And she said he was the first person all day who was happy for her.

                4. Micklak

                  @Anna, this is a thought provoking response. The pregnant person can telegraph a lot of information in how they deliver the news. Clearly the intern didn’t know how she was supposed to take the news. Is that on the intern or the LW?

              3. Tuna

                Congrats is not presumptuous. People are 100% more likely to want and appreciate that response then having to tell you they’re bummed about being pregnant. The chances of that being something they want to talk to you about in a casual setting is next to nil so it’s best case to just use the easiest response.

                Congrats is not emotive, “how are you feeling” is and opens you way up to those uncomfortable convos you’re avoiding.

                1. Liza

                  I think perhaps it’s a personal thing for me more than anything, but to me it wouldn’t feel comfortable. There have been a few other suggestions on the thread for varying contexts that I can probably lean on in the future, though.

                2. Elizabeth West

                  @Liza — Tuna nailed it. It doesn’t have to be “OMG! Con-GRATS!!!!!! I’m so haaaaaaaapppyyyy for you!!!!!”

                  You can just say, “Congratulations.” Or “Congrats!” with one exclamation point. All it has to do is be sincere. It’s just a polite response. Think of the tone as when someone you don’t know holds the door for you and you say, “Thanks.”

                3. Observer

                  Keep in mind that no matter how uncomfortable it feels for you, there is no way that asking if a pregnancy is planned is a remotely appropriate way to deal with your issue.

                  If the kid was not planned and they are NOT happy, that question is going to be MUCH MUCH worse to deal with that a neutral and low key congratulations.

              4. Mrs. H. Kenway

                Exactly. People want to seem interested and feel like it would be polite to ask a question to show their interest, without realizing the question itself isn’t a great one.

                It’s not quite the same thing, but I will never forget asking a casual friend how their HIV test came out after they said they’d been to the doctor to get the results that morning (this was some years ago where you had to get results in person). I wasn’t really thinking about what type of test she’d gotten, just, “My friend went to the doc, hope everything is okay, it’s polite to be interested in what she’s saying,” but the second the words were out of my mouth I was horrified–and before I could take them back she answered. Like you said it was a, “How do I respond to this, how do I let her know I’m interested in her conversation topic,” question, just…not a good one. And once she’d answered I felt like it would be really weird to say, “Oh, gosh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking.” And I had other friends who announced their results from the treetops, so like this young intern, I was coming from a place of, “This is a normal conversation topic.” (Luckily, she was negative, so it was good news, but still.)

                That was over twenty years ago and I still kick myself sometimes for it. Please do say something to the intern, because I still wish I’d had a chance to apologize and she might be glad to have one, too.

            3. The Original Stellaaaaa

              It doesn’t matter what you knew at the age of 20. The intern in question clearly has this knowledge gap, and it’s easier to simply tell her than to imply that it indicates a failing as a human being.

              1. Sylvan

                … The person you’re replying to is replying to a comment on blue collar backgrounds.

                I think it’s fine to approach this as more than an innocent mistake. She kinda asked OP about her sex life. I’m from a conservative Bible Belt background, I don’t have the sharpest social skills, and I wouldn’t think of doing something that inappropriate.

                1. mamma mia

                  I don’t view the intern’s question as being as outrageous as everyone else seems to find it. I actually think it’s kind of funny. You said that the intern is inappropriate for asking about her “sex life” but isn’t someone saying they’re pregnant also talking about their sex life? And no one would argue that announcing pregnancy is somehow improper.

                  I would let it go at this point, OP. It’s not worth drudging it up for what is, most likely, explained by a slip of the tongue. I think you could’ve said something in the moment for sure but by now, it’s too late and will just come across as petty and unnecessary. It would not be “doing her a kindness” as some other commenters have said. It will be embarrassing her for no reason. Don’t do it.

                2. CMart

                  @mamma mia – I’m also personally not terribly scandalized by the “oh was it planned?” question. I think how people become parents is an interesting thing to know, but I do recognize I’m an outlier on that front. Or at least that it’s something lots of people are curious to find out but simultaneously don’t feel comfortable sharing about themselves.

                  That said, to be nitpicky “I’m pregnant!” doesn’t actually say much about someone’s sex life. There are lots of non-sex ways to have conceived a pregnancy.

                  (though again on a personal note, I was so uncomfortable telling my parents that I, a 30 year old woman happily married for 5 years, was pregnant because that meant they would then know that I’d had sex)

                3. Observer

                  mamma mia, please do not ever ask anyone about whether the baby was planned or not, at least in a work context. Whether it’s seen as asking about people’s sex life or not, it is ABSOLUTELY asking about very persona and private decisions that are none of the business of anyone in the work place.

                  And that is why the OP should DEFINITELY speak up. The intern make a mistake. The OP doesn’t seem to think that she’s a terrible person, just rather naive and clueless. You help people stop doing clueless things by giving them information in a respectful and kind fashion, not by just going about your day.

                4. ggg

                  Agree with @mammamia. I would not ever ask this question of anyone, but I do not think it is scandalous in any way.

                  In the moment, I might have lightheartedly said, “you’re not supposed to ask people that!” and left it. But now that time has gone by, I would let it go.

                5. mamma mia

                  Observer, I never have asked anyone that and wouldn’t ask it of a coworker because I personally wouldn’t care if their baby was planned or not.

                  Given that, I still don’t think it’s as egregious as everyone here does. There’s a lot of pearl clutching over something that I view as relatively innocuous. Slightly awkward, sure, but I still don’t think asking it means she’s “naive and clueless”; that strikes me as really harsh. The only appropriate time for OP to have said something is during the moment. If she says something now, it makes the intern’s awkward comment into something bigger than it is. I strongly recommend leaving it be.

                6. Micklak

                  I’m thirding Mamma Mia’s it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. I’m learning that a lot of people do think it’s a big deal but when I read the letter it seemed like the intern was trying to gather information to understand how to respond.

                  Although I agree with the advice to just say congratulations in a work situation like this, making a blanket assumption that all pregnancies are good news seems a little skewed.

                  I don’t find the question to be awkward. The LW could have offered any number of responses to redirect the conversation. “We’ve always planned to have kids but maybe not right now, so we’ll have to talk about managing workload.” or “it wasn’t planned but I’m really warming up to the idea.” It just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

                7. Mrs. H. Kenway

                  @Mamma Mia I don’t think it’s a huge deal, either; a little awkward, maybe, and I see others’s point, but I wouldn’t personally have been offended at all. And for all we know, the intern has family members dealing with infertility or “We’ve started trying for a baby!” announcements are common in her family/friend group, so she thinks this is something normal for people to discuss.

                  But then, my youngest was a Happy Accident and I (clearly) have no problem telling anyone, with a laugh, that we were actively trying to NOT get pregnant at the time. (Anyone EXCEPT that darling baby, of course–but now that she’s a teen I’m not especially worried about her finding out anymore, because she’s old enough to understand that “unplanned surprise” doesn’t necessarily mean “unwanted.”) I don’t think there’s anything to be embarrassed about with it or that it “means” anything, so yeah, it just doesn’t seem like such a horrifying question to me (although again, I see where others are coming from).

              2. MatKnifeNinja

                At 20, anyone above 35 was a dinosaur when I was that age. It would have never occurred to me that someone would want to deal with a 14 year old at age 49. People around me (back then) had their babies early. Having kid at age 38 wasn’t really planned.

                I also didn’t know about infertility and all that other stuff which would be why someone would have a baby at 35. I was 20 in the early 1980s.

                I had enough sense to keep my mouth shut around expected mothers.

                OP tell the intern that you don’t ask those questions. I recently had a conversation where the woman is single and pregnant. Another asked,”Why would she do that? Did she plan this?”. Questioner is educated. Older than 30. People say inappropriate things all the time.

                1. Environmental Compliance

                  “People say inappropriate things all the time.”

                  See also: educated, older than 40, and *still* constantly asking me and pressuring me to have children (without ever doing the same to Husband). Even better when it was the aunt employed as a nurse who after I flatly said I physically can’t have them, told me that “well, you can get past that.” *eye twitch*

                  Pregnancy and children are for some reason a topic that makes some people lose all sense of tact.

                2. Michaela Westen

                  Growing up in a fundamentalist area in the 70’s it was considered normal to be married and having babies before age 25. I don’t remember any examples of someone over 30 having their first baby but I might not have noticed, being a teen and trying to cope with my own problems.
                  It could be Intern is from a similar background/culture and was surprised at a pregnancy over 35. To me it seems much more common now for people in their 30’s to have their first marriage and first babies. Many of my friends have or are doing that.

                3. technwine

                  I know you may not have meant it this way, but “infertility and stuff” is not the only reason someone would have a baby at 35 and it comes across as a bit demeaning to those of us who have chosen to wait. There are many reasons why people are waiting until their thirties to have kids.

              3. Observer

                The comment was not about whether the intern is a bad person, but about the assumption that “blue collar” or “non-professional” people apparently grow up learning nothing about boundaries.

                1. Oh So Anon

                  Or maybe the assumption is that boundaries are just different, rather than there being no boundaries?

            4. Falling Diphthong

              My guess is that it’s the first time someone directly told her “I’m pregnant.” Rather than the news about “Sue” arriving through the grapevine, along with speculation as to whether it was intended.

              1. Cat

                Well, and also, there is a shift in your 20s from when getting pregnant would be a disaster for your friends to when they start getting pregnant on purpose. I’m 36 and I still remember that being a jarring adjustment to make. I definitely made an awkward comment like “uh, is this a good thing?” when I was 24 or something, and I’ve heard a lot of similar stories. I immediately kicked myself for it as did everyone who’s told me a similar story, but sometimes stuff slips out.

          2. Marion Q

            Not just white/blue collar thing. There are many cultures where boundaries are less defined (whether it’s a good or bad thing is another matter). Where I live this question is totally normal.

            1. Agnodike

              I know this is a personal question, so obviously I understand if you don’t want to answer, but I’m genuinely curious where you live!

              1. Marion Q

                It’s alright! I don’t want to name the country, but the area is South East Asia. You can ask anyone anything here, really. Asking strangers their ethnicity or religion is perfectly acceptable. I don’t really like it, so mostly I don’t ask others, but the fact remains that it is normal here.

                1. MK

                  How do people deal with being brushed off? My own culture is similar in that many subjects that are considered too private to ask about in the U.S. and Northern Europe are common subjects of small talk. On the other hand, we are not as conflict/awkwardness/bluntness-averse; it’s not considered rude to shut these questions down and people usually back off immediately with no hard feelings.

                2. Marion Q

                  MK, for some reason the reply button to your comment doesn’t show, so I’m replying here.

                  I find that generally, as long as you do it politely (vague answer+switching topic+friendly smile/laughter), people take the hint. The scripts given here are definitely too blunt; I wouldn’t tell people that their questions are too personal or private.

                  It also sometimes useful to play the ethnic card. Some ethnic groups, including mine, are more blunt than others. So when the other person won’t back down, I usually just tell them directly that I don’t want to talk about that topic. They’ll usually just think, “oh well, Marion’s an [ethnicity], those people can’t be subtle even if their lives depend on it”. Which, yes, very stereotyping and problematic, but not without its advantages sometimes.

            2. ShortT

              In my ethnic background, too, this happens all the time. Gah. My default response is, “Thank you for caring. I don’t discuss my personal life.” Whenever someone continues to ask questions, I feign confusion and say, “Wouldn’t elaborating be discussion?”

          3. Observer

            Could we just stop with the white collar nonsense? Boundaries are not just the province of the “professional world”.

            This is an inappropriate question to ask in ANY context outside of the closest personal relationships. Of course, it’s not the OP’s place to teach her interns about personal social norms, but if this young woman had those in place, she wouldn’t have asked the question in the first place.

              1. Observer

                I’m not policing anyone’s comments. I’ve got better things to do with my time.

                When you make broad classist statements, you can expect to get called. If you’ve been being called a lot, maybe you’ve been making a lot of broad assumptions about people that aren’t warranted.

                1. Engineer Girl

                  As stated in others comments, there are some cultures where these questions are deemed appropriate.

                  And you personally have made comments on my comments several times now, enough to establish a pattern.

                  There’s a difference between disagreeing for reasons x,y,z and telling someone to stop with the white collar comments. In fact, this is the very first time I’ve made a statement about white collar Vs blue collar differences.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  People do comment on other people’s comments here; doing that multiple times isn’t a sign that they’re policing you, just that they disagree. Let’s leave this here.

        2. MK

          We ask and/or are told thousands of things about other people that there is no real need for us to know. Which questions are ok to ask depend largely on the boundaries of the people involved, not some universal standard.

          This question is inappropriate in a professional relationship and that’s what the OP should be teaching their intern.

          1. LQ

            Strongly agree that this isn’t a universal thing. Assuming that everyone else has the same boundaries and expectations is unrealistic. (If it was a universal this intern wouldn’t have asked it. So no, it clearly isn’t “universal”.) Lay out what is professional in this context to help the intern.

        3. snowglobe

          “…that’s not really an appropriate question to ask any but the closest friends and relatives anyway.”

          I’d argue that’s not a question for close friends or relatives, either. If they want you to know, they will tell you. I can’t imagine asking *anyone* that question.

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            Yeah, I can just imagine the family member who doesn’t think you should be having a(nother) child, or the in-law who didn’t really want you in the family, looking down their nose and saying “on purpose?”

            1. AKchic

              Oh, you mean my mother, stepfather, grandmother, current MIL, and generally anyone who seems to think that my uterus is community property and they all bought a share of it?
              Funny… I don’t recall ever getting money from any of them, nor do any of them actually do anything with the care, feeding, or anything with my other children, but oooh doggie do they have *opinions* on what I can and can’t do.

              My youngest is 10. My stepfather has learned to keep his mouth shut. I don’t speak to my MIL (it’s been glorious to not hear her voice). My mother has learned to avoid certain topics (even if she thinks she still has control of a nearly 40 year old woman with adult children of her own). I embarrass my family in a lot of ways because I don’t do/say what they’d like.

          2. blackcat

            The only context where I see it as always appropriate is a doctor asking a patient, since it’s medically relevant (unplanned pregnancies have worse outcomes/you’re supposed to take folic acid *before* getting pregnant to reduce the risk of neural tube defects).

          3. Michaela Westen

            I once asked friends if their second pregnancy was planned. Because I was curious and knew they wouldn’t mind. It led to an interesting conversation. :)

        4. Mia

          Eh, idk. A lot of friends, especially female friends, are very candid with each other about unplanned pregnancies as soon as they happen. If the intern is still really young, her only experience with pregnancy could very well be hearing devastated young people reveal that kind of news is a really negative light.

          1. bonkerballs

            That’s what I was thinking. I remember there needing to be a transition in my thinking in my early twenties going from the appropriate response to someone telling me they’re pregnant being “oh no, what can i do to help?” to “congratulations.”

          2. pancakes

            It seems unlikely that the intern is incapable of discerning whether someone is distressed or not.

      2. SpiderLadyCEO

        I think this, too. It might have just been automatic – I remember asking a similar question when my first friend told me she was pregnant, because I had no clue if I should be happy for her or offer to drive her to an abortion clinic. Obviously, that’s not the relationship you have with your boss, but I’m willing to bet right now that response is the first one that pops into her head!

        1. Just a policy wonk

          Same, honestly—for the second friend, because the first friend was when we were fifteen and I did drive her to the clinic. It was a rude question but also age is a contextualizing factor. Making the mental switch in my late 20s to assuming that pregnancies were intentional was a bit of a shift tbqh.

        2. blackcat

          Yep.
          A friend told me she was pregnant when we were 19.
          My response was to look at her and say, “Wow. Is there anything I can do to help you right now?”
          And her answer was drive her to an abortion clinic. It could have been talk about baby names or carry around a puke bucket for her.

          1. Catalin

            10/10 perfect response. Everyone make note: “Wow, how can I help you right now?” is the perfect response.

            1. SK

              I still think that would be a very off-putting thing to say to a 30-something coworker or supervisor.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Agreed.

                Seriously, “congratulations” is all that’s called for with a work-related announcement. Yes, the person may have mixed feelings or negative feelings about their pregnancy. Work is not the place where most people are going to discuss that, and congratulations is the socially accepted response to a pregnancy announcement at work (assuming it’s not accompanied by unusual details that would change that). Even if the person doesn’t particularly feel like being congratulated, it’s similar to “good morning” or “how are you?” — it’s a social ritual that you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) read as much into as some people are doing here.

            2. Emily

              I think that was a good response for that context, but wouldn’t be appropriate in most work settings.

            3. AKchic

              Trust me, no boss or coworker with *appropriate* work boundaries is going to actually answer that question honestly. If I had someone ask me that, I’d say “just continue to do your job as assigned, and everything will be fine”.

              Whether my (hypothetical) pregnancy is planned or not, I’m certainly not about to tell my coworkers that!

            4. blackcat

              Uh, I wouldn’t say it in a work context. In a friend context, if I’m not sure what they want? Absolutely. It’s really neutral yet supportive.
              For work, if I was really not close to the person, I might say something closer to what others have suggested, “Oh, wow, that’s big news! Let me know if the timelines for any projects need to get shifted around.” Something that’s basically like “Oh, cool, you’re a human who is pregnant. Please notify me if that impacts our work together, and I will adjust my plans accordingly.”

        3. Zillah

          Yep. I definitely asked whether it was cause for happiness before congratulating friends when we were younger. It’s not an appropriate question for work regardless, but context is relevant.

