my boss wants me to share my location with her constantly, interviewer asked if I was pregnant, and more

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

1. My boss wants me to “share my location” with her constantly

I’ve decided to hunker down in my current toxic job for now. My boss is old enough to be my mother, which I mention because she likes to “mother” the younger people of our team. She sometimes refers to us as her kids. I travel quite a bit for work, sometimes with my boss and most times without. I’m the only person on my team that travels the most. My boss asked me if I could turn on Find My Friends (we both have iPhones) and share my location with her when I travel so she can “know I’m safe and where I’m at” while I travel. I feel uncomfortable with this because I don’t even do that with my own parents, unless I go overseas. I am not close to my boss but she often pushes that we are family.

My boss knows my travel schedule but it seems like this is … too much. I pushed back and said I wasn’t comfortable with that, and she said I could turn it off on the weekends if I’m at home. I don’t want her seeing where I am in my off hours while traveling, and I generally find it uncomfortable with her tracking me! I don’t have any reason to believe that she’s worried I’m not working because I’ve had positive performance reviews, but rather I think she sees herself as a parent figure. She also is very insistent about meeting my partner (whom I dated for three years before working here) to “approve of him” so I find that her boundaries are not really there. How can I push back on this?

Wow, that’s really inappropriate. If she’s only asked once, I’d ignore it and hope she won’t bring it up again. But if she does, just say, “I’m just not comfortable doing that” and then swiftly change the subject. If you don’t think that will work, another option is to say you keep really strict privacy settings on your phone — because you do have strict privacy settings with your phone, in that you aren’t willing to use it to let her track you — and let her conclude on her own that you’re talking about some technological restriction.

Also, if she continues to insist on meeting your partner so she can “approve of him” (wtf), try saying, “Ha, imagine if you really meant that — that would be so odd!”

2. Employees want to throw me a baby shower but we just need money

I was promoted early this year to lead a team of seven people in a branch office that has 35-ish employees (outside of my team, everyone else is in a different department). I’m fully on board with your standing advice about not giving managers gifts on Boss’s Day and things like that. I don’t need, expect, or typically want gifts from my direct reports. I have good relationships with them, but in my mind any gift giving obligations go downhill, not the other way.

Recently, my wife and I adopted a newborn boy (who’s doing quite well). Because of how the adoption process tends to work, we didn’t get a ton of lead time before he was born. As a result, family and friends generally fulfilled what was on our registry in the space of a week or two after he was born. Anything else that was essential, we went ahead and bought since, by definition, we needed the essentials.

Several people at my office have approached me about doing a baby shower for us, which normally I wouldn’t object to. The thing is, really the only thing we’re still asking for is money to help offset the unfortunately MASSIVE costs of adoption, not to mention child-rearing. I feel very uncomfortable asking for money from people below me on the org chart, but I also recognize that some of them really want to do something for us. What’s the appropriate way to handle this?

Go with your gut because it’s steering you right! It’s definitely not appropriate to okay an event that would have your employees giving you money. (But even if this would be gifts rather than money, you still shouldn’t do it because of the power dynamics involved. As a manager, you don’t want anyone who reports to you to feel pressure or obligation to give you things.)

Say you really appreciate the offer but you have everything you need. If you want, though, you could suggest doing a small celebratory thing with cake or such. Just decline the shower/gifts/money part.

Congratulations on your baby!

3. Interviewer asked if I was pregnant before she offered me the job

Right out of college, I applied to be an entry-level assistant at a research organization. The position required walking around a large hospital, but it by no means required an extraordinary level of physical fitness. I was pleased to receive an interview but was thrown off by the chaotic, fast-talking approach of the interviewer, “Fiona.” I fielded her questions as best I could and was pleasantly surprised to get asked to a final interview.

At this second interview, Fiona spoke as if the position was already mine, including language like, “When you start in two weeks, you’ll be reporting to Shrek,” etc. I wasn’t sure why I was there since no real questions were asked. Then in a sudden hushed tone, she asked, “Before we offer the position, I must ask you a sensitive question. Are you pregnant?” This shocked me quite badly — I’m pretty sure my jaw actually dropped. I stuttered no, which seemed to please her. My face remained confused/offended because she then followed up by saying she needed to know if I was capable of walking around the hospital for the job, seemingly implying pregnant women can’t walk?!

Naively, I took this job and made the best of it. Once in the job, I found the amount of walking to be completely reasonable. Fiona always seemed to freak out when a coworker became pregnant, claiming the job couldn’t get done properly when in such a condition.

I hated Fiona for multiple reasons, but cannot tell if my bias is affecting the way I think back on this interview question. Am I overreacting, or was this an inappropriate question for an interview?

Whoa, you are not overreacting. It’s wildly inappropriate.

It’s illegal to factor pregnancy into a hiring decision — and it sure sounds like she was asking because her hiring decision would depend on it. That breaks federal law, and it’s a big deal.

4. Our company recruiters are sending rejections “from” me with errors in them

I’m an interviewer at my company, and I’ve recently discovered our recruitment department has been sending interview candidates emails ostensibly from me – with my name on the bottom and my work email address in the “from” line – that I was completely unaware of, to tell candidates that we’re not offering them a job. This feels really weird to me; I’m not comfortable with having words attributed to me that aren’t mine, so discovering that’s been happening without my knowledge feels like a betrayal of trust.

Is this a normal business practice and I’m just being overly sensitive, or is this genuinely a bit weird? I know, for example, it’s common for marketing material to have quotes attributed to senior management that they didn’t actually say, but I’d always assumed they’d at least signed off on them or otherwise consented to their names being used that way. This was completely without my knowledge, and I’m not in a particularly externally visible role, so it seems different to me.

It perhaps isn’t helping that the form email that’s being sent with my name has a bunch of minor errors. Nothing terrible, but the sort of semi-common stylistic and grammatical problems that irritate me when I see them on others’ writing, so I absolutely don’t want associated with my name.

They’re likely using the same form letter for all rejections but just pulling in the name of the relevant hiring manager or interviewer. It’s not terribly uncommon to do it that way; the idea is that they handle the work of sending the emails while making it seem slightly more personal than if it were from a generic company address. I wouldn’t really consider it a betrayal of trust, especially if you’re at a large company. (However, if this is a small company, it’s easier for them to check with individual hiring managers on this stuff, and I’d have a higher expectation that they would.)

However, you can speak up about the content! You might be able to get them to use a different letter entirely for rejections with your name on them (with language you provide), but if that’s not possible, you should ask them to at least fix the errors in it (something they should want to do anyway once they know about them). If they resist, try saying, “It’s really important that emails with my name on them represent me and the company well. I imagine other interviewers feel the same.” Go over that person’s head if necessary; it’s very unlikely that person’s boss will object to fixing errors in an email that’s presumably going out to thousands of people each year.

5. Telling my new coworkers I don’t use social media

I’ve just begun a new job within a new department at a state agency. It’s a large, diverse organization. It seems like a very outgoing friendly and supportive group. It’s become very clear that my new coworkers and supervisor are all “friends” on Facebook or follow each other on other social media.

I don’t do social media for several reasons. I found my PTSD was constantly being triggered the short period of time I tried Facebook a decade ago. I had been a victim of a violent crime a number of years ago and the perpetrator has served their sentence and now is out of jail. Other reasons have to do with abusive family and stalkers so I just need to do due diligence and keep myself safe.

It feels like any day now, some one will ask if I’m on social media anywhere. I will say no, since it’s the truth, but what if anything do I say if they press further and want to know why? For now, I’m thinking of just saying, “I tried it for a short time a number of years ago and found it just wasn’t enjoyable.” Also, do you think my new coworkers will judge me negatively for not being on social media?

That language is fine, but you don’t even need to give that much information. You can just say, “It’s just not my thing!”

It’s very unlikely that people will judge you negatively over this. A lot of people aren’t on social media! Be matter-of-fact about it and it won’t be a big deal to most people.

{ 588 comments… read them below }

  1. Three Flowers*

    Out of curiosity, what would be the ideal reaction to a question like #3’s? “I’m going to decline to answer that because it’s actually not legal to consider?” “I’d rather talk about the position, since I don’t believe my fertility/marital status/whatever is relevant to it?”

    I mean, in a world without consequences my ideal response would be “your ass must be joking, goodbye,” but I’m curious if there’s a response that declines to answer the question and wouldn’t torpedo your chances if you didn’t have any choice but to want the job anyway.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. “What a surprising question — why do you ask?” is good. This woman sounds like she’d say it’s because you can’t do the job while pregnant, and then you could say, “I can tell you there’s nothing that would interfere with my ability to the job for the foreseeable future.” Or even, “Oh, I’ve been taught never to talk about that kind of thing in an interview because of the legal restrictions, but I can tell you there’s nothing that would interfere with my ability to do the job for the foreseeable future.”

        Another strategy is to laugh and say something like, “I’m going to bet you’re not really asking that, since we could both get in trouble for that!” in a tone like you think you’re think it’s a test and/or you’re cheerfully protecting both of you. (This isn’t true — as a candidate there’s nothing you’d be liable for — but it’s much less adversarial than “you could get in trouble for that.”)

      2. Three Flowers*

        Right, as step 1! My reckoning, though, is that anybody clueless enough to ask such a question in the first place is going to be too clueless to catch the “hey, that’s an inappropriate/irrelevant question” subtext of putting it back on them. Which means you still probably have to make a call on answering, although probably by then so many more red flags have hit the field (based on whatever they thought made it appropriate for them to ask that) that you’re going to be worried about bigger problems with the position than somebody asking inappropriate questions.

      3. Dot Warner*

        Yes! Especially at a hospital, there might be a good reason to know about pregnancy status – for example, if the job duties involve handling teratogenic drugs or being around radiation, a boss would need to work a pregnant employee’s duties around these things. (Doesn’t sound like that’s the case for OP, though.) However, directly asking about it is NOT the way to go about this – boss would’ve been better off mentioning that the job requires certain tasks that aren’t safe during pregnancy so OP should ask for accommodations if necessary.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          And it’s definitely worth telling potential employees about conflicts with pregnancy. In my field, there are jobs that require regular work at high altitude, that cannot be done while pregnant for safety reasons. So it’s definitely worth telling potential employees that they must inform their employer the moment they think they might be pregnant, and that policy is to then move them to sea-level work for the duration of the pregnancy (which generally involves quite different tasks). Job offers are contingent on passing a health check, so it would come up naturally during the interview. But you’d tell them, not ask them if they’re pregnant.

          1. JessaB*

            Yes but those are actually some of the few legit reasons to know that as long as they’re not screening out the pregnant people (if they had no jobs that were safe that’d be different, but as long as there are places to move people if they get pregnant, that’s different.)

            Also the other issue is if they’re worried that pregnant people cannot do the job, what are they going to do with a potential worker who needs an accommodation?

          2. twig*

            like how high of an altitude? pregnant women live at altitude.

            (sorry just curious — I grew up in the mountains)

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              I’m guessing this still varies pretty dramatically by person, but it seems possible that an altitude safe for pregnant people who grew up there wouldn’t be safe for someone only going there for a temporary work assignment. Plenty of healthy, non-pregnant folks can’t handle altitudes that other people happily live at.

            2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

              I’ve only heard of it being a risk to people at like airplane heights (so pilots, flight attendants, executives who fly 200 days a year, etc).

          3. PsychDoc*

            It sounds like your company just points out the risk and lets the potentially pregnant people disclose as needed, which sounds like a really reasonable system. It allows all non-pregnant people to continue on as usual, and those with concerns to respond accordingly.

        2. Lonely Aussie*

          I work in ag, where drugs/hormones that could cause miscarriage/infertility/fertility issues in women are handled. Work gets around the pregnancy disclosure issue by having certain drugs that no woman of childbearing age can handle and allowing us to opt out of handling the rest. That way no one is forced to disclose pregnancy before they’re ready.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            And yet, that’s a whole other degree of inappropriate and skeezy, to say that no “woman of childbearing age” can do a thing.

            1. embertine*

              That’s too close to the “we don’t employ women of childbearing age because maternity leave” that I have heard from a few employers. All coming from male bosses with children – did they think that they were delivered by storks?

              1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                I was thinking the “all women should be treated as pre-pregnant” bull hockey, myself – as someone who doesn’t want to have children and probably couldn’t do even if I did want to, my employer absolutely does not get to base my job duties on the fact that they assume I have a uterus. (And really, how do they even know I do? I’ve certainly never disclosed to them one way or t’other.)

                1. Flash Bristow*

                  Quite! I have never wanted kids and actually am unable to have them anyway. I’ve always been in a male-dominated field and while I don’t think I’ve been treated / judged differently, it is something I’ve been aware of, to the point that at one interview I brought up work/life balance and how it was cool to hear they had social events after work, because I wouldn’t have any kids to get back for…

                  (I got the job. They were a really fun crowd.)

                2. Quill*

                  Yeah, I don’t want to have to disclose that I probably can’t, and certainly don’t want, to have children, in order to stay in my field… if that would even work.

              2. New Job So Much Better*

                I thought she was going to say it would be dangerous to an unborn to be near a lot of radiation equipment or something.

              3. JessaB*

                And what about women in the childbearing age group who don’t have uteruses? Either because of hysterectomy or trans status, does that mean they have to disclose that information? Do they even *know* they have to disclose that information before being turned down for a job? What if they had early menopause? Or PCOS, or fibroids or any number of a zillion reasons why they cannot or do not want to get pregnant. That’s an awful policy.

                Requiring that a person disclose pregnancy status before being assigned to job x is one thing, but the rest is gross.

              4. Shoes On My Cat*

                I can understand these comments as they relate to a job where a woman’s own feet are on the ground and the chemicals handled are relatively benign. However there really are some factors to consider in ag jobs that would not be apparent unless one has been on the ground doing the job, so to speak. I worked in ag too, and some of those tasks included squirting de-wormer on the cows, handling DMSO, Regumate and other meds. I am a woman, I did the job, but this is one industry that legitimately needs to know about pregnant or possibly pregnant women to re-assign some tasks -that are physically some of the easiest. Liquid cattle dewormer was like early stage Advantix, only for thousand pound animals that get dosed twice a year and the tiny tubes of Advantix for a 12 pound kitty for thirty days have warnings about skin contact! Things move fast on gather days, the wind changes direction without warning, cows don’t stand still and micro droplets get blown around. DMSO is a product that penetrates the cell barrier and can carry medicine with it to a deep wound or tendon/muscle tear. Causes cancer after a few decades of exposure so not an issue for horses, sadly, but very useful. Regumate is birth control for horses-20 cc (or the amount of cream I put in my coffee) for a twelve hundred pound mare daily- not something to mess around with while pregnant because gloves tear, sometimes the barn cats walk around your legs and there is tripping, just random stuff with huge consequences in just one exposure for a pregnant woman -and there are other drugs too. Plus the actual work day of riding a horse with one’s center of gravity off while the horse does her job, which tends to be fast, explosive direction changes to control the cows that require a very experienced rider to simply stay on. Most, not all, women opt out of hard riding at about four months when their center of gravity starts to shift and opt out of riding completely at about 6 months because it’s uncomfortable. Some women do ride until right before birth, but it’s really difficult & dangerous in a work setting! (Imagine walking on a balance beam at these stages of pregnancy-center of gravity matters a ton when riding performance horses and when it’s altered, it takes a bit to compensate and the consequences-a fall- can be devastating when pregnant. Casual riding is less challenging but even good old trail horses can suddenly spook & spin.). Again, working while pregnant is doable, but in very rare circumstances, management does need to know and adjust work responsibilities for valid reasons.

                1. Blueberry*

                  That’s really interesting information! I think, though, that what people are objecting to, though, is not the concept that there are some items that are unsafe for pregnant women to handle, but the assumption that any and all women “of childbearing age” should be treated as potentially pregnant at all times.

                2. Valprehension*

                  Yeah, what blueberry said! Of course, people with the potential to get pregnant should be made aware of the dangers/risks, but a blanket policy preventing “women of childbearing age” from doing things that have a risk to a hypothetical pregnancy is paternalistic as all heck. People can make these decisions for themselves, and a proper policy would be very clear that these tasks are very optional for people who might get pregnant. but allow them the final say in what they want to do.

                3. Lonely Aussie*

                  A run in with regumate early in my career has basically messed up my reproductive system, it’s been almost ten years and I’m still battling with the after affects of it.

                  A lot of the drugs we handle can cause problems even if you aren’t pregnant, I opted out of giving oxy after an accidental needlestick lead to an unpleasant afternoon.

                  I don’t want kids, I’m battling with doctors over getting sterilised. While I do think there’s elements of sexism to it said drug giving makes up maybe <. 2% of the day to day jobs and there's stuff I can do that's directly linked to administoring without handling the drug itself. There's plenty of sexist bovine faecal matter reasons why a women would be prevented from moving up in the company but this isn't one of them.

                  As a side note, the company also doesn't allow anyone with an allergy to penicillin/antibiotics to handle or give them and has very strict guidelines on a few other things.

                4. Definitely Not Pregnant*

                  It’s understandable that there are reasons why pregnant people should not do certain tasks – nobody’s arguing with that.

                  What we’re arguing with is “If you’re a woman between 15 and 50, you will be treated at all times as though you are pregnant, and subject to those limitations, even if there’s no possible way you could be pregnant (think women who never sleep with men, trans women, women who have had hysterectomies, etc.) Let people (all people – trans men can be pregnant) opt out of these situations without repercussions and stop treating women as though they’re always “pre-pregnant” and subject to limitations as a result.

            2. aebhel*

              Yeah, that seems way worse to me than indicating the risks to employees and making it safe for them to disclose their pregnancy status. I’m ‘of childbearing age’ and definitely not having any more kids, so I’d be pretty put off by this, and ‘childbearing age’ is a nebulous concept anyway. Also, trans people exist.

              1. Scarlet2*

                This.
                Also, some “women of childbearing age” have had hysterectomies and/or oopherectomies, an early onset of menopause, a tubal ligation, have no heterosexual intercourse, etc.

                1. Quill*

                  Even when it is an appropriate time and place for the question (you know, with your actual doctor) my go to response has been “unless there’s another Jesus in there, no.”

                2. SebbyGrrl*

                  Ah Quill!

                  My go to is “…if God picked me specifically.”

                  Works 1000% better than “No” for some reason.

                3. Elizanurse*

                  I had a very religious and overbearing boss who used to ask if I was pregnant every time I looked the least bit off, and I was working 13 hour night shifts, so this was not an infrequent look for me. I finally got sick of it and snapped “if I am you better get right with God because Jesus is on his way back!” He stopped asking after that.

              2. Veronica*

                Definitely not having more kids – but unplanned pregnancies happen, and what if a person changed her mind at that point?
                I’m just saying unless a woman is known to be infertile, this can be a reasonable precaution.

                1. Nanani*

                  No, discriminating against women because of hypothetical pregnancies is not reasonable.
                  You disclose the risk and let people self select out if that risk is relevant to them.

                  All the “what ifs” are making paternalistic assumptions about women.

                  Disclosing and letting people make their own decisions is the only moral solution. No sexist assumptions, and no forcing anyone to disclose medical status (like hysterectomies), sexual orientation (I won’t get accidentally pregnant because I don’t have sex with men, but that’s none of any employer’s business), and gender identity (trans people exist; some women don’t have uteruses because they are trans).

                2. Observer*

                  No, it’s not. For one thing forcing someone to disclose their fertility status is a LOT worse than forcing them to disclose a pregnancy early. For another is hot too many women for no really good reason. I mean, sure unexpected pregnancies happen, but what percentage of women does that happen to? You are basically saying that 100% of women under 45 or so must be treated as though they WILL get pregnant unless they can probe otherwise, because some small percentage of women might be in a relationship and have a failure of contraception. That makes no sense.

                3. Veronica*

                  Please see Lora’s comment below for a more detailed explanation of what I’m getting at.

                  There are always workers who don’t fully understand safety rules and precautions or the reasoning behind them. It’s not farfetched that some of these people will have unplanned pregnancies and blame or even sue the employer for complications caused by the dangerous products.

                4. aebhel*

                  Disclose the risks and let people make their own informed decisions about what level of risk they’re willing to take. Anything else is paternalistic nonsense.

                5. Veronica*

                  Paternalistic nonsense. Fine.
                  Then when something happens to these people who said they understood and agreed to the risks, the first thing they do is blame (and sue) the employer.
                  It’s unfortunate, but there are a lot of grown people who behave this way. Making them sign a waiver would probably help though.

                1. sunny-dee*

                  For causing a miscarriage or loss of fertility. A lot of women don’t realize they’re pregnant until well into the first trimester, and some chemicals are so dangerous that they can cause sterility or infertility if handled improperly.

                2. Nanani*

                  Sunny-dee: Yeah, I know.
                  I was being sarcastic because Elena’s “to be fair” is still sexist garbage.

                3. Observer*

                  sunny-dee, The solution to that is to make the problem 100% crystal clear. Also, if you’re handling drugs that can cause these kinds of problems even when properly handled, you’ve STILL got problem – women who are not going to have kids often still have reproductive organs; men’s reproductive organs are pretty sensitive to the same problems; and fertility is generally not the ONLY issue with these drugs. Which means you had better make sure that EVERYONE knows what the deal is.

                  Also, please don’t act like women are stupid. Most of the time, women who don’t realize that they are pregnant just haven’t been following their cycle so carefully because it really doesn’t matter. Please give women credit for having a enough sense to monitor the situation carefully if this is a risk factor!

          2. Nobby Nobbs*

            How horrifying. I get that it’s coming from a thoughtful place, but I don’t think I could bear working somewhere where my job duties were assigned based on my ownership of a theoretically functional womb.

          3. snowglobe*

            So, they get out of discriminating against pregnant women by discriminating against all women? Ok then.

          4. Goldfinch*

            That’s gross. The infertile and child-free are having their careers limited in ways that are completely irrelevant to them. (And, you know, all the other obvious issues.)

            1. Lance*

              Yeah, this is too much. Rather than disallowing any and all women of a certain age range (or maybe all ages? depends how far they’re taking this) to work there, there’s a far, far easier solution: warn them. Be clear about the hazards, and let them opt out as needed.

          5. Environmental Compliance*

            I’m not convinced assuming all women of childbearing age may be pregnant, and therefore not allowing them to do part of that work *simply based on their age and gender*, is actually better than asking if they’re pregnant.

            Speaking as a woman of childbearing age who has absolutely no plans to get pregnant, as I physically can’t.

            Novel idea: disclose that certain things could be harmful to pregnant women & unborn children, and allow Adults to Adult.

            1. Ophelia*

              Exactly. I’m a woman of childbearing age who has already had the children I plan to have, and I FULLY concur with this. Blech.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yes—the approach described is still unlawful (now it’s just illegal on the basis of sex/gender discrimination) and is really distasteful and problematic.

              I don’t understand a world in which we reduce (cis)women to their wombs and view them exclusively through the lens of being baby-makers.

            3. Marmaduke*

              Exactly!

              I have friends who are entirely confident, for a variety of reasons, that they will not be pregnant at any point in the future. There’s no reason for them to be held back! I, on the other hand, am not a good candidate for most birth control options, and the options available to me have already failed once. However, as an adult woman, I am also smart enough to simply opt out of a job that involves teratogens and similar dangers.

