cooking fish at work, unusually long layoffs, and more

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

1. Coworker cooks fish at work — and the smell makes me vomit

I work in a multi-floored corporate building with break rooms on each floor. Some are walled in with doors and others open into the floor. I work on an open floor and I’m far enough from the room for most smells to not bother me, except fish! I’m so sensitive to the smell of fish cooking that it makes me vomit.

We (a collective of fish haters and I) have asked our fish-cooking offender to cook on another floor with the enclosed break rooms to save our sanity and smell receptors, but he doesn’t care and thinks he should eat whatever he wants wherever he wants. Today, he cooked fish in there again and I, admittedly, kind of went off. I tried to play it off in a joking manner but told him he needs to go to another floor (with another person agreeing) but he seemed to take great offense that we “told him what to do.” He also caught me complaining about him to someone else (whoops.)

Knowing him, I feel like an HR issue might occur because while I was trying to be nice and offer options, I know I did not come across in the best light (he was actually fighting, saying some people enjoy the smell … ?!?) No one knows about my vomiting issue, because people in my office who have “issues” (requesting special chairs/desks, complaining about smells) tend to get ostracized socially and professionally. I love my job and my team, but the building as a whole tends to have a “sissies will be shot on site” attitude.

HR will not take a stance on fish, but if I get caught up in some drama because I was calling him out for it, I don’t know how to proceed. If HR hauls me in for my comments, I’ll be perfectly honest. I told him the smell bothered me and did not tell him not to cook it, just told him to go to a different floor where the smell will not permeate. I will also tell them about the vomit if I have to pull the pity card. I don’t want to be ostracized and get moved because otherwise I’m looked upon favorably among my peers and this will hurt me professionally … but I’m sick of puking every time I smell fish!

There’s a bigger issue here than the fish, which is that your company ostracizes people who need minor health accommodations. That’s frankly horrible. Any chance you and some of your coworkers would be willing to raise that as a serious culture problem a potential legal liability? I know that doesn’t answer your question, but seriously, it’s reprehensible and you could do some real good by pushing back on it, ideally with a group of others.

Anyway, since you’ve asked your coworker directly and he’s made it clear he doesn’t intend to do anything differently, the only real option to get this to change is to talk with either your manager or HR, explain the smell makes you vomit, and ask that he be directed to use a kitchen with a door. (If you think that will solve it! I’m not convinced a door will be sufficient — smells travel.)

If you don’t want to do that, then your options are limited to actions you can take yourself to limit the smell’s impact on you — like opening windows, working from another location when he’s cooking fish, breathing in something strong-smelling (peppermint, Vick’s, etc.) to counter the fish smell, etc.

But definitely don’t get into anther spat with him about it — that’s going to weaken your case and reflect badly on you if either of you ever escalate it (and to anyone who overhears).

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I don’t want a company-wide birth announcement

My institution is large (500+ employees). When an employee has a baby (male or female), a company-wide birth announcement is sent out by the same person with a high level role. Its formatting is pretty standard: “Please join me in congratulating X and Y on the birth of their son/daughter Z on this date. Z weighed such and such. Everyone is doing well!” Every time I get these emails, it gives me the willies. It’s rare that I know who the person is that we’re supposed to congratulate and now I know a lot of information about their new baby. I’m more private about big life events than the typical mid-30s person. I never announced my engagement or wedding on Facebook (everyone who needed to know was told directly) and when the rush of baby postings started I deleted Facebook entirely because the majority of posts were of friends of friends’ babies (again, a stranger’s baby!).

I’m not currently expecting but I’m hoping to be in the next few years. When that time comes, I would really prefer to not have a company-wide birth announcement. At my institution, the vibe I get is this is standard and you’d get looked at like you have five heads if you tried to opt out. Is this one of those things that’s worth pushing back on, even if it goes against the cultural norm? I don’t think I could just say nothing because someone I work directly with would assume it was an oversight and pass the news along.

Sure, you can ask not to have a mass announcement sent out. Since the announcements all come from the same person, you can simply contact that person and say, “I know our tradition is to send out birth announcements when someone has a baby, but I’m pretty private and would prefer that you not send one for me. Thank you!”

You may need to say something similar to anyone on your own team if you tell them once your baby arrives. (Or you could just not get in touch with the birth info; they’ll know you’re out for maternity leave, but there’s no requirement that you alert them once the baby arrives. And if they contact you to check in, you can use similar language to what’s above.)

For what it’s worth, getting the willies in response to birth announcements is unusual! There’s a long tradition of communities welcoming babies, and your company is a sort of community. But it’s absolutely fine to opt out if you want.

3. Unusually long layoff warning

Last summer (2018), my group of about a dozen people were laid off due to a change in our business model. We were all notified on the same day but as our job duties varied, our end dates were staggered. Some people’s last day was four months from notification, some six months. My peers and I were given 15 months notice.

For various personal reasons, everyone in my group has stayed on during this time but I have found it demoralizing and interminably slow. Working in this limbo has been terrible and I am eager to move on. This timeline was publicized to other employees as gracious, as it would give us plenty of time to make plans for the future.

We are heading into the last few months and my grandboss just talked to me about the possibility of readjusting my final date for another six months. I’m not sure if there is any benefit for me with this arrangement. The original severance package offered was okay but not overly generous.

Is this the longest layoff timeline you’ve ever heard of? Is it possible to negotiate for more? I would like more severance but maybe there’s something I haven’t thought of.

That’s a very long layoff timeline! There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it’s long.

Is your sense that your employer wants you to stay longer because it would be better for them if you did (because they want you there to close out projects, keep something staffed, etc. and it would be hard to hire new people to step in now)? If they’re asking for something they want, you can try negotiating for something you want. It’s not uncommon to offer retention bonuses in this situation, where if you stay until X date, you get a bonus or extra amount of severance. If they haven’t offered that, ask for it! You can frame it as being because you’d be putting your job search on hold and passing up other opportunities meanwhile. (As for how much to ask for, figure out what would make it genuinely worth it to to you — an amount that would make you feel good about staying — and then ask for a bit more.)

4. How should I use my development time with my boss?

I’m a young female new grad in a male-dominated industry. I have a fantastic female boss who is fairly prominent within my department. She sets aside time every few weeks for career development with each her employees for us to discuss non-project-related topics.

The gesture is greatly appreciated, but I struggle to come up with topics. As I’m new to the department, I don’t want to talk about career steps every month, since I’d look like I’m eager to leave. I’ve been coming up with topics (some soft, like networking, presentations, and some technical things). I also bring up any of the few issues I have within our department, as well as bring some interesting articles from Harvard Business Review or news about our industry. But I’m running out of topics after just a few months! I appreciate her focus on development, so I really don’t want to tell her that I don’t “need” these talks. Do you have ideas on how to structure these talks so they’re not repetitive, and still beneficial? To be clear, I know I could improve on these development topics (always room for improvement!), but I don’t find just talking about these topics to be helpful.

Keep in mind that career development doesn’t just mean “what job should I do next and how do I get there?” It also includes things like “how do I improve in my current job?” and “how do I build skill X?” and “how do I navigate this particularly tricky client/project/employee/political dynamic?” So if you spend some time thinking about what you’re finding challenging in your current role, you’ll probably find topics there.

But also, ask her! She sounds like she’d be very open to you saying something like, “I so appreciate that you make the time to do this on a regular basis, and I’ve found our discussions and your insights really helpful. We’ve covered a lot of the topics that were on my mind initially, and now I’m thinking about useful other discussions we might have. Do you have thoughts on the best ways to use this time, either based on what’s been helpful with other people or specific to me?”

{ 760 comments… read them below }

  1. Cranky Neighbot*

    1. Barf on him.

    2. Not much to add to Alison’s advice, but people who know you’re out on parental leave may be concerned if they don’t see an announcement. They could think that whoever makes these announcements dropped the ball. Instead of the standard announcement or no announcement, you might be better off with either a more limited message (“Baby arrived happy and healthy last week!”) or a more limited list of recipients.

    4. Seconding Alison’s advice. This is how my manager and I talk about career development. I don’t think either of us has jobs at other companies in mind when we talk.

    I’ve also asked about how one earns a raise (my company has very concrete standards; it is like asking a teacher for a rubric). If there are specialized or niche assignments at work, you could ask how to be assigned the ones you’re interested in.

    1. Anancy*

      #2 Or people who knew you were pregnant might assume something happened to the baby if they didn’t see a birth announcement. Certainly keep it a smaller group if you want, and with less info (baby arrived, all is well).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That’s where my mind went. If you’re opting out of a community tradition like this, people can assume it’s something tragic. (That doesn’t mean LW has to participate, just a heads up that colleagues’ interpretation may not land easily on ‘because OP is a private person.’)

        1. Smithy*

          Here to flag this as well. Unfortunately it’s also something where it just takes one or two particularly chatty people to notice the lack of announcement and start questions of “hey, LW2 has been on maternity leave for a while now – never saw an announcement, is she ok??”

          While I completely understand wanting greater privacy – I think pushing against the text that is the most uncomfortable may serve the LW best. Completely opting out may ultimately result in far more attention and questions.

        2. CMart*

          Same thought here.

          A woman I’m friendly with at my kids’ daycare was pregnant, and then one day I saw her and she was not. “Oh! Did you have the baby?” I asked. She just gave me a semi-terse “yep” and continued on her way. I’ve spent the last several months worried something terrible happened, but NewBaby is starting next week so I’m guessing she’s just been rightfully tired and not up to chatting. But my first thought was “this is usually something people are happy and eager to share, therefore reluctance must mean something unhappy occurred”, not the more likely answer of “just didn’t feel like it.”

          1. Observer*

            Well, your assumption that something didn’t go right was pretty sound – and it might even be true. For instance, if the kid was a preemie or was born with something serious, Mom could have been on edge. Hopefully I’m wrong – All I’m getting at is that this kind of reaction is not born out of a badly of kilter sense of what’s likely, but rather out of reasonable fears.

            If someone was obviously pregnant then went on leave for 3 months, but no birth announcement? Of course I would be thinking that something pretty bad had happened – it’s FAR more likely than that the Mom didn’t want to announce it.

            1. Jennifer*

              How do you know it’s FAR more likely? The stats just don’t support that. “This person that I only know in passing didn’t send me a birth announcement – SOMETHING TERRIBLE MUST HAVE HAPPENED!!!” Instead of her just being busy and trying to get out of the daycare without a lot of chit chat that day. Maybe she was just tired of telling the story over and over.

              1. Observer*

                Actually, the stats DO support that. Most people would not object to a standard birth announcement – but something like 20% of pregnancies past 20 weeks (almost 5 months, so showing) end up with significant problems. So when you know that someone is pregnant and then there is just radio silence, it is absolutely normal to wonder if everything is ok.

                In a workplace context where Mom just drops out of sight? No, that’s not a “I’m tired and need to get home” situation. Especially when an announcement is the norm.

                1. valentine*

                  I hope OP2 can turn the tide at her workplace so no one has to manage their coworkers’ fears about pregnancy loss. While I enjoyed seeing wedding/birth announcements, I probably wouldn’t notice a parental leave did not have a corresponding announcement.

                  Apart from identity theft, I don’t see a need for concern about details.

                2. Jennifer*

                  20%, my point exactly. That means there’s an 80% chance nothing went wrong and they are just minding their own business. Everyone else should follow suit.

                3. Hrovitnir*

                  20% of pregnancies at that stage may have issues, but that’s not 20% of everyone who responds negatively to discussing their baby, it’s 20% of all pregnancies.

                  There are no hard stats of % of people who would not welcome enquiries into their pregnancy, but it’s wildly unlikely to be a majority.

                  (For what it’s worth, it’s a major perk of not wanting kids that I get to side-step this stuff. I hate how pregnant people get treated like public property. But at the end of the day it’s very unusual to want to rigidly divide work from the very existence of your family.)

                4. bubs*

                  I am not sure what you are including as a “significant problem” but that statistic sounds very off to me. Also many women do not show by 20 weeks.

                5. Doc in a Box*

                  Where is this 20% number coming from? Maternal and neonatal morbidity rates vary widely, but the CDC quotes about 1.5% of US pregnancies have serious complications (defined as “unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short- or long-term consequences to a woman’s health”).

                  That’s still too many, but it’s not 1 in 5 pregnant women have a bad outcome.

        3. Anon for this*

          Yes, I supervise a private person and completely respect their wishes. The one time it was unfortunate was when they called in for the day due to a traffic accident and were distraught at the time of the call. Their private nature meant they ignored my text (I was not there when they called) to tell them I got the message and hoped they were ok. So in my head I was envisioning all kinds of terrible outcomes until they came in just fine the next day and said they just were upset. That’s fine and I have absolutely no issue with them taking sick leave for that, but I spent the day wondering if I was going to get a call from a loved one that they were seriously injured or worse. So I get privacy and will respect it even in situations where it makes me worry like this one, but others will invent tragedies in their heads so OP will need to accept that.

          1. A*

            I’m not sure I understand the connection between their private nature, and ignoring a text from their supervisor

            1. AKchic*

              Same. I can be private while still talking about anything and everything under the sun. I can also be private while still responding to text messages from my supervisor after something major to at least reassure that I’m alive and well and just not going to be in so the company (and the supervisor) isn’t worrying that I’m laid up in a hospital (or morgue) and they won’t have to plan to redistribute my work long-term.
              There’s private and then there’s cagey to the point of uncommunicative.

              1. valentine*

                to at least reassure that I’m alive and well and just not going to be in
                They had already called out. Once I follow the absence protocol, I don’t also assign myself the task of dealing with anyone’s feelings.

                Anon for this, you can learn to stop worrying in these situations.

                1. Not a Morning Person*

                  But it sounds like the text was worded to be an inquiry into whether or not the employee was okay and when the ee didn’t respond, Anon for this worried. That’s normal. You can tell yourself not to worry, but all research and anecdotal evidence indicates that in the absence of information people come up with the worst case scenario, not the best case or even the most likely scenario. Humans. What can you do?

                2. Mommy MD*

                  I was in a pretty serious car accident and got no less than ten texts. Coworkers care. My family answered them back. They just want to know the seriousness of the situation.

            2. BigLo*

              A – FWIW, if all the text message said was basically “Sorry I missed your call, I hope everything is okay!” I would most likely not feel the need to respond to it either and I’m not an ultra-private person. This kind of text feels kind to receive but when you’re dealing with the repercussions of a car crash it does not seem urgent to respond to. If it was a question about whether I’m seriously injured, that does change whether I would respond.

      2. blackcat*

        I think that this is why I’m not a fan of these sorts of announcements always going out. I’ve had more than one friend have had it be “not all is well” after birth (in all but one, things turned out fine). I wouldn’t want to 1) lie to my coworkers 2) announce that not all is well or 3) have people assume stuff because there’s no announcement.

        Announcing to all 500 people seems strange to me. A small team? Sure. Then there’s less expectation around it, too, I think.

      3. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

        How do they handle it when something goes wrong? My son was born at 26 weeks after a catastrophic pregnancy complication. I was hospitalized for 8 days afterwards while they stabilized me and he was in the hospital for 4 months.

        He’s almost three now and doing great – but there is no way it would be appropriate to announce his birth as something that we wanted congratulations on since it was a heartbreaking medical decision. Honestly, this is his first birthday that I don’t feel conflicted about celebrating – and that’s saying something.

        1. mdv*

          In a case such as yours (and I’m so sorry that happened to you and your son!), I would just tell my team, and ask them to only tell others in the company on an as-needed basis. Something along the lines of “baby was born, but there were complications, so we’re not doing any big announcements at their request. Everyone is recovering well [or whatever you prefer they say], and PERSON still expects to be back at work in TIME FRAME. They would appreciate your discretion in not making any announcements on their behalf, thanks.

        2. Miranda*

          So, I went into extremely premature labor one morning at work. It couldn’t be stopped, so I gave birth early the next morning. I updated my mom, who updated family and friends via posting on my Facebook wall, including one coworker I friended who had been in the same 3 person cube when I went into labor. That coworker passed on the updates to whoever was appropriate. Also, hubby worked at the same place and could update as needed too when he went back. My also 26 week kiddo is a healthy 8 year old now. I’m a stay at home mom now, but workplace was great and husband still works there. I think really it would depend on your workplace, but usually you’d keep one trustworthy person in the info loop who could pass on info to those who actually need it, while leaving the rest of the company happily oblivious.

          1. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

            Yeah, that’s about how every place I worked at with a large staff would have handled the situation – but we also didn’t send mass emails about births, either. I was in a graduate school program as a non-traditional aged student so I had my mom notify my advisor within a few hours after we found out that Spawn was going to be delivered soon. My advisor was hugely supportive and notified the correct people while filling out all the paperwork I needed to withdraw for medical reasons. There was some surprise – but mainly because a lot of people didn’t know I was pregnant. I’m overweight to start with so I didn’t have to gain much weight at all. Combined with the fact that I carried pretty small, most people hadn’t noticed that I was pregnant before I had my son.

        3. Geillis D*

          Fellow 26 weeker mom here. It was so confusing to my family and friends, not knowing what to say as the standard “congrats!!” just didn’t cut it.
          Hope birthdays going forward will have more joy and less tears on what might/could/should have been. Mine is in high school now and awesome, I’m still raw and the feels tend to come out at unexpected times.

      4. Jennifer*

        I honestly wouldn’t assume that. It’s exhausting to always jump to the worst-case scenario. Not saying that those things don’t happen, but usually, it’s something a lot easier to explain, like someone like the OP just wanting to be more private.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          The OP’s stance would be considered very…unusual around here – far more unusual than a miscarriage or other birth-related emergency. Miscarriages are really common whereas people who are so private that they don’t want people in their company to know that the baby is born and mother and baby doing fine are actually very rare. I’m not saying she has to go along with it if she doesn’t want to, but she needs to be aware, as Alison pointed out, that on this issue, she’s kind of an outlier.

          1. Consultant Catie*

            I wonder if this is actually a great opportunity for the company to get away from these types of announcements in case of any future complications. If OP can push back against the announcements when she has a normal, healthy pregnancy and delivery, it might make it less fraught for anyone who comes after her who does end up having issues.

          2. Jennifer*

            I just think it’s odd to jump to that conclusion with someone you don’t really know that well. I agree that she’s an outlier. I was more responding to the notion that everyone at the company will think she’s miscarried. That’s more than a bit presumptuous and seriously not anyone’s business. If they want you to know, they’ll tell you, one way or the other.

            1. A*

              Wait, how is someone having a thought along the lines of “oh, I never saw a birth announcement for Lucy, I hope that doesn’t mean something bad happened!” getting into someone else’s business? We all have reactions/thoughts to our surroundings. I don’t think the point is that EVERYONE is going to be walking around thinking OP miscarried, more so that *some* people might think *something* bad happened. Again, natural conclusion / subconscious assumption – not purposefully getting all up in someone’s business. The company has already put this topic on everyone’s radar with the tradition of the birth announcements, noticing (without commenting on) a lack of announcement for a known pregnancy is not unusual within that context.

              If I’m at a company that usually sends birth announcements – and one day I see my very pregnant co-worker and they are no longer pregnant and there’s been no announcement – I’d probably natural conclude that something might have happened. Is that really so outrageous? This perspective seems exhausting as well lol.

              And I say this as someone who also would not be thrilled by the birth announcement tradition – but personally I would just let them do it because it’s not a huge deal to me, and isn’t worth jumping through hoops to avoid.

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  I don’t think it’s a “here” thing. 20% of pregnancies have something go wrong. If in OP’s particular office 95% of the time there’s an announcement (and it sounds like it may potentially be more at that office), and this time there isn’t one…it’s not really a jump to assume “no announce” = “problem”. If they weren’t so incredibly consistent about the announcements previously, sure there are a wide range of things between “too busy” and “tragedy”, but it’s because the office has been so consistent in the past that the sudden and unique absence of the announcement would likely spark concern. This is a “because everybody there does it” issue. I think it’s entirely reasonable for OP to opt out for privacy reasons, but being the first person to opt out of something that always happens generally sparks outsized concern that there must be a “big” reason why someone would buck the trend.

        2. Observer*

          That’s just not true. People not wanting to tell people about the birth of a baby in an environment where lots of people know they were pregnant and are out on leave are not common at all. On the other hand, pregnancy and birth complications are shockingly common.

          1. Jennifer*

            I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. I’m saying it’s a bit over the top to jump to the conclusion that someone has miscarried just because you didn’t receive a birth announcement, particularly when it’s someone you don’t know very well. If I know someone well, I’ll find out from them or someone in their family when they have given birth or if there were complications. If it’s just a random coworker I’m not refreshing my email every five minutes chomping at the bit to see whether or not the baby was born. When they return from leave, I’m just like, “oh, she had the baby.”

            1. pentamom*

              It’s not jumping to the conclusion that they have, but it is wondering and worrying whether they have.

              And no one’s suggesting everyone’s champing at the bit and checking their email every five minutes, but if it’s a co-worker you interact with fairly often but not on your immediate team, you may wonder why several weeks after they went on maternity leave, you have still not heard anything, when it is actually normal to hear such news in your company, and most people are quick to share positive outcomes.

              It’s not the new mother’s job to manage those feelings, but they certainly aren’t odd or necessarily the product of worst-case thinking.

              1. Jennifer*

                You may wonder, but either way, it’s not anyone’s business. If she came back, still no birth announcement, no other indicators that something happened, and she didn’t say anything to me, I’d mind my business.

                Again, I think it’s REALLY strange how people jump to the absolutely worst scenario here. I don’t think most people IRL would.

                1. pentamom*

                  Because sometimes the “absolutely worst scenario happens,” and it’s not a unicorn. It’s a thing that happens to people. I don’t know why you find it so unreasonable. And it’s probably commoner for people to have bad outcomes or at least temporarily very difficult outcomes from childbirth, than for people to treat the existence of their healthy child as a confidential matter.

                  And again, they’re not “jumping to it.” They’re wondering if it’s the reason why they haven’t heard.

                2. Jennifer*

                  Fair enough. I guess I find it weird because I’m not as involved in the lives of my coworkers. If I get a birth announcement by email, I think “oh, that’s nice,” and go on with my day. The pregnancies of people I don’t know well just don’t cross my mind very often. It’s not that I don’t care. I just figure if they want me to know something, they’ll tell me.

                3. iglwif*

                  So the thing is, both having a baby and losing a baby at or near term are HUGELY LIFE-ALTERING things, and I don’t know how I could “mind my business” and interact normally with someone while not knowing which of these hugely life-altering things they had just been through. And then of course there’s the possibility that the baby was born and is hanging in there but is in the NICU or whatever.

                  And I think a lot of us start to worry that Something Bad Has Happened when we don’t hear about a baby precisely because we have known someone (or even been someone) to whom something bad has indeed happened. I can think of half a dozen instances among my family and friends without even trying hard :(

                4. Jennifer*

                  I have similar experiences but they make me want to mind my business even more because I know what it’s like to go through with a bunch of nosy people that you barely know asking questions you don’t want to answer. We just have different perspectives.

                5. Tinuviel*

                  It’s not my business, but I still would like to know things like, is the coworker going to be on leave for longer/shorter as a result? And more importantly, is this the kind of thing where I can say “congrats, hope you’re feeling OK” when she comes back, or is that going to seem horribly insensitive/cause her pain?

                  That’s why people send these announcements in the first place!

            2. Oxford Comma*

              In my adult working life, I can probably think of at least 15 different cases where something went quite wrong, whether that happened in the form of a miscarriage or whether there was something wrong with the baby. Unfortunately, it’s common enough. It’s also possible that it’s not your coworker, but your coworker’s partner. There was one guy here who we know was going on family leave because his wife was having a baby. There was no announcement and people did wonder for the longest time till word got out.

              I do think there’s a big difference between some huge company-wide email versus a smaller workplace where everyone knows everyone or in your department.

        3. A*

          It isn’t necessarily a conscious assumption. Looking at several of the scenarios people are throwing out as examples, most of them I don’t think I’d even question – my natural conclusion would be that something happened.

      5. Oxford Comma*

        That’s always where my mind goes too.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting it not to go to the whole company, but maybe for your team some sort of very brief announcement would be advisable.

    2. Lena Clare*

      Agree with the announcement for number 2. Keeping it simple and brief (baby arrived safe and sound, parent(s) doing well, etc) may very well fend off more intrusive questions and help to keep it more private for you!

      1. kittymommy*

        I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the reason for the company-wide announcement, specifically to avoid a ton of people calling the co-worker while they are out.

        1. CMart*

          My second baby came 2 weeks after the due date I gave work. I worked from home the first week and just took PTO the second week because I had already transitioned all my work and was going out of my mind pretending that I was actually doing work at home.

          I got soooooooo many texts and e-mails from well meaning colleagues wondering if the baby had arrived/if everything was okay. Personally I was happy to receive them but I know most people really don’t want to be pestered like that.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, this is very common in the UK because people will typically start their maternity leave a few weeks before their due date, and they’ll be off for 9-12 months, so once they’ve gone off on leave people will be left wondering whether they’ve had the baby yet, how everyone’s doing, etc etc. Company-wide announcements aren’t super common, but people will usually send an email to their direct team, or to their boss – when they feel comfortable. Usually it’s ‘We’re delighted to say that baby Wakeen arrived safely last Monday 23rd, 8lbs 3oz, we’re back at home and everyone is doing well’ or words to that effect.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, this.

          I mean, I get it–I wouldn’t want a splashy announcement, either, but if it’s the established practice I’d probably roll with it just so the absence of it wouldn’t draw even more attention. (I might ask them to leave off the birth weight or whatever. That part seems a bit weird, anyway. But I wouldn’t ask them to skip the announcement entirely.)

          1. Veronica*

            I think birth weight is just part of the tradition. When I was a child (45-50 years ago) birth weight was always included in announcements. Not sure why.

            1. BelleMorte*

              The tradition of announcing birth weights seem to have started around 1900. I was curious and did some researching. It seems that it’s most likely they started announcing it as a measure of health, i.e. higher weight babies are more likely to survive than lower weight ones.

              Nowadays people seem to continue sharing because tradition, or because it gives people an idea of how big the baby is if they are sending gifts i.e. preemie vs newborn vs 1mo.

              I personally think it’s just one of the few safe questions to ask.

              1. valentine*

                it’s most likely they started announcing it as a measure of health
                Yes. When I was young, nine pounds was ideal, eight was okay, and seven or less was a preemie. Now, people are happy with seven pounds.

        3. Sparrow*

          In practice, this was the purpose of birth announcements at my last office. But 1) the new parent set the standard of how much information was shared, and 2) it went to our department (~40 people), not the entire organization. If the parent sent details (name/weight/photos/etc.) to their boss, that would be included in the message; otherwise, it was just “[Coworker’s] baby has arrived! As a reminder, they’ll be out of the office until the beginning of December. Coworker X and Coworker Y will be covering their projects in the meantime,” or whatever.

          I’ll also say that I really don’t care about babies unless they are related to me or belong to very close friends (yes, I am the grouch who won’t go say hi when a random coworker’s baby visits the office), but these messages never really bothered me since they took their cues from the parents and served a work purpose more than anything else.

      2. GreenDoor*

        I agree that no announcement would be out of step with this company’s tradition. I guard my kids’ privacy very closely. I might do an announcement that says a lot without saying anything. Wait until you’ve been home at least a week and say something like, “Our little cuddle bear has arrived and we couldn’t be happier. We’ve settled in just fine and I’m looking forward to my return to the office!” It’s a cheery announcement but doesn’t reveal the sex, name, specific birthdate or medical issues (including weight). Plus, if you wait until you’re home, no surprise visits to your hospital from unwanted guests. Ignore any follow up emails from work for more details – they shouldn’t be bothering you on a federally protected leave anyway!

    3. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      1. Or just wander into the kitchen when he cooks fish, say, “what’s that smell? Yuck,” and barf in the trash can. Every time. I bet you’ll train him in three times or less.

      2. If they don’t hear the happy announcement, your friends might be worried that there isn’t one. And start delicately inquiring if everything is ok. Make sure that the people who know you know that all is well.

      1. myug*

        > Make sure that the people who know you know that all is well.

        This. Not sure who else would be following up on my pregnancy other than people who know me so a whole building announcement is not needed.

        I see what others are saying but I think it’s a scary precedent that “no announcement = something bad happened.” My first thought would be, “new parents = busy with baby – see them in 12 weeks, I guess!” If they weren’t back after their leave, then I would start to worry it might be more concerning.

        1. Marmaduke*

          I would agree if it weren’t such a firmly established norm in the OP’s workplace. As is, the lack of announcement will stand out as a deviation from the norm and is a lot more likely to cause concern.

        2. Observer*

          Even if weren’t the norm in the OP’s workplace, this would be a normal and reasonable reaction. As others have noted, problems are common enough that it’s just a reasonable reaction.

        3. A*

          If it wasn’t a fully established tradition, I would completely agree. It wouldn’t even occur to me. However, if there are ALWAYS announcements sent out, I would probably notice if one wasn’t sent about a close co-worker I knew was pregnant and who had gone on leave already. Unless they reached out otherwise, I would naturally assume that either the tradition has changed / they didn’t want to participate OR something unexpected may have happened.

        4. fhqwhgads*

          I don’t disagree that it’s a scary precedent that “no announcement = something bad happened.” and your instinctive reactions are my instinctive reactions. Still if in this particular office there has ALWAYS been an announce and it has ALWAYS been identically phrased, then the precedent in that office is already set. It’s just reality that the first time something different happens people will wonder and question why. Even if it doesn’t make sense to jump to “bad thing happened” in general, in this context, I think it’s very likely to happen. But that’s not the OP’s fault and shouldn’t dissuade OP from asserting what she’d prefer for her own situation. It’s still helpful for her to know that rather than getting people to respect her privacy there’s a nonzero chance some people will interpret it a particular way and out of concern or nosiness or both may inquire for more info, rather than accepting the lack-of-usual-info at face value.

      2. Cathie Fonz*

        1. Or when he starts cooking, walk over with a spray bottle of Febreeze and start spraying it across the kitchen entrance and into the kitchen. If he has a Right to Cook, then you have a Right to Spray. (And actually, Febreeze might cut the aroma fairly well, too.)

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          I can’t tell if this is joking, but if it’s not, please don’t spray Febreeze everywhere! Then you’d have the smell of fish *and* the smell of Febreeze, which sets of tons of people’s allergies or just smell-based frustrations.

          1. Ada*

            They make an unscented version of Febreeze that just eliminates the odor. I find it actually works better than the scented version for me (but I may be biased, since I’m very sensitive to artificial fragrance – it sets off my vertigo).

            1. Jaydee*

              Febreeze is an odor eliminator. As originally created, it has no odor. But people didn’t buy it because we are so trained to believe that “clean” is signaled not by the absence of offensive odor but by the presence of an peasant ones. So they added fragrance and people started buying it.

                1. Llama Face!*

                  From what I’ve read Febreeze commercials actually lie about that. What Febreeze chemicals actually do is affect your nose so that you temporarily can’t smell the odours. Then the odours naturally dissipate on their own.
                  A number of countries (although not the US and Canada unfortunately) ban Febreeze because its active agents have carcinogenic properties.

            2. only acting normal*

              Colleague of mine isn’t allergic to scented products, but he is allergic to (unscented) Febreeze. Go figure!