      3. Narya

        I wonder, given her background, if she asked this inappropriate question because she needed to know whether to congratulate her or not. I had a friend long ago whose sheltered, religious upbringing meant she was taught never to congratulate or express happiness over out-of-wedlock pregnancies, which at our age back then were mainly unplanned. So… yuck.

    2. Anastasia Beaverhousen

      Definitely voting “Yes.” The question is inappropriate, and since she’s an intern, you have standing to correct her behaviour; it’s assumed that interns are still learning, after all. Nip it in the bud, now, and hopefully she’ll learn the boundary and not ask anyone else in the workplace about their sex life.

    3. Adlib

      I think maybe that was the intern’s response because she was told one-on-one behind closed doors. That’s a perfectly normal way to tell someone, but maybe she figured it was a secret and not everyone knew so she said the first thing that came to mind. I also vote yes on telling her it’s not appropriate. Hopefully she is already mortified, and this is just a kindness of reinforcing that yes, this was a faux pas.

      1. Jen2

        Yes, that’s what I was thinking too. If OP had announced in front of a large group and others started congratulating her, I’m sure the intern wouldn’t have chimed in with her question.

      2. AKchic

        That’s kind of my thought too. Things got muddled when LW pulled each person into her office individually to tell them about her pregnancy. I mean, I get not wanting to make a big group announcement, but in my mind, it almost makes it seem like it was some kind of secret and she wanted a hush-hush meeting, which almost begs the question of “are you happy, or is this something you want kept quiet” whether it really was meant that way or not.
        However, I’m assuming what happened was is this: LW actually just told each person as she saw them during the day as they popped into her office. It was more convenient than calling each person in as if it were some kind of formal meeting, and she didn’t have to have a big group announcement.

        1. Kim, No Longer Esq.

          Yeah, honestly, I would feel a bit weird being told one-on-one. Not to the degree that I think it’s the wrong thing for OP to have done, but it does put people on the spot to have a reaction, in front of their boss, to news that is ultimately personal and not work-related.

          I’m not going to have children, but if I did, I think I would just send an email to all of my direct reports and others I work closest with (not Bcc’d, so they can all see who has been told and who hasn’t), and then talk during check-ins about what that means for the work (leave, etc) after people have been able to have their own responses privately.

    4. Kathleen_A

      I have heard plenty of absolutely, completely, well-beyond-their-20s people ask this very question. There are people who will ask all sorts of ludicrously personal questions without, seemingly, any idea of how ludicrous they are being: “Was it planned?” “Were you using fertility drugs?” “How does your spouse feel about it?” “Were you using birth control? What kind of birth control?” “Are you going to breast feed?” WTH?

      It’s not about age or even experience; it’s about being taught the norms for a given situation. Some people never do learn those norms. Perhaps in some cases they don’t want to learn them, but I think mostly they’ve just never been taught and have never even really thought about how inappropriate discussions of reproduction are to…well, almost any relationship but definitely a working relationship.

      So I agree that the OP just needs to have a nice, low-key talk with the intern. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Her colleagues from this day henceforth will thank you!

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen

        Yep, I feel like this is similar to the “Oh, you’re getting married, congrats! When will you make babies?” crowd. Not necessarily about age, just lack of awareness & boundaries. But if they’re young, like the intern, they’ll probably take the correction better than someone older and more set in their ways.

        1. Kathleen_A

          Exactly. I think the chances of the intern actually learning something here are really pretty high!

        2. EH

          When I got married, our fortysomething receptionist at OldJob asked if we were gonna have babies, and when I said no, she asked why we were getting married at all then. People can be ludicrously intrusive about life stage transitions – if OP can nip it in the bud with this intern, it would be a public service.

    5. Ann Perkins

      I agree with saying something to the intern. Alison’s script is great. I went through this last year – our first had turned 1 and my husband had recently returned from a deployment. My COO who covers many of my work duties when I’m out blurted out, “Wow, was this planned?” with an aghast look on her face. I was stunned at her reaction. Later that day, I spoke up about it and was blunt about that being an intrusive question and she shouldn’t ask that of anyone again. We’re on the same level in the org chart although she’s been here much longer. She bristled at first, but after the weekend she said she’d thought about it all weekend and realized what a horrible reaction it was and apologized. It made it better but definitely left a bit of a stain on our relationship. I don’t regret saying something, but I wish people would default to “Congratulations!” Or “Wow, what big news!” and not try to overthink it so much in a work context.

      1. Valprehension

        ooh, “Wow, what big news!” is a great option. Much more open-ended than Congratulations. I love it!

    6. ToS

      The question does not deserve a direct answer, however, you can coach them by asking “you do realize you are asking a deeply personal question that makes me question what you know about professionalism”

      OK, that might be a bit harsh, but I don’t have a lot of time to finesse, maybe others can refine this point.

      If you are coaching them professionally, you can have a short conversation about focusing on topics that stay away from birth control, health conditions that can go down the slippery slope toward bolstering pregnancy discrimination and its extension gender discrimination, as well as ADA/GINA concerns.

      1. ToS

        And as others have said – the ONLY professional response to someone disclosing initial pregnancy news is CONGRATULATIONS! And let the pregnant employee lead the conversation, even if it’s – I’m late because of morning sickness. General questions like, what are you ideas for managing work with this? So you get to a point of discerning what flexibility might be sought as part of the conversation.

    7. Adminx2

      Yeah. At work I’d probably always just smile and say “Ah great!” but anywhere else I do take a moment to ask “And how do you feel about that?” because I dislike contributing to the idea that all women need to be happy about all pregnancies and make it safe to admit otherwise rather than presume.

      Letting the intern know about that office norm/fiction is nice.

    8. KayDay

      I remember right out of college I had a coworker who was well into her pregnancy. I had absolutely no idea how to respond or what I could/couldn’t say (especially since her obviously impending maternity leave would impact me, but no one was telling me anything). That said, I’m pretty sure I knew that “is it planned?” is not an appropriate question, but beyond that I was pretty clueless.

      Maybe the OP could also provide some helpful hints on things that are appropriate to say? That would take some of the awkwardness of telling her, especially if she is mortified that she got it wrong.

  2. Lena Clare

    I once (to my shame) asked a friend if her pregnancy was planned. I immediately regretted it, and blustered an apology afterwards, but I have no idea what possessed me to say such a thing. I’ve never done it before or since and really I was in my 30s so it’s not like I shouldn’t have known.

    Anyway yes I think it would be a kindness to tell your intern that that question is inappropriate.

    1. Double A

      When I was maybe 23, 24 in my first professional job, my boss who was in her mid 30s told me she was pregnant and my response was, “And you’re…happy about this?”

      I can’t remember when it dawned on me what an inappropriate response that was, but it has since very much dawned on me. I think it mostly had to do with not being in a place where pregnancy and children would be remotely welcome in my life, and most of my friends were in the same boat. (I’m now in my mid 30s and have a kid).

      I didn’t need to be told it was inappropriate, because life does tend to sort you out on that, but I think it would have been fine if my boss had told me. I mean, other than the fact I would have wanted to die.

      1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

        I have no idea what tone you said that in, but I’m imagining it in a tone of complete bewilderment that ANYONE could be happy about being pregnant and I’m sorry but I can’t stop laughing!

        1. Double A

          In my memory that is EXACTLY how I said it! I am really hoping that my memory is inaccurate and I wasn’t THAT clueless but… yeah. It was not a shining moment.

          1. SpiderLadyCEO

            I said the exact same thing to a close friend! It was a text conversation though, so I came across as neutral–but she was unmarried in a new relationship, and though she was older then me (by a lot, she was 30, and I don’t even think I was 22 yet) and I had no clue if she was happy about the pregnancy! I didn’t know if I should congratulate her, or offer to drive her to an abortion clinic.

            (The baby is now four or five years old, the boyfriend is her husband, and they have another two year old. Great family!)

            1. Gaia

              To be fair, I once asked that of a friend … but I also knew she wasn’t sure if she really wanted to have kids and she was telling me early on that she’d just found out she was pregnant and it was possible the conversation was going to go another route. Turns out she was ecstatic and is now the very happy parent of an adorable 3 year old.

              And I’d have never questioned that if we were not good friends and I wasn’t party to previous conversations that led me to believe she might actually not be.

              1. Jadelyn

                I actually ran into my college bff on my way out of the campus clinic when I’d just found out I was pregnant and was still reeling from the news. She could tell from my face that something was up, asked what happened, and I said “I’m pregnant” in a tone of vague bewilderment and shock.

                She immediately hugged me and said “Oh my god, I’m so sorry!”

                …and then drew back, gave me an “oh shit did I just fuck that up?” look and said “Wait, is this good news or bad news?”

                It made me laugh, I reassured her that she’d responded correctly the first time, and the next words out of her mouth were to offer to go with me to PP for my appointment if I wanted company. I’ve just never, in the intervening 15 years, forgotten the “oh shit” face and the way she said “wait, is this good news or bad news?”

            2. Daniela

              Oh gosh, as a clueless 23 year old, when my best friend told me she was pregnant, I asked her what she was going to do. In my defense, neither of us was excited about babies or financially/emotionally equipped to handle a pregnancy at that point in our lives. To me, that would have been devastating. Even so, I realized as soon as I said it that it was not appropriate. I still cringe (her son is now in his early 20s and an amazing human being).

          2. Tigger

            Yep. I am in my mid 20’s and I still have those moments of thinking “I should react”. I have a large social circle so I know a few people who had unplanned pregnancies and got very hostile with me when I congregated them because of what is going on in their lives.

      2. On Fire

        When a colleague/friend told me years ago that she was pregnant, I said, “congratulations?…” (tentative, voice trailing off)
        She said, “Yes, we’re happy about it. In shock, but happy.” And I said, “okay, then, congratulations!” (enthused)
        In my defense, she had voiced before that she didn’t want kids, didn’t think she could ever handle being a parent, etc. (Antibiotics and birth control don’t mix well, kids.)

        1. Liza

          I can totally see myself using that one! My usual response is more like Double A’s above (hopefully minus the incredulity) but this seems gentler. Given the previous information, I would definitely be tentative in any congratulations offered.

        2. T3k

          Oh man, I’m imagining using Jennifer Hale’s voice as Commander Shepard doing this exact comment and now can’t stop laughing and imagining myself accidentally doing it now to someone.

        3. footinmouth

          Oh dear… I remember a similar situation when a friend announced her second pregnancy, in a rather calm manner with no smiles and no change in her tone. Her first child was about 1.5 years old at the time and she returned to work only a few months before, so I had no idea if the pregnancy was what she/her family had planned… What would be the appropriate thing to say when you can’t tell whether the pregnant person is happy about their pregnancy?

          1. 'Tis me

            I think it depends on the relationship with the person? With a more distant friend or a work colleague I’d probably say something like “Oh wow! Congratulations! So the gap between your two will be just over 2 years? How lovely – in a couple of years they’ll be playing together constantly! Congratulations!” – something that stresses the positives and should hopefully be a bit reassuring without being personal. I might also ask how they were feeling – I had HG all the way through with my first and regular morning sickness for the entire thing with my second so can both be enthusiastically pleased for friends who escape these joys, and really get it if people are suffering – but that does depend on the relationship.

            With a close friend I might also ask whether the little one understands they’ll be a big sibling or something else reasonably open-ended which doesn’t intrude but would provide a good starting point if they had anxieties they wanted to talk over.

            For a more distant acquaintance (e.g. I found out last night one of the preschool teachers is pregnant – but it was more somebody in the know quietly asked how things were going during a lull in the conversation and dropped it a bit before she had planned to announce it – she’s only 11 weeks today) I stick with “congratulations”.

            If they’re announcing it they’re probably planning on keeping it so it’s the most appropriate thing to say. If they’re a very close friend and they haven’t decided yet the conversation should start differently enough for it to be obvious that that’s not what they want.

            There are enough reasons for apprehension – pregnancy can be brutal, birth can be worse, mental health problems can be exacerbated, they might need to come off/change regular medication they take to keep medical conditions under control (e.g. migraines), finances will take a hit, careers may also suffer… That’s before getting onto things like high risk pregnancies or PTSD from a previous traumatic birth.
            People can be excited about having a baby and also really worried about how they’ll cope.

            1. Lurker

              “If they’re announcing it, they’re probably planning on keeping it.”

              I disagree. There are three options: keep, abortion, or adoption. If they choose the third they would, presumably, at some point need to announce they were pregnant. They may not feel like explaining they are giving the baby up for adoption, so to assume if they announce their pregnancy they’re keeping it and are happy could be problematic.

              1. 'Tis me

                The number of babies adopted out over here is low enough that statistically it can probably be ignored (about 0.01% 1 in 10,000 pregnant women over here aren’t planning on keeping it). It’s quite a bit higher in the USA (about 20250 babies voluntarily relinquished at birth in the US versus under 100 babies adopted in total per year in the UK, although of course there are more people over there) – at about 0.5% or 1 in 200. It is an option – but (probably at least in part because of the stigma involved and because it is quite hard to hide pregnancy and that you aren’t subsequently aren’t bringing up a baby) it isn’t a common outcome.

                (Googled to find the number of babies adopted and the total number of live births to do the maths.)

          2. Agnodike

            I said this above, but “Wow! How are you feeling?” is good. It’s empathetic and it opens up space for them to tell you what they’re experiencing, as much or as little as they want to share, and then you take your cues from that.

            1. boop the first

              That’s a good one! I usually opt for positive reaction, because positive can’t really hurt the way the opposite can. The most awkward response I’ve heard in real life is “….oops??” Followed by the pregnant couple exchanging weird glances and saying “uh… no, it’s okay? We’re pretty happy?”

              yikes

          3. Asenath

            A friend announced her pregnancy to me in circumstances in which I was surprised to hear about the pregnancy for various reasons, and I’m sure my surprise and curiosity was evident in my face (I do not have a poker face), but I managed to say “congratulations!” and avoid questions which I suspected would be unwelcome, and everything went on smoothly. Yeah, mention to the young worker that she shouldn’t ask co-workers about their family planning practices, but it’s probably not necessary to make a big deal about it. She probably realized she’d put her foot in it when she saw OP’s reaction. She’s too young to have a long-established habit of asking personal questions.

            Some people are a little obtuse, though. I once heard this conversation between an applicant and a senior employee at a get-to-know us affair:

            Applicant: And do you have children, Ms. X?
            Ms. X: No, I don’t. My spouse and I have dogs. (It was a dog-friendly event)
            Applicant: No, I didn’t mean the dogs, I meant to ask if you have children.
            Ms. X: No.

          4. Sunflower

            I think ‘Thanks for letting me know!’ said cheerfully is the best response in any of these situations.- especially at work You’re just acknowledging that you appreciate the person sharing the news. They’ll keep talking if they want to discuss further.

          5. fhqwhgads

            If it’s a coworker and you suspect from the way they said it they are unhappy or you have other reasons for feeling unsure whether it’s appropriate to assume they are happy, I’d say you could go straight into work-mode and reply with “when will you be going on leave?” or other remark that assumes the point of the conversation is working out the coverage plan and leaving happiness or lackthereof out of it.
            But otherwise defaulting to “congrats” should be reasonable from almost everyone in almost every situation. Even if the person seemed neutral, you assuming they’re not neutral is reasonable. Unless the person seemed conspicuously unhappy about it, there is no reason for a colleague to assume the person announcing is displeased.

          6. Emily K

            My 2c: Unless you are very close or they have shared with you directly that they’re not happy about it, treat them as if they are. If they were unhappy and wanted people to know, they would share it. If they don’t share, then they’re either happy about it or would prefer to maintain a polite fiction among acquaintances that they are, because they don’t want to be judged negatively for not wanting a child.

            If you’re very close then you would use your best judgment based on what you know of your close friend. If you aren’t close enough to know for sure, it is far preferable to congratulate someone who is maybe a little queasy inside and doesn’t want to admit/show it, than it is to suggest to someone excited about becoming a parent that their future child is anything less than 100% wanted – plus a lot of people make negative judgments about people, especially older adults, who have unplanned pregnancies as being irresponsible or stupid, and they might react defensively as if you’ve called them irresponsible or stupid even if you don’t personally subscribe to that view.

            1. Emily K

              And by “treat them as if they are [happy]” I don’t mean you need to gush and fawn all over them. Just a simple, “Congratulations,” is a complete sentence, and if you really feel like you’re hanging without something to add, “When are you due?” is a pretty neutral question, and then you can move on to other topics.

        4. Bunny Girl

          So I’m still at an age where getting pregnant walks a thin line between “Oh my gosh we’re really excited and want this” and “Holy crap my life is ruined” depending on the person’s mindset and situation. So to be fair, I NEVER know how to react when people in my personal life tell me they’re expecting. Of course, I never ask them if it was planned and if someone tells me at work they’re pregnant, I assume they’re happy about it and I always congratulate them.

          1. Parcae

            I am still grateful to the friend in grad school who announced– all in one breath– “I’m pregnant. Congratulate me!” In my mind, it could have gone either way, and I think she knew that, so she prompted me for the response she wanted. :)

            1. Jadelyn

              I wish more people did this, lol. I just can’t get behind the mindset of assuming that all pregnancies are a positive thing and defaulting to congratulations. You never know what’s going on “behind the scenes” and even if they’re announcing it because they’re keeping it, it doesn’t mean they’re particularly enthusiastic about the idea at that point.

              (To me it also evokes shades of the “All women want children” cultural attitude that has caused me no end of irritation in my life as a childfree person, so I hate the idea of furthering that attitude by always assuming pregnancy is a happy, wanted thing.)

      3. Liza

        I can see myself doing this to!