          6. Scarlet2*

            That’s absolutely awful and I don’t know how it doesn’t run afoul of anti-discrimination laws.
            As someone who has no intention of ever being pregnant, I would be livid if my work duties were being limited because of my gender and supposed reproductive organs.

          7. glitterdome*

            “Work gets around the pregnancy disclosure issue by having certain drugs that no woman of childbearing age can handle and allowing us to opt out of handling the rest.”

            Umm, what now??? So the work-around of pregnancy disclosure is to essentially limit my ability to do particular functions of a job? Nope, I’m gonna have an issue with that. I’m a female of child-bearing age. I’m also an asexual virgin who has almost a negative desire to have kids. I will not be pregnant. EVER. Do I need to disclose that to be able to the same job as the guys?

            1. Quill*

              Hard same.

              I mean, do I want to handle teratogens? No, there’s some pretty good evidence they’re not safe for adults either, nevermind fetuses. Should every conversation I have about working in industries where they’re used focus on the state of my theoretically functional uterus (spoiler: it’s not really) and my presumed desire to either 1) do the horizontal tango (no) with a person who produces sperm, potentially becoming pregnant or 2) Obtain Baby! Because Woman!?

              Also no.

              1. JessaB*

                Not to mention that teratogens can effect sperm as well, men can just as well get fertility problems, or have children with problems, to wit, I was extremely premature and had and have many disabilities, my father worked for a certain chemical company on a soap product that ultimately was pulled from market for dangers… was his work on that product responsible for my condition? Had it effected the sperm that made me to the point where it made a fragile baby, we don’t know and couldn’t prove if we tried, I’m 59 years old. But if I’d been born today? We’d have Roundup level class action suits going against the company my father worked for.

                Teratogens do not just hurt women and foetuses, proper protective procedures are necessary for all humans dealing with those things.

                1. Rainy*

                  Speaking as someone with a congenital condition caused by her father’s exposure to Agent Orange years before his marriage, let alone her conception…yes. This.

          8. Atlantian*

            I see what the other commenters are saying about this possibly being worse, and being offended by the thought of being lumped into a certain group that I have no intention of ever joining. But, in ag, there are drugs that a woman can’t even risk being exposed to if she is trying to get pregnant, because the damage happens during the cycle before ovulation, and if we are talking about doses large enough for farm animals or horses, the potential for something bad to happen are even greater. I would much rather just be routed away from potentially damaging/fatal substances wholesale than have to disclose to my boss/HR that my partner and I decided to start trying to get pregnant. *shudder* that would be so much worse.

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              That’s you. It’s not up to the company to be our parents–adults simply need to be notified of hazards and then they can choose.

            2. Nanani*

              No, you clearly don’t see what the other commenters are saying.
              It’s not about “being lumped in.” It’s about assumptions re: reproductive decisions and cutting off an entire gender from a job based on those assumptions.
              It’s basic sexism.

              As others have said, you could just warn applicants about potential exposure to the products and you know, HAVE SAFETY PROCEDURES, and then let people decide for themselves.
              Just because you don’t have problems with paternalistic “routing” doesn’t make it okay.

              1. Shoes On My Cat*

                Hey, I responded in a nested comment to Lonely Aussie above with some on the ground info that you might not be aware of. Please consider that when a woman chooses to ‘opt out’ of handling drugs she knows she should opt out of, someone still needs to administer them, so the bosses would still need to get involved to reassign that 10 minute element of the work day. The smaller the operation/farm, the easier it is to make it casual and NBD because everyone is trained enough in everything to help in a pinch, while a giant commercial ag company has more formalized job descriptions that may or may not be as fluid and easy to work around.

                1. Options*

                  Shoes on My Cat, your comment illustrates again that it is the employee’s choice to opt out and the employer’s obligation to be very clear with employee that opting out of working with dangerous chemicals *is* a choice, one that will not have negative repercussions.

                  It is never the employer’s choice to assume that all female employees under age 70 (and no male employees) are banned from working with dangerous chemicals.

            3. Qwerty*

              This is about being offended, it is about discrimination. Tasks are being assigned based on gender and age.

              The non-discriminatory way to handle this would be to explain the risks of these chemicals and allow anyone to opt-out, no questions asked. That way opt-ing out doesn’t even have to be about women getting pregnant. People could have other reasons they need to opt out such as other health concerns or men who are concerned that it could affect their ability to father a child since it so bad for women.

              It’s a bit disturbing that you think that it is so much worse for you to have an uncomfortable discussion with your boss than having a company discriminate against women and make professional decisions based on the state of their uterus. Imagine the pain of learning you can’t have kids while having to work at a place that sees you first and foremost as a baby maker.

            4. Observer*

              So, because you don’t want to talk about your plans ALL women should be banned from the work? Nice.

          9. Nanani*

            Wow. How is that not illegal?
            You may be surprised to learn some people have a uterus and no plans to ever get pregnant.
            Banning half the population from a job because somebody somewhere might want to get pregnant is super sexist and frankly vile.

          10. TooTiredToThink*

            I see a lot of people think this is bad – and while in some ways it is; the thing is; many times women don’t know they are pregnant and if these drugs can cause miscarriage (and these women want to be pregnant) during this time frame; what is the alternative? I would assume if a woman was of child-bearing age but isn’t worried about handling these drugs that she could be cleared to handle them.

            1. Scarlet2*

              And yet plenty of women cannot possibly become pregnant for a lot of reasons stated elsewhere in the comments. Therefore, the only ethical way to do this is explain the risks and let people behave like adults about their own lives.

            2. Nanani*

              It is unambiguously bad.

              Just warn everyone about the hazard and LET THEM HANDLE IT THEMSELVES LIKE AN ADULT.

              “What if she doesn’t know she’s pregnant!?!” is a paternalistic and sexist justification for a paternalistic and sexist practice.

              1. Elena Vasquez*

                Full disclosure is fine. But then the female employees who choose to handle dangerous substances should waive the right to sue the employer for an abnormal pregnancy.

                1. Nanani*

                  Okay? That isn’t a “but,” it’s part of letting adults make their own decisions.
                  If you’re assuming that a pregnancy inevitably happens to every woman ever, you are making a sexist assumption.

                2. Blueberry*

                  I would absolutely be willing to sign a disclaimer that in case I somehow became pregnant despite [graphic description of reason for infertility has been redacted by the Posting Fairies] I would not sue my employer for letting me complete the duties I willingly took on so that another employee who might/wants to become pregnant doesn’t have to do them. I would definitely rather that than not being hired because I’m “within childbearing age” and present as female.

                3. Options*

                  I am an American attorney. It’s a basic truth of the American legal system that anyone can sue anyone for anything, with “sue” defined as “to file notice of the claim with the appropriate court and serve notice upon the accused party.”

                  However, a signed, well-written waiver of a plaintiff’s potential claims could dispose of the lawsuit without further litigation.

                  I hear phrases similar to “I don’t want to get sued” all the time. There is no lawsuit vaccine. Lawsuits are like the common cold- if you have any contact with other humans or any object touched by other humans, there is some chance that you will be sued.

                  [The comment about discriminatory job assignment seems to be from outside the US, given “Aussie” in the commenter’s username. I have no idea if lawsuits can be prevented in Australia.]

                4. Anononon*

                  Options, you’re wrong. I’m also an American attorney, and one cannot sign a waiver in this situation to waive away the rights of an unborn child. See United Automobile Workers v. John Controls.

                  (I also 100% agree with that case and think the fact that a company can’t be protected with waivers is not sufficient to allow such paternalistic discrimination.)

              2. Lepidoptera*

                Except for the number of unplanned but potentially wanted pregnancies.
                I agree the best plan would be to allow adults to decide based on accurate information about risks what chemicals they are willing to handle.
                If these chemicals cause infertility or other harms to people with a uterus/ovaries, what are the risks to people with testicles? Or people who have a partner with a uterus at home who may be exposed to trace amounts from the worker, and who therefore will be negatively affected as well?
                No, better to have all the people who want to opt out if they feel they need to rather than just women within the expected fertile years.

              3. glitterdome*

                Just warn everyone about the hazard and LET THEM HANDLE IT THEMSELVES LIKE AN ADULT.

                It is times like this that I wish there was a way to highlight text on AAM. I do not understand the mindset of entrusting grown-a** people handle dangerous materials (because you know, they are intelligent, capable and trained adults) but somehow think that they need hand-holding and oversight since they are incapable of properly deciding for themselves what risks to take with their own body!!

            3. Observer*

              The alternative is to actually give people INFORMATION and trust them to make their own decisions. As I said in another comment, assuming that women are stupid and careless is as sexist as you get. Lots of women don’t track their periods that closely because it’s just not that big of a deal. But women who are on b/c DO tend to watch their periods because they have made a decision about the matter and they want to be able to act if something fails. *AND* women who are dealing with drugs that could cause miscarriage and who WANT to be pregnant will most DEFINITELY be watching their cycles and get to the doctor / act immediately.

              Don’t make decisions for ALL women based on negative assumptions about women – and a small subset of women, at that.

          11. Me*

            Yeah I have somewhat mixed feelings on this. In a way I kind of see it like getting an xray and having to put lead on my reproductive parts or medications that doctors don’t like giving unless you are on BC because of the reproductive risk or having to take a pregnancy test before medical procedures even though I’m 100% not preggo. Those things all kind of rankle me, but also, I get the CYA part.

            That said, I think appropriate disclosure and preventative measures should be sufficient for any woman to decide whether the risks are acceptable to her or not vs a you can’t touch this because of your lady parts. Not to mention who is my employer to decide if I’m of “reproductive age”.

            Overall, it’s probably well intentioned but in practice is pretty gross.

            1. Clisby*

              Yeah, “reproductive age” can cover half or more of someone’s working life. I was 48 when my 2nd child was born (28 years after I started working.)

            2. Observer*

              The thing is that putting a lead apron just isn’t a big deal – it adds a couple of seconds to the test and that’s it. And it’s a good thing regardless of whether you want kids, because it’s good to portect sensitive areas anyway. Much like newer X-machines and processes use lower amounts of radiation and more targeted pictures.

              Making hiring decisions – and career decisions! for for women is a whole different kettle of fish.

            3. Elena vasquez*

              I would put a lead apron on even if I were 80. I don’t want ANY body parts exposed to radiation if I can avoid it.

          12. Lora*

            Many people bringing up that this is illegal in the US – it’s not, exactly. Certain jobs, even if it would normally be a protected status, discrimination of this sort is actually allowable under very specific conditions of the job.
            -Immunocompromised people or people who cannot / do not get vaccinated for whatever reason, are not allowed to work in vaccine and other biologics facilities.
            -Visually impaired people are not allowed to work in labs that require a lot of microscopy (pathology, analytical chemistry, etc).
            -Pregnant people are barred from working with teratogens. They can indeed require you to show proof of birth control and then some, require you to and they are allowed to decide that it’s still too much liability for the company.
            -People with specific allergies can be barred from working in labs that require the use of those allergens (e.g. egg allergy = no flu vaccine work for you)
            There’s lots more, but these are the ones in my field that I happen to know of. In other words, if there is a REALLY important reason that cannot be remediated by any kind of accommodation (temporary assignment to other duties, computer modifications, etc) then you are actually allowed to not hire people who cannot do the job.

            Re: letting adults be adults…the unfortunate fact is that several places I’ve worked do frequently get employees who either underestimate the hazard of the job, do not for whatever reason understand How Babies Are Made (oh god I wish I was kidding about this – one lady I was training had two children and evidently no idea how that happened), do not understand HazCom no matter how much training you do, and you’re stuck having to either re-assign them to other tasks or fire them for being too stupid to work in that role. And heaven forfend that you find that out AFTER there’s been a horrible accident.

            The best way I’ve found to deal with it is 1) automate everything, as much as you can, no workers only robots 2) the people who you do have to hire, go through graduated training levels and only the most-trained, most biology-literate get to work with the nasty stuff, and yes they get hazard pay which is a not-inconsiderable amount of money 3) also limit the number of chances people have to pass their training exams, which should be closed book and not easy to pass. A good place I worked, you had three chances to pass your company training exams. If you screwed up, you had to re-train and if you screwed up more than once they revoked your classified area access so you were basically fired 4) Occupational Health does an exam up front to confirm vaccine titers, re-vaccinates as necessary, confirms that they are not pregnant or immunocompromised, performs lung capacity testing and whatever else is needed for respirators, and informs the employees that they will need to repeat the exams periodically and potentially after any accidents 5) HazCom explanations of “what is a teratogen” are graphic and unambiguous. The usual example I’ve seen is thalidomide.

            But yeah, bottom line is…if the job is inherently hazardous to a particular group of people, and for whatever reason must be done by a human, you can decide that it’s too much liability or it isn’t possible to have an accommodation. That’s definitely a thing.

            1. Nanani*

              That’s still not a justification for banning anyone perceived as female from an entire job.

              It might be a thing, but it’s a shitty thing that should be illegal.

              1. Lora*

                Cool, so if your employee who solemnly swore they would never get pregnant ever is in an industrial accident involving teratogens, and Occupational Health discovers after the fact during checkups that they are, indeed, pregnant, whether due to birth control failure or rape or what have you, you’re okay with telling them that they should really, really have an abortion? And if they refuse and sue the company and the company now has to pay for a permanently severely disabled child for the rest of their lives, you’re totally fine with that?

                Because I am not. I agree that women should definitely be allowed to work in these roles – if they are highly unlikely to be pregnant for whatever reason (tubal ligations, have Nexplanon implants, IUDs etc) in a way that can be verified by Occupational Health medical providers before they work in that role, just as I agree that people can work in a biologics facility if they have all their vaccinations/titer confirmations. But if they cannot or will not do those things, then sorry, they don’t get to have that job. It’s too much risk. Sure, it might *hardly ever* happen, but that is how we do risk analysis: multiply the severity of the risk x the frequency. If there’s a 1:1,000,000 chance of a really incredibly horrible thing happening, we require risk mitigation.

                1. Observer*

                  Asking women to show that they are not pregnant at the time? No problem. Making sure that they actually DO understand what the deal is? 100%! If someone is too stupid to understand this stuff, they shouldn’t be handling dangerous chemicals anyway, man or woman.

                  And, yes, ANYBODY who is working in these fields needs to sign a waiver. Those do stick.

                2. Blueberry*

                  I’m not certain if “prove to us you cannot get pregnant by giving us your private medical information” is fair or not as a solution to this dilemma, but I do think it’s much to be preferred over “we will simply not hire women for this job/at all” which is unambiguously unfair.

                3. Veronica*

                  Yes, that’s the thing. There are always people who don’t understand the risks and safety rules, and they might have an unplanned pregnancy.
                  I noticed these people when I was young. There’s always someone who thinks the rules don’t apply to them, or they’re too stupid to follow the rules, or something. They’re also often the first to blame others whens something goes wrong.
                  This is one of the reasons I decided to do office work instead of trade or lab work. The way my luck was back then, I would have been the first one killed.
                  If every company and manager took the precautions Lora describes, things would be so much better!

              2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

                It’s also ineffective. The company Is assuming that the set of “people who can get pregnant” and “women” overlaps completely. Which, as so many others have pointed out, it doesn’t. Not only are there a fair number of women who can’t possibly get pregnant that the policy bans, there are men who CAN get pregnant, who can still work in dangerous conditions.
                If a company has decided they need to ban everyone who can get pregnant from certain work, they need to ban ALL PEOPLE WHO CAN GET PREGNANT, not all women.
                Of course that forces disclosure of medical status regarding one’s uterus, but then I’m not advocating for any blanket ban. The company decided it needed this level of control. If the company feels oogy about asking that, they maybe should reevaluate their risk assessment here.

                1. Elena vasquez*

                  Can you post a link to a reputable source on the number of men that can get pregnant? I am sincerely curious about the percentage.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I believe Hapless is referring to transmen or to people who are AFAB but do not identify as women.

                3. Lepidoptera*

                  @Elena vasquez @Princess Consuela Banana Hammock
                  There are also non-binary people who can get pregnant, not to mention people who have testicles whose gametes may also be affected by teratogens/chemicals.

            2. Rugby*

              Thank you for sharing this. I work in an industry that participates in legal discrimination because, like you said, some jobs are more hazardous for certain groups of people. Sometimes there just isn’t a reasonable accommodation. It’s not ideal, but it is reality.

              1. Nobby Nobbs*

                A reasonable accommodation for… being female? Sorry, that’s not reality, that’s misogyny.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I think people are taking issue with the suggestion that an employer design tests intended to exclude “women of childbearing age” in order to circumvent the PDA. That’s typically not allowed, and under Title VII, it sounds like textbook disparate impact discrimination and intentional gender discrimination. The commentariat are rightfully noting that it is unlawful in the United States to discriminate on the basis of sex/gender in employment decisions, including through the use of “tests” that are proxies to obtain a discriminatory result. [Although this may not be applicable to the original commenter for this subthread, as it sounds like they’re not in the U.S.]

              Many of the examples you’ve identified would fall under the ADA or would be conditions/statuses that are not protected by antidiscrimination laws. Even for the example regarding teratogens, some exclusions are allowable because different antidiscrimination laws and different identities/statuses have different legal tests for determining whether it would be acceptable to exclude someone on the basis of a protected identity/condition.

              It’s true that employers can discriminate in hiring and assignment of duties so long as their basis for that different treatment does not hinge on a condition, status, or identity that is identified in antidiscrimination laws. But that doesn’t mean it’s ok to ask blatantly unlawful questions, like the interviewer in the OP’s letter, or to use proxies in an attempt to achieve an unlawfully discriminatory result.

          13. Observer*

            That’s utterly ridiculous. I also suspect that it’s illegal. I haven’t seen cases specifically related to AG, but I have seen cases in other fields and restricting people because they MIGHT become pregnant based on age is a total nos-starter, legally speaking.

          14. Nesprin*

            I work in labs with similar hazards. You know how we handle it? Like our workers are adults in charge of their own bodies.
            Our EHS people cannot ask if a given person is pregnant, and they cannot treat anyone differently as a result of disclosure. Workers have to go to EHS, state that they’re pregnant or trying to conceive, and ask for work modification.

          15. Jadelyn*

            Gosh, I just love being treated like a walking uterus that exists in a perpetual state of Schrodinger’s Pregnancy.

        3. The Cosmic Avenger*

          This was my first thought; since this is a large hospital, there could be certain areas that a pregnant woman might have to avoid, but the fact that the interviewer was not that professional leads me to think that’s less likely.

        4. Harper the Other One*

          Yes, exactly – a disclosure along the lines of “this job requires standing for 8 hours a day/exposure to drugs X and Y/lifting 50 pounds” would have been fine. Heck, probably even something like “if you accept the position, please note that there are a number of substances we use that are dangerous in pregnancy, so if that is ever an issue we’d ask that you speak to a supervisor in confidence” would probably be fine.

        5. ACDC*

          Good point. An employer should disclose the risks of the job (if any) that might impact a pregnancy to all employees so they are aware, not the other way around.

        6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I mean, if job duties require reassignment, it comes up when a person discloses their pregnancy. It should never be asked during the hiring process. Aside from the moral distastefulness, there is no legally defensible reason to ask a woman if she’s pregnant during a job interview.

        7. OP Number 3*

          Hi, I wrote in for number 3- there are a lot of really good points in here about occupational safety, I really appreciate them.

          What bothers me about Fiona is that the larger organization did have job listings in clinics like pathology and radiology. These included an expanded “job requirements” section including a physical assessment, which would presumably include discussion of possible pregnancy and other exposure risks. This, however, was a run of the mill job that only required walking in and out of physical exam rooms and sitting at a desk. This specific job listed the standard language like “must be able to stand for 20-30 minutes at a time, etc.”

          1. bluephone*

            I think Fiona was just a freak who didn’t know how pregnancy worked and/or couldn’t be bothered to deal with pregnant employees/employees who might become pregnant.

    1. Avasarala*

      I like some variation of “I don’t believe that’s relevant” because it reminds me to segue into “…there’s nothing that would interfere with my ability to do the job” or “can you explain how that’s relevant?” or “I don’t believe we’re allowed to discuss that, did you mean to ask [about my ability to perform the job]?” or whatever else I can think of on the spot.

      It’s hard to remember clever “non-answers” for every situation!

      1. Cat lady*

        I’d suggest bringing this up with HR — especially if she’s overreacting to anyone who is pregnant. It’s a lawsuit — and easy settlement — waiting to happen. If Fiona is head of HR, it’s worth finding a way to go over her head.

        1. OP Number 3*

          It’s been 4 years and I still regret not saying something to HR. I left the organization two years ago but kept in touch with coworkers, who gave me the insane details of Fiona’s tumultuous departure. Last I heard, she was dealing with two lawsuits from former employees. If I had spoken up, maybe these people could’ve been spared this drama.

    2. MK*

      There are plenty of great responses, see above, but I wouldn’t count on your chances. Someone who thinks this is an OK question to ask is probably going to be suspicious of anything but a straight negative answer.

      1. Sally*

        And it seems like Fiona clearly knew she shouldn’t be asking it since she whispered the question.

        1. Sparrow*

          I don’t think she thought it was wrong to ask in a legal or even professional sense, but in the way that it’s generally considered impolite to ask a woman if she’s pregnant, especially if you don’t know her. (Not that this stops a lot of people, of course, but I suspect that’s where she was coming from.)

  2. Perpal*

    If you whisper the question, it’s not illegal/immoral! (kidding)
    Yeah, pregnant women usually can and should walk plenty*
    *excluding health conditions where activities may be limited or restricted

    1. aebhel*

      Yeah, aside from all of the other obvious issues, I spent most of both my pregnancies on my feet, and it only really became an issue in the last month or so (and even then I could still *do* it, my feet just looked like balloons). I realize that’s not the case for everyone, but there are plenty of people who *aren’t* pregnant who can’t be on their feet for 8 hours a day, so disclosing the job requirements seems like a much simpler way of handling it.

      1. Quill*

        I can’t be on my feet 8 hours a day, but I can walk an average distance! People should disclose the actual job requirements, not just put in boilerplate regarding “must be able to stand / sit long hours and lift up to 50 pounds.”

        1. Elizabeth West*

          And that boilerplate often excludes disabled people from jobs where it isn’t strictly necessary, and they could totally do the job with a small accommodation or adjustment.

      2. DJ*

        This. My sister works as a manager at a very popular fast food chain. She’s on her feet for entire shifts in extremely hot temperatures and she worked through both her pregnancies. I do think she had to have some accommodations towards the end, but not such that she wasn’t still on her feet a lot of the time because that’s the job. It’s more about individual circumstances and ability than whether or not you’re pregnant.

    2. Third or Nothing!*

      Yep. Ran 5Ks all the way up to week 30 with my pregnancy. The only reason I stopped was because I started getting round ligament pain and just physically couldn’t go past 2.75 miles without crying. If I can, I’m going to do 10Ks with the next pregnancy.

  3. Erica*

    This may not be advice you need, but for letter writer #2… Consider registering for stuff that you’ll need or want in the next year. Like, the next size car seat, or lighter stroller, toddler carrier, etc.

    Not gift grabby, just people do like to give something, or have you unwrap and this way it won’t go to waste.