              Basically don’t spray stuff about in the workplace. And don’t cook fish at work either, obviously. ;-)

          2. AnonForReasons*

            I completely agree. I’m living with multiple sclerosis and chemical toxins like Febreeze can make me physically ill which can manifest in a number of ways from vision to mobility problems.

      1. EinJungerLudendorff*

        Seriously though, don’t actually do this. Kick it upstairs first.
        After that you can always get in a passive-agressive gross-out competition.

      2. HR in the city*

        Me too except don’t barf on him. Just barf. If the smell makes you sick barf & then request to go home. Say due to the smell of the fish in the workplace I need to go home. Do that often enough and your manager might get the hint. Or at the very least you can go to the HR department and say this smell makes me barf every time he microwaves fish. Say it is a scent sensitivity/allergy and could fall under the ADA. This one is also a simple one for them to correct by making the coworker go to an enclosed kitchen.

    4. Zip Silver*

      #1 – better than barfing on him, there’s a prank product called Liquid Ass for fairly cheap on Amazon that you could just stroll by the kitchen and spray while he’s cooking. The odor is bad enough to kill anyone’s appetite.

      1. LCH*

        that would be amazing but would probably go over as well as the guy who thought an OP was over-spicing her food in an effort to poison him.

      1. SigneL*

        Let him experience the natural consequence of his actions. But my guess is, he will accuse you of barfing on purpose.

    5. JSPA*

      OP: What does the company do for adoptions? Would that be an acceptable template that feels less “bordering on private medical information”?

      Is it that the baby size, and the focus on “doing well,” brings to your mind not, “there is a new person of a certain height,” but something awkward about picturing the birth of a certain size baby? (I actually can see that. I remember in high school, we had a tiny teacher who gave birth to a giant baby, and a LOT of the girls were whispering about how someone could even DO that, and how they hoped it had been a C-section, and a lot of things that made total sense to our 14-year-old brains, but would be really inappropriate in a work setting.)

      Is it an issue of informational privacy (i.e. she’s only just been born, and 500+ people already know her place of birth, date of birth, name, and possibly mother’s maiden name)?

      Is it some family or cultural tradition about not drawing the attention of the evil eye?
      If there are cultural reasons that make baby details awkward (I come in part from a culture where it’s bad luck to share baby names in advance of the birth for example; other cultures have similar “bad luck” based hold-overs) or a religious reason that renders the celebration of a birth problematic, a little bit of explanation in advance may go a long way to making people not worry, if you’re no longer there, or there and no longer pregnant, and no announcement has gone out.

      Basically, figure out what’s the maximum that you can comfortably tolerate (“The X family has welcomed a child this week”)? and the minimum that people will need to not feel worried about the situation, and figure out if there’s some overlap. Otherwise, you’re likely to have more people asking to get deeper in your business than you would, if you came up with a minimal-information “all’s well” alternative.

    6. Camlaw88*

      Set up a small diffuser at your desk, or the next time he cooks fish, walk in with the most obnoxious room deodorizer and spray it all over the break room as he stands there with his fish.
      Baby announcement, really? You’re not even pregnant and you’re worrying about an announcement about the birth of a child you may or may not have, at a company you may or may not be at in two or three years. Get a grip.

  2. Dan*


    I’m a dude. No kids and probably won’t have any. I don’t give two hoots about my coworkers’ personal lives, unless I actually work with them somewhat closely. I can get your aversion to having your life events posted for 450 complete strangers to see (I’m assuming you know ~50 of your coworkers, give or take), but wanting complete privacy over a birth announcement would strike even me as a little unusual. FWIW, the gender/date/weight doesn’t strike me as TMI. The weight is a little funny, but not “oversharing” funny.

    For the sake of conversation, I work for an org employing thousands of people. The “personal life announcements to the group” are limited to the department level, which is roughly 60 people. I’m fine with that… at least the info coming out is regarding people I’m supposed to know, or at least know of.

    1. Gaia*

      Yea I don’t want kids and I’m quite private but this strikes me as unusually odd about birth announcements. I mean, there’s a lot of reasons to delete Facebook but deleting because other people were sharing that they had babies? Unless there’s some underlying trauma here I’m just not understanding this level of aversion. That’s not to say Op needs to change their mind, just to point out that this will likely come across very odd.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      If someone doesn’t send out an announcement, it’ll probably just lead to lots of questions and gossip going around the office. Whoever is closest to the parent or their direct supervisor (or the father himself if he’s not taken parental leave before the birth) will get asked constantly “how is she doing? Has she had the baby yet?” Birth announcements like this are an easy way to send out the information to everyone.

      Maybe it doesn’t need to go to all 500 people in the company – maybe just the person’s department – but there are probably people who work with the parent or care but aren’t in their department, so it’s hard to know where to draw the line.

      My current company is small so birth announcements are sent to everyone, but my last company was almost as large as OP’s and they didn’t do company wide lists. Usually the parent would contact their boss and the boss would send an email to their department. The email would get sent around and forwarded to others so word would spread. Sometimes I got an announcement about someone I didn’t know well, but it was usually someone I at least had known was out on leave.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        This is how it worked at my very large company as well – employee (or family representative) calls or emails the boss when they get home and boss sends out a quick announcement to the general team employee works with. I actually got a couple of calls and emails from boss and other coworkers because things were a little hectic when babycakes was born (so many long stories there) and I gave birth. People knew I was in labor on Thursday and when they still hadn’t heard anything on Monday the calls/texts/emails started. Not in a “why didn’t you contact us way” but in an “is everything ok? Do you need any help?”

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        I also work at a small company and birth announcements go out to everyone. When I had my daughter, the owner sent out a company-wide email with her name, birth date, weight, and a picture I sent him. This is pretty standard for all of us.

    3. Jax*

      A birth announcement seems 100 percent something that should be at the discretion of the parent. It seems to me (as a single person who will never have children) that in the internet era there are 1001 reasons a parent might not choose to share a child’s *name and birthdate*!!

      1. Dan*

        I don’t disagree. I don’t even care for the most part. But at some level, human nature kicks in and invokes a response like, “You had a kid three months ago? I had no idea! I’m so sorry I missed the announcement.” Follow up: “Oh, I told the admin not to tell anybody.” Response: “WTF? I know now, whether you like it or not.”

        With me in particular, when a department wide “X had a kid! Here’s the pics!” email comes out, 50/50 I even open the pics. I guess the point is, sometimes if you want to fly under the radar, it’s best to do it in plain sight. Because then all the scuttlebutt is, “Did you know X had a kid and didn’t want to tell anybody? That’s weird.” Now *everybody* knows you had a kid, whether you like it or not.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I like this phrase. If you don’t want to draw people’s attention, then glide along with the social norm. Buck the norm and it will draw exactly the attention you say you don’t want.

              1. valentine*

                OP2 shouldn’t divulge personal details in the hopes of avoiding fuss, especially given the contradiction of “I don’t care/just tell us” here.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  “How are you?”
                  a) “Fine thanks.”
                  b) “I choose not to reveal information about that.”
                  c) “Why are you asking?”
                  d) “I’m an extremely private person.”

                  If you don’t want people to pay much attention to your personal details, fitting into the expected social norms is usually an effective way to do that.

        1. Harvey 6-3.5*

          I agree. Unless I know or work with the person (and we get announcements both for coworkers who gave birth and for coworkers whose spouses gave birth), I don’t even look at it (and won’t remember it two minutes later). Even if I know them well, I only try to remember it as a point of conversation because it is important to them.

          But it can be helpful to let people who you interact with on a less frequent basis know you are out for a little while, and even those people probably don’t really think about this.

        2. Zip Silver*

          Exactly this. We’ve had 1 birth announcement in the last couple of years, and I forgot about it completely until this thread popped up. It took me a little bit to remember which co-worker it even was.

        3. pleaset*

          “Did you know X had a kid and didn’t want to tell anybody? That’s weird.”

          If people talk like this where you work, who cares? Stop letting fear of little things affect you. It’s truely liberating if you can get past that.

          You did something weird and unimportant. Own it/don’t care about perception.

          I’m not saying it’s important to reveal minor weirdness, but don’t spend energy hiding it. Don’t spend energy on it.

          1. smoke tree*

            If the LW is looking to avoid attention, I think it’s fair to point out that noticeably going against the office norm may backfire. It may be more effective to find a compromise that limits the number of recipients and/or the amount of information included.

        4. iglwif*


          Like by all means ask for the announcement to include less information, if that makes you more comfortable! (I don’t really see a need for weight and length to be included, for instance, and yet there it almost always is in people’s birth announcements…) Don’t include pics if you don’t want to! But refusing to have it announced at all is probably the best way to get everyone all up in your business about the baby you just had.

          1. Sparrow*

            Yeah, I have to agree with that. I also think OP would have a hard time convincing the company not to send *anything* out when it’s so counter to their culture. But a compromise (like, “Baby [last name] has arrived! OP reports they’re both doing well. We look forward to seeing OP back in the office in January.”) that doesn’t ignore the event but also doesn’t overindulge on information seems reasonable.

      2. Washi*

        I agree that it’s ultimately up to the discretion of the parents. That said, it would raise an eyebrow most places I’ve worked if you framed a new baby’s name/existence as super private information. I think the OP will get better results if they frame their aversion as one of their quirks, and maybe compromise by giving the company whatever they are comfortable with sharing.

      3. A*

        I’m pretty sure it is? I don’t see anyone saying that they *can’t* opt out, nor did OP infer that. There’s a big difference between ‘is this mandatory’ and ‘opting out might lead to a few people wondering what happened’

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      It occurs to me that the designated announcer can’t announce gender, weight and other measures if the parents don’t share this information. Maybe the OP’s future putative child could simply trigger congratulations.

      1. It's Nope O'Clock!*

        Announcements go out via email and LW seems vigilant about online security, so a better “happy medium” solution might be to make an in-person announcement to their department when they get back to work. No one is going to freak out if they don’t get the baby email – it can wait until LW gets back.

        1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          In Canada, that could be anywhere on average from 12 to 18 months (with our new extended leave!).

        2. Aquawoman*

          No one is going to freak out, but someone, the person’s manager or closest known co-worker, is going to have to field a bunch of questions (Is LW ok? Did she have the baby? Is the baby ok?). People are who they are and if LW has a strong sense of privacy, she does. But people will think she’s odd for not sharing at least the fact of birth and the baby’s name. And people often need to know if someone is going to be on leave for months and being on leave for months ALSO makes people ask if the person is ok.

    5. Terrysg*

      If someone went out on maternity leave and there was no announcement, I would consider it a strong possibility that the baby had died or something else had gone seriously gone wrong. It may be that no one else thinks this, but it’s something to consider.

      1. WS*

        +1. I live in a small town of about 800 people – so not much bigger than this company – and this is the exact assumption when a birth notice doesn’t appear on the town’s Facebook page or in the newspaper.

        1. Mainely Professional*

          Also, this was my first thought: if the LW is in their thirties they may not be aware that announcing a birth in the newspaper was once the usual thing. Now it’s FB and email.

            1. Mainely Professional*

              I’m 35 and I know about it too but I’m consistently amazed that people my age don’t know about this kind of stuff.

              1. doreen*

                That kind of depends on which newspapers you read- I’m 56 years old and have never seen a birth announcement in a newspaper unless the parents were famous. The last newspaper I saw printing wedding announcements for ordinary people ( as a classified ad, similar to ‘death notices” ) was nearly 20 years ago. The NYT still has wedding announcements, but they only have maybe 20-30 a week.

                1. Not a Morning Person*

                  Are you from a small town or city? Small towns tend to have more of that kind of news in the local paper. For a paper like the NYT, people typically pay to have those events announced and I would wager many of those people are not from N.Y. Small town papers have gotten on board with payment for life event announcements, but when I was growing up, births announced in the paper were a regular feature.

                2. doreen*

                  I’m from NYC – but in addition to papers like the NYT, we also had small , very local (covering a couple of neighborhoods) newspapers until fairly recently. Those typically didn’t have birth announcements either. But in any event , that’s why knowing about births/deaths/marriages being in the newspaper is going to depend on which newspapers you read.

              2. Librarian1*

                They do/did in small towns or smaller papers in large towns/cities, but it’s not that common for the paper of record of a major city. I’m not surprised people don’t know that. Until I moved to a small town, I didn’t know that newspapers published things like “Mrs. Pennyfeather and Ms. Johnson had brunch together on Sunday.” But they do!

          1. A*

            I’m in my early thirties, and I’m aware that some people post announcements in the paper – but I definitely didn’t know (and still kind of don’t) that it was the norm. In the city I live in it’s mostly just the extremely affluent, socialites / ‘influencers’, or more religious/conservative families that post birth announcements. Because, well, why do millions of strangers need to know that?

            1. Old and Don’t Care*

              Papers used to print them because it was a matter of public record. And the information came from the hospital, not the parents. They would actually be in order by hospital. (This is the U.S. in the eighties, at least.)

      2. The Original K.*

        Me too. A former coworker’s announcement went out a few days after the baby was born and in the meantime, people were wondering if she and the baby were all right. (They were, but she’d had a long and difficult labor.) Once we heard she and the baby were OK, everyone was like “Whew!” and moved on pretty quickly. I definitely think not saying anything about a birth will lead to more scrutiny than a cursory announcement.

        1. CMart*

          Yes. My coworker’s wife ended up being induced so we knew that “today was the day” but then didn’t hear anything for several days.

          Every morning those of us in my group would have the same conversation. “Anyone hear from Mike?” “Nothing yet. I hope everything’s okay.” “I’m sure they’re just enjoying time as a new little family…” [quiet worry that everything was not, in fact, okay].

          Eventually he checked in with a “Baby was born on [day after induction date]. Mom and baby are healthy, see you guys in two weeks!” and we all breathed a sigh of relief and ceased our morning speculations.

          1. ClumsyCharisma*

            Many years ago our small department had someone go out on maternity leave and then a manager called us together and said the baby hadn’t made it and to not bring it up when the mom came back.
            Recently, a friend kept posting pictures about his wife’s pregnancy including professional maternity pictures. Then nothing. He told me months later when I ran into him they had lost the baby.
            There is nothing wrong with wanting privacy but many times silence is a result or at least perceived as a result of something going wrong.

          2. WinStark*

            My BIL did this. We knew they were going in for c-section, and they had asked us not to text, they’d let us know. And they did…28 hours after a perfect section, with everyone healthy. And this is family! I get wanting to be private, but we were all so so worried something had gone wrong.

            1. CMart*

              It’s for this reason that after I had both my kids, my husband just sent a quick text to our closest people “s/he’s here! Details later :)”

              And also why I sent an e-mail to my managers while I was still shaking off the epidural, ha. My second was born two weeks after we were all expecting him and I wanted the incessant e-mails wondering where he was to stop.

      3. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes, this. “Everyone’s doing well” is kind of a cliche, but it’s important because childbirth has historically been quite risky and is still far from risk-free. Even aside from stillbirth, there can be serious complications for both mother and baby. If there were no announcement I wouldn’t assume the baby died, but I’d worry it was touch and go in the NICU or that the woman was dealing with some serious complication. I know several women who were re-hospitalized in the few days after birth for a variety of reasons – all are fine now, but it happens.

        I wouldn’t think it was odd to want to limit an announcement to the department or to leave out things like birth weight, but “she’s had her baby and they’re fine” is just basic info to share with people you see every day who are at least a tad interested in your wellbeing.

        1. Colette*

          Even the birth weight – if the OP doesn’t want to share it, she’s certainly within her rights to do so, but it’s not really personal information. People like to know, probably because the size of the baby has historically been linked to health problems, but it’s not like the baby is going to grow up to set it as a security question or something where having a bunch of strangers know the answer will be an issue.

          1. CMart*

            I like knowing baby’s birth weights because there is literally nothing else about them to know! Like… what kind of person are they? IDK, an 8lb one I guess.

            Weight and “full head of [color] hair!” are so common. Gives people something to know about this new little person.

            1. Colette*

              Yeah, babies just aren’t that interesting to talk about – the weight gives people something to remark on.

            2. Disillusioned Anxious & Depressed Person*

              No to all of this. This is fine for family, friends. Coworkers don’t need to know all these details. I find it weird that work only wants to be nosy about your medical history when it’s a baby, but clams up when it’s mental health. So either be open about everything or let people have their privacy. The very least people at work would need to know is that baby was born or that there was a loss but either way that can make it awkward for a parent who doesn’t want attention and who doesn’t want to be bombarded with questions and small talk.

              1. pancakes*

                “So either be open about everything or let people have their privacy” is pretty arbitrary. There’s no reason any office has to choose one or the other. I get that some people really don’t like small talk, but short of living as a hermit it’s not possible or practical to fully opt out of it.

              2. Colette*

                “If you tell people you had a baby, you also have to tell them about your colonoscopy” is a bizarre stance.

              3. CMart*

                No one “needs” to know, but lots of people a) like to know and b) are happy to share.

                And… it’s not weird for people to want to know about a new member of your family. They can’t ask “oh, what’s he do for work?” like they would a spouse since babies don’t have jobs, you know?

                People who lack boundaries can and do overstep and ask prying medical questions about pregnancy, but “awww she’s so cute, how much did she weigh?” is really not some gross overstep like “how are you doing stepping down your antidepressant dosage?” would be.

                1. Samwise*

                  The OP, however, does not want to share. If the OP does not want to share, she should not feel obliged to share just because People Will Wonder.

                  It’s not weird that people want to know and it’s not weird that people will speculate.

                  BUT just because people want to know and will speculate, doesn’t create on obligation on the part of the OP (or any mother-to-be, father-to-be, etc) to share.
                  When my son was ill, people wanted to know how he was doing (most of them out of genuine concern) and many of them wanted All The Details. If I gave them something noncommittal and then changed the subject, they would press for info or (because I have spectacularly effective RBF) they’d trot off and then speculate with other co-workers. Their desire to know and their inclination to speculate created exactly zero obligation on my part to share anything I did not want to share.

                  OP, it’s useful for you to know that people will behave this way, but this does not make keeping the info to yourself wrong or weird. Nobody needs to know your personal business if you do not want to share it. That includes your manager, btw. “I’ll be back from maternity leave on X date” is *all* they need to know.

              4. JSPA*

                A baby is a person, not a medical event, though. (No matter how medicalized birth has become.)

                If someone’s not comfortable with a baby being an actual (albeit small) person–with an identity separate from that of the mom–the birth announcement is one of the smaller problems that they’re going to face.

                That said, I’m actually thrilled when I see, “It’s a baby!” announcements. So many weird non-conversations (“17 inches? What a nice size!”) and weirder gendered assumptions (“did you paint his room blue? Is the new champ a real bruiser?”) averted.

        2. Mama Bear*

          Agreed. Sometimes things are not OK, even in today’s modern world. For example, one of my relatives had HELLP and her child was born early and she could have died. There was some quick info that needed to be relayed to her company, even if not the whole company. A simple “so and so is out on maternity leave until x time” or “out on short term disability, please refer all questions to…” should be minimum for close staff, IMO.

          OP is certainly entitled to not share if they don’t want to but there’s some pretty standard baby stats and most people really don’t dwell on them. I joke that men seem to give the bare minimum, but women almost always give the full rundown. And at any rate, you can always just delete the email. OP seems to have unusually strong reactions to other people’s announcements – unless there’s more OP isn’t saying (dealing with loss or infertility) it seems a little out of scope.

          I refer to my kids online by nicknames and rarely post pictures but that’s different than telling my coworkers I’ll be off for the day for a kindergarten promotion ceremony or something. I don’t fear them knowing I have a family.

          1. Jdc*

            The US actually has a ridiculously high labor death rate for mothers for a developed country, actually one of the worst. So yes, always a chance things can go wrong.

          2. Samwise*

            I don’t see why OP needs any justification or explanation or sad backstory whatsoever for why she does not want this sort of thing announced about herself.

            Agreed that if she doesn’t like seeing announcements about others family events, births, etc., she can just delete those emails.

        3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          “basic info to share with people you see every day who are at least a tad interested in your wellbeing.”

          That’s exactly it – as Alison said, a workplace is a type of community and people tend to care about one another, at least a little bit. Sometimes it seems this comment section is full of militant introverts who don’t want to form any type of connections with their coworkers, but that isn’t true for most people! Most people have at least a passing concern that you and your child are safe and healthy, and it’s a nice thing to include them in your life a little bit.

      4. Snuck*

        Similar… especially if there was a precedent.

        If you don’t want to share the date, name and birthweight… then a quick “We’re all fine, our sweet baby boy arrived last week, and we’re looking forward to bringing him in one day in the future” is all you need to say.

        Births, deaths and marriages are usually community events, and you spend the very vast majority of your life’s hours with these people. The birth of your baby is your personal right, but it is also a chance for others to reminisce on their own families, or to share their hopes with people etc. It can be hard if you are trying to conceive but it is balanced by the little moment of joy many might also feel as they reflect on their own family babies too.

        Sharing birthweight can help people sometimes understand a little more about your recovery – very small or large babies are both hard to recover from – small ones have a lot of extra early needs usually, and large ones… ouch. It’s a nice ‘useless’ fact to bandy about, and has zero reflection into the future, but is a nice little ‘inclusion’ the share.

        Names… look… privacy etc… but meh. They are going to hear it eventually, unless you are so private that you won’t ever mention it at work… for many years?

        Date of Birth… you can easily keep private by being vague “Last week” is good enough for most and if someone pushes just mis hear them and change the subject, they shouldn’t push too hard “OOOh… Did I show you the photo of the mobile you bought for us, let me show you it over the baby’s bassinette, it’s just beautiful!” Works a treat.

        1. Disillusioned Anxious & Depressed Person*

          No. Coworkers don’t need to know anything you don’t want them to know about your recovery. All they need to know is baby is here/not here, I expect to be back on X DATE.

          1. Mike C.*

            Could you explain why instead of just asserting this? It’s not a convincing argument to just be told this and it’s not useful to the discussion.

            1. Well--*

              For me, the “why” would be because how difficult or not difficult something was on one’s vagina (or the rest of one’s body) is not anyone’s business.

              1. a1*

                When I hear a baby’s weight I don’t think of vaginas. Yes, I know where babies come from, and I am a woman, but I just picture a baby. Do you picture someone’s vagina when you hear a birth weight? Even if someone says something like “must have been a hard delivery” I’m still not picturing it.

                1. JSPA*

                  So dependent on the circumstances and the individual. If one’s mind does go there, it’s hard to appreciate that other people’s don’t (and vice versa).

                  Human birth really is far more fraught and dangerous because of baby head size / overall baby size than for other mammals. And we also have really messy and dangerous miscarriages, compared to many other mammals, too.

                  We do a lot of cultural stuff around pregnancy that seems essentially designed to magically elide the act of birth itself, and focus on the idea of “clean, healthy, contented baby, mom resting comfortably.” Reveals, parties, room prep. Which makes some sense, in that “clean, healthy contented baby” is a great outcome. But it’s perfectly fair for some people to instead look at where the light’s not shining, and to do so with some anxiety and trepidation, as well as a very present awareness of the biology. While for other people, the baby might as well have teleported from the womb to the cabbage patch, via the stork.

              2. Tinuviel*

                No one is asking to know the details of labor. They’re inquiring about your general health. Same as:
                “Sorry to hear you were sick last week. Feeling better?”
                “Yes, much better, thanks!”
                “Oh it was terrible, I had a runny nose all morning and then around 2pm I took a nap and couldn’t stop coughing…”

            2. CMart*

              I’m very opposed to DA&DP’s rigid stance expressed in other comments, but I don’t think they’re wrong that colleagues “need” to know anything you don’t want them to know. That’s very well correct. No one needs to know birth weight, exact date (other than HR for FMLA or STD paperwork perhaps) etc… if you’d rather keep that private.

              But the implication that it’s weird/boundary crossing for people to be curious is something else.

              1. Database Developer Dude*

                I get the impression that even having the curiosity, even when it isn’t voiced, is something that it’s implied to be weird/boundary crossing, and I too don’t get that.

          2. A*

            In terms of a ‘right of expectation’ (not legal right, obviously) I agree, but I also don’t think this is a realistic or beneficial stance to take so harshly on something as well-intended as this. I don’t think expressing this in that manner would have the desired outcome.

      5. Dust Bunny*

        In general I wouldn’t wonder about not having a birth announcement, but in this case, if announcements were already the established “done thing” and then suddenly there wasn’t one, yeah, I’d worry. I wouldn’t say anything, but I know that some people would (even though they shouldn’t).

      6. Observer*

        Most people would make that assumption. The reality is that things go not so well often enough that it’s a reasonable supposition.

      7. Becky*

        One of my (male) coworker’s wives had some complications a few years ago with a pregnancy. Everyone in the department knew his wife was pregnant. Unfortunately, the baby was born extremely premature and only lived 2 hours. Coworker was obviously devastated but everyone in the department knew he’d left work suddenly and it had to do with the pregnancy. He didn’t want to have to be the one to explain something so painful to everyone, but knew it would have been worse if everyone bombarded him with well-meaning “how’s the baby”. He privately communicated with a work friend the situation and asked her to let everyone know.

        The same coworker just got back last month from paternity leave for his second child where, thankfully, everything went well.

      8. iglwif*

        Nope, it’s not just you–that was my first thought too.

        So many people have a family member or friend who have lost a baby, or had something else go really wrong during a birth, that it’s hard for some part of your mind not to go there IMO.

    6. anon attorney*

      Yeah, I think having no announcement, in the context of your workplace norms, will only draw attention to you rather than the reverse.

    7. Mimi Me*

      I personally know at least 5 people (one is a former co-worker) who have declined to release any details of their child’s birth outside of immediate friends and family. For these people it’s a full on lock down: no photos, no details of birth, gender, or name. A lot of them refer to their child in conversations, but never with details so they’ll say things like “my child” instead of the name or when they have more than one child they say “Child #1”. It was weird in the beginning, but honestly I get that they want to protect their privacy and that of their children – especially in this era of oversharing.
      I think that it’s reasonable to ask to not have all the details or photos shared but I’d agree to something like “OP has delivered the baby! Mother and child and are doing well.”

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          People who meet the child will learn their name, but plenty of parents have friends, acquaintances, and coworkers who won’t meet their children. A casual friend of mine refers to his children offline as Thing 1 and Thing 2, which protects their privacy somewhat: the surname isn’t that common, and this way the hypothetical person who meets Thing 1 and googles won’t find personal information about her. This doesn’t, of course, stop Thing 1 from telling her friends how old she is, where she went to school, what she thinks of her younger sibling, aunts and uncles, etc.

          It sounded a little odd at first, but then started to feel like a nickname, the same way someone else might refer to “Junior,” or call their child “Mike” even though his given name was Michael (or John).

          1. Anne Elliot*

            I find this very interesting, because I can easily see an opposing argument regarding depersonalization and erasure in a person calling their children “Thing 1” and “Thing 2.” I mean, I get the Seuss reference, but to me it would be a bit sad that unspecified off-line privacy concerns would mean that instead of hearing about my coworker’s daughter Greta, who likes pizza and ponies, I’m hearing about Thing 2. But maybe my problem is more that I thing “Thing” would be a terrible nickname for any child, regardless of why it was bestowed.

          2. JSPA*

            Do you mean online? Heck, online, even my cats are “cat 1” and “cat 2” or “boy cat” and “girl cat” or “big cat” and “small cat” (as relevant). The internet is forever, and names and details of relatives, pets etc are both popular challenge questions and ways to link posts on one forum with posts on another forum and with facebook and with your address. Plenty of people have said “my eldest” and “my younger” forever, without it raising eyebrows. And “cuddlebear” or “snoopy” vs “thing 2″…not so different, as nicknames, if said with love.

      1. Michelle*

        If was talking to a person who I know had children and they referred to their children as Child #1/Child #2, I would think that was extremely odd. I don’t need a full accounting of everything about the child, but if I know the parent well enough to be having a conversation that would include mention of their child(ren), the parent saying child #2 enjoyed the new Disney movie vs. Taylor enjoyed the new Disney movie, it would be odd.

        1. The Original K.*

          Me too. I have friends who do not post pictures or allow pictures to be posted of their kids on social media, ever; that is a hard and fast rule for them. But … people know they have kids, and what their kids’ genders and names are.

          If I were talking to someone and they said “Child #2 likes strawberries,” I’d say “Oh, what’s your kid’s name?” And if they refused to tell me, I’d find it very strange and would refrain from asking about their kids going forward (which, from the sounds of it, is the intent behind not divulging any information).

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I’m one of those who is super strict about never posting my daughter’s picture or identifying details online, but in person I’m happy to talk about her and show off a picture or two. How much I share depends on my relationship with the person (and I never share anything that would be embarrassing if she were old enough to care that I said it), but I have no problem with a coworker knowing that my daughter told me she loved me for the first time unprompted, for example.

            For me it’s the permanency of access to the info shared. When it’s online it never goes away, but when it’s something you heard one time you really don’t remember many details.

        2. CMart*

          I think terminology matters. I think it’s actually pretty common for people to not be that detailed about their children, but in less clinical ways than Child One and Child Two. They say things like “my oldest had a soccer game” or “my youngest fell out of a tree”, maybe “my son did this/my daughter did that” if they have that easy differentiation.

          But I do agree that hearing someone IRL (rather than a large online forum) say “Child #1” would be jarring.

          1. doreen*

            It’s very common for people to refer to children as my “oldest” , “youngest” , “son” “daughter” etc. I’d probably have some questions if someone said ” Child #1 likes strawberries ” that I wouldn’t have if I heard ” My daughter likes strawberries.” and one of them might be wondering why this person is making such a point of not telling me their child’s name.

            1. The Original K.*

              Yes, agreed. “My daughter/my youngest likes strawberries” wouldn’t cause me to think anything, but “child #2 likes strawberries” would, because it just … sounds weird. Very clinical, like @CMart says – like the way a researcher describes subjects, not the way a parent describes children.

        3. Confused*

          It is odd! No one will give it a second thought if you say “Bobby/my son likes the new movie” but if I heard “Child 2” I’d wonder wtf was wrong with that person and why on Earth they couldn’t interact normally in a conversation.

          1. Oxford Comma*

            I’ve seen this kind of thing with online communities and I’ve been in some Twitch streams where the streamers refer to their kids like this. That’s understandable to me.

            It would be very different if a real life coworker referred to their child as “Thing 1” or “Child 2.”

            1. Lissa*

              Lol, yeah. Honestly if someone REALLY didn’t want people knowing their kids name in person, I would just make up a nickname/fake name for the kid and use that. Very often going to great measures to avoid people knowing things is just going to make everyone way more curious, whereas if you say “Sadie started school today” when her name is Elizabeth, nobody is likely to ever find out and if they do you can just say it’s a middle name or nickname.

      2. HR in the city*

        For me that is weird not disclosing anything about your kids. I definitely limit what I put about my kids on Facebook or other online platforms and I use Facebook mostly to connect with my family.. But those in my every day life know my kids names, ages, and what they have going on. Have those people that won’t disclose anything every needed to sell something to their coworkers. I wouldn’t buy anything from someones kid is the parent came to me and said oh Child #1 is raising money buy this raffle ticket. Another thing that hasn’t been mentioned because it is so uncommon but IF the company provides paid parental leave at least one person at the company has to know what day the baby was born. At my organization, paid parental leave begins the day the baby is born. Most insurance plans also have time frames to add kids so people at the company have to know. I think company wide announcements are weird since you don’t know anyone but perhaps whomever at the company who has to know could just give her or his manager a heads up. The manager could them let the coworkers know hey the baby has been born and that’s it if that is all the parents want disclosed.