        If it makes you feel any better, I once responded to an in-person pregnancy announcement by going wide eyed with alarm and cursing out loud. This was the first of of my friends to have a baby and we were in our late twenties. It simply never occurred to me at that stage of life that this could be good news! I’ve mediated my responses more over recent years but I do have a tendency to draw a blank and just clam up in the face of pregnancy announcements, or ask questions like this, because depending on the person I just don’t know.

        1. Ethyl

          Hah, yeah, I’m over 40 now, and neither I nor any of my siblings want kids, which I think leads to me still kind of having an immediate internal panic reaction when people announce pregnancies lol. I don’t say anything out loud of course, aside from saying congratulations and taking other cues from the person telling me, but yeah.

          1. 1234

            I’m in my early 30s, don’t want children, and have told myself “Other people are happy about this sort of thing. An appropriate response might be ‘Congrats’ and a smile.” That’s the reaction I go for.

            1. Rebecca in Dallas

              Haha, same! I am in my mid-thirties and have been actively avoiding pregnancy for my adult life. So my first (internal) reaction when someone tells me is “Oh, no!” But then I have to remind myself that most people are happy to share their news.

            2. Ethyl

              I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has to remind myself that some people want kids, lol!

              1. Jadelyn

                Definitely not just you. No matter how hard I try, I literally cannot wrap my mind around the idea of having children being a positive thing.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I don’t know if that’s hyperbole or not, but that’s … a very unusual perspective, and I say that as someone who doesn’t want kids. Not because everyone/most people should want them, but because I imagine you’ve had lots of exposure to people who do.

                2. Jadelyn

                  It’s not hyperbole at all. I’m aware that it’s not a particularly common perspective, and yes, I’ve had plenty of exposure to people who do want kids. So intellectually, I’m quite well aware that there are people who do want children, and I’m sure they have their reasons.

                  But I can’t understand it on any kind of emotional level. I am usually pretty good at putting myself in someone else’s shoes and making the connection between events and their response to it, even when their response is different than mine would’ve been, but when it comes to the desire to have children, I just can’t do it. Which leads to me having to consciously remind myself that some people do actually want kids.

                  It’s just never going to be where my mind automatically goes, and so it necessitates a deliberate reminder-to-self when someone talks about being pregnant – I have to override my own immediate “oh no, this is a bad thing” response with the reminder of “wait, remember, plenty of people actually do want kids” – so I’m just adding my voice to reassuring those of us who fall into that category that while it may be an unusual perspective, it’s not entirely unique either.

                3. Ada

                  I kind of get it, Jadelyn. I grew up I’m a household where my mother made it very clear how hard it was to be a mother, and how much of a burden the role put on her. Then her paranoia in my teen years that I’d get pregnant (despite that fact that I had never kissed anyone by that point). Basically my childhood and teen years were filled with pregnancy/motherhood =bad messaging, and once that’s ingrained, it’s hard to break out of that mindset (especially in my case, where I’ve never been in a financial place where a pregnancy wouldn’t be devastating). I didn’t start to break out of that mindset until I got to know some really Awesome Moms who enjoy motherhood despite the challenges and actually have a close, supportive, loving family.

                4. Ev

                  Yeah, same. Intellectually, I am aware that many people want children – that’s rad! I’m happy for them! I hope everything works out perfectly! But emotionally, viscerally, the idea is so foreign that it does take me a moment to internally adjust my responses.

                5. Emily K

                  Relatedly, when I was in my late 20s, I remember sometimes being at a traffic light and seeing a parent about my age pushing a stroller outside, or something along those lines. Living in an urban area where people tend to delay childbirth, I was right at that age where parents no longer seemed older and more mature than me – I would look at them and be able to see myself in them, and I would think, how different our lives must be, I’m so caught up in my own worries all the time, but for these parents, their child(ren) are their focus. Just like I have projects I work on in my spare time outside work, I reasoned that’s the project they’ve embarked on: Raise up this kid the best we can to survive this world and make a positive contribution to it. I don’t get the appeal of a lot of people’s hobbies, but I get the idea of having a hobby, and I know what it’s like to have some nerdy hobby that nobody else gets, so I guess I just mentally think of parenting as those people’s hobby in a sense. It’s what they’ve chosen to spend their free time on.

      4. darlingpants

        When I was in college my grad student supervisor told me she was pregnant (so I’d have to deal with some hazardous chemicals). I managed to stop myself from asking “what are you going to do about it?” but my brain so was frozen and I was so firmly in a place where pregnancy was a crisis, I think I just told her “oh.” And then maybe managed to ask when she was due.

      5. MatKnifeNinja

        I told a friend with a train wreck life, “Wow, that’s going to be rough.” when she told me about her 4th unplanned pregnancy, with the bonus round not being quite sure who the father is. Yeah. Not an great moment.

        I say, “That’s nice.”, and move on when I get the “I’m pregnant.” announcement. I don’t ask about anything. My default is to ignore and not talk about it. My oversharing friends let me know pretty quick, they are angry I’m not sharing in every golden pregnancy moment. You gotta let me know that I can say more than “That’s nice.” I said congratulations once, and had the mom to be burst into tears.

        My default is pregnant women want to be left alone, and not talk about their pregnancy to me. It’s up to them to let me know it’s okay to ask anything or fetch saltines and flat ginger ale.

      6. Fake Eleanor

        When I was a 20 year old intern and I accidentally implied to my supervisor that I was pregnant (I was not, in fact, pregnant), she responded kind of like this. “Uh…is that a positive development?” I think saying the wrong thing regarding a hypothetical or existing pregnancy, and wanting to die afterwards, is almost a rite of passage in the working world.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        This. Especially when you’re inexperienced and it’s a new context, which I suspect this was.

        (I think this is related to staircase wit, where our great hypothetical ideas about good things to say and the things we blurt out when pounced out don’t have much relationship.)

    2. Liza

      I am absolutely this person, too. I guess this is the flipside of the “so when are you going to have babies?” conversations a few days ago. I would never ask somebody that, but if somebody reveals they are pregnant, I never know what to say.

      Personally, I try to look for context clues in the person’s tone or wording to suggest whether this disclosure is a delight or a cry for support in a crisis (admittedly unlikely with a colleague). So in the absence of that I default to “do you want to be?” or something similar because my brain just short circuits on how to respond until I have that information.

      And I’m in my mid thirties as well. Maybe I should know a better way to handle this but the phrasing eludes me and I cannot bring myself to default to congratulatory noises without knowing if this is appropriate because my experience says otherwise.

      1. Lena Clare

        I don’t think it’s me to say something like that, I think for some reason I just had a brain freeze and blurted out “oh was it a surprise?” Then immediately went bright red and stammered some kind of apology >.<

        1. Liza

          Yup, I get the brain freeze almost every time! I ask those questions in order to break out of “file not found” mode. I guess it is kind of personal, but I suppose I automatically see pregnancy as personal anyway, but that might not apply so much in a work context, come to think of it, so I think I would have to reframe that in my own head.

      2. Shira

        In that kind of situation I might go with matching the other person’s tone of voice and saying something like “Oh wow! How are you feeling?”

      3. Ranon

        What about “Wow! Big news!” with a neutral/ pleased expression?

        I was somewhat ambivalent about my own pregnancy which was planned and wanted, “big news” covers any range of emotions, really

        1. Risha

          Best suggestion in this entire comments section! I’m another brain-freeze-in-the-face-of-personal-announcements person, so this is going to be handy to have ready to go.

        2. Jadelyn

          I go with “Wow!” but have never been able to quite figure out a neutral second part to that. I like this. I might start using it.

          1. J

            I wonder if “Wow! How far along are you?” would be acceptable? That could open the door to their responding with either something like “Only about three weeks. I’m trying to get to the clinic for an abortion as soon as possible” or “three months. I can’t wait for the baby to get here! I picked out names 6 months ago.” …or anything in between. Although I do wonder if asking how far along someone is is still too invasive..?

    3. MK

      I don’t think that bad/intrusive a question to ask a friend (an actual friend, not an acquaintance), it’s just an awkward first reaction. I have asked some version of that of a few friends, but it came up pretty organically later in a conversation about their plans.

    4. Rexish

      I think this is an ok conversation to have with a friend. At least we tend to share these things and I’d imagine between frineds a topic of kids would have come up. Was it planned if not a loeaded question the same way as was was it an accident (or was it a mistake like a midwife asked my friend upon first meeting). But it really depends on the friendship, my friend asking this is from me would be toally ok. Asking from boss or someone you don’t know very well..not ok.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen

        Yeah, big difference between asking this of a friend versus a colleague. Especially with a close friend, who ‘just found out’, it might be a “well H*ll, what do I do” talk; with a colleague who is ‘announcing’ at work (and is presumably farther along), it’s safer to assume that, even if it wasn’t planned, they’re happy about it (or at least have decided to keep it). Also the element of asking someone about their sex life; I can discuss such things with close friends, but definitely not with coworkers!

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          Yes, this. Announcing at work means that, without any evidence otherwise, you should assume congratulations are in order.

      2. Lena Clare

        Yes, right, there is a difference in work I agree.
        The friend I mention was a work colleague who I’ve known for many years and now no longer work with. I don’t really have the type of relationship with her where it’s ok to joke and discuss sex lives or anything like that. But definitely not the same as an intern or employee saying it to their boss!

    5. MusicWithRocksInIt

      I am just now realizing how many people asked me, not exactly if it was ‘planned’ but if we were ‘trying’ when I got pregnant. And only because now I’m realizing the number of times I had to bumble through the awkward explanation of ‘Well, we were planning to start trying in a few months, but were not actually trying at the time…’. Which I’m fine telling people, but man I should not have had to as much as I did…

      1. Pregnant LW1

        If you come up with a good response, let me know. The intern was not the only person who has asked me a super personal and inappropriate question, and I’m only 3 1/2 months in. Maybe it’s just human nature to blurt out something weird when another person says they’re pregnant.

        1. Fences Make Good Neighbors

          I think it’s just human nature to blurt out something weird, period. I wish you the best in your pregnancy and hope people honor your boundaries!

        2. Midwest writer

          Thanks to this (and a few other sites), when my I told my boss I was pregnant with our second child (my oldest was not quite 2 at the time we made the announcement) and he asked if we were trying, I had a response ready to go. I looked at him, slightly confused and asked, “Are you asking about my sex life?” Which, to be fair, is pretty blunt and bold, but newsrooms can handle that kind of conversation. He fumbled a bit, but wasn’t nearly as embarrassed as he should have been. Still, I hope it drove home the point that asking if someone planned to get pregnant is WAY awkward and inappropriate.
          To be fair, my third kid was somewhat unplanned and I was super happy no one ever asked about that.

          1. M. Albertine

            Perhaps “Are you asking if my birth control failed?” would be a good alternative to elicit maximum embarrassment? With a side of medical inappropriateness?

            1. Midwest writer

              Yeah, I do like that better. I don’t remember if I had read that response here or on a parenting board I frequented at the time, but I honestly never thought someone would ask me that. In all seriousness. He was weird on other things and didn’t have kids, so I think he was surprised that we’d want more than one. Doubly weird, I suppose, since he was also my husband’s boss.

        3. Rebecca in Dallas

          People are so weirdly personal about pregnancies! I was talking to a friend about this when she was pregnant, she said people asked her all kinds of awkward questions and even made comments like, “You’re getting so big!” No woman wants to hear that they look big! Ever! And strangers would even reach out and touch her stomach without asking.

          1. Zombeyonce

            I had a coworker that, as he was literally reaching toward my stomach, said “I know you’re not supposed to do this but…”.

            No “but”! You know better, so don’t touch me! People seem to lose all self control around pregnant women and it’s so frustrating.

          2. Jane

            I can only speak for myself, and I absolutely believe nobody should be making any comment on someone else’s body during pregnancy or otherwise, but I know from my own experience and that of friends that it’s not universal that a woman doesn’t want to be told how big she is! I’ve had it a couple times so far during this first pregnancy and it’s always made me feel really warm and glowy and proud that I look visibly pregnant after wanting it so much. Nobody should ever say it of course. But I just wanted to offer another viewpoint. I totally relish my partner telling me how huge my belly is!

        4. Zombeyonce

          My middle-aged-should-definitely-have-known-better asked me if it was planned when I announced my pregnancy. My response was just a furrowed brow and “uhhhhhhhh”, then silence. It worked perfectly by both not answering the question and showing them it wasn’t okay to ask. I highly recommend employing your most confused face and moving on.

      2. Blossom

        Oh God, why do people ask this? The visuals of “trying” are so much more vivid than “planned”.

      3. Bloopmaster

        PLEASE never, ever, EVER ask if a pregnancy was planned or if the parties involved were “trying”. Friend, colleague, family member, etc. it doesn’t matter. If you were someone that the pregnancy party wanted to trust with this information, they would inform you. Otherwise it’s not your business and never will be.

        If your goal is to register your surprise, just say “Well! What a surprise!” and then move on.

        Signed,
        Person who has been asked this question too many times

    6. your favorite person

      When I told my closest co-worker I was pregnant, she asked if it was planned. I’ve been married for seven years, we have talked about having kids, etc. The reason she asked, I think, was I happened to get pregnant during a time when I would be due (next week!) during a large national conference I help organize. While it was ‘planned,’ timing for pregnancy isn’t always perfect.

      1. Reba

        It is always funny to me how much people seem to think that the timing of conception, pregnancy and delivery can be closely controlled. You don’t just order them up, people!

    7. Cows go moo

      I had an 18 year old new hire call in sick and explained she was in hospital. During the conversation she disclosed the reason she missed out on so much work the past few weeks was that she was pregnant and had severe morning sickness. I was so taken aback I blurted out “congratulations!” and her next sentence was to say she had just had an abortion. I cringe thinking of that moment. She’s not working for me anymore (was a temp job) but I hope she had someone supporting her through the procedure and that she is doing okay.

    8. AnonForThis

      I totally understand. I had a coworker who was a single mom. We were close enough that I knew she was online dating. She took me aside one day and told me about a guy she had gone out with a couple times and then was ghosted. I thought it was a check out this jerk I dated conversation and then she said she was pregnant. I paused before responding because I wasn’t sure what she was going to say next (I didn’t know whether to say congratulations or offer emotional support, or both) She then said that she was planning on keeping the baby. I said congratulations and hugged her. She seemed grateful that I was positive and didn’t judge her. It can be hard to tell in the moment if news like this is good.

    9. Natatat

      Honestly I think sometimes our brain’s appropriateness filter fails us and we just blurt out what pops in our head without thinking/pausing first. Have had that happen on rare occasions too – afterwards you think “why the heck did I say that?”.

    10. Sarah N

      Totally agree that it’s kind to simply say something straightforward so the intern doesn’t continue to make this mistake. I think sometimes people can blurt out super awkward things about pregnancy even when they ought to know better — I remember an awkward moment when a colleague announced that he and his wife were having a baby, and another coworker immediately asked whether she was pregnant or they were using a surrogate (!). The coworker who asked the awkward question is someone I know to be truly a good/nice person and I think she must have just had a massive brain fart or something. Something about pregnancy must somehow cause people’s brains to short circuit sometimes! So I do think (kindly) pointing it out can help the person realize not to do it again in the future.

  3. Agent J

    *reads first question*
    *long deep sigh*

    Yes OP #1, please talk to this intern while keeping in mind she may be embarrased that she said it when you bring it up. Be gentle but firm to indicate this is Not Okay especially in the workplace. She deserves some grace to learn and grow from this (awkward) situation.

    Intern season is going to be interesting, I see.

  4. Elise

    LW#1 my suspicion would be that because she’s young the experiences she has had about people sharing their pregnancy news haven’t always been… entirely celebratory. So it probably triggered a “wait is this good news or… not good news” for her and she wanted to find out before extending her congratulations.

    1. Agent J

      This is a great point, and can help OP have some empathy for why the intern asked the question.

      1. Oh So Anon

        To follow up on that, if she’s only ever really worked with people close to her age (like at jobs on campus), that question would have been work-appropriate for a peer. Totally different situation when you’re dealing with colleagues at a different life stage and reporting relationship to you.

    2. MissGirl

      I once offered my pregnant coworker congratulations. Her response, “We didn’t want a baby, and it’s a boy, and I didn’t want a boy.” I awkwardly mumbled a sorry and walked away. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to leave your office.

      1. Casper Lives

        I’m cringing. Not that you did anything wrong. It’s just uncomfortable all around.

          1. Gazebo Slayer

            So do I. If she overshares like this about how she doesn’t want him to her coworkers, I imagine she’ll probably tell him. Possibly frequently. :-(

      2. MK

        It must be awful to be pregnant when you don’t want to be, and even more so to have a child you don’t want to, but frankly she was the inappropriate one. That’s a lot of oversharing for the workplace.

        1. Turtlewings

          Yeah, this. I really hope she was able to get more excited about it later, for the child’s sake. :(

          1. Michaela Westen

            Did you all ever see a movie called “Waitress”, with Felicity Huffman? Her character has an unplanned pregnancy. It turns out well in the end. :)

            1. Doc in a Box

              Unplanned is different from unwanted, though. [Haven’t seen the movie so I don’t know how Keri Russell — who played Felicity on another show, but isn’t named Felicity :) — responded.]

              Something like 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, but far fewer are actively unwanted, and fewer still of those are carried to term. Among my friends who got pregnant in their late 20s, for most it was like, “Hmmm, maybe we’ll have a baby in like 3 years…. or ok, 9 months sure.” Moved their hypothetical timeline up but wasn’t unwanted by any means.