    Or have a book/library shower, to build up your new cuties bookcases for years to come. Total essential!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For family and friends, yes, but as the manager you should avoid a work shower that your employees would attend (because the whole point of a shower is to give you things).

      1. Avasarala*

        Yes, it’s not better for OP to find something their subordinates can give them instead of cash. It’s better that their subordinates give them nothing.

        But congrats OP!

      2. Liza*

        It is? I must admit, we don’t use the term much in the UK, but I always thought it was just another word for a party at a milestone life event!

        We had a party for a pregnant colleague who was going on maternity leave. There were no presents, just a card and decorations and some snacks prepared by my manager, who loves to bake. I think that sort of thing would definitely be more appropriate. Even if people aren’t gifting up, being asked to chip in for a gift for every birthday, wedding, new baby and leaving do can become tricky, especially if people are struggling financially.

          1. londonedit*

            I think the thing is that the whole concept of ‘baby showers’ simply wasn’t a thing in the UK until a few years ago, so people really don’t understand what they’re really about. We’ve sort of adopted the idea of having a baby shower to mean ‘having a party for someone who’s having a baby’, but there’s no cultural norm around the gift-giving side of things. I suspect most people would bring a gift, because the cultural norm is that you bring a gift when you go to a party (and before baby showers became a thing, the norm was to give a gift when the baby was actually born) but I suspect most people would be privately horrified at the idea of a gift registry that people were expected to buy from. We also don’t have bridal showers here (you have a hen party, which is mainly fun and silliness, and then people give the couple gifts for the wedding itself – I’m not totally sure what a bridal shower actually is, to be honest) and I think the whole ‘shower’ concept isn’t one that an awful lot of people are particularly familiar with. At work, you’re much more likely to just have a ‘tea and cake for someone who’s going on maternity leave’ thing, probably with a card signed by the person’s immediate team and maybe some flowers from the boss, or a small collection for a gift, but it wouldn’t be a big deal.

            1. MsSolo*

              Bridal shower is on top of a hen party, in the US – there are so many extra wedding related events over there! Generally, we’re a less gifty culture in the UK overall – it’s not rude to go to most adults’ birthday parties with just a card, or just buying them a drink at the bar, for example.

              I think the difference between “everyone attends brings a gift from the registry” and “the person’s manager organising a quick whip round and purchases a couple of cute babygrows and a bottle of wine as a farewell gift” is significant. I’ve never had a problem contributing to whiprounds for people higher in the chain than me, because there’s an understanding that the top bods will be making the significant contributions and putting a couple of anonymous quid in an envelope is all that’s expected of me. Of course, it’s more of a farewell party because maternity leave is so much more generous here, so you’re not going to see your colleague for 6-12 months (plus any holiday accrued!), and not everyone comes back.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                Also, a couple of quid in the envelope multiplied by even a medium-sized workplace is A Lot Of Nappies, and most UK parents don’t incur medical costs or adoption fees so it’s only the cost of essentials such as clothes, nappies or a cot to defray. Although close family might want to buy the pram or cot or other headline item, it would be rare for anyone else to give more than a token babygro when visiting.

                I don’t think the UK is necessarily left of a gifty culture than the US, but I do feel there are fewer culturally compulsory gifting situations. Also I think there’s a factor of the stereotypically uptight British having an absolute horror of being given charity, perhaps because we’re supposed to have a social safety net, NHS, etc (never mind the size of the holes in the net).

              2. Anononon*

                “it’s not rude to go to most adults’ birthday parties with just a card, or just buying them a drink at the bar, for example.”

                The same is true in the US as well.

                1. doreen*

                  My experience in the US is different for actual parties. Sure, if a group of friends are going out to celebrate one person’s birthday, the gift might be limited to chipping in to pay for the birthday person’s bill or to buy her a drink at the bar. But for an actual party , with invitations and RSVPs , where a few people are paying for a larger group of attendees (which I usually only see for milestone birthdays) people almost invariably bring gifts.

              3. LilySparrow*

                Traditionally, a bridal shower would be an occasion where the bride’s closest friends and family give her personal gifts related to getting married or setting up housekeeping (since the old assumption would be that she’s doing the cooking & housework). So smaller things like nightgowns, teapots, fancy kitchen towels & potholders, gadgets, etc. Not a major investment, more cute and fun. The kind of thing you wouldn’t buy for yourself if you were being very frugal and utilitarian.

                Wedding gifts would be more expensive things the couple uses together or for entertaining- silverware, bath towels, formal dishes, etc.

                Now it’s just a mishmash and has gotten very gift grabby. But the original idea was not as onerous at it us now.

            2. Reality Check*

              The idea behind a wedding or bridal shower is to help offset the costs for the newlyweds/new parents just starting out. A registry is very helpful so that the couple isn’t receiving multiples of the same item. (I was at a bridal shower where the bride received 4 iced tea pitchers, for instance. This was in the days before registries became a thing)

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                The British have registries for the actual wedding presents, just not a separate bridal shower. I think what we’re struggling is the idea of contributing twice for one rite of passage, especially when we read that it’s common to “cover your plate” in the US, which is a pretty generous present if you’ve already given a boxed gift at the shower.

                1. Reality Check*

                  Not sure what you mean by “cover your plate.” I’ve never heard it before. Well here, if you’re not invited to the shower, you don’t have to worry about buying a gift. At the wedding, one can bring either a gift from the registry or give cash. (This should be kept away from the workplace, I agree.)

                2. MK*

                  Yes, this, In my country, wedding presents are required by etiquette, but they are supposed to contribute to setting up (renewing) a new household. A bridal shower on top of that sounds overkill to me.

                3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  (nesting ends)

                  @ Reality Check – sorry, I’m given to believe that “cover your plate” means “give a cash gift equivalent to the cost per head of the wedding reception” e.g. if you’re going to a $100/head kind of party then you give minimum $100 cash gift.

                  This comes up a LOT on r/AITA and r/WeddingShaming, both of which I should probably back away from (guilty pleasures).

                4. Reality Check*

                  @General, no I’ve never heard this, about covering the plate. I’ve never been told how much the meal costs. That, to me, would be incredibly rude! At any rate, the reception is usually paid for by the bride’s parents, and gifts go to the newlyweds.
                  @MK, the bridal shower is often limited to a much smaller group such as family& close friends. For instance, I had 70 guests at my wedding, but about 20 at my shower, primarily family. So most people were not gifting twice.

                5. MK*

                  @Reality Check, I understood that, I just still don’t get why those 20 people had to give two gifts for the same occasion. Even given that family is likely to give, wouldn’t it make more sense to give one, more substancial gift than two smaller ones?

                6. Natalie*

                  I swear that “cover your plate” thing was made by The Knot or somebody in their general quest to stay relevant. It’s never been a common etiquette rule, and it mostly seems to get discussed online when people are debunking it as a rule.

                7. Emily K*

                  This is one of those traditions that has outgrown its roots, but traditionally the bridal shower was thrown by a future mother in law or sister in law, or other older woman in the groom’s family, and was meant to be a sort of initiation into womanhood (because girls – Misses – don’t become women – “Mrs”s until they’re married). The married women could tell the bride to be what to expect when she has sex for the first time, and fill her in on all the wisdom they’d accumulated about being a good wife and proper woman. Frequently the gifts were explicitly associated with homemaking and hosting obligations that the bride would become responsible for one married, and wouldn’t have had any need for when she was single. Shower gifts are much smaller than wedding gifts – an acquaintance might spend $50 on a wedding gift but only $20 on a shower gift (take actual figures with grain of salt as price ranges can vary widely by class and urban/rural divide, point being the shower gift would often be less than half what you spent on the wedding gift). Women’s lib has invalidated the original need for a future wife to acquire (female gendered) homemaking supplies as being something distinct from the future couple needing to acquire gender neutral household necessities, but we hate to get rid of a party, so here we are!

                8. pentamom*

                  Covering the plate is one of those things that it’s not uncommon for some people to expect, but it’s not actually considered an etiquette necessity. In fact it’s still considered improper or rude to take such things into account, by people who follow careful etiquette. I personally find the concept horrifying. People are to be invited to weddings if you want them there, and feeding and entertaining them is the cost of celebration, and needs to be within your means. There should be no expectation of an equivalent return in the form of a gift.

                9. doreen*

                  A certain amount of “covering the plate” is from the guest side. In cultures where cash wedding gifts are common, guests often use their estimate of the reception cost to determine how large the cash gift should be. No one actually tells them how much the meal cost – but although I might not be able to tell a $150 reception from a $200 one, I can certainly tell a $20 reception from a $100 one. This is entirely different from the newlyweds expecting that much as if it were the cost of admission

                10. MCMonkeyBean*

                  I think the etiquette has gotten all muddled but my understanding is that in actuality you are *not* meant to contribute twice for one rite of passage, and that if you brought a gift to a wedding shower then you wouldn’t also bring one to the wedding. But I think people often feel obligated for both.

            3. Media Monkey*

              yeah, an american friend wanted to organise a baby shower for me before i had my daughter, and reading up on it, i realised it was mainly a gift grab and declined. we got plenty of gifts when she was born but not twice (and a gift from the company rather than from coworkers)

              1. Reality Check*

                Media Monkey, I’m afraid it has turned into a gift grab – with some people. The original intention was pure, though. Helping a young family starting out.

              2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                I agree it used to be definitely a setting up house thing for young people leaving the parental home for the first time, in a “pay it forward” way, so in a generation’s time the newlyweds are settled parents themselves and buy the curtains/toaster/silverware for the young adult children of their friends and relations.

                This is also why, traditionally, the parents hosted the event and chose the guest list more generally, and a wedding had more of the parents’ peers than the couple’s friends. Somewhere between my parents’ generation (Boomer) and mine (Millennial) that has shifted, along with the average age at marriage rising from 22 to 30.

                1. Natalie*

                  The quite low median first marriage age in the 70s was very much an extreme fluke, FWIW (in both the US and the UK). Prior to that the median hovered in the mid 20s for close to a century (24-27 depending on the year), so while it’s crept up it isn’t quite as dramatic as a full decade change.

            4. Koala dreams*

              It’s the same were I live, but we have naming parties after the baby is born, and they have similar problems. The guests are supposed to give gifts, and people have wildly different views on what kind of gifts. Some give practical gifts, like clothes and books, some give lasting gifts such as jewellery or candle holders. The solution is the same of course. Invite family and non-work friends to the party, and celebrate by sharing cute baby pictures and maybe buy a cake for work.

      3. starsaphire*

        I would totally want to do something for my boss — like maybe a “just cake” surprise party in the conference room, or something. But I think it would be too hard to keep people from giving gifts.

        Or maybe I’m just craving cake. ;)

    2. Kuododi*

      Hello there LW 2. On a related note to earlier posts, I wanted to suggest that OP do some information gathering about adoption grants. This is $$$ provided to help with associated fees and expenses for the adoption What’s available will vary depending upon where you live, agency who organized the adoption etc. I’d suggest starting by checking in with the social worker through y’all’s particular adoption agency. If that isn’t helpful, there’s always handy-dandy Google. Blessings to you and your family as you open your hearts to welcome this tiny human. May you and your spouse have grace, peace and joy as you both grow your family.

      1. AdoptedBaby’sMomma*

        Thanks for the input. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do a lot of research before we matched and baby was born and what we did find out was that most wouldn’t be able to help much.

        1. Alston*

          You could always suggest a book party if they really want to do something. Everybody brings in a kids book (bonus points if it’s one they liked themselves as a kid). I’ve seen that done in situations where people didn’t want a full baby shower, and it sounds like they might really want to celebrate with you somehow. And this + cake would be awesome. Your kid would have their own library well underway.

    3. Nye*

      If the LW thinks people will really want to give gifts (maybe based on prior showers for coworkers), I love the idea of a book shower. Make it clear that you don’t need anything, but that if anyone would like, they can bring a copy of their favorite children’s book to start the baby’s library. We did this for a shower in grad school, since nobody had much money to spend, and it was really lovely, personal, and inexpensive.

      1. OtterB*

        I agree with this.

        For a no-cost add-on to a party with cake and so forth, one shower I attended provided some nice blank cards and asked each attendee to write their favorite piece of parenting advice and put them in a box for the new parents.

      2. Washi*

        Yeah, something like this sounds lovely! Also I suspect that even if you have a no gifts party, a few people will bring something anyway if they’re really dying to help, so it’s not like you’re really depriving anyone of gift-giving joy.

      3. Quill*

        Oh, that’s lovely. Especially if you make it known that you’re open to gently loved hand-me-downs…

    4. AdoptedBaby'sMomma*

      As Allison said above, we did do this, for our friends, and basically everything has been fulfilled. The match and birth of our son came quite quickly. I think what me and my Hubby (LW) are looking for is how to say “We appreciate wanting to host us a shower, but we don’t really need any gifts” without sounding ungrateful. We would NEVER ask coworkers or subordinates for money, but really that’s where we are lacking due to the adoption process.

      1. Washi*

        I think that’s good! I know adoptions are expensive, but it’s an expense you chose to take on, so I would be pretty taken aback by a shower for a manger that just requested money. (I might feel differently if the employees were considering passing the hat to help you pay for your cancer treatment or something.) Everyone could use more money :)

        1. Washi*

          (sorry if that sounds harsh, it just sounds like a small part of you is a little tempted by all these lovely people who really want to help, and you do have a need, but your instincts are right that this is not a good idea!)

      2. Atlantian*

        If they INSIST, and they really must not give you a choice in the matter, here. (I have definitely worked at places where all the AAM required reading in the world wasn’t stopping a team from throwing a baby shower for their supervisor. And only you can know if they truly are those kinds of people) You can always either A. insist that if they must purchase gifts, they get diapers only and then calculate how much money you are saving over time and put that towards paying off the adoption. B. Ask that they take up a collection for something big, like a stroller or fancy car seat or pack and play, and then return it and put the cash/gift card towards the debt or do the same as option A and keep the gift cards for diapers and put the savings towards the debt. Or C. Just say “You know, we have everything we think we need for months 0-6, but I know there is stuff we haven’t thought of for the toddler months. We would love some Walmart/Target/Babies R US gift cards for those things we just haven’t thought of yet for down the line.”

        Lastly. if you just aren’t comfortable accepting anything from these people, does your adoption agency take donations? You could ask that they donate in the baby’s name so that you can pay it forward a bit for the next family-to-be. It doesn’t solve your immediate problem of the debt, but it would give everyone involved the feel-goods.

        Congratulations on your new family!

        1. TootsNYC*

          (I have definitely worked at places where all the AAM required reading in the world wasn’t stopping a team from throwing a baby shower for their supervisor. )

          This has been my experience as well. No birthdays, etc., but a huge life event like a baby or a wedding has always been met with some sort of celebration.

      3. Malarkey01*

        I think if you said just that people would understand and not think you’re ungrateful. You will still likely get a few small gifts (books, an outfit, a blanket) from people that truly want to wish you well and feel they have to help you celebrate with a gift. If that happens I’d just smile and graciously say thank you and enjoy the thoughtful gift. Every gift doesn’t have to be something you “need”.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Also, some people just want an excuse to go admire the cute and extremely tiny clothes, which they are years away from needing in their own lives. It’s largely sentimental with a dose of giving a small helpful gift to someone in one’s social circle to honor a helpful thing–handing over a ten dollar bill doesn’t work the same way, even if it’s more flexible than a hat with a nose and ears.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Honestly, you can say it just like that — “we’re so appreciative that you offered but we have everything we need. Please just give us your best wishes and don’t do a shower.” The suggestions here about asking for donations for charity, books, etc. are very well meaning, but it’s still someone in a position of power creating pressure for their employees to spend money in their honor, and because of the power dynamics people may feel uncomfortable saying no. Bring the baby by, bring a cake, but do not do anything that requires employees to spend money for the occasion.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      Coworkers (or subordinates) should not be getting you the big stuff. For a gathering of people who know you through work, book club, etc–not your intimate friends you will carry past this job–baby showers are spit-up blankets, clothes one size up, cute hats, board books–things in the $10-20 range.

      Best option is to say no to a shower from subordinates. If it gathers steam on its own, you should definitely be portraying “we can always use more spit-up blankets” (seriously, you can) and aiming folks at inexpensive, cute to shop for options.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I was going to suggest books as well.

      They can be inexpensive.

      But if people want to contribute to a larger gift (which often happens at work), then something for an older age would be a good idea.

      Also: It’s my experience that—other than a single big-ticket item that people pitch in anywhere from $1 (though $5 is a more common minimum) to $40 (with a supervisor perhaps pitching in more)—few work gifts come from a registry.

      They’re books, or clothes, or something.

    7. Richard Hershberger*

      Glossing over the “work subordinates” aspect: Diapers! Lots and lots of diapers! And wipes. Fill the garage up with boxes of diapers and wipes. If you don’t use all of them, it is incredibly easy to find grateful homes for these items.

  4. HannahS*

    OP 5, an answer I like to give when people ask me in a totally perplexed, how-can-you-not-like-this-thing-that-I-like way why I don’t do something that a lot of other people do (Twitter! Alcohol! Mindfulness meditation!) is to say, “Eh, not really for me. What do you like about it?” Then I let them talk, smile, and say, “Cool, sounds fun!” and then change the subject. For a pushy person, I give bland non-answers at nauseum: “Dunno, it’s not really for me.” “Yeah, people really do seem to like it!” “Uh-huh, Carol also has Facebook? Neat!”

    I can feel from your question that you’re dreading this conversation. I get that for you, this was a decision that’s bundled with some significant trauma. But if you act like it’s just a random quirk (like my hatred of red peppers THE MOST VILE VEGETABLE), most people will just follow your lead, and won’t suspect there are serious reasons why you don’t do the thing (like the fact that I don’t do twitter, alcohol, or mindfulness meditation).

    1. Electric sheep*

      “What do you like about it” is such a great question to move the conversation onwards.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Y’all are welcome not to like red peppers; that means more for me. You can have ALL the mushrooms. :)

        I do know several people without social media, some of them younger. It’s not a big deal anymore when most people have smartphones and text. And since Facebook has had very serious issues lately, it’s possible we might all not have it before too long anyway.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      For me, the time sink irks me. It bothers me to have to spend so much time wading through “stuff”. OP, if it fits your setting you could say something like, “Eh, I don’t have a lot of extra time for social media. I don’t watch much tv for the same reason. ” This kind of takes the focus off of social media itself. What I like about this is that I don’t accidentally fall into the pit of discussing the value or non-value of social media.

      1. OPnumber5*

        OP5 here. That’s perfect. I have a working television and just use the antenna, don’t have cable. I unplugged the television couple months back since I rarely even turn it on. Thank you!

        1. The Good Place*

          Can I just say that I wouldn’t recommend that you this? People tend to take you saying “I don’t watch TV” as a judgment on the fact that they do even more than saying you’re not on social media–I think even most people on social media are aware of the problems with it.

          Just sticking with “not for me!” is enough, in my opinion,

        2. Parenthetically*

          Yeah, I agree with TGP — don’t frame it like this. “I don’t have time for social media/tv/movies/whatever” is so often used as shorthand for “MY choices about how I spend my time are SO much better than YOURS, you American-Idol-Watching pleb” that even though you genuinely mean it in a neutral way, it can come across as really smug. “It’s just not my thing!” is inarguable and judgment-free.

          1. Ms Cappuccino*

            If someone tells me they don’t have time for social media/movies/whatever, I’d just think they must have a very busy life or different hobbies, not that they judge the way they spend their time is better than mine. Unless it was said in a disdainful way it would be weird to interpret it like that.

        3. Working Mom*

          I also do not participate in social media. I used to – but found that even thought I *knew* that most of what I saw on there was fake (on purpose or not), I found myself falling into the comparison trap. I agree that if you respond like it’s no big deal – it’s no big deal. I usually just say, ‘Oh I don’t do social media.” When I asked – I jokingly say I don’t agree with it.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I also go with the time element most of the time I answer. “I have kids, and just don’t want to take time away from them to be online.” Rarely do I get pushback on that answer.

      3. knead me seymour*

        This is why I gave up on it, too. It takes up way too much time relative to how much I actually enjoy it, and it’s stressful.

      4. juliebulie*

        The time sink/addiction is about 1/3 of it for me. The other two-thirds are unfocused anxiety and the fact that it’s unsatisfying at best and often downright unpleasant.

        The funny thing is that no one ever asks me why. I think most people are aware of numerous issues around social media and are afraid that if they ask this question, the answerer will attempt to shame them, or that the inquirer will feel shamed even if the answerer does not intend it.

        If someone did ask me why, I would probably go with a shrug and “oh, y’know” which is what I always say when the real answer would open a can of worms that would make the questioner regret asking.

    3. SongbirdT*

      For the record, you don’t have a random quirk because the vileness of red peppers is an objective truth. ;)

    4. aebhel*

      I mean, I am very active on social media, but not under my actual name, and not generally in ways that I want to share with my coworkers (fandom. most of what I do online is fandom.)

    5. Pants*

      I’ve quit all social media. When people ask why I’m not on any platforms, I just say that it’s too much noise.

      It was a little weird when I quit everything, but I quickly found that it really was just noise. I’m far happier without the incessant chatter and emotional overload. I replaced social media with reading. I’ve read 110 books so far this year. To me, that says a lot about the time-suck of social media.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Only the hot ones. There are red bell peppers too, and they are yummy (to some people). They are the ripe version of green bell peppers.

    6. ThatGirl*

      I use Twitter (locked account) and Instagram (for my dog!), but not Facebook, and the only person who has ever given me any amount of crap for it is my best friend – who is allowed to argue with me :) But if anyone else ever wanted to get into the whys, I would cite privacy concerns. So far, though, in ~14 years it hasn’t been an issue.

    7. BadWolf*

      Yes, I would try to be chill about it and you don’t need to share the upsetting parts. I would avoid making it sound like you’re “being good” avoiding SM which can cause people to feel defensive. I’d say go with neutral on the specific platform asked about. If someone asks to friend you on Facebook, I would go with something like, “Oh sorry, I’m not on Facebook.” vs “Oh, I don’t do social media.” I guess if they start running down the list of all the options, you can swap to, “Oh, I know it’s weird, but I’m not currently on any of them. What’s your favorite?”

      1. BadWolf*

        On a side note, I’m on some platforms, but I don’t connect with my coworkers (except Linked In and I don’t actually do anything on there). So even if you had accounts, I think it’s not unusual to avoid mixing them.

        1. BadWolf*

          Although I could see in some workplaces where it would be difficult. Especially if people start planning things on a certain platform or if they see you as snobby for not connecting.

        2. Amy Sly*

          Same. I’m pretty active on Facebook, but I make it a point to never friend anyone from work while we’re coworkers. First, because I almost never like a coworker enough to want to stay connected with them outside of work, but second, because if your coworkers are on social media with you, you have to censor anything you say about your career. Obviously, you don’t publicly bash the company ever, but you can’t even complain about an annoying coworker or ask for help on a new job without risking that information coming to the wrong ears when you combine your work and social lives.

          1. JustaTech*

            Exactly. I once complained about a classmate on Facebook (he just went radio silence in the middle of a project) and several friends took me to task for complaining where he might see it. He couldn’t; we aren’t FB friends and my posts are locked down, but I could see where they were coming from.

            The other reason I don’t friend coworkers is we’d have nothing to talk about at lunch! “How was your weekend?” “You know how my weekend was, you commented on my post.”