      3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I’m sorry but I find it extremely odd for a parent to refuse to refer to their children by name in person. I obviously won’t remember the names of every coworker’s kids, but it’s normal for them to say “My son Sam did X” or “I was at my daughter Alena’s recital”. And if the concern is that the child may not grow up to identify with their assigned gender, then it becomes “My daughter Sam” or “My son Alan”, or whatever the case may be. But I think it’s incredibly strange and off putting to be so paranoid about identity theft that you refuse to name your own children to people you spend most of your working hours with.

      4. iglwif*

        That seems like overkill to me, but ::shrug::

        Actually it seems like what I did when I had a blog and my kid was small, which was to use pseudonyms for everyone in the family so that I could tell funny stories about my toddler without them being Google-able 20 years later. (Or for that matter what I’m doing right now in this comment.) Because my blog was public, and this forum is public, and I have absolutely zero control over what people do with the information they find here, so I don’t want my or my family’s personal info plastered all over it.

        Which I guess is why taking this same stance in the offline world, and *with people you know*, seems over the top to me? When I worked in an office full time, my co-workers definitely knew my kid’s name and age and, well, a ton of stuff about her. And most of my co-workers, or at least most of those in the same building with me, met her at some point in her life, and I ended up meeting most of their kids and a lot of their spouses/partners, and certainly knew the names of all those people at the very least. This wasn’t some tiny little family-owned business with no boundaries, either, it’s just that when you spend THIRTY-SEVEN-POINT-FIVE HOURS EVERY WEEK with people, stuff about your life sometimes gets discussed.

        Then again I used to know someone who refused to ever use her child’s name in a public place–like, if they somewhere together, she would only call him by a nickname–because she had read somewhere that people abduct children by learning their names from somewhere and using that knowledge to convince the child that it’s safe to go somewhere with them. (This child was also not allowed to wear anything with his name on it, which must have made finding his stuff in the daycare lost-and-found super fun.) I personally think this is banana crackers, but I never actually said anything to her about it until she legit started lecturing me about calling my kid by her real name at our local playground, at which point I just stared at her blankly and said something like “… wow” XD

        1. JSPA*

          There’s a potent fear industry, never mind that abductions do nothing but drop, and technology has rendered kids far more traceable by their parents.

          Partly it feeds off a common malfunction of the (normal) drive that, when functioning well, makes one chick stand out among all other penguins, to it’s parents…oops, I mean, one child seem like the ne plus ultra shining beacon of perfection to their proud parents. Because if you can’t get outside your own head, and realize that your beacon shines so brightly only for you, it can be very difficult to believe that they’re not also a priority target for every pedophile in the world, and well worth the extra effort that targeting them by name, would entail.

          That said, it’s probably smart to not have a kid’s name in 6 inch high letters on the front and back of their clothing. That does seem to make crimes of opportunity easier. As anyone who has ever worn their conference badge to a bar, can attest.

      5. Meepmeep*

        Do these people also refer to their spouse as “Spouse” and take careful precautions to never mention any personal details?

    8. Feline*

      I’m a private person, so I’m horrified at the personal information that gets spread officially within a company. I’ll hear about coworkers having babies because they’re coworkers. Getting emails about babies born to people I pass in the hall and people in parts of the building that are restricted from my access isn’t useful. They’re strangers.

      Sometimes, health information gets spread that way in my company. One VP sometimes emails everyone about certain people’s serious health emergencies (I assume with their permission, but still!). When I had a life-threatening health emergency, I didn’t have time to think about the notification and numerous email updates from the exec after one employee’s heart attack, but my immediate coworkers knew how appalled I was by the privacy invasion of VP’s well-intended emails and made sure not to spread word far enough that the VP would get wind of it. I was grateful not to have my business spread around outside the people I work with directly.

    9. Tuckerman*

      I recently had a baby. The problem with sharing the baby’s weight/height is that people think about 1. the birth, which is pretty private (“Wow, 9 lbs. Poor lady!”) or they think about 2. the mother’s behavior (“Only 6 lbs? I told her she shouldn’t have been drinking coffee”).

      1. Hex Code*

        YUP. When I had my baby earlier this year, sharing the exact weight and birth time felt very personal. In the raw moments right after giving birth, the last thing I wanted was to send to the whole company was how small she was.

      2. Jax*

        I’ll be honest: I don’t even like my company posting *my* headshot online. I’ve done a good job keeping most of my personal life offline but there’s nothing I can do, my face is on the internet and can be used by AI to suggest facial recognition anywhere and I really had no control unless I simply wanted to have no job, which isn’t an option.

        I don’t know that many parents have much control over what their companies do because having a baby is one of those life events for insurance purposes that is all weirdly wrapped up with the employer too. There really is so little employee privacy in the end.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          Yeah honestly I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a little privacy at work. I’m like you, our headshot is on our company website and I honestly hate it. I’m childfree by choice but I could definitely see not wanting my personal information (and yeah I do consider details of labor and birth personal) spread out to over 500 people. I really like to have a very clear line between my personal and professional life. Like very clear. If something about my partner or family comes up in casual conversation, that’s fine but I don’t really broadcast details all over my company. I do have social media, but I don’t put any personal information on there and it’s all locked down pretty tight.

          I think the OP has a right to privacy. She is totally okay to just say Hey we’re doing fine and that’s it. I wouldn’t think that was strange.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            I no work for the company of 50 people, and even then, I don’t know most warehouse guys, I see them once a year at a Christmas party.
            I’ve been here for almost 3 years, and I don’t know most coworkers’ kids names. I don’t ask, they don’t tell, it does not come up in conversations much. I know names of few spouses/partners, but that all. (shrug). Whatever, they are coworkers, not friends or family.

            1. Bunny Girl*

              I always laugh because I know most coworkers’ dogs names, I know the names of like two people’s children.

          2. Bunny*

            My husband is the same way and it utterly baffles me. I mean, maybe it’s because I’m from the non-profit world but I consider my co-workers friends and teammates. We have happy hours, we stay in touch with former co-workers, I actually kind of look forward to our team meetings because I would describe them as fun.

            My husband? All his co-workers think he is single bordering on lonely shut-in. Which is not the case at ALL, we actually have a very active social life with many close friends and we are, you know, married.

            I respect the decisions that people make to be private but is it a workplace culture thing? Because I find it hard to believe for me that someone that way would fit into our organization.

      3. Confused*

        Umm I would never think about that, can’t speak for others but that’s not where my mind, or anyone I know’s, would go. But you can always just say, we had a boy on X date and leave it at that.

    10. CheeryO*

      Hm, I’m finding this whole thing very odd. I honestly couldn’t tell you if I’ve seen birth announcements for any of our office babies over the past couple years. Word gets spread through the grapevine either way, and someone who is especially close will inevitably share photos at happy hour or around the proverbial water cooler. I think it’s fine to want some privacy!

      1. Bunny*

        We get marriage and birth announcements in our company newsletter. We are asked if it is OK to include it but I can’t think of a case where someone declined.

    11. RussianInTexas*

      Same! (for the large company, I am a woman). At my Old Job, 15,000 employees (an American corporation), there were never announcements. Almost never. And if there was anything, it was only limited to your immediate group, say 20 people. And babies were never “announced”, more like “BTW, Pam had her baby, everything is fine, now, about that report?”
      Plus, in a large company, there would be about 14,500 people I would never meet. What do I care if some of them had a baby? What would they care if I did?
      Also, for me, culturally is so bizarre. I understand the American tradition of announcing to the world of a baby, marriage, death, but for me personally, it’s strange. It’s violate my sense of division between family and work. They are separate spheres and should only overlap of necessary.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        When my former boss and his husband adopted a baby, he sent an email to let us know he’d be out. I asked if he wanted an announcement sent out to everyone, but he said that the adoption wouldn’t be final for some months, and he’d announce it then.

    12. cmcinnyc*

      I get wanting privacy (and Dan, birth weight is the 2nd question parents get asked, right after “boy or girl?”–it’s a species thing, I guess). But I will warn you–leaving on maternity/paternity leave and *never* updating coworkers leads to panic and fear that something went drastically wrong. Perhaps letting the company know you don’t want an announcement but letting one person in your department get the info to reassure your immediate team that all’s well respects your privacy without setting off a *more* invasive quest for info.

    13. btdt*

      I agree- it is really weird to not want any type of announcement. I’m a childless super-introverted person who wouldn’t think twice about sharing a traditional birth announcement. If it seems to be TMI then just Baby Jane arrived happy and healthy is plenty. But none, very weird.

  3. myug*

    > thinks he should eat whatever he wants wherever he wants.
    > people in my office who have “issues” (requesting special chairs/desks, complaining about smells) tend to get ostracized socially and professionally.
    > building as a whole tends to have a “sissies will be shot on site” attitude.
    >I don’t want to be ostracized and get moved

    LW1, your workplace has Hunger Games-vibes. Or if it lands better, that episode of Star Trek TOS where they go in a parallel universe-vibes. The whole bleeping building is like this? I won’t harp on it but what the heck!

    Do you get this “suck it up” vibe from HR as well? I would suggest you still try to take it there because I don’t think it’s worth it to have to be in a near-vomit state to continue to earn the respect of people who would cut you off for needing/using a different kind of chair. If others in the fish-hating collective genuinely want it to stop, try to rally the troops to make a joint complaint, which might minimize the ostracizing effect on your floor at least. (Unless you think your job would be at stake, in which case, mitigating the issue might be your only option – i.e. you having to open windows and maybe work in another floor’s conference room until the smell has reasonably dissipated.) Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that this coworker will be bringing fish more often, based on his reaction and response…

    1. To be named*

      Re: the “building as a whole”, I’m sure it feels that way, but is it possible there are just a few loud ableists (let’s call them what they are) who have driven the conversation? If others have been subject to similar treatment over their legit needs, they might sympathize, and maybe they can help you speak up against this culture as a group. And if you start comparing notes, you might even discover this attitude is really just coming from a small group of people, and once you’ve identified them, it’s easier to push back.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          I say this *as* an able-bodied person… I just don’t get ableism. I see it a lot, especially when I see people complaining about accommodations that don’t inconvenience able-bodied people. Why? For what reason? Why should I have a negative reaction at the existence of a wheelchair ramp just because I’m capable of taking the stairs? Some people aren’t, and a wheelchair ramp makes a building accessible for them.

          Isn’t the idea here for MORE participation in daily life, not less? A disability can be isolating, because people tend to treat you as if all you are is your disability. *smdh*.

      1. I Hate Fish*

        OP here. You’re right it probably isn’t the building as a whole, but it’s certainly a vibe that I’ve caught on to more than once. I admittedly have a (real life not just work) friend who works on the floor with the majority of the high level people, and get some of this info from her.

        A funny thing happened that day that I found out about only after sending in this post. Unbeknownst to me someone else had a conversation with him about the cooking as well. She shot him down better than I ever could on that day, as I was annoyed after having just vomited after all, and may actually have gotten somewhere with him. I guess we won’t know until the next time we smell fish. I sent the question in on a lark as I was still mad that evening when I got home never actually expecting it to get posted!

        The corporate culture issue is ending up being the one I’m now pondering more than just dealing with one dude who cooks fish. I chalked it up to trickle down effects from being at a large corporation. I didn’t realize that this wasn’t actually normal as I’ve worked for a few over the years and it’s always been the attitude.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah, the corporate culture really is the thing you should be pondering. If this is widespread you really don’t want to get sucked into the norms of this place.

        2. Veronica*

          Have you always worked in the same geographic area? Maybe it’s a cultural thing in the region?
          If so I think your options would be
          1. Move to an area with a more compassionate culture, or
          2. Look for ways to volunteer to change the culture.
          Good luck!

          1. I Hate Fish*

            OP again. I’ve mostly held “career” level positions with large corps. (50k+ global employees). I’ve mostly worked for these types of corps – minus a few small companies that we’re professional mistakes minus the fact that they all seemed to understand the no fish thing. I always thought the “sissies will be shot on site” attitude was a (and probably is a) thing you deal with when working for those type of companies.

    2. Veronica*

      In case anyone wants to look it up, it’s usually called the “Dark Mirror Universe”. Deep Space Nine did amazing things with it.

  4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    1) I used to have a co-worker who burned popcorn, and the smell made me nauseous. To make matters worse, she’d bring it into my cub and offer me some…

    3) If you’re being laid off – it depends on the reason. Is it to outsource/offshore your duties, or are they just winding down your operation? Also if they plan a 15-month notice period but they can extend it – and ask you to stay longer, that’s just weird. It’s just, well, bizarro. I once had a five-week working layoff notice; it was almost too long.

    Then I had another job where, after having been passed over for promotion for a position I had been filling for over a year (the director ordered the manager I would have worked for to hire her friend – from accounting – for a highly technical analyst job) — I resigned. My immediate manager asked me to stay. OK, what’s the incentive here? I have until tomorrow to accept/reject the new job I’m going to – YOU TELL ME WHY I SHOULD STAY.

    He acknowledged that what happened made no sense, but I was needed to perform the duties of the job I was passed over for … yes, not kidding. And they couldn’t reverse the decision, because that would show a loss of face,

    I was then told my layoff date was ten months down the road. And if I stayed, the normal severance package is three months, he’d get me four months! Whoo-hoo! I left and also said my two-week notice stands. For the record, the manager I would have worked for resigned a couple of weeks after I did. So the director took care of her friend, but the company lost two key employees, and it also created a negative morale ripple through the organization.

    Now I don’t know OP’s situation but if they’re giving her a 15 month notice and now, are hemming and hawing, asking her to stay longer than that, that company must have some serious management issues If OP is anxious about his/her situation – I would stay START LOOKING. NOW. Or, soon, If you’re young, and still have many career years ahead, it’s usually far better to jump into a long term situation with some security and stability (and a future) than to ride out a long notice period for a package.

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      I think the popcorn issue illustrates that people are idiosyncratic about smells. I’m not convinced the OP’s coworker — who does sound like a jerk, but that’s a separate issue — is aware that this is a health issue at all. Frankly, when I hear people berate each other for the smell of their food, I don’t think the complainer may have a health issue, I think they’re probably a xenophobic bully (ask any Korean who brought kimchi to school in a Western country…). And it’s *fish* we’re talking about, cooked (not canned), so a foodstuff with a mild smell mostly considered highly pleasant. Not something strong like pizza or Corsican cheese! Not beef stew. Not garlic bread. It would never occur to me that fish could be offensive.

      In summary, I agree with Alison that the underlying problem is the culture of callous and hostile disregard of health accommodations. It’s important that the physical comfort of everyone is priortized, and then you have a world in which the OP can just talk about their physical reaction and get satisfaction without anyone having to second-guess what the issue might be.

      1. Beth*

        Microwaved fish can actually have a pretty strong smell that a lot of people object to! It’s a really common object of office kitchen wars. That doesn’t change the rest of your read of the situation (coworker is a jerk, but it sounds like he doesn’t know this is a health concern, and the bigger problem is the general culture that prohibits needing any kind of accommodation), but while obviously the objection isn’t universal, OP’s definitely not the only one who minds the smell of microwaved fish.

        1. PrgrmMgr*

          Just because it’s a strong smell and/or a lot of people object to it doesn’t mean it’s ok to tell people not to eat it. Has anyone ever told you a meal that smells like your grandmother’s kitchen stinks? That the snack you grew up with (and is beloved by many in the US) is disgusting? Having others complain about your food choices, especially if they’re tied to how you’ve grown up, sucks.

          I used to work in a very diverse office of about 25 people including immigrants from 4 or 5 continents (I’m not sure anyone was born in Europe or Australia), and most foods were both normal to some and offensive to others. If a smell is literally making you vomit, I get talking to HR about some sort of accommodation, but keep in mind that food choices are complicated and the “offender” may be reasonably fed up when people comment on what they have for lunch.

          1. Ariaflame*

            Well, have you considered that maybe choosing less pungent foodstuffs at work and keeping the more nasally interesting ones for home might be more appropriate? Here it’s not that she disapproves of the food but that it is actively making her sick because the person cooking it is doing nothing to limit the odour to a space only they are in.

          2. Database Developer Dude*

            It doesn’t have to be about culture. Normal dishes that are US based can also stink to high heaven when microwaved. It’s about not pushing things on your coworkers who can’t just leave.

          3. huskerd0nt*

            IDK, I love the taste of kimchi, but I don’t think it smells good, and I wouldn’t want my cubicle-mate to eat it at their desk right next to me. Same with Brussels sprouts (esp. when heated), most types of fish, etc. If I want to eat these things, I would do my office mates the courtesy of doing it outside or in a designated break room where the smell won’t reach people sitting at their desks trying to work.

            1. huskerd0nt*

              (Same with lots of different tofu dishes I enjoy and eat regularly… just not at the office.)

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Cooking fish from raw in the microwave is widely if not universally thought to be antisocial, in a way that e.g. heating soup or brewing coffee wouldn’t be. It isn’t the smell of the fish itself, but the smell of the cooking, which then transfers to whatever is cooked next – bad news for Fergus warming up a meatball sub. Some smells travel further than others; some smells linger longer than others. I don’t know why fish-cooking is both, but there it is. Any scientists about to explain what it might be?

        I don’t think people should expect to be able to cook *just anything* in a work kitchen, where you can be sharing with a LOT of people and it typically opens on to a large working environment. We had a letter about a small group commandeering the kitchen for hours to cook a roast dinner which is similarly pervasive.

        I had a boss who used to microwave ready meals in our shared office – the team of five were in one big room and boss put a microwave in the corner. It was mildly annoying every day, but fish days were awful. Not one of us had the standing to object.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Out of interest, I began to search “microwaving fish” and Google suggested “at work” – following that suggestion led to page after page of results suggesting it’s a major sticking point for many people.

          And then this 2017 interview with our very own Alison, saying that workplace etiquette really prohibits microwaving fish, broccoli or popcorn!

        2. D'Arcy*

          I really don’t see imposing white people’s discomfort with my ethnic cuisine (which is like 95% fish) as any sort of reasonable accomodation.

          1. D'Arcy*

            Seriously, just about every person of color hears this all the time: “All of MY smelly food is ‘normal’ and I won’t hear any objection to it, but anything YOU eat is horrible and violating all the ‘unwritten social rules’ which I’ve made up to attack you with.”

          2. Yorick*

            So if a white person vomited every time you cooked your lunch, you’d say “you’re just racist” instead of going to a different kitchen??

          3. Kyubey*

            Fish in general is food for many different cultures, not one specifically, so I don’t think it makes sense to accuse someone who is sensitive to fish as racist (unless they are claiming it is something more specific, like a sauce or spice being used). If they had a problem with kimchi or tofu/ any other dish more specific to a culture I would agree with you.

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              No one accused someone who is sensitive to fish of racism. But some of us will assume prejudice, ethnic, racial, cultural or classist, if all we hear is an aggressive request to stop. Rather than an explanation of someone’s need for accommodation of an unusual health idiosyncrasy.

              As I said, fish is a common, usually non-stinky food here.

            1. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

              This is me – allergic to just about every type of seafood. It makes going to certain regions of the world problematic due to my diet restrictions. I also do tend to get queasy from the smell of it cooking – but normally not the the point of actually throwing up. Fish Hater’s coworker would actually make the kitchen/break area off limits to me. However, I also agree that someone should be allowed to eat the food they want, and that includes things that are authentic to their culture.

              In the post it didn’t sound like they were asking for Fish Guy to be banned from making his fish, just that he go to a different kitchen (sounded like there were five total in this building). That seems like a fair compromise to me, but I know that all people can have different ideas of what constitutes fair.

              1. A*

                I agree 100%. If OP was saying there should be a blanket ban on fish or something, I wouldn’t be aligned – but I think a fair, and easily achievable, compromise was suggested.

          4. Vicky Austin*

            That’s not the issue here, though. OP has a physical reaction (the urge to vomit) whenever he smells fish cooking. It’s not the same thing as “your food is something I don’t eat and that makes it bad.” Besides, plenty of white people eat fish.

            1. huskerd0nt*

              Yeah! I’ve worked in primarily white office jobs where tons of white people terrorized the office by microwaving super-smelly fish on a regular basis.

          5. Anne Elliot*

            Does your ethnic food stink? Then don’t cook it at work. And if there’s some particular white people’s dish that stinks, don’t cook that at work either. This isn’t hard, and it isn’t about race. Fish can be cooked a zillion ways: bubbling in a chowder (American); pickled (Scandinavian); baked in leaves (Polynesian); simmered in tomato sauce (Italian); added to stews (Spanish); fried (Central American) or batter fried (American South), not to mention a multitude of African and Latinx preparations. The one thing all these cooked examples have in common is that they stink if you reheat them in a microwave. So just don’t.

          6. Mainely Professional*

            Hi! White person here who lives in a place where fish and seafood are the “main” industry. [Username checks out.] Fish smells bad to a lot of people. Even white people who derive their living from it and eat it. I enjoy lobster and scallops and haddock and all sorts of local fish. I cook it and eat it. I still don’t like how my house smells afterwards.

            1. pancakes*

              Yes. I love seafood so much that I frequently plan trips around places known for it—including Maine every summer!—but I’d never consider cooking it at work.

            2. Miranda*

              This, I grew up on the Great Lakes, in an area where you were most likely white + either Catholic or Lutheran. Fish fry on Fridays during lent was HUGE. There’s a reason most people went out to eat for that + threw everything they were wearing in the wash when they got home. They loved the taste of the fish, but, while the initial smell was mostly considered pleasant, it lingered way too long and got icky fast. Also, bacon, smells awesome at first, gets old fast. Even now, I only cook bacon for special occasions and prefer to grill fish outside where the smell dissipates quickly.

              1. Mainely Professional*

                Yes. It’s about the cooking smell more than anything–and in the case of a public space like an office, anything that lingers in the air (especially something that you’re not eating/anticipating the smell of) can be gross.

          7. Nom the Plumage*

            My diet is also 95% fish– but I eat it at home or eat sushi at work. I love fish, but microwaving it makes the whole floor smell! Most people hate the smell, and I believe that the comfort of the many outweighs the comfort of the one. Note, actually vomiting is far more serious than being merely ”uncomfortable”.

        3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          I got bullied pretty badly for awhile in elementary school because my mom packed fish sticks for lunch – finally one of the teachers had a word with my parents and told them that the smell of fish is so universally hated that the students were lashing out at me when I cooked my lunch and they needed to stop packing it. They did and it stopped. I was a little tow headed child, so there was no racism involved.

          1. Jen2*

            I’m surprised that you were allowed to heat anything up! I don’t remember there being a microwave available for our use in elementary school.

        4. Amethystmoon*

          I don’t think it would be healthy, either. I mean, there’s generally a reason we’re not supposed to cook raw ground beef or chicken in the microwave. Now, canned tuna is something else — generally, you’re supposed to be able to eat that cold in the can if needed.

          1. Emilia Bedelia*

            Chicken and ground beef are very different from fish. fish does not have to be cooked to the same internal temperature, and since fish is generally smaller and thinner it cooks more evenly.

            In theory you can cook chicken and beef in the microwave, as long as it reaches a safe temperature all the way though – that’s the difficult part to gauge.

        5. londonedit*

          If someone said ‘Eww, smells like curry, gross’ every time someone heated up something with the merest hint of spice, I could take your point. But fish is something else. It doesn’t matter whether the fish is in a fish pie, or a taco filling, or a risotto, or a curry – if someone’s microwaving fish then people are going to have something to say about it. It’s not about singling out one culture’s cuisine for censure.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Yes, tons of cultures eat fish and it’s way more pungent and kind of off-smelling than other foods. There are lots of foods that, if you smell someone else cooking them, might rouse your appetite, but very few people are going to enjoy the smell of fish when they’re not about to eat it.

        6. tamarack and fireweed*

          Uh, it said cooking fish, not reheating some stinky dish in the microwave. I presumed poaching.

          Where I am, fish in lunches usually is local wild salmon, and I haven’t heard of objections.

          1. pancakes*

            Fresh wild salmon isn’t smelly! The dyed pink stuff that’s $6/lb. and sits on little foam trays under plastic wrap in grocery stores isn’t anywhere near as fresh. I don’t eat the latter, and nonetheless wouldn’t bring the former to work for lunch unless it was cold in a salad.

      3. Vanilla Nice*

        It definitely sounds like there’s a workplace culture problem related to health accommodations, and I really feel for the L.W.

        Given that the LW seems pessimistic about their HR finding a workable solution, I would suggest continuing to work on finding ways to mitigate the problem. An odor-neutralizing air filter may help; I used one in my last apartment when I shared an air vent with a neighbor who regularly cooked liver and other organ meats, a smell that makes me want to barf. Wearing a face mask may also help. It’s ridiuclous that the LW has to resort to such options, but it may be preferable to being transferred to another building.

      4. Tan*

        ” It would never occur to me that fish could be offensive.” In the UK microwaving fish is a classic example of an unwritten social “no-no”- it’s even the punchline of a TV ad joke.

        1. professor*

          And in many parts of Southeast Asia, fish is a part of every meal. I too loathe the smell, but it’s a cultural thing.

          And if you think it’s bad in an office, try being on an airplane when they cook it…

            1. Anonny*

              Maybe it’s like eating garlic on a date? If you’re both eating garlic, it’s fine. If one of you eats garlic and the other doesn’t, then it’s probably not going to end romantically.

            2. Edamame*

              Reporting here from East Asia, I’ve never heard of someone microwaving fish in the office to be a problem…

      5. Arctic*

        Fish in the microwave is the classic example of an office no-no. The smell is terrible and gets everywhere.
        And I like fish.

      6. Pintopants*

        There is a special place in hell for people who microwave fish at work. We had a sign up at one job, stating no fish in the microwave. Some dude did it 4 days in a row. On day 4 the facilities guy, who sat near the break room, removed the microwave. I’m not sure how long it was before it was returned, but many people were pretty ticked about it (this was a place where bringing lunch was quite common, despite many close by options). Fish may smell delicious on your plate at home or in a restaurant, but when cooked in a microwave it’s absolutely repellent and (IMO) totally inappropriate in the workplace.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Always love a Firefly reference. Coupled with a Discworld user name, you are practically perfect.

            Look some foods stink more than others. If the guy was wearing heavy cologne that made the LW sick wouldn’t we all agree he should not wear it? This has nothing to do with racism, and everything to do with LW has a particular sensitivity to fish smell. She is not even telling him he can’t have fish, she is telling him please cook it on another floor. This is not an unreasonable accomodation.

            1. MarsJenkar*

              I suspect the concern is that that there might be *no* reasonable alternative location for the person with fish, since an argument that works on one floor can probably work on the others, too.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                She’s asking him to cook the fish on a floor where the cooking room has a door. It’s not just an arbitrary ‘move the problem’, there’s a hope of mitigating the problem.

                I’d feel really sorry for anyone who has to walk in there after, tho.

                Microwaved fish stink.

              2. EPLawyer*

                Also people on the other floor, while not loving the smell of fish, might not vomit at the smell of it. It’s more an extra sensitivity to this particular smell than just a general dislike of the smell of cooking fish. Although fish in the microwave is a HUGE battleground in the office kitchen wars.
                Sometimes you have to forego your favorite dish in the name of peaceful co-existence in the office. Just like you don’t blast your music for all to hear, no matter how much YOU like death metal polka.

              3. A*

                Seems to me that the plan was to have the fish smell be trapped in a contained room. Best of luck to the next person who walks in there unknowingly!

      7. EventPlannerGal*

        I’m really curious where the smell of fish is considered “mild and highly pleasant”, because that is the absolute opposite of anything I’ve ever heard of. Saying that something smells like fish is to be taken as a serious negative anywhere I’ve ever been, and the smell of microwaved fish is notoriously powerful and unpleasant. The only good association I’ve ever heard of is the smell of fish and chips, and that smell is more the chips and batter than it is the fish. Are you maybe thinking of, I don’t know, sushi or something that doesn’t have such a strong smell?

        1. Libby*

          I mean… people all over the world eat fish everyday, so obviously some people like it. When it’s cooked correctly, the smell is appetizing to most people.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                I mean, I just don’t think it’s something that I have ever heard described as “mild and highly pleasant”, which is how tamerack said it is “widely considered”. Mild, possibly, but I have simply never heard fish described as a highly pleasant smell.

                1. Lara*

                  I’ll agree with you there. Even when it is cooked properly, it smells “inoffensive” to me. I’d never describe the smell of cooking fish as mouth-watering the way I might about steak. I haven’t tried every variety of cooked fish in the world so perhaps there’s some that might surprise me, but from experience I’m doubtful. And I’m even someone who enjoys (well) cooked fish!

                2. Dust Bunny*

                  See, I don’t like the way beef smells when it’s microwaved. It’s not the same as beef cooked on a normal stove.

                  I’m going to say, though, that I don’t think that foisting his fish smells off onto another floor is the answer: It’s just as likely that people up there find it nauseating, too, which makes this more of a jerk move than a solution. Either nobody microwaves fish on this floor, or they invest in better ventilation/whatever it takes.

                3. Risha*

                  I mean, I love the smell of cooking fish. But I wouldn’t describe it as anything but powerful and distinctive, even when cooked in an oven.

          1. Yorick*

            I love eating fish, but it definitely smells. Saying it’s a mild and pleasant smell doesn’t match my experience with fish.

          2. pentamom*

            I love fish, and like the smell of the fish when I’m eating it, but I think the smell of it cooking is disagreeable. The two aren’t exclusive.

            1. londonedit*

              I like eating fish, but I hardly ever cook it at home because I live in a small space and as much as I love eating fish, I really don’t love coming home from work the next day and still being able to smell cooked fish as soon as I walk through the door. It’s just not pleasant.

              1. Mommy MD*

                I make sure I clean up well, getting all splatter, and then light a few matches. To me lighting matches (I use the longer bbq kind) clears the air like nothing else.

          3. huskerd0nt*

            I can sit next to someone eating a hot fish dish at a restaurant and think it smells great. But I’ve never once smelled microwaved fish and not wanted to vomit.

        2. Clisby*

          I’d agree with mild and pleasant, but I’ve never cooked (or even reheated) fish in a microwave, so no opinion there. I normally poach, bake, or pan-fry fish, and I don’t really register that there’s much of a distinctive smell going on.

        3. T3k*

          I’m probably one of those rare few who actually does love the smell of fish, regardless if it’s heated up in a microwave. That said, if it’s anything like how bad burnt popcorn smells to me, I’d at least try to air out the room afterwards. (side tangent: I had a college roommate that didn’t like me very much and they opened a can of tuna in the small room to eat, I guess thinking I’d leave from the smell. It didn’t work).

      8. WellRed*

        I think jumping straight to assuming xenophobia is a mighty big leap. At any rate, I had a coworker who liked to microwave rather awful polish foods. I didn’t vomit, but close. I’m part Polish.

          1. JSPA*

            Guessing Flaki or Bigos (which I love). Or anything with rabbit. Rabbit is mild tasting, but to my nose, gamy when heated.

            I can handle most things, but not fake buttered popcorn or certain other hot oil smells, and certain ripened cheeses that I love to eat, but they put out a disgusting cloud when heated, especially in conjunction with tomato sauce.

            I could sleep next to an open vat of mackerel or pickled herring (except for the risk I’d fall in, drawn by the temptation).