              1. Michaela Westen

                Thanks, I came back here to correct the Felicity/Keri mixup after I realized.
                What made me think of this movie is, she did not particularly want or care about the baby while she was pregnant. She said, “I respect the baby. I’m not drinking or smoking and I’m eating right.” She was not enthusiastic or in love with the baby at that point, but it turned out well.

    3. Margaery Moth

      Yup, I think this is what happened! She may have been confused when the OP took her privately aside and wanted to make sure this was happy news (since she likely didn’t witness the other private conversations). It doesn’t make the question appropriate but I think sometimes pregnant women can forget that having a baby isn’t a joyous occasion for everyone and other people may be coming from a very different frame of reference. I probably would’ve said something in the moment but hopefully the OP’s surprised response got through to her. I wouldn’t being it up again, but I’m also not particularly sensitive about pregnancy after years of awkward questions aimed at my fertility.

      1. My other username is a Porsche

        Yep. I’m actually wondering if it’s normal to share this sort of thing 1:1 – my manager just told us all as a group and it meant nobody felt the their reaction was under the spotlight.

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          The only people I told 1:1 were my boss, and a coworker/friend who’d been struggling to get pregnant herself.

        2. Cat

          I told most people 1:1 at work – we don’t really have big group meetings and I would have been uncomfortable being the center of attention for a big group. Also, this was a way to start discussing my plans for leave and covering work with people who would be affected. But I did usually preface it with “I have good news!” or something like that.

          1. doreen

            There’s a whole lot of room between a 1:1 behind closed doors and a calling a group meeting, though. I’m way past intern age- but if my manager calls me into his office and closes the door, it’s absolutely not to give me information that he’s giving everyone else. It’s very different from telling me something out in the open during a conversation we’re already having, even if it’s only the two of us in the conversation.

        3. CM

          My instinct is also that having a 1:1 meeting to discuss that is weird. It seems to me the only reason to tell people you’re pregnant is to kind of let them know maternity leave is in your future, and that’s something you can easily say in a group — “just to let you guys know, I’m pregnant, and for now that doesn’t change anything but, as we get closer to thinking about maternity leave we’ll keep you in the loop” or whatever. Taking people aside individually makes it seem like you’re dying or something.

      2. londonedit

        Yeah, I think if someone at work took me aside into a private office and told me they were pregnant, my initial thought might be that it was something that they’d want me to keep secret, or something they weren’t sharing widely. Every time a boss or colleague of mine has announced a pregnancy, it’s been to the whole team, all together, in a relaxed ‘So, I have some news – I’m expecting a baby!’ sort of way. It would have felt odd to me if they’d taken us all off for private meetings to break the news.

        1. Mia

          Yeah, unless it was someone I was especially close to, someone telling me about their pregnancy in secret would definitely make me, at least initially, assume it wasn’t great news.

        2. Falling Diphthong

          I could see private meetings being to convey “So I hadn’t planned to say anything in the first trimester, and please don’t spread it around, but I need to tell those closest to me why I have taken to vomiting into trash cans and falling asleep in meetings.”

          1. Environmental Compliance

            I would totally think that now….but in college, I think I would have initially thought it was some kind of secret/negative news of some kind. However – in college, pregnancy would have been a much more problematic (for lack of a better term) situation. Now I’m making baby blankets left and right for my friend group and have been a part of very candid discussions about fertility. Very different phase in life!

        3. Ann Perkins

          I think how it affects the office and other people is a large factor in this. My boss and the person who generally has to cover for me – they get the news privately. Anyone else can be in a group.

      3. Lyra Silvertongue

        Yes, I was thinking that too – the intern may have misinterpreted it as OP sharing something that was sensitive in a bad way, and consequently not really known how to react in the moment. Like others have said, it’s possible that pregnancy subconsciously = bad news bears in her mind because she’s young. The intern is likely a similar-ish age to me; I don’t have a lot of experience with women older than me taking me aside to quietly share their pregnancy news and would possibly make the same misinterpretation or get confused about the tone of the conversation, though hopefully wouldn’t have blurted out the “planned” part!

      4. JSPA

        Could be way off-base, but FWIW…

        Over a decade ago, before a change to local laws that prohibited the blockading of certain clinics and grabbing at people walking to clinics, I did some clinic defense. The local religious college used to (maybe still does?) bus in their students to protest at various clinics, giving them “volunteer credit hours.” A non-zero number of those same students came to the clinic for abortion services (the school expelled students for pregnancy, or if found with birth control). Some of the students returned in the months and years after their treatment, to protest. (Staff didn’t disclose names or details, but the fact that there were familiar faces out there? Yeah, that they mentioned.)

        I can see that someone from such a background is used to pregnancy disclosure either being a public, “Yay!” or a private, “this is a problem, can you pray with me on what to do about it (and, maybe I’m feeling out whether you might be a person who can help me get to a clinic.)” Could be that the intern has been a go-to for those sorts of conversations, and has come to default to being “the one who’s there for you, no matter what.”

        In OP’s shoes, I’d probably treat it that way, because there’s…pretty much no downside. “I’m glad on a personal level that you’re someone who would be supportive, regardless, but in the workplace, the appropriate response to a disclosure of pregnancy is along the lines of, “congratulations” or at most, “Thanks for telling me! Do let me know if there’s anything I can do to be helpful.”

    4. Avasarala

      This is what I thought as well. She didn’t know whether to respond with “Congratulations!” or “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Especially if she is from a religious upbringing where unwanted, accidental pregnancy means being saddled with a baby.

      …But she still shouldn’t have asked that! So letting her know it’s OK to always respond with “Congratulations” might be a good learning experience for her.

      1. Marmaduke

        Or simply asking, “How are you feeling?” People are welcome to share positive or distressed feelings, moan about morning sickness and cravings, or simply give a polite, “Fine, thanks.” That question tends to be a good way to allow the one with the news to set the tone.

        1. Liza

          Thank you for this! This is a really helpful idea. I struggle with these types of announcements and stock responses that are emotionally neutral are extremely helpful.

      2. Not Australian

        There could potentially be a neutral response, I suppose – something about ‘big changes ahead, then!’ – which would work whether it was good or bad news. But the intern may not have been able to get a read from the OP on how best to react, so the question – although undeniably rude – is a bit easier to explain.

        1. londonedit

          I usually go for something like ‘Oh, wow!’ Then the person usually responds with ‘Yeah! We’re so happy!’ or ‘I know, bit of a shock, but I’m actually really pleased’ or whatever. I let them guide me on the appropriate response rather than going all ‘OMG CONGRATULATIONS I AM SOOOOO HAPPY FOR YOU!!!!!’ straight off.

      3. Triplestep

        Yup, this is what I was thinking. She’s from a religious background, and we don’t know if the LW is married. If LW is not married, this may add another layer of explanation for the reaction from her conservatively religious intern.

    5. Kesnit

      There was something nagging at my mind when I read the OP, and you managed to put into words what I could not.

      Conservative religious background or not, it is hard not to hear horror stories of the consequences of an unintended pregnancy. The intern is almost certainly more used to thinking of pregnancy in terms of being ostracized, loss of opportunities, etc. than she is of happy times. As others have said, it’s possible she has seen others go through the consequences. If the OP isn’t married (or is married but does not wear a ring), the intern is even more likely to jump to the negatives.

      It’s also possible that the intern knows she does not want children and is more used to thinking of pregnancy (even in her 30s) as a nightmare rather than a blessing.

      1. Jaybeetee

        Or it could be that it’s due to the OP being in her late 30s having her first. Which is getting more and more common, but is still unusual in some circles (particularly “conservative religious” circles). There are also still a depressing number of people out there who think your uterus turns to dust at 35 and it’ll be impossible to have kids after that, or that any kids you do have will be demented flipper-babies due to your “geriatric pregnancy.” So if the intern is from that kind of background, I could see her assuming a first-time pregnancy at that age might be bad news.

        Also, the letter omits whether or not the OP is partnered – which frankly shouldn’t be relevant, but if OP is planning on being a single parent, I could definitely see that confusing a young religious person!

        1. Oh So Anon

          I’m sort of from a culture/socioeconomic group where there’s a strong preference for large families and women tend to have children early, even though it’s not a particularly religious or conservative culture. Something that comes along with that is that members of this group are less likely to go to college (at least until after all their children are in school), which leads to a lot of representation in blue-collar work. When you put those things together, it makes sense that someone from that type of blue-collar environment would be personally unfamiliar with women starting their families in their 30s.

        2. Michaela Westen

          The “geriatric pregnancy” concept isn’t helped by the medical term used for it, “advanced maternal age”. It’s disconcerting for patients. They really need to find a less judgmental term.

      2. Tigger

        Yep. I am dealing with this now. I am still wrapping my head around the fact that my friends that I was doing keg stands with and agreeing that they won’t have kids ever 3 years ago are now getting married and having kids. Being in your 20’s is weird.

    6. Not Me

      I agree with this. Anyone who doesn’t remember that time in your life when pregnancy news reaction changed from “Oh, that sucks” to “OMG congratulations!” clearly didn’t have any pregnant teens in their school/town.

      1. boo bot

        Yeah, it definitely took some mental adjustment to go from “oh no, what are you going to do?” to “oh yay, congrats!” Especially because there were a few years in the middle where it was about 50/50 which way it would go, and the socially appropriate response actually was some better-phrased version of, “is this good news or bad news?”

        She should talk to the intern – better for her to learn the lesson from someone who wants to teach her, than from someone who’s insulted by the question and gets mad at her!

    7. TiffanyAching

      I would bet this is it too! I knew several people who got pregnant in high school/early 20’s, and usually it was *not* planned. Then there’s the transitional period, where half of your cohort is like “yes, planned baby, super excited!” and the other half is like “well that was unexpected and unwanted,” and so the appropriate response to a pregnancy announcement is harder to gauge (among friends — professionally is different). And now that I’m in the second half of my 20’s, most of the pregnancies are planned and/or happy surprises, so congratulations are the safest bet.

    8. cactus lady

      Yes agreed…and it’s not necessarily an age thing. I’m 35 and I know plenty of people my age who wouldn’t be thrilled to be pregnant. My other thought is maybe the intern has *been* pregnant and it wasn’t good news to her, so this was her immediate reaction. I think it would be a kindness to talk to her, but I also think that we can extend some compassion to the fact that she might not have known what the right response was.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#4, I disagree with Alison on the strategy. I think you have other options that may be easier to implement. I think you should: (1) Speak to whoever’s in charge of facilities/supplies and request a trash can for the new coworker, or if Option 1 isn’t viable, (2) find a container that can operate as a small recycling bin in your area and let her know you’d like them both to use both bins as needed.

    I’ve found that folks are more likely to recycle if the burden of doing so is convenient and super low. She’s not going to get up and put her recyclables in the kitchen’s recycling bin. So make it as easy as possible for her to recycle. If she still refuses to do it, you can ask her (once) to recycle things she’s put in your trash can. But if she gets her own bin, for example, I would back off of commenting on how she disposes of recyclable items.

    1. Sally

      I agree with this, even though I find it so frustrating to see recyclables and compostables in the trash at my office. We have huge composting bins, and everything (cutlery, plates, cups, straws, etc.) is compostable. One more reason I have to remind myself that I can’t control what other people do. I’m on our “green team,” and we do as much educating as we can, and then it’s out of our hands.

      I also agree that making it easy for people to recycle is the way to go.

      1. Zombeyonce

        I think if OP gathered up some of their own recyclables (saved just for this purpose) and said to the coworker, “I’m going to take my recyclables to the bin in the kitchen; can I take anything for you?”, it would solve the issue. It lets them know they have a recycling option but doesn’t push it on them.

    2. tamarack & fireweed

      I don’t know whether she will or won’t use the recycling bin in the kitchen — she’s new, so she may not have registered all the different moving parts of her surroundings yet, or not really explored the kitchen. And as for her attitude to recycling, it may be something that’s just temporarily covered by all the other tasks of settling in or it may be that it’s off her radar and a new idea. Me, I could very well imagine that I would appreciate it if it is pointed out to me that the proper place to dispose of paper, bottles and cans is in the recycling bins in the kitchen.

      Admittedly, there’s a cultural element — I’m German, and was brought up to be direct in my interactions. I was also brought up with lessons in how to properly “say something”, that is, with warmth, and in a calm, friendly tone. And independently of whether this will or won’t work on this co-worker, I’ve always regarded it as an important skill to clearly differentiate between telling someone what to do (which is not appropriate with most of not all co-workers) and presenting something as a shared problem to be solved through action along communal goals and norms. It’s not ordering someone around if you say something along the lines of “huh, yeah, these trash bins are really too small for the both of us. did [coworker’s boss/facilities mgmt / onboarding manager] tell you whether you’re getting one of your own or are they expecting us to share this one? also, not sure if you noticed, but there are recycling bins in the kitchen, for the plastic jars, glass bottles and paper.” And if you talk with someone about getting recycling bins closer to your desks, it’s also something to chat with your co-worker about.

      Notwithstanding the above, I agree with PCBH that the barriers to recycling should be lowered to the max, and that it’s worth talking to those who organize your office layout about it.

    3. JJ

      You’re making a few assumptions here! Maybe she would get up if she knew. It’s not right for OP to assume she won’t and pander to that. If it was me I would want someone to point out the recycling bins, not assume I won’t act on that.

      And don’t do 1. Tell her who to speak to and let her do it herself. You’re basically suggesting OP treats this person like an incompetent child.

    4. TPS Cover Sheet

      I was just reading this and was a bit ”I’d yelled at her like a banshee…” Not because of recycling itself, reason being I work in places that it is not ”recycling” but ”shredding” that mandates the papers into the trash. Our ”kitchen recycling” is padlocked bins… used to be separate ones for disks and cds and dvds but their use has dropped last 5 years. If papers were to be found in my bin, I’d been in so much deep doodoo causing a ”security incident” I would rather have a tax audit.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger

      Good idea! I’ve used an empty ream box, or even the lid, for paper to be recycled, but now I am close enough to the big bins to just carry it there either right away, or later that day when I have another reason to step away from my desk (lunch, restroom, water, etc.). But the box works well, it’s even marked “PAPER”! :D

    6. MusicWithRocksInIt

      I would present it as a work culture thing. “Oh – everyone here uses the recyclable bin in the kitchen, I’ll show you where it is.”

      1. Willis

        Yes, this. If she seems put off by getting up to walk the paper to the kitchen, I may offer to get a box or second bin for us to share along with the trash can.

      2. Blerpborp

        But only if it is a work culture thing and not just something the OP specifically cares about. Most people don’t care that much about recycling at my work and I would find it really weird if someone expected me to take my trash to a recycling bin not in my direct office vicinity and especially weird that they were monitoring what I did with my trash at all. Of course the OP is sharing a trash can so they see what their colleague is doing; getting the new colleague their own trash can, to me, is the only logical solution.

    7. Adlib

      I just recently started a job where we have tiny personal trash cans and huge recycle bins (even a compost container) in the break room. It’s a lot of work to break down my lunch into the recycling sometimes, but honestly, I feel better doing it and got used to it pretty quickly. (Also, I’m a Rule Follower so I can’t not do it.) I recycle at home, but it’s much more convenient since I don’t have to separate stuff.

      (Honestly, I can’t be 100% sure that I don’t work with OP. LOL)

    8. legalchef

      Maybe she just doesn’t know. It would never occur to me to look in the kitchen for paper recycling. I’ve always either had my own individual recycling can or there was paper recycling next to the copier. It also likely isn’t something that was specifically pointed out during onboarding.

    9. Falling Diphthong

      Find a container that can operate as a small recycling bin in your area.

      The handy cardboard box!

      I get tetchy about sitting surrounded by garbage on the theory “It’s recyclable, or might be–leave it sitting on this flat surface long enough, and something will befall it” as I am usually the magical force that befalls the garbage.

    10. CupcakeCounter

      Exactly – my old company was a LEED Gold building and very committed to recycling and composting. There were TONS of easy to access recycling bins for nearly everything (including batteries, CD cases, and other items that wouldn’t go into a “normal” recycling bin), the bin at your desk was for recyclables only, and finding a trash can meant a fairly long walk as there was one per department. Our mini-kitchenette had a nicely sealed compost bucket that was cleaned out nightly. They also strongly encouraged you to bring in your large recyclables so they wouldn’t go in the landfill. A few people saved a boatload on recycling services since they just brought everything in on the daily. It was a nice perk.

    11. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I’m so confused why they have individual trasj but not recycling under the desks! We nave equal sized personal trash and blue recycling bins. Then when janitorial comes through each night, they trash the trash and recycle the recycling (aka but each in their huge bins to take down to the industrial dumpsters for pickup service.) They also have ones to “shred” so you can pile it up throughout the day and plan a trip to the shredder during your end of day routine.

      I wouldn’t assume she won’t go to the kitchen unless you’ve at least told her they exist in there. I’ve found we often forget exactly these boring details during onboarding. Along with how to order supplies and where the supply closet with the tissues is vs the general office supplies if they’re separate etc.

  6. Rosey The Bridgetor

    I know it’s a bit off topic, but re: Indeed, I really do find it far-and-away the best resource, especially if you are job hunting while employed and have limited time. I work in one of the fields you give as an example (PR) and the PRSA job board in my big city is not relevant at all.

    1. Budgie Buddy

      I also have gotten the most interviews/offers with Indeed. The jobs aren’t always high quality but I wouldn’t write them off,

      1. TPS Cover Sheet

        Has it changed? Used to be Indeed was just full of crap… ancient irrelevant job posts that spammed any query you did.