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Same, although I don’t complain about my job on it because you really do not have total control over anything you post. Plus they don’t need to see my incessant Marvel fangirling anyway.

        3. JustaTech*

          This is what I do.
          Right after I started my current job there was a guy who was friendly but had some social cues/boundary issues (dude, I can’t chat Dr Who in the middle of a study!), so when he sent me a friend request on Facebook I told him at work the next day that I have a policy of not friending current coworkers. And it’s true. Did I have that policy 30 seconds before he asked me about it? No. But it is my personal policy and I have stuck to it.

          For the OP, if people give you a hard time (which is rude) you could try “I have a policy of no social media.” Something about the word “policy” can be magic in just ending a conversation.

  5. Gaia*

    Op 5, it is far more likely that this will be an “interesting data point” about you than “something weird or negative” about you.

    I’m a millennial in my mid 30s and I know several people who have either never used social media or who used to use it but have since left it. I’m more impressed by their ability to refrain from something that I feel sucks up too much of my day.

    You do you.

    1. Misty*

      Totally agree on the “interesting data point”. I don’t do social media just because it’s not interesting to me, and because there’s no one I want to keep up with that I don’t talk to through other means. Simple as that. When FB has come up at work, I just say “I’m not on FB” and it pretty much ends there. No one has pressed me for reasons why.

      1. Myrin*

        I’m exactly the same way and have had the same experience – I remember exactly one person who started to “dig deeper” into my not-having of social media but I just made a “you’re being weird” retort and that was that. That was five years ago and I haven’t run into any issues with this at all; at most, someone asks “oh, why not?” and I say “it’s not my thing” and they’re like “oh okay, that’s cool [subject change]”.

        I’m assuming that this is something looming large in OP’s head because she has a lot of big and emotional issues bundled up with her no-usage of social media but from my experience, most people won’t care beyond a “oh, too bad, I thought we could connect on [platform]; let’s make sure to exchange phone numbers, then” or something similar.

        1. Gaia*

          I do think that if this was a few years ago, more people may have reacted negatively. It was less common a few years ago to not be on social media at all. But with a bigger awareness on mental health impact and data privacy more people have been dropping out of social media and so “I’m not on Facebook” is better accepted.

    2. I heart Paul Buchman*

      I used to say ‘oh, I’m not on Facebook – I’m a bit of a Luddite’ but that felt negative and played poorly (it made me look a bit out of touch I think).

      Now, I say ‘oh, I’m doing a digital detox so I’m not on Facebook right now’ and people respond really positively. If they ask how it’s going I say I’m getting some great books read.

      1. Asenath*

        I just say “I’m not on Facebook” and move on. It usually works. Very occasionally, if the conversation continues in that direction, I’ll add “I tried it once years ago and didn’t like it”. That’s always been enough; I’ve never needed to go into specific reasons I didn’t like it. Most people who know me know I’m online – old-fashioned email is the best way to contact me, better even than phone – but oddly enough, of all the social media platforms I don’t use, it’s only Facebook that comes up in conversation. I suppose it’s the most popular.

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      Or “sorry, the only people on my facebook are my immediate family. We share pics of our kids so it’s a strict requirement that the friendslist stay family-only. I’d be happy to add you on LinkedIn.” Honestly, just having a linkedin gives a nice place to re-direct all those workplace requests.

      1. Hekko*

        There are ways to set up the privacy so that the posts only show to a smaller group of friends, so I wouldn’t use this explanation unless you want to listen to one of the people explaining all the privacy settings.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Simple reply: “Well, my mom/sister doesn’t think so, and I promised her, so that’s the terms we’re sticking with.”

          1. Willis*

            Why bother lying though? OP can just say she’s not on FB (or whatever other social media they want to connect on) and move on with the conversation. I don’t think it requires convoluted excuses.

            1. Joielle*

              Agreed! “It’s not for me” is a simple and accurate explanation. No need to be hostile and start getting into privacy settings and imagined family promises or any other excuse.

              I really doubt OP will get any pushback, but if they do, a simple deflection (“I dunno, just never got into it!”) will do. Make it a boring conversation and people will leave it alone.

              1. pleaset*

                “I’m not on Facebook. I think Facebook it is for the simple-minded, narcissists, and scammers. Present company excepted of course.”

      2. LJay*

        This would give me the impression that you’re afraid I might be a pedophile, which I don’t think is the impression you want to give your colleagues. It’s just way too much explanation.

        “I don’t connect with coworkers on Facebook. But I’m on LinkedIn if you want to join me there,” is more than enough.

        Or just plain, “I don’t have Facebook,” if that’s what the truth is.

    4. kittymommy*

      I work with a lot of people in my building (>20 people) who do not have social media and they are varying ages. Sure it might be a little unusual, but no one really thinks much about it.

      – “Oh, do you have a FB/Instagram/Twitter?”
      – “Nope, don’t have nay social media.”
      – “Oh, okay.”

  6. Avasarala*

    OP5 In my experience there are two main kinds of people who don’t use social media: the ones who are “out of the loop” and the ones who have Standards, Goddamnit. It’s this latter group that tends to act like they’re better than everyone because they don’t have a TV, or use social media, or happen to like some other “popular entertainment” and that makes them smarter than everyone. “I don’t use Facebook, I read.”

    Nobody cares if you’re 85 and don’t get it, or have young kids and no free time, or just out living your life and not into that sort of thing. But nobody wants to be preached at, especially people who get a lot of enjoyment out it. The “eh don’t care about it” tone Alison mentioned indicates that you’re not about to get on your soapbox.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      Good Lord, yes. Light and breezy is the way to go. The world would be a better place if people spared us their 8000-word manifestoes about Why I Am So Much More Evolved Than All You Sheep.

    2. Rebecca*

      I see you’ve met my mother. “Some people might be on Facebook/use smart phones/use email/use ATM’s/have a debit card but I don’t” in her super sanctimonious voice. Doesn’t matter what it is. I told her that years ago, it was popular to tack up a sheet of paper with the town’s news on it, now we can read it on our phones. Still getting news, it’s just in a different format. Things change and move on. I feel the same way, if I say I downloaded an audio book from the eBranch2Go library, the appropriate response is “what book, who is the author, did you like it” things like that, not a sneery “I don’t do those things”. Ugh. Sorry for the rant. I put up with this all time.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        I’ve never used an ATM. Ever. At this point of my life I feel like I need to keep going just to keep the streak alive haha. I’m just a predominately credit card user with a small bit of cash mixed in, if I can’t get points/airline miles for it, I ain’t interested. I would never imagine my lack of use of an ATM to be a source where I would belittle someone else though. That seems insane. Different strokes for different folks!

        1. Elenna*

          Wait, how do you get cash if you don’t use an ATM? Do you go to a human bank teller? Have I misunderstood what’s called an ATM all these years? I’m so confused! (Let alone the confusion about why anyone would be smug about not using one…)

    3. Asenath*

      Actually, I got more criticism for not having a TV than for not using social media, and even that was only from one person. I’m not especially anti-TV; I’d watched it before this incident and I later bought one and now I still watch it. But for some reason, that particular person could not understand not watching TV on a regular basis, and not owning a TV. Among other things, she said it was a terrible social handicap because if you didn’t watch TV, you couldn’t discuss the shows with people. I don’t think that’s ever bothered me (since even when I do watch TV or Netflix, I often don’t watch the same shows as my friends and acquaintances), but maybe I’m unaware of my own handicap!!

      For social media – I’m pretty sure I’ve missed out on notifications of or ads for events that were only posted on Facebook , and recently discovered to my annoyance that some smaller restaurants don’t seem to have their own websites with their menus any more, and use Facebook instead. But those are minor annoyances. There are always other events and other restaurants I can get information on.

      1. Alexandra Lynch*

        I’m personally anti-TV for me. What other people choose to do is their issue, unless they live with me. I prefer to stream my visual media, and I like nature documentaries that aren’t commonly shown. My own autistic stuff means I don’t engage with popular culture in the same way most people do. Unfortunately, I have a low tolerance for cruelty and gore.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I do agree that I miss some of the shared cultural things that stem from tv. But sitting kills me so that is at the forefront of my thinking. And I hate that I can’t hear the doorbell or the phone very good with the tv on. (Usually someone is here and the tv has ONE volume level: LOUD.)
        I have a good friend who cannot wrap their mind around the idea that I do not watch tv. It’s been years and they will still say, “You don’t watch tv?”

        1. Nanani*

          I mean, shared cultural touchtones from TV are endangered if not already extinct thanks to streaming and the existence of a zillion channels. (and this “shared culture” is largely a myth anyway, it’s just the dominant culture; cultural minorities have always been here)

          I remember people complaining about this “You’ll miss out on the shared culture!!” when I was a kid in the 80s and my parents told someone they didn’t watch (much) TV.

          1. DJ*

            Yeah, I saw a post where someone asked for TV show recommendations. There were tons of comments and very few repeats which just made me realized how I will literally never be able to see all of the shows that sound interesting (much less keep up on all of them). Plus lately I’ve been getting all my entertainment from youtube, so I’ve basically given up on tv shows.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, I think the TV thing was more true when everyone watched in real time on a small number of channels. It was supposed to be a common bonding experience, like the weather, and what do you mean you don’t ever notice what the weather is?

        2. Koala dreams*

          I watch TV and once a saw a programme about how the TV set used to be the centre of the living room, and now that’s considered old-fashioned. Instead the TV has a more discreet placement and other things are more important.

      3. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        We own a TV, but I don’t watch it as a rule. If I’m ironing, or similar, I might put a music channel on (since we don’t own a radio, and I don’t have a Spotify account), but otherwise there are very few times when I watch TV by myself (hubby has more out of the house hobbies than me, so I can spent three or four evenings a week on my own, doing my own hobbies, depending on the season). I have some favourite shows that I watch if they’re on and I remember. We don’t have a Netflix account, or any of the contemporaries.
        I don’t feel I’m missing out on I’m Strictly a Celebrity Get Me Out of Love Island, or whatever, and a fictional show has to be spectacular for me to get past the first half hour and subsequently devote weekly effort in following – I’ve even gone off GBBO.

        I’m no longer on Facebook either, although I am a member of two WhatsApp groups (one is my geographically distant, but psychologically close family). I get my news from websites where I can crosscheck for bias and come to my own conclusions. This comments section is probably the most active social forum I participate in!

        I can feign interest in other people’s conversations about a show, because it’s clearly important to them, but I rarely actively participate and have received very few comments about it.
        Do I feel I’m missing out on anything? No, not really. Do I think I’m better than anyone else because I don’t watch TV? No, not at all (although I do feel a certain… bewilderment at my mother-in-law’s friend who is proud of spending £20 calling to vote for her favourite X-Factor contestant).
        I tend to subscribe to the mind and matter principle – those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.

      4. Environmental Compliance*

        Same here. I do have social medias, but mostly for my side hobby/business. However, we don’t have cable, Netflix, Hulu, or any of that, and we don’t watch TV. We do watch some Youtube shows. I have a couple coworkers that have been flabbergasted. “But what do you dooooo?” Well, we garden, we hike, I go trail riding, I knit, Hubs does wood working things… there’s other ways to fill time, and if it makes you happy does it really matter what it is?

        My response has always been a “well, it’s just not something we used a whole lot, so why pay money for a service we don’t use? why didn’t we use it? oh, it just wasn’t for us.” Rinse, repeat the “it’s just not something I do.”

      5. pleaset*

        You can often view public information on Facebook, such as from a small business, without having an account.

    4. RC Rascal*

      There are some employers who prohibit or discourage employees from Facebook. I have worked for 2 of them.

      1. Annony*

        Yup, hubby works for one of those (they don’t forbid, just strongly discourage and emphasize privacy settings if you are on), we wouldn’t be on even if we had the time.

    5. Liz*

      Oh yes. While I AM on social media, i know plenty of people who are not, and that’s fine. I happen to love it being an introvert; i get to see what everyone is up to, without having to actually interact sometimes. And those who don’t use it? Doesn’t bother me a bit, its their choice.

      But I completely get it as I am not a fan of most “popular entertainment” and I’m sure people think I’m odd because I don’t watch every single reality show out there. I’d rather have a root canal without anesthesia. That being said though, if asked, I just politely say its not my cup of tea, and change the subject.

    6. Goldfinch*

      You missed one major group: people who work in tech, and want to rant about the politics and social justice issues surrounding digital privacy.

      Source: I work in tech. Yes, I know Zuck is a lizard person. Yes, I know Alexa will murder me in my sleep. Please shut up.

      1. SongbirdT*

        My partner’s profession is infosec / cyber security. I feel you pain deeply.

        Yes, I know my internet-connected TV is blabbing data about my viewing habits to the universe and no, I don’t really care. Now please change whatever firewall setting you have that’s preventing me from watching Marvelous Mrs Maisel, thanks.

        1. Gaia*

          I’m very data-privacy focused and…I just can’t make myself care that my “smart” TV is telling the world about what I watch. Like “oh no! They’ll know I’m streaming Schitt’s Creek for the 3rd time this week! Aaah!”

          1. Rayray*

            Haha! I’m similar. I use some tech-y spy-y things like the Alexa, mainly just to ask questions or have her wake me up with reminders of what I need to do that day. The one thing I refuse to use is the Facebook messenger app. I was suspicious about why they split the app functions so you needed a separate one to message people, and then everything came out about what was actually in the agreements. It just doesn’t sit right with me, and facebook and social media as a whole… I really think people will come to regret sharing so much information online, for many reasons. It’s even happening in the present, Facebook knows waaay too much about people. I’m on it to be “connected” but never post and rarely comment outside a couple groups I’m in.

      2. Joielle*

        Ha! Yeah. I only have so much energy for outrage, I know Alexa is listening to me but I can’t bring myself to care. If that makes me a sheep, fine, just let me have my smart light controls and weather reports in peace.

      3. SadderButWiser*

        Oooh yes. Thank you for filling in this missing piece.
        And Alexa won’t murder you in your sleep if she can’t find you.

    7. Gazebo Slayer*

      This is a fantastic observation!

      I used to be one of those I Am Better Than You Because I Don’t Watch TV or Like Popular Whatever people as a teenager. It was really my overcompensation for my unpopularity, mental health issues, poor self-esteem, and poor social skills, and it undoubtedly did me no favors in that area. I look back on it and cringe. (And I do watch some TV as an adult – I don’t own a set because my apartment is ridiculously tiny, but I watch on my laptop.)

      1. Blueberry*

        Wouldn’t it be a bit worrisome, though, if there were nothing you’d done as a teenager that made you cringe? (Spacetime knows I did many, many cringeworthy things…)

        1. AngelicGamer, the visually impaired peep*

          I saved it for when I was 18 and on my own for the first time. High school, there was little to nothing cringe worthy. :D

    8. Jadelyn*

      All that makes me think of is one of my favorite CollegeHumor sketches, The Guy Who Returned to Facebook, which is all about exactly the kind of pseudo-enlightened twit you’re talking about.

      OP, I’m not on Facebook either because I hate it – but you definitely don’t want to be That Guy about it, either.

      1. Avasarala*

        Yes exactly that sketch! People act like they’re making a moral choice about these things. Sorry I just want to see photos of my friends’ babies and pets!

  7. Gaia*

    Op 1: I am fanatical about my privacy (I literally Google myself so I can opt.out of websites publishing info about me).

    But you don’t have to have my level of privacy issues to feel like this request deserves a HELL NO.

    No way is any boss getting my minute by minute location. Nope. Nope. Nope.

    1. Avasarala*

      Totally agree. I am super uncomfortable with people not my parents trying to parent me. “We’re like family.” “No we are not. You’re my boss.” But to preserve the relationship I’d probably try to dress it up as a good thing. “I really prefer you as my boss!”

      Ditto for anyone who thinks they need to “approve” of someone I’ve already approved of for years! That’s not up to you, thanks, partner is already approved!

      1. aebhel*

        I’d be uncomfortable with my *actual* parents trying to parent me at this point. I’m in my 30’s, they had their chance!

        (They don’t do this, to be fair. But it’s pretty weird for people to do this for their own adult children, let alone any younger adult in their general vicinity.)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Spouse and I asked our mostly grown kids to turn this on during a family vacation where we would be trying to find each other in a national park, with the complete expectation that it would be turned off again as soon as the vacation finished. No way would I provide this info to anyone not my spouse or child, including my mom.

          (Spouse activated the feature after the sudden death of a young relative, when I became more anxious about him biking late at night; in that context it was reassuring.)

          1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            I turned the feature on for exactly one week, while my husband was driving across the country, in a U-haul, alone. It made me feel better to know he wasn’t stranded on the side of the road, and if he was, at least I knew his location so I could send help!

            That’s exactly what these features are intended for, not inappropriate bosses who want to keep tabs on their staff.

      2. EnfysNest*

        A group of my friends recently had a big fall out between two people and one of the things in the aftermath was that one of them started showing up uninvited to things where the other one was by using a third person’s Find My Friend. It was super creepy and was part of the rift spreading to separate them from nearly everyone in the group, not just the original person they’d had the falling out with.

        So even between close friends, having access to that program can lead to some really problematic issues. I don’t have a phone that has it, but if I did, I think I would only ever consider linking with only my mom, and then only because I would trust that she would use it solely for true emergencies.

      1. InfoSec SemiPro*

        I absolutely think that boss does need to know their staff is safe, especially on work travel where staff safety is the responsibility of the company.

        But none of that needs or deserves minute by minute location tracking. Most urban survival is handled with a cell phone and a credit card with a good limit. Touchier travel can come with security and/or extraction support. Travel insurance and emergency support. There are tons of things a company could/should do to keep staff safe while they travel.

        Tracking their phone ain’t it.

        1. Ama*

          Yes when I travel for work my boss will often request that I let her know when I have arrived at the location we’re traveling to (occasionally she’ll also ask I do that on the return trip if the weather is bad or she knows I’ll be landing very late at night, just because we’ve had coworkers get stranded in airports overnight before or have problems getting transportation home at odd hours) – but she asks that we do that via email and she doesn’t hound us if we forget.

          I keep even the standard location tracker turned off on my phone except when I need to use it to navigate so that would be a hard nope for me as soon as the boss asked.

        2. MsClaw*

          “I absolutely think that boss does need to know their staff is safe, especially on work travel where staff safety is the responsibility of the company.”

          My safety was never the responsibility of the company when I was traveling, beyond not booking me a hotel in a high-crime zone. Unless the OP is being deployed to a war zone or sent to do presentations in a high crime area or doing exploratory work in the jungle or something, there really isn’t a security concern for the company. If I did something boneheaded like wander around alleys at 2am when I was on travel, that was on me, not the company. I wouldn’t have been able to blame my employer for getting mugged. My safety was a concern of the company only in that if I ended up in trouble, I wouldn’t be available to do the work I’d been sent to do.

          I was expected to be in contact with my bosses only when it was relevant to the work (here’s how the presentation went, we had these problems with the software, I’m passing on contact info for a new connect, etc). My off-hours time was my own just like it was when I wasn’t on travel for work.

          This is completely and totally an overreach by a boss who lacks appropriate boundaries.

    2. Auntie Social*

      And her boss wants her to agree to being tracked on Find My. It’s like consenting to being stalked <>

    3. Scarlet2*

      That place is full of bees. So many bees.
      I’m not sure what’s creepier between wanting to track LW at all times and wanting to meet their partner to “approve of them”.
      Neither of those things would be appropriate from your parents, let alone your boss.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I’ve been known to say “already got a mom thanks” but probably can’t say this to your boss. If she is this boundary pushing, she will not take it well.

        All you can do is say “I prefer not to change my settings. I have them set up just how I like them.”

        If she persists in asking to meet your partner just laugh and always be busy. You have unbreakable committments that never allow your boss to meet your SO. Even if the unbreakable committment is “never allowing the boss to meet your SO.”

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        I find the boss’s delusion that she is in a position to “approve” OP1’s partner even creepier than the tracking. Maybe I’m desensitized because one of my jobs requires a phone app that always has tracking on, which i don’t love but don’t really have a choice about. But what does she expect, that OP1 will dump the guy if she doesn’t consider him up to her standards?

    4. Jean (just Jean)*

      I had the evil urge to suggest that the OP respond jokingly “but if I share my location you’ll know when I visit and how long I stay at the town dump/dive bar/local outpost of Orgies Inc. ”
      Heck, most of us don’t even want to share when & how long we go to the library/grocery store/dry cleaner/gas station/house of worship! Nothing to see here, folks, please move along.

      1. Fashionable Pumpkin*

        Lol, this is what I tell my mother when I’m in town visiting and she wants to know my every move (and forbid what she deems unsafe- like going anywhere after dark). I tell her I’m off to pick up drugs and hookers.

    5. Nanani*

      This. It starts as fake-parental concern, and it escalates to inquisition when you decide to stop for coffee on the way to work.

      1. Auntie Social*

        And telling you you’re going to be fired for being away from your desk too much (the exec whose mom also worked at the same company but at a different job at a different location so she used the in-house employee locator to stalk, then lecture her own kid. Daily.)

    6. Cat Fan*

      Yeah, no to the whole thing. I’m trying to figure out how the boss would know the employee is safe just by knowing where she is on the map anyway. And if she sees the employee’s location wandering into another part of the city she’s in, is the boss going to call her on the phone and ask her what she’s doing?

    7. Shoes On My Cat*

      I also want to point out that knowing my location does not necessarily mean I am safe…plus, Ewwww! Makes me wonder if this boss has other control habits, or tends to be a micromanager to those in the office and since OP isn’t there physically, boss is looking for another way to do so remotely?

    8. Mrs_helm*

      Boss gave her the perfect out though, by saying she can turn it off on weekends. I’d be FOREVER turning it off and forgetting to turn it back on. And inventing ways that things were “like a weekend”.

      If my boss wants location status while I’m *at a work thing*…well, that might be done. (Still stupid, but whatever.) But off hours, it is off.

  8. alienor*

    OP5, I do have social media, but I also have a long-standing personal policy of not being Facebook friends with current colleagues, which definitely makes me the odd one out in my office where everyone follows each other. I do think people find it a little weird, but less so because I apply it equally to everyone. (Every once in a while, someone will get mildly offended that I won’t add them back, and I’ll laugh it off and say “I promise I’ll add you the day you get a new job!”) I think since you don’t have social media at all, it’ll be even easier for you–they can’t get mad about you not friending them on a platform you don’t use.

    1. ENFP in Texas*

      This. I don’t Friend people I work with, because we’re not “friends” – we’re co-workers, or acquaintances at best. I don’t hang out with them on my days off, so why would I want to virtually hang out with them?

      As far as people asking if you’re on Social Media, just shrug and say, “Nah, I don’t use social media” and change the subject. I think you’re over-worrying about what other people will think about it. Odds are they won’t even care.

      1. Anonariffic*

        Yes, this. I don’t have a Facebook account. Have I occasionally been blindsided by mentioning to a co-worker that I haven’t seen Bob around and subsequently being told that Bob’s wife gave birth last month and he went on paternity leave two weeks ago? Yes. But if Bob and I managed to go nine months without having any conversation personal enough for the impending arrival of his firstborn child to come up, that’s because we’re really just casual work acquaintances and not Friends.