            I sometimes have to leave the room (or hold my breath and take baking soda to the microwave) when there’s been a lot of romano-rich lasagna in the microwave. But, look, I know that’s a “me” thing, not an “it’s disgusting” thing. It’s not disgusting; I am disgusted. There’s a difference.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          This has been discussed on here before: One of the big sources of fish smells is fish sauce, which is specific to a few non-Western cultural cuisines, which, yeah, at the very least skirts racism.

          1. Manchmal*

            Fish sauce is not a component of fish. It’s a brewed and fermented condiment made of (certain types of) fish. And I can’t think of an instance in which it is eaten alone, but rather mixed into sauces, soups, etc. To say that fish = fish sauce and thus any protest against microwaved fish smell is thus racist is just wrong. Fish man may very well be white, or the same ethnicity of the OP.

          2. Mommy MD*

            Fish sauce is a condiment that does not include fish. I use it. It’s the fish which gives off the pungent odor. I eat my fish cold at work. I have a microwave in my private office with a door and I still don’t heat it up because smell travels. Nothing pungent should be cooked at work. Nothing about this is racist.

            1. JSPA*

              There’s no such thing as a food that’s universally perceived as penetrating or pungent to every nose, regardless of biology or culture, though. The mere perception of something as “strong,” let alone “stinky,” varies.

              You know how people who grew up downwind from a paper mill can take a sniff, and say, “smells like home” or “smells like money”? Same-same.

              I’ll link a paper on mouse olfaction, “Variation in olfactory neuron repertoires is genetically controlled and environmentally modulated,” below.

          3. President Porpoise*

            And western cultures too, though you might not think of it. Worchestershire sauce is heavy on anchovies. In fact, fish sauces have historically been used very widely to impart some flavor to otherwise bland and unchanging local fare.

            Fish sauces were heavily used by the Romans as way of imbuing salt/flavor into their dishes, in the days when salt was rare and expensive. They would take the leftover fish bits – entrails, skin, etc. – and leave them in a barrel in the sun until it was runny but reduced somewhat. This was called garrum. It sounds particularly foul and stinky, so, at least you don’t have to deal with that.

            Fish sauces continued to be heavily used in most cultures until salt became readily available to the average cook, at which point many switched over to that (in part, because so much food ended up being preserved in salt). Even so, some cultures continue to cook with sauces rather than dry salt, particularly in Asia – which is interesting, since they’ve had commercial large scale salt production in China for thousands of years.

            Even among Asian fish sauces, there’s a range of odoriferousness. Oyster sauce, imo, is pretty sweet and mild. But actual fish sauce is quite pungent.

          4. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

            Um, fish sauce legit smells bad. As does kimchi. I understand that people from Korea or SE Asia enjoy those foods and presumably their smells. But I most distinctly do not.

            I worked at a place with mostly American employees that handled a lot of ‘ethnic’ foods. Everyone was find with 99% of those foods. Some strange foods we kinda wanted to try, some we we thought were weird and kinda unappetizing. But kimchi and fish sauce were hated by almost everyone. Not only did I avoid working with them, I avoided working at the table next to them. But I was totally fine with the curries, gochuchang, sambal oelek, tamarind paste, baharat and lots of other foods.

            It wasn’t the ethnicity. It was the smell.

            1. Clisby*

              Plenty of non-Korean, non-SE Asian people in the US like kimchi. There are at least 4 (presumably successful, since they’ve all been around for years) Korean restaurants in my deep-South county, and I can assure you there’s no high concentration of people of Korean descent here. I’m trying to think of why kimchi might smell bad to someone – but then, based on this thread, it sounds like there are people who don’t like the smell of sauerkraut, either. The fact that I think something smells bad doesn’t imply to me that everybody is going to cater to that in an office. For example, I think canteloupe absolutely stinks. It smells like it’s rotten. I wouldn’t dream of trying to insist that co-workers not eat canteloupe around me, unless there was an actual medical reason.

              1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

                I discussed kimchi with dozens of people while I worked there. It was the kind of work you do together so lots of time to chat.

                I think one person liked kimchi and was fine with the smell, one or two person didn’t like the smell but liked the taste, a couple people didn’t object to working with kimchi but had never tried it. And everyone else hated the smell. Though some people would have been willing to try it anyway.

                Maybe it was just the brand we used, but opinions on the stuff were very strong and nearly unanimous. And there were hundreds of employees at this job.

              2. A*

                Ya, I’m wondering if this is regional. In the metropolitan city I live in, kimchi is pretty popular – it’s been trendy for several years now. I don’t know how I’d feel about being in a small room where kimchi is being microwaved – but in general it’s not something I’d think of as being as universally hated as fish smell

                1. Clisby*

                  Yes, at least here (Charleston, SC) kimchi shows up a fair amount in non-Korean restaurants (and, obviously, in Korean restaurants.)

                  I’m not at all doubting that there are people who don’t like kimchi. I’ve just known enough Americans (not of Korean descent) who loved it that I wouldn’t generalize that Americans don’t or wouldn’t like it.

            2. pancakes*

              “American employees” and “strange foods” is pretty careless language. There are lots of Korean people who are American, for example. Being of Korean ethnicity does not render a Korean person living in America not-American! Similarly, food that’s primarily consumed by or associated with cultures that aren’t white isn’t thereby “strange.”

              1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

                ‘American employees’ was careless language. My apologies.

                Strange means unfamiliar or something you hadn’t heard of before. I presume maple syrup or cold cereal or something else entirely ordinary in America would be extremely weird in Korea or Laos.

                Baharat was strange, but had a lovely smell and I’d probably enjoy learning to cook with it.
                Sambal Oelek was strange and I didn’t enjoy the smell, but I didn’t mind working with it.
                Kimchi was actually less strange since I’d heard of it before. But the smell was absolutely awful.

                1. LunaLena*

                  I’m Korean, and while I totally understand why other people think kimchi smells bad* and am not particularly offended by that, I do think saying “[food] legit smells bad” is a bit careless too. It makes it sound like a fact, when it is in fact an opinion, and it kind of sounds like you’re saying that anyone who disagrees with you is weird or wrong. “Strange” tends to have a negative connotation to it, and is also very subjective (kimchi may be strange to you but it’s not to millions of other people), so I agree with pancakes on this.

                  Really not trying to pile on you or anything (especially as a fellow Agatha Christie fan), but conversations like these do make me sigh a little.

                  * for one thing, it usually contains something fishy like fish sauce, salted shrimps, or oysters, in addition to being fermented.

            3. huskerd0nt*

              I’m white, and I love the taste of kimchi. But I agree that it smells. Same with the hot Brussels sprouts I like to eat, and certain tofu dishes I cook at home quite often. I don’t bring these things to the office because the smells they emit linger.

      9. Cranky Neighbot*

        A lot of people really hate the smell of cooking fish, even if they like eating it. It’s not unusual.

        Also, fish and seafood are very popular in my culture. I still hate it (not just the scent, either). Sometimes it’s not about cultural differences.

      10. Emilia Bedelia*

        I mean, I’m a stereotypical white American and I feel the same way about microwaved bacon – I used to sit near the microwave in my area and people microwaving breakfast sandwiches was the bane of my existence. My area would smell like various stale microwaved foods all day, and it was awful. I routinely eat things like curry and sauerkraut at work, so it wasn’t the smell of the food itself, it was the fact that it just stuck around for the whole day.

        I think generally speaking, any smell that lingers and permeates the space is not really appropriate for eating in a working area. If there’s a break room or kitchen specifically for preparing food, people should use it to consume their smellier foods. If your coworkers can still smell your lunch sitting at their desks at 4 pm, that’s inconsiderate, to me.

      11. Lara*

        Even your comment illustrates idiosyncrasies: I would rank fish farrrrrr above pizza or beef stew in terms of smelliness/offensiveness.

      12. MatKnifeNinja*

        I live in a complex that has a huge occupancy of Korean, Chinese, Lebanese and Indian nationals.

        The biggest, and I mean the biggest nuclear screamfests are cooking smells, which the leasing office has to deflect. If someone is cooking curries, octopus, fish, spicy grilled meats, all 8 units gets to smell dinner. It’s heaviest in the hallway. Legally (because tenants have lawyered up), there is absolutely nothing anyone can do.

        People complain about it on Yelp.

        Anyway, my sister works in HR, and their company has many visa workers who don’t eat cheese sandwiches and yogurt. There is “no other place” to heat up their lunches. OP you probably can get an ADA accommodation. Someone got it for air borne anaphylaxis for shellfish. The company moved the microwave to an inconvenient spot out of the break room. side is no “smelly foods”, bad part is it isn’t convenient at all. They were going to put another microwave there for non shellfish/fish food, but the person said forget it.

        The cooking smells complaint is usually the “polite way” people complain about “all those foreigners” moving in my complex. So I don’t think health, I think here’s another guy going to scream about immigration and how it’s horrible for the next 30 minutes.

        OP focus on how strong smells trigger you with HR. I’m assuming fish isn’t the only thing that makes you vomit/queasy. I have friends who didn’t grow up in the US, and hot pizza smells like curdled barf to them.

        1. A*

          Oh no. Please don’t venture past the line of ‘this makes me physically ill’ to ‘this makes me nauseous’. That would be a laundry list across all employees.

      13. JSPA*

        There’s huge variety in olfactory sensitivity and preferences. Fish is one of those highly variable things, but it’s one of many.

        For the asker, phrasing preferences as “I” statements goes a long way to make a request a request, rather than cultural shaming. So does offering to do a proportional favor for the person, if you’re asking them to go somewhere else than where they’d normally microwave and eat, or eat something else than what they’d normally eat. It’s a fairly signficant long-term ask, in time, bother, money, and remembering who dislikes what.

        For the microwaver, believing that all kinds of things can happen to be really, truly intolerable for certain people goes a long way towards not feeling ordered around.

        Put them together, and you’re pretty well set up for mutual respect and a satisfactory resolution. Otherwise, all bets are off.

        1. JSPA*

          Hm, other comment went into the void. About how there’s no such thing as a universal definition of either “pungent” or “stinky,” because of olfactory variability (with both genetic and exposure-based components). Will therefore link the paper on mouse olfaction here.

      14. Koala dreams*

        Just commenting to say that I’m always entertained by smelly food discussions here on AAM, since the food people find smelly is quite surprising to me. I agree with you that cooked fish has a mild smell, compared to other smelly food like garlic and peanuts. (All of those are fine to eat in my office, btw). The thing is, which food is considered smelly differ from person to person and culture to culture. There is no universally smelly food.

      15. Meepmeep*

        What ethnicity or culture uses the microwave as their traditional, time honored, and culture identified method of cooking fish?

    2. SusanIvanova*

      I had a 2 month working notice period. I got twice as much severance as the people with non-working notice periods, but the downside was they could take jobs at any time while I’d lose the whole package if I left before the 2 months were up.

      I didn’t get a job during that time, but if I did I was planning on mic-dropping my badge and walking out, and my manager (also on the same scheme) would’ve cheered me on.

  5. Dan*


    Your manager has established that she’s approachable on the topic, which is a good thing. If these conversations feel a little too forced, ask if you can have them on an “as needed” basis. I worked in one department where 1:1 with the manager was mandated by the department manager, and it felt forced. My current department doesn’t require them, but my immediate manager always makes time for me when I need it, which is *maybe* three or four times a year.

    As your manager if you can skip the monthly stuff and talk when you feel you need it.

    1. Just Elle*

      Or, ask her if she has suggestions for what you could talk about! Maybe she has good ideas you didn’t think to ask.

  6. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, I’m betting you are female and that your fish microwaver is using your gender to intimidate you. He may not even care that much about what kitchen he uses but he has sure found a way to lord it over you. It seems like classic gender-based passive-aggressive behavior. If I am right, nice won’t work here. He needs to be told clearly by management that he WILL be using a closed-door kitchen from now on or nothing will likely change. Good luck Even thinking about the smell of microwave fish is making me queasy.

    1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      The fish guy is thumbing his nose at the whole office, not just the OP. He doesn’t even know that the OP has anything more than a normal dislike of the smell. And guys are the ones usually accused of being ‘sissies’. So I’d guess fish guy is more an equal opportunity jerk.

      Also, we have a mostly identical discussion of sexism almost every time a man is a jerk, even when the gender of the OP isn’t mentioned. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m getting a little tired of it. I don’t think it’s helpful or just to bring sexism in the picture when we only know the gender one of the people involved. And really, for all we know the OP gender-swapped the fish guy to obfuscate their office a bit, and the jerk is actually a fish lady. Lots of women would react just as combatively as fish guy did.

      Sorry if this is a bit harsh, Aphrodite. I’m annoyed by the general trend of the comment section, not you or your comment.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Agreed. It’s not useful (and it’s exhausting). Sexism is a real and serious problem, but it’s not the explanation every time a man does something jerky, and speculating on it every time ends up derailing from letter writers’ questions.

        1. I Hate Fish*

          Am OP. Other than the fact that a gender was used to specify the offender for story’s sake, I can speak with the most authority on the fact that I really doubt gender has anything to do with this situation. Fish cooker is kind of a jerk IMO (not only for the fish) but he’s an equal opportunity jerk from what I can tell.

          FWIW I posted in another comment that someone else, unbeknownst to me at the time of my post, had a conversation with him and based on what I was told gave him some hard truths that he (hopefully) thinks about.

          The funny thing now is I wasn’t even thinking about my corporate culture as a whole, and Alison’s response as well as many of the comments have made me realize that’s the real problem at hand. Lots to ponder, that’s for sure.

      2. Lena Clare*

        100% with you on this! Just because a guy does something jerky doesn’t mean he’s sexist, and like you say the offender could actually be a woman.

        1. Dan*

          Word. Speaking as a dude, I read a lot of stuff here and think, “$20 says the dude is a general a-hole, and it’s got nothing do with any sort of -ism. I would have said [offending thing] to another guy and not thought twice about it.”

      3. Myrin*

        I feel like I’ve been writing comments in that same vein since I started reading here more than five years ago and I really appreciate this articulate and straightforward yet kind response which I just bookmarked and will henceforth quote instead of coming up with increasingly aggravated replies myself.

        (And FWIW, this letter is one of the very few that reads as decidedly male to me whereas I usually don’t have a feeling one way or the other unless it’s actually meantioned and relevant. So that alone goes to show that there’s nothing to be gained from speculating since two reasonable people can arrive at the exact opposite conclusion from reading the same text, so let’s just… not.)

      4. Aphrodite*

        Your constructive criticism is accepted. Hpwever, the OP used “e” when talking about the fish microwaver so that’s THE reason I chose to assue the male gender.

        1. Observer*

          Well, the OP used a gendered term to refer to the offender, but not to themselves. There is absolutely no indication of the OP’s gender.

      5. smoke tree*

        Yeah, I didn’t note anything gendered in the Fish Microwaver’s behaviour. He just sounds generally obnoxious and inconsiderate. As for the office as a whole, I do wonder if the anti-“sissy” bias might be indicative of a kind of obnoxiously macho culture, but that’s still going to be a problem for anyone who needs any kind of health accommodations.

      6. A*

        Exactly. Thank you for saying this.

        It also undermines the intentions of the individuals making those comments. It does not serve a social justice movement well to insert itself into everything regardless of actual relevancy. These situations are what drives the ‘SJW’ stereotypes and backlash. I’m a huge advocate and activist, and even I find myself losing a teensy amount of motivation & respect towards a movement when it goes in this direction.

    2. Aquawoman*

      Yeah, I’m having a passive aggressive war with someone who keeps bringing air freshener into the bathroom (I keep throwing it away). Since we have single-gender bathrooms, I know it’s a woman. Thinking people are “sissies” for having reactions to stuff is not at all a gender-specific behavior.

        1. Green Kangaroo*

          Not to mention, if you’ve never had a conversation with the person bringing it in, she’s likely genuinely befuddled by the fact that the air freshener keeps going missing. She could be assuming someone’s moving it to another location, which is why she keeps bringing in more.

          It’s entirely possible that I’m a sheltered snowflake; compounding the issue is that I’ve had my own bathroom at work for many years, but honestly the first time I heard about people having severe sensitivities to scents was on this forum. The woman bringing in the air freshener likely genuinely thinks she’s doing something nice for her coworkers.

          1. Oh No She Di'int*

            I don’t know. I don’t find this to be some sort of outrageous act that requires vengeance in the form of a covert war of attrition as described above. I imagine this person–with the best of intentions–is simply trying to improve her workplace for everyone.

            In my opinion, I think a more reasonable response would be to leave a note to the effect of: “To whomever left the air freshener in the bathroom: I appreciate that you are trying to make the space smell nice. However, please be aware that many of us have sensitivities and allergies that are triggered by such items. Therefore I have removed it and left it at the front desk. Thank you.”

          2. A*

            Perhaps mildly ignorant, but “super rude”? Lol. Sometimes people do things that are genuinely well intended, just fully thought out. If they were aware it was causing distress and continued – now THAT is super rude.

            Let’s all be a little nicer to ourselves, eh? It’s exhausting to set such unnecessarily and unrealistically high standards.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          They can cause migraines in some folks. When it’s shared space, you risk losing your stuff when you leave it in such an area.

          1. A*

            Sure, I doubt the offender has their lawyer on speed dial over this – but just because there’s no reasonable expectation of permanency doesn’t mean the appropriate course of action is to just repeatedly throw something away that is being replaced. Just have a conversation, or if the offender is unknown leave a post it note in its place.

        3. Yorick*

          I understand smell sensitivities, and I wouldn’t use it if someone didn’t want me to. But I’m willing to bet that more people would rather smell air freshener than poo. And at least if you ask your coworker not to bring the air freshener, she can take it home or something and not just have her stuff thrown away.

          1. Mimi*

            Honestly, I would rather smell poo than the air freshener that’s in the bathroom in the building I’m in right now. Poo is unpleasant, but it doesn’t give me a borderline-headache every time I walk into the bathroom. And I’m only mildly scent-sensitive.

            (I wouldn’t throw someone’s stuff out, but bag it and leave a note asking them not to? Absolutely.)

          2. biobotb*

            But air fresheners don’t get rid of the poo smell. They just add a floral smell on top of it, making it extra disgusting.

          3. Jennifer Thneed*

            You can’t really bet on that if you haven’t asked many people what they think. I know a LOT of people with scent sensitivities, probably because I’m open about my own sensitivies. If you haven’t had the conversations to find out, you just don’t know. (FWIW, I find it easy to discuss because I merely dislike the scents, but I have family members who get terrible migrianes from them. So I’m motivated but also not personally directly affected and can be somewhat dispassionate about it. And I think it’s easier for others to hear from me because I’m not having the headache under discussion, so the other person doesn’t have any guilt reactions getting in the way.)

      1. Dust Bunny*

        It’s super rude to bring perfumy items into public spaces without first ascertaining that they’re universally welcome.

      2. Silver Radicand*

        I’m confused by this comment. Wouldn’t putting an air freshener in the bathroom (ostensibly at their own expense) be a perfectly reasonably solution if someone thought the bathroom smelled bad?
        Why would you throw it away?

      3. AnonymousForThisPost*

        Don’t throw people’s things away. Use your words and have a conversation with the offender. I’d be really pissed if someone tossed something I brought in for a shared bathroom.

        FTR, we have air freshener in ours at work because some people routinely blow up the bathroom and make it almost unusable. There was a coworker who went to management to complain about it. She’s no longer here, and we still have the air freshener.

        1. Yorick*

          I probably wouldn’t even get it. Might even think, “The air freshener was so popular, we’re out already! Better buy more.”

        2. The Other Dawn*

          Agreed. There’s no reason someone can’t just talk with the person bringing it in first. Don’t just throw stuff away.

          Also, there’s an unscented air freshener my company has started using because we have multiple people with allergies or sensitivities to scents. It seems to be acceptable by all so far. It’s called Hollister M9 Odor Eliminator. I just wish they’d buy the bigger bottle and not the tiny 2 ounce one that gets used up in a week or two.

    3. Mommy MD*

      I’m weary of the “all men are bad” tone we sometimes get on this site (and not others such as Arcamax or Uexpress) when nothing in this letter even SUGGESTS it. He’s defensive about being told what he can and cannot cook at work. It would have been better to address it as a group with management so a policy could be established instead of going off on him personally and then him walking in on personal gossip about him. That’s going to upset anyone.

      1. Perpal*

        Yeah i like fish a lot and it doesn’t stink to me. If someone demanded i go to a remote microwave and implied it was a personal preference about smell (vs something that causes vomiting / significant distress) i’d be annoyed at them too and push back. I’m female and I found the OP out of line for going off on someone like that while hiding why it bothers them that much

  7. Monica Bing*

    LW 2 – I think Allison’s suggestions were practical and good, but I didn’t care for the “it is unusual to get the willies about this!” part. There are a lot of common reasons for someone to be uncomfortable with a birth announcement going out to 500+ people. For example: people who are survivors of domestic violence or stalking may want to be as private as possible about the new member of their family, for safety reasons. Ditto for people who are estranged from toxic family members who don’t want them resurfacing to demand contact with the baaaaby. People who have had miscarriages may be inclined to be more private about the process for emotional reasons. And for women who are already pregnant, if they know that the baby may be born with health problems, they may feel uneasy about hundreds of coworkers asking how the baby is doing. (I know LW2 is not pregnant, but I’m throwing this in the mix anyway. My point is, there are lots of reasons why it’s okay to feel icky about a massive company-wide birth announcement, geez.) And some people are just private! FWIW, I think it’s creepy that a workplace culture would pressure women to do this.

    1. Damien*

      I agree more with this than Alison’s stance – a new baby is a personal thing with lots of potential complicating factors. If a baby was born with unexpected severe health problems would these be included in the announcement email along with the weight?
      As someone who isn’t interested in babies at the best of times, in a company with that number of employees I’d see myself getting pretty tired of receiving all this info about babies whose parents i may not even have crossed in the corridor.

      1. myug*

        And it must be brutal for people who are having trouble conceiving, have learned they cannot carry or are infertile, or have recently suffered a miscarriage to always see these announcements.

        1. Marmaduke*

          I don’t know. I fit in two of those categories and I’m not particularly bothered by birth announcements.

          1. London Calling*

            We get them where I work (200 people). Usually I don’t even know the couple was expecting, so I just delete the message.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            Yes. This isn’t going through all the details of your sister-in-law’s latest pregnancy when you can’t get pregnant; it’s more akin to there being strollers on the street, mostly pushed by complete strangers.

        2. Jennifer*

          Of course it’s sad for people who have those issues but we can’t expect for others not to announce births, engagements, weddings, etc. because someone might have an issue. There’s simply no way that we can foresee that in every situation. Plus there are folks who have those issues and are just fine reading announcements.

        3. Natalie*

          Oh good god, we’re not isolated from the world. We continue to live surrounded by other people and babies that continue being born, and don’t really need to be protected from the simple information of “look, baby”. The concern trolling is far more insulting to me than knowing that children exist.

          1. MOAS*

            As someone struggling to conceive and carry and had multiple losses, I would be REALLY pissed if someone started excluding me from all children-related things such as birth announcements, showers, birthdays etc simply for this reason. I wouldn’t read it as concern but more like.. “stay away from MOAS, she might give me and my baby the evil eye b/c she can’t have her own.” Avoiding certain types of jokes is one thing, but normal life events such as these…isnt.

        4. TurquoiseCow*

          I’ve had trouble conceiving, and it is difficult sometimes, but honestly? People have babies all the time. You can’t tell them not to celebrate a new birth, a legitimately joyous thing in most cases, because it hurts us.

          And there’s a difference between getting an email that says “Pam had a baby! Name is X, weight is Y, born on [date]” and seeing babies all over the damn place reminding you of how you’ve failed as a human being.

        5. the most*

          It’s great that it doesn’t upset you, and I understand that folks have babies all the time, but fwiw, I have a friend who struggled with infertility for years and the company-wide birth announcements would destroy her and ruin her day. “I don’t even know this person and there’s this baby getting shoved in my face when I’m barely holding it together” – it was extremely upsetting for her. She didn’t go around and ask for folks to stop sending them, but it did hurt her.

      2. MK*

        A new human being is not just something that happened to their parents. And, no, it’s really not a private thing.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          How so? To me, a birth is the most private things of private things. People in the office do not have the right to know, really.

        2. Name Required*

          Yes, it really is a private thing. I’m pregnant, and I really don’t think coworkers need to know how the weight of my baby … you know, that I’m going to push out of my vagina. In a hospital.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            Right? You child belongs to you, not the office, or the village, or the church, or whatever else people are mentioning here. They are not communal property.

            1. Fuzzyfuzz*

              Not exactly. Your child is an independent human being that is part of a family, community, etc. It is a bit…precious…to think that you can/should control every interaction he/she has with the world.

              1. RussianInTexas*

                I don’t think that (and I don’t have/will have children by choice). They will grow and interact, absolutely.
                But your coworkers 100% do not have any kind of right to know about you personal events. If you want to tell them – do so. If you don’t want – don’t. Same for your community. My town (small town, suburb of a large city) does not need to know if I got married. Or had a child. Neither is my office.
                If they get butt hurt, they’ll get over it.

              2. Name Required*

                You think not sharing the announcements of my kid’s birth with hundreds of strangers at my company is the same as controlling every interaction my kid will have with the world? Dang, your arms must be tired after that incredibly long stretch.

            2. Meepmeep*

              Your child, actually, doesn’t belong to anyone. Your child is a person and not your property.

              A birth is when a new person comes into the world. It’s not solely a medical event for the mother – it’s the beginning of the child’s life. The beginning of a new human life is something to be celebrated and something to be publicly known, unless you’re planning to keep your child in a dark closet for their whole life.

    2. anonagain*

      The OP “gets the willies” when they *receive* other people’s birth announcements. That’s the part Alison said is unusual and I agree.

      No matter how private I am, the announcement about Todd from tech support’s triplets isn’t affecting me.

      1. Cranky Neighbot*


        I’m also concerned by this list of worst-case scenarios and reasons to walk on eggshells. My parents have been in some of those situations, me in another, but… It’s totally okay for people to announce happy news. In fact, please do.

        1. WellRed*

          It would be AAM if someone didn’t point out all the worst case scenarios for every. Single. Situation. It’s a bit exhausting.

          1. pleaset*


            I’m like WTF – how do some people here live with such speculative worry? I’ve got enough worry from things that are actually problems and can’t spare all these fears of rare possible reactions to reasonable actions I take.

            Rare stuff will go wrong rarely. If it does, deal then.

          2. mobuy*

            Also, this letter is classic. “In several years I might possibly get pregnant, and IF that happens and IF I am still at this company, I don’t want an announcement to go out!” Like, wait until the situation actually exists before you write into an advice columnist?

      2. Josephine*

        Lost a baby in the NICU, had multiple miscarriages and almost died having her miracle/written up in medical journals baby that is now two, so I always get very nervous when people make “I’m pregnant!” announcements and I’m like “let’s wait and see..” but I know that is not how most people react. But baby has been successfully had and Mom is okay? Bring it on.

      3. Monica Bing*

        I interpreted it as meaning that OP felt uncomfortable in a workplace culture where it is the norm for people to share this level of information, and where they would be pressured to share that information in the future. I didn’t get the sense that the problem was other people’s happy news. This quote jumped out at me: “The vibe I get is this is standard and you’d get looked at like you have five heads if you tried to opt out….someone I work directly with would assume it was an oversight and pass the news along.” Sounds to me like they are having some uncomfortable realizations about how their workplace handles boundaries and privacy, and how it doesn’t align with what they actually want.

        1. LawBee*

          “I didn’t get the sense that the problem was other people’s happy news.”

          OP also deleted her Facebook account “because the majority of posts were of friends of friends’ babies (again, a stranger’s baby!)” Her willies aren’t just in the workplace, apparently all birth announcements are problematic for her. For whatever reasons, she gets the willies about any and all birth announcements, so it’s more than just the work email.

      4. Oxford Comma*

        I’m trying to think of what gets posted in the birth announcements I’ve seen. At the most it’s a name, weight, length, the acknowledgement that everyone is doing fine, and maybe a picture.

        The weight and length are going to change very quickly. I probably won’t remember the name. Most babies look alike to me. As I spend a third or more of my day with my colleagues, I do genuinely care that everyone is doing well.

        Is there more info that gets shared at the OP’s company that might explain the willies part? Like I wouldn’t want to know that Todd’s partner had an episiotomy, but I have never ever seen that sort of thing.

        1. Meepmeep*

          I’ve never seen any sort of medical info in this kind of birth announcement either. Just a name, weight, picture, and acknowledgment that everyone was healthy. I’m only a part time contractor, so I don’t really know any of the folks I work with, so my reaction is usually “Yay for the baby and the parents!” and then I delete the email and forget about it immediately. It’s not as big of a deal as OP seems to think.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, but the OP didn’t mention any of those; her aversion sounds based on notions of privacy.

      I do think the level of willies she describes in her email is unusual. That’s fine! People are allowed to have unusual or outlier reactions to things — but it’s useful to be aware when something is an outlier so it can inform how they frame it when talking to others. (For example, re: the “again, a stranger’s baby!” language in the part of the letter about Facebook — I don’t think that’s as self-explanatory to many people as it likely feels to the OP.)

      1. Aquawoman*

        Alison, as an oddball myself, I really appreciate the way you address /phrase your answers for issues like that — you’re honest about it being not the norm but are not at all judgmental about it.

    4. Arctic*

      It’s unusual. Doesn’t make it bad. But LW should understand that she’s making a request outside the norm and frame it with that understanding.
      I have never seen birth announcements be gender specific.

      1. OP #2*

        It is 100% a privacy issue. I don’t have issues with babies specifically, I have issues with the need to share our life events with complete strangers and the fact those complete strangers feel entitled to that information. I know I’m outside of the norm and honestly I think that’s unfortunate.

        1. Arctic*

          Why do you think it is unfortunate? That’s a very odd thing to say about a practice that has been around for a couple hundred years.

          1. MK*

            A couple hundred years, my foot. If the OP was living 500 years ago, the birth of her child would have fodder for village gossip for a week before and after.

            1. London Calling*

              500 years ago pretty much all the female population of the village would have been present at the birth.

              1. JJ Bittenbinder*

                When I gave birth, it kind of felt that way. I had so many people in and out of my room, I fully expected the valet parking guy to come strolling in to check my cervix.

              2. Ariaflame*

                Of course in that situation none of the people involved would have been strangers. They would have been people you had known for probably your whole life.

          2. Name Required*

            The practice of average people announcing the birth of their child to hundreds of strangers has not been around that long. If a peasant in England had a baby, the King of England wouldn’t send an announcement to every other village in the country.

            Yeah, it’s a little weird.

            1. LawBee*

              It’s been around as long as people have been putting birth announcements in the newspaper and other people could read them.

              1. Name Required*

                The internet is not a local newspaper. Your information is not safe. Your baby’s information is not safe.

                Announcing something via email or Facebook is not equivalent to putting a birth announcement in the newspaper. It’s equivalent to sharing a birth announcement with the entire planet. Which hasn’t been our cultural practice for hundreds of years.

                1. Oxford Comma*

                  But what can you glean from “Oxford Comma had a baby girl, 9lbs, 22 inches. Everyone is doing great”? My daughter’s dimensions will change in like a week.

                  Birth announcements generally don’t list all that much detail.

                2. Name Required*

                  You’re both missing the point. You’re focusing on the specifics of the situation versus the logic of the argument. The way we have shared information has changed. If you think there is nothing wrong with sharing birth info, go for it. But to say that an email sent out to your entire large company is the same as a local newspaper announcement is wrong. That doesn’t make OP#2 a weirdo for recognizing that.