        1. Anna - Different One

          I use it constantly for myself and the students I work with. It’s a great source for jobs and an amazing source for entry level positions.

      2. Phoenix Programmer

        Same here, all my jobs in the last 8 years has been from indeed. Indeed is even easier to find my companies jobs then our own internal website!

        I will say that there are spammy job ads though, particularly those that say “anywhere USA” and end up actually wanting you to move. As well as contract only posting as full-time.

        1. Zombeyonce

          I’ve also gotten good jobs from postings on Indeed that I didn’t see anywhere else! But it’s definitely not perfect; many jobs that show up when searching for remote work actually expect you to be on-site if you read the full description, which is really frustrating when you’re trying to limit the search in that way.

      3. Jerk Store

        Agreed. It also lets you just apply a for the job without taking you to a website where you sign up for their spam emails.

        1. Jennifer Thneed

          Sometimes. Sometimes when I click the link, I am taken to a company’s own site to apply. And some of those companies have terrible websites *sigh*.

    2. ThatGirl

      When I was last job searching, for copywriting/adjacent jobs in nearly any industry, I got interviews from all sorts of places – direct from company sites, from Indeed, from LinkedIn, from recruiters. One from Indeed did lead to an offer, though I didn’t end up taking it. It can certainly be hit and miss but I think a fair amount of places do use it.

      1. Gretchen M.

        Agreed. I suggest you bookmark the “careers” or “work with us” pages of the web sites of your favorite companies. Visit them a few times a week to see if they’ve posted anything new.

        1. Me

          I think once a week is fine, at most. Most places don’t close jobs from applicants that fast nor do they rank based on when an application has been received. The job search process can be fraught with insecurity and anxieties – I think repeatedly checking a list of sites for jobs on a too frequent bases can feed the “I’ll never find something” monster.

  7. Agent J

    OP #3: I might be a little jaded but I would definitely set boundaries around this task. This could be a slippery slope into doing even more of Kenny’s and Sara’s jobs and it sounds like you’re already / almost burnt out. It’s good to be a team player but not when they take advantage of your willingness to help to mean they can let their own responsbilities continue to slide.

    1. Casper Lives

      Yeah, it sounds like OP is already doing a lot of Kenny’s work. Sarah doesn’t want to put in the effort to make Kenny a good manager – it probably doesn’t effect her because OP is doing crucial parts of Kenny’s job.

      1. Avasarala

        Agreed. OP says Sara is a good supervisory so maybe Kenny is just phenomenally incompetent, but she’s handling this weirdly. I would want to clarify that you and Sara aren’t helping to shape him into a missing stair, where everyone just works around him.

        1. LW#3

          This is such a good analogy. Kenny’s had years to become a better manager, but Sara is sort of failing him here. I’ve watched multiple (around 10) of Kenny’s reports transfer to other teams because he is so uninvested in our work and doesn’t try to improve things. It’s my turn now to do the same, but I’m going to miss this *ROLE* itself. I just hope I can find something else that I enjoy that doesn’t involve reporting to a checked-out manager.

    2. Engineer Girl

      Sara has all the information she needs to set Kenny’s initial goals. Sara can do her job.
      It is not for OP to write them up.

    3. ohforchrissakes

      Agree that boundaries are appropriate here – and perhaps more boundaries are necessary in order to clarify that true scope of what Kenny can and cannot do.

    4. LW#3

      Thanks for your response. I went back to Sara and expressed my discomfort at writing Kenny’s goals, and she totally understood. I said, “I think maybe you could use what I provided as issues and rewrite them as positives for Kenny to work on,” and she made a note and said she’d do that.

      I am already doing much of Kenny’s work and am definitely completely jaded about the whole thing. I don’t see a way forward. My meeting with Sara was an attempt to point out Kenny’s weaknesses and highlight what I’m already doing that is management-adjacent (training, supervising, retraining, mentoring, etc.). She basically told me that Kenny is untouchable, so I’m going to move on to another team when possible.

      1. JayNay

        Hi LW, this sounds like a good plan for you. How frustrating that Sara (and the rest of the company) are refusing to work on the actual issue, which is Kenny’s lack of management skills. It obviously has already had consequences with team members leaving. Just know that you don’t need to fix this situation. You’ve done all you could, now get yourself to greener pastures. Best of luck to you!

      2. TRex

        I would have taken the opportunity to ask that instead of writing his goals, if I could just give an anonymous upwards review on his performance with pros and cons.
        Lots of companies give direct reports the opportunity to give feedback on their managers during a performance review – in a constructive way of course. I personally and from my experience think it’s a wonderful practice.

    5. TheyKilledKenny

      Maybe I’m the only one who feels for Kenny a bit.

      I don’t think Sara is doing him any favors, that’s for sure. She should definitely step in and give him feedback and proper training to improve his management/leadership (if those capacities are there). Presumably he’s doing something right or he wouldn’t be in his current position.

      At the same time, I also don’t think that Kenny’s employees necessarily have to know or need to be informed as to what actions upper management is taking. Maybe LW#3 has indeed outgrown her position and is ready to take on a more senior role and in this case it sounds like that’s not going to happen at the current workplace.

  8. anon moose, anon mouse

    For #4: You can just say, “I noticed you’re putting a lot of paper in the trash can. It should actually go in the recycling bin in the kitchen.”

    I actually think this does sound like ordering her to recycle because it’s implying that she’s wrong and has to do it a certain way. Regardless of how the OP wants to phrase her comment, however, if her coworker isn’t interested in recycling, OP shouldn’t push it. Mention it once, but let it go if nothing changes.

    1. Avasarala

      I don’t see it as anything stronger than “this is how we do things here.” If the coworker is new then there’s nothing wrong with saying, “here at Meerkats’R’Us, please wash your coffee mug in this sink, and here are the separate cans for trash and recycling.” Pushing back on the “freedom to not recycle” would be like insisting on washing your mug in the bathroom sink instead of the kitchen sink, or bringing your trash home to throw out at your own house… sure do whatever weird thing you want, I guess, but most people aren’t going to have an issue with it. I’d wager she just doesn’t know about the recycling bin.

    2. MommyMD

      It does sound bossy but then I would want to stay leave my trash alone lol. I’d probably bring in my own can and give her the existing one.

    3. Heidi

      Maybe if OP said something like, “If you want to recycle your paper instead of putting in the trash, there is a recycling bin in the other room.” It covers the possible unawareness, but makes it clear that OP is not policing, like in that other recycling post in the link (that one was memorable and worth reading through the comments).

      1. Blerpborp

        I like that -it just seems a lot of people in these comments are big recyclers and want to encourage it but really, unless it’s something that the company overall encourages, then it feels not so much bossy but “here’s my preference on the matter that I’m presenting as the office wide preference” which probably isn’t wise, especially if she starts lugging her armfulls of old paper into the kitchen and not really seeing others do that.

    4. Psyche

      I think it I is fine, but if the OP finds it a bit too much like an order, they could change it to “I’m not sure if you realize, but we actually have a recycling bin in the kitchen that you can use for all those papers.”

    5. Cat Fan

      No, it won’t sound bossy if OP says it in a nice way, just like if she were telling her any other information about their job or the facilities there. The fact is they recycle paper there. The new employee should also be recycling. That’s about it.

  9. Bowserkitty

    Say something! It’s not about giving her orders, it’s about explaining there’s a better way to handle that trash. Because she’s new, it’s reasonable to assume she simply might not realize it.

    I work in Japan (notorious for trash separation, it will haunt me until I die) and am a heavy tea drinker, and for the longest time I was throwing my used teabags in the trash near the tea/coffee area. It wasn’t until like FIVE MONTHS HERE that my coworker who tends to handle the tea station maintenance finally asked me to stop throwing them in there and start leaving them on the teabag strainer tin. I wish she had told me earlier, I felt really bad!

    1. Avasarala

      Oh man we have all been there. The “actually you’re throwing away your trash wrong” talk… I’m sure I’m still recycling wrong somehow.

      1. Librarianne

        Yup. Nearly a year into my current job I was scolded for not separating the trash and recyclables correctly… even though I hadn’t been trained on the procedure because my office is on a different floor than the rest of my team. *facepalm*

    2. Julia

      Meanwhile, in my office in Japan, teabags apparently go into the regular trash, and we don’t have separate bins for burnable and unburnable either! (But separate ones for paper cups.)

    3. ExpatInTheHat

      I live in another East Asian country with strict recycling and I used to live in fear of getting yelled at by the retired grandmas and grandpas who patrolled the collection area in my old town hahaha. They get really intense about not just the recycling, but also the days and hours you could throw stuff out, and a lot of residents (not even other foreigners) just ignored them or were lazy, so they had very little chill, even if you made an honest mistake. Thankfully I moved to a bigger city to an apartment complex that takes care of most of our trash and recycling, but I still have realized mid-sorting that I just stuffed the totally wrong category of things into one of the many bins.

    4. The Green Lawintern

      Ugh, this is bringing back memories. We had a scandal in my prefecture when people found out that all our meticulously sorted trash was actually being taken out into the countryside and burned en masse.

  10. Safetykats

    I’m so intrigued by the intern’s response. For OP1 – I think that if you care enough to try to say something to her, I would maybe start out by asking her why she responded that way. I’ve had a couple of interns who asked interestingly personal questions (my favorite being whether my husband and I told his kids before we got married). It is probably easier to counsel the intern on future responses once you understand where she was coming from.

    Honestly, my best guess is that it seemed like you had shared personal information, and she wasn’t prepared for that. I know that if I had a relatively new boss who called me into her office, closed the door, and told me she was pregnant, I would be sort of unprepared for that. I’ve had bosses, employees, and coworkers who have been pregnant, and none of them have felt the need to close a door to reveal it. To discuss arrangements for pumping, yes. For simply say hey, I’m pregnant, due in September, when should we talk about maternity leave (or – will be out about 3 months so when do you want to start talking about coverage) – never a closed door.

    1. legalchef

      I think that most people’s experience with pregnancy announcements might be different than yours, at least for the initial news. Whenever I’ve been in the “initial round” of people to tell the news to (so usually supervisors or peers at my level, since I’ve never had a supervisee announce a pregnancy), it’s been behind closed doors, and when I told my supervisor, peers, and direct reports individually that I was pregnant it was behind a closed door, because I didn’t want the news getting out until I had told everyone I wanted to find out from me. After that, then it didn’t matter who overheard.

      1. JJ

        Well I’ve always been told in a group. It’s far more considerate to do that – as someone with fertility struggles I’ve appreciated not being the only person in the room whose reaction they’re waiting on. I’m happy for them of course but it helps if I can take a moment and not have to instantly respond.

      2. Pregnant LW1

        Like legalchef said, I was trying to be discreet with each of my direct reports before I told the entire department. I guess I didn’t even think about the implications of a closed door conversation. Thinking now maybe I should have started each chat with, “I have some great news – I’m pregnant” so that I set it up positively.

        1. legalchef

          when I told my direct reports I just waited for them to stop by with a question about something (which is usually multiple times a day – not unusual in my office/field), and then after we talked about their issue I think I said something like “I’m actually glad you stopped by – I have news!”

          1. Blerpborp

            That’s usually how I’ve experienced it- not a closed door meeting but not a group thing either. Just a “oh by the way” when we were already talking one on one and that’s from supervisors and peers.

    2. Former Hotel Worker

      I’ve only heard one pregnancy announcement from a colleague, and honestly it’s probably skewed my expectations somewhat!

      An older lady at our motel got pregnant via an affair with an 18 year old guy in the same department, who was also the son of the manager’s best friend. The manager had the job of passing the news on to the rest of the staff and did her very best to keep emotion out of it, but her tone was… I think grave would be the term. Most of us were just pretty stunned, but refrained from commenting, although it was clearly a less than ideal situation for any of them. The young man was nearly disowned by his very religious mother, who also didn’t speak to the manager for 6 months. It was a difficult time for everyone involved.

      I think if I were to hear news of another workplace pregnancy, without having any prior information on the circumstances, I’d probably be a bit stumped as to how to react, too! I suspect the intern was doing similar mental gymnastics and the thought process just sort of… slipped out.

    3. IntoTheSarchasm

      I had the same thought – any closed door interactions as a new grad/intern would have made me feel anxious and possibly expecting some sort of negative news and could result in a weird response.

      1. JudyInDisguise

        The only conversation I have had with a pregnant coworker involving her pregnancy was in a group and during the meeting about who would be covering which of her tasks during her maternity leave, followed by each of us offering a “Congrats” at the end of the meeting. I really feel bad for the intern. Being called into a room privately and told something so personal from someone you barely know? That had to be awkward as hell. I can’t wait to read HER letter to Alison.

    4. Zillah

      Asking why she reacted that way is overkill and just prolongs the conversation unnecessarily, IMO. This isn’t something the OP should guide her through point by point – just clarify the appropriate reaction. (I’d also personally just let it go.)

  11. Doctor Schmoctor

    #1 Maybe she thought “why is she telling me this behind closed doors, as if it’s some big secret” and just didn’t know how to respond. So she just said the first thing that came to mind, which happened to be the wrong thing.

    I’m wondering why you had to tell people behind closed doors. There’s nothing weird about pregnancy. Where I work nobody has ever announced that they were pregnant. It’s as normal as coming to work with a new hairstyle. If you treat it like some Big Thing, people will react weirdly.

    1. Avasarala

      I don’t think it’s that weird to tell a few people (your boss, your reports, your team) before letting it spread to other departments and the wider office. I’m picturing first you lay down the news and talk about maternity coverage/leave options, then you tell more people once that is hammered out. It is a pretty Big Thing in terms of effect on work and life–you don’t need to take time off for a new hairstyle.

        1. legalchef

          Except it’s much easier said than done to get everyone together in one place at one time. If I had waited to be able to get the 8 or 9 people together to tell them, I’d probably still be waiting to tell them, and my son is now 2.

        2. LaurenB

          Why? If I have one-on-ones with my direct reports, and sometimes the discussions veer off into non-work-related matters and they know something about me, why wouldn’t I say in a one-on-one setting “Hey, guess what, I have some really exciting news – Bob and I are expecting a baby!” This insistence that it *has* to be in a group is very odd.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago

          The group thing can backfire if you have someone who responds inappropriately though.

          I had a supervisor pull us all into a meeting to let us know she was diagnosed with breast cancer and one of the people in the room piped up with “are you going to have to get your boobs cut off”.

        4. Cat

          That would be bizarre in my office. I’m a lawyer at a firm and work with various other attorneys on various projects, all of which will need different types of coverage when I’m gone. I’d have to call 12 people who may have nothing to do with each other into a room for no other reason than to announce I’m pregnant. I absolutely popped into people’s offices and told them 1 on 1 and then talked about the particular projects we work on and how we’d handle them.

          1. fhqwhgads

            I think the difference between what you describe and what the letter describes is you’re popping in on them one on one vs a supervisor calling her employee into supervisor’s office one on one. The latter can be for some people inherently ominous.

        5. Avasarala

          What? Why? Last time I announced big news, I told my manager chain individually, so I could talk to them about different aspects of the change. I don’t see why it would have been better to schedule a meeting with everyone and put it on their calendar with some fake agenda?

          There are so many right ways to do this.

      1. londonedit

        It would be super weird if someone was obviously pregnant but hadn’t actually ‘announced’ to their colleagues. Like in the TV series Episodes, where there’s a character who is obviously getting more and more pregnant as time goes on but who refuses to discuss it.

        In my experience (never been pregnant myself but I’ve obviously had several colleagues who’ve had babies) yes it’s normal for people to have a private conversation with their boss first off, because it’s polite to let your boss know first and they need to discuss arrangements for maternity leave etc, but then they’ll make a totally informal ‘hey guys, guess what’ general announcement to their colleagues. No taking people aside for private one-on-one meetings to break the news – that would seem very strange to me.

        1. Femme d'Afrique

          I know what you meant, but the phrase “getting more and more pregnant” gave me a much needed chuckle. Thanks for that!

        2. just a random teacher

          We had this happen at my school this year! One of the other teachers was developing the body shape of “it appears that you are either pregnant or smuggling a beach ball”, but she never did make a school-wide announcement until the week she went out on maternity leave (which was in the form of “Wednesday will be x’s last day since they are going on maternity leave – we’re collecting gifts for a gift basket have them in by tomorrow morning”). I think she told one or two other teachers she worked closely with, but she did not tell the staff in general.

          It was so awkward, since I wanted to give her “body/appearance privacy” if that’d what she wanted (and just politely ignore her figure changes since she hadn’t brought them up), but I didn’t want to seem rude for not congratulating her and have it seem like I was just ignoring a life milestone. I feel bad that I did not get her a thoughtful card and present like I did for the other pregnant teacher (who had a work baby shower planned by a colleague and we knew about it a month or so in advance), but I need more than one day’s notice to get my act together and buy gifts. I hope she doesn’t think that I didn’t think of her as “not a real colleague” just because she’s part time or something.

          1. Jessica

            Yeah, women who ARE pregnant really need to realize that if you want me to react to that, you must officially tell me! Because if you don’t, no matter how obvious it seems, I’m going to keep erring on the side of not leaping to conclusions based on my opinions about your body size/shape, and I’m never going to acknowledge it till you do. On the other hand, if you want to just focus on work and not have coworkers mention it, you’re all set.

            1. Vicky Austin

              Good strategy. Never, never, assume a woman is pregnant if she hasn’t already informed you. If you say, “oh, you’re expecting a baby!” or “when’s the baby due?” to a woman who isn’t pregnant, you’ll have ruined her day by letting her know she’s fat enough to pass for a pregnant woman.