    2. The Original K.*

      I’m the same way. I connect with colleagues on LinkedIn and nowhere else, and I say so and reject connections if colleagues try to connect elsewhere. People don’t give me grief about it.

    3. Gaia*

      My rule is that if we are friends outside of work, I’ll connect on social media but if we’re only friendly via work, no social media while we work together (and it is highly unlikely after).

      1. Rayray*

        I agree with you. I had a couple people from my last job I was friendd with on facebook because I genuinely liked them and had more in common with them. My current job is at a very small business and I simply haven’t connected with anyone and don’t have an actual friendship with any of them aside form being colleagues so I wouldn’t friend them. I’m also one of those people who’s just on Facebook but I haven’t actually posted a status update (do they still call it that?) in years, and I don’t comment much. I guess it’s just nice to be “Connected”.

    4. Artemesia*

      Having a policy i.e. ‘Oh I never attend sales parties’ ‘oh I never friend those I work with’ ‘I never drink at lunch’ ‘we never lend the car to anyone’ is just very useful. It is written in stone; you don’t have to have a discussion of why, because it is ‘just my policy.’

  9. olive juice*

    For OP 1, if you want a low key way to reject the location tracking, another option is to say you never have location turned on to save battery. (For me that’s true!)
    I have all the location stuff turned off unless I’m actively driving somewhere, so there’s minimal data to track anyway. (But definitely just say no if you can, because this is overboard.)

      1. Artemesia*

        Yeah no reasons. Reasons are for arguing. ‘Oh I have strict privacy settings’ and be done with it hoping she thinks it is a tech thing.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Making excuses will only lead to boss providing a counter argument to why she could do it.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Yep. Never give excuses when establishing firm boundaries. It only gives the boundary pushers an opening to remove the objection.

        1. Jamie*

          Agreed. Few things would make me angrier than this request and I’d have to be super clear (and hopefully professional) with not only that it’s not going to happen but why I felt it wildly inappropriate to even ask.

          Not gonna lie – my professionalism would be challenged on this one.

          1. Artemesia*

            Our bank account pings the phone with every purchase we make; this is a good thing — we caught a cloned card use and shut it down immediately for example. BUT it means my husband always knows where I am and what I am spending and vice versa. This is not a threat to our relationship — we don’t have control issues or spending issues BUT it is still just slightly creepy. Having a boss monitor me like this or my parents or pretty much anyone would be a non starter. Nope. nope. nope.

  10. SomePTSDChick*

    OP5, I’m 28 and no social media for similar reasons. I find people who ask me aren’t interested in why *I* personally don’t use social media, it’s more of a “oh, avoiding something so common! I’m curious about this!”

    Common follow-ups for me include “but how do you see your friend’s pics/news” – easy, my friends text them to me, or “how do you stay in touch with people” – email, generally. Underscores the point that people are comparing your lifestyle to theirs, much the same way that if someone told me they didn’t drink caffeine I might be like “but how do you stay awake?” – it’s half-rhetorical.

    My answer is very much along the lines of “just not my thing!”- and the “why” is a direction people don’t tend to press in. If I need to follow that up, I say “personal choice!” but with that bright, cheerful tone that’s often mentioned here.

    I dunno if it’s a PTSD thing (I think it’s hypervigilance for me), but if something seems connected in my head to deeper, darker PTSD reasons, I’m 100x more anxious about it. Most people, however, are just making conversation (fellow human, let’s interact) and don’t even think about it.

    1. Dan*

      I’m 40 and don’t do FB, mostly because plastering my life across the internet doesn’t appeal to me. But really, I’m not sure I’ve actually “needed” to explain to anybody why I don’t use it. A simple “no FB here” has always worked. Enough people use it where I thought I’d be looked at as a freak of nature at some point, but… it just hasn’t ever been a thing. It may not hurt that I live in an area where what one posts on social media can have very real consequences over one’s ability to get certain types of jobs, so perhaps there’s more people than I think that don’t do the whole FB thing.

      If I were so inclined to get on my soap box, I’d be ranting about how big “Big Tech” is getting, and just how much control it/they have over peoples’ lives whether we or they like it or not. Says the guy who works in tech.

    2. Angelinha*

      Yeah, OP I wonder if you can pretend to yourself that you don’t have big reasons for not being on social media. I wonder if you’re feeling anxious about having to disclose this past trauma, which is totally understandable, but you don’t have to disclose anything. Can you pretend to yourself that you just don’t like it or never got into it, and use that frame of mind when answering questions about it?

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I find it really cute when people [usually those who aren’t that internet savvy] try to ask me about my use of or non-use of social media.

      My social media is for my far and away friends. The friends that I have close by, yeah we hangout…we catch up by hanging out, bro. Or we email because it’s just like the old fashioned pen-pal setup instead of being a megaphone going to the masses. I don’t generally need to share very specific details of things with…the entire range of my friends, family and colleagues.

      These are also the same people who gasp and wonder how I haven’t been murdered by “internet strangers” yet.

  11. nnn*

    For #2, sometimes offers to throw a baby shower are code for “We want an excuse to meet the baby”

    If your office has a culture of people bringing new babies in for a visit and this is something you’re open to doing, declining the offer of the shower and adding “But I will pop in with the baby to say hi once we’re all settled in.”

    This way, you aren’t explicitly asking your employees for anything (not even a small cake), but you’re still providing people with an opportunity to celebrate the baby so they’ll stop trying to plan baby celebrations themselves.

    And if it turns out they really do want to eat cake and/or shop for small adorable baby stuff as opposed to just wanting to meet the baby, refreshments and gifts will end up happening whenever you bring the baby in, but the dynamic will be more “This is for this tiny little new person” rather than “This is for the boss.”

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      He could bring tge baby and a cake. Like bringing cupcakes to share when it’s your own birthday.

      1. LilySparrow*

        That’s a nice idea! But be sure to tell the person who normally arranges for cakes, so they don’t duplicate. (IME, the Cake Person is usually a bit sensitive about being appreciated – or perhaps being the Cake Person wears on you that way.)

  12. Lady Heather*

    OP1 – if you want to dodge the question, you can make it about privacy concerns about the app. “I looked at the app’s privacy statement and they actually SELL the user’s data! That’s just so disturbing to me and I’d rather not have that done to me.”

    (I briefly looked up the app – didn’t read the privacy statement, I don’t need to to know they sell your information. I did scan the list of permissions they want, and it’s almost every permission an app can have.)

    However – I’m not sure if I would advise this route because she might try to fix the problem by mandating hourly checkins or finding a different app or …

    As (I think) Captain Awkward says: ‘No’ is a complete sentence.
    You don’t owe an explanation and an explanation might give the impression that the matter is up for discussion.

    1. Ico*

      Not sure what you’re basing that assertion on, but if the OP doesn’t want to share with their boss (and they shouldn’t), lying about the contents of a privacy policy and throwing around some baseless accusations is not the way to go about it.

        1. Lady Heather*

          I thought all commercial apps sold data for ad revenue – and I looked up the Android version, as I have a Samsung. My mistake.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      Ok, so the Captain Awkward line is good, but really only applicable to certain situations – and your boss’s requests and instructions aren’t in that category. You *are* going to have to have something better. I’d suggest “I’m sorry, I’m not comfortable wearing a tracking device.”

  13. April*

    OP2, I think people want to help! I know if my boss adopted a baby I’d get him something whether he wanted it or not. I don’t think you can do a registry necessarily but you’ll just have to take the gifts you get and say thank you! If you never use them then c’est la vie. People just want to say welcome little one and buy something cute. You can donate everything to someplace like baby2baby if you want. I agree with the other comments that maybe leading it yourself and scheduling a day/time for a baby visit and saying {baby} will be stopping by Monday at 4 p.m. if you want to meet them!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The problem is that it’s inappropriate for a manager to do anything that solicits gifts from people she manages. If someone gives a gift unsolicited, by all means accept it graciously. But a shower is soliciting gifts and that’s not okay because of the power dynamics.

      1. April*

        I just know at my workplace people would put together a shower no matter what, that’s where I was coming from. Just one perspective.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          That sounds kind, but it’s also problematic. There are a ton of reasons why someone wouldn’t want a baby shower, and a lot of those reasons are private. No matter what, if someone says no to a baby shower, that’s not something you argue with. So I’d rethink your general policy.

          1. WellRed*

            +1. It’s like those letters we see where people absolutely do not want to celebrate their birthday and their coworkers insist. Nothing like forced fun.

        2. TotesMaGoats*

          If I had told my team to not throw me a shower when I had my baby, especially given that they knew we had struggled to have a baby in the first place, it would have been horribly awkward. Our team celebrated as a general rule, everyone. I know the rules on gifting and generally agree that you don’t gift up but I’m not sure a new baby is the hard line to hold. I know I stand on the outside on this issue.

          1. Inefficient Cat Herder*

            In the US federal government, “life events” such as marriage and new baby are exceptions to the absolute “no gifting up”, though dollar restrictions still apply.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Just chiming in to agree – I had to do my annual refresher training last week. And my training is very explicit on what constitutes “major life event” that qualifies as an exception to the no gifting up, and also very very clear on how much you can spend both individually and as a group.

        3. Rugby*

          Yeah, I can understand where you’re coming from with this. I’ve worked in offices where everyone is close to each other and it would be really weird to let a major life milestone go by without celebrating it in someway.

        4. remizidae*

          Please don’t do baby showers if the person having the baby doesn’t want them! I have a huge problem with them myself–how they function to pressure everyone to reproduce, the gender roles, and the general idea that all life milestones need to be celebrated by buying a bunch of Stuff.

    2. Flash Bristow*

      That reminds me, my food bank runs a baby bank too; maybe there’s something like that nearby, so you know any gifts are going to where they are most needed.

      And congratulations!

    3. Dan*

      People may *want* to “help”, but that doesn’t mean they *get* to help. Besides, buying something cute that someone just has to donate isn’t “helping”, it’s making extra work for them.

      In general, I’ve got real problems going against people’s expressed wishes. If someone has actually said, “don’t get me anything” (and *especially* if that someone is a boss) for the love of god, *please* don’t get them anything.

      1. April*

        In the letter it sounds like OP hasn’t said don’t get me anything, obviously if they said that you’d do as requested. Most boss’ would wimp out on saying this directly to anyone IMHO. BTW, curious if you have kids because getting cute sh*t you don’t need is just part of the whole “having a baby” process.

        1. Avasarala*

          Sure but I can see a situation where Wakeen, avid AAM reader and staunch supporter of “gifts flow down” philosophy, doesn’t want to give OP Boss a baby gift. And OP Boss has said “please nobody give me gifts.” But Jane and Fergus are so excited about lil bebes that they insist and throw a shower anyway, or try to crowdfund a gift card, or give gifts themselves anyway. And then Wakeen is the only one who didn’t give boss a gift despite boss saying no–was he supposed to get one anyway? Is boss going to think he doesn’t like OP? Will Wakeen look like the odd one out? etc. etc.

          There’s nothing wrong with getting cute stuff from your friends, but it’s awkward when it looks like bribing your boss.

          1. Dan*

            To April’s question, no, I don’t have kids, and that’s why this topic drives me absolutely nuts in the work environment. With my friends, yeah, you get the cute shit. At work? I don’t want to spend money on my boss (and, for the most part, my coworkers either, sorry) and I really, really, don’t want my peers pressuring me into spending money upward… which happens exactly as you describe.

            I don’t care that my coworkers *want* to violate certain work place norms, I do care when I get guilted/pressured into it.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        “Besides, buying something cute that someone just has to donate isn’t ‘helping’, it’s making extra work for them.”

        PREACH! I have so much useless stuff taking up space in my closet waiting for me to 1) remember to load it in the trunk of my car and 2) actually have time and energy to take it to a donation center. While I appreciate the intention of the people who gave me those things, I would have really rather gotten a thoughtful handwritten note instead. A gift isn’t a gift if it’s a burden.

    4. Policy Wonk*

      In the government this is one of the rare exceptions to the prohibition on giving the boss gifts valued at more than $5.00 – a rare life time event (wedding, baby, retirement). I don’t know your workplace, but in mine we love any excuse to have cake so someone on my staff would be pushing for a shower or party. I’d recommend you agree to some sort of celebration with the stipulation of NO GIFTS. Some people will want to bring gifts anyway, so expect questions about what you need, and prepare an answer. We don’t need anything, thanks – my family really came through and cleaned out the registry!.

    5. JSPA*

      I can’t imagine, unless OP has massive storage space, that they pre-bought enough diapers for the first two years of life. “Chip in on a single bag of diapers from the whole office” can be a very inexpensive, mostly-symbolic way for people to feel that they’re helping in the most direct way possible.

      Even if it’s not the perfect diaper, it will still be incredibly welcome when it’s 2 AM and you realize that what you thought was a bag of the regular sort is actually something else.

    6. Qwerty*

      OP2, if you think some members of your team will feel this way and associate party = gift, a good workaround is to having a non-material / non-monetary option. For example, I’ve seen plenty of wedding showers that ask guests to bring a favorite recipe or piece of marriage advice in lieu of a gift. It gives people an outlet for wanting to contribute something, without them having to buy anything.

      I’m not sure what the baby equivalent of these would be, but maybe some other commentators have baby-related ideas.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Recommendations for their favorite kids books or something like that maybe? Parenting advice would probably be weird coming from employees, but maybe sharing funny kid stories (either from their own children or from themselves as children)?

  14. Lady Heather*

    OP 2: I would be pissed if I offered to throw someone who had power over me a gift-giving party and they said “I’d rather have money, thanks.”
    First – If I were a person that liked parties (I’m not) it’s because now I’m losing money and not getting a party.
    Second- I AM a person who loves-loves-loves gift-giving. I love looking for hours through online retailers, thinking about the person, have they mentioned anything specific they like, even just in passing? Is this The Perfect Gift? I get excited just thinking about it. Then it arrives, and I unbox it, look at it, try to wrap it in a beautiful or funny way, and every day until the gift-giving day arrives I’m a little bit excited.

    When I give money, I worry about what to write in the card and it never seems right.

    When I offer a gift, I’m proposing a trade: you get stuff, I get to feel good, we’re both happy. (And I’m good at picking out stuff people like.)
    You don’t get to turn that into a demand for money (it feels like a demand even socially – let alone if it’s a manager ‘voicing a preference!). Because giving money means: you get money, I get to worry about the card, about the amount offending you, about the amount being more than I was really willing to give and what it says about me that I gave it anyway, and to top it all off, all these bad feelings COST. ME. MONEY.
    No. Don’t do that.

    If you want something you’ll certainly use, ask for diapers. If you want to be nice, ask for ‘your favourite brand because we’re still testing things out!’ So that people get to put thought in it if they want to, and otherwise just say ‘my sister uses this’ or ‘this one had the most per box and babies need a lot!’

    Don’t ask for money.

    1. MK*

      But a gift isn’t supposed to be a trade. The whole point is that you are giving something with getting anything in return. And anyway, getting stuff you don’t in want so that the giver can feel good about themselves is hardly a fair trade.

      I do agree the OP shouldn’t ask for money.

      1. Lady Heather*

        I disagree about it not being a fair trade – I decide how I want to spend my money, and I prefer spending money on things that cause me to feel good (gifts) and not on things that cause me to feel bad and anxious (cards with money in them).
        (And if someone wants to put something I gave them on ebay – I hope they get a good price for it.)

        I think – if we all decide how we spend our own money, and our managers don’t try to butt in by requests-that-you-aren’t-sure-you-can-decline, we’ll be alright.

        1. MK*

          Everyone in entitled to spend their money how they want, but I think the point of giving a gift is to be thoughtful and generous to another person. Putting something on ebay, or returning it, or even donating it, is creating work for the person who received it, so they get something they might not want and they have to spend time and effort to convert it into something they can use, while the person who gave the gift got to do something they enjoy (shopping) and the feeling that they are being generous. In my view, that’s going against the spirit of gift-giving and generosity in general, which is supposed to benefit the person who receives the gift, not the one who gives it.

        2. Nicole*

          It’s really unfair to force someone to be a gift recipient because it makes *you* feel good. What makes ignoring someone’s wishes regarding gifts any different from doing anything else to someone without their consent? It’s honestly kind of selfish, IMO.

          1. Lady Heather*

            I’m perfectly comfortable not giving a gift if so requested. I’m not comfortable giving money in lieu of a gift if so requested. I don’t force anyone into being a gift recipient and I’m not sure where you read that I do.

        3. PVR*

          My MIL is this way and insists on buying things. And is all about finding the best deals on things so she can gift even MORE things. The problem is two fold. While not exactly minimalist, I hate clutter. Too much stuff overwhelms me and actually makes me anxious. Also I prefer experiences to things. So she insists on giving gifts, instead of something that would mean a lot to me like concert tickets or what have you and then I am tasked with finding places to store so much stuff. Often the things she chooses are not things I have any use for, they clothes that don’t fit or aren’t my style, or random cluttery decorating things I don’t have a place to display in my home or even sometimes very specialized serving dishes like nut or olive plates. I… literally don’t know what to do with those as I will just eat them out of the jar? I have taken to donating a lot of it but then I feel horribly guilty. So her gifts have become a source of stress for me. I understand not wanting to give cash or a gift card, and I love a thoughtful gift, but giving a gift should be about the person you are giving to it to, to make them happy.

    2. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

      None of what you’ve said is universal, though; I’m the opposite. It’s all moot in this case, though, since LW’s the boss so neither gifts nor money should flow up.

    3. 867-5309*

      Unrelated to OP, I love the idea of throwing a “diaper party” where people just bring that for the parents to be. They go through diapers so quickly and they are so expensive!

      1. Lady Heather*

        We don’t do baby showers in my country – instead, when the baby is born, people’ll come for visits and bring a gift. Usually something small – and all baby visit etiquette guidelines recommend bringing diapers. That’s where I got the idea.

        Of course, the visits warrant a series of Miss Manners columns in itself. (Don’t bring your sickly or hyperactive children. Don’t stay too long. Don’t demand the baby be woken up, or that you get to hold them, or that they get to suck on your nicotine-stained fingers. And that’s not even going into the whole ‘don’t critique the mother!’ territory.)

    4. AdoptedBaby'sMomma*

      As stated above we would never ask for money but we don’t need anything else. Not even diapers. Not books really either. We have been very blessed to have a large close friend and family base that has helped us with all of that. We also would never say anything untoward to a gift received that wasn’t requested (what a weird thing to write and say!). We don’t require gifts, but are unsure of how to say “no, we don’t need a shower, but thank you for offering” without offending those who are gracious people like you who WANT to do something nice for us.

      1. JSPA*

        Diapers are always in high demand at food banks / organizations that serve homeless families. Asking for “diapers for the food bank” might let the givers feel warm and fuzzy, and get diapers to people who really need them. Would that work???

        1. AdoptedBaby'sMomma*

          This is good idea too! Thanks to Bagpuss and Washi below for similar recommendations.

          My husband’s office culture is a little quirky. And I BELIEVE that most of the push for a party is coming from coworkers and not any of his direct reports.

          We have taken baby boy up a couple of times to introduce him to coworkers and friends in our respective jobs, but nothing for more than a pop-in visit.

          I think the recommendation of us surprising the office with treats and a baby visit is a good idea. Then if individual gift givers bring something in later they can just give directly and privately to my Hubby.

      2. Anon for this*

        Congratulations on your baby! I too adopted a newborn. Not to derail but just had to say congratulations! We looked into grants as one letter writer mentioned and most are very specific with very specific deadlines. It is not as easy to qualify for a grant as some who have never been through this would think. But at one time there was a significant tax break for families who adopted. I don’t know if that is still available but given you will be doing your taxes in a couple of months you will want to look into that. It resulted in a huge refund for us. Everyone’s situation is different of course. I think you will have to politely decline the shower but offer to bring in the baby (if you are comfortable doing so and knowing people will want to hold him…I was NOT.) and maybe bring cupcakes like someone suggested. But there is no way that you can accept a baby shower unfortunately.
        Congratulations again. I know what an emotional roller coaster this is.

        1. AdoptedBaby'sMomma*

          Thanks! yeah, I don’t know if we will get the tax break for 2019 or for 2020. MY company also provides reimbursement expenses once finalized as well. So there are plans to help with the loans we took out to make this possible.

          It’s always just an awkward conversation when people are like “what can we help you with, what do you need?” We adopted from out of state and spent more than a couple of days living out of a hotel in a not big midwestern city. Friends sent us money and coupons for food delivery. We literally couldn’t use it because where we were staying the restaurants didn’t have those options.

          I think its just a by-product of being an adult too. When family goes “what do you want for your birthday or christmas” I’ve turned into asking for things so I can get our house picked up and giftcards. Which comes across really impersonal, but its what I want.

          I know that from now on Hubby and I will get no presents because they will all go to the baby. :)

      3. Bagpuss*

        Can you actually say “thanks so much, it’s really thoughtful of you, but honestly, our families were so excited about the baby that we already have everything we ned and more, and to be honest, a shower would made me really unconfortable becaue I don’t feel it’s appropriate for gifts to flow upwards to a boss.

        But I would love to show youall some pictures of baby, we are such proud parents”

        And then maybe bring in cupcakes and some pictures you can pass round .

        that way you are letting people share the excitement, and showing off the gorgeous new addition to your family, and if you don’t ttell peopl in advnace which day you plan to bring cake, hopefully no one can turn it into a shower.

        If people are really pushy, perhaps you can say “I really couldn’t accept a gift, and I know you are too generous to put me in the awkward position of having to return anything to you”

        Congratualtions, by the way, on your baby!

        1. Washi*

          I agree with all of this! Some people might just feel weird about this huge occasion go by without any kind of recognition, so even just bringing in some grocery store cupcakes and pictures might make it feel “celebrated.” (I also think a no-gifts party would be fine, if you have an office culture like my last job that loves having potlucks for every possible occasion.)

      4. Gaia*

        Since you don’t need anything, but don’t want to offend people who really want to give, I would suggest something like “thank you for thinking of us! We are very lucky to have everything we need, but we recognize not everyone is in the same position. Rather than something for us, perhaps you would consider donating to [local baby bank/crisis nursery/mother and child shelter]?”

      5. LilySparrow*

        I think you’re fine to say, “As the boss, it’s just not right for me to make people feel like they have to give me a present. I’d love to bring the baby in and have a little party, but please don’t make it a shower. That puts me in an awkward position.”

        Reasonable people will understand, and unreasonable people – well, if you manage them I guess you know they’re going to be unreasonable about something.

      6. Third or Nothing!*

        How about a party where people just bring cards with thoughtful messages inside, like notes for the baby to read at a certain age or parenting advice or what have you? That way they still get to celebrate and contribute something meaningful.

    5. kittymommy*

      “Second- I AM a person who loves-loves-loves gift-giving. I love looking for hours through online retailers, thinking about the person, have they mentioned anything specific they like, even just in passing? Is this The Perfect Gift? I get excited just thinking about it. Then it arrives, and I unbox it, look at it, try to wrap it in a beautiful or funny way, and every day until the gift-giving day arrives I’m a little bit excited.

      When I give money, I worry about what to write in the card and it never seems right.”

      Are we twins??!! Seriously, this is completely me (except the parties. I like parties because of cake.) and as much as I love giving greeting cards I never, ever know what to write in them. And don’t even get me started on gift cards – I have now taken to giving gift cards/money in a box that I then wrap.