                  For what it’s worth, there are nefarious uses for your kid’s birth info. Like passwords or security questions — for instance, my internet banking log in asks how many children I have. It could also be used by a con person to make it seem like they know you more personally than they do, perhaps to ask your grandma for money. Just because you can’t imagine it doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Be flippant with your information, but don’t judge other people for having a higher standard.

                3. iglwif*

                  I’m pretty sure I disagree with your math here (maybe that’s because I live in a large city, and announcing my child’s birth in one of the four local newspapers almost certainly exposed her name, birth date, and birth weight to more people than an emailed birth announcement to all several hundred people at my then-employer would have?) but I’m entirely sure that I don’t know what nefarious purposes a new baby’s name, birthday, and maybe weight are likely be put to.

                  And like, I’m all for people having boundaries and setting those boundaries where they are personally comfortable? Everyone should share as much or as little about their new babies as they personally feel is appropriate (with the understanding that if you share nothing you are going to get a lot of question that will probably annoy the heck out of you at an already exhausting time). I just don’t see the huge discontinuity between the local gossip circuit, the newspaper, and somebody’s Facebook that you’re positing here.

                4. Edamame*

                  Royal babies were definitely reported as widely as possible, and we’re literally still reading about it today, so…
                  Every baby born eventually becomes an adult who goes on to do private and public things. I think it’s a little precious to claim that a new person entering the world is private information. Are deaths private too?

            2. Meepmeep*

              I live in a large city. Every time I go outside with my kid, hundreds of strangers see my kid. Should I keep her at home so no one finds out I’ve got a kid?

        2. Rabbit*

          But there’s a pretty big difference between a very brief announcement within a community of a positive event that’s one of the most significant milestones in a person’s life and whatever modern trends you are objecting to. I also object to a lot of chronic oversharing, I guess I just see the slope as a lot less slippery than you do – and I find it much easier to just ignore this stuff if I really don’t care about it.

          Given the specifics of the situation it feels kind of patronising to tie this stuff in to some kind of broader “society nowadays” point – you have no real justification for believing that these people are oversharing in any other area

        3. Guacamole Bob*

          And I think the exact nature of your work and your company may be a factor here. In a 500 person company some employees will know 200 of those people across lots of departments, and may not mind that strangers will be included in the announcements because it would be hard to let those 150 know any other way. Other people may have more limited roles and not really work very closely with anyone outside their own department, so an email that lets the shipping department and all of accounting know just feels weird since those people are so far removed from your day to day.

        4. Cranky Neighbot*

          Unfortunately, when you know you’re in the minority (and it’s not about, like, discrimination or ethics), sometimes it’s easier to change your own expectations than to try to change others’. A compromise, like an announcement with little information or fewer recipients, is probably the best you can hope for here.

          On the bright side, you have a couple of years before this even matters.

          1. LITJess*

            Wow, until I read your comment I totally skipped over that OP isn’t even pregnant nor immediately planning to be.

            OP, let this go. Do not worry about other people’s birth announcements. And when/if you are in such a position to send one out, decide what you are comfortable with and go with that. You may not even work at this particular company anymore when such a time comes.

        5. Mia_Mia*

          The birth announcement info is the typical info that had been sent to people for many years, way before email existed. When you have a baby, don’t give out that info and when asked for it, say you rather not. Instead, just say the baby and everyone are doing well and you don’t want an email sent. When you get an announcement, delete it, just like everyone else probably is.

        6. MatKnifeNinja*

          Thank you.

          I’m on your team.

          Other than people who really need to know (HR/bosses/team members who will pick up the slack if you need time off), nobody has the right to know disease status or life events.

          You can tell the coworkers all the details if you pop by with the baby. Cyrus, who works two states away, doesn’t need to know your reproductive status.

          I have had coworkers who do the “Baby arrived healthy and mom is fine.” blurbs. I’m okay with it. I’m a coworker, not a family member or close friend. No hurt feelings.

          It’s not that I’m not interested or don’t care, it’s none of my business.

        7. Ella*

          It’s perfectly understandable (and in my option highly advisable) to not put a ton of private photos/information online where it would be publicly available, if only to give the kid a chance to control their own privacy later in life. But there’s a big difference between sharing photos and private information and simply acknowledging that a new person now exists in the world. Short of going into witness protection when a baby is born, you really can’t keep their very existence private. It’s a nice courtesy to let the people who knew you were pregnant when the baby arrives, so they don’t have to wonder about what happened or if there’s something they should be asking about or doing for you.

        8. Observer*

          I know I’m outside of the norm and honestly I think that’s unfortunate.

          IF and when this becomes relevant, you really need to be very careful how you make your ask. Your personal opinion of what constitutes privacy? That’s your business as long as it’s not keeping people with a genuine need to know in the dark.

          “I’m the only smart / sane >choose your positive trait< person in society", on the other hand, is going to be very, very alienating. It doesn't matter what it is your issue is, that kind of attitude is going to cause you some problems. Now, in a case of genuine moral issues (where people are being hurt), that's one thing. When it's really just a difference of viewpoint, it makes no sense to do that.

          1. CoveredInBees*

            Yeah. That sentence came off badly and I’d recommend an entirely different approach if it ever becomes directly relevant. Otherwise, all OP has to do is keep scrolling. If it is really that upsetting, OP can probably make a filter for those emails to send them straight to the trash, since they’re probably using the same wording each time.

        9. Holly*

          I don’t consider my colleagues strangers, and I definitely don’t consider my (curated) Facebook friends – all people who I have met in real life! – strangers. I think that’s why it comes across as outside of the norm to me – which is totally your prerogative.

      2. Clisby*

        Also, it’s pretty common, in my experience, for a birth announcement not to include the name of the baby. Heck, some people haven’t even figured out what they want to name the baby at that point. (I have no idea why 9 months, more or less, isn’t enough time to pick a name, but apparently it sometimes isn’t.)

        1. CMart*

          Names are hard!

          We had to look at both our children before knowing what their name should be. And in the case of #2 who was rather past his due date, we had finally decided on a name and then he came out and nope. That was absolutely not his name. Back to the drawing board.

          It took a few days for him to get named, so the first wave of telling people went “he’s here! The only thing we know about him is how much he weighs because he doesn’t have a name! Stay tuned!”

        2. Observer*

          There are also a lot of traditions involved.

          For instance, among Orthodox Jews, you don’t call the baby by their name till they are officially named. For a girl it can be fairly soon as it’s generally done at the next reading of the Torah (3 times a week) while for a boy, it’s generally done at the Bris, which is on the 8th day if all goes well. When it’s delayed, the naming will generally be delayed as well.

        3. iglwif*

          That’s true!

          A former boss of mine, no joke, was so entirely persuaded throughout her first pregnancy that the baby would be a girl that she and her spouse had zero boy names picked out and it took them five whole weeks to decide on one after their son was born.

          1. Ariaflame*

            My sister I believe was going to be Derek until she came out. Of course this was in the days pre-ultrasound so they were just going by size.

    5. blackcat*

      Thanks for saying this! This is very much how I feel. There was SO MUCH about pregnancy and having a kid that was public in a way that made me really uncomfortable. So many people asking questions about my health, etc. They meant well, but I’m generally really private about medical stuff. The expectation that one announce a birth to the entire company is really icky to me for those reasons. A small team? Absolutely! I sent a very brief note that got forwarded to my department a week or so after my kid was born, and it didn’t contain that much information (BabyFirstName and Blackcat, and her partner are at home and doing well. Thanks again for all of the gift cards. Baby loves his clothes we got using them” [insert: picture of baby worn using gift cards given by department]). That got sent to maybe 50 people? That felt like a lot to me.

      I did send an announcement with all the typical stuff (birthday, weight, etc) to friends and family, but all those were people whom it would have been okay to send a “Things went to shit, y’all. Please send food/prayers/etc.” note if things did not go well.

      1. Hex Code*

        Totally agree. 12 hours after giving birth, I didn’t particularly *want* to send a picture, weight and height, etc, to my office. I would have preferred to simply say, “I had my baby and we’re doing well. So i’ll be out on maternity leave starting this week.” But there’s a lot of pressure to share details that can feel very very personal in the immediate aftermath of the birth experience.

    6. remizidae*

      It’s not just women; OP said both fathers and mothers who work there get birth announcements. As it should be.

    7. Beehoppy*

      I agree there are many reasons to be private about sharing your own announcement, but OP gets the willies when viewing the announcements of others. That is unusual.

    8. LITJess*

      I think perhaps OP and you are reading a bit too much into an email that at least 90% of the recipients either delete outright or think “how nice for them” and then delete/forget. This is a tempest in a teapot and I wonder if OP is wigging out about these emails mostly because she doesn’t want one sent on her behalf. Which, fine, your choice.

    9. LawBee*

      But it is unusual, though. It’s not BAD or TERRIBLE or WRONG but it is unusual. This is an unusual response to a very common and pretty generic email about people she doesn’t know. “Sally had a baby boy, 8lbs 7oz, yay!” is an unusual trigger for the willies.
      LW3 can set up an email filter to delete all emails with the word “baby” or “birth” etc and avoid seeing them, and can choose what she wants to share about her own future babies with the world.
      “Unusual” isn’t a bad word here.

    10. Dagny*

      “For example: people who are survivors of domestic violence or stalking may want to be as private as possible about the new member of their family, for safety reasons. Ditto for people who are estranged from toxic family members who don’t want them resurfacing to demand contact with the baaaaby. ”


      I am estranged from my family and was stalked by an ex (many years ago). There is no FB pregnancy announcement, there will be no birth announcement, and my husband and I are in the process of doing some serious social media lockdown so that idiots who post about our “good news” without knowing to keep their mouths shut won’t result in word getting back to my family.

      Also, I kept my maiden name. My child will be getting my husband’s last name. I have zero desire to find out what some rando would do with the information of my child’s name, birthdate, and mother’s maiden name – all generally used to confirm identity in online processes.

      1. Monica Bing*

        Yep, I fit into both of those categories too – estranged from family due to violence, had to get a restraining order against a stalker. People who haven’t been through those things can be really ignorant and judgmental about how hard you have to work to keep your information locked down, and how aggressively you have to plan ahead.

        I hope everything goes well for you!

  8. Lena Clare*

    No 1. guy is gross and selfish.

    LW should definitely go to HR with the poor attitude towards reasonable accommodations in the workplace – the employers are opening themselves up to a can of worms with tolerating the snide comments etc.

    This is the thin end of the wedge. What happens if someone needs time off for a disability, or a wheelchair user starts employment with them? Do the able-bodied and -minded slag off the disabilities and call the employees sissies? (I mean… the word sissy is offensive in and of itself).

    It sounds like a toxic workplace.

    1. Clisby*

      As far as I can see, the LW never mentioned that she needed an accommodation – just that she hates the smell of fish cooking. She needs to make clear that it makes her physically ill.

  9. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    Walk into the kitchen and barf in the trash can. When you finish, sweetly say that the smell of fish makes you vomit. Something tells me he’ll use a different kitchen.

    1. Lena Clare*

      I know this is a joke (right? :D) but that’s really unfair on the other people using the kitchen. I intensely dislike the smell of fish, but I have a greater dislike of vomit bordering on a phobia. Somebody vomiting in the kitchen would distress me immensely.

      1. It's Nope O'Clock!*

        I’m Lena on this one. I’m immunocompromised, and if my coworker unexpectedly vomited in the work kitchen, I would be worried about much more serious problems than the stink of fish. Deliberately vomiting in the kitchen to get people’s attention will just create more distress for other people.

    2. Linzava*

      Lmao, that scene in “The Office” with a pregnant pam. Hey, if he wants to cook whatever he wants, why should you have to go to the bathroom due to a totally normal body reaction? This kind of chicken game can go really bad really fast, but it’s funny.

      1. CheeseGirl*

        Came here to reference that exact scene. I immediately thought of it as soon as I read this lol. I love that she stared Dwight right in the eyes as she puked into the trash can.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Normally I am squeamish around vomit (even the make-believe kind) but that scene makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. It’s the OK Corral style face-off between Dwight and Pam that does it.

    3. London Calling*

      *Walk into the kitchen and barf in the trash can*

      How lovely for everyone else who uses that kitchen. And what if there isn’t another one?

      1. CMart*

        One, that was clearly a joke. Two, there are other kitchens, including one with a closed door as per the letter.

    4. 'Tis Me*

      I’d barf on the fish then smile sweetly and say “sorry, I wanted to let you know that the smell was bothering me and to ask you to open a window/clean the microwave thoroughly when you finish, but forgot to consider just how much worse it would be up close” – potentially easier to clean up, so less generally antisocial, yes?

      *This comment is to be read as tongue in cheek*

      (While I have thrown up in both the work kitchen sink and a cup while running to the bathroom – I had HG when pregnant with my first kiddo, and if it’s that or the carpet/walls, I know which is easier to clean up after – I hate throwing up in public and find it really embarrassing… You make odd noises, people worry about you, people can worry about whether or not you’re ill and contagious…)

  10. nnn*

    For #2, since you’re a few years out from making a birth announcement of your own, perhaps you could very casually plant the seed of the idea that the company-wide announcement might be a bit much. For example, next time a birth announcement comes out, muse aloud “I wonder if any new parents are uncomfortable with this being sent company-wide? I hope they’re not being pressured!” or “If you think about it, it’s weird the kind of information we share widely when a baby is born. Like, as adults, we’d be appalled if our parents told their entire company our birthday and weight!”

    No “It gives me the willies,” no “This is bad and wrong and we should stop it,” just casually sharing idle thoughts that come to mind.

    Maybe you the seeds you plant will take root by the time you’re having a baby yourself. Maybe you won’t be working there by the time you’re having a baby yourself. But, in any case, you do have years, so you can take it slow.

    (I mean, you can also be direct and vocal and make this your hill to die on immediately, but that might not be the best use of your immediate social capital.)

    1. Monica Bing*

      Love it. Even better: “We’d be appalled if there were company-wide announcements any time an employee or their child was in the hospital!” :)

      1. Not a Morning Person*

        But that happens, too, particularly in smaller towns where everyone knows everyone and perhaps Mom and Dad work in the same company. Sometimes Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, aunts and uncles, all work in the same company. It’s a thing in small towns and people being people tend to want to express their concerns or be mindful of someone’s trouble to offer help. I have worked in a few places where announcements were made, not company wide but department wide, “X’s child is in the hospital and X and spouse will be focusing on child. If you want to contribute to meals (or some similar support) contact admin Jon Dow at 555-555-1234.” It felt appropriate to share and to offer a practical way to care for other people.

    2. MK*

      Eh, the problem with your little speech is that birth announcements, including the weight, are common custom, they used to be published in newspapers. And comparing that with aarent sharing their adult child’s weight would have most people rolling their eyes at you. Most parents would like this acknowledgement and the well wishes of the community at large for their baby. Most people getting the email would think ”how nice” and delete it. Trying to make it sound as if this a weird thing that is happening? Why?

      The OP is entitled to their feelings, so, sure, she should ask not to be included. Even saying something about the company-wide aspect makes sense, it would be more meaningful to keep it in the department.

      1. Parenthetically*

        A church up the street from me posts the info on their sign board out front, for goodness’ sake.

      2. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

        Yeah, apparently they started announcing births to all and sundry in the newspapers back in the 1700s. Not a new thing at all.

    3. EPLawyer*

      The parents are most likely the ones supplying the information. Now they might not realize they don’t have to go into detail, but they are giving it to the company. If this practice has been going on for a while, then its well known it will be going to the entire company. Musing maybe the parents aren’t happy about it is disingenuous at best.

      1. Michelle*

        I was thinking “Where are they getting the information from to make the announcements?”. Maybe OP (or spouse/partner) could decline to provide the information or provide less information. Something like “Baby Boy Smith has arrived. Mother and child are doing well”. No mention of the date, weight, length, etc.

        1. pleaset*

          Yes. And when sendin gthe info, ask that the statement be low-key and provide text to use. Be explicit.

          I think it’s very reasonable for the organization to share the news of the birth but also for the OP to say “I’d prefer not to share details about the birth or my child. If you announce I gave birth, please only say ‘Jeannie gave birth to a child on last week and both are healthy. We wish them well’ with no additional information.”
          [ if they are both actually healthy.]

          Or perhaps “Jeannie gave birth last week and expects to be back to work in two months. We wish her and her child well.”

          Minimal stuff, with clear direction.

      2. MsClaw*

        Right, if there’s something you don’t want to share…. don’t share it.

        I also think something is being overlooked here. Bill and Jenny welcomed a baby girl last night; mother and daughter are doing well is also kinda code for ‘Jenny is now going to be out for 12 weeks’ or ‘Bill is going to be out for a few weeks starting today’. Many people don’t start any sort of parental leave until the moment contractions start, because you get so little covered leave. (I have personally worked with several women who left their desks when labor started. I would have done the same except that things kicked off in the middle of the night. Just hours previously, I’d been at the office.)

        It’s also entirely possible that Jenny actually had an emergency C-section and that things were touch and go for a while, but that Bill and Jenny didn’t care to share that with their coworkers. Much like a lot of idle hallway ‘how was your weekend’ chatter, details tend to get left out unless they are going to impact coworkers.

        1. Alton*

          This is a good point. And when someone is going to potentially be away for weeks or months, it can be nice to know a basic reason. People don’t need details, but it can be nice to know that someone is on maternity/paternity leave vs. out because they were seriously injured or something.

    4. pleaset*

      Why be so vague?

      If someone doesn’t want a birth announcement made about them, just tell the person who makes birth announcements. “Please don’t announce my birth.” That’s it.

      Don’t just float it into the air and hope it lands. Say what you want. Clearly and politely.

      Note – there is plenty of room between “make this your hill to die on immediately ” between this and vaguely musing in the air.

      I just don’t understand the timidity around here.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        Because…there are huge groups of people who really really REALLY get “hurt” when they aren’t looped on on your disease status or life event.

        They want to do a meal train, a meet the baby party, greeting card train (people alternate sending cards to the coworker gets a card every few days). None of this is horrible, but usually they never ask the recipient if it’s wanted or need. If you want none of that, you throw enough crumbs their way to back them off a few steps.

        The vague baby announcement is the I’m doing fine to a how are you?

        Coworker (who you at best are neutral to) asks how are you doing? You want to say, “None of your fawking concern.”, but you don’t and say “Fine.” with a smile. The coworker got their warm fuzzies/human contact and you saved face by not being the office grouch.

        It’s keeping the peace and status quo will minimal grief to your soul.

        1. Name Required*

          Me either, pleaset. I get that everyone feels entitled to information about pregnant people and babies, but they really aren’t. I love talking about my pregnancy, which has kinda been horrible, and I wouldn’t mind an announcement. My husband, on the other hand, has only told his immediate boss and a close co-worker … at that co-worker’s retirement party. He would be mortified if someone made a birth announcement for our child. When he goes on leave, he’ll probably use a generic statement about being on leave. I’m wondering how much detail I want to go into when I go on leave, too — what my email OOO and voicemail will state. It will definitely not say, “Name Required is on maternity leave” much less “Name Required had a healthy baby on xx/xxxx, weighing blah blah blah.”

          1. MsClaw*

            That’s totally normal, to just leave message that says ‘I am out of the office until July 21. Please contact Bill for X and Jenny for Y’.

            *If* people care, they might ask Jenny or Bill why you’re out. But most people won’t care, they just want to know how to get their info.

            1. Name Required*

              Yeah. It is totally normal, which is why I’m sort of baffled that people are insisting that OP#2 give some amount of information on their baby via a modified birth announcement to avoid having people worry.

              … let them worry. They are worrying about something that is none of their business. That sounds like a personal problem. If your boss or manager isn’t equipped to handle inquiries about your leave, that’s a problem that can be solved in many other ways than “tell people information you’d rather keep private.”

              1. MsClaw*

                It depends on who the ‘people’ are.

                People who know you, who work with you on a regular basis, are understandably going to want to know that you’re okay after you’ve had a baby. Even if they only want to know for practical reasons, like how long you’ll be out of the office.

                A few nosy people who don’t really have a reason to know, want to know just to know. And I’m not real concerned with whether they get an announcement or not.

                The vast majority of people in a 500-person company don’t care and would probably either immediately delete, or never notice not getting, your birth announcement.

                If OP2 wants to just call/text/email someone on her team to let them know she’s now on maternity leave and will see them in 12 weeks (or whatever), she can do that and not pass on the info to the wider team.

        2. KeepIt*

          That’s really assuming the worse case scenario. There are polite ways to say “I’d rather send this information out to the people I’m close to on my own time rather than a company wide email” without offending people. The vast majority of people will 100% understand, and they’re more likely to get where you’re coming from if you’re polite but direct rather than trying to come at the issue passive aggressively

    5. KeepIt*

      Presumably if there were other parents uncomfortable with having the announcement sent out, they either wouldn’t share the information in the first place or would’ve contacted the person sending them out and asked them not to. I hate to be a cranky commentator but…this is a really easy and obvious fix for anyone with this issue and I feel like we’re making mountains out of a mole hill here. I think its safe to assume that f you ask that the announcement not be sent out via email they’ll respect your wishes, it’s not like they’re following you into the delivery room to secretly get that info and spread it to everyone, they’re probably either getting it from the birth announcement or the parents themselves

    6. KeepIt*

      Presumably if there were other parents uncomfortable with having the announcement sent out, they either wouldn’t share the information in the first place or would’ve contacted the person sending them out and asked them not to. I hate to be a cranky commentator but…this is a really easy and obvious fix for anyone with this issue and I feel like we’re making mountains out of a mole hill here. I think its safe to assume that f you ask that the announcement not be sent out via email they’ll respect your wishes, it’s not like they’re following you into the delivery room to secretly get that info and spread it to everyone, they’re probably either getting it from the birth announcement or the parents themselves

      1. Not a Morning Person*

        This brings to mind a question; How does OP know that ALL births to employees are announced? Maybe there are people who haven’t participated but, of course, because there wasn’t an announcement, OP wouldn’t know that.

    7. Observer*

      “I wonder if any new parents are uncomfortable with this being sent company-wide? I hope they’re not being pressured!

      A comment like that would get you some really strange looks in most places that I can think of. These birth announcements are so bland and generic that most people would really wonder what the question is.

    8. CoveredInBees*

      I don’t think it would plant the seed that OP2 would like. It comes off as precious and oddly focused on something they could just scroll past.

  11. nnn*

    The devil on my shoulder has me googling whether there’s a way to sabotage microwaves so they appear to be heating but don’t actually heat, leaving users with no other choice than to use another microwave in another kitchen if they want to heat something up.

    Of course, OP is far too responsible and ethical to even consider sabotaging company property.

    1. Mongrel*

      I was thinking of something that smells worse and can be hidden in the microwave for next time they use it. No-one looks too hard at the inside of the microwave so a piece of Stinking Bishop stuck inside.
      Alternatively just make something that includes stinky (yet tasty) item and heat that up for lunch (Gratins are good for cheeses)

      1. London Calling*

        Seriously. Vomit in the kitchen, disable the microwave…how old are some people? in other words, inconvenience and upset everyone else in the office just as much – if not more – than the fish microwaver is upsetting the OP.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      When a microwave breaks…we replace it. So that works for a week maybe? And if it was constantly breaking we’d know it was someone doing it on purpose. Which leads to a lot more problems than a stinky smell.

  12. Bob*

    # 1

    Your colleague says he thinks he should eat whatever he wants, wherever he wants. I say that you should vomit wherever you want… my vote is “directly onto his shoes” but you may be kinder than I am.

    1. Carlie*

      You’re kinder than I am, because my thought for the location was “directly onto his plate of fish”.

  13. Orange You Glad*

    #2 – Personally I would wait until I was actually on maternity/paternity leave and get the request for my baby’s details to simply say, “I’m not comfortable with a company-wide birth announcement. Please do not send one out about me & my baby. Thanks!”

    If I knew the person sending them out, I would drop by their office before going on maternity/paternity leave to mention it. Otherwise I’d just wait until it comes up.

    They can’t send out your baby’s name & weight if you don’t give it to them!

    1. Name of Requirement*

      When someone emails you to ask for the details, just limit them. Say you’d like to be a bit more private about what you share. “Baby [Include first name? Last name? Just baby?] arrived last week. Mom and baby are doing well!” No name gender or birthdate revealed.
      The weight pretty meaningless, is traditional and as no long term privacy concerns as it literally changes by the day. You might include that.

      Not doing anything will have those who know you worried.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Weight is traditional, but it kind of squicks me out. There are definitely people who will comment in all sorts of intrusive ways – asking about health issues if the baby is little, or commenting about what the delivery must have been like if the baby is large.

        1. blackcat*


          Heck, my aunt looked at a picture of my son immediately post-birth and texted my parents to make sure I hadn’t had a c-section since the kid’s head was so round (normally, they get the squished cone-head look from a vaginal birth). My parents had the same information as her, so when the message reached me a day or two later, I just texted back, “In the fight between the baby’s head and my vagina, there was a winner and a loser. You can see which was which.”

          Don’t make comments about a delivery/the baby’s weight/shape unless you want to hear about someone’s vagina.

          1. K-Red-Ink*

            This is the best response to a “birth story” busybody I have ever heard. I had a C-section with my second, and, when people ask, I tell everyone that my first conducted scorched-earth vagina. Ain’t nobody coming out that way again.

            1. valentine*

              There’s a letter here about coworkers who repeatedly tell birth horror stories.

              OP2, lock your phones and your family! No mouthy people answering your phone/emergency contact to tell your town crier colleague the deets!

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Oh gurl…but lots of ppl will just talk about your vagina without your prompts though.

            “10lbs?! That had to hurt. Did you rip?! Did they have to cut you?!”

            Yeah… they don’t always get grossed out about the vagina information:(

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Some people love to play the Who Has/Had it Worse game. I don’t get it. I don’t like playing it. Although sometimes I play just to make them stop. Nothing shuts down a conversation faster than “we thought our daughter was dying.”

          3. iglwif*

            OMG your reply is PERFECT XD

            My kiddo was 6lb at birth and arrived the day after her due date. (All those very early ultrasounds that go along with IVF give you very accurate dating lol) A whole bunch of other people I knew also had babies within the same 6-month period, and almost all of them weighed around 6lb; I was told the average is around 7lb. And yet random strangers in shops and on the subway kept asking me if she was a preemie!

            So I started saying stuff like, “Have you ever seen a preemie? I have, and trust me, they do not look like this.” (My youngest niece, who’s now a uni student, was a 28-week preemie and spent 6 weeks in the NICU, and boy howdy did she not look like a full-term baby at that point.)

        2. pleaset*

          So don’t tell anyone the weight.

          Really – you’re not forced to share that info. We had a child some years ago and no such info made it to my work.

          And if someone asks, fuck them and don’t tell them – “I’d rather not share that.”

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            Don’t do this or maybe do this: Lie. Make up a whopper. 14 lbs! 28 inches! Plays the piano! Speaks 5 languages! The more outrageous the more likely they will know it’s a joke. And then they stop prying bc you never give a straight answer. Or as you say, just “we’re not sharing that, I’m sure you understand.”

  14. LadyCop*

    #1 I like fish…but this guy would seriously find unpleasant things happening to him… also if Vicks works in the errr… human-waste filled homes I’ve been in, it’ll probably stop fish until this jerk stops acting like a child who thinks only his mommy can “tell him what to do.”

  15. 'Tis Me*

    “LW’s baby arrived last week and they’re utterly smitten” – no name, no birth date, no gender, no weight, no mention of anybody doing well or otherwise… But still fits in with the office norms, if that matters to you :)

    1. Terrysg*

      I think you need to add “mother and baby are doing well”,. Childbirth is a more risky business than most things we do, and many people will worry (probably subconsciously) if this part is left out.

      1. 'Tis Me*

        As a few people commented along the lines of “what if there’s an unexpected medical problem? Would you be expected to share that?” I deliberately excluded the wording, while including the “smitten” part to indicate that everybody is alive (because yes, childbirth remains risky, and the US has a scary maternal birth-related mortality rate for a developed country).

        1. Yorick*

          I don’t know why people are asking that though. Obviously you wouldn’t include that unless you wanted to like request prayers or something.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


            I can’t help but fear for one of those moms to have a still birth or preemie. What’s the announcement look like then?! None of them actually include “unfortunately the baby is really frigging sick and mom is terrified.”

            1. goducks*

              Yep. Had my kids while working in a senior management role in a sub-100 employee company. I was the first female employee ever to give birth. I was… visible. Everyone knew I was pregnant, everyone knew the day 5 weeks before my due date that I suddenly stopped showing up to work. Everyone knew that my kid was born early due to a serious heart issue, and that we were just hoping for his survival. I’m a private person, it was awful.
              The husband worked for a bigger company, the information provided to them was much more limited in scope. I hated that so many people outside of family and close friends had a window into our terrifying situation. I would sit in the NICU and get texts and emails with well wishes from people who I only had a professional relationship with. It felt draining and exposed.

            2. CMart*

              As with other life events, I would expect there isn’t an organization-wide announcement and instead it’s handled however else a tragedy or personal emergency would be on a team. Likely the employee or family member communicating with their direct manager, who would then spread the news to people who need/would like to know.

              I’ve had two colleagues have early/emergency deliveries and the announcement to those of us in their close working circle pretty much went “Colleague had her twins on X date. She and the babies will be in the hospital for a while. If you’d like to sign a card welcoming Baby A and Baby B and wishing Colleague well, it will be at Admin’s desk until 3pm on Friday.”

            3. Alanna of Trebond*

              We’ve had quite a few people at my work have preemies in the past few years (no stillbirths, thankfully), including several who were in the NICU for weeks. People handle it however they feel is appropriate — usually an announcement whenever parents are comfortable with it: “James Smith was born September 10 at 10:12 am! He was eager to get into the world and will be in the NICU for the next few weeks. We love him very much already.” Or they just send the announcement once he gets to go home: “James Smith made an early appearance on August 15 at 10:12 am. He’s home from the hospital and he and his mother Jade are doing well.”

              When there’s a long enough lag that it’s obvious the person is out, their manager handles it on a need to know basis the way they would with any other absence. If they’re comfortable saying there have been complications, then they say it. Otherwise “family emergency” usually covers it (people who are pregnant can have other family emergencies too).

              In a true worst-case scenario like a stillbirth or serious complications, I assume nothing would be announced, it’d be shared with people on a need to know basis (as with any family tragedy affecting someone on the team), and most people would by then have probably figured that something might be wrong.

              I think people are overcomplicating this. At the end of the day, what gets announced is up to the parents. Your office can’t burst into the hospital, interrogate a nurse about your child, and send a birth announcement without your permission. Just say something like “I don’t like a lot of public attention so I’d appreciate it if you can skip the office-wide email, but don’t worry — the baby and I are both doing well.”

              1. Perpal*

                I think it’s the same with other personal tragedies; it’s not really announced – but just the call for coverage/rearrangements goes out, and whisper mill may fill in the rest for the particularly concerned. I mean, we don’t try to get into everyone’s business, but we care about our coworkers and so news travels a bit

    2. Asenath*

      I think I’d be more comfortable with either a statement that they are doing well or no statement at all. “Smitten”, to me, doesn’t add any information at all other than the obvious – that the parents are happy with the child. And that’s usually assumed, whether it’s true or not. It’s like people who never answer a question about their family with “I have two children”, but with “I have two beautiful children”. Everyone is assumed to think their children are beautiful, so why bother to mention that? Is it going to be followed with “… and one ugly one”?