            2. Jen2

              I agree that you shouldn’t comment unless you know someone is pregnant, but I just want to say that once it has become common knowledge, it’s ok to comment even if you haven’t been told directly by the pregnant woman herself. Once I started telling people, it was hard to keep track of who I had or hadn’t told yet, and it was nice when people came up and said “I heard you were pregnant. Congratulations!”

            3. just a random teacher

              Basically, in this situation it was awkward because of (a) the sudden, last-minute scramble to get stuff together for a group gift without a weekend to go shopping and (b) since she didn’t tell most of us in advance she was going on leave, it meant some discussions about students that probably should have happened with her before she left for the year didn’t happen and were instead less productive because they happened with her sub.

              It’s not that I’m owed an accounting of whether or not you’re pregnant, but the consequence for you not telling me is a lack of thoughtful baby gifts (which is probably fine with you if you’re not telling people, and definitely a tradeoff that can be safely left up to the pregnant person to navigate) and that some balls got dropped with your actual students (which is…less fine). I don’t need to know why you’re going on leave, but there’s a good argument that in a job like teaching where absent some pretty unusual circumstances everyone will be keeping their job all school year that the rest of the staff does need to know if someone won’t be there all the way until June. (This person was a case manager for certain students rather than a classroom teacher, so it’s particularly true that she’s someone the rest of the staff needed to work closely with if one of the students she was case managing was in one of your classes.)

          2. That Girl From Quinn's House

            One of my teachers did this. She had just started with the district and wasn’t eligible for job protections or leave yet, and the baby was due safely into summer break, so she wasn’t going to need any. She later said that even though she was visibly enormously pregnant, the law was no one could ask if she hadn’t said something, so she kept it under wraps until September when her contract had been safely signed for the next year.

        3. Kimmybear

          Yes, it is weird. I had a colleague who I only ever saw when sitting down and she didn’t gain much weight during the pregnancy. So when I finally noticed at amount 7.5 months, it was super uncomfortable.

          1. Dankar

            I’ve had that happen with three coworkers in other departments this year! Only ever saw them sitting down, none of them gained that much weight and they only told their small departments.

            I found out another coworker was pregnant when the congratulations announcement was posted and she went on maternity leave. (In my defense, she and I only ever communicated via phone/email.)

        4. CoveredInBees

          I can think of two reasons: 1) They’ve experienced a pregnancy loss before and/or there is a reason they’re concerned about the progress of that pregnancy and they don’t want to go through the roller coaster of “Yay! I’m pregnant!” to “Actually, not anymore.” with colleagues. I lost two pregnancies and was so glad my colleagues didn’t know about it because it meant I could have a place of mental sanctuary and I didn’t get well-meaning comments/emails congratulating me on the pregnancy after the losses.
          2) They don’t want to talk about it at work. Plenty of people like keeping their personal and professional lives separate. Many, with good reason, fear they will be treated differently and never in a good way such as being passed over for projects, treated as less capable or unable to know their own limits (“Oh, you’re pregnant, just take it easy…”), or the very inappropriate pregnancy policing (“Are you sure you should be eating/drinking that while pregnant?”). People both inside and outside of the workplace often treat pregnant women very inappropriately and not discussing it can stem that.

          Unless their parental leave impacts your work, no one owes you a discussion of their body. Just go about your day as before.

    2. sunshyne84

      Exactly! The whole situation was weird on both ends. Is she telling the team just to tell them or is she letting them know if she’s off in any way it may be due to pregnancy?

    3. Blossom

      I did it by email! Well, I told my manager (yes, behind a closed door, as obviously it’s pretty big news), and HR (also behind a closed door). Then I decided I didn’t want to face the squealing reactions all at once, so sent an email after hours. A former colleague did the same (though she did it in the middle of the day, so got a big reaction anyway). Doing a pregnancy announcement tour of the office, or figuring out how to slide it in naturally to a conversation, sounds too awkward! I just wanted people to know so they weren’t wondering.

    4. Cupcakes for Breakfast

      The only closed door pregnancy announcement from a boss was when she was having pregnancy complications and needed help because she anticipated being out on leave for a extended maternity period with the possibility of not returning. The norm has always been to announce to your team first in a meeting (over doughnuts or a treat), or over email and then let the workforce find out and then tell the rest of the workforce. I feel like the OP signaled that they were close friends and the pregnancy was a bad thing when she brought the intern in and made it like a secret between them. I still think the intern was wrong in asking that, but the OP went at this very oddly.

      1. CoveredInBees

        The norm in your office has always been that way, but it is not universal. In offices where I’ve worked, even those that were treat-heavy, there has never been a group announcement. Calling together a meeting to announce happy news or announcing it in a meeting/email would have been weird.

  12. Stuff N Things

    #1 – Oh geez, as a childfree, borderline anti-natalalist, I sympathize with this intern (although I recognize we likely have very different backgrounds). I am just awful at responding to pregnancy announcements.

    Still, I don’t understand why the manager thought telling everyone individually in this manner was the right approach. I think a group dynamic lets people respond (or not respond) how they need to.

    1. The Original Stellaaaaa

      Yeah that approach definitely implied that the situation was serious somehow.

      1. londonedit

        It also puts a weird pressure on the person to respond – with a general announcement to your close coworkers, everyone’s response just blends into a sort of ‘OhWowYayGoodnessMeHowLovelyWhenAreYouDue???!’ noise. It’s easy to just make ‘Ooh!’ noises and hand gestures and be seen as joining in without making a particular statement. One-on-one, if someone says ‘So, I’m pregnant’, you then have to make a definite response, and if you’re not used to being in that sort of situation, then it can be awkward! And people can end up blurting the first thing that comes into their heads so as to avoid a really awkward pause.

        1. pleaset

          “weird pressure on the person to respond”

          “I am just awful at responding to pregnancy announcements”

          An important skill is being able to give vague polite reactions to comments or questions that might be odd/upsetting/confusing for you, while keeping a straight face. Here are some phrases that can be useful in various situations:

          “Congratulations.”

          “How nice.”

          “That’s interesting.”

          “I’m not sure what you mean. Can you tell me more.”

          “I’m not sure. Let me think about that.

          The first two can be used for just about any pregnancy announcement (except someone literally complaining about becoming pregnant.)

          1. londonedit

            Yes, thank you – I’m perfectly capable of responding in exactly those ways myself. I was speaking more from the perspective of an intern in their early 20s who might not have the life experience to teach them that.

          2. Reba

            lol I’m imagining “I’m not sure what you mean” as the reply to a pregnancy announcement!

          3. Zillah

            I… think that there are a number of contexts in which the positive responses of congratulations and that’s nice are not appropriate for a pregnancy announcement. There’s no one size fits all approach.

    2. Liza

      Yes, I think this is what shapes my responses, too. I think it poses an interesting parallel with the discussion about baby questions from a few days ago: whereas some people see pregnancy and babies as a default life choice and not a remotely personal or delicate question, I struggle to see pregnancy as anything other than hugely life changing, complex, deeply personal, and potentially devastating. I’ve lived in poverty for much of my adult life and a combination of medical and life issues would mean it would be a VERY bad thing if I were to conceive, and my gut reaction to the notion of pregnancy is one of fear and concern (that same sinking feeling when somebody announces a serious illness or bereavement). I’ve also supported friends through pregnancy scares, and it’s only very recently I’ve been present for two pregnancies that were cause for celebration rather than alarm and panic. I understand this is not the case for everybody, and that many (most?) people in the world are probably announcing the news from a happy place, but I need SOME sort of emotional indication or context before I can formulate a reply. Without that, my own personal feelings train is going down a totally different path, and it takes a conscious effort to put the brakes on and remind myself that their outlook is probably different. But I do sometimes have to ask people directly in order to have something to go on, or else react with no emotion at all, because it throws me that much.

      1. londonedit

        I’ve never wanted to have children, and I really, really have to work hard to get over my initial response whenever a friend announces they’re pregnant, which is ‘Ugh, man, yet another one confirming everyone’s “You’ll have kids eventually!!!” bias’. I know that’s 100% on me, and I absolutely go out of my way to never let it come through in my response to news of someone’s pregnancy, but my response is usually more along the lines of ‘Oh, wow!’ rather than the ‘OMG what incredible news I’m sooooo happy this is amazing you’ll be an incredible mum oh wow I’m so thrilled for you’ responses that my friends-with-kids usually give.

        1. Joielle

          Ha, this is me too. Someone else getting pregnant is always a bit of a bummer for me personally, but like you say, it’s on me to not let that reaction out. I always appreciate when someone announces in a group so I can just sort of blend in to the general happy crowd reaction.

        2. Blerpborp

          I believed for a long time (as a young woman) that I had to be openly hostile towards the whole children and parenthood enterprise to be taken seriously when I say I don’t want kids. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve separated these feelings and take pride in my ability to tolerate my friend’s kids and child relatives and I find parenting fascinating (as anthropological study way of learning about something I hope to never experience.) I know I am the minority, most people want kids! And I know I don’t get the same warm and fuzzy feelings some people do when a pregnancy is announced but can fake it if I need to.

    3. Pregnant LW1

      I honestly thought I was being discreet by telling each of my team individually behind closed doors. I really didn’t think of the implications of what a closed door conversation signaled, so I think I goofed there in terms of setting the tone.

      1. londonedit

        I can totally understand the impulse to be discreet – not everyone is the sort of person who would feel comfortable making ‘an announcement’ in front of everyone. But yeah, I do think people automatically have that ‘Oh crap, the boss has called me into her office, I’m about to get fired’ knee-jerk response, so there’s that, and also a closed-door one-on-one meeting just has the air of something much more serious and formal. So you might have unwittingly thrown your intern off-base by doing it as a closed-door thing.

      2. WellRed

        You are totally fine in sharing the news however you want! My boss told me and our other team member privately. We didn’t think it meant anything other than…thats how she preferred to do it. And congratulations!

      3. Thankful for AAM

        I think, pregnant LW1, that if you wrote in to say, I told the group and someone reacted x way, the group might be saying, “its better to tell ppl one on one!”

        I think your earlier comment that you could have set the tone by saying, “oh, I have some good news to share and I wanted to tell my DRs before telling the whole office”. It still could work in one on ones or private meetings with your direct reports after business was conducted.

        And congratulations!

        1. PB

          Agree. There isn’t one right way to deliver this news. It depends on the person delivering the news, the group, office dynamics, etc. Honestly, nothing about OP’s approach struck me as off, and I’m a bit surprised by some of the reactions.

      4. Pregnant LW1

        And I am also a pretty awkward person, so when people say congrats, I totally don’t know how to respond. I’m pretty sure I even said in response to one (not work) person who congratulated me, “Yeah, I had sex!” Somehow pregnancy announcements seem to bring out the awkwardness in everyone.

        1. Moray

          Yeah, if you told me behind a closed door my assumption wouldn’t be that it’s a Deeply Important Secret, but that you don’t want the news spread around, probably because you don’t want everyone squee-ing or making a fuss over you.

        2. Emi.

          Just say Thank you! This is one of those scripted interactions, like “How are you?”/ “I’m fine.” Don’t overthink it :)

        3. pleaset

          When someone says “Congratulations” (about almost anything) you reply with “Thank you.”

          That is nearly universally appropriate.

        4. blackcat

          Maybe then, for a future pregnancy, an email announcement is better? You could even include a note, “I’m including you on this email because it impacts the timeline for X and Y projects, but I’m not sharing this news with the broader office yet. I’ll let you know when I do.”

        5. L.S. Cooper

          This comment made me very glad I wasn’t actively drinking coffee. It sounds like this may have been a case of two awkward people left unsupervised for too long :)

        6. Arts Akimbo

          “I’m pretty sure I even said in response to one (not work) person who congratulated me, ‘Yeah, I had sex!'” LOL, I totally love you for this! I’d have high-5’d you! :D

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch

        You’re always going to have the few who tell you that you did it wrong. When sharing news, do it the way you feel comfortable. You can’t please everyone.

        However I would leave the intern alone because it’s an awkward question and inappropriate but it’s not egregious by any means, especially not enough to revisit after the fact. It’s not like she said “oh are you gonna keep it?!”.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead

          I swear the first sentence applies to everything, but especially pregnancy, parenting, etc.

      6. Reba

        You did fine! I think the lesson to take away from this (and this comment section) is basically that everyone is awkward.

    4. coffee cup

      ‘Congratulations’ usually does the trick. I don’t think there’s a need to go further. There’s not much skill involved!

    5. Samwise

      Unless the person telling you is weeping / saying “this is the worse thing ever!”, the response to pregnancy announcements is very easy: it is always appropriate to say “Congratulations! How exciting!”

      1. Zillah

        It’s not “always” very appropriate, though, and I think that it’s really important to keep in mind that there’s no magic answer that will always be correct – otherwise, we end up being pretty presumptuous.

  13. Phil

    #2 Not sure if it’s the same way in all industries or countries, but when I was seeking a career in broadcast TV after finishing college, I specifically targeted the careers pages of the web sites for each tv channel/network and rarely looked at the generic job sites. I got into the habit of checking them at least a couple times a week. I figured the postings would almost certainly appear on their own sites before job sites.

    1. londonedit

      It’s the same with book publishing in my experience (at least in the UK). Publishers either list jobs on their own company websites, via the industry magazine (which has a jobs section on its website) or via a select few industry-specific recruiters. It’s often pointless trying the generic job sites because searching for ‘Editor’ will bring up a whole ton of totally unrelated jobs that have nothing to do with books.

    2. TPS Cover Sheet

      Some bigger company sites and especially the public sector these days have a spamlist you can subscribe to when new jobs come up, either immediate or a weekly digest. Also some companies let you sign up and post your CV, depends on what kind of software runs in the background, it is like the first stage of an application process. And some just ask you to send your CV… I don’t count that as much ”cold sending”, maybe ”lukewarm sending” as they do ask for a CV…

    3. HR

      I use an applicant-tracking system that ties to our company site and job sites. All postings go live at the same time. It’s pretty unlikely that we’ll get enough applicants to hire for a position by posting on our website alone, but we’re a small, niche-industry company.

  14. The Original Stellaaaaa

    OP1: I think you could also tell her what an appropriate response would have been; merely telling her what NOT to say doesn’t completely resolve this issue. “Thank you for letting me know” might be appropriate. An ebullient “congratulations!!” can feel uncomfortable and too friendly across managerial lines, and she may have been trying to avoid that.

    1. Harper the Other One

      My go-to is “thanks for telling me. How are you feeling?” It’s polite, and it allows the person to gush briefly if they’re excited, or just say “I’m feeling all right” if they just want to communicate the news.

      A way to end the discussion might also be helpful – something like “well, tell me if there’s anything you need” (which in most sane workplaces will be interpreted as world-related.

      1. Alice

        thst Response is also a good opening for something like “I might be out more for appointments” which is a little work related and a little personal.

  15. Goose Lavel

    #4 You can talk to her about putting her paper into the recycling bin, but don’t fret if it goes into the trash. Since China stopped taking our recycling last year, there is now a recycling crisis and most plastic, paper and other recyclables are dumped into the nearest landfill. It is now more costly to recycle than to reclaim as most countries don’t have the cheap labor to hand sort, the US included.

    I felt good about recycling, thinking I was doing my part to save the earth, but after reading about where the stuff I diligently separated is now dumped, I no longer worry about it.

    1. The Original Stellaaaaa

      Same here. My city still has us use separate bins…which are picked up together by the same truck.

      1. EH

        China didn’t stop taking our recycling entirely, they upped their requirements for how clean the plastic recycling has to be, and pretty much the whole US doesn’t have the infrastructure to meet the new standard with the full range of plastic containers/objects.

        It’s worth checking your local gov’s website for recycling info – my town has a guide explaining that they can only take plastic that’s big (jugs, wide-mouth containers, etc) because they can’t get the smaller stuff sorted and cleaned well enough to meet the new requirements.

  16. Fish girl

    In regards to #1, I had a really bad manager once. When I told her I was pregnant, her first question was “Do you want it? You don’t seem excited.” I think I responded with “this is my excited face” and she just gave an awkward laugh and stared at me.

    Who would ask you that, much less ask your own employee!!???!? It didn’t help that although I had always wanted to be a mom and had been trying to get pregnant for almost a year, I still had lots of weird feelings around the intersection of pregnancy, parenthood, and my identity. And my manager had a history always reading/ assuming negative emotions in my face, tone, body expressions, etc (which is a whole nother can of worms), no matter how i was actually feeling. So I wasn’t that shocked she asked something inappropriate like that, but still! The gall!

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady

      When I, a distinctly single and queer young woman, became pregnant, I told my boss and he sensibly did not respond much.

      Luckily I had already prepped my “ally” in the office, who was able to answer the ???? in his head by using the cryptic and unpursable answer we had prepared — “It’s a welcome child.”
      This let me get away with not having discussions about how I was having a donor baby or whether there was some person with y-chromosomes secretly in my life.

      1. Arielle

        As a queer-presenting woman I’ve also had a couple of weird reactions along the lines of, “YOU’RE pregnant? YOU?” despite being married to a man. Apparently having an undercut means your ovaries don’t work!