    6. Washi*

      Yeah, for me the fun kind of gift giving is a relationship-builder. Thinking through the other person’s needs really carefully, and figuring out something that’s useful, fun, but not something they would think to get themselves. That’s what the value-added in gift giving is for me, otherwise it feels like we’re all just inefficiently passing around the same $20 at various points in our lives!

      This is also why I don’t think giving coworkers gifts really belongs in the workplace. We don’t have the kind of relationship that makes gift giving fun, so I’d rather just eat tasty treats together to celebrate, rather than constantly forking over $10-20/month (my last job was super celebration-heavy) for various birthdays/retirements/showers.

      1. Scion*

        But the OP has thought about their needs carefully (and is in a *much* better position to do so than you), and has decided that money is the most useful thing for them.

        This is actually a very common conclusion for things like weddings/baby showers. You could spend $20 to get them some random item, that they might or might not use, or you could give them the $20 and they can decide how to use it best.

        Giving them cash is much more efficient than buying them a gift, because they can allocate it in the most ideal way for them, rather than you guessing what the best method is.

    7. AnotherAlison*

      LH – Please consider this: For all the objections you have about giving money, the receiver may have equally strong objections about receiving a gift. You are making the gift-giving about the pleasure you receive from doing it. It’s not supposed to be about you. It’s about doing something that the recipient perceives as nice. My mother is this way, and makes it about her. She nags me and my family about giving her a list. She complains about the list and how there’s nothing fun to buy on it (for 2 adults in their 40s and kids that are 22 and 15), and then she gets us what she picked out. She is not open to opting out of family gift exchanging or money/gift cards. It takes a little bit of happiness away from Christmas for me because it becomes a stressful thing.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I don’t think my mom would describe her ways quite the same as I did, though. ; )

          I’d like to see all the people who love to give and the people who love to receive paired up, and people like me could be left out of the whole process.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Seems pretty much the same to me, with the focus on the person buying the gift rather than on the recipient. Obviously you can do whatever you want with your money but it is baffling to me that anyone would *prefer* to spend money on something that will immediately get thrown away or donated over something that the recipient can actually use. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      1. Lady Heather*

        I hear you – and I’ll take extra note of the ‘consent’ issue and not forcing people to accept gifts or participate in list-giving. I’m actually not always the best or most willing gift-receiver myself – I hate trinkets (and so does the rest of the house) so we have a ‘souvernirs must be edible or usable’ policy here.
        I don’t want to be the person that makes people unconfortable.

        Also, maybe I ought to disclaim that I don’t recall the last time I gave a gift to someone who had less income than I have. I think that matters some – when someone poor gives ten per cent of their income to someone more affluent, that may be a one per cent gain for them. That’s probably shaping my view. Because what I do is – I listen for people to mention their interests (they mention someone they admire? Let’s see if they’ve written a book! If so, put it on the potential-gift-list I keep for them!) Or I see something that makes me think of someone, and I’ll put it on the list. Then, when their birthday or Christmas comes around, I look at the list, and search retailers, and browse catalogues, and try to find the perfect gift. And I like to think (maybe it’s just what I tell myself to feel better about myself – but I don’t think that’s a crime in this instance) that by spending my eight dollars on buying a book I knew my sister would enjoy but probably wouldn’t have thought to buy herself (if only because she’s rarely in the town that bookstore is in), I give her something she didn’t have. Whereas if I’d given her eight dollars, it’s very likely her response would be a variation of ‘you’re poor and I’m less so, why are you giving me money?’

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I appreciate your receptiveness to my comment, and I appreciate what you’re trying to do for others. You sound like you have reasonable expectations. (I’m also not really a big fan of exchanging cash with my family. One, I remember back when we were broke and my mom gave us $500 for Xmas to spend on family portraits. I spent <$100 at one of those chain studios and the rest on things we needed. You don't get to tell me how to spend the "gift". Now, I don't need any money, and I would never expect a gift large enough to be a meaningful cash gift, so it is kind of like your $8 example.)

  15. Lena Clare*

    #3 are you still there at this job? This does indeed sound discriminatory. I wonder what else your boss is doing ‘under the radar’ that is illegal practice! And it doesn’t sound like they’re worried about the walking at all – they’re concerned for when their employee would have to take maternity leave!

    #5 yep, just say “Oh it’s not for me!” and change the subject. Most people don’t care about why you’re not on social media (I mean this in the kindest way!) because they’re only bothered about themselves.

    I’m not on FB myself and I have a personal Twitter which none of my work colleagues know about because it’s under a different name. I think it’s absolutely fine to have those boundaries.

    One of the (many) things I dislike about FB is the boundary-blurring. Many of my colleagues are FB friends on their personal accounts with volunteers we work with. That to me seems squicky.

    1. OP Number 3*

      No, I left this position- by the time I left, Fiona was promoted to CFO (which leads to the question, “why is the CFO the direct supervisor for 20+ entry level assistants…?”). But as I mentioned in a comment above, her inappropriate behavior extended far beyond the pregnancy questions and she was fired after extensive albeit failed training with HR.

  16. Dennis Feinstein*

    Also, if she continues to insist on meeting your partner so she can “approve of him” (wtf), try saying, “Ha, imagine if you really meant that — that would be so odd!”

    LOL. This made me snort!

    1. Hornswoggler*

      Yes – it’s like – oh, OK. So if you think he’s not good enough, I have to dump him?! All of my whats.

    2. Introvert*

      Ditto. I figured I should search for Alison’s quote instead of starting my own thread. :D

      That quote alone, Alison, makes coming here to read your thoughts worthwhile. Even if nothing else had any value, that quote by itself justifies your entire blog.

  17. Marmaduke*

    I hate baby showers, so after my daughter was born, we had something called a “sip and see” where family and friends were invited over for punch, snacks, and an eyeful of new baby. We had the things we needed already, so anybody who asked to help out was asked to bring a food item (one was assigned a veggie tray, another cupcakes, another crackers, etc.). That might be an appropriate option? It’s fun for those who want to see the baby, fulfilling for those who want to help, and free snacks with no pressure for everyone else.

    1. The Original K.*

      Just curious, is this a southern tradition? (The first time I heard of it was on Real Housewives of Atlanta; I’m a lifelong urban northeasterner.) I have of course come over to “meet the baby,” but in general it was less formal/organized than what it sounds like a sip and see is.

      1. Hope*

        Not that I’m aware of (grew up in the South). This is the first I’ve ever heard of a Sip & See, but I can see why it would catch on.

        1. Marmaduke*

          Growing up in the Midwest, I’d been told that it was a Southern tradition, one that I always wanted to adopt. I’d moved to Alabama by the time my kiddo was born… and nobody here had ever heard of it! But we did it anyway, because snacks and baby snuggles sounded much more inviting than a roomful of women watching me awkwardly open presents and waddle around playing silly games at 30+ weeks.

      2. Alli525*

        From anecdotal experience I think it’s slightly more common in the South. When I moved to the Northeast I learned about “wetting the baby’s head” which is (I believe) an old Irish tradition where the dad would take the baby to a bar to meet his friends (and presumably spill a pint or five on the kiddo).

  18. MistOrMister*

    OP5, I have no social media and am very happy with that. I used to have FB and found it made me feel left out and depressed. I feel much happier and grounded without it. That being said, it almost never comes up in my life, ever. I cannot remember the last time someone asked to connect on social media. I would hope people at work wouldn’t ask you why you’re not on it if they ask to add you. That’s just so not their business. It should be more than enough to say you tried it and found it wasn’t for you. You’re definitely not the only one out here who doesn’t use it!

  19. 867-5309*

    OP5, There is a societal backlash against Facebook and the like, so most people will probably be jealous that you aren’t on the platform.

    Blame the privacy violations and fake news!

    1. Rectilinear Propagation*

      This is a good point but it invites a political discussion which the LW may want to avoid at work.

  20. The Meow*

    LW1: I can’t imagine a boss with such limited understanding of boundaries being an effective leader in the workplace. I have a colleague who tells her direct reports to call her “Mama” (wtf). She is really proud of this and cites it as an example of how friendly she is with her team. Her inappropriateness spills into other areas as well, such as sending rude emails when she’s annoyed and getting sulky over petty issues that no one else cares about.

    It is absolutely fine to decline your boss’s request to share your location. “Oh, I don’t feel comfortable with that!” – repeat as required. If she keeps pushing you please talk to a higher up because this is a bizarre demand and any reasonable employer will want to know if one of their managers is making a weird boundary crossing request like this.

    1. Scarlet2*

      Yeah, anyone who wants to GPS-track an employee and feels entitled to “assess” their partner isn’t an any way, shape or form, reasonable. And I’m ready to bet they’re inappropriate and boundary-stomping in a myriad other ways.
      It looks like LW is not really in a position to leave at the moment, but I hope they have plans to get out of that mess asap.

    2. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      “Mama.” No. Just NO.

      Plus: Just pictured that musical number from Chicago. “When you’re good to Mama, Mama’s good to you.”

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Argh! Now I’ve got a racy earworm in my head…

        … And a good friend who is like family is coming over later. Except I have to have some *very* clearly defined boundaries with them, put it this way.

        So I do NOT wanna find myself singing that one later on! Damn, I’ll see if I can find something to replace it with! (No suggestions tho – don’t wanna derail! I’ll go and listen to the Littlest Hobo tune or something…)

        Coming back to topic, I’ve only ever had male managers or team leads, usually around ten years older than me and parents themselves, but I’m trying to think how I’d feel of any of them had said “ach, call me daddy” as they affectionately patted me on the shoulder in a fatherly manner. OMG, no!

        Mama seems just as bad (especially given the context in that song!) even if it’s said to another, younger, woman. Or any employee really! Maybe if there’s an office cat you could be its mama? But…

        … nope, my head is surprisingly spun by this one. I think I’ve used my stack of exclamation marks for the week already.

        Alison, well done in finding some wording and responses for this kind of situation while the rest of us are still at the “OMG What?!” stage.

    3. WorkIsADarkComedy*

      The mothering likely also manifests in a lot of other obnoxious ways, too.

      LW1, if you’re not already doing so, put your Mama Boss on a severe information diet. Don’t volunteer any personal information, and when questioned on personal matters deflect, redirect the conversation to business matters, be as vague as possible, and even be willing to tell white lies. She has no right to information on your personal life, and is violating the social contract by being so up in your business.

      Try to make all your interactions about your private life as boring as possible, so that Mama Boss gets no reward whatsoever from these conversations. Keep your sentences short, focus on matters that you know she could care less about, and bring the conversations back to business matters at every opportunity.

      The goal is to cause her to go elsewhere to get her mothering fix.

      Good luck, and I hope you’re able to get to a less toxic job before too log!

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Exactly. I get that it’s OP’s boss, but that doesn’t mean she gets to push boundaries any more than a colleague. I had a mom, don’t need another one, and there’s no way in hell I would let my manager “mother” me.

        “Why do you need to know my location? Are you concerned I’m not doing my job?”
        “I’m not going to do that, it’s inappropriate.”

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Also… I don’t know what transport systems exist near you OP1, but in my case I’d say, IF she pushed it, “Look it’d be pointless anyway. I’ll lose signal as soon as I’m underground, and in other places, and you’d only be worrying where I was. I’m not going to put you through that, like I wouldn’t for friends or family either”.

          That also has the point of implying “and you’re not family or a friend”.

          I had another thought too; is it a company supplied & funded phone, or your personal one? I mean, nobody should want to be tracking their employee on errands like that, but if it’s your personal phone I think that’s the end of it – “no, I don’t enable that on my phone”.

          Oh boy do I feel for you OP1.

    4. Jamie*

      Wow. There are three people in the world who can call me Mama, and my name is on their birth certificates.

      What do people get out of these contrived “relationships” at work?

  21. The Meow*

    LW2: It’s not appropriate for managers to ask for money. Ever. Please don’t do this! There are many options to give gifts even on a budget. But when giving cash people will feel pressured to give a certain amount; usually above their gift budget. Even if some people can comfortably afford it will come across as odd for a manager to ask for cash. Is it really worth creating a perception of you as a greedy or inappropriate manager who asks their team for money? (I’m not saying you are greedy or inappropriate; but it can be interpreted that way even without such intent.) Trust your gut on this one and ask for good wishes instead.

  22. Glenn*

    OP4: I am curious to hear what other commenters say about this, because I would consider it absolutely not acceptable for someone to be sending emails with my name on them. It would be fine for the message to be “From:” the recruiter but mention my name, but I absolutely would go to the mat over someone insisting on signing my name to their emails, let alone doing it without my knowledge. I have never heard of such a practice, with the exception of personal assistants etc. signing for their bosses, which is different.

    Alison’s response seems to assume you’re a manager, but you said “interviewer” in your email, so I am not making the same assumption (I’d love to hear who’s got it right.) I haven’t been a manager but I can’t believe I’d be any happier about this if I were.

    My name is my brand, and interviewees at one company are liable to be my friends, my network, and my coworkers at another company. I would find it like, through-the-looking-glass bizarre if I got into a conversation with someone at a conference, and thereby found out about an email “I” wrote to them, which they believed was from me, that I’d never seen. (God forbid it also had typos in it.)

    1. cncx*

      in the jurisdiction where i work (not us uk or canada however), it’s illegal to send something in someone’s name that is not from them, with the exception of form mails that are the same for everyone with a pre-approved text, and things that would normally require explicit consent, like a secretary sending something “on behalf of” in outlook.

    2. OP4*

      I’m not a manager, just an experienced employee, although I didn’t read Alison’s response as assuming I’m a manager.

      I don’t think it’s likely that anyone I’m interviewing is going to be someone in my network; if they were, I’d have to recuse myself from the interview process. But the my-name-is-my-brand thing definitely feels true, and yeah, the discovering “I” had sent people emails second-hand was definitely uncomfortable.

      Nonetheless it is useful to know that it’s reasonably common practice; there are a lot of common practices in industry that I don’t like, and Alison’s response is the steer I was after about how to engage with it.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Could you ask that they either sign it “their name, pp OP4” (and ideally let you have a copy of the form mail they’re sending everyone so you know what’s been sent), or sign in their name but indicate you as a CC? (And again, make sure they do send you at least a copy of the template?)

        Even better if they run the template by you first, but at least this way it doesn’t directly look like you wrote it and let it out in that exact manner yourself; you’re just aware of the contents / gist, and asked someone else to sort it out for you.

        (Love how email still uses the term CC when it stands for Carbon Copied, but hey! Does anyone use Carbon paper in the office anymore?)

    3. Asenath*

      In my field, it’s comparatively common to send out emails (or sometimes letters) over someone else’s name. Sometimes, it’s indicated in some way that the letter is written by Asenath on Fergus’ behalf; sometimes, especially with what are essentially form letters sent to a lot of people with a little individualization, they aren’t. They’re just “signed” by Fergus. Now, of course, Fergus should have seen said letter and checked it for any mistakes initially, but sometimes the letter was originally approved by, say, Jane, who was replaced by Mary who was replaced by Fergus, and the same letter went out over Mary’s and Fergus’ signature without them even seeing it. If there were errors, of course, it should be a simple matter to correct them by contacting Asenath, the person who actually sent them out.

    4. Bree*

      I work in comms, and often send out products on behalf of the senior team. There is absolutely always some kind of approval process, so that everyone is in the loop about what’s being attributed to them! If only so there isn’t mass confusion if a recipient follows up. It could be that someone just missed that step, but this could also be a big warning sign of general sloppiness, which jives with the errors in the letter.

      OP, it’s completely logical to ask that you give permission before an e-mail is sent from your name or from your e-mail address. You can frame it as important for the business to avoid any embarrassing mix-ups, rather than a personal complaint.

    5. Boomerang Girl*

      This happened to me. I worked for a consumer products company and the call center associated were writing and signing my name on form letters to angry customers. One customer responded to me very angry that they had sent her a letter addressed to a different customer. (My return address was on the form letter.) The letter was also full of typos. I finally traced it to the call center and expressed my anger to the manager on having my name misused like that. I thought it was a breach of ethics, but couldn’t get anyone to listen.

  23. Ms Cappuccino*

    5 I haven’t used social media for at least 5 years. When someone asks me if they could add me on Facebook, I simply say that I don’t have it. They rarely ask why. If they do, I explain I find social media boring and a waste of time. People posting their selfies all the time, and commenting about what they had for dinner…No thanks ! Many people are addicted to social media and waste far too much time on it. I could list other reasons to not be on social media but that could be enough for your co-workers if they are nosy.

    1. Agnodike*

      OP #5, I advise against telling someone that something they enjoy is boring and a waste of time. I also don’t have social media and when people ask, I just say “eh, it was stressing me out. Now I spend my time on trashy TV instead.”

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Well, it sure would solve the problem of co-workers trying to connect, on Facebook or otherwise! Lecture people on how stuff they like is a boring waste of time, and invitations just dry right up!

      2. Quill*

        Owning how you spend your time does tend to reroute judgement on it…
        “Yes, I am going to knit and watch garbage lets plays on youtube, what about it?”

      3. Joie de Vivre*

        I have always gone with “never got into it” as a reason I “don’t have” social media.

        *I should say I do – I actually am on multiple platforms, but I chose to put it all under a fake name with privacy settings locked down so no one could find me if they tried. I don’t mix personal and professional, not having social media is way more accepted then me explaining my boundaries, people get offended I won’t make an exception for them (true story)

    2. Shan*

      This sounds exactly like what Avasarala mentioned above… while your personal opinion might be that something is boring and a waste of time, it’s honestly okay to just say “oh, it’s just not my thing!” Especially with colleagues! If someone I work with sincerely asks if I watch reality TV, I can assume it’s because they do, so it’s going to seem pretty rude to start talking about how awful it is and how watching it is a giant waste of time. Sure, it would keep them from asking me about it again, but it would be because they think I’m a jerk.

      1. Ms Cappuccino*

        Saying “it’s not my thing!” would be a more diplomatic way to say that I find something boring, so you’re probably right.
        I just tend to be very direct and I don’t take offense when someone finds my interests boring so I assume the same from others.
        OP can give other reasons. Other reasons could be the invasion of people’s privacy via social media, or the risk of social media addiction/overuse.
        There are so many reasons to not be on social media that OP can easily pick one without disclosing her real reason.

        1. Avasarala*

          Yes, it’s certainly hard when you don’t think a hobby is interesting or worthwhile, and then it turns out you’re talking to someone who likes it!
          Me: Why would anyone watch this garbage, it’s boring and insulting and crude!
          Someone I care about: Oh… I kind of like it…
          Me: …

          Better to be chill about why you don’t use it so you don’t accidentally insult the taste of the person you’re talking to!

  24. Rectilinear Propagation*

    LW#1 – The thing to remember is that she can’t actually make you do it. You won’t be able to make her happy about it and you may not even get her to stop asking, but you can keep telling her ‘No’ every time she asks.

    LW#2 – The only thing I have to add is that if someone does get you something anyway after you say “No gifts”, assuming it isn’t something huge, just accept it graciously. Diapers will get used eventually (worst case you can donate what no longer fits), and you may be surprised to find how useful it can be to have a spare of just about anything else.

    LW#3 – YIKES!

    LW#4 – I’m not in HR but I do find it weird that they didn’t tell you that they were doing this. Maybe because it’s common they assumed you’d be OK with it? Did you start this job or get promoted into a position that interviews recently? Did everyone else who interviews already know?

    LW#5 – I don’t think any of my co-workers are on Twitter and I think a couple of them might have asked about Facebook when I started but no one’s brought it up since. I think I said I only use Facebook for family but the conversation was so not a big deal I don’t remember it well.

    There are a (very) few people who think it’s weird if someone doesn’t have a social media presence. The technical term for them is “nosy”. Chances are good you won’t run into this but if someone does give you any real static about not using social media (actually calling you “weird” or “suspicious”), just laugh and say, “I promise to show you any cute cat photos I come across.”

    1. OP4*

      Our company has a bunch of technical interviewers, of which I’m one; most (if not all) of us were unaware that these emails were being sent, until one of us heard back from a candidate off the back of one of those emails. I’d been interviewing for about a year at the point I heard this; it hadn’t been mentioned in any of the new-interviewer briefings our recruitment team provides.

      A lot of our technical interviewers (myself included) haven’t spent much time working at other companies since we started professional work, so the fact that a lot of us were blindsided by it didn’t necessarily mean that it’s not common. Given Alison’s reply, I suspect the disconnect is that our recruitment team thought it was a sufficiently normal practice that it didn’t warrant telling us about, while it’s simply not something we have ever experienced before.

      1. Gumby*

        There is one aspect of this that might still be really weird. If I went to an interview and talked to, say, 3 different people, I would find it extremely odd to get the rejection email from just one of them unless they were either the hiring manager or HR. Sending it from one specific person makes it feel that that specific person is the one who rejected your candidacy. Coming from HR or the hiring manager makes it feel less personal – like a company/group decision.

  25. cncx*

    I’m normally not a fan of the telling a white lie to someone to soften it but in the case of OP 1, it’s common enough in our societies to say that one is weird about privacy settings on their phone and they don’t have find friends on period.

  26. Beth*

    LW1: Reading your post, it sounds like your boss’ tendency towards massive overstepping goes way beyond this one request. I know you acknowledge that it’s a toxic job and say that you’ve decided to hunker down for a bit anyways, and I’m sure you have reasons for that, but I’m concerned that you’re going to keep hitting this situation (boss does something incredibly unreasonable; you have to figure out how to deal with it; repeat ad nauseam) for as long as you stay there.

    In light of that, you probably need a go-to routine for fending off unreasonable requests. If you take every request seriously, evaluate it, try to find an excuse to get out of it, etc., you’re going to find yourself devoting way too much time and energy to managing her…and probably still agreeing to more than you should/are comfortable with, just because she’ll eventually wear you down on something.

    Give yourself permission to trust your gut; if something feels like an overstep, it’s a no, don’t bother trying to see the other side. (This would be a bad move with a reasonable boss, since they likely would have a reason for making an unusual request…but your boss has terrible judgement and terrible boundaries, and has therefore sacrificed the benefit of the doubt.) Try scripting a couple versions of “no” that you’ll be able to a wide variety of situations. When she does make an unreasonable request, stick to those scripts. Don’t try to explain why not or to convince her that it’s not reasonable; your goal is to shut down the request, not to enlighten her as a person. And check in with yourself regularly to see if your plan to stay there still feels like the right path. Start hunting as soon as you’re not sure; you don’t want to wait until you’re at “hell no” level and then be stuck there for months while you job search!

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yes. With people who push boundaries, providing reasons and making excuses will only fuel them to come up with counter arguments about why you should do what they’re requesting. Just because this is OP’s boss and not a peer doesn’t mean OP can’t push back and ask her to stop.

      “I’m not going to do that. Please stop asking – it’s inappropriate.”

    2. Sara without an H*

      As Captain Awkward says, reasons are for reasonable people. Your boss isn’t reasonable.

      Standardized “no” responses for all skeevy requests, plus a strict information diet, may eventually make you so boring she ignores you.

      And even if you want to tough it out there for a while, you should still have an updated resume and LinkedIn profile ready to go.