      This is all theoretical for me; most of my immediate co-workers are not going to have a child; announcements are not made about any personal event other than hiring or retiring (leaving is often included with hiring – ” Suzie Jones is now in the Training Admin position for the Llama Division, and all questions should now be addressed to her at (email) rather than to Johnnie Smith.” The last birth announcement I got was a casual question as to whether I’d heard that Jane had another grandchild.

  16. anonagain*

    re OP 2: I think it’s okay to opt out of the company-wide announcement. I know you said you get the impression that these are standard and you’d be looked at oddly if you didn’t do it, but is it possible that employees you don’t know have opted out? I mean, you wouldn’t know if they did, right?

    Either way, you should do what makes you feel comfortable.

  17. Beth*

    LW1 – If I didn’t know that this particular smell makes you physically ill, I would think both you and your coworker are in the wrong here. Yes, he shouldn’t be microwaving fish–it’s well known that the smell bothers a lot of people, and he’s been specifically asked not to, so he’s being rude. But your response was intense enough that without knowing your reasoning, I’d say you were seriously in the wrong for escalating a matter of courtesy into a full-on interpersonal conflict. I don’t think there’s any way you can keep escalating your complaint without disclosing that full context; without that information, it looks like you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.

    I agree with Alison that the root problem here is your workplace treating basic human needs as weaknesses worthy of ridicule. It shouldn’t be that big a deal to say “This particular smell makes me physically ill. I’d appreciate your help in avoiding that so we can all focus on work.” If that’s the sticking point here–that you feel unable to say that due to company culture, or you believe that it wouldn’t get you any support from management or HR–maybe the real problem is your company, not your coworker per se.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I agree with this. Unless OP discloses the physically ill aspect, then escalating this to an interpersonal conflict and gossiping about it amongst coworkers makes the OP look like the problem.

      I also think making the issue with HR very limited and specific will be more effective eg “The smell of fish makes me physically ill.” Especially since food odor issues are often used to target people’s “otherness” like complaining about “ethnic” food.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Yeah, this went off the rails and there isn’t a graceful way to come back. Ideally, the OP would have had a discussion with Fishy at a non-lunch time and explained the situation. A calm discussion could have produced a solution.
      But the OP took the route of verbally attacking Fishy, and if I learned anything from the playground, that results in the victim hunkering down and passively aggressively inflaming the issue. And now the OP has lost some credibility, so disclosing the vomiting reaction now will likely be met with suspicion.
      And we need to consider if Fishy is eating so much fish because they have their own dietary issue. Or there could be a cultural aspect tied into it as well. It’s kind of odd for an everyday person to be eating THAT much fish for lunch unless there is a reason.

    3. Koala dreams*

      I agree with you. In a nontoxic workplace, you could tell your coworker that the smell makes you sick and they would stop. If it’s an unreasonable coworker, you would then bring it to management or HR and they would come up with an accommodation (making your floor a fish free floor, putting a door between the kitchen and the open office, improving ventilation…). Unfortunately your entire workplace is unreasonable.

      It might still be possible to apologize to your coworker, explain the situation and appeal to his conscience, but the chances of that working seems small due to the toxic company culture. I think going as a group and appeal to management is the better option in this case.

    4. I Hate Fish*

      OP here. Other than the fact I was telling someone the story (as they asked if I “knew who the jerk who cooked fish was”) and he walked by mid story which wasn’t the best move on my part. The conversation between him and myself was honestly quite tame (as I was typing out my question to Alison I still quite annoyed/angry and never ever expected to actually get posted). The one thing I’m positive I screwed up by doing was instead of saying “would you mind going to another floor” I said “you need/should (as in telling not suggesting or requesting) to go to another floor.”

      This situation, however, was not the first time he’s been asked (and by people in higher positions than him, no less) to go somewhere else, just the first time I was the one to do it. Unbeknownst to me when I wrote this post in, someone actually spoke to him later that day about it and sounds like what they said really gave him something to ponder.

      I understand why HR won’t take a stance on actually telling people what they can and can’t eat because it’s cultural, so I wasn’t even sure if I’d have a fighting chance of stopping it because of my physical response. But the bigger issue is exactly what you and Alison are saying here. There is corporate culture issue at stake here that I’ve never really caught on to. I’ve always worked for large companies and I guess I thought that’s just kind of how it goes.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think that this kind of thing is all that common even in large companies. It sounds like you’ve had some pretty bad luck.

        1. valentine*

          I understand why HR won’t take a stance on actually telling people what they can and can’t eat because it’s cultural
          Even if a culture demands people specifically eat microwaved fish during the workday, your need not to vomit at work trumps that. But no one is even saying this guy can’t eat microwaved fish and HR can certainly (and inoffensively) tell him to do it (1) literally anywhere else on the planet or (2) behind a closed door. (Though, if there are no windows in those kitchens, isn’t the door going to trap the smell? I guess the last person out of the building can open that door and make a run for it.)

      2. Koala dreams*

        It’s pretty common to forbid people to eat food in an open office environment if said food makes people there sick.

        1. Koala dreams*

          However, it would be quite weird to forbid a food just because some people dislike it. There is (or should be) a difference between preference and a health issue.

  18. Turtle*

    #2 It probably isn’t that person actually sending the announcement. You’d be better off asking their PA/secretary/team coordinator about who sends it.

  19. Green great dragon*

    #2 the line that jumped out at me was ‘supposed to congratulate’. The dislike makes a bit more sense if OP is feeling pressured to perform some sort of insincere congratulatory ritual. But, OP, I don’t think you should! If I know someone’s expecting, I’ll be happy to see they’ve given birth and are OK. If not, delete without reading.

    Completely agree I have no need to hear dates or weights – Fredrica has given birth and, hopefully, mother and baby doing well is plenty information.

  20. Grey Coder*

    #3 Absolutely ask for something in return! A friend of mine knew she was going to be laid off eventually after her company merged with another one, but because they wanted her to stay in order to join up the two companies’ systems, they offered her a substantial severance package. (Think a couple of years’ salary.) She used this to fund a career change, so she wasn’t missing out on any opportunities in her earlier role.

    If they are asking for more of your commitment, there’s a reason for that and you have every right to say “What’s in it for me?”

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Completely agree. There’s usually a good reason they’re asking, so it makes sense to ask what it’s worth to them, though not in those words of course. Don’t be afraid to ask, OP. They’ll decide if it’s worth it to them to give you a bonus or something else to stay on for a bit.

      When my company was sold, the buying company offered me a large retention bonus to stay until everything was wrapped up in my department. It was about 1/3 of my annual salary, so I was quite happy to stay. Turned out that the last few weeks I got to stay home and just be available by email/phone (no calls or emails ever came), and I got paid for it.

      1. Antilles*

        They’ll decide if it’s worth it to them to give you a bonus or something else to stay on for a bit.
        And similarly, if they decide not to even offer anything substantial, you are under no obligation to stay the full six months – how important can it be if they aren’t willing to offer an incentive to stay?

      2. Mimi*

        For sure. My mom was in an extended layoff situation at her last company (they were closing her department) and they wound up asking her to extend beyond what they’d initially asked. But they offered a really good compensation package for sticking it out, gave several months’ notice for the extension, and further sweetened the ‘can you stay longer’ deal (among other things, she wound up taking off every other Friday for her last two months). Also, it was absolutely a drag as things wound down, so they need to be willing to pay you enough to put up with that, and you need to feel like the money is worth it. Regular salary is not worth it, except maybe if you REALLY need the money and don’t have any other options.

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      My husband’s company is laying off several of his coworkers in the near future. They had about 4 months notice, and were offered 6 months severance to stay until the official layoff date. At least one person decided this wasn’t enough, and started a new job in August.

      Presumably, the severance you were originally offered was based on the amount of time you were originally asked to stay. Now they want you to stay longer, so it seems that you should get a higher amount of severance to account for that. (Or possibly the original severance payout for staying until the original date, and a second payout for the extended date.)

    3. Mama Bear*

      Agreed. If you’re valuable enough to stay on for 15 months or more then I’d go back to the table re: what you need to stay that long, given the circumstances. It’s a weirdly long time to keep someone on board who will be laid off…eventually. If the reality is you won’t be laid off, or it’s contract-dependent (if they get an extension, so do you) then that’s different. It is demoralizing to know your time is finite with them, so if you stay you should make it work for you.

      Flip side is IMO you can start job searching now. I had a long lead time once – April to December. I was not going to get an extension, but I used that time to find a new job with the understanding that there was no longer a requirement for 2 weeks’ notice and they were very generous when I asked for time off for interviews/appointments. They also gave me a $2/hr raise during that time, which I also appreciated. They can want to keep you on, but you can also decide to go since the writing is on the wall.

  21. nutella fitzgerald*

    #2 – in a company that large, do you know for sure that every baby has had an announcement sent out? I work at the corporate headquarters of a slightly smaller company, and I transferred here from a satellite office three hours away. When I was at the satellite office, I assumed every birth was accompanied by an announcement, but since coming over to the HQ office two years ago, I’ve seen a handful of coworkers (men and women) have kids without the births being announced. I only mentioned it to the first coworker whose announcement I hadn’t seen when she brought her baby in for a visit (“I hadn’t realized Baby Fergus had arrived, I must have missed the birth announcement!”) and she told me that when she contacted HR to let them know she’d had the baby, she requested then that they not send an announcement. It was at that point that I realized that maybe some of my coworkers had had babies without it being announced to the entire company. Since that occurred to me, I’ve noticed that every so often a coworker will bring a baby in for a visit or start displaying baby pictures in their cubicle even though no announcement has been emailed to everyone. It’s definitely still more common for the announcements to go out, but it absolutely isn’t unheard of for a baby’s arrival not to be blasted to every Outlook inbox in the company.

    1. OP #2*

      I can tell you I’ve certainly wondered why we never get any bad news birth announcements. They always end with “X and Y and baby are doing fine!”. Never “baby is in NICU and fighting for their life!”. So yes, I’d suspect that not all babies are announced…

      1. anonagain*

        “So yes, I’d suspect that not all babies are announced…”

        Agreed! I’d wager there are also births that went fine that aren’t announced company-wide. All the births you hear about are the ones that are announced, unless you happen to actually know someone who doesn’t send out an announcement.

        Sorry to keep harping on this point. I just think it’s one of those information asymmetries that can make people feel more alone in their choices than they really are and can contribute to some of the pressure you’ve described.

        It’s like with social media: we only see all the people who are there and all the things they’ve shared. We don’t see all the things they haven’t shared or all the people who aren’t there sharing anything at all. This can create the sense that we’re the only ones holding anything back and that we’re out of sync with a norm that may or may not actually exist.

        1. Anon ghost*

          This is such a great point. And I’m guessing that’s why LW felt the need to leave facebook – being surrounded by people who are sharing waaaaay more personal information than you would ever dream of sharing can be really uncomfortable and lonely. And stressful, of course, if people start to ask why you’re not joining in.

      2. Anonymous Water Drinker*

        Unless you give them the info, they can’t share it. If you are contacted or asked, just decline or tell them before you go on leave that you will not sharing the info. If you don’t want to share it, that’s your call!

  22. GM*

    OP#1, I’m a heavy fish-eater and even I think it would be highly inconsiderate of anyone to cook it in a public area that’s meant for work! I love fish but wouldn’t like stanching up the area either. I think you should use this opportunity to push for some rules around using the area for cooking.

    1. Jellyfish*

      Same. I occasionally bring tuna for lunch, which doesn’t require a microwave, but I still go outside to eat it & make sure to chew gum after. That’s because I try to be considerate of other people in the building though. If fish-dude has decided his immediate desires are more important than everyone else around him, he’s got much bigger issues than thoughtlessly wanting a convenient lunch.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, fish-dude is being an arse. A while ago I discovered I liked a particular omelette-type thing that a local cafe sells for breakfast, and I bought one on a couple of occasions and brought it into the office. It only took one or two minor comments along the lines of ‘Does anyone think it smells a bit eggy in here?’ for me to think OK, fine, that omelette might be delicious but people obviously don’t like the smell, so I won’t bring it to work again. Because I’m a reasonable person who doesn’t want to be known as the person who always stinks up the office with some gross egg thing, and because I realise that my desire for eggy breakfast food does not override my colleagues’ wish to sit in an office that smells of something other than egg.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Every time this kind of debate comes up on this site, I appreciate more and more that I prefer my leftovers cold or room temperature. I eat a lot of foods that would be very smelly if cooked– kimchi, salmon, curried tofu– and I can’t imagine making my co-workers smell stuff all day. I mean, when I make kimchi fried rice at home, I turn up the fan and light a candle afterwards.

      Cold salmon is delicious. Maybe the fish guy should get on that. I bet he would if the microwave were gone, but then all the soup eaters would protest.

  23. GM*

    OP#4, I think Alison’s advice is spot-on. Having assumed both roles of mentor and mentee in the past, I can tell you for sure that you definitely “need” these sessions and will, in the long run, gain immense benefit from it.

  24. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Hmm. I can totally see why parents would not want their child’s full name, date of birth etc. broadcast. Fast forward a few years and that’s all of your internet banking security passwords compromised…

    1. Lora*

      Wedding announcements too: mother’s maiden name, name of grandparents…

      Though I would get a chuckle out of an announcement that includes a made-up answer for “first car make/model,” “name of first pet,” “street where you grew up,”
      “childhood best friend” etc.

    2. Sc@rlettNZ*

      Yeah, but do you honestly think that some criminal is going to keep the email with the birth announcement, wait 18 or so years for the child to grow up and then try to hack their bank account? The level of paranoia in the comments here often astounds me.

      1. AGirlHasNoScreenName*

        No, what happens is they use the details to open lines of credit in the child’s name while they are still a child. You’d think lenders would be mote scrupulous in actually checking birth dates, but really, you’d be surprised how many only care about it being for a valid person.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is a problem with family members or others who have the child’s social security number. It’s not a nefarious plan you can carry out by knowing birth weight.

          1. Lora*

            They use a data scraping bot to collect information automatically and cross-reference it. Doesn’t have to be anyone who is currently a child, can be someone whose parents’ wedding announcements and their birth announcement were published in a newspaper 25 years ago and the newspaper put their archives online.

            It’s not an actual human being looking things up on the Wayback Machine, it’s a bot doing most of the work. The bot doesn’t even have to be right very often, or be perfect; it has to be *sorta plausible*. So if you have Joe Smith whose social security number 123456789 has been grabbed in a huge data dump from a credit card company but no other information, and there’s a 1985 wedding announcement about John Smith and his parents James and Mary Smith (nee Bellows) of East Nowhere, USA, of which there is only one elementary school in the area called Jefferson High and the most common car driven in East Nowhere in 1985 was a Ford Escort, now you have enough pieces of information to make very good guesses about people’s login information and create fake identities to attach to a real ID that look fairly plausible and are incredibly difficult for a large bank with millions of customers to distinguish from a real person. The bot just has to search for certain text strings (such as “nee”) to grab a piece of information and put it in a category called “Maiden names” and attach it to the entry for Names==JSmith.

            Again, this is done in a fairly automated fashion. The only human part is the human who told the bot what strings to look for and how to label and index the data – then they simply wait a while and eventually check the results. That’s why it’s better to simply keep as much personal information off the internet as possible, period.

              1. SimplyTheBest*

                I have three security answers. I use them for everything, in the same order, regardless of what the question. I never forget them and they don’t correspond to actual information (like my mother’s maiden name) that someone else could have.

                1. juliebulie*

                  But the questions don’t always get asked in the same order. How do you know which answer goes with which question? (Ex. my credit union sometimes asks the first question, sometimes the second, sometimes the third and it’s not predictable)

                2. CMart*

                  I have fictional*, but standard, answers for mine. My “favorite childhood pet” is Hedwig. Street I grew up on? No. 4 Privet Drive. Mother’s maiden name? Dursley. First car? Ford Anglia.

                  *not my actual fictional answers, obviously, ha.

              2. Pomona Sprout*

                UHHHHH……. *looks around nervously then quickly ducks behind the nearest piece of furniture*

                *peeks out cautiously*

                Seriously, do most people actually make all that stuff up…and actually manage to remember it? I’d never be able to remember what fake maiden name, street name, pet’s name, or whatever I used on which account.

                Should I maybe be more paranoid about these these things? I don’t know. That’s just not how my mind works, and retraining it seems like a saunting task….

    3. FairPayFullBenefits*

      I don’t think “weight at birth” is usually a security question. I’m being facetious, but honestly I don’t see how the information in a baby announcement could be used for hacking, and there are plenty of other ways to find out someone’s parents’ names. “Mother’s maiden name” is a common security question, but not usually included on baby announcements (unless it’s still her last name, which would be pretty easy to find anyway).

    4. Asenath*

      Well, if you set up your passwords to include your date of birth, you’ll have a problem! My full name and date of birth are probably easily accessible, and certainly anyone who knew me – or knew someone who knew me – over the years could figure out my grandmothers’ maiden name, never mind my mother’s. I’m of a generation that didn’t worry so much about keeping such information private. So I don’t use that information in my passwords, and any really secure site – like my bank’s – offers a range of questions plus other options if I need to re-set a password.

      I don’t see this as a security risk. I don’t even see it as really private information – although I’ve always wondered where the custom of announcing a child’s birth weight, as if it were a piece of meat, came from. I’m told it’s a proxy for “child is healthy” – bigger children being less likely to have complications due to being premature. If OP doesn’t want a company-wide announcement, for any reason at all, she should ask that it not be done. It might come across as a bit odd in that company, but I wouldn’t think it was odd enough to be a problem.

    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      I think this says more about how problematic using basic life event information as security questions is than about how sharing your child’s name is risky. A lot of people I know make up a set of answers for those questions for exactly this reason.

      1. Antilles*

        A lot of people I know make up a set of answers for those questions for exactly this reason.
        In fact, this is specifically recommended by security experts, because most of those “security questions” are actually easy to track down. Your first car might seem like a good security question, but remember that speeding ticket you got at 17? Yep, that included the make and model of your car, so whoops, that’s online thanks to your local police department digitizing historic records.
        Common advice is to invent false answers that are related to the question – it makes it easier to remember than just typing random nonsense, but it’s not actually searchable because you never actually owned a 1967 Impala or a DeLorean or whatever.

      2. Filosofickle*

        Yeah, one piece of advice I have for a young person starting out is to make up “mom’s maiden name”. Just pick one and use it forever. (You can do that at any point in your life but it’s easier to keep it straight when you’ve never used the real one.)

        I’m surprised by the number of people who use their DOB in their Gmail address, or their middle name on FB and IG (often in place of their last name, ironically to improve privacy). I’m not a terribly paranoid person but it does make sense not to make it super easy to find info that can be used for social engineering.

    6. Natalie*

      People used to publish birth announcements in the newspaper. I’m sure you can still find zillions of them for still living people, yet somehow it’s not causing a rash of identity theft.

      1. Dee Em*

        My (small town) local paper still publishes birth announcements to this day. Both in print and online. Gives parent names, grandparent names, baby’s full name and sibling names and ages. Also birthdate, gender, height and weight. Never gave that a thought until now, but that’s a lot of information to put out there.

    7. Old and Don’t Care*

      Dear God. I have no children, yet am able to easily navigate security questions and answers.

  25. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    My company quit the birth announcements a few years ago and it still makes me sad. I have plenty of colleagues I like and care about but don’t spend time with outside of work, and since they’re often gone a year, it’s nice to know how things turned out.

    But you don’t have to like them! If it makes you uncomfortable, say no! You’re the boss of what you want to share.

  26. Anon for this one*

    OP2 I am 100% with you on the not wanting to share front. I am days away from having my first child and am dreading my bosses attempt to include my baby in her weekly newsletter. I work for a charity and our blast goes out to all our “Friends”- thousands of people I don’t know and will never know. Last thing I want is information about my child sent to total strangers. FWIW I am in my very early 30s and part of the Facebook generation. I too feel weird when I see updates on kids whose parents I don’t even know because of poor privacy settings, etc. I have all but deleted mine because the oversharing gives me the creeps.

    I don’t think you need a single reason why you don’t want to share- no thank you is a full sentence after all. It’s your kid (or future kid, that is) and no one needs to know anything if you don’t want them to. There’s no reason your boss can’t tell your team the news after the fact or why you couldn’t tell who you wanted when you return. I really don’t see the need for random coworkers to need more info- if it’s so inconsequential that they delete the email, did the email really need to be sent in the first place?

    1. Green great dragon*

      For anyone who works across departmental boundaries, but it’d be impossible for anyone else to target an email just on people who’d care about the news. Those who want to read it can, those who don’t can delete.

      1. Anon for this one*

        In the same vein, those who want to enquire If they don’t get an announcement can. Those who don’t want to can forget it altogether. I don’t see why an email needs to be sent out at all

    2. Agnodike*

      I have my kid pretty much locked down on social media: I don’t use any social media myself, request other people not post pictures of her, etc. But a birth announcement basically just contains birth registry data, which is generally publicly-available (and often searchable in an online register!).

      Announcing life milestones to a community is one of the foundational traditions of basically every culture, and it’s really weird to me how many commenters are freaked out by it. I don’t want to go on a long rant about the increasing isolation of the individual in society, but this is both symptomatic and causal of that phenomenon.

      1. Clisby*

        Just curious – are you in the US? I’m asking, because I’m not familiar with any public birth registry here. I mean, there is a publicly maintained birth registry at my state health department, but it’s not like random people can go look up my kids’ information. At some point, it starts getting disseminated more widely (like, I had to submit birth certificates when they went to school), but it’s not just open.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          You can get a birth certificate without being the birther/birthee. Like you can get information on what real estate sold for.

          1. Clisby*

            In my state, those have completely different levels of access. Real estate transactions are recorded at the courthouse and are public. Anyone can see them.

            The only people entitled to get a birth certificate here are the person themselves, a parent or legal guardian, or a legal representative (not sure where that would come into play). The applicant has to supply a government, employment, or school photo ID. Of course I’m not ruling out that someone could get a forged ID in the kid’s name or a parent’s name and go from there, but the ordinary person on the street cannot routinely get it like you can routinely get real estate transaction information.

            1. Agnodike*

              Being entitled to a copy of a birth certificate isn’t the same as having access to the information it contains. Depending on your jurisdiction, you might have to file your equivalent of an Access to Information request with the collecting body (county, municipality, parish, whatever), but any citizen has the right to access information collected under vital statistics legislation.

        2. Agnodike*

          No, I’m Canadian. Births, marriages and deaths are for sure all a matter of public record here and in the United States, and I think also in most of Western Europe as well.

          1. Librarian1*

            They aren’t necessarily public in the US. Birth records are maintained by states, not the federal government. The federal government only gets info about a baby if the baby’s parents apply for a social security card for it and I’m pretty sure that’s not public info.

            As for births, states decide whether it’s a public record or not. I just googled the state where I’m born and it turns out that birth certifications are NOT a public record there. Which is good. I don’t want some rando waltzing in an getting a copy of my birth certificate.

            1. Agnodike*

              I would be extremely surprised if it were not mandatory to register births in the United States. The vital statistics registers here aren’t federal either, but they still do definitely exist. Again, the ability to obtain a copy of a birth certificate isn’t that same as the fact that you exist being a matter of public record.

    3. OP #2*

      Thank you for sharing this. If you’re reading the rest of the comments I’m sure you see how much of a minority we are. I think people have become so used to knowing everything about everyone that it’s become wrong not to share. Like now people think they’re entitled to know…

      1. Colette*

        The information you’re talking about has been shared publicly for many, many years – long before the internet became a common thing. Typically, it’s about welcoming a new member of the community. You’re within your rights not to share it, if you don’t want to, but you’re sending a message by keeping it private.

      2. Valancy Snaith*

        I think it’s actually the move to extreme privacy that’s new. Traditionally, new baby information has been printed in newspapers, church bulletins, and circulated as general town news for thousands of years. Baptismal records have always been public for most churches and are one of the single biggest sources for genealogical researchers. Venturing back one or two or five hundred years ago, a baby would absolutely be public knowledge.

      3. Anon for this one*

        definitely surprised to see we are in such a minority. I’ve definitely gotten some odd responses from my boss when I asked not to have personal info in our newsletter previously. In the age of all consuming digital and social media, I like having some semblance of control over my info that’s out there. That said, I don’t think it’s as deep as some other commentators have suggested!

      4. Monica Bird*

        OP #2, I am with you all the way. I come from a very private family. For example, when my grandparents died, none of them wanted an obit. They had no desire for people to know that they passed, and they also didn’t want anyone bothering the family. The only people at all funerals were immediate family. When my grandmother passed away, I had to bring it a letter from the funeral home to ‘prove’ my need to bereavement leave to HR. HR said that their normal policy is to pay for flowers for the deceased and their family, and I had an immediate shudder. As well meaning as that is, my grandmother would have absolutely hated that.

        My family is just as private about everything else, and I find it bizarre that the most common argument against privacy is ‘people will think that’s weird!’ …That’s not an argument, and it’s not a reason to go against your desire to be private. So what if people want to know? That’s their problem, not mine. God forbid someone think that you’re ‘weird’. I’d rather they think I am weird than know things about me that I don’t want them to know.

        Just because other people are unlikely to understand does not make it my problem, and I will not change what I want for my life (and my privacy) for them.

      5. Hepzibah Pflurge*

        OP #2 & Anon for this one – I’m with you as well. I am not about living my life on Front Street, so it is hard for me to understand the (increasing) majority of people who not only do, but expect and feel entitled to know/share your business as well.

      6. OhCanary*

        I don’t get the sense people think they’re “entitled” to know. (I mean, I’m sure some people think that; there are people who think they’re entitled to anything and everything.) But here, in a work context? If we’re work acquaintances, and you go out on maternity leave and specifically ask your team/boss to refrain from sharing your birth news — not even details, just the fact that a new person exists in the world — I would think one of two things: either something horrible happened (and then I wouldn’t know how to deal with it/you when you came back to the office), or you hate me/your job and didn’t want anyone to congratulate you (and again, then I wouldn’t know how to talk with you when you came back to work).

        Either option is not great.

        Also there’s a very real sense in your posts, whether you mean them to come across this way or not, that you’re somehow better, smarter, cooler for not wanting to announce your birth. It’s quite odd.

        1. CMart*

          Yes to this.

          I’m a people person. I care about data-security-privacy but not relational privacy. I love getting to know my coworkers as people and not just cogs in my work machine. I don’t feel entitled to information about their new babies or whatever, but I will be privately sad if they were like “ugh, buzz off, mind your own business, why do you care?”

          I understand that many people are not like me and prefer to just keep their heads down and not let others too far into their life bubble, but the defensiveness that often comes out is a head-scratcher for me. People like to know details because they care about you and are interested in you as a person. It’s not nefarious.

        2. OP #2*

          OhCanary… totally not my intent to sound better than others. Everyone can make their own choice. I’m only talking about what I would want, not what others should or shouldn’t do.

          And while I can see your point with the couple of hypothetical situations, I would hope that if you got the message that so and so had their baby and is on leave that you would take it at face value and not assume something went wrong. No news doesn’t have to mean bad news, it could just mean privacy.

    4. WellRed*

      To thousands of “friends”? yeah, that’s a bit much. Keep it in house. I say the same could go for the LW’s team. Just announce to the relevant department/s.

      1. Anon for this one*

        Yeah, we have one of those membership schemes where you get extra access to the site for a yearly fee. Think like a Friend of the British Museum or something. They all get the newsletter and it’s definitely an overshare!

    5. juliebulie*

      I agree too. Don’t have to share the info for the email when you have a baby. Anyone who asks, you can just say no thanks, you appreciate the interest but you want to keep it private.

      As for getting the emails – I’ve got dozens of “rules” set up in Outlook and in Yahoo to identify unwanted emails, mark them as read, and send them to the trash. The unwanted birth announcements seem like perfect candidates for that treatment.

      We don’t do formal announcements here, but if we did, yeah I’d filter them. I’d maybe suspend the filter if someone I cared about was about to have a baby, but otherwise, no thanks. I don’t want to waste the 0.5 seconds it takes to delete announcements about strangers because that’s a 0.5 seconds that I could spend deleting some other useless piece of email because we get so freaking many of them.

  27. staceyizme*

    Cooking is tricky. Burnt popcorn, broccoli, fish, onions and garlic are some of the pungent smells that bother people. Your mistake was in assuming that he had to accommodate you. You went off. He dug in. Now you’re stuck with the mess. Maybe you can get it arranged so that actual cooking only occurs in kitchens eith closed doors and try an air purifier? Also- things that require other people to change their routines aren’t necessarily things that will they will automagically cooperate with. You’d be better off working on a systems based solution, in addition to anything that you can do yourself to manage. Directing other people with your own comfort or needs in view requires a lighter touch than “i-said-it-now-do-it-or-i’ll-go-off-on-you”. It’s a favor, not a directive, at least until you can get it made into a directive by someone in authority.

    1. EPLawyer*

      She did suggest he use one of the other kitchens with a door. She did not say don’t cook fish at all. This is not the only break area. he responded with he can do what he wants where he wants.

      1. voyager1*

        Who is the LW to tell him what to do though? I get the fish smell sucks. But honestly the LW and fish guy have handled this pretty poorly.

      2. Clisby*

        However, she did not tell him the smell of fish makes her physically ill. For all he knows, she just doesn’t like it, and then overreacted when he didn’t immediately cooperate. Yes, it would have been nice for him to cooperate, but then are people who, say, reheat pizza or curry also going to be asked to go to another kitchen? I’m kind of on team Cooking Belongs in the Kitchen with the Door no matter what’s being cooked, because no telling what’s going to smell bad to someone.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          OP tried to save face hoping Fishy would acquiescence and not cook fish, so she wouldn’t have had to bring up her health issue.

          Fishy doubles down. Now OP either 1) lumps it or 2) tells why the smell is so awful.

          Where I live people bring their left over dinner (“ethnic” food) for lunch. Had the exchange happened to them, they’d still bring their food in. Had OP been honest about it, just about everyone I know would try to accommodate her.

          They’ve been told a zillion times how their food is gross and stinks, so OP’s first comment wouldn’t have pinged in their heads.

    2. BethDH*

      It sounds like that was what OP suggested first (cooking in one of the facilities with doors, which is on another floor but accessible) and that it was only after the person blew that off that OP got frustrated and reacted poorly.

      1. I Hate Fish*

        OP here. You are correct. My mistake was that instead of saying “could you” I said “you should”. Had this not been suggested by others in the past I probably would have not been so annoyed. Also yanno, I just puked and was mad cause it was also when I actually had time to eat and now I my mouth tasted like toothpaste and vomit.

        We have a cafeteria to heat and eat, which takes up a whole floor. Like…come on dude.

        1. Paulina*

          If he’s getting a lot of people telling him to cook his fish somewhere else, though, then his response to getting these reactions is likely to be very well-worn. He probably dug his heels in long before you talked to him. Perhaps he’s not reasonable about it at all, and the general attitude to weakness there is very problematic. But I know that I might dig my heels in on doing something if I thought it was just about personal preference with my preference ignored, but not if it was actually a significant health issue for someone.

          Unfortunately the issue of cooking fish at work is contentious enough that he might question whether you really get ill, or are just claiming to in order to get him to stop. Fingers crossed that the food-for-thought someone else has given him will lead to changes.