    2. Rusty Shackelford

      I had a similar experience – I was “out” to my team but not to the rest of my coworkers (not because I was keeping it secret, just because of geographical separation) and someone called to ask if I could help on a particular project. I said I couldn’t because I’d be on maternity leave, and I guess because I was anxious, and COMPLETELY unpracticed in making that particular statement, I sounded less than thrilled. I was pretty surprised when she said “you don’t sound very happy about it,” and I quickly reassured her that I was just in I’m not letting myself get excited yet, and I’ll believe it when I see it mode.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      I had a boss with my second pregnancy, who’d pulled me into his office to tell me they wanted to move me from a contract position to full-time. I’d been delaying telling him, and figured now was the time: “thank you, but I need to let you know that I am five months pregnant”. He turned around and ran out of the office without saying a word. To this day the weirdest pregnancy-announcement reaction that I’ve heard of. Came back ten minutes later and said “Okay, the offer of full-time is off the table”. I don’t think he ever said congratulations. The coworkers at that job all pooled their money together to buy me a gift though, which was really sweet!

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          I wasn’t then. But thank you for pointing that out! I know it absolutely is here.

  17. Falling Diphthong

    I realize you probably don’t have a lot of peers getting pregnant.

    I suspect this is behind it–it’s the first time someone she knows has told her directly, rather than it coming through the older relative grapevine. And in said grapevine “was it planned” is a common topic of speculation/reportage.

    She may well be pre-mortified. But perhaps not, and it’s certainly worth spelling out for her, just as you would tell her that she couldn’t take six bagels from the morning pastry tray and hide them in her desk, even if that was the only way to get food when living with 3 teenage brothers.

  18. The Original Stellaaaaa

    And OP4: the general office paper recycling should not be in the kitchen. It’s not intuitive. It would not occur to me to walk into the kitchen to throw out old invoices or meeting notes. It’s something people have to be told.

    1. Lyra Silvertongue

      Maybe they could have a paper recycling box on the ground with them that they could empty in the main recycling daily or something?

    2. Antilles

      Yeah, that struck me as odd too. Everywhere I’ve ever worked, the big paper recycling bin was located in the copy room (and/or individual bins were next to each printer if there were several different areas with printers). Not only is it more visible, it’s also more effective – when someone prints something and never picks it up or you’re just quickly printing one copy to make sure it looks clean on paper or whatever, you can very easily recycle it.

      1. paperpusher

        Every government office I’ve been in has a big recycling bin (28 qt, according to the internet) with a small garbage bin that hangs off it. The message given is that of course most of your waste is recycling and you shouldn’t be producing that much garbage.

      2. Becky

        Yeah, at my work the kitchen has the plastic and aluminum recycling bins but the copy room as the locked secure shred bin for paper (I don’t actually know if they recycle that? I just know we have a service shred it because of potential sensitive personal or business information).

    3. londonedit

      This is a good point, and I think the oddness of this setup actually lends itself to OP saying ‘Oh, hey – has anyone mentioned the recycling to you? For some weird reason the paper recycling bin is in the kitchen, a lot of people find that strange when they start working here! Just in case you were wondering what we usually do with our old papers’.

  19. sunshyne84

    #4 Do you have any boxes at your workplace? Maybe you can use that as a temporary recycle bin for your space and take it all to the appropriate place at the end of each day.

    1. Antilles

      This is what I do at my current office. I just grabbed one of those cardboard boxes that the paper delivery comes in and put it in the corner of my office. When it fills up (usually takes a month or longer), I take the whole box and dump everything in the recycling bin.

  20. Trout 'Waver

    #5, I personally think entrepreneurial means the opposite of corporate in this context.

    Corporate: well defined roles, systems in place, lots of resources.
    Entrepreneurial: flexible roles, freedom to solve problems in innovative ways, ownership of tasks from start to finish.

  21. Syfygeek

    My reaction to a pregnancy announcement was “oh sh!t”. But it was to the nurse telling me the results of my pregnancy test. I had been told that due to certain medical issues I would never be able to get pregnant. Shocked everyone involved.

    1. Ali G

      Amazing! My mother was told she would never have children. She had 3 kids by the time she was 30. She had to have a C-Section with my younger brother and she was like “tie my dang tubes already!”

  22. not neurotypical

    I think I might know where the intern is coming from. I always refrain from the usual effusive congratulations unless I know that the person wanted to be pregnant. As the result of an unplanned pregnancy myself, I know all too well the mixed feelings that someone can have in that situation. I imagine that, for someone who is pregnant without wanting to be, hearing the usual “Congratulations!!!! You must be so thrilled!!!!” would be anguishing. So, I do tend to ask, carefully, something like “is this good news for you?” when someone tells me out of the blue that they’re pregnant. I’m not trying to pry, just to avoid making assumptions. I don’t want to congratulate someone who’s unhappy but also don’t want to withhold congratulations from someone who’s unhappy, and it’s awkward when they’re standing there waiting for a reaction to the announcement. So, while I agree that an intern ought not to be asking her new boss directly if her pregnancy was planned, I wonder whether pulling the intern into a one-on-one to announce the pregnancy wasn’t a contributing factor. Why not just send out a memo telling anyone who needs to know when you anticipate being out on pregnancy leave, how your absence will be handled, and any other business considerations (such as coverage for doctor’s appointments) and leave it at that?

    1. kzkz

      I would say if you’re unsure that’s all the MORE reason not to explicitly ask! That really puts someone on the spot, and what if they don’t want to tell you about their complicated situation? I think you can avoid the effusive (four exclamation point!!!! :) ) response without needing to ask a potentially invasive question.

      I think I like the “Oh, wow! How are you feeling?” since it can be answered totally innocently and surface-level (“oh, no morning sickness yet”) if desired or more seriously if desired (“well, honestly, we weren’t trying for a baby, so…!”). Basically it gives them an out if they don’t want to share about it being not fully good news, which “is this good news?” really doesn’t (they either have to lie or tell you something potentially very private).

  23. The Doctor is In

    It would help if the person announcing a pregnancy said something like, “I am happy to tell you that I am pregnant”. Not sure what the alternative would be if they are NOT happy though!

    1. MK

      A ban on talking about it? Like “I am pregnant, but I would prefer that this won’t become a subject of discussion, so please don’t refer to it unless for work reasons”, bur phrased better? Which would work even if you are happy too.

      1. Arctic

        I don’t know. It’s true there are lots of reasons to not want to talk about it even if you are happy. But if someone said that to me I’d assume it was not welcome news.

    2. Lucette Kensack

      I don’t think pregnant people need to meticulously select the words they use to tell colleagues that they are pregnant. It’s on the all of us as humans to be able to respond to common situations (such as being told about someone’s pregnancy) appropriately. The appropriate response in this case is “Congratulations!” and, later, “Let me know when it makes sense to chat about whether we need to make any adjustments to assignments.”

      Also, if a colleague is telling you about their pregnancy — unless it is clearly framed as a medical problem that they are working on solving — you can assume it’s good news. Your boss isn’t going to announce a pregnancy that she plans to terminate to her team.

      1. ceiswyn

        Just because someone isn’t planning to terminate the pregnancy, that doesn’t mean it’s good news to them. So no, ‘congratulations’ is not always appropriate.

        A younger person isn’t going to have the general life experience to handle an ambiguous situation like this with grace; OP will be doing them a very good turn if she can help them with useful strategies and noncommittal responses.

      2. Jadelyn

        Except, planning to terminate isn’t the only reason one might be less than ecstatic about being pregnant. Several folks upthread have mentioned having ambivalent feelings around their pregnancies. Someone might be pregnant, choosing to carry to term, but planning to give it up for adoption.

        The idea that “congratulations” is always automatically appropriate is predicated on the notion that everyone wants children and therefore a positive emotional response about being pregnant is assumed. Which is…not particularly accurate, despite being a pervasive cultural attitude (to the point of being outright coercive on those of us who don’t want kids).

        1. smoke tree

          I think it does make sense as the default response at work, though, because unless you have a really unusual relationship with your manager, they aren’t going to want to discuss those nuanced feelings with you. I’m sure they would rather hear a bunch of slightly off-base congratulations than have to field dozens of colleagues asking how they really FEEL about their pregnancy. And I can’t imagine that giving a tepid or non-committal response would come off as anything other than awkward. For better or for worse, it is the social convention, so in this situation, it seems like the simplest option that just lets everyone move forward with a minimum of awkwardness.

      3. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yes, exactly. I wrote this above but I’m going to repeat it here: Yes, the person may have mixed feelings or negative feelings about their pregnancy. Work is not the place where most people are going to discuss that, and congratulations is the socially accepted response to a pregnancy announcement at work (assuming it’s not accompanied by unusual details that would change that). Even if the person doesn’t particularly feel like being congratulated, it’s similar to “good morning” or “how are you?” — it’s a social ritual that you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) read as much into as some people are doing here.

    3. nora

      My standard response for basically all pregnancy announcements/speculation besides close friends/family is “I hope you get the outcome you want.” Covers all bases, I think.

  24. heatherskib

    Re #4- I recently started working for a new office and when I joked about the tiny garbage cans (Literally 1 gall on size. Just enough to drop an apple core :D) it was pointed out that our office worked hard to reach green office standards and part of office culture was recycling everything possible.

    It may be good verbiage to use in your discussion with her.

  25. agnes

    #5 I think Allison is generally right about the word “entrepreneurial” but I have also seen it used as a code word for:
    1. We don’t want to give you any direction
    2. We are making it up on the fly
    3. We aren’t quite sure what we are doing and we need your help to get structure in here
    4. We expect you to be as committed to this job as if you owned the company
    5.

    1. Anonya

      All of this, to the point where I hesitate a bit when I see it in a job description. This type of position can either be terrific or hellish, depending on the environment and how much of a clue the higher-ups have about the role. Ask lots of questions during the interview to flesh out what this means!

    2. MPA

      Yeah #4 is the one I worry about especially with so much advice towards business owners saying this is the only kind of employee they should want.

    3. Richard Hershberger

      #4 in turn is code for “We expect you to work long hours for low pay, as if you would see the eventual payoff, though of course you won’t.”

      But more often, I suspect it is a blather word, void of semantic content.

  26. boop the first

    1. Whoa… A one on one, closed door announcement with an intern sounds weirdly intimate.

    4. I feel bad about paper in the trash too. But I also feel bad about paper in the recycling bin. In a lot of places, recycling is just another rotting trash pile with better title and PR.
    I use an old shoebox under my desk for recycling scraps, is that an option? If it’s right there, she might use it.

  27. Polymer Phil

    OP 2 – cold calling/emailing can work (and has for me) if you’re in a niche field and do it in a well-targeted manner, but it’s less likely to work for a new grad. The exception would be if you’re in a rural area where degreed applicants aren’t a dime a dozen.

    1. ABK

      OP2-cold calling/emailing works better if you are sincerely networking and seeking more information about the agency/industry. It’s especially effective if it’s warm calling-as in, friend of a friend. Emailing just to ask if they have openings is going to seem strange since their current openings will be posted on their website. Read into Alison’s stuff about networking!

    2. Jennifer Thneed

      OP2: the other thing is that you’re regarding 2-1/2 months as a long time, and it’s really not a very long time in situations like these.

  28. Mujj

    #1 – I’m making an assumption that your intern in young. I do think it would be a kindness to let her know that’s a wildly inappropriate question to ask. Thankfully I never said anything like that, but I do remember how strange it was when pregnancy went from being a crisis to happy news. It took a while for the internal panic to subside as I remembered these people wanted to have a baby haha. Hopefully it was just an impulsive and embarrassing response from someone who can’t fathom having children right now. I’m sure she’ll be mortified if she’s not already.

  29. MamaTo3

    I actually had multiple coworkers (not interns, and well over 20) ask if my last pregnancy was planned (or if we had been trying), on separate occasions. I’m a married mother of 3 in her 30s. Friends asked too. People just have NO IDEA what to say to a pregnant woman, apparently. It’s wildly inappropriate, but so are the much more common questions about dilation and amniotic fluid you get bombarded with in late pregnancy.
    So, definitely tell her that the question is inappropriate, but don’t be surprised if someone else asks you the same question anyway!

    1. Samwise

      LOL, I always wanted to say, “I had no idea that screwing like crazed weasels would lead to pregnancy! Who knew!?” I restrained myself…

  30. AthenaC

    OP#1 – Add my vote to tell the intern using Alison’s scripts. If she’s mortified, you can even add, “Part of the purpose of an internship is to learn these professional norms, so don’t feel badly – just adjust going forward.” Smaller scale issue, but I remember once telling an intern that he shouldn’t begin his emails to me with “Dear Ms. Carson” – it’s the convention to start emails with, “Hi,” or “Hi Athena,”. He was embarrassed, but I used the language about the purpose of internships to help put him at ease.

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      It might even be easier (or more awkward, I don’t know) if you can make it a conversation about those professional norms, and not about how she reacted to your pregnancy. Is there anything else you can bring up, good or bad? “You’re doing really well at X and Y, and I’m impressed at how much you’ve grown in Z. There are a couple of minor things I’d like to address, though…”

  31. MBA_Bro_crusher

    OP #1 – I had some similar experiences telling my grad school classmates about my pregnancy. I got all varieties of weird/inappropriate replies. My general sense is that people who do not have many peers who are pregnant have no idea what appropriate responses are. I think Alison’s script is great to let her know that and it’s an important professional courtesy/growth area for her to know how to respond.

  32. Rusty Shackelford

    #2, if there’s a little voice in your head telling you the vast majority of jobs aren’t advertised, ignore it.

    1. ABK

      YES!!!
      (although I got my first job out of college, liberal arts, through cold emailing for an informational interview–but an informational interview, not asking for a job specifically, until 2 more months later when the guy thought he might have an opening)

  33. Emily

    I’m late-40’s and child-free, as are my siblings and nearly all of my friends, so I tend to be pretty disinterested in coworkers’ pregnancies. I go with “Congratulations” and then, since you have to say something to make it sound like you are at least semi-engaged, “When are you due?” Honestly, I don’t want any more information than that — the risk of hearing words like “episiotomy” or “mucus plug” are just too high!

    1. Bloopmaster

      THIS! As someone pregnant who doesn’t want to talk about those topics either, your response is an exemplary one. And “when are you due?” and “how are you feeling?” are literally the only appropriate questions to ask a pregnant colleague (unless you are their manager, and need to ask about maternity leave plans or accommodations specifically).

      1. SweetTooth

        Yep! Also pregnant, also have zero desire to talk about such personal things with anyone outside of close friends and family – if that! I’ve started to get more questions from coworkers on general innocuous things like “are you getting baby stuff yet?” or “are you finding out the gender?”, but mostly from people who have kids, so I can turn around and ask them how they did stuff. Honestly, it’s perfectly fine not to have questions! My coworkers may meet the baby someday, but probably they won’t, and the only thing that matters is that we still have a good professional relationship. I have friends or family who I can talk about excitement and anxiety and medical things – I want my coworkers to see me as a competent professional where my pregnancy is my current “fun fact” in the same way that my other coworker just bought a house and a different one just went on vacation to London.

        1. Pregnant LW1

          This. I wanted to give everyone an update of what was happening with me and let them know that things were going to change some in the coming months. But I definitely wasn’t fishing for congrats or trying to make anyone uncomfortable. I was just trying to share my news privately in a very busy, gossipy office.

  34. Autumnheart

    I think that the awkwardness around pregnancy announcements happens because our society treat pregnancy as a horrific, shameful, scarlet-letter-branded-forever event *except* when it occurs under specific circumstances.

    I dunno. The intern’s response was inappropriately personal, but then pregnancy is also pretty damn personal. I had a whole discussion just yesterday happening next to my desk, where a bunch of my coworkers were comparing physical details of their being in labor, which is also not appropriate for the workplace. I’m not saying at all that people shouldn’t be pregnant at work, but if you offer personal details at work, you should probably not be surprised when you get personal questions in response.

  35. Candy

    OP#1 – I would really just let it go if I were you. What’s the point of telling everyone one-on-one behind closed doors? If it’s not to set up timelines and assign tasks for your mat leave, then you’re bringing them into your office for a meeting just to tell them you’re pregnant and then… waiting for their congratulations? Why not just let them find out naturally in conversation instead of making it A Big Thing? (Yes, I know it’s A Big Thing to you personally, but is it A Big Thing for the Workplace?)

    And now you’re going to have *another* meeting with the intern to chastise her for not being properly congratulatory? If I’m that intern, I’m not the one who’s going to feel like I’m making things awkward. So she said a weird off the cuff remark. Welcome to being pregnant, prepare for six more months of that

    1. Samwise

      Really? The OP is at fault here? There’s nothing weird about talking to each person one-on-one. It’s exactly what I did (yeah, I’m kinda weird, but that’s not one of my weirdnesses) and in many places I’ve worked, that’s what others did as well. Announcing at the weekly staff meeting — now, that would feel weird. Putting up a notice in the staff mailroom? One on one is a good way for a someone who is a very private person to share important personal news.

      Also, OP’s tone will make the difference as to whether it is “chastising” or “just letting you know appropriate office behavior.” Interns make mistakes and should expect to hear how to behave going forward. “Weird off the cuff remark” — well, that is the sort of thing it’s useful to know about, especially as an intern. For sure I said stupid or inappropriate or unprofessional stuff when I first started working professionally: it was a kindness when my more experienced co-workers let me know in a nice way.

      1. Candy

        “There’s nothing weird about talking to each person one-on-one.”

        I agree… for managers, supervisors, and others who will be directly impacted by your mat leave.

        But for interns? Who are probably 1) temporarily employed 2) don’t have a personal relationship with you and 3) aren’t even going to be around when you deliver? An offhand, “as you probably guessed I’m pregnant…” comment while discussing other things is enough. It’s not like they’re not going to figure it out on their own eventually anyways.