    1. Jojo*

      #1 is an ad masquerading as a letter. AAM needs to be a little more skeptical any time someone drops a product name (especially an app whose private information collected is extremely valuable).

        1. annony*

          Yeah, I don’t think anyone is going to read that letter and think “I should totally download that app and track my employees!”

      1. Harper the Other One*

        It would be a very odd ad to talk about how uncomfortable using a feature makes you feel!

        Find My iPhone and Find My Friends are very well known features – my mother who has only ever used Android knows about them. And it’s an important component of the letter to understand that the boss isn’t demanding she install a third-party app, but asking her to turn on a feature that she KNOWS the LW has because of her brand of phone. It makes it harder for the LW to give an excuse like “my phone doesn’t have that feature” and it also makes the boss’ request seem like it falls in a grey area of acceptability, even though it’s actually wildly inappropriate.

        1. kittymommy*

          Yeah, I recently got my first iPhone (for work and I’m still pissy about it) and am a diehard Android person, but Find my iPhone/Find my Friends almost seems like a “brand name is now used for all this type of stuff”, sort of like Kleenex = facial tissues and Q-Tips = cotton swabs.

      2. JSPA*

        That’s like saying “boss is pressuring me to let him drive my Lamborghini” should say “car,” because there’s no relevant information in the brand name except for advertising value.

        As you yourself point out, the details of the app matter: the private information collected is extremely valuable. Thus it makes perfect sense to name the app in question.

        1. Christmas Carol*

          Actually, I think there’s a world of difference between “I want to drive your Lamborghini,” and “I want to drive your car.”

      3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Allison is a major influencer, for sure, but Apple’s marketing team would just approach her directly. Trust me when I say that they are not planting product references around the web via fake advice column letters.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          For one thing, the letter would say “I want to convince my boss that everyone in our company should pay for and use this fabulous and very valuable app I found” rather than “I don’t want to use this app, it would be gross and invasive in this context.”

      4. somanyquestions*

        Because you think Apple is paying people to try to insert product into advice columns? That’s a really odd, paranoid take.

      5. DJ*

        I don’t even know how that could be an ad since it’s not a third-party app? Is it supposed to be an ad for iPhones in general? I don’t think Apple is out here trying to highlight just one of their lesser-used proprietary apps. Especially since this is clearly a creepy situation to use it in.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          And Apple’s current marketing campaign is focused on how Apple protects their customer’s private information.

      6. Mockingjay*

        I can totally believe LW #1. This blog is filled with requests for advice for managers and coworkers overstepping boundaries, whether through nosiness or technology.

        I’ve posted before about a supervisor at ExToxicJob who demanded we link all of our Outlook calendars. Fine, except we weren’t allowed to set any events private,such as personal stuff like dentist appointments for the family. One day I had a couple of family events on the calendar, and Supervisor sent me an email wanting to know if I was going to take leave for those hours. Oy. No, these are just for my awareness.

      7. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I need to comment on this because one time I replied to a letter and was told by a fellow poster that my theory was absurd and had no basis from the facts in the letter. I’m still salty about that and I think my theory was valid and the facts in the letter definitely validated if not proved my hypothesis. Everyone interprets each letter through a unique lens, and everyone has biases and fears and preferences. I do understand Apple-rage. But I also don’t think the letter writer had to go to the extra effort of “my boss wants me to use factory installed tracking app that our phones share to keep track of me,” just to avoid a plug for iPhone. Like on the cooking shows when they say toaster pastries, crisp rice cereal, gelatin molds, frozen ice pops…we know what you mean anyway.

      8. sunny-dee*

        It’s not exactly a brand new, secret app or something. It’s like Facebook Messenger or Internet Explorer or something — everyone knows what it is, and it’s easier to just use the name rather than some weird obfuscation.

      9. serenity*

        The letter is a genuine question and isn’t praising the app, the letter writer is clearly uncomfortable at being asked by their boss to use it!

        How is that remotely like an advertisement? This is an odd and hostile comment to make and seems to not be in the spirit of the commenting guidelines.

        1. Mama Bear*

          Agreed. I don’t think we need to go to the lengths of Not Always Right to hide brand names.

          RE: the actual question, I would be appalled if my boss asked to track me. There’s no legitimate business reason for that. Same with approving the beau. It’s out of line and OP’s boss needs to remember the line between work and privacy. I don’t know if OP did anything to inadvertently encourage this, but I’d be reluctant to share much about my personal life with someone like this, app or no app.

          1. Observer*

            I doubt that the OP did or said anything – keep in mind that this is someone who thinks it’s her place to vet the OP’s boyfriend!

      10. Beth*

        If anything it’s an ad AGAINST the product, which comes off as creepy, invasive, and likely to introduce interpersonal problems that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

    2. Annie*

      Is it possible the pregnancy question was due to all of the equipment in a hospital like x-ray machines and possible contagion could be dangerous to a fetus? Is that a reason to keep pregnant women away from such things, and is that legal?

      Curious.

      1. Quill*

        IIrc from the last time pregnancy was discussed, a job where there’s significant risk to a developing fetus might be able to require disclosure (to get duties temporarily reassigned) when you have the job, but not prior to hiring.

          1. Quill*

            I did read one post from a wildlife biologist where the workplace (which dealt with wolf rehabilitation) had a notice posted that said “we don’t mandate disclosure of pregnancy, but the wolves WILL disclose it for you.” (Apparently the wolves can smell the hormonal change before some people even know they’re pregnant… and will go overprotective of their well known humans.)

            1. Ophelia*

              Pretty far cry from a wolf, but this DEFINITELY happened with my dog once upon a time, and I’ve heard lots of similar anecdata.

      2. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        It’s not! You can’t prohibit people from working on the basis of their pregnant condition (or the possibility that they might become pregnant later), even if the work could harm a fetus in some way, like exposure to chemicals. It’s the choice of the parent-employee to risk their health or that of their potential fetus, not the employer’s.

        Presumably the applicants OP#1’s job know they are working in a hospital and that there are risks involved in that, but they chose to apply anyway. It’s not Fiona’s job to second-guess that decision by illegally discriminating against pregnant people.

        1. sunny-dee*

          That’s not exactly true; it depends on the work environment. My dad worked as a manager overseeing a lab. Some aspects (heavy lifting, since it was an assay lab in the mine and they were dealing with ore samples) could be to the pregnant woman, although he would give her other work if she asked and it also depended on whether a doctor or their onsite PA had put restrictions on her. But some of the work with chemicals, he absolutely would not allow a pregnant woman to do and would reassign them. There are OSHA and MSHA regulations for some types of work.

          1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

            Certainly, but I’d assume your dad didn’t prevent pregnant women from being hired based on the possibility of chemical work.

      3. Lepidoptera*

        Hospitals and other medical facilities have policy safe guards for that. You wouldn’t be allowed to decline to hire a technician just because they may have a uterus that at some point in their life might be filled with cells that will form a tiny human.
        We don’t hesitate to hire these same people for daycare positions where they can be exposed to children who aren’t fully vaccinated (based on age or objects) and those same contagions can also harm fetuses, so Fiona is just being discriminatory and basing her hiring decisions on outdated information about how we should treat pregnant people (e.g. no strenuous activity, etc.).

        1. Don't get salty*

          Not to mention that men could just as easily be exposed to radiation and harmful chemicals in their reproductive organs. No one ever seems to bar men from working in hospitals or in any other places that are deemed hazardous with unknown effects to reproductive ability and potential children.

      4. Mayflower*

        One of my biggest pet peeves is discriminatory job requirements that masquerade as legitimate concerns (most commonly “men only” jobs that in reality just need a set of requirements for strength and/or agility).

        In this particular case, possible contagion is dangerous to any immunocompromised person. So why not state that if that’s what you are really concerned about? Because the real culprit here is that the interviewer is a bigot, that’s why.

        1. Blueberry*

          So true. I once had a conversation with my father’s friend (mistake right there) who was looking for “a strong young man” to hire at his store. I told him I had a friend who was looking for a job and he said “oh no, no girls, I need someone strong”, and I told him she was 5′ 11″ and played varsity soccer and regularly carried her teammates around. Feh.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          Yes, exactly. I do hands on work in a hazardous waste facilities. The closest I’ve gotten to being asked if I’m pregnant was an interviewer who said, “In this job you will be working with harmful chemicals, including ones that could cause birth defects, miscarriage, or other long-term reproductive damage. We take safety seriously but there is always a chance of exposure. Do you have any concerns or reservations about working in this kind of environment?”

          It was pretty darn pointed for a job interview question, but I thought it was fine in that context. They were leaving it up to me to disclose concerns and leaving it up to me to decide what (if any) those concerns were. Could be pregnancy/trying to conceive, could be I’m worried about getting cancer, etc. And I can definitely imagine them having hired people in the past who then freaked out when they realized what they’d be expected to handle.

          1. LizB*

            That seems like the best possible way to phrase that question, as long as they ask it to ALL applicants, not just the people they perceive could become pregnant. Gives the relevant information, leaves the decision-making up to the applicant, doesn’t take anyone out of the running automatically.

      5. Veronica*

        I work in hospital administration and my impression is precautions are done by area – so there would be signs posted in – for example – the radiology area and workers in the area would be trained about how to handle pregnancy. There wouldn’t be a general ban on pregnant women. Pregnant women often come to the hospital for checkups or treatments, and to have their babies delivered.

      6. Qwerty*

        The letter says that Fiona referenced the amount of walking involved as not being possible when pregnant, both during the interview and when a coworker became pregnant.

        There are certain rooms in hospitals that you shouldn’t enter if pregnant due to contagion/chemicals/etc, but those rooms are labelled and generally a small part of the job. Most hospitals have enough staff that there’s generally someone else who can go in that room and fulfill whatever task needed to happen. Plenty of pregnant women work in hospitals with no problem – they just might need to disclose the pregnancy to their boss a little sooner if going to one of those rooms is a normal part of their job so that it can be covered by someone else.

        1. Mama Bear*

          However, OP indicated that the amount of walking is not unreasonable, pregnant or not pregnant. So Fiona’s concerns are unfounded or possibly based on a one-off situation (I know someone who had hip problems during pregnancy, but was able to get around well with minor accommodations).

          It was an inappropriate question, and possibly an indicator of Fiona’s skewed perception of the job, her team, and/or her own abilities. The question may have set off alarm bells for OP simply because it’s an indication of greater weirdness.

          1. LizB*

            I was also thinking Fiona might have extrapolated incorrectly from a one-off situation — like a friend or relative had to be on bed rest from the beginning of a pregnancy due to complications, and Fiona hasn’t ever met another pregnant person and assumed that was the way it always goes. Obviously that doesn’t excuse the super-illegal discrimination, but it’s the only way her attitude makes sense to me.

          2. Qwerty*

            It might be hard to tell from the nesting, but I was replying to Annie’s comment which was suggested that Fiona’s concern was about contagions/x-ray machines and whether that reason would make it legal. I agree that it was a very inappropriate question for Fiona to ask!

  27. Office Grunt*

    #1…

    This isn’t the “old days” when your employer actually WOULD interview your spouse-to-be, approve or ban the marriage based on whether she could cook dinner for the boss, and even decide what neighborhood you’re allowed to live in.

  28. getting there*

    For LW1. Remember that employment is essentially a trade-off: You perform X hours of work for employer and in return they pay you your wage/salary. You don’t owe them anything more than those X hours. Of course, one has to be pleasant to work with, respectful to others and all that. When your boss asks for things being able to track your movement (WTF) or approve of your significant other (WTF), simply smile and say “No, I won’t be doing that”. She might not have boundaries, but that’s OK, she can use yours!

    1. JanetM*

      I seem to recall an old letter where Alison suggested a cheery, “No, that’s okay!” as a response to pushy requests.

  29. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I have posted before about a particular toxic job I once had. Might as well have been a beehive. One interesting, especially toxic facet was that somehow the admin staff could never find anyone, especially the bosses. We had shared calendars: they were never accurate (boss: “I’m the boss. My calendar is all up here,” pointing to temple). We had an in/out board: it was infantalizing and the biggest offenders refused to mark themselves in or out.

    I quit. (On the in/out board there was a space to note when we were returning. I wrote “never.”)

    I heard a few weeks later the boss was fed up with the admin staff complaining they couldn’t find people, so he required everyone to download location tracking apps. The bosses and admin had permission to see everyone’s whereabouts. I also heard the biggest offenders frequently “forgot” their phones when they’d go offsite. *eyeroll*

  30. #surprised*

    I’ll go on record and be the odd one out here and say that I do think it is surprising when people are not using any social media.

    I don’t really use it for my personal life but do use it to stay engaged and aware of my professional world. The degree in our field even includes how to use social media for our field (not marketing or marketing adjacent).

    I follow professional associations, key people, and topics/hashtags in our area. It keeps me connected with a quick 10 minute check in once or twice a day. Otherwise, I would be going to far too many sites a day to get the same info. And by the time those orgs get around to emailing me, I have already read about the latest info and have shared it with the key staff at work so we are prepared to respond.

    I find I am well informed professionally because of my social media use and am surprised that others don’t use some of the same tools!

    I do get that there can be strong personal reasons not to use social media. But the general, “meh, no thanks” reads to me, at least in my field, like, “no thanks, I like being out of touch with modern tools.” And it sounds like the person here who had a staff person who only checked work email once a week or something.

    I don’t say that to people but it can be what I hear. I try to let that attitude go bc I know I dont know what is going on for people but I wanted to raise another way that it can be seen.

    1. Red Spider*

      This is very dependent on industry though. A lot of industries are pretty static so there isn’t a whole lot to stay informed about.

    2. aebhel*

      To be honest, I generally assume that ‘I’m not on social media’ translates to ‘I don’t have any social media accounts that I want my coworkers to see’.

      I don’t use Facebook although I do have an account, but I’m very active on Tumblr, Twitter, Discord, and Dreamwidth. It’s just mostly not activity that I want to share with my coworkers. I don’t connect with people I work with on social media because I’m not interested in curating a professional, work-appropriate social media presence when I could be sharing fanfic and dirty jokes with my friends.

      1. Quill*

        Same, I mostly keep my facebook for relatives, so when I post, it’s about… the weather. Sometimes pictures of hikes I’ve been on. More often articles about wildlife.

    3. Joielle*

      The letter isn’t about “ways that it can be seen,” though, it’s just about not having to have weird conversations with coworkers about it. I don’t think the OP really cares if someone thinks they’re a luddite, as long as that person keeps that opinion to themself.

      Also… personally, I’m well informed professionally because of things like industry newsletters, continuing education classes, and networking events, all of which I hear about via email. In my industry, it would be weird to post that kind of thing on social media. So your experience is certainly not universal.

    4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      If I was taking that approach, I might have accounts on several different sites, and never actually post with any of them: for example, there might be a @gollux’s-alias account on Twitter that followed a couple of dozen feeds and never posted at all (maybe with the bio “I am only an egg”), and a T.G.Device on Facebook (because “Not a Real Device” might get rejected as too obviously not my wallet name).

    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      For some platforms, especially Twitter, you can follow the relevant conversations without even having an account. (It’s annoying, but entirely possible if someone really doesn’t want to have an account but needs to keep up professionally) Or you can set up an account but only ever read things rather than posting, which for the purpose of connecting socially with coworkers might as well be “I’m not on social media”.

  31. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    OP#5, I hear all the time, truly, “I don’t do X social media platform!” often with a smile, chuckle, hand wave or all three and then the conversation moves on. It’s really common.

    As it is for me, I do have Facebook but no coworkers from current job are friends with me on it. I refuse, simply saying “I don’t do Facebook with coworkers” and most nod and reply, “That’s a good idea.” and move on.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I’ve never had a Facebook page or any type of social media. I just can’t be bothered. To this day, not one person at work has asked me about it – I think it’s the kind of thing that if you just never mention it, no one else will either. If you work in a marketing type place where having a social media presence is important, then I might consider creating a separate page that you only use for work.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Same here. I’ve never done social media and no one has ever asked about it. I work in tech and I was a bit worried while I was job searching that interviewers would find it unusual, but they don’t care. Really, no one cares.
        If I worked in advertising or marketing then there is a perception that my social media accounts would be little promotional materials, but outside of that, no one cares on a casual level.

  32. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I’m thinking about this in a slightly different way. Lots of people like babies and are excited about them. If I learned a colleague was having a baby or was adopting, I would very likely feel happy and excited on that person’s behalf. I may want to give a gift because I want to help celebrate. It’s fine for OP to say no to a shower. I also think OP should be ready to receive gifts from well-meaning people who are genuinely happy for them that they have a new fabulous baby in their lives. Because a lot of people are also thoughtful, they don’t want to give something that won’t be helpful. I think it’s a fine line. On one hand, OP doesn’t want stuff and doesn’t want people to feel they have to gift up. On the other hand, OP also doesn’t want stuff they don’t need or want or won’t help. I suppose if OP receives gifts, the right thing to do is to be gracious, thank the person, and use the item(s) if at all possible.

    1. LGC*

      That’s kind of my read. I think a lot of people think about this in the frame of the gift being about the recipient, but it’s also about the giver.

      However, I’m wondering how to handle it if she can’t use them all. (Like, for example, she gets a bunch of onesies with the company’s logo on them.) In that case, I’d say to quietly donate or sell them, but…I feel like reselling might be high-risk.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Donate to local Baby Bank.

        Their users won’t care about branding, they’ll just care about having any at all.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Reselling something that has low value like branded onsies wouldn’t really be worth it. Donating clothes is so easy, there are even collection boxes all around in a lot of places, you don’t even have to do anything but drive up and drop them in.

  33. LGC*

    LW3: Was Fiona 26 years old, and did she run the place?

    (Is this question way too much of a deep cut?)

    LW2: I think the question you’re asking is whether you can redirect people who already want to give – and it’s really difficult. To be honest, there have been times where I’ve gifted my bosses because…I mean, I appreciate them! There have been times where employees have gifted me. I’ve never asked for gifts, and frankly I’ve always felt a bit awkward about them. But yeah – I think that by suggesting a preferred gift, you’re inherently asking for gifts, even if that’s not your intention.

    (I’m noting this because it seems like a few people are assuming that LW2 wants to ask for gifts in the comments.)

  34. Shocked Pikachu*

    -She also is very insistent about meeting my partner (whom I dated for three years before working here) to “approve of him” –

    Holy sweet cinnamon pumpkin.

    1. StellaBella*

      “Holy sweet cinnamon pumpkin.” is awesome. And yes. I had a similar take with fewer, shorter words.

  35. Luna*

    #5 – No Social Media

    I don’t have social media stuff, either. If anyone asks, say you don’t. No further justifcation or explanation. You just don’t. You have no reason to, and you would never use it, anyway, so why bother making an account? Simple as anything. If they keep insisting, tell them, “I said I don’t have social media, and I don’t want it. Period.” and then maybe wonder if you want to work with people who feel like harassing you for that is worth it…

  36. Nicole*

    While I don’t think anybody will find it weird if you don’t use social media, if you’re really worried about it, you could just let co-workers know that it’s your policy to keep work and social media separate.
    I finally adopted that policy myself with my current job and it’s much less stressful because I’m not worried about what my co-workers see (like what I’m up to when I’m home from work sick).

  37. hbc*

    OP1: Since her boundary crossings all seem to relate to her “We’re Faaaaaamily” approach, I wonder if you can stiff arm her with references to what your *actual* family does, or reinforce where your family has these things covered. As in, “Oh, I don’t even give my parents a vote in who I date.” “I found with my parents, giving them my exact location lead to more worry and not less, so I don’t turn it on for anyone now.” Maybe that will lead her to think you’re a bad child, but at least she’ll think you’re not doing it *at* her.

  38. JSPA*

    OP #3, was this decades ago? You mention it was in the past, but not how long ago. That question used to pass for normal. Then, a bit intrusive but still legal. Then illegal.

    1. fposte*

      The Pregnancy Discrimination Act passed in 1978, though. So it’s not impossible the OP is talking about a time before that, but it seems unlikely.

  39. Jay*

    OP #1, is this, by any chance, a work issued phone?
    If it is, can you just not take it with you outside specifically work situations?
    If it’s not, is it an option to get a work only phone? Either another smartphone (if the company is paying) or a cheap pre-paid (if it comes out of your budget). The pre-paid would have the little side benefit of being largely untraceable by the boss.

    1. Observer*

      Yeah, I have “find my phone” on for work issue phones. *BUT* those are REALLY supposed to be used only at work *and* I don’t do it to “keep people safe” >gag< but to be able to find the actual phone / verify that the phone is dead / remote wiped.

  40. OKG*

    I do have a legitimate question though: What if the job you’re applying for involves research with materials that are known to be hazardous to unborn children if the mother is exposed? Would a pregnancy question be okay to ask in an interview under those circumstances?

    1. Asenath*

      My employer temporarily re-assigns employees from the time they announce their pregnancy until they return from maternity leave. I’m not in one of those positions myself, but I know someone who is, and who was pregnant. I don’t know if it comes up in the interview – surely the fact that working conditions are not safe for pregnant women must be mentioned, along with questions about other safety practices the applicant would be expected to know or learn. I could see an applicant saying that they’d need the alternate duties as soon as they were hired (for the safety of the child) but I could also see an applicant thinking that saying so would guarantee that they’d not get the job. I don’t know if that would be a justified fear or not. The precedent of re-assigning pregnant women for the duration exists, after all.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      If that’s the case, then the interviewer should provide that information to the interviewee, not ask if they are pregnant.

    3. Scarlet2*

      In this case, I would say the ethical option is to inform ALL employees about substances potentially dangerous to pregnant women and foetuses. A pregnancy question is always invasive and, depending on the location, generally illegal anyway. It’s also utterly useless and patronizing. Give people all the relevant information and then let them act like adults.

    4. Lily in NYC*

      Interesting question! I think in that case, it should be made clear in the job advertisement. Similar to when you see a job opening that says “must be able to lift 50 pounds”.

    5. Nanani*

      As many people have said, you inform them and have safety procedures in place. Also ensure that anyone who opts out of the hazardous material handling can still have other job duties, if the job isn’t entirely composed of “hazardous material handler”.

      It is never ever ever ok to make assumptions about someone’s job and career based on hypothetical reproductive organs.

    6. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      It’s not! The law is very clear that as long as the person is capable of doing the job, then they can continue to work that job however long they want to, even if there’s a possibility of damage to themselves or the fetus. If at some point they are unable to do the job due to their pregnancy (for example, they physically can’t lift over 40 lbs. as the job requires), the employer must treat it like a temporary disability and try to find accommodations rather than firing them.

      UAW v. Johnson Controls is the important case law here: it was a battery factory that only employed women who could prove they were medically sterile, but employed men even though the exposure to chemicals could also lead to infertility in men. The Supreme Court held this was unlawful discrimination based on gender under Title VII.

  41. Temperance*

    LW2: what about a children’s book/diaper party? Those are things you’ll need, and it let’s people celebrate the little guy.

    1. Me*

      It’s really about the optics. Managers should never in anyway set up a situations where people who report to them are obligated to give them presents. Even if every single person on the team is begging him.

      Now if an employee gives him a little gift for the baby of their own freewill, it’s fine to accept graciously.

      But a shower is just not ok.