  28. Nancy Pelosi*

    I’m wondering why OP#2 is concerned about a workplace birth announcement for a child that is years away from existing. It seems odd to me be so worried about what amounts to a small issue regarding something that hasn’t actually happened yet. I do get some of the comments about trying to subtly change this workplace tradition ahead of time, but still….why so worried?

    1. OP #2*

      This letter came because we got yet another birth announcement and I started to wonder if other people felt the way I did, but a google search came up empty (literally all I found was “how to format a birth announcement email”). So I was wondering more and thought to ask. Trust me, I have plenty of other present day things to worry about. This is not keeping me up at night.

    2. Koala dreams*

      I didn’t read it like that. I understood it to be that the poster thought it would be an interesting question to pose to Alison, as the answer could be interesting both to the poster and other readers who work in similar workplaces.

  29. Ginger*

    #2 – I’m like you with the privacy concerns.

    With my two kids, I went with something like “baby gender first name arrived this week, everyone is doing great!”

    No full name, no birth date, no stats. Enough so noone worried but not weirdly secretive like we weren’t happy or something was wrong.

    If the company announces this for everyone and you don’t, you’ll probably get hounded by many well meaning folks. A little announcement avoids that.

    1. Just Elle*

      Lol I like this. Personally I never understood height (more like length at that point?) and weight anyway. Is this a fishing competition? Is there a prize for biggest trout?? Literally what is the relevance of this information??

        1. Just Elle*

          But that’s my point. Birthing a 5lb baby doesn’t make you any less a mom, your experience any less tough and your happiness any less great. Lets be honest, child birth hurts a lot and you deserve rest and congratulations even if you don’t happen to have The Most Painful Childbirth Of All Time. Including weight implies otherwise, like you’re somehow in competition with other moms.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            The weight is actually a signal reinforcing ‘the baby and mom are fine’, for any weight above 6lbs.

            Also: child birth does not always hurt a lot. Yes, every mom deserves time to rest and recuperate and bond, but my labor was a party.

            1. Jennifer*

              Isn’t it safe to say you were an exception? We seriously can’t say childbirth hurts without someone popping up to say, “Well…actually…” ?

              1. blackcat*

                I’ve actually known plenty of women who got early epidurals and recount basically zero pain.

                What everyone I know has experienced, though is the “OMG MY ORGANS ARE GOING TO FALL OUT” feeling post-birth, and everyone I know who has had a vaginal birth recounts weird feelings in the pelvis for at least the first 24 hours. Even if there’s not a ton of pain, giving birth is still a traumatic event for the body that involves organs and bones moving. Heck, you end up down an entire 2-3lb organ (the placenta).

                On the flip side, as someone who had a very fast, very painful, unmedicated birth, I was way more up for conversing with people than friends of mine who had much less painful but more highly medicated births. Neither was easier, really. And in the grand scheme of things, pregnancy was WAY more unpleasant than labor and birth for me. Yeah, it sucked, but it was all over in like 4 hours. Pregnancy was 9.5 months of misery. Growing another human was much harder than expelling it from my body.

      1. blackcat*

        I didn’t/don’t mention the weight of my kid at birth often, but I do mention the length: 22.5 inches.
        I’m only 62 inches tall.
        I gave birth to a human >1/3 my height.
        I was visibly really unhappy at the end of my pregnancy, and people commented on it a lot. So I offered the full explanation once I was back at work.

          1. blackcat*

            He is now a 1.5yo who comes up past my hip.
            I have a betting pool for the age at which he exceeds my height. My money is on 7 years old, since both my brother and I were giants at children who are on the short side of adults.

        1. Anancy*

          I had not considered this, and just realized my kids were each 1/3 of my height, and wow, that’s kinda mind blowing!

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        I am so sorry to the coworkers I may have disturbed by laughing a bit too hard at the mental image of a competition with newborns in the vein of a fishing competition.

        Usually the weight/length is a health point. I was born 2.5 months early and was *tiny*. Like, <3 lbs. Apparently conversations usually went through "Oh, Baby EC was born!! How big??" "She was 2 lbs, (some number of) oz." "Oh my goodness! How long will they be in the hospital?" etc etc.

        1. Just Elle*

          I mean, I get it, I do, but I’d much rather just communicate the health of the baby, than to communicate the size and then have the awkward “oh no, are they healthy?” responses if she is indeed fine. Plus you can have a 10lb baby who is still unhealthy. Its just a really poor substitute metric.

          And I just feel like its a kind of private thing that not everyone needs to know. I had a (naturally) very skinny coworker give birth at OldToxicJob, and when people found out the low birth weight everyone was gossiping about how she’d starved herself all pregnancy at the expense of the baby.

          Its totally fine if mom WANTS to share the weight, but it seems weird to me that its so common place.

      3. Risha*

        Aside from the aforementioned health reasons, there just isn’t that much information to share about the average baby, so it makes convenient filler (most people want to talk MORE about their baby, not less). You don’t even necessarily know their hair or eye color yet.

  30. Just Elle*

    LW 4 – I found myself in a similarly awkward situation where a few-level-up manager offered to be my mentor, and I felt like I didn’t have anything “worthy” of discussing with her. But I finally landed in a type of role-playing drill that has helped me out immensely.
    Basically, it’ll go something like “Last week I found myself getting frustrated on a call. I’m trying to get Gina to participate in x but she won’t. Here’s what I said to her, how could I have handled this better?” or “On Friday, Bill said he thought we should limit the project scope but I felt the project wouldn’t be successful with the limited scope. Here were our two sides, where do you fall out on this?” or even “How would you approach ____ situation that might come up sometime in the future or may never come up?” I’ve even asked for help polishing presentations.
    The point isn’t really to get advice when something goes *bad* but more to get calibrated on whether there was a different option or an even better way to handle an issue. Day to day, little, interactions actually matter much more for your career growth than the *big* things and the more coaching you can get on effectiveness of those, the better.

    1. Marissa*

      +1 to using real world examples. OP4, I got the vibe that you are trying to find topics that feel important or impressive enough to be worthy of your mentor’s time. But, she’s doing this because she remembers being in your shoes and having to navigate a totally new world and wants to help you. It’s really a perfect opportunity to look at those day-to-day encounters and learn how to handle them differently. When you encounter a situation that you’d like to find other ways to handle, have an event coming up you’re anxious about, or just have something that keeps creeping into your thoughts during the day, jot it down so you can use that as a topic for your meetings. Also, you can always circle back to topics you’ve already discussed, if there’s things you’ve thought about or acted on since then that you’d like to talk about.

  31. OP #2*

    OP for #2 here. Just to clarify, I never implied I wouldn’t tell the people I work directly with that the baby came. I have lots of very close friends at work and have no problem with my department (~40 people) knowing. They’ll already know I’m pregnant and of course would care about me because they are all nice people!

    I honestly never considered that no news = something horrible happened, but I’ll take your word on it that that’s true… but then again, Karen who worked in a building a half mile away from me isn’t going to know the difference.

    Lastly, I admitted in my letter that I have higher privacy desires than your average person. I think in general we (all push out way too much information about our kids, a lot of it that will live forever on the internet, and no one really knows what the consequences will be when they become adults. And yeah a company email isn’t really a big issue but I just don’t see why we feel the need to share such momentous life events with complete strangers.

    1. Rabbit*

      I think your general viewpoint about privacy is fair enough, but birth announcements have been a thing so so long – since well before social media and the internet massively increased the spread of personal data – that it feels like it falls slightly outside of those concerns.

      I used to enjoy looking at the birth announcements that were their own corner in my old company newsletter (for a much bigger employer) even though I didn’t know anyone involved because … well it’s just nice to hear about positive news? But I would certainly understand if anyone didn’t want to participate.

    2. Arctic*

      You are conflating two very different things. Birth announcements have existed for as long as newspapers have and probably before with catastrophe striking. It’s happy news for the larger community.

      It is completely different from oversharing on FB.

      Definitely do what feels comfortable but you are making some value judgments and suggesting birth announcements are a consequence of internet culture, which is untrue.

    3. Alton*

      I think it’s reasonable to want to keep any announcements limited to the department you actually work with. I don’t think I’m as lrivacy-minded as you, but I’d be weirded out by having an announcement made to the entire organization. I wouldn’t post something like a birth announcement or wedding announcement in the newspaper, so I wouldn’t want that sort of info broadcast to my entire company.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Fwiw as a data point, I have never done Facebook or any form of social media, any references to my children in anonymous blog comments have no names or identifying details, and I found your preference to not tell the community of the birth via the traditional local format very odd. And “something went wrong” would be a likely guess as to the reason to buck the trend. That doesn’t mean you can’t buck the trend, just be aware that even the people in your office who never touch Facebook are unlikely to see that choice as simply not wanting to push information about your child into the public sphere, unless they know you so well that you have explained this reasoning to them.

    5. Guacamole Bob*

      If you’re fine with an announcement to your department, then I think this may just be about the specifics of your relationship to your larger company and how comfortable you are with people you know not getting the news versus people you don’t know getting the announcement.

      It’d obviously be ridiculous to send out an announcement to everyone in a 15,000 person company every time someone had a baby. It’d be kind of strange *not* to tell everyone in an office of 10 or 20 people. At 500 people, you’re kind of in the middle – there are probably a good number of employees who know a lot of people across many departments and who therefore like having this kind of news spread widely, and probably some like you who don’t see the need to tell people outside their own department. Some of that is the kind of work you do – I have had jobs where I knew tons of colleagues, and some where I only really worked within my small team.

      I wonder if the company-wide email is a relic from when the organization was smaller, and it’s about time to transition to more department-focused announcements as the company grows?

    6. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Personally, I erase every single e-mail that comes around at my office about babies — usually w/o reading it. Unless it is for one of my buddies and I want to know what size welcoming gift to get for them, I really, really, really have NO interest.

      Also, I have an issue with my firm making a big deal about personal milestones at our annual holiday celebration, but they are exclusively weddings and babies. I was ecstatic when I got divorced. He was abusive and a millstone around my neck. I threw a party when the divorce papers came through and I was still alive, and I was very open about it. It had been hard getting through. I asked to have my “milestone” included on the congratulations list and … well, crickets. Like, not even someone treating it like a joke.

      You wanting privacy is your thing, I get not wanting to send something around to 500 people.

    7. AngryOwl*

      Birth announcements are not a product of the internet.

      I think it’s 100% your right to ask that there not be an announcement, it’s your life and your info to with as you like.

      That said, there seems to be this tone that there is something wrong with people who are fine announcing, share things on FB, etc. (With all this talk about how you being in the minority is “unfortunate.”) And I’m not sure why—just as it’s your decision not to share, it’s ours to share.

      1. OP #2*

        There is no dislike of people who do share. That’s 100% their right to share just as it’s 100% my right not to. What I find unfortunate is that people feel entitled to my life news, because that removes my choice.

        And I do understand birth announcements are not a product of the internet. It’s the exact opposite. We used to only be able to share via print, but now we have the internet and social media which makes it even easier and far reaching.

        1. Don't push me to share... just don't*

          I think the choice part is important – I feel like many people don’t even stop and consider this, so they don’t make an informed choice. And, you are making the choice on behalf of your child! Not to be paranoid, but once the info or photo is out there, there is no way of taking it back and no way of where it will travel and how it will be used.

          We’ve kept my pregnancy and child out of all social media, and we work extra hard to make sure people do not take photos of our child. We are probably extreme because we don’t want the child mentioned on social media either (some people thought we are objecting just to photos). My maternity leave out of office message was just “out of office”, no other explanations.

          My reasons:
          1) I don’t want potential future employers consider whether I am less “employable” because of having a child. Yeah, I know it would be illegal, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
          2) It’s nobody’s business. You have no right to know details about my child. You have no right to be in my personal life. I don’t care what you think about my name choices or baby’s weight. Let’s talk about work topics unless you are my work-friend.
          3) It’s the child’s image and info – they get to decide once older if & how much to put it out there.

          But, again, it’s a personal decision as so many others when it comes to our children. Live & let live . I’d just make sure that you are super clear with co-workers who you will share the baby info with that you don’t want to pass the details on. They might not think they are doing any harm and pass it on to HR thinking “Everybody will be so happy to hear. Let’s make sure they can congratulate you.” So, something along with “Hey Co-workers, baby Fergusinna Jr has been born! She is the size of a medium tea-pot and healthy as a tea-leaf! Please do NOT share the news or pictures with others, I want to limit all baby info to close colleagues. Thanks. I can’t wait for you all to meet her….”

    8. Jerk Store*

      Just to offer a different perspective, I’m an Office Manager and I often get asked to send out emails like this as part of my job.

      For every person like you who who doesn’t want their coworkers knowing their business, there’s someone who feels hurt and slighted if Karen’s new baby gets announced and their new baby doesn’t, because getting Congratulations and well wishes from their coworkers makes them feel valued and apart of the team.

      1. Don't push me to share... just don't*

        That’s a great point. But you are going by what the person wants and not pushing them, so that’s perfect! ;-)

        1. Jerk Store*

          Yes, I was responding to the “Why am I getting this announcement for a someone I don’t even know?” sentiment from the LW.

    9. FormerExpat*

      Hi OP 2, just a quick note to say you’re not the only person who likes more privacy than the norm. I totally get it. It sucks to have to think of justifications other than… I just don’t feel like sharing. But I think it is okay to just not like some things. The internet is full of people trying to backwards engineer rational justifications for their own preferences. But again, it is okay to not like things.

    10. Bertha*

      I know it’s not the same, but when my dad died, I only told my boss and my employee at my last job (I managed one person). I knew by then, as I’d been there a few years, that it was common practice to send out a company-wide email when the parent of an employee died. I just did not want to do that. I don’t know most of these people, and I don’t feel like hearing any sympathy from them (compounded by the fact that I had an estranged relationship with my dad). Maybe my boss thought it was weird, but I didn’t care, she asked if I wanted an email sent out and I said no.

      I also recently got married, and I did announce it on Facebook, but I waited a week and still felt weird about it. Not necessarily about privacy for me, but I mention it because perhaps we have some of the same aversions to this sort of thing.

      Which leads me to this.. all the people saying “Public announcements are normal, they have always been in the newspaper”.. that is just not the same as a company-wide email being sent out. Maybe if your company put out a newsletter and the information was provided in that, sure, I can see the similarities. But the equivalent to this back before email would have been to send everyone in the community letters announcing the birth. The email “pushes” the information on people, whereas a newspaper provides it for those who want to see it, who want tto flip to the page of birth announcements. I say, do whatever you are comfortable with. If you send out an email to the department, who else in the rest of the company is going to be worried about you, or heck, care?

      1. Poppy the Flower*

        I agree with this. I totally understand only wanting to share with your department; I’ll join the chorus of people who probably wouldn’t read company-wide birth announcements if I didn’t know the person. But someone in my department, sure. I’m old enough to remember the days when people mailed birth announcements to their friends! Again, not extremely public and I like your description of the difference between newspapers and emails. I think it’s a good point.

        It’s pretty much the norm now in my circles but I did not want to announce a death in my family on social media. My good friends and coworkers know. There’s an obituary out there that mentions me. But I’ve unfortunately had multiple experiences in the past with acquaintances (and people I’d thought were friends) making my illness as an excuse all about them and their Great Support or being overly intrusive about details so that’s caused me to be pretty private/guarded. I knew Facebook sympathy comments would probably make me feel worse.

    11. Oxford Comma*

      When and if you find yourself in your position, maybe just go to your manager and indicate you don’t want a company-wide announcement. Since you’re okay with sharing with your department, you could probably just ask that they only share the information you’re comfortable with being shared. Maybe just a minimal “OP #2 welcomed a baby into her family! Everyone is doing fine.”

      In a large company, no news=something horrible happened is probably only going to be an issue for the people with whom you work. If you’re fine with sharing with your department, you won’t be impacted.

      I did want to point out that birth announcements have been around for a lot longer than social media. You can find them in historic newspapers. I remember being around in the days of printed company newsletters and you’d find them there too.

  32. Alfonzo Mango*

    1. If you don’t tell him it’s a health issue, he’s just going to think you’re being rude. Just because you don’t like a smell doesn’t mean he should be inconvenienced. I think you’re going to have to come clean about feeling sick from it to get the results you like.

    I understand the complaints – I love fish and bring in leftovers for work. I had a coworker that would complain because we had a small office with a small break room attached. But if I’m not given another place to prepare my lunch, you better buy me a new one if you don’t want me eating what I brought.

    1. Scarlet*

      Nothing wrong with eating fish. It’s healthy and delicious! I think the issue here just don’t heat it up at work – that’s what makes it smell. I mean we all have to work together – sometimes I need to make concessions and sometimes other people need to. Is it really that big of a deal to bring in something different?

      1. Alfonzo Mango*

        Yes, it is. If that’s my meal, that’s my meal. I extend my coworkers grace when they’re doing something I don’t like and I expect them to do the same when it comes to reheating fish. I’m not paid enough to cater my meals around my coworkers.

        1. londonedit*

          I see this sort of comment here on a fairly regular basis, and I have to say that as a mindset it baffles me. In my view, part of being in a community – whether that’s a workplace or a neighbourhood or a family or a group of friends or whatever – is being mindful of other people’s needs. I can’t imagine ever taking the view that I’ll do whatever the heck I want and no one can stop me. Basic courtesy and manners dictate that you take other people’s feelings into account before you act.

          1. Alfonzo Mango*

            Right, so that would work both ways. I need to eat my lunch. I packed it, it’s ready to go, if you take my need to eat into consideration you should be able to cope with smelling fish that’s been reheated in the microwave.

              1. Alfonzo Mango*

                I don’t care.

                If this makes me selfish, so be it. In that specific example, the same office mates often inconvenienced and annoyed me. We all may have griped here and there but you buck up about certain things because it’s not worth the fight.

                I can’t speak to the people that cook fish every day and cook extra stinky fish (I’ve also never noticed a lingering smell from my shrimp or salmon), but personally I’m always going to reheat my lunch if that’s my lunch.

                1. nonegiven*

                  You don’t care that your coworker throws up every time you heat up your fish?

                  HR needs to ban heating fish on that floor. There are other places to heat it up on other floors, that don’t make the OP throw up.

            1. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

              Can I ask an honest question of you Alfonzo?
              What if the co-worker who asked you to please bring something else did so because of an allergy to the seafood? And stated that the allergy was severe enough that you reheating your seafood would then render the microwave unusable for them until it had been sanitized. I totally agree that people have the right to eat what they want, but unfortunately some of us have allergies extreme enough that not reacting requires more than just not eating that item. (And at least for me, I feel bad when I do have to ask about that sort of accommodation, but I come to work to work – not to get exposed to my allergen/potentially have an anaphylactic reaction.)

              1. Alfonzo Mango*

                If we had that conversation I would not mind not bringing in something else. I’m not totally unreasonable- I just don’t think seafood in the microwave is a Deadly Sin the way others do. I don’t usually bring it in, but when I have it I expect my coworkers to extend me grace to heat it and eat it without fuss the same way I extend them grace on the things that bother me.

                As I said in the post, in order to be taken seriously OP will need to let them know how serious this is.

                1. a1*

                  I kind of agree with you. Lots of people cook/heat lots of things in microwaves. Chances are there is someone that doesn’t like X smell, even to the point of feeling sick to their stomach. For me, that’s coffee – hate the taste, hate the smell, will feel sick to my stomach when surrounded by it. But I sure wouldn’t ask people not to make or drink coffee around me. I just suck it up and deal. I love fish, but if someone overheats their fish (and therefore makes it really stinky) or if they are heating something really garlicky – same thing. Sometimes you have to deal with unpleasant (to you) food smells. I deal with/ignore yours, you do to the same for me.

                  All that said, an actual medical condition is different. E.g. Deathly allergic to peanuts = no more peanut butter in the space.

        2. Scarlet*

          This isn’t about the fish, is it?

          I apologize if I’m wrong here but it sounds like you are angry and frustrated about your pay/job and digging your heels in the mud on this issue. You recognize it causes distress/tension among a wide variety of your coworkers and do it anyway. I get it – you’re upset and it’s hard not to act passive aggressively.

          Perhaps instead of taking out your frustration on those around you, use the opportunity to recognize what you’re really upset about and try to address those root causes? I hope things get better for you soon.

          1. Alfonzo Mango*

            lol, it’s not that deep. I honestly can’t remember the last time I brought in salmon or shrimp to work. This is just a hill I’m willing to die on.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Microwaving fish (as well as cabbage, broccoli, liver etc) has been an office no-no everywhere I’ve worked, because the smell is horrible (tbh every one of these products somehow smells more like human waste than it does like the delicious food it originally was, when you heat it up in a microwave), spreads through the whole office, and lasts a long time. I love fish and seafood (and also cabbage and liver), but what I love even more is following the platinum rule “do not do to others what you don’t want done to yourself”. Do you want to spend the 1-2 hours after lunch break sitting in the smell of my microwaved boiled cabbage? No? then maybe leave the fish leftovers at home and enjoy them for dinner.

      1. a1*

        Broccoli is in like 50% of all frozen dinners, especially the “healthy” ones. I’m pretty sure broccoli gets microwaved at work weekly, if not more often.

        1. CMart*

          Someone in my cube neighborhood I think has a broccoli/cheese omlette or similar for breakfast every day. I don’t know who it is, but it always smells like farts around 8:45 and every day I go through the same split second moment of “omg it smells so bad just now, what… oh right, I think that’s broccoli/eggs.”

          I can’t imagine an office where people begrudged you broccoli, mushrooms, hot cheese, garlic-heavy dishes etc… and they are incredibly pungent.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I sat next to a guy who was the self-appointed office smell police for two or three years. I also once stupidly brought in a trader joe’s scallops and peas dish with a side of steamed cauliflower, and then spent an hour wanting to slip through the cracks in the floor and disappear as everyone who walked into the office after lunch let out a loud “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?” I have an array of not-awfully-offensive foods (mushrooms somehow made the cut) that I can get away with heating up at work, and that’s what gets cooked when I do my lunch prep on Sundays. Pretty sure most of my coworkers have developed the same skill, because 99% of the time, the smells that come from the breakroom at lunch are, varied, intriguing, multicultural, but everything basically smells like food and not farts. Pretty sure I haven’t smelled microwaved broccoli at work in years.

    3. I Hate Fish*

      OP here. Funny enough in another reply I mentioned I’ve dealt with small one room offices before and never said anything there because you get what you get. Strangely I don’t recall really having a problem too much at those offices. I guess I just worked with a lot of fellow fish haters. I also worked for one where the owner threatened to fire anyone who brought fish into the building.

      But with an option to heat and eat somewhere more acceptable (company cafeteria) and being asked to do so multiple times, would that bother you? Or would it really take HR saying “you’re making people puke, go downstairs” to finally go 2 floors down the elevator to eat lunch?

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        When I started at CurrentJob, every microwave in every building on campus had a sign taped to it saying not to microwave fish or seafood, because someone in the company was allergic (Or so it said on the signs – in hindsight, I doubt that the allergic person worked in all four campus buildings at once and used every microwave in every building.)

        1. valentine*

          The cafeteria changes everything. He still shouldn’t microwave fish, but he’s very obviously choosing to be a tool, so there’s no amount of softness or asking versus telling you could’ve done that would’ve made him comply.

      2. Sparrow*

        Or your coworkers were courteous and conscientious enough to recognize that cooking fish in an enclosed space with people who haven’t opted into the fish experience is a jerk move! Because seriously, this is a pretty widespread office no-no, in my experience.

  33. Meet Me in Montauk*


    A similar thing happened to me, I was told in November 2012 that my role at the company wouldn’t be a part of the new structure as it was being moved to a centralised office in another part of the country (around 200 miles away). I was offered the opportunity to relocate but it wasn’t worth it. We were also told that another 10 roles would become 5…but none of this was happening until August 2013. So myself and 5 others had to decide whether to leave, or have a long wait. We would only receive our severance packages if we stayed until the end, and if standards/targets slipped we’d also forfeit our payouts (to stop people slacking during their notice).

    I chose to stay as my package was very generous for the time I’d been there (in my experience first wave of layoffs tend to have the best packages – it wasn’t the case for colleagues who got laid off later down the line). It was pretty demoralising, morale was low, but I just got on with my work as normal and tried to think of my job as a fixed term contract instead. I used the time to reach out to recruiters, think about what I wanted to do next, work on my CV. A few of my colleagues got new jobs and left early. It was worth it when I got the payout, I used part of it to fund a once in a lifetime trip and had a sabbatical which was fantastic. When I got back I temped for a bit, then landed a great job in a charity where I stayed for 5 years.

    So it worked out well for me and I’m glad I stuck it out, but it really depends on the type of compensation you’ll receive and how much you like the work and can deal with the morale dip. Good luck!

  34. Wintermute*

    #3– it’s not unheard of when big changes are coming, slowly. I’m actually sort of in the same situation, in an odd way. The lease on the data center that I work at is due to expire in december 2020, the company bought out another company with a very nice, brand new, eco-rated-and-other-bells-and-whistles data center located in a state that is far cheaper to do business in (deep south versus Illinois), and plans to let the lease lapse. I was actually a contractor for months before being hired on full-time, and my co-workers are all very long-tenure employees (shortest is 5 years, most are decades). The result is they basically know that unless willing to relocate from Chicagoland to the deep south they’re being laid off in two years, give or take. The lease expires in december but we all know data center migrations NEVER happen on time, and there’s an option in the lease to extend six months, we’ve been told four months are needed to rehab the space back to bare walls from a data center with drop floors, ceiling, halon (it’s that old it’s literal halon) tanks and so on.

    They’re offering a pay raise and additional development to help position the long-timers for their next role after the place shuts, because if everyone starts jumping ship then they’ll have no choice but to rely on very expensive contractors (like I was) to fill the positions and keep the lights on until they’re able to complete a very technical and complex data center migration of multiple, interlinked systems spread across multiple vendors products and environments.

    So in addition to negotiating a bonus, one thing to consider is that this job WILL be ending, think of where you want to be next and see if they may include development to ease your transition– we have people going for all kinds of industry and vendor certifications and training, taking full advantage of tuition reimbursement, etc.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      “So in addition to negotiating a bonus, one thing to consider is that this job WILL be ending, think of where you want to be next and see if they may include development to ease your transition…”

      Yes, this. I mentioned upthread that when my company got sold the new company offered me a large retention bonus. I had planned to attend a conference that was already paid for; however, since I wouldn’t have a job to bring the information back to, I asked them if they’d pay for an expensive certification. I argued that it would help me long-term by preparing me to find another job in a higher-ranking position, whereas the seminar wasn’t useful since I wouldn’t be able to use the information there. I’m sure they read between the lines that what I was actually saying was, “Hey, you eliminated my job and I have only a few months before I’m unemployed. so this is my best shot at staying gainfully employed.” They approved it and I now have the certification and a higher-level job in the same industry.

    1. Agnes*

      Also, there used to be a saying – “A lady should have her name in the newspaper three times: when she’s born, when she marries, and when she dies”. Obviously outdated on many levels, but the idea that births are announced is a very old one.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Then if anyone is concerned about her, look it up. Instead of forwarding the announcement throughout the company email list.

    1. atalanta0jess*

      This clip kills me. And definitely deserves a warning for barf. (I have a love/hate relationship with this scene – or the scene I THINK this is…..avoiding actually watching today!)

  35. Jennifer*

    #2 Just don’t tell them when you have the baby. You can send the email Alison suggested to the person that normally sends birth announcemebts before you return to work so they know not to ask about it.

    I understand not wanting the office to know your business but feeling weird about other people doing it is unusual, I agree with Alison on that. I also didn’t get why you mentioned that they do it whether the baby is male or female.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      I assumed she actually meant whether the employee was male or female, so sending around announcements when the employee’s spouse is the one who gave birth (or, presumably, if there was a surrogate or adoption?).

  36. OlympiasEpiriot*

    1) I have sympathy for the LW, but, this also reminded me of an encounter I had the other day with a neighbor I think (based on mail that sometimes ends up out of the boxes) has lived in my building for a little over a year. I live in a small multi-family building in a neighborhood with a lot of restaurants in a multi-cultural city. She was standing in the hall with a wrinkled up nose as I came in and blurted out “Do you smell that??!”
    Me: What?
    Her: That SMELL! That nasty curry!
    Me: (Trying to smell anything…it is dinner prep time…I honestly didn’t smell curry but I had just walked by a Mexican restaurant 3 doors down that grills their chilies) …uh…nooo…
    Her: It makes me SICK! Why don’t you smell it?
    Me: I’m sorry, I really don’t smell anything in particular, I’m sorry…
    Her: Oh my GOD!
    Me: Do you have any lemons? Smelling lemons might help? (Thinking to myself about whatever I used in that few weeks when smells bothered me when I was pregnant and I had to deal with a coworkers disgusting Wendys/BurgerKing/McDonalds lunch that he joked was a varied diet b/c it was from a different nasty fast food place every day.)
    Her: UGH!
    Me: I’m sorry…
    …and she went into her apartment. I walked up stairs and made a spicy mutton green coconut curry with rice cakes for me and my kid. I figured it was good I lived on the 4th floor and she’s on the first.

    I don’t think anyone should do real cooking in office microwaves and I also think offices should plan sufficiently to have their kitchens properly ventilated. But, all food have a smell and there’s nothing that everyone loves. I love the smell of fresh popcorn, but LOTS of people don’t.

    1. Jennifer*

      I agree with you. Offices should plan better for this kind of thing and have their kitchens properly ventilated. Foods have a smell, and what smells good to you may not to someone else.

      Plus your neighbor doesn’t sound like the kindest person, especially considering she lives in a multicultural city.

      1. blink14*

        I have a very difficult time with smelling curry or anything that is in the same vein and I avoid it as much as possible. Some people are very sensitive to certain smells. Doesn’t mean she’s not a kind person, but maybe its something she smells a lot and was frustrated.

        1. Jennifer*

          Living in a multicultural city on a street with restaurants serving cuisines from a variety of countries may not be the right choice for her.

          1. blink14*

            And she may not have a choice to move. Just because she lives there doesn’t mean she automatically has to like everything that surrounds her apartment building, that is not realistic. Someone might live with a doggy daycare on the same block and not like dogs – doesn’t mean that they have to move or don’t have the right to not want to hear dog barking on a continual basis.

            1. Delphine*

              Then she should keep her complaints to a minimum. Talking about nasty curry and how bad ethnic food smells is a dog whistle.

    2. MatKnifeNinja*

      The struggle is real. This was my life for 4 years in an 8 unit apartment.

      Some newly moved in non Expat neighbor would corner me in the hallway with variations of that exchange. Last statement would be “Management is going to hear about this.”

      I used to suggested Vicks Vapo rub under the nose.

      I heard alot of, “OMG! Don’t “those” people eat anything that doesn’t stink? Can’t they mix in a grilled cheese or an peanutbutter sandwich into the mix?”

      So glad I’m moved to a townhouse. I don’t miss those exchanges AT ALL.

    3. blink14*

      Good example. I personally have a difficult time with the smell of curry and heavily spiced foods. This kind of smell at work or in an enclosed space is far more offensive to me on a physical level then fish, broccoli, etc. Depending on level of intensity, it does actually make me feel nauseous (even walking by a restaurant with heavy spiced aromas will make me feel ill).