        I imagine this one-on-one behind closed doors meeting was already awkward before the intern’s verbal gaffe.

    2. Jennifer

      I agree. This is far from the only inappropriate comment she’s going to get during her pregnancy. I don’t think this has anything to do with this person being young or an intern. People just say weird stuff to pregnant women. Not saying it’s right, it’s reality.

      1. Arts Akimbo

        Right. By the time you hear “Vaginal or C-section?” from a stranger in the supermarket checkout line, you may find “Was this planned?” from an intern pale to translucence by comparison.

    3. Rusty Shackelford

      I’d agree with you if it were a case of “you weren’t excited enough about meeeeeeeee!” But that’s not what’s happening here. The intern wasn’t simply “not properly congratulatory.” What she said was weird and rude. And since she’s an intern, this is one of the few situations where it actually is appropriate to coach someone on proper workplace behavior.

    4. Observer

      No and no. Requiring the intern to find out stuff through the grape vine is a TERRIBLE idea. The OP’s pregnancy is relevant to a lot of people, so she needed to tell them. Once you tell some people, letting the other people who work with you know is simple common sense, because if they “happen to hear about it”, it gets REALLY weird.

      There is not the least bit of indication that the OP was looking for any level of congratulations. On the other hand, there is a HUGE GAPING canyon between being congratulatory and asking personal and invasive questions.

  36. Mr. Bob Dobalina

    OP#3: You should look for a better situation, and it sounds like you already are. Sarah and Kenny are poor managers. Don’t do Sarah’s work for her. You already gave her a list. Nothing more is needed. Sarah’s request is lazy and dysfunctional, as was the response about Kenny having to “screw up”. Based on your account, Kenny has already screwed up in a pervasive and ongoing way. Your group has upper management problems. You say Sarah is reasonable and capable. I disagree. Sarah is not doing her job. It is unclear what value Kenny is providing to the company–? What is Kenny good at? What does he have to do in order to screw up, in Sarah’s opinion? We may be missing some key elements to the story, but based on the info available, OP needs to wash her hands of this and find a better role with growth opportunities and better management.

    The timing is right anyway. Everyone should do a serious assessment of his/her job situation around the 3rd to 4th anniversary. Do you have learning, growth or advancement opportunities? Is your work valued? Are you valued? Do you feel purpose and meaning in your work? Is your time respected? Do you have work/life balance? Does your boss facilitate and encourage your professional development?

    Take charge of your career OP, and best of luck.

    1. LW#3

      Thank you for your response! I really love working for Sara, and honestly, I would be thrilled to report to her. I think the issue is that she doesn’t really see Kenny’s team as integrated into the whole team. Let’s say that Sara manages 30 designers, and Kenny’s team is just 5 QC analysts. Sara cares a lot more about the design, but Kenny’s QC role is underneath her for some reason, rolled up into the design department.

      Value Kenny provides to the company: Nothing that couldn’t be handled by Sara or the team in general. As someone commented above, Kenny is a bit of an empty stair, but my company offers huge protections to employees. I have seen one person be let go due to performance, and that wasn’t on my team. Kenny has allowed another teammate, Kelly, to contribute minimally, not follow work processes, and just generally stagnate. Kelly is fine, though, because Kenny hasn’t done anything to fix it. Neither has Sara.

      My goal in bringing all of this to Sara was that she would run it up the chain to her supervisor, a VP, and I would be able to take over Kenny’s role, based on all of what I’m already doing. But, it’s clear that Kenny is safe, so I’ve got to move on to something more interesting and valued. Sara has given me a few places to start and I have a meeting with the VP soon to talk about leading a new initiative which I would fully manage. I’m excited.

  37. Stuff N Things

    I am aware that sometimes you have to be polite to these situations, but I don’t think “congratulations” or “how nice” is a universally accepted response, because it automatically assumes the person wants to be pregnant.

    I’ve defaulted to saying “oh yeah, How are you feeling?” As this doesn’t imply any kind of positive or negative judgement and “feeling” can refer to health or how they feel about the pregnancy and it’s up to that person to interpret.

    I’ve gotten better with practice (as more people I know have become pregnant) but it doesn’t mean I am ever going to be “good” at responding because in an anti-natalist’s mind, it is never good news.

    1. Jennifer

      I don’t think someone would start sharing the news with people at work if they didn’t want to be pregnant.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        I assume they would share with people at work either way, because if they go through with the pregnancy, everyone will find out anyway. But either way, a polite, not over-the-top, “congratulations!” seems the safest response to me, that covers all situations.

        1. Jennifer

          I agree. If they aren’t friendly outside of work, how in the world would they be expected to know whether this is happy news or not? Congrats is a standard response for things like that. You never know if someone’s news is happy news. I’m moving and I don’t really want to but I got a congratulations on my new home. I said thank you. I don’t expect people to read my mind.

    2. MatKnifeNinja

      The problem with, “How are you feeling?” is it’s much more invasive than Congrats or that’s nice. To me, saying that to a boss or coworker is a huge none of your business question.

      I think in a business office/coworker/boss setting, when you are told, “Letting you know I’m pregnant and the due date is (X).”, the best thing to say is “Thanks for letting me know.” The pregnancy may not feel like a congrats, or not nice and the woman doesn’t have to share anything more than what she said. It can be a three sentence interaction with minimal potential to offend.

      1. Allonge

        How is how are you feeling an intrusive question? If you don’t want to go into details, you say fine, thanks. No one asked for medical files!

  38. Mediamaven

    I want to add another perspective about cold emails – I do believe they work (once though). I just hired a person today who happened to apply at just the right time and she was great and it saved me from having to post. I’ve done it several times. And I like those people because it shows they were generally interested in my company. I say cold email away!

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      But in this case, the OP has already emailed these companies and is asking about doing it again.

  39. Jennifer

    Re: recycling

    Yes, suggest it to her one time. If she keeps putting it in the trash, please let it go or resign yourself to the fact that you’ll be taking her recycling out of your shared trash for the foreseeable future. These things can get ugly.

  40. CocoB

    OP#1 – Agree with inappropriateness of the intern’s question. However, your assumption that it was possibly b/c of religious homeschooling or small conservative college is really just an inappropriate and quite stereotypical. I know many that fit the background you describe of your intern and it in no way is an indicator of not understanding professional, social norms. As you mentor and guide your intern, please do not do it in a biased judgemental manner of her schooling.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      There’s nothing to indicate she plans to do that. She’s including context.

      Please don’t nitpick letter writers on what they do or don’t think to include. It’s disheartening to people writing in, who can’t seem please some commenters regardless of what they do.

      It’s certainly fine to explain why you think the intern’s background isn’t playing a role here, but the OP doesn’t need to be chastised.

  41. Hazwa

    For number one, please say something! When I was pregnant numerous acquaintances and strangers would ask me this and I really regret not saying anything in the moment. Instead I’d just say “My pregnancy was a wonderful surprise” and most of them would give this awful little smirk and make some nasty little remark about “oh so not planned then.” It’s an invasive question and people only ask it to feed the rumour mill, I say discourage it if you’re in a position where you feel like you can do so.

  42. smoke tree

    LW#2, if you’re still interested in working for one of those companies, I’d recommend following them on social media and/or setting up an alert for upcoming jobs, so you can find out as soon as any opportunities open up. Of course, you’ll also want to broaden your search–maybe your school’s career centre can give you some advice about where to find targeted job boards, or if there are any professional associations that are helpful for connecting you to jobs in your area. There may also be some ways to participate in industry-adjacent events in your area, depending on what field you’re in. Maybe all of this sounds obvious, but my industry is notoriously hard to break into, so I’ve found it’s really helpful to figure out the best strategies to make connections.

  43. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

    TL;DR of the story below: I agree that being from a religious background gives the intern a different perspective on why and how people get pregnant. She might not even really know that it is different in the secular world.

    Back in my religious days, I responded to a church friends’ pregnancy announcement with a “do you need financial help?” ie with an offer of money. My then-husband, who was also present at the conversation, chewed me out for weeks later for giving our friends an insensitive response. But in my defense, here’s the background:

    – These friends were very devoutly religious. The husband much more performatively so than the wife. He imposed a lot of new, strange rules on her when they got married.
    – The wife was in her mid-40s, and already had two children in high school and one in elementary school when she married Husband. Husband was almost 20 years younger. They had one child together right after they got married, it was a difficult pregnancy (an Eastern European country during an economic downturn and the wife having already had a hard life of physical labor and being in her 40s) and she spent a large portion of her pregnancy in the hospital, and had the baby in a hospital outside of our town that specialized in difficult pregnancies.
    – Wife had used birth control until she married Husband, at which point he said something like “we are going to have as many children as god provides”, and forbade her to insert an IUD after she had child number 4
    – At least on one occasion, Wife literally said to me “a wife must fear her husband”. In these exact words.
    – When they called us with the announcement for what would’ve been baby number 5, we all lived in the US, my husband and I worked in junior-level jobs in IT and had medical benefits. Their family of 4 lived in one of the most expensive cities in the country, on Husband’s teaching assistantship pay and the money that Wife made cleaning people’s apartments. They did not have medical insurance and had no way of getting it.

    So, yeah. I was not over the moon excited when they called and told us. And I offered money. And they said, thank you, but we’re good, it’s going to be a homebirth and Husband (who did not have any kind of medical or midwife education or experience) is going to deliver! I could not sleep the night after that phone call. She ended up miscarrying a few months later. I was sad but also somewhat relieved when I found out, because I had not been sure that she was going to survive that pregnancy and childbirth.

    It really is a different world out there.

    1. Gazebo Slayer

      That’s a sad and awful story. “A wife should fear her husband”?! I hope she found the courage to leave him.

  44. VX34

    Re – “Entrepreneurial”

    I would see that as a red flag to me, especially if the business is a small one.

    It says to me that they want someone to take their individual contributor role and treat it like they themselves are the entrepreneur.

    IE –

    Work ridiculous hours, be treated abusively, all in the name of “Entrepreneurial!! Like you own the business!!”

    Without any of the perks, or salaries, or authority that might actually come with being a business owner.

  45. Bunny

    #1, TOTALLY inappropriate, although I can completely understand the impulse. I know someone that recently announced that they were pregnant with their second child and by all appearances is absolutely no in a place professionally or personally to take on the responsibility of another child. Inappropriate as it is, I understand the impulse to question their overall judgement.

  46. Cosmos Blossom

    OP#2: I have a fairly successful experience with sending a cold e-mail: I got my current role (supervisor of a city museum) after I sent one to the Assistant Division Manager. A day or so later, she got back to me with a job opening, but it wasn’t in the salary range I needed so I turned it down but let her know that I’m still interested should they have another vacancy in the future. Still, I crossed them off my list of potential employers afterwards, put them out of mind, and went on with the job search.

    Maybe a year later, out of the blue, the ADM sent me an e-mail about a vacancy that fit my experience and expected salary range. I grabbed the opportunity and applied. I was hired after a six month process – it’s a government job, for those wondering – and am still working here one year later.

    Granted, it’s not been the greatest thing – the usual ups and downs with a dollop of burnout – but I’m happy for the chance, and I realize that I’m fortunate in this case.

  47. nonprofit writer

    #2, the only time cold emails have worked for me was when I was given the person’s name by a former colleague. Not sure if that counts as totally cold, but he didn’t reach out to them at all on my behalf, just gave me a list of people in our field who might give me some work (I had just transitioned to freelancing.) I put my colleague/friend’s name in the subject line (as in “Referral from John Smith”).

    the other thing I did, which I think you can do even if you don’t have a connection as I did, is write really clearly about my skills and experience and the kinds of projects I could help their organizations with, as clearly and to the point as possible. I didn’t attach a resume in that first email so I wanted to give them a little snapshot.

    I got a very good client this way and several of the other people wrote me back, though they didn’t end up hiring me. However, I know they have my details now if they ever need a freelancer in my area of expertise.

    I would try this approach in future communications–but agree with Alison that you shouldn’t write a second time. They have your info and will reach out to you if they are interested. That could even happen quite a while later.

  48. Burts Knees

    My absolutely favorite cringe version of OP1’s experience is when someone asked a lesbian couple if their pregnancy was planned. I would love to know what that person would have done if one of them had said no with a straight face.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      Thank you, it’s been a weird day at work and I needed that laugh.

    2. nora

      Not to belabor (intended) the point, but I have friends who are a gay male couple. One of them is trans and kept his ovaries and uterus. He gave birth to a beautiful baby around 4 years ago. So it can happen even with lesbian/gay couples. :-)

      1. Burts Knees

        That is definitely true! But from my understanding of hormones and especially with taking estrogen as a woman with a penis it does affect your ability to reproduce unless you make a lot of deliberate choices to keep it possible.

      1. Burts Knees

        Well if that was true, I wouldn’t have said a lesbian couple I would have said a queer female couple, the information is all in there my friends, you don’t need to but what if they can’t eat sandwiches it.

  49. Zapthrottle

    #1- Am I the only one who thinks that question is ok? Asking someone if the pregnancy was planned is’t a loaded, “Hey, Is this pregnancy a good thing or are you unhappy about it” question. Lots of people get pregnant because they are active trying/planning while others get pregnant because they are open but not actively pursuing it as a planned objective. Maybe she was asking if they were actively hoping to be pregnant or is this something that popped up.

    i know that if someone asked me that question, I’d say, no …we weren’t planning to be pregnant right now but we were open if it happened and ok if it didn’t.

    1. DCR

      It’s a very personal question – it can lead into some assumptions about whether the child is wanted and also addresses whether the person is using birth control\having unprotected sex. There’s just no reason that you need to know, especially as mere colleagues. What benefit or help does it give you to know?

      1. Luna

        That last question I would turn around to, “Why do you even have to tell your coworkers that you are pregnant?” because that question applies here, too.

    2. namelesscommentator

      I think it’s really, really context dependent. I’ve definitely done a “*cringe face* Do you want congratulations?” before. But I knew my friend was actively not trying, and she told me in a more symptoms based context when she needed *something* to explain what was happening. I don’t think I was inappropriate in that situation, but I would only ever ask if I had active knowledge to think otherwise, which this intern clearly didn’t.

      I do wonder how this is going to change as pregnancy becomes less of a choice in the next few years, especially in certain states. I may change my overall approach if I lose confidence that most of the people announcing pregnancies chose to continue them.

      I work with a population that nobody wants having kids, and I make a point to be congratulatory and supportive once they’ve made a decision to have the baby (& obviously am supportive if they chose not to). I’ve had more than one kid tell me that was meaningful to them in a really tough time. While I’m far from thrilled, it’s not like saying “that’s a bad idea” is going to change anything. I’ll continue throwing a congratulations and pair of baby booties their way.

    3. Rainy

      What if you asked the question and discovered that they didn’t want a pregnancy, weren’t trying, and their partner threatened to kill them if they tried to obtain an abortion? What if you discovered that they’re terrified and miserable and did everything they reasonably could to avoid getting pregnant and now, because the last abortion clinic in their state is a six hour drive away and costs more than they have in savings (the average person in the US right now would have trouble handling a $400 unexpected expense, and abortions are more than $400), they are hoping for a miracle that will allow them to terminate?

      I mean, I think you actually may be one of the few people who think that question is okay to just ask someone who isn’t a very close friend.

  50. CM

    #1 — I think that, if the OP wants to talk to the intern person-to-person about how the question made her feel, that’s fine. We all have the right to tell people when they hurt our feelings or insult us or make us uncomfortable.

    That said, I think dressing it up as a discussion about professionalism is kind of disingenuous, and I wouldn’t recommend doing that. I also wouldn’t recommend voicing assumptions about whether or not she’s had pregnant friends before. I would just stick to the actual issue, which is, “I wanted you to know that I felt X when you did Y.”

    1. Rainy

      Is it professionally appropriate now to ask about your coworkers’ birth control use? Because that seems pretty darned unprofessional to me.

      “Were you raw dogging it, or are you bad at taking your pill?” seems like the question that you don’t ask at all, let alone at work.

  51. Noah

    OP #4 — the people you should be talking to is your company. It’s absurd to make people go all the way to the kitchen to recycle. If she had one at her desk, or nearby, she’d probably recycle.

  52. Luna

    I’m probably focusing on the wrong thing, but it’s not okay to ask any question regarding a pregnancy… but you do expect people to give you a reaction when you tell them about it, I take it? So, if you don’t want an honest reaction to it, or even a question, why reveal it at all? If I were your coworker, I really wouldn’t care if you were pregnant or not pregnant. It’s none of my business.

    I dunno, this feels like asking “How are you?” and then acting all weirded out because the person answered with something other than “Fine”. You don’t want an honest reaction, don’t set things up, is how I would see it…

  53. Kicking myself

    I once asked this of a colleague and friend. I don’t know what I was thinking…I wasn’t! It just came out and I was SOOOO mortified afterwards!

    Grown-ass professional woman who knew better. I hated myself.

    Sometimes our dumb human brains make even the most emotionally intelligent of us say dumb shit.

  54. Pfft...

    I don’t think the question is inappropriate at all. You shared the fact that you were having a baby. You don’t ask someone if they are pregnant when someone is gaining weight. You are sharing a very personal matter with people via a major announcement. Had they said: “I guess you weren’t ready for this” would be inappropriate. But wondering whether you had been planning for this or if it was an unexpected but welcomed surprise doesn’t come from hate.

    1. Environmental Compliance

      Simply because a question doesn’t come from “hate” doesn’t make it an appropriate question. While it’s a benign question, it’s also inappropriate.

Comments are closed.