  42. Jedi Squirrel*

    #5: I always tell new coworkers who ask that my personal policy is that I don’t use social media with coworkers. That policy helps to establish some firm boundaries from the start. I’m friends on Facebook with several coworkers from former job, but none from present job.

  43. AnonNurse*

    #5 – I know it’s hard not to but please don’t stress about this!! While yes, there will be weird people who put a lot of emphasis on social media, it’s not that uncommon not to take part! The newest employee in my department doesn’t use social media and when asked simply said “nope, don’t use Facebook, not my thing” and that was the end of it! No one minds that he doesn’t use Facebook and we just try to make sure to send group texts for things we share on our private Facebook group (training meeting reminders or impromptu pitch-ins kind of things) so that he doesn’t miss anything.

    1. Campfire Raccoon*

      Agreed.

      I think this will be more the norm as the workforce gets older. FB isn’t common for people under 25, and more people in the 40+ range are ditching it for other platforms/rejecting social media all together.

      So I don’t think it’s a big deal to say, “I don’t use Facebook/Instagram/Whatsapp. Social media is not my thing.”

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Ooh I find the opposite! Younger people that I know are using Instagram, and whatever that medium is where posts/ messages evaporate after a certain time.

        Older people I know still use Facebook, mainly for family group chat, and catching up with friends’ news. I know people of all ages up to 80 who use FB, but the Instagram users I know are all early 20s…

        And Twitter seems to fall somewhere in between, depending on whether you’re an extrovert “always on” kinda person. Other more quiet friends of mine – all ages – have found it overwhelming and stopped.

        Well, that’s just my experience. At the end of the day, tho, nobody should feel obliged to use social media unless it’s their job to do so (one of my early roles involved admining IRC servers for the ISP where I worked, for example). But you get the idea – no issue saying no, in my book!

        OP5, I hope you don’t continue to get bugged over it.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Doh, you said people UNDER 25. Apols, I missed that. My comment stands, tho. I see the U25s on FB too – they just hang on Instagram as well and are more prolific there, from what I’ve seen.

          Hmm I’m curious about this now *notes it as a potential concept for a future blog post*

          1. Campfire Raccoon*

            This could be regional – my data collection for this particular group small and from my own experience – but the high school kids and junior high kids in my school district don’t use FB or Instagram AT ALL. If you ask about it, they’ll laugh and say “ok, boomer”. There’s a ton of group chat platforms in the mix – like snapchat, google chats, regular telephone # chats, etc – but they aren’t utilizing platforms that require you to post your stuff publicly. Instead, they only post to the chat group for their select group of friends.

            Google chat was big in elementary, because the schools assign the kids gmail addresses for online classrooms. Snapchat was bigger in Jr High, because hormones and “stop reading my messages, MOM!”, and then the HS kids use regular phone # chats, because their friend groups are pretty well established.

            I know this varies of course, – the ballet/arts school is OBSESSED with Instagram – but a lot of my employees fresh out of school/community college don’t really have social media at all.

            1. Avasarala*

              I think this is because Facebook was biggest/most fun when it WAS exclusive. You used to need a campus email account, and then it was only used by young people. You could post something and know only your friends were gonna see it. Then parents got on it, companies got on it, randos around the world got on it, and you got someone’s aunt and strange men from other countries commenting on your photos. Nobody wants to publish stuff for the world to see. Facebook changed, not people.

  44. agnes*

    RE: Baby shower If people are really keen to have the shower, you might suggest that they have one to bring items to the local homeless shelter or food pantry for parents with children who need assistance. I am sure it would be very appreciated and you could even give the items to the shelter in honor of your new baby.

    1. AdoptedBaby'sMomma*

      I saw similar suggestions above. I think this is a good idea. The husband’s office has/had a tie to a local shelter/school for families that are transitioning to homes. What a good thing to make donations to them in lieu of gifts for us.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’d still say no to that — it’s still someone in a position of power creating pressure for their employees to spend money in their honor, and because of the power dynamics people may feel uncomfortable saying no. Bring the baby by, bring a cake, but do not do anything that requires employees to spend money for the occasion.

        1. AdoptedBaby'sMomma*

          That makes sense. plus the company is probably doing something in the next 45 days anyways.

  45. StellaBella*

    #5: …. It is not odd at all to not be on social media. You are fine. Just tell them you don’t use it.

    I have worked with a few extremely needy social media-obsessed ‘digital natives who are *pioneers* don’t you get it?’ and while I do use some social media I have them all locked down fairly tightly and generally update and check my settings for privacy regularly, at least once a month. That said, I could see soon giving them all up to go live in a cabin with no connectivity, a rain barrel, solar panels, and chickens.

  46. GDub*

    I worked for an international company where people traveled to remote locations, and we had special tracking software that people could put on their phones so that we could check their well-being. For some travel it was required. But we didn’t make people use it to go to a conference in Cleveland! Just say no!

  47. Kix*

    I’ve managed several teams and while I like to think of my teams as sort of a work family, I don’t need to babysit them while they are on the road. I have enough work to do as it is and I don’t claim them on my income tax forms as dependents.

    The only times I’ve asked my teams to check in with me when they are in travel status are in cases of extreme weather (blizzard, flood, hurricane) or the time they were attending a training in a location where a bad earthquake occurred. I wanted to assess that they were safe and whether or not they needed assistance.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Checking in means they call you. As I’m sure you know, it doesn’t mean keeping tabs on them via GPS monitoring. You sound rational, reasonable, and logical, however. OP#1’s boss does not.

  48. Database Developer Dude*

    Here’s how the conversation would go if I were LW#1 (honestly, I wouldn’t even be writing in if I were LW1)…

    Boss: please turn your location feature on when you’re traveling for work
    Me: No. I’m a grown adult, and that demand is horrifyingly inappropriate.
    Boss: I’m making it a requirement, you need to do it.
    Me: Did I mention that I have six month’s pay saved up in an emergency account, and could easily walk off the job right now without falling behind on my bills?
    Boss: Nevermind then.

    1. fposte*

      It always goes a lot better when you get to write the other person’s script :-). In real life, they have an annoying tendency of making up their own words.

    2. Joielle*

      That’s… way too much information to share with your employer. I don’t think most people want to get into the state of their finances with an already-boundary-crossing boss. And just because you have money doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to be hostile at work? Presumably you’d need another job eventually, and you’d want to have some references who liked you as a person. This just feels way over the top.

        1. Joielle*

          I mean, of course it is, but you don’t respond to an over-the-top request with an over-the-top disclosure. You want to de-escalate in a way that will get the boss to back off AND preserve the hope of a reference so you can get the hell out of there.

          I realize that I’m probably reading too much into a dialogue that was probably meant hyperbolically, so I’ll leave it there.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            Once the boss goes over the top, I don’t care about a reference. When asked “Why did you leave your last job?” My answer would be “the boss wanted to monitor my whearabouts via GPS even in off hours…”

    3. pally*

      Okay.

      I’m just trying to understand how tracking someone = they are safe.

      Or does that just provide a head start when they go searching for thd body?

      1. Nanani*

        I think it’s the idea of “if I can see my kid playing, they’re not going to get hurt” misapplied on a large scale.
        Bossmom would 100% start policing LW1s location like “I saw you in unsafe neighbourhood X! don’t go there!” and LW would actually have to obey this weird fictional notion of safety for the tracking to have an impact on their actual safety.

        1. pally*

          ** eyeroll!**

          It would take a lot of strength for me to continue to work for this boss.

          If cell phones didn’t cost a lot, I think I’d keep leaving mine in a bad section of the town I was visiting. Just to worry the boss.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I would be strolling along every shady place in any given town.

            I fear very little and get bothered even less. I wish this boss would test me…

  49. Database Developer Dude*

    Regarding #3, the ONLY reason that’s even remotely justifiable to asking whether someone’s pregnant is if there are real, documented risks on the job to the unborn child. That’s something for CURRENT employees, not during the interviewing process, and ONLY to make accommodations.

    Someone in the commentariat here put it a good way, disclose the risks and let those who know they’re pregnant come to you for accommodations. That way no one is being forced to give up information that’s none of the employer’s business anyway.

    And just generally as a man in the office environment, what’s the deal with asking women if they’re pregnant or not? Unless a woman chooses to share it with me, I feel it’s none of my business. This is almost as bad as the rapper T.I. who takes his daughter to the OBGYN once a year to examine her hymen to ensure she’s still a virgin. It is very creepy and leaves me feeling like I need a shower.

    1. Mae*

      He takes his daughter to the OBGYN to make sure she is still a virgin??? I hope he knows that a hymen can break before you have sex for other reasons such as horseback riding, participating in sports, even a hard fall. It is very creepy.

      Reminds of the Duggar father. I had to watch a marathon of that show one year at Thanksgiving because my sister-in-law loved it and he seemed sort of – obsessed- with controlling when the girls had their first kiss with their husbands and making sure they don’t use birth control. Seems like that should be a discussion between husband and wife, not father and daughter.

        1. Avasarala*

          Oh my god. That is just not how the hymen works. You can have sex and not have it “break”, it’s not a seal of freshness over a woman’s sexuality. All these people need to learn how the body works.

  50. Quill*

    #1 Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Nope. Never. Nada. Nein. Negatory.
    #3 Fiona is absolutely boundary free, isn’t she?
    #5 My condolences on the PTSD thing – I keep my facebook location and event free because I don’t need people knowing where I am. It’s perfectly reasonable to say “I don’t have a facebook” and not further elaborate. If people jump to conclusions that don’t just take you at your word, it’s most likely to be “deleted it to protest” or “says this to avoid adding people from work.” And they probably won’t look any further into it.

  51. Me*

    I don’t have Facebook (I did years ago) and no one has ever asked why. Not to say someone won’t ever, but it’s kind of that thing where people are not nearly as interested/thinking about you as we tend to assume they are.

  52. StaceyIzMe*

    I kind of “get” why LW 2 is wondering about money-as-gift. It’s so common that it’s become the norm and guests really receive push-back if they don’t give enough cash to “cover their plate” for weddings or other major milestone events. That said- it’s work and NO it’s not a good idea to tap into organizational support for your family life in the form of money and gifts either UP or DOWN the org chart! The whole reason these lines blur is because people are often forced to mix their personal and professional lives. (But it’s a really bad idea!) I suppose that’s why we have bosses like that of LW 1 trying to use locator apps and calling her employees her kids. Don’t be the guy who thinks that the rules are good as guidelines, but don’t apply to you because of the cost of adoption and child rearing. If you took a survey of your organization, you might find others who are also parents with concerns about the costs of child rearing. Perhaps they’ve also adopted or they have children with special needs or they have absolutely no family support and can barely afford daycare… Unless you’ve opened your wallet generously for everyone in your office who might be in those circumstances, it’s going to come across as self-focused at best. At worst, it could come off as demanding or a milder form of social and professional extortion…

  53. awesome*

    OP 2: cake and/or appetizers sounds perfect. Maybe a balloon. If they press that they want to give you something, bring some diapers and they can write advice or cheerful slogans on them in sharpie, people love that activity.

  54. CupcakeCounter*

    I am not on social media at all either (unless AAM is considered social media). People comment all the time “oh we should connect on Facebook” and I simply respond that I don’t have Facebook. Usually a “huh’ and a look and then that is the end.
    Yes I miss out on a few pics and announcements but overall I don’t regret not having it.
    More and more people are deactivating their accounts so it isn’t as weird as it once was.

  55. Mop Head*

    #5, where I work we have “Harassment Free Workplace Training” every year. One of the things they stress is you absolutely should not be friends on social media with your coworkers. Ever. I’m surprised a government job would allow that.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Our training says to be cautious because even if it’s off the clock it can lead to a harassment claim.

      But in no way did the lawyer who gives the training say we should never ever connect on social media.

      All trainers focus on different things so there’s not a standard across the board in terms of exact advice on things like that.

    2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      My agency discourages it, at least for supervisors. But trying to disallow it outright would come with a host of issues:
      1) our unions would likely regard it as an attempt to limit union organizing in off-work hours. And it would certainly have that effect!
      2) many government workers bounce from agency to agency. More than once I’ve friended coworkers after they leave our department only to see them come back in six months or a few years.
      3) government restriction of freedom of expression is already fraught, and tends to be limited by statute and policy. I can’t think of a sane governmental entity that would want to get further involved in a mess like it’s employees social media than absolutely necessary. (Emphasis on “sane.”)

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      I am a big social media user and I work for local government that is strict about many things – except social media use! I am so surprised that supervisors and staff are all friends on social media. I was not going to connect with many of them but then realized I was essentially missing face time with the bosses. It is so wrong.

  56. Senor Montoya*

    OP #5. I have facebook and instagram accounts. I have a very very strict “no coworkers” as friends policy (I got burned by the former co-worker known by all as “the snake”–made a forgivable slip, she went straight to my boss’s boss instead of saying to me, hey that’s not smart). No one at the very large university I work at except my spouse and a few actual friends who do not work in any department that has anything to do with mine, and who do not know anyone in any department that has to do with mine. I don’t even friend former co-workers who I think might be facebook/instagram friends with anyone at my university.

    Protecting myself from snakes…

  57. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    So many people don’t have social media! There’s nothing strange about not using any of the platforms.

    Our marketing manager had to create accounts just to manage our profiles when they started because they didn’t have one. And it’s just a shell account to monitor our ads, they don’t actually use it.

    Lots of people have also given up Facebook over the years. Many of my friends have at some point deemed it too stressful.

    Some of us love it but the majority are at best lukewarm to the idea and tons are downright against it. (My extended family are ones to believe it’s a tracking device and big brother blah blah blah). So as long as you don’t ramble to them about The Government knowing too much about you and all that, simply saying “I don’t use those platforms” is totally normal stuff!!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Uh…thats exactly the reason that people have always had showers and celebrations that have gifts attached to them. It’s never just been out of the kindness of hearts, it’s a community effort to help a new parent deal with the expenses that they have come into due to a child being born,

      Its the same for weddings. People give gifts to off-set the cost of their weddings and all the nonsense that people pay for leading up to their weddings.

      The same thing with housewarmings. To help offset the cost of another big purchase by helping stock the place.

  58. Colorado*

    #2: Jump the gun on your employees and bring in cupcakes or a cake to celebrate with them. I’ve seen people do this and it takes care of the celebration itself that people want to have and your employees aren’t paying for it. Congratulations!!

  59. Anon Here*

    #1 – Other excuses:

    “It drains the battery on my phone. I’m careful to keep my phone fully charged when traveling. I often use Airplane Mode, and I don’t turn on Location Services.”

    “It uses a lot of data. My phone plan doesn’t cover the amount of data it would require, but I’m sticking with this plan because it otherwise works well for me.”

    “My partner stays out of my work life.”

    #5 – Depending on the field and the people you’re around, there can be judgment. I’ve been yelled at for not being on social media. People have accused me of lying. I once even had to drop out of a class without a refund because the rest of the students wanted to use Facebook Groups to communicate about a project and I couldn’t because I had a stalker. This is all in one group of industries where everyone is expected to use a lot of social media. I also find it to be toxic so I come and go from it.

    I don’t have any specific advice about #5, but the concern about judgment is a realistic one and should be taken seriously.

    1. Observer*

      “It uses a lot of data. My phone plan doesn’t cover the amount of data it would require, but I’m sticking with this plan because it otherwise works well for me.”

      Don’t give her an excuse to say “OK I’ll pay for an upgraded plan.”

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      I once even had to drop out of a class without a refund because the rest of the students wanted to use Facebook Groups to communicate about a project and I couldn’t because I had a stalker.

      That is so incredibly unfair of these other students. There are so many options for online collaboration now, and taking a class is all about expanding your horizons.

      I am so sorry this happened to you.

      1. Anon Here*

        Thanks! It was at a small education center with a hobbyist bent. The kind of place with one day workshops and six to ten week classes during evenings and weekends. It bothered me, but I let it go because it wasn’t super expensive and I had decided it wasn’t for me in a number of ways. I should have said something to the teacher and then gone up the chain if that didn’t work out.

  60. Observer*

    “but we’re lie family” is a particularly stupid line in the context of your boss wanting to track your phone. Most people actually don’t track the phone location of their grown family members.

    The problem here, though, is not that she thinks “we’re like family” but her expansive definition of what that entails. If the woman were not a loon, I *might* enable it when traveling ONLY. But someone who thinks have any place trying to “approve” of your boyfriend is SOOOOO far past the line that I wouldn’t give her a pinky nail.

  61. Betsy S*

    On the baby shower, if the employees really want to do it, and can’t be dissuaded without hurting their feelings, a fun little thing would be to have a book shower and ask people to bring a favorite book (for any age group) to build baby’s future library. Children’s books are inexpensive and personally meaningful.

  62. Goldfinch*

    #1 Suppose the OP has her partner meet the boss, and the partner tells the boss that Location Tracking is unacceptable, and OP won’t be doing it? :p

  63. nora*

    At my old job our duties phones had location tracking software on them and turning it off was a fireable offense. That was made clear during the interview and there was a significant safety component to it based on the nature of the work so I didn’t care all that much. About 8 months in we all got new phones and I happened to get mine about a week ahead of everyone else because my old phone was no longer functional. The office manager wasn’t prepared to collect our old devices so at her direction I turned it off and stashed it in a desk drawer. A few weeks later I started my day off-site and apparently while I was out, a member of leadership (who didn’t much like me) went into my desk “for tape,” found my old phone, decided I didn’t have my new phone with me (I did) and that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be (I was, and I had witnesses). The thing that saved me from being fired on the spot was sending a picture to my direct supervisor of my work phone with the screen turned on so the time/date was visible using my personal phone. That was the day I decided I needed a new job. I didn’t want to work for someone who would melt down over a tiny misunderstanding. Leadership legit had the papers drawn up to dismiss me. All that person had to do was text me. She had my number. It was so stupid.

    Anyway location tracking is now a total dealbreaker for me, regardless of the safety issue. I’d rather work in a different field (even though in general I loved the work) than go through that again.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Bit of over reaction!
      But yeah, my company also uses tracking software for the field service engineers and it is a fireable offense to disable it. It’s monitored quite closely by the field managers. But, it’s billable hours and travel time, all of which needs to be tracked.

  64. [Cloaking Device Engaged]*

    Tangent to #3:
    Many years ago, when I was in the Navy, we all had to turn up for mandatory flu shots. The corpsman giving the shots went through a litany of questions, including are you allergic to eggs and are you pregnant. With. Everyone.
    It was amusing enough to watch men react to the “are you pregnant” question, but even more so to see the retiree spouses (women 65+) respond. Not sure which responses was more colorful.

  65. sunflower*

    To the Find My Friends OP: if you don’t feel comfortable pushing back against your boss, or if she really won’t let it drop, do like I did with my nosy roommates. Share your location within the app, and then switch it so it’s tracking the location of a different device associated with your Apple ID. You can also turn it off in the app completely, and it shows up as “Location Not Available” for other people. I did this and told my roommates it was a glitch with my location services and I’d look at it when I had time, lol. I wouldn’t really recommend either of these options, because you probably don’t want to start a precedent of giving in to her unreasonable demands, but if you really can’t get out of sharing it there are ways to get around it. Good luck!

  66. Stixx-and-String*

    #5 – I don’t do Facebook at all, and my Twitter account is linked to the website I write for and has a lot of followers, but I prefer to remain anonymous about my “real” identity. Occasionally I’ll take a seasonal retail job to get out of the house or to save up money for something, and people ALWAYS ask me for my social media info so they can friend me. I just say I don’t do Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, whatever, and I’ve rarely been asked why. When I am, I just say I don’t need to be THAT connected to everyone I know’s dinner, and the other person laughs and that’s it. People don’t really dig so deep that you need to come up with a cover story.

  67. Emily*

    We did a diaper and wipes shower for my boss, everyone brought in a package of diapers or wipes. Given that someone could easily acquire both for less than $10 I think that’s fine and it would help you out!

  68. Alston*

    Op 2 you could also consider asking them to do a Book Shower. Ask everyone to bring in a kids book, preferably one they loved as kids. They obviously want to help you celebrate and start off on the right foot, and this would be a nice way to let them do it without you getting 12,000 onesies. Plus having a cool little library is going to be awesome for you guys.

    Congrats!

  69. Diana*

    OP4 – just wanted to chime in as someone who worked for an ATS which offers that “send-for” feature – it’s a standard practice which is being used more and more by recruiters. The purposes are twofold: 1) Prospects are more likely to respond to an outreach coming from a potential manager than from a recruiter 2) Lioe AAM mentioned, recruiters can take care of the transactional busywork emails without clogging up your inbox.

    That said, you’re well within your rights to sit down with your recruiting team and ask for final approval over any email templates being sent out under your name. Professional reputation, etc.

    Depending on the ATS your company uses, you are probably able to revoke this privilege from your recruiting team if you wish! Log in to the system and look at your personal user settings. For my old company’s send for feature to work, you HAVE to explicitly grant permissions in Gmail/your work email account. It cannot be done on your behalf by an IT admin or whatever. Google is very strict about this. You probably granted permission awhile ago and forgot.

  70. Red 5*

    I’m a social media manager and whenever anybody tells me they’re not on Facebook or social media my basic reaction is always “oh god, good for you.”

    Honestly the more I do it for a living the more I want to jettison the entire thing, so I don’t think anybody will look at you weird. It’s increasingly normal to not want to bother with any of it, and there’s so, so many good reasons why not that people will probably fill in the blanks themselves or say something like “man, I hear you, I kind of want to quit it myself.”

  71. MissDisplaced*

    #1 feels like too much of an overreach, even if the intention is meant well. Is there any viable compromise here? Could you agree to send a text to her when you arrive? Like “Arrived at X for the conference. All’s well.” Or, if you arrive late, agree to have a quick check in text next morning?

    With some companies and jobs you actually ARE tracked when you travel. My husband is field service and is tracked via his mobile during work hours. So, it’s not unheard of if you’re performing billable hours.

  72. Vicky Austin*

    If someone asks you if you’re pregnant when you’re not, the answer you should always give them is, “No, I’m just fat.” Then they’ll be embarrassed that they asked!

    (Don’t really do this.)

  73. S*

    My former job installed a device monitor on my personal device–which I never signed off on (I double checked)–when I downloaded a necessary work-related app to send an update while actively…sick…and otherwise unable to communicate. They could see anything I did on my personal device after that. It’s also not an app that shows up on your home screen, which is SO shady, and I didn’t see it until I was checking unrelated settings. I was able to disable it, but never delete it. I haven’t worked there in almost six months and the app is still taking up space.

    On a work-issued device, I figure they can do whatever they want, whether or not I agree with what they want to do. No one has a right to your personal device, and this sounds like it’s her personal device. If her boss wants a text of “made it to the required location,” fine, but more than that, absolutely not.

    1. Observer*

      If you have an Android phone a factory reset should do the trick for you. It’s a pain, but I would not trust that it really is disabled. What they did is beyond shady.

  74. Paperdill*

    I sure hope “Fiona” doesn’t catch on to the fact that there are huge amounts of clinical staff, like, I dunno, maybe, uh…nurses, doctors, allied health and ancillary staff (to name a few) who could be pregnant AND required to walk all over a busy hospital all day, too. She might have to fire them all or something.

  75. Ginar369*

    Question # 2

    The LW could always tell his coworkers/direct reports that if they really want to do something they could donate money to groups/charities that help with adoption.

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