      I think fish has long been held as something not to microwave at work, but that doesn’t it’s the only offensive smell to people. Everyone has to deal with odors they don’t like, and unfortunately in today’s culture, a lot of places have tiny kitchens, no common space to eat, people eating lunch at their desk regardless, no cafeterias, etc.

      Would I ever microwave fish at work? No, but I also don’t really microwave it all because it simply just doesn’t re-heat well like that. Do I bring tuna sandwiches to work? Yes.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I struggle with the banning of fish for this reason. Is fish one of the more extreme smells? Yep, to many. But lots of foods are smelly to someone. They just are! We have to be able to eat at work, we’re there for a long time and eating out isn’t always feasible. Nor is asking everyone to bring cold sandwiches and salads. To me, it’s a live and let live kind of situation. We have to tolerate food smells because it’s not realistic to ban everything that bothers someone.

        Honestly, if someone told me it made them throw up I’m not sure I’d fully understand or believe it. Some smells make me nauseated and *feel like* throwing up, that’s what I’d think they meant. Eggs are my personal nemesis. I’m allergic (diagnosed) and I have a stomach reaction, so the very smell of them makes me feel really gross.

      2. I Hate Fish*

        OP here. Yeah we have a whole floor that is a cafeteria. I’ve put up with this issue in the past when that wasn’t an option, because I understand you get what you get. I also didn’t used to react as violently to the smell as I do now (no idea why). So the lack of options to cook elsewhere isn’t an issue in this building. It’s been suggested to go to the cafeteria or enclosed breakrooms to this person (while this was my first time approaching him, but I was there when he’s been approached) before.

        1. blink14*

          Does this guy eat at his desk often? It may just be a thing where he doesn’t want to take a break. I wish we had an entire cafeteria floor where I work! I’d love that.

          1. I Hate Fish*

            Op here. For what it’s worth he does not. He does stick to the breakroom for cooking and eating. Not that it saves anyone who is stuck close to the breakroom from the smell. He also cannot pull the “I’m too busy to go to the cafeteria” card as he makes sure to take his hour each day in that breakroom for lunch (fish or not). He is management. I am not. I, however, earn billable hours and don’t always have the luxury of a daily lunch.

  37. Hull & Oats*

    #4 – We’ve shifted our development conversations at my workplace to focus on strengths and passions. I know that sounds really ‘kumbaya’ but people are more successful and engaged when they’re working on something they love and are good at. The result is we’ve seen a marked decrease in voluntary departures, increased engagements scores, increased internal mobility and the teams who lean heavy into it have a statistically significant increase in productivity.

    What does that look like in these conversations? Talk about what you see as your strengths and get their perspectives. Talk about what you really enjoy doing and how you can get more opportunities to do that. Agree to a goal with your boss, say to take your organization skills from great to nuclear, and discuss ways to do that. Can you build a new system to store files for the team? Take on some of her organization tasks? Do a stretch assignment where one day a week you help another department by designing a new intake process for them?

    In the end, you are developing, keeping yourself motivated and showcasing your skills to your manager and others.

  38. WellRed*

    For LW 1, I think you could try to raise this with a manager or whomever makes the most sense, but frankly, your company sounds horrible. I agree with Alison that you might need to find a way to block the smell (vicks, etc).
    Please don’t push this problem on other floors. The door won’t help.

    I am assuming a company that does open floors does not have window opening as an option. And would only work in certain weather.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      +1 to the door not being of help. One time comes to mind when I was working at my desk minding my own business, when suddenly my office filled with the smell of microwaved fish. The breakroom was 100 feet or so down the hallway, someone microwaved a fish lunch, and the smell traveled through the ceiling!… You cannot make this stuff up. Offices really are the worst when it comes to keeping a smell isolated in the one room it originated from.

    2. I Hate Fish*

      OP here. Fair with the door. We also have a cafeteria on its own floor that you can heat and eat in that has no offices/cubes and is just for food. That’s also always been part of the suggestion we make.

  39. Scarlet*

    LW #1- have you seen that episode of The Office where someone pooped in Michael’s office and no one could even stand to be in there, it smelled so bad?

    Now, I’m not suggesting you poop in his office/cubicle, but if he’s being this much of a stubborn jackass – it’s time for you to go full-on stench guerrilla warfare.

    Get some seriously strong essential oils. Dump them on the carpet under his desk. Oh no! It’s too strong he can’t deal with the smell? TOO BAD. He moves to another desk? OOPSIE dropped a bunch more there. Other people are affected? Sorry – they’re casualties of war.

    All else fails – hide some fish in his car and let them rot. He’ll get the hint. Asshole behavior needs to be met with asshole tactics.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Is this a serious suggestion? Because… no. You want to break into someone’s car and leave fish in it? Dump oils under someone’s desk? You realize he’s not the only person in that office– but wait, they’re “casualties”???? Also: suuuuper childish. Good grief.

      1. Scarlet*

        Well, I was half kidding anyway, and my sense of humor is notoriously childish, do you definitely hit the nail on the head there! Anyway, didn’t mean to make anyone angry, sorry about that! Hope the rest of your Friday goes well :)

      2. 'Tis Me*

        Also that bit where some essential oils will damage carpeting, can cause migraines in sensitive people, can cause skin irritation if somebody tries to clean them off…

  40. facepalm*

    #2 This is a lot of worrying about something that may never happen. You’ve said you’re a couple years out from your pregnancy dreams. In the meantime, you could have fertility issues and be unable to conceive. You could win the lottery and never have to work again. You could die in a freak accident. Your company could lay you off. The dream job of your choice may fall into your lap and you could leave the company for one that does not believe in birth announcements. Try not to waste too much mental energy on it

      1. Jennifer*

        The fact that she wrote to AAM about it makes it seem she’s thinking of it quite a bit. I think facepalm’s comment is valid.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Well…sometimes people just want to be part of the conversation on the forum or blog, and so when something crosses their mind, they bring it here to be discussed.

          it’s a hobby, like.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Second this. To roughly translate one of my favorite sayings, that comes from a comedian that was popular in my home country in my 20s, and has become my life motto of sorts, “Let us experience the unpleasant things in life in the order that they occur.” I.e, don’t start experiencing it several years before it may or may not happen, in the setting that you think it will happen in.

      1. TootsNYC*

        oh, this is great!

        Carolyn Hax often talks about how dreading something is just lengthening the time you have to think about it, by adding on hours before it’s even happened.

  41. Amethystmoon*

    #3 The company I work for was recently bought out by another company at the beginning of 2019. Many of us still have our jobs. However, I know people in other departments who were told before the official buyout, while we were still having internal announcements about the buyout and reorg, that they were going to be laid off, and still haven’t been. So it’s not unheard of to have a long period of time.

  42. RaisetheBarRaisetheRoof*

    #2 sounds EXACTLY like my company. They also do company wide announcements for employees who lose a close family member. I know for a fact that they don’t look at you as though you have 5 heads if you demur. And your out of office settings will tell folks you’re out of office and for how long. (And if you didn’t want to put the reason for your absence in the OOO message, I don’t think it would be a big deal.)

    1. TurquoiseCow*

      I don’t work for a large company, but they send out announcements of deaths of people close to employees or retired employees. It’s a bit awkward for me as I often don’t know the person, never mind the deceased, but I’m not expected to do anything with it, it’s just an FYI.

      1. RaisetheBarRaisetheRoof*

        Here too. I’m sure most people delete without reading if they don’t recognize the name of the employee.
        Also, managers work with staff and ask what they want shared.

  43. Anono-me*

    Please consider suggesting to your management that they use an opt-in system for a announcing major life events. I actually think that this should be the norm everywhere.

    I can think several ‘easily justifiable’ * reasons for people not wanting a major personal life event being blasted to hundreds or thousands of people they don’t know. Maybe they had a stalker, maybe they have no contact with their family. But none of that is my business, and they shouldn’t have to drag out the drama to justify not participating in the announcement to anyone. And people like the OP2 who are just sqicked out about it, shouldn’t have to participate either. Whatever people choose shouldn’t be a big deal either way.

    Op2 – If you advocate for opt in announcements with your company now, you can frame it as being considerate for everyone. (Rather than being someone who is being unusally private about their new baby.)

    * sarcasm

    1. Clisby*

      For all we know, the announcements “are” opt-in. My bet is that the vast majority of people would opt in, at least to the extent of saying “Mary and Joseph’s baby is here! Everybody’s doing fine.” In a company of 500 people, I don’t see how the LW would know that everybody’s baby is announced.

      1. Alanna of Trebond*

        It basically has to be opt-in. How else is the office getting the info about the baby? No HR department in a company of 500 people is going to send out medical information from a FMLA leave request without permission.

  44. Apocalypse How*

    Rewatching “The Good Place,” I was reminded that “cooking fish in an office microwave” is one of the criteria for getting sent to the Bad Place.

    1. Elbe*

      Yes! I thought of that, too. It’s such common knowledge that microwaving fish at work is a jerk think to do that it’s being mentioned on sitcoms.

      Clearly he doesn’t watch the show, which is his loss.

      1. Alfonzo Mango*

        Yeah but it’s a joke. We all understand that cooking fish in the microwave isn’t as bad as running a puppy mill or lighting a building on fire.

  45. Rebecca*

    Regarding LW2…I agree with whoever said that it’s a bit unusual to send a birth announcement to an entire 500-person company rather than just the new parent’s team or department. And what if something doesn’t go to plan, or ends tragically? I realize this is unusual, but it’s a good reason to let people decide whether or not they’d like a company-wide announcement.

    And as for everyone who said “well if you don’t announce it, people will wonder”…so what? It’s not the LW’s responsibility to make 499 other people feel comfortable about her baby’s arrival.

  46. June First*

    OP #2 you should also brace yourself for people intruding on your pregnancy. I had coworkers rubbing my stomach without asking first, talking about how big I was getting, asking about bathroom habits, etc. That’s not counting the labor horror stories they overshared.

    1. PeteyKat*

      Im sorry you had to put up with such intrusive questions and touching! Bathroom habits – they really want to know that? I have a tendency to overshare so if they ask they may be surprised by my answers – they will NEVER ask about anything so personal again.

  47. Shay*

    1. Telling him to go to another floor just makes it someone else’s problem (door or no door), which isn’t a solution. If I was on that other floor, I wouldn’t appreciate it.

    1. violet04*

      But someone on another floor might not vomit like the OP. And if there is a door for the room, that would help contain the smell.

    2. I Hate Fish*

      OP Here. Mentioned in another post yeah the door thing is fair. We also have a cafeteria taking up an entire floor where most go to heat and eat. So that’s always been the first thing that’s suggested before the other breakrooms are even brought up.

      This is like the 4th time with this guy.

  48. TootsNYC*

    Re: the baby announcement

    I hired a freelancer into a permanent spot after someone left, and he asked me not to send out the companwide “welcome X to this position” announcement, because he hated them when they were done for other people.

    I respected his request.

    And I got a conversation with MY boss, who pointed out that he’d been getting questions about whether we were going to replace the employee who’d left. And that announcing the staffing of a department was an important signal to the REST of the operation that they were going to be adequately supported by my department.

    So I had a conversation w/ my guy and told him I needed to send out the announcement, but that I’d keep all the “congratulate him!” verbiage and gushing to a minimum.

    There may be other things the company is getting out of the baby announcement. They are signaling that they support the having of babies, which may make many employees (not just the ones determined to have kids) feel better about their employees.

    If you think there will be pushback–or if you GET pushback, you can ask them to include only that the baby was born and that everyone is well. It’s traditional to tell the name, and also whether it’s a boy or girl (if the name doesn’t indicate). They can only tell what you tell them, so you can limit what they say. Don’t tell them the exact date, or the dimensions (I’m never sure why this is ever included, to be honest), and they can’t put them in the email.

    Often it’s your manager or your assistant or a coworker who puts this in, and they hear when the new parent calls. So they’re the first people to talk with, when it comes time.

    The other person to approach is the person who puts those emails together.

    1. Sharkie*

      I was thinking about that too. In large companies, inter-department communication might not be the best, and if a person is on leave it might affect other departments or teams ( tom is on leave so betty is covering for him and got tied up in an emergency with his client so that is why the teapot reports were late getting to accounting this week so now the invoices are late). A birth announcement can signal so much to the rest of the company.

  49. Elbe*

    Microwaving fish at work is well known as something that makes you the office jerk. He’s being THAT GUY.

    As a side note, the “I should be able to do whatever I want without regard for others” people are usually the first ones to take offense to someone being inconsiderate of them. I suspect that if the LW started cooking broccoli or cabbage, this guy would be up in arms about it.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        I’d heard it, but also have never worked in an office where people didn’t microwave fish. Sometimes it’s people’s leftovers, sometimes it’s a lean cuisine. But in my experience it’s one of those things “everyone knows” but no one practices.

      2. Pomona Sprout*

        I first heard of it in a tv commercial for Downy! It involved people wearing shirts labeled with bad smells like “gym stink,” “had hibachi for lunch,” and “just mirowaved fish” (!), while people around them recoiled, made grossed out faces, etc. I had never thought of microwaving fish as a particularly smelly activity before that, but whenever I see comments at AAM about this topic, that commercial is always the first thing that pops into my mind.

        It was actually a pretty funny commercial. I found a video of it just now, by googling “just microwaved fish.” I also found out that you xan buy a shirt with those words on it! If OP’s problem continues, maybe they can buy one for Fish Guy and leave it on his desk anonymously when he’s not there. (J/K, but it’s fun to think about!)

  50. LGC*

    Paging Fergus, Microwaver of Fish to the September 27th short answers post…

    (Also, I like how the short answers post this morning touches on MULTIPLE AAM tropes.)

    So, LW2 – like I wouldn’t worry about it until or unless you become pregnant. A reasonable employer will respect your wishes (they might think you’re a little weird, but that’s probably fine). I’m pretty sure there’s already been someone who’s asked to not have an announcement sent out.

    I haven’t read your reply in detail yet but those were just my thoughts.

    LW1 – to use another AAM trope, quit your job olololo

    Not because of your Fergus (sorry, AAM Fergus). The red flag is that people with disabilities are ostracized, and that’s pretty red flaggy to me. (And possibly illegal, but I’m not HR.) I’ll RARELY say that you should write off something based on one flaw, but their treatment of employees who DARE to ask for things they’re entitled to (if you’re in the US) rises to that level for me.

    This is admittedly low stakes compared to other situations, and honestly I’d feel a bit awkward about asking at my job (and I work at a social enterprise FOR people with disabilities)! But that part about how people who need accommodation are treated in general is (and should be) alarming to me.

    For the time being, does your Fergus cook at the same time? As someone with mild sensory sensitivities, I’ve discreetly removed myself from uncomfortable situations. If you can schedule a “meeting” somewhere else during his daily fish break, that might help.

    It’s unfair, I know, but it might be the best situation available.

    1. I Hate Fish*

      OP for #1 here. As shocked as I was to get posted I now see why. I was mad about the fish and was just kind of blowing off steam and I love this site!
      Meanwhile amazed I’ve never TRULY realized how bad the corporate culture situation was as a whole. I basically have only ever worked for large corporations (lots of bs lots of red tape) and I assumed this was the norm. I legitimately put up with 2 years of shoulder pain because I didn’t want to be labeled a “whiner” who got special treatment with a different desk layout. Though I did do an internal cheer when we moved to a new building and the new layout was good for me…

      1. LGC*

        Sometimes you need internet strangers to tell you that something is Seriously Not Okay!

        But yeah – I think it’s pretty common to feel awkward about having to ask for accommodations, even at supportive workplaces. But the way you describe your job is…man, that MIGHT be common but it shouldn’t be.

  51. The Very Worst Wolf*

    #1: Was anyone else reminded of The Office episode where a pregnant Pam asks Dwight to stop peeling smelly eggs at his desk because it makes her nauseated? He refuses and ups his egg game. She proceeds to vomit in front of him without ever breaking eye contact.

    So that’s an option…

      1. Me*

        I don’t know. I think vomit falls in the uncontrollable body functions category. It would be hard to justify someone vomiting as escalating. OR at least hard to do so without people thinking the complainant is insane.

  52. EnfysNest*

    I’m anosmic (no sense of smell), so I’m genuinely curious here – would an air purifier in the kitchen near the microwave be able to trap / eliminate food scents like this? Could the company be asked to supply something like that that could reduce all scents coming from the kitchen? Or do they not work that way?

  53. Mommy MD*

    Births should just be word of mouth and never formally announced. Nothing personal should be formally announced. Not marriage, illness, birth.

    My colleague had a nine month stillbirth of a previously healthy baby boy because of sudden cord issues. Though she was stoic she doesn’t need to have every new birth announced at her.

    It’s work not The Enquirer. Announcements of major life issues not necessary. This info has a way of getting around without coming out in a memo. When my husband died (young) I’d have been horrified if it was “announced”. It’s easy for someone who has not been through a very major life issue that they would rather keep on the private side to discount how it feels to some of us. Such as the woman who had suffered a devastating still birth. She doesn’t need to open email to birthweight.

    1. Anon for this*

      When people have a death in the family at my place of work, it’s up to them if they want it announced. Some do. Some don’t. It’s left up to the person.

      When it happened to me, I told my boss it was okay to share the news and frankly, I am glad I did. I had a lot of commitments that I needed my coworkers to cover. These were commitments that were not easy asks, but since they knew it was because I had a close family member die, they were willing to do it for me. I was an obvious mess for weeks and a hopefully concealed mess for months after. That my coworkers knew why meant that I had a lot of support I would not have had otherwise.

      Now obviously, that’s just me. You had a different wish. We’re all different.

  54. RussianInTexas*

    See, for me the UPSIDE of being in the large company (besides better benefits and pay) is the anonymity.
    I don’t have to care about anyone, and they don’t have to care about me. I get to work at 8, I leave at 5, I don’t see these people outside these hours, and I am not interested in their lives. I am 100% fine with being a cog in the machine, my work is not my life.
    Of course I don’t know the names of my neighbors, who I lived next to for the last 5 years.
    I grew up in the “communal” culture, and now I am of “NO ONE NEEDS TO KNOW ANYTHING”.

  55. Pregnant Privacy*

    OP #2: I feel you! I’m also quite private, and when I got pregnant last April I was sort of dreading the news-sharing parts of it (and the touching. Thankfully there’s been no touching so far!). Incidentally, I also started at my current org shortly before my wedding, meaning I needed to tell them (for time off, if nothing else) but had no idea what kind of a thing it would be (thankfully, not a thing: my immediate team presented me with a card at a team meeting, they congratulated me, and that was that).

    One thing I’ll say is that you might be surprised how you feel when you actually are pregnant. There’s a lot of stuff that I expected to bother me that really hasn’t — like questions about the sex, which frankly I don’t care and I think the kid will maybe tell me their gender when they’re older and have figured it out, but also I’m making a person and I’m tired all the time and I just don’t feel like saying all that with people I bump into in the hall. Sometimes the easiest, fastest way to complete the social circuit is to give some information and move on, and when it comes to questions about baby, there’s maybe some value in another person doing that for you so you don’t have to!

    You shouldn’t feel pressured to share anything you don’t want to, but you can also cross that bridge when you get there. There’s more than enough to worry about when you’re trying to get pregnant and are pregnant, and for all you know when you get there, you’ll be happy to have that person send an email saying “OP and her partner welcomed their child, Baby, on Date. OP and Baby are both doing well (see attached picture of a cute but still fairly generic looking newborn)”.

  56. Some Lady*

    #2 – It may be “unusual” in the sense that not everyone feels this way to get the willies about birth announcements, but it is perfectly normal, in my opinion, especially at a work environment. Don’t feel weird!

    There are a lot of complexities around parenthood, gender, and the workplace, many of which are not particularly great for women, and it’s totally reasonable to want to keep your professional life separate from your personal life in this arena as much as possible. The book “All the Single Ladies” gets into this pretty well.

    Plus anything to do with childbirth is talking about your reproductive system–it’s totally reasonable to feel like intimate information about your body is off limits and that you don’t need to hear intimate information about others. I think part of the reason people act like this sharing is ‘normal’ is because we are used to women’s bodies being a matter of public discourse and discussion, not wholly their own to control, especially when it comes to the reproductive system. Of course having a child is different from other medical situations, but pregnancy and childbirth ARE complicated medical situations that come with a whole world of complication, and it’s okay not want want to share or hear about that information outside of your close circle.

    If people think this is an unusual, it’s because our norms are kinda weird, not because you’re unreasonable.

    1. June First*

      This comment just reminded me of a weird question I would get with my first pregnancy: “Were you trying?”

      The sauciness of my answer varied.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Thank you so much, I was trying all day to explain my thoughts on this and you said it beautifully. I’d go further and say our norms are disgusting, but that’s me.

      OP#2, I’m totally with you and your privacy should be respected. I hope your company respects your wishes.

  57. Kalindrys*

    For #2…

    I get that people are nosy and feel they have a right to know. I get that in small companies (like 50 or less), everyone in the company might know the person who will have a kid and want to celebrate. But it seems like a very weird policy/practice to send an email to 500+ people, most of whom will not know the person in question. It’s an email (will likely a ton of replies to all of congratulations, stop replying to all, and remove me from this list) that is going to be clutter for most and waste time. It seems more normal in my experience to maybe share it just with your team.

    There are a lot of reasons, not just privacy, that a person would not want to have this shared with everyone.

    And since FMLA is often used for this… wouldn’t expecting this sort of info in the first place cause some problems? If people are off with FMLA, shouldn’t they be off without this sort of expectation to their employer? Babies are not an employers property or news source.

    It’s cool if it the parents want to share and share with the team… but this blanket policy in such a large company seems really weird.

    1. TootsNYC*

      You don’t even know whether it’s a *policy* so much as just a practice.

      The baby announcements people send on their own are worded this way. They may just be following suit.

  58. Sharikacat*

    LW #3, If you’re going to get laid off anyway, knowing a solid end date, regardless of how far in advance, is fantastic. You can time your job search and a potential new start date accordingly, plan to stash away extra savings now just in case your job search takes longer than expected (which it usually does), and maybe even use extra time at the current job to work on other skills to make the resume even stronger.

    There’s a great sense of freedom with knowing exactly where the train ends, not waiting to see if today is the day when the axe comes down (forgive the mixing of metaphors). It sucks to know you’re losing your job, but lay-offs aren’t your fault, so use that to your advantage.

  59. TootsNYC*

    since I’d look like I’m eager to leave.

    I’m a big fan of just saying that sort of thing. I’m tired not hiding perfectly ordinary things because we’re afraid they’d be rude somehow. It’s not!

    And I so agree with Alison: When you have a boss that’s open with you, take advantage of that! Tell her you’re having trouble coming up with topics, and ask for suggestions.

    Here is another “career development” thing: Understanding the reasoning and work processes of people over your head. You may be many years from being a department head, but you can ask her for more detail about how a recent decision was made, and what general concerns there might be for someone in her position–not that you want her to spill the gossip, but that things like industry norms, etc.

  60. OG Orange You Glad*

    Cooking fish or anything smelly in a shared space should be a crime!

    Not really, but definitely an HR thing if the person isn’t being reasonable. I work in an office with an enclosed kitchen and those smells still travel. Lucky for me, it doesn’t happen too often and usually the person doing it gets enough comments about it that they are shamed not to do it again.

    (It looks like someone above ganked my go-to user name, so changing it)

    1. Ellen N.*

      What qualifies as smelly varies from person to person. I don’t mind the smell of fish cooking and I love the smell of curry cooking. I abhor the smell of bacon, flavored coffee and most frozen meals.

      If everybody was able to ban any odors they found offensive, nobody would be able to eat or drink in their workplace.

  61. RUKiddingMe*

    I just don’t “get” why having fish is soooo important that one can’t just wait and cook it at home.

    I mean he can’t just eat a tuna sandwich/salad or something if it’s *that* important to have fish at lunch time?

  62. I never should have gone to college.*

    We had a fish problem at Old Job. Fish Microwaver would stink the place up. Others would complain/ask nicely/leave passive aggressive notes/complain but he refused to stop. One lady in particular had a serious problem with the stink and then we all had to smell the stink and listen to her complain about it. One day she brings in a large can of Lysol spray. Fish Microwaver starts doing his thing, she walks around unloading the entire can all over the place. Let me tell you, floral scented microwaved fish stink is just about worse than plain microwaved fish stink. We could barely breath and many of us left the office until the air cleared out a bit. Anyway, finally the unit manager did something about it. He insisted the Fish Microwaver close the kitchen door when doing the nasty and the spray lady had a stern talking to about using strong scents in the workplace. But whatever, it became such a big deal that Fish Microwaver finally stopped cooking his nasty stinking food in a communal space.

  63. Dinopigeon*

    LW3: I work for a US division of a UK company that has had layoffs the last several years. We’ve discovered that among many cultural differences, long layoff warnings are mandated by law for many UK employees, and they carried that into our division as well. There was a huge amount of uncertainty and pervasive demoralization across the entire workforce. I always found the idea of rapid-fire layoffs common in the US to be heartless, but I’ve been converted. The mental toll on employees and the productivity toll on the employer is not worth it.

  64. Sarah M*

    #1: A three day old dead fish should be left at the bottom of his filing cabinet after he’s left for the day. Wait a day or two, then put nother dead fish, or an open can of tuna somewhere else in his workspace, where it can’t be easily found. Rinse repeat until he takes his fish cooking show elsewhere.

  65. Observer*

    OP #2- You’ve gotten a lot of comments. I’m just going to say that if you want the minimum amount of talk about your pregnancy, your best bet is probably not to ask that there be NO announcement – that’s likely to cause even more gossip and among more people than would have even noticed the birth announcement.

    I’d say that your best bet is a combination of giving less information (ie no one needs the birth weight), and asking that the announcement only go to your department and any group you actually work with. No one else will notice that they didn’t get an announcement, so no gossip about the situation.

  66. Night Heron*

    #3: Reading this one was like a bad flashback for me. A few years back, I was the operations manager for a company that was acquired by a larger company who laid off everyone at our location except for sales. They kept some employees on for 3 months and some for 6 months. I was initially in the 6 month group, and was offered a severance of 3 months upon the effective date of my layoff. At the end of the 6 months, they asked me to stay on for another 3. I said yes, because a) they were letting me work remotely and I was about to move across the country for my partner’s career with no job prospects, and b) My severance was tied to when *they* said my end date would be, so if I turned down the extension, I was turning down my severance. After the three months, they kept on extending me in short increments – when I finally was truly laid off, it had been 15 months since the initial notice! It was the most professionally demoralizing experience I’ve ever been through.

    Original poster, all I can tell you is I feel for you and this experience can change you for the better if you let it. After that, I was completely turned off by my industry, changed careers and am now the happiest and most fulfilled I’ve ever been professionally. Not to be cliche, but as miserable as the whole thing was, it opened my eyes and forced me to take a jump I would’ve never made otherwise. Good luck to you.

  67. Dana B.S.*

    #2 – I’m curious about your company. As others have said, it can be a little strange to send announcements like that out to the whole company of that size. Was your company a lot smaller in the past and then grew rather quickly? It might be that this is something that leadership is using to try to keep this company feeling small. Or maybe the individual that sends these emails previously came from a small company or a community-oriented company and is trying to encourage that part of the culture. It’s actually possible that it might not even be an issue in a couple years if anything changes in the company culture.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      It might also be a company where people move teams/departments pretty frequently, so it would be hard to know exactly who would want to hear about whom. This was at a municipal agency a bit bigger than OP’s company.

  68. T*

    #1 so sorry this is happening. I worked with two other people that tried to cook raw fish at work and it just baffles my mind, do they have any common sense? One put a mini fryer under her desk, near her feet, so no one would see it (as if no one could smell it) and the office manager shut it down as a fire hazard. The other one put fish in a small convection oven (like a toaster) and it made our entire building reek. The VP just told him no more fish for anyone. I have seen floors at my current job that have signs saying “no popcorn on this floor due to a sensitivity”. Is there any way you frame it as a health issue? I’m sure there’s other people that will support you due to the awful smell.

  69. Susan*

    Email 2 confuses me, mostly because I don’t understand why someone would worry about this years before they even plan to get pregnant. Is the point of this letter to flex about deleting Facebook?

  70. Ellen N.*

    I don’t understand why everyone here believes that the person who cooks fish at lunch should change. In my view, moving the person who is made nauseous by the smell of warm fish to one of the floors with a closed kitchen is a better solution.

    There are likely to be others who warm fish for their lunch. Does the original poster want to police all their lunches?

  71. RUKiddingMe*

    Because OP is only one of many that hates the smell?

    Because it’s much simpler for him to prepare his lunch in a different kitchen than it is to relocate IP’s (and other’s) work space(s)?

    Because one person is imposing a very strong, not pleasant to most people odor on the whole office/floor?

    Because he could choose just about a million other things to have for lunch…*in an enclosed space* that don’t cause a lingering offensive odor?

    Because one person’s “right” to eat X food doesn’t outweigh the comfort of *everyone* else?

  72. MommaBear*

    Wow! Announcing a birth to 500 co-workers? Why has no one at LW’s company considered that could be triggering for so many dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss. I know many people who would prefer that not be blasted through their email every time a co-worker they don’t know gives birth. Announce to your co-workers who might care and leave everyone else to their own business. This reeks of cluelessness on the part of the company.
    FWIW: as someone whose baby arrived unexpectedly in crisis, the curiosity around the baby was difficult to deal with. All of the decisions around announcing should be left to the parent.

  73. Jeffrey Deutsch*

    Good point about not imposing majority (whether national majority or local majority) cultural preferences about food smells.

    I’d say that includes Ramadan, Yom Kippur and similar fasting occasions. As one who used to observe Yom Kippur, I have an idea what it’s like to not be able to eat anything, or drink anything except water, for the whole day.* Smelling other people’s delicious food doesn’t help much.

    And I also understand wanting to support observant Jews, Moslems and others who fast. If you want to voluntarily switch to a non-fragrant meal to help fasting people feel better, more power to you.

    But I draw the line at asking others to also switch to non-fragrant meals because you— even a majority — feel that fragrant meals are offensive when someone’s fasting.

    If majority cultural belief isn’t a reason to demand others suppress their fragrant food, neither is a majority moral belief — no matter how well-intentioned.

    (To be clear, I’m not talking about actual medical issues such as chemical sensitivities, allergies and the like.)

    [*] Including having had no supper, or a very early supper, previously. Jewish days are sundown to sundown.

  74. Organized chaos*

    Just on the lay-off front, that does happen sometimes (in fact, I briefly thought the letter-writer was from my organization). We had a major operational change and because there was one collective agreement involved, it was decided to give everyone 4 months’ notice. Then, there were delays outside the organization’s control which resulted in a delay of almost 18 months. FWIW, while a lot of efforts were made to make it appealing for people to stay (truly), people were able to take their severance at any point after the 4 months, and not once did I ever get the sense that management held it against anyone who took other jobs (in fact, they expected and planned for it) – but at the same time we realized that for many, this was still a steady source of income while they continued to job search, and in many cases we were able to move people into jobs that were not eliminated as time went on and people retired/changed jobs/etc. Ultimately, about a third of those impacted were able to be moved into another internal job over the course of the notice period (and others likely found jobs before they finished working). It’s frustrating, I know… but if the circumstances allow it, it can sometimes be beneficial for everyone (except for the customers, I’m sure they didn’t love the impacts on them but there was truly nothing anyone could have done – there isn’t exactly a lineup of people applying for jobs that have already been eliminated).